“Good enough. Put her there, son. This shack’s yore home till hell freezes over, Steve.”
“You haven’t any doubts about me, Alec. If you have, better say so now.”
“Doubts? I reckon not. Don’t I know a man when I see one? I’m plumb surprised at Arlie.” He strode to the door, and called to Bobbie: “Roll along home, son. Yore passenger is going to stay a spell with me.”
“Of course, I understand what this means, Alec. Jed and his crowd aren’t going to be any too well pleased when they learn you have taken me in. They may make you trouble,” the ranger said.
The big cow man laughed. “Oh, cut it out, Steve. Jed don’t have to O. K. my guest list. Not on yore life. I’m about ready for a ruction with that young man, anyway. He’s too blamed bossy. I ain’t wearing his brand. Fact is, I been having notions this valley has been suffering from too much Briscoe. Others are sharing that opinion with me. Ask Dick France. Ask Arlie, for that matter.”
“I’m afraid I’m off that young lady’s list of friends.”
“Sho! She’ll come round. She’s some hot-haided. It always was her way to get mad first, and find out why afterward. But don’t make any mistake about her, Steve. She’s the salt of the earth, Arlie Dillon is. She figured it out you wasn’t playing it quite on the square with her. Onct she’s milled it around a spell, she’ll see things different. I’ve knowed her since she was knee-high, and I tell you she’s a game little thoroughbred.”
The Texan looked at him a moment, then stared out of the window.
“We won’t quarrel about that any, Alec. I’ll indorse those sentiments, and then some, even if she did call me a snake in the grass.”
The day after Fraser changed his quarters, Dick France rode up to the Howard ranch. Without alighting, he nodded casually to Alec, and then to his guest.
“Hello, Steve! How’s the shoulder?”
“Fine and dandy.”
“You moved, I see.” The puncher grinned.
“If you see it for yourself, I’ll not attempt to deny it.”
“Being stood in the corner some more, looks like! Little Willie been telling some more lies?”
“Come in, Dick, and I’ll put you wise.”
Steve went over the story again. When he mentioned the Squaw Creek raid, he observed that his two friends looked quickly at each other and then away. He saw, however, that Dick took his pledge in regard to the raiders at face value, without the least question of doubt. He made only one comment on the situation.
“If Jed has served notice that he’s going after you, Steve, he’ll ce’tainly back the play. What’s more, he won’t be any too particular how he gets you, just so he gets you. He may come a-shooting in the open. Then, again, he may not. All according to how the notion strikes him.”