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´╗┐Title: Northern Lights, Volume 5.
Author: Parker, Gilbert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Northern Lights, Volume 5." ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



NORTHERN LIGHTS

By Gilbert Parker

Volume 5.


THE ERROR OF THE DAY
THE WHISPERER
AS DEEP AS THE SEA



THE ERROR OF THE DAY

The "Error of the Day" may be defined as "The difference between the
distance or range which must be put upon the sights in order to hit the
target and the actual distance from the gun to the target."--Admiralty
Note.

A great naval gun never fires twice alike.  It varies from day to day,
and expert allowance has to be made in sighting every time it is fired.
Variations in atmosphere, condition of ammunition, and the wear of the
gun are the contributory causes to the ever-varying "Error of the Day."

                      .........................

"Say, ain't he pretty?"

"A Jim-dandy-oh, my!"

"What's his price in the open market?"

"Thirty millions-I think not."

Then was heard the voice of Billy Goat--his name was William Goatry

              "Out in the cold world, out in the street;
               Nothing to wear, and nothing to eat,
               Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam,
               Child of misfortune, I'm driven from home."

A loud laugh followed, for Billy Goat was a popular person at Kowatin in
the Saskatchewan country.  He had an inimitable drollery, heightened by a
cast in his eye, a very large mouth, and a round, good-humoured face;
also he had a hand and arm like iron, and was altogether a great man on a
"spree."

There had been a two days' spree at Kowatin, for no other reason than
that there had been great excitement over the capture and the subsequent
escape of a prairie-rover, who had robbed the contractor's money-chest at
the rail-head on the Canadian Pacific Railroad.  Forty miles from Kowatin
he had been caught by, and escaped from, the tall, brown-eyed man with
the hard-bitten face who leaned against the open window of the tavern,
looking indifferently at the jeering crowd before him.  For a police
officer he was not unpopular with them, but he had been a failure for
once, and, as Billy Goat had said: "It tickled us to death to see a rider
of the plains off his trolley--on the cold, cold ground, same as you and
me."

They did not undervalue him.  If he had been less a man than he was,
they would not have taken the trouble to cover him with their drunken
ribaldry.  He had scored off them in the past in just such sprees as
this, when he had the power to do so, and used the power good-naturedly
and quietly--but used it.

Then, he was Sergeant Foyle of the Royal North-West Mounted Police, on
duty in a district as large as the United Kingdom.  And he had no greater
admirer than Billy Goat, who now reviled him.  Not without cause, in a
way, for he had reviled himself to this extent, that when the prairie-
rover, Halbeck, escaped on the way to Prince Albert, after six months'
hunt for him and a final capture in the Kowatin district, Foyle resigned
the Force before the Commissioner could reproach him or call him to
account.  Usually so exact, so certain of his target, some care had not
been taken, he had miscalculated, and there had been the Error of the
Day.  Whatever it was, it had seemed to him fatal; and he had turned his
face from the barrack yard.

Then he had made his way to the Happy Land Hotel at Kowatin, to begin
life as "a free and independent gent on the loose," as Billy Goat had
said.  To resign had seemed extreme; because, though the Commissioner was
vexed at Halbeck's escape, Foyle was the best non-commissioned officer in
the Force.  He had frightened horse thieves and bogus land-agents and
speculators out of the country; had fearlessly tracked down a criminal or
a band of criminals when the odds were heavy against him.  He carried on
his cheek the scars of two bullets, and there was one white lock in his
brown hair, where an arrow had torn the scalp away as, alone, he drove
into the Post a score of Indians, fresh from raiding the cattle of an
immigrant trailing north.

Now he was out of work, or so it seemed; he had stepped down from his
scarlet-coated dignity, from the place of guardian and guide of
civilisation, into the idleness of a tavern stoop.

As the little group swayed round him, and Billy Goat started another
song, Foyle roused himself as though to move away--he was waiting for
the mail-stage to take him south:

         "Oh, father, dear father, come home with me now,
          The clock in the steeple strikes one;
          You said you were coming right home from the shop
          As soon as your day's work was done.
          Come home--come home--"

The song arrested him, and he leaned back against the window again.  A
curious look came into his eyes, a look that had nothing to do with the
acts of the people before him.  It was searching into a scene beyond this
bright sunlight and the far green-brown grass, and the little oasis of
trees in the distance marking a homestead and the dust of the wagon-
wheels, out on the trail beyond the grain-elevator-beyond the blue
horizon's rim, quivering in the heat, and into regions where this crisp,
clear, life-giving, life-saving air never blew.

         "You said you were coming right home from the shop
          As soon as your day's work was done.
          Come home--come home--"

He remembered when he had first heard this song in a play called 'Ten
Nights in a Bar-room', many years before, and how it had wrenched his
heart and soul, and covered him with a sudden cloud of shame and anger.
For his father had been a drunkard, and his brother had grown up a
drunkard, that brother whom he had not seen for ten years until--until--

He shuddered, closed his eyes, as though to shut out something that the
mind saw.  He had had a rough life, he had become inured to the seamy
side of things--there was a seamy side even in this clean, free, wide
land; and he had no sentimentality; though something seemed to hurt and
shame him now.

         "As soon as your day's work was done.
          Come home--come home--"

The crowd was uproarious.  The exhilaration had become a kind of
delirium.  Men were losing their heads; there was an element of
irresponsibility in the new outbreak likely to breed some violent act,
which every man of them would lament when sober again.

Nettlewood Foyle watched the dust rising from the wheels of the stage,
which had passed the elevator and was nearing the Prairie Home Hotel far
down the street.  He would soon leave behind him this noisy ribaldry of
which he was the centre.  He tossed his cheroot away.  Suddenly he heard
a low voice behind him.

"Why don't you hit out, sergeant?" it said.

He started almost violently, and turned round.  Then his face flushed,
his eyes blurred with feeling and deep surprise, and his lips parted
in a whispered exclamation and greeting.

A girl's face from the shade of the sitting-room was looking out at him,
half-smiling, but with heightened colour and a suppressed agitation.  The
girl was not more than twenty-five, graceful, supple, and strong.  Her
chin was dimpled; across her right temple was a slight scar.  She had
eyes of a wonderful deep blue; they seemed to swim with light.  As Foyle
gazed at her for a moment dumfounded, with a quizzical suggestion and
smiling still a little more, she said:

"You used to be a little quicker, Nett."  The voice appeared to attempt
unconcern; but it quivered from a force of feeling underneath.  It was so
long since she had seen him.

He was about to reply, but, at the instant, a reveller pushed him with a
foot behind the knees so that they were sprung forward.  The crowd
laughed--all save Billy Goat, who knew his man.

Like lightning, and with cold fury in his eyes, Foyle caught the tall
cattleman by the forearm, and, with a swift, dexterous twist, had the
fellow in his power.

"Down--down, to your knees, you skunk," he said in a low, fierce voice.

The knees of the big man bent,--Foyle had not taken lessons of Ogami,
the Jap, for nothing--they bent, and the cattleman squealed, so intense
was the pain.  It was break or bend; and he bent--to the ground and
lay there.  Foyle stood over him for a moment, a hard light in his eyes,
and then, as if bethinking himself, he looked at the other roisterers,
and said:

"There's a limit, and he reached it.  Your mouths are your own, and you
can blow off to suit your fancy, but if any one thinks I'm a tame coyote
to be poked with a stick--!"  He broke off, stooped over, and helped the
man before him to his feet.  The arm had been strained, and the big
fellow nursed it.

"Hell, but you're a twister!" the cattleman said with a grimace of pain.

Billy Goat was a gentleman, after his kind, and he liked Sergeant Foyle
with a great liking.  He turned to the crowd and spoke.

"Say, boys, this mine's worked out.  Let's leave the Happy Land to Foyle.
Boys, what is he--what--is he?  What--is--Sergeant Foyle--boys?"

The roar of the song they all knew came in reply, as Billy Goat waved his
arms about like the wild leader of a wild orchestra:

         "Sergeant Foyle, oh, he's a knocker from the West,
          He's a chase-me-Charley, come-and-kiss-me tiger from the zoo;
          He's a dandy on the pinch, and he's got a double cinch
          On the gent that's going careless, and he'll soon cinch you:
          And he'll soon--and he'll soon--cinch you!"

Foyle watched them go, dancing, stumbling, calling back at him, as they
moved towards the Prairie Home Hotel:

         "And he'll soon-and he'll soon-cinch you!"

His under lip came out, his eyes half-closed, as he watched them.  "I've
done my last cinch.  I've done my last cinch," he murmured.

Then, suddenly, the look in his face changed, the eyes swam as they had
done a minute before at the sight of the girl in the room behind.
Whatever his trouble was, that face had obscured it in a flash, and the
pools of feeling far down in the depths of a lonely nature had been
stirred.  Recognition, memory, tenderness, desire swam in his face, made
generous and kind the hard lines of the strong mouth.  In an instant he
had swung himself over the window-sill.  The girl had drawn away now into
a more shaded corner of the room, and she regarded him with a mingled
anxiety and eagerness.  Was she afraid of something?  Did she fear that
--she knew not quite what, but it had to do with a long ago.

"It was time you hit out, Nett," she said, half shyly.  "You're more
patient than you used to be, but you're surer.  My, that was a twist you
gave him, Nett.  Aren't you glad to see me?" she added hastily, and with
an effort to hide her agitation.

He reached out and took her hand with a strange shyness, and a self-
consciousness which was alien to his nature.  The touch of her hand
thrilled him.  Their eyes met.  She dropped hers.  Then he gathered him
self together.  "Glad to see you?  Of course, of course, I'm glad.  You
stunned me, Jo.  Why, do you know where you are?  You're a thousand miles
from home.  I can't get it through my head, not really.  What brings you
here?  It's ten years--ten years since I saw you, and you were only
fifteen, but a fifteen that was as good as twenty."

He scanned her face closely.  "What's that scar on your forehead, Jo?
You hadn't that--then."

"I ran up against something," she said evasively, her eyes glittering,
"and it left that scar.  Does it look so bad?"

"No, you'd never notice it, if you weren't looking close as I am.  You
see, I knew your face so well ten years ago."

He shook his head with a forced kind of smile.  It became him, however,
for he smiled rarely; and the smile was like a lantern turned on his
face; it gave light and warmth to its quiet strength-or hardness.

"You were always quizzing," she said with an attempt at a laugh--"always
trying to find out things.  That's why you made them reckon with you out
here.  You always could see behind things; always would have your own
way; always were meant to be a success."

She was beginning to get control of herself again, was trying hard to
keep things on the surface.  "You were meant to succeed--you had to,"
she added.

