“Female it were, I think?” she enquired with another grim and smiling shudder. “Now, sir, to you I sez, debased creecher, I sez, vulgar an’ dishonest loafer, I sez, sly an’ subtle serpent, I sez, return to the back scullery wherefrom you sprang lest I seize you by the hair of your cheeks an’ bounce your silly head against the wall—frequent, I sez!” and very slowly, Mrs. Trapes moved toward him.
Mr. Brimberly hesitated, but before those deadly elbows he blenched, his whiskers wilted all at once, and he retreated backwards; across the spacious drawing room, along the hall and down the stairs he went, his pace ever accelerating, until, in full flight, he reached the sanctuary of his pantry, where, having locked himself securely in, he sank panting into a chair to mop beaded brow.
“My word!” said Mr. Brimberly.
IN WHICH SOAPY TAKES UPON HIMSELF A NEW ROLE
Soapy was alone, which in itself was no new thing, for Soapy was a solitary soul at all times; but just now he sat close against the rotting fence which skirted that desolation behind O’Rourke’s saloon. Moreover, it was night, and solitude profound was his. He sat on a battered and disused pail that chanced to be handy, a smouldering cigarette dangling from his thin-lipped mouth, his long hands pendulous between his knees, his pallid eyelids sleepily a-droop; but his eyes, quick and watchful, scanned the deeper gloom of fence and dismal outbuilding, and he sat there very patient and very still. At last he stirred slightly, the cigarette quivered and was motionless again, for, amid the shadows, he had seen a dim shape that flitted swiftly toward him; on it came, creeping swift and silent beside the fence, nearer and nearer until it resolved itself into a slender form. Then Soapy spoke.
Ensued a moment of tense silence, then Spike answered, his voice unnaturally thin and high-pitched.
“That—that you, Soapy?”
“’S right, Kid!”
“What you—doin’ around—here?”
“Who, me? Y’ see, I’m kind o’ yearnin’ for that gun you got there—”
“Gun? I—I ain’t got—no gun—”
“Well, Kid, I know Heine’s all kinds of a liar, but he tells me he’s loaned you one of his, an’ so—” Soapy’s long arm shot out in the gloom and seizing Spike’s right arm he drew it near. “Why, Kid,” said he, “it kind o’ looks like Heine told the truth for once by accident, don’t it?”
“You leggo my wrist!”
“Right-o, Kid, right-o! Don’t get peeved—”
“Well, leggo then!”
“Sure! Only this artillery ain’t goin’ t’ be no good t’ you t’night—ye see, Bud—ain’t here! ’S rough on ye, Kid, ’s rough, but he ain’t!”
“W—what—d’ ye mean?” stammered the boy.
“I mean as you comin’ here t’ plug holes in Bud’s carcase it’s kind o’ rough on you as there ain’t goin’ t’ be no carcase here to plug. Y’ see, Bud’s took his carcase up-town with him t’night—”