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Fear

by L. Patrick Greene

TROOPER JENNINGS opened his eyes wearily. Every bone in his body ached, and he groaned with pain as he moved.

Thompson and Andrews, his two comrades on the Border Guard Patrol, came over to his bed as he threw off the covers and gingerly essayed to stand on his feet; he was still weak, and would have fallen had they not supported him.

"Better take it easy for a while, Jennings."

"Oh, I'll be all right in a minute." He tenderly fingered his bruised face. "Where's that beast Peters?"

The two men looked at each other significantly.

"Peters said that he would be down this afternoon," replied Thompson. "He's going to demand an apology from you."

"Well, he'll never get it. He cheated last night, and you know it." The boy, —Jennings was little more—looked appealing at the two men.

"Yes, he cheated, and you accused him of it. Well, see what you got. The man would have killed you, unconscious as you were, if Andrews here had not pulled a revolver on him."

"And suppose I don't apologize?"

"He said that he was going to bring a sjambok down with him and beat you till you do. And he'll do it."

"And you mean to tell me that you'd stand by and let him do it?"

Andrews flushed.

"See here, youngster! This is not our quarrel. Peters is all you say he is, and then some more. He's a bad man—but he's a strong bad man. Why, he could wipe the floor with the three of us. I know he could. I saw him clear out Joburg's saloon— you remember that, don't you Thompson?"

"Yes. He caved in three of big Dutch Lockner's ribs—with his fist, Jennings. You know what his native name is, don't you? The Schelm— the Bad One. Natives are pretty apt in their naming, and there's not a negro in this district but would gladly kill him; but they are all afraid of him. He beats them viciously, yet there's not one that will lodge a complaint against him. I don't think he knows what fear is."

"And here's another thing—" Andrews took up the tale. "We are dumped on this Border Patrol and aren't likely to be relieved for another six months. The rainy season is coming on and the place will be a fever trap. We can't afford to quarrel with our only white neighbor, 'specially when he happens to be the storekeeper on whom we are dependent for our provisions. Besides, he could make things mighty unpleasant for us with the natives. It's up to you to apologize."

"Why should I?" he demanded. "I was in the right. I can't ba...

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