The hazel eye of Strann was grey with anguish of the spirit as he looked from O’Brien to the crowd and from the crowd to Satan, and from Satan to his meek-eyed owner. Nowhere was there a defiant eye or a glint of scorn on which he could wreak his wrath. He stood poised in his anger for the space of a breath; then, in the sharp struggle, his better nature conquered.
“Come on in, all of you,” he called. “We’ll liquor, and forget this.”
O’Brien pressed close to Barry.
“Partner,” he said rapidly, “you’re clear now—you’re clear of more hell that you ever dream. Now climb that hoss of yours and feed him leather till you get clear of Brownsville—and if I was you I’d never come within a day’s ride of the Three B’s again.”
The mild, brown eyes widened.
“I don’t like crowds,” murmured Barry.
“You’re wise, kid,” grinned the bartender—“a hell of a lot wiser than you know right now. On your way!”
And he turned to follow the crowd into the saloon. But Jerry Strann stood at the swinging doors, watching, and he saw Barry linger behind.
“Are you coming?” he called.
“I got an engagement,” answered the meek voice.
“You got another engagement here,” mocked Strann. “Understand?”
The other hesitated for an instant, and then sighed deeply. “I suppose I’ll stay,” he murmured, and walked into the bar. Jerry Strann was smiling in the way that showed his teeth. As Barry passed he said softly: “I see we ain’t going to have no trouble, you and me!” and he moved to clap his strong hand on the shoulder of the smaller man. Oddly enough, the hand missed, for Barry swerved from beneath it as a wolf swerves from the shadow of a falling branch. No perceptible effort—no sudden start of tensed muscles, but a movement so smooth that it was almost unnoticeable. But the hand of Strann fell through thin air.
“You’re quick,” he said. “If you was as quick with your hands as you are with your feet——”
Barry paused and the melancholy brown eyes dwelt on the face of Strann.
“Oh, hell!” snorted the other, and turned on his heel to the bar. “Drink up!” he commanded.
A shout and a snarl from the further end of the room.
“A wolf, by God!” yelled one of the men.
The owner of the animal made his way with unobtrusive swiftness the length of the room and stood between the dog and a man who fingered the butt of his gun nervously.
“He won’t hurt you none,” murmured that softly assuring voice.
“The hell he wont!” responded the other. “He took a pass at my leg just now and dam’ near took it off. Got teeth like the blades of a pocket-knife!”
“You’re on a cold trail, Sam,” broke in one of the others. “That ain’t any wolf. Look at him now!”