“The woods are full of them!” he grunted. With one hand across Rhoda’s mouth, he ran around the falls and dropped six feet to a narrow back trail.
“My own ground!” Rhoda heard him chuckle.
THE BEAUTY OF THE WORLD
For many hurrying minutes, Rhoda saw only the passing tree branches black against the evening sky as she lay across Kut-le’s breast. The pursuers had made no sound nor had Kut-le broken a single twig. The entire incident might have been a pantomime, with every actor tragically intent.
Having long learned the futility of struggling, Rhoda lay quietly enough, her ears keen to catch the sound of pursuit. Kut-le did not remove his hand from her mouth. But as he dropped rapidly and skilfully down the mountainside he whispered:
“My own ground, you see! It will take them a good while in the dusk to find that back trail. Only a few Indians know it.”
But Rhoda’s heart was beating high. Let Kut-le boast as he would, she was sure that Jack and John DeWitt were learning to follow the trail. The most vivid picture in her mind was of the utter weariness of John’s face. In the past weeks Rhoda had learned how fearful had been the hardships that would bring such weariness to a human face. Tears came to her eyes. No one so weak, so useless as herself, she felt, could be worth such travail.
Silently they moved through the dusk. Rhoda knew that the other Indians must be close behind them, yet no sound betrayed their presence. After a half-hour or so she struggled to be set down. But Kut-le only tightened his hold and it was fully two hours later that he set her on her feet.
“Don’t move,” he said. “We are on a canon edge.”
Rhoda swung her blanket to her shoulders, for the night was stinging sharp. She was not afraid. She had grown so accustomed to the night trail that she moved unhesitatingly along black rims that had at first paralyzed her with fear.
“Now,” said Kut-le, “I’m not going to travel on foot. The only horses within easy distance are some that a bunch of Navajos have in the canon below here. So we will go down and get them. We will go together because I can’t risk coming back for you. We will have to hike pronto after we get ’em. Just remember that you are contaminated by the company you are keeping and that if you make any noise, the Navajos will shoot you up, with the rest of us! Keep right behind me.”
The little group moved carefully down the canon trail. In a short time they reached a growth of trees. They stole through these, the only sound Rhoda’s panting breaths. Suddenly Kut-le stopped.
“Wait here!” he breathed in Rhoda’s ear, and he and Alchise disappeared.
A hand was laid on her arm and Rhoda knew that Molly and Cesca were guarding her. Almost immediately the soft thud of hoofs was upon them. Kut-le seized Rhoda and tossed her to a pony’s back.