“Oh, I don’t know,” said Ted coolly. “I’m a long ways from a dead one yet. Be careful what you do. This six-shooter of mine is mighty sensitive on the trigger.”
He heard a soft, swishing noise behind him, and knew that Bud was lowering the rope again. As he thrust his gun forward into the face of Shan Rhue, the bully backed away a few feet.
At that moment the rope swung down in front of his face, and, hastily putting his revolver into his pocket, Ted grasped it and went sailing up into the air hand over hand, assisted by Bud and Carl, who were pulling on the rope for all they were worth.
The altered brand.
As Ted went up into the air, Shan Rhue shouted a command, and the white men in the Hole in the Wall ran to him.
“That boy must not get to the top,” he shouted. “I want him.”
“What will we do?” asked one of them.
“Here, Sol Flatbush, you are the best shot of us all. See if you can’t bring him down. But don’t shoot him. I need him for other things. Shoot the rope in two.”
This was easier said than done, for the rope was so high that it was almost out of the light cast by the fires.
Flatbush was, indeed, a splendid shot, and he fired twice at the rope with his revolver, but missed each time on account of the uncertain light and the swaying motion of the rope.
“Give me my rifle,” he called, and one of the men fetched it for him.
Ted was within fifteen feet of the top when Flatbush, leaning against the opposite wall, took deliberate aim and fired.
At the second shot Ted, who was aware that some one was trying to cut the rope, felt it vibrate suddenly beneath his hand.
Before the last thread was severed he reached up and began to climb, hand over hand. In a few seconds he was at the top, and the boys were helping him over the edge.
For a moment or two he could say nothing; he could only listen to the yells of rage and disappointment below. Now he was surrounded by his friends, and Stella was free. Away on a mountain peak a light flared up.
“What does that mean?” asked Stella, pointing to it.
“It is the signal that the Indians have gone on the warpath,” said Ted. “The sergeant was right. It is up to us now to do stunts.”
“In what way?” asked Stella.
“We must keep those Indians and renegades confined in the Hole in the Wall. If we can keep them there until the arrival of the troops we can end the uprising without shedding a drop of blood. See, there is another fire!”
Ted pointed to a blaze upon another peak, and this was followed by others until there was a ring of fires on the crests of the mountains for miles around.
“It is up to us to do a good thing here,” he said. “Bud, take two or three of the boys and go to Ben’s assistance. Hold the mouth to the entrance to the hole at all hazards. From what the sergeant said I have no doubt but the troops will be here at least by daylight. We will keep them busy down there from this place.”