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- The Day of the Dog - 5/10 -
"I'm awfully sorry," he said softly. "Don't cry, little woman. It will all end right, I know."
Just then Austin reentered the barn. Without a word he strode over and emptied a pan of raw meat on the floor in front of the dog. Then he calmly departed, but Crosby could have sworn he heard him chuckle. The captives looked at each other dumbly for a full minute, one with wet, wide-open, hurt eyes, the other with consternation. Gradually the sober light in their eyes faded away and feeble smiles developed into peals of laughter. The irony of the situation bore down upon them irresistibly and their genuine, healthy young minds saw the picture in all of its ludicrous colorings. Not even the prospect of a night in mid-air could conquer the wild desire to laugh.
"Isn't it too funny for words?" she laughed bravely through her tears.
Then, for some reason, both relapsed into dark, silent contemplation of the dog who was so calmly enjoying his evening repast.
"I am sorry to admit it, Mr. Crosby, but I am growing frightfully hungry," she said wistfully.
"It has just occurred to me that I haven't eaten a bite since seven o'clock this morning," he said.
"You poor man! I wish I could cook something for you."
"You might learn."
"You know what I mean," she explained, reddening a bit. "You must be nearly famished."
"I prefer to think of something more interesting," he said coolly.
"It is horrid!" she sobbed. "See, it is getting dark. Night is coming. Mr. Crosby, what is to become of us?" He was very much distressed by her tears and a desperate resolve took root in his breast. She was so tired and dispirited that she seemed glad when he drew her close to him and pressed her head upon his shoulder. He heard the long sigh of relief and relaxation and she peered curiously over her wet lace handkerchief when he muttered tenderly:
"Poor little chap!"
Then she sighed again quite securely, and there was a long silence, broken regularly and rhythmically by the faint little catches that once were tearful sobs.
"Oh, dear me! It is quite dark," she cried suddenly, and he felt a shudder run through her body.
"Where could you go to-night, Mrs. Delancy, if we were to succeed in getting away from here?" he asked abruptly. She felt his figure straighten and his arm grow tense as if a sudden determination had charged through it.
"Why--why, I hadn't thought about that," she confessed, confronted by a new proposition.
"There's a late night train for Chicago," he volunteered.
"But how are we to catch it?"
"If you are willing to walk to town I think you can catch it," he said, a strange ring in his voice.
"What do you mean?" she demanded, looking up at his face quickly.
"Can you walk the two miles?" he persisted. "The train leaves Dexter at eleven o'clock and it is now nearly eight."
"Of course I can walk it," she said eagerly. "I could walk a hundred miles to get away from this place."
"You'll miss the New York train, of course."
"I've changed my mind, Mr. Crosby. I shall remain in Chicago until we have had our revenge on Austin and the others."
"That's very good of you. May I ask where you stop in Chicago?"
"My apartments are in the C--- Building. My mother lives with me."
"Will you come to see me some time?" he asked, an odd smile on his lips.
"Come to see you?" she cried in surprise. "The idea! What do you mean?"
"I may not be able to call on you for some time, but you can be very good to me by coming to see me. I'll be stopping at St. Luke's Hospital for quite a while."
"At St. Luke's Hospital? I don't understand," she cried perplexed.
"You see, my dear Mrs. Delancy, I have come to a definite conclusion in regard to our present position. You must not stay here all night. I'd be a coward and a cur to subject you to such a thing. Well, I'm going down to tackle that dog."
"To--tackle--the--dog," she gasped.
"And while I'm keeping him busy you are to cut and run for the road down there. Then you'll have easy sailing for town."
"Mr. Crosby," she said firmly, clasping his arm; "you are not to leave this beam. Do you think I'll permit you to go down there and be torn to pieces by that beast, just for the sake of letting me cut and run, as you call it? I'd be a bigger brute than the dog and--and--"
"Mrs. Delancy, my mind is made up. I'm going down!"
"That settles it! I'm coming too," she proclaimed emphatically.
"To be sure. That's the plan. You'll escape while I hold Swallow."
"I'll do nothing of the sort. You shall not sacrifice yourself for my sake. I'd stay up here with you all the rest of my life before I'd permit you to do that."
"I'll remind you of that offer later on, my dear Mrs. Delancy, when we are not so pressed for time. Just now you must be practical, however. We can't stay up here all night."
"Please, Mr. Crosby, for my sake, don't go down there. To please me, don't be disfigured. I know you are awfully brave and strong, but he is such a huge, vicious dog. Won't you please stay here?"
"Ten minutes from now it will be too dark to see the dog and he'll have an advantage over me. Listen: I'll meet you at the depot in an hour and a half. This is final, Mrs. Delancy. Will you do as I tell you? Run for the road and then to town. I'll promise to join you there."
"Oh, dear! Oh, dear!" she moaned, as he drew away from her and swung one foot to the ladder. "I shall die if you go down there."
"I am going just the same. Don't be afraid, little woman. My pocket knife is open and it is a trusty blade. Now, be brave and be quick. Follow me down the ladder and cut for it."
"Please, please, please!" she implored, wringing her hands.
But he was already half-way down the ladder and refused to stop.
Suddenly Crosby paused as if checked in his progress by some insurmountable obstacle. The dog was at the foot of the ladder, snarling with joy over the prospective end of his long vigil. Above, Mrs. Delancy was moaning and imploring him to come back to her side, even threatening to spring from the beam to the floor before he could reach the bottom.
"By George!" he exclaimed, and then climbed up three or four rounds of the ladder, greatly to the annoyance of the dog.
"What is it?" cried Mrs. Delancy, recovering her balance on the beam.
"Let me think for a minute," he answered, deliberately resting his elbow on an upper round.
"It is about time you were doing a little thinking," she said, relief and asperity in her voice. "In another second I should have jumped into that dog's jaws."
"I believe it can be done," he went on, excited enthusiasm growing in his voice. "That's what bulldogs are famous for, isn't it?"
"I don't know what you are talking about, but I do know that whenever they take hold of anything they have to be treated for lockjaw before they will let go. If you don't come up here beside me I'll have a fit, Mr. Crosby."
"That's it--that's what I mean," he cried eagerly. "If they close those jaws upon anything they won't let go until death them doth part. Gad, I believe I see a way out of this pickle."
"I don't see how that can help us. The dog's jaws are the one and only obstacle, and it is usually the other fellow's death that parts them. Oh," she went on, plaintively, "if we could only pull his teeth. Good heaven, Mr. Crosby," sitting up very abruptly, "you are not thinking of undertaking it, are you?"
"No, but I've got a scheme that will make Swallow ashamed of himself to the end of his days. I can't help laughing over it." He leaned back and laughed heartily. "Hold my coat, please." He removed his coat quickly and passed it up to her.
"I insist on knowing what you intend doing," she exclaimed.
"Just wait and see me show Mr. Swallow a new trick or two." He had already taken his watch and chain, his fountain pen, and other effects from his vest, jamming them into his trousers pockets. Mrs. Delancy, in the growing darkness, looked on, puzzled and anxious.
"You might tell me," she argued resentfully. "Are you going to try to swim out?"
Folding the vest lengthwise, he took a firm grip on the collar, and cautiously descended the ladder.
"I'll not come to the hospital," she cried warningly. "Don't! he'll bite your leg off!"
"I'm merely teasing him, Mrs. Delancy. He sha'n't harm my legs, don't
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