“The wolf!” he whispered to Mac Strann. “Mac, what’re we goin’ to do?”
The other had not time to answer, for the shadow at the door of the barn now leaped towards them, silently, without growl or yelp or snarl. As if to guide the battle, the kindling wood behind them now ignited and sent up a yellow burst of light. By it Haw-Haw Langley saw the great beast clearly, and he leaped back behind the sheltering form of Mac Strann. As for Mac, he did not move or flinch from the attack. His revolver was in his hand, levelled, and following the swift course of Black Bart.
There is one patience greater than the endurance of the cat at the hole of the mouse or the wolf which waits for the moose to drop, and that is the patience of the thinking man; the measure of the Hindoo’s moveless contemplation of Nirvana is not in hours but in weeks or even in months. Randall Byrne sat at his sentinel post with his hands folded and his grave eyes steadily fixed before him, and for hour after hour he did not move. Though the wind rose, now and again, and whistled through the upper chambers or mourned down the empty halls, Randall Byrne did not stir so much as an eyelash in observance. Two things held him fascinated. One was the girl who had passed up yonder stairs so wearily without a single backward glance at him; the other was the silent battle which went on in the adjoining room. Now and then his imagination wandered away to secondary pictures. He would see Barry meeting Buck Daniels, at last, and striking him down as remorselessly as the hound strikes the hare; or he would see him riding back towards Elkhead and catch a bright, sad vision of Kate Cumberland waving a careless adieu to him, and then hear her singing carelessly as she turned away. Such pictures as these, however, came up but rarely in the mind of Byrne. Mostly he thought of the stranger leaning over the body of old Joe Cumberland, reviving him, storing him with electric energy, paying back, as it were, some ancient debt. And he thought of the girl as she had turned at the landing place of the stairs, her head fallen; and he thought of her lying in her bed, with her arm under the mass of bright hair, trying to sleep, very tired, but remorsely held awake by that same power which was bringing Joe Cumberland back from the verge of death.
It was all impossible. This thing could not be. It was really as bad as the yarn of the Frankenstein monster. He considered how it would seem in print, backed by his most solemn asseverations, and then he saw the faces of the men who associated with him, pale thoughtful faces striving to conceal their smiles and their contempt. But always he came back, like the desperate hare doubling on his course, upon the picture of Kate Cumberland there at the turning of the stairs, and that bent, bright head which confessed defeat. The man had forgotten her. It made Byrne open his eyes in incredulity even to imagine such a thing. The man had forgotten her! She was no more to him than some withered hag he might ride past on the road.