"I've been a failure--a dead failure," he answered slowly.  "So they say.
So they said.  You heard them, Jo."

He jerked his head towards the open window.

"Oh, those drunken fools!" she exclaimed indignantly, and her face
hardened.  "How I hate drink!  It spoils everything."

There was silence for a moment.  They were both thinking of the same
thing--of the same man.  He repeated a question.

"What brings you out here, Jo?" he asked gently.  "Dorland," she
answered, her face setting into determination and anxiety.

His face became pinched.  "Dorl!" he said heavily.  "What for, Jo?
What do you want with Dorl?"

"When Cynthy died she left her five hundred dollars a year to the baby,
and--"

"Yes, yes, I know.  Well, Jo?"

"Well, it was all right for five years--Dorland paid it in; but for five
years he hasn't paid anything.  He's taken it, stolen it from his own
child by his own honest wife.  I've come to get it--anyway, to stop him
from doing it any more.  His own child--it puts murder in my heart, Nett!
I could kill him."

He nodded grimly.  "That's likely.  And you've kept, Dorl's child with
your own money all these years?"

"I've got four hundred dollars a year, Nett, you know; and I've been
dressmaking--they say I've got taste," she added, with a whimsical smile.

Nett nodded his head.  "Five years.  That's twenty-five hundred dollars
he's stolen from his own child.  It's eight years old now, isn't it?"

"Bobby is eight and a half," she answered.

"And his schooling, and his clothing, and everything; and you have to pay
for it all?"

"Oh, I don't mind, Nett, it isn't that.  Bobby is Cynthy's child; and I
love him--love him; but I want him to have his rights.  Dorl must give up
his hold on that money--or--"

He nodded gravely.  "Or you'll set the law on him?"

"It's one thing or the other.  Better to do it now when Bobby is young
and can't understand."

"Or read the newspapers," he commented thoughtfully.

"I don't think I've a hard heart," she continued, "but I'd like to punish
him, if it wasn't that he's your brother, Nett; and if it wasn't for
Bobby.  Dorland was dreadfully cruel, even to Cynthy."

"How did you know he was up here?" he asked.  "From the lawyer that pays
over the money.  Dorland has had it sent out here to Kowatin this two
years.  And he sent word to the lawyer a month ago that he wanted it to
get here as usual.  The letter left the same day as I did, and it got
here yesterday with me, I suppose.  He'll be after it-perhaps to-day.
He wouldn't let it wait long, Dorl wouldn't."

Foyle started.  "To-day--to-day--"

There was a gleam in his eyes, a setting of the lips, a line sinking into
the forehead between the eyes.

"I've been watching for him all day, and I'll watch till he comes.  I'm
going to say some things to him that he won't forget.  I'm going to get
Bobby's money, or have the law do it--unless you think I'm a brute,
Nett."  She looked at him wistfully.

"That's all right.  Don't worry about me, Jo.  He's my brother, but I
know him--I know him through and through.  He's done everything that a
man can do and not be hanged.  A thief, a drunkard, and a brute--and he
killed a man out here," he added hoarsely.  "I found it out myself--
myself.  It was murder."

Suddenly, as he looked at her, an idea seemed to flash into his mind.
He came very near and looked at her closely.  Then he reached over and
almost touched the scar on her forehead.

"Did he do that, Jo?"

For an instant she was silent and looked down at the floor.  Presently
she raised her eyes, her face suffused.  Once or twice she tried to
speak, but failed.  At last she gained courage and said:

"After Cynthy's death I kept house for him for a year, taking care of
little Bobby.  I loved Bobby so--he has Cynthy's eyes.  One day Dorland
--oh, Nett, of course I oughtn't to have stayed there, I know it now; but
I was only sixteen, and what did I understand!  And my mother was dead.
One day--oh, please, Nett, you can guess.  He said something to me.
I made him leave the house.  Before I could make plans what to do,
he came back mad with drink.  I went for Bobby, to get out of the house,
but he caught hold of me.  I struck him in the face, and he threw me
against the edge of the open door.  It made the scar."

Foyle's face was white.  "Why did you never write and tell me that, Jo?
You know that I--" He stopped suddenly.

"You had gone out of our lives down there.  I didn't know where you were
for a long time; and then--then it was all right about Bobby and me,
except that Bobby didn't get the money that was his.  But now--"

Foyle's voice was hoarse and low.  "He made that scar, and he--and you
only sixteen--Oh, my God!"  Suddenly his face reddened, and he choked
with shame and anger.  "And he's my brother!" was all that he could say.

"Do you see him up here ever?" she asked pityingly.

"I never saw him till a week ago."  A moment, then he added: "The letter
wasn't to be sent here in his own name, was it?"

She nodded.  "Yes, in his own name, Dorland W. Foyle.  Didn't he go by
that name when you saw him?"

There was an oppressive silence, in which she saw that something moved
him strangely, and then he answered: "No, he was going by the name of
Halbeck--Hiram Halbeck."

The girl gasped.  Then the whole thing burst upon her.  "Hiram Halbeck!
Hiram Halbeck, the thief--I read it all in the papers--the thief that you
caught, and that got away.  And you've left the Mounted Police because of
it--oh, Nett!"  Her eyes were full of tears, her face was drawn and grey.

He nodded.  "I didn't know who he was till I arrested him," he said.
"Then, afterward, I thought of his child, and let him get away; and for
my poor old mother's sake.  She never knew how bad he was even as a boy.
But I remember how he used to steal and drink the brandy from her
bedside, when she had the fever.  She never knew the worst of him.
But I let him away in the night, Jo, and I resigned, and they thought
that Halbeck had beaten me, had escaped.  Of course I couldn't stay in
the Force, having done that.  But, by the heaven above us, if I had him
here now, I'd do the thing--do it, so help me God!"

"Why should you ruin your life for him?" she said, with an outburst of
indignation.  All that was in her heart welled up in her eyes at the
thought of what Foyle was.  "You must not do it.  You shall not do it.
He must pay for his wickedness, not you.  It would be a sin.  You and
what becomes of you mean so much."  Suddenly with a flash of purpose she
added: "He will come for that letter, Nett.  He would run any kind of
risk to get a dollar.  He will come here for that letter--perhaps today."

He shook his head moodily, oppressed by the trouble that was on him.
"He's not likely to venture here, after what's happened."

"You don't know him as well as I do, Nett.  He is so vain he'd do it,
just to show that he could.  He'd' probably come in the evening.  Does
any one know him here?  So many people pass through Kowatin every day.
Has any one seen him?"

"Only Billy Goatry," he answered, working his way to a solution of the
dark problem.  "Only Billy Goatry knows him.  The fellow that led the
singing--that was Goatry."

"There he is now," he added, as Billy Goat passed the window.

She came and laid a hand on his arm.  "We've got to settle things with
him," she said.  "If Dorl comes, Nett--"

There was silence for a moment, then he caught her hand in his and held
it.  "If he comes, leave him to me, Jo.  You will leave him to me?" he
added anxiously.

"Yes," she answered.  "You'll do what's right-by Bobby?"

"And by Dorl, too," he replied strangely.  There were loud footsteps
without.

"It's Goatry," said Foyle.  "You stay here.  I'll tell him everything.
He's all right; he's a true friend.  He'll not interfere."

The handle of the door turned slowly.  "You keep watch on the post-
office, Jo," he added.

Goatry came round the opening door with a grin.  "Hope I don't intrude,"
he said, stealing a half-leering look at the girl.  As soon as he saw her
face, however, he straightened himself up and took on different manners.
He had not been so intoxicated as he had made, out, and he seemed only
"mellow" as he stood before them, with his corrugated face and queer,
quaint look, the eye with the cast in it blinking faster than the.
other.

"It's all right, Goatry," said Foyle.  "This lady is, one of my family
from the East."

"Goin' on by stage?" Goatry said vaguely, as they shook hands.

She did not reply, for she was looking down the street, and presently she
started as she gazed.  She laid a hand suddenly on Foyle's arm.

"See--he's come," she said in a whisper, and as though not realising
Goatry's presence.  "He's come."

Goatry looked as well as Foyle.  "Halbeck--the devil!" he said.

Foyle turned to him.  "Stand by, Goatry.  I want you to keep a shut
mouth.  I've work to do."

Goatry held out his hand.  "I'm with you.  If you get him this time,
clamp him, clamp him like a tooth in a harrow."

Halbeck had stopped his horse at the post-office door.  Dismounting he
looked quickly round, then drew the reins over the horse's head, letting
them trail, as is the custom of the West.

A few swift words passed between Goatry and Foyle.  "I'll do this myself,
Jo," he whispered to the girl presently.  "Go into another room.  I'll
bring him here."

In another minute Goatry was leading the horse away from the post-office,
while Foyle stood waiting quietly at the door.  The departing footsteps
of the horse brought Halbeck swiftly to the doorway, with a letter in his
hand.

"Hi, there, you damned sucker!" he called after Goatry, and then saw
Foyle waiting.

"What the hell--!" he said fiercely, his hand on something in his hip
pocket.

"Keep quiet, Dorl.  I want to have a little talk with you.  Take your
hand away from that gun--take it away," he added with a meaning not to be
misunderstood.

Halbeck knew that one shout would have the town on him, and he did not
know what card his brother was going to play.  He let his arm drop to his
side.  "What's your game?  What do you want?" he asked surlily.

"Come over to the Happy Land Hotel," Foyle answered, and in the light of
what was in his mind his words had a grim irony.

With a snarl Halbeck stepped out.  Goatry, who had handed the horse over
to the hostler, watched them coming.

"Why did I never notice the likeness before?" Goatry said to himself.
"But, gosh!  what a difference in the men.  Foyle's going to double cinch
him this time, I guess."

He followed them inside the hall of the Happy Land.  When they stepped
into the sitting-room, he stood at the door waiting.  The hotel was
entirely empty, the roisterers at the Prairie Home having drawn off the
idlers and spectators.  The barman was nodding behind the bar, the
proprietor was moving about in the backyard inspecting a horse.  There
was a cheerful warmth everywhere, the air was like an elixir, the pungent
smell of a pine-tree at the door gave a kind of medicament to the indrawn
breath.  And to Billy Goat, who sometimes sang in the choir of a church
not a hundred miles away--for people agreed to forget his occasional
sprees--there came, he knew not why, the words of a hymn he had sung only
the preceding Sunday:

              "As pants the hart for cooling streams,
               When heated in the chase--"

The words kept ringing in his ears as he listened to the conversation
inside the room--the partition was thin, the door thinner, and he heard
much.  Foyle had asked him not to intervene, but only to stand by and
await the issue of this final conference.  He meant, however, to take a
hand in, if he thought he was needed, and he kept his ear glued to the
door.  If he thought Foyle needed him--his fingers were on the handle of
the door.

