Slowly Fingers had risen from his chair. No longer were his eyes dull and lifeless, but flaming with a fire that Kent had lighted again after many years. And he reached out a hand and gripped Kent’s, still staring at him as though something had come back to him from the dead.
“I thank you, Kent, for your opinion of that man,” he said. “Somehow, you haven’t made me—ashamed. But it was only the shell of a man that won out after that day when I took Tatman’s place. Something happened. I don’t know what. But—you see me now. I never went back into the diggings. I degenerated. I became what I am.”
“And you are today just what you were when you went out to die for Mary Tatman,” cried Kent. “The same heart and the same soul are in you. Wouldn’t you fight again today for her?”
A stifled cry came from Fingers’ lips. “My God, yes, Kent—I would!”
“And that’s why I wanted you, of all men, to come to me, Fingers,” Kent went on swiftly. “To you, of all the men on earth, I wanted to tell my story. And now, will you listen to it? Will you forgive me for bringing up this memory that must be precious to you, only that you might more fully understand what I am going to say? I don’t want you to think of it as a subterfuge on my part. It is more than that. It is—Fingers, is it inspiration? Listen, and tell me.”
And for a long time after that James Kent talked, and Fingers listened, the soul within him writhing and dragging itself back into fierce life, demanding for the first time in many years the something which it had once possessed, but which it had lost. It was not the lazy, mysterious, silent Dirty Fingers who sat in the cell with Kent. In him the spirit of twenty years ago had roused itself from long slumber, and the thrill of it pounded in his blood. Two-Fisted Fingers they had called him then, and he was Two-Fisted Fingers in this hour with Kent. Twice Father Layonne came to the head of the cell alcove, but turned back when he heard the low and steady murmur of Kent’s voice. Nothing did Kent keep hidden, and when he had finished, something that was like the fire of a revelation had come into Fingers’ face.
“My God!” he breathed deeply. “Kent, I’ve been sitting down there on my porch a long time, and a good many strange things have come to me, but never anything like this. Oh, if it wasn’t for this accursed flesh of mine!”
He jumped from his chair more quickly than he had moved in ten years, and he laughed as he had not laughed in all that time. He thrust out a great arm and doubled it up, like a prizefighter testing his muscle. “Old? I’m not old! I was only twenty-eight when that happened up there, and I’m forty-eight now. That isn’t old. It’s what is in me that’s grown old. I’ll do it, Kent! I’ll do it, if I hang for it!”