The Error Of The Day by Gilbert Parker

Story type: Literature

The “Error of the Day” may be defined as the “The difference between the distance or range which must be put upon the sights in order to hit the target and the actual distance from the gun to the target.”–Admiralty Note.

A great naval gun never fires twice alike. It varies from day to day, and expert allowance has to be made in sighting every time it is fired. Variations in atmosphere, condition of ammunition, and the wear of the gun are the contributory causes to the ever-varying “Error of the Day.”

“Say, ain’t he pretty?”

“A Jim-dandy–oh, my!”

“What’s his price in the open market?”

“Thirty millions–I think not.”

Then was heard the voice of Billy Goat–his name was William Goatry—-

“Out in the cold world, out in the street,
Nothing to wear and nothing to eat,
Fatherless, motherless, sadly I roam,
Child of misfortune, I’m driven from home.”

A loud laugh followed, for Billy Goat was a popular person at Kowatin, in the Saskatchewan country. He had an inimitable drollery, heightened by a cast in his eye, a very large mouth, and a round, good-humored face; also he had a hand and arm like iron, and was altogether a great man on a “spree.”

There had been a two days’ spree at Kowatin, for no other reason than that there had been great excitement over the capture and subsequent escape of a prairie-rover who had robbed the contractor’s money-chest at the rail-head on the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Forty miles from Kowatin he had been caught by, and escaped from, the tall, brown-eyed man with the hard-bitten face who leaned against the open window of the tavern, looking indifferently at the jeering crowd before him. For a police officer, he was not unpopular with them, but he had been a failure for once, and, as Billy Goat had said, “It tickled us to death to see a rider of the plains off his trolley–on the cold, cold ground, same as you and me.”

They did not undervalue him. If he had been less a man than he was, they would not have taken the trouble to cover him with their drunken ribaldry. He had scored off them in the past in just such sprees as this, when he had the power to do so, and used the power good-naturedly and quietly–but used it.

Then he was Sergeant Foyle, of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, on duty in a district as large as the United Kingdom. And he had no greater admirer than Billy Goat, who now reviled him. Not without cause, in a way, for he had reviled himself to this extent that, when the prairie-rover, Halbeck, escaped on the way to Prince Albert, after six months’ hunt for him and a final capture in the Kowatin district, Foyle resigned the Force before the Commissioner could reproach him or call him to account. Usually so exact, so certain of his target, some care had not been taken, he had miscalculated, and there had been the Error of the Day. Whatever it was, it had seemed to him fatal; and he had turned his face from the barrack-yard.

Then he had made his way to the Happy Land Hotel at Kowatin, to begin life as “a free and independent gent on the loose,” as Billy Goat had said. To resign had seemed extreme; because, though the Commissioner was vexed at Halbeck’s escape, Foyle was the best non-commissioned officer in the Force. He had frightened horse-thieves and bogus land-agents and speculators out of the country; had fearlessly tracked down a criminal or a band of criminals when the odds were heavy against him. He carried on his cheek the scars of two bullets, and there was one white lock in his brown hair where an arrow had torn the scalp away as, alone, he drove into the Post a score of Indians, fresh from raiding the cattle of an immigrant trailing north.

Now he was out of work, or so it seemed; he had stepped down from his scarlet-coated dignity, from the place of guardian and guide to civilization, into the idleness of a tavern stoop.

As the little group swayed round him, and Billy Goat started another song, Foyle roused himself as though to move away–he was waiting for the mail-stage to take him south–

“Oh, father, dear father, come home with me now,
The clock in the steeple strikes one;
You said you were coming right home from the shop
As soon as your day’s work was done.
Come home–come home–“

The song arrested him, and he leaned back against the window again. A curious look came into his eyes, a look that had nothing to do with the acts of the people before him. It was searching into a scene beyond this bright sunlight and the far green-brown grass, and the little oasis of trees in the distance marking a homestead, and the dust of the wagon-wheels out on the trail beyond the grain-elevator–beyond the blue horizon’s rim, quivering in the heat, and into regions where this crisp, clear, life-giving, life-saving air never blew.

“You said you were coming right home from the shop
As soon as your day’s work was done.
Come home–come home–“

He remembered when he had first heard this song in a play called Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, many years before, and how it had wrenched his heart and soul, and covered him with a sudden cloud of shame and anger. For his father had been a drunkard, and his brother had grown up a drunkard, that brother whom he had not seen for ten years until–until–

He shuddered, closed his eyes, as though to shut out something that the mind saw. He had had a rough life, he had become inured to the seamy side of things–there was a seamy side even in this clean, free, wide land; and he had no sentimentality; though something seemed to hurt and shame him now.

