That was a time of change and of portent, and a day well fitted to the mood of Randall Byrne. He, also, had altered, and there was about to break upon him the rain of life, and whether it would destroy him or make him live, and richly, he could not guess. But he was naked to the skies of chance—naked as this landscape.
Far past the mid-day they reached the streets of Elkhead and stopped at the hotel. As the doctor swung down from his saddle, cramped and sore from the long ride, thunder rattled over the distant hills and a patter of rain splashed in the dust and sent up a pungent odor to his nostrils. It was like the voice of the earth proclaiming its thirst. And a blast of wind leaped down the street and lifted the brim of Barry’s hat and set the bandana at his throat fluttering. He looked away into the teeth of the wind and smiled.
There was something so curious about him at the instant that Randall Byrne wanted to ask him into the hotel—wanted to have him knee to knee for a long talk. But he remembered an old poem—the sea-shell needs the waves of the sea—the bird will not sing in the cage. And the yellow light in the eyes of Barry, phosphorescent, almost—a thing that might be nearly seen by night—that, surely, would not shine under any roof. It was the wind which made him smile. These things he understood, without fear.
So he said good-bye, and the rider waved carelessly and took the reins of the piebald and turned the stallion back. He noted the catlike grace of the horse in moving, as if his muscles were steel springs; and he noted also that the long ride had scarcely stained the glossy hide with sweat—while the piebald reeked with the labour. Randall Byrne drew thoughtfully back onto the porch of the hotel and followed the rider with his eyes. In a moment a great cloud of dust poured down the street, covered the rider, and when it was gone he had passed around a corner and out of the life of the doctor.
All this time Black Bart had trotted contentedly ahead of Satan, never having to glance back but apparently knowing the intended direction; save that when Dan Barry turned to the road leading out of the little town, the wolf-dog had turned in an opposite direction. The rider turned in the saddle and sent a sharp whistle towards the animal, but he was answered by a short howl of woe that made him check Satan and swing around. Black Bart stood in the centre of the street facing in the opposite direction, and he looked back over his shoulder towards his master.
There was apparently a perfect understanding between them, and the master first glanced up and made sure of the position of the sun and the length of time he might allow for the trip home, before he decided to follow the whim of the wolf-dog. Then he turned Satan and cantered, with the piebald trailing, back towards Black Bart.