“I reckon,” he said hesitatingly, “that you might pour me just a drop.”
It seemed to him that as he spoke the yellow glint came into the eyes of Malone again, but a moment later it was gone, and he decided that the change had been merely a shadow from the wavering torch-light. He took the glass which Malone extended to him under the cover of the pointed gun and raised it slowly to his lips.
“Just stand a bit further back while I drink, pal,” he said.
Malone obeyed, and the sheriff tilted the glass. It was, as Malone had said, “the real old aroma,” and the sheriff drew a deep breath.
Now there is a saying about liquor that the drink which does the harm is “just one more,” and certain it is that one whisky calls for another as surely as a question calls for an answer.
“I reckon it ain’t quite as old as you say,” said the sheriff, feeling his way from word to word cautiously. “I reckon it ain’t more than fifteen years old at the outside.”
Malone paused, with the bottle suspended over the glass to consider.
“I thought that myself when I first drank,” he nodded; “but that was before I got used to it. All Bourbon is a little sharp, you know.”
The sheriff was inclined to agree. He also felt sure that one more drink would quite banish from his memory the taste of that one drink in Appleton. Moreover, the danger, if there was any, was slight, for Malone was taking drink for drink with him, and larger drinks at that. It was a sort of subtle challenge to the manhood of the sheriff, and he was as proud of his capacity for whisky as of his speed with a gun.
It was perhaps half an hour later that the sheriff indicated the banjo with a careless wave of the pistol.
“Play any?” he inquired, “or do you keep it around as sort of an ornament?”
“Both,” smiled Malone. “It makes the place more homelike, you know, and then I sing once in a while, but not often. Folks around here aren’t particularly partial to my voice.”
“I’m a pretty good judge,” stated the sheriff; “blaze away, and I’ll see you ain’t interrupted. Been a long time since I had the pleasure of hearing any decent singin’.”
He was, as he said, a fairly good judge…