Story type: Literature
In mystery of town and play
The splendid lady lives alway,
Inwrought with starlight, winds and streams.
SATURDAY NIGHT ON THE FARM.
A group of men were gathered in Farmer Graham’s barn one rainy day in September; the rain had stopped the stacking, and the men were amusing themselves with feats of skill and strength. Steve Nagle was the champion, no matter what came up; whether shouldering a sack of wheat, or raising weights or suspending himself with one hand, he left the others out of the race.
“Aw! it’s no good foolun’ with such puny little men as you,” he swaggered at last, throwing himself down upon a pile of sacks.
“If our hired man was here I bet he’d beat you all holler,” piped a boy’s voice from the doorway.
Steve raised himself up and glared.
“What’s that thing talkun’?”
The boy held his ground. “You can brag when he ain’t around, but I bet he can lick you with one hand tied behind him; don’t you, Frank?”
Frank was doubtful, and kept a little out of sight. He was afraid of Steve, as were, indeed, all the other men, for he had terrorized the saloons of the county for years. Johnny went on about his hero:
“Why, he can take a sack of wheat by the corners and snap every kernel of it clean out; he can lift a separator just as easy! You’d better brag when he’s around.”
Steve’s anger rose, for he saw the rest laughing; he glared around at them all like a hyena. “Bring on this whelp, let’s see how he looks. I ain’t seen him yit.”
“Pa says if Lime went to a saloon where you’d meet him once, you wouldn’t clean out that saloon,” Johnny went on in a calm voice, with a sort of undercurrent of glee in it. He saw Steve’s anger, and was delighted.
“Bring on this feller; I’ll knock the everlasting spots offen ‘im f’r two cents.”
“I’ll tell ‘im that.”
“Tell him and be damned,” roared Steve, with a wolfish gleam in his eyes that drove the boys away whooping with mingled terror and delight.
Steve saw that the men about him held Johnny’s opinion of Lime, and it made him furious. For several years he had held undisputed sovereignty over the saloons of Rock County, and when, with both sleeves rolled up and eyes flaming with madness, he had leaped into the center of a bar-room floor with a wild shout, everybody got out, by doors, windows or any other way, sometimes taking sash and all, and left him roaring with maniacal delight.
No one used a revolver in those days. Shooting was almost unknown. Fights were tests of physical strength and savagery.
Harvest brought into Iowa at that time a flood of rough and hardy men who drifted north with the moving line of ripening wheat, and on Saturday nights the saloons of the county were filled with them, and Steve found many chances to show his power. Among these strangers, as they gathered in some saloon to make a night of it, he loved to burst with his assertion of individual sovereignty.
* * * * *
Lime was out mending fence when Johnny came home to tell him what Steve had said. Johnny was anxious to see his faith in his hero justified, and watched Lime carefully as he pounded away without looking up. His dress always had an easy slouch about his vast limbs, and his pantaloons, usually of some dark stuff, he wore invariably tucked into his boot-tops, his vest swinging unbuttoned, his hat carelessly awry.
Being a quiet, sober man, he had never been in a saloon when Steve entered to swing his hat to the floor and yell:
“I’m Jack Robinson, I am! I am the man that bunted the bull off the bridge! I’m the best man in Northern Iowa!” He had met him, of course, but Steve kept a check upon himself when sober.
“He says he can knock the spots off of you,” Johnny said, in conclusion, watching Lime roguishly.
The giant finished nailing up the fence, and at last said: “Now run along, sonny, and git the cows.” There was a laugh in his voice that showed his amusement at Johnny’s disappointment. “I ain’t got any spots.”
On the following Saturday night, at dusk, as Lime was smoking his pipe out on the horse-block, with the boys around him, there came a swiftly-driven wagon down the road, filled with a noisy load of men. They pulled up at the gate, with a prodigious shouting.
“Hello, the house!”
“Hurrah for the show!”
“It’s Al Crandall,” cried Johnny, running down to the gate. Lime followed slowly, and asked: “What’s up, boys?”
“All goin’ down to the show; climb in!”
“All right; wait till I git my coat.”
Lime was working one of Graham’s farms on shares in the summer; in the winter he went to the pinery.
“Oh, can’t we go, Lime?” pleaded the boys.
“If your dad’ll let you; I’ll pay for the tickets.”
