The Mucker

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 241

that they had crossed. Should she brave the
nervous fright of a passage through that dark, forbidding labyrinth of
gloom when she knew that she should not find the horses within reach
beyond?

She turned to retrace her steps. She must find another way!

But was there another way? And "Tomorrow they will shoot him!" She
shuddered, bit her lower lip in an effort to command her courage, and
then, wheeling, plunged into the thicket.

Again the cat screamed--close by--but the girl never hesitated in her
advance, and a few moments later she broke through the willows a dozen
paces from the river bank. Her eyes strained through the night; but no
horses were to be seen.

The trail, cut by the hoofs of many animals, ran deep and straight down
into the swirling water. Upon the opposite side Brazos must be feeding
or resting, just beyond reach.

Barbara dug her nails into her palms in the bitterness of her
disappointment. She followed down to the very edge of the water. It
was black and forbidding. Even in the daytime she would not have been
confident of following the ford--by night it would be madness to attempt
it.

She choked down a sob. Her shoulders drooped. Her head bent forward. She
was the picture of disappointment and despair.

"What can I do?" she moaned. "Tomorrow they will shoot him!"

The thought seemed to electrify her.

"They shall not shoot him!" she cried aloud. "They shall not shoot him
while I live to prevent it!"

Again her head was up and her shoulders squared. Tying the hackamore
about her waist, she took a single deep breath of reassurance and
stepped out into the river. For a dozen paces she found no difficulty in
following the ford. It was broad and straight; but toward the center
of the river, as she felt her way along a step at a time, she came to a
place where directly before her the ledge upon which she crossed shelved
off into deep water. She turned upward, trying to locate the direction
of the new turn; but here too there was no footing. Down river she
felt solid rock beneath her feet. Ah! this was the way, and boldly she
stepped out, the water already above her knees. Two, three steps she
took, and with each one her confidence and hope arose, and then the
fourth step--and there was no footing. She felt herself lunging into the
stream, and tried to draw back and regain the ledge; but the force of
the current was too much for her, and, so suddenly it seemed that she
had

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