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- Northern Lights, Volume 4. - 13/13 -


pardon." In his heart he felt that he had offered a mean affront to every person present, to the town where his interests lay, where his heart lay.

Where his heart lay--Molly Mackinder! He knew now that vanity had something to do, if not all to do, with his violent acts, and though there suddenly shot through his mind, as he rode back, a savage thrill at the remembrance of how he had handled the three, it was only a passing emotion. He was bent on putting himself right with Jopp and with La Touche. With the former his way was clear; he did not yet see his way as to La Touche. How would he be able to make the amende honorable to La Touche?

By and by he became somewhat less absorbed and enveloped by the comforting night. He saw the glimmer of red light afar, and vaguely wondered what it was. It was in the direction of O'Ryan's Ranch, but he thought nothing of it, because it burned steadily. It was probably a fire lighted by settlers trailing to the farther north. While the night wore on he rode as slowly back to the town as he had galloped from it like a centaur with a captive.

Again and again Molly Mackinder's face came before him; but he resolutely shut it out of his thoughts. He felt that he had no right to think of her until he had "done the right thing" by Jopp and by La Touche. Yet the look in her face as the curtain came down, it was not that of one indifferent to him or to what he did. He neared the town half-way between midnight and morning. Almost unconsciously avoiding the main streets, he rode a roundabout way towards the little house where Constantine Jopp lived. He could hear loud noises in the streets, singing, and hoarse shouts. Then silence came, then shouts, and silence again. It was all quiet as he rode up to Jopp's house, standing on the outskirts of the town. There was a bright light in the window of a room.

Jopp, then, was still up. He would not wait till tomorrow. He would do the right thing now. He would put things straight with his foe before he slept; he would do it at any sacrifice to his pride. He had conquered his pride.

He dismounted, threw the bridle over a post, and, going into the garden, knocked gently at the door. There was no response. He knocked again, and listened intently. Now he heard a sound-like a smothered cry or groan. He opened the door quickly and entered. It was dark. In another room beyond was a light. From it came the same sound he had heard before, but louder; also there was a shuffling footstep. Springing forward to the half-open door, he pushed it wide, and met the terror- stricken eyes of Constantine Jopp--the same look that he had seen at the theatre when his hands were on Jopp's throat, but more ghastly.

Jopp was bound to a chair by a lasso. Both arms were fastened to the chair-arm, and beneath them, on the floor, were bowls into which blood dripped from his punctured wrists.

He had hardly taken it all in--the work of an instant--when he saw crouched in a corner, madness in his eyes, his half-breed Vigon. He grasped the situation in a flash. Vigon had gone mad, had lain in wait in Jopp's house, and when the man he hated had seated himself in the chair, had lassoed him, bound him, and was slowly bleeding him to death.

He had no time to think. Before he could act Vigon was upon him also, frenzy in his eyes, a knife clutched in his hand. Reason had fled, and he only saw in O'Ryan the frustrator of his revenge. He had watched the drip, drip from his victim's wrists with a dreadful joy.

They were man and man, but O'Ryan found in this grisly contest a vaster trial of strength than in the fight upon the stage a few hours ago. The first lunge that Vigon made struck him on the tip of the shoulder, and drew blood; but he caught the hand holding the knife in an iron grasp, while the half-breed, with superhuman strength, tried in vain for the long brown throat of the man for whom he had struck oil. As they struggled and twisted, the eyes of the victim in the chair watched them with agonised emotions. For him it was life or death. He could not cry out--his mouth was gagged; but to O'Ryan his groans were like a distant echo of his own hoarse gasps as he fought his desperate fight. Terry was as one in an awful dream battling with vague impersonal powers which slowly strangled his life, yet held him back in torture from the final surrender.

For minutes they struggled. At last O'Ryan's strength came to the point of breaking, for Vigon was a powerful man, and to this was added a madman's energy. He felt that the end was coming. But all at once, through the groans of the victim in the chair, Terry became conscious of noises outside--such noises as he had heard before he entered the house, only nearer and louder. At the same time he heard a horse's hoofs, then a knock at the door, and a voice calling: "Jopp! Jopp!"

He made a last desperate struggle, and shouted hoarsely.

An instant later there were footsteps in the room, followed by a cry of fright and amazement.

It was Gow Johnson. He had come to warn Constantine Jopp that a crowd were come to tar and feather him, and to get him away on his own horse.

Now he sprang to the front door, called to the approaching crowd for help, then ran back to help O'Ryan. A moment later a dozen men had Vigon secure, and had released Constantine Jopp, now almost dead from loss of blood.

As they took the gag from his mouth and tied their handkerchiefs round his bleeding wrists, Jopp sobbed aloud. His eyes were fixed on Terry O'Ryan. Terry met the look, and grasped the limp hand lying on the chair-arm.

"I'm sorry, O'Ryan, I'm sorry for all I've done to you," Jopp sobbed. "I was a sneak, but I want to own it. I want to be square now. You can tar and feather me, if you like. I deserve it." He looked at the others. "I deserve it," he repeated.

"That's what the boys had thought would be appropriate," said Gow Johnson with a dry chuckle, and the crowd looked at each other and winked. The wink was kindly, however. "To own up and take your gruel" was the easiest way to touch the men of the prairie.

A half-hour later the roisterers, who had meant to carry Constantine Jopp on a rail, carried Terry O'Ryan on their shoulders through the town, against his will. As they passed the house where Miss Mackinder lived some one shouted:

"Are you watching the rise of Orion?"

Many a time thereafter Terry O'Ryan and Molly Mackinder looked at the galaxy in the evening sky with laughter and with pride. It had played its part with Fate against Constantine Jopp and the little widow at Jansen. It had never shone so brightly as on the night when Vigon struck oil on O'Ryan's ranch. But Vigon had no memory of that. Such is the irony of life.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Babbling covers a lot of secrets Beneath it all there was a little touch of ridicule What'll be the differ a hundred years from now


Northern Lights, Volume 4. - 13/13

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