Joe Cumberland was sitting up on the edge of his couch. There was colour in the old man's face. It almost seemed, to the incredulous eyes of Byrne, that the face was filled out a trifle. Certainly the fire of the old cattleman's glance was less unearthly. "Where's Dan?" he called. "Where'd he go?"
The girl crept back through the grove, found Molly where she had left her, and soon was a couple of miles away from the ford and making for the ranch-house at Molly's very best pace. She found her father not so much excited as she had feared. Ratty had forced his way into the stricken cattleman's room and done some talking; but the Captain was chuckling now over the incident.
Deftly I made the dealer's guilt plain to all, and then I seconded the cattleman's angry claim for lost money. The players from other tables gathered round, curious, muttering. And just then Martin strolled in. His appearance was not prepossessing. "What's this holler?" he asked, and halted as he saw the cattleman's gun still in line with the dealer.
We were twenty miles from town, church, and school; ten miles from the post office; and close scrutiny far and wide disclosed but one house in range. Our supply of books was meagre, and for knowledge of current events, we relied on The Sacramento Union, and on the friends who came to enjoy the cattleman's hospitality.
Frances had heard the cattleman's loud demand for instant audience. Now the maid was explaining in temporizing tones. "The colonel he's busy with military matters this early in the day, sir, and nobody ever disturbs him. He don't see nobody but the officers. If you'll step in and wait " "The officers can wait!" Chadron said, in loud, assertive voice that made the servant shiver. "Where's he at?"
Luck laid aside his papers with the tired gesture which betrays heavy anxiety. "The whole punch of the picture depends on that blizzard and what it leads up to. It's getting close to March, this is the twentieth of February, and the Texas Cattleman's Convention meets the first of April.
Hull explained that he remembered the time particularly because he happened to be winding the clock at the moment. A description of Lane was given in a two-column "box." He read it with no amusement. It was too deadly accurate for comfort. The supposed assassin of James Cunningham is described by Mrs. Cass Hull as dressed in a pepper-and-salt suit and a white, pinched-in cattleman's hat.
Once having gained the straight road that led across the railroad track toward the cattleman's, she took off her hat and made faster progress. But the way was long, and, still weak from her recent sickness, she was easily tired.
This work, and the task of counting, demanded all the cattleman's skill. Bands of fifty were rounded up, cut out from the rest, and quietly brought in. When each corral was filled, and the whole herd accommodated for the night, a supply of fresh young hay was thrown to them to keep them occupied during their few remaining hours of waking.
Up and back he beat the clutching hands, and drove his right fist to the lower ribs with a force that made the victim gasp. Again he struck, bringing his fist from behind him in an irresistible arc to its mark. Again and again he struck the cattleman's hardened body and then, sensing his opponent's wilting, he drove in, both arms working like pistons, literally beating his man flat to the ground.