[Illustration: Together they bore him, now unconscious, slowly down below the first fire-line.]
THE DOOR CLOSES
Totally exhausted, the two men dropped their heavy burden on the earth. Mason swore as the blood began dripping again from his wound, which had been torn open afresh in his efforts to bear Hampton to safety. Just below them a mounted trooper caught sight of them and came forward. He failed to recognize his officer in the begrimed person before him, until called to attention by the voice of command.
“Sims, if there is any water in your canteen hand it over. Good; here, Marshal, use this. Now, Sims, note what I say carefully, and don’t waste a minute. Tell the first sergeant to send a file of men up here with some sort of litter, on the run. Then you ride to the Herndon house—the yellow house where the roads fork, you remember,—and tell Miss Naida Gillis (don’t forget the name) that Mr. Hampton has been seriously wounded, and we are taking him to the hotel. Can you remember that?”
“Then off with you, and don’t spare the horse.”
He was gone instantly, and Brant began bathing the pallid, upturned face.
“You’d better lie down, Marshal,” he commanded. “You’re pretty weak from loss of blood, and I can do all there is to be done until those fellows get here.”
In fifteen minutes they appeared, and five minutes later they were toiling slowly down to the valley, Brant walking beside his still unconscious rival. Squads of troopers were scattered along the base of the hill, and grouped in front of the hotel. Here and there down the street, but especially about the steps of the Occidental, were gathered the discomfited vigilantes, busily discussing the affair, and cursing the watchful, silent guard. As these caught sight of the little party approaching, there were shouts of derision, which swelled into triumph when they perceived Hampton’s apparently lifeless form, and Mason leaning in weakness on the arm of a trooper. The sight and sound angered Brant.
“Carry Hampton to his room and summon medical attendance at once,” he ordered. “I have a word to say to those fellows.”
Seeing Mr. Wynkoop on the hotel porch, Brant said to him: “Miss Spencer informed me that you saw a man leap from the back window of the Occidental. Is that true?”
The missionary nodded.
“Good; then come along with me. I intend breaking the back of this lynching business right here and now.”
He strode directly across the street to the steps of the Occidental, his clothing scarcely more than smouldering rags. The crowd stared at him sullenly; then suddenly a reaction came, and the American spirit of fair play, the frontier appreciation of bulldog courage, burst forth into a confused murmur, that became half a cheer. Brant did not mince his words.