She turned reluctantly towards him. Perhaps he was right and Dan would waken from his swoon as if from a healthful sleep.
“It was that big feller with them straight eyes that done it,” began Morgan.
“The one who was sneering at Dan?”
“Weren’t there enough boys here to string him up?”
“He had three friends with him. It would of taken a hundred men to lay hands on one of those four. They were all bad ones. I’m goin’ to tell you how it was, because I’m leavin’ in a few minutes and ridin’ south, an’ I want to clear my trail before I start. This was the way it happened—”
His back was turned to the dim light which fell through the door. She could barely make out the movement of his lips. All the rest of his face was lost in shadow. As he spoke she sometimes lost his meaning and the stir of his lips became a nameless gibbering. The grey gloom settled more deeply round the room and over her heart while he talked. He explained how the difference had risen between the tall stranger and Whistling Dan. How Dan had been insulted time and again and borne it with a sort of childish stupidity. How finally the blow had been struck. How Dan had crouched on the floor, laughing, and how a yellow light gathered in his eyes.
At that, her mind went blank. When her thoughts returned she stood alone in the room. The clatter of Morgan’s galloping horse died swiftly away down the road. She turned to Dan. Black Bart was crouched at watch beside him. She kneeled again—lowered her head—heard the faint but steady breathing. He seemed infinitely young—infinitely weak and helpless. The whiteness of the bandage stared up at her like an eye through the deepening gloom. All the mother in her nature came to her eyes in tears.
“My head,” he muttered, “it sort of aches, Kate, as if—”
He was silent and she knew that he remembered.
“You’re all right now, honey. I’ve come here to take care of you—I won’t leave you. Poor Dan!”
“How did you know?” he asked, the words trailing.
“Black Bart came for me.”
“Good ol’ Bart!”
The great wolf slunk closer, and licked the outstretched hand.
“Why, Kate, I’m on the floor and it’s dark. Am I still in Morgan’s place? Yes, I begin to see clearer.”
He made an effort to rise, but she pressed him back.
“If you try to move right away you may get a fever. I’m going back to the house, and I’ll bring you down some blankets. Morgan says you shouldn’t attempt to move for several hours. He says you’ve lost a great deal of blood and that you mustn’t make any effort or ride a horse till tomorrow.”
Dan relaxed with a sigh.