“Called Ad a horsethief, didn’t you?”
“So he is. You, too. You’ve got our ponies. Not in yore vest pockets, but hid out in the brush somewheres. I’m servin’ notice right now that Dave and me have come to collect.”
Dave opened his eyes upon a world which danced hazily before him. He had a splitting headache.
“Wha’s the matter?” he asked.
“You had a run-in with a bunch of sheep wranglers,” Bob told him. “They’re going to be plumb sorry they got gay.”
Presently Shorty returned. “That team’s hooked up,” he told the world at large.
“You’ll drive us, Steelman,” announced Crawford.
“Me!” screamed the leader of the other faction. “You got the most nerve I ever did see.”
“Sure. Drive him home, Brad,” advised Shorty with bitter sarcasm. “Black his boots. Wait on him good. Step lively when yore new boss whistles.” He cackled with splenetic laughter.
“I dunno as I need to drive you home,” Steelman said slowly, feeling his way to a decision. “You know the way better’n I do.”
The eyes of the two leaders met.
“You’ll drive,” the cattleman repeated steadily.
The weak spot in Steelman’s leadership was that he was personally not game. Crawford had a pungent personality. He was dynamic, strong, master of himself in any emergency. The sheepman’s will melted before his insistence. He dared not face a showdown.
“Oh, well, what’s it matter? We can talk things over on the way. Me, I’m not lookin’ for trouble none,” he said, his small black eyes moving restlessly to watch the effect of this on his men.
Bob helped his partner out of the house and into the surrey. The cattleman took the seat beside Steelman, across his knees the sawed-off shotgun. He had brought his enemy along for two reasons. One was to weaken his prestige with his own men. The other was to prevent them from shooting at the rig as they drove away.
Steelman drove in silence. His heart was filled with surging hatred. During that ride was born a determination to have nothing less than the life of his enemy when the time should be ripe.
At the door of his house Crawford dismissed him contemptuously. “Get out.”
The man with the reins spoke softly, venomously, from a dry throat. “One o’ these days you’ll crawl on your hands and knees to me for this.”
He whipped up the team and rattled away furiously into the night.
THE D BAR LAZY R BOYS MEET AN ANGEL
Joyce came flying to her father’s arms. The white lace of a nightgown showed beneath the dressing-robe she had hurriedly donned. A plait of dark hair hung across her shoulder far below the waist. She threw herself at Crawford with a moaning little sob.
“Oh Dad ... Dad ... Dad!” she cried, and her slender arms went round his neck.