Would it not have been better to let him stay and meet Conford who would have been in at noon? She vexed herself a while with these questions, and then dismissed them with her cool good sense. "It's done," she told herself, "an' can't be helped.
Its double-tongued fastener was twisted far awry, as if it had been wrenched away by violence. Conford turned and looked back to the cabin, as if he measured the distance. "There's been funny work here as sure's hell," he said profoundly. Then they rode on, all silent, thinking. It was near dawn when they rode up along the sounding-board and put in at Last's.
When the riders came in at night she told them in detail about the whole affair, for Last's and its men were one, their interests the same. They held counsel around the long table in the dining room under the hanging lamp, and Conford at her right was spokesman for the rest.
Conford and Billy and the rest of the riders made strong bolts for all the doors of the house, reinforced the fences that held the herds at night, put trick locks on all the gates. But the time came when the close retreat became irksome to the girl, and she went from room to room in an uneasiness that was foreign to her calm and happy nature.
She sent Conford off to post her placard and herself went rummaging among the possibilities which her defy had placed before her. She knew that Courtrey would be coldly furious. He had lived his life as suited him, had taken what and where he listed, by fair means or foul, and though every soul in the Valley knew him and his methods, none had spoken the convicting word.
He wore somethin' on his breast, a sign, a dull-like thing with words an' letters on it." "So?" said Conford quickly, "what was it like, Tharon? Can't you describe it?" "Can with a pencil," said Tharon, rising. "Come on in." She went swiftly to the big desk in the other room and rummaged among its drawers for paper and pencil. These things were precious in Lost Valley.
There was a grim note in the golden voice. "How?" asked Conford uneasily. "Dig it first," said Tharon, "then I'll tell you." What the mistress said, went.
Your coroner can arrest your sheriff. He can investigate a murder he can issue a warrant and serve it anywhere in the State. He can subpoena witnesses. Did you know that?" Tharon shook her head. "Nor you?" he asked Conford. "I knew somethin' like that but what's th' use? Banner's a brave man, but he's got a family. An' he's been only one against th' whole push.
"I don't believe," she said at last, "that there's a bunch of horses in Lost Valley to come nigh 'em. Ironwoods or anything else I'd back th' Finger Marks." "So would we," said Conford quietly, "though we've seen th' Ironwoods run a little." "That's th' word, Burt," said Curly, "a little. Who of us has ever seen Courtrey let Bolt run like he wanted to? Not a darned one.
I trust th' Indians, but there ain't no Indian livin' can meet Courtrey's white renegades in courage an' wits. Then we'll start right in an' dig a well th' first well ever dug on th' open range in this man's land." "Good Lord, Tharon!" said Conford, "A well!" "Yes. Th' livin' water holes have been th' pride of th' Valley, I know, but we'll fix this well of ours so's even Courtrey will respect it."