Sample N03 from Cliff Farrell, Trail of the Tattered Star. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961. Pp. 168-173. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus1,991 words 345 (17.3%) quotesN03

Copyright 1961 by Cliff Farrell.

Cliff Farrell, Trail of the Tattered Star. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1961. Pp. 168-173.

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The sentry was not dead . He was , in fact , showing signs of reviving . He had been carrying an Enfield rifle and a holstered navy cap-and-ball pistol . A bayonet hung in a belt scabbard . He was partially uniformed in a cavalry tunic and hat . Mike stripped these from him and donned them . He and Dean tied and gagged the man , using his belt and shirt for the purpose . They dragged him inside the building .

Fiske joined them , unsteady on his feet . Julia , seeing the bandage , rushed to him . `` You are hurt '' ! ! She breathed .

`` I never felt better in my life '' , Fiske blustered .

He turned to Susan and kissed her on the cheek . `` Thank you , My dear '' , he said . `` You are very brave '' .

Mike silenced them . `` We'll talk later . First , we've got to get out of here '' .

`` We'll grab horses '' , Dean said . `` The main bunch is outside , but there are some over there inside the wall '' .

Mike debated it , trying to decide whether Fiske was strong enough to ride . But it at least offered him a chance for living . He had none here . And , for the sake of Julia and Susan , it had to be tried .

The guerrilla bivouac remained silent . Light showed in the orderly room across the parade ground . Someone evidently was on duty there . No doubt there would be men guarding the horses .

About a dozen animals were held inside the stockade , as best Mike could make out in the moonlight . Evidently this was a precaution so that mounts would be available in an emergency .

He handed the guard's rifle to Fiske . `` Dean and myself will try to cut out horses to ride '' , he said . `` We'll stampede the rest . You stay with the ladies . All of you be ready to ride hell for leather '' .

He added , `` If this doesn't work out , the three of you barricade yourself in the house and talk terms with them '' .

He handed the bayonet to Dean and kept the pistol . Susan halted Dean and kissed him . She clung to him , talking to him , and dabbing at her eyes .

Mike turned away . He was thinking that the way she had responded to his own kiss hadn't meant what he had believed it had . He felt unutterably weary .

Dean turned from Susan and took Julia Fortune in his arms . He kissed her also , and with deep tenderness . She too began to weep . He released her and joined Mike . `` All right '' , he said .

Mike only said , `` Later '' .

`` Be careful , McLish '' ! ! Susan said fiercely .

`` The way you were careful '' ? ? He snorted . `` Running around in the moonlight almost naked and slugging a man with a rock '' ? ?

He kept going . He wanted no more sentimental scenes with her . He might say or do something foolish . Something all of them would regret . He might tell her how sorry a spectacle she was making of herself , pretending to be blind to the way Julia Fortune had taken Dean's affections from her . And using him , Mike McLish , as a sop to her pride .

He handed the bayonet to Dean and kept the pistol . `` Stay well back of me '' , he said . `` I'm going to walk up to the horses , bold as brass , pretending I'm one of the guerrillas . There's bound to be someone on guard , but the hat might fool them long enough for me to get close '' .

Holding the pistol concealed , he walked to the rear wall of the stockade . It was pierced by a wagon gate built of two wings . One wing stood open . Mike passed through it and moved toward the dark mass of horses . They were tethered , army style , on stable lines .

A voice spoke near-at-hand . `` Who's that '' ? ?

Just me '' , Mike said . `` Is that you , Bill '' ? ?

He located his man . The guard stood in the shadow of the stockade wall just out of reach of the moonlight . Mike kept walking and got within arm's reach before the man became suspicious and straightened from his lax slouch .

Mike struck with the muzzle of the pistol . But the luck that had been running their way left him . The guard instinctively parried the blow with his rifle . He tried to veer the rifle around to fire into Mike's body .

Mike , off balance , managed to bat the muzzle away a moment before it exploded . The bullet went wide . Mike swung the pistol in a savage backlash . This time it connected solidly on the man's temple , felling him .

The explosion of the rifle had crashed against the walls of the stockade and the deep echoes were still rolling in the hills . The startled horses began rearing on their tethers .

Dean came rushing up . `` Are you hit '' ? ? He demanded .

`` No , but the fat's in the fire '' ! ! Mike said . `` There's no chance now of all of us getting away . You'll have to try it alone '' .

The sentry's saddled horse stood picketed nearby , having been kept handy in case of need .

Mike took the bayonet from Dean's hand and slashed the picket line . `` Up you go '' ! ! He said . `` Ride '' ! !

Dean resisted Mike's attempt to push him toward the horse . `` Why not you '' ? ? He protested .

`` Dammit '' ! ! Mike said frantically . `` You're lighter than me . It's our only chance now . Try to find these Feds . The rest of us can fort up in the house and hang on until you get back . You're the one that's taking the big chance '' .

Dean still hesitated , but Mike lifted him almost bodily into the saddle and thrust the reins in his hand .

