“Don’t you come another step closeter, Dad Wrayburn!” the foreman shouted. “I’ll let you know who is boss here.”
Wrayburn did not raise his voice. The drawl in it was just as pronounced, but every man present read in it a warning.
“This old sawed-off shotgun of mine spatters like hell, Joe. It always did shoot all over the United States an’ Texas.”
There was an instant of dead silence. Each man watched the other intently, the one cool and determined, the other full of a volcanic fury. The curtain had been rung up for tragedy.
A man stepped between them, twirling carelessly a rawhide rope.
“Just a moment, gentlemen. I think I know a way to settle this without bloodshed.” Jack Goodheart looked first at the ex-Confederate, then at the foreman. He was still whirling as if from absent-minded habit the loop of his reata.
“We’re here to listen, Jack. That would suit me down to the ground,” answered Wrayburn.
The loop of the lariat snaked forward, whistled through the air, dropped over the head of Yankie, and tightened around his neck. A shot went wildly into the air as the rifle was jerked out of the hands of its owner, who came to the earth with sprawling arms. Goodheart ran forward swiftly, made a dozen expert passes with his fingers, and rose without a word.
Yankie had been hog-tied by the champion roper of the Southwest.
Lee Plays a Leading Role
A man on horseback clattered up the street and drew up at the Snaith house. He was a sandy-complexioned man with a furtive-eyed, apologetic manner. Miss Bertie Lee recognized him as one of the company riders named Dumont.
“Is yore paw home, Miss Lee?” he asked breathlessly.
“Some one to see you, dad,” called the girl over her shoulder.
Wallace Snaith sauntered out to the porch. “’Lo, Dumont!”
“I claim that hundred dollars reward. I done found ’em, Mr. Snaith.”
Lee, about to enter the house, stopped in her tracks.
“Where?” demanded the cattleman jubilantly.
“Down the river—hid in a dugout they done built. I’ll take you-all there.”
“I knew they couldn’t be far away when that first hawss came in all blood-stained. Hustle up four or five of the boys, Dumont. Get ’em here on the jump.” In the face of the big drover could be read a grim elation.
His daughter confronted him. “What are you going to do, dad?”
“None o’ yore business, Lee. You ain’t in this,” he answered promptly.
“You’re going out to kill those men,” she charged, white to the lips.
“They’ll git a trial if they surrender peaceable.”
“What kind of a trial?” she asked scornfully. “They know better than to surrender. They’ll fight.”
“That’ll suit me too.”
“Don’t, dad. Don’t do it,” the girl begged. “They’re game men. They fought fair. I’ve made inquiries. You mustn’t kill them like wolves.”