Page:Yule Logs.djvu/435

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419
ON A MEXICAN RANCHE

The girl drew up her horse suddenly as she reached the hut, and leaped off.

"Lead the horse in, señora," Harry exclaimed, as levelling his rifle he fired, and one of the horsemen fell from his saddle, while a yell of rage broke from the others. There was not a moment to be lost, and running in he closed the door and fastened the stout bar across it; then catching up a double-barrelled gun, he thrust it through the window and discharged both barrels into the crowd as they rode up. Two more men fell. The rest dismounted, and flung themselves against the door, but three shots of a revolver through a small sliding panel caused them to draw back, and a moment later, in spite of the angry shouts of one of their number, they ran off with their horses, and taking refuge in the bushes, opened a straggling fire on the hut.

"What does it all mean, señora?" Harry asked, turning to the girl, who had without a moment's hesitation seized the rifle he had dropt, and began to load it from a powder-horn hanging from a peg in the wall.

"I don't know," she said. "I was out for a ride this morning, when a number of mounted men suddenly dashed out from a clump of trees, and I saw another party ride out of some bushes farther on, evidently intending to cut me off. From the glimpse I had of them it seemed to me that their faces were all blackened. I turned my horse to ride back, but some more men had posted themselves there. I struck Violetta sharply and she galloped off like an arrow. I had to pass close to one of the party, and I was afraid they might lasso me. One man did take up his lariat as he galloped, but another shouted, 'No, ride her down,' and I shot by them, though they were within a few yards of me.

"I thought of the camp, but I knew that at this hour most of the men would be out with the herds. Then I thought of your hut. I knew it was up this valley, though