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ERNEST HAYCOX

ONE STAR BY NIGHT

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First published in Collier's, 11 Dec 1937

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2018
Version Date: 2018-12-29
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HECK GORRELL came into Two Dance about nine o'clock, put up his horse and took a seat on the Cattle King's porch. An hour later Clark Tenbrook swung off the Reservation road, sitting high and easy on the big claybank horse, and passed Gorrell without turning his head; and as small an incident as that was, it told Sudden Ben Drury of trouble to come. Posted in the courthouse doorway, the sheriff smoked his morning cigar and watched the two men through eyes turned gray and shrewd from thirty years of experience at his job. Behind the obvious indifference of that pair lay a feeling too wild to be permanently held in; when the break came it would be violent.

Clark Tenbrook left his horse at Dunmire's stable and strolled on beneath the brilliant sunshine of this Saturday morning. Riders drifted in from Two Dance range and homesteaders began to appear out of Mauvaise Valley, their wagon wheels lifting and dropping the street's velvet dust. Here and there expectant shopkeepers had sluiced the walks with water that, soon drying, sent a pungent, humid smell into the air. Sun flashed on the town's second-story windows; along the walks lay a shade created by the overhang of board awnings.

Tenbrook rolled into Faro Charley's saloon and, though the doorway was high enough, habit made him duck when he passed it. He said, "How, Charley," and put his stomach against the bar, resting his elbows on it. He was flat-muscled, with a ruddy and big-boned face and with hair that showed a dye-black edge beneath the brim of his hat. He had long, solid lips and quietness possessed him, and at thirty he had seen too much disaster to expect a great deal for himself. He ran a horse ranch in the Yellow Hills, eighty miles south of town.

Faro Charley's barkeep laid out bottle and glass. Faro Charley, a slim man dressed in the neat style of his profession, came up to show Tenbrook a reserved affability. He said, "A long time since last time, Clark," and hesitated, and added, "Heck Gorrell is in town."

"I saw him."

Faro Charley looked carefully at the big-boned Ten-brook and said no more. It was not polite to pry into a man's affairs.

Clark Tenbrook took his drink and went to the street, there resting against the saloon wall long enough to shape up a smoke. His muscles were idle and his manner was absorbed, and still he observed the street carefully, and so saw that Heck Gorrell had disappeared from the Cattle King's porch. Another homesteader's wagon came in, loaded with blond-headed children. Jim Benbow of Hat stopped by and struck Clark Tenbrook in the chest. He said, "Woolly hair growin' out of your ears. Where you been all summer?"

They stood silent awhile, grinning at each other, two big men not given much to talk. Then Jim Benbow said, "Heck Gorrell's around town."

"Yeah. Saw him."

"Thought you did. The girls are all up at the hotel. They came in last night."

Clark Tenbrook idled up the walk, through the galleried shadows. Hugh Donlake called him by name and Izee Peters, loping past on a calico mare, let out a cheerful yip of recognition. A risen dust began to cast its solid shimmer through the air. As Tenbrook came to the Cattle King's porch, Constance Benbow appeared and smiled at him and called into the lobby, "Judith," and then Judith Parr came slowly from the hotel and Constance Benbow immediately left them.

Tenbrook stopped at the bottom of the steps. He pulled off his hat and stood rangy and black-headed under the strong sunlight. Shadows made the angles of his jaw and neck stronger; quietness lay definitely in this man. "Judith," he said, "how have you been?"

Melody had its low and pleasant way with her words. "You are a very casual man, Clark." She stood above him, cool and pleased. There was something in her eyes for him, some serene knowledge he didn't catch.

"You'll be going to the dance?"

"John Tierney is taking me."

"That's his luck," said Clark. He remembered at once that this was a girl he had known for five years; and nothing had ever been any different from what it was now—some kind of silence covering them both, and some kind of feeling compelling them. Her lips were strong and red and she was a fair woman and laughter lay beneath her eyes when he looked at her. He said, "I'll cut in on John tonight."

He turned across the street. A group of Hat riders cantered into town, solemn enough but showing a remote wildness in their eye corners, which was the way men looked after a long summer's dusty work. He reached the other walk and sauntered along it, the strong odors of Dunmire's stable drifting against him as he passed the archway. A train drew into the yellow depot at the foot of the street, its steam jets sawing the windless air. Then, paused on the walk, Clark Tenbrook saw Heck Correll come out of the saddle shop and turn toward him.

