The orderly Bud Levine was a connoisseur of dangerous men. He knew them the same way a music lover knows Beethoven’s pieces, knew them at a glance just as an art critic distinguishes paintings of the same school from one another. He knew when the rabble-rouser was not content only to feed, but was also ready to strike, and when the silence was due to stupidity, and when again to raging rage. From the man’s steps, he could very accurately decide what kind of sound would come from the invisible stranger’s throat, and from the tone of the voice, he could guess what the blink of the eyes was like.
From the sway of his steps he could tell how many years the man had lived in the saddle, and by the movements of his hand and wrist he distinguished the dexterity of a card-trickster from the lightning-quick attacks of a revolver hero. He studies people the way a book lover studies the volumes of a library. He tasted the different nuances of Numero Kymmene’s dangers, just as a wine connoisseur tastes wines and mentions the year and place of their production.
But for all his skill, lawman Bud Levine was at a loss as he drove the sleazy partnerships from Grogan’s den to prison. Judging from all signs, steps, movements, voice, and eyes, these men were dangerous; these men had learned to play with revolvers, but even so they had fought like schoolboys — and a true revolver hero fears nothing so badly as a blow from a bare fist. That’s why the orderly was confused. When the fight started, he had his revolver ready. He was too far away to rush between the combatants, but he had decided, with the revolver flashing, to try with a quick shot to crush the hand of the man who would first reveal the weapon.
But the revolver had not been fired. They had stood facing each other and slapped each other like two harmless vagrants. And Bud Levine was ashamed; he had criticized them quite harshly, and if his eyes began to fail him in this way, he would soon be considered a miner’s saki for a long-distance rider. So he listened painfully attentively as the partnerships snarled at each other as they went to prison.
»In any case,« he said. Red Mack, “this is how you learn how you should even talk to a girl”.
“For a girl!” shouted the orderly. He tilted his head to hear better.
“What?” replied the Dwarf with passionate warmth, brushing away the blood that was still dripping down his upper lip. »Do you think I need a lesson in behavior from you?»
“Dwarf, you’ve never been able to criticize yourself,” remarked Red Mack. »Let’s take, for example, the songs you play with that damned harmonica of yours. You’re bored, so you think it ‘s music. Do you know what it actually is?”
“What?” asked the Dwarf in a restrained passionate voice.
“Did you ever hear a mule squeal, neighbor,” continued Red
Mack, “when it’s really bored in the middle of the night?”
The orderly sighed in relief. Those men were obviously old partners, and that was reason enough for them to refrain from resorting to revolvers when fighting. He began to trust his own judgment again.
“Well,” growled Pete sharply, “what about a mule’s squeal?”
“Nothing,” answered Red Mack calmly, “except that every time you’ve started to play your harmonica, I’ve thought you were trying to imitate a lonely mule squealing in the night.”
The orderly heard the Dwarf take a deep breath, so deep that his solid shoulders shook.
“Mack,” he said solemnly, “is it your intention to confess that you always lied to me when you assured me that you liked playing and my playing very much?”
“Dwarf,” admitted Mack truthfully, “I’ve tried not to hurt your feelings; but sometimes, when I have had to sit in my field and listen, I have fervently wished that I could stop my ears with some substance».
The dwarf sighed.
“Well, Mack,” he snapped, “some people are like that. They haven’t got an ear for music. I’ve been hoping for something from you, but if you don’t like a single song I play, I’ll stop hoping. Anyway, you have some strange thoughts, Mack. Think, for example, of the pranks you read in your calendar.»
“You don’t like them?”
“Mack, I have to tell you the truth.”
»Then why have you laughed and laughed at them for so many years?»
»Not to hurt your feelings Mack. But some of those jokes are so old that my grandfather used to tell them when he was reminiscing about his childhood days, and all the others are gray and musty. Mack, if you’d skied those skis a hundred years ago, you’d have had success with them, but now you’re just screwing people over with them. Since we are now on the threshold of separation, I have no reason to hide the truth from you.»
Red Mack walked with his head bowed thoughtfully.
