“Did he have any blood on him?” demanded Anderson Crow.
“No, sir; not ’less it was under his clothes.”
“Did he say anythin’ to you?”
“He ast me where this path went to.”
“See that, gentlemen!” cried Anderson. “I knew I was right. He wanted—”
“Well, where did he go?” demanded Harry Squires.
“I said it went to the top of the clift. An’ then he said, ’How do you git to the river?’ I tole him to go down this side path here an’ ’round the bottom of the hill.”
“Didn’t he go up the cliff?” demanded the marshal.
“Well, what in thunder did he ask me where the cliff was if he—”
“So he went to the river, eh?” interrupted Squires. “Come on, men; he went down through this brush and bottomland.”
“He got lost, I guess,” volunteered the boy.
“‘Cause he yelled at me after he’d gone in a-ways an’ ast—an’ ast—” The boy paused irresolutely.
“He ast me where in h—— the path was.”
“By ginger, that’s him, right out an’ out!” exclaimed Mr. Crow excitedly.
“’Nen he said he’d give me a quarter if I’d show him the way; so I—”
“Did he give you the quarter?” questioned one of the men.
“Yep. He’d a roll of bills as big as my leg.” Everybody gasped and thought of Grover’s hog-money.
“You went to the river with him?” interrogated the reporter.
“I went as fur as the clearin’, an’ then he tole me to stop. He said he could find the way from there. After that he run up the bank as if some one was after him. There was a boat waitin’ fer him under the clift.”
“Did he get into it?” cried Squires.
“He tole me not to look or he’d break my neck,” said the boy. The posse nervously fingered its arsenal.
“But you did look?”
“Yep. I seen ’em plain.”
“Them? Was there more than one?”
“There was a woman in the skift.”
“You don’t say so!” gasped Squires.
“Dang it, ain’t he tellin’ you!” Anderson ejaculated scornfully.
The boy was hurried off at the head of the posse, which by this time had been reinforced. He led the way through the dismal thickets, telling his story as he went.
“She was mighty purty, too,” he said. “The feller waved his hat when he seen her, an’ she waved back. He run down an’ jumped in the boat, an’ ’nen—’nen—”
“Then what?” exploded Anderson Crow.
“He kissed her!”
“The d—— murderer!” roared Crow.
“He grabbed up the oars and rowed ‘cross an’ downstream. An’ he shuck his fist at me when he see I’d been watchin’,” said the youngster, ready to whimper now that he realised what a desperate character he had been dealing with.
“Where did he land on the other side?” pursued the eager reporter.