“Yes,” admitted Bob dryly. “Well, you tell all that to Dave. Maybe he’s the kind o’ lad that will pack up and light out because he’s afraid of Dug Doble and his outfit. Then again maybe he ain’t.”
Crawford shook his head. He was a game man himself. He would go through when the call came, and he knew quite well that Sanders would do the same. Nor would any specious plea sidetrack him. At the same time there was substantial justice in the contention of his daughter. Dave had no business getting mixed up in this row. The fact that he was an ex-convict would be in itself a damning thing in case the courts ever had to pass upon the feud’s results. The conviction on the records against him would make a second conviction very much easier.
“You’re right, Bob. Dave won’t let Dug’s crowd run him out. But you keep an eye on him. Don’t let him go out alone nights. See he packs a gun.”
“Packs a gun!” Joyce was sitting in a rocking-chair under the glow of the lamp. She was darning one of Keith’s stockings, and to the young man watching her—so wholly winsome girl, so much tender but business-like little mother—she was the last word in the desirability of woman. “That’s the very way to find trouble, Dad. He’s been doing his best to keep out of it. He can’t, if he stays here. So he must go away, that’s all there is to it.”
Her father laughed. “Ain’t it scandalous the way she bosses us all around, Bob?”
The face of the girl sparkled to a humorous challenge. “Well, some one has got to boss you-all boys, Dad. If you’d do as I say you wouldn’t have any trouble with that old Steelman or his gunmen.”
“We wouldn’t have any oil wells either, would we, honey?”
“They’re not worth having if you and Dave Sanders and Bob have to live in danger all the time,” she flashed.
“Glad you look at it that way, Joy,” Emerson retorted with a rueful smile. “Fact is, we ain’t goin’ to have any more oil wells than a jackrabbit pretty soon. I’m at the end of my rope right now. The First National promised me another loan on the Arizona ranch, but Brad has got a-holt of it and he’s called in my last loan. I’m not quittin’. I’ll put up a fight yet, but unless things break for me I’m about done.”
“Oh, Dad!” Her impulse of sympathy carried Joyce straight to him. Soft, rounded arms went round his neck with impassioned tenderness. “I didn’t dream it was as bad as that. You’ve been worrying all this time and you never let me know.”
He stroked her hair fondly. “You’re the blamedest little mother ever I did see—always was. Now don’t you fret. It’ll work out somehow. Things do.”