"Now, hurry up!  What do you want with me?" asked Halbeck of his
brother.

"Take your time," said ex-Sergeant Foyle, as he drew the blind three-
quarters down, so that they could not be seen from the street.

"I'm in a hurry, I tell you.  I've got my plans.  I'm going South.  I've
only just time to catch the Canadian Pacific three days from now, riding
hard."

"You're not going South, Dorl."

"Where am I going, then?" was the sneering reply.  "Not farther than the
Happy Land."

"What the devil's all this?  You don't mean you're trying to arrest me
again, after letting me go?"

"You don't need to ask.  You're my prisoner.  You're my prisoner," he
said in a louder voice--" until you free yourself."

"I'll do that damn quick, then," said the other, his hand flying to his
hip.

"Sit down," was the sharp rejoinder, and a pistol was in his face before
he could draw his own weapon.  "Put your gun on the table," Foyle said
quietly.  Halbeck did so.  There was no other way.

Foyle drew it over to himself.  His brother made a motion to rise.

"Sit still, Dorl," came the warning voice.

White with rage, the freebooter sat still, his dissipated face and heavy
angry lips looking like a debauched and villainous caricature of his
brother before him.

"Yes, I suppose you'd have potted me, Dorl," said the ex-sergeant.

"You'd have thought no more of doing that than you did of killing Linley,
the ranchman; than you did of trying to ruin Jo Byndon, your wife's
sister, when she was sixteen years old, when she was caring for your
child--giving her life for the child you brought into the world."

"What in the name of hell--it's a lie!"

"Don't bluster.  I know the truth."

"Who told you-the truth?"

"She did--to-day--an hour ago."

"She here--out here?"  There was a new cowed note in the voice.

"She is in the next room."

"What did she come here for?"

"To make you do right by your own child.  I wonder what a jury of decent
men would think about a man who robbed his child for five years, and let
that child be fed and clothed and cared for by the girl he tried to
destroy, the girl he taught what sin there was in the world."

"She put you up to this.  She was always in love with you, and you know
it."

There was a dangerous look in Foyle's eyes, and his jaw set hard.  "There
would be no shame in a decent woman caring for me, even if it was true.
I haven't put myself outside the boundary as you have.  You're my
brother, but you're the worst scoundrel in the country--the worst
unhanged.  Put on the table there the letter in your pocket.  It holds
five hundred dollars belonging to your child.  There's twenty-five
hundred dollars more to be accounted for."

The other hesitated, then with an oath threw the letter on the table.
"I'll pay the rest as soon as I can, if you'll stop this damned
tomfoolery," he said sullenly, for he saw that he was in a hole.

"You'll pay it, I suppose, out of what you stole from the C.P.R.
contractor's chest.  No, I don't think that will do."

"You want me to go to prison, then?"

"I think not.  The truth would come out at the trial--the whole truth--
the murder, and all.  There's your child Bobby.  You've done him enough
wrong already.  Do you want him--but it doesn't matter whether you do or
not--do you want him to carry through life the fact that his father was a
jail-bird and a murderer, just as Jo Byndon carries the scar you made
when you threw her against the door?"

"What do you want with me, then?"  The man sank slowly and heavily back
into the chair.

"There is a way--have you never thought of it?  When you threatened
others as you did me, and life seemed such a little thing in others
--can't you think?"

Bewildered, the man looked around helplessly.  In the silence which
followed Foyle's words his brain was struggling to see a way out.
Foyle's further words seemed to come from a great distance.

"It's not too late to do the decent thing.  You'll never repent of all
you've done; you'll never do different."

The old reckless, irresponsible spirit revived in the man; he had both
courage and bravado, he was not hopeless yet of finding an escape from
the net.  He would not beg, he would struggle.

"I've lived as I meant to, and I'm not going to snivel or repent now.
It's all a rotten business, anyhow," he rejoined.

With a sudden resolution the ex-sergeant put his own pistol in his
pocket, then pushed Halbeck's pistol over towards him on the table.
Halbeck's eyes lighted eagerly, grew red with excitement, then a change
passed over them.  They now settled on the pistol, and stayed.  He heard
Foyle's voice.  "It's with you to do what you ought to do.  Of course you
can kill me.  My pistol's in my pocket.  But I don't think you will.
You've murdered one man.  You won't load your soul up with another.
Besides, if you kill me, you will never get away from Kowatin alive.
But it's with you--take your choice.  It's me or you."

Halbeck's fingers crept out and found the pistol.  "Do your duty, Dorl,"
said the ex-sergeant as he turned his back on his brother.

The door of the room opened, and Goatry stepped inside softly.  He had
work to do, if need be, and his face showed it.  Halbeck did not see him.

There was a demon in Halbeck's eyes, as his brother stood, his back
turned, taking his chances.  A large mirror hung on the wall opposite
Halbeck.  Goatry was watching Halbeck's face in the glass, and saw the
danger.  He measured his distance.

All at once Halbeck caught Goatry's face in the mirror.  The dark devilry
faded out of his eyes.  His lips moved in a whispered oath.  Every way
was blocked.

With a sudden wild resolution he raised the pistol to his head.  It
cracked, and he fell back heavily in the chair.  There was a red trickle
at the temple.

He had chosen the best way out.

"He had the pluck," said Goatry, as Foyle swung round with a face of
misery.

A moment afterward came a rush of people.  Goatry kept them back.

"Sergeant Foyle arrested Halbeck, and Halbeck's shot himself," Goatry
explained to them.

A white-faced girl with a scar on her temple made her way into the room.

"Come away-come away, Jo," said the voice of the man she loved; and he
did not let her see the lifeless figure in the chair.

Three days later the plains swallowed them, as they made their way with
Billy Goatry to the headquarters of the Riders of the Plains, where
Sergeant Foyle was asked to reconsider his resignation: which he did.



THE WHISPERER

     "And thou shalt be brought down and shalt speak out of the ground,
     and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be
     as of one that hath a familiar spirit out of the ground, and thy
     speech shall whisper out of the dust."

The harvest was all in, and, as far as eye could observe nothing remained
of the golden sea of wheat which had covered the wide prairie save the
yellow stubble, the bed of an ocean of wealth which had been gathered.
Here, the yellow level was broken by a dark patch of fallow land, there,
by a covert of trees also tinged with yellow, or deepening to crimson and
mauve--the harbinger of autumn.  The sun had not the insistent and
intensive strength of more southerly climes; it was buoyant, confident
and heartening, and it shone in a turquoise vault which covered and
endeared the wide, even world beneath.  Now and then a flock of wild
ducks whirred past, making for the marshes or the innumerable lakes that
vitalised the expanse, or buzzards hunched heavily along, frightened from
some far resort by eager sportsmen.

That was above; but beneath, on a level with the unlifted eye, were
houses here and there, looking in the vastness like dolls' habitations.
Many of the houses stood blank and staring in the expanse, but some had
trees, and others little oases of green.  Everywhere prosperity,
everywhere the strings of life pulled taut, signs that energy had been
straining on the leash.

Yet there was one spot where it seemed that deadness made encampment.
It could not be seen in the sweep of the eye, you must have travelled and
looked vigilantly to find it; but it was there--a lake shimmering in the
eager sun, washing against a reedy shore, a little river running into the
reedy lake at one end and out at, the other, a small, dilapidated house
half hid in a wood that stretched for half a mile or so upon a rising
ground.  In front of the house, not far from the lake, a man was lying
asleep upon the ground, a rough felt hat drawn over his eyes.

Like the house, the man seemed dilapidated also: a slovenly, ill-dressed,
demoralised figure he looked, even with his face covered.  He seemed in a
deep sleep.  Wild ducks settled on the lake not far from him with a swish
and flutter; a coyote ran past, veering as it saw the recumbent figure;
a prairie hen rustled by with a shrill cluck, but he seemed oblivious to
all.  If asleep, he was evidently dreaming, for now and then he started,
or his body twitched, and a muttering came from beneath the hat.

The battered house, the absence of barn or stable or garden, or any token
of thrift or energy, marked the man as an excrescence in this theatre of
hope and fruitful toil.  It all belonged to some degenerate land, some
exhausted civilisation, not to this field of vigour where life rang like
silver.

So the man lay for hour upon hour.  He slept as though he had been upon a
long journey in which the body was worn to helplessness.  Or was it that
sleep of the worn-out spirit which, tortured by remembrance and remorse,
at last sinks into the depths where the conscious vexes the unconscious
--a little of fire, a little of ice, and now and then the turn of the
screw?

The day marched nobly on towards evening, growing out of its blue and
silver into a pervasive golden gleam; the bare, greyish houses on the
prairie were transformed into miniature palaces of light.  Presently a
girl came out of the woods behind, looking at the neglected house with a
half-pitying curiosity.  She carried in one hand a fishing rod which had
been telescoped till it was no bigger than a cane; in the other she
carried a small fishing basket.  Her father's shooting and fishing camp
was a few miles away by a lake of greater size than this which she
approached.  She had tired of the gay company in camp, brought up for
sport from beyond the American border where she also belonged, and she
had come to explore the river running into this reedy lake.  She turned
from the house and came nearer to the lake, shaking her head, as though
compassionating the poor, folk who lived there.  She was beautiful.  Her
hair was brown, going to tawny, but in this soft light which enwrapped
her, she was in a sort of topaz flame.  As she came on, suddenly she
stopped as though transfixed.  She saw the man--and saw also a tragedy
afoot.

The man stirred violently in his sleep, cried out, and started up.  As he
did so, a snake, disturbed in its travel past him, suddenly raised itself
in anger.  Startled out of sleep by some inner torture, the man heard the
sinister rattle he knew so well, and gazed paralysed.

The girl had been but a few feet away when she first saw the man and his
angry foe.  An instant, then, with the instinct of the woods and the
plains, and the courage that has habitation everywhere, dropping her
basket she sprang forward noiselessly.  The short, telescoped fishing rod
she carried swung round her head and completed its next half-circle at
the head of the reptile, even as it was about to strike.  The blow was
sure, and with half-severed head the snake fell dead upon the ground
beside the man.

He was like one who has been projected from one world to another, dazed,
stricken, fearful.  Presently the look of agonised dismay gave way to
such an expression of relief as might come upon the face of a reprieved
victim about to be given to the fire, or to the knife that flays.  The
place of dreams from which he had emerged was like hell, and this was
some world of peace that he had not known these many years.  Always one
had been at his elbow--"a familiar spirit out of the ground"--whispering
in his ear.  He had been down in the abysses of life.

