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quivering with apprehension, could scarcely keep erect, and his usually cold uneasy eyes seemed fixed balls of light, so dreadful were they in their expression of coward fear. The party proposed to settle his business at once, and this movement loosened his tongue_he broke forth in piteous accents of supplication,
“Oh, God! oh, God !" cried he, “you won't kill me—will you ?”
"Well," said one of the party, “ we won't do anything else!”
Kelsy interposed, and suggested that his death be deferred until daylight, in order that the stranger might see how it was done, and be put to sleep respectably. They immediately adjourned to Dick's cabin, where they found Sam holding the straw figure in his arms, and looking in a state of stupor at the horse; he thought his master was “done for;" but great was his joy when the wellknown sounds of Kelsy's voice assured him of his safety.
The party seated themselves in a circle in the cabin, with the culprit in the centre, and his shrinking form, trembling with fear, and pallid imploring countenance, looked most pitiful. As Kelsy gazed upon him the form of his sickly wife seemed to twine her arms around his neck, beseeching as when she before interposed herself between him and death, and the vision of his mind searched out a tender spot in Dick's heart. He resolved to give him a chance of escape, and, therefore, proposed to the party that they should decide by a game of cards whether the stranger should die or be permitted to leave the country. Dick's friends protested against such mercy; but after an earnest appeal from him, in behalf of the woman, they yieldedcards were produced, and one of the party was selected to play against the culprit. By Kelsy's entreaty, also, he was allowed the choice of his own game, and he selected euchre. All seated themselves closer around the players—breathing seemed almost suspended—a beam of hope lent a slight glow to the pallid countenance of the stranger, while the compressed lips and frowning brow of his antagonist, gave assurance that no mercy would temper his play for this fearful stake. The rest of the party shared his dislike for the culprit, who was looked upon as a common foe, and their flashing eyes were bent upon his swarthy countenance with an expression of deadly hate, which forced out the cold drops of perspiration upon his sickly brow, and sunk his heart with fear. The cards were cut, and the stranger won the deal-he breathed with hope he dealt and turned up the right bower-his antagonist passed, and the stranger raising the bower, bid him play. The hand was soon finished and the stranger counted two! His visage lighted up, and he wiped his brow with a feeling of confidence in his luck. The next hand the stranger ordered the card up and was euchered
—they now stood even, and he again looked anxious. In the next two hands they successively won each a single count, and it was the stranger's deal again—he turned up a king, and held in his hand the queen and ten of trumps, together with the eight of diamonds and the king and ten of clubs. His antagonist ordered the king up, and as the stranger discarded his diamond, a gleam of certain success overspread his visage-the rigid face of his antagonist betrayed no sign of exultation, but his brow, on the contrary, became closer knit into a scowl, which, by his party, was looked upon as a presage of defeat. Dick's friend led the jack of clubs—the stranger followed suit with his ten of clubs—then came the ace of trumps—the stranger paused a moment, and played his ten spot-out came the right bower, and he yielded his queen—the left fell before his eyes, and his last trump, the king, was swept away! At each play his
countenance grew more and more ashy in its expression of despair and dread ; his lips had lost their colour, and his eyes had gained an intenseness of expression that seemed as if they could look into the very soul of the frowning figure before him, and read there his impending doom. For the first time a slight smile played upon the features of Dick's friend as slowly he spread before him the ace of clubs ! The stranger crushed his king within his trembling hands and threw it from him, as he sank into a state of stupor, the very counterpart of death.
“Your game's up, stranger,” coolly remarked the winner; “yes, it's up-played very neat—but it's up! And you've jest won a small patch of Kelsy's claim about six foot by two, or thereabouts.”
The sun had begun to tip the tops of the forest trees when this exciting contest was ended, and all the party adjourned to the outside, with the doomed stranger in their midst. They moved with silence, for a deed of blood was to be enacted. The law of the wilderness was about to offer up a victim for common safety—the midnight assassin to expiate his guilt upon the spot, and by the hand of him whom he had there endeavoured to consign to death. The music of the morning
songsters met no harmonious accord in the hearts of those who now strode amid their melodies—the sweet morning air kissed brows fevered with passion, and the light breeze that played amid the forest grove and skipped innocently across the far-spread prairie, was about to bear upon its pinions the shriek of agony. Having arrived at a suitable spot, they bound the culprit to a sapling, and he hung in his bonds already, apparently, bereft of life.
“Stick him up at a hundred yards, boys," said Dick; “ ef he is a snake, give him a
small show for life, and ef I miss him at the first fire we'll let him slip.”
The culprit aroused on hearing this, and pleaded for the smallest chance in the world.
“Don't shoot me like a mad dog!” he exclaimed, in most piteous accents.
“You're worse, you hound,” said his late antagonist; "and if Dick don't wind up your business for you, I will.”
“Come, boys,” continued Dick, "you all know that this old iron's certain, so give the varmint this chance—it'll please him, and he'll die off all the easier !”
After some persuasion, Dick's request was acceded to, and the parties took their positions. Life hung, for the culprit, by but a