Page:Yule Logs.djvu/440

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424
ON A MEXICAN RANCHE

saddle. When he was past them, turning round he fired again, and one dropped the reins with an oath as the ball struck him in the shoulder. The other reined in his horse until joined by his comrades from below.

"Steady, steady, keep together," their leader shouted. "We must have them; the mare will soon tire."

To their surprise, although they were riding their hardest, the mare for three miles maintained the lead of some seventy yards that she had gained.

"Caramba! "the leader of the pursuers muttered, "she must be the devil; no horse her size could carry double weight so far without failing." But although far less heavily loaded than her pursuers imagined, Harry's weight was telling, and he could feel that the mare was beginning to flag. He cheered her on with hand and voice, abstaining from using the spur, for the gallant little horse was doing her best. He would not look round, for that would have encouraged his pursuers, and they might press their horses to make a rush; but listening intently, he was sure that they were gaining somewhat upon him, and he was confirmed in his belief by a shout of triumph behind. The cave, however, was now but a short distance away. The valley had narrowed to a ravine, occupied in the rainy season by a torrent. The pursuers, confident that the end was not far off, and that the mare would ere long founder, had not pressed their horses, and as they could no longer ride more than two abreast, they had fallen somewhat farther back.

Those in front gave a yell of exultation as they saw the mare suddenly stop and the rider leap from its back, but were astonished when they saw him go to the horse's head and apparently lead it into the solid rock, followed by the dog, which had kept close to its heels. They rode cautiously now, not knowing what to expect, and checked their horses, when they saw an opening no more than a yard wide in the face of the rock, and realised that the