Foes in Ambush
Foes in Ambush
"I'll see to it that no one interferes with him, Mr. Wing. What has happened? Are the others coming?" And she took the revolver, balancing it in her accustomed and practised hand. The admiration deepened in Wing's gaze.
"I see you handle a pistol as though you had used one. You're a true frontiersman's daughter. I'll have to be away for a few minutes. I'm going up to look from our rock above there. Some of our men, they say, are in sight slowly returning, and the paymaster's ambulance is only a mile away, probably waiting for the rest of the party. How is Miss Ruth?"
"Sleeping like a baby, bless her heart."
"Well, I have promised Mr. Drummond that she should be his nurse. I hope you will consent. He is sleeping, too. No fever yet, I am thankful to say."
"Ruth will be ready, and so will I, to help in any way we can. But when are you to have a rest, may I ask?"
"O-oh--by and by. Lee and the others must have theirs first. They have been in saddle much longer and farther than I. When is Miss Harvey to have her rest, may I ask?"
"We-l-l, I don't know. I'll say, 'perhaps by and by' too. Look! that man is calling you."
Whirling about, Wing saw his sentinel beckoning, and in a moment he went clambering up the rocky trail, active as a mountain Apache.
"What is it, Patterson?"
"It is signal-smoke, sir, across the valley. That ain't more than eight miles away, and down here in the range ain't more than six. What Indians could be out here, I would like to know? Do they grow everywhere in this infernal country?"
Wing took his glasses and long and earnestly studied the bluish-white clouds rising in puffs, faint and barely distinguishable in the opposite heights, then fixed his gaze upon the filmy column soaring up among the dark pines at the heart of the range to the southward. His face grew graver every minute.
"Stay here and watch," he said. "I must go and get those other men in with the ambulance. Of course if it is Apaches, they've sighted that party and the few men straggling back, and those signals mean, 'close on them.' I'll send the team right in and then ride and hurry the other fellows out."
The sun was retiring behind the Cababi Range as Wing went leaping down the trail.
"Sorry for you, Dick, old boy," he said to his horse, who was drowsing in the shade. "More work for us both now."
Never stopping to saddle, he leaped upon the bare, brown back and went clattering down the cañon.
"Keep your eye on Moreno, there!" he shouted up to the lookout. "If he tries to slip away, shoot him."
Ten minutes' brisk gallop through the windings of the gorge brought him to the edge of the sandy plain. There, under a little clump of willows, was the ambulance, its mules unhitched and hoppled securely, nibbling placidly at such scant herbage as they could find. The horses of the two guards, unsaddled, were drooping in the shade, too tired to hunt for anything to eat.
"Saddle up, men. Hitch in and get that team to the head of the cañon, lively now," was his brief order to the sleepy trooper who greeted him, carbine in hand.
"What's up, sergeant?" queried another, springing out from the willows. "Lee told us to wait here, or wherever we could find shade and water."
"Wait? How long and what for?"
"Blessed if I know how long. None of 'em ain't in sight from here coming back; but 'what for' is easy to answer. The paymaster's chest."
"The paymaster's chest?" cried Wing. "Why, isn't that here in the ambulance?"
"Not a hinge of it. Those Greasers swapped it onto an apparejo while we were all runni