Mart did not reply. His supreme desire attended to, he sank into a patient immobility that approached stupor, while the surgeon worked with intent haste to stop the flow of blood. The wound was most barbarous, and Williams' eyes filled with tears as he looked upon that magnificent torso mangled by buckshot. He loved his big partner—Haney was indeed his highest enthusiasm, his chief object of adoration, and to see him riddled in this way was devil's work. He lost hope. "It's all over with Mart Haney," he said, chokingly, a few minutes later to the men crowding the bar-room—and then his rage against the assassin broke forth. He became the tiger seeking the blood of him who had slain his mate. His curses rose to primitive ferocity. "Where is he?" he asked.
To him stepped a man—one whose voice was quiet but intense. "We've attended to his case, Williams. He's toeing the moonlight from a lamp-post. Want to see?"
For an instant his rage flared out against these officious friends who had cheated him of his share in the swift delight of the avenger. Then tears again misted his eyes, and with a dignity and pathos which had never graced his speech before he pronounced a slow eulogy upon his friend: "No man had a right to accuse Mart Haney of any trick. He took his chances, fair and square. He had no play with crooked cards or 'doctored' wheels. It was all 'above board' with him. He was dead game and a sport, you all know that, and now to be ripped to bits with buckshot—just when he was takin' a wife—is hellish."
His voice faltered, and in the dead silence which followed this revelation of Haney's secret he turned and re-entered the inner room, to watch beside his friend.
The hush which lay over the men at the bar lasted till the barkeeper softly muttered: "Boys, that's news to me. It does make it just too tough." Then those who had hitherto opposed the lynching of the murderer changed their minds and directed new malediction against him, and those who had handled the rope took keener comfort and greater honor to themselves.
"Who is the woman?" asked one of those who waited.
This question remained unanswered till the messenger to the telegraph office returned. Even then little beyond her name was revealed, but each of the watchers began to pray that she might reach the dying man before his eyes should close forever. "He can't live till sunrise," said one, "and there is no train from the Junction till morning. She can't get here without a special. Did you order a special for her?"
"No, I didn't think of it," the messenger replied, with a sense of shortcoming.
"It must be done!"
"I'll attend to that," said Slater. "I know the superintendent. I'll wire him to see her—and bring her."
"Well, be quick about it. Expense don't count now."
It was beautiful to see how these citizens, rough and sordid as many of them were, rose to the poetic value of the situation. As one of them, who had seen (and loved) the girl, told of her youth and beauty, they all stood in rigidly silent attention. "She's hardly more than a child," he explained, "but you never saw a more level-headed little business woman in your life. She runs the Golden Eagle Hotel at Junction, and does it alone. That's what caught Mart, you see. She's as straight as a Ute, and her eyes are clear as agates.
She's a little captain—just the mate for Mart. She'll save him if anybody can."
"Will she come? Can she get away?"
"Of course she'll come. She'll ride an engine or jump a flat-car to get here. You can depend on a woman in such things. She don't stop to calculate, she ain't that kind. She comes—you can bet high on that. I'm only worrying for fear Mart won't hold out till she gets here."
Meanwhile, every man in the room where Haney lay, sat in silence, with an air of waiting—waiting for the inevitable end. The bleeding had been checked, but the sufferer's breathing was painful and labored, and the doctor, sitting close beside him, was studying means to prolong life—he had given up hope of saving it. With stiffened lips Haney repeated now and again: "Keep me alive till she comes, doctor. She must marry me—here. I want her to have all I've got— everything!"
At another time he said: "Get the judge—have everything ready I"
They understood. He wished to dower his love with his wealth, to place in her hands his will, beyond the reach of any contestant, and this resolution through the hours of his agony, through the daze of his weakness persisted heroically—till even the doctor's throat filled with sympathetic emotion, as he thought of the young maiden soon to be thrust into this tragic drama. He answered, soothingly: "I'll do all I can, Mart. There's a lot of vitality in you yet. We won't give up. You'll pull through, with her help."
To this Haney made no reply, and the hours passed with ghostly step. It was a most moving experience for the young doctor to look round that wide room littered with scattered cards, the wheels of chance motionless at the hazard where the last gambler's bet had ended. In the "lookout's chair," where Haney himself used to sit, an unseen arbiter now gloomed, watching a game where life was the forfeit. A spectral finger seemed to rest upon the blood-red spot of every board. No sound came from the drinking-saloon in front. The miners had all withdrawn. Only the barkeeper and a few personal friends kept willing vigil.
About nine o'clock an answering telegram came to Slater: "Girl just leaving on special. Will make all speed possible."
Haney faintly smiled when Williams read this message to him. "I knew it," he whispered, "she'll come." Then his lips set in a grim line. "And I'll be here when she comes." Thereafter he had the look of a man who hangs with hooked fingers in iron resolution above an abyss, husbanding every resource— forcing himself to think only of the blue sky above him.
A little later the priest knocked at the door and asked to see the dying man, but to this request Haney shook his head and whispered. "No, no; I've no strength to waste—-'tis good of him. Wait! Tell him to be here—to marry us—" And with this request the priest was forced to be content. "May the Lord God be merciful to him!" he exclaimed fervently, as he turned away.
Once again, about midnight, the wounded man roused up to say: "The ceremony must be legal—I want no lawsuits after. The girl must be protected." He was thinking of his brothers, of his own kind, rapacious and selfish. Every safeguard must be thrown around his sweetheart's life.
"We'll attend to that," answered Williams, who seemed able to read his partner's thoughts. "We'll take every precaution. He wants the judge to be present as well as the priest," he explained to the doctor, "so that if the girl would rather she can be married by the Court as well as by the Church."
Every man in the secret realized fully that the girl was being endowed with an immense fortune, and that she would inevitably be the quarry of every self-seeking relative whose interest would be served by attacking her rights in the premises. "The lawsuits must be cut out," was Williams' order to the judge. "Mart's brothers are a wolfish lot. We don't want any loose ends for them to catch on to."
From time to time messages flashed between the oncoming train and the faithful watchers. "It's all up grade, but Johnson is breaking all records. At this rate she'll reach here by daylight," said Slater. "But that's a long time for Mart to wait on that rough bed," he added to Williams, with deep sympathy in his voice.
"I know that, but to move him would hasten his death. The doctor is afraid to even turn him. Besides, Mart himself won't have it. ' I'm better here,' he says. So we've propped him into the easiest position possible. There's nothing to do but wait for the girl."