In the full tide of conscious power she was able to drop her hand from her face, raise her head, turn her glance carelessly upon Dan Barry; she was met by ominously glowing eyes. Anger—at least it was not indifference.
He rose and stepped in his noiseless way behind her, but he reappeared instantly on the other side, and reached out his hand to where her fingers trailed limp from the arm of the chair. There he let them lie, white and cool, against the darkness of his palm. It was as if he sought in the hand for the secret of her power over the wolf-dog. She let her head rest against the back of the chair and watched the nervous and sinewy hand upon which her own rested. She had seen those hands fixed in the throat of Black Bart himself, once upon a time. A grim simile came to her; the tips of her fingers touched the paw of the panther. The steel-sharp claws were sheathed, but suppose once they were bared, and clutched. Or she stood touching a switch which might loose, by the slightest motion, a terrific voltage. What would happen?
Nothing! Presently the hand released her fingers, and Dan Barry stepped back and stood with folded arms, frowning at the fire. In the weakness which overcame her, in the grip of the wild excitement, she dared not stay near him longer. She rose and walked into the dining-room.
“Serve breakfast now, Wung,” she commanded, and at once the gong was struck by the cook.
Before the long vibrations had died away the guests were gathered around the table, and the noisy marshal was the first to come. He slammed back a chair and sat down with a grunt of expectancy.
“Mornin’, Dan,” he said, whetting his knife across the table-cloth, “I hear you’re ridin’ this mornin’? Ain’t going my way, are you?”
Dan Barry sat frowning steadily down at the table. It was a moment before he answered.
“I ain’t leavin,” he said softly, at length, “postponed my trip.”
DOCTOR BYRNE SHOWS THE TRUTH
On this day of low-lying mists, this day so dull that not a shadow was cast by tree or house or man, there was no graver place than the room of old Joe Cumberland; even lamp light was more merciful in the room, for it left the corners of the big apartment in obscurity, but this meagre daylight stripped away all illusion and left the room naked and ugly. Those colours of wall and carpet, once brighter than spring, showed now as faded and lifeless as foliage in the dead days of late November when the leaves have no life except what keeps them clinging to the twig, and when their fallen fellows are lifted and rustled on the ground by every faint wind, with a sound like breathing in the forest. And like autumn, too, was the face of Joe Cumberland, with a colour neither flushed nor pale, but a dull sallow which foretells death. Beside his bed sat Doctor Randall Byrne and kept the pressure of two fingers upon the wrist of the rancher.