Casually she bent over and pushed the protruding butt of her revolver a trifle farther down into her riding boot. “S’long—Mr. Barton!” she called listlessly over the other, and started on, stumblingly, clatteringly, up the abruptly steep and precipitous mountain trail—a little dust-colored gnome on a dust-colored horse, with the dutiful gray pinking cautiously along behind her.
By some odd twist of his bridle-rein the gray’s chunky neck arched slightly askew, and he pranced now and then from side to side of the trail as if guided thus by an invisible hand.
With an uncanny pucker along his spine as if he found himself suddenly deserting two women instead of one, Barton went fumbling and squinting out through the dusty green shade into the expected glare of the open pasture, and discovered, to his further disconcerting, that there was no glare left.
Before his astonished eyes he saw sun-scorched mountain-top, sun-scorched granite, sun-scorched field stubble turned suddenly to shade—no cool, translucent miracle of fluctuant greens, but a horrid, plushy, purple dusk under a horrid, plushy, purple sky, with a rip of lightning along the horizon, a galloping gasp of furiously oncoming wind, an almost strangling stench of dust-scented rain.
But before he could whirl his horse about, the storm broke! Heaven fell! Hell rose! The sides of the earth caved in! Chaos unspeakable tore north, east, south, west!
Snortingly for one single instant the roan’s panic-stricken nostrils went blooming up into the cloud-burst like two parched scarlet poinsettias. Then man and beast as one flesh, as one mind, went bolting back through the rain-drenched, wind-ravished thicket to find their mates.
Up, up, up, everlastingly up, the mountain trail twisted and scrambled through the unholy darkness. Now and again a slippery stone tripped the roan’s fumbling feet. Now and again a swaying branch slapped Barton stingingly across his straining eyes. All around and about them tortured forest trees moaned and writhed in the gale. Through every cavernous vista gray sheets of rain went flapping madly by them. The lightning was incredible. The thunder like the snarl of a glass sky shivering into inestimable fragments.
With every gasping breath beginning to rip from his poor lungs like a knifed stitch, the roan still faltered on each new ledge to whinny desperately to his mate. Equally futilely from time to time, Barton, with his hands cupped to his mouth, holloed—holloed—holloed—into the thunderous darkness.
Then at a sharp turn in the trail, magically, in a pale, transient flicker of light, loomed little Eve Edgarton’s boyish figure, drenched to the skin apparently, wind-driven, rain-battered, but with hands in her pockets, slouch hat rakishly askew, strolling as nonchalantly down that ghastly trail as a child might come strolling down a stained-glassed, Persian-carpeted stairway to meet an expected guest.