The other reached up to snatch the hand from his shoulder, but he stayed his arm.

He said after an uncomfortable moment of that silent staring: “Well, partner, there ain't a hell of a lot to get sore over, is there? You don't figure you're a mate for McGurk, do you?”

He seemed oddly relieved when the eyes of Pierre moved away from him and returned to the figure of Carlos Diaz. The Mexican was a perfect model for a painting of a melodramatic villain. He had waxed and twirled the end of his black mustache so that it thrust out a little spur on either side of his long face. His habitual expression was a scowl; his habitual position was with a cigarette in the fingers of his left hand, and his right hand resting on his hip. He sat in a chair directly behind that of Hurley, and Pierre's new-found acquaintance explained: “He's the bodyguard for Hurley. Maybe there's some who could down Hurley in a straight gunfight; maybe there's one or two like McGurk that could down Diaz—damn his yellow hide—but there ain't no one can buck the two of 'em. It ain't in reason. So they play the game together. Hurley works the cards and Diaz covers up the retreat. Can't beat that, can you?”

Pierre le Rouge slipped his left hand once more inside his shirt until the fingers touched the cross.

“Nevertheless, that game has to stop.”

“Who'll—say, kid, are you stringin' me, or are you drunk? Look me in the eye!”


Pierre turned and looked calmly upon the other.

And the man whispered in a sort of awe: “Well, I'll be damned!”

“Stand aside!”

The other fell back a pace, and Pierre went straight to the table and said to Cochrane: “Sir, I have come to take you home.”

The old man looked up and rubbed his eyes as though waking from a sleep.

“Stand back from the table!” warned Hurley.

“By the Lord, have they been missing me?” queried old Cochrane. “You are waited for,” answered Pierre le Rouge, “and I've been sent to take you home.”

“If that's the case—”

“It ain't the case. The kid's lying.”

“Lying?” repeated Cochrane, as if he had never heard the word before, and he peered with clearing eyes toward Pierre. “No, I think this boy has never lied.”

Silence had spread through the place like a vapor. Even the slight sounds in the gaming-room were done now, and one pair after another of eyes swung toward the table of Cochrane and Hurley. The wave of the silence reached to the barroom. No one could have carried the tidings so soon, but the air was surcharged with the consciousness of an impending crisis.

Half a dozen men started to make their way on tiptoe toward the back room. One stood with his whisky glass suspended in midair, and tilted back his head to listen. In the gaming-room Hurley pushed back his chair and leaned to the left, giving him a free sweep for his right hand. The Mexican smiled with a slow and deep content.

“Thank you,” answered Pierre, “but I am waiting still, sir.”

The left hand of Hurley played impatiently on the table.

He said: “Of course, if you have enough—”

“I—enough?” flared the old aristocrat.

Pierre le Rouge turned fairly upon Hurley.

“In the name of God,” he said calmly, “make an end of your game. You're playing for money, but I think this man is playing for his eternal soul.”

The solemn, bookish phraseology came smoothly from his tongue. He knew no other. It drew a murmur of amusement from the room and a snarl from Hurley.

“Put on skirts, kid, and join the Salvation Army, but don't get yourself messed all up in here. This is my party, and I'm damned particular who I invite! Now, run along!” The head of Pierre tilted back, and he burst into laughter which troubled even Hurley.

The gambler blurted: “What's happening to you, kid?”

“I've been making a lot of good resolutions, Mr. Hurley, about keeping out of trouble; but here I am in it up to the neck.”

“No trouble as long as you keep your hand out of another man's game, kid.”

“That's it. I can't see you rob Mr. Cochrane like this. You aren't gambling—you're digging gold. The game stops now.”

It was a moment before the crowd realized what was about to happen; they saw it reflected first in the face of Hurley, which suddenly went taut and pale, and then, even as they looked with a smile of curiosity and derision toward Pierre le Rouge, they saw and understood.

For the moment Pierre said, “The game stops now,” the calm which had been with him was gone. It was like the scent of blood to the starved wolf. The last word was scarcely off his tongue when he was crouched with a devil of green fury in his eyes—the light struck his hair into a wave of flame—his face altered by a dozen ugly years.

“D'you mean?” whispered Hurley, as if he feared to break the silence with his full voice.

“Get out of the room.”

And the impulse of Hurley, plainly enough, was to obey the order, and go anywhere to escape from that

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