Chapter XXXIII. Walter Saves Another's Life
 

Meanwhile the feelings of Walter were hard to describe. He saw that perhaps his only chance of life lay in remaining quiet and letting the mistake remain uncorrected.

On the other hand, the poor wretch was as much entitled to life as he.

"He's the hoss thief!" shrieked the tramp. "Ask him if he isn't."

The leader, who had him by the collar, paused, and the words of the captive seemed to make some impression on him.

"We don't want to make no mistake," he said. "Mebbe we might ask him."

"You hear what this man says?"

"Yes," answered Walter, in husky accents.

"Is it true? Are you the hoss thief?"

"No!"

And the poor tramp would have been dragged away, but Walter, his face pale, but resolute, held up his hand to secure attention.

"Listen!" he said. "I am not a horse thief, but I was put here charged with stealing the horse of Colonel Owen."

"Just as I said, gentlemen," chimed in the inebriate.

"Then we've got the wrong one!" said the leader. "Here, you can go!"

"We must have you!" went on the leader, approaching Walter's cell.

"What do you want to do with me?" asked Walter, with sinking heart.

"String you up! That's the way we serve hoss thieves!"

"Gentlemen!" said Walter, "you are making a terrible mistake.

"Didn't you say just now you was the thief?"

"No; I said I was put in here charged with horse-stealing."

An assault was made on the door of his cell, and within three minutes Walter was dragged out.

He began to speak, but was roughly ordered to shut up.

The line of march was resumed, and a quarter of a mile distant they passed through a gate and began the ascent of a hill, at the summit of which was a grove of tall trees. Walter shuddered and his heart sank within him, for he understood only too well what fate was in store for him.