Keller consulted Miss Sanderson silently. He knew that she was thinking the thought that was in his own mind. It would never do to let this story reach her father and her brother, while Buck Weaver was still in their power. Inflamed as they already were against him, they would surely do in hot blood that which they would repent later. Somehow, Keller and she must hold back the news until they could contrive a way to free the cattleman.
“Best leave Manuel at the Tryon place till morning. They will look out for him as well as you can. That will give us twelve hours to work before they hear what has happened.”
“But what about poor Jesus, lying out there alone?”
“We’ll get Bob Tryon to drive out. But you needn’t worry about Jesus. If they found him still living, the Twin Star boys will attend to him just as kindly as we could. Cowboys have tender hearts, even though they go off at half cock.”
They did as Keller had suggested, and left the old Mexican under the care of Mrs. Tryon, having pledged the family to a reluctant silence until morning. Manuel’s wound was not a bad one, and there seemed to be no reason why he should not do well.
It was difficult to decide upon a plan for the release of Weaver. He was confined in an old log cabin and watched continually by some one of the riders; but a tentative plan was accepted, subject to revision if a better chance of escape should occur. The success of this depended upon the possibility of Keller drawing off the guard by a diversion, while Phyllis slipped in and freed the prisoner.
The outlook was not roseate, but nothing better occurred to them. One thing was sure—if Buck Weaver was not out of the hands of his enemies before the news of this last outrage of his cowboys reached them, his chance of life was not worth even an odds-on bet. For the hot blood of the South raced through the veins of the sheepmen. They would strike first and think about it afterward. And without doubt that first swift blow would be a deadly one.
For the sixth time since the three-quarters, Phyllis looked at her watch by the light of a full moon, which shone through the window of her bedroom. The hands indicated five minutes to one.
In her stocking feet she stole out of the room, downstairs, and along the porch to the heavy shadows cast by the cucumber vines that screened one end of it. Here she waited, heart in mouth and pulse beating like a trip hammer.
Presently came the mournful hoot of an owl from the live oaks over in the pasture. Softly her clear, melodious voice flung back the signal. Again the minutes drummed eternally in silence.
But when at last this was shattered, it was with a crash to wake the dead. The girl marvelled that one man could fire so rapidly, and so often. The night seemed to crackle with rifle and revolver shots. To judge from the sound, there might be a company engaged.