Then, pointing with an air of introduction to the fantastic, many-colored, huge-hatted, big-booted gang of ruffians ranged about the table, he added, "My children." In the dim light Peyrolles peered derisively at the different members of the party. "They seem a choice set of ruffians," he observed, with the labored impertinence that seemed to him a copy of his master's nonchalance.

The two girls whose nerves were under better control than those of their two chums stood their ground if not sturdily, at least with the appearance of it. They stared at the man, for want of something better to do, as Mollie afterward admitted. And the man found their gaze a bit disconcerting, it was evident, for he shifted uneasily, first on one big-booted foot, and then on the other.

It began with a view of a camp of curious little bell-tents about which strode remarkable, big-booted, long-haired, bedizened men looking strangely effeminate and strangely fierce, with their feathered hats, curls, silk sashes, velvet coats, and with their long swords, cruel faces, and savage oaths. Some wore steel breastplates, like that of the suit of armour in the hall, and steel helmets.

While awaiting a response, his eyes turned toward the only other persons in the saloon, three burly, bearded miners of the conventional big-hatted, big-booted, and big-voiced type.

"Kick him awake, the blear-eyed bullock," said Black, and the kicking was done right heartily; the subject, a huge man with dark hair, closely cropped, and a stubbly beard, rising to his feet and looking round him like one dazed with strong drink. "Wall," said he, speaking to Roaring John, "you big-booted swine, what d'ye reckon ez you want along o' me?"