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A Chaparral Prince
by [?]

“Donnerwetter!” shouted Fritz, with all his tremendous voice–“wass ist? Release your hands from dose mules. Ve vas der United States mail!”

“Hurry up, Dutch!” drawled a melancholy voice. “Don’t you know when you’re in a stick-up? Reverse your mules and climb out of the cart.”

It is due to the breadth of Hondo Bill’s demerit and the largeness of his achievements to state that the holding up of the Fredericksburg mail was not perpetrated by way of an exploit. As the lion while in the pursuit of prey commensurate to his prowess might set a frivolous foot upon a casual rabbit in his path, so Hondo Bill and his gang had swooped sportively upon the pacific transport of Meinherr Fritz.

The real work of their sinister night ride was over. Fritz and his mail bag and his mules came as gentle relaxation, grateful after the arduous duties of their profession. Twenty miles to the southeast stood a train with a killed engine, hysterical passengers and a looted express and mail car. That represented the serious occupation of Hondo Bill and his gang. With a fairly rich prize of currency and silver the robbers were making a wide detour to the west through the less populous country, intending to seek safety in Mexico by means of some fordable spot on the Rio Grande. The booty from the train had melted the desperate bushrangers to jovial and happy skylarkers.

Trembling with outraged dignity and no little personal apprehension, Fritz climbed out to the road after replacing his suddenly removed spectacles. The band had dismounted and were singing, capering, and whooping, thus expressing their satisfied delight in the life of a jolly outlaw. Rattlesnake Rogers, who stood at the heads of the mules, jerked a little too vigorously at the rein of the tender-mouthed Donder, who reared and emitted a loud, protesting snort of pain. Instantly Fritz, with a scream of anger, flew at the bulky Rogers and began to assiduously pummel that surprised freebooter with his fists.

“Villain!” shouted Fritz, “dog, bigstiff! Dot mule he has a soreness by his mouth. I vill knock off your shoulders mit your head– robbermans!”

“Yi-yi!” howled Rattlesnake, roaring with laughter and ducking his head, “somebody git this here sour-krout off’n me!”

One of the band yanked Fritz back by the coat-tail, and the woods rang with Rattlesnake’s vociferous comments.

“The dog-goned little wienerwurst,” he yelled, amiably. “He’s not so much of a skunk, for a Dutchman. Took up for his animile plum quick, didn’t he? I like to see a man like his hoss, even if it is a mule. The dad-blamed little Limburger he went for me, didn’t he! Whoa, now, muley–I ain’t a-goin’ to hurt your mouth agin any more.”

Perhaps the mail would not have been tampered with had not Ben Moody, the lieutenant, possessed certain wisdom that seemed to promise more spoils.

“Say, Cap,” he said, addressing Hondo Bill, “there’s likely to be good pickings in these mail sacks. I’ve done some hoss tradin’ with these Dutchmen around Fredericksburg, and I know the style of the varmints. There’s big money goes through the mails to that town. Them Dutch risk a thousand dollars sent wrapped in a piece of paper before they’d pay the banks to handle the money.”

Hondo Bill, six feet two, gentle of voice and impulsive in action, was dragging the sacks from the rear of the wagon before Moody had finished his speech. A knife shone in his hand, and they heard the ripping sound as it bit through the tough canvas. The outlaws crowded around and began tearing open letters and packages, enlivening their labours by swearing affably at the writers, who seemed to have conspired to confute the prediction of Ben Moody. Not a dollar was found in the Fredericksburg mail.

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” said Hondo Bill to the mail- carrier in solemn tones, “to be packing around such a lot of old, trashy paper as this. What d’you mean by it, anyhow? Where do you Dutchers keep your money at?”