HANEY took the train back to his mountain town in a mood which made him regard his action as that of a stranger. Whenever he recalled Bertha's trusting clasp of his hand he felt like removing his hat —the stir of his heart was close akin to religious reverence. "Faith, an' she's taking a big risk," he said. "But I'll not see her lose out," he added, with a return of the gambler's phrase. "She has stacked her chips on the right spot this time."
With all his brute force, his clouded sense of justice, this gambler, this saloon-man, was not without qualifying characteristics. He was a Celt, and in almost every Celt there is hidden a poet. Quick to wrath, quick to jest and fierce in his loves was he, as is the typical Irishman whom England has not yet succeeded in changing to her own type. Moreover, he was an American as well as a Celt (and the American is the most sentimental of men—it is said); and now that he had been surprised into honorable matrimony he began to arrange his affairs for his wife's pleasure and glory. The words in which she had accepted him lingered in his ears like phrases of a little hesitating song. For her he had sold his gambling halls, for her he was willing at the moment to abandon the associates of a lifetime.
He was sitting in the car dreamily smoking, his hat drawn low over his brows, when an acquaintance passing through the car stopped with a word of greeting. Ordinarily Haney would have been glad of his company, but he made a place for him at this time with grudging slowness.
"How are ye, Slater? Set ye down."
"I hear you've sold your saloons," Slater began, as he settled into place.
Haney nodded, without smiling.
His neighbor grinned. "You don't seem very sociable to-day, Mart?"
"I'm not," Haney replied, bluntly.
"I just dropped down beside you to say that young Wilkinson went broke in your place last night and has it in for you. He's plum fuzzy with drink, and you better look sharp or he'll do you. He's been on the rampage for two days—crazy as a loon."
"Why does he go after me?" Haney asked, irritably. "I'm out of it. 'Tis like the fool tenderfoot. Don't he know I had nothing to do with his bust-up?"
"He don't seem to—or else he's so locoed he's forgot it. All I know is he's full of some pizen notion against you, and I thought I'd put you on your guard."
They talked on about this a few minutes, and then Slater rose, leaving Haney to himself. But his tender mood was gone. His brow was knit. He began to understand that a man could not run a bad business for twenty years, and then at a day's notice clear himself of all its trailing evil consequences. "I'll vamoose," he said to himself, with resolution. "I'll put me mines in order, and go down into the valley and take the girl with me—God bless her! We'll take a little turn as far as New York. I'll put long miles between the two of us and all this sporting record of mine. She don't like it, and I'll quit it. I'll begin a new life entirely." And a glow of new-found virtue filled his heart. Of Wilkinson he had no fear — only disgust. "Why should the fool pursue me?" he repeated. "He took his chances and lost out. If he weren't a 'farmer' he'd drop it."
He ate his supper at the hotel in the same abstraction, and then, still grave with plans for his new career, went out into the street to find Williams, his partner. It was inevitable that he should bring up at the bar of his former saloon; no other place in the town was so much like home, after all. Habit drew him to its familiar walls. He was glad to find a couple of old friends there, and they, having but just heard of the sale of his outfit, hastened to greet and congratulate him. Of his greatest good-fortune, of his highest conquest, they, of course, knew nothing, and he was not in a mood to tell them of it.
The bar-room was nearly empty, for the reason that the miners had not yet finished their evening meal, and Haney and his two cronies had just taken their second round of drinks when the side door was burst violently open, and a man, white and wild, with a double-barrelled shotgun in his hand, abruptly entered. Darting across the floor, he thrust the muzzle of his weapon almost against Haney's breast and fired, uttering a wild curse at the moment of recoil.
The tall gambler reeled under the shock, swinging half way about, his hands clutching at the railing, a look of anguish and surprise upon his face. The assassin, intent, alert, would have fired again had not a by-stander felled him to the floor. The room filled instantly with excited men eager to strike, vociferous with hate; but Haney, with one palm pressed to his breast, stood silent—curiously silent—his Hps white with his effort at self-control.
At length two of his friends seized him, tenderly asking: "How is it, old man? Are you hurt bad?"
His lips moved—they listened—as he faintly whispered: "He's got me, boys. Here's where I quit."
"Don't say that, Mart. You'll pull through," said his friend, chokingly. Then with ferocious impatience he yelled: "Somebody get the doctor! Damn it all, get moving! Don't you see him bleed?"
Haney moved his head feebly. "Lay me down, Pete—I'm torn to pieces—I'm all in, I'm afraid. Get me little girl—that's all I ask."
Very gently they took him in their arms and laid him on one of the gambling-tables in the rear room, while the resolute barkeeper pushed the crowd out.
Again Haney called, impatiently, almost fiercely: "Send for Bertie—quick !"
The men looked at each other in wonder, and one of them tapped his brow significantly, for no one knew of his latest love-affair. While still they stared Williams came rushing wildly in. All gave way to him, and the young doctor who followed him was greeted with low words of satisfaction. To his partner, whom he recognized, Haney repeated his command: "Send for Bertie." With a hurried scrawl Williams put down the girl's name and address on a piece of paper, and shouted: "Here! Somebody take this and rush it. Tell her to come quick as the Lord will let her." Then, with the tenderness of a brother, he bent to Haney. " How is it, Mart?"