“As soon as your day’s work was done. Come home–come home–“

The crowd was uproarious. The exhilaration had become a kind of delirium. Men were losing their heads; there was an element of irresponsibility in the new outbreak likely to breed some violent act, which every man of them would lament when sober again.

Nettlewood Foyle watched the dust rising from the wheels of the stage, which had passed the elevator and was nearing the Prairie Home Hotel, far down the street. He would soon leave behind him this noisy ribaldry of which he was the centre. He tossed his cheroot away. Suddenly he heard a low voice behind him.

“Why don’t you hit out, sergeant?” it said.

He started almost violently, and turned round. Then his face flushed, his eyes blurred with feeling and deep surprise, and his lips parted in a whispered exclamation and greeting.

A girl’s face from the shade of the sitting-room was looking out at him, half smiling, but with heightened color and a suppressed agitation. The girl was not more than twenty-five, graceful, supple, and strong. Her chin was dimpled; across her right temple was a slight scar. She had eyes of a wonderful deep blue; they seemed to swim with light. As Foyle gazed at her for a moment dumfounded, with a quizzical suggestion and smiling still a little more, she said:

“You used to be a little quicker, Nett.” The voice appeared to attempt unconcern; but it quivered from a force of feeling underneath. It was so long since she had seen him.

He was about to reply, but, at the instant, a reveller pushed him with a foot behind the knees so that they were sprung forward. The crowd laughed–all save Billy Goat, who knew his man.

Like lightning, and with cold fury in his eyes, Foyle caught the tall cattleman by the forearm, and, with a swift, dexterous twist, had the fellow in his power.

“Down–down to your knees, you skunk!” he said, in a low, fierce voice.

The knees of the big man bent–Foyle had not taken lessons of Ogami, the Jap, for nothing–they bent, and the cattleman squealed, so intense was the pain. It was break or bend; and he bent–to the ground and lay there. Foyle stood over him for a moment, a hard light in his eyes, and then, as if bethinking himself, he looked at the other roisterers and said:

“There’s a limit, and he reached it. Your mouths are your own, and you can blow off to suit your fancy, but if any one thinks I’m a tame coyote to be poked with a stick–!” He broke off, stooped over, and helped the man before him to his feet. The arm had been strained, and the big fellow nursed it.

“Hell, but you’re a twister!” the cattleman said, with a grimace of pain.

Billy Goat was a gentleman, after his kind, and he liked Sergeant Foyle with a great liking. He turned to the crowd and spoke.

“Say, boys, this mine’s worked out. Let’s leave the Happy Land to Foyle. Boys, what is he–what–is–he? What–is–Sergeant Foyle–boys?”

The roar of the song they all knew came in reply, as Billy Goat waved his arms about like the wild leader of a wild orchestra:

“Sergeant Foyle, oh, he’s a knocker from the West,
He’s a chase-me-Charley, come-and-kiss-me tiger from the zoo;
He’s a dandy on the pinch, and he’s got a double cinch
On the gent that’s going careless, and he’ll soon cinch you:
And he’ll soon–and he’ll soon–cinch you!”

Foyle watched them go, dancing, stumbling, calling back at him, as they moved toward the Prairie Home Hotel:

“And he’ll soon–and he’ll soon–cinch you!”

His under-lip came out, his eyes half closed, as he watched them. “I’ve done my last cinch. I’ve done my last cinch,” he murmured.

Then, suddenly, the look in his face changed, the eyes swam as they had done a minute before at the sight of the girl in the room behind. Whatever his trouble was, that face had obscured it in a flash, and the pools of feeling far down in the depths of a lonely nature had been stirred. Recognition, memory, tenderness, desire swam in his face, made generous and kind the hard lines of the strong mouth. In an instant he had swung himself over the window-sill. The girl had drawn away now into a more shaded corner of the room, and she regarded him with a mingled anxiety and eagerness. Was she afraid of something? Did she fear that–she knew not quite what, but it had to do with a long ago?

“It was time you hit out, Nett,” she said, half shyly. “You’re more patient than you used to be, but you’re surer. My, that was a twist you gave him, Nett. Aren’t you glad to see me?” she added, hastily and with an effort to hide her agitation.

