Here Mac Strann stared down at his mighty hand—a significant answer, but Pale Annie went on swiftly: “Yes, you’re strong, but strength won’t save you from Dan Barry. We know him here in Elkhead. Do you know that if he had pulled his gun and shot you down right here where you sit, that he could have walked out of this room without a hand raised to stop him? Yes, sir! And why? Because we know his record; and I’d rather go against a wolf with my bare hands—as you did—than stand up against Dan Barry with guns. I could tell you how he fought Jim Silent’s gang, one to six. I could tell you a lot of other things. My friend, I will tell you about ’em if you’ll listen.”
But Mac Strann considered the speaker with his dull eyes.
“I never was much on talkin’,” he observed mildly. “I don’t understand talkin’ very well.”
Pale Annie started to speak again, but he checked himself, stared earnestly at Mac Strann, and then hurried back behind his bar. His face was even graver than usual; but business was business with Pale Annie—and all men have to die in their time! Haw-Haw Langley took the place which Pale Annie had left vacant opposite Mac Strann.
He cast a frightened glance upward, where the rain roared steadily on the roof of the building; then his eyes fluttered back until they rested on the face of his companion. He had to moisten his thin lips before he could speak and even then it was a convulsive effort, like a man swallowing too large a morsel.
“Well?” said Haw-Haw. “Is it fixed?”
“It’s fixed,” said Mac Strann. “Maybe you’d get the hosses, Haw-Haw. If you’re comin with me?”
A dark shadow swept over the face of Haw-Haw Langley.
“You’re going to beat it?” he sneered. “After you come all this way you’re going to run away from Barry? And him not half your size?”
“I’m going out to meet him,” answered Mac Strann.
Haw-Haw Langley started up as if he feared Mac Strann would change his mind if there were any delay. His long fingers twisted together, as if to bring the blood into circulation about the purple knuckles.
“I’ll have the hosses right around to the front,” he said. “By the time you got your slicker on, Mac, I’ll have ’em around in front!”
And he stalked swiftly from the room.
When they rode out of the town the wet sand squashed under the feet of their horses and splashed up on their riding boots and their slickers. It even spotted their faces here and there, and a light brown spray darted out to right and left of the falling hoofs. For all the streets of Elkhead were running shallow rivers, with dark, swift currents, and when they left the little town the landscape was shut out by the falling torrents. It made a strange and shifting panorama, for the rain varied in its density now and again, and as it changed hills which had been quite blotted out leaped close upon them, like living things, and then sprang back again into the mist.