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Oh, You Tex! By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 7716

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Night fell on both a dry and fireless camp for the outlaws who had tried to rob the Clarendon-Tascosa stage. They had covered a scant twenty miles instead of the eighty they should have put behind them. For Dave Overstreet had been literally dying in the saddle every step of the way.

He had clenched his teeth and clung to the pommel desperately. Once he had fainted and slid from his seat. But the bandits could not stop and camp, though Dinsmore kept the pace to a walk.

"Once we reach Palo Duro, we'll hole up among the rocks an' fix you up fine, Dave," his companion kept promising.

"Sure, Homer. I'm doin' dandy," the wounded man would answer from white, bloodless lips.

The yellow streak in Gurley was to the fore all day. It evidenced itself in his precipitate retreat from the field of battle-a flight which carried him miles across the desert before he dared wait for his comrades. It showed again in the proposal which he made early in the afternoon to Dinsmore.

The trio of outlaws had been moving very slowly on account of the suffering of the wounded man. Gurley kept looking back nervously every few minutes to see if pursuers were visible. After a time he sidled up to Dinsmore and spoke low.

"They'll get us sure if we don't move livelier, Homer."

"How in Mexico can we move faster when Dave can't stand it?" asked Dinsmore impatiently.

"He's a mighty sick man. He hadn't ought to be on horseback at all. He needs a doctor."

"Will you go an' get him one?" demanded Homer with sour sarcasm.

"What I say is, let's fix him up comfortable, an' after a while mebbe a posse will come along an' pick him up. They can look after him better than we got a chance to do," argued Gurley.

"And mebbe a posse won't find him-what then?" rasped Dinsmore.

"They will. If they don't, he'll die easy. This is sure enough hell for him now."

"All right. Shall we stop right here with him?"

"That wouldn't do any good, Homer. The Rangers would get us too."

"I see. Yore idea is to let Dave die easy while we're savin' our hides. Steve, you've got a streak in you a foot wide."

"Nothin' like that," protested the man with the eyes that didn't track. "I'd stay by him if it was any use. But it ain't. Whyfor should you an' me stretch a rope when we can't help Dave a mite? It ain't reasonable."

Overstreet could not hear what was said, but he guessed the tenor of their talk. "Go ahead, boys, an' leave me. I'm about done anyhow," he said.

"If Gurley has a mind to go, he can. I'll stick," answered Dinsmore gruffly.

But Gurley did not want to go alone. There were possible dangers to be faced that two men could meet a good deal more safely than one. It might be that they would have to stand off a posse. They might meet Indians. The sallow outlaw felt that he could not afford just now to break with his companion. It was not likely that the Rangers would reach them that night, and he guessed craftily that Overstreet would not live till morning. The wound was a very serious one. The man had traveled miles before Dinsmore could stop to give him such slight first aid as was possible, and the jolting of the long horseback ride had made it difficult to stop the bleeding which broke out again and again.

After Dinsmore had eased the wounded man from his horse at dusk and laid him on a blanket with a saddle for a pillow, Overstreet smiled faintly up at him.

"It won't be for long, Homer. You'll be shet of me right soon now," he murmured.

"Don't you talk that-a-way, Dave. I don't want to be shet of you. After a good night's rest you'll feel a new man."

"No, I've got more than I can pack. It won't be long now. I'm right comfortable here. Steve's in a hurry. You go on an' hit the trail with him."

"Where did you get the notion I was yellow, old-timer? I've hunted in couples with you

for years. Do you reckon I'm goin' to run like a cur now you've struck a streak o' bad luck?" asked Dinsmore huskily.

The dying man smiled his thanks. "You always was a stubborn son-of-a-gun, Homer. But Steve, he wants-"

"Steve can go to-Hell Creek, if he's so set on travelin' in a hurry. Here, drink some of this water."

The blanket of darkness fell over the land. Stars came out, at first one or two, then by thousands, till the night was full of them. The wounded man dozed and stirred and dozed again. It was plain that the sands of his life were running low. Dinsmore, watching beside him, knew that it was the ebb tide.

A little after midnight Overstreet roused himself, recognized the watcher, and nodded good-bye.

"So long, Homer. I'm hittin' the home trail now."

His hand groped feebly till it found that of his friend. A few minutes later he died, still holding the strong warm hand of the man who was nursing him.

Dinsmore crossed the hands of the dead outlaw and covered him with a blanket.

"Saddle up, Steve," he told Gurley.

While he waited for the horses, he looked down with a blur over his eyes. He had ridden hard and crooked trails all his life, but he had lost that day his brother and his best friend. The three of them had been miscreants. They had broken the laws of society and had fought against it because of the evil in them that had made them a destructive force. But they had always played fair with each other. They had at least been loyal to their own bad code. Now he was alone, for Gurley did not count.

Presently the other man stood at his elbow with the saddled horses. Dinsmore swung to the saddle and rode away. Not once did he look back, but he had no answer for Gurley's cheerful prediction that now they would reach Palo Duro Ca?on all right and would hole up there till the pursuit had spent itself, after which they could amble down across the line to Old Mexico or could strike the Pecos and join Billy the Kid. Only one idea was fixed definitely in his mind, that as soon as he could, he would part company with the man riding beside him.

When day came, it found them riding westward in the direction of Deaf Smith County. The Ca?on was not far south of them, but there was no need of plunging into it yet. The pursuit must be hours behind them, even if their trail had not been lost altogether. They rode easily, prepared to camp at the first stream or water-hole they reached.

"We'll throw off here," Dinsmore decided at the first brook they reached.

They unsaddled and hobbled their horses. While Gurley lighted a fire for the coffee, the other man strolled up the creek to get a shot at any small game he might find. Presently a brace of prairie-chickens rose with a whir of wings. The rifle cracked, and one of them fell fluttering to the ground. Dinsmore moved forward to pick up the bird.

Abruptly he stopped in his stride. He fancied he heard a faint cry. It came again, carried on the light morning breeze. He could have sworn that it was the call of a woman for help.

Dinsmore grew wary. He knew the tricks of the Indians, the wily ways with which they lured men into ambush. There had been rumors for days that the Indians were out again. Yet it was not like Indians to announce their presence before they pounced upon their prey. He moved very slowly forward under cover of the brush along the bed of the stream.

The voice came to him again, closer this time, and in spite of the distance clear as a bell. It was surely that of a white woman in trouble. Still he did not answer as he crept forward up the stream.

Then he caught sight of her-a girl, slim and young, stumbling forward through the grass, exhaustion showing in every line of the body.

She stretched out her hands to him across the space between, with a little despairing cry.

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