“Chief,” said Haines, “last night while he watched the shanty, I watched him!”
“I saw him keep his post in front of the cabin all night without moving. And he was wide awake all the time.”
“Then how in hell—”
“The back door of the cabin!” said Kilduff suddenly.
“By God, that’s it! They sneaked out there and then went down on the other side of the house.”
“If I had let them go,” interposed Buck, “do you suppose I’d be here?”
The keen glance of Silent moved from Buck to Haines, and then back again. He turned his back on them.
The quiet which had fallen on the room was now broken by the usual clatter of voices, cursing, and laughter. In the midst of it Haines stepped close to Buck and spoke in a guarded voice.
“Buck,” he said, “I don’t know how you did it, but I have an idea—”
The eyes of Haines were sad.
“I was a clean man, once,” he said quietly, “and you’ve done a clean man’s work!”
He put out his hand and that of Buck’s advanced slowly to meet it.
“Was it for Dan or Kate that you did it?”
The glance of Buck roamed far away.
“I dunno,” he said softly. “I think it was to save my own rotten soul!”
On the other side of the room Silent beckoned to Purvis.
“What is it?” asked Hal, coming close.
“Speak low,” said Silent. “I’m talking to you, not to the crowd. I think Buck is crooked as hell. I want you to ride down to the neighbourhood of his house. Scout around it day and night. You may see something worth while.”
Meanwhile, in that utter blackness which precedes the dawn, Kate and her father reached the mouth of the canyon.
“Kate,” said old Joe in a tremulous voice, “if I was a prayin’ man I’d git down on my knees an’ thank God for deliverin’ you tonight.”
“Thank Buck Daniels, who’s left his life in pawn for us. I’ll go straight for Buck’s house. You must ride to Sheriff Morris and tell him that an honest man is up there in the power of Silent’s gang.”
“But—” he began.
She waved her hand to him, and spurring her horse to a furious gallop raced off into the night. Her father stared after her for a few moments, but then, as she had advised, rode for Gus Morris.
THOSE WHO SEE IN THE DARK
It was still early morning when Kate swung from her horse before the house of Buck Daniels. Instinct seemed to lead her to the sick-room, and when she reached it she paid not the slightest attention to the old man and his wife, who sat nodding beside the bed. They started up when they heard the challenging growl of Black Bart, which relapsed into an eager whine of welcome as he recognized Kate.
She saw nothing but the drawn white face of Dan and his blue pencilled eyelids. She ran to him. Old Sam, hardly awake, reached out to stop her. His wife held him back.