Happy Jack, coming from Dry Lake where he had been sent for the mail, rode up to the Flying U camp just at dinner time and dismounted gloomily and in silence. His horse looked fagged--which was unusual in Happy's mounts unless there was urgent need of haste or he was out with the rest of the Family and constrained to adopt their pace, which was rapid. Happy, when riding alone, loved best to hump forward over the horn and jog along slowly, half asleep.
"Something's hurting Happy," was Cal Emmett's verdict when he saw the condition of the horse.
"He's got a burden on his mind as big as a haystack," grinned Jack Bates. "Watch the way his jaw hangs down, will yuh? Bet yuh somebody's dead."
"Most likely it's something he thinks is going to happen," said Pink. "Happy always makes me think of a play I seen when I was back home; it starts out with a melancholy cuss coming out and giving a sigh that near lifts him off his feet, and he says: 'In soo-ooth I know not why I am so sa-ad.' That's Happy all over."
The Happy Family giggled and went on with their dinner, for Happy Jack was too close for further comments not intended for his ears. They waited demurely, but in secret mirth, for him to unburden his mind. They knew that they would not have long to wait; Happy, bird of ill omen that he was, enjoyed much the telling of bad news.
"Weary's in town," he announced heavily, coming over and getting himself a plate and cup.
The Happy Family were secretly a bit disappointed; this promised, after all, to be tame.
"Did he bring the horses?" asked Chip, glancing up over the brim of his cup.
"I dunno," Happy responded from the stove, where he was trying how much of everything he could possibly pile upon his plate without spilling anything. "I didn't see no horses--but the one he was ridin'."
Weary had been sent, two weeks ago, to the upper Marias country after three saddle horses that had strayed from the home range, and which had been seen near Shelby. It was quite time for him to return, if he expected to catch the Flying U wagon before it pulled out on the beef roundup. That he should be in town and not ride out with Happy Jack was a bit strange.
"Why don't yuh throw it out uh yuh, yuh big, long-jawed croaker?" demanded Pink in a voice queerly soft and girlish. It had been a real grievance to him that he had not been permitted to go with Weary, who was his particular chum. "What's the matter? Is Weary sick?"
"No," said Happy Jack deliberately, "I guess he ain't what yuh could call sick."
"Why didn't he come out with you, then?" asked Chip, sharply. Happy did get on one's nerves so.
"Well, I ast him t' come--and he took a shot at me for it."
There was an instant's dead silence. Then Jack Bates laughed uneasily.
"Happy, how many horses did yuh ride out to camp?"
Happy Jack had, upon one occasion, looked too long upon the wine--or whisky, to be more explicit. Afterward, he had insisted that he was riding two horses home, instead of one. He was not permitted to forget that defection. The Happy Family had an unpleasant habit of recalling the incident whenever Happy Jack made a statement which they felt disinclined to credit--as this last statement was.
Happy Jack whirled on the speaker. "Aw, shut up! I never kidnaped no girl off'n no train, and--"
Jack Bates colored and got belligerently to his feet. That hit him in an exceedingly tender place.
"Happy, look here," Chip cut in authoritatively. "What's wrong with Weary? If he took a shot at you, it's a cinch he had some reason for it."
Weary was even dearer to the heart of Chip than to Pink.
"Ah--he never! He's takin' shots permisc'us, lemme tell yuh. And he ain't troublin' about no reason fer what he's doin'. He's plumb oary-eyed--that's what. He's on a limb that beats any I ever seen. He's drunk--drunk as a boiled owl, and he don't give a damn. He's lost his hat, and he's swapped cayuses with somebody--a measly old bench--and he's shootin' up the town t' beat hell!"
The Happy Family looked at one another dazedly. Weary drunk? Weary? It was unbelieveable. Such a thing had never been heard of before in the history of the Happy Family. Even Chip, who had known Weary before either had known the Flying U, could not remember anything of the sort. The Happy Family were often hilarious; they had even, on certain occasions, shot up the town; but they had done it as a family and they had done it sober. It was an unwritten law among the Flying U boys, that all riotous conduct should occur when they were together and when the Family could, as a unit, assume the consequences--if consequences there were to be.
