“Live? We-l-l, yes, if you can call staying living. Life is but a blank; better she had died ere she ever met you!”
“You speak truly; better she had died ere she met me.”
Unconsciously the two had ridden closer to each other; had they forgotten themselves in recalling the past?
“She lives—may live on her lonely life for years to come,” Harris resumed, thoughtfully, “but her life will be merely endurance.”
“Will you tell me where—where I can go in secret and take but one look at her? If you will do this, I will agree to meet you and give you your chance for satis—”
“No!” thundered Harris, growing suddenly furious, “no! a thousand times! I’d sooner see her in the burning depths of the bottomless pit than have you get within a hundred miles of her with your contaminating presence. She is safely hidden away, and that forever, from the companionship of our sex. So let her be till death claims her!”
“You are too hard on her!”
“And not hard enough on you, base villain that your are! Who is this young lady you have to your company—another of your victims?”
“Hold! Edward Harris; enough of your vile insinuations. This lady is one whom I rescued from Sitting Bull, the Sioux, and I am helping her to hunt a father who she says is somewhere in the Black Hills. Your language should at least be respectful!”
The rebuke stung young Harris to the quick, but he reined in his passion to a moment, and doffed his hat.
“Pardon me; miss, pardon me. It was ungentlemanly for me to speak as I did, but I was surprised at seeing one of your sex in company with this accomplished scamp, Justin McKenzie.”
“My presence with him is, as he said, for the purpose of finding my father. He rescued me from the Indians, and has volunteered his services, for which I am very thankful. So far, sir, he has acted in a courteous and gentlemanly manner toward me!” said Alice Terry. “What he may have been heretofore concerns me not, as you must know.”
“He is always that—smooth-tongued, until he has lured his victim to ruin!” retorted Ned, bitterly. “Beware of him, lady, for he is a rattlesnake in the disguise of a bright-winged butterfly.”
Fearless Frank grew livid at this last thrust. Forbearance is virtue, sometimes, but not always. In his case the Scarlet Boy felt that he could bear the taunts of the miner no longer.
“You are a liar and a dastard!” he cried, fiercely. “Come on if you wish satisfaction, and I’ll give it to you!”
“I am ready, always, sir. I challenged you first; you have the choice!” retorted Ned, as cool as ever, while his enemy was all trembling with excitement.
“Pistols, at fifty yards; to be fired until one or the other is dead!” was the prompt decision.
“Good! Young lady, you will necessarily have to act as second for both of us. If I drop, leave my body where I fall, and it will be picked up by friends. If he falls, I will ride on to Deadwood, and send you out help to carry him in.”