Three Young Ranchmen/Chapter 27

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CHAPTER XXVII.


Allen Shows His Bravery


"Slavin!"

"Hel-help!" gasped the poor wretch. "Help! For the love of Heaven, help me!"

"How did you get under the tree trunk?"

"My horse kicked me and I fell. I tried to save myself from going into the hollow. Please help me!"

"Thet's wot ye git fer runnin away," put in Watson, who had appeared on the scene.

"Don't—don't talk! Save me!" was Slavin's only answer.

"We'll do what we can for you," returned Allen.

Yet even as he spoke he realized how difficult, not to say dangerous, was the task which lay before him.

Should he attempt to roll the log over it might catch him just as it had caught the suffering wretch now under it.

"Take care, Allen!" warned Watson. "The bank here is mighty slippery."

"I know it," was the answer. "Watson, can you hold yonder branch?"

"Wait till I tether the hosses."

This was done as quickly as possible and then the old hunter caught hold of the branch Allen had mentioned.

Allen got down under the lower end of the fallen tree and caught Slavin by the arm.

"Can't you turn over?" he asked.

"I—I—can't budge!" was the low answer. And then with a groan the prisoner became insensible.

"He has fainted!" cried Allen, to Watson. "Pull on that branch for all you are worth."

"I'm a-pullin'."

Still the tree trunk did not budge, for one end was embedded in the mud lying on the edge of the bank.

Allen was determined to save the poor wretch who was slowly but surely having his chest crushed in by the sinking tree. Finding he could not move the tree he called on Watson to hold fast as before.

"Ye can't do nothin', Allen," protested the old hunter. "Come away afore the tree rolls over an' crushes ye too! "

"It won't roll if you hold fast," Allen answered.

"Yes, it will, when it starts. I can't git nothin' ter brace ag'in here."

"Well, I'm going to do my best and you must hold back as long as you can," was the answer.

Getting down on his knees, Allen began to scoop away the loose dirt with his hands, working directly under Slavin's body. It was hard work and broke his finger nails, but he kept on and at last had quite a hole made.

"Now hold hard, I'm going to pull!" he shouted to Watson, and the old hunter held as hard as he could. Then Allen pulled with might and main and at last had the satisfaction of getting the senseless body of Slavin free from its awful pressure.

"Quick, the tree is a-goin'!" came from Watson. "Give me yer hand!"

He reached forth and at the same time the tree began to slide down the hollow, directly in Allen's pathway. Allen had Slavin in his arms by this time. He made a leap and got on top of the tree, and just as the trunk went down Watson caught him and held tight.

"A close call an' no error!" cried Watson, when Allen was safe on the trail once more. "Ye came within an ace o' goin into the hollow with the tree on top o' ye!"

"I guess Slavin's pretty badly hurt," said Allen, when he could get back his breath. "That trunk had him pinned down for fair. He would have been crushed in another minute or two. What shall we do with him?"

"Wait till I catch his hoss an' we'll take him back to the cave," answered Watson.

To catch the animal was not difficult and close at hand they found the gun Slavin had stolen. Then while Allen carried the firearms and led one horse and rode another, Watson took up the unconscious man in his arms and followed on his own steed to the cave.

They found Noel sitting by the fire nursing his lacerated arm. The wound was an ugly affair but by no means dangerous, and after it was washed and bandaged it felt a great deal better, although the arm was bound to be stiff for several weeks to come and sore in the bargain.

"Got him, I see," remarked the young man, as he glanced at Slavin. "What's the trouble, did you have to shoot him?"

"No, he got under a fallen tree," answered Allen.

The unconscious man was placed in a comfortable position near the fire, which was heaped up with fresh wood, that all might dry themselves, and Watson went to work to restore Slavin.

This was no mean task and it was a good half hour before the man opened his eyes to stare about him.

"I—I—where am I?" he stammered.

"Yer safe," answered Watson, laconically.

"That tree—Did I go over into the hollow?"

"No."

"How did I escape?"

"Allen Winthrop saved ye."

"He did!"

"Yes, Slavin; he's yer best friend, if ye only know it," went on the old hunter warmly.

"But I—don't—don't understand."

In a few words Watson explained the situation to which Slavin listened with much interest. Then his eyes rested on Allen.

"I'm much erbliged ter ye," he said slowly, and his manner showed he meant it.

"You were a fool ter try ter git away," went on Watson.

"I know thet—now," muttered the hurt one.

"Don't ye know I would have plugged ye on sight?"

"Would ye?"

"Sartain shur, Slavin."

"Wall, I won't give ye another chance," responded Slavin, with a heavy sigh.

"Ye won't git the chance, ye mean," said the old hunter, significantly.

"All right, jes as ye please, Watson. But if thet young feller saved my life why I'm——"

"What?"

"I'm going to make it up ter him, thet's all."

"Do you mean that you will lead us without any further trouble?" questioned Allen eagerly.

"Thet's wot I do mean, an' I'll swear ter it if ye want me ter," added Slavin, solemnly.

"You needn't swear, Slavin."

"But I mean it, Winthrop. I may be a bad man, but I ain't so all-fired bad as ter forgit a man when he does me a good turn," went on the sufferer, with increased earnestness.

"Well, I will take you at your word."

"But I can't go on just yet. I've got a terrible pain in my breast, here."

"I suppose you have. We shan't move to-night and maybe not to-morrow. It will depend upon how Noel Urner feels."

"Oh, I'll go on," said Noel. "But I think a little rest here will do us all good," he added, thoughtfully.

"Yes, ye all need it," put in Watson. "An' now I want all o' ye to turn in an' git some sleep. I'll stay on guard."

"But not all night," insisted Allen. "Wake me at two or three o' clock."

And so it was arranged.