The galloping horsemen were not a hundred paces from the stringer when the dynamite let go with a soul-satisfying roar. Rocks, earth, chunks and splinters of wood flew up in advance of a rolling cloud of smoke that obscured the cleft from rim to rim.
A crash at the bottom of the narrow canon told Racey what had happened to that part of the stringer the dynamite had not destroyed.
Racey lowered the hammer of his rifle to the safety notch just as the posse began to approach the spot where the bridge had been. It approached on foot by ones and twos and from tree to tree. Racey could not see any one, but he could see the tree branches move here and there.
“I guess,” muttered Racey, as he crawfished away from the windfall, “I guess that settles the cat-hop.”
* * * * *
The sun was near its rising the following day when Racey and Molly, their one horse staggering with fatigue, reached the Cross-in-a-box. Racey had walked all the distance he was humanly able to walk, but even so the horse had carried double the better part of twenty miles. It had earned a rest.
So had Racey’s feet.
* * * * *
“My Gawd, what a relief!” Racey muttered, and sat back and gingerly wiggled his toes.
“Damn shame you had to cut ’em up thataway,” said Jack Richie, glancing at Racey’s slit boots. “They look like new boots.”
“It is and they are, but I couldn’t get ’em off any other way, and I’ll bet I won’t be able to get another pair on inside a month. Lordy, man, did you ever think natural-born feet would swell like that?”
“You better soak them awhile,” said Jack Richie. “C’mon out to the kitchen.”
“Shore feels good,” said Racey, when his swelled feet were immersed in a dishpan half full of tepid water. “Lookit, Jack, let Miss Dale have her sleep out, and to-morrow sometime send a couple of boys with her over to Moccasin Spring.”
“Whatsa matter with you and one of the boys doing it?”
“Because I have to go to Piegan City.”
“Yep—Piegan City. I’m coming back, though, so you needn’t worry about losing the hoss yo’re gonna lend me.”
“That’s good. But—”
“And if any gents on hossback should drop in on you and ask questions just remember that what they dunno won’t hurt ’em.”
Jack Richie nodded understandingly. “Trust me,” he said. “As I see it, Miss Dale and you come in from the north, and—”
“Only me—you ain’t seen any Miss Dale—and I only stopped long enough to borrow a fresh hoss and then rode away south.”
“I know it all by heart,” nodded Jack Richie.
“In about a week or ten days, maybe less,” said Racey Dawson, “you’ll know more than that. And so will a good many other folks.”