Come back hyeh, Jas! Come hyeh!" The new-comer was shouting afar off while he galloped. Horses were being untethered from the side alleys. Several more Lewallen riders came in sight. They could see the gray shining in the sunlight amid the crowd, and the man sent after him halted at a safe distance, gesticulating; and they, too, spurred forward.
Hello, boys! " young Jasper was calling out, as he swayed from side to side, the people everywhere giving him way.
"Fun to-day, by- ! fun to-day! Who'll hev a drink? Hyeh's hell to the Stetsons, whar some of 'em '11 be afore night!
With a swagger he lifted the bottle to his lips, and, stopping short, let it fall untouched to the ground. He had straightened in his saddle, and was looking up the street. With a deep curse he threw the Winchester to his shoulder, fired, and before his yell had died on his lips horse and rider were away like a shaft of light. The crowd melted like magic from the street. The Stetsons, chiefly on foot, did not return the fire, but halted up the street, as if parleying. Young Jasper joined his party, and they, too, stood still a moment, puzzled by the irresolution of the other side.
"Watch out! they're gittin' round ye! Run for the court-house, ye fools !-ye, run! " The voice came in a loud yell from somewhere down the street, and its warning was just in time.
A wreath of smoke came about a corner of the house far down the street, and young Jasper yelled, and dashed up a side alley with his followers. A moment later judge, jury, witnesses, and sheriff were flying down the court-house steps at the point of Lewallen guns; the Lewallen horses, led by the gray, were snorting through the streets; their riders, barricaded in the forsaken court-house, were puffing a stream of fire and smoke from every window of court-room below and jury-room above.
The streets were a bedlam. The Stetsons were yelling with triumph. The Lewallens were divided, and Rufe placed three Stetsons with Winchesters on each side of the courthouse, and kept them firing. Rome, pale and stern, hid his force between the square and the Lewallen store. He was none too quick. The rest were coming on, led by old Jasper. It was reckless, riding that way right into death; but the old man believed young Jasper's life at stake, and the men behind asked no questions when old Jasper led them. The horses' hoofs beat the dirt street like the crescendo of thunder. The fierce old man's hat was gone, and his mane-like hair was shaking in the wind. Louder-and still the Stetsons were quiet-quiet too long. The wily old man saw the trap, and, with a yell, whirled the column up an alley, each man flattening over his saddle. From every window, from behind every corner and tree, smoke belched from the mouth of a Winchester. Two horses went down; one screamed; the other struggled to his feet, and limped away with an empty saddle. One pf the fallen men sprang into safety behind a house, and one lay still, with his arms stretched out and his face in the dust.
From behind barn, house, and fence the Lewallens gave back a scattering fire; but the Stetsons crept closer, and were plainly in greater numbers. Old Jasper was being surrounded, and he mounted again, and all, followed by a chorus of bullets and triumphant yells, fled for a wooded slope in the rear of the court-house. A dozen Lewallens were prisoners, and must give up or starve. There was savage joy in the Stetson crowd, and many-footed rumor went all ways that night.