The Chinaman shook his head. He glanced at the slip of paper indifferently and went on with his work.
“No can ride, missee,” he said.
Lenora looked around helplessly. The camp was empty. She staggered across towards her own horse.
“Come and help me,” she ordered.
The Chinaman came unwillingly. They found her saddle but he only gazed at it in a stolid sort of fashion.
“No can fix,” he said. “Missee no can ride. Better go back bed.”
Lenora pushed him on one side. With a great effort she managed to reach her place in the saddle. Then she turned and, with her face to the depot, galloped away. The pain was excruciating. She could only keep herself in the saddle with an effort. Yet all the time that one sentence was ringing in her mind—“Tongues of flame!” She kept looking around anxiously. Suddenly the road dropped from a little decline. She was conscious of a wave of heat. In the distance she could see the smoke rolling across the open. She touched her horse with the quirt. The spot which she must pass to keep on the track to the depot was scarcely a hundred yards ahead, but already the fire seemed to be running like quicksilver across the ground licking up the dry greasewood with indeed a flaming tongue. She glanced once behind, warned by the heat. The fire was closing in upon her. A puff of smoke suddenly enveloped her. She coughed. Her head began to swim and a fit of giddiness assailed her. She rocked in her saddle and the pony came to a sudden standstill, faced by the mass of rolling smoke and flame.
“Sanford!” Lenora cried. “Save me!”
The pony reared. She slipped from the saddle and fell across the track.
“A BOLT FROM THE BLUE”
There was a peculiar, almost a foreboding silence about the camp that morning when Laura returned from her early ride. The only living person to be seen was the Chinaman, sitting on a stool in front of the wagon, with a dish of potatoes between his knees.
“Say, where’s every one?” Laura sung out, after she had looked into Lenora’s tent and found it empty.
The Chinaman continued to peel potatoes. He took no notice of the question. Laura touched her horse with the whip and cantered over to his side. At the last moment the animal swerved a little. The Chinaman, trying to draw back hastily, let the bowl slip between his knees. He gazed at the broken pieces of the dish in dismay.
“Never mind your silly potatoes!” Laura exclaimed. “Tell me where every one’s gone to, can’t you?”
The Chinaman looked up at her malevolently. He rose and made a stealthy movement forward. Laura backed her horse. The purpose which had gleamed for a moment in the man’s narrowed eyes seemed to fade away.
“All gone,” he announced. “Cowboy gone workee. Missee gone hurry up find Mr. Quest.”