It was very quiet in the bunk-house when he opened his eyes. A sudden pain through the temples, a rising nausea, blackness and dizziness again, made him close them, frowning. He knew that he was lying in his bunk and that he was very weak. There was a cold, wet towel tied tight about his forehead.
The table had been cleared away, and the cook was finishing his dish-washing by the stove. A lantern swinging from the beam which ran across the middle of the room showed him that all the men were in their bunks with the exception of two who were playing cribbage at the table. They were Lonesome Pete and Rawhide Jones. When they saw him leaning out from his bunk Lonesome Pete put down his cards and came to him.
“How’re they comin’, stranger?” he asked, with no great expression in either eyes or voice.
“Where’s Brayley?” demanded Conniston, quickly.
“He ain’t here none jest now. No, he ain’t exac’ly ran away, nuther. Brayley ain’t the kind as runs away. He was sent for to come to the Lone Dog, where there’s some kind of trouble on. Seein’ as that’s thirty mile or worse, the chances is he’ll ride mos’ all night an’ won’t be back for a day or two.”
Conniston sank back upon his straw pillow. “What I have to say to him will keep,” he said, quietly.
The red-headed man looked at him curiously. “Brayley’s the boss on this outfit, pardner. What he says goes as she lays. It’s sure bad business buckin’ your foreman. If you can’t hit it up agreeable like, you better quit.”
For a moment Conniston lay silent, plucking with nervous fingers at the worn red quilt.
“What did he do to me?” he asked, presently. “Hit me over the head with a revolver?”
Lonesome Pete nodded.
“That’s what you call fair play out in the West?”
“What fooled me, Conniston, is that he didn’t drill a couple er holes through you! He ain’t used to bein’ so careful an’ tender-hearted-like, Brayley ain’t.”
“Just because I’m to work under him, does that mean that in the eye of you men he had a right—”
An uplifted hand stopped him. “When two men has onpleasant words it ain’t up to anybody else to say who’s right. Us fellers has jest got to creep lively out’n the line of bullets an’ let the two men most interested settle that theirselves. Only I don’t mind sayin’, jest frien’ly like, as it is considered powerful foolish for a man to prance skallyhutin’ into a mixup as is apt to smash things considerable onless he’s heeled.”
“Heeled? You mean—”
Lonesome Pete whipped one of the guns from his sagging belt and laid it close to Conniston’s pillow.
“That when a man’s got one of them where he can find it easy he ain’t got to take nothin’ off’n nobody! An’ one man’s jest as good as another, whether he’s foreman or a thirty-dollar puncher! An’ bein’ as we got to go to work early in the mornin’, I reckon you better roll over an’ hit the hay!”