MARSHALL HANEY was a brave man, and his resolution was fully taken, but that final touch of Bertha's hand upon his arm very nearly unnerved him. His courage abruptly fell away, and, leaning back against the cushions of his carriage, with closed eyelids (from which the hot tears dripped), he gave himself up to the temptation of a renewal of his life. It was harder to go, infinitely harder, because of that impulsive, sweet caress. Her face was so beautiful, too, with that upward, tender, pitying look upon it!
While still he sat weak and hesitant, a roughly dressed man of large and decisive movement stopped and greeted him. "Hello, Mart, how are you this fine day ?"
Haney put his tragic mask away with a stroke of his hand, and hastily replied: "Comin' along, Dan, comin' along. How are things up on the peak?"
"Still pretty mixed," replied the miner, lightly; then, with a further look around, he stepped a little nearer the wheel. "Hell's about to break loose again, Mart." "What's the latest?"
"I can't go into details, and I mustn't be seen talking with you, but Williams is in for trouble. Tell him to reverse engine for a few weeks. Good-day," and he walked off, leaving the impression of having been sent to convey a friendly warning.
Haney seized upon this message. His resolution returned. His voice took on edge and decision. "Oscar," he called quickly, "drive me down to the station, I want to get that ten-thirty-seven train."
As the driver chirruped to his horses and swung out into the street, Marshall Haney, with full understanding that this was to be his eternal farewell, turned and looked up, hoping to catch a last glimpse of his wife's sweet face at the window. A sign, a smile, a beckoning, and his purpose might still have faltered, but the recall did not take place, and facing the west he became again the man of will. When the carriage drew up to the platform he gave orders to his coachman as quietly as though this were his usual morning ride. " Now, Oscar, you heard what that friend of mine said?"
"Well, forget it."
"Very well, sir."
"But tell Mrs. Haney I've gone up to the mine. You can say to her that Williams sent for me. You can tell her, but to no one else, what you heard Dan say. You understand?"
"All right, that stands. Now you go home and wait till about twelve-thirty. Then go down for Mrs. Haney."
The coachman, a stolid, reliable man, well trained to his duties, did not offer to assist his master, but sat in most approved alertness upon his box while Haney painfully descended to the walk.
The train was about to move, and the conductor had already signalled the engineer to "go ahead," but at sight of the gambler, whom he knew, stopped the train and helped Haney aboard. "A minute more and you would have been left. Going up to the mine, I reckon?"
They were still on the platform as Mart answered, "Yes, I'm due to take a hand in the game up there." He said this with intent to cover his trail.
He was all but breathless as he dropped into a seat near the door. The sense of leaden weakness with which he had come to struggle daily had deepened at the moment into a smothering pain which threatened to blind him.
"I must be quiet," he thoughtó"I will not die in the car." There seemed something disgraceful, something ignominious in such a death.
Gradually his fear of this misfortune grew less. "What does it matter where death comes or when it comes? The quicker the better for all concerned."
Nevertheless, he opened the little phial of medicine which Steele had given him and swallowed two of the pellets. That they were a powerful stimulant of the heart he knew, but that an overdose would kill he only suspected from Steele's word of caution.
They were, indeed, magical in their effect. His brain cleared, his pulse grew stronger, and the feeling of benumbing weakness which dismayed him passed away.
The conductor, on his round, found him sitting silently at the window, very pale and very stern, his eyes fixed upon the brawling stream along whose winding course the railway climbed. While noting the number of Mart's pass the official leaned over and spoke in a low voice, but Haney heard what he said as through a mist. He was no longer moved by the sound of the bugle. A labor war was temporary, like a storm in the pines. It might arrest the mining for a few weeks or a month, but through it all, no matter what happened, deep down in the earth lay Bertha's wealth, secure of any marauder. So much he was able to reason out.
One or two of the passengers who knew him drew near, civilly inquiring as to his health, and to each one he explained that he was on the gain and that he was going up to the camp to study conditions for himself. They were all greatly excited by the news of battle, but they did not succeed in conveying their emotion to Haney. With impassive countenance he listened, and at the end remarked: "Tis all of a stripe to me, boys. I'm like the soldier on the battle-field with both legs shot off. I hear the shouting and the tumult, but I'm out of the running."
Without understanding his mood, they withdrew, leaving him alone. His mind went back to Bertha. "What will she do when she finds me gone? She will not be scared at first. She will wire to stop me; but no matteróbefore she can reach me, I'll be high in the hills."
He could not prevent his mind from dwelling on her. He tried to fix his thoughts upon his life as a boyish adventurer, but could not keep to those earlier periods of his career. All of his days before meeting her seemed base or trivial or purposeless. She filled his memory to the exclusion of all other loves and desires. She was at once his wife and his child. He possessed a thousand bright pictures of her swift and graceful body, her sunny smile, her sweet, grave eyes. He recalled the first time he saw her on the street in Sibley t and groaned to think how basely he had planned against her. "She never knew that, thank God!" he said, fervently.