BEFORE the rickety washstand and in front of the cracked glass that served as a mirror and was suspended from a nail driven into the wall, Hawkins was shaving himself. Perhaps the light from the wheezing gas-jet was over-bad that evening, or perhaps it was only in playful and facetious mood with the mirror acting the rôle of co-conspirator; Hawkins' chin smarted and was raw; little specks of red showed here and there through the repeated coats of lather which he kept scraping off with his razor. But Hawkins appeared willing to sacrifice even the skin itself to obtain the standard of smoothness which he had evidently set before himself as his goal. And so over and over again he applied the lather, and hoed it off, and tested the result by rubbing thumb and forefinger critically over his face. He made no grimace, nor did he show any irritation at the none-too-keen blade that played havoc with more than the lather, nor did he wince at what must at times have been anything but a painless operation. Hawkins' round, weatherbeaten face and old watery blue eyes smiled into the mirror.

On the washstand beside him lay a large, ungainly silver watch, its case worn smooth with years of service. It had a hunting-case, and it was open. Hawkins glanced at it. It was twenty minutes to eight.

“I got to hurry,” said Hawkins happily. “Just twenty minutes—after twenty years.”

Hawkins laid aside the razor, and washed and scrubbed at his face until it shone; then he went to his trunk and opened it. From underneath the tray he lifted out an old black suit. Perhaps again it was the gas-jet in either baleful or facetious mood, for, as he put on the suit, the cloth in spots seemed to possess, here a rusty, and there a greenish, tinge, and elsewhere to be woefully shiny. Also, but of this the gas-jet could not have been held guilty, the coat and trousers, and indeed the waistcoat, were undeniably most sadly wrinkled.

And now there seemed to be something peculiarly congruous as between the feeble gas-jet, the cracked mirror, the wobbly washstand, the threadbare strip of carpet that lay beside the iron bed, and the old bent-shouldered figure with wrinkled face in wrinkled finery that stood there knotting with anxious, awkward fingers a large, frayed, black cravat about his neck; there seemed to be something strikingly in keeping between the man and his surroundings, a sort of common intimacy, as it were, with the twilight of an existence that, indeed, had never known the full sunlight of high noon.

It was ten minutes to eight.

Hawkins put the silver watch in his pocket, extinguished the spluttering gas-jet, that hissed at him as though in protest at the scant ceremony with which it was treated, and went down the stairs. He stepped briskly out on the street.

“Claire!” said Hawkins radiantly. “My little Claire! I'm her daddy, and she's going to know it. I'm going to get her to call me that—daddy!”

Hawkins walked on halfway along the block, erect, with a quick, firm step, his head high, smiling into every face he met—and turning to smile again, conscious that people as they passed had turned to look back at him. And then very gradually Hawkins' pace slackened, and into his face and eyes there came a dawning anxiety, and the smile was gone.

“I'm kind of forgetting,” said Hawkins presently to himself, “that it ain't just that I'm getting my little girl. I—I'm kind of forgetting her 'rouble. There—there's Crang.”

The old man's face was furrowed now deep with storm and care; he walked still more slowly. He began to mutter to himself. At the corner of the street he raised an old gnarled fist and shook it, clenched, above his head, unconscious and oblivious now that people still turned and looked at him.

And then a little way ahead of him along the street that he must go to reach the one-time pawn-shop of Paul Veniza, his eyes caught the patch of light that filtered out to the sidewalk from under the swinging doors of the familiar saloon, and from the windows in a more brilliant flood.

Hawkins drew in a long breath.

“No, no!” he whispered fiercely. “I will never go in there again—so help me, God! If I did—and—and she knew it was her daddy, it would just break her heart like—like Crang 'll break it.”

He went on, but his footsteps seemed to drag the more now as he approached the saloon. His hand as he raised it trembled; and as he brushed it across his brow it came away wet with sweat.

The saloon was just a yard away from him now.

There was a strange, feverish glitter in the blue eyes. His face was chalky white.

“So help me, God!” Hawkins mumbled hoarsely.

It was five minutes of eight.

Hawkins had halted in front of the swinging doors.

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