To Gale it seemed long in coming. Such a delay always aggravated the slow fire within him. He had nothing of Ladd's patience. He wanted action. The gray shadow below thinned out, and the patch of mesquite made a blot upon the pale valley. The day dawned.
Still Ladd waited. He grew more silent, grimmer as the time of action approached. Gale wondered what the plan of attack would be. Yet he did not ask. He waited ready for orders.
The valley grew clear of gray shadow except under leaning walls on the eastern side. Then a straight column of smoke rose from among the mesquites. Manifestly this was what Ladd had been awaiting. He took the long .405 from its sheath and tried the lever. Then he lifted a cartridge belt from the pommel of his saddle. Every ring held a shell and these shells were four inches long. He buckled the belt round him.
Ladd led the way down the slope until he reached a position that commanded the rising of the trail from a level. It was the only place a man or horse could leave the valley for the pass.
"Dick, here's your stand. If any raider rides in range take a crack at him....Now I want the lend of your hoss."
"Blanco Sol!" exclaimed Gale, more in amazement that Ladd should ask for the horse than in reluctance to lend him.
"Will you let me have him?" Ladd repeated, almost curtly.
A smile momentarily chased the dark cold gloom that had set upon the ranger's lean face.