“Don’t be in a hurry, Albeen,” advised Billie. “It’s easy to start something. We all know you burn powder quick. You’re a sure-enough bad man. But I’ve got a hunch it’s goin’ to be your funeral as well as mine if once the band begins to play.”
“That so?” replied Albeen with heavy sarcasm. “You talk like you was holdin’ a royal flush, my friend.”
“I’m holdin’ a six-full an’ Clanton has another. We’re sittin’ in strong.”
Dumont proposed a compromise. “Why not just arrest ’em an’ hold ’em at Bluewater till we find whether their story is true?”
“Bring a warrant along before you try that,” Billie countered. “Think we were born yesterday? No Lazy S M sheriff, judge, an’ jury for me, if you please.”
The old guerrilla nodded. “That’s reasonable, too. We haven’t got a leg to stand on, boys. This young fellow’s story may be true an’ it may not. All we know is what we’ve seen. Clanton here took a mighty slim chance of comin’ through alive when he tackled Dave an’ Hugh Roush. I wouldn’t have give a chew of tobacco against a week’s pay for it. He fought fair, didn’t he? Now he’s come through I’ll be doggoned if I want to jump on him again.”
“You’re too soft for this country, Reb,” sneered Albeen. “Better go back to Arkansas or wherever you come from.”
“When I get ready. You don’t mean right away, Albeen, do you?” demanded the old-timer sharply.
“Well, don’t hang around all day,” said Prince, his eye full in that of the foreman. “Make up your minds whether you want to jump one man an’ a wounded boy. If you don’t mean business I’d like to have a doctor look at my friend’s shoulder.”
Sanders’s eyes fell at last before the quiet steadiness of that gaze. With an oath he turned on his heel and strode from the gambling-hall. His party straggled morosely after him. The old raider lingered for a last word.
“Take a fool’s advice, Prince. There’s a gunbarrel road leads out of town for the north. Hit it pronto. Stay with it till you come up with Webb’s herd. You won’t see his dust any too soon.”
“I guess you’re right, Reb,” agreed Prince.
“You know I’m right. Just now you’ve got the boys bluffed, but it isn’t going to last. They’ll get busy lappin’ up drinks. Quite a crowd of town toughs will join ’em. By night they’ll be all primed up for a lynching. I’d spoil their party if I was you by bein’ distant absentees.”
“Soon as I can get Jim’s shoulder fixed up we’ll be joggin’ along if he’s able to travel,” promised Billie.
“Good enough. And I’d see he was able if it was me.”
Bud Proctor Lends a Hand
After the doctor had dressed the wounded shoulder he ordered Clanton to go to bed at once and stay there. “What he needs is rest, proper food, and sleep. See he gets them.”
“I’ll try,” said Billie dryly. “Sometimes a fellow can’t sleep when he’s got a lead pill in him, doctor. Could you give me something to help him forget the pain an’ the fever?”