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   Chapter 43 TEX RESIGNS

Oh, You Tex! By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 9923

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Jack Roberts, spurs jingling, walked into the office of his chief.

Ellison looked up, leaned back in his chair, and tugged at his goatee. "Well, Tex, you sure were thorough. Four men in the Dinsmore outfit, an' inside o' two days three of 'em dead an' the fourth a prisoner. You hit quite a gait, son."

"I've come to resign," announced the younger man.

"Well, I kinda thought you'd be resignin' about now," said the Captain with a smile. "Weddin' bells liable to ring right soon, I reckon."

"Not mine," replied Roberts.

Somehow, in the way he said it, the older man knew that the subject had been closed.

"Goin' to take that job Clint offered you?"

"No." Jack snapped out the negative curtly, explosively.

Another topic closed.

"Just quittin'. No reasons to offer, son?"

"Reasons a-plenty. I've had man-huntin' enough to last me a lifetime. I'm goin' to try law-breakin' awhile for a change."

"Meanin'?"

"You can guess what I mean, Captain, an' if you're lucky you'll guess right. Point is, I'm leavin' the force to-day."

"Kinda sudden, ain't it, Tex?"

"At six o'clock to-night. Make a note of the time, Captain. After that I'm playin' my own hand. Understand?"

"I understand you're sore as a thumb with a bone felon. Take yore time, son. Don't go off half-cocked." The little Captain rose and put his hand on the shoulder of the boy. "I reckon things have got in a sort of kink for you. Give 'em time to unravel, Tex."

The eyes of the Ranger softened. "I've got nothin' against you, Captain. You're all there. We won't go into any whyfors, but just let it go as it stands. I want to quit my job-right away. This round-up of the Dinsmores about cleans the Panhandle anyhow."

"You're the doctor, Tex. But why not take yore time? It costs nothin' Tex to wait a day or two an' look around you first."

"I've got business-to-night. I'd rather quit when I said."

"What business?" asked Ellison bluntly. "You mentioned law-breakin'. Aimin' to shoot up the town, are you?"

"At six to-night, Captain, my resignation takes effect."

The little man shrugged. "I hear you, Jack. You go off the pay-roll at six. I can feel it in my bones that you're goin' to pull off some fool business. Don't run on the rope too far, Jack. Everybody that breaks the law looks alike to my boys, son."

"I'll remember."

"Good luck to you." Ellison offered his hand.

Roberts wrung it. "Same to you, Cap. So long."

The young man walked downtown, ate his dinner at the hotel, and from there strolled down to the largest general store in town. Here he bought supplies enough to last for a week-flour, bacon, salt, sugar, tobacco, and shells for rifle and revolvers. These he carried to his room, where he lay down on the bed and read a month-old Trinidad paper.

Presently the paper sagged. He began to nod, fell asleep. When he opened his eyes again it was late in the afternoon. His watch told him that it was just six o'clock.

He got up, took off the buckskin suit that had served him for a uniform, and donned once more the jeans and chaps he had worn as a line-rider.

"Good-bye, Mr. Ranger," he told himself. "I reckon you can't have much worse luck as a citizen than as an officer."

He buckled round his waist the belt that held his revolvers, and from the corner of the room where it stood took his rifle. Carrying the supplies he had that afternoon bought, he directed his steps to the Elephant Corral and saddled his horse. With motions of deft economy he packed the provisions for travel, then swung to the saddle and cantered down the street.

At the post-office corner he swung to the left for a block and dismounted in front of a rather large dugout.

A wrinkled little man with a puzzled, lost-puppy look on his face sat on a bench in front mending a set of broken harness.

"'Lo, Tex. How they comin'?" he asked.

"'Lo, Yorky. Hope I see you well," drawled the horseman, a whimsical twitch of humor at the corner of his mouth. He was swinging his lariat carelessly as cowboys do.

"Jes' tol'able. I got a misery in my left shoulder I'm a-goin' to try some yerbs I done had recommended." Yorky was the kind of simple soul who always told you just how he was when you asked him.

Roberts passed him and led the way into the house. "Come inside, Yorky, I want to talk with you," he said.

The room into which the cowboy had passed was a harness shop. It was littered with saddles and bridles and broken bits of traces. A workman's bench and tools were in one corner of the shop. A door, bolted and padlocked, led to a rear room.

Jack put down his rifle and his belt on a shelf and sat down on the bench.

"Yore prisoner's in there all right," said the saddler with a jerk of his thumb over his left shoulder.

Since no one else in town would take the place, Yorky had been unanimously chosen jailer. He did not like the job, but it gave him an official importance that flattered

his vanity.

