But by his roving glance, by the sudden outpouring of sweat which gleamed on his forehead, Hervey knew that he had shaken his man to the soul. By playing carefully on this string might he not reduce even this care-free fighter to trembling love of life? Might he not make Red Perris cringe! All cowards feel that their own vice exists in others. Hervey, in his entire life, had dreaded nothing saving Red Jim, and now he felt that he had found the thing which would make life too dear to Perris to be given up with a smile.
“Begging? I’ll tell a man she did!” nodded Hervey.
“It’s because she’s plumb generous. She thought that might turn you. Why—she don’t hardly know me!”
“Don’t she?” sneered Hervey. “You don’t figure her right. She’s one of the hit or miss kind. She hated me the minute she laid eyes on me—hated me for nothing! And you knocked her off her feet the first shot. That’s all there is to it. She’d give the Valley of the Eagles for a smile from you.”
He saw the glance of Perris wander into thin distance and soften. Then the eye of Red Jim returned to his tormentor, desperately. The blow had told better than Hervey could have hoped.
“And me a plain tramp—a loafer—me!” said Perris to himself. He added suddenly: “Hervey, let’s talk man to man!”
“Go on,” said the foreman, and set his teeth to keep his exultation from showing.
Five minutes more, he felt, and Perris would be begging like a coward for his life.
Never did a fox approach a lion with more discretion than Marianne approached the careless figure of McGuire. His very attitude was a warning that her task was to be made as difficult as possible. He had pushed his sombrero, limp with age and wear, far back on his head, and now, gazing, apparently, into the distant blue depths of the sky, he regarded vacancy with mild interest and blew in the same direction a thin brownish vapor of smoke. Obviously he expected an argument; he was leading her on. And just as obviously he wanted the argument merely for the sake of killing time. He was in tremendous need of amusement. That was all.
She wanted to go straight to him with a bitter appeal to his manhood, to his mercy as a man. But she realized that this would not do at all. A strenuous attack would simply rouse him. Therefore she called up from some mysterious corner of her tormented heart a smile, or something that would do duty as a smile. Strangely enough, no sooner had the smile come than her whole mental viewpoint changed. It became easy to make the smile real; half of her anxiety fell away. And dropping one hand on her hip, she said cheerfully to McGuire.
“You look queer as a prison-guard, Mr. McGuire.”