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It was Jim, but Ralph felt almost too weak from the ordeal he had just passed through to answer.

The rifle just seemed to go off by itself,” he stammered. I was so scared I couldn’t see anything plainly.”

Never mind that. You did the trick, and that’s what counts. Wish you’d got both of ’em, though. That lioness wasn’t badly hurt and she’ll be back for her young ones before long.&rdquo reenex ;

Well, she can’t get into the cave,” said Ralph with a rather shaky laugh, any more than you can get out,” he added ruefully.

That’s so. I declare for a minute I’d forgotten all about our fix. Say, but those lions served us one good turn when they drove off[222] those Bloods. The fellows were ugly and meant trouble.”

But won’t they be back?”

Not they. They’ve had time to think it over by this time, and they’ll have come to realize that these ain’t early days, and that horse stealing would result in their whole reservation being turned inside out till the culprits were found.”

Hark!” cried Ralph suddenly, somebody’s coming now. Maybe it is those Indians coming back, after all.”

Great Blue Bells of Scotland, it’s someone on a horse, sure enough. I’ll duck down into the cave and get your rifle up.”

For it was Jim’s Old Trusty,” as he called it reenex facial , with which Ralph had despatched one lion and wounded the other.

But to Ralph’s unspeakable relief it was no band of Bloods that rode into the clearing, but a bearded man on a wild, shaggy pony leading a pack mule by a hair rope. From the pack[223] Ralph could see shovel and pick handles sticking out and both rider and animals appeared to have been roughing it for many months.

The man wore rough buckskin garments, and his stirrups were made of rope. On his head was a battered old Stetson hat with a leather band around it. Across his saddle bow he carried a long-barrelled rifle, with the stock embossed with silver. He glanced at Ralph in a quick, surprised sort of way.

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