“You mean if Durand hadn’t whispered in yore ear. I’ll call that bluff, sheriff. Take me to yore calaboose. I’ve got one or two things to tell the judge about this guy Durand.”
The officer dropped his grumbling complaint to a whisper. “Whisht, bye. Take a straight tip from a man that knows. Beat it out of town. Get where the long arm of—of a friend of ours—can’t reach yuh. Yuh may be a straight guy, but that won’t help yuh. Yuh’ll be framed the same as if yuh was a greengoods man or a gopher or a porch-climber. He’s a revingeful inemy if ever there was wan.”
“You mean that Durand—”
“I’m not namin’ names,” the officer interrupted doggedly. “I’m tellin’ yuh somethin’ for your good. Take it or leave it.”
“Thanks, I’ll leave it. This is a free country, and no man livin’ can drive me away,” answered Clay promptly. “Ouch, I’m sore. Give me a lift, sergeant.”
They helped the cowpuncher to his feet. He took a limping step or two. Every move was torture to his outraged flesh.
“Can you get me a taxi? That is, if you’re sure you don’t want me in yore calaboose,” the range-rider said, leaning against the wall.
“We’ll let yuh go this time.”
“Much obliged—to Mr. Jerry Durand. Tell him for me that maybe I’ll meet up with him again sometime—and hand him my thanks personal for this first-class wallopin’.” From the bruised, bleeding face there beamed again the smile indomitable, the grin still gay and winning. Physically he had been badly beaten, but in spirit he was still the man on horseback.
Presently he eased himself into a taxi as comfortably as he could. “Home, James,” he said jauntily.
“Where?” asked the driver.
“The nearest hospital,” explained Clay. “I’m goin’ to let the doctors worry over me for a while. Much obliged to both of you gentlemen. I always did like the Irish. Friend Jerry is an exception.”
The officers watched the cab disappear. The sergeant spoke the comment that was in the mind of them both.
“He’s the best single-barreled sport that iver I met in this man’s town. Not a whimper out of the guy and him mauled to a pulp. Game as they come. Did youse see that spark o’ the divvle in his eye, and him not fit to crawl into the cab?”
“Did I see it? I did that. If iver they meet man to man, him and Jerry, it’ll be wan grand little fight.”
“Jerry’s the best rough-and-tumble fighter on the island.”
“Wan av the best. I wouldn’t put him first till after him and this guy had met alone in a locked room. S’long, Mike.”
“S’long, Tim. No report on this rough-house, mind yuh.”
BEATRICE UP STAGE
If you vision Clay as a man of battles and violent deaths you don’t see him as he saw himself. He was a peaceful citizen from the law-abiding West. It was not until he had been flung into the whirlpool of New York that violent and melodramatic mishaps befell this innocent. The Wild East had trapped him into weird adventure foreign to his nature.