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Snow-Bound at Eagle's Bret Harte

Chapter V

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"But surely the law can recover this money?" said Hale indignantly. "It is as infamous a robbery as--" He stopped as he caught Zenobia's eye.

"Ez last night's, you were goin' to say. I'll call it MORE. Them road agents don't pretend to be your friend--but take yer money and run their risks. For ez to the law--that can't help yer."

"It's a skin game, and you might ez well expect to recover a gambling debt from a short-card sharp," explained Clinch; "Falkner oughter shot him on sight."

"Or the boys lynched him," suggested Rawlins.

"I think," said Hale, more reflectively, "that in the absence of legal remedy a man of that kind should have been forced under strong physical menace to give up his ill-gotten gains. The money was the primary object, and if that could be got without bloodshed-- which seems to me a useless crime--it would be quite as effective. Of course, if there was resistance or retaliation, it might be necessary to kill him."

He had unconsciously fallen into his old didactic and dogmatic habit of speech, and perhaps, under the spur of Zenobia's eyes, he had given it some natural emphasis. A dead silence followed, in which the others regarded him with amused and gratified surprise, and it was broken only by Zenobia rising and holding out her hand. "Shake!"

Hale raised it gallantly, and pressed his lips on the one spotless finger.

"That's gospel truth. And you ain't the first white man to say it."

"Indeed," laughed Hale. "Who was the other?"

"George Lee!"

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Snow-Bound at Eagle's
Bret Harte

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