He reached out and took her hand with a strange shyness and a self-consciousness which was alien to his nature. The touch of her hand thrilled him. Their eyes met. She dropped hers. Then he gathered himself together. “Glad to see you? Of course, of course, I’m glad. You stunned me, Jo. Why, do you know where you are? You’re a thousand miles from home. I can’t get it through my head, not really. What brings you here? It’s ten years–ten years since I saw you, and you were only fifteen, but a fifteen that was as good as twenty.”

He scanned her face closely. “What’s that scar on your forehead, Jo? You hadn’t that–then.”

“I ran up against something,” she said, evasively, her eyes glittering, “and it left that scar. Does it look so bad?”

“No, you’d never notice it, if you weren’t looking close as I am. You see, I knew your face so well ten years ago.”

He shook his head with a forced kind of smile. It became him, however, for he smiled rarely; and the smile was like a lantern turned on his face; it gave light and warmth to its quiet strength–or hardness.

“You were always quizzing,” she said, with an attempt at a laugh–“always trying to find things out. That’s why you made them reckon with you out here. You always could see behind things; always would have your own way; always were meant to be a success.”

She was beginning to get control of herself again, was trying hard to keep things on the surface. “You were meant to succeed–you had to,” she added.

“I’ve been a failure–a dead failure,” he answered, slowly. “So they say. So they said. You heard them, Jo.”

He jerked his head toward the open window.

“Oh, those drunken fools!” she exclaimed, indignantly, and her face hardened. “How I hate drink! It spoils everything.”

There was silence for a moment. They were both thinking of the same thing–of the same man. He repeated a question.

“What brings you out here, Jo?” he asked, gently.

“Dorland,” she answered, her face setting into determination and anxiety.

His face became pinched. “Dorl!” he said, heavily. “What for, Jo? What do you want with Dorl?”

“When Cynthy died she left her five hundred dollars a year to the baby, and–“

“Yes, yes, I know. Well, Jo?”

“Well, it was all right for five years–Dorland paid it in; but for five years he hasn’t paid anything. He’s taken it, stolen it from his own child by his own honest wife. I’ve come to get it–anyway, to stop him from doing it any more. His own child–it puts murder in my heart, Nett! I could kill him.”

He nodded grimly. “That’s likely. And you’ve kept Dorl’s child with your own money all these years?”

“I’ve got four hundred dollars a year, Nett, you know; and I’ve been dressmaking–they say I’ve got taste,” she added, with a whimsical smile.

Nett nodded his head. “Five years. That’s twenty-five hundred dollars he’s stolen from his own child. It’s eight years old now, isn’t it?”

“Bobby is eight and a half,” she answered.

“And his schooling, and his clothing, and everything; and you have to pay for it all?”

“Oh, I don’t mind, Nett; it isn’t that. Bobby is Cynthy’s child, and I love him–love him; but I want him to have his rights. Dorl must give up his hold on that money–or–“

He nodded gravely. “Or you’ll set the law on him?”

“It’s one thing or the other. Better to do it now when Bobby is young and can’t understand.”

“Or read the newspapers,” he commented, thoughtfully.

“I don’t think I’ve a hard heart,” she continued, “but I’d like to punish him, if it wasn’t that he’s your brother, Nett, and if it wasn’t for Bobby. Dorland was dreadfully cruel, even to Cynthy.”

“How did you know he was up here?” he asked.

“From the lawyer that pays over the money. Dorland has had it sent out here to Kowatin this two years. And he sent word to the lawyer a month ago that he wanted it to get here as usual. The letter left the same day as I did, and it got here yesterday with me, I suppose. He’ll be after it–perhaps to-day. He wouldn’t let it wait long, Dorl wouldn’t.”

Foyle started. “To-day–to-day–“

There was a gleam in his eyes, a setting of the lips, a line sinking into the forehead between the eyes.

“I’ve been watching for him all day, and I’ll watch till he comes. I’m going to say some things to him that he won’t forget. I’m going to get Bobby’s money, or have the law to do it–unless you think I’m a brute, Nett.” She looked at him wistfully.

“That’s all right. Don’t worry about me, Jo. He’s my brother, but I know him–I know him through and through. He’s done everything that a man can do and not be hanged. A thief, a drunkard, and a brute–and he killed a man out here,” he added, hoarsely. “I found it out myself–myself. It was murder.”

Suddenly, as he looked at her, an idea seemed to flash into his mind. He came very near and looked at her closely. Then he reached over and almost touched the scar on her forehead.

