The man who had brought Foster touched his companion. “Nothing doing here. We’ll stop at Green Rock and you can raise a posse of ranchers and look round to-morrow. I reckon you won’t find anything.”
They went back and when the train started the man sat down opposite Foster in the smoking compartment.
“We’ll probably want your evidence,” he said. “What’s your address?”
Foster noted that he did not ask his name. “Perhaps the Hulton Manufacturing Company, Gardner’s Crossing, would be best. I’m going there now.”
The man nodded meaningly. “That will satisfy me. On the whole, it’s lucky the fellow shot at you and Hulton told us how you stood. He didn’t miss by much; there’s burnt powder sticking to your cheek.”
Three days afterwards, Foster entered the office of the Hulton Company, where the head and treasurer of the firm waited him. It was late in the evening when he arrived, but the private office was filled with the softened throb of machinery and rumble of heavy wheels. Otherwise it was very quiet and cut off by a long passage from the activity of the mill.
Hulton gave him his hand and indicated a chair. “You have got thinner since you took your holiday and look fined down. Well, I reckon we all feel older since that night last fall.”
“I do,” said Foster, and added: “The mill seems to be running hard.”
“She’s going full blast. We’ve had plans for extension standing over until I could give my mind to them. I may be able to do so soon, and expect to consult you and Featherstone. In the meantime, I got your telegram and another that to some extent put me wise. But I want a full account, beginning when you left.”
Foster told his story, and when he stopped, Hulton pondered for a minute or two. He somehow looked more human than on Foster’s last visit; his stern vindictiveness was not so obvious, but Foster thought he would demand full retribution. Then he said—
“You are keeping something back; I reckon you haven’t taken these chances on my account. There’s something behind all this that concerns you—or your partner—alone. Well, I guess that’s not my business.”
He paused and resumed in a curt, businesslike manner: “Daly’s tale is plausible and may be true, but I have my doubts. Anyhow, I’m not going to believe it because that doesn’t suit my plans. We’ll have Walters tried for murder.”
“Although you admit he may be innocent!” exclaimed Foster. “It ought to be enough to charge him with trying to kill Featherstone and stealing your bonds. You have no evidence to convict him of the other crime.”
Hulton smiled. “I don’t care two bits if he’s convicted or not. I want to clear my boy’s name and put you into the witness-box.”
“But you can’t make me adapt my story to fit your charge, and the defending lawyer would object to Daly’s account as hearsay and not evidence. The judge would rule it out.”