Strange forms the guardian angel takes!
Hence we entertain it unawares.
Of all Lagonda Ledge, old Bond Saxon, standing between a woman and the peril of her life, looked least angelic. Gresh understood him and turned first in fawning and tempting trickery to his adversary. But Saxon stood his ground. Then the outlaw raged in fury, not daring to strike now, because he knew Bond's strength. And still the old man was unmoved. A life saved for the life he had taken was steeling his soul to courage.
At last in the dim light, Gresh stood motionless a minute, then he struck his parting blow.
"All right, Bond Saxon, play protector all you want to, but it's a short game for you. The sheriff is out of town tonight, but tomorrow afternoon he will get back to Lagonda Ledge. Tomorrow afternoon I go with all my proofs--Oh, I've got 'em. And you, Bond Saxon, will be behind the bars for your crime, done not so many years ago, and your honorable daughter, disgraced forever by you, can shift for herself. I've nothing to lose; why should I protect you?"
He leaped down the bank into the swiftly flowing river, and, swimming easily to the farther side, he disappeared in the underbrush.
The next afternoon, somebody remembered that Bond Saxon had crossed the bridge and plunged into the overflow of the river around the west end. But Bond had been drunk much of late and nobody approached him when he was drunk. How could Lagonda Ledge know the agony of the old man's soul as he splashed across the Walnut waters and floundered up the narrow glen to the cave? Or how, for Dennie's sake, he had begged on his knees for mercy that should save his daughter's name? Or how harder than the stone of the ledges, that the trickling water through slow-dragging centuries has worn away, was the stony heart of the creature who denied him? And only Victor Burleigh had power to picture the struggle that must have followed in that cavern, and beyond the wall into the blind black passages leading at last to the bluff above the river, where, clinched in deadly combat, the two men, fighting still, fell headlong into the Walnut floods.
Down at the shallows Professor Burgess and Dennie had found the waters too deep to reach the Kickapoo Corral, so they strolled along the bluff watching the river rippling merrily in the fall of the afternoon sunshine. And brightly, too, the sunshine fell on Dennie Saxon's rippling hair, recalling to Vincent Burgess' memory the woodland camp fire and the old legend told in the October twilight and the flickering flames lighting Dennie's face and the wavy folds of her sunny hair.