He raised his left hand and brushed the barrel of the revolver aside contemptuously, then turned and walked along the platform to the building. At the door he stopped, to lean faintly against the jamb, still without turning. Meldrum might shoot at any moment. It depended on how drunk he was, how clearly he could vision the future, how greatly his prophecy had impressed him. Cold chills ran up and down the spinal column of the young cattleman. His senses were reeling.
To cover his weakness Roy drew tobacco from his coat-pocket and rolled a cigarette with trembling fingers. He flashed a match. A moment later an insolent smoke wreath rose into the air and floated back toward Meldrum. Roy passed through the waiting-room to the street beyond.
Young Beaudry knew that the cigarette episode had been the weak bluff of one whose strength had suddenly deserted him. He had snatched at it to cover his weakness. But to the score or more who saw that spiral of smoke dissolving jauntily into air, no such thought was possible. The filmy wreath represented the acme of dare-devil recklessness, the final proof of gameness in John Beaudry’s son. He had turned his back on a drunken killer crazy for revenge and mocked the fellow at the risk of his life.
Presently Roy and the cattle-buyer were bowling down the street behind Dingwell’s fast young four-year-olds. The Denver man did not know that his host was as weak from the reaction of the strain as a child stricken with fear.
At the Lazy Double D
Dingwell squinted over the bunch of cattle in the corral. “Twenty dollars on the hoof, f.o.b. at the siding,” he said evenly. “You to take the run of the pen, no culls.”
“I heard you before,” protested the buyer. “Learn a new song, Dingwell. I don’t like the tune of that one. Make it eighteen and let me cull the bunch.”
Dave garnered a straw clinging to the fence and chewed it meditatively. “Couldn’t do it without hurting my conscience. Nineteen—no culls. That’s my last word.”
“I’d sure hate to injure your conscience, Dingwell,” grinned the man from Denver. “Think I’ll wait till you go to town and do business with your partner.”
“Think he’s easy, do you?”
“Easy!” The cattle-buyer turned the conversation to the subject uppermost in his mind. He had already decided to take the cattle and the formal agreement could wait. “Easy! Say, do you know what I saw that young man put over to-day at the depot?”
“I’ll know when you’ve told me,” suggested Dingwell.
The Denver man told his story and added editorial comment. “Gamest thing I ever saw in my life, by Jiminy—stood there with his back to the man-killer and lit a cigarette while the ruffian had his finger on the trigger of a six-gun ready to whang away at him. Can you beat that?”