“After all,” he said, “it would only be fair.”
“Then you won’t sign?”
Beamish sat silent a moment or two, regarding George steadily.
“One name more or less doesn’t matter much, but I’ll own that the opinion of you farmers who use my hotel as a stopping-place counts with the authorities,” he told him. “I’ve got quite a few signatures. You want to remember that it won’t pay you to go against the general wish.”
There was a threat in his manner, and George’s face hardened.
“That consideration hasn’t much weight with me,” he said.
“Well,” returned Beamish, “I guess you’re wrong; but as there’s nothing doing here, I’ll get on.”
He rode away, and George thought no more of the matter for several days. Then as he was riding home with Edgar from a visit to a neighbor who had a team to sell, they stopped to rest a few minutes in the shade of a poplar bluff. It was fiercely hot on the prairie, but the wood was dim and cool, and George followed Edgar through it in search of saskatoons. The red berries were plentiful, and they had gone farther than they intended when George stopped waist-deep in the grass of a dry sloo, where shallow water had lain in the spring. He nearly fell over something large and hard. Stooping down, he saw with some surprise that it was a wooden case.
“I wonder what’s in it?” he said.
“Bottles,” reported Edgar, pulling up a board of the lid. “One of the cure-everything tonics, according to the labels. It strikes me as a curious place to leave it in.”
George carefully looked about. He could distinguish a faint track, where the grasses had been disturbed, running straight across the sloo past the spot he occupied; but he thought that the person who had made the track had endeavored to leave as little mark as possible. Then he glanced out between the poplar trunks across the sunlit prairie. There was not a house on it; scarcely a clump of timber broke its even surface. The bluff was very lonely; and George remembered that a trail which ran near by led to an Indian reservation some distance to the north. While he considered, Edgar broke in:
“As neither of us requires a pick-me-up, it might be better to leave the thing where it is.”
“That,” replied George, “is my own idea.”
Edgar looked thoughtful.
“The case didn’t come here by accident; and one wouldn’t imagine that tonics are in great demand in this locality. I have, however, heard the liquor laws denounced; and as a rule it’s wise to leave matters that don’t concern you severely alone.”
“Just so,” said George. “We’ll get on again, if you have had enough berries.”
On reaching the homestead, they found a note from Miss Grant inviting them to come over in the evening; and both were glad to comply with it. When they arrived, the girl led them into a room where a lady of middle-age and a young man in clerical attire were sitting with her father.