The nester began to grin. He always did when he faced a difficulty apparently insurmountable. Also his fingers slid toward the butt of his revolver.
“I’m A rustler and A thief, am I?”
Jim swept the cabin with a gesture. “Where can I hide you? Anyhow, there are the horses in plain sight.”
Phyllis took imperious control. “Get a coat on him, Jim,” she ordered.
At the same time she caught up the basin of bloodstained water and flung its contents through the open window. The torn linen and the stained handkerchief she tossed into a corner and covered with a gunny sack.
“Not a word about the wound, Jim. Mr. Keller is here to help you do your assessment work, remember. And whatever I say, don’t give me away.”
Yeager nodded. He had manoeuvred the wounded arm through the coat sleeve and was straightening out the shoulders. The nester’s eyes were shining with excitement. Alone of the three, he was enjoying himself.
“Remember now. Don’t talk too much. Let me run this,” the girl cautioned, and with that she stepped to the door, caught sight of her brother with a glad little cry of apparent relief, and ran swiftly to him.
“Oh, Phil!” she almost sobbed, and the stress of her emotion was genuine enough, even if she dissembled as to the cause.
The boy patted her dark hair gently. They were twins, without other near relatives except their father, and the tie between them was close.
“What is it, Phyllie? Why didn’t you stay where we left you?”
“I was afraid for you. And I rode a little nearer. Then he came straight toward me—and I rode away. I could hear him crashing through the mesquite. When I reached the trail of Jim’s mine, I followed it, for I knew he would be here.”
“Sure. Course she was scared. What woman wouldn’t be? We oughtn’t both to have left her. But there wasn’t one chance in a thousand of his stumbling on the very spot where she was,” said Healy.
Phil gentled her with a caressing hand. “It’s all right now, sis. Did you happen to see the fellow at all?”
“Yes. At a distance.”
“I don’t suppose you would know him,” Healy said.
She gave a strained little laugh. “I didn’t wait to get a description of him. Didn’t you boys recognize him?”
After Phil’s answer she breathed freer. “We did not get near enough, though Brill got two shots at him as he pulled out. He was going hell-for-leather and Brill missed both times.” He lowered his voice and asked angrily: “What’s he doing here?”
For Keller had followed Yeager from the cabin and was standing in the doorway with his hands in his pockets. He wore no hat, and had the manner of one very much at home.
“He’s helping Jim with his assessment work,” she answered in the same low tone. “It’s too bad you lost the rustler. He must have broken for the hills.”