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 .