“Like a damned beast! He wanted to drink right there with his dead man beside him. And what was worse, I had to give him the bottle. There was a sort of haze in front of my eyes. I wanted to pump that devil full of lead, but I knowed it was plain suicide to try it.
“So there he stood and ups with a glass that was brimmin’ full, and downs it at a swallow—gurglin’—like a hog! Fatty, how long will it be before there’s an end to Mac Strann?”
But Fatty Matthews shrugged his thick shoulders and poured himself another drink.
“There ain’t a hope for Jerry Strann?” cut in Buck Daniels.
“Not one in a million,” coughed Fatty, disposing of another formidable potion.
“And when Jerry dies, Mac starts for this Barry?”
“Who’s been tellin’ you?” queried O’Brien dryly. “Maybe you been readin’ minds, stranger?”
Buck Daniels regarded the bartender with a mild and steadfast interest. He was smiling with the utmost good-humour, but there was that about him which made big O’Brien flush and look down to his array of glasses behind the bar.
“I been wondering,” went on Daniels, “if Mac Strann mightn’t come out with Barry about the way Jerry did. Ain’t it possible?”
“No,” replied Fatty Matthews with calm decision. “It ain’t possible. Well, I’m due back in my bear cage. Y’ought to look in on me, O’Brien, and see the mountain-lion dyin’ and the grizzly lookin’ on.”
“Will it last long?” queried O’Brien.
“Somewhere’s about this evening.”
Here Daniels started violently and closed his hand hard around his whiskey glass which he had not yet raised towards his lips.
“Are you sure of that, marshal?” he asked. “If Jerry’s held on this long ain’t there a chance that he’ll hold on longer? Can you date him up for to-night as sure as that?”
“I can,” said the deputy marshal. “It ain’t hard when you seen as many go west as I’ve seen. It ain’t harder than it is to tell when the sand will be out of an hour glass. When they begin going down the last hill it ain’t hard to tell when they’ll reach the bottom.”
“Ain’t you had anybody to spell you, Fatty?” broke in O’Brien.
“Yep. I got Haw-Haw Langley up there. But he ain’t much help. Just sits around with his hands folded. Kind of looks like Haw-Haw wanted Jerry to pass out.”
And Matthews went humming through the swinging door.
OLD GARY PETERS
For some moments after this Buck Daniels remained at the bar with his hand clenched around his glass and his eyes fixed before him in the peculiar second-sighted manner which had marked him when he sat so long on the veranda.
“Funny thing,” began O’Brien, to make conversation, “how many fellers go west at sunset. Seems like they let go all holts as soon as the dark comes. Hey?”