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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 1. - 5/10 -
That, indeed, was what he saw. After two years of secret negotiation he had (inspired by information dropped by Jesse Bulrush, his fellow- boarder) made definite arrangements for a big land-deal in connection with the route of a new railway and a town-site, which would mean more to him than any one could know. If it went through, he would, for an investment of ten thousand dollars, have a hundred and fifty thousand dollars; and that would solve an everlasting problem for him.
He had reached a critical point in his enterprise. All that was wanted now was ten thousand dollars in cash to enable him to close the great bargain and make his hundred and fifty thousand. But to want ten thousand dollars and to get it in a given space of time, when you have neither securities, cash, nor real estate, is enough to keep you awake at night. Crozier had been so busy with the delicate and difficult negotiations that he had not deeply concerned himself with the absence of the necessary ten thousand dollars. He thought he could get the money at any time, so good was the proposition; and it was best to defer raising it to the last moment lest some one learning the secret should forestall him. He must first have the stake to be played for before he moved to get the cash with which to make the throw. This is not generally thought a good way, but it was his way, and it had yet to be tested.
There was no cloud of apprehension, however, in Crozier's eyes as they met those of Sibley. He liked Sibley. At this point it is not necessary to say why. The reason will appear in due time. Sibley's face had always something of that immobility and gravity which Crozier's face had part of the time-paler, less intelligent, with dark lines and secret shadows absent from Crozier's face; but still with some of the El Greco characteristics which marked so powerfully that of the man who passed as J. G. Kerry.
"Ah, Sibley," he said, "glad to see you! Anything I can do for you?"
"It's the other way if there's any doing at all," was the quick response.
"Well, let's walk along together," remarked Crozier a little abstractedly, for he was thinking hard about his great enterprise.
"We might be seen," said Sibley, with an obvious undermeaning meant to provoke a question.
Crozier caught the undertone of suggestion. "Being about to burgle the bank, it's well not to be seen together--eh?"
"No, I'm not in on that business, Mr. Kerry. I'm for breaking banks, not burgling 'em," was the cheerful reply.
They laughed, but Crozier knew that the observant gambling farmer was not talking at haphazard. They had met on the highway, as it were, many times since Crozier had come to Askatoon, and Crozier knew his man.
"Well, what are we going to do, and who will see us if we do it?" Crozier asked briskly.
"Studd Bradley and his secret-service corps have got their eyes on this street--and on you," returned Sibley dryly.
Crozier's face sobered and his eyes became less emotional. "I don't see them anywhere," he answered, but looking nowhere.
"They're in Gus Burlingame's office. They had you under observation while you were in the bank."
"I couldn't run off with the land, could I?" Crozier remarked dryly, yet suggestively, in his desire to see how much Sibley knew.
"Well, you said it was a bank. I've no more idea what it is you're tryin' to run off with than I know what an ace is goin' to do when there's a joker in the pack," remarked Sibley; "but I thought I'd tell you that Bradley and his lot are watchin' you gettin' ready to run." Then he hastily told what he had seen.
Crozier was reassured. It was natural that Bradley & Co. should take an interest in his movements. They would make a pile of money if he pulled off the deal-far more than he would. It was not strange that they should watch his invasion of the bank. They knew he wanted money, and a bank was the place to get it. That was the way he viewed the matter on the instant. He replied to Sibley cheerfully. "A hundred to one is a lot when you win it," he said enigmatically.
"It depends on how much you have on," was Sibley's quiet reply--"a dollar or a thousand dollars.
"If you've got a big thing on, and you've got an outsider that you think is goin' to win and beat the favourite, it's just as well to run no risks. Believe me, Mr. Kerry, if you've got anything on that asks for your attention, it'd be sense and saving if you didn't give evidence at the Logan Trial next week. It's pretty well-guessed what you're goin' to say and what you know, and you take it from me, the M'Mahon mob that's behind Logan 'll have it in for you. They're terrors when they get goin', and if your evidence puts one of that lot away, ther'll be trouble for you. I wouldn't do it--honest, I wouldn't. I've been out West here a good many years, and I know the place and the people. It's a good place, and there's lots of first-class people here, but there's a few offscourings that hang like wolves on the edge of the sheepfold, ready to murder and git."
