“Stand back there, Crabbe!” ordered Everett. “You have nothing to do with this.”
But, as the lawyer spoke, Lem sprang forward with the fierceness of a wild beast. Instantly followed the report of a revolver; but the bullet went wide and sunk into the opposite wall, for, as Everett aimed at Lem, Fledra twisted and struck his arm so heavily that his fingers loosened and the weapon clattered across the room.
The impact of the scowman’s body bore the lawyer down, while Fledra was thrown away from the struggle by a sweep of Lem’s left arm. Ann was petrified with fear; but this did not keep her from picking up the girl from the floor. In her terror she took in each motion of the fighters. She saw Lem lift his left hand, and heard the sickening thud as his great brown fist struck Everett full in the face. She saw the hook flash in the candlelight, then bury its glittering prong in the other’s neck. Everett screamed once, then was silent; for with his unmaimed hand the scowman had grasped his enemy’s throat and was shaking the body as a dog does a rat. In his frenzy, Lem threshed and tumbled Brimbecomb about on the hut floor, the sight of his rival’s blood sending him mad; and always the sound of his gasps and chokes rose above the struggle. Of a sudden the gurgles in the throat of the scowman ceased, his face became purple black, and it seemed to Ann that his blood must burst through the thick skin. With one last movement he again buried his hook in Everett, then tried to throw the body from him; but, instead, he himself, fell in a heap on the floor.
Suddenly the door opened, and Scraggy Peterson staggered into the hut.
She sent no glance at Ann, nor did she see Fledra shrinking in the corner. No thought came to her weak brain save of the two men at grips with death. She staggered forward with a cry.
“Lemmy, Lemmy, ye wouldn’t kill yer own brat?... He’s our little ’un!... Lemmy!... God!... Ye’ve killed him!”
Scraggy put her hands on Everett, and saw Lem struggle to sit up, the lust of killing still blazing in his eyes. He had heard the woman’s words, and as he slowly grasped the import of them he turned over and raised his head while pulling desperately at his throat.
“Oh, Lemmy, love,” she murmured, “ye’ve killed him this time! He’s dead!” She leaned farther over, and kissed the white face of her son. “Yer hook’s killed our little ’un, Lemmy—my little ’un, my little ’un!”
“Oh, no, no, he isn’t dead!” cried Ann. “He can’t be dead!” She let go her hold on Fledra, and, with Scraggy, bent over Everett. “Oh, he breathes! But he isn’t your son?”
“Yep; he be Lemmy’s boy and mine,” answered Scraggy, lifting her eyes once more to Ann. “Look! He were hurt here by the hook when he were a baby.” She drew aside Everett’s tattered shirt-front and displayed a long white mark.