Early the next morning, tenderfoot, as promised, knocked on Pete and Mack’s door and stepped inside at their prompting. An absurdly long cigar stuck out crookedly from his mouth, and his hat dangled on the back of his head as it fell. And around the cigar curved his benevolent smile like a sunny swirl.
»Good morning, gentlemen!» he greeted. »You must have heard what happened to me?»
“What?” ventured the Dwarf.
»You haven’t heard, have you?’ wondered tenderfoot, raising his eyebrows. »Well, that’s the whole story. But to make a long story short, two hurlers attacked me in the street, barely a hundred meters from the door of this hotel — and it happened last night.»
»Hm!» Pete called out.
And Red Mack added dryly, “I hope they didn’t profit much.”
»Not even a centimeter,« said the tenderfoot happily.
The partnerships glanced at each other eloquently.
“But”, continued the tenderfoot, “they were about to get the right apaja.” Two thousand five hundred dollars — this one” — and he patted his waistcoat pocket, which was even plumper than usual — “twenty hundred-dollar bills and ten fifties. Well, it’s not that much, but I might have been in trouble for a little while if they had intercepted it.»
»Hm», called Pete again, and at the same time made a furious look at Red Mack, but the latter shook his head and frowned warningly.
»How did you survive their clutches?» said Red Mack loudly, hoping to distract Jerry from Pete’s grimly angry face.
»A hand landed on my shoulder», the tenderfoot began smoothly, which showed that he had already told his story several times, »and when I turned, there were four revolver barrels in front of me».
“Well, I can—” began Pete in a booming voice.
“Those rascals,” Red Mack interjected, giving Pete another warning look. “Four revolvers, right?”
»Yes, sir, a revolver in each hand. I’m sure they knew me. In any case, they didn’t leave me any chance.»
»Hm,» muttered Pete, shifting so that his chair let out a shrill protest.
»I realized that at that moment I couldn’t do anything, but that I had to raise my hand. So I reluctantly raised them a little above my shoulders.»
»Um,» called Pete.
“Go on,” shouted Red Mack. “It is exciting.”
“As soon as I had done that”, continued the narrator, “one of them put his hand into my waistcoat pocket and pulled out a wad of bills”.
»Did you ask for them back?» interjected Pete.
»Did I ask for them back?» tenderfoot repeated with a giggle. »Truly not.
I kept an eye on them all the time and was ready —»
»Weren’t you a little startled?” asked Red Mack gently.
“Me?” said tenderfoot. And he laughed out loud at such an insane assumption. “I’m not at all; I was as calm as I am now. I realized that right after the money was stolen, the thugs —»
»Where did the man put his revolver when he took the money from your pocket?» interrupted
»He pushed one against my face and held the other in his teeth,« answered Jerry calmly. »And thus he still had one hand free.»
»Hm!» growled Pete.
»But after they received the money, I suddenly noticed that their vigilance was partially diluted. On the other’s lips was a hint of a triumphant smile.»
»Did you see it in the dark?» asked Mack dryly.
“And as soon as I saw it,” continued Jerry, “I slyly kicked the revolver out of the first man’s hand.”
»Hm», called the Dwarf. “What did he do with the other revolver?”
»Dropped it when he was stunned by my attack,« answered Jerry slickly. »And at the same time I spun like a storm wind at the other man and threw him to the ground.»
“Dear God!” cried the Dwarf.
“What?” asked tenderfoot sharply.
“You sure are brave,” said Pete.
»And so you brought them into your custody to be arrested?» cried Red
»Why would I have bothered to capture those hikers?» said tenderfoot nonchalantly. “No; I took the money from the other man’s hand and kicked them both to their feet —»
“And they didn’t shoot you?” wondered Pete.
“They had naturally dropped their revolvers,” remarked Jerry, “when I knocked them to the ground.”
“Then, of course,” said Red Mack, “you took the revolvers as some sort of souvenir?”
»Do you think I would have robbed those wretched ruffians of their means of subsistence?» retorted tenderfoot vehemently. “No; when they made their way, I threw the revolvers after them.»
“And they took them from the ground?”
»I didn’t see that. I was about to burst out laughing, so I didn’t notice all the details.»
“Oh!” grunted Pete, shifting in his chair again. »I wish I had been there to see them run.»