He glanced again at the girl, and realised what she had done: she had
saved his life.  Whether it had been worth saving was another question;
but he had been near to the brink, had looked in, and the animal in him
had shrunk back from the precipice in a confused agony of fear.  He
staggered to his feet.

"Where do you come from?" he said, pulling his coat closer to hide the
ragged waistcoat underneath, and adjusting his worn and dirty hat--in his
youth he had been vain and ambitious and good-looking also.

He asked his question in no impertinent tone, but in the low voice of one
who "shall whisper out of the dust."  He had not yet recovered from the
first impression of his awakening, that the world in which he now stood
was not a real world.

She understood, and half in pity and half in conquered repugnance said:

"I come from a camp beyond"--she indicated the direction by a gesture.
"I had been fishing"--she took up the basket--"and chanced on you--then."
She glanced at the snake significantly.

"You killed it in the nick of time," he said, in a voice that still spoke
of the ground, but with a note of half-shamed gratitude.  "I want to
thank you," he added.  "You were brave.  It would have turned on you if
you had missed.  I know them.  I've killed five."  He spoke very slowly,
huskily.

"Well, you are safe--that is the chief thing," she rejoined, making as
though to depart.  But presently she turned back.  "Why are you so
dreadfully poor--and everything?" she asked gently.

His eye wandered over the lake and back again before he answered her, in
a dull, heavy tone: "I've had bad luck, and, when you get down, there are
plenty to kick you farther."

"You weren't always poor as you are now--I mean long ago, when you were
young."

"I'm not so old," he rejoined sluggishly--"only thirty-four."

She could not suppress her astonishment.  She looked at the hair already
grey, the hard, pinched face, the lustreless eyes.

"Yet it must seem long to you," she said with meaning.  Now he laughed
--a laugh sodden and mirthless.  He was thinking of his boyhood.
Everything, save one or two spots all fire or all darkness, was dim
in his debilitated mind.

"Too far to go back," he said, with a gleam of the intelligence which had
been strong in him once.

She caught the gleam.  She had wisdom beyond her years.  It was the
greater because her mother was dead, and she had had so much wealth to
dispense, for her father was rich beyond counting, and she controlled his
household, and helped to regulate his charities.  She saw that he was not
of the labouring classes, that he had known better days; his speech, if
abrupt and cheerless, was grammatical.

"If you cannot go back, you can go forwards," she said firmly.  "Why
should you be the only man in this beautiful land who lives like this,
who is idle when there is so much to do, who sleeps in the daytime when
there is so much time to sleep at night?"

A faint flush came on the greyish, colourless face.  "I don't sleep at
night," he returned moodily.

"Why don't you sleep?" she asked.

He did not answer, but stirred the body of the snake with his foot.  The
tail moved; he stamped upon the head with almost frenzied violence, out
of keeping with his sluggishness.

She turned away, yet looked back once more--she felt tragedy around her.
"It is never too late to mend," she said, and moved on, but stopped; for
a young man came running from the woods towards her.

"I've had a hunt--such a hunt for you," the young man said eagerly, then
stopped short when he saw to whom she had been talking.  A look of
disgust came upon his face as he drew her away, his hand on her arm.

"In Heaven's name, why did you talk to that man?" he said.  "You ought
not to have trusted yourself near him."

"What has he done?" she asked.  "Is he so bad?"

"I've heard about him.  I inquired the other day.  He was once in a
better position as a ranchman--ten years ago; but he came into some money
one day, and he changed at once.  He never had a good character; even
before he got his money he used to gamble, and was getting a bad name.
Afterwards he began drinking, and he took to gambling harder than ever.
Presently his money all went and he had to work; but his bad habits had
fastened on him, and now he lives from hand to mouth, sometimes working
for a month, sometimes idle for months.  There's something sinister about
him, there's some mystery; for poverty or drink even--and he doesn't
drink much now--couldn't make him what he is.  He doesn't seek company,
and he walks sometimes endless miles talking to himself, going as hard
as he can.  How did you come to speak to him, Grace?"

She told him all, with a curious abstraction in her voice, for she was
thinking of the man from a standpoint which her companion could not
realise.  She was also trying to verify something in her memory.  Ten
years ago, so her lover had just said, the poor wretch behind them had
been a different man; and there had shot into her mind the face of a
ranchman she had seen with her father, the railway king, one evening when
his "special" had stopped at a railway station on his tour through
Montana--ten years ago.  Why did the face of the ranchman which had fixed
itself on her memory then, because he had come on the evening of her
birthday and had spoiled it for her, having taken her father away from
her for an hour--why did his face come to her now?  What had it to do
with the face of this outcast she had just left?

"What is his name?" she asked at last.

"Roger Lygon," he answered.

"Roger Lygon," she repeated mechanically.  Something in the man chained
her thought--his face that moment when her hand saved him and the awful
fear left him, and a glimmer of light came into his eyes.

But her lover beside her broke into song.  He was happy with her.
Everything was before him, her beauty, her wealth, herself.  He could not
dwell upon dismal things; his voice rang out on the sharp sweet evening
air:

         "'Oh, where did you get them, the bonny, bonny roses
          That blossom in your cheeks, and the morning in your eyes?'
          'I got them on the North Trail, the road that never closes,
          That widens to the seven gold gates of paradise.'
          'O come, let us camp in the North Trail together,
          With the night-fires lit and the tent-pegs down.'"

Left alone, the man by the reedy lake stood watching them until they were
out of view.  The song came back to him, echoing across the waters:

         "O come, let us camp on the North Trail together,
          With the night-fires lit and the tent-pegs down."

The sunset glow, the girl's presence, had given him a moment's illusion,
had absorbed him for a moment, acting on his deadened nature like a
narcotic at once soothing and stimulating.  As some wild animal in a
forgotten land, coming upon ruins of a vast civilisation, towers,
temples, and palaces, in the golden glow of an Eastern evening, stands
abashed and vaguely wondering, having neither reason to understand, nor
feeling to enjoy, yet is arrested and abashed, so he stood.  He had lived
the last three years so much alone, had been cut off so completely from
his kind--had lived so much alone.  Yet to-night, at last, he would not
be alone.

Some one was coming to-night, some one whom he had not seen for a long
time.  Letters had passed, the object of the visit had been defined, and
he had spent the intervening days since the last letter had arrived, now
agitated, now apathetic and sullen, now struggling with some invisible
being that kept whispering in his ear, saying to him, "It was the price
of fire, and blood, and shame.  You did it--you--you--you!  You are down,
and you will never get up.  You can only go lower still--fire, and blood,
and shame!"

Criminal as he was he had never become hardened, he had only become
degraded.  Crime was not his vocation.  He had no gift for it; still the
crime he had committed had never been discovered--the crime that he did
with others.  There were himself and Dupont and another.  Dupont was
coming to-night--Dupont who had profited by the crime, and had not spent
his profits, but had built upon them to further profit; for Dupont was
avaricious and prudent, and a born criminal.  Dupont had never had any
compunctions or remorse, had never lost a night's sleep because of what
they two had done, instigated thereto by the other, who had paid them so
well for the dark thing.

The other was Henderley, the financier.  He was worse perhaps than
Dupont, for he was in a different sphere of life, was rich beyond
counting, and had been early nurtured in quiet Christian surroundings.
The spirit of ambition, rivalry, and the methods of a degenerate and
cruel finance had seized him, mastered him; so that, under the cloak of
power--as a toreador hides the blade under the red cloth before his enemy
the toro--he held a sword of capital which did cruel and vicious things,
at last becoming criminal also.  Henderley had incited and paid; the
others, Dupont and Lygon, had acted and received.  Henderley had had no
remorse, none at any rate that weighed upon him; for he had got used to
ruining rivals, and seeing strong men go down, and those who had fought
him come to beg or borrow of him in the end.  He had seen more than one
commit suicide, and those they loved go down and farther down, and he had
helped these up a little, but not enough to put them near his own plane
again; and he could not see--it never occurred to him--that he had done
any evil to them.  Dupont thought upon his crimes now and then, and his
heart hardened, for he had no moral feeling; Henderley did not think at
all.  It was left to the man of the reedy lake to pay the penalty of
apprehension, to suffer the effects of crime upon a nature not naturally
criminal.

Again and again, how many hundreds of times, had Roger Lygon seen in his
sleep--had even seen awake so did hallucination possess him--the new
cattle trail he had fired for scores of miles.  The fire had destroyed
the grass over millions of acres, two houses had been burned and three
people had lost their lives; all to satisfy the savage desire of one man,
to destroy the chance of a cattle trade over a great section of country
for the railway which was to compete with his own--an act which, in the
end, was futile, failed of its purpose.  Dupont and Lygon had been paid
their price, and had disappeared, and been forgotten--they were but pawns
in his game--and there was no proof against Henderley.  Henderley had
forgotten.  Lygon wished to forget, but Dupont remembered, and meant now
to reap fresh profit by the remembrance.

Dupont was coming to-night, and the hatchet of crime was to be dug up
again.  So it had been planned.  As the shadows fell, Lygon roused
himself from his trance with a shiver.  It was not cold, but in him there
was a nervous agitation, making him cold from head to foot; his body
seemed as impoverished as his mind.  Looking with heavy-lidded eyes
across the prairie, he saw in the distance the barracks of the Riders of
the Plains and the jail near by, and his shuddering ceased.  There was
where he belonged, within four stone walls; yet here he was free to go
where he willed, to live as he willed, with no eye upon him.  With no eye
upon him?  There was no eye, but there was the Whisperer whom he could
never drive away.  Morning and night he heard the words, "You--you--you!
Fire, and blood, and shame!"  He had snatched sleep when he could find
it, after long, long hours of tramping over the plains, ostensibly to
shoot wild fowl, but in truth to bring on a great bodily fatigue--and
sleep.  His sleep only came then in the first watches of the night.  As
the night wore on the Whisperer began again, as the cloud of weariness
lifted a little from him, and the senses were released from the heavy
sedative of unnatural exertion.

                    .........................

The dusk deepened.  The moon slowly rose.  He cooked his scanty meal,
and took a deep draught from a horn of whiskey from beneath a board in
the flooring.  He had not the courage to face Dupont without it, nor yet
to forget what he must forget, if he was to do the work Dupont came to
arrange--he must forget the girl who had saved his life and the influence
of those strange moments in which she had spoken down to him, in the
abyss where he had been lying.

He sat in the doorway, a fire gleaming behind him; he drank in the good
air as though his lungs were thirsty for it, and saw the silver glitter
of the moon upon the water.  Not a breath of wind stirred, and the
shining path the moon made upon the reedy lake fascinated his eye.
Everything was so still except that whisper louder in his ear than it had
ever been before.