It was one of those purely accidental moves. Heck Gorrell's head lifted. He stopped and his big body cut a solid shape against the strong light. He had pale green eyes beneath sorrel brows. There was a hardness in his face and his skin had a black weathering, marked by a hundred thin creases that were born of slyness and bad humor. Both his arms hung idly beside a shabby vest.

There was always a way of reading a man's mind. Ten-brook saw a flicker of bitter hostility, and a hard care, as though Correll used that moment to listen to his thoughts; and then Tenbrook knew Correll wasn't quite ready. For Correll turned on his heel and crossed the street.

It was a small scene in the dusty confusion of the town, yet Judith Parr saw it, and Sudden Ben Drury saw it; and it was observed by all those slow-moving men along Arapahoe Street, and at once a kind of signal flashed through town and everybody knew. Faro Charley sauntered toward Sudden Ben. He said, "What caused it?"

"Over at Cherokee last week Tenbrook said Heck was a thief. The news was carried to Heck."

"Which Tenbrook meant it should be."

But Sudden Ben, who knew men so thoroughly—the things that injured their pride and the things that soothed their pride—said, "Maybe, and maybe not."


At noon, with the sun turning all Two Dance's streets a tawny yellow, young Nick Bolester came into town and racked his horse before Swing's restaurant. Nick had been a man for two years, but manhood's girth had not yet caught up with him. He was lean in the flanks and his shoulders needed muscle; and his features showed still the intensity and the faint formlessness of his youth. For a moment he put his big hands in his pockets and watched the girl inside the restaurant. He saw her shoulders stir as she waited on the counter; he saw her white arms move deftly, and he saw the smile that quickened on men, and faded, and quickened again. Nicky Bolester's Adam's apple crawled up and down his throat. He pulled his hands from his pockets, looked around him with a perceptible flush showing through the heavy scorch on his cheeks and, moving with an awkward attempt at ease, entered Swing's and sat up at the counter.

Helen Malone had seen him standing on the street; but when he came in she said, with all the appearance of lovely surprise, "Why, hello, Nick," and gave him her quick smile. This girl was a little of a coquette, and even then her hazel eyes turned to another man. She had deep red hair and her lips were smooth and the tilt of her head was confident.

"Been riding line for Old Saxton all summer," said Nicky Bolester out of the bottom of his throat.

"Beef stew, or ham and beans, or meat loaf," said Helen Malone.

"Beef stew. Going to the dance?"

"Well, of course. I was asked by Tip Haley long ago."

Somebody at the far end of the place laughed. Nicky Bolester sat stiffly before the counter, sweltering in embarrassment. His ears felt enormous and his hands bothered him. Presently Helen Malone served up his stew, which he ate quickly and with great hunger. When he was through he laid his money on the counter and walked toward the door. He heard her say, more softly now:

"Well, Nicky, a girl can't wait until the last minute."

Humiliation tore up his pride and he stood still, feeling all the eyes in the restaurant laughing at him. He said, "That's all right, I guess," and then hauled his glance upward. She was a pretty girl, with a slight uncertainty on her face, as though her assurance had slipped away. She murmured, "But I can save a dance for you tonight, Nicky."

"I probably won't be there," he said, and went out. He was scowling and, for the moment, he was sightless and so rammed squarely into Clark Tenbrook passing by. Ten-brook's easy, slow voice brought him up. "Full of trouble, Nick?"

"These damn' town men."

Clark Tenbrook's eyes were amused and sympathetic. "Can't leave a girl alone too long, Nick," he said, and went on. Nick Bolester tramped on across the street and halted under the heated shade of the board awnings. At this same moment Heck Gorrell walked out of Dunmire's stable and proceeded as far as Tom Autley's barbershop, here making a stand against the wall, half faced toward Clark Tenbrook, who had stopped by the feed store. Everybody in Two Dance saw that—everybody except young Nick Bolester, who was buried in his own troubles.


At one o'clock Clark Tenbrook left the barbershop, his long face glowing from Tom Autley's towels. Day burned fully on Two Dance and the dust was higher and thicker. The Reservation stage stood in front of the Cattle King, ready to go; and Judith Parr and a few other women came suddenly from Korkel's dry goods store, to stand a moment in a talkative circle, their parasols lifted. They were near enough for Clark Tenbrook to remove his hat. Something happened then, for Connie Benbow laughed quietly and made some discreet signal to the other women. They moved away, leaving Judith Parr. He turned with her and presently they were walking down the loose boards together, toward the yellow railway station at the foot of the street.