"I guess Happy must a rode the whole blame saddle-bunch home, this time," Cal remarked, with stinging sarcasm.
"Ah, yuh can go and see fer yourselves; yuh don't need t' take my word fer nothing" cried Happy Jack, much grieved that they should doubt him. "I hain't had but one drink t'day--and that wasn't nothin' but beer. It's straight goods: Weary's as full as he can git and top a horse. He's sure enjoyin' himself, too. Dry Lake is all hisn--and the way he's misusin' the rights uh ownership is plumb scand'l'us. He makes me think of a cow on the fight in a forty-foot corral; nobody dast show their noses outside; Dry Lake's holed up in their sullers, till he quits camp.
"I seen him cut down on the hotel China-cook jest for tryin' t' make a sneak out t' the ice-house after some meat fer dinner. He like t' got him, too. Chink dodged behind the board-pile in the back yard, an' laid down. He was still there when I left town, and the chances is somebody else 'll have t' cook dinner t'day. Weary was so busy close-herdin' the Chinaman that I got a chanst t' sneak out the back door uh Rusty's place, climb on m' horse and take a shoot up around by the stockyards and pull fer camp. I couldn't git t' the store, so I didn't bring out no mail."
The Happy Family drew a long breath. This was getting beyond a joke.
"Looks t 'me like you fellows 'd come alive and do something about it," hinted Happy, with his mouth full. "Weary'll shoot somebody, er git shot, if he ain't took care of mighty quick."
"Happy," said Chip bluntly, "I don't grab that yarn. Weary may be in town, and he may be having a little fun with Dry Lake, but he isn't drunk. When you try to run a whizzer like that, you can put me down as being from Missouri."
"Same here," put in Pink, ominously soft as to voice. "Anybody that tries to make me believe Weary's performing that way has sure got his work cut out for him. If it was Happy, now--"
"Gee!" cried Jack Bates, laughing as a possible solution came to him. "I'm willing to bet money he was just stringing Happy. I'll bet he done it deliberate and with malice aforethought, just to make Happy sneak out uh town and burn the earth getting here so he could tell it scarey to the rest of us."
"Yeah, that's about the size of it," assented Cal.
The Family felt that they had a new one on Happy Jack, and showed it in the smiles they sent toward him.
"By golly, yes!" broke out Slim. "Weary's been layin' for Happy for a long while to pay off making the tent leak on him, that night; he's sure played a good one, this time!"
Happy carefully balanced his plate on the wagon-tongue near the doubletrees, and stood glaring down upon his tormentors.
"Aw, look here!" he began, with his voice very near to tears. Then he gulped and took a more warlike tone. "I don't set m'self up t' be a know-it-all--but I guess I can tell when a man's full uh booze. And I ain't claimin' t' be no Jiujitsu sharp" (with a meaning glance at Pink) "and I know the chances I'm takin' when I stand up agin the bunch--but I'm ready, here and now, t' fight any damn man that says I'm a liar, er that Weary was jest throwin' a load into me. Two or three uh yuh have licked me mor'n once--but that's all right. I'm willing t' back up anything I've said, and yuh can wade right in a soon as you're a mind to.
"I don't back down a darn inch. Weary's in Dry Lake. He is drunk. And he is shootin' up the town. If yuh don't want t' believe it, I guess they's no law t' make yuh--but if yuh got any sense, and are any friends uh Weary's, yuh'll mosey in and fetch him out here if yuh have t' bring him the way he brung ole Dock that time Patsy took cramps. Go on in and see fer yourselves, darn yuh! But don't go shootin' off your faces to me till yuh got a license to."
This, if unassuring, was convincing. The Happy Family stopped smiling, and looked at one another uncertainly.
"I guess two or three of you better ride in and see what there is to it," announced Chip, dryly. "If Happy is romancing--" His look was eloquent.
