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- Quill's Window - 55/55 -

"I give you ten seconds to do what I tell you," grated Cale, harshly. "If you don't I'll blow your head off." He levelled the revolver. "It's your own gun,--so I guess you know it's loaded. Come on!"

Thane crawled to the fire.

"My God,--you wouldn't kill me, Cale?" he gasped, reaching out his shaking hand for the letter.

"Read it!" ordered the inexorable voice.

It was a short letter. Courtney took it in as a whole; the dancing, jumbled web of words that raced before his glazed eyes. Parts of sentences, a word here and there, his own name, filtered through the veil,--and were lost in the chaos of his own thoughts.

He was not thinking of Rosabel's letter. If he could only catch Cale off his guard,--just for a second or two! A swift leap, a blow, and--but a lightning glance out of the corner of his eye killed the thought even as it was being created. Cale would not be off his guard. He was watching like a hawk, his body bent slightly forward, the revolver held in a grip of steel.

"Well?" cried Cale. "Have you read it?"

"Yes," whispered Courtney through his stiff lips. "It's not true, Cale,--it's not true!"

"Yes, it is true. Rosie would not lie about herself like that. No girl would. Every word of it is true." He snatched the paper from Courtney's palsied hands and cast it into the waning fire. "No one shall ever see that letter. I would not have mother know what I know for all the world. She'll never know about Rosie."

Courtney took hope. "By gad, Cale, that's fine of you. I promise you, on my word of honour, no one ever shall know. I'll keep the secret with you. You--"

"There will be only one person left in all the world that knows about Rosie," said Cale in a strangely quiet tone.

His left hand went out swiftly. The fingers clutched Courtney's hair, pushing his head back. Even as the wretch opened his lips to squeal for mercy, the cold muzzle of the weapon was jammed against the flesh under his ear. There was a loud explosion....

Young Cale Vick stood for a long time looking down at the inert thing at his feet. Then he calmly stooped over and placed the pistol in one of the outstretched hands, closing the stiff fingers over it. Scattering the fire with his feet, he trampled out what was left of the feeble flames, and then strode to the mouth of the cave. He stood rigid for a long time, listening. A dog was howling mournfully away off in the night; an owl was hooting somewhere in the trees nearby. He turned and began the descent, and there was neither remorse nor terror in his soul.

A few days later the report reached Windomville that a farmer up the river had seen a light in Quill's Window the night that Rosabel Vick was found, and all the superstitious shook their heads and talked of ghosts.


Quill's Window - 55/55

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