Bob Hampton of Placer eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 333 pages of information about Bob Hampton of Placer.
steps lagging and careless.  Gillis and the girl, as well as the two cattle-herders, were on horseback; the remainder soberly trudged forward on foot, with guns slung to their shoulders.  Wyman was somewhat in advance, walking beside the stranger, the latter a man of uncertain age, smoothly shaven, quietly dressed in garments bespeaking an Eastern tailor, a bit grizzled of hair along the temples, and possessing a pair of cool gray eyes.  He had introduced himself by the name of Hampton, but had volunteered no further information, nor was it customary in that country to question impertinently.  The others of the little party straggled along as best suited themselves, all semblance to the ordinary discipline of the service having been abandoned.

Hampton, through the medium of easy conversation, early discovered in the sergeant an intelligent mind, possessing some knowledge of literature.  They had been discussing books with rare enthusiasm, and the former had drawn from the concealment of an inner pocket a diminutive copy of “The Merchant of Venice,” from which he was reading aloud a disputed passage, when the faint trail they followed suddenly dipped into the yawning mouth of a black canyon.  It was a narrow, gloomy, contracted gorge, a mere gash between those towering hills shadowing its depths on either hand.  A swift mountain stream, noisy and clear as crystal, dashed from rock to rock close beside the more northern wall, while the ill-defined pathway, strewn with bowlders and guarded by underbrush, clung to the opposite side, where low scrub trees partially obscured the view.

All was silent as death when they entered.  Not so much as the flap of a wing or the stir of a leaf roused suspicion, yet they had barely advanced a short hundred paces when those apparently bare rocks in front flamed red, the narrow defile echoed to wild screeches and became instantly crowded with weird, leaping figures.  It was like a plunge from heaven into hell.  Blaine and Endicott sank at the first fire; Watt, his face picturing startled surprise, reeled from his saddle, clutching at the air, his horse dashing madly forward and dragging him, head downward, among the sharp rocks; while Wyman’s stricken arm dripped blood.  Indeed, under that sudden shock, he fell, and was barely rescued by the prompt action of the man beside him.  Dropping the opened book, and firing madly to left and right with a revolver which appeared to spring into his hand as by magic, the latter coolly dragged the fainting soldier across the more exposed space, until the two found partial security among a mass of loosened rocks littering the base of the precipice.  The others who survived that first scorching discharge also raced toward this same shelter, impelled thereto by the unerring instinct of border fighting, and flinging themselves flat behind protecting bowlders, began responding to the hot fire rained upon them.

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Bob Hampton of Placer from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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