THE PROOF OF CRIME
Winston sprang to his feet and ran back along the deserted tunnel, bending low to avoid collision with the sloping roof, striving to move rapidly, yet in silence. The intense darkness blinded him, but one hand touching the wall acted as safeguard. For a moment the bewildering surprise of this new situation left his brain in a whirl of uncertainty. He could remember no spot in which he might hope to secrete himself safely; the rock wall of that narrow passageway afforded no possible concealment against the reflection of the foreman’s glaring lamp. But he must get beyond sight and sound of those others before the inevitable meeting and the probable struggle occurred. This became the one insistent thought which sent him scurrying back into the gloom, recklessly accepting every chance of encountering obstacles in his haste. At the second curve he paused, panting heavily from the excitement of his hard run, and leaned against the face of the rock, peering anxiously back toward that fast approaching flicker of light. The angry foreman came crunching savagely along, his heavy boots resounding upon the hard floor, the hickory club in his hand occasionally striking against the wall as though he imagined himself already belaboring the recreant Swanson. About him, causing his figure to appear gigantic, his shadow grotesque, the yellow gleam of the light shone in spectral coloring. Winston set his teeth determinedly, and noiselessly cocked his revolver. The man was already almost upon him, a black, shapeless bulk, like some unreal shadow. Then the younger stepped suddenly forth into the open, the two meeting face to face. The startled foreman stared incredulous, bending forward as though a ghost confronted him, his teeth showing between parted lips.
“Drop that club!” commanded Winston coldly, the gleam of an uplifted steel barrel in the other’s eyes. “Lively, my man; this is a hair-trigger.”
“What the hell—”
“Drop that club! We ’ll discuss this case later. There—no, up with your hands; both of them. Turn around slowly; ah, I see you don ’t tote a gun down here. So much the better, for now we can get along to business with fewer preliminaries.”
He kicked the released pick-helve to one side out of sight in the darkness, his watchful eyes never straying from the Irishman’s face. Burke stood sputtering curses, his hands held high, his fighting face red from impotent passion. The trembling light gave to the scene a fantastic effect, grimly humorous.
“Who—who the divil be ye?” The surprised man thrust his head yet farther forward in an effort to make the flame more clearly reveal the other’s features. Winston drew the peak of his miner’s cap lower.