“Yes, by all means,” Jack told Galway. “And as I shall want a man with me, may I rely on you? Four of us will be enough, with a fifth to give the word.”
“Ropey Smith can go with me,” said Leddy.
It scarcely occurred to them to give the name of duel to this meeting, which Jack held was the only fair way when one felt that he must have satisfaction from an adversary in the form of death. An arroyo a mile from town was chosen and the time dawn, for a meeting which was to reverse the ethics of that boasted fair-play in which the man who first gets a bead is the hero.
“It seems a mediaeval day for me,” Jack said, when the details were concluded. “Good-night, gentlemen,” he added, after Bill Lang, with fingers that bungled from agitation, had filled his arms with second-class matter.
Jim Galway resumed his position, leaning against the counter watchfully as the gang filed out to the rear to wet up, and in his right hand, which was in his pocket, nestled an automatic pistol.
“I’d shot Pete Leddy dead—’twas the first real fair chance within the law—so help me, God! I would,” he thought, “if there had been time to spare, and save that queer tenderfoot’s life. And me a second in a regular duel! Well, I’ll be—but it ain’t no regular duel. One of ’em is going to drop—that is, the tenderfoot is. I don’t just know how to line him up. He beats me!”
ACCORDING TO CODE
It was the supreme moment of night before dawn. A violet mist shrouded everything. The clamminess of the dew touched Mary’s forehead and her hand brushed the moisture-laden hedge as she left the Ewold yard. She remembered that Jack had said that he would camp near the station, so there was no doubt in which direction she should go. Hastening along the silent street, it was easy for her to imagine that she and Ignacio were the only sentient beings, abroad in a world that had stopped breathing.
Softly, impalpably, with both the graciousness of a host and the determinedness of an intruder who will not be gainsaid, the first rays of morning light filtered into the mist. The violet went pink. From pale pink it turned to rose-pink; to the light of life which was as yet as still as the light of the moon. The occasional giant cactus in the open beyond the village outskirts ceased to be spectral.
For the first time Mary Ewold was in the presence of the wonder of daybreak on the desert without watching for the harbinger of gold in the V of the pass, with its revelation of a dome of blue where unfathomable space had been. For the first time daybreak interested her only in broadening and defining her vision of her immediate surroundings.