“My real name is Jim Clanton,” answered the boy. “I’ve been passin’ by that of ‘Thursday’ so that none of the Roush outfit would know I was in the country till I met up face to face with ’em.”
“Clanton! It is a name we shall remember in our prayers, n’est-ce pas, Polly?” Pierre choked up and wrung fervently the hand of the youngster.
Clanton was both embarrassed and wary. He did not know at what moment Roubideau would disgrace him by attempting another embrace. There was something in the Frenchman’s eye that told of an emotion not yet expended fully.
“Oh, shucks; you make a heap of fuss about nothin’,” he grumbled. “Didn’t I tell you it was Billie Prince sent me? An’ say, I got a pill in my foot. Kindness of one of them dad-gummed Mescaleros. I hate to walk on that laig. I wish yore boy would go up on the bluff an’ look after my horse. I ‘most rode it to death, I reckon, comin’ up the canon. An’ there’s a sawed-off shotgun. He’ll find it...”
For a few moments the ground had been going up and down in waves before the eyes of the boy. Now he clutched at a stirrup leather for support, but his fingers could not seem to find it. Before he could steady himself the bed of the dry creek rose up and hit him in the head.
Pauline Roubideau Says “Thank You.”
Jimmie Clanton slid back from unconsciousness to a world the center of which was a girl sitting on a rock with his rifle across her knees. The picture did not at first associate itself with any previous experience. She was a brown, slim young thing in a calico print that fitted snugly the soft lines of her immature figure. The boy watched her shyly and wondered at the quiet self-reliance of her. She was keeping guard over him, and there was about her a cool vigilance that went oddly with the small, piquant face and the tumbled mass of curly chestnut hair that had fallen in a cascade across her shoulders.
“Where are yore folks?” he asked presently.
She turned her head slowly and looked at him. Southern suns had sprinkled beneath her eyes a myriad of powdered freckles. She met his gaze fairly, with a boyish directness and candor.
“Jean has ridden out to tell your friends about you and Mr. Prince. Father has gone back to the house to fix up a travois to carry you.”
“Sho! I can ride.”
“There’s no need of it. You must have lost a great deal of blood.”
He looked down at his foot and saw that the boot had been cut away. A bandage of calico had been tied around the wound. He guessed that the girl had sacrificed part of a skirt.
“And you stayed here to see the ’Paches didn’t play with me whilst yore father was gone,” he told her.
“There wasn’t any danger, of course. The only one that escaped is miles away from here. But we didn’t like to leave you alone.”