Uttering a wild, inarticulate cry, the lad sprang—to be caught in M’Ginnis’s powerful grasp, but, even so, his fist grazed M’Ginnis’s full-lipped mouth. For a moment Spike strove desperately to reach Bud’s grim-smiling face until, finding his efforts vain, he ceased all at once, bowed his head upon his arms, and burst into a passion of bitter sobbing; then, with an agile twist, he wrenched himself free, and turning, sped away, heedless of his jaunty straw hat that had fallen and lay upon the dusty sidewalk. Languidly Soapy stooped and picked it up.
“His noo lid!” said he. “Only bought t’day, I reckon!”
“Gee!” exclaimed M’Ginnis, staring after Spike’s fleeing figure, already far away, “he sure was some peevish!”
“Some!” nodded Soapy. “If he’d happened t’ have a gun handy, here’s where you’d have cashed in for good, I reckon. Yes, Bud, you’d be deader ‘n’ mutton!” sighed Soapy, turning Spike’s hat around upon his finger. “You’d be as dead as—little Maggie Finlay you was mentionin’!”
M’Ginnis wheeled so suddenly upon the speaker that he took a long step backward, but he still spun Spike’s hat upon his finger, and the pendulous cigarette quivered quite noticeably. “Aw, quit it, Bud, quit it!” he sighed. “You know I ain’t th’ kind o’ guy it’s healthy to punch around promiscuous.”
“You mean if he’d missed, there was you, eh?”
“Well, I dunno, Bud, if it had been my sister—maybe—”
“Oh, I know the sort o’ dirty tyke you are, Soapy—but I’m awake—an’ I’ve got you, see? If anything was t’ happen t’ me, I’ve left papers—proofs—’n’ it ’ud be the chair for yours—savvy?”
“Anyway, Bud, I—I haven’t got a sister,” said Soapy, juggling deftly with the hat. “But there’s one thing, Bud, th’ guy who gets actin’ Mr. Freshy with Hermy is sure goin’ to ante-up in kingdom come, if th’ Kid’s around.”
“You’re a dirty dog, Soapy, but you’ve got brains in your ugly dome, I guess you’re right about th’ Kid, an’ that gives me an almighty good idea!” And M’Ginnis walked on awhile, deep in thought; and ever as he went, so between those pale and puffy lids two malevolent eyes watched and watched him.
“No,” sighed Soapy at last, sliding a long, pale hand into the pocket of his smartly-tailored coat, “no, I ain’t got a sister, Bud, but there was little Maggie Finlay. I kind o’ used t’ think she was all t’ th’ harps an’ haloes. I used t’ kind o’ hope—but pshaw! she’s dead—ain’t she, Bud?”
“I guess so!” nodded M’Ginnis, yet deep in thought.
“An’ buried—ain’t she, Bud?”
“What th’ hell!” exclaimed Bud, turning to stare, “what’s bitin’ ye?”
“I’m wonderin’ ‘why’, an’ I’m likewise wonderin’ ‘who’, Bud. Maybe I’ll find out for sure some day. I’m—waitin’, Bud, waitin’. Goin’ around t’ O’Rourke’s, are ye? Oh, well, I guess I’ll hike along wid ye, Bud.”