A minute or two later, he dragged her back into the cabin, moaning, pleading, and crying from the pain of a sudden blow. Ten minutes afterward he went forth again, this time ostensibly to meet Sam; but Rosalie knew that he was gone forever.
A sickly new moon threw vague ghostly beams across the willow-lined swamp, out beyond the little cabin that stood on its border. Through the dense undergrowth and high among the skeleton treetops ugly shadows played with each other, while a sepulchral orchestra of wind and bough shrieked a dirge that flattened in Bonner’s ears; but it was not the weird music of the swamp that sent the shudder of actual terror through the frame of the big athlete.
A series of muffled, heartbreaking moans, like those of a woman in dire pain, came to his ears. He felt the cold perspiration start over his body. His nerves grew tense with trepidation, his eyes wide with horror. Instinctively, his fingers clutched the revolver at his side and his gaze went toward the black, square thing which marked the presence of the haunted house. The orchestra of the night seemed to bring its dirge to a close; a chill interlude of silence ensued. The moans died away into choking sobs, and Bonner’s ears could hear nothing else. A sudden thought striking him, he rolled out of his bed and made his way to Bud’s pile of blankets. But the solution was not there. The lad was sound asleep and no sound issued from his lips. The moans came from another source, human or otherwise, out there in the crinkling night.
Carefully making his way from the tent, his courage once more restored but his flesh still quivering, Bonner looked intently for manifestations in the black home of Johanna Rank. He half expected to see a ghostly light flit past a window. It was intensely dark in the thicket, but the shadowy marsh beyond silhouetted the house into a black relief. He was on all fours behind a thick pile of brush, nervously drawing his pipe from his pocket, conscious that he needed it to steady his nerves, when a fresh sound, rising above the faint sobs, reached his ears. Then the low voice of a man came from some place in the darkness, and these words rang out distinctly:
He drew back involuntarily, for the voice seemed to be at his elbow. The sobs ceased suddenly, as if choked by a mighty hand.
The listener’s inclination was to follow the example of Anderson Crow and run madly off into the night. But beneath this natural panic was the soul of chivalry. Something told him that a woman out there in the solitude needed the arms of a man; and his blood began to grow hot again. Presently the silence was broken by a sharp cry of despair:
“Have pity! Oh, God—” moaned the voice that sent thrills through his body—the voice of a woman, tender, refined, crushed. His fingers gripped the revolver with fresh vigor, but almost instantly the rustling of dead leaves reached his ears: the man and his victim were making their way toward the house.