“I was wrong,” Sanderson admitted uneasily.
Keller climbed the pasture fence, and came running up at the same time as Phil and Slim.
“Menendez is alive!” he cried. “He is at the Twin Star Ranch. The boys there are taking care of him, and the doctor says he will pull through.”
“Who told you?”
“Bob Tryon. I met him not five minutes ago. He is on his way here.”
This put a new face on things. If Menendez were still alive, Weaver could be held to await developments. Moreover, since the sheep herder was a prisoner at the Twin Star Ranch, retaliation would follow any measures taken against the cattleman.
Phyllis gave a glad little cry. “Then it’s all right now.”
Weaver’s face crinkled to a leathery grin. “Mighty unfortunate—ain’t it, boys? Puts a kind of a kink in our plans for the little entertainment we were figuring on pulling off. But maybe you’ve a notion of still going on with it.”
“If we don’t, it won’t be on your account, seh, I don’t reckon,” Sanderson answered reluctantly.
But though he would not admit it, the old man was beginning to admire this big fellow, who could afford to miss his enemies on purpose even in the midst of a deadly duel. He was coming to a grudging sense of quality in Weaver. The cattleman might be many things that were evil, but undeniably he possessed also those qualities which on the frontier count for more than civilized virtues. He was game to the core. And he knew how to keep his mouth shut at the right time, no matter what it was going to cost him. On the whole Buck Weaver would stand the acid test, the old soldier was coming to think. And because he did not want to believe any good of his enemy, old Jim Sanderson, when he was alone in the corral with the horses or on a hillside driving his sheep, would shake his gnarled fist impotently and swear fluently until his surcharged feelings were relieved.
THE BRAND BLOTTER
Two riders followed the trail to Yeager’s Spur—one a man, brown and forceful; the other a girl, with sunshine in her dancing eyes and a voice full of the lilt of laughter. What they might come to be to each other both were already speculating about, though neither knew as yet. They were the best of friends—good comrades, save when chance eyes said unguardedly too much. For the girl that sufficed, but it was not enough for the man. He knew that he had found the one woman he wanted for his wife. But Phyllis only wondered, let her thoughts rove over many things. For instance, why queer throbs and sudden shyness swept her soft young body. She liked Larrabie Keller—oh, so much!—but her untutored heart could not quite tell her whether she loved him. His eyes drilled into her electric pulsations whenever they met hers. The youth in him called to the youth in her. She admired him. He stirred her imagination, and yet—and yet——