"That was what you wanted to see me about, wasn't it?" Crozier asked quietly.
"Yes; the other was just a shot on the chance. I don't like to see men sneakin' about and watching. If they do, you can bet there's something wrong. But the other thing, the Logan Trial business, is a dead certainty. You're only a new-comer, in a kind of way, and you don't need to have the same responsibility as the rest. The Law'll get what it wants whether you chip in or not. Let it alone. What's the Law ever done for you that you should run risks for it? It's straight talk, Mr. Kerry. Have a cancer in the bowels next week or go off to see a dyin' brother, but don't give evidence at the Logan Trial--don't do it. I got a feeling--I'm superstitious--all sportsmen are. By following my instincts I've saved myself a whole lot in my time."
"Yes; all men that run chances have their superstitions, and they're not to be sneered at," replied Crozier thoughtfully. "If you see black, don't play white; if you see a chestnut crumpled up, put your money on the bay even when the chestnut is a favourite. Of course you're superstitious, Sibley. The tan and the green baize are covered with ghosts that want to help you, if you'll let them."
Sibley's mouth opened in amazement. Crozier was speaking with the look of the man who hypnotises himself, who "sees things," who dreams as only the gambler and the plunger on the turf do dream, not even excepting the latter-day Irish poets.
"Say, I was right what I said to Deely--I was right," remarked Sibley almost huskily, for it seemed to him as though he had found a long-lost brother. No man except one who had staked all he had again and again could have looked or spoken like that.
Crozier looked at the other thoughtfully for a moment, then he said:
"I don't know what you said to Deely, but I do know that I'm going to the Logan Trial in spite of the M'Mahon mob. I don't feel about it as you do. I've got a different feeling, Sibley. I'll play the game out. I shall not hedge. I shall not play for safety. It's everything on the favourite this time."
"You'll excuse me, but Gus Burlingame is for the defence, and he's got his knife into you," returned Sibley.
"Not yet." Crozier smiled sardonically.
"Well, I apologise, but what I've said, Mr. Kerry, is said as man to man. You're ridin' game in a tough place, as any man has to do who starts with only his pants and his head on. That's the way you begun here, I guess; and I don't want to see your horse tumble because some one throws a fence-rail at its legs. Your class has enemies always in a new country --jealousy, envy."
The lean, aristocratic, angular Crozier, with a musing look on his long face, grown ascetic again, as he held out his hand and gripped that of the other, said warmly: "I'm just as much obliged to you as though I took your advice, Sibley. I am not taking it, but I am taking a pledge to return the compliment to you if ever I get the chance."
"Well, most men get chances of that kind," was the gratified reply of the gambling farmer, and then Crozier turned quickly and entered the doorway of the British Bank, the rival of that from which he had turned in brave disappointment a little while before.
Left alone in the street, Sibley looked back with the instinct of the hunter. As he expected, he saw a head thrust out from the window where Studd Bradley and his friends had been. There was an hotel opposite the British Bank. He entered and waited. Bradley and one of his companions presently came in and seated themselves far back in the shadow, where they could watch the doorway of the bank.
It was quite a half-hour before Shiel Crozier emerged from the bank. His face was set and pale. For an instant he stood as though wondering which way to go, then he moved up the street the way he had come.
Sibley heard a low, poisonous laugh of triumph rankle through the hotel office. He turned round. Bradley, the over-fed, over-confident, over- estimated financier, laid a hand on the shoulder of his companion as they moved towards the door.
"That's another gate shut," he said. "I guess we can close 'em all with a little care. It's working all right. He's got no chance of raising the cash," he added, as the two passed the chair where Sibley sat--with his hat over his eyes, chewing an unlighted cigar.
"I don't know what it is, but it's dirt--and muck at that," John Sibley remarked as he rose from his chair and followed the two into the street.
Bradley and his friends were trying steadily to close up the avenues of credit to the man to whom the success of his enterprise meant so much. To crowd him out would mean an extra hundred and fifty thousand dollars for themselves.
THE LOGAN TRIAL AND WHAT CAME OF IT
What the case was in which Shiel Crozier was to give evidence is not important; what came from the giving of his testimony is all that matters; and this story would never have been written if he had not
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