Roy Glashan's Library
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THOMAS CHARLES BRIDGES
(WRITING AS T.C. BRIDGES)

THE HOLE IN THE WALL

Cover Image

RGL e-Book Cover
Based on a painting by Charles Marion Russell (1864-1926)

Ex Libris

As published in The Blue Monoplane and Other Stories,
Blackie and Son Ltd., London and Glasgow, 1935

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2022
Version Date: 2022-12-02

Produced by Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

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Illustration

The Blue Monoplane and Other Stories,
with "The Hole in the Wall"


Illustration

"Good Boy, you're over!"


CHAPTER 1

A PATCH of white showed against the trunk of a tall candle cactus beside the trail, and Jack Logan, shading his eyes with his hand from the blinding sun glare, saw that it was a sheet of paper.

He rode nearer and picking it from the needle-like thorns that held it, found it to be a sheet torn from a notebook, on which were scrawled a few lines in pencil.

"Injuns is out from the Santa Ana Reservation. They got the beasts—slaughtered the lot. I'm a making for Casey Creek. Reckon you better do the same, Alec."

"Slaughtered the lot?" Jack Logan's face hardened and a bitter look came into his blue eyes as he repeated the words aloud. Three years' gruelling work gone, and he and his partner, Alec Ferguson, would have to start all over again. He and Alec had believed that their cattle had strayed and had ridden out in search of them. Neither had any idea that the bucks from the reservation were on the warpath. And now the wanton brutes had slaughtered the whole herd—driven them over a mesa, not a doubt of it.

For a full minute Jack sat very still in his saddle while the sun poured down upon him with the heat of a blast-furnace. Then slowly he crumpled the slip of paper and thrust it into his pocket.

"No use crying over spilt milk," he said grimly. "Let's go, pony." Three miles away to the north rose the jagged line of the Plumada Mountains on the other side of which lay the little cow-town of Casey Creek. It was the only place of safety with these bloodthirsty bucks abroad. Jack touched his stout pony with a spurred heel and set off at a steady lope across the New Mexican desert.

His mind was so full of bitter thoughts of his lost beasts that he lost a little of his usual caution. He did not notice the dust cloud which rose to the south. It was not until a rifle barked and lead came zipping overhead that he realized he was quite likely to share the fate of his murdered cattle. Instinctively he ducked, and driving in his heels set his bay horse, Texas, to a gallop.

Texas, clever beast, knew the danger as well as his master, but he had already covered many weary miles in the fierce heat. He was not so fresh as the mustangs ridden by the Indians, nor was his rider as light a weight as the breech-clad bucks. Yelling like fiends, the Indians rode furiously in pursuit, firing as they came. But Indians are poor shots, and a galloping horseman is a difficult target. So long as he could keep his head Jack had little fear of being hit. The question was, could Texas hold his lead.

For two miles he did so, then the ground grew rougher. There were rocks and patches of spiny cactus. Jack was forced to check a little and the shrieking red men came closer. They had stopped shooting and this, in itself, was ominous. It seemed to show they felt certain of capturing the white man alive.

The hills loomed closer. Jack looked at them longingly. Once he gained the pass his enemies would have to ride single file, and then his six-gun would come in. Jack was a first-class pistol shot. One Indian was gaining fast. Jack pulled his gun from its holster, half turned, and flung a bullet at the man. With a scream the buck dropped his rifle and toppled out of the saddle.

"One less," snapped Jack, and then his voice broke off in a gasp, for suddenly he had seen the reason for the Indians' confidence. Directly in front yawned an arroyo, a gulch cut by some cloudburst of the past. It looked to be at least twenty feet wide, and it ran across the desert in each direction for a mile or more.

Twenty feet would be nothing for a hunter or steeplechaser, but Texas was neither. He was just a cow-pony and he was tired. Yet Jack saw in an instant there was no choice. It was do or die, and, as he thought to himself, the odds were long on the "die." He checked the gallant little horse a trifle, then sent him full clip at the obstacle. Texas seemed to know what was required of him. Jack felt him gather himself and leap with all the power in his strong quarters. For a moment he saw the depths yawn beneath him. Amass of boulders at the bottom. He seemed to hang in the air for whole seconds. Then just as he felt certain that he and Texas together were going to their finish there came a shock. Texas had landed on the far side. He stumbled, nearly fell, then recovered himself and went on.

