It was quite dark in the bluff, though here and there he could see a glimmer of faint red and orange between the trees, and the stillness had a slightly disturbing effect on him. Not a leaf moved, the beat of his horse’s hoofs rang sharply down the narrow trail above which the thin birch branches met. He wanted to get out into the open, where he could see about, as soon as possible. There was, however, no ostensible cause for uneasiness and he rode on quietly, until he heard a soft rustling among the slender trunks. Pulling up the horse, he called out, and, as he half expected, got no answer. Then he cast a swift glance ahead. There was a gleam of dim light not far away where the trail led out of the bluff. Throwing the rifle to his shoulder, George fired into the shadows.
The horse plunged violently and broke into a frightened gallop. George heard a whistle and a sharper rustling, and rode toward the light at a furious pace. Then his horse suddenly stumbled and came down. The rifle flew out of George’s hand, and he was hurled against a tree. The next moment he felt himself rudely seized, and what he thought was a jacket was wrapped about his head. Shaken by his fall, he could make no effective resistance, and he was dragged a few yards through the bush and flung into a wagon. He tried to pull the jacket from his face, and failed; somebody brutally beat him down against the side of the vehicle when he struggled to get up. He heard a whip crack, the wagon swayed and jolted, and he knew the team was starting at a gallop.
It was nearly midnight when Edgar returned from the settlement and saw, to his surprise, lights still burning in the homestead. Entering the living-room, he found Grierson sitting there with Jake, and it struck him that they looked uneasy.
“What’s keeping you up?” he asked.
“I thought I’d wait for the boss,” said the Canadian. “He went over to Grant’s after supper, and he’s not come back.”
“That’s curious. He said nothing about going.”
“A note came by the mail. It’s lying yonder.”
Edgar picked it up and brought it near the lamp. The paper was good and printed with Grant’s postal address, which was lengthy.
“I figured I’d go and meet him,” Jake resumed, “Took the shot-gun and rode through the bluff. Didn’t see anything of him, and it struck me Grant might have kept him all night, as it was getting late. He’s stayed there before.”
Edgar examined the note, for he was far from satisfied. George had only twice spent a night at Grant’s, once when he was driving cattle, and again when it would have been risky to face the weather. The paper was undoubtedly Grant’s, but Edgar could not identify the farmer’s hand; the notes that had come over had been written by Flora. Then he remembered that George had bought some implements from Grant, and had filed the rancher’s receipt. Edgar hurriedly found it and compared it with the letter. Then his face grew troubled, for the writing was not the same.