“I don’t know,” she answered quickly. “All I understand is that it is beautiful. Where are your theories and explanations now, Doctor Byrne?”.
“It is beautiful—God knows!—but doesn’t the wolf-dog understand it better than either you or I?”
She turned and faced Byrne, standing very close, and when she spoke there was something in her voice which was like a light. In spite of the dark he could guess at every varying shade of her expression.
“To the rest of us,” she murmured, “Dan has nothing but silence, and hardly a glance. Buck saved his life to-night, and yet Dan remembered nothing except the blow which had been struck. And now—now he pours out all the music in his soul for a dumb beast. Listen!”
He saw her straighten herself and stand taller.
“Then through the wolf—I’ll conquer through the dumb beast!”
She whipped past Byrne and disappeared into the house; at the same instant the whistling, in the midst of a faint, high climax, broke, shivered, and was ended. There was only the darkness and the silence around Byrne, and the unsteady wind against his face.
Doctor Byrne, pacing the front veranda with his thoughtful head bowed, saw Buck Daniels step out with his quirt dangling in his hand, his cartridge belt buckled about his waist, and a great red silk bandana knotted at his throat.
He was older by ten years than he had been a few days before, when the doctor first saw him. To be sure, his appearance was not improved by a three days’ growth of beard. It gave his naturally dark skin a dirty cast, but even that rough stubble could not completely shroud the new hollows in Daniels’ cheeks. His long, black, uncombed hair, sagged down raggedly across his forehead, hanging almost into his eyes; the eyes themselves were sunk in such formidable cavities that Byrne caught hardly more than two points of light in the shadows. All the devil-may-care insouciance of Buck Daniels was quite, quite gone. In its place was a dogged sullenness, a hang-dog air which one would not care to face of a dark night or in a lonely place. His manner was that of a man whose back is against the wall, who, having fled some keen pursuit, has now come to the end of his tether and prepares for desperate even if hopeless battle. There was that about him which made the doctor hesitate to address the cowpuncher.
At length he said: “You’re going out for an outing, Mr. Daniels?”
Buck Daniels started violently at the sound of this voice behind him, and whirled upon the doctor with such a set and contorted expression of fierceness that Byrne jumped back.
“Good God, man!” cried the doctor, “What’s up with you?”
“Nothin’,” answered Buck, gradually relaxing from his first show of suspicion. “I’m beating it. That’s all.”