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|The Man On The Other Bank||Jack London|
|Page 2 of 5||
"No, it ain't, young man. I know, we all know, he had four day's grub an' no gun to shoot meat with. If he didn't make the settlement on the Yukon he'd croaked long before this."
"I suppose you've got all the guns in this part of the country accounted for, too," Smoke observed pointedly.
Shunk Wilson was angry.
"You'd think I was the prisoner the way you slam questions into me. Come on with the next witness. Where's French Louis?"
While French Louis was shoving forward, Lucy opened the door.
"Where you goin'?" Shunk Wilson shouted.
"I reckon I don't have to stay," she answered defiantly. "I ain't got no vote, an' besides my cabin's so jammed up I can't breathe."
In a few minutes her husband followed. The closing of the door was the first warning the judge received of it.
"Who was that?" he interrupted Pierre's narrative to ask.
"Bill Peabody," somebody spoke up. "Said he wanted to ask his wife something and was coming right back."
Instead of Bill, it was Lucy who re-entered, took off her furs, and resumed her place by the stove.
"I reckon we don't need to hear the rest of the witnesses," was Shunk Wilson's decision, when Pierre had finished. "We know they only can testify to the same facts we've already heard. Say, Sorensen, you go an' bring Bill Peabody back. We'll be votin' a verdict pretty short. Now, Stranger, you can get up an' say your say concernin' what happened. In the meantime we'll just be savin' delay by passin' around the two rifles, the ammunition, an' the bullets that done the killin'."
Midway in his story of how he had arrived in that part of the country, and at the point in his narrative where he described his own ambush and how he had fled to the bank, Smoke was interrupted by the indignant Shunk Wilson.
"Young man, what sense is there in you testifyin' that way? You're just takin' up valuable time. Of course you got the right to lie to save your neck, but we ain't goin' to stand for such foolishness. The rifle, the ammunition, the bullet that killed Joe Kinade is against you--What's that? Open the door, somebody!"
The frost rushed in, taking form and substance in the heat of the room, while through the open door came the whining of dogs that decreased rapidly with distance.
"It's Sorensen an' Peabody," some one cried, "a-throwin' the whip into the dawgs an' headin' down river!"
"Now, what the hell--!" Shunk Wilson paused, with dropped jaw, and glared at Lucy. "I reckon you can explain, Mrs Peabody."
She tossed her head and compressed her lips, and Shunk Wilson's wrathful and suspicious gaze passed on and rested on Breck.
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