His mind was chaotic, filled with the now certain defeat and the heart-breaking thought that Lady Tennys would be left to the mercies of the victors. Tears were mingling with the blood; his very soul was crying for strength, for hope, for salvation. In his din-stricken ears ran that wail: “What will become of me if you are killed?” Her face seemed to float in front of his eyes, her voice came trembling and lulling and soft through the hellish sounds, piercing the savagery with gentle trustfulness, urging him to be brave, strong and true. Then Grace Vernon’s dear face, dim and indistinct, lured him forward into the strife, her clear voice, mingling with the plaintive tones of the other, commanding him to come to her. He must win! He must win!
But the great horde of Oolooz warriors were at last breaking down the smaller force and all seemed lost.
Suddenly new life sprang up among the battered defenders. Joyous yells bespoke a favorable turn of the tide. The enemy fell slowly back, relinquishing the vantage gained. Far behind Ridgeway’s fainting form there arose the shouts of fresh factors in the fight.
He fell against the embankment and slowly turned his eyes toward the river. Once more Pootoo’s gigantic weapon saved his defenceless head from the blow of an eager antagonist, but the white man knew naught of his escape. His dazed eyes saw only the band of warriors flying over the plain toward the field of battle. Far in their rear came a fluttering white form.
Hardly was he able to realize that help was at hand before the released, ferocious young fellows who had been left behind to guard her Ladyship were plunging over the breastworks all about him.
The Reserves to the rescue!
Exaltation, glorious and strength-giving, flushed through him and he leaped again into the fray. The new hope had come. He was once more battling with a mighty vigor. Fury reigned for a moment and then came the stampede. Down the little valley fled the foe, the conquerors in mad pursuit.
[Illustration: “‘THEY HAVE KILLED YOU! LET THEM KILL ME!’”]
He was unable to follow, but his heart glowed with joy as he staggered blindly toward the earthworks. As he fell, half fainting, against the bloody bank, the agonized figure in white flew up to the opposite side.
“Hugh, Hugh,” she wailed, burying her face in her hands. “They have killed you! Let them kill me!”
“Oh, it’s—nothing—” he gasped, trying to smile. “I’m all right, little woman, but—you—got—here—just—in—time! Didn’t I say—get—home—for—lunch—or something—like—that?”