But Happy Jack, though he stood a good deal in awe of Chip and his sarcasm, never flinched. He looked him straight in the eye and maintained the calm of conscious innocence.
"I'll go," said Pink, getting up and throwing his plate and cup into the dishpan. "Mind yuh, I don't believe a word of it; Happy, if this is just a sell, so help me Josephine, you'll learn some brand new Jiujitsu right away quick."
"I'll go along too," Happy boldly retorted, "so if yuh want anything uh me, after you've saw Weary, yuh won't need t' wait till yuh strike camp t' git it. Weary loadin' me, was he? Yuh'll find out, all uh yuh, that it's him that's loaded."
They caught fresh horses and started--Cal, Pink, Jack Bates and Happy Jack. And Happy stood their jeers throughout the ten-mile ride with an equanimity that was new to them. For the most part he rode in silence, and grinned knowingly when they laughed too loudly at the joke Weary was playing.
"All right--maybe he is," he flung back, once. "But he sure looks the part well enough t' keep all Dry Lake indoors--and I never knowed Weary t' terrorize a hull town before. And where'd he git that horse? and where's Glory at? and why ain't he comin' on t' camp t' help you chumps giggle? Ain't he had plenty uh time t' foller me out and enjoy his little joke? And another thing, he was hard at it when I struck town. Now, where'd yuh get off at?"
To this argument they offered several explanations--at all of which Happy grunted in great disdain.
They clattered nonchalantly into Dry Lake, still unconvinced and still jeering at Happy Jack. The town was very quiet, even for Dry Lake. As they rounded the blacksmith shop, from where they could see the whole length of the one street which the place boasted, a yell, shrill, exultant, familiar, greeted them. A long-legged figure they knew well dashed down the street to them, a waving six-shooter in one hand, the reins held aloft in the other. His horse gave evidence of hard usage, and it was a horse none of them had ever seen before.
"It's him, all right," Jack Bates admitted reluctantly.
"Yip! Cowboys in town!" rang the slogan of the range land. "Come on and--wake 'em up! OO-oop-ee!" He pulled up so suddenly that his horse almost sat down in the dust, and reined in beside Pink.
They eyed him in amaze, and avoided meeting one another's eyes. Truly, he was a strange-looking Weary. His head was bare and disheveled, his eyes bloodshot and glaring, his cheeks flushed hotly. His neck-kerchief covered his chest like a bib and he wore no coat; one shirtsleeve was rent from shoulder to cuff, telling eloquently that violent hands had sought to lay hold on him. His long legs, clad in Angora chaps, swung limp to the stirrup. By all these signs and tokens, they knew that he was drunk---joyously, unequivocally, vociferously drunk!
Joe Meeker peered cautiously out of the window of Rusty Brown's place when they rode up, and Cal Emmett swore aloud at sight of him. Joe Meeker was the most indefatigable male gossip for fifty miles around, and the story of Weary's spree would spread far and fast. Worse, it would reach first of all the ears of Weary's School-ma'am, who lived at Meeker's.
Cal started to get down; he wanted to go in and reason with Joe Meeker. At all events, Ruby Satterlee must not hear of Weary's defection. It was all right, maybe, for some men to make fools of themselves in this fashion; some women would look upon it with lenience. But this was different; Weary was different, and so was Ruby Satterlee. Cal meditated upon just what would the most effectually close the mouth of Joe Meeker.
But Weary spied him as his foot touched the ground. "Oh, yuh can't sneak off like that, old-timer. Yuh stay right outside and help wake 'em up!" he shouted hoarsely.
Cal turned and looked at him keenly; looked also at the erratic movements of the gun, and reconsidered his decision. Joe Meeker could wait.
"Better come on out to camp, Weary," he said persuasively. "We're all of us going, right away. Yuh can ride out with us."
Weary had not yet extracted all the joy there was in the situation. He did not want to ride out to camp; more, he had no intention of doing so. He stood up in the stirrups and declaimed loudly his views upon the subject, and his opinion of any man who proposed such a move, and punctuated his remarks freely with profanity and bullets.
