en-es  Max_Brand_The_Laughter_of_ Slim_Malone - Part 2
This advice was received with an ironical chuckle of appreciation from the crowd.

"As for Slim Malone," he went on, "I'm goin' out into the Weston Hills to get him single handed; I don't want no posse.

I'll get him single handed or bust, you can lay to that, and if I come back to this town without Slim Malone, alive or dead, you can say that Malone has the Indian sign on me."

Having finished all that he had to say, Lefty felt about in his mind to find a graceful manner of closing his exordium, when the mayor came to his assistance.

He recognized that nervous clearing of the throat and wandering of the eyes out of his own first political experiences; now he raised his glass of colored alcohol and water, which in Appleton rejoiced in the name of Bourbon.

"Boys," he shouted, "there ain't no better way of showin' our appreciation of our new sheriff than by turnin' bottoms up. Let's go!"

Every hand in the barroom flashed into the air, and after a loud whoop there was a brief gurgling sound which warmed the heart of Sandy Orton.

It should have been the signal for a day's carousal, and the good citizens of Appleton were no wise averse; they desired to hear the voice of their new sheriff in friendly converse; they desired to see him in that most amiable of all poses, his foot on the rail and his hand on the bar.

They wanted to look him over and size him up just as a boy wishes to fondle his first gun but the sheriff objected.

He was sorry to spoil the fun; he said that they could go ahead and have their little time, but that they must leave him out; he had business to perform that didn't admit of drinking.

There might have been adverse criticism of this Spartan strenuousness, but at this point a diversion occurred in the shape of four wild riders who broke into Appleton and brought the word that Slim Malone had been out again.

This time he had held up a mule train on its way to carry provisions up Bender Cañon to Earl Parrish's claim.

With his usual fine restraint Slim had taken no lives, but he had winged two of the drivers badly and had helped himself from the provisions without unnecessary waste.

He had even lingered to give first aid to the two drivers whose courage had overcome their sense of proportion.

If anything had been needed to spur on the new official of Appleton it came in the form of the message which Slim Malone had left with the wounded man before he rode away.

"Tell the new sheriff," he called, as he sat easily in the saddle, "that I've heard of him, and that I'll organize a little party for him as soon as possible so that we can get better acquainted.

Tell him that the one thing he lacks to make him a good fighting man is a sense of humor."

Lefty Cornwall heard this message in silence the while he spat with vicious precision into a distant spittoon; afterward, and still in silence, he retired and worked for an hour cleaning his already shining revolver and patting and oiling the holster.

He performed these grave functions in the house of the mayor, and that dignitary announced later that he had wound up by practising the draw and point, walking and sitting down, and at every angle.

The mayor was impressed past speech.

When Lefty issued at last he found a score of hard riders standing by their horses in the street.

"An' what might all this here gang be for?" inquired Lefty mildly.

"We're the posse, waitin' to be sworn in," announced one of the men.

"Swearin' in takes a terrible lot of time," said Lefty, "an' besides, I don't know how it's done; I don't want no posse, as I said before. I wouldn't know how to handle it.

Anyway, twenty men on horseback make enough noise to scare away a whole gang of bandits; you might as well start lookin' for trouble with a brass band, because you'd sure find the trouble."

He hitched at his belt in his customary manner when at a loss for words, and his right hand dropped gracefully upon the handle of his gun and drooped thereon somewhat sinisterly.

"This here Malone," went on the sheriff, "may be a tolerable bad man in his way, but I ain't no shorn lamb myself; I'm goin' out to get him, an' I'm goin' to get him by myself. I reckon that's final."

They accepted his announcement with cheers, and set about offering all the information in their power.

It was generally believed that the bandit lived somewhere at the far end of Eagle Head Canon, about fifteen miles from the town.

His dwelling had never been spotted, but he was most frequently seen riding to and from this place.

Thrice posses had raked the cañon as with a fine-toothed comb, but they had never come upon a trace of his habitation: but the cañon was thick with caves, and heaped with giant boulders which offered innumerable places of concealment, and the legend was strong that Slim Malone lived in that place.

The next thing was to find a proper mount.

This proved a more difficult task.

The sheriff knew horse- ham nose to hoof, and he was hard to please; at last he selected a tall roan with a wicked eye and flat shoulders which promised speed.

These preparations made, he swung to the saddle, waved his hand to the crowd, and galloped out of town.

There was not much bluff about Lefty Cornwall, as the curious-minded had frequently discovered in the past, but as he swung into the narrow throat of Eagle Head Cañon, he began to realize that he might have gone too far.

While he was in the town it had been easy enough to make ringing speeches.

Now that the evening began to come clown by lazy, cool degrees a certain diffidence grew in him.

He had fought many men during his brief life, but he had never come across a reputation as strange or as fascinating as this of Slim Malone.

