“Standing,” he said slowly, “I’ve given you all the rope I am going to. I am sick and tired of your stubbornness. My patience is exhausted. Doctor Jackson says you are in condition to stand ten days in the jacket. You can figure your chances. But I am going to give you your last chance now. Come across with the dynamite. The moment it is in my hands I’ll take you out of here. You can bathe and shave and get clean clothes. I’ll let you loaf for six months on hospital grub, and then I’ll put you trusty in the library. You can’t ask me to be fairer with you than that. Besides, you’re not squealing on anybody. You are the only person in San Quentin who knows where the dynamite is. You won’t hurt anybody’s feelings by giving in, and you’ll be all to the good from the moment you do give in. And if you don’t—”
He paused and shrugged his shoulders significantly.
“Well, if you don’t, you start in the ten days right now.”
The prospect was terrifying. So weak was I that I was as certain as the Warden was that it meant death in the jacket. And then I remembered Morrell’s trick. Now, if ever, was the need of it; and now, if ever, was the time to practise the faith of it. I smiled up in the face of Warden Atherton. And I put faith in that smile, and faith in the proposition I made to him.
“Warden,” I said, “do you see the way I am smiling? Well, if, at the end of the ten days, when you unlace me, I smile up at you in the same way, will you give a sack of Bull Durham and a package of brown papers to Morrell and Oppenheimer?”
“Ain’t they the crazy ginks, these college guys,” Captain Jamie snorted.
Warden Atherton was a choleric man, and he took my request for insulting braggadocio.
“Just for that you get an extra cinching,” he informed me.
“I made you a sporting proposition, Warden,” I said quietly. “You can cinch me as tight as you please, but if I smile ten days from now will you give the Bull Durham to Morrell and Oppenheimer?”
“You are mighty sure of yourself,” he retorted.
“That’s why I made the proposition,” I replied.
“Getting religion, eh?” he sneered.
“No,” was my answer. “It merely happens that I possess more life than you can ever reach the end of. Make it a hundred days if you want, and I’ll smile at you when it’s over.”
“I guess ten days will more than do you, Standing.”
“That’s your opinion,” I said. “Have you got faith in it? If you have you won’t even lose the price of the two five-cents sacks of tobacco. Anyway, what have you got to be afraid of?”
“For two cents I’d kick the face off of you right now,” he snarled.
“Don’t let me stop you.” I was impudently suave. “Kick as hard as you please, and I’ll still have enough face left with which to smile. In the meantime, while you are hesitating, suppose you accept my original proposition.”