Clanton put his foot on the hub of the wheel. “Just a minute, Billie. I’m wanted for the killin’ of Homer Webb. I didn’t shoot him an’ I don’t know who did. Somebody must have been lyin’ there in the chaparral waitin’ for him. I’ll give myself up an’ stand trial if you’ll guarantee me fair play. No lynchin’ bee. No packed jury. All the cards dealt fair an’ honest above the table.”
The sheriff had smiled at Pauline Roubideau’s implicit faith in Jim Clanton’s word. But now, face to face with his friend, he too believed and felt a load lift from his heart.
“That’s a deal, Jim. You won’t have to reckon with any mob or any hand-picked jury, I’ll tell you the truth. I thought you did it. But if you say you didn’t, that goes with me. I’ll see you through.”
“Good enough. I’ll drop in to-morrow an’ we can fix things up. I’d like to be tried outside of Washington County. There’s too much prejudice here one way an’ another. Well, take this little lady home an’ scold her good for the way she’s been actin’. She’d ought to get married to a man that will look after her an’ not let her go buckin’ into cyclones.”
Billie smiled. “I’ll talk to her about that, old scout.”
Miss Snaith blushed furiously, but the best she could do was a bit of weak repartee. “I used to have hopes that you would ask me, Jim.”
Jimmie-Go-Get-’Em laughed with friendly malice. “I used to have hopes, too, in that direction, Lee, but I haven’t any more. You be good to her or we also-rans will boil you in oil, Billie.”
Sheriff Prince Functions
“Yippy yip yip yip!”
Old Reb, Quantrell’s ex-guerrilla, now boss of mule-skinners for Prince, galloped down the street waving an old dusty white hat. Women and children and old men dribbled out from the houses, all eager for the news.
“Billie he found Miss Lee in the Mal-Pais. That boy sure had his lucky pants on to-day. She’s all right too. I done seen her myself—just a mite tuckered out, as you might say,” explained the former cowpuncher.
Live-Oaks shook hands with itself in exuberant joy. For an hour the school bell pealed out the good news. A big bonfire blazed in the court-house square. Wise dames busied themselves baking bread and frying doughnuts and roasting beef for the rescue party now homeward bound. It was a certainty that their men-folks would all be hungry and ready for a big feed.
By noon most of the searchers were back in town and the saloons were doing big business. When Prince drove down the main street of Live-Oaks an hour later, the road was jammed as for a Fourth-of-July celebration. Tired though she was, Lee had not the heart to disappoint these good friends. She went to the picnic ground at Fremont’s Grove and was hugged and kissed by all the woman at the dinner. She wept and was wept over till her lover decided she had had all the emotion that was good for her, whereupon he took her back to the home of her aunt and with all the newborn authority of his position ordered her to bed.