Chapter 31
 

"Wor I there?" echoed McDermott, as he wiped the clammy sweat from his face. "B'gosh, I wor!"

It was half-past five. There appeared to be an unusual number of men on the street, not so hurried and business-like and merry as generally, and given to collecting in groups, low-voiced and excited.

General Lodge drew McDermott inside. "Come. You need a bracer. Man, you look sick," he said.

At the bar McDermott's brown and knotty hand shook as he lifted a glass and gulped a drink of whisky.

"Gineral, I ain't the mon I wuz," complained McDermott. "Casey's gone! An' we had hell wid the Injuns gittin' here. An' thin jest afther I stepped off the train--it happened."

"What happened? I've heard conflicting reports. My men are out trying to get news. Tell me, Sandy," replied the general, eagerly.

"Afther hearin' of Casey's finish I was shure needin' stimulants," began the Irishman. "An' prisintly I drhopped into that Durade's Palace. I had my drink, an' thin went into the big room where the moosic wuz. It shure wuz a palace. A lot of thim swells with frock- coats wuz there. B'gorra they ain't above buckin' the tiger. Some of thim I knew. That Misther Lee, wot wuz once a commissioner of the U. P., he wor there with a party of friends.

"An' I happened to be close by thim whin a gurl come out. She was shure purty. But thot sad! Her eyes wor turrible hauntin', an' roight off I wanted to start a foight. She wor lookin' fer Durade, as I seen afterwards.

"Wal, the minnit that Lee seen the gurl he acted strange. I wuz standin' close an' I went closer. 'Most exthraordinary rezemblance,' he kept sayin'. An' thin he dug into his vest fer a pocket-book, an' out of that he took a locket. He looked at it--thin at the little gurl who looked so sad. Roight off he turned the color of a sheet. 'Gintlemen, look!' he sez. They all looked, an' shure wuz sthruck with somethin'.

"'Gintlemen,' sez Lee, 'me wife left me years ago--ran off West wid a gambler. If she iver hed a child--thot gurl is thot child. Fer she's the livin' image of me wife nineteen years ago!'

"Some of thim laughed at him--some of thim stared. But Lee wuz dead in earnest an' growin' more excited ivery min nit. I heerd him mutter low: 'My Gawd! it can't be! Her child! ... In a gamblin' hell! But that face! ... Ah! where else could I expect the child of such a mother?'

"An' Lee went closer to where the gurl was waitin'. His party follered an' I follered too.... Jest whin the moosic sthopped an' the gurl looked up--thin she seen Lee. Roight out he sthepped away from the crowd. He wuz whiter 'n a ghost. An' the gurl she seemed paralyzed. Sthrange it wor to see how she an' him looked alike thin.

"The crowd seen somethin' amiss, an' went quiet, starin' an' nudgin'.... Gineral, dom' me if the gurl's face didn't blaze. I niver seen the loike. An' she sthepped an' come straight fer Lee. An' whin she sthopped she wuz close enough to touch him. Her eyes wor great burnin' holes an' her face shone somethin' wonderful.

"Lee put up a shakin' hand.

"'Gurl,' he sez, 'did yez iver hear of Allison Lee?'

"An' all her seemed to lift.

"'He is my father!' she cried. 'I am Allie Lee!'

"Ah! thin that crowd wuz split up by a mon wot hurried through. He wuz a greaser--one of thim dandies on dress an' diamonds--a handsome, wicked-lookin' gambler. Seein' the gurl, he snarled, 'Go back there!' an' he pointed. She niver even looked at him.

"Some wan back of me sez thot's Durade. Wal, it was! An' sudden he seen who the gurl wuz watchin'--Lee.

"Thot Durade turned green an' wild-eyed an' stiff. But thot couldn't hould a candle to Lee. Shure he turned into a fiend. He bit out a Spanish name, nothin' loike Durade.

"An' loike a hissin' snake Durade sez, 'Allison Lee!'

"Thin there wuz a dead-lock between thim two men, wid the crowd waitin' fer hell to pay. Life-long inimies, sez I, to meself, an' I hed the whole story.

"Durade began to limber up. Any man what knows a greaser would have been lookin' fer blood. 'She--wint--back--to yez!' panted Durade.

"'No--thief--Spanish dog! I have not seen her for nineteen years,' sez Lee.

"The gurl spoke up: 'Mother is dead! Killed by Injuns!'