The boys rushed wildly to the house and as wildly back again, and the team resumed its swift course, for it was getting late. It was a beautiful night; the full moon poured down a cataract of silent white light like spray, and the dew (almost frost) lay on the grass and reflected the glory of the autumn sky; the air was still and had that peculiar property, common to the prairie air, of carrying sound to a great distance.
The road was hard and smooth, and the spirited little team bowled the heavy wagon along at a swift pace. “We’re late,” Crandall said, as he snapped his long whip over the heads of his horses, “and we’ve got to make it in twenty-five minutes or miss part of the show.” This caused Johnny great anxiety. He had never seen a play and wanted to see it all. He looked at the flying legs of the horses and pushed on the dashboard, chirping at them slyly.
Rock Falls was the county town and the only town where plays could be produced. It was a place of about 3,000 inhabitants at that time, and to Johnny’s childish eyes it was a very great place indeed. To go to town was an event, but to go with the men at night, and to a show, was something to remember a lifetime.
There was little talk as they rushed along, only some singing of a dubious sort by Bill Young, on the back seat. At intervals Bill stopped singing and leaned over to say, in exactly the same tone of voice each time: “Al, I hope t’ God we won’t be late.” Then he resumed his monotonous singing, or said something coarse to Rice, who laughed immoderately.
The play had begun when they climbed the narrow, precarious stairway which led to the door of the hall. Every seat of the room was filled, but as for the boys, after getting their eyes upon the players, they did not think of sitting, or of moving, for that matter; they were literally all eyes and ears.
The hall seated about 400 persons, and the stage was a contrivance striking as to coloring as well as variety of pieces. It added no little to the sport of the evening by the squeaks it gave out as the heavy man walked across, and by the falling down of the calico wings and by the persistent refusal of the curtain to go down at the proper moment on the tableau. At the back of the room the benches rose one above the other until the one at the rear was near the grimy ceiling. These benches were occupied by the toughs of the town, who treated each other to peanuts and slapped one another over the head with their soft, shapeless hats, and laughed inordinately when some fellow’s hat was thrown out of his reach into the crowd.
The play was Wilkie Collins’ “New Magdalen,” and the part of Mercy was taken by a large and magnificently proportioned woman, a blonde, and in Johnny’s eyes she seemed something divine, with her grace and majesty of motion. He took a personal pride in her at once and wanted her to come out triumphant in the end, regardless of any conventional morality.
True, his admiration for the dark little woman’s tragic utterance at times drew him away from his breathless study of the queenly Mercy, but such moments were few. Within a half hour he was deeply in love with the heroine and wondered how she could possibly endure the fat man who played the part of Horace, and who pitched into the practicable supper of cold ham, biscuit and currant wine with a gusto that suggested gluttony as the reason for his growing burden of flesh.
And so the play went on. The wonderful old lady in the cap and spectacles, the mysterious dark little woman who popped in at short intervals to say “Beware!” in a very deep contralto voice, the tender and repentant Mercy, all were new and wonderful, beautiful things to the boys, and though they stood up the whole evening through, it passed so swiftly that the curtain’s fall drew from them long sighs of regret. From that time on they were to dream of that wonderful play and that beautiful, repentant woman. So securely was she enthroned in their regard that no rude and senseless jest could ever unseat her. Of course, the men, as they went out, laughed and joked in the manner of such men, and swore in their disappointment because it was a serious drama in place of the comedy and the farce which they had expected.
“It’s a regular sell,” Bill said. “I wanted to hear old Plunket stid of all that stuff about nothin’. That was a lunkin’ good-lookin’ woman though,” he added, with a coarse suggestion in his voice, which exasperated Johnny to the pitch of giving him a kick on the heel as he walked in front. “Hyare, young feller, look where you’re puttin’ your hoofs!” Bill growled, looking about.
John was comforted by seeing in the face of his brother the same rapt expression which he felt was on his own. He walked along almost mechanically, scarcely feeling the sidewalk, his thoughts still dwelling on the lady and the play. It was after ten o’clock, and the stores were all shut, the frost lay thick and white on the plank walk, and the moon was shining as only a moon can shine through the rarefied air on the Western prairies, and overhead the stars in innumerable hosts swam in the absolutely cloudless sky.
John stumbled along, keeping hold of Lime’s hand till they reached the team standing at the sidewalk, shivering with cold. The impatient horses stretched their stiffened limbs with pleasure and made off with a rearing plunge. The men were noisy. Bill sang another song at the top of his voice as they rattled by the sleeping houses, but as he came to an objectionable part of the song Lime turned suddenly and said: “Shut up on that, will you?” and he became silent.
