Gathering his languid senses, Grant suddenly moved his head, flinging the hat from his face, and raised himself a little, leaning on one elbow. There was no longer anybody near him, but he could see a man riding past a shadowy clump of trees a little distance off, leading a second horse. Closer at hand, another man was running hard beside one of the Percherons, and while Grant watched him he made an effort to scramble up on the back of the unsaddled animal, but slipped off. Both these men were indistinct in the dim hollow, but on a sandy ridge above, which still caught the fading light, there was a sharply-outlined mounted figure sweeping across the broken ground at a reckless gallop. It must be Lansing, who had come to the rescue. Grant sent up a faint, hoarse cry of exultation. He forgot his pain and dizziness, he even forgot he had been assaulted; he was conscious only of a burning wish to see Lansing ride down the fellow who was running beside the Percheron.
There was a patch of thick scrub not far ahead which it would be difficult for the horseman on the rise to break through, and if the fugitive could succeed in mounting, he might escape while his pursuer rode round; but Lansing seemed to recognize this. He swept down from the ridge furiously and rode to cut off the thief. Grant saw him come up with the fellow, with his quirt swung high, but the figures of men and horses were now indistinct against the shrub. There was a blow struck; one of the animals reared, plunged and fell; the other went on and vanished into the gloom of the dwarf trees.
Then Grant, without remembering how he got up, found himself upon his feet and lurching unsteadily toward the clump of brush. When he reached it, Lansing was standing beside his trembling horse, which had a long red gash down its shoulder. His hands were stained and a big discolored knife lay near his feet. There was nobody else about, but a beat of hoofs came back, growing fainter, out of the gathering dusk.
George looked around when the farmer joined him, and then pointed to the wound on the horse.
“I think it was meant for my leg,” he said. “I hit the fellow once with the thick end of the quirt, but he jumped straight at me. The horse reared when he felt the knife and I came off before he fell. When I got up again, the fellow had gone.”
Grant felt scarcely capable of standing. He sat down heavily and fumbled for his pipe, while George turned his attention to the horse again.
“Though it’s only in the muscle, the cut looks deep,” he said at length. “I’d better lead him back to your place; it’s nearer than mine.”
“I’d rather you came along; I’m a bit shaky.”
“Of course,” said George. “I was forgetting. Those fellows had you down. Are you hurt?”
“They knocked me out with something heavy—my whip, I guess—but I’m getting over it. Cleaned out my pockets; went off with both teams.”