"Good lad!" cried Jack warmly, as he heard yells of fury behind him. Bullets began to fly again, but though they came unpleasantly close not one reached its mark. He glanced back over his shoulder and saw that the whole mob had turned and swung to the right. They were not chancing the jump, but going round the upper end of the arroyo.

"That's done the trick," said Jack, as he checked Texas a trifle. He had to save him for the climb up the pass, but with ten minutes' grace he felt fairly safe.

And then it happened. From under a scrubby bush a jack-rabbit leaped, nearly hitting Texas' nose. And Texas, tired as he was, shied, caught his near fetlock against a rock and stumbled badly.

"Silly old goat!" said Jack affectionately. "Don't seem like anything'll keep you from getting skittish. Helloa!" His tone changed sharply for Texas's stride had changed. He was limping, "Gone lame!" groaned Jack, as he leaped off and felt the injured leg.

Texas flinched. A muscle was badly strained. Jack looked back. The first Indians were just rounding the head of the ravine. Then he glanced forward. The hill rose steeply in front. There was only one thing to do. He had to gain the eye of the pass, pile a breastwork of rock and do his best to hold off the red devils. It was a slim chance, but the only one.


CHAPTER 2

HE remounted and poor limping Texas carried him bravely up the first part of the slope, then as the ground grew rougher he jumped off and ran up the hillside, dragging the sweating pony behind him.

Yells of triumph from the Indians told him that they had realized his plight. The first were now no more than half a mile away.

"Chances look mighty slim," muttered Jack; then as he came to the mouth of the pass he saw something that sent his spirits up with a jump. To the left and just inside the pass was a tunnel mouth. An old mine and big enough, Jack saw, to hold his pony as well as himself.

"Gee, but that's luck!" he cried, as he dragged Texas towards the opening. At the mouth lay the dump, a mass of earth and rocks smoothed by the storms of years, and Jack grinned happily as he saw that with a barricade at the mouth he would have an almost impregnable position. He led Texas inside, and found that at the inner end of the tunnel there was a cross cut where the pony could stand in safety. He pulled the reins over the good beast's head and leaving him dashed back to the opening.

The Indians, losing sight of their quarry, had checked a little, and Jack seized the chance to roll boulders together to form a breastwork. He had not much time and no more than half a dozen were in position when the Indians, realizing what he was up to, came galloping forward.

Jack flung himself down behind his rough wall, wiped the streaming perspiration from his eyes, looked to his revolver, laid out his cartridges, then gave his attention to the war-party. One —two—three—he counted twenty-six in all. And his cartridges numbered only twenty-three.

"Something wrong about this," he remarked with a crooked grin. "Well, maybe they'll get tired after I've shot twenty-three."

In spite of his protected position Jack was well aware that his chances were slim. He had no food and very little water. Even if they did not rush him the Indians had only to wait till night when they could steal in and finish him. Practically his only hope was that Alec might head a rescue party from Casey creek. The trouble was that Alec could not know of the fix his partner was in.

The nearest Indians were about a hundred yards away. They had pulled up, and the hot sun showed their fierce painted faces. Well they knew that Jack had no rifle. What they did not know was that his long barrelled army revolver had a much longer range than the ordinary cowboy's gun.

CRACK! came a loud report and the nearest Indian fell off his pony like a wet sack. Crack—crack—crack—five shots in rapid succession and another buck and a pony went down. It was a nasty jar for the red men, who bolted back out of range.

"Twenty-four left and only eighteen shells. I'll have to shoot better'n that," remarked Jack. Now the Indians began to shoot back. Rifle bullets hummed like angry bees. A splinter of stone cut Jack's arm, bringing blood, but it was only a scratch. Firing went on for a good five minutes, but Jack did not attempt to return it.

