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- The Right of Way, Volume 1. - 13/13 -

Charley stooped, picked up his hat, and put it on his head again coolly.

"Stop that, or I'll clear the bar!" cried Theophile Charlemagne, taking the pistol Suzon slipped into his hand. The sight of the pistol drove the men wild, and more than one snatched at the knife in his belt.

At that instant there pushed forward into the clear space beside Charley Steele the great figure of Jake Hough, the horse-doctor, the strongest man, and the most popular Englishman on the river. He took his stand by Charley, raised his great hand, smote him in the small of his back, and said:

"By the Lord, you have sand, and I'll stand by you!" Under the friendly but heavy stroke the monocle shot from Charley's eye the length of the string. Charley lifted it again, put it up, and staring hard at Jake, coolly said:

"I beg your pardon--but have I ever--been introduced to you?"

What unbelievable indifference to danger, what disdain to friendliness, made Charley act as he did is a matter for speculation. It was throwing away his one chance; it was foppery on the scaffold--an incorrigible affectation or a relentless purpose.

Jake Hough strode forward into the crowd, rage in his eye. "Go to the devil, then, and take care of yourself!" he said roughly.

"Please," said Charley.

They were the last words he uttered that night, for suddenly the other lantern went out, there was a rush and a struggle, a muffled groan, a shrill woman's voice, a scramble and hurrying feet, a noise of a something splashing heavily in the water outside. When the lights were up again the room was empty, save for Theophile Charlemagne, Jake Hough, and Suzon, who lay in a faint on the floor with a nasty bruise on her forehead.

A score of river-drivers were scattering into the country-side, and somewhere in the black river, alive or dead, was Charley Steele.


He had had acquaintances, but never friendships, and never loves He has wheeled his nuptial bed into the street He left his fellow-citizens very much alone I am only myself when I am drunk I should remember to forget it Liquor makes me human Nervous legs at a gallop So say your prayers, believe all you can, don't ask questions Was not civilisation a mistake Who knows!

The Right of Way, Volume 1. - 13/13

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