Valders-Roan had now a clear field and could turn his undivided attention to Lady Clare. I am not sure that he had not made an example of Shag merely to frighten her. Bounding forward with his mighty chest expanded and the blood dripping from his nostrils, he struck out with a tremendous hind leg and would have returned Lady Clare's blow with interest if she had not leaped high into the air. She had just managed by her superior alertness to dodge that deadly hoof, and was perhaps not prepared for an instant renewal of the attack. But she had barely gotten her four feet in contact with the sod when two rows of terrific teeth plunged into her withers. The pain was frightful, and with a long, pitiful scream Lady Clare sank down upon the ground, and, writhing with agony, beat the air with her hoofs. Shag, who had by this time recovered his senses, heard the noise of the battle, and, plucking up his courage, trotted bravely forward against the victorious Valders-Roan. He was so frightened that his heart shot up into his throat. But there lay Lady Clare mangled and bleeding. He could not leave her in the lurch, so forward he came, trembling, just as Lady Clare was trying to scramble to her feet. Led away by his sympathy Shag bent his head down toward her and thereby prevented her from rising. And in the same instant a stunning blow hit him straight in the forehead, a shower of sparks danced before his eyes, and then Shag saw and heard no more. A convulsive quiver ran through his body, then he stretched out his neck on the bloody grass, heaved a sigh, and died.
Lady Clare, seeing Shag killed by the blow which had been intended for herself, felt her blood run cold. She was strongly inclined to run, for she could easily beat the heavy Valders-Roan at a race, and her fleet legs might yet save her. I cannot say whether it was a generous wrath at the killing of her humble champion or a mere blind fury which overcame this inclination. But she knew now neither pain nor fear. With a shrill scream she rushed at Valders-Roan, and for five minutes a whirling cloud of earth and grass and lumps of sod moved irregularly over the field, and tails, heads, and legs were seen flung and tossed madly about, while an occasional shriek of rage or of pain startled the night, and re-echoed with a weird resonance between the mountains.
It was about five o'clock in the morning of July 11th, that Erik awoke, with a vague sense that something terrible had happened. His groom was standing at his bedside with a terrified face, doubtful whether to arouse his young master or allow him to sleep.
"What has happened, Anders?" cried Erik, tumbling out of bed.
"Lady Clare!" shouted the boy. "What about her? Has she been stolen?"
"No, I reckon not," drawled Anders.
"Then she's dead! Quick, tell me what you know or I shall go crazy!"
"No; I can't say for sure she's dead either," the groom stammered, helplessly.