Suddenly, upon the silver path upon the lake there shot a silent canoe,
with a figure as silently paddling towards him.  He gazed for a moment
dismayed, and then got to his feet with a jerk.

"Dupont," he said mechanically.

The canoe swished among the reeds and rushes, scraped on the shore, and a
tall, burly figure sprang from it, and stood still, looking at the house.

"Qui reste la--Lygon?" he asked.

"Dupont," was the nervous, hesitating reply.  Dupont came forwards
quickly.  "Ah, ben, here we are again--so," he grunted cheerily.

Entering the house they sat before the fire, holding their hands to the
warmth from force of habit, though the night was not cold.

"Ben, you will do it to-night--then?" Dupont said.  "Sacre, it is time!"

"Do what?" rejoined the other heavily.

An angry light leapt into Dupont's eyes.  "You not unnerstan' my letters-
bah!  You know it all right, so queeck."

The other remained silent, staring into the fire with wide, searching
eyes.

Dupont put a hand on him.  "You ketch my idee queeck.  We mus' have more
money from that Henderley--certainlee.  It is ten years, and he t'ink it
is all right.  He t'ink we come no more becos' he give five t'ousan'
dollars to us each.  That was to do the t'ing, to fire the country.
Now we want another ten t'ousan' to us each, to forget we do it for him
--hein?"

Still there was no reply.  Dupont went on, watching the other furtively,
for he did not like this silence.  But he would not resent it till he was
sure there was good cause.

"It comes to suit us.  He is over there at the Old Man Lak', where you
can get at him easy, not like in the city where he lif'.  Over in the
States, he laugh mebbe, becos' he is at home, an' can buy off the law.
But here--it is Canadaw, an' they not care eef he have hunder' meellion
dollar.  He know that--sure.  Eef you say you not care a dam to go to
jail, so you can put him there, too, becos' you have not'ing, an' so dam
seeck of everyt'ing, he will t'ink ten t'ousan' dollar same as one cent
to Nic Dupont--ben sur!"

Lygon nodded his head, still holding his hands to the blaze.  With ten
thousand dollars he could get away into--into another world somewhere,
some world where he could forget; as he forgot for a moment this
afternoon when the girl said to him, "It is never too late to mend."

Now as he thought of her, he pulled his coat together, and arranged the
rough scarf at his neck involuntarily.  Ten thousand dollars--but ten
thousand dollars by blackmail, hush-money, the reward of fire, and blood,
and shame!  Was it to go on?  Was he to commit a new crime?

He stirred, as though to shake off the net that he felt twisting round
him, in the hands of the robust and powerful Dupont, on whom crime sat
so lightly, who had flourished while he, Lygon, had gone lower and lower.
Ten years ago he had been the better man, had taken the lead, was the
master, Dupont the obedient confederate, the tool.  Now, Dupont, once the
rough river-driver, grown prosperous in a large way for him--who might
yet be mayor of his town in Quebec--he held the rod of rule.  Lygon was
conscious that the fifty dollars sent him every New Year for five years
by Dupont had been sent with a purpose, and that he was now Dupont's
tool.  Debilitated, demoralised, how could he, even if he wished,
struggle against this powerful confederate, as powerful in will as in
body?  Yet if he had his own way he would not go to Henderley.  He had
lived with "a familiar spirit" so long, he feared the issue of this next
excursion into the fens of crime.

Dupont was on his feet now.  "He will be here only three days more--I haf
find it so.  To-night it mus' be done.  As we go I will tell you what to
say.  I will wait at the Forks, an' we will come back togedder.  His
cheque will do.  Eef he gif at all, the cheque is all right.  He will not
stop it.  Eef he haf the money, it is better--sacre--yes.  Eef he not
gif--well, I will tell you, there is the other railway man he try to
hurt, how would he like--But I will tell you on the river.  Main'enant--
queeck, we go."

Without a word Lygon took down another coat and put it on.  Doing so he
concealed a weapon quickly as Dupont stooped to pick a coal for his pipe
from the blaze.  Lygon had no fixed purpose in taking a weapon with him;
it was only a vague instinct of caution that moved him.

In the canoe on the river, in an almost speechless apathy, he heard
Dupont's voice giving him instructions.

                    .......................

Henderley, the financier, had just finished his game of whist and
dismissed his friends--it was equivalent to dismissal, rough yet genial
as he seemed to be, so did immense wealth and its accompanying power
affect his relations with those about him.  In everything he was
"considered."  He was in good humour, for he had won all the evening, and
with a smile he rubbed his hands among the notes--three thousand dollars
it was.  It was like a man with a pocket full of money, chuckling over a
coin he has found in the street.  Presently he heard a rustle of the
inner tent-curtain and swung round.  He faced the man from the reedy
lake.

Instinctively he glanced round for a weapon, mechanically his hands
firmly grasped the chair in front of him.

He had been in danger of his life many times, and he had no fear.  He had
been threatened with assassination more than once, and he had got used to
the idea of danger; life to him was only a game.

He kept his nerve; he did not call out; he looked his visitor in the
eyes.

"What are you doing here?  Who are you?" he said.

"Don't you know me?" answered Lygon, gazing intently at him.

Face to face with the man who had tempted him to crime, Lygon had a new
sense of boldness, a sudden feeling of reprisal, a rushing desire to put
the screw upon him.  At sight of this millionaire with the pile of notes
before him there vanished the sickening hesitation of the afternoon, of
the journey with Dupont.  The look of the robust, healthy financier was
like acid in a wound; it maddened him.

"You will know me better soon," Lygon added, his head twitching with
excitement.

Henderley recognised him now.  He gripped the armchair spasmodically,
but presently regained a complete composure.  He knew the game that was
forward here; and he also thought that if once he yielded to blackmail
there would never be an end to it.  He made no pretence, but came
straight to the point.

"You can do nothing; there is no proof," he said with firm assurance.

"There is Dupont," answered Lygon doggedly.

"Who is Dupont?"

"The French Canadian who helped me--I divided with him."

"You said the man who helped you died.  You wrote that to me.  I suppose
you are lying now."

Henderley coolly straightened the notes on the table, smoothing out the
wrinkles, arranging them according to their denominations with an
apparently interested eye; yet he was vigilantly watching the outcast
before him.  To yield to blackmail would be fatal; not to yield to it--
he could not see his way.  He had long ago forgotten the fire, and blood,
and shame.  No Whisperer reminded him of that black page in the history
of his life; he had been immune of conscience.  He could not understand
this man before him.  It was as bad a case of human degradation as ever
he had seen--he remembered the stalwart, if dissipated, ranchman who had
acted on his instigation.  He knew now that he had made a foolish blunder
then, that the scheme had been one of his failures; but he had never
looked on it as with eyes reproving crime.  As a hundred thoughts tending
towards the solution of the problem by which he was faced, flashed
through his mind, and he rejected them all, he repeated mechanically the
phrase, "I suppose you are lying now."

"Dupont is here--not a mile away," was the reply.  "He will give proof.
He would go to jail or to the gallows to put you there, if you do not
pay.  He is a devil--Dupont."

Still the great man could not see his way out.  He must temporise for a
little longer, for rashness might bring scandal or noise; and near by was
his daughter, the apple of his eye.

"What do you want?  How much did you figure you could get out of me,
if I let you bleed me?" he asked sneeringly and coolly.  "Come now, how
much?"

Lygon, in whom a blind hatred of the man still raged, was about to reply,
when he heard a voice calling, "Daddy, Daddy!"

Suddenly the red, half-insane light died down in Lygon's eyes.  He saw
the snake upon the ground by the reedy lake, the girl standing over it--
the girl with the tawny hair.  This was her voice.

Henderley had made a step towards a curtain opening into another room of
the great tent, but before he could reach it the curtain was pushed back,
and the girl entered with a smile.

"May I come in?" she said; then stood still astonished; seeing Lygon.

"Oh!" she exclaimed.  "Oh--you!"

All at once a look came into her face which stirred it as a flying insect
stirs the water of a pool.  On the instant she remembered that she had
seen the man before.

It was ten years ago in Montana on the night of her birthday.  Her father
had been called away to talk with this man, and she had seen him from the
steps of the "special."  It was only the caricature of the once strong,
erect ranchman that she saw, but there was no mistake, she recognised him
now.

Lygon, dumfounded, looked from her to her father, and he saw now in
Henderley's eyes a fear that was not to be misunderstood.

Here was where Henderley could be smitten, could be brought to his knees.
It was the vulnerable part of him.  Lygon could see that he was stunned.
The great financier was in his power.  He looked back again to the girl,
and her face was full of trouble.

A sharp suspicion was in her heart that somehow or other her father was
responsible for this man's degradation and ruin.  She looked Lygon in the
eyes.

"Did you want to see me?" she asked.

She scarcely knew why she said it; but she was sensible of trouble, maybe
of tragedy, somewhere; and she had a vague dread of she knew not what,
for hide it, avoid it, as she had done so often, there was in her heart
an unhappy doubt concerning her father.

A great change had come over Lygon.  Her presence had altered him.  He
was again where she had left him in the afternoon.

He heard her say to her father, "This was the man I told you of--at the
reedy lake.  Did you come to see me?" she repeated.

"I did not know you were here," he answered.  "I came"--he was conscious
of Henderley's staring eyes fixed upon him helplessly--"I came to ask
your father if he would not buy my shack.  There is good shooting at the
lake; the ducks come plenty, sometimes.  I want to get away, to start
again somewhere.  I've been a failure.  I want to get away, right away
south.  If he would buy it I could start again.  I've had no luck."  He
had invented it on the moment, but the girl understood better than Lygon
or Henderley could have dreamed.  She had seen the change pass over
Lygon.  Henderley had a hand on himself again, and the startled look went
out of his eyes.

"What do you want for your shack and the lake?" he asked with restored
confidence.  The fellow no doubt was grateful that his daughter had saved
his life, he thought.

"Five hundred dollars," answered Lygon quickly.  Henderley would have
handed over all that lay on the table before him but that he thought it
better not to do so.  "I'll buy it," he said.  "You seem to have been hit
hard.  Here is the money.  Bring me the deed to-morrow--to-morrow."

"I'll not take the money till I give you the deed," said Lygon.  "It will
do to-morrow.  It's doing me a good turn.  I'll get away and start again
somewhere.  I've done no good up here.  Thank you, sir--thank you."
Before they realised it, the tent-curtain rose and fell, and he was gone
into the night.

The trouble was still deep in the girl's eyes as she kissed her father,
and he, with an overdone cheerfulness, wished her a good night.

The man of iron had been changed into a man of straw once at least in his
lifetime.

