“Take it, Fred!” cried Hilary while he advanced on the defiantly retreating Maxime; but as he spoke a new cry of the drovers turned his glance another way. Gibbs had risen to his knees unaware that the Italian, with yet another knife, was close behind him. At a bound Hilary arrested the lifted blade and hurled its wielder aside, who in the next breath seemed to spring past him head first, fell prone across the prostrate Gibbs, turned face upward, and slid on and away—lassoed. Both bull-drivers clattered off up the road.
“Hang to the nags, Fred!” cried Hilary, and let Maxime leap to Gibbs’s side, but seized the Gascon as with murderous intent he sprang after him. It took Kincaid’s strength to hold him, and Gibbs and his partner would have edged away, but—“Stand!” called Hilary, and they stood, Gibbs weak and dazed, yet still spouting curses. The Gascon begged in vain to be allowed to follow the bull-drivers.
“Stay here!” said Hilary in French, and the butcher tarried. Hilary passed the revolver to his friend, mounted and dashed up the highway.
The Gascon stayed with a lively purpose which the enfeebled Gibbs was the first to see. “Stand back, you hell-hound!” cried the latter, and with fresh oaths bade Greenleaf “keep him off!”
Maxime put Gibbs on Greenleaf’s horse (as bidden), and was about to lead him, when Kincaid galloped back.
“Fred,” exclaimed Hilary, “they’ve killed the poor chap.” He wheeled. “Come, all hands,” he continued, and to Greenleaf added as they went, “He’s lying up here in the road with—”
Greenleaf picked up something. “Humph!” said Hilary, receiving it, “knives by the great gross. He must have used this trying to cut the lasso; the one he had back yonder flew into the pond.” He reined in: “Here’s where they—Why, Fred—why, I’ll swear! They’ve come back and—Stop! there was a skiff”—he moved to the levee and peered over—“It’s gone!”
The case was plain, and while from Greenleaf’s saddle Gibbs broke into frantic revilings of the fugitives for deserting him and Maxime to sink their dead in the mid-current of the fog-bound river, Kincaid and his friend held soft counsel. Evidently the drovers had turned their horses loose, knowing they would go to their stable. No despatch to stop Greenleaf could be sent by anyone up the railroad till the Committee of Public Safety had authorized it, so Hilary would drop them a line out of his pocket note-book, and by daybreak these prisoners could go free.