When he reached the store he found the owner and two Double-Arrow punchers taking care of Johnny. “Where’s Hopalong?” he asked.
“Gone to tell his foreman,” replied Jackson. “Hey, youngster, you let them bandages alone! Hear me?”
“Hullo, Kansas,” remarked John Bartlett, foreman of the Double-Arrow. “I come nigh getting yore man; somebody rode past me like a streak in the dark, so I just ups an’ lets drive for luck, an’ so did he. I heard him cuss an’ I emptied my gun after him.”
“The rest was a-passing the word along to ride in when I left the line,” remarked one of the other punchers. “How you feeling now, Johnny?”
THE END OF THE TRAIL
The rain slanted down in sheets and the broken plain, thoroughly saturated, held the water in pools or sent it down the steep sides of the arroyo, to feed the turbulent flood which swept along the bottom, foam-flecked and covered with swiftly moving driftwood. Around a bend in the arroyo, where the angry water flung itself against the ragged bulwark of rock and flashed away in a gleaming line of foam, a horseman appeared bending low in the saddle for better protection against the storm. He rode along the edge of the stream on the farther bank, opposite the steep bluff on the northern side, forcing his wounded and jaded horse to keep fetlock deep in the water which swirled and sucked about its legs. He was trying his hardest to hide his trail. Lower down the hard, rocky ground extended to the water’s edge, and if he could delay his pursuers for an hour or so, he felt that, even with his tired horse, he would have more than an even chance.
But they had gained more than he knew. Suddenly above him on the top of the steep bluff across the torrent a man loomed up against the clouds, peered intently into the arroyo, and then waved his sombrero to an unseen companion. A puff of smoke flashed from his shoulder and streaked away, the report of the shot lost in the gale. The fugitive’s horse reared and plunged into the deep water and with its rider was swept rapidly towards the bend, the way they had come.
“That makes the fourth time I’ve missed that coyote!” angrily exclaimed Hopalong as Red Connors joined him.
The other quickly raised his rifle and fired; and the horse, spilling its rider out of the saddle, floated away tail first. The fugitive, gripping his rifle, bobbed and whirled at the whim of the greedy water as shots struck near him. Making a desperate effort, he staggered up the bank and fell exhausted behind a boulder.
“Well, the coyote is afoot, anyhow,” said Red, with great satisfaction.
“Yes; but how are we going to get to him?” asked Hopalong. “We can’t get the cayuses down here, an’ we can’t swim that water without them. An’ if we could, he’d pot us easy.”
“There’s a way out of it somewhere,” Red replied, disappearing over the edge of the bluff to gamble with Fate.