The motion was carried, and the two men searched for weapons. Frona was saved this by giving her word that she was no longer armed. The meeting then resolved itself into a hanging committee, and began to file out of the cabin.
“Sorry I had to do it,” the chairman said, half-apologetically, half-defiantly.
Jacob Welse smiled. “You took your chance,” he answered, “and I can’t blame you. I only wish I’d got you, though.”
Excited voices arose from across the cabin. “Here, you! Leggo!” “Step on his fingers, Tim!” “Break that grip!” “Ouch! Ow!” “Pry his mouth open!”
Frona saw a knot of struggling men about St. Vincent, and ran over. He had thrown himself down on the floor and, tooth and nail, was fighting like a madman. Tim Dugan, a stalwart Celt, had come to close quarters with him, and St. Vincent’s teeth were sunk in the man’s arm.
“Smash ’m, Tim! Smash ’m!”
“How can I, ye fule? Get a pry on his mouth, will ye?”
“One moment, please.” The men made way for her, drawing back and leaving St. Vincent and Tim.
Frona knelt down by him. “Leave go, Gregory. Do leave go.”
He looked up at her, and his eyes did not seem human. He breathed stertorously, and in his throat were the queer little gasping noises of one overwrought.
“It is I, Gregory.” She brushed her hand soothingly across his brow. “Don’t you understand? It is I, Frona. Do leave go.”
His whole body slowly relaxed, and a peaceful expression grew upon his face. His jaw dropped, and the man’s arm was withdrawn.
“Now listen, Gregory. Though you are to die—”
“But I cannot! I cannot!” he groaned. “You said that I could trust to you, that all would come well.”
She thought of the chance which had been given, but said nothing.
“Oh, Frona! Frona!” He sobbed and buried his face in her lap.
“At least you can be a man. It is all that remains.”
“Come on!” Tim Dugan commanded. “Sorry to bother ye, miss, but we’ve got to fetch ’m along. Drag ’m out, you fellys! Catch ’m by the legs, Blackey, and you, too, Johnson.”
St. Vincent’s body stiffened at the words, the rational gleam went out of his eyes, and his fingers closed spasmodically on Frona’s. She looked entreaty at the men, and they hesitated.
“Give me a minute with him,” she begged, “just a minute.”
“He ain’t worth it,” Dugan sneered, after they had drawn apart. “Look at ’m.”
“It’s a damned shame,” corroborated Blackey, squinting sidewise at Frona whispering in St. Vincent’s ear, the while her hand wandered caressingly through his hair.