VAUGHN STEELE AND RUSS SITTELL
In the morning, after breakfasting early, I took a turn up and down the main street of Sanderson, made observations and got information likely to serve me at some future day, and then I returned to the hotel ready for what might happen.
The stage-coach was there and already full of passengers. This stage did not go to Linrock, but I had found that another one left for that point three days a week.
Several cowboy broncos stood hitched to a railing and a little farther down were two buckboards, with horses that took my eye. These probably were the teams Colonel Sampson had spoken of to George Wright.
As I strolled up, both men came out of the hotel. Wright saw me, and making an almost imperceptible sign to Sampson, he walked toward me.
"You're the cowboy Russ?" he asked.
I nodded and looked him over. By day he made as striking a figure as I had noted by night, but the light was not generous to his dark face.
"Here's your pay," he said, handing me some bills. "Miss Sampson won't need you out at the ranch any more."
"What do you mean? This is the first I've heard about that."
"Sorry, kid. That's it," he said abruptly. "She just gave me the money—told me to pay you off. You needn't bother to speak with her about it."
He might as well have said, just as politely, that my seeing her, even to say good-by, was undesirable.
As my luck would have it, the girls appeared at the moment, and I went directly up to them, to be greeted in a manner I was glad George Wright could not help but see.
In Miss Sampson's smile and "Good morning, Russ," there was not the slightest discoverable sign that I was not to serve her indefinitely.
It was as I had expected—she knew nothing of Wright's discharging me in her name.
"Miss Sampson," I said, in dismay, "what have I done? Why did you let me go?"
She looked astonished.
"Russ, I don't understand you."
"Why did you discharge me?" I went on, trying to look heart-broken. "I haven't had a chance yet. I wanted so much to work for you—Miss Sally, what have I done? Why did she discharge me?"
"I did not," declared Miss Sampson, her dark eyes lighting.
"But look here—here's my pay," I went on, exhibiting the money. "Mr. Wright just came to me—said you sent this money—that you wouldn't need me out at the ranch."
It was Miss Sally then who uttered a little exclamation. Miss Sampson seemed scarcely to have believed what she had heard.
"My cousin Mr. Wright said that?"
I nodded vehemently.
At this juncture Wright strode before me, practically thrusting me aside.
"Come girls, let's walk a little before we start," he said gaily. "I'll show you Sanderson."
"Wait, please," Miss Sampson replied, looking directly at him. "Cousin George, I think there's a mistake—perhaps a misunderstanding. Here's the cowboy I've engaged—Mr. Russ. He declares you gave him money—told him I discharged him."
"Yes, cousin, I did," he replied, his voice rising a little. There was a tinge of red in his cheek. "We—you don't need him out at the ranch....