Under cover of Weary's elocution Pink did a bit of jockeying and got his horse sidling up against Cal. He leaned carelessly upon the saddle-horn and fixed his big, innocent eyes upon Weary's flushed face.
"He's pretty cute, if he is full," he murmured discreetly to Cal. "He won't let his gun get empty--see? Loads after every third shot, regular. We've got to get him so excited he forgets that little ceremony. Once his gun's empty, he's all to the bad--we can take him into camp. We'll try and rush him out uh town anyway, and shoot as we go. It's our only show--unless we can get him inside and lay him out."
"Yeah, that's what we'll have to do," Cal assented guardedly. "He's sure tearing it off in large chunks, ain't he? I never knew--"
"Here! What you two gazabos making medicine about?" cried Weary suspiciously. "Break away, there. I won't stand for no side-talks--"
"We're just wondering if we hadn't all better adjourn and have something to drink," said Pink musically, straightening up in the saddle. "Come on--I'm almighty dry."
"Same here," said Jack Bates promptly taking the cue, and threw one leg over the cantle. He got no further than that.
"You stay right up on your old bench!" Weary commanded threateningly. "We're the kings uh the prairie, and we'll drink on our thrones. That so-many-kinds-of-bar-slave can pack out the dope to us. It's what he's there for."
That settled Pink's little plan to get him inside where, lined up to the bar, they might--if they were quick enough--get his gun away from him; or, failing that, the warm room and another drink or two would "lay him out" and render him harmless.
Weary, shoving three cartridges dexterously into the chambers in place of those just emptied, shouted to Rusty to bring out the "sheepdip." The four drew together and attempted further consultation, separated hastily when his eye fell upon them, and waited meekly his further pleasure. They knew better than to rouse his anger against them.
Weary, displeased because Rusty did not immediately respond to his call, sent a shot or two through the window by way of hurrying him.
Whereupon Rusty cautiously opened the door, shoved a tray with bottle and glasses ostentatiously out into the sunlight for a peace offering, and finding that hostilities ceased, came forth in much fear and served them.
They drank solemnly.
"Take another one, darn yuh," commanded Weary.
They drank again, more solemnly.
The sun beat harshly down upon the deserted street, and upon the bare, tousled, brown head of Weary. The four stared at him uneasily; they had never seen him like this before, and it gave him an odd, unfamiliar air that worried them more than they would have cared to own.
Only Pink refused to lose heart. "Well, come on--let's wake up these dead ones," he shouted, drawing his gun and firing into the air. "Get busy, you sleepers! Yip! Cowboys in town!" He wheeled and darted off down the street, shooting and yelling, and the others, with Weary in their midst, followed. At the blacksmith shop, Pink, tacitly the leader of the rescuers, would have gone straight on out of town. But Weary whirled and galloped back, firing merrily into the air. A bit chagrined, Pink wheeled and galloped at his heels, fuming inwardly at the methodical reloading after every third shot. Cal, on the other side, glanced across at Pink, shook his head ruefully and shoved more shells into his smoking gun.
Back and forth from the store at one end of the street to the blacksmith shop at the other they rode, yelling till their throats ached and shooting till their gun-barrels were hot; and Weary kept pace with them and out-yelled and out-shot the most energetic, and never once forgot the little ceremony of shoving in fresh shells after the third shot. Drunk, Weary appeared much more cautious than when sober. Pink grew hot and hoarse, and counted the shots, one, two, three, over and over till his brain grew sick.
On the seventh trip down the street, a sleek, black head appeared for an instant over the top of the board-pile in the hotel yard. A pair of frightened, slant eyes peered out at them. Weary, just about to reload, caught sight of him and gave a whoop of pure joy.
"Lord, how I do hate a Chink!" he cried, and dropped to the ground the three shells in his hand that he might fire the two in his gun.
Pink yelled also. "Nab him, Cal!" and caught his gun arm the instant Weary's last bullet left the barrel.
