Even after her mad race, the little gray broncho was breathing deeply and easily; but Weldon could feel his own breath come short. Banged in open order before him were a full half-hundred of the enemy, bearded, black-coated, bandoliered, grim and stolid and ripe of years. Beside him were the new captain of the troop and seven men. They were and alert; but there were only nine of them in all. And the rest of the troop, it seemed to him, were half the veldt- length away. Vaguely he wondered whether their distant khaki coats would look as purple as did the distant khaki-colored hills. Then, quite inconsequently, as he raised his rifle, he noticed that one of the Boers had a button hanging loosely on its threads from the front of his coat. He was rather surprised, the next instant, to see the Boer pitch forward headlong in the dust. It was some time afterward that he thought to connect the falling with the crack of his own rifle.
Piggie bounded sidewise, as the mount of the trooper next Weldon dropped and lay whimpering like a hurt child. Then she steadied to the touch of Weldon's hand upon her neck. It was not the first time he had guided her, unscathed, through a leaden shower. She would trust him yet once again. As he raised his rifle, her wiry legs were as steady as four iron rods. He saw another Boer fall and yet another and a third; but one khaki-colored figure lay stiffly beside him, and another was dragging itself away to a corner of the kraal, to give greater space to its unwounded comrades. And still the bullets whizzed about them, thick and ever thicker.
Piggie shied again. This time a bullet had grazed her neck, and the sight of the narrow sear filled Weldon's mind with a dull, unreasoning rage. Brutal to aim at the plucky mounts who bore their riders so gallantly into the flight where all defensive power was denied themselves! He paused long enough to pat the firm gray neck, to feel the answering pressure against his hand. Then he raised his rifle again and took careful aim, as he breathed a wordless prayer that chance might guide his bullet into the man who had scarred his faithful friend. Another Boer dropped; Weldon hoped it was by his own bullet. Then both he and the gray broncho pricked up their ears as, close on their flank, they heard the beating of galloping hoofs.
In the shock of the scrimmage that followed, there was scant time to take thought of friend or of foe. On the heels of his new captain as, of old, he had been on the heels of Captain Frazer, Weldon and the gray broncho were in the thick of the fight. Then, as the Boers sullenly fell backwards, Weldon became aware of a familiar voice in his ears.
"Whisht, little feller! It's Paddy," the voice said in a spooky undertone, as its owner ranged up alongside the gray broncho.
"Paddy!" Weldon stared at him in unfeigned astonishment. "What in the name of heaven are you doing here, man?"
With perfect composure Paddy squared himself in the saddle.
"Little Canuck dear, as I told you before, heaven is a state of eternal peace, and therefore an undesirable abode in these hot times. I prefer a whiff of brimstone, myself; and, by the powers, I've been getting, it." As he spoke, he took off his hat and showed a neat trio of holes in the left brim.