Struve turned, snarling, on him. “That’ll be enough from you, Briscoe. I’ve stood about all I’m going to stand just now.”
“You’ll stand for whatever I say,” retorted Jed. “You’ve cooked your goose in this valley by to-night’s fool play. I’m the only man that can pull you through. Bite on that fact, Mr. Struve, before you unload your bile on me.”
The convict’s heart sank. He felt it to be the truth. The last thing he had heard was Siegfried’s threat to kill him.
Whether Fraser lived or died he was in a precarious position and he knew it.
“I know you’re my friend, Jed,” he whined. “I’ll do what you say. Stand by me and I’ll sure work with you.”
“Then if you take my advice you’ll sneak down to the corral, get your horse, and light out for the run. Lie there till I see you.”
“The Swede won’t trouble you unless this Texan dies. I’ll send you word in time if he does.”
Later a skulking shadow sneaked into the corral and out again. Once out of hearing, it leaped to the back of the horse and galloped wildly into the night.
Two horsemen rode into Millikan’s Draw and drew up in front of the big ranch house. To the girl who stepped to the porch to meet them they gave friendly greeting. One of them asked:
“How’re things coming, Arlie?”
“Better and better every day, Dick. Yesterday the doctor said he was out of danger.”
“It’s been a tough fight for Steve,” the other broke in. “Proper nursing is what pulled him through. Doc says so.”
“Did he say that, Alec? I’ll always think it was doc. He fought for that life mighty hard, boys.”
Alec Howard nodded: “Doc Lee’s the stuff. Here he comes now, talking of angels.”
Doctor Lee dismounted and grinned. “Which of you lads is she making love to now?”
Arlie laughed. “He can’t understand that I don’t make love to anybody but him,” she explained to the younger men.
“She never did to me, doc,” Dick said regretfully.
“No, we were just talking about you, doc.”
“Fire ahead, young woman,” said the doctor, with assumed severity. “I’m here to defend myself now.”
“Alec was calling you an angel, and I was laughing at him,” said the girl demurely.
“An angel— huh!” he snorted.
“I never knew an angel that chewed tobacco, or one that could swear the way you do when you’re mad,” continued Arlie.
“I don’t reckon your acquaintance with angels is much greater than mine, Miss Arlie Dillon. How’s the patient?”
“He’s always wanting something to eat, and he’s cross as a bear.”
“Good for him! Give him two weeks now and he’ll be ready to whip his weight in wild cats.”
The doctor disappeared within, and presently they could hear his loud, cheerful voice pretending to berate the patient.