“Bart!” commanded the girl, sharply.
The head jerked up, but the questing eyes did not look at her. He glanced over his shoulder to find the danger that had made her voice so hard. And she yearned to take the fierce head in her arms; there were tears she could have wept over it. He was snarling again, prepared already to battle, and for her sake.
“Bart!” she repeated, more gently. “Lie down!”
He turned his head slowly back to her and looked with the unspeakable wistfulness of the dumb brutes into her eyes. But there was only one voice in which Bart could speak, and that was the harsh, rattling snarl which would have made a mountain-lion check itself mid-leap and slink back to its lair. In such a voice he answered Kate, and then sank down, gradually. And he lay still.
So simply, and yet so mysteriously, she was admitted to the partnership. But though one member of that swift, grim trio had accepted her, did it mean that the other two would take her in?
A weight sank on her feet and when she looked down she saw that Black Bart had lowered his head upon them, and so he lay there with his eyes closed, dreaming in the sun.
Bandages and antiseptics and constant care, by themselves could not have healed Black Bart so swiftly, but nature took a strong hand. The wound closed with miraculous speed. Three days after he had laid his head on the feet of Kate Cumberland, the wolf-dog was hobbling about on three legs and tugging now and again at the restraining chain; and the day after that the bandages were taken off and Whistling Dan decided that Bart might run loose. It was a brief ceremony, but a vital one. Doctor Byrne went out with Barry to watch the loosing of the dog; from the window of Joe Cumberland’s room he and Kate observed what passed. There was little hesitancy in Black Bart. He merely paused to sniff the foot of Randall Byrne, snarl, and then trotted with a limp towards the corrals.
Here, in a small enclosure with rails much higher than the other corrals, stood Satan, and Black Bart made straight for the stallion. He was seen from afar, and the black horse stood waiting, his head thrown high in the air, his ears pricking forward, the tail flaunting, a picture of expectancy. So under the lower rail Bart slunk and stood under the head of Satan, growling terribly. Of this display of anger the stallion took not the slightest notice, but lowered his beautiful head until his velvet nose touched the cold muzzle of Bart. There was something ludicrous about the greeting—it was such an odd shade close to the human. It was as brief as it was strange, for Black Bart at once whirled and trotted away towards the barns.
By the time Doctor Byrne and Whistling Dan caught up with him, the wolf-dog was before the heaps and ashes which marked the site of the burned barn. Among these white and grey and black heaps he picked his way, sniffing hastily here and there. In the very centre of the place he sat down suddenly on his haunches, pointed his nose aloft, and wailed with tremendous dreariness.