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The Big-Town Round-Up by William MacLeod Raine

She led Clay to the massive stairway


He

waved a hand jauntily and turned to go. But he changed his mind. His eye had fallen on a young woman standing at a French window of the house opposite. She was beckoning to him imperiously.

The young woman disappeared as he crossed the street, but in a few moments the door opened and she stood there waiting for him. Clay stared. He had never before seen a girl dressed like this. She was in riding-boots, breeches, and coat. Her eyes dilated while she looked at him.

"Wyoming?" she asked at last in a low voice.

"Arizona," he answered.

"All one. Knew it the moment I saw you tie him. Come in." She stood aside to let him pass.

That hall, with its tapestried walls, its polished floors, and Oriental rugs, was reminiscent of "the movies" to Clay. Nowhere else had he seen a home so stamped with the mark of ample means.

"Come in," she ordered again, a little sharply.

He came in and she closed the door.

"I'm sopping wet. I'll drip all over the floor."

"What are you going to do? You'll be arrested, you know." She stood straight and slim as a boy, and the frank directness of her gaze had a boy's sexless unconsciousness.

"Thought I'd give

myself up to the marshal."

She laughed outright at this. "Not in this town. A stranger like you would have no chance. Listen." There came to them from outside the tap-tap-tap-tap of a policeman's night stick rattling on the curbstone. "He's calling help."

"I can explain how it happened."

"No. He wouldn't understand. They'd find you guilty."

He moved from the rug where he was standing to let the water drip on the hardwood floor.

"Sho! Folks are mostly reasonable. I'd tell the judge how it come about."

"No."

"Well, I can't stay here."

"Yes--till they've gone."

Her imperative warmed his heart, but he tried to explain gently why he could not. "I can't drag you into this. Like as not the Swede saw me come in."

To a manservant standing in the background the young woman spoke. "Jenkins, have Nora clean up the floor and the steps outside. And remember--I don't want the police to know this gentleman is here."

"Yes, Miss."

"Come!" said the girl to her guest. She led Clay to the massive stairway, but stopped at the first tread to call back an order over her shoulder. "Refer the officers to me if they insist on coming into the house."

"I'll see to it, Miss."

Clay followed his hostess to the stairs and went up them with her, but he went protesting, though with a chuckle of mirth. "He sure ruined my clothes a heap. I ain't fit to be seen."

The suit he had been so proud of was shrinking so that his arms and legs stuck out like signposts. The color had run and left the goods a peculiar bilious-looking overall blue.

She lit a gas-log in a small library den.

"Just a minute, please."

She stepped briskly from the room. In her manner was a crisp decision, in her poise a trim gallantry that won him instantly.


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