The heart of Perris leaped even as it had stirred, more than once, when he had looked into the eyes of fighting men. Here was an equal pride, an equal fierceness looking forth at him. Then he remembered the six mares somewhere at the center of the guarding circle which Alcatraz now drew. What a dauntless courage was here in the brute mind which, knowing the power of man, dared to rob him, to defy him! Truly this was the king of horses meant for higher ends than to serve as target of a Winchester. Ay, he could make his owner a king among men. Mounted on the back of the chestnut no enemy could overtake him; from that winged speed none could escape. The back of Alcatraz might be a throne! He could end all that boundless strength by one pressure of his finger but was that indeed a true conquest? It was calling to his aid a trick, it was using an unfair advantage, it seemed to Perris; but suppose that he, the rider who had never yet failed in the saddle, were to sit on the stallion—there would be a battle for the Gods to witness!
It was madness, sheer madness; it was throwing away the labor of the patient days of waiting and working; but to Perris it seemed the only thing to do. He leaped to his feet and brandished the gleaming rifle.
“Go it, boy!” he shouted. “We’ll meet again!”
One snort from Alcatraz—then he changed to a red streak flashing down the hollow.
Before the stallion was out of sight, a cry rang down the wind. It was chopped off by the crack of a rifle, and Lew Hervey spurred from behind a neighboring hill and plunged after Alcatraz pumping shot on shot at the fugitive. In a frenzy Perris jerked his own gun to the shoulder and drew down on the pursuer, but the red anger cleared from his mind as he caught the burly shoulders of Hervey in the sights. He lowered the rifle with a grim feeling that he had never before been so close to a murder.
A moment later he began to chuckle behind his set teeth. No wonder they credited the chestnut with a charmed life. As he raced away gaining a yard at every leap, he swerved like a jackrabbit from side to side. Perhaps the deadly hum of bullets on many another chase had taught him this trick of dodging, but beyond all doubt when Hervey returned to the ranch that night he would have a tale of mystery. To preserve his self-respect as a good marksman, what else could he do?
In the meantime pursued and pursuer scurried out of sight beyond a hill; the gun barked far away and the echoes murmured lightly from the hollows. Then Perris turned his back and trudged homewards.
RED PERRIS: ADVOCATE