The man from the Panhandle drew his friend to one side. “Do you need me any longer? I left Miss Kinney right on the edge of that mob, and I expect I better look around and see where she is now.”
“All right. No, we don’t need you. Take care you don’t let any of these miners recognize you. They might make you trouble while they’re still hot. Well, so-long. See you to-morrow at the hotel.”
The Tennessean looked to his guns to make sure they hung loose in the scabbards, then stepped briskly back toward the plaza.
Would you worry about me?
Margaret Kinney’s heart ceased beating in that breathless instant after the two dauntless friends had flung defiance to two hundred. There was a sudden tightening of her throat, a fixing of dilated eyes on what would have been a thrilling spectacle had it not meant so much more to her. For as she leaned forward in the saddle with parted lips she knew a passionate surge of fear for one of the apparently doomed men that went through her like swift poison, that left her dizzy with the shock of it.
The thought of action came to her too late. As Dunke stepped back to give the signal for attack she cried out his name, but her voice was drowned in the yell of rage that filled the street. She tried to spur her horse into the crowd, to force a way to the men standing with such splendid fearlessness above this thirsty pack of wolves. But the denseness of the throng held her fixed even while revolvers flashed.
And then the miracle happened. She saw the door open and limned in a penumbra of darkness the white comely face of a woman. She saw the beleaguered men sway back and the door close in the faces of the horde. She saw bullets go crashing into the door, heard screams of baffled fury, and presently the crash of axes into the panels of the barrier that held them back. It seemed to fade away before her gaze, and instead of it she saw a doorway full of furious crowding miners.
Then presently her heart stood still again. From her higher place in the saddle, well back in the outskirts of the throng, in the dim light she made out a figure crouching on the roof; then another, and another, and a fourth. She suffered an agony of fear in the few heart-beats before they began to slip away. Her eyes swept the faces near her. One and all they were turned upon the struggling mass of humanity at the entrance to the passage. When she dared look again to the roof the fugitives were gone. She thought she perceived them swarming up a ladder to the higher roof, but in the surrounding grayness she could not be sure of this.
The stamping of feet inside the house continued. Once there was the sound of an exploding revolver. After a long time a heavy figure struggled into view through the roof-trap. It was Dunke himself. He caught sight of the ladder, gave a shout of triumph, and was off in pursuit of his flying prey. As others appeared on the roof they, too, took up the chase, a long line of indistinct running figures.