Cal leaned and caught Weary round the neck in a close hug. Jack Bates and Happy Jack crowded close, eager to help but finding no place to take hold.
"Now, you blame fool, come along home and quit disgracing the whole community!" cried Cal, half angrily. "Ain't yuh got any sense at all?"
Weary protested; he swore; he threatened. He was not in the least like his old, sweet-tempered self. He mourned openly because he had no longer a gun that he might slay and spare not. He insisted that he would take much pleasure in killing them all off--especially Pink. He felt that Pink was the greatest traitor in the lot, and said that it would be a special joy to him to see Pink expire slowly and in great pain. He remarked that they would be sorry, before they were through with him, and repeated, many times, the hint that he never forgot a friend or forgave an enemy--and looked darkly at Pink.
"You're batty," Pink told him sorrowfully, the while they led him out through the lane. "We're the best friends yuh got--only yuh don't appreciate us."
Weary glared at him through a tangle of brown hair, and remarked further, in tones that one could hear a mile, upon the subject of Pink's treachery and the particular kind of death he deserved to die.
Pink shrugged his shoulder and grew sulky; then, old friendship growing strong within him, he sought to soothe him.
But Weary absolutely declined to be soothed. Cal, serene in his fancied favoritism, attempted the impossible, and was greeted with language which no man living had ever before heard from the lips of Weary the sunny. Jack Bates and Happy Jack, profiting by his experience, wisely kept silence.
For this, the homeward ride was not the companionable gallop it usually was. They tried to learn from Weary what he had done with Glory, and whence came the mud-colored cayuse with the dim, blotched brand, that he bestrode. They asked also where were the horses he had been sent to bring.
In return, Weary began viciously to dissect their pedigree and general moral characters.
After that, they gave over trying to question or to reason, and the last two miles they rode in utter silence. Weary, tiring of venom that brought no results, subsided gradually into mutterings, and then into sullen silence, so that, save for his personal appearance, they reached camp quite decorously.
Chip met them at the bed wagon, where they slipped dispiritedly off their horses and began to unsaddle--all save Weary; he stared around him, got cautiously to the ground and walked, with that painfully circumspect stride sometimes affected by the intoxicated, over to the cook-tent.
"Well," snapped Chip to the others, "For once in his life, Happy was right."
Weary, still planting his feet primly upon the trampled grass, went smiling up to the stupefied Patsy.
"Lord, how I do love a big, fat, shiny Dutch cook!" he murmured, and flung his long arms around him in a hug that caused Patsy to grunt. "How yuh was, already, Dutchy? Got any pie in this man's cow-camp?"
Patsy scowled and drew haughtily away from his embrace; there was one thing he would not endure, even from Weary: it was having his nationality too lightly mentioned. To call him Dutchy was a direct insult, and the Happy Family never did it to his face--unless the provocation was very great. To call him Dutchy and in the same breath to ask for pie--that, indeed, went far beyond the limits of decency.
"Py cosh, you not ged any pie, Weary Davidson. Py cosh, I learns you not to call names py sober peoples. You not get no grub whiles you iss too drunk to be decend mit folks."
"Hey? Yuh won't feed a man when he's hungry? Yuh darn Dutch--" Weary went into details in a way that was surprising.
The Happy Family rushed up and pulled him off Patsy before he had done any real harm, and held him till the cook had got into the shelter of his tent and armed himself with a frying pan. Weary was certainly outdoing himself today. The Happy Family resolved into a peace committee.
"Aw, dig up some pie for him, Patsy," pleaded Cal. "Yuh don't want to mind anything he says while he's like this; yuh know Weary's a good friend to yuh when he's sober. Get some strong coffee--that'll straighten him out."
"Py cosh, I not feed no drunk fools. I not care if it iss Weary. He hit mine jaw--"
"Aw, gwan! I guess yuh never get that way yourself," put in Happy Jack, ponderously sarcastic. "I guess yuh never tanked up in roundup, one time, and left me cook chuck fer the hull outfit--and I guess Weary never rode all night, and had the dickens of a time, tryin' t' get yuh a doctor--yuh old heathen. Yuh sure are an ungrateful cuss."