"He's not my prisoner any more, Yorky. He's yours. I quit being a Ranger just twenty-five minutes ago."

"You don't say! Well, I reckon you done wise. A likely young fellow-"

"Where's yore six-shooter?" demanded Jack.

Yorky was a trifle surprised. "You're sittin' on it," he said, indicating the work bench.

Roberts got up and stood aside. "Get it."

The lank jaw of the jailer hung dolefully. He rubbed its bristles with a hand very unsure of itself.

"Now, you look a-hyer, Tex. I'm jailer, I am. I don't allow to go with you to bring in no bad-man. Nothin' of that sort. It ain't in the contract."

"I'm not askin' it. Get yore gat."

The little saddler got it, though with evident misgivings.

The brown, lean young man reseated himself on the bench. "I've come here to get yore prisoner," he explained.

"Sure," brightened the jailer. "Wait till I get my keys." He put the revolver down on the table and moved toward the nail on which hung two large keys.

"I'm just through tellin' you that I'm no longer a Ranger, but only a private citizen."

Yorky was perplexed. He felt he was not getting the drift of this conversation. "Well, an' I done said, fine, a young up 'n' comin' fellow like you-"

"You've got no business to turn yore prisoner over to me, Yorky. I'm not an officer."

"Oh, tha's all right. Anything you say, Tex."

"I'm goin' to give him my horse an' my guns an' tell him to hit the trail."

The puzzled lost-dog look was uppermost on the wrinkled little face just now. Yorky was clearly out of his depth. But of course Jack Roberts, the best Ranger in the Panhandle, must know what he was about.

"Suits me if it does you, Tex," the saddler chirped.

"No, sir. You've got to make a fight to hold Dinsmore. He's wanted for murder an' attempted robbery. You're here to see he doesn't get away."

"Make a fight! You mean ... fight you?"

"That's just what I mean. I'm out of reach of my gats. Unhook yore gun if I make a move toward you."

Yorky scratched his bewildered head. This certainly did beat the Dutch. He looked helplessly at this brown, lithe youth with the well-packed muscles.

"I'll be doggoned if I know what's eatin' you, Tex. I ain't a-goin' to fight you none a-tall."

"You bet you are! I've warned you because I don't want to take advantage of you, since I've always had the run of the place. But you're jailer here. You've got to fight-or have everybody in town say you're yellow."

A dull red burned into the cheeks of the little man. "I don't aim for to let no man say that, Tex."

"That's the way to talk, Yorky. I've got no more right to take Dinsmore away than any other man." Jack was playing with his lariat. He had made a small loop at one end and with it was swinging graceful ellipses in the air. "Don't you let me do it."

Yorky was nervous, but decided. "I ain't a-goin' to," he said, and the revolver came to a businesslike position, its nose pointed straight for Roberts.

The gyrations of the rope became more active and the figures it formed more complex.

"Quit yore foolin', Tex, an' get down to cases. Dad-gum yore hide, a fellow never can tell what you honest-to-God mean."

The rope snaked forward over the revolver and settled on the wrist of the jailer. It tightened, quicker than the eye could follow. Jack jerked the lariat sideways and plunged forward. A bullet crashed into the wall of the dugout.

The cowboy's shoulder pinned the little man against the bolted door. One hand gave a quick wrench to the wrist of the right arm and the revolver clattered to the puncheon floor. The two hands of the jailer, under pressure, came together. Round them the rope wound swiftly.

"I've got you, Yorky. No use strugglin'. I don't want to start that misery in yore shoulder," warned Jack.

The little saddler, tears of mortification in his eyes, relaxed from his useless efforts. Jack had no intention of humiliating him and he proceeded casually to restore his self-respect.

"You made a good fight, Yorky,-a blamed good fight. I won out by a trick, or I never could 'a' done it. Listen, old-timer. I plumb had to play this low-down trick on you. Homer Dinsmore saved Miss Wadley from the 'Paches. He treated her like a white man an' risked his life for her. She's my friend. Do you reckon I'd ought to let him hang?"

"Whyn't you tell me all that?" complained the manhandled jailer.

"Because you're such a tender-hearted old geezer, Yorky. Like as not you would 'a' thrown open the door an' told me to take him. You had to make a fight to keep him so they couldn't say you were in cahoots with me. I'm goin' to jail for this an' I don't want comp'ny."

Jack trussed up his friend comfortably with the slack of the rope so that he could move neither hands nor feet.

From the nail upon which the two keys hung the jail-breaker selected one. He shot back the bolts of the inner door and turned the key.

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