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Duke of Chimney Butte, The

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<SPAN name="Page_270" id="Page_270">[Pg 270]</SPAN></span> <br /> <hr /> <br /> <h2>CHAPTER XVIII</h2> <h3>THE RIVALRY OF COOKS</h3> <br /> <p>Taterleg said that he would go to Glendora that night with Lambert, when the latter announced he was going down to order cars for the first shipment of cattle.</p> <p>"I've been layin' off to go quite a while," Taterleg said, "but that scrape you run into kind of held me around nights. You know, that feller he put a letter in the post office for me, servin' notice I was to keep away from that girl. I guess he thinks he's got me buffaloed and on the run."</p> <p>"Which one of them sent you a letter?"</p> <p>"Jedlick, dern him. I'm goin' down there from now on every chance I get and set up to that girl like a Dutch uncle."</p> <p>"What do you suppose Jedlick intends to do to you?"</p> <p>"I don't care what he aims to do. If he makes a break at me, I'll lay him on a board, <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_271" id="Page_271">[Pg 271]</SPAN></span>if they can find one in the Bad Lands long enough to hold him."</p> <p>"He's got a bad eye, a regular mule eye. You'd better step easy around him and not stir him up too quick."</p> <p>Lambert had no faith in the valor of Jedlick at all, but Taterleg would fight, as he very well knew. But he doubted whether there was any great chance of the two coming together with Alta Wood on the watch between them. She'd pat one and she'd rub the other, soothing them and drawing them off until they forgot their wrath. Still, he did not want Taterleg to be running any chance at all of making trouble.</p> <p>"You'd better let me take your gun," he suggested as they approached the hotel.</p> <p>"I can take care of it," Taterleg returned, a bit hurt by the suggestion, lofty and distant in his declaration.</p> <p>"No harm intended, old feller. I just didn't want you to go pepperin' old Jedlick over a girl that's as fickle as you say Alta Wood is."</p> <p>"I ain't a-goin' to pull a gun on no man till he gives me a good reason, Duke, but if he <i>gives</i> me the reason, I want to be heeled. I guess I <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_272" id="Page_272">[Pg 272]</SPAN></span>was a little hard on Alta that time, because I was a little sore. She's not so foolish fickle as some."</p> <p>"When she's trying to hold three men in line at once it looks to me she must be playin' two of 'em for suckers. But go to it, go to it, old feller; don't let me scare you off."</p> <p>"I never had but one little fallin' out with Alta, and that was the time I was sore. She wanted me to cut off my mustache, and I told her I wouldn't do that for no girl that ever punched a piller."</p> <p>"What did she want you to do that for, do you reckon?"</p> <p>"Curiosity, Duke, plain curiosity. She worked old Jedlick that way, but she couldn't throw me. Wanted to see how it'd change me, she said. Well, I know, without no experimentin'."</p> <p>"I don't know that it'd hurt you much to lose it, Taterleg."</p> <p>"Hurt me? I'd look like one of them flat Christmas toys they make out of tin without that mustache, Duke. I'd be so sharp in the face I'd whistle in the wind every time my horse <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_273" id="Page_273">[Pg 273]</SPAN></span>went out of a walk. I'm a-goin' to wear that mustache to my grave, and no woman that ever hung her stockin's out of the winder to dry's goin' to fool me into cuttin' it off."</p> <p>"You know when you're comfortable, old feller. Stick to it, if that's the way you feel about it."</p> <p>They hitched at the hotel rack. Taterleg said he'd go on to the depot with Lambert.</p> <p>"I'm lookin' for a package of express goods I sent away to Chicago for," he explained.</p> <p>The package was on hand, according to expectation. It proved to be a five-pound box of chewing gum, "All kinds and all flavors," Taterleg said.</p> <p>"You've got enough there to stick you to her so tight that even death can't part you," Lambert told him.</p> <p>Taterleg winked as he worked undoing the cords.</p> <p>"Only thing can beat it, Duke&mdash;money. Money can beat it, but a man's got to have a lick or two of common sense to go with it, and some good looks on the side, if he picks off a girl as wise as Alta. When Jedlick was weak <span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_274" id="Page_274">[Pg 274]</SPAN></span>enough to cut off his mustache, he killed his chance."</p> <p>"Is he in town tonight, do you reckon?"</p> <p>"I seen his horse in front of the saloon. Well, no girl can say I ever went and set down by her smellin' like a bunghole on a hot day. I don't travel that road. I'll go over there smellin' like a fruit-store, and I'll put that box in her hand and tell her to chaw till she goes to sleep, an then I'll pull her head over on my shoulder and pat them bangs. Hursh, oh, hursh!"</p> <p>It seemed that the effervescent fellow could not be wholly serious about anything. Lambert was not certain that he was serious in his attitude toward Jedlick as he went away with his sweet-scented box under his arm.</p> <p>By the time Lambert had finished his arrangements for a special train to carry the first heavy shipment of the Philbrook herd to market it was long after dark. He was in the post office when he heard the shot that, he feared, opened hostilities between Taterleg and Jedlick. He hurried out with the rest of the customers and went toward the hotel.</p> <p><span class='pagenum'><SPAN name="Page_275" id="Page_275">[Pg 275]</SPAN></span>There was some commotion on the hotel porch, which it was too dark to follow, but he heard Alta scream, after which there came another shot. The bullet struck the side of the store, high above Lambert's head.</p> <br /> <br /> <br /><span class='pagenum'>
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