Lygon found Dupont at the Forks.

"Eh ben, it is all right--yes?" Dupont asked eagerly as Lygon joined
him.

"Yes, it is all right," answered Lygon.

With an exulting laugh and an obscene oath, Dupont pushed out the canoe,
and they got away into the moonlight.  No word was spoken for some
distance, but Dupont kept giving grunts of satisfaction.

"You got the ten t'ousan' each--in cash or cheque, eh?  The cheque or the
money-hein?"

"I've got nothing," answered Lygon.  Dupont dropped his paddle with a
curse.

"You got not'ing!  You said eet was all right," he growled.

"It is all right.  I got nothing.  I asked for nothing.  I have had
enough.  I have finished."

With a roar of rage Dupont sprang on him, and caught him by the throat as
the canoe swayed and dipped.  He was blind with fury.

Lygon tried with one hand for his knife, and got it, but the pressure on
his throat was growing terrible.  For minutes the struggle continued, for
Lygon was fighting with the desperation of one who makes his last awful
onset against fate and doom.

Dupont also had his knife at work.  At last it drank blood, but as he got
it home, he suddenly reeled blindly, lost his balance, and lurched into
the water with a groan.

Lygon, weapon in hand, and bleeding freely, waited for him to rise and
make for the canoe again.

Ten, twenty, fifty seconds passed.  Dupont did not rise.  A minute went
by, and still there was no stir, no sign.  Dupont would never rise again.
In his wild rage he had burst a blood vessel on the brain.

Lygon bound up his reeking wound as best he could.  He did--it calmly,
whispering to himself the while.

"I must do it.  I must get there if I can.  I will not be afraid to die
then," he muttered to himself.  Presently he grasped an oar and paddled
feebly.

A slight wind had risen, and, as he turned the boat in to face the Forks
again, it helped to carry the canoe to the landing-place.

Lygon dragged himself out.  He did not try to draw the canoe up, but
began this journey of a mile back to the tent he had left so recently.
First, step by step, leaning against trees, drawing himself forwards, a
journey as long to his determined mind as from youth to age.  Would it
never end?  It seemed a terrible climbing up the sides of a cliff, and,
as he struggled fainting on, all sorts of sounds were in his ears, but he
realised that the Whisperer was no longer there.  The sounds he heard did
not torture, they helped his stumbling feet.  They were like the murmur
of waters, like the sounds of the forest and soft, booming bells.  But
the bells were only the beatings of his heart-so loud, so swift.

He was on his knees now crawling on-on-on.  At last there came a light,
suddenly bursting on him from a tent, he was so near.  Then he called,
and called again, and fell forwards on his face.  But now he heard a
voice above him.  It was her voice.  He had blindly struggled on to die
near her, near where she was, she was so pitiful and good.

He had accomplished his journey, and her voice was speaking above him.
There were other voices, but it was only hers that he heard.

"God help him--oh, God help him!" she was saying.  He drew a long quiet
breath.  "I will sleep now," he said clearly.

He would hear the Whisperer no more.



AS DEEP AS THE SEA

"What can I do, Dan?  I'm broke, too.  My last dollar went to pay my last
debt to-day.  I've nothing but what I stand in.  I've got prospects, but
I can't discount prospects at the banks."  The speaker laughed bitterly.
"I've reaped and I'm sowing, the same as you, Dan."

The other made a nervous motion of protest.  "No; not the same as me,
Flood--not the same.  It's sink or swim with me, and if you can't help
me--oh, I'd take my gruel without whining, if it wasn't for Di!  It's
that knocks me over.  It's the shame to her.  Oh, what a cursed ass and
fool--and thief, I've been!"

"Thief-thief?"

Flood Rawley dropped the flaming match with which he was about to light a
cheroot, and stood staring, his dark-blue eyes growing wider, his worn,
handsome face becoming drawn, as swift conviction mastered him.  He felt
that the black words which had fallen from his friend's lips--from the
lips of Diana Welldon's brother--were the truth.  He looked at the plump
face, the full amiable eyes, now misty with fright, at the characterless
hand nervously feeling the golden moustache, at the well-fed, inert body;
and he knew that whatever the trouble or the peril, Dan Welldon could not
surmount it alone.

"What is it?" Rawley asked rather sharply, his fingers running through
his slightly grizzled, black hair, but not excitedly, for he wanted no
scenes; and if this thing could hurt Di Welldon, and action was
necessary, he must remain cool.  What she was to him, Heaven and he only
knew; what she had done for him, perhaps neither understood fully as yet.
"What is it--quick?" he added, and his words were like a sharp grip upon
Dan Welldon's shoulder.  "Racing--cards?"

Dan nodded.  "Yes, over at Askatoon; five hundred on Jibway, the
favourite--he fell at the last fence; five hundred at poker with Nick
Fison; and a thousand in land speculation at Edmonton, on margin.
Everything went wrong."

"And so you put your hand in the railway company's money-chest?"

"It seemed such a dead certainty--Jibway; and the Edmonton corner-blocks,
too.  I'd had luck with Nick before; but--well, there it is, Flood."

"They know--the railway people--Shaughnessy knows?"

"Yes, the president knows.  He's at Calgary now.  They telegraphed him,
and he wired to give me till midnight to pay up, or go to jail.  They're
watching me now.  I can't stir.  There's no escape, and there's no one I
can ask for help but you.  That's why I've come, Flood."

"Lord, what a fool!  Couldn't you see what the end would be, if your
plunging didn't come off?  You--you oughtn't to bet, or speculate, or
play cards, you're not clever enough.  You've got blind rashness, and so
you think you're bold.  And Di--oh, you idiot!  And on a salary of a
thousand dollars a year!"

"I suppose Di would help me; but I couldn't explain."  The weak face
puckered, a lifeless kind of tear gathered in the ox-like eyes.

"Yes, she probably would help you.  She'd probably give you all she's
saved to go to Europe with and study, saved from her pictures sold at
twenty per cent of their value; and she'd mortgage the little income
she's got to keep her brother out of jail.  Of course she would, and of
course you ought to be ashamed of yourself for thinking of it."  Rawley
lighted his cigar and smoked fiercely.

"It would be better for her than my going to jail," stubbornly replied
the other.  "But I don't want to tell her, or to ask her for money.
That's why I've come to you.  You needn't be so hard, Flood; you've not
been a saint; and Di knows it."

Rawley took the cheroot from his mouth, threw back his head, and laughed
mirthlessly, ironically.  Then suddenly he stopped and looked round the
room till his eyes rested on a portrait-drawing which hung on the wall
opposite the window, through which the sun poured.  It was the face of a
girl with beautiful bronzed hair, and full, fine, beautifully modelled
face, with brown eyes deep and brooding, which seemed to have time and
space behind them--not before them.  The lips were delicate and full, and
had the look suggesting a smile which the inward thought has stayed.  It
was like one of the Titian women--like a Titian that hangs on the wall of
the Gallery at Munich.  The head and neck, the whole personality, had an
air of distinction and destiny.  The drawing had been done by a wandering
duchess who had seen the girl sketching in the foothills, when on a visit
to that "Wild West" which has such power to refine and inspire minds not
superior to Nature.  Its replica was carried to a castle in Scotland.
It had been the gift of Diana Welldon on a certain day not long ago, when
Flood Rawley had made a pledge to her, which was as vital to him and to
his future as two thousand dollars were vital to Dan Welldon now.

"You've not been a saint, and Di knows it," repeated the weak brother of
a girl whose fame belonged to the West; whose name was a signal for
cheerful looks; whose buoyant humour and impartial friendliness gained
her innumerable friends; and whose talent, understood by few, gave her a
certain protection, lifting her a little away from the outwardly crude
and provincial life around her.

When Rawley spoke, it was with quiet deliberation, and even gentleness.
"I haven't been a saint, and she knows it, as you say, Dan; but the law
is on my side as yet, and it isn't on yours.  There's the difference."

"You used to gamble yourself; you were pretty tough, and you oughtn't to
walk up my back with hobnailed boots."

"Yes, I gambled, Dan, and I drank, and I raised a dust out here.  My
record was writ pretty big.  But I didn't lay my hands on the ark of the
social covenant, whose inscription is, Thou shalt not steal; and that's
why I'm poor but proud, and no one's watching for me round the corner,
same as you."

Welldon's half-defiant petulance disappeared.  "What's done can't be
undone."  Then, with a sudden burst of anguish: "Oh, get me out of this
somehow!"

"How?  I've got no money.  By speaking to your sister?"

The other was silent.

"Shall I do it?"  Rawley peered anxiously into the other's face, and he
knew that there was no real security against the shameful trouble being
laid bare to her.

"I want a chance to start straight again."

The voice was fluttered, almost whining; it carried no conviction; but
the words had in them a reminder of words that Rawley himself had said to
Diana Welldon but a few months ago, and a new spirit stirred in him.  He
stepped forwards and, gripping Dan's shoulder with a hand of steel, said
fiercely:

"No, Dan.  I'd rather take you to her in your coffin.  She's never known
you, never seen what most of us have seen, that all you have--or nearly
all--is your lovely looks, and what they call a kind heart.  There's only
you two in your family, and she's got to live with you--awhile, anyhow.
She couldn't stand this business.  She mustn't stand it.  She's had
enough to put up with in me; but at the worst she could pass me by on
the other side, and there would be an end.  It would have been said that
Flood Rawley had got his deserts.  It's different with you."  His voice
changed, softened.  "Dan, I made a pledge to her that I'd never play
cards again for money while I lived, and it wasn't a thing to take on
without some cogitation.  But I cogitated, and took it on, and started
life over again--me!  Began practising law again--barrister, solicitor,
notary public--at forty.  And at last I've got my chance in a big case
against the Canadian Pacific.  It'll make me or break me, Dan.  .  .  .
There, I wanted you to see where I stand with Di; and now I want you to
promise me that you'll not leave these rooms till I see you again.  I'll
get you clear; I'll save you, Dan."

"Flood!  Oh, my God, Flood!"  The voice was broken.

"You've got to stay here, and you're to remember not to get the funk,
even if I don't come before midnight.  I'll be here then, if I'm alive.
If you don't keep your word--but, there, you will."  Both hands gripped
the graceful shoulders of the miscreant like a vice.

"So help me, Flood," was the frightened, whispered reply, "I'll make it
up to you somehow, some day.  I'll pay you back."

Rawley caught up his cap from the table.  "Steady--steady.  Don't go at a
fence till you're sure of your seat, Dan," he said.  Then with a long
look at the portrait on the wall, and an exclamation which the other did
not hear, he left the room with a set, determined face.

                    ......................

