“Get yore time from Yankie, Clanton,” said his employer harshly. “Sleep in camp to-night if you like, but hit the trail in the mornin’. I can’t use men like you.”
He turned away and left the two friends alone.
Prince was sick at heart. He had warned the young fellow and it had done no good. His regret was for Jim, not for Warren. He blamed himself for not having prevented the killing of Peg-Leg. Yet he knew he had done all that he could.
“I’m sorry, Jim,” he said at last.
“Oh, well! What’s done is done.”
But Billie could not dismiss the matter casually. He saw clearly that Clanton had come to the parting of the ways and had unconsciously made his choice for life. From this time he would be known as a bad man. The brand of the killer would be on him and he would have to make good his reputation. He would have to live without friends, without love, in the dreadful isolation of one who is watched and feared by all. Prince felt a great wave of sympathy for him, of regret for so young a soul gone so totally astray. Surely the cards had been marked against Jim Clanton.
A Two-Gun Man
Webb delivered his beeves at the Fort and endured with what fortitude he could the heavy cut which the inspector chose to inflict on him. He paid off his men and let them shift for themselves. Billie secured a wood contract at the reservation, employed half a dozen men and teams, cleaned up a thousand dollars in a couple of months, and rode back to Los Portales in the late fall.
He had money in his pocket and youth in his heart. The day was waning as he rode up the street and in the sunlight the shadows of himself and his horse were attenuated to farcical lengths. Little dust whirls rose in the road, spun round in inverted cones like huge tops, and scurried out of sight across the prairie. Horses drowsed lazily in front of Tolleson’s, anchored to the spot by the simple process of throwing the bridle to the ground. It all looked good to Billie. He had been hard at work for many months and he wanted to play.
A voice hailed him from across the street. “Hello, you Billie!”
Jim Clanton and Pauline Roubideau were coming out of a store. He descended from his horse and they fell upon him gayly.
“’Jour, monsieur,” the girl cried, and she gave him warmly both her hands.
The honest eyes of Billie devoured her. “Didn’t know you were within a hundred miles of here. This is great.”
“We’ve moved. We live about twenty miles from town now. But I’m in a good deal because Jean has bought the livery stable,” she explained.
“I’m sure glad to hear that.”
“You’re to come and see us to-night. Supper will be ready in an hour. You bring him, Jim,” ordered the girl. “I’ll leave you boys alone now. You must have heaps to talk about.”