As I threw the quirt into the mare with my good arm, I allowed I’d had about all the horse-stealin’ I wanted for a while.
The old devil finally saw he was losin’ ground in spite of his best efforts, and let me have both barrels. I heard the shot patter on the hard road behind me, and hoped he’d quit and go home, but I’m blamed if he didn’t chase me five miles further before turnin’ back, in hopes I’d cast a shoe or something would happen to me.
I believe I was on the only horse in Texas that could have outrun the Colonel and his that mornin’.
About noon I stopped at a blacksmith’s shop, half dead with pain, and had my arm dressed and a big jolt of whiskey.
As the posse rode up to me, sittin’ in the sun by the lathered flanks of my horse and nursin’ my arm, Jim yells out: “Here he is! Surround him, boys! You’re our prisoner!”
“No! I’m blamed if I am,” I says. “You’ll have to get another desperado. After this, I’m the sheriff!”
The storm broke at Salmon Lake, and we ran for Slisco’s road-house. It whipped out from the mountains, all tore into strips coming through the saw-teeth, lashing us off the glare ice and driving us up against the river banks among the willows. Cold? Well, some! My bottle of painkiller froze slushy, like lemon punch.
There’s nothing like a warm shack, with a cache full of grub, when the peaks smoke and the black snow-clouds roar down the gulch.
Other “mushers” were ahead of us at the road-house, freighters from Kougarok, an outfit from Teller going after booze, the mail-carrier, and, who do you reckon?—Annie Black. First time I had seen her since she was run out of Dawson for claim jumping.
Her and me hadn’t been essential to one another since I won that suit over a water right on Eldorado.
“Hello, Annie,” says I, clawing the ice out of my whiskers; “finding plenty of claims down here to relocate?”
“Shut up, you perjured pup,” says she, full of disappointing affabilities; “I don’t want any dealings with a lying, thieving hypocrite like you, Billy Joyce.”
Annie lacks the sporting instinct; she ain’t got the disposition for cup-racing. Never knew her to win a case, and yet she’s the instigatress of more emotional activities than all the marked cards and home distilled liquor in Alaska.
“See here,” says I, “a prairie dog and a rattler can hole up together, but humans has got to be congenial, so, seein’ as we’re all stuck to live in the same room till this blizzard blizzes out, let’s forget our troubles. I’m as game a Hibernian as the next, but I don’t hibernate till there’s a blaze of mutual respect going.”
“Blaze away,” says she, “though I leave it to the crowd if you don’t look and act like a liar and a grave robber.” Her speech is sure full of artless hostilities.