"I killed the other snakes. I'll kill you now," he growled, as he held the outlaw at length in a conquering grip, his knees on Gresh's breast, his right hand on Gresh's throat.
In that weird light the conqueror's face was only a degree less brutal than the outlaw's face. And Burleigh meant every word, for murder was in his heart and in his clutching fingers. Beneath the weight of his strength Gresh slowly relaxed, struggling fiercely at first and groping blindly to escape. Then he began to whine for mercy, but his whining maddened his conqueror more than his blows had done. For such strife is no mere wrestling match. Every blow struck against a fellowman is as the smell of blood to the tiger, feeding a fiendish eagerness to kill. Beside, Burleigh had ample cause for vengeance. The creature under his grip was not only a bootlegger through whose evil influence men took other lives or lost their own; he had slain one innocent man, Vic's own father, and in the room where his dead mother lay had robbed Vic's home of every valuable thing. He had sworn vengeance on all who bore the name of Burleigh. What fate might await Bug, Vic dared not picture. One strangling grip now could finish the business forever, and his clutch tightened, as Gresh lay begging like a coward for his own worthless life.
"It's a good thing a fellow has a guardian angel once in a while. We get pretty close to the edge sometimes and never know how near we are to destruction," Vic had said to Elinor in here on the April day.
It was not Vic's guardian angel, but little Bug whose white face was thrust between him and his victim, and the touch of a soft little hand and the pleading child-voice that cried:
"Don't kill him, Vic. He's frough of fighting now. Don't hurt him no more."
Vic staid his hand at the words. The few minutes of this mad-beast duel had made him forget the sound of human voices. He half lifted himself from Gresh's body at Bug's cry. And Bug, wise beyond his years, quaint-minded little Bug, said, softly:
"Fordive us our debts as we fordive our debtors."
Strange, loving words of the Man of Galilee, spoken on the mountain-side long, long ago, and echoed now by childish lips in the dying light of the cavern to these two men, drunk with brute-lust for human blood! For Vic the words struck like blows. All the years since his father's death he had waited for this hour. At last he had met and vanquished the man who had taken his father's life, and now, exultant in his victory, came this little child's voice.