Rock Falls, after the most extraordinary agitation, had just prohibited the sale of liquor at any point within two miles of the school-house in the town. This, after strenuous opposition, was enforced; the immediate effect of the law was to establish saloons at the limit of the two miles and to throw a large increase of business into the hands of Hank Swartz in the retail part of his brewery, which was situated about two miles from the town, on the bank of the river. He had immediately built a bar-room and made himself ready for the increase of his trade, which had previously been confined to supplying picnic parties with half-kegs of beer or an occasional glass to teamsters passing by. Hank had an eye to the main chance and boasted: “If the public gits ahead of me it’s got to be up and a-comin’.”
The road along which Crandall was driving did not lead to Hank’s place, but the river road, which branched off a little farther on, went by the brewery, though it was a longer way around. The men grew silent at last, and the steady roll and rumble of the wagon over the smooth road was soothing, and John laid his head in Lime’s lap and fell asleep while looking at the moon and wondering why it always seemed to go just as fast as the team.
He was awakened by a series of wild yells, the snapping of whips and the furious rush of horses. It was another team filled with harvesters trying to pass, and not succeeding. The fellows in the other wagon hooted and howled and cracked the whip, but Al’s little bays kept them behind until Lime protested, “Oh, let ’em go, Al,” and then with a shout of glee the team went by and left them in a cloud of dust.
“Say, boys,” said Bill, “that was Pat Sheehan and the Nagle boys. They’ve turned off; they’re goin’ down to Hank’s. Let’s go too. Come on, fellers, what d’you say? I’m allfired dry. Ain’t you?”
“I’m willun’,” said Frank Rice; “what d’you say, Lime?” John looked up into Lime’s face and said to him, in a low voice, “Let’s go home; that was Steve a-drivin’.” Lime nodded and made a sign to John to keep still, but John saw his head lift. He had heard and recognized Steve’s voice.
“It was Pat Sheehan, sure,” repeated Bill, “an’ I shouldn’t wonder if the others was the Nagle boys and Eth Cole.”
“Yes, it was Steve,” said Al. “I saw his old hat as he went by.”
It was perfectly intelligible to Lime that they were all anxious to have a meeting between Steve and himself. Johnny saw also that if Lime refused to go to the brewery he would be called a coward. Bill would tell it all over the neighborhood, and his hero would be shamed. At last Lime nodded his head in consent and Al turned off into the river road.
When they drew up at the brewery by the river the other fellows had all entered and the door was shut. There were two or three other teams hitched about under the trees. The men sprang out and Bill danced a jig in anticipation of the fun to follow. “If Steve starts to lam Lime there’ll be a circus.”
As they stood for a moment before the door Al spoke to Lime about Steve’s probable attack. “I ain’t goin’ to hunt around for no row,” replied Lime, placidly, “and I don’t believe Steve is. You lads,” he said to the boys, “watch the team for a little while; cuddle down under the blankets if you git cold. It ain’t no place for you in the inside. We won’t stop long,” he ended, cheerily.
The door opened and let out a dull red light, closed again, and all was still except an occasional burst of laughter and noise of heavy feet within. The scene made an indelible impress upon John, child though he was. Fifty feet away the river sang over its shallows, broad and whitened with foam which gleamed like frosted silver in the brilliant moonlight. The trees were dark and tall about him and loomed overhead against the starlit sky, and the broad high moon threw a thick tracery of shadows on the dusty white road where the horses stood. Only the rhythmic flow of the broad, swift river, with the occasional uneasy movement of the horses under their creaking harnesses or the dull noise of the shouting men within the shanty, was to be heard.
John nestled down into the robes and took to dreaming of the lovely lady he had seen, and wondered if, when he became a man, he should have a wife like her. He was awakened by Frank, who was rousing him to serve a purpose of his own. John was ten and Frank fifteen; he rubbed his sleepy eyes and rose under orders.
“Say, Johnny, what d’yeh s’pose them fellers are doen’ in there? You said Steve was goin’ to lick Lime, you did. It don’t sound much like it in there. Hear ‘um laugh,” he said viciously and regretfully. “Say, John, you sly along and peek in and see what they’re up to, an’ come an’ tell me, while I hold the horses,” he said, to hide the fact that John was doing a good deal for his benefit.
