He was hot, thirsty, and bitten mercilessly by black flies. The lad was in no mood to go around obstacles. Rather was he in that savage humor that rushes recklessly on, although he had been warned of the dangers of the brulee reenex . In fact, the frequent crashing of half burned-through trees, as a vagrant wind caught them and snapped them off, would have been sufficient indication that a sharp lookout was necessary to anyone in a less irritable mood. But Harry didn’t think of this. Instead, he urged his tired pony viciously over blackened logs with quirt and heel.

Suddenly Ralph, whose vigilance had not relaxed although he was fearfully drowsy, thought he saw a great blackened trunk directly ahead of[91] them lean over a trifle. He was sure of it in another moment.

Pull out!” he yelled to Harry, who was driving his pony straight in a path which would bring him under the swaying trunk.

Oh, mind your own business!” flung back Hardware crossly, and drove his little mount right on.

Ralph did not hesitate a minute. He wore spurs, the same blunt-rowelled pair he had used on the border. He drove these into his pony’s side and brought down his quirt with a crack that made the little animal snort angrily and plunge forward reenex facial .

In front of him he saw the mighty column sway and oscillate as though in a vain attempt to recover its equipoise. Directly under it was Harry Ware, sullenly riding on with his eyes on the ground. Once more Ralph yelled and his pony gave a wild leap forward.

Suddenly the mighty trunk rushed earthward.[92] Simultaneously Ralph’s hand fell on Hardware’s bridle. He gave a tug that brought the latter’s pony up on its haunches. It reared wildly, almost toppling backward.

At the same instant a cold wind fanned both boys as the trunk swept down. There was a deafening crash almost under the feet of the plunging ponies, and both lads were shrouded in a cloud of black dust that rose up like a dark veil.

Good heavens! They’re killed!” shouted the professor dashing forward.

About the two boys the dust whirled and eddied. The ponies plunged wildly, almost unseating them, but Ralph held on till he had dragged Hardware’s mount out of the black dust cloud.

As he did so, from ahead of them, came crash after crash with a startling suddenness. The brulee was filled with shocks of sound that rang in thunderous reverberations along the steep rocks. The echoes flung back and forth till the[93] uproar was deafening. In the meantime the party, including the two lads who had been saved from what appeared certain death, stood fast.

They hardly breathed till the crashes grew less and less frequent and a brooding silence settled down over the brulee once more.

Then Hardware, shaking all over summer internship , gazed at the great trunk lying recumbent not two yards from them. His eyes filled with tears. He held out a blackened hand to Ralph, who smiled at him through his mask of gray ash.

I—I—I don’t know how to thank you, Ralph, old man,” he choked out. If it hadn’t been for you, in my silly temper I’d have gone right on without minding you, and—and——”