Moran of the Lady Letty HTML version
XI. A Change in Leaders
"Well," exclaimed Wilbur at length, the excitement of the fight returning upon him. "We
have plenty to do yet. Come on, Moran."
It was no longer Moran who took the initiative--who was the leader. The brief fight upon
the shore had changed all that. It was Wilbur who was now the master, it was Wilbur
who was aggressive. He had known what it meant to kill. He was no longer afraid of
anything, no longer hesitating. He had felt a sudden quadrupling of all his strength,
moral and physical.
All that was strong and virile and brutal in him seemed to harden and stiffen in the
moment after he had seen the beach-comber collapse limply on the sand under the last
strong knife-blow; and a sense of triumph, of boundless self-confidence, leaped within
him, so that he shouted aloud in a very excess of exhilaration; and snatching up a
heavy cutting-in spade, that had been dropped in the fight near the burning cabin,
tossed it high into the air, catching it again as it descended, like any exultant savage.
"Come on!" he cried to Moran; "where are the beach-combers gone? I'm going to get
one more before the show is over."
The two passed out of the zone of smoke, and reached the other side of the burning
cabin just in time to see the last of the struggle. The whole affair had not taken more
than a quarter of an hour. In the end the beach-combers had been beaten. Four had
fled into the waste of sand and sage that lay back of the shore, and had not been
pursued. A fifth had been almost hamstrung by one of the "Bertha's" coolies, and had
given himself up. A sixth, squealing and shrieking like a tiger-cat, had been made
prisoner; and Wilbur himself had accounted for the seventh.
As Wilbur and Moran came around the cabin they saw the "Bertha Millner's" Chinamen
in a group, not far from the water's edge, reassembled after the fight--panting and
bloody, some of them bare to the belt, their weapons still in their hands. Here and there
was a bandaged arm or head; but their number was complete--or no, was it complete?
"Ought to be one more," said Wilbur, anxiously hastening for-ward.
As the two came up the coolies parted, and Wilbur saw one of them, his head propped
upon a rolled-up blouse, lying ominously still on the trampled sand.
"It's Charlie!" exclaimed Moran.
"Where's he hurt?" cried Wilbur to the group of coolies. "Jim!-- where's Jim? Where's he