If the challenge which the bandit had sent him was irritating, it also roused in his mind a certain degree of respect, and as he rode up the cañon, winding slowly among the boulders, a hundred doubts infested his mind.

If he had been back upon the level reaches of the Texan desert, which he knew, these uncertainties would probably have never entered his head, but here every half mile of his journey was passed under the eye of a thousand coverts from which a man could have picked him off with the safety of a hunter firing from a blind at partridges.

Moreover a curious loneliness akin to homesickness came in him, located, as far as he could discover, chiefly in the pit of the stomach.

The mountains were blue now, and purple along their upper reaches, and as the sun left off the moon took up her reign over the chill blue spaces.

It was very solemn, almost funereal to the thought of Lefty Cornwall; and the silence was punctuated with the melancholy howling of a far-off coyote.

It was complete night before he reached the upper end of Eagle Head Cañon, and he was weary from the stumbling gait of his horse over the rocks.

Moreover, the mountain night air was cold—very cold to Lefty; he wanted desperately to turn back, but he had not the heart to face the inquiries which would meet him at the town, and the covert smiles which would welcome the hero returning empty handed, the man who needed no posse.

Lefty was a very brave man, but like almost all of the physically courageous, he dreaded derision more than actual pain.
Yet, in spite of this he finally decided that it was better to go back to the town and face the smiles than to remain through the cold night in these dread silences.

He wished heartily that he had taken one other man with him if it were only for the companionship.

As it was he felt that it was no use to hunt further, and he started back down the cañon.

He had not gone far when his horse stumbled and commenced to limp.

Lefty got off with a curse and felt of the fore hoofs; the difficulty proved to be a sharp, three-cornered rock which had been picked up under the shoe of the left fore foot.

He was bending over to pry this loose between his fingers when he caught the glint of a light.

In his excitement he sprang upright and stared.

At once the light disappeared; Lefty began to feel ghostly; his senses had never played him such tricks before.

He leaned over and commenced work on the stone again, but as he did so his eye caught the same glint of light.

There was no possible mistake about it this time; he remained bent over and stared at it until he was certain that he saw a yellow spot of light, a long, thin ray which pointed out to him like a finger through the shadows.

This time he took the bearings of the light carefully, and when he stood up he was able to locate it again; Lefty's heart beat high; he threw the reins over his horse's head and commenced to stalk the light carefully.

Sometimes as he slipped and stumbled over the rocks he lost sight of it altogether, only to have it reappear when he had almost given up hopes of finding it again.

And so he came upon the cave.

The light shone through a little chink between two tall boulders, and as Lefty pressed his eye to the aperture, holding his breath as he did so, he saw a long dug-out, perhaps a dozen paces from end to end, and some five paces wide.

Behind a partition at one end he heard the stamping of a horse, and as Lefty gazed, a magnificent white head rose behind the partition and looked fairly at him.

His heart stopped as that great-eyed gaze turned on him, the ears pricking and the wisp of hay motionless in the mouth.

But after a moment the horse dropped his head again and went on crunching his fodder, stamping now and then and snorting as he ate.

At first he saw no other occupant of the place, but by moving his eye to one side of the aperture he managed to get a glimpse of the bandit himself.

There was no question about his identity; from the descriptions which he had heard while in Appleton he knew him at once, the expressionless gray eyes, and the thin, refined face with an almost Greek modeling about its lower part.

He sat tilted back in a heavy chair smoking a pipe and reading, and Lefty saw that he sat facing a blanket at the far end of the room.

Evidently this was the entrance; so far as Lefty could see the bandit was unarmed, his two long guns lying on the table half a dozen paces away.

Very softly he crept along the side of the boulder, and finally came to an aperture, as he had expected.

It was just wide enough for a man to press through, and from the chisel marks at his sides it had evidently been artificially widened from time to time.

At the end of the narrow passage hung the blanket.
If Lefty had proceeded cautiously up to this point, his caution now became almost animal-like.

Behind that blanket he had no idea what was happening.

Perhaps the bandit had heard a noise long before, and was now crouched against the wall in another part of the place, ready to open fire at the first stir of the blanket.

Perhaps he had stolen out of the cave by another entrance and was now hunting the hunter.

The thought sent a chill down Lefty's back and he turned his head quickly.

Then he resumed his slow progress.

