She did not try his capacity to the limit, but the oysters, the salad, the chicken soup were delicious, with the ultimate perfection that comes only out of Gaul. They made a delightfully gay and intimate hour of it, and were still lingering over their demi-tasse when Yesler's name was mentioned. "Isn't it splendid that he's doing so well?" cried the girl with enthusiasm.
The slim little woman stepped across the room and took her place beside her husband. Her eyes flashed fire at the man she held responsible for the fall of her husband. Yesler's generous heart applauded the loyalty which was proof against both disgrace and poverty. For in the past month both of these had fallen heavily upon her.
Upon this he might have made shift somehow to get her to Yesler's ranch, eighteen miles away though it was, but he knew this would not be feasible with the snow in its present condition. It was not certain that he could make the ranch alone; encumbered with her, success would be a sheer impossibility. On the other hand, their provisions would not last long.
They might murder him for what he was doing, but not in time to save the exposure which would be brought to light on the morrow. The committee met at a road-house near the outskirts of the city, but only long enough to hear Yesler's facts and to appoint another meeting for three hours later at the offices of Eaton.
His eyes bored like steel gimlets into those of his enemy. The sheepman spoke, looking straight at his foe. "I've just heard the news. I was down at Yesler's ranch when you 'phoned asking if they had seen anything of Miss Cullison. I came up to ask you one question. When was she seen last?" "About ten o'clock this morning. Why?" "I saw her about noon.
I've been approached indirectly by Pelton, to deliver our vote to the Consolidated. Suppose we arrange to do it, get evidence, and make a public exposure." They were alone in a private dining-room of a restaurant, but Yesler's voice had fallen almost to a whisper.
The one point in their favor was that they could follow a trail which had already been trodden down. Simon Harley helped his wife into the boy's saddle on the back of the animal they had led, but his inexperience had to give way to Yesler's skill in fitting the stirrups to the proper length for her feet.
His body, hard as nails, suffered no reaction from the terrific strain he had put upon it, and he went down to his breakfast with an appetite ravenous for whatever good things Yesler's Chinese cook might have prepared for him. He found his host already at work on a juicy steak. "Mornin'," nodded that gentleman. "Hope you feel as good as you look."
"You bet." They met that night in Yesler's rooms round a card-table. The hands were dealt for form's sake, since there were spies everywhere, and it was necessary to ring for cigars and refreshments occasionally to avoid suspicion. They were all cattlemen, large or small, big outdoors sunburned men, who rode the range in the spring and fall with their punchers and asked no odds of any man.
It was not, however, until dusk was beginning to fall that the leader stopped. Yesler's voice brought him up short in his tracks. "Hold on, Waring. The lady's down." Ridgway strode back past the exhausted cowboys and Harley, the latter so beaten with fatigue that he could scarce cling to the pommel of his saddle. "I saw it coming.