The Girl from Montana (Chapter 6, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 6

He stepped boldly around the green barrier, and his first glance told him
she was lying there still asleep; but the consciousness of another
presence held him from going away. There, coiled on the ground with
venomous fangs extended and eyes glittering like slimy jewels, was a
rattlesnake, close beside her.

For a second he gazed with a kind of fascinated horror, and his brain
refused to act. Then he knew he must do something, and at once. He had
read of serpents and travellers' encounters with them, but no memory of
what was to be done under such circumstances came. Shoot? He dared not. He
would be more likely to kill the girl than the serpent, and in any event
would precipitate the calamity. Neither was there any way to awaken the
girl and drag her from peril, for the slightest movement upon her part
would bring the poisoned fangs upon her.

He cast his eyes about for some weapon, but there was not a stick or a
stone in sight. He was a good golf-player; if he had a loaded stick, he
could easily take the serpent's head off, he thought; but there was no
stick. There was only one hope, he felt, and that would be to attract the
creature to himself; and he hardly dared move lest the fascinated gaze
should close upon the victim as she lay there sweetly sleeping, unaware of
her new peril.

Suddenly he knew what to do. Silently he stepped back out of sight, tore
off his coat, and then cautiously approached the snake again, holding the
coat up before him. There was an instant's pause when he calculated
whether the coat could drop between the snake and the smooth brown arm in
front before the terrible fangs would get there; and then the coat
dropped, the man bravely holding one end of it as a wall between the
serpent and the girl, crying to her in an agony of frenzy to awaken and
run.

There was a terrible moment in which he realized that the girl was saved
and he himself was in peril of death, while he held to the coat till the
girl was on her feet in safety. Then he saw the writhing coil at his feet
turn and fasten its eyes of fury upon him. He was conscious of being
uncertain whether his fingers could let go the coat, and whether his
trembling knees could carry him away before the serpent struck; then it
was all over, and he and the girl were standing outside the sage-brush,
with the sound of the pistol dying away among the echoes, and the fine
ache of his arm where her fingers had grasped him to drag him from danger.

The serpent was dead. She had shot it. She took that as coolly as she had
taken the bird in its flight. But she stood looking at him with great eyes
of gratitude, and he looked at her amazed that they were both alive, and
scarcely understanding all that had happened.

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