“Hardly,” smiled Keller. “He’ll stand the acid that way.”
“The thing that stuck in my craw was his lying about seeing you on the night of the bank robbery. He said you were riding the roan with white stockings. Later we found out that couldn’t be true. Then I knew Jim was telling the truth about you being with him in the hills at the time. It kind of sifted to me by degrees that you were a white man and he was a skunk.”
“Then we had it out one day. He had his reason for wanting to stand well with me. I reckon you know what it is.”
“I know his reason. No man could have a better. I reckon I’ve a right to think so, Phil, because she has promised to marry me.”
The boy shook hands with him impulsively. “I’m right glad to hear it—and I want to say they don’t make girls any better than Phyl.”
“That’s not news to me. I have known it since the first time I saw her.”
Sanderson returned to the order of the day. “Well, Brill and I had had one or two tiffs, mostly about you and Phyl. He saw I was changed toward him, and he wanted to know why. I let him have it straight, and since then we haven’t been friends.”
“I’m glad of that. It makes plain sailing for me. He’s got to be run down and caged, Phil. Healy is at the head of all this rustling that has been troubling the Malpais country. His gang stuck up the Diamond Nugget stage, killed Sheriff Fowler, and robbed the Noches Bank.”
“How could he have robbed the bank when he was seen fifty miles from there not two hours afterward?”
Keller briefly explained his theory then pushed on at once to his plans.
“I’m going to make straight for the Mimbres Pass while you go back and rustle help. I’ll try to keep them from getting through the Pass until you close in on them behind.”
“That don’t look good to me. How do I know how long it will be before I can gather the boys together or find Jim and his outfit? You might be massacred before I got back.”
“A man has to take his fighting chance.”
“Then let me take mine. We’ll hold the pass together. I’ll bet we can. Don’t you reckon?”
“What use would you be without a rifle? No, Phil, you’ll have to bring up the reinforcements. That’s the best tactics.”
Sanderson protested eagerly, but in the end was overborne. They turned their backs upon each other, one headed for the Mimbres and the other for the trail that ran down to the Malpais country.
When Jim Yeager separated from Phil after their discovery of Keller’s hat and the deductions they drew from it, the former turned his pony toward the Frying Pan. Daylight had already broken before he came in sight of it, but sounds of revelry still issued boisterously from the house.
As he drew near there came to him the squeal of sawing riddles, the high-pitched voice of the dance caller in sing-song drawl, the shuffling of feet keeping time to the rhythm of the music. For though a new day was at hand, the quadrilles continued with unflagging vigor, one succeeding another as soon as the floor was cleared.