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pull to the next camp, but you can
make it all right."
Messner'cleared his throat "Your
lungs are all right, aren't they?"
"Yes, but what of it?"
Again the other cleared his throat
and spoke with painstaking and judi
cial slowness. "Why, I may say,
nothing of it, except ah according
to your own reasoning, there is noth
ing to prevent your getting out, hit
ting the frost, so to speak, for a mat
ter of ten miles. You can make it all
Womble looked with quick suspi
cion at Theresa and caught in her
eyes a glint of pleased surprise.
"Well?" he demanded of her.
She hesitated and a surge of anger
darkened her face. He turned upon
"Enough of this. You can't stop
"Yes, I can."
v Womble stopped a moment to
steady his voice and control himself.
Then he spoke slowly, in a low, tense
"Look here, Messner, if you refuse
to get out 111 thrash you. This isn't
California. I'll beat you to a jelly
with my two fists."
Messner shrugged his shoulders.
"If you do, I'll call a miners' meeting
and see you strung up to the nearest
tree. As you said, this is not Cali
fornia. ' They're a simple folk, these
miners, and all I'll have to do will be
to show them the marks of the beat
ing, tell them the truth about you,
and present my claim for my wife."
The woman attempted to speak,
but Womble turned upon her fiercely.
"You keep out of this!" he cried.
In marked contrast was Messner's
"Please don't intrude, Theresa."
What of her anger and pent feel
ings, her lungs were irritated into the
dry, hacking cough, and with blood
suffused face and one hand clenched
against her chest, she waited for the
paroxysm to pass.
Womble looked gloomily at her,
noting the cough.
"Something must be done," he
said. "Yet her lungs can't stand the'
exposure. She can't travel till the
temperature rises. And I'm not go
ing to give her up."
Messner hemmed, cleared his
throat, and hemmed again, smiled
apologetically, and said: "I need
Contempt showed instantly in
Womble's face. At last, beneath him
in vileness, had the o'ther sunk him
self. "You've got a far sick of dust,"
Messner went on. "I saw you un
load it from the sled."
. "How much do you want?" Wom
ble demanded, with a contempt in his
voice equal to that in his face.
"I made an estimate of the sack,
and I--ah should say it weighed
twenty pounds. What do you say we
call it four thousand ? "
"But it's all I've got, man!" Wom
ble cried out.
"You've got her," the other said
soothingly. "She must be worth ,it.
Think what I'm giving up. Surely it
is a reasonable price."
"All right." Womble rushed
across the floor to the gold sack.
"Can't put this deal through top
quick for me, you you little worm!"
"Now, there you -are," was the
smiling -rejoinder. As a matter of
ethics, isn't the man who gives the
bribe as bad as the man who takes
"To hell with your ethics!" the
other burst out.
And the woman, leaning against
the bunk, raging and impotent,
watched' herself weighed put in yel
low dust and nuggets in the scales
erected on the grub-box. The scales
were small, makinT nc'sary many
weighings, and Messner with precise
care verified each weighing.
"There's too much silver in it," he
remarked as he tied up tKe gold sack.
"I don't thirik it will run quite 16 to
the ounce. You got a trifle the best
of me, Womble."
He handled the sack lovingly, and
oib- & -? i-fc--ViN'!f