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   Chapter 5 No.5

A Man Four-Square By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 9036

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

No Four-Flusher

Pauline Roubideau knew the frontier code. She evinced no curiosity about the past of this boy-man who had come into her life at the nick of time. None the less she was eager to know what connection lay between him and the renegade her brother had killed. She had heard Jim Clanton say that he had waited four years for his revenge and had followed the man all over the West. Why? What motive could be powerful enough with a boy of fourteen to sway so completely his whole life toward vengeance?

She set herself to find out without asking. Inside of ten minutes the secret which had been locked so long in his warped soul had been confided to her. The boy broke down when he told her the story of his sister's death. He was greatly ashamed of himself for his emotion, but the touch of her warm sympathy melted the ice in his heart and set him sobbing.

Quickly she came across to him and knelt down by his side.

"You poor boy! You poor, poor boy!" she murmured.

Her arm crept round his shoulders with the infinitely tender caress of the mother that lies, dormant or awake, in all good women.

"I-I-I'm nothing but a baby," he gulped, trying desperately to master his sobs.

"Don't talk foolishness," she scolded to comfort him. "I wouldn't think much of you if you didn't love your sister enough to cry for her."

There were tears in her own eyes. Her lively young imagination pictured vividly the desolation of the young hill girl betrayed so cruelly, the swift decline of her stern, broken-hearted father. The thought of the half-grown boy following the betrayers of his sister across the continent, his life dedicated for years to vengeance, was a dreadful thing to contemplate. It shocked her sense of all that was fitting. No doubt his mission had become a religion with him. He had lain down at night with that single purpose before him. He had risen with it in the morning. It had been his companion throughout the day. From one season to another he had cherished it when he should have been filled with the happy, healthy play impulses natural to his age.

The boy told the story of that man-hunt without a suspicion that there was anything in it to outrage the feelings of the girl.

"If it hadn't been for old Nance Cunningham, I reckon Devil Dave an' his brothers would have fixed up some cock an' bull story about how 'Lindy was drowned by accident. But folks heard Nance an' then wouldn't believe a word they said. Dad swore us Clantons to wipe out the whole clan of 'em. Every last man in the hills that was decent got to cussin' the Roush outfit. Their own friends turned their backs on all three. Then the sheriff come up from the settlemint an' they jest naturally lit out.

"I heerd tell they were in Arizona an' after dad died I took after 'em. But seemed like I had no luck. When I struck their trail they had always just gone. To-day I got Ranse-leastways I would'a' got him if yore brother hadn't interfered. I'll meet up with the others one o' these times. I'll git 'em too."

He spoke with quiet conviction, as if it were a business matter that had to be looked after.

"Did you ever hear this: 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the


He nodded. "Dad used to read that to me. There's a heap in the Bible about killin' yore enemies. Dad said that vengeance verse meant that we-all was the Lord's deputies, like a sheriff has folks to help him, an' we was certainly to repay the Roushes an' not to forgit interest neither."

The girl shook her head vigorously. "I don't think that's what it means at all. If you'll read the verses above and below, you'll see it doesn't. We're to feed our enemies when they are hungry. We're to do them good for evil."

"That's all right for common, every-day enemies, but the Roush clan ain't that kind," explained the boy stubbornly. "It shore is laid on me to destroy 'em root an' branch, like the Bible says."

By the way he wagged his head he might have been a wise little old man. The savage philosophy of the boy had been drawn in with his mother's milk. It had been talked by his elders while as a child he drowsed before the big fireplace on winter nights. After his sister's tragic death it had been driven home by Bible texts and by a solemn oath of vengeance. Was it likely that anything she could say would have weight with him? For the present the girl gave up her resolve to convert him to a more Christian point of view.

The sun had sunk behind the ca?on wall when Pierre Rou

bideau arrived with a travois which he had hastily built. There was no wagon-road up the gulch and it would have been difficult to get the buckboard in as far as the fork over the broken terrain. As a voyageur of the North he had often seen wounded men carried by the Indians in travois across the plains. He knew, too, that the tribes of the Southwest use them. This one was constructed of two sixteen-foot poles with a canvas lashed from one bar to the other. The horse was harnessed between the ends of the shafts, the other ends dragging on the ground.

Clanton looked at this device distastefully. "I'm no squaw. Whyfor can't

I climb on its back an' ride?"

"Because you are seeck. It iss of the importance that you do not exert yourself. Voyons! You will be comfortable here. N'est-ce pas, Polly?" Pierre gesticulated as he explained volubly. He even illustrated the comfort by lying down in the travois himself and giving a dramatic representation of sleep.

The young man grumbled, but gave way reluctantly.

"How's Billie Prince?" he asked presently from the cot where he lay.

"He will hafe a fever, but soon he will be well again. I, Pierre, promise it. For he iss of a good strength and sound as a dollar."

Pauline, rifle in hand, scouted ahead of the travois and picked the smoothest way down the rough ravine. The horse that Roubideau drove was an old and patient one. Its master held it to a slow, even pace, so that the wounded boy was jolted as little as possible. When they had reached the entrance to the gorge, travel across the valley became less bumpy.

The young girl walked as if she loved it. The fine, free swing of the hill woman was in her step. She breasted the slope with the light grace of a forest faun. Presently she dropped back to a place beside the conveyance and smiled encouragement at him.

"Pretty bad, is it?"

He grinned back. "It's up to me to play the hand I've been dealt."

That he was in a good deal of pain was easy to guess.

"We're past the worst of it," Pauline told him, "Up this hill-down the other side-and then we're home."

The bawling of thirsty cattle and the blatting of calves could be heard now.

"It iss that Monsieur Webb has taken my advice to drive the herd up the ca?on and into the park for the night," explained Roubideau. "There iss one way in, one way out. Guard the entrances and the 'Paches cannot stampede the cattle. Voilà!"

From the hill-top the leaders of the herd could be seen drinking at the creek. Cattle behind were pushing forward to get at the water, while the riders on the point and at the swing were directing the movement of the beeves, now checking the steady pressure from the rear and now hastening the pace of those dawdling in the stream. To add to the confusion cows were mooing loudly for their off-spring not yet unloaded from the calf wagon.

Near the summit Jean with the buckboard met the party from the ca?on. He helped Clanton to the seat and drove to the house.

Webb cantered up. "What's this I hear about you, Jimmie-Go-Get-'Em? They tell me you've made four good Injuns to-day, shot up a renegade, rescued this young lady here, 'most rode one of my horses to death, an' got stove up in the foot yore own self. It certainly must have been yore busy afternoon."

The drover looked at him with a new respect. He had found the answer to the question he had put himself a few hours earlier. This boy was no four-flusher. He not only knew how and when to shoot, was game as a bulldog, and keen as a weasel; he possessed, too, that sixth sense so necessary to a gun-fighter, the instinct which shows him how to take advantage of every factor in the situation so as to come through safely.

"I didn't do it all," answered Clanton, flushing. "Billie helped, and the

Roubideaus got two of 'em."

"That's not the way Billie tells it. Anyhow, you-all made a great gather between you. Six 'Paches that will never smile again ought to give the raiders a pain."

"Don't you think we'd better get him to bed?" said Pauline gently.

"You're shoutin', ma'am," agreed Webb. "Roubideau, the little boss says Jimmie-Go-Get-'Em is to be put to bed. I'll tote him in if you'll give my boys directions about throwin' the herd into yore park and loose-herdin' 'em there."

The Missourian picked up the wounded boy and followed Pauline into the house. She led the way to her own little bedroom. It was the most comfortable in the house and that was the one she wanted Jim Clanton to have.

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