"Wish I had some of those cartridges they're wasting," he said. "But never mind. I'll fool 'em." The cracking of the rifles ceased at last, all was deadly still. Jack made no sign at all. At last a buck showed himself from behind a rock. He was within easy range yet Jack did not fire.

The buck dashed forward and ducked down behind another rock almost opposite the mine mouth. Another crossed more openly without drawing a shot, then others began to show themselves. A grim smile curved Jack's lips.

"Think they've finished me," he muttered. "Well, I shan't get any better targets." Quickly he aimed and fired, and three of his enemies rolled on the burning rocks before the rest reached shelter. Jack gave a yell of derision which was answered by savage war cries.

This time the pause was a long one, but Jack was not fooled.

"They're fixing to rush," he said to himself, and yet the rush did not come. Instead, firing broke out again, hotter and heavier than before. Jack merely grinned.

"That won't get you anywhere," he remarked, and just then there came a tinkle and a small pebble dropped almost on his head. In a flash Jack realized what was happening. The firing was only a ruse. Some of the bucks had climbed the steep above the cave mouth. In a flash he was on his feet and had leaped backwards. Just in time, for, with a grinding crash, a huge rock smashed down from above, falling exactly on the spot where he had been lying an instant earlier. At the same moment the rush came.

Jack sprang to the side of the tunnel and lay flat. Then he set to pumping lead at the charging Indians. Never had he shot better. Four went down to his five shots, the rest dived to cover among the rocks opposite. The barricade was smashed to atoms and the bullets were coming almost straight into the mouth of the tunnel. Jack squirmed away and crawled back into the darkness.

Lead beat the walls above him but he gained the cross-cut in safety and rose to his feet. He was safe for the minute.

For the minute—yes, but not for many minutes. The red men would very soon realize just where he was, and then—then would come the rush and he knew that he could not stop it. He had less than a dozen cartridges left.

It came to him that he could not leave Texas to the mercy of these savages. With their usual callous brutality they would ride the poor lame horse to death. One merciful bullet must be saved for him. Jack was very fond of his horse, and the thought of killing him made him feel sick. Yet it had to be done. He struck a match in order to see the exact spot where the bullet must be placed.

As the light shone up in that dark place it showed a shelf cut in the rock about four feet up and on it lying what looked like some yellow sticks. With hands that shook with sudden excitement Jack reached up and took one down. Hope which had been nearly dead flared up again in his heart, for these were sticks of dynamite.


CHAPTER 3

THERE were half a dozen of them, and, what was equally important, a coil of fuse. The place was dry as bone and the explosive appeared to be as good as the long ago day when the miners had left it.

"Not yet, Texas," said Jack with a harsh chuckle. "We'll teach them bucks a thing or two before we've finished." Quickly he cut the fuse and fixed a length to each of four sticks. Then he stood waiting.

The storm of lead had ceased. The Indians, he knew, were gathering for their rush. He reloaded his pistol, put it back in its holster, then, with three sticks of dynamite in his pockets and one in his hand, he crept back into the adit.

All was quiet—ominously quiet. Jack could not see his enemies, but he knew as well as if he had his eyes on them, that the painted devils were crawling up the slope to the mouth of the mine. They might see him. If they did he would be riddled in a moment. He had to risk that. After all, there was not much light in the rock tunnel. So creeping close under the left-hand wall he made what haste he could to the mouth.

He was nearly there when there came a shrill yell from the opposite side of the pass, and he knew at once that his enemies had posted one of their number high enough on the opposite side to watch the inside of the tunnel. There was a loose rock, a boulder fallen from the roof, close to the left-hand wall. Jack flung himself behind it and just in time, for rifles crashed again and the air was full of stinging, leaping lead. One bullet grazed his left shoulder. It burnt like fire, but Jack paid no attention. Striking a match he lit the fuse of his first stick and as the fuse began to fizz pitched it straight out of the cave mouth.

There followed a roar like a thunder-clap. A fountain of smoke and earth darkened the entrance, then silence.