“Did he do that, Jo?”

For an instant she was silent and looked down at the floor. Presently she raised her eyes, her face suffused. Once or twice she tried to speak, but failed. At last she gained courage, and said:

“After Cynthy’s death I kept house for him for a year, taking care of little Bobby. I loved Bobby so–he has Cynthy’s eyes. One day Dorland–oh, Nett, of course I oughtn’t to have stayed there–I know it now; but I was only sixteen, and what did I understand! And my mother was dead. One day–oh, please, Nett, you can guess. He said something to me. I made him leave the house. Before I could make plans what to do, he came back mad with drink. I went for Bobby, to get out of the house, but he caught hold of me. I struck him in the face, and he threw me against the edge of the open door. It made the scar.”

Foyle’s face was white. “Why did you never write and tell me that, Jo? You know that I–” He stopped suddenly.

“You had gone out of our lives down there. I didn’t know where you were for a long time; and then–then it was all right about Bobby and me, except that Bobby didn’t get the money that was his. But now–“

Foyle’s voice was hoarse and low. “He made that scar, and he–and you only sixteen–Oh, my God!”

Suddenly his face reddened, and he choked with shame and anger. “And he’s my brother!” was all that he could say.

“Do you see him up here ever?” she asked, pityingly.

“I never saw him till a week ago.” A moment, then he added, “The letter wasn’t to be sent here in his own name, was it?”

She nodded. “Yes, in his own name, Dorland W. Foyle. Didn’t he go by that name when you saw him?”

There was an oppressive silence, in which she saw that something moved him strangely, and then he answered, “No, he was going by the name of Halbeck–Hiram Halbeck.”

The girl gasped. Then the whole thing burst upon her. “Hiram Halbeck! Hiram Halbeck, the thief–I read it all in the papers–the thief that you caught, and that got away. And you’ve left the Mounted Police because of it–oh, Nett!” Her eyes were full of tears, her face was drawn and gray.

He nodded. “I didn’t know who he was till I arrested him,” he said. “Then, afterward, I thought of his child, and let him get away; and for my poor old mother’s sake. She never knew how bad he was, even as a boy. But I remember how he used to steal and drink the brandy from her bedside, when she had the fever. She never knew the worst of him. But I let him away in the night, Jo, and I resigned, and they thought that Halbeck had beaten me, had escaped. Of course I couldn’t stay in the Force, having done that. But, by the heaven above us, if I had him here now I’d do the thing–do it, so help me God!”

“Why should you ruin your life for him?” she said, with an outburst of indignation. All that was in her heart welled up in her eyes at the thought of what Foyle was. “You must not do it. You shall not do it. He must pay for his wickedness, not you. It would be a sin. You and what becomes of you mean so much.” Suddenly, with a flash of purpose, she added, “He will come for that letter, Nett. He would run any kind of risk to get a dollar. He will come here for that letter–perhaps to-day.”

He shook his head moodily, oppressed by the trouble that was on him. “He’s not likely to venture here, after what’s happened.”

“You don’t know him as well as I do, Nett. He is so vain he’d do it, just to show that he could. He’d probably come in the evening. Does any one know him here? So many people pass through Kowatin every day. Has any one seen him?”

“Only Billy Goatry,” he answered, working his way to a solution of the dark problem. “Only Billy Goatry knows him. The fellow that led the singing–that was Goatry.”

“There he is now,” he added, as Billy Goat passed the window.

She came and laid a hand on his arm. “We’ve got to settle things with him,” she said. “If Dorl comes, Nett–“

There was silence for a moment, then he caught her hand in his and held it. “If he comes, leave him to me, Jo. You will leave him to me?” he added, anxiously.

“Yes,” she answered. “You’ll do what’s right–by Bobby?”

“And by Dorl, too,” he replied, strangely.

There were loud footsteps without.

“It’s Goatry,” said Foyle. “You stay here. I’ll tell him everything. He’s all right; he’s a true friend. He’ll not interfere.”

The handle of the door turned slowly. “You keep watch on the post-office, Jo,” he added.

Goatry came round the opening door with a grin.

“Hope I don’t intrude,” he said, stealing a half-leering look at the girl. As soon as he saw her face, however, he straightened himself up and took on different manners. He had not been so intoxicated as he had made out, and he seemed only “mellow” as he stood before them, with his corrugated face and queer, quaint look, the eye with the cast in it blinking faster than the other.

