The Heritage of the Desert (Chapter 6, page 2 of 5)


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Chapter 6

Jack presently found a fresh deer track, and trailed it into the cedars, then up the slope to where the huge rocks massed.

Suddenly a cry from Mescal halted him; another, a piercing scream of mortal fright, sent him flying down the slope. He bounded out of the cedars into the open.

The white, well-bunched flock had spread, and streams of jumping sheep fled frantically from an enormous silver-backed bear.

As the bear struck right and left, a brute-engine of destruction, Jack sent a bullet into him at long range. Stung, the grizzly whirled, bit at his side, and then reared with a roar of fury.

But he did not see Jack. He dropped down and launched his huge bulk for Mescal. The blood rushed back to Jack's heart, and his empty veins seemed to freeze.

The grizzly hurdled the streams of sheep. Terror for Mescal dominated Jack; if he had possessed wings he could not have flown quickly enough to head the bear. Checking himself with a suddenness that fetched him to his knees, he levelled the rifle. It waved as if it were a stick of willow. The bead-sight described a blurred curve round the bear. Yet he shot--in vain--again--in vain.

Above the bleat of sheep and trample of many hoofs rang out Mescal's cry, despairing.

She had turned, her hands over her breast. Wolf spread his legs before her and crouched to spring, mane erect, jaws wide.

By some lightning flash of memory, August Naab's words steadied Jack's shaken nerves. He aimed low and ahead of the running bear. Down the beast went in a sliding sprawl with a muffled roar of rage. Up he sprang, dangling a useless leg, yet leaping swiftly forward. One blow sent the attacking dog aside. Jack fired again. The bear became a wrestling, fiery demon, death-stricken, but full of savage fury. Jack aimed low and shot again.

Slowly now the grizzly reared, his frosted coat blood-flecked, his great head swaying. Another shot. There was one wide sweep of the huge paw, and then the bear sank forward, drooping slowly, and stretched all his length as if to rest.

Mescal, recalled to life, staggered backward. Between her and the outstretched paw was the distance of one short stride.

Jack, bounding up, made sure the bear was dead before he looked at Mescal. She was faint. Wolf whined about her. Piute came running from the cedars. Her eyes were still fixed in a look of fear.

"I couldn't run--I couldn't move," she said, shuddering. A blush drove the white from her cheeks as she raised her face to Jack. "He'd soon have reached me."

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