“Good morning,” returned Thayor, looking up—“and good-bye. You may go to Holcomb, Dollard, for whatever is due you at once.”
Dollard straightened aggressively and with an oath passed out, slamming the door behind him. The closed door muffled somewhat the grumbling from the group on the veranda. Now it increased, plentifully interlarded with profanity.
Sam Thayor, sitting at his desk, did not move. He drew from a drawer a packet of vouchers and began studying them, jotting the totals upon the yellow pad. After a few moments the sound of heavy boots stamping down the veranda steps reached his ears—grew fainter and died away. Thayor started to rise. As he did so, his foot struck something heavy and muscular beneath his desk; then a cold, wet muzzle touched his hand.
It was the old dog.
He had been plainly visible from where the men stood during the entire interview; he had arrived early, unperceived. The look in his brave, gray eyes might have had something to do with Shank Dollard’s exit.
On the other side of the closed door leading out to the living room, Alice stood breathless for a quarter of an hour—listening.
She had passed a sleepless night; in the gray dawn she had left her bed and taken a seat by the window. She had tried the balcony—but the night air chilled her to the bone and she had gone back to bed, her teeth chattering.
As she listened, her cheek close to the panel, straining her ears, her heart beating fast with a dull throb, her hands like ice, there were moments when she grew faint—the faintness of fear. Now and then she managed to catch disconnected grumbling sentences; occasionally she was enabled, through the glimmering light of the half-closed keyhole, to distinguish with her strained, frightened eyes, the figure of her husband speaking fearlessly as he flung his ultimatum in the faces of the rough men in front of him. What manner of man was this whom she had defied?
Suddenly an uncontrollable fear fell upon her; with a quick movement she gathered her skirts about her and fled upstairs to her own room.
That night the photograph taken in Heidelberg, and all the letters Sperry had written her, lay in ashes in her bedroom grate.
Before dawn Alice awoke in a fit of coughing. Her bedroom was a blank. The open window overlooking the torrent had disappeared. She sat up choking—staring with wide open, stinging eyes, into an acrid haze. She felt for the matches beside her bed and struck one. Its flame burned saffron for an instant and went out as if it had been plunged into a bottle. At this instant she would have shrieked with fright had not the sound of a man leaping up the stairs leading to her room reached her ears. Then her door crashed in clear of its hinges. She remained sitting bolt upright in bed, too terrified to move. A pair of sinewy arms reached out for her, groping in the strangling haze.