For the red-chestnut was bounding away in pursuit of his last companion with a winged gallop. It seemed that the wind caught him up and buoyed him from stride to stride, and the cowpunchers with hungry, burning eyes watched without a word until the grey and the chestnut blurred on the horizon and dipped out of view together. The spell was broken in the same instant by a stream of profanity floating up from the rear. It was Lew Hervey approaching and swearing his mightiest.
“But I dunno,” said Bud Seymour softly. “I feel kind of glad that Lew missed.”
He glanced sharply at his companions for fear they might laugh at this childish weakness, but there was no laughter and by their starved eyes he knew that every one of them was riding over the horizon in imagination, on the back of the chestnut.
The grey mare made no effort to draw away when Alcatraz sprinted up beside her. She gave him not so much as a toss of the head or a swish of the tail but kept her gaze on the far Western mountains for she was still sick with the scent of blood; and she maintained a purposeful, steady, lope. It was far other with the stallion. He kept at her side with his gliding canter but he was not thinking of the peace and the shelter from man which they might find in the blue valleys of yonder mountains. His mind was back at the slaughter of Mingo Lake hearing the crackle of the rifles and seeing his comrades fall and die. It was nothing that he had known the band only since morning. They were his kind, they were his people, they had accepted his rule; and now he was emptyhearted, a king without a people. The grey mare, the fleetest and the wisest of them all, remained; but she was only a reminder of his vanished glory.
Remembering how Cordova had been served, might he not find a way of harming those men even as they had harmed him? He slackened to a trot and finally halted. His companion kept on until he neighed. Then she came obediently enough but swinging her head up and down to indicate her intense disapproval of this halt. When Alcatraz actually started back towards the place where the cowpunchers had dropped the pursuit, she threw herself across his way, striving to turn him with bared teeth and flirting heels.
He merely kept a weaving course to avoid her, his head high and his ears back, which was a manner the mare had never seen in him before; she could only tell that she was less than nothing to him. Once she strove to draw back by running a little distance west and then turning and calling him but her whinny made him not so much as shake his head. At length she surrendered and sullenly took up his trail.
He roved swiftly across the hollows; he sneaked up to every commanding rise as though he feared the guns of men might be just beyond the crest and these tactics continued until they came in view of the small row of black figures riding against the sunset. The grey halted at once, rearing and snorting, for the sight brought again that hateful smell of blood but her leader moved quietly after the cowpunchers; he was taking the man-trail!