“It’s all right, Goatry,” said Foyle. “This lady is one of my family from the East.”

“Goin’ on by stage?” Goatry said, vaguely, as they shook hands.

She did not reply, for she was looking down the street, and presently she started as she gazed. She laid a hand suddenly on Foyle’s arm.

“See–he’s come,” she said, in a whisper, and as though not realizing Goatry’s presence. “He’s come.”

Goatry looked, as well as Foyle. “Halbeck–the devil!” he said.

Foyle turned to him. “Stand by, Goatry. I want you to keep a shut mouth. I’ve work to do.”

Goatry held out his hand. “I’m with you. If you get him this time, clamp him, clamp him like a tooth in a harrow.”

Halbeck had stopped his horse at the post-office door. Dismounting, he looked quickly round, then drew the reins over the horse’s head, letting them trail, as is the custom of the West.

A few swift words passed between Goatry and Foyle.

“I’ll do this myself, Jo,” he whispered to the girl presently. “Go into another room. I’ll bring him here.”

* * * * *

In another minute Goatry was leading the horse away from the post-office, while Foyle stood waiting quietly at the door. The departing footsteps of the horse brought Halbeck swiftly to the doorway, with a letter in his hand.

“Hi, there, you damned sucker!” he called after Goatry, and then saw Foyle waiting.

“What the hell–!” he said, fiercely, his hand on something in his hip-pocket.

“Keep quiet, Dorl. I want to have a little talk with you. Take your hand away from that gun–take it away!” he added, with a meaning not to be misunderstood.

Halbeck knew that one shout would have the town on him, and he did not know what card his brother was going to play. He let his arm drop to his side. “What’s your game? What do you want?” he asked, surlily.

“Come over to the Happy Land Hotel,” Foyle answered, and in the light of what was in his mind his words had a grim irony.

With a snarl Halbeck stepped out. Goatry, who had handed the horse over to the hostler, watched them coming.

“Why did I never notice the likeness before?” Goatry said to himself. “But, gosh! what a difference in the men. Foyle’s going to double cinch him this time, I guess.”

He followed them inside the hall of the Happy Land. When they stepped into the sitting-room, he stood at the door waiting. The hotel was entirely empty, the roisterers at the Prairie Home having drawn off the idlers and spectators. The barman was nodding behind the bar, the proprietor was moving about in the backyard inspecting a horse. There was a cheerful warmth everywhere; the air was like an elixir; the pungent smell of a pine-tree at the door gave a kind of medicament to the indrawn breath. And to Billy Goat, who sometimes sang in the choir of a church not a hundred miles away–for the people agreed to forget his occasional sprees–there came, he knew not why, the words of a hymn he had sung only the preceding Sunday:

“As pants the hart for cooling streams,
When heated in the chase–“

The words kept ringing in his ears as he listened to the conversation inside the room–the partition was thin, the door thinner, and he heard much. Foyle had asked him not to intervene, but only to stand by and await the issue of this final conference. He meant, however, to take a hand in if he thought he was needed, and he kept his ear glued to the door. If he thought Foyle needed him–his fingers were on the handle of the door.

“Now, hurry up! What do you want with me?” asked Halbeck of his brother.

“Take your time,” said ex-Sergeant Foyle, as he drew the blind three-quarters down, so that they could not be seen from the street.

“I’m in a hurry, I tell you. I’ve got my plans. I’m going South. I’ve only just time to catch the Canadian Pacific three days from now, riding hard.”

“You’re not going South, Dorl.”

“Where am I going, then?” was the sneering reply.

“Not farther than the Happy Land.”

“What the devil’s all this? You don’t mean you’re trying to arrest me again, after letting me go?”

“You don’t need to ask. You’re my prisoner. You’re my prisoner,” he said, in a louder voice–“until you free yourself.”

“I’ll do that damn quick, then,” said the other, his hand flying to his hip.

“Sit down,” was the sharp rejoinder, and a pistol was in his face before he could draw his own weapon.

“Put your gun on the table,” Foyle said, quietly. Halbeck did so. There was no other way.

Foyle drew it over to himself. His brother made a motion to rise.

“Sit still, Dorl,” came the warning voice.

White with rage, the freebooter sat still, his dissipated face and heavy angry lips, looking like a debauched and villanous caricature of his brother before him.

“Yes, I suppose you’d have potted me, Dorl,” said the ex-sergeant. “You’d have thought no more of doing that than you did of killing Linley, the ranchman; than you did of trying to ruin Jo Byndon, your wife’s sister, when she was sixteen years old, when she was caring for your child–giving her life for the child you brought into the world.”

