Then Mollie's voice, clear and loud, startled the crowd. ``You better not, Dave Branham, fer if you do and this other gal puts that thing on you, you'll never--'' What penalty she was going to inflict, I don't know, for the Knight of the Cumberland, half kneeling, sprang suddenly to his feet and interrupted her. ``Wait a minute, will ye?'' he said almost fiercely, and at the sound of his voice Mollie rose to her feet and her face blanched.
``Lord God!'' she said almost in anguish, and then she dropped quickly to her seat again.
The Knight of the Cumberland had gone back to his horse as though to get something from his saddle. Like lightning he vaulted into the saddle, and as the black horse sprang toward the opening tore his mask from his face, turned in his stirrups, and brandished his spear with a yell of defiance, while a dozen voices shouted:
``The Wild Dog!'' Then was there an uproar.
``Goddle mighty!'' shouted the Hon. Sam. ``I didn't do it, I swear I didn't know it. He's tricked me--he's tricked me! Don't shoot--you might hit that hoss!''
There was no doubt about the Hon. Sam's innocence. Instead of turning over an outlaw to the police, he had brought him into the inner shrine of law and order and he knew what a political asset for his enemies that insult would be. And there was no doubt of the innocence of Mollie and Buck as they stood, Mollie wringing her hands and Buck with open mouth and startled face. There was no doubt about the innocence of anybody other than Dave Branham and the dare-devil Knight of the Cumberland.
Marston had clutched at the Wild Dog's bridle and missed and the outlaw struck savagely at him with his spear. Nobody dared to shoot because of the scattering crowd, but every knight and every mounted policeman took out after the outlaw and the beating of hoofs pounded over the little mound and toward Poplar Hill. Marston ran to his horse at the upper end, threw his saddle on, and hesitated--there were enough after the Wild Dog and his horse was blown. He listened to the yells and sounds of the chase encircling Poplar Hill. The outlaw was making for Lee. All at once the yells and hoof-beats seemed to sound nearer and Marston listened, astonished. The Wild Dog had wheeled and was coming back; he was going to make for the Gap, where sure safety lay. Marston buckled his girth and as he sprang on his horse, unconsciously taking his spear with him, the Wild Dog dashed from the trees at the far end of the field. As Marston started the Wild Dog saw him, pulled something that flashed from under his coat of mail, thrust it back again, and brandishing his spear, he came, full speed and yelling, up the middle of the field. It was a strange thing to happen in these modern days, but Marston was an officer of the law and was between the Wild Dog and the Ford and liberty through the Gap, into the hills. The Wild Dog was an outlaw. It was Marston's duty to take him.
The law does not prescribe with what weapon the lawless shall be subdued, and Marston's spear was the only weapon he had. Moreover, the Wild Dog's yell was a challenge that set his blood afire and the girl both loved was looking on. The crowd gathered the meaning of the joust-- the knights were crashing toward each other with spears at rest. There were a few surprised oaths from men, a few low cries from women, and then dead silence in which the sound of hoofs on the hard turf was like thunder. The Blight's face was white and the little sister was gripping my arm with both hands. A third horseman shot into view out of the woods at tight angles, to stop them, and it seemed that the three horses must crash together in a heap. With a moan the Blight buried her face on my shoulder. She shivered when the muffled thud of body against body and the splintering of wood rent the air; a chorus of shrieks arose about her, and when she lifted her frightened face Marston, the Discarded, was limp on the ground, his horse was staggering to his feet, and the Wild Dog was galloping past her, his helmet gleaming, his eyes ablaze, his teeth set, the handle of his broken spear clinched in his right hand, and blood streaming down the shoulder of the black horse. She heard the shots that were sent after him, she heard him plunge into the river, and then she saw and heard no more.