But Mac Strann had no eye for any saving Dan Barry.
“Are you the creepin’, sneakin’ snake that done—this?”
“You got me figured right,” answered Dan coldly.
“Then, by God------” began the roaring voice of Mac, but Jerry Strann stirred wildly on the bed.
“Mac!” he called, “Mac!” His voice went suddenly horribly thick, a bubbling, liquid sound. “For God’s sake, Mac!”
He had reared himself up on one elbow, his arm stretched out to his brother. And a foam of crimson stood on his lips.
“Mac, don’t pull no gun! It was me that was in wrong!”
And then he fell back in the bed, and into the arms of Mac, who was beside him, moaning: “Buck up, Jerry. Talk to me, boy!”
“Mac, you’ve finished the job,” came the husky whisper.
Mac Strann raised his head, and his terrible eyes fixed upon Dan Barry. And there was no pity in the face of the other. The first threat had wiped every vestige of human tenderness out of his eyes, and now, with something like a sneer on his lips, and with a glimmer of yellow light in his eyes, he was backing towards the door, and noiselessly as a shadow he slipped out and was gone.
“A man talks because he’s drunk or lonesome; a girl talks because that’s her way of takin’ exercise.”
This was a maxim of Buck Daniels, and Buck Daniels knew a great deal about women, as many a school marm and many a rancher’s daughter of the mountain-desert could testify.
Also Buck Daniels said of women: “It ain’t what you say to ’em so much as the tune you put it to.”
Now he sat this day in O’Brien’s hotel dining-room. It was the lazy and idle hour between three and four in the afternoon, and since the men of the mountain-desert eat promptly at six, twelve, and six, there was not a soul in the room when he entered. Nor was there a hint of eating utensils on the tables. Nevertheless Buck Daniels was not dismayed. He selected a corner-table by instinct and smote upon the surface with the flat of his hand. It made a report like the spat of a forty-five; heavy footsteps approached, a door flung open, and a cross-eyed slattern stood in the opening. At the sight of Buck Daniels sitting with his hands on his hips and his sombrero pushed back to a good-natured distance on his head the lady puffed with rage.
“What in hell d’you think this is?” bellowed this gentle creature, and the tone echoed heavily back from all four walls. “You’re three hours late and you get no chuck here. On your way, stranger!”
Buck Daniels elevated himself slowly from the chair and stood at his full height. With a motion fully as deliberate he removed his sombrero and bowed to such a depth that the brim of the hat brushed the floor.
“Lady,” he said humbly, “I was thinkin’ that some gent run this here eatin’ place. Which if you’ll excuse me half a minute I’ll ramble outside and sluice off some of the dust. If I’d known you was here I wouldn’t of thought of comin’ in here like this.”