John got slowly off the wagon and hobbled on toward the saloon, stiff with the cold. As he neared the door he could hear some one talking in a loud voice, while the rest laughed at intervals in the manner of those who are listening to the good points in a story. Not daring to open the door, Johnny stood around the front trying to find a crevice to look in at. The speaker inside had finished his joke and some one had begun singing.
The building was a lean-to attached to the brewery, and was a rude and hastily constructed affair. It had only two windows; one was on the side and the other on the back. The window on the side was out of John’s reach, so he went to the back of the shanty. It was built partly into the hill, and the window was at the top of the bank. John found that by lying down on the ground on the outside he had a good view of the interior. The window, while level with the ground on the outside, was about as high as the face of a man on the inside. He was extremely wide-awake now and peered in at the scene with round, unblinking eyes.
Steve was making sport for the rest and stood leaning his elbow on the bar. He was in rare good humor, for him. His hat was lying beside him and he was in his shirt-sleeves, and his cruel gray eyes, pockmarked face and broken nose were lighted up with a frightful smile. He was good-natured now, but the next drink might set him wild. Hank stood behind the high pine bar, a broad but nervous grin on his round, red face. Two big kerosene lamps, through a couple of smoky chimneys, sent a dull red glare upon the company, which half filled the room.
If Steve’s face was unpleasant to look upon, the nonchalant, tiger-like poise and flex of his body was not. He had been dancing, it seemed, and had thrown off his coat, and as he talked he repeatedly rolled his blue shirt-sleeves up and down as though the motion were habitual to him. Most of the men were sitting around the room looking on and laughing at Steve’s antics, and the antics of one or two others who were just drunk enough to make fools of themselves. Two or three sat on an old billiard table under the window through which John was peering.
Lime sat in his characteristic attitude, his elbows upon his knees and his thumbs under his chin. His eyes were lazily raised now and then with a lion-like action of the muscles of his forehead. But he seemed to take little interest in the ribaldry of the other fellows. John measured both champions critically, and exulted in the feeling that Steve was not so ready for the row with Lime as he thought he was.
After Steve had finished his story there was a chorus of roars: “Bully for you, Steve!” “Give us another,” etc. Steve, much flattered, nodded to the alert saloon-keeper, and said: “Give us another, Hank.” As the rest all sprang up he added: “Pull out that brandy kaig this time, Hank. Trot her out, you white-livered Dutchman,” he roared, as Swartz hesitated.
The brewer fetched it up from beneath the bar, but he did it reluctantly. In the midst of the hubbub thus produced, an abnormally tall and lanky fellow known as “High” Bedloe pushed up to the bar and made an effort to speak, and finally did say solemnly:
“Gen’lmun, Steve, say, gen’lmun, do’n’ less mix our drinks!”
This was received with boisterous delight, in which Bedloe could not see the joke, and looked feebly astonished.
Just at this point John received such a fright as entirely took away his powers of moving or breathing, for something laid hold of his heels with deadly grip. He was getting his breath to yell when a familiar voice at his ear said, in a tone somewhere between a whisper and a groan:
“Say, what they up to all this while? I’m sick o’ wait’n’ out there.”
Frank had become impatient; as for John, he had been so absorbed by the scenes within, he had not noticed how the frosty ground was slowly stiffening his limbs and setting his teeth chattering. They were both now looking in at the window. John had simply pointed with his mittened, stubby thumb toward the interior, and Frank had crawled along to a place beside him.
Mixing the drinks had produced the disastrous effect which Hank and Bedloe had anticipated. The fun became uproarious. There were songs and dances by various members of the Nagle gang, but Lime’s crowd, being in the minority, kept quiet, occasionally standing treat as was the proper thing to do.
But Steve grew wilder and more irritable every moment. He seemed to have drunk just enough to let loose the terrible force that slept in his muscles. He had tugged at his throat until the strings of his woolen shirt loosened, displaying the great, sloping muscles of his neck and shoulders, white as milk and hard as iron. His eyes rolled restlessly to and fro as he paced the floor. His panther-like step was full of a terrible suggestiveness. The breath of the boys at the window came quicker and quicker. They saw he was working himself into a rage that threatened momentarily to break forth into a violence. He realized that this was a crisis in his career; his reputation was at stake.
Young as John was, he understood the whole matter as he studied the restless Steve, and compared him with his impassive hero, sitting immovable.
“You see Lime can’t go away,” he explained, breathlessly, to Frank, in a whisper, “’cause they’d tell it all over the country that he backed down for Steve. He daresn’t leave.”
