“Oh, Jim Perris,” cried the girl. “Why have you let this happen!”
“I’m sure sorry,” said Perris. He disdained further explanation.
“But,” said Marianne, “I’ve got to have that terrible stallion killed. And who can do it but Jim Perris, Mr. Hervey?”
“Gimme time,” said Lew, “and I’ll do it.”
She stamped her foot in anger.
“How you wheedled the authority out of my father, I don’t know,” she said. “But you have it and you can discharge him if you want. But he’ll hear another side to this when he returns, Mr. Hervey, I promise you that!” She whirled on Red Jim. “Mr. Perris, if Mr. Hervey allows you to stay, will you remain for—a week, say, and try to get rid of Alcatraz for me? Mr. Hervey, will you let me have Mr. Perris for one week?”
There was more angry demand than appeal in her voice, but Hervey knew he must give way. After all, the way to carry this thing through was to use the high hand as little as possible. Oliver Jordan would certainly wait a week before he returned.
“I sure want to be reasonable, Miss Jordan,” he said. “I’m only acting in your father’s interests. Of course he can stay for a week.”
She whirled away from him with a glance of angry suspicion which softened instantly as she faced Red Jim.
“You will stay?” she pleaded.
Sullen pride drew Jim one way; the bright, eager eyes drew him another.
“As long as you want,” he said gravely.
If men may to some degree be classed in categories of bird and beast, one like the eagle, another like the bear, some swinish, some elephantine, some boldly leonine, unquestionably Red Perris must be likened to the cat tribe. To some the comparison would have seemed most opportune, having seen him in restless action; but the same idea might have come to one who saw him lying prone on a certain hilltop in the western foothills of the Eagle mountains, unmoving hour by hour, his rifle shoved out before him among the dead grasses, his chin resting on the back of his folded hands, and always his attentive eyes roved from point to point over the landscape below him. A cat lies passive in this manner half a day, watching the gopher hole.
It was not the first or the second time he had spent the afternoon in this place. For nearly a week he had given the better part of every day to the vigil on this hilltop. All this for very good reasons. During ten days after his first coming to the ranch he tried the ordinary methods of hunting down wild horses, and with a carefully posted string of half a dozen horses, he twice attempted to run down the outlaw, but he had never come within more than the most distant and hazardous rifle range. To be sure he had fired some dozen shots during the pursuits but they had been random efforts at times when the red chestnut was flashing off in the distance, fairly walking away from the best mounts the hunter could procure. Having logically determined that it was not in the power of horse flesh burdened with the weight of a rider to come within striking distance of the stallion, Red Jim Perris passed from action to quiescence. If he could not outrun Alcatraz he would outwait him.