“All right, ma’am. But I saw somebody, just the same,” the girl maintained obstinately.
“No doubt it was Phil. He was up to see me.”
Anna said no more then; but she took occasion later to find out from Phil, without letting him know that she was pumping him, that he had been searching the hills until after six o’clock. One by one she eliminated every man in the house as a possibility. In the end, she could not doubt her eyes and her ears. Her young mistress had lied to her to save the man in her room.
At breakfast, a ranchman brought in the news of the attack upon the sheep camp, and by means of it set fire to a powder magazine. The Sandersons went ramping mad for the moment. They saw red; and if they could have laid hands on their enemy, they would undoubtedly have made an end of him.
Phyllis, seeing the fury of their passion, trembled for the safety of the man upstairs. He might be discovered at any moment. Yet she must go to school as if nothing were the matter, and leave him to whatever fate might have in store.
When the time came for her to go, she could hardly bring herself to leave.
She was in her room, putting in the few minutes she usually spent there, rearranging her hair and giving the last few touches to her toilet after the breakfast.
“I hate to go,” she confessed to Weaver. “Promise me you’ll not make a sound or open the door to anybody while I’m away.”
“I promise,” he told her.
She was very greatly troubled, and could not help showing it. Her face was wan and drawn, all the youthful life stricken out of it.
“It will be all right,” he reassured her. “I’ll sit here and read, without making a sound. Nothing will happen. You’ll see.”
“Oh, I hope not—I hope not!” she cried in a whisper. “You will be careful, won’t you?”
“I sure will. A hen with one chick won’t be a circumstance to me.”
Larrabie Keller had hitched her horse and brought it round to the front door. She leaned toward him after she had gathered the reins.
“You’ll not go far away, will you? And if anything happens——”
“But it won’t. Why should it?”
“Anna knows. She blundered upon him.”
“Will she keep it quiet?”
“I think so, but she’s a born gossip. Don’t leave her alone with the boys.”
“All right,” he nodded.
“I feel as if I ought to stay at home,” the young teacher said piteously, hoping that he would encourage her to do so.
He shook his head. “No—you’ve got to go, to divert suspicion. It will be all right here. I’ll keep both eyes open. Don’t forget that I’m going to be on the job all day.”
“You’re so good!”
“After I’ve been around you a while. It’s catching.” He tucked in the dust robe, without looking at her.