“Steve ain’t no durn fool,” returned the superior wisdom of Frank, in the same cautious whisper, keeping his eyes on the bar-room. “See Lime there, cool as a cucumber. He’s from the pineries, he is.” He ended in a tone of voice intended to convey that fighting was the principal study of the pineries, and that Lime had graduated with the highest honors. “Steve ain’t a-go’n’ to pitch into him yet awhile, you bet y’r bottom dollar; he ain’t drunk enough for that.”
Each time the invitation for another drink was given, they noticed that Lime kept on the outside of the crowd, and some one helped him to his glass. “Don’t you see he ain’t drinkin’. He’s throwin’ it away,” said Frank; “there, see! He’s foolun’ ’em; he ain’t a-go’n’ to be drunk when Steve tackles him. Oh, there’ll be music in a minute or two.”
Steve now walked the floor, pouring forth a flood of profanity and challenges against men who were not present. He had not brought himself to the point of attacking the unmoved and silent giant. Some of the younger men, and especially the pleader against mixed drinks, had succumbed, and were sleeping heavily on the back end of the bar and on the billiard table. Hank was getting anxious, and the forced smile on his face was painful to see. Over the whole group there was a singular air of waiting. No one was enjoying himself, and all wished that they were on the road home, but there was no way out of it now. It was evident that Lime purposed forcing the beginning of the battle on Steve. He sat in statuesque repose.
Steve had got his hat in his hand and held it doubled up like a club, and every time that he turned in his restless walk he struck the bar a resounding blow. His eyes seemed to see nothing, although they moved wildly from side to side.
He lifted up his voice in a raucous snarl. “I’m the man that struck Billy Patterson! I’m the man that bunted the bull off the bridge! Anybody got anything to say, now’s his time. I’m here. Bring on your champion.”
Foam came into the corners of his mouth, and the veins stood out on his neck. His red face shone with its swollen veins. He smashed his fists together, threw his hat on the floor, tramped on it, snarling out curses. Nothing kept him in check save the imperturbability of the seated figure. Everybody expected him to clear the saloon to prove his power.
Bedloe, who was asleep on the table, precipitated matters by rolling off with a prodigious noise amid a pandemonium of howls and laughter. In his anxiety to see what was going on, Frank thrust his head violently against the window, and it crashed in, sending the glass rattling down on the table.
Steve looked up, a red sheen in his eyes like that of a wild beast. Instantly his fury burst out against this new object of attention–a wild, unreasoning rage.
“What you doen’ there? Who air ye, ye mangy little dog?”
Both boys sank back in tumultuous, shuddering haste, and rolled down the embankment, while they heard the voice of Steve thundering: “Fetch the little whelp here!”
There was a rush from the inside, a sudden outpouring, and the next moment John felt a hand touch his shoulder. Steve dragged him around to the front of the saloon before he could draw his breath or utter a sound. The rest crowded around.
“What are y’ doen’ there?” said Steve, shaking him with insane vindictiveness.
“Drop that boy!” said the voice of Lime, and voice never sounded sweeter. “Drop that boy!” he repeated, and his voice had a peculiar sound, as if it came through his teeth.
Steve dropped him, and turned with a grating snarl upon Lime, who opened his way through the excited crowd while Johnny stumbled, leaped and crawled out of the ring and joined Frank. “Oh, it’s you, is it? You white-livered”—-He did not finish, for the arm of the blond giant shot out against his face like a beetle, and down he rolled on the grass. The sound of the blow made Johnny give an involuntary, quick cry.
“No human bein’ could have stood up agin that blow,” Crandall said afterwards. “It was like a mule a-kickin’.”
As Steve slowly gained his feet, the silence was so great that Johnny could hear the thumping of his heart and the fierce, almost articulate breathing of Steve. The chatter and roar of the drunken crowd had been silenced by this encounter of the giants. The open door, where Hank stood, sent a reddish bar of light upon the two men as they faced each other with a sort of terrific calm. In his swift gaze in search of his brother, John noticed the dark wood, the river murmuring drowsily over its foam-wreathed pebbles, and saw his brother’s face white with excitement, but not fear.
Lime’s blow had dazed Steve for a moment, but at the same time it had sobered him. He came to his feet with a rising mutter that sounded like the swelling snarl of a tiger. He had been taken by surprise before, and he now came forward with his hands in position, to vindicate his terrible reputation. The two men met in a frightful struggle. Blows that meant murder were dealt by each. Each slapping thud seemed to carry the cracking of bones in it. Steve was the more agile of the two and circled rapidly around, striking like a boxer.
