“‘S right, Kid, I was there! An’ I’m kind o’ glad y’ couldn’t do it, glad for your sister’s sake. But what I’m thinkin’ is that maybe she thinks it was you—eh, Kid?”
Spike writhed and groaned.
“Why, then, if I was you, I’d skin off right now an’ put her wise; it may mean a whole lot t’ her. Y’ know where she is—go an’ tell her, Kid.”
“I can’t! I can’t—she don’t want me no more, she’s done wi’ me, I guess. I’m—oh, I’m too low-down an’ rotten!”
“Sure!” nodded Soapy. “But she’s good, an’ she’s a woman; an’ good women are only made t’ forgive, I reckon.”
“But there’s Geoff! I—I couldn’t face Geoff.”
“That’s because you think a heap too much about a low-down rotten guy called Spike. I guess it’s about time you began t’ think about your sister f’ a change. Well, s’ long, Kid, I guess I’ll be movin’; this pail comes a bit sharp after an hour of it.”
So saying, Soapy rose, nodded, and strolled away, still twirling the revolver upon that long and dexterous finger. For a moment Spike stood looking after him, then, chin on breast, turned and went his solitary way across the desolate waste. But now it was Soapy who, pausing, turned to watch him safe out of sight. Scarcely had the sound of Spike’s departure died away than a door opened and closed hard by, and heavy steps approached, halted suddenly, and a hoarse voice demanded:
“Why, this is me, Bud.”
“What th’ hell are ye hangin’ around out here for?” questioned M’Ginnis suspiciously.
“Countin’ th’ stars, Bud, an’ doin’ th’ Providence act—midst of life we are in death’ gag—”
“Aw, cut out that slush an’ hike along t’ Rayner’s wi’ me; I got a job for you an’ Heine—”
Side by side they crossed the gloomy, open lot until they were come beneath a lamp at a certain bleak street corner. Here Soapy paused and held out his hand, open to the light.
“This don’t happen t’ be your ring, Bud?” he enquired lazily.
M’Ginnis glanced at the ring upon that narrow palm, a ring wrought into the semblance of two hands that clasped each other, looked closer, drew in his breath suddenly, then straightened his shoulders and threw back his head.
“No!” he answered, frowning into Soapy’s imperturbable face, “what th’ hell made you think it was?”
“Why, ye see, Bud, it happens t’ have your name scratched inside it, that’s all. But if it ain’t yours, it ain’t!” And speaking, Soapy tossed the ring back over his shoulder far out into the open lot.
For a long moment M’Ginnis stood motionless, staring back at that desolate plot of ground; when at last he glanced toward his companion, Soapy was lighting a fresh cigarette.
THE OLD UN ADVISES AND RAVENSLEE ACTS