The gold-digger beckoned with his hat as he called out. “Come right along to the party. You’re welcome as a frost in June.”
A head raised itself cautiously out of the brush. “Don’t you move, or I’ll plug lead into you.”
“I’m hog-tied,” answered Dingwell promptly. His mind worked swiftly. The man with the drop on him was Chet Fox, a hanger-on of the Rutherford gang, just as he had been seventeen years before when he betrayed John Beaudry to death. Fox was shrewd and wily, but no gunman. If Chet was alone, his prisoner did not propose to remain one. Dave did not intend to make any fool breaks, but it would be hard luck if he could not contrive a chance to turn the tables.
“Reach for the roof.”
Dingwell obeyed orders.
Fox came forward very cautiously. Not for an instant did his beady eyes lift from the man he covered.
“Turn your back to me.”
The other man did as he was told.
Gingerly Fox transferred the rifle to his left hand, then drew a revolver. He placed the rifle against the fork of a young aspen and the barrel of the six-gun against the small of Dingwell’s back.
“Make just one break and you’re a goner,” he threatened.
With deft fingers he slid the revolver of the cattleman from its holster. Then, having collected Dingwell’s rifle, he fell back a few steps.
“Now you can go on with those health exercises I interrupted if you’ve a mind to,” Fox suggested with a sneer.
His prisoner turned dejected eyes upon him. “That’s right. Rub it in, Chet. Don’t you reckon I know what a long-eared jackass I am?”
“There’s two of us know it then,” said Fox dryly. “Now, lift that gunnysack to your saddle and tie it on behind.”
This done, Fox pulled himself to the saddle, still with a wary eye on his captive.
“Hit the trail along the creek,” he ordered.
Dingwell moved forward reluctantly. It was easy to read chagrin and depression in the sag of his shoulders and the drag of his feet.
The pig eyes of the fat little man on horseback shone with triumph. He was enjoying himself hugely. It was worth something to have tamed so debonair a dare-devil as Dingwell had the reputation of being. He had the fellow so meek that he would eat out of his hand.
Dave Caches a Gunnysack
Fox rode about ten yards behind his prisoner, who plodded without spirit up the creek trail that led from the basin.
“You’re certainly an accommodating fellow, Dave,” he jeered. “I’ve seen them as would have grumbled a heap at digging up that sack, and then loaning me their horse to carry it whilst they walked. But you’re that cheerful. My own brother wouldn’t have been so kind.”
Dingwell grunted sulkily. He may have felt cheerful, but he did not look it. The pudgy round body of Fox shook with silent laughter.