So Judson stayed, and stumbled round the table, losing his money and dribbling foolishness. Now faro is a silent game, and more than once an angry voice commanded the foolish one to choose his place and to shut his mouth. But the ex-engineer seemed quite incapable of doing either. Twice he made the wavering circuit of the oval table, and when he finally gripped an empty chair it was the one nearest to Rufford on the right, and diagonally opposite to the dealer.
What followed seemed to have no connecting sequence for the other players. Too restless to lose more than one bet in the place he had chosen, Judson tried to rise, tangled his feet in the chair, and fell down, laughing uproariously. When he struggled to the perpendicular again, after two or three ineffectual attempts, he was fairly behind Rufford’s stool.
One man, who chanced to be looking, saw the “lookout” start and stiffen rigidly in his place, staring straight ahead into vacancy. A moment later the entire circle of witnesses saw him take a revolver from the holster on his hip and lay it upon the table, with another from the breast pocket of his coat to keep it company. Then his hands went quickly behind him, and they all heard the click of the handcuffs.
The man in the sombrero and shirt-sleeves was first to come alive.
“Duck, Bart!” he shouted, whipping a weapon from its convenient shelf under the table’s edge. But Judson, trained to the swift handling of many mechanisms in the moment of respite before a wreck or a derailment, was ready for him.
“Bart’s afraid he can’t duck without dying,” he said grimly, screening himself behind his captive. Then to the others, in the same unhasting tone: “Some of you fellows just quiet Sammy down till I get out of here with this peach of mine. I’ve got the papers, and I know what I’m doin’; if this thing I’m holdin’ against Bart’s back should happen to go off——”
That ended it, so far as resistance was concerned. Judson backed quickly out through the bar-room, drawing his prisoner backward after him; and a moment later Angels was properly electrified by the sight of Rufford, the Red Desert terror, marching sullenly down to the Crow’s Nest, with a fiery-headed little man at his elbow, the little man swinging the weapon which had been made to simulate the cold muzzle of the revolver when he had pressed it into Rufford’s back at the gaming-table.
It was nothing more formidable than a short, thick “S"-wrench, of the kind used by locomotive engineers in tightening the nuts of the piston-rod packing glands.
FLEMISTER AND OTHERS
The jocosely spectacular arrest of Barton Rufford, with its appeal to the grim humor of the desert, was responsible for a brief lull in the storm of antagonism evoked by Lidgerwood’s attempt to bring order out of the chaos reigning in his small kingdom. For a time Angels was a-grin again, and while the plaudits were chiefly for Judson, the figure of the correctly clothed superintendent who was courageous enough to appeal to the law, loomed large in the reflected light of the red-headed engineer’s cool daring.