The enemy lay coiled across the pit from her, head and neck raised, tongue vibrating. Beulah fired—once—twice—a third time. It was enough. The rattlesnake ceased writhing.
The first thing she did was to examine every inch of her prison to make sure there were no more rattlers. Satisfied as to this, she leaned faintly against the wall. The experience had been a shock even to her sound young nerves.
In the Pit
Beulah shut her eyes to steady herself. From the impact of her fall she was still shaken. Moreover, though she had shot many a rattlesnake, this was the first time she had ever been flung head first into the den of one. It would have been easy to faint, but she denied herself the luxury of it and resolutely fought back the swimming lightness in her head.
Presently she began to take stock of her situation. The prospect hole was circular in form, about ten feet across and nine feet deep. The walls were of rock and smooth clay. Whatever timbering had been left by the prospector was rotted beyond use. It crumbled at the weight of her foot.
How was she to get out? Of course, she would find some way, she told herself. But how? Blacky was tied to a bush not fifty yards away, and fastened to the saddle horn was the rope that would have solved her problem quickly enough. If she had it here—But it might as well be at Cheyenne for all the good it would do her now.
Perhaps she could dig footholds in the wall by means of which she could climb out. Unbuckling the spur from her heel, she used the rowel as a knife to jab a hole in the clay. After half an hour of persistent work she looked at the result in dismay. She had gouged a hollow, but it was not one where her foot could rest while she made steps above.
Every few minutes Beulah stopped work to shout for help. It was not likely that anybody would be passing. Probably she had been the only person on this hill for months. But she dared not miss any chance.
For it was coming home to her that she might die of starvation in this prison long before her people found the place. By morning search parties would be out over the hills looking for her. But who would think to find her away over on Del Oro? If Brad had carried out his threat immediately and gone down to Battle Butte, nobody would know even the general direction in which to seek.
With every hour Beulah grew more troubled. Late in the afternoon she fired a fourth shot from her revolver in the hope that some one might hear the sound and investigate. The sun set early for her. She watched its rays climb the wall of her prison while she worked half-heartedly with the spur. After a time the light began to fade, darkness swept over the land, and she had to keep moving in order not to chill.
Never had she known such a night. It seemed to the tortured girl that morning would never come. She counted the stars above her. Sometimes there were more. Sometimes fewer. After an eternity they began to fade out in the sky. Day was at hand.