Alcatraz shot away like a thrown stone. The pursuit lasted only five minutes, but to the stallion it seemed five ages, with the shouting of the man behind him, for while he fled every scar pricked him and once again his bones ached from every blow which the Mexican had struck. At the end of the five minutes Alcatraz was hopelessly beyond reach and the cowpuncher merely galloped to the highest hilltop to watch the runner. As far as he could follow the course, that blinding speed was not abated, and the cowpuncher watched with a lump growing in his throat. He had fallen into a dream of being mounted on a stallion which no horse in the mountains could overtake and which no horse in the mountains could escape. To be safe in flight, to be inescapable in pursuit—that was, in a small way, to be like a god.
But when Alcatraz disappeared in the horizon haze, the cowpuncher lowered his head with a sigh. He realized that such a creature was not for him, and he turned his horse’s head and plodded back towards the ranchhouse. When he arrived, he told the first story of the wild red-chestnut, beautiful, swift as an eagle. He talked with the hunger and the fire which comes on the faces of those who love horses. It was not his voice but his manner which convinced his hearers, and before he ended every eye in the bunkhouse was lighted.
That moment was the beginning of the end for Alcatraz. From the moment men saw him and desired him the days of his freedom were limited; but great should be the battle before he was subdued!
THE PROMISED LAND
There was no thought of submission in Alcatraz at this moment, though never for an instant did he under-rate the power of man. To Alcatraz the Mexican was the type, and Cordova had seemed to unite in himself many powers—strength like a herd of bulls, endurance greater than the contemptible patience of the burro, speed like the lightning which winks in the sky one instant and shatters the cottonwood tree the next. Such as he were men, creatures who conquer for the sake of conquest and who torment for the love of pain. His fear equalled his hatred, and his hatred made him shake with fever.
The horseman had vanished but it was not well to trust to mere distance. Had he not heard, more than once, the gun speaking from the hand of Cordova, and presently the wounded hawk fluttered out of the sky and dropped at the feet of the man? So Alcatraz kept on running. Besides, he rejoiced in the gallop. He was like a boy who leaves his strength untested for several years and when the crisis comes finds himself a man. So the red-chestnut marvelled at the new wells of strength which he was draining as he ran. That power which the Mexican had kept at low tide with his systematic brutality was now developed to the full, very near; and to Alcatraz it seemed exhaustless. He did not stop to look about until two miles of climbing up the steep sides of the Eagles had winded him.