THE LITTLE MOTHER FREES HER MIND
If some one had made Emerson Crawford a present of a carload of Herefords he could not have been more pleased than he was at the result of the Jackpot crew’s night adventure with the Steelman forces. The news came to him at an opportune moment, for he had just been served notice by the president of the Malapi First National Bank that Crawford must prepare to meet at once a call note for $10,000. A few hours earlier in the day the cattleman had heard it rumored that Steelman had just bought a controlling interest in the bank. He did not need a lawyer to tell him that the second fact was responsible for the first. In fact the banker, personally friendly to Crawford, had as good as told him so.
Bob rode in with the story of the fracas in time to cheer the drooping spirits of his employer. Emerson walked up and down the parlor waving his cigar while Joyce laughed at him.
“Dawggone my skin, if that don’t beat my time! I’m settin’ aside five thousand shares in the Jackpot for Dave Sanders right now. Smartest trick ever I did see.” The justice of the Jackpot’s vengeance on its rival and the completeness of it came home to him as he strode the carpet. “He not only saves my property without havin’ to fight for it—and that was a blamed good play itself, for I don’t want you boys shootin’ up anybody even in self-defense—but he disarms Brad’s plug-uglies, humiliates them, makes them plumb sick of the job, and at the same time wipes out Steelman’s location lock, stock, and barrel. I’ll make that ten thousand shares, by gum! That boy’s sure some stemwinder.”
“He uses his haid,” admitted Bob admiringly.
“I’d give my best pup to have been there,” said the cattleman regretfully.
“It was some show,” drawled the younger man. “Drowned rats was what they reminded me of. Couldn’t get a rise out of any of ’em except Dug. That man’s dangerous, if you ask me. He’s crazy mad at all of us, but most at Dave.”
“Will he hurt him?” asked Joyce quickly.
“Can’t tell. He’ll try. That’s a cinch.”
The dark brown eyes of the girl brooded. “That’s not fair. We can’t let him run into more danger for us, Dad. He’s had enough trouble already. We must do something. Can’t you send him to the Spring Valley Ranch?”
“Meanin’ Dug Doble?” asked Bob.
She flashed a look of half-smiling, half-tender reproach at him. “You know who I mean, Bob. And I’m not going to have him put in danger on our account,” she added with naive dogmatism.
“Joy’s right. She’s sure right,” admitted Crawford.
“Maybeso.” Hart fell into his humorous drawl. “How do you aim to get him to Spring Valley? You goin’ to have him hawg-tied and shipped as freight?”
“I’ll talk to him. I’ll tell him he must go.” Her resolute little face was aglow and eager. “It’s time Malapi was civilized. We mustn’t give these bad men provocation. It’s better to avoid them.”