“Ye never saw your—cousin?” he asked.
“No,” said Clarence; “nor he me. I don’t think he knew me much, any way.
“How old mout ye be, Clarence?”
“Well, as you’re suthin of a pup”—Clarence started, and recalled Peyton’s first criticism of him—“I reckon to tell ye suthin. Ye ain’t goin’ to be skeert, or afeard, or lose yer sand, I kalkilate, for skunkin’ ain’t in your breed. Well, wot ef I told ye that thish yer—thish yer—cousin o’ yours was the biggest devil onhung; that he’d just killed a man, and had to lite out elsewhere, and THET’S why he didn’t show up in Sacramento—what if I told you that?”
Clarence felt that this was somehow a little too much. He was perfectly truthful, and lifting his frank eyes to Flynn, he said,
“I should think you were talking a good deal like Jim Hooker!”
His companion stared, and suddenly reined up his horse; then, bursting into a shout of laughter, he galloped ahead, from time to time shaking his head, slapping his legs, and making the dim woods ring with his boisterous mirth. Then as suddenly becoming thoughtful again, he rode on rapidly for half an hour, only speaking to Clarence to urge him forward, and assisting his progress by lashing the haunches of his horse. Luckily, the boy was a good rider—a fact which Flynn seemed to thoroughly appreciate—or he would have been unseated a dozen times.
At last the straggling sheds of Buckeye Mills came into softer purple view on the opposite mountain. Then laying his hand on Clarence’s shoulder as he reined in at his side, Flynn broke the silence.
“There, boy,” he said, wiping the mirthful tears from his eyes. “I was only foolin’—only tryin’ yer grit! This yer cousin I’m taking you to be as quiet and soft-spoken and as old-fashioned ez you be. Why, he’s that wrapped up in books and study that he lives alone in a big adobe rancherie among a lot o’ Spanish, and he don’t keer to see his own countrymen! Why, he’s even changed his name, and calles himself Don Juan Robinson! But he’s very rich; he owns three leagues of land and heaps of cattle and horses, and,” glancing approvingly at Clarence’s seat in the saddle, “I reckon you’ll hev plenty of fun thar.”
“But,” hesitated Clarence, to whom this proposal seemed only a repetition of Peyton’s charitable offer, “I think I’d better stay here and dig gold—with you.”
“And I think you’d better not,” said the man, with a gravity that was very like a settled determination.
“But my cousin never came for me to Sacramento—nor sent, nor even wrote,” persisted Clarence indignantly.
“Not to you, boy; but he wrote to the man whom he reckoned would bring you there—Jack Silsbee—and left it in the care of the bank. And Silsbee, being dead, didn’t come for the letter; and as you didn’t ask for it when you came, and didn’t even mention Silsbee’s name, that same letter was sent back to your cousin through me, because the bank thought we knew his whereabouts. It came to the gulch by an express rider, whilst you were prospectin’ on the hillside. Rememberin’ your story, I took the liberty of opening it, and found out that your cousin had told Silsbee to bring you straight to him. So I’m only doin’ now what Silsbee would have done.”