"Who told you?  What brought you, Flood?" the girl asked, her chin in
her long, white hands, her head turned from the easel to him, a book in
her lap, the sun breaking through the leaves upon her hat, touching the
Titian hair with splendour.

"Fate brought me, and didn't tell me," he answered, with a whimsical
quirk of the mouth, and his trouble lurking behind the sea-deep eyes.

"Wouldn't you have come if you knew I was here?" she urged archly.

"Not for two thousand dollars," he answered, the look of trouble
deepening in his eyes, but his lips were smiling.  He had a quaint sense
of humour, and at his last gasp would have noted the ridiculous thing.
And surely it was a droll malignity of Fate to bring him here to her
whom, in this moment of all moments in his life, he wished far away.
Fate meant to try him to the uttermost.  This hurdle of trial was high
indeed.

"Two thousand dollars--nothing less?" she inquired gaily.  "You are too
specific for a real lover."

"Fate fixed the amount," he added drily.  "Fate--you talk so much of
Fate," she replied gravely, and her eyes looked into the distance.  "You
make me think of it too, and I don't want to do so.  I don't want to feel
helpless, to be the child of Accident and Destiny."

"Oh, you get the same thing in the 'fore-ordination' that old Minister
M'Gregor preaches every Sunday.  'Be elect or be damned,' he says to us
all.  Names aren't important; but, anyhow, it was Fate that led me here."

"Are you sure it wasn't me?" she asked softly.  "Are you sure I wasn't
calling you, and you had to come?"

"Well, it was en route, anyhow; and you are always calling, if I must
tell you," he laughed.  Suddenly he became grave.  "I hear you call me in
the night sometimes, and I start up and say 'Yes, Di!' out of my sleep.
It's a queer hallucination.  I've got you on the brain, certainly."

"It seems to vex you--certainly," she said, opening the book that lay in
her lap, "and your eyes trouble me to-day.  They've got a look that used
to be in them, Flood, before--before you promised; and another look I
don't understand and don't like.  I suppose it's always so.  The real
business of life is trying to understand each other."

"You have wonderful thoughts for one that's had so little chance," he
said.  "That's because you're a genius, I suppose.  Teaching can't give
that sort of thing--the insight."

"What is the matter, Flood?" she asked suddenly again, her breast
heaving, her delicate, rounded fingers interlacing.  "I heard a man say
once that you were 'as deep as the sea.'  He did not mean it kindly, but
I do.  You are in trouble, and I want to share it if I can.  Where were
you going when you came across me here?"

"To see old Busby, the quack-doctor up there," he answered, nodding
towards a shrubbed and wooded hillock behind them.

"Old Busby!" she rejoined in amazement.  "What do you want with him
--not medicine of that old quack, that dreadful man?"

"He cures people sometimes.  A good many out here owe him more than
they'll ever pay him."

"Is he as rich an old miser as they say?"

"He doesn't look rich, does he?" was the enigmatical answer.

"Does any one know his real history?  He didn't come from nowhere.  He
must have had friends once.  Some one must once have cared for him,
though he seems such a monster now."

"Yet he cures people sometimes," he rejoined abstractedly.  "Probably
there's some good underneath.  I'm going to try and see."

"What is it.  What is your business with him?  Won't you tell me?  Is it
so secret?"

"I want him to help me in a case I've got in hand.  A client of mine is
in trouble--you mustn't ask about it; and he can help, I think--I think
so."  He got to his feet.  "I must be going, Di," he added.  Suddenly a
flush swept over his face, and he reached out and took both her hands.
"Oh, you are a million times too good for me!" he said.  "But if all
goes well, I'll do my best to make you forget it."

"Wait--wait one moment," she answered.  "Before you go, I want you to
hear what I've been reading over and over to myself just now.  It is from
a book I got from Quebec, called 'When Time Shall Pass'.  It is a story
of two like you and me.  The man is writing to the woman, and it has
things that you have said to me--in a different way."

"No, I don't talk like a book, but I know a star in a dark night when I
see it," he answered, with a catch in his throat.

"Hush," she said, catching his hand in hers, as she read, while all
around them the sounds of summer--the distant clack of a reaper, the
crack of a whip, the locusts droning, the whir of a young partridge, the
squeak of a chipmunk--were tuned to the harmony of the moment and her
voice:

     "'Night and the sombre silence, oh, my love, and one star shining!
     First, warm, velvety sleep, and then this quick, quiet waking to
     your voice which seems to call me.  Is it--is it you that calls?
     Do you sometimes, even in your dreams, speak to me?  Far beneath
     unconsciousness is there the summons of your spirit to me?  .  .  .
     I like to think so.  I like to think that this thing which has come
     to us is deeper, greater than we are.  Sometimes day and night there
     flash before my eyes--my mind's eyes--pictures of you and me in
     places unfamiliar, landscapes never before seen, activities
     uncomprehended and unknown, bright, alluring glimpses of some second
     being, some possible, maybe never-to-be-realised future, alas!  Yet
     these swift-moving shutters of the soul, or imagination, or reality
     --who shall say which?-give me a joy never before felt in life.  If
     I am not a better man for this love of mine for you, I am more than
     I was, and shall be more than I am.  Much of my life in the past was
     mean and small, so much that I have said and done has been unworthy
     --my love for you is too sharp a light for my gross imperfections of
     the past!  Come what will, be what must, I stake my life, my heart,
     my soul on you--that beautiful, beloved face; those deep eyes in
     which my being is drowned; those lucid, perfect hands that have
     bound me to the mast of your destiny.  I cannot go back, I must go
     forwards: now I must keep on loving you or be shipwrecked.  I did
     not know that this was in me, this tide of love, this current of
     devotion.  Destiny plays me beyond my ken, beyond my dreams.
     "O Cithaeron!"  Turn from me now--or never, O my love!  Loose me
     from the mast, and let the storm and wave wash me out into the sea
     of your forgetfulness now--or never! .  .  .  But keep me, keep me,
     if your love is great enough, if I bring you any light or joy; for I
     am yours to my uttermost note of life.'"

"He knew--he knew!" Rawley said, catching her wrists in his hands and
drawing her to him.  "If I could write, that's what I should have said to
you, beautiful and beloved.  How mean and small and ugly my life was till
you made me over.  I was a bad lot."

"So much hung on one little promise," she said, and drew closer to him.
"You were never bad," she added; then, with an arm sweeping the universe,
"Oh, isn't it all good, and isn't it all worth living?"

His face lost its glow.  Over in the town her brother faced a ruined
life, and the girl beside him, a dark humiliation and a shame which would
poison her life hereafter, unless--his look turned to the little house
where the quack-doctor lived.  He loosed her hands.

"Now for Caliban," he said.

"I shall be Ariel and follow you-in my heart," she said.  "Be sure and
make him tell you the story of his life," she added with a laugh, as his
lips swept the hair behind her ears.

As he moved swiftly away, watching his long strides, she said proudly,
"As deep as the sea."

After a moment she added: "And he was once a gambler, until, until--"
she glanced at the open book, then with sweet mockery looked at her
hands--"until 'those lucid, perfect hands bound me to the mast of your
destiny.'  O vain Diana!  But they are rather beautiful," she added
softly, "and I am rather happy."  There was something like a gay little
chuckle in her throat.

"O vain Diana!" she repeated.

                    .......................

Rawley entered the door of the but on the hill without ceremony.  There
was no need for courtesy, and the work he had come to do could be easier
done without it.

Old Busby was crouched over a table, his mouth lapping milk from a full
bowl on the table.  He scarcely raised his head when Rawley entered--
through the open door he had seen his visitor coming.  He sipped on, his
straggling beard dripping.  There was silence for a time.

"What do you want?" he growled at last.

"Finish your swill, and then we can talk," said Rawley carelessly.  He
took a chair near the door, lighted a cheroot and smoked, watching the
old man, as he tipped the great bowl towards his face, as though it were
some wild animal feeding.  The clothes were patched and worn, the coat-
front was spattered with stains of all kinds, the hair and beard were
unkempt and long, giving him what would have been the look of a mangy
lion, but that the face had the expression of some beast less honourable.
The eyes, however, were malignantly intelligent, the hands, ill-cared
for, were long, well-shaped and capable, but of a hateful yellow colour
like the face.  And through all was a sense of power, dark and almost
mediaeval.  Secret, evilly wise and inhuman, he looked a being apart,
whom men might seek for help in dark purposes.

"What do you want--medicine?" he muttered at last, wiping his beard and
mouth with the palm of his hand, and the palm on his knees.

Rawley looked at the ominous-looking bottles on the shelves above the old
man's head; at the forceps, knives, and other surgical instruments on the
walls--they at least were bright and clean--and, taking the cheroot
slowly from his mouth, he said:

"Shin-plasters are what I want.  A friend of mine has caught his leg in a
trap."

The old man gave an evil chuckle at the joke, for a "shin-plaster" was a
money-note worth a quarter of a dollar.

"I've got some," he growled in reply, "but they cost twenty-five cents
each.  You can have them for your friend at the price."

"I want eight thousand of them from you.  He's hurt pretty bad," was the
dogged, dry answer.

The shaggy eyebrows of the quack drew together, and the eyes peered out
sharply through half-closed lids.  "There's plenty of wanting and not
much getting in this world," he rejoined, with a leer of contempt, and
spat on the floor, while yet the furtive watchfulness of the eyes
indicated a mind ill at ease.

Smoke came in placid puffs from the cheroot--Rawley was smoking very
hard, but with a judicial meditation, as it seemed.

"Yes, but if you want a thing so bad that, to get it, you'll face the
devil or the Beast of Revelations, it's likely to come to you."

"You call me a beast?"  The reddish-brown face grew black like that of a
Bedouin in his rage.

"I said the Beast of Revelations--don't you know the Scriptures?"

"I know that a fool is to be answered according to his folly," was the
hoarse reply, and the great head wagged to and fro in its smarting rage.

"Well, I'm doing my best; and perhaps when the folly is all out, we'll
come to the revelations of the Beast."  There was a silence, in which the
gross impostor shifted heavily in his seat, while a hand twitched across
the mouth, and then caught at the breast of the threadbare black coat
abstractedly.

Rawley leaned forward, one elbow on a knee, the cheroot in his fingers.
He spoke almost confidentially, as to some ignorant and misguided savage
--as he had talked to Indian chiefs in his time, when searching for the
truth regarding some crime:

"I've had a lot of revelations in my time.  A lawyer and a doctor always
do.  And though there are folks who say I'm no lawyer, as there are those
who say with greater truth that you're no doctor, speaking technically,
we've both had 'revelations.'  You've seen a lot that's seamy, and so
have I.  You're pretty seamy yourself.  In fact, you're as bad a man as
ever saved lives--and lost them.  You've had a long tether, and you've
swung on it--swung wide.  But you've had a lot of luck that you haven't
swung high, too."

