“Go it, Swanska!” he yelled, encouragingly. “Go it, ye crazy white-head! Be the powers, but it’s the foinest runnin’ Oi ’ve sane fer a whoile. Saints aloive! but wud ye moind thim legs! ’Twas a kangaroo, begorry, an’ not a monkey he come from, or Oi ’m a loiar. Go it, Swanny, ould bye! Howly St. Patrick! but he ‘ll be out o’ the State afore dhark, if he only kapes it up. It ’s money Oi ‘m bettin’ on the Swade!”
Winston stepped swiftly across to the motionless sheriff, and knelt down beside him, his face gravely anxious. The unfortunate man lay huddled up, breathing heavily, his head bleeding freely from two plainly visible wounds. The engineer turned him over, one hand feeling for his heart. Slowly the young man rose to his feet, standing beside the body, his gray eyes fastened upon Farnham. Here was a condition of affairs he must decide upon for himself, decide instantly, decide in spite of law, in spite of everything.
“He appears to be rather badly hurt; not seriously, I think, but the man is unconscious, and in no condition to be removed,” he said, managing to hold his voice to a strange quiet. “I consider myself his prisoner, and shall remain with him until he becomes fit to travel. Farnham, I do not acknowledge your deputyship, and if you attempt to arrest me it will be at your peril. There are four of us here against you, but we ’ll give you a chance—go back to your own! Not a word, if you care to live! Go, damn you—go!”
They stood and watched him, until his slender figure disappeared behind the fringe of cedars. Then Hicks and Winston, neither man speaking a word, tenderly lifted the wounded sheriff from off the rocks, and bore him back into the shelter of the cabin.
A NEW VOLUNTEER
The desperate seriousness of their situation was only too evident. Both men recognized this, yet had no opportunity then to reflect over its possibilities, or plan for relief. Without exchanging a word, except as related to their present labor, the two at once began ministering to the relief of Hayes, confident that Brown, stationed without, would guard vigorously against any surprise attack. The two wounds upon the sheriff’s head were extremely ugly in appearance, being both deep and jagged, and having bled profusely. However, when carefully washed and probed, neither proved particularly severe or dangerous. In less than an hour, conscious yet exceedingly weak and becoming somewhat feverish, the injured man, dazed in mind but fairly comfortable in body, had been safely stowed away in a bunk, with every prospect of an early recovery.
Not until all this had been accomplished did his anxious nurses venture to look thoughtfully into each others’ faces and take direct cognizance of their own perilous position. Hicks stepped outside into the sunlight, wiping the perspiration from off his face, and a moment later Winston joined him, the two standing in grave silence, gazing off toward the apparently deserted “Independence.” The strain of the past night and day had plainly marked them both, yet it was not exposure and toil alone that gave such anxiety to their faces. Finally Hicks turned from his long scrutiny and glanced back toward the younger man, stroking his goat’s beard solemnly.