“Touch a woman, will yer? No thousand dollars nor any other money, ’ll hire me to travel with such a scoundrel. Catch him yerself, if yer want ter,”
“But if you do,” said Glorieaux, politely, as he drew his revolver, “it will be necessary for Glorieaux to slay the Lord’s anointed.”
“Follered, by thunder!” said Mike.
It was true. During the few seconds which had been consumed in conversation, Jude got well into the creek. He had not seemed to hear the woman’s warning; but now a greater danger threatened him, for on the opposite bank of the creek there appeared a man, who commenced firing at Jude’s head and the small portion of his shoulders that was visible.
“The monster. Oh, the wretch!” screamed the woman. “He may hit Johnny, his only son! Oh, God have mercy on me, and save my child!”
A shot immediately behind her followed the woman’s prayer, and Glorieaux exclaimed, pointing to the opposite bank, where Marksey was staggering and falling:
“Glorieaux gathered from your words that a divorce would be acceptable, madame. Behold, you have it!”
“Pity nobody didn’t think of it sooner,” observed Mike, shading his eyes as he stared intently at Jude, “for there’s a red streak in the water right behind him.”
The woman was already standing at the water’s edge, with hands clasped in an agony of terror and anxiety. The three men hastened to join her.
“Wish I could swim,” said Mike, “for he’s gettin’ weak, an’ needs help.”
The parson sprang into the water, and, in spite of the chill and the swift current, he was soon by Jude’s side.
“Take the young un,” gasped Jude, “for I’m a goner.”
“Put your hand on my shoulder,” said the parson. “I can get you both ashore.”
’"Tain’t no use,” said Jude, feebly; “corpses don’t count for much in Californy.”
“But your immortal part,” remonstrated the parson, trying to seize Jude by the hand which held little Johnny.
“God hev mercy on it!” whispered the dying man; “it’s the fust time He ever had an excuse to do it.”
Strong man and expert swimmer as the ex-minister was, he was compelled to relinquish his hold of the wounded man; and Jude, after one or two fitful struggles against his fate, drifted lifeless down the stream and into eternity, while the widowed mother regained her child. The man of God, the chivalrous Frenchman and the brutish Mike slowly returned to their camp; but no one who met them could imagine, from their looks, that they were either of them anything better than fugitives from justice.