No one answered him, the thought of all recurring reverently to the motionless, silent dead without. Bareheaded, the two men, groping through the darkness, bore Mercedes within in all tenderness, and placed the slender form upon the bed, covering it with the single sheet. Hicks remained motionless, bending over her, the kindly darkness veiling the mist of tears dimming his old eyes and the trembling of his lips as he sought, for the first time in years, to pray. But Winston turned instantly and walked over toward Hayes, his heart already filled with fresh anxiety.
“Where did she go, do you know?”
“Who? the young actress woman? I could n’t see exactly, only she went outside. I thought I heard voices talkin’ out thar later on, over beyond toward the window, but maybe I imagined it. Darn this ol’ head o’ mine! It keeps whirlin’ round every time I move, like it was all wheels.”
The engineer, his face white with determination, strode to the door. Beyond doubt it was Biff Farnham whose voice Brown had recognized, commanding his men to fire; it was Farnham who had disappeared in the direction of the “Little Yankee” shaft-house. What fresh deviltry was the desperate gambler engaged upon? What other tragedy was impending out there in the black night?
THE SHADOW OF CRIME
Winston could never afterward recall having heard any report, yet as he stepped across the threshold a sharp flare of red fire cleft the blackness to his left. As though this was a signal he leaped recklessly forward, running blindly along the narrow path toward the ore-dump. Some trick of memory led him to remember a peculiar swerve in the trail just beneath the upper rim of the canyon. It must have been about there that he saw the flash, and he plunged over the edge, both hands outstretched in protection of his eyes from injury should he collide with any obstacle in the darkness. The deep shadows blinded him, but there was no hesitancy, some instinct causing him to feel the urgent need of haste. Once he stumbled and fell headlong, but was as instantly up again, bruised yet not seriously hurt. His revolver was jerked loose from his belt, but the man never paused to search for it. Even as he regained his feet, his mind bewildered by the shock, his ears distinguished clearly the cry of a woman, the sound of heavy feet crushing through underbrush. It was to his right, and he hurled himself directly into the thick chaparral in the direction from whence the sound came.
He knew not what new terror awaited him, what peril lurked in the path. At that moment he cared nothing. Bareheaded, pushing desperately aside the obstructing branches, his heart throbbing, his clothing torn, his face white with determination, he struggled madly forward, stumbling, creeping, fighting a passage, until he finally emerged, breathless but resolute, into a little cove extending back into the rock wall. From exertion and excitement he trembled from head to foot, the perspiration dripping from his face.