This thought brought remarkable consolation. He pictured to himself her remorse when she heard the tragic news. He attended in spirit his own funeral, and even saw her tears fall upon his still face. Meanwhile he listened impatiently for the train.
Instead of the distant rumble of the cars, he heard on the road below the sound of a horse’s hoofs, quickly followed by voices. Slipping behind the embankment, he waited for the vehicle to pass. The horse was evidently walking, and the voices came to him distinctly.
“I’m not a coward—any s-such thing! We oughtn’t to have c-come, in the first place. I can’t go with you. Please turn round, C-Carter,—please!”
There was no mistaking that high, childlike voice, with its faltering speech.
Sandy’s gloomy frown narrowed to a scowl. What business had Annette out there in the storm? Where was she going with Carter Nelson?
He quickened his steps to keep within sight of the slow-moving buggy.
“There’s nothing out this road but the Junction,” he thought, trying to collect his wits. “Could they be taking the train there? He goes to California in the morning, but where’s he taking Nettie to-day? And she didn’t want to be going, either; didn’t I hear her say it with her own lips?”
He moved cautiously forward, now running a few paces to keep up, now crouching behind the bushes. Every sense was keenly alert; his eyes never left the buggy for a moment.
When the freight thundered up the grade, he stepped mechanically to one side, keeping a vigilant eye on the couple ahead, and begrudging the time he lost while the train went by. It was not until an hour later that he remembered he had forgotten to commit suicide.
Stepping back on the ties, he hurried forward. He was convinced now that they meant to take the down train which would pass the Clayton train at the Junction in half an hour. Something must be done to save Annette. The thought of her in the city, at the mercy of the irresponsible Carter, sent him running down the track. He waited until he was slightly in advance before he descended abruptly upon them.
Annette was sitting very straight, talking excitedly, and Carter was evidently trying to reassure her.
As Sandy plunged down the embankment, they started apart, and Carter reached for the whip. Before he could urge the horse forward, Sandy had swung himself lightly to the step of the buggy, and was leaning back against the dash-board. He looked past Carter to Annette. She was making a heroic effort to look unconcerned and indifferent, but her eyelids were red, and her handkerchief was twisted into a damp little string about her fingers. Sandy wasted no time in diplomacy; he struck straight out from the shoulder.
“If it’s doing something you don’t want to, you don’t have to, Nettie. I’m here.”
Carter stopped his horse.
“Will you get down?” he demanded angrily.