“‘Tis good. An’ likely it saves me fingers a dirty job. Vincent, man, the girl child which is woman grown slapes in Dawson this night. God help us, you an’ me, but we’ll niver hit again the pillow as clane an’ pure as she! Vincent, a word to the wise: ye’ll niver lay holy hand or otherwise upon her.”
The devil, which Lucile had proclaimed, began to quicken,—a fuming, fretting, irrational devil.
“I do not like ye. I kape me raysons to meself. It is sufficient. But take this to heart, an’ take it well: should ye be mad enough to make her yer wife, iv that damned day ye’ll niver see the inding, nor lay eye upon the bridal bed. Why, man, I cud bate ye to death with me two fists if need be. But it’s to be hoped I’ll do a nater job. Rest aisy. I promise ye.”
“You Irish pig!”
So the devil burst forth, and all unaware, for McCarthy found himself eye-high with the muzzle of a Colt’s revolver.
“Is it loaded?” he asked. “I belave ye. But why are ye lingerin’? Lift the hammer, will ye?”
The correspondent’s trigger-finger moved and there was a warning click.
“Now pull it. Pull it, I say. As though ye cud, with that flutter to yer eye.”
St. Vincent attempted to turn his head aside.
“Look at me, man!” McCarthy commanded. “Kape yer eyes on me when ye do it.”
Unwillingly the sideward movement was arrested, and his eyes returned and met the Irishman’s.
St. Vincent ground his teeth and pulled the trigger—at least he thought he did, as men think they do things in dreams. He willed the deed, flashed the order forth; but the flutter of his soul stopped it.
“’Tis paralyzed, is it, that shaky little finger?” Matt grinned into the face of the tortured man. “Now turn it aside, so, an’ drop it, gently . . . gently . . . gently.” His voice crooned away in soothing diminuendo.
When the trigger was safely down, St. Vincent let the revolver fall from his hand, and with a slight audible sigh sank nervelessly upon a stool. He tried to straighten himself, but instead dropped down upon the table and buried his face in his palsied hands. Matt drew on his mittens, looking down upon him pityingly the while, and went out, closing the door softly behind him.
Where nature shows the rough hand, the sons of men are apt to respond with kindred roughness. The amenities of life spring up only in mellow lands, where the sun is warm and the earth fat. The damp and soggy climate of Britain drives men to strong drink; the rosy Orient lures to the dream splendors of the lotus. The big-bodied, white-skinned northern dweller, rude and ferocious, bellows his anger uncouthly and drives a gross fist into the face of his foe. The supple south-sojourner, silken of smile and lazy of gesture, waits, and does his