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- Northern Lights, Volume 5. - 3/11 -
that Halbeck had beaten me, had escaped. Of course I couldn't stay in the Force, having done that. But, by the heaven above us, if I had him here now, I'd do the thing--do it, so help me God!"
"Why should you ruin your life for him?" she said, with an outburst of indignation. All that was in her heart welled up in her eyes at the thought of what Foyle was. "You must not do it. You shall not do it. He must pay for his wickedness, not you. It would be a sin. You and what becomes of you mean so much." Suddenly with a flash of purpose she added: "He will come for that letter, Nett. He would run any kind of risk to get a dollar. He will come here for that letter--perhaps today."
He shook his head moodily, oppressed by the trouble that was on him. "He's not likely to venture here, after what's happened."
"You don't know him as well as I do, Nett. He is so vain he'd do it, just to show that he could. He'd' probably come in the evening. Does any one know him here? So many people pass through Kowatin every day. Has any one seen him?"
"Only Billy Goatry," he answered, working his way to a solution of the dark problem. "Only Billy Goatry knows him. The fellow that led the singing--that was Goatry."
"There he is now," he added, as Billy Goat passed the window.
She came and laid a hand on his arm. "We've got to settle things with him," she said. "If Dorl comes, Nett--"
There was silence for a moment, then he caught her hand in his and held it. "If he comes, leave him to me, Jo. You will leave him to me?" he added anxiously.
"Yes," she answered. "You'll do what's right-by Bobby?"
"And by Dorl, too," he replied strangely. There were loud footsteps without.
"It's Goatry," said Foyle. "You stay here. I'll tell him everything. He's all right; he's a true friend. He'll not interfere."
The handle of the door turned slowly. "You keep watch on the post- office, Jo," he added.
Goatry came round the opening door with a grin. "Hope I don't intrude," he said, stealing a half-leering look at the girl. As soon as he saw her face, however, he straightened himself up and took on different manners. He had not been so intoxicated as he had made, out, and he seemed only "mellow" as he stood before them, with his corrugated face and queer, quaint look, the eye with the cast in it blinking faster than the. other.
"It's all right, Goatry," said Foyle. "This lady is, one of my family from the East."
"Goin' on by stage?" Goatry said vaguely, as they shook hands.
She did not reply, for she was looking down the street, and presently she started as she gazed. She laid a hand suddenly on Foyle's arm.
"See--he's come," she said in a whisper, and as though not realising Goatry's presence. "He's come."
Goatry looked as well as Foyle. "Halbeck--the devil!" he said.
Foyle turned to him. "Stand by, Goatry. I want you to keep a shut mouth. I've work to do."
Goatry held out his hand. "I'm with you. If you get him this time, clamp him, clamp him like a tooth in a harrow."
Halbeck had stopped his horse at the post-office door. Dismounting he looked quickly round, then drew the reins over the horse's head, letting them trail, as is the custom of the West.
A few swift words passed between Goatry and Foyle. "I'll do this myself, Jo," he whispered to the girl presently. "Go into another room. I'll bring him here."
In another minute Goatry was leading the horse away from the post-office, while Foyle stood waiting quietly at the door. The departing footsteps of the horse brought Halbeck swiftly to the doorway, with a letter in his hand.
"Hi, there, you damned sucker!" he called after Goatry, and then saw Foyle waiting.
"What the hell--!" he said fiercely, his hand on something in his hip pocket.
"Keep quiet, Dorl. I want to have a little talk with you. Take your hand away from that gun--take it away," he added with a meaning not to be misunderstood.
Halbeck knew that one shout would have the town on him, and he did not know what card his brother was going to play. He let his arm drop to his side. "What's your game? What do you want?" he asked surlily.
"Come over to the Happy Land Hotel," Foyle answered, and in the light of what was in his mind his words had a grim irony.
With a snarl Halbeck stepped out. Goatry, who had handed the horse over to the hostler, watched them coming.
"Why did I never notice the likeness before?" Goatry said to himself. "But, gosh! what a difference in the men. Foyle's going to double cinch him this time, I guess."
He followed them inside the hall of the Happy Land. When they stepped into the sitting-room, he stood at the door waiting. The hotel was entirely empty, the roisterers at the Prairie Home having drawn off the idlers and spectators. The barman was nodding behind the bar, the proprietor was moving about in the backyard inspecting a horse. There was a cheerful warmth everywhere, the air was like an elixir, the pungent smell of a pine-tree at the door gave a kind of medicament to the indrawn breath. And to Billy Goat, who sometimes sang in the choir of a church not a hundred miles away--for people agreed to forget his occasional sprees--there came, he knew not why, the words of a hymn he had sung only the preceding Sunday:
"As pants the hart for cooling streams, When heated in the chase--"
The words kept ringing in his ears as he listened to the conversation inside the room--the partition was thin, the door thinner, and he heard much. Foyle had asked him not to intervene, but only to stand by and await the issue of this final conference. He meant, however, to take a hand in, if he thought he was needed, and he kept his ear glued to the door. If he thought Foyle needed him--his fingers were on the handle of the door.
"Now, hurry up! What do you want with me?" asked Halbeck of his brother.
"Take your time," said ex-Sergeant Foyle, as he drew the blind three- quarters down, so that they could not be seen from the street.
"I'm in a hurry, I tell you. I've got my plans. I'm going South. I've only just time to catch the Canadian Pacific three days from now, riding hard."
"You're not going South, Dorl."
"Where am I going, then?" was the sneering reply. "Not farther than the Happy Land."
"What the devil's all this? You don't mean you're trying to arrest me again, after letting me go?"
"You don't need to ask. You're my prisoner. You're my prisoner," he said in a louder voice--" until you free yourself."
"I'll do that damn quick, then," said the other, his hand flying to his hip.
"Sit down," was the sharp rejoinder, and a pistol was in his face before he could draw his own weapon. "Put your gun on the table," Foyle said quietly. Halbeck did so. There was no other way.
Foyle drew it over to himself. His brother made a motion to rise.
"Sit still, Dorl," came the warning voice.
White with rage, the freebooter sat still, his dissipated face and heavy angry lips looking like a debauched and villainous caricature of his brother before him.
"Yes, I suppose you'd have potted me, Dorl," said the ex-sergeant.
"You'd have thought no more of doing that than you did of killing Linley, the ranchman; than you did of trying to ruin Jo Byndon, your wife's sister, when she was sixteen years old, when she was caring for your child--giving her life for the child you brought into the world."
"What in the name of hell--it's a lie!"
"Don't bluster. I know the truth."
"Who told you-the truth?"
"She did--to-day--an hour ago."
"She here--out here?" There was a new cowed note in the voice.
"She is in the next room."
"What did she come here for?"
"To make you do right by your own child. I wonder what a jury of decent men would think about a man who robbed his child for five years, and let that child be fed and clothed and cared for by the girl he tried to destroy, the girl he taught what sin there was in the world."
"She put you up to this. She was always in love with you, and you know it."
There was a dangerous look in Foyle's eyes, and his jaw set hard. "There would be no shame in a decent woman caring for me, even if it was true. I haven't put myself outside the boundary as you have. You're my brother, but you're the worst scoundrel in the country--the worst
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