The injustice of this tickled him. “I’ll buy you a new one when we get to town,” he told her promptly.
Her angry dignity gave her another inch of height. “I’ll attend to that, Mr. Dingwell. Suppose you ride on and leave me alone. I won’t detain you.”
“Meaning that she doesn’t like your company, Dave,” he mused aloud, eyes twinkling. “She seemed kinder fond of you, too, a minute ago.”
Almost she stamped her foot. “Will you go? Or shall I?”
“Oh, I’m going, Miss Rutherford. If I wasn’t such an aged, decrepit wreck I’d come up and be one of your scholars. Anyhow, I’m real glad to have met you. No, I can’t stay longer. So sorry. Good-bye.”
He cantered down the road in the same direction Fox had taken. It happened that he, too, wanted to be alone, for he had a problem to solve that would not wait. Fox had galloped in to warn the Rutherford gang that he had the gold. How long it would take him to round up two or three of them would depend on chance. Dave knew that they might be waiting for him before he reached town. He had to get rid of the treasure between that spot and town, or else he had to turn on his tired horse and try to escape to the hills. Into his mind popped a possible solution of the difficulty. It would depend on whether luck was for or against him. To dismount and hide the sack was impossible, both because Beulah Rutherford was on his heels and because the muddy road would show tracks where he had stopped. His plan was to hide it without leaving the saddle.
He did. At the outskirts of Battle Butte he crossed the bridge over Big Creek and deflected to the left. He swung up one street and down another beside which ran a small field of alfalfa on one side. A hundred yards beyond it he met another rider, a man called Slim Sanders, who worked for Buck Rutherford as a cow-puncher.
The two men exchanged nods without stopping. Apparently the news that Fox had brought was unknown to the cowboy. But Dingwell knew he was on his way to the Legal Tender Saloon, which was the hang-out of the Rutherford followers. In a few minutes Sanders would get his orders.
Dave rode to the house of Sheriff Sweeney. He learned there that the sheriff was downtown. Dingwell turned toward the business section of the town and rode down the main street. From a passer-by he learned that Sweeney had gone into the Legal Tender a few minutes before. In front of that saloon he dismounted.
Fifty yards down the street three men were walking toward him. He recognized them as Buck Rutherford, Sanders, and Chet Fox. The little man walked between the other two and told his story excitedly. Dingwell did not wait for them. He had something he wanted to tell Sweeney and he passed at once into the saloon.
The Old-Timer Sits into a Big Game