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- The Day of the Dog - 6/10 -
fear. Now watch for developments." Pausing just beyond reach of the dog's mightiest leaps, he took a firm hold on the ladder and swung down with the vest until it almost slapped the head of the angry animal. It was like casting a fly directly at the head of a hungry pickerel. Swallow's eager jaws closed down upon the cloth and the teeth met like a vice. The heavy body of the brute almost jerked Crosby's arm from the socket, but he braced himself, recovered his poise, and clung gaily to the ladder, with the growling, squirming dog dangling free of the floor. Mrs. Delancy gave a little shriek of terror.
"Are you--going to bring him up here?" she gasped.
"Heaven knows where he'll end."
"But he will ruin your vest."
"I'll charge it up to your account. Item: one vest, fifteen dollars."
By this time he was swinging Swallow slowly back and forth, and he afterwards said that it required no little straining of his muscles.
"You extravagant thing!" she cried, but did not tell whether she meant his profligacy in purchasing or his wantonness in destroying. "And now, pray enlighten me. Are you swinging him just for fun or are you crazy?"
"Everything depends on his jaws and my strong right arm," he said, and he was beginning to pant from the exertion. Swallow was swinging higher and higher.
"Well, it is the most aimless proceeding I ever saw."
"I hope not. On second thought, everything depends on my aim."
"And what is your aim, Mr. Hercules?"
"See that opening above the box-stall over there?"
"That's my aim. Heavens, he's a heavy brute."
"Oh, I see!" she cried ecstatically, clapping her hands. "Delicious! Lovely! Oh, Mr. Crosby, you are so clever."
"Don't fall off that beam, please," he panted. "It might rattle me."
"I can't help being excited. It is the grandest thing I ever heard of. He can't get out of there, can he? Dear me, the sides of that stall are more than eight feet high."
"He can't--get--out--of it if--I get him--in," gasped Crosby.
Not ten feet away to the left and some four feet above the floor level there was a wide opening into a box-stall, the home of Mr. Austin's prize stallion. As the big horse was inside munching his hay, Crosby was reasonably sure that the stall with its tall sides was securely closed and bolted.
[Illustration: "SWALLOW'S CHUBBY BODY SHOT SQUARELY THROUGH THE OPENING"]
Suddenly there was a mighty creak of the ladder, the swish of a heavy body through the air, an interrupted growl, and then a ripping thud. Swallow's chubby body shot squarely through the opening, accompanied by a trusty though somewhat sadly stretched vest, and the deed was done. A cry of delight came from the beam, a shout of pride and relief from the ladder, and sounds of a terrific scramble from the stall. First there was a sickening grunt, then a surprised howl, then the banging of horse- hoofs, and at last a combination of growls and howls that proved Swallow's invasion of a hornet's nest.
"Thunderation!" came in sharp, agonized tones from the ladder.
"What is the matter?" she cried, detecting disaster in the exclamation.
"I am a--a--blooming idiot," he groaned. "I forgot to remove a roll of bills from an upper pocket in that vest!"
"Oh, is that all?" she cried, in great relief, starting down the ladder.
"All? There was at least fifty dollars in that roll," he said, from the floor, not forgetting to assist her gallantly to the bottom.
"You can add it to my bill, you know," she said sweetly.
"But it leaves me dead broke."
"You forget that I have money, Mr. Crosby. What is mine to-night is also yours. I think we should shake hands and congratulate one another." Crosby's sunny nature lost its cloud in an instant, and the two clasped hands at the bottom of the ladder.
"I think it is time to cut and run," he said. "It's getting so beastly dark we won't be able to find the road."
"And there is no moon until midnight. But come; we are free. Let us fly the hated spot, as they say in the real novels. How good the air feels!"
She was soon leading the way swiftly toward the gate. Night had fallen so quickly that they were in utter darkness. There were lights in the windows of the house on the hill, and the escaped prisoners, with one impulse, shook their clenched hands toward them.
"I am awfully sorry, Mr. Crosby, that you have endured so much hardship in coming to see me," she went on. "I hope you haven't many such clients as I."
"One is enough, I assure you," he responded, and somehow she took it as a compliment.
"I suppose our next step is to get to the railway station," she said.
"Unless you will condescend to lead me through this assortment of plows, wood-piles, and farm-wagons, I'm inclined to think my next step will be my last. Was ever night so dark?" Her warm, strong fingers clutched his arm and then dropped to his hand. In this fashion she led him swiftly through the night, down a short embankment, and into the gravel highway. "The way looks dark and grewsome ahead of us, Mrs. Delancy. As your lawyer, I'd advise you to turn back and find safe lodging with the enemy. It is going to storm, I'm sure."
"That's your advice as a lawyer, Mr. Crosby. Will you give me your advice as a friend?" she said lightly. Although the time had passed when her guiding hand was necessary, he still held the member in his own.
"I couldn't be so selfish," he protested, and without another word they started off down the road toward town.
"Do you suppose they are delaying the opera in Chicago until you come?" she asked.
"Poor Graves! he said he'd kill me if I didn't come," said Crosby, laughing.
"But I'm not regretting the opera. Quive does not sing until to-morrow night."
"I adore Quive."
"You can't possibly have an engagement for to-morrow night either," he said reflectively.
"I don't see how I could. I expected to be on a Pullman sleeper."
"I'll come for you at 8:15 then."
"You are very good, Mr. Crosby, but I have another plan."
"I beg your pardon for presuming to--" he began, and a hot flush mounted to his brow.
"You are to come at seven for dinner," she supplemented delightedly.
"What a nice place the seventh heaven is!" he cried warmly.
"Sh!" she whispered suddenly, and both stopped stock-still. "There is a man with a lantern at the lower gate. See? Over yonder."
"They're after me, Mrs. Delancy," he whispered. A moment later they were off the road and in the dense shadow of the hedge.
"Is he still in the barn, Mr. Austin?" demanded the man in the buggy.
"I am positive he is. No human being could get away from that dog of mine." Crosby chuckled audibly, and Mrs. Delancy with difficulty suppressed a proud giggle.
"Well, we might as well go up and get him then. Do you think he's a desperate character?"
"I don't know anything about him, Davis. He says he is a lawyer, but his actions were so strange that I thought you'd best look into his case. A night in the jail won't hurt him, and if he can prove that he is what he says he is, let him go to-morrow. On the other hand, he may turn out to be a very important capture."
"Oh, this is rich!" whispered Crosby excitedly. "Austin is certainly doing the job up brown. But wait till he consults Swallow, the infallible; he won't be so positive." For a few minutes the party of men at the gate conversed in low tones, the listeners being able to catch but few of the words uttered.
"Please let go of my arm, Mrs. Delancy," said Crosby suddenly.
"Where are you going?"
"I am going to tell Austin what I think of him. You don't expect me to stand by and allow a pack of jays to hunt me down as if I were Jesse James or some other desperado, do you?"
"Do you suppose they would credit your story? They will throw you into jail and there you'd stay until some one came down from Chicago to identify you."
"But a word from you would clear me," he said in surprise.
"If they pinned me down to the truth, I could only say I had never seen you until this afternoon."
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