“Why don’t you speak, Kate?” called her father.
“Dan!” she screamed, and pitched forward to the floor.
THE PHANTOM RIDER
In the daytime the willows along the wide, level river bottom seemed an unnatural growth, for they made a streak of yellow-green across the mountain-desert when all other verdure withered and died. After nightfall they became still more dreary. Even when the air was calm there was apt to be a sound as of wind, for the tenuous, trailing branches brushed lightly together, making a guarded whispering like ghosts.
In a small clearing among these willows sat Silent and his companions. A fifth member had just arrived at this rendezvous, answered the quiet greeting with a wave of his hand, and was now busy caring for his horse. Bill Kilduff, who had a natural inclination and talent for cookery, raked up the deft dying coals of the fire over which he had cooked the supper, and set about preparing bacon and coffee for the newcomer. The latter came forward, and squatted close to the cook, watching the process with a careful eye. He made a sharp contrast with the rest of the group. From one side his profile showed the face of a good-natured boy, but when he turned his head the flicker of the firelight ran down a scar which gleamed in a jagged semi-circle from his right eyebrow to the corner of his mouth. This whole side of his countenance was drawn by the cut, the mouth stretching to a perpetual grimace. When he spoke it was as if he were attempting secrecy. The rest of the men waited in patience until he finished eating. Then Silent asked: “What news, Jordan?”
Jordan kept his regretful eyes a moment longer on his empty coffee cup.
“There ain’t a pile to tell,” he answered at last. “I suppose you heard about what happened to the chap you beat up at Morgan’s place the other day?”
“Who knows that I beat him up?” asked Silent sharply.
“Nobody,” said Jordan, “but when I heard the description of the man that hit Whistling Dan with the chair, I knew it was Jim Silent.”
“What about Barry?” asked Haines, but Jordan still kept his eyes upon the chief.
“They was sayin’ pretty general,” he went on, “that you needed that chair, Jim. Is that right?”
The other three glanced covertly to each other. Silent’s hand bunched into a great fist.
“He went loco. I had to slam him. Was he hurt bad?”
“The cut on his head wasn’t much, but he was left lyin’ in the saloon that night, an’ the next mornin’ old Joe Cumberland, not knowin’ that Whistlin’ Dan was in there, come down an’ touched a match to the old joint. She went up in smoke an’ took Dan along.”
No one spoke for a moment. Then Silent cried out: “Then what was that whistlin’ I’ve heard down the road behind us?”
Bill Kilduff broke into rolling bass laughter, and Hal Purvis chimed in with a squeaking tenor.