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|The Night-Born||Jack London|
To Kill A Man
|Page 2 of 10||
"How do you know I am Miss Setliffe?" she asked.
"This is old Setliffe's house, ain't it?"
"I didn't know he had a daughter, but I reckon you must be her. And now, if it ain't botherin' you too much, I'd sure be obliged if you'd show me the way out."
"But why should I? You are a robber, a burglar."
"If I wan't an ornery shorthorn at the business, I'd be accumulatin' them rings on your fingers instead of being polite," he retorted.
"I come to make a raise outa old Setliffe, and not to be robbing women-folks. If you get outa the way, I reckon I can find my own way out."
Mrs. Setliffe was a keen woman, and she felt that from such a man there was little to fear. That he was not a typical criminal, she was certain. From his speech she knew he was not of the cities, and she seemed to sense the wider, homelier air of large spaces.
"Suppose I screamed?" she queried curiously. "Suppose I made an outcry for help? You couldn't shoot me? . . . a woman?"
She noted the fleeting bafflement in his brown eyes. He answered slowly and thoughtfully, as if working out a difficult problem. "I reckon, then, I'd have to choke you and maul you some bad."
"I'd sure have to," he answered, and she saw his mouth set grimly.
"You're only a soft woman, but you see, Miss, I can't afford to go to jail. No, Miss, I sure can't. There's a friend of mine waitin' for me out West. He's in a hole, and I've got to help him out." The mouth shaped even more grimly. "I guess I could choke you without hurting you much to speak of."
Her eyes took on a baby stare of innocent incredulity as she watched him.
"I never met a burglar before," she assured him, "and I can't begin to tell you how interested I am."
"I'm not a burglar, Miss. Not a real one," he hastened to add as she looked her amused unbelief. "It looks like it, me being here in your house. But it's the first time I ever tackled such a job. I needed the money bad. Besides, I kind of look on it like collecting what's coming to me."
"I don't understand," she smiled encouragingly. "You came here to rob, and to rob is to take what is not yours."
"Yes, and no, in this here particular case. But I reckon I'd better be going now."
He started for the door of the dining-room, but she interposed, and a very beautiful obstacle she made of herself. His left hand went out as if to grip her, then hesitated. He was patently awed by her soft womanhood.
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