"Not until there is no hope," he impressed, as he put the barrel of his rifle through a knot hole and fired at random. They tore on, away from the noise of the flames, of the falling timber and the shouted commands, around the haystacks so close to the barbed-wire fence that the barbs cut his boot, off by the back of the quarters, and then upon the road that led from the reservation. If the pony could be kept on that road, there was small danger from dog holes. He would run himself out in time. The length of time was what was uncertain, however. A cow-pony can go a good many hours at a stretch.
"Truly," said the little thing, and nodded vehemently.
Cairness leaned far over and made a grab, but the first time he missed. The second he caught the neckerchief and held it, dragging the man, who resisted with all his giant strength, digging his toes into the ground as they tore along. And he was heavy. [Pg 212]Cairness had no stirrup or pommel to trust to. He saw that it was a case of falling or of leaving go, and he decided to fall. The man would go underneath anyway. The mesquites were very near. She bent down over the horse's neck and spoke to him. His stride lengthened out yet more. She drew the little revolver, and cocked it, still bending low. If they were to fire at her, the white gown would make a good mark; but she would show as little of it as might be, and she would not waste time answering shots, if it could be helped.
"Her father was dead. He left her to him." She heard, and again her eyes met Forbes's. There was a flash of comprehension in them. She knew what he was thinking very well. But she left the fence, and, pushing the sunbonnet over her head, joined them, not in the least put out, and they dismounted and walked beside her, back to the house.
Then they walked up to the corral together. Kirby introduced him to his two partners, Englishmen also, and finished nailing up the boards of a box stall which a stallion had kicked down in the night. After that he threw down his hammer, took two big nails from his mouth, and sat upon the tongue of a wagon to talk long and earnestly, after the manner of men who have shared a regretted past. "That you take them to civilization—the missus and the kid. It's the only salvation for all three of you—for you as well as them."