She said, "Has it been a long summer for you, Clark?"

"Market's been good."

"You are thin."

"The broncs," he said in his noncommittal way, "have been tough to break."

They came upon the cindered runway at the depot and paced it with no particular destination. The track's two rails glittered off into the valley's flat distance, at last drowned out by the sage. Heat haze smothered the earth. Two Dance Range, southward, laid its black bulk against this smoky light. The dry, aromatic smell of summer pressed down and summer's drowse lay over the world.

Judith Parr said, "It has been a long summer, Clark."

He looked far ahead, his eyelids half shut. "A man's hope gets the best of him, I guess. The poor years ruined a good deal for me. I'm trying to get started again. When a man gets older it is tough to remember what he's missed."

She said in the same even, dreaming tone, "What have you missed most, Clark?"

But someone came behind, boots grinding into the cinders. Sudden Ben's voice turned them around. The sheriff removed his hat to show a thinning head of hair. "One question, Clark. You made a statement at Cherokee, about Heck Gorrell. You said he was a horse thief?"

"I said so."

"A private statement," put in the sheriff quickly. "You didn't figure to issue it for ev'body to hear?"

Clark Tenbrook stood by for quite a while before answering. Judith Parr saw the long lines leading down beside his jaw, the sudden pressure around his mouth. He bent his head a little, buried in long thought; and all the patience and solidness of his character showed through to her. He said, "I said he was a horse thief, Ben. No qualifications."

Sudden Ben shifted his feet. He wasn't pleased. "I do not want a fight between you. This thing can be settled. A little give on both sides will do it."

"I guess I'll stand on those words," murmured Clark Tenbrook, and watched Sudden Ben go away. The droning heat played around them; the crunch of the sheriff's boots on the cinders made a loud sound in this quiet. Clark Tenbrook walked back up the street with Judith Parr, their steps keeping time. In front of the hotel he removed his hat and met the straight look of her eyes.

"When I was a kid," he said, "I figured I'd get the world on a platter. I'm thirty now and a good deal more humble, pretty content just to be alive. Only, there's a few things I regret."

She was smiling. Her hand touched him and she spoke of something he didn't quite get. "It will be a clear night. The stars will be out." She left him standing there, hat in hand and his rangy body loose-shaped.

Sudden Ben went into the courthouse office, coming before Jim Benbow and Izee Peters waiting there. He removed his hat and wiped away a forming sweat. "I don't guess Clark's going to budge."

Benbow said, "Why should he? Heck's a thief."

"Maybe so," said Sudden Ben, "but in a gun fight Heck's a little too quick for Clark. Well, here's Clark just comin' out of the woods after livin' on bacon rind for five years. Now this. Heck wants an apology, which he won't get. But maybe we can soften both those boys up." He was a politician down to his boot heels, this Sudden Ben; he turned his gray eyes on Benbow. "You go see Clark. What we got to do is get both men out of this without either one losin' pride in the deal."

"Clark won't give," said Jim Benbow.

"Don't do any harm to try."


Nicky Bolester stood in front of Dunmire's stable at four o'clock that afternoon when Helen Malone came out of the restaurant. She walked by him with her head lifted, as though she didn't see him standing there. But a little beyond she turned, slowly, like a lady. "I am walking home. If you have nothing important—"

They went past Dunmire's and turned into Custer Street, walking out to the town's quiet quarter. Locust trees branched over the dusty walk and the hot sun reached brilliantly against the windowpanes of the houses. They said nothing, all the way to Helen Malone's gate. She turned to him, the color still showing. "Thank you," she said in a precise voice, "for the company."

"A man," said Nicky Bolester, "works all summer on the range while some town fellow has a good time. Well, it's a big world and I ain't ever seen Arizona."

She said, "Maybe in Arizona you'll find a girl who'd wait four months for a bid to go to a dance."

He stood before her, tall and thin with his youth; a black-headed kid whose hair was unkempt, whose eyes showed the wildness of pride. "Maybe in Arizona I could find a girl that knew what a man worked all summer for. And maybe she'd wait. And maybe she'd save some of her smiles instead of wastin' them over everybody in town."

She pressed her lips together. She cried out, "Then go to Arizona!" and ran into the house. Nicky Bolester stamped back down Custer Street, into Arapahoe. He stopped near Dunmire's stable, his narrow cheeks very strict. Somebody near him said, "Heck Gorrell just shifted over to the front of Donlake's store. Where's Clark Ten-brook?"

