He tugged hard. Satan whinnied his doubt, and the growl of Black Bart answered, half a threat. In a moment more they were picking their way through the brush towards the house of Buck Daniels.
Satan was far gone with exhaustion. His head drooped; his legs sprawled with every step; his eyes were glazed. Yet he staggered on with the great black wolf pulling at the reins. There was the salt taste of blood in the mouth of Black Bart; so he stalked on, saliva dripping from his mouth, and his eyes glazed with the lust to kill. His furious snarling was the threat which urged on the stallion.
BLACK BART TURNS NURSE
It was old Mrs. Daniels who woke first at the sound of scratching and growling. She roused her husband and son, and all three went to the door, Buck in the lead with his six-gun in his hand. At sight of the wolf he started back and raised the gun, but Black Bart fawned about his feet.
“Don’t shoot—it’s a dog, an’ there’s his master!” cried Sam. “By the Lord, they’s a dead man tied on that there hoss!”
Dan lay on Satan, half fallen from the saddle, with his head hanging far down, only sustained by the strength of the rein. The stallion, wholly spent, stood with his legs braced, his head low, and his breath coming in great gasps. The family ran to the rescue. Sam cut the rein and Buck lowered the limp body in his arms.
“Buck, is he dead?” whispered Mrs. Daniels.
“I don’t feel no heart beat,” said Buck. “Help me fetch him into the house, Dad!”
“Look out for the hoss!” cried Sam.
Buck started back with his burden just in time, for Satan, surrendering to his exhaustion, pitched to the ground, and lay with sprawling legs like a spent dog rather than a horse.
“Let the hoss be,” said Buck. “Help me with the man. He’s hurt bad.”
Mrs. Daniels ran ahead and lighted a lamp. They laid the body carefully upon a bed. It made a ghastly sight, the bloodless face with the black hair fallen wildly across the forehead, the mouth loosely open, and the lips black with dust.
“Dad!” said Buck. “I think I’ve seen this feller. God knows if he’s livin’ or dead.”
He dropped to his knees and pressed his ear over Dan’s heart.
“I can’t feel no motion. Ma, get that hand mirror—”
She had it already and now held it close to the lips of the wounded man. When she drew it away their three heads drew close together.
“They’s a mist on it! He’s livin’!” cried Buck.
“It ain’t nothing,” said Sam. “The glass ain’t quite clear, that’s all.”
Mrs. Daniels removed the last doubt by running her finger across the surface of the glass. It left an unmistakable mark.
They wasted no moment then. They brought hot and cold water, washed out his wound, cleansed away the blood; and while Mrs. Daniels and her husband fixed the bandage, Buck pounded and rubbed the limp body to restore the circulation. In a few minutes his efforts were rewarded by a great sigh from Dan.