If the people in the houses that he passed had known they would have started up from their chairs and taken rifle and horse and chased after him on the trail. But how could they tell from the passing of those ringing hoofs that Pierre, the novice, was dead, and Red Pierre was born?

So they drowsed on about their comfortable fires, and Pierre drew rein with a jerk before the largest of Morgantown's saloons. He had to set his teeth before he could summon the resolution to throw open the door. It was done; he stepped inside, and stood blinking in the sudden rush of light against his face.

It was all bewildering at first; the radiance, the blue tangle of smoke, the storm of voices. For Muldoon's was packed from door to door. Coins rang in a steady chorus along the bar, and the crowd waited three and four deep.

Someone was singing a rollicking song of the range at one end of the bar, and a chorus of four bellowed a profane parody at the other end.

The ears of Pierre le Rouge tingled hotly, and partly to escape the uproar he worked his way to the quieter room at the back of the saloon.

It was almost as crowded as the bar, but here no one spoke except for an occasional growl. Sudden speaking, and a loud voice, indeed, was hardly safe. Someone cursed at his ill-luck as Pierre entered, and a dozen hands reached for six-guns. In such a place one had to be prepared.

Pierre remembered with quick dismay that he was not armed. All his life the straight black gown had been weapon enough to make all men give way before him. Now he carried no borrowed strength upon his shoulders.

Automatically he slipped his fingers under the breast of his shirt until their tips touched the cold metal of the cross. That gave him stronger courage. The joy of the adventure made his blood warm again as he drew out his one coin and looked for a place to start his venture.

So he approached the nearest table. On the surface of it were marked six squares with chalk, and each with its appropriate number. The man who ran the game stood behind the table and shook three dice. The numbers which turned up paid the gambler. The numbers which failed to show paid the owner of the game.

His luck had been too strong that night, and now only two men faced him, and both of them lost persistently. They were “bucking” the dice with savage stubbornness.

Pierre edged closer, shut his eyes, and deposited his coin. When he looked again he saw that he had wagered on the five.


The dice clattered across the table and were swept up by the hand of the man behind the table before Pierre could note them. Sick at heart, he began to turn away, as he saw that hand reach out and gather in the coins of the other two bettors. It went out a third time and laid another fifty-cent piece upon his. The heart of Pierre bounded up to his throat.

Again the dice rolled, and this time he saw distinctly two fives turn up. Two dollars in silver were dropped upon his, and still he let the money lie. Again, again, and again the dice rolled. And now there were pieces of gold among the silver that covered the square of the five. The other two looked askance at him, and the owner of the game growled: “Gimme room for the coins, stranger, will you?”

Pierre picked up his winnings. In his left hand he held them, and the coins brimmed his cupped palm. With the free hand he placed his new wagers. But he lost now.

“I cannot win forever,” thought Pierre, and redoubled his bets in an effort to regain the lost ground.

Still his little fortune dwindled, till the sweat came out on his forehead and the blood that had flushed his face ran back and left him pale with dread. And at last there remained only one gold piece. He hesitated, holding it poised for the wager, while the owner of the game rattled the dice loudly and looked up at the coin with hungry eyes.

Once more Pierre closed his eyes and laid his wager, while his empty left hand slipped again inside his shirt and touched the metal of the cross, and once more when he opened his eyes the hand of the gambler was going out to lay a second coin over his.

“It is the cross!” thought Pierre. “It is the cross which brings me luck.”

The dice rattled out. He won. Again, and still he won. The gambler wiped his forehead and looked up anxiously. For these were wagers in gold, and the doubling stakes were running high. About Pierre a crowd had grown—a dozen cattlemen who watched the growing heap of gold with silent fascination. Then they began to make wagers of their own, and there were faint whispers of wrath and astonishment as the dice clicked out and each time the winnings of Pierre doubled.

Suddenly the dealer stopped and held up his left hand as a warning. With his right, very slowly, inch by inch lest anyone should suspect him of a gunplay, he drew out a heavy forty-five and laid it on the table with the belt of cartridges. “Three years she's been on my hip through thick and thin, stranger. Three years she's shot close an' true. There ain't a butt in the world that hugs your hand tighter. There ain't a cylinder that spins easier. Shoot? Lad, even a kid like you could be a killer with that six-gun. What will you lay ag'in' it?”

And his red-stained eyes glanced covetously at the yellow heap of Pierre's money.

“How much?” said Pierre eagerly. “Is there enough on the table to buy the gun?”

“Buy?” said the other fiercely. “There ain't enough coin west of the Rockies to buy that gun. D'you think I'm yaller enough to sell my six? No, but I'll risk it in a fair bet. There ain't no disgrace in that; eh, pals?”

There was a chorus of low grunts of assent.

“All right,” said Pierre. “That pile against the gun.”

“All of it?”


“Look here, kid, if you're tryin' to play a charity game with me—”

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