»It was nothing at all,« continued Jerry lightly. »I’ll forget about it by tomorrow. Absolutely nothing. I wouldn’t pay attention to ten of those.”
»Hm!» smiled Pete.
»What kind of swordsmen were they?» asked Red Mack quietly.
»Rotative men. Yes, about your size, I’d say.»
The giants straightened up a bit and looked at Jerry inquisitively, but his smile didn’t waver, and his eyes remained as bright and carefree as theirs.
“And now let’s talk about tonight’s plans,” suggested Jerry.
“Good!” urged the others to agree with one voice. “What do we do?”
»We meet each other on the outskirts of the city right after dark. You both ride to the meeting place separately so that there is no suspicion. Then we ride to the house where John Scovil and his daughters live. When we get there, we dismount, and I hold the horses—»
“Hmm!” said Pete.
»While the two of you quietly slip inside.»
»And if the house is full of people, what then?»
»You all shoot to the ground, of course,» answered the tenderfoot gracefully. »When you have emptied your revolvers, I will be behind you ready to give you others.»
»Hm!» Pete called out.
“But,” continued Jerry, “there will be no one in the house when you go there but those you are looking for. Everyone else has gone on horseback to visit the falls today.»
»It makes it simple.»
»If we want to take a girl with us, she must be dressed as a man», explained Jerry. »I have bought a little piece of clothing for her. You, the Red One, take it and make him wear it.»
Red Mack’s face glowed fiery red.
“Do I have to guard her and watch her undress?” he said hoarsely.
»Me? My?” hoki Red Mack doubting.
“Of course. Why not?”
Red Mack pounded his fist on the table.
»Let me be taken by love if I do it!» he snapped suddenly. »I am not of that quality, because good. No, sir; that’s exactly where the story ends.” His cheeks turned almost purple. »Damn me if I watch a woman undress!»
»Well, let it be the past,» panted the tenderfoot. »No arguing over small things. I took care of him myself.”
“One more thing, my friend,” interjected Pete, his eyes cold as flickering ice and his voice dangerously quiet from his wide throat. »If that girl is decent, she must be treated decently. Keep that in mind!”
»Soso!» And tenderfoot dismissed the warning, waving his hand. »He will be treated as he deserves. And I’m telling you now, I know how to handle women.»
Pete opened his mouth to speak but was silenced by Red Mack’s scowl.
»So I’ll take care of the girl,» continued Jerry, »and you two take the old man with you. If he picks a fight — hold him gently. He is our purse, as you know, and must be treated well.»
»Leave him in my care!» urged Mack. »I did take care of him.»
»All right, boys. Be brave! Trust me! If we get stuck, I’ll get you out of trouble. Don’t be afraid! When the decisive moment comes, just keep an eye on me! Goodbye!”
After he said goodbye, the partners remained silent, but when the door closed behind him, Red Mack regained his ability to speak.
“Of all the wretched, creepiest, cheapest, dirtiest, most snake-like, worthless, slobber-mouthed damned bastards,” began Red, “he is—”
»The worst, the most unworthy, the most tongue-in-cheek—» began Pete in his turn.
»Shut up, Pete. I speak. My insides are seething. Pete, when I get straight from this sullen, cowardly, thick-headed, soft-handed, strong-tongued liar and scoundrel —»
»I’ll cut him in half and throw the pieces away,» managed
“Let me talk, Pete!” asked Red Mack.
»Don’t stop me!» Pete commanded. »The pressure inside me is so great that a steam boiler would burst. And to imagine that I was sitting here, grinning like a startled child, while that panty-legged schoolgirl was babbling —»
»He is not a battery; he is worse than akka. And did you hear what he said about that girl best? He knows women perfectly — let Horna take his heart! But I will teach him; that there’s a lot in men that he doesn’t know!”
And Red Mack got up and paced the floor furiously.
“Surviving us was nothing to him,” said Pete darkly. »Yes, it was hardly worth telling. He’ll forget about it by tomorrow. Damn him! If only I could have him in my arms even for a minute —»
He stretched out his huge arms and pressed the empty air against his chest.
“But still,” said Red Mack, ceasing his pacing up and down the room, “there’s something about him I can’t quite make out.”
“What do you mean?”
Red Mack looked off into the distance.
»I don’t know», he answered. »But I had a strange feeling that maybe he was teasing us. I don’t really know what I mean, Pete, so don’t ask.’