“Then I will keep it. It will be safer with me.”
A suspicion had entered Ted’s mind, which was strengthened by the conduct of the president, who was white-faced and trembling.
“From your examination of the bill, you are positive that it was one of those shipped to St. Louis?”
“I am not certain, of course, but as I said, it is within the series of numbers which we sent. Why do you ask?”
“Because it is a counterfeit.”
The president sank down in his chair. He had suddenly become pale, and was trembling like a leaf.
“What will you take for that bill, young man? Name your own price,” said Mr. Norcross.
“It is not for sale, and you have not money enough to buy it,” replied Ted Strong.
A crime within A crime.
“Well, friend, have you decided to come out to my ranch, and look my stock over?”
It was Colonel Billings, the genial ranchman, who addressed Ted, meeting him in the lobby of the hotel.
“Yes, I think I will,” answered Ted. “When will it be convenient for you to be there?”
“I am going out to-morrow, and will be glad to see you and your friends.”
“There are a good many of us,” said Ted, laughing.
“The more the merrier. The house is large, and I could drop you all down into it, and the house would hardly know it.”
“How do we get out there?”
“I see you have a couple of ladies with you, and I shall telephone over to my manager to send a carriage in for them, and horses for the use of you boys. How many horses and saddles will you need? There are plenty at the ranch.”
“We will need eight horses. One of the ladies prefers to ride, and we’ll need a gentle pony for the small boy, whose experience is limited.”
“Sidesaddle for the lady?”
“No,” said Ted, with a grin, “this young lady will not use one. She is a cowgirl, and rides a man’s saddle.”
“All right, my boy. The outfit will be here in the morning. By the way, I am going to have some other guests. I suppose you will not object.”
“One of them is a young New Yorker, who has come West to invest in ranch property, and who has brought his sister with him. Charming people. The other is a rather uncouth person, but you will forgive his eccentricities, I am sure. To tell you the truth, he often grates on me, but I overlook it because he has lacked advantages. He made his money in the liquor business, in which he has been all his life. But he is a good fellow at heart, and is my partner in a way, having invested a large sum of money with me in cattle.”
“I shall be very glad to meet them, although, I’m afraid I shall not be able to see much of them, as I shall be very busy.”
“When you are under my roof, sir, you are as free as if you had been born there. I am glad you and your friends are coming. It does my old heart good to have young people around me. I will see you in the morning, and shall feel honored to escort you to my home.”