“Are you licked?” he asked.
“Yes,” whined the tramp.
“You have stolen—in most dirty style. I whipped you for that job. Now will you stay licked for some time?”
“You’ll go on about your own business, will you, without any more foolish talk about those garments?”
“Are you sorry you stole from that good woman who fed you?”
The man of the brown eyes swung himself off his prostrate victim, as a rider dismounts from a horse, and the tramp sat up, moaning and patting his purple face.
“I never had no luck, never,” he blubbered. “I was kicked out of jail before the weather got warmed up, I was thrown in last fall just when the Indian summer was beginning. When other fellows get hand-outs of pie I get cold potatoes and bannock bread. I have to walk when other fellows ride. I’m too fat for the trucks and they can always see me on the blind baggage. I’ll keep on walking. I never had no luck in all my life.”
He rolled upon his hands and knees and then stood up. He started away, wholly cowed, whining like a quill-pig, bewailing his luck.
“Luck!” the man of the brown eyes shouted after him in a tone which expressed anger and regret. “What do you know about luck, you animated lard-pail? A thing like you is in luck when he is in jail where there is no workshop. Better luck than that is too good for you. Hold on one minute! Turn around and look at me.”
The tramp obeyed. The stranger pounded one of those hard fists on his own breast.
“I say look at me! No matter what I was once! But to-day you found me cooking bacon over three sticks and ready to fight for another man’s cast-off clothes. And in between whiles I have hiked every path that the hobo knows between the oceans. Now jog on and think that over and keep your jaw shut on luck! I say jog on! Don’t look back. Forget that you ever saw me.”
He waved angry gesture and took two steps as though to enforce his command with his fists.
The tramp jogged on at a brisk pace. He hurried to the highway and set out on his shuffling pilgrimage, rubbing his aching face and muttering to himself.
THE GIRL WHO GUARDED HER LIPS
The brown eyes of the victor watched the tramp out of sight and for some moments surveyed the nick in the undergrowth where the fellow had disappeared.
There was no anger in the eyes. There had been none while their possessor had been pummeling the wretch. He had beaten the man up in a calm, methodical and perfectly business-like manner.
When at last he turned and looked at the clothing he smiled whimsically.
“The perambulating pork-barrel thinks I am crazy,” he mused, looking at the frock-coat. He had stripped that garment from his shoulders and had tossed it on a bush when he had decided on combat. “If I should stop to argue the matter with myself just now I should find myself flattering his good judgment. I have robbed a poor devil for a whim. Thank God, I went at it brutally and frankly. There was no ‘high finance’ sneak-thieving about that job. I sent him away with his face smarting. They sent me away with my soul black-and-blue.”