Molly McDonald (Chapter 5, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 5

There were times when Hamlin's mental processes seemed slow, almost sluggish, but this was never true in moments of emergency and peril. Then he became swift, impetuous, seemingly borne forward by some inspiring instinct. It was for such experiences as this that he remained in the service--his whole nature responding almost joyously to the bugle-call of action, of imminent danger, his nerves steadying into rock. These were the characteristics which had won him his chevrons in the unrewarded service of the frontier, and, when scarcely more than a boy, had put a captain's bars on the gray collar of his Confederate uniform.

Now, as he struggled to his knees, gripping the iron foot-rail with one hand, a single glance gave him a distinct impression of their desperate situation. With that knowledge, there likewise flashed over his mind the only possible means of defence. The Indians, numbering at least thirty, had ridden recklessly out from under the protection of the river bank, spreading to right and left, as their ponies' hoofs struck the turf, and were now charging down upon the disabled coach, yelling madly and brandishing their guns. The very reckless abandon of their advance expressed the conception they had of the situation--they had witnessed the flight of the two fugitives, the runaway of the wheelers, and believed the remaining passengers would be helpless victims. They came on, savage and confident, not anticipating a fight, but a massacre--shrieking prisoners, and a glut of revenge.

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