“Speak to me!”
Only the yellow light answered her. Cold fear fought in her heart, but love still struggled against it.
“For the last time—for God’s sake, Dan!”
Still that silence. She rose, shaking and weak. The changeless eyes followed her. Only fear remained now. She backed towards the door, slowly, then faster, and faster. At the threshold she whirled and plunged into the night.
Up the road she raced. Once she stumbled and fell to her knees. She cried out and glanced behind her, breathing again when she saw that nothing followed. At the house she made no pause, though she heard the voice of her father singing. She could not tell him. He should be the last in all the world to know. She went to her room and huddled into bed.
Presently a knock came at her door, and her father’s voice asked if she were ill. She pleaded that she had a bad headache and wished to be alone. He asked if she had seen Dan. By a great effort she managed to reply that Dan had ridden to a neighbouring ranch. Her father left the door without further question. Afterwards she heard him in the distance singing his favourite mournful ballads. It doubled her sense of woe and brought home the clinging fear. She felt that if she could weep she might live, but otherwise her heart would burst. And after hours and hours of that torture which burns the name of “woman” in the soul of a girl, the tears came. The roosters announced the dawn before she slept.
Late the next morning old Joe Cumberland knocked again at her door. He was beginning to fear that this illness might be serious. Moreover, he had a definite purpose in rousing her.
“Yes?” she called, after the second knock.
“Look out your window, honey, down to Morgan’s place. You remember I said I was goin’ to clean up the landscape?”
The mention of Morgan’s place cleared the sleep from Kate’s mind and it brought back the horror of the night before. Shivering she slipped from her bed and went to the window. Morgan’s place was a mass of towering flames!
She grasped the window-sill and stared again. It could not be. It must be merely another part of the nightmare, and no reality. Her father’s voice, high with exultation, came dimly to her ears, but what she saw was Dan as he had laid there the night before, hurt, helpless, too weak to move!
“There’s the end of it,” Joe Cumberland was saying complacently outside her door. “There ain’t goin’ to be even a shadow of the saloon left nor nothin’ that’s in it. I jest travelled down there this mornin’ and touched a match to it!”
Still she stared without moving, without making a sound. She was seeing Dan as he must have wakened from a swoonlike sleep with the smell of smoke and the heat of rising flames around him. She saw him struggle, and fail to reach his feet. She almost heard him cry out—a sound drowned easily by the roar of the fire, and the crackling of the wood. She saw him drag himself with his hands across the floor, only to be beaten back by a solid wall of flame. Black Bart crouched beside him and would not leave his doomed master. Fascinated by the raging fire the black stallion Satan would break from the shed and rush into the flames!—and so the inseparable three must have perished together!