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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 232 pages of information about The Penalty.

“Are you joking?"

“No, Mr. Allen.  I am dying.  Now listen.  I assume that you are no longer with Blizzard.”

“What an ass I’ve been!”

“You are to find Abe Lichtenstein and tell him what I have told you.  The boy Bubbles will put you on his track.  As for money which Blizzard has advanced to you—­” The stranger fumbled in his breast pocket and brought forth a much-soiled sheet of paper.  “This locates outlying mining claims in Utah.  They will make you rich.  One-third to you—­one-third to Miss Barbara Ferris—­one-third to the boy Bubbles.  You will tell him that I was his brother—­different mothers, but the same father.”

You are Harry West,” and Wilmot looked with compassionate interest upon the man who, if only for a brief period of time, had once stood first in Barbara’s affections.

Under the strain of talking West’s voice had grown weaker.  “Miss Barbara,” he said quietly, “is in great danger from my father—­”

Your father?”

“Didn’t I tell you?  Oh, yes.  He is my father—­Blizzard.  That is why I don’t mind dying.  When the city is in confusion, and without any laws save of his own dictation, Miss Barbara will be in terrible danger.  Many years from now, when it can do no harm with you, tell her, please, that in my life I had the incomparable privilege—­”

Wilmot leaped to his feet.  “Is there a doctor here?  This man is dying.”

But the Spartan, the wolf Death gnawing at his vitals, had said all that it was necessary for him to say.  Wilmot Allen’s strong arm about him, his mouth vaguely smiling, he fell heavily forward as if under the weight of a new and overpowering wonder and knowledge.

XLII

Nothing so makes for insomnia as a man’s knowledge that he has made a fool of himself.  Between Chicago and New York Wilmot Allen did not even have his berth made up.  He visited the dining-car at the proper intervals, hardly conscious of what he ordered or ate.  He bought newspapers, books, magazines, and opened none of them.  For the most part he looked out the window of his compartment into rushing daylight or darkness.  His mind kept travelling the round of a great circle that began and ended in humiliation.  He had been as confiding in Blizzard’s hands as an undeveloped child of seven.  He had been teaching men whose creed was murder and anarchy how to handle weapons.  He had taken at their face value words uttered by an emperor among scoundrels; had asked no material or leading questions, and was in his conscience paying the penalty for having snatched at tainted money with which to relieve himself of obligations that pressed till they hurt.

Beginning in humiliation, the circle of his thoughts ascended time after time to Barbara, only to fall from the high and tender lights which memories and anticipations of her brought into them, back to that darkness in which he struggled to give himself “a little the best of things” and could not.

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