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- The Day of the Dog - 4/10 -
"He won't come," she cried plaintively.
"I have it!" he exclaimed, his face brightening. "Will you hand me that three-tined pitchfork over there? With that in my hands I'll make Swallow see--Look out! For heaven's sake, don't go near him! He'll kill you." She had taken two or three steps toward the dog, her hand extended pleadingly, only to be met by an ominous growl, a fine display of teeth, and a bristling back. As if paralyzed, she halted at the foot of the ladder, terror suddenly taking possession of her.
"Can you get the pitchfork?"
"I am afraid to move," she moaned. "He is horrible--horrible!"
"I'll come down, Mrs. Delancy, and hang the consequences," Crosby cried, and was suiting the action to the word when she cried out in remonstrance.
"Don't come down--don't! He'll kill you. I forbid you to come down, Mr. Crosby. Look at him! Oh, he's coming toward me! Don't come down!" she shrieked. "I'll come up!"
Grasping her skirts with one hand she started frantically up the ladder, her terrified eyes looking into the face of the man above. There was a vicious snarl from the dog, a savage lunge, and then something closed over her arm like a vice. She felt herself being jerked upward and a second later she was on the beam beside the flushed young man whose strong hand and not the dog's jaws had reached her first. He was obliged to support her for a few minutes with one of his emphatic arms, so near was she to fainting.
"Oh," she gasped at last, looking into his eyes questioningly. "Did he bite me? I was not sure, you know. He gave such an awful leap for me. How did you do it?"
"A simple twist of the wrist, as the prestidigitators say. You had a close call, my dear Mrs. Delancy." He was a-quiver with new sensations that were sending his spirits sky high. After all it was not turning out so badly.
"He would have dragged me down had it not been for you. And I might have been torn to pieces," she shuddered, glancing down at the now infuriated dog.
"It would have been appalling," he agreed, discreetly allowing her to imagine the worst.
"How can I ever thank you?" cried she impulsively. He made a very creditable show of embarrassment in the effort to convince her that he had accomplished only what any man would have attempted under similar circumstances. She was thoroughly convinced that no other man could have succeeded.
"Well, we're in a pretty position, are we not?" he asked in the end.
"I think I can stick on without being held, Mr. Crosby," she said, and his arm slowly and regretfully came to parade rest.
"Are you sure you won't get dizzy?" he demanded in deep solicitude.
"I'll not look down," she said, smiling into his eyes. He lost the power of speech for a moment. "May I look at those figures now?"
For the next ten minutes she studiously followed him as he explained the contents of the various papers. She held the sheets and they sat very close to each other on the big beam. The dog looked on in sour disgust.
"They cannot be wrong," she cried at last. Her eyes were sparkling. "You are as good as an angel."
"I only regret that I can't complete the illusion by unfolding a strong and convenient pair of wings," he said dolorously. "How are we to catch that train for Chicago?"
"I'm afraid we can't," she said demurely. "You'll miss the box party."
"That's a pleasure easily sacrificed."
"Besides, you are seeing me on business. Pleasure should never interfere with business, you know."
"It doesn't seem to," he said, and the dog saw them smile tranquilly into each other's eyes.
"Oh, isn't this too funny for words?" He looked very grateful.
"I wonder when Austin will condescend to release us."
"I have come to a decision, Mr. Crosby," she said irrelevantly.
"I shall never speak to Robert Austin again, and I'll never enter his house as long as I live," she announced determinedly.
"Good! But you forget your personal effects. They are in his house." He was overflowing with happiness.
"They have all gone to the depot and I have the baggage checks. My ticket and my money are in this purse. You see, we are quite on the same footing."
"I don't feel sure of my footing," he commented ruefully. "By the way, I have a fountain pen. Would you mind signing these papers? We'll be quite sure of our standing at least."
She deliberately spread out the papers on the beam, and, while he obligingly kept her from falling, signed seven documents in a full, decisive hand: "Louise Hampton Delancy."
"There! That means that you are to begin suit," she said finally, handing the pen to him.
[Illustration: "SHE DELIBERATELY SPREAD OUT THE PAPERS ON THE BEAM."]
"I'll not waste an instant," he said meaningly. "In fact, the suit is already under way."
"I don't understand you," she said, but she flushed.
"That's what a lawyer says when he goes to court," he explained.
"Oh," she said, thoroughly convinced.
At the end of another hour the two on the beam were looking at each other with troubled eyes. When he glanced at his watch at six o'clock, his face was extremely sober. There was a tired, wistful expression in her eyes.
"Do you think they'll keep us here all night?" she asked plaintively.
"Heaven knows what that scoundrel will do."
"We have the papers signed, at any rate." She sighed, trying to revive the dying spark of humor.
"And we won't be lonesome," he added, glaring at the dog.
"Did you ever dream that a man could be so despicable?"
"Ah, here comes some one at last," he cried, brightening up.
The figure of Robert Austin appeared in the doorway.
"Oho, you're both up there now, are you?" he snapped. "That's why you didn't go to the depot, is it? Well, how has the business progressed?"
"She has signed all the papers, if that's what you want to know," said Crosby tantalizingly.
"That's all the good it will do her. We'll beat you in court, Mr. Crosby, and we won't leave a dollar for you, my dear sister-in-law," snarled Austin, his face white with rage.
"And now that we've settled our business, and missed our train, perhaps you'll call off your confounded dog," said Crosby. Austin's face broke into a wide grin, and he chuckled aloud. Then he leaned against the door-post and held his sides.
"What's the joke?" demanded the irate Crosby. Mrs. Delancy clasped his arm and looked down upon Austin as if he had suddenly gone mad.
"You want to come down, eh?" cackled Austin. "Why don't you come down? I know you'll pardon my laughter, but I have just remembered that you may be a horse thief and that I was not going to let you escape. Mrs. Delancy refuses to speak to me, so I decline to ask her to come down."
"Do you mean to say you'll keep this lady up here for--" began Crosby fiercely. Her hand on his arm prevented him from leaping to the floor.
"She may come down when she desires, and so may you, sir," roared Austin stormily.
"But some one will release us, curse you, and then I'll make you sorry you ever lived," hissed Crosby. "You are a black-hearted cur, a cowardly dog--"
"Don't--don't!" whispered the timid woman beside him.
"You are helping your cause beautifully," sneered Austin. "My men have instructions to stay away from the barn until the marshal comes. I, myself, expect to feed and bed the horses."
Deliberately he went about the task of feeding the horses. The two on the beam looked on in helpless silence. Crosby had murder in his heart. At last the master of the situation started for the door.
"Good-night," he said sarcastically. "Pleasant dreams."
"You brute," cried Crosby, hoarse with anger. A sob came from his tired companion and Crosby turned to her, his heart full of tenderness and-- shame, perhaps. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and her shoulders drooped dejectedly.
"What shall we do?" she moaned. Crosby could frame no answer. He gently took her hand in his and held it tightly. She made no effort to withdraw it.
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