The Indians evidently held a hurried consultation and changed their minds about holding the gorge against such deadly shooting as this.
“They’re gun-shy,” announced Thursday. “They don’t like the way we fog ‘em and they’re goin’ to hit the trail, Billie.”
After one more shot Prince made the mistake of leaving the shelter of his horse too soon. He swung astride and found the stirrup. A puff of smoke came from the entrance to the gulch. Billie turned to his friend with a puzzled, sickly smile on his face. “They got me, kid.”
The cowboy began to sag in the saddle. His friend helped him to the ground. The wound was in the thigh.
“I’ll tie it up for you an’ you’ll be good as new,” promised his friend.
The older man looked toward the gorge. No Indians were in sight.
“I can wait, but that little girl in the hands of those devils can’t. Are you game to play a lone hand, kid?” he asked.
“Then ride hell-for-leather up Escondido. It’s shorter than the way they took. Where the gulches come together be waitin’ an’ git ’em from the brush. There’s just one slim chance you’ll make it an’ come back alive.”
The boy’s eyes were shining. “Suits me fine. I’ll go earn that name I christened myself—Jimmie-Go-Get-’Em.”
Billie, his face twisted with pain, watched the youngster disappear at a breakneck gallop into Escondido.
Ranse Roush Pays
Jim Thursday knew that his sole chance of success lay in reaching the fork of the canons before the Indians. So far he had been lucky. Three Apaches had gone to their happy hunting ground, and though both he and Billie were wounded, his hurt at least did not interfere with accurate rifle-fire. But it was not reasonable to expect such good fortune to hold. In the party he was pursuing were four men, all of them used to warfare in the open. Unless he could take them at a disadvantage he could not by any possibility defeat them and rescue their captive.
His cinnamon pony took the rising ground at a steady gallop. Its stride did not falter, though its breathing was labored. Occasionally the rider touched its flank with the sharp rowel of a spur. The boy was a lover of horses. He had ridden too many dry desert stretches, had too often kept night watch over a sleeping herd, not to care for the faithful and efficient animal that served him and was a companion to his loneliness. Like many plainsmen he made of his mount a friend.
But he dared not spare his pony now. He must ride the heart out of the gallant brute for the sake of that life he had come to save. And while he urged it on, his hand patted the sweat-stained neck and his low voice sympathized.
“You’ve got to go to it, old fellow, if it kills you,” he said aloud. “We got to save that girl for Billie, ain’t we? We can’t let those red devils take her away, can we?”