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   Chapter 38 DINSMORE TO THE RESCUE

Oh, You Tex! By William MacLeod Raine Characters: 5887

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


If 'Mona lives to be eighty the high-lights of that wild ride will never fade from her memory. The mesas rolled in long swells as far as the eye could see. Through the chaparral the galloping horses plunged while the prickly pear and the cholla clutched at their flanks and at the legs of the riders. Into water-gutted arroyos they descended, slid down breakneck shale ridges, climbed like heather cats the banks of dry washes, pounded over white porous malpais on which no vegetation grew.

Now Dinsmore was in front of her picking out the best way, now he was beside her with cool, easy words of confidence, now he rode between her and the naked Apaches, firing with deliberate and deadly accuracy.

"Don't look back," he warned her more than once. "My job is to look out for them. Yours is to see yore horse don't throw you or break a leg in a prairie-dog hole. They cayn't outrun us. Don't worry about that."

The man was so easy in manner, apparently so equal to the occasion, that as the miles slid behind them her panic vanished. She felt for the small revolver in her belt to make sure it was safe. If she should be thrown, or if her horse should be shot, one thing must be done instantly. She must send a bullet crashing into her brain.

To the right and to the left of her jets of dirt spat up where the shots of the Indians struck the ground. Once or twice she looked back, but the sight of the bareback riders at their heels so unnerved her that she obeyed the orders of her companion and resisted the dreadful fascination of turning in her saddle.

It had seemed to 'Mona at first with each backward glance that the Indians were gaining fast on them, but after a time she knew this was not true. The sound of their shots became fainter. She no longer saw the spitting of the dust from their bullets and guessed they must be falling short.

Her eyes flashed a question at the man riding beside her. "We're gaining?"

"That's whatever. We'll make the ca?on all right an' keep goin'. Don't you be scared," he told her cheerfully.

Even as he spoke, Ramona went plunging over the head of her horse into a bunch of shin-oak. Up in an instant, she ran to remount. The bronco tried to rise from where it lay, but fell back helplessly to its side. One of its fore legs had been broken in a prairie-dog hole.

Dinsmore swung round his horse and galloped back, disengaging one foot from the stirrup. The girl caught the hand he held down to her and leaped up beside the saddle, the arch of her foot resting lightly on the toe of his boot. Almost with the same motion she swung astride the cow-pony. It jumped to a gallop and Ramona clung to the waist of the man in front of her. She could hear plainly now the yells of the exultant savages.

The outlaw knew that it would be nip and tuck to reach Palo Duro, close though it was. He abandoned at once his hopes of racing up the ca?on until the Apaches dropped the pursuit.

It was now solely a question of speed. He must get into the gulch, even though he had to kill his bronco to do it. After that he must trust to luck and hold the redskins off as long as he could. There was always a chance that Ellison's Rangers might be close. Homer Dinsmore knew how slender a thread it was upon which to hang a hope, but it was the only one they had.

His quirt rose and fell once, though he recognized that his horse was doing its best. But the lash fell in the air and did not burn the flank of the animal. He patted its neck. He murmured encouragement in its ear.

"Good old Black Jack, I knew you wouldn't throw down on me. Keep a-humpin', old-timer.... You're doin' fine.... Here we are at Palo Duro.... Another half-mile, pal."

Dinsmore turned to the left after they had dropped down a shale slide into the ca?on. The trail wound through a thick growth of young foliage close to the bed of the stream.

The man slipped down from the back of the laboring horse and followed it up the trail. Once he caught a glimpse of the savages coming down the shale slide and took a shot through the brush.

"Got one of their horses," he told 'Mona. "That'll keep 'em for a while and give us a few minutes. They'll figure I'll try to hold 'em here."

'Mona let the horse pick its way up the rapidly ascending trail. Presently the ca?on opened a little. Its walls fell back from a small, grassy valley containing two or three acres. The trail led up a ledge of rock jutting out from one of the sheer faces of cliff. Presently it dipped down behind some great boulders that had fallen from above some time in the ages that this great cleft had been in the making.

A voice hailed them. "That you, Homer?"

"Yep. The 'Paches are right on our heels, Steve."

Gurley let out a wailing oath. "Goddlemighty, man, why did you come here?"

"Driven in. They chased us ten miles. Better 'light, ma'am. We're liable to stay here quite a spell." Dinsmore unsaddled the horse and tied it to a shrub. "You're sure all in, Black Jack. Mebbe you'll never be the same bronc again. I've got this to say, old pal. I never straddled a better hawss than you. That goes without copperin'." He patted its sweat-stained neck, fondled its nose for a moment, then turned briskly to the business in hand. "Get behind that p'int o' rocks, Steve. I'll cover the trail up. Girl, you'll find a kind of cave under that flat boulder. You get in there an' hunt cover."

'Mona did as she was told. Inside the cave were blankets, a saddle, the remains of an old camp-fire, and a piece of jerked venison hanging from a peg driven between two rocks. There were, too, a rifle leaning against the big boulder and a canvas bag containing ammunition.

The rifle was a '73. She busied herself loading it. Just as she finished there came to her the crack of Dinsmore's repeater.

The outlaw gave a little whoop of exultation.

"Tally one."

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