"Thin Lee cried out, 'Did she leave him?'

"'Yes, she did,' sez the gurl. 'She wuz goin' back. Home! Takin' me home. But the caravan wuz attacked by Injuns. An' all but me wor massacred."

"Durade cut short the gurl's spache. If I iver seen a reptoile it wuz thin.

"'Lee, they both left me,' he hisses. 'I tracked them. I lost the mother, but caught the daughter.'

"Thin thot Durade lost his spache fer a minnit, foamin' at the mouth wid rage. If yez niver seen a greaser mad thin yez niver seen the rale thin'. His face changed yaller an' ould an' wrinkled, wid spots of red. His lip curled up loike a wolf's, an' his eyes--they wint down to little black points of hell's fire. He wuz crazy.

"'Look at her!' he yelled. 'Allie Lee! Flesh an' blood yez can't deny! Her baby! ... An' she's been my slave--my dog to beat an' kick! She's been through Benton! A toy fer the riff-raff of the camps! ... She's as vile an' black an' lost as her treacherous mother!'

"Allison Lee shrunk under thot shame. But the gurl! Lord! she niver looked wot she was painted by thot devil. She stood white an' still, like an angel above judgment.

"Durade drew one of thim little derringers. An' sudden he hild it on Lee, hissin' now in his greaser talk. I niver seen sich hellish joy on a human face. Murder was nothin' to thot look.

"Jist thin I seen Neale an' Slingerland, an', by Gawd! I thought I'd drop. They seemed to loom up. The girl screamed wild-loike an' she swayed about to fall. Neale leaped in front of Lee.

"'Durade!' he spit out, an' dom' me if I didn't expect to see the roof fly off."

McDermott wiped his moist face and tipped his empty glass to his lips, and swallowed hard. His light-blue eyes held a glint.

"Gineral," he went on, "yez know Neale. How big he is! Wot nerve he's got! There niver wor a mon his equal on the U. P. 'ceptin' Casey.... But me, nor any wan, nor yez, either, ever seen Neale loike he wuz thin. He niver hesitated an inch, but wint roight fer Durade. Any dom' fool, even a crazy greaser, would hev seen his finish in Neale. Durade changed quick from hot to cold. An' he shot Neale.

"Neale laughed. Funny ringin' sort of laugh, full of thot same joy Durade hed sung out to Lee. Hate an' love of blood it wor. Yez would hev thought Neale felt wonderful happy to sthop a bullet.

"Thin his hand shot out an' grabbed Durade.... He jerked him off his feet an' swung him round. The little derringer flew, an' Sandy McDermott wuz the mon who picked it up. It'll be Neale's whin I see him.... Durade jabbered fer help. But no wan come. Thot big trapper Slingerland stood there with two guns, an' shure he looked bad. Neale slung Durade around, spillinl some fellars who didn't dodge quick, an' thin he jerked him up backwards.

"An' Durade come up with a long knife in the one hand he had free.

"Neale yelled, 'Lee, take the gurl out!'

"I seen thin she hed fainted in Lee's arms. He lifted her--moved away--an' thin I seen no more of thim.

"Durade made wild an' wicked lunges at Neale, only to be jerked off his balance. I heerd the bones crack in the arm Neale held. The greaser screamed. Sudden he wuz turned agin, an' swung backwards so thot Neale grabbed the other arm--the wan wot held the knife. It wuz a child in the grasp of a giant. Neale shure looked beautiful, I niver wished so much in me loife fer Casey as thin. He would hev enjoyed thot foight, fer he bragged of his friendship fer Neale. An'--"

"Go on, man, end your story!" ordered the general, breathlessly.

"Wal, b'gorra, there wuz more crackin' of bones, an' sich screams as I niver heerd from a mon. Tumble, blood-curdlin'! ... Neale held both Durade's hands an' wuz squeezin' thot knife-handle so the greaser couldn't let go.

"Thin Neale drew out thot hand of Durade's--the wan wot held the knife--an' made Durade jab himself, low down! ... My Gawd! how thot jenteel Spaniard howled! I seen the blade go in an' come out red. Thin Slingerland tore thim apart, an' the greaser fell. He warn't killed. Mebbe he ain't goin' to croak. But he'll shure hev to l'ave Roarin' City, an he'll shure be a cripple fer loife."

McDermott looked at the empty glass.

"That's all, Gineral. An' if it's jist the same to yez I'll hev another drink."