Every time his face came into view, with set teeth and ferocious scowl, the boys’ spirits fell. But when they saw the calm, determined eyes of Lime, his watchful, confident look, they grew assured. All depended upon him. The Nagle gang were like wolves in their growing ferocity, and as they outnumbered the other party two to one, it was a critical quarter of an hour. In a swift retrospect they remembered the frightful tales told of this very spot–of the killing of Lars Peterson and his brother Nels, and the brutal hammering a crowd of drunken men had given to Big Ole, of the Wapsy.
The blood was trickling down Lime’s face from a cut on his cheek, but Steve’s face was swollen and ghastly from the three blows which he had received. Lime was saving himself for a supreme effort. The Nagle party, encouraged by the sound of the blows which Steve struck, began to yell and to show that they were ready to take a hand in the contest.
“Go it, Steve, we’ll back yeh! Give it to ‘im. We’re with yeh! We’ll tend to the rest.” They began to pull off their coats.
Rice also threw off his coat. “Never mind these cowards, Lime. Hold on! Fair play!” he yelled, as he saw young Nagle about to strike Lime from behind.
His cry startled Lime, and with a sudden leap he dealt Steve a terrible blow full in the face, and as he went reeling back made another leaping lunge and struck him to the ground–a motion that seemed impossible to one of his bulk. But as he did so one of the crowd tripped him and sent him rolling upon the prostrate Steve, whose friends leaped like a pack of snarling wolves upon Lime’s back. There came into the giant’s heart a terrible, blind, desperate resolution. With a hoarse, inarticulate cry he gathered himself for one supreme effort and rose from the heap like a bear shaking off a pack of dogs; and holding the stunned and nerveless Steve in his great hands, with one swift, incredible effort literally swept his opponent’s body in the faces of the infuriated men rushing down upon him.
“Come on, you red hellions!” he shouted, in a voice like a lion at bay. The light streamed on his bared head, his hands were clinched, his chest heaved in great gasps. There was no movement. The crowd waited with their hands lowered; before such a man they could not stand for a moment. They could not meet the blaze of his eyes. For a moment it seemed as if no one breathed.
In the silence that followed, Bill, who had kept gut of sight up to this moment, piped out in a high, weak falsetto, with a comically questioning accent: “All quiet along the Potomac, boys?”
Lime unbraced, wiped his face and laughed. The others joined in cautiously. “No, thank yez, none in mine,” said Sheehan, in answer to the challenge of Lime. “Whan Oi take to fightin’ stame-ingins Oi’ll lit you knaw.”
“Well, I should say so,” said another. “Lime, you’re the best man that walks this State.”
“Git out of the way, you white-livered hound, or I’ll blow hell out o’ yeh,” said Steve, who had recovered himself sufficiently to know what it all meant. He lay upon the grass behind the rest and was weakly trying to get his revolver sighted upon Lime. One of the men caught him by the shoulder and the rest yelled:
“Hyare, Steve, no shootin’. It was a fair go, and you’re whipped.”
Steve only repeated his warnings to get out of the way. Lime turned upon him and kicked the weapon from his outstretched hand, breaking his arm at the wrist. The bullet went flying harmlessly into the air, and the revolver hurtled away into the shadows.
Walking through the ring, Lime took John by the hand and said: “Come, boy, this is no place for you. Let’s go home. Fellers,” he drawled in his customary lazy way, “when y’ want me you know where to find me. Come, boys, the circus is over, the last dog is hung.”
For the first mile or two there was a good deal of talk, and Bill said he knew that Lime could whip the whole crowd.
“But where was you, Bill, about the time they had me down? I don’t remember hearin’ anything of you ‘long about that time, Bill.”
Bill had nothing to say.
“Made me think somehow of Daniel in the lions’ den,” said Johnny.
“What do you mean by that, Johnny?” said Bill. “It made me think of a circus. The circus there’ll be when Lime’s woman finds out what he’s been a-doin’.”
“Great Scott, boys, you mustn’t tell on me,” said Lime, in genuine alarm.
As for John, he lay with his head in Lime’s lap, looking up at the glory of the starlit night, and with a confused mingling of the play, of the voice of the lovely woman, of the shouts and blows at the brewery in his mind, and with the murmur of the river and the roll and rumble of the wagon blending in his ears, he fell into a sleep which the rhythmic beat of the horses’ hoofs did not interrupt.