The next day George was setting out on a visit to Grant when a man rode up and asked for the team.
“Flett can’t get over, but he wants the horses at the post, so as to have them handy if he finds anybody who can recognize them,” he explained.
That sounded plausible, but George hesitated. The animals would be of service as a clue to their owner and a proof of his complicity in the affair. As they had not been identified, it would embarrass the police if they were missing.
“I can only hand them over to a constable, unless you have brought a note from Flett,” he replied.
“Then, as I haven’t one, you’ll beat me out of a day’s pay, and make Flett mighty mad. Do you think he’d get anybody who might know the team to waste a day riding out to your place? Guess the folks round here are too busy, and they’d be glad of the excuse that it was so far. They won’t want to mix themselves up in this thing.”
George could find no fault with this reasoning, but he thought the fellow was a little too eager to secure the horses.
“Well,” he said, “as I’m going to call on Mr. Grant, I’ll see what he has to say. If I’m not back in time, Mr. West will give you supper.”
“Then Grant’s standing in with you and the temperance folks?”
It struck George that he had been incautious, but he could not determine whether the man had blundered or not. His question suggested some knowledge of the situation, but an accomplice of the offenders would, no doubt, have heard of the part Grant’s hired man had played.
“I don’t see how that concerns you,” he replied. “You’ll have to wait until I return if you want the team.”
He rode on, but he had not gone far when he met Beamish, of the Sachem.
“I was coming over to see you,” the man told him. “You bought that young Hereford bull of Broughton’s, didn’t you?”
George was surprised at the question, but he answered that he had done so.
“Then would you sell him?”
“I hadn’t thought of it.”
“Guess that means I’ll have to tempt you,” Beamish said. “I want the beast.”
He named a price that struck George as being in excess of the animal’s value; and then explained:
“I’ve seen him once or twice before he fell into Broughton’s hands; the imported Red Rover strain is marked in him, and a friend of mine, who’s going in for Herefords, told me not to stick at a few dollars if I could pick up such a bull.”
This was plausible, but not altogether satisfactory, and George, reflecting that a buyer does not really praise what he means to purchase, imagined that there was something behind it.
“I’m not likely to get a better bid,” he admitted. “But I must ask if the transaction would be complete? Would you expect anything further from me in return?”
Beamish regarded him keenly, with a faint smile.