`` No telling how good this horse is '' , Mike panted . `` Favor him and save something in case you hit trouble . Watch out for Apaches when it comes daylight . Take the pistol . You might need it . We'll still have the rifle , and I might be able to round up some more . I'll stampede the rest of these horses so they can't chase you '' .

Dean leaned from the saddle and gave him a mighty whack on the back . `` McLish '' , he said as he kicked the horse into motion , `` I'd be a mighty sad man if we never met again '' .

Then he was on his way at a gallop . Mike ran down the line , slashing picket ropes with the bayonet . He lifted a screeching war whoop . That touched off a total stampede . He darted inside the stockade and freed the horses there . These poured through the gate and joined the flight . The animals thundered away into the moonlight , heading for the ridges .

The guerrillas were swarming from their bivouac at the west end of the enclosure .

`` Apaches '' ! ! Mike yelled . `` They're stealin' the stock '' ! !

He scuttled in shadow along the east wall of the stockade and then followed the south wall until he was at the rear of the two frame buildings . He crouched there .

His shout had been taken up and repeated . The guerrillas were running across the parade ground and through the rear gate in the wake of the departing horses . All were carrying guns they had seized up , but they were half-clad or hardly clad at all .

Durkin and Calhoun came running from the post . They had pistols in their hands . They bawled questions that were not answered in the uproar . They followed the others toward the east gate . Beyond the stockade rifles began to explode as some of the guerrillas fired at shadows that they imagined were Apaches .

Mike made a dash to the rear of the frame buildings . He crawled beneath the two supply wagons which stood between the buildings and peered around a corner . The area was deserted . A man was standing in the open door of the lighted orderly room a few yards to Mike's left , but he , too , suddenly made up his mind and went racing to join the confused activity at the east end of the stockade .

Mike crawled to the door and peered in . The orderly room seemed to be deserted . A lantern hung from a peg , giving light . Ducking inside , he found that three rifles were stacked in a corner . A brace of pistols , holstered on belts , hung from a peg , along with ammunition pouches . An ammunition case stood open , containing canisters which contained powder cartridges .

Mike seized a blanket from a pallet in a corner , spread it on the floor and used it to form a bag in which he placed his booty .

Shouldering the load he peered from the door . His looting of the orderly room had taken only a minute or two and the vicinity was still clear of guerrillas .

He looked at the looming hoods of the supply wagons , struck by a new inspiration . He set his bundle down . Snatching the lantern from its peg , he shattered its globe with a blow against a post . He picked up the powder canister and ran out . Bursting paper cartridges , he scattered powder beneath the nearest wagon and dumped the contents of the canister upon it .

He shouldered the blanket again , backed off , and tossed the lantern with its open wick beneath the wagon . He turned and raced across the parade ground toward the rock house .

Powder flame gushed beneath the wagon . The stockade was brilliantly lighted and the guerrillas sighted him . They realized the truth . Bullets began to snap past him . One struck the muzzle of one of the rifles that projected from the shoulder pack . Its force spun him around , but he recovered and got into stride again .

A bullet tore the earth from beneath his foot when he was a stride or two from safety . Another struck him heavily in the thigh and he went down .

Guerrillas were racing toward him . Susan and Julia came from the door and dragged him with them . The three of them floundered through the door into the interior and fell in a heap .

Susan bounced to her feet and slammed the door . She crouched aside as bullets beat at the portal , chewing into the planks . Some tore entirely through the whipsawed post oak . The iron hinges held , but the planks were in danger of being torn from the crossbars .

Mike rolled to Susan , grasped her around the knees , dragging her off her feet . He hovered over her to shield her , for spent bullets were thudding against the rear walls .

He peered from a loophole . Guerrillas were only a dozen yards away , charging the house . Mike snatched a pistol from the heap of scattered booty and fired . He dropped a man with the first bullet . At the same moment Wheeler Fiske fired the rifle Mike had given him and another guerrilla was hit . That halted the rush . The guerrillas scattered for cover .

The wagons were burning fiercely . The mudwagon had caught fire also . The blaze was spreading to the frame buildings .

The guerrillas realized they faced a new problem . `` Gawdamighty '' ! ! One screeched . `` There goes our grub an' ammunition '' ! !

`` Get a bucket line going '' ! ! Calhoun shouted . `` Hurry ! ! Hurry '' ! !

The guerrillas began a frantic search for pails in which to bring water from the spring . But what few containers they found were inadequate . Many of them , in increasing panic , came running with water in their hats in a ludicrous effort . Both buildings were in flames . The heat drove the guerrillas back . The roof of the command post began to buckle .

`` Drag the wagons to the spring '' ! ! Lew Durkin yelled . `` Run 'em right into the spring ! ! Hustle '' ! !

One of the wagons erupted a massive pillar of flame . A sizable supply of powder had been touched off . The wagons and the coach were beyond saving and so were the buildings .

The glow of the fire reached through the openings in the windows , giving light enough to examine Mike's wound . The bullet had torn through the flesh just above the knee , inflicting an ugly gash that was forming a pool of blood on the floor . But it had missed the bone and had passed on through . Susan and Julia ripped strips from their clothing and bound the injury .

Mike tested the leg and found that he was able to hobble around on it .