Gunman's Reckoning Part 57

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An ancient drunkard in the second story of one of the stores across the street had roused himself at the sound of the shots and now he dragged himself to the window and began to scream: "Murder! Murder!" over and over, and even The Corner shuddered at the sound of his voice.

Lord Nick, his revolver still in his hand, stalked through the film of people who now swirled about him, eager to see the dead. There was no call for the law to make its appearance, and the representatives of the law were wisely dilatory in The Corner.

He stood over the two motionless figures with a stony face.

"You saw it, boys," he said. "You know what I've borne from this fellow.

The big man pulled his gun first on me. I shot in self-defense. As for--the other--it was a square fight."

"Square fight," someone answered. "You both went for your irons at the same time. Pretty work, Nick."

It was a solid phalanx of men which had collected around the moveless bodies as swiftly as mercury sinks through water. Yet none of them touched either Donnegan or George. And then the solid group dissolved at one side. It was the moan of a woman which had scattered it, and a yellow-haired girl slipped through them. She glanced once, in horror, at the mute faces of the men, and then there was a wail as she threw herself on the body of Donnegan. Somewhere she found the strength of a man to lift him and place him face upward on the sand, the gun trailing limply in his hand. And then she lay, half crouched over him, her face pressed to his heart--listening--listening for the stir of life.

Shootings were common in The Corner; the daily mortality ran high; but there had never been aftermaths like this one. Men looked at one another, and then at Lord Nick. A bright spot of color had come in his cheeks, but his face was as hard as ever.

"Get her away from him," someone murmured.

And then another man cried out, stooped, wrenched the gun from the limp hand of Donnegan and opened the cylinder. He spun it: daylight was glittering through the empty cylinder.

At this the man stiffened, and with a low bow which would have done credit to a drawing-room, he presented the weapon b.u.t.t first to Lord Nick.

"Here's something the sheriff will want to see," he said, "but maybe you'll be interested, too."

But Lord Nick, with the gun in his hand, stared at it dumbly, turned the empty cylinder. And the full horror crept slowly on his mind. He had not killed his brother, he had murdered him. As his eyes cleared, he caught the glitter of the eyes which surrounded him.

And then Lou Macon was on her knees with her hands clasped at her breast and her face glorious.

"Help!" she was crying. "Help me. He's not dead, but he's dying unless you help me!"

Then Lord Nick cast away his own revolver and the empty gun of Donnegan.

They heard him shout: "Garry!" and saw him stride forward.

Instantly men pressed between, hard-jawed men who meant business. It was a cordon he would have to fight his way through: but he dissolved it with a word.

"You fools! He's my brother!"

And then he was on his knees opposite Lou Macon.

"You?" she had stammered in horror.

"His brother, girl."

And ten minutes later, when the bandages had been wound, there was a strange sight of Lord Nick striding up the street with his victim in his arms. How lightly he walked; and he was talking to the calm, pale face which rested in the hollow of his shoulder.

"He will live? He will live?" Lou Macon was pleading as she hurried at the side of Lord Nick.

"G.o.d willing, he shall live!"

It was three hours before Donnegan opened his eyes. It was three days before he recovered his senses, and looking aside toward the door he saw a brilliant shaft of sunlight falling into the room. In the midst of it sat Lou Macon. She had fallen asleep in her great weariness now that the crisis was over. Behind her, standing, his great arms folded, stood the indomitable figure of Lord Nick.

Donnegan saw and wondered greatly. Then he closed his eyes dreamily.

"Hush," said Donnegan to himself, as if afraid that what he saw was all a dream. "I'm in heaven, or if I'm not, it's still mighty good to be alive."

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