"Give him some good, hot coffee, Patsy, and anything he wants to eat," commanded Chip, more sharply than was his habit. "And don't be all day about it, either."
That settled it, of course; Chip, being foreman, was to be obeyed--unless Patsy would rather roll his blankets and hunt a new job. He took to muttering weird German sentences the while he brought out two pies and poured black coffee into a cup. The reveler drank the coffee--three cups of it--ate a whole blueberry pie, and was consoled. He even wanted to embrace Patsy again, but was restrained by the others. After that he went over and laid down in the shade of the bed-wagon, and straightway began to snore with much energy and enthusiasm.
Chip watched him a minute and then went and sat down on the shady side of the bed-tent and began gloomily to roll a cigarette. The rest of the Happy Family silently followed his example; for a long while no one said a word.
It certainly was a shock to see Weary like that. Not because it is unusual for a man of the range to get in that condition--for on the contrary, it is rather commonplace. And the Happy Family had lived the life too long to judge a man harshly because of an occasional indiscreet departure from the path virtuous; they knew that the man might be a good fellow, after all. In the West grows Charity sturdily, with branches quite broad enough to cover certain defections on the part of such men as Weary Davidson.
For that, the real shock came in the utter unexpectedness of the thing--and from the fact that a man, even though prone to indulge in such riotous conduct, is supposed to forswear such indulgence when he has other and more important things to do. Weary had been sent afar on a matter of business; he had ridden Glory, a horse belonging to the Flying U. His arrival without the strays he had been sent after; without even the horse he had ridden away--that was the real disaster. He had broken a trust; he had, apparently, appropriated a horse that did not belong to him, which was worse. But the Happy Family were loyal, to a man. They did not condemn him; they were only waiting for him to sleep himself into a condition to explain the mystery.
"Somebody's doped him," said Pink with decision, after three hours of shying around the subject. "You'll see; somebody's doped him and likely took Glory away when they'd got him batty enough not to know the difference. Yuh mind the queer look in his eyes? And he acts queer. So help me Josephine! I'd sure like to get next to the man that traded horses with him."
The Happy Family breathed deeply; they were all, apparently, thinking the same thing.
"By golly, that's what," spoke Slim, with decision. "He does act like a man that had been doped."
"Whisky straight wouldn't make that much difference in a man," averred Jack Bates. "Yuh can't get Weary on the fight, hardly, when he's sober; and look at the way he was in town--hot to slaughter that Chinaman that wasn't doing a thing to him, and saying how he hated Chinks. Weary don't; he always says, when Patsy don't make enough pie to go round, that if he was running the outfit he'd have a Chink to cook."
"Aw, look at the way he acted t' Rusty--and he thinks a lot uh Rusty, too," put in Happy Jack, who felt the importance of discovery and was in an unusually complacent mood. "And he was going t' hang Pink up by the heels and--"
Pink turned round and looked at him fixedly, and Happy Jack became suddenly interested in his cigarette.
"Say, he'll sure be sore when he comes to himself, though," observed Cal. "I don't know how he's going to square himself with his school-ma'am. Joe Meeker was into Rusty's place while the big setting comes off; I would uh given him a gentle hint about keeping his face closed, only Weary wouldn't let me off my horse. Joe'll sure give a high-colored picture uh the performance."
"Well, if he does, he'll regret it a lot," prophesied Pink. "And anyway, something sure got wrong with Weary; do yuh suppose he'd give up Glory deliberately? Not on your life! Glory comes next to the Schoolma'am in his affections."
"Wonder where he got that dirt-colored cayuse, anyhow," mused Cal.
"I was studying out the brand, a while ago," Pink answered. "It's blotched pretty bad, but I made it out. It's the Rocking R--they range down along Milk River, next to the reservation. I've never had anything to do with the outfit, but I'd gamble on the brand, all right."
"Well, how the deuce would he come by a Rocking R horse? He never got it around here, anywheres. He must uh got it up on the Marias."
