ON A MEXICAN RANCHE
fellow to his mark, I would not trust him not to shoot directly my back is turned. Two of you can walk with me if you like; but as I have not shot him now when I could do so face to face, I am not likely to do so when his back is turned. Now I want two others of you to stand close to us, pistol in hand, till the word is given, and if either of us moves before that, shoot him down. I want a third to give the signal; when you say one, the men standing by will draw back, and the two with pistols will level them at us; at the word three we turn round and can fire as we like. No one can say that I have not given this fellow a fair chance."
"No; that is fair enough," the other cowboys agreed, all greatly interested in this arrangement for a duel of a kind quite unknown to them, as in cowboy disputes the custom is for each to draw at once and fire as quickly as he can. Jake was led off, livid with rage. As a matter of formality, two of Jake's companions walked with Harry to the firing point, and two others drawing their colts, placed themselves a couple of yards from the combatants. There was a dead stillness for a moment, and then a voice asked, "Are you ready? One," and the four men standing by the combatants stepped back; "Two," and then after a pause, "Three."
As if moved by a spring, Harry and his opponent faced round. Both were confident in their skill, and neither held their fire a moment. Two shots rang out as one. Harry felt as if a hot iron had passed along his cheek. Jake's passion at being thus bearded by a mere lad had slightly unsteadied his hand, while Harry's arm was as steady as if carved in marble. Jake fell back with a bullet in the centre of his forehead. Even among the man's comrades there was no feeling of regret at his death; he was disliked and feared among them; he had in the course of his career killed a dozen men, and the retribution that had fallen upon him was felt to be richly deserved.