“Lon, Lon!” she cried, springing forward in desperation. “Do you know where she is? I want to know, too.”
He flung her away, a grunt of satisfaction coming from his throat.
“And I ain’t yer daddy, nuther.”
“Then you’re not Flukey’s father, either?” she whispered.
“Nope; yer pappy and mammy both be livin’ and waitin’ fer ye. They’ve been lookin’ fer ye fer years—and yet they’ll never git ye. Do ye hear, Flea? I hate ’em both so that I could kill ye—I could tear yer throat open with these!” The squatter put his strong, crooked fingers in the girl’s face.
A sudden resolution pumped the blood to the girl’s cheeks.
“I’m not going to stay here!” was all she said.
Lon lifted his fist and stood up.
“Where ye goin’?”
“Back to Tarrytown.”
She was standing close to him, her blazing eyes daring him to strike her.
“What about Flukey?”
“You couldn’t have him, either, if—if he isn’t yours.”
Lon walked to the door and opened it.
“Scoot if ye want to—I don’t care. But ye’ll remember that I’ll kill that sick kid, Fluke, and Lem’ll put an end to the Tarrytown duffer what loves ye. I hate him, too!”
Fledra dropped to the floor as if he had struck her.
For some moments her senses were gone, and she opened
her eyes only when
Lon, vaguely alarmed, threw water in her face.
Cronk entered the scow sullenly and sat down. Lem was sitting at the table, bending over a tin basin in which he was washing his bitten fingers. The steel hook and its leather strappings lay on the table.
“I telled Flea,” said the squatter after a silence.
“Did ye tell her she was comin’ to my boat tonight?” asked Lem eagerly.
“Nope; but I telled her that she weren’t my gal.”
“Ye cussed fool!” cried Crabbe, jumping to his feet. “Ye won’t keep her now, I bet that!”
Cronk smiled covertly.
“Aw, don’t ye believe it! She be as safe stuck in that hut as if I’d nailed her leg to the floor. Ye don’t know Flea, ye don’t, Lem. She didn’t come back with us ’cause she were my brat, but ’cause we was goin’ to kill Flukey and Shellington. God! how she w’iggled when I opened the door and telled her to scoot back to Tarrytown if she wanted to! But I didn’t forgit to tell her what we’d do to them two others down there, if she’d go. She floundered down and up like a live sucker in a hot skillet. What a plagued fool she is!”
Lon sat back in his chair and laughed loudly.
“Ye’ll play with her till ye make her desprite,” snarled Lem, “and when she be gone ye can holler the lungs out of ye, and she won’t come back. If ye’d left her to me, I’d a drubbed her till she wouldn’t think of Tarrytown. I says as how she comes to this scow tonight. Ye can’t dicker with me like ye can with that kid, Lon!”