“Yes. I ain’t seen him before. Must be one of the Rabbit Run guys, I take it.”
“I’ve seen him. He’s the man that shot your friend. He was the man I shot at when he looked in the window,”
“Dead sure, Dick. He’s an escaped convict, and he has a grudge at your friend. He is afraid of him, too. Look out for Lieutenant Fraser to-night. Don’t let him wander around outside. If he does, there may be murder done.”
Even as she spoke, there came a sound from the wooded hillside— the sound of a stifled cry, followed by an imprecation and the heavy shuffling of feet.
For an instant he listened. Then: “There’s trouble in the grove, and I’m not armed,” he cried.
“Never mind! Go— go!” she shrieked, pushing him forward.
For herself, she turned, and ran like a deer for the house.
Siegfried was sitting on the porch, whittling a stick.
“They— they’re killing Steve— in the grove,” she panted.
Without a word he rolled off, like a buffalo cow, toward the scene of action.
Arlie pushed into the house and called for Jed.
The wolf howls
As Steve strolled out into the moonlight, he left behind him the monotonous thumping of heavy feet and the singsong voice of the caller.
“Birdie fly out,
Crow hop in,
Join all hands
And circle ag’in.”
came to him, in the high, strident voice of Lute Perkins. He took a deep breath of fresh, clean air, and looked about him. After the hot, dusty room, the grove, with its green foliage, through which the moonlight filtered, looked invitingly cool. He sauntered forward, climbed the hill up which the wooded patch straggled, and sat down, with his back to a pine.
Behind the valley rampart, he could see the dim, saw-toothed Teton peaks, looking like ghostly shapes in the moonlight. The night was peaceful. Faint and mellow came the sound of jovial romping from the house; otherwise, beneath the distant stars, a perfect stillness held.
How long he sat there, letting thoughts happen dreamily rather than producing them of gray matter, he did not know. A slight sound, the snapping of a twig, brought his mind to alertness without causing the slightest movement of his body.
His first thought was that, in accordance with dance etiquette in the ranch country, his revolver was in its holster under the seat of the trap in which they had driven over. Since his week was not up, he had expected no attack from Jed and his friends. As for the enemy, of whom Arlie had advised him, surely a public dance was the last place to tempt one who apparently preferred to attack from cover. But his instinct was certain. He did not need to look round to know he was trapped.
“I’m unarmed. You’d better come round and shoot me from in front. It will look better at the inquest,” he said quietly.