The suspicious eyes of the nester passed over Beaudry and came back to Dingwell.
“I reckon so,” he said, not very graciously. “We’re not fixed for company, but if you’ll put up with what we’ve got—”
“Suits us fine. My friend’s name is Beaudry. I’ll get him right to bed.”
Roy stayed in bed for forty-eight hours. His wound was only a slight one and the fever soon subsided. The third day he was sunning himself on the porch. Dave had gone on a little jaunt to a water-hole to shoot hooters for supper. Mrs. Hart was baking bread inside. Her husband had left before daybreak and was not yet back. He was looking for strays, his wife said.
In the family rocking-chair Roy was reading a torn copy of “Martin Chuzzlewit.” How it had reached this haven was a question, since it was the only book in the house except a Big Creek bible, as the catalogue of a mail-order house is called in that country. Beaudry resented the frank, insolent observations of Dickens on the manners of Americans. In the first place, the types were not true to life. In the second place—
The young man heard footsteps coming around the corner of the house. He glanced up carelessly—and his heart seemed to stop beating.
He was looking into the barrel of a revolver pointed straight at him. Back of the weapon was the brutal, triumphant face of Meldrum. It was set in a cruel grin that showed two rows of broken, tobacco-stained teeth.
“By God! I’ve got you. Git down on yore knees and beg, Mr. Spy. I’m going to blow yore head off in just thirty seconds.”
Not in his most unbridled moments had Dickens painted a bully so appalling as this one. This man was a notorious “killer” and the lust of murder was just now on him. Young Beaudry’s brain reeled. It was only by an effort that he pulled himself back from the unconsciousness into which he was swimming.
The Bad Man
The eyes of Beaudry, held in dreadful fascination, clung to the lupine face behind the revolver. To save his life he could have looked nowhere else except into those cold, narrow pupils where he read death. Little beads of sweat stood on his forehead. The tongue in his mouth was dry. His brain seemed paralyzed. Again he seemed to be lifted from his feet by a wave of deadly terror.
Meldrum had been drinking heavily, but he was not drunk. He drew from his pocket a watch and laid it on the arm of the chair. Roy noticed that the rim of the revolver did not waver. It was pointed directly between his eyes.
“Git down on yore knees and beg, damn you. In less ’n a minute hell pops for you.”
The savage, exultant voice of the former convict beat upon Roy like the blows of a hammer. He would have begged for his life,—begged abjectly, cravenly,—but his teeth chattered and his parched tongue was palsied. He would have sunk to his knees, but terror had robbed his muscles of the strength to move. He was tied to his chair by ropes stronger than chains of steel.