Already to their left and right vast columns of smoke were pouring above the tree tops, and fiery tongues were licking among the bushes along the borders of the plains. The situation was desperate. He looked, and his eyes rested upon a pile of large boulders several yards away. These were heaped upon a great flat portion of rock, whose surface was devoid of the least vestige of vegetation. To get the injured man there was his only hope. But when he offered the suggestion, Randall refused it with scorn.
“That place is worse than this,” he declared. “Here it will be over in a few minutes, but there I shall slowly roast to death.”
“No, you won’t,” John replied, at the same time laying his hand upon Randall’s shoulder. “Come, trust me.”
“Leave me alone,” was the angry retort. “I’d sooner trust a snake than you. Get out of my sight.”
John now knew that he had to take stern measures and act at once, for there was not a minute to lose. Stooping, he caught the helpless man in a firm grip, lifted him from the ground, and staggered through the bushes. Randall was an unwieldy weight, and he struggled and cursed like a madman. At times John thought he would be forced to drop his burden and give up the attempt. But the menacing danger nerved him to almost super-human effort, and at last he stumbled with his load upon the rocky surface. Dragging Randall to the centre of the stone, he left him sprawling there, and sprang at once to the nearest clump of bushes. Drawing forth a match from his vest pocket, he struck it and touched it to a dry bit of fine grass. A small flame immediately shot up, which soon spread, and raced out among the bushes. The same was done in several other places, and in a few minutes the two men were in the centre of a ring of fire, which enlarged and increased in fury as the flames seized upon the dry material on all sides. The heat now was intense, and the smoke was blinding and suffocating.
During the whole of this performance Randall was yelling frantically to Hampton, asking what he meant by bringing the fire nearer. John, however, made no reply until his work was done. Then he staggered to the excited man’s side, and without a word lifted him again in his arms, carried him to the pile of boulders, and laid him down between two big rocks nearest to the lake. Taking off his own coat, he spread it over Randall’s head, and part of his body, commanding him at the same time to keep still, and stop struggling. This warning was given none too soon for the next instant a terrific roar rent the air, as the fire burst from the forest and flung itself upon the plains. Nothing could John now see, for the smoke was thicker than ever. The heat, too, was becoming more intense, and for relief he dropped upon his knees and covered his head with a portion of the coat which he had placed over Randall. This was only a brief respite, however, for burning brands were now falling everywhere, and