After a moment of staring through the window the scholar wrote again: “The major portion of Elkhead lies within plain sight of my window. I see a general merchandise store, twenty-seven buildings of a comparatively major and eleven of a minor significance, and five saloons. The streets—”
The streets, however, were not described at that sitting, for at this juncture a heavy hand knocked and the door of Randall Byrne’s room was flung open by Hank Dwight, proprietor of Elkhead’s saloon—a versatile man, expert behind the bar or in a blacksmith shop.
“Doc,” said Hank Dwight, “you’re wanted.” Randall Byrne placed his spectacles more firmly on his nose to consider his host.
“What—” he began, but Hank Dwight had already turned on his heel.
“Her name is Kate Cumberland. A little speed, doc. She’s in a hurry.”
“If no other physician is available,” protested Byrne, following slowly down the stairs, “I suppose I must see her.”
“If they was another within ten miles, d’you s’pose I’d call on you?” asked Hank Dwight.
So saying, he led the way out onto the veranda, where the doctor was aware of a girl in a short riding skirt who stood with one gloved hand on her hip while the other slapped a quirt idly against her riding boots.
WORDS AND BULLETS
“Here’s a gent that calls himself a doc,” said Hank Dwight by way of an introduction. “If you can use him, Miss Cumberland, fly to it!”
And he left them alone.
Now the sun lay directly behind Kate Cumberland and in order to look at her closely the doctor had to shade his weak eyes and pucker his brows; for from beneath her wide sombrero there rolled a cloud of golden hair as bright as the sunshine itself—a sad strain upon the visual nerve of Doctor Randall Byrne. He repeated her name, bowed, and when he straightened, blinked again. As if she appreciated that strain upon his eyes she stepped closer, and entered the shadow.
“Doctor Hardin is not in town,” she said, “and I have to bring a physician out to the ranch at once; my father is critically ill.”
Randall Byrne rubbed his lean chin.
“I am not practicing at present,” he said reluctantly. Then he saw that she was watching him closely, weighing him with her eyes, and it came to the mind of Randall Byrne that he was not a large man and might not incline the scale far from the horizontal.
“I am hardly equipped—” began Byrne.
“You will not need equipment,” she interrupted. “His trouble lies in his nerves and the state of his mind.”
A slight gleam lighted the eyes of the doctor.
“Ah,” he murmured. “The mind?”
He rubbed his bloodless hands slowly together, and when he spoke his voice was sharp and quick and wholly impersonal. “Tell me the symptoms!”