gunâand the outlaw fell with his right arm shattered. Bosomer cursed harshly and floundered in the dust, trying to reach the gun with his left hand. His comrades, however, seeing that Duane would not kill unless forced, closed in upon Bosomer and prevented any further madness on his part.
Of the outlaws present Euchre appeared to be the one most inclined to lend friendliness to curiosity; and he led Duane and the horses away to a small adobe shack. He tied the horses in an open shed and removed their saddles. Then, gathering up Stevensâs weapons, he invited his visitor to enter the house.
It had two roomsâwindows without coveringsâbare floors. One room contained blankets, weapons, saddles, and bridles; the other a stone fireplace, rude table and bench, two bunks, a box cupboard, and various blackened utensils.
âMake yourself to home as long as you want to stay,â said Euchre. âI ainât rich in this worldâs goods, but I own whatâs here, anâ youâre welcome.â
âThanks. Iâll stay awhile and rest. Iâm pretty well played out,â replied Duane.
Euchre gave him a keen glance.
âGo ahead anâ rest. Iâll take your horses to grass.â
Euchre left Duane alone in the house. Duane relaxed then, and mechanically he wiped the sweat from his face. He was laboring under some kind of a spell or shock which did not pass off quickly. When it had worn away he took off his coat and belt and made himself comfortable on the blankets. And he had a thought that if he rested or slept what difference would it make on the morrow? No rest, no sleep could change the gray outlook of the future. He felt glad when Euchre came bustling in, and for the first time he took notice of the outlaw.
Euchre was old in years. What little hair he had was gray, his face clean-shaven and full of wrinkles; his eyes were half shut from long gazing through the sun and dust. He stooped. But his thin frame denoted strength and endurance still unimpaired.
âHev a drink or a smoke?â he asked.
Duane shook his head. He had not been unfamiliar with whisky, and he had used tobacco moderately since he was sixteen. But now, strangely, he felt a disgust at the idea of stimulants. He did not understand clearly what he felt. There was that vague idea of something wild in his blood, something that made him fear himself.
Euchre wagged his old head sympathetically. âReckon you feel a little sick. When it comes to shootinâ I run. Whatâs your age?â
âIâm twenty-three,â replied Duane.
Euchre showed surprise. âYouâre only a boy! I thought you thirty anyways. Buck, I heard what you told Bland, anâ puttinâ thet with my own figgerinâ, I reckon youâre no criminal yet. Throwinâ a gun in self-defenseâthet ainât no crime!â
Duane, finding relief in talking, told more about himself.
âHuh,â replied the old man. âIâve been on this river fer years, anâ Iâve seen hundreds of boys come in on the dodge. Most of them, though, was no good. Anâ thet kind donât last long. This river country has been anâ is the refuge fer criminals from all over the states. Iâve bunked with bank cashiers, forgers, plain thieves, anâ out-anâ-out murderers, all of which had no bizness on the Texas border. Fellers like Bland are exceptions. Heâs no Texanâyou seen thet. The gang he rules here come from all over, anâ theyâre tough cusses, you can bet on thet. They live fat anâ easy. If it wasnât fer the fightinâ among themselves theyâd shore grow populous. The Rim Rock is no place for a peaceable, decent feller. I heard you tell Bland you wouldnât join his gang. Thet âll not make him take a likinâ to you. Have you any money?â
âNot much,â replied Duane.
âCould you live by gamblinâ? Are you