“Say, she was looking good! She thanked me and told me to tell you all to hurry.”
They gave to Provenso a burro whose pack was nearly empty, what food and water they could spare, and he left them. They started on dejectedly. Provenso had told them where Kut-le had camped ten days before.
They could only find that spot and attempt to pick up the trail from there.
“Just the same,” said Billy, “it’s just as well he didn’t get away with Miss Rhoda. He’s a tough pill, that Provenso. She’d better be with the Injun than him!”
“Provenso must be a bad lot,” said Jack.
“He is!” replied Billy grimly.
The camp was made that night near a smooth-faced mesa. Before dawn they had eaten breakfast and were mounting, when Carlos gave a low whistle. Every ear was strained. On the exquisite stillness of the dawn sounded a woman’s voice which a man’s voice answered.
A LONG TRAIL
Rhoda gave a cry of joy. From the horsemen rose a sudden shout.
“Spread! Spread! There they are!”
“Don’t shoot!” It was Porter’s voice, shrill and high with excitement. “That’s her, the boy there! Rhoda! Rhoda! We’re coming!”
With a quick responsive cry, Rhoda struck her horse. With the blow, Kut-le leaned from his own horse and seized her bridle, turning her horse with his own away from the mesa and to the left. The other Indians followed and with hoarse cries of exultation the rescuers took up the pursuit.
Rhoda looked back.
“Shoot!” she screamed. “Shoot!”
Before the second scream had left her lips she was lifted bodily from the saddle to Kut-le’s arms where, understanding his device, she struggled like a mad woman. But she only wasted her strength. Without a glance at her, Kut-le turned his pony almost in its tracks and made for the mesa.
“Cut him off! He’ll get away from us!” It was DeWitt’s voice, and “John! John DeWitt!” Rhoda cried.
But the young Indian had gaged his distance well. He brought his horse to its haunches and with Rhoda in his arms was running into a fissure seemingly too narrow for human to enter, while the pursuers were still a hundred yards away.
“Hold ’em, Alchise!” he said briefly as he ran.
Alchise, with rifle cocked, stopped by the opening. The fissure widened immediately into a narrow passageway. High, high above them rolled a strip of pink and blue morning sky. Before them was a seemingly interminable crevice along which the squaws scuttled. As Rhoda watched them they disappeared around a sudden curve. When Kut-le reached this point with his burden, the squaws were climbing like monkeys up the wall which here gave back, roughly, ending the fissure in a rude chimney which it seemed to Rhoda only a bear or an Apache could have climbed. Kut-le set Rhoda on her feet. She looked up into his face mockingly. To her mind she was as good as rescued. But the young Apache seemed in no wise hurried or excited.