Suddenly the frenzy, so alien to the Gordon blood, spent itself, leaving him cool and determined. Quite methodically he found his pocket-knife, and he remembered afterward that he had been collected enough to choose and open the sharper of the two blades. There was a quick, sure slash at the shoe-lacing and the crippled foot was freed. With another yell, this time of glad triumph, he snatched up his burden and backed away with it in the tilting half-second when the deluge of slag, firing the very air with shriveling heat, was pouring down the slope.
Then he fell in a heap, with Farley under him, and fainted as a woman might—when the thing was done.
FREE AMONG THE DEAD
The skirmish-line rivulets of melted slag had crept to within a few feet of the two at the toe of the dump when the men of the engine crew ran with water to drench them.
Tom recovered consciousness under the dashing of the water, and was one of the bearers who carried Vincent Farley on a hastily improvised stretcher to the surrey waiting at the office gate.
Afterward, he went for Doctor Williams, deriding himself Homerically for playing the second act in the drama of the Good Samaritan, but playing it, none the less. And not to quit before he was quite through, he drove with the physician to Warwick Lodge, and sat in the buggy till the other Good Samaritan had performed his office.
“Nothing very serious, is it, Doctor?” he asked, when the old physician took the reins to drive his horse-holder home.
“H’m; he’ll be rather badly scarred, and there is a chance that he will lose the sight of one eye,” was the reply. Then: “It’s none of my quarrel, Tom, but you hammered him pretty cruelly—with a stone, too, I should say.”
“Did I?” grinned Tom. He was willing to bear the blame until Kincaid should have ample time to disappear.
“Yes; and with all due allowance for your provocation, it was a good bit beneath you, my boy.”
The younger man laughed grimly. “Wait till you know the full size of the provocation, Doctor. I’m not half as bad as I might be. Another man would have left him to burn—here and hereafter.”
The doctor said no more. It was not his province to make or meddle in the quarrel between the Gordons and the Farleys. And Tom also was silent, having many things to render him reflective.
When he was put down at Woodlawn it was after one o’clock. Yet he sat for an hour or more on the veranda, smoking many pipes and trying as he could to prefigure the future in the light of the night’s happenings.
What an insufferable animal Farley was, to be sure!—with the love of a woman like Ardea Dabney failing to keep him on the hither side of common decency! Would Ardea break with him, now that she knew the truth? Tom shook his head. Not she; she would stand by him all the more stoutly, if not for love, then for pride’s sake. That was the fine thing in her loyalty.