"That'll learn 'em," growled Jack, as he flung himself forward and gained his broken barricade. There was just enough left of it to shelter him so long as he lay flat. In the slope outside was a hole big enough to bury a horse and around it the bodies of half a dozen Indians. They were not pretty to look at, but Jack had no time to look at them. All his attention was for the scout on the opposite side. There he was, standing up. The sunlight blazed on his painted, savage face, and he was in the act of raising his rifle to his shoulder. Jack's pistol and the Indian's rifle flamed at the same instant. Jack felt a blow on his left leg, but the Indian, shot through the chest, dropped and rolled all the way down the slope to the bottom of the pass.

"No good Injun except a dead Injun," remarked Jack, and seeing he was safe for the moment, drew up his leg. The bullet, he found, had cut through the flesh and muscle of the calf but had not damaged the bone. The wound was bleeding badly and Jack tore off his neckerchief and made a sort of tourniquet which did something to stop the flow of blood. But he could not stop it altogether, and when he tried to use the leg the bleeding began again.

Not a live Indian was in sight, but Jack could see their horses in the distance, so they had not yet given up. He knew what would happen next if he stayed where he was. More boulders would be rolled from above. There was nothing for it but to crawl painfully back into the cross-cut.

Jack drank some water, he tightened the bandage on his leg and waited. The wait was long but the quiet did not deceive him, for he knew that these Indians meant to have him. They could never go back and admit that one white man had beaten them. They had to take his scalp with them.

His leg still bled, his strength was draining slowly away. He hoped the rush would come before he was too weak to deal with it. Hope was pretty nearly dead, yet he meant to go out fighting.

At long last his ears caught a faint rustling sound. He peered round the corner, and as he did so a rifle barked and he felt the wind of the bullet past his face. But he had seen enough. The whole pack were in the entrance. He could never stop them with his pistol, and he knew they counted on his fearing to use another stick of dynamite. That would surely bring the roof down and bury him alive.

"But that's just where you miss your guess," said Jack grimly, as he touched a match to the fuse of his second stick. The rush of the Indians drowned the faint crackle of the match and the hiss of the fuse, and quite calmly Jack climbed to his feet and hurled his deadly missile into their faces.

The roar of the explosion was the last thing Jack heard. He felt himself flung backwards, something dropped on his head like a ton of lead. He knew no more.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

"Dead!" It was Alec's voice harsh and bitter, yet with a tone of awe. "But, by gum, he took the lot with him. Nigh on to thirty of the red devils."

"Where'd he get the dynamite? That's what I'm a wondering," said a second man. Jack opened his eyes.

"Found it right here," he answered hoarsely.

"Dead! He ain't dead," cried the second man who wore a sheriff's star on his chest, "Here, lift him out into the air."

"Go slow," muttered Jack. "Hole in my leg. But—but I ain't dead anyways." Then he dropped off again into a faint of weakness.

When he roused a second time he found himself lying in a comfortable bed in the little hotel at Casey Creek. Alec sat beside him.

"Helloa, old son," said Jack. Alec started up.

"Gosh, I thought you was asleep," he cried.

"I reckon I been asleep long enough," said Jack soberly. "Bout time I got out o' bed and started scratching for a living. They didn't leave us a head o' beef, did they, Alec?"

"No more than you left one of 'em alive, Jack. But don't worry. I reckon we can buy a fresh lot." Jack's eyes widened.

"Are you crazy or am I? You know we ain't got the price of one longhorn between us."

"I ain't, but you have, son. You don't need to work any more unless you've a mind to."

"Now I know it's you are the crazy one," growled Jack.

"Crazy—nothing. When you let off that there last charge you busted more'n them Injuns. The rocks we pulled off you was full of gold. Sheriff Allen, he've filed the claim for you, and I reckon you'll be one o' these here millionaires afore you're much older."

Jack sat up. His eyes were gleaming.

"Millionaire be darned. But if what you say is true, Alec, I reckon I'll be a cattle king—and you'll be another."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.