Nicky Bolester stood with his feet apart and his chin down, and didn't hear. Men in Tom Autley's barbershop were talking about it. Back in the Cattle King lobby, Connie Benbow said to Mary Boring, "Sudden Ben is trying to bring them together." At the saloon Faro Charley spoke his mind privately to the barkeep: "They won't give in. It will be a killing."

Izee Peters and Jim Benbow came up to Clark Ten-brook on the porch of the Cattle King. Benbow said, "I want to talk with you a minute, Clark," and all three of them filed into the hotel's lobby and back to a room on the main floor. Jim Benbow closed the door with a show of dislike for his chore. Clark Tenbrook understood what this was and said so distinctly in his slow voice:

"I guess I'll stand back of whatever I said, Jim."

"I'd like you less if you didn't," Benbow murmured. Clark Tenbrook grinned. "You're a hell of a peacemaker," and all three of them were for a moment smiling. Jim Benbow said, "You've had five tough years, and I guess you had to eat the rawhide off your saddle to keep alive one winter."

"Didn't mind that," stated Clark Tenbrook gravely. "It was the stewed alfalfa I got to gaggin' over."

"Well, your luck's changed. Hate to see you bang into somethin' now."

"You know that's no argument."

Jim Benbow threw up his hands impatiently. "Oh, hell, I told Ben Drury this would do no good. No, you've got to do what you figure you've got to do."

The door opened to let in Sudden Ben. He looked at the three of them, his smart eyes seeing a good deal. "You're wastin' your time, Ben," said Clark Tenbrook. "I'd like to have you and Heck Correll meet each other and thresh it out."

"I'll take no step toward the man."

Sudden Ben showed a remote amusement. "All right," he said, and went to another door in this room. He pulled it open and Clark Tenbrook, turning half about, looked through that doorway into an adjoining room and found Heck Gorrell standing there. Sudden Ben said smoothly, "Never does any harm to talk things over. You boys are foolish—"

"Heck," called Tenbrook, "if you've come here for an apology you won't get it. I said you were a horse thief. I said it in public. The remark stands."

"Now just a minute," put in Sudden Ben. But Heck Gorrell made a hulking shape in the doorway. He was an aggressive, friendless man and hatred ran its deep way through him. He looked at the sheriff. "You lied to me." He stared at Clark Tenbrook. "I was led to believe you'd be here waitin' to talk to me." The darkness of his face increased; its intractable hardness showed fully. "To hell with you, Tenbrook. And take care of yourself." He whipped himself at once out of the room.

There was a short run of thoughtful silence. Sudden Ben shrugged his shoulders, saying in neither defense nor apology, "Well, it was a good try," and turned from the room. Jim Benbow called, "Wait, Ben," and then the sheriff and Benbow and Izee Peters went out together, leaving Clark Tenbrook alone.

On the Cattle King's porch Sudden Ben turned to Ben-bow and Peters, showing them more concern than he had in front of Clark Tenbrook. "I'm sorry. Gorrell's the faster man." He went at once back to his office, leaving the two cattlemen side by side on the porch. The sun was deep in the west, the street filling with the gray and dusty shadows of early evening. Heck Gorrell stood at the corner of Dunmire's stable, his lumpy shape thoroughly still. Jim Benbow watched him through half-closed eyes, a definite savageness creeping in at his lip corners. He said to Izee Peters, "This man's crooked in his fightin'."

He heard someone behind him and turned, and found Judith Parr in the Cattle King's doorway. He lifted his hat, but her eyes didn't catch this. They were watching Heck Gorrell across the way, seeing all that he was and all that his presence on the street meant. Her shoulders were straight, held deliberately square, and her face was dark and composed. There wasn't, Jim Benbow thought, any anger or fear on it. This was a woman who knew how the game went; who knew what a man had to do. Suddenly, and still without seeing him, she turned back into the hotel.


After the others had gone, Clark Tenbrook rolled himself a brown-paper smoke and lighted it. He sat down on the edge of a chair, bent easily over with his arms supported on his knees. Smoke curled around his face, and crow-track wrinkles etched a pattern between temple and eye. He had his long and sober thoughts then, while twilight gathered at the windows of the room. Five hard years and many of his young ambitions were behind him; and now, with better times coming, this trouble developed. It was the way a man's life went. He wasn't bitter and he wasn't rebellious, for the past seasons had ground patience into him and had taught him to be thankful for the air he breathed. This was the difference age made to a man. Here was young Nick Bolester full of storm and trouble; and not at all aware of what time would do to him. Once he had been like young Nicky, pretty proud; so he could look upon the kid with a good deal of sympathy.