At the very edge of the blanket he paused for a long and deathly minute, but Lefty was not a woman, to fail at the last moment.
unit 7
Let's go!"
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unit 21
The mayor was impressed past speech.
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unit 23
"An' what might all this here gang be for?"
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unit 24
inquired Lefty mildly.
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unit 25
"We're the posse, waitin' to be sworn in," announced one of the men.
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unit 27
I wouldn't know how to handle it.
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unit 31
I reckon that's final."
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unit 36
The next thing was to find a proper mount.
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This proved a more difficult task.
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unit 55
He had not gone far when his horse stumbled and commenced to limp.
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unit 58
In his excitement he sprang upright and stared.
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unit 64
And so he came upon the cave.
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At the end of the narrow passage hung the blanket.
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Behind that blanket he had no idea what was happening.
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unit 81
Then he resumed his slow progress.
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This advice was received with an ironical chuckle of appreciation from the crowd.

"As for Slim Malone," he went on, "I'm goin' out into the Weston Hills to get him single handed; I don't want no posse.

I'll get him single handed or bust, you can lay to that, and if I come back to this town without Slim Malone, alive or dead, you can say that Malone has the Indian sign on me."

Having finished all that he had to say, Lefty felt about in his mind to find a graceful manner of closing his exordium, when the mayor came to his assistance.

He recognized that nervous clearing of the throat and wandering of the eyes out of his own first political experiences; now he raised his glass of colored alcohol and water, which in Appleton rejoiced in the name of Bourbon.

"Boys," he shouted, "there ain't no better way of showin' our appreciation of our new sheriff than by turnin' bottoms up. Let's go!"

Every hand in the barroom flashed into the air, and after a loud whoop there was a brief gurgling sound which warmed the heart of Sandy Orton.

It should have been the signal for a day's carousal, and the good citizens of Appleton were no wise averse; they desired to hear the voice of their new sheriff in friendly converse; they desired to see him in that most amiable of all poses, his foot on the rail and his hand on the bar.

They wanted to look him over and size him up just as a boy wishes to fondle his first gun but the sheriff objected.

He was sorry to spoil the fun; he said that they could go ahead and have their little time, but that they must leave him out; he had business to perform that didn't admit of drinking.

There might have been adverse criticism of this Spartan strenuousness, but at this point a diversion occurred in the shape of four wild riders who broke into Appleton and brought the word that Slim Malone had been out again.

This time he had held up a mule train on its way to carry provisions up Bender Cañon to Earl Parrish's claim.

With his usual fine restraint Slim had taken no lives, but he had winged two of the drivers badly and had helped himself from the provisions without unnecessary waste.

He had even lingered to give first aid to the two drivers whose courage had overcome their sense of proportion.

If anything had been needed to spur on the new official of Appleton it came in the form of the message which Slim Malone had left with the wounded man before he rode away.

"Tell the new sheriff," he called, as he sat easily in the saddle, "that I've heard of him, and that I'll organize a little party for him as soon as possible so that we can get better acquainted.

Tell him that the one thing he lacks to make him a good fighting man is a sense of humor."

Lefty Cornwall heard this message in silence the while he spat with vicious precision into a distant spittoon; afterward, and still in silence, he retired and worked for an hour cleaning his already shining revolver and patting and oiling the holster.

He performed these grave functions in the house of the mayor, and that dignitary announced later that he had wound up by practising the draw and point, walking and sitting down, and at every angle.

The mayor was impressed past speech.

When Lefty issued at last he found a score of hard riders standing by their horses in the street.

"An' what might all this here gang be for?" inquired Lefty mildly.

"We're the posse, waitin' to be sworn in," announced one of the men.

"Swearin' in takes a terrible lot of time," said Lefty, "an' besides, I don't know how it's done; I don't want no posse, as I said before. I wouldn't know how to handle it.

Anyway, twenty men on horseback make enough noise to scare away a whole gang of bandits; you might as well start lookin' for trouble with a brass band, because you'd sure find the trouble."

He hitched at his belt in his customary manner when at a loss for words, and his right hand dropped gracefully upon the handle of his gun and drooped thereon somewhat sinisterly.

"This here Malone," went on the sheriff, "may be a tolerable bad man in his way, but I ain't no shorn lamb myself; I'm goin' out to get him, an' I'm goin' to get him by myself. I reckon that's final."

They accepted his announcement with cheers, and set about offering all the information in their power.

It was generally believed that the bandit lived somewhere at the far end of Eagle Head Canon, about fifteen miles from the town.

His dwelling had never been spotted, but he was most frequently seen riding to and from this place.

Thrice posses had raked the cañon as with a fine-toothed comb, but they had never come upon a trace of his habitation: but the cañon was thick with caves, and heaped with giant boulders which offered innumerable places of concealment, and the legend was strong that Slim Malone lived in that place.

The next thing was to find a proper mount.

This proved a more difficult task.

The sheriff knew horse- ham nose to hoof, and he was hard to please; at last he selected a tall roan with a wicked eye and flat shoulders which promised speed.

These preparations made, he swung to the saddle, waved his hand to the crowd, and galloped out of town.

