Dan slipped down beside the marshal and the latter dropped a sympathetic hand over the lean, brown fingers. They returned the pressure with a bone-crushing grip.
“Fight, Dan! It will make you forget her.”
“Her skin is softer’n satin, Tex.”
“Ay, but you’ll never touch it again, Dan.”
“Her eyes are deeper’n a pool at night an’ her hair is all gold like ripe corn.”
“You’ll never look into her eyes again, Dan, and you’ll never touch the gold of that hair.”
The word was hardly more than a whisper, but it brought Black Bart leaping to his feet.
Dan spoke again: “Tex, I’m thankin’ you for listenin’ to me; I wanted to talk. Bein’ silent was burnin’ me up. There’s one thing more.”
“Fire it out, lad.”
“This evenin’ I told you I hated no man but Jim Silent.”
“An’ now they’s another of his gang. Sometime—when she’s standin’ by—I’m goin’ to take him by the throat till he don’t breathe no more. Then I’ll throw him down in front of her an’ ask her if she c’n kiss the life back into his lips!”
Calder was actually shaking with excitement, but he was wise enough not to speak.
“But when I’ve choked his damned life away——”
“There’ll be five more that seen her shamin’ me. Tex—all hell is bustin’ loose inside me!”
For a moment Calder watched, but that stare of cold
hate mastered him.
He turned his head.
THE CROSS ROADS
As Black Bart raced away in answer to Dan’s whistle, Kate recovered herself from the daze in which she stood and with a sob ran towards the willows, calling the name of Dan, but Silent sprang after her, and caught her by the arm. She cried out and struggled vainly in his grip.
“Don’t follow him, boys!” called Silent. “He’s a dog that can bite while he runs. Stand quiet, girl!”
Lee Haines caught him by the shoulder and jerked Silent around. His hand held the butt of his revolver, and his whole arm trembled with eagerness for the draw.
“Take your hand from her, Jim!” he said.
Silent met his eye with the same glare and while his left hand still held Kate by both her wrists his right dropped to his gun.
“Not when you tell me, Lee!”
“Damn you, I say let her go!”
“By God, Haines, I stand for too much from you!”
And still they did not draw, because each of them knew that if the crisis came it would mean death to them both. Bill Kilduff jumped between them and thrust them back.
He cried, “Ain’t we got enough trouble without roundin’ up work at home? Terry Jordan is shot through the arm.”
Kate tugged at the restraining hand of Silent, not in an attempt to escape, but in order to get closer to Haines.