Black Jack Part 47

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"Honey, there are a thousand things I'd like to say to you, but being what I am, I have no right to say them to you--never, or to any other woman! I'm born to be what I am. I tell you, Kate, the woman who raised me, who was a mother to me, saw what I was going to be--and turned me out like a dog! And I don't blame her. She was right!"

She grasped at the straw of hope.

"Terry, that woman has changed her mind. You hear? She's lived heartbroken since she turned you out. And now she's coming for you to--to beg you to come back to her! Terry, that's how much she's given up hope in you!"

But he drew back, his face growing dark.

"You've been to see her, Kate? That's where you went when you were away those four days?"

She dared not answer. He was trembling with hurt pride and rage.

"You went to her--she thought I sent you--that I've grown ashamed of my own father, and that I want to beg her to take me back? Is that what she thinks?"

He struck his hand across his forehead and groaned.

"G.o.d! I'd rather die than have her think it for a minute. Kate, how could you do it? I'd have trusted you always to do the right thing and the proud thing--and here you've shamed me!"

He turned to the horse, and El Sangre stepped out of the stall and into a shaft of sunlight that burned on him like blood-red fire. And beside him young Terry Hollis, straight as a pine, and as strong--a glorious figure.

It broke her heart to see him, knowing what was coming.

"Terry, if you ride down yonder, you're going to a dog's death! I swear you are, Terry!"

She stretched out her arms to him; but he turned to her with his hand on the pommel, and his face was like iron.

"I've made my choice. Will you stand aside, Kate?"

"You're set on going? Nothing will change you? But I tell you, I'm going to change you! I'm only a girl. And I can't stop you with a girl's weapons. I'll do it with a man's. Terry, take the saddle off that horse!

And promise me you'll stay here till Elizabeth Cornish comes!"

"Elizabeth Cornish?" He laughed bitterly. "When she conies, I'll be a hundred miles away, and bound farther off. That's final."

"You're wrong," she cried hysterically. "You're going to stay here. You may throw away your share in yourself. But I have a share that I won't throw away. Terry, for the last time!"

He shook his head.

She caught her breath with a sob. Someone was coming from the outside.

She heard her father's deep-throated laughter. Whatever was done, she must do it quickly. And he must be stopped!

The hand on the gun b.u.t.t jerked up--the long gun flashed in her hand.

"Kate!" cried Terry. "Good G.o.d, are you mad?"

"Yes," she sobbed. "Mad! Will you stay?"

"What infernal nonsense--"

The gun boomed hollowly in the narrow pa.s.sage between mow and wall. El Sangre reared, a red flash in the sunlight, and landed far away in the shadow, trembling. But Terry Hollis had spun halfway around, swung by the heavy, tearing impact of the big slug, and then sank to the floor, where he sat clasping his torn thigh with both hands, his shoulder and head sagging against the wall.

Joe Pollard, rus.h.i.+ng in with an outcry, found the gun lying sparkling in the suns.h.i.+ne, and his daughter, hysterical and weeping, holding the wounded man in her arms.

"What--in the name of--" he roared.

"Accident, Joe," gasped Terry. "Fooling with Kate's gun and trying a spin with it. It went off--drilled me clean through the leg!"

That night, very late, in Joe Pollard's house, Terry Hollis lay on the bed with a dim light reaching to him from the hooded lamp in the corner of the room. His arms were stretched out on each side and one hand held that of Kate, warm, soft, young, clasping his fingers feverishly and happily. And on the other side was the firm, cool pressure of the hand of Aunt Elizabeth.

His mind was in a haze. Vaguely he perceived the gleam of tears on the face of Elizabeth. And he had heard her say: "All the time I didn't know, Terry. I thought I was ashamed of the blood in you. But this girl opened my eyes. She told me the truth. The reason I took you in was because I loved that wild, fierce, gentle, terrible father of yours. If you have done a little of what he did, what does it matter? Nothing to me! Oh, Terry, nothing in the world to me! Except that Kate brought me to my senses in time--bless her--and now I have you back, dear boy!"

He remembered smiling faintly and happily at that. And he said before he slept: "It's a bit queer, isn't it, even two wise women can't show a man that he's a fool? It takes a bullet to turn the trick!"

But when he went to sleep, his head turned a little from Elizabeth toward Kate.

And the women raised their heads and looked at one another with filmy eyes. They both understood what that feeble gesture meant. It told much of the fine heart of Elizabeth--that she was able to smile at the girl and forgive her for having stolen again what she had restored.

It was the break-up of the Pollard gang, the sudden disaffection of their newest and most brilliant member. Joe himself was financed by Elizabeth Cornish and opened a small string of small-town hotels.

"Which is just another angle of the road business," he often said, "except that the law works with you and not agin you."

But he never quite recovered from the restoration of the Lewison money on which Elizabeth and Terry both insisted. Neither did Denver Pete. He left them in disgust and was never heard of again in those parts. And he always thereafter referred to Terry as "a promising kid gone to waste."

Black Jack Part 47

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Black Jack Part 47 summary

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