“If you had used your sense, Dwarf,” said he, “we would not have had to fight and part like this. But you had to learn that you shouldn’t talk to a woman as if she were a kicking, untamed horse.»
»You fool!» liked the Dwarf. »When he left, he turned to look back and smiled at me. He would have gone straight out of the cabin if the crowd had not dragged him away from me. But he smiled to show that he understood that I was right and that there was no suitable place for a woman.»
»Smiled at you? Dwarf, you’re a whore. You’ve been in bad shape for a while now, but this is really bad. Look, Dwarf, that smile was meant for me. He wanted to point out that I didn’t have to get very angry with you.»
»Mack, sometimes you really talk stupid. You’re not drunk, are you?”
“Or you’re insulting me again,” growled Mack.
“Are you hinting at the relationship between me and Nancy?”
»When we get out of the dungeon», threatened Kääpiö, »I will make a clean record of both you and your relationships and —»
“Shut up!” denied the orderly, but not unnecessarily fiercely. In fact, he began to feel pleasantly comforted, and his mood became brotherly friendly towards both Mack and the Dwarf. If the girl had made a fool of him, he obviously had plenty of company.
In the outer room of the prison, he ordered the partners to stand against the wall, while he himself opened the door of the inner, stone-walled cubicle and shouted to the prisoners to come out. The latter appeared, rubbing his eyes.
»I wouldn’t have liked to have woken you up,» remarked the orderly, »but two have to be given priority over one. You must stay here. These two gentlemen will take your place.»
But Jerry had seen the partnerships, and now he burst into a roar of laughter. It took so long that he had to lean against the wall to stay upright.
“So,” he snapped, finally able to speak, “the girl has sent you both here?”
Both big men stared at him silently.
“How the hell,” cried Levine, “do you know the girl is behind this?”
“Because I read his mind,” replied Jerry. »He shakes them off their resistances; he sets himself free to go camping, on his own, and when his camping is over, orderly, your old cubicle is stuffed full like a box of sardines.»
»Smith», snapped the orderly, »you have no doubt sense. Raising a riot comes as naturally to that girl as kicking a mustang. Hey, you two, march in through that door. You don’t have revolvers, but you have your fists, and if you want to fight your way out, let it ring! Hurry in!”
»Orderly man,» growled the Dwarf, »get a broom and a bucket ready. When I leave Mack off my hands, you’ll have to do a bit of cleaning and tidying up the mess.»
“I don’t need more than five minutes alone with him,” threatened Mack for him as they walked out the door.
The orderly closed it and then turned to Jerry, smiling expectantly.
»I wish», he said, »that I could be there to watch that struggle».
»There’s nothing to be gained from a fight,« assured Jerry.
»Because the girl is not here to see.»
»Indeed, I think you are right.» The orderly giggled. “There’s nothing but challenges coming from there. And it’s already dying down too.»
»That’s for sure,« said Jerry. »Tomorrow morning they will sit hand in hand like schoolgirls. See, man, they’re partnerships. Why don’t you sit down and talk for a while? You will need all the rest you can get before this night is over.»
“For the sake of the girl?” asked the orderly.
“His eyes,” replied Jerry. »They have a horn-like power.»
“I’d give a hundred dollars,” panted the orderly as he sat down, “if I could get him out of Number Ten.” This town has always been just one step away from hell, but that girl has moved it that last step. Now we’re right at the gate, Smith. May he really give you a funny laugh when he comes here to laugh at you.»
Jerry gritted his teeth, but the next moment his eyes flashed vividly.
“It’s nothing,” he said, “compared to what I’ll do to him when I get free.”
»When it came to that,» remarked the orderly, »I have to get a promise from you not to try to escape if you want to spend the night in this room».
»I won’t give my word», rejected Jerry with a grin.
»Then I’ll put you in irons, neighbor.»
»Do so. I’ll take —»
His sentence was interrupted by a sharp bang, a revolver shot.
“From Grogan’s Hall!” shouted the orderly, rushing to the door.
He stopped only to lock it behind him, then sprinted across the street to Grogan’s cabin.