When he left the room, darkness had come fully to Two Dance and all the street lights were brightly shining across the silver dust. He had his supper, and stood momentarily on the Cattle King's porch listening to the guitar and fiddles warming up at the Masonic Hall. He couldn't see Heck Correll on the street, though his glance ran all the far shadows carefully. But Izee Peters drifted from a space between the hotel and the adjoining store and walked by Clark Tenbrook. He said, "He's down by the saloon."

Tenbrook crossed to the entrance of Dunmire's stable and wheeled to watch the face of Faro Charley's saloon. Men drifted by the stable's mouth and the run of their cheerful talk was in the bland air. There was, Tenbrook observed, the glow of a cigarette in the saloon shadows; three hundred feet away and beyond decent revolver distance. He stepped out of the stable and stood a while in the full play of a shaft of light crossing from the hotel. A voice near by said instantly, "Be careful, Clark." Then he saw the cigarette's far glow fade back. This was the way it would be—a game played on the edges of the night.

The music had started in the Masonic Hall. Clark Ten-brook swung over there and stepped in. Paused by the wall, he searched the turning crowd until he found Judith Parr waltzing with John Tierney. Her glance came to him, and went away as John Tierney turned, and came back again. When the music stopped he went directly to her. She was tall and mature in this light, yellow hair shadowing the ivory glow of her skin; and there was something in her smile that he could not quite reach.

When the music started he took her arm and swung away. They didn't speak, but he felt the pressure of her hand on his arm and, looking down, he had a strong impression of emotion closely held. She had quit smiling and darkness suddenly lay smooth and deep across her eyes. They were at the hall's side door and it was impulse that made him wheel toward it, taking her from the crowd, out of the hall. Faint moonlight came through the tangled branches of a locust tree. He closed the door behind; and at once silence settled.

Her shoulders turned. She said, "What is it that you have missed the most, Clark?"

"You."

Her voice was low, near crying: "It should have been said so long ago."

"I was in no position to speak. Not until now."

"And now it will be Heck Gorrell."

"Yes," he said. "That's how it goes."

Her voice was thin and remote: "I have waited. And you have asked for so little."

Then they were silent, for a couple moved out of a long alley between two rear barns. Young Nicky Bolester's voice was swift and arrogantly angered: "What's a man got to do to please a woman?" And Helen Malone's voice rose to a quick retort: "You didn't need to stay away all summer. What do you think a girl should do? Wear a veil?"

"No, I guess not," said Nicky Bolester. "I guess I had my summer's work for nothin'. I guess a man should expect no woman to wait." He said, "I hope you like Tip Haley," and left her there, himself plunging at long strides toward the street.

"The boy is a fool," murmured Clark Tenbrook, all at once remembering his own long years with bitterness. "They are very young, Clark."

The door opened behind him and Jim Benbow's voice said, "Gorrell's gone down the alley on the other side of this building." And then the door closed.

Clark Tenbrook swung around and saw Judith Parr's chin lift. Afterward, turning away into the darkness, he heard her voice come after him with a deep, deep calm: "I'll wait."

He skirted the side of the Masonic Hall and came to the street, and went by the clustered stags on the porch. A man said in a slow way, "Clark," but Tenbrook didn't pause until he reached the alley between the hall and Dunmire's. Down this alley, according to Benbow, Heck Gorrell had gone. The kid, Nicky Bolester, moved up from Dunmire's and stopped near Tenbrook, placing himself squarely at the mouth of the alley. Tenbrook said urgently, "Get back, Nicky," and stepped forward, pushing the kid away from that exposed position. The kid's young face showed astonishment. He said, "What?" He didn't understand.

"Never mind," murmured Tenbrook. He stood fast in the lee shadows of Dunmire's wall, thinking quickly and strongly. He was trying to make out Heck Gorrell's purpose, and suddenly turned and went over the street and paused in the darkness near the Cattle King, so that he might watch both corners of the Masonic Hall. The stag line had at once melted and the street was empty. At the end of two or three minutes he saw Heck Gorrell appear at the hall's far corner, pause and drop back.

Gorrell, he understood, had circled the hall, hoping to catch him off guard; and was now circling back again, toward Dunmire's stable.