“What in the name of hell–it’s a lie!”

“Don’t bluster. I know the truth.”

“Who told you–the truth?”

“She did–to-day–an hour ago.”

“She here–out here?” There was a new, cowed note in the voice.

“She is in the next room.”

“What did she come here for?”

“To make you do right by your own child. I wonder what a jury of decent men would think about a man who robbed his child for five years, and let that child be fed and clothed and cared for by the girl he tried to destroy, the girl he taught what sin there was in the world.”

“She put you up to this. She was always in love with you, and you know it.”

There was a dangerous look in Foyle’s eyes, and his jaw set hard. “There would be no shame in a decent woman caring for me, even if it was true. I haven’t put myself outside the boundary as you have. You’re my brother, but you’re the worst scoundrel in the country–the worst unhanged. Put on the table there the letter in your pocket. It holds five hundred dollars belonging to your child. There’s twenty-five hundred dollars more to be accounted for.”

The other hesitated, then with an oath threw the letter on the table. “I’ll pay the rest as soon as I can, if you’ll stop this damned tomfoolery,” he said, sullenly, for he saw that he was in a hole.

“You’ll pay it, I suppose, out of what you stole from the C. P. R. contractor’s chest. No, I don’t think that will do.”

“You want me to go to prison, then?”

“I think not. The truth would come out at the trial–the whole truth–the murder and all. There’s your child, Bobby. You’ve done him enough wrong already. Do you want him–but it doesn’t matter whether you do or not–do you want him to carry through life the fact that his father was a jail-bird and a murderer, just as Jo Byndon carries the scar you made when you threw her against the door?”

“What do you want with me, then?” The man sank slowly and heavily back into the chair.

“There is a way–have you never thought of it? When you threatened others as you did me, and life seemed such a little thing in others–can’t you think?”

Bewildered, the man looked around helplessly. In the silence which followed Foyle’s words his brain was struggling to see a way out. Foyle’s further words seemed to come from a great distance.

“It’s not too late to do the decent thing. You’ll never repent of all you’ve done; you’ll never do different.”

The old, reckless, irresponsible spirit revived in the man; he had both courage and bravado; he was not hopeless yet of finding an escape from the net. He would not beg, he would struggle.

“I’ve lived as I meant to, and I’m not going to snivel or repent now. It’s all a rotten business, anyhow,” he rejoined.

With a sudden resolution the ex-sergeant put his own pistol in his pocket, then pushed Halbeck’s pistol over toward him on the table. Halbeck’s eyes lighted eagerly, grew red with excitement, then a change passed over them. They now settled on the pistol, and stayed.

He heard Foyle’s voice. “It’s with you to do what you ought to do. Of course you can kill me. My pistol’s in my pocket. But I don’t think you will. You’ve murdered one man. You won’t load your soul up with another. Besides, if you kill me, you will never get away from Kowatin alive. But it’s with you–take your choice. It’s me or you.”

Halbeck’s fingers crept out and found the pistol.

“Do your duty, Dorl,” said the ex-sergeant, as he turned his back on his brother.

The door of the room opened, and Goatry stepped inside softly. He had work to do, if need be, and his face showed it. Halbeck did not see him.

There was a demon in Halbeck’s eyes, as his brother stood, his back turned, taking his chances. A large mirror hung on the wall opposite Halbeck. Goatry was watching Halbeck’s face in the glass, and saw the danger. He measured his distance.

All at once Halbeck caught Goatry’s face in the mirror. The dark devilry faded out of his eyes. His lips moved in a whispered oath. Every way was blocked.

With a sudden wild resolution he raised the pistol to his head. It cracked, and he fell back heavily in the chair. There was a red trickle at the temple.

He had chosen the best way out.

“He had the pluck,” said Goatry, as Foyle swung round with a face of misery.

A moment afterward came a rush of people. Goatry kept them back.

“Sergeant Foyle arrested Halbeck, and Halbeck’s shot himself,” Goatry explained to them.

A white-faced girl with a scar on her temple made her way into the room.

“Come away–come away, Jo,” said the voice of the man she loved; and he did not let her see the lifeless figure in the chair.

* * * * *

Three days later the plains swallowed them, as they made their way with Billy Goatry to the headquarters of the Riders of the Plains, where Sergeant Foyle was asked to reconsider his resignation: which he did.