"Then that must be a good long jag he's had--which I don't believe," interjected Cal.
"Somebody," said Pink meaningly, "ought to have gone along with him; this thing wouldn't uh happened, then."
"Ye-e-s?" Chip felt that the remark applied to him as a foreman, rather than as one of the Family, and he resented it. "If I'd sent somebody else with him, the outfit would probably be out two horses, instead of one--and there'd be two men under the bed-wagon with their hats and coats missing."
Pink's eyes, under their heavy fringe of curled lashes, turned ominously purple. "With all due respect to you, Mr. Bennett, I'd like to have you explain--"
A horseman rode quietly up to them from behind a thicket of choke-cherry bushes. Pink, catching sight of him first, stopped short off and stared.
"Hello, boys," greeted the new-comer gaily. "How's everything? Mamma! it's good to get amongst white folks again."
The Happy Family rose up as one man and stared fixedly; not one of them spoke, or moved. Pink was the first to recover.
"Yuh sure will, Cadwolloper, if yuh don't let down them pretty lashes and quit gawping. What the dickens ails you fellows, anyhow? Is--is my hat on crooked, or--or anything?"
"Weary, by all that's good!" murmured Chip, dazedly.
Weary swung a long leg over the back of Glory and came to earth. "Say," he began in the sunny, drawly voice that was good to hear, "what's the joke?"
The Happy Family sat down again and looked queerly at one another.
Happy Jack glanced furtively at a long figure in the grass near by, and then, unhappily, at Weary.
"It's him, all right," he blurted solemnly. "They're both him!"
The Happy Family snickered hysterically.
Weary took a long step and confronted Happy Jack. "I'm both him, am I?" he repeated mockingly. "Mamma, but you're a lucid cuss!" He turned and regarded the stunned Family judicially.
"If there's any of it left," he hinted sweetly, "I wouldn't mind taking a jolt myself; but from the looks, and the actions, yuh must have got away with at least two gallons!"
"Oh, we can give you a jolt, I guess," Chip retorted dryly. "Just step this way."
Weary, wondering a bit at the tone of him, followed; at his heels came the perturbed Happy Family. Chip stooped and turned the sleeping one over on his back; the sleeper opened his eyes and blinked questioningly up at the huddle of bent faces.
The astonished, blue eyes of Weary met the quizzical blue eyes of his other self. He leaned against the wagon wheel.
"Oh, mamma!" he said, weakly.
His other self sat up and looked around, felt for his hat, saw that it was gone, and reached mechanically for his cigarette material.
"By the Lord! Are punchers so damn scarce in this neck uh the woods, that yuh've got to shanghai a man in order to make a full crew?" he demanded of the Happy Family, in the voice of Weary--minus the drawl. "I've got a string uh cayuses in that darn stockyards, back in town--and a damn poor town it is!--and I've also got a date with the Circle roundup for tomorrow night. What yuh going to do about it? Speak up, for I'm in a hurry to know."
The Happy Family looked at one another and said nothing.
"Say," began Weary, mildly. "Did yuh say your name was Ira Mallory, and do yuh mind how they used to mix us up in school, when we were both kids? 'Cause I've got a hunch you're the same irrepressible that has the honor to be my cousin."
"I didn't say it," retorted his other self, pugnaciously. "But I don't know as it's worth while denying it. If you're Will Davidson, shake. What the devil d'yuh want to look so much like me, for? Ain't yuh got any manners? Yuh always was imitating your betters." He grinned and got slowly to his feet. "Boys, I don't know yuh, but I've a hazy recollection that we had one hell of a time shooting up that little townerine, back there. I don't go on a limb very often, but when I do, folks are apt to find it out right away."
The Happy Family laughed.
"By golly," said Slim slowly, "that cousin story 's all right--but I bet yuh you two fellows are twins, at the very least!"
"Guess again, Slim," cried Weary, already in the clutch of old times. "Run away and play, you kids. Irish and me have got steen things to talk about, and mustn't be bothered."