Tenbrook immediately recrossed the street and passed through Dunmire's stable. A small rear door let him into a dark compound. The bulk of the Masonic Hall lay to one side of the compound, a series of sheds cut a low outline on another, and beyond, straight back from the stable, was the shape of outhouses and corrals. Water dripped somewhere and Tenbrook's boots sank into loose mud. He made a little noise when he pulled away from this, and came to a stand out in the compound's center. He reached behind the skirt of his coat and pulled out his gun; and waited like that.

He definitely heard Heck Gorrell's pacing at the back of the hall. Somewhere a thin crust of a moon shed a little light on the town, but none of it reached here. Gorrell came at last around the back corner of the hall and followed its wall, headed for the street again. The music had quit. Tenbrook said then:

"All right, Heck."

He saw Gorrell's shadow at last. Gorrell stopped and it seemed that all sound died out of Two Dance; it was that completely still. Gorrell said, "Where are you, Ten-brook?"

Tenbrook had his target before him. But he was thinking of the people in the hall behind Gorrell; and so held his fire. Correll repeated his question, "Where are you, Tenbrook?" It was a strange thing. He spoke and he started running straight into the compound, toward Ten-brook, and the long quiet was broken by the flat beat of his shots. They were wide, to the left of Tenbrook, who moved in slow steps toward the right. Drifting this way, he saw Gorrell break his forward rush and make a swift side turn toward the outhouses on the other side of the corral. Running forward, Tenbrook lost Gorrell's shape completely in the night.

A silence so profound that he was conscious of the racket of his own hoots, scuffing against the earth as he ran, followed. The low shape of a shed lifted from the blur of the night and common sense pulled him aside as he came against it. Heck Correll fired around the shed, and Heck Correll was rushing backward again. When Tenbrook reached the shed's rear side he saw Gorrell sink into a long lean-to covering a row of wagons. Gorrell's body began to strike against these wagons. Metal clanked somewhere; and Gorrell was once more firing.

Tenbrook tasted sweat in his dry mouth as he rushed directly at the lean-to and got under the shelter of a wagon. Gorrell's gun bloomed a long, sullen, red flash of light from a far spot in the shed, and lead smacked against the wagon near Tenbrook, who circled the wagon and stepped against the shed's wall, and stopped.

There was a little light over toward the compound, which was the faint beam of some lantern in the stable, and he could hear Gorrell's breath run in and out and the occasional slide of his body around the wagons. Far off was a call—somebody using his name anxiously. But afterward he forgot about that, for Gorrell had appeared out on the edge of the shed and at that instant he was placed against the light. Lifting his gun on that shape, Clark Tenbrook let go.

He saw Heck Gorrell make a slight turn, as though to walk away. That was all. The big man at once dropped to the earth.

The far voice called his name again. Tenbrook walked between the wagons, coming slowly up toward Heck Gorrell, listening for Gorrell's breath. Gorrell was tricky. But—and this he presently knew—the man was beyond that now. He was dead. Tenbrook stood over him a moment, the strain of all this dissolving into his nerves. Weariness weighted him down, but his mind was clear and he was thinking only of one thing. It turned him across the compound and through the stable. When he reached the street he found Jim Benbow standing there. Lantern light hit Benbow's cheeks, to show the wildness of this man's eyes. But he drew an enormous breath and only said, "That's fine, Clark," and turned swiftly away.

A crowd moved down from the Masonic Hall and other men were walking out of the dark apertures of the street. Tenbrook cut around all of them and went straight back to the hall's side door. Judith Parr still waited there.

He couldn't see the expression on her face until he rose to the top of the steps, until he was close in front of her. Fragrance came from her hair and the vague crystal shimmer of the moonlight touched close-held tears in her eyes.

He said, so humbly, "Why do women wait for men, Judith?"

"Because," she said, "they can do nothing else." But it was an incomplete answer. There had to be some reason for that long wait, and he knew what it was when he pulled her forward and took her kiss.

Nicky Bolester's voice broke them apart. Nicky was laughing, and he had Helen Malone's arm. They came up from the darkness and saw Tenbrook and Judith Parr, and stopped. Nicky said, in a boyish voice, "Some fool must be drunk around here—all this shootin'. Say, we're goin' to be married in the fall. Ain't that nice? I been waitin' all summer."

"A long wait, Nicky," said Clark Tenbrook gently, and watched those two young ones swing out to the street. He felt the pressure of Judith's arm, and turned to see the soft smiling of her lips.


THE END