He knew that on their side of the slide for a distance of several hundred yards up and down the side of the mountain and for several miles athwart it the underbrush was impenetrable for horses and wicked travelling for men. There had been a forest fire four years before, and everyone knows what happens after that.
In but one place, where a ridge of rock reared through the soil, was it possible to cross the stretch of burned-over ground. Naturally Racey had picked this one spot. Whether the posse had not known of this rock ridge, or whether they had simply miscalculated its position it is impossible to say.
“Those two will shore be out of luck when they get in among the stubs,” he thought to himself, as he waited for his strength to come back.
But youth recovers quickly and Racey was young. It may be that the lead that was being sent at him and Molly Dale was a potent revivifier.
Certainly within three or four minutes after he had cut the bridle Racey began to work his way up the rope to where his patient and well-trained horse stood braced and steady as the proverbial boulder.
Monotonously the man behind the Winchester whipped bullet after bullet into the rocky face of the slide in the immediate vicinity of Racey Dawson and the senseless burden in the crook of his left arm. Nevertheless, Racey took the time to work to the right and recover the hat that a bullet had flicked from his head.
Then he resumed his slow journey upward.
Ages passed before he felt the good firm ground under his feet and laid the still unconscious Molly on the grass behind a gray and barkless windfall that had once been a hundred-foot fir.
Then he removed his horse farther back among the stubs where it could not be seen, took his Winchester from the scabbard under the left fender and went back to the edge of the slide to start a return argument with the individual who had for the last ten minutes been endeavouring to kill him.
HUE AND CRY
“Did you hit him?”
“I don’t think so,” replied Racey without turning his head. “Keep down.”
“I am down.”
“How you feel?”
“Yes,” said she in a small voice, “it was a close squeak. You—you saved my life, Racey.”
“Shucks,” he said, much embarrassed, “that wasn’t anythin’—I mean—you—you know what I mean.”
“Surely, I know what you mean. All the same, you saved my life. Tell me, was that man shooting at us all the time after I fainted until you got me under cover?”
“Not all the time, no.”
“But most of the time. Oh, you can make small of it, but you were very brave. It isn’t everybody would have stuck the way you did.”
Smack! Tchuck! A bullet struck a rock two feet below where Racey lay on his stomach, his rifle-barrel poked out between two shrubs of smooth sumac—another bored the hole of a gray stub at his back.