With a little whimper Polly moved blindly to the house through her tears.
Jim Takes a Prisoner
After Goodheart left the room where his prisoner was confined, Clanton waited a few moments till the sound of his footsteps had died away. He rose, moved noiselessly across the floor, and raised the trapdoor slowly. The creaking of the rusty hinges seemed to Jim to be shouting aloud the news of his escape. The young fellow descended into the cellar and stood there without moving till his eyes became accustomed to the darkness. He groped his way to the door, which Pauline had left open an inch or two. Carefully he edged through and crouched in the gloom at the foot of the steps.
Not far away some one was whistling cheerfully. Clanton recognized the tune as the usual musical offertory of Brad. He was giving “Uncle Ned” to an unappreciative world.
The fugitive crept up the steps and peered over the top. Brad was sitting on a bench against the wall. Evidently he was quite comfortable and had no intention of moving. The guard was so near that it would not be a fair risk to try to make a dash across the moonlit open for the aspen grove. He was so far that before the prisoner could reach him his gun would be in action. There was nothing to do but wait. Jim huddled against the sustaining wall while with the passing minutes his chance of escape dipped away.
Pierre Roubideau came round the corner of the house and joined Brad. The guard made room for him on the bench. If Roubideau sat down, the man in the shadow knew he was lost. They would sit there and chat till Goodheart came back and discovered his absence.
The rancher hesitated while he felt for his pipe. “Reckon I left it in the kitchen,” he said.
Brad followed him round the corner of the house. Clanton waited no longer. They might return, or they might not. He did not intend to stay to find out.
Swiftly he ran toward the aspens. Half the distance he had covered when a voice called sharply to halt. The guard had turned and caught sight of him.
The feet of the running man slapped the ground faster. As he dodged into the trees a bullet flew past him. Yet a moment, and he had flung himself astride the bronco waiting there and had electrified that sleepy animal into life.
The pony struck its stride immediately. It took the rising ground at a gallop, topped the hill, and disappeared over the brow. The rider plunged into the thick mesquite. He knew that Goodheart would pursue, but he knew, too, that the odds were a hundred to one against capture if he could put a mile or two between him and the Roubideau ranch. A man could vanish in any one of fifty draws. He could find a temporary hiding-place up any gulch under cover of the matted brush. Therefore he turned toward the mountains.
Since he was unarmed, it was essential that Clanton should get into touch with his associates of the chaparral at once. Until he had a six-gun strapped to his side and a carbine under his leg he would not feel comfortable. All night he traveled, winding in and out of canons, crossing divides, and dipping down into little mountain parks. He knew exactly where he wanted to go, and he moved toward his destination in the line of greatest economy.