“How would you propose to alter it?” Edgar asked, to lead him on.
“If we must have a jury, I’d like to pick them, and they’d be men who’d lost some stock. You could depend on them.”
“There’s something to be said for that,” Grant admitted with a dry smile.
“This is how we’re fixed,” Flett went on. “We’re up against a small, but mighty smart, hard crowd; we know them all right, but we can’t get after them. You must make good all you say in court, and we can’t get folks to help us. They’d rather mind the store, have a game of pool, or chop their cordwood.”
“I can think of a few exceptions,” Edgar said. “Mrs. Nelson, for example. One could hardly consider her apathetic.”
“That woman’s dangerous! When we were working up things against Beamish, she must make him look like a persecuted victim. She goes too far; the others won’t go far enough. Guess they’re afraid of getting hurt.”
“You couldn’t say that of Mr. Hardie,” Flora objected.
“No. But some of his people would like to fire him, and he’s going to have trouble about his pay. Anyhow, this state of things is pretty hard on us. There’s no use in bringing a man up when you’ve only got unwilling witnesses.”
“What you want is a dramatic conviction,” said Edgar sympathetically.
“Sure. It’s what we’re working for, and we’d get it if everybody backed us up as your partner and Mr. Grant are doing.” He turned to George. “My coming back here is a little rough on you.”
“I dare say it will be understood by the opposition, but I don’t mind. It looks as if I were a marked man already.”
A few minutes later Flett went out to attend to his horse; George took Grant into a smaller room which he used for an office; and Edgar and Flora were left alone. The girl sat beside the stove, with a thoughtful air, and Edgar waited for her to speak. Flora inspired him with an admiration which was largely tinged with respect, though, being critical, he sometimes speculated about the cause for this. She was pretty, but her style of beauty was rather severe. She had fine eyes and clearly-cut features, but her face was a little too reposeful and her expression usually somewhat grave; he preferred animation and a dash of coquetry. Her conversation was to the point—she had a way of getting at the truth of a matter—but there was nevertheless a certain reserve in it and he thought it might have been more sparkling. He had discovered some time ago that adroit flattery and hints that his devotion was hers to command only afforded her calm amusement.
“Mr. Lansing looks a little worried,” she said at length.
“It strikes me as only natural,” Edgar replied, “He has had a steer killed since the rustlers shot the bull; we have foiled one or two more attempts only by keeping a good lookout, and he knows that he lies open to any new attack that may be made on him. His position isn’t what you could call comfortable.”