“Day after to-morrow. Seems he’s got business that keeps him hyer to-morrow. What’s yore idee, honey?”
She got up, and whispered it in his ear. His jaw dropped, and he stared at her in amazement.
The wolf bites
Steve came drowsily to consciousness from confused dreams of a cattle stampede and the click of rifles in the hands of enemies who had the drop on him. The rare, untempered sunshine of the Rockies poured into his window from a world outside, wonderful as the early morning of creation. The hillside opposite was bathed miraculously in a flood of light, in which grasshoppers fiddled triumphantly their joy in life. The sources of his dreams discovered themselves in the bawl of thirsty cattle and the regular clicking of a windmill.
A glance at his watch told him that it was six o’clock.
“Time to get up, Steve,” he told himself, and forthwith did.
He chose a rough crash towel, slipped on a pair of Howard’s moccasins, and went down to the river through an ambient that had the sparkle and exhilaration of champagne. The mountain air was still finely crisp with the frost, in spite of the sun warmth that was beginning to mellow it. Flinging aside the Indian blanket he had caught up before leaving the cabin, he stood for an instant on the bank, a human being with the physical poise, compactness, and lithe-muscled smoothness of a tiger.
Even as he plunged a rifle cracked. While he dived through the air, before the shock of the icy water tingled through him, he was planning his escape. The opposite bank rose ten feet above the stream. He kept under the water until he came close to this, then swam swiftly along it with only his head showing, so as to keep him out of sight as much as possible.
Half a stone’s throw farther the bank fell again to the water’s edge, the river having broadened and grown shallow, as mountain creeks do. The ranger ran, stooping, along the bank, till it afforded him no more protection, then dashed across the stony-bottomed stream to the shelter of the thick aspens beyond.
Just as he expected, a shot rang from far up the mountainside. In another instant he was safe in the foliage of the young aspens.
In the sheer exhilaration of his escape he laughed aloud.
“Last show to score gone, Mr. Struve. I figured it just right. He waited too long for his first shot. Then the bank hid me. He wasn’t expecting to see me away down the stream, so he hadn’t time to sight his second one.”
Steve wound his way in and out among the aspens, working toward the tail of them, which ran up the hill a little way and dropped down almost to the back door of the cabin. Upon this he was presently pounding.
Howard let him in. He had a revolver in his hand, the first weapon he could snatch up.