“I know he is.”
“And do you know what it costs to have a doctor come all the way out here?”
“Yes, beasts! won’t budge till you’ve handed over five hundred dollars. Skunks!”
“Did your friend mention how he meant to raise the dust?”
“He’s got it,” she said curtly.
“Why, he was livin’ off his pardner. Hadn’t a red cent.”
“She’s shieldin’ him,” the men about the door agreed.
“Lord! he done it well—got away with five hundred and a horse!”
“He had words with Austin, himself, the night o’ the clean-up. Sassed Scowl Austin! Right quiet, but, oh my! Told him to his face his gold was dirty, and washed it off his hands with a look——Gawd! you could see Austin was mad clear through, from his shirt-buttons to his spine. You bet Scowl said something back that got the young feller’s monkey up.”
They all agreed that the only wonder was that Austin had lived as long—“On the other side o’ the line—Gee!”
* * * * *
That evening the Boy, riding hard, came into camp with a doctor, followed discreetly in the rear by an N. W. M. P., really mounted this time. It had occurred to the Boy that people looked at him hard, and when he saw the groups gathered about the tent his heart contracted sharply. Had the Colonel died? He flung himself off the horse, winced as his foot cried out, told Joey Bludsoe to look after both beasts a minute, and led the Dawson doctor towards the tent.
The constable followed.
Maudie, at the door, looked at her old enemy queerly, and just as, without greeting, he pushed by, “S’pose you’ve heard Scowl Austin’s dead?” she said in a low voice.
“No! Dead, eh? Well, there’s one rattlesnake less in the woods.”
The constable stopped him with a touch on the shoulder: “We have a warrant for you.”
The Colonel lifted his head and stared about, in a dazed way, as the Boy stopped short and stammered, “Warr—what for?”
“For the murder of Scoville——”
“Look here,” he whispered: “I—I don’t know what you mean, but I’ll go along with you, of course, only don’t talk before this man. He’s sick——” He beckoned the doctor. “This is the man I brought you to see.” Then he turned his back on the wide, horrified eyes of his friend, saying, “Back in a minute, Kentucky.” Outside: “Give me a second, boys, will you?” he said to the N. W. M. P.’s, “just till I hear what that doctor fella says about my pardner.”
He stood there with the Buckeyes, the police, and the various day gangs that were too excited to go to bed. And he asked them where Austin was found, and other details of the murder, wearily conscious that the friendliest there felt sure that the man who questioned could best fill in the gaps in the story. When the doctor came out, Maudie at his heels firing off quick questions, the Boy hobbled forward.