The cartridges, subjected to all that water of the day before, were worthless. The third of Barger's shots was fired from a closer range, as the eager creature closed in upon his enemy. It let the daylight enter Van's hat, near the top. Van had snapped every shell in his weapon, with amazing rapidity to no avail. The cylinder had flung around like a wheel, but the sounds were those of a toy.
He let out a yell of exultation as he came to the trail. Van turned in his saddle instantly, beholding the man in the pass. He knew that sinister form. His pony had bounded forward, frightened by the cry. Down went Van's hand to his own revolver, and the gun came up cocked for action. One glance he cast up the trail ahead and saw through Barger's trick.
Their drivers dismounted to join the gathering throng. One of the men was Bostwick, down from the hills. He had searched for Beth at Mrs. Dick's, and then had followed here. "Barger! Barger's dead in camp and the 'Laughing Water' claim was stolen and Culver killed!" One man bawled it to the crowd and it sped to Bostwick's ears.
Barger's speech was the first returning function. It was faint, and weak, and blasphemous. "It's hell," he said, "when God Almighty turns agin a man. Ain't the sheriff's enough without a thing like that?" His thumb made a gesture towards the river, which he cursed abominably cursing it for a trap, a seeming benefit, here in the desert, ready to eat a man alive. Van made no reply.
Van jerked in the rope with one impatient gesture. He coiled it swiftly, but with nicety. Then round and round he swung the gaping loop and threw with all his strength. For a second the loop hung snake-like in the air, above the convict's head. Then it fell about him, splashed the curdled sand, and was pulled up taut, embracing Barger's waist. "Hoist it up under your arms!" called Van.
The bullet went wide, and Barger fired again, quickly, but more steadily. That one landed. It got Van just along the arm, burning in a long, shallow wound that barely brought the blood. Van's gun was down, despite Suvy's panic of cavortings. He pulled the trigger. The hammer leaped two ways, up and back but the gun made no report, no buck, no cloud to answer Barger's.