He paused and flicked away the ash from his cheroot, while the figure
before him swayed animal-like from side to side, muttering.

"You've got brains, a great lot of brains of a kind--however you came by
them," Rawley continued; "and you've kept a lot of people in the West
from passing in their cheques before their time.  You've rooked 'em,
chiselled 'em out of a lot of cash, too.  There was old Lamson--fifteen
hundred for the goitre on his neck; and Mrs. Gilligan for the cancer--two
thousand, wasn't it?  Tincture of Lebanon leaves you called the medicine,
didn't you?  You must have made fifty thousand or so in the last ten
years."

"What I've made I'll keep," was the guttural answer, and the talon-like
fingers clawed the table.

"You've made people pay high for curing them, saving them sometimes; but
you haven't paid me high for saving you in the courts; and there's one
case that you haven't paid me for at all.  That was when the patient
died--and you didn't."

The face of the old man became mottled with a sudden fear, but he jerked
it forwards once or twice with an effort at self-control.  Presently he
steadied to the ordeal of suspense, while he kept saying to himself,
"What does he know--what--which?"

"Malpractice resulting in death--that was poor Jimmy Tearle; and
something else resulting in death--that was the switchman's wife.  And
the law is hard in the West where a woman's in the case--quick and hard.
Yes, you've swung wide on your tether; look out that you don't swing
high, old man."

"You can prove nothing; it's bluff;" came the reply in a tone of malice
and of fear.

"You forget.  I was your lawyer in Jimmy Tearle's case, and a letter's
been found written by the switchman's wife to her husband.  It reached me
the night he was killed by the avalanche.  It was handed over to me by
the post-office, as the lawyer acting for the relatives.  I've read it.
I've got it.  It gives you away."

"I wasn't alone."  Fear had now disappeared, and the old man was
fighting.

"No, you weren't alone; and if the switchman and the switchman's wife
weren't dead and out of it all; and if the other man that didn't matter
any more than you wasn't alive and hadn't a family that does matter,
I wouldn't be asking you peaceably for two thousand dollars as my fee for
getting you off two cases that might have sent you to prison for twenty
years, or, maybe, hung you to the nearest tree."

The heavy body pulled itself together, the hands clinched.  "Blackmail-
you think I'll stand it?"

"Yes, I think you will.  I want two thousand dollars to help a friend in
a hole, and I mean to have it, if you think your neck's worth it."

Teeth, wonderfully white, showed through the shaggy beard.  "If I had to
go to prison--or swing, as you say, do you think I'd go with my mouth
shut?  I'd not pay up alone.  The West would crack--holy Heaven, I know
enough to make it sick.  Go on and see!  I've got the West in my hand."
He opened and shut his fingers with a grimace of cruelty which shook
Rawley in spite of himself.

Rawley had trusted to the inspiration of the moment; he had had no
clearly defined plan; he had believed that he could frighten the old man,
and by force of will bend him to his purposes.  It had all been more
difficult than he had expected.  He kept cool, imperturbable, and
determined, however.  He knew that what the old quack said was true--the
West might shake with scandal concerning a few who, no doubt, in remorse
and secret fear, had more than paid the penalty of their offences.  But
he thought of Di Welldon and of her criminal brother, and every nerve,
every faculty was screwed to its utmost limit of endurance and capacity.

Suddenly the old man gave a new turn to the event.  He got up and,
rummaging in an old box, drew out a dice-box.  Rattling the dice, he
threw them out on the table before him, a strange, excited look crossing
his face.

"Play for it," he said in a harsh, croaking voice.  "Play for the two
thousand.  Win it if you can.  You want it bad.  I want to keep it bad.
It's nice to have; it makes a man feel warm--money does.  I'd sleep in
ten-dollar bills, I'd have my clothes made of them, if I could; I'd have
my house papered with them; I'd eat 'em.  Oh, I know, I know about you--
and her--Diana Welldon!  You've sworn off gambling, and you've kept your
pledge for near a year.  Well, it's twenty years since I gambled--twenty
years.  I gambled with these then."  He shook the dice in the box.  "I
gambled everything I had away--more than two thousand dollars, more than
two thousand dollars."  He laughed a raw, mirthless laugh.  "Well, you're
the greatest gambler in the West.  So was I-in the East.  It pulverised
me at last, when I'd nothing left--and drink, drink, drink.  I gave up
both one night and came out West.

"I started doctoring here.  I've got money, plenty of money--medicine,
mines, land got it for me.  I've been lucky.  Now you come to bluff me--
me!  You don't know old Busby."  He spat on the floor.  "I'm not to be
bluffed.  I know too much.  Before they could lynch me I'd talk.  But to
play you, the greatest gambler in the West, for two thousand dollars--
yes, I'd like the sting of it again.  Twos, fours, double-sixes--the
gentleman's game!"  He rattled the dice and threw them with a flourish
out on the table, his evil face lighting up.  "Come!  You can't have
something for nothing," he growled.

As he spoke, a change came over Rawley's face.  It lost its cool
imperturbability, it grew paler, the veins on the fine forehead stood
out, a new, flaring light came into the eyes.  The old gambler's spirit
was alive.  But even as it rose, sweeping him into that area of fiery
abstraction where every nerve is strung to a fine tension, and the
surrounding world disappears, he saw the face of Diana Welldon, he
remembered her words to him not an hour before, and the issue of the
conflict, other considerations apart, was without doubt.  But there was
her brother and his certain fate, if the two thousand dollars were not
paid in by midnight.  He was desperate.  It was in reality for Diana's
sake.  He approached the table, and his old calm returned.

"I have no money to play with," he said quietly.  With a gasp of
satisfaction, the old man fumbled in the inside of his coat and drew out
layers of ten, fifty, and hundred-dollar bills.  It was lined with them.
He passed a pile over to Rawley--two thousand dollars.  He placed a
similar pile before himself.

As Rawley laid his hand on the bills, the thought rushed through his
mind, "You have it--keep it!" but he put it away from him.  With a
gentleman he might have done it, with this man before him, it was
impossible.  He must take his chances; and it was the only chance in
which he had hope now, unless he appealed for humanity's sake, for the
girl's sake, and told the real truth.  It might avail.  Well, that would
be the last resort.

"For small stakes?" said the grimy quack in a gloating voice.

Rawley nodded and then added, "We stop at eleven o'clock, unless I've
lost or won all before that."

"And stake what's left on the last throw?"

"Yes."

There was silence for a moment, in which Rawley seemed to grow older, and
a set look came to his mouth--a broken pledge, no matter what the cause,
brings heavy penalties to the honest mind.  He shut his eyes for an
instant, and, when he opened them, he saw that his fellow-gambler was
watching him with an enigmatical and furtive smile.  Did this Caliban
have some understanding of what was at stake in his heart and soul?

"Play!" Rawley said sharply, and was himself again.  For hour after hour
there was scarce a sound, save the rattle of the dice and an occasional
exclamation from the old man as he threw a double-six.  As dusk fell, the
door had been shut, and a lighted lantern was hung over their heads.

Fortune had fluctuated.  Once the old man's pile had diminished to two
notes, then the luck had changed and his pile grew larger; then fell
again; but, as the hands of the clock on the wall above the blue medicine
bottles reached a quarter to eleven, it increased steadily throw after
throw.

Now the player's fever was in Rawley's eyes.  His face was deadly pale,
but his hand threw steadily, calmly, almost negligently, as it might
seem.  All at once, at eight minutes to eleven, the luck turned in his
favour, and his pile mounted again.  Time after time he dropped double-
sixes.  It was almost uncanny.  He seemed to see the dice in the box, and
his hand threw them out with the precision of a machine.  Long afterwards
he had this vivid illusion that he could see the dice in the box.  As the
clock was about to strike eleven he had before him three thousand eight
hundred dollars.  It was his throw.

"Two hundred," he said in a whisper, and threw.  He won.

With a gasp of relief, he got to his feet, the money in his hand.  He
stepped backward from the table, then staggered, and a faintness passed
over him.  He had sat so long without moving that his legs bent under
him.  There was a pail of water with a dipper in it on a bench.  He
caught up a dipperful of water, drank it empty, and let it fall in the
pail again with a clatter.

"Dan," he said abstractedly, "Dan, you're all safe now."

Then he seemed to wake, as from a dream, and looked at the man at the
table.  Busby was leaning on it with both hands, and staring at Rawley
like some animal jaded and beaten from pursuit.  Rawley walked back to
the table and laid down two thousand dollars.

"I only wanted two thousand," he said, and put the other two thousand in
his pocket.

The evil eyes gloated, the long fingers clutched the pile, and swept it
into a great inside pocket.  Then the shaggy head bent forwards.

"You said it was for Dan," he said--"Dan Welldon?"

Rawley hesitated.  "What is that to you?" he replied at last.

With a sudden impulse the old impostor lurched round, opened a box, drew
out a roll, and threw it on the table.

"It's got to be known sometime," he said, "and you'll be my lawyer when
I'm put into the ground--you're clever.  They call me a quack.
Malpractice--bah!  There's my diploma--James Clifton Welldon.  Right
enough, isn't it?"

Rawley was petrified.  He knew the forgotten story of James Clifton
Welldon, the specialist, turned gambler, who had almost ruined his own
brother--the father of Dan and Diana--at cards and dice, and had then
ruined himself and disappeared.  Here, where his brother had died, he had
come years ago, and practised medicine as a quack.

"Oh, there's plenty of proof, if it's wanted!" he said.  "I've got it
here."  He tapped the box behind him.  "Why did I do it?  Because it's my
way.  And you're going to marry my niece, and 'll have it all some day.
But not till I've finished with it--not unless you win it from me at dice
or cards.  .  .  .  But no"--something human came into the old,
degenerate face--"no more gambling for the man that's to marry Diana.
There's a wonder and a beauty!"  He chuckled to himself.  "She'll be rich
when I've done with it.  You're a lucky man--ay, you're lucky."

Rawley was about to tell the old man what the two thousand dollars was
for, but a fresh wave of repugnance passed over him, and, hastily
drinking another dipperful of water, he opened the door.  He looked back.
The old man was crouching forward, lapping milk from the great bowl, his
beard dripping.  In disgust he swung round again.  The fresh, clear air
caught his face.

With a gasp of relief he stepped out into the night, closing the door
behind him.



ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Don't go at a fence till you're sure of your seat
The real business of life is trying to understand each other
You've got blind rashness, and so you think you're bold





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