AN AIDER AND ABETTOR
Having come to an understanding, Yeager and Keller wasted no time or temper in acrimony. Both of them belonged to that big outdoors West which plays the game to the limit without littleness. They were in hostile camps, but that did not prevent them from holding amiable conversation on the common topics of Cattleland. Only one of these they avoided by mutual consent. Neither of them had anything to say about rustling.
Together they ate and smoked and slept, and in the morning after breakfast they saddled and set out for Seven Mile. A man might have traveled far without seeing finer specimens of the frontier, any more competent, self-restrained, or fitter for emergency. They rode with straight back and loose seat, breaking long silences with occasional drawling comment. For in the cow country strong men talk only when they have something to say.
The stage had just left when they reached Seven Mile, and Public Opinion was seated on the porch as per custom. It regarded Keller with a stony, expressionless hostility. Yeager with frank disapprobation.
Just before swinging from the saddle, Jim turned to the nester. “I’m giving you an hour, seh. After that, I’m going to speak my little piece to the boys.”
“Thank you. An hour will be plenty,” Keller answered, and passed into the store, apparently oblivious of the silent observation focused upon him.
Phyllis, busy unwrapping a package of papers, glanced up to see his curly head in the stamp window.
“Anything for L. Keller?” he wanted to know, after he had unburdened himself of a friendly “Mornin’, Miss Sanderson.”
Her impulse was to ask him how his wound was, but she repressed it sternly. She took the letters from the K pigeonhole and found two for him.
“Thank you, I’m feeling fine,” he laughed, gathering up his mail.
“I didn’t ask you how you were feeling,” she answered, turning coldly to her newspapers.
“I thought mebbe you’d want to know about my punctured tire.”
“It’s very good of you to relieve my anxiety.”
“Let me relieve it some more, Miss Sanderson. Here’s the knife you lost.”
She glanced up carelessly at the pearl-handled knife he pushed through the window. “I didn’t know it was lost.”
“Well, now you know it’s found. When do you remember seeing it last, ma’am?”
“I lent it to a friend two days ago.”
“Oh, to a friend—two days ago.”
His eyes were on her so steadily that the girl was aware of some significance he gave to the fact, some hidden meaning that escaped her.
“What friend did you say, Miss Sanderson?”
He asked it casually, but his question irritated her.
“I didn’t say, sir.”
“That’s so. You didn’t.”
“Where did you get it?” she demanded.