There was not much bluff about Lefty Cornwall, as the curious-minded had frequently discovered in the past, but as he swung into the narrow throat of Eagle Head Cañon, he began to realize that he might have gone too far.

While he was in the town it had been easy enough to make ringing speeches.

Now that the evening began to come clown by lazy, cool degrees a certain diffidence grew in him.

He had fought many men during his brief life, but he had never come across a reputation as strange or as fascinating as this of Slim Malone.

If the challenge which the bandit had sent him was irritating, it also roused in his mind a certain degree of respect, and as he rode up the cañon, winding slowly among the boulders, a hundred doubts infested his mind.

If he had been back upon the level reaches of the Texan desert, which he knew, these uncertainties would probably have never entered his head, but here every half mile of his journey was passed under the eye of a thousand coverts from which a man could have picked him off with the safety of a hunter firing from a blind at partridges.

Moreover a curious loneliness akin to homesickness came in him, located, as far as he could discover, chiefly in the pit of the stomach.

The mountains were blue now, and purple along their upper reaches, and as the sun left off the moon took up her reign over the chill blue spaces.

It was very solemn, almost funereal to the thought of Lefty Cornwall; and the silence was punctuated with the melancholy howling of a far-off coyote.

It was complete night before he reached the upper end of Eagle Head Cañon, and he was weary from the stumbling gait of his horse over the rocks.

Moreover, the mountain night air was cold—very cold to Lefty; he wanted desperately to turn back, but he had not the heart to face the inquiries which would meet him at the town, and the covert smiles which would welcome the hero returning empty handed, the man who needed no posse.

Lefty was a very brave man, but like almost all of the physically courageous, he dreaded derision more than actual pain.
Yet, in spite of this he finally decided that it was better to go back to the town and face the smiles than to remain through the cold night in these dread silences.

He wished heartily that he had taken one other man with him if it were only for the companionship.

As it was he felt that it was no use to hunt further, and he started back down the cañon.

He had not gone far when his horse stumbled and commenced to limp.

Lefty got off with a curse and felt of the fore hoofs; the difficulty proved to be a sharp, three-cornered rock which had been picked up under the shoe of the left fore foot.

He was bending over to pry this loose between his fingers when he caught the glint of a light.

In his excitement he sprang upright and stared.

At once the light disappeared; Lefty began to feel ghostly; his senses had never played him such tricks before.

He leaned over and commenced work on the stone again, but as he did so his eye caught the same glint of light.

There was no possible mistake about it this time; he remained bent over and stared at it until he was certain that he saw a yellow spot of light, a long, thin ray which pointed out to him like a finger through the shadows.

This time he took the bearings of the light carefully, and when he stood up he was able to locate it again;

Lefty's heart beat high; he threw the reins over his horse's head and commenced to stalk the light carefully.

Sometimes as he slipped and stumbled over the rocks he lost sight of it altogether, only to have it reappear when he had almost given up hopes of finding it again.

And so he came upon the cave.

The light shone through a little chink between two tall boulders, and as Lefty pressed his eye to the aperture, holding his breath as he did so, he saw a long dug-out, perhaps a dozen paces from end to end, and some five paces wide.

Behind a partition at one end he heard the stamping of a horse, and as Lefty gazed, a magnificent white head rose behind the partition and looked fairly at him.

His heart stopped as that great-eyed gaze turned on him, the ears pricking and the wisp of hay motionless in the mouth.

But after a moment the horse dropped his head again and went on crunching his fodder, stamping now and then and snorting as he ate.

At first he saw no other occupant of the place, but by moving his eye to one side of the aperture he managed to get a glimpse of the bandit himself.

There was no question about his identity; from the descriptions which he had heard while in Appleton he knew him at once, the expressionless gray eyes, and the thin, refined face with an almost Greek modeling about its lower part.

He sat tilted back in a heavy chair smoking a pipe and reading, and Lefty saw that he sat facing a blanket at the far end of the room.

Evidently this was the entrance; so far as Lefty could see the bandit was unarmed, his two long guns lying on the table half a dozen paces away.

Very softly he crept along the side of the boulder, and finally came to an aperture, as he had expected.

It was just wide enough for a man to press through, and from the chisel marks at his sides it had evidently been artificially widened from time to time.

At the end of the narrow passage hung the blanket.
If Lefty had proceeded cautiously up to this point, his caution now became almost animal-like.

Behind that blanket he had no idea what was happening.

Perhaps the bandit had heard a noise long before, and was now crouched against the wall in another part of the place, ready to open fire at the first stir of the blanket.

Perhaps he had stolen out of the cave by another entrance and was now hunting the hunter.

The thought sent a chill down Lefty's back and he turned his head quickly.

Then he resumed his slow progress.

At the very edge of the blanket he paused for a long and deathly minute, but Lefty was not a woman, to fail at the last moment.