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   Chapter 29 No.29

A Man Four-Square By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 5485

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


"They Can't Hang Me If I ain't There"

The jury brought in a verdict of murder in the first degree. Clanton was sentenced to be hanged at Live-Oaks four weeks after the day the trial ended. Prince himself had been called back to Washington County to deal with a band of rustlers who had lately pulled off a series of bold, wholesale cattle thefts. He left Goodheart to bring the prisoner back with him in case of a conviction.

The deputy sheriff left the train at Los Vegas, to which point Prince had sent a man with horses to meet Jack and the convicted murderer. It was not likely that the enemies of Clanton would make another attempt to frustrate the law, but there was a chance that they would. Goodheart did not take the direct road to Live-Oaks, but followed the river valley toward Los Portales.

The party reached the Roubideau ranch at dusk of the third night. Pauline had been at the place three months keeping house for her father. She flew to meet Jim, her eyes filled with a divine pity. Both hands went out to his manacled ones impulsively. Her face glowed with a soft, welcoming warmth.

"You poor boy! You poor, poor boy!" she cried. Then, flaming, she turned on Goodheart: "Bel et bien! Why do you load him down with chains? Are you afraid of him?"

The deputy flushed. "I have no right to take any chances of an escape.

You know that."

"I know he is innocent. Why did they find him guilty?"

"I had no evidence," explained Jim simply. "Dad Wrayburn swore I shot twice at Webb just before I disappeared in the brush. Then a shot came out of the chaparral. It's not reasonable to suppose some one else fired it, especially when the bullet was one that fitted a forty-four."

"But you didn't fire it. You told me so in your letter."

"My word didn't count with the jury. I'd have to claim that, anyhow, to save my life. My notion is that the bullet didn't come from a six-gun at all, but from a seventy-three rifle. But I can't prove that either."

"It isn't fair. It-it's an outrage." Polly burst into tears and took the slim young fellow into her arms. "They ought to know you wouldn't do that. Why didn't your friends tell them so?"

He smiled, a little wistfully. "A gunman doesn't have friends, Polly. Outside of you an' Lee an' Billie I haven't any. All the newspapers in the territory an' all the politicians an' most of the decent people have been pullin' for a death sentence. Well, they've got it." He stroked her hair softly. "Don't you worry, girl. They won't get a chance to hang me."

Pauline released him, dabbed at her eyes, and ran, choking, into the house.

"You've got to be in trouble to make a real hit with Miss Roubideau," suggested the lank deputy, a little bitterly. "I'

ll take those bracelets off now, Clanton. You can wash for supper."

Polly saw to it, anyhow, that the prisoner had the best to eat there was in the house. She made a dinner of spring chicken, mashed potatoes, hot biscuits, jelly, and apple pie.

A rider for the Flying V Y dropped in after they had eaten and bridled like a turkey cock at sight of Clanton.

"Don't you let him git away from you, Jack," he warned the officer. "We're allowin' to have a holiday on the sixth up at our place so as to go to the show. It is the sixth, ain't it?" he jeered, turning to the handcuffed man on the lounge.

"The sixth is correct," answered Jim coolly, meeting him eye to eye.

"You wouldn't talk that way if Clanton was free," said Goodheart. "You're taggin' yoreself a bully an' a cheap skate when you do it."

"Say, is that any of yore business, Mr. Deputy Sheriff?"

"It is when you talk to my prisoner. Cut it out, Swartz."

"All right."

The cowpuncher turned to Pauline, who had come to the door and stood there. "You'll be goin' to the big show on the sixth, Miss Roubideau. Live-Oaks will be a sure-enough live town that day."

The young woman walked straight up to the big cowpuncher. Her eyes blazed. "Get out of this house. Don't ever come here again. Don't speak to me if you meet me."

The Flying V Y rider was taken aback. Like a good many young fellows within a radius of a hundred miles, he was a candidate for the favor of Pierre Roubideau's daughter.

"Why, I-I-" he stammered. "I didn't aim for to offend you. This fellow bushwhacked my boss. He-"

"That isn't true," she interrupted. "He didn't do it."

"Sure he did it. Go-Get-'Em Jim is a killer. A girl like you, Miss

Roubideau, has got no business stickin' up for a bad man who-"

"Didn't you hear me? I told you to go."

"You've been invited to remove yoreself from the place an' become a part of the outdoor scenery, Swartz," cut in Goodheart, a snap to his jaw. "I'd take that invite pronto if I was you."

The cowpuncher picked up his hat and walked out. The drawling voice of the prisoner followed him.

"Don't you worry, Polly. They can't hang me if I ain't there, can they?"

The deputy guessed that Pauline wished to talk alone with Clanton. Presently he arose and sauntered to the door. "I want to see yore father about some horses Billie needs. Back soon."

He gave them a half-hour, but he took pains to see that his assistant covered the back door while he watched the front of the house. The prisoner was handcuffed, but Jack did not intend to take any chances. Personally he believed that Clanton was guilty, but whether he was or not it was his duty to bring the convicted man safely to Live-Oaks. This he meant to do.

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