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The Valley of Spiders
Towards mid-day the three pursuers came abruptly round a bend in the torrent bed upon the sight of a very broad and spacious valley. The difficult and winding trench of pebbles along which they had tracked the fugitives for so long expanded to a broad slope, and with a common impulse the three men left the trail, and rode to a little eminence set with olive-dun trees, and there halted, the two others, as became them, a little behind the man with the silver-studded bridle.
For a space they scanned the great expanse below them with eager eyes. It spread remoter and remoter, with only a few clusters of sere thorn bushes here and there, and the dim suggestions of some now waterless ravine to break its desolation of yellow grass. Its purple distances melted at last into the bluish slopes of the further hills--hills it might be of a greener kind--and above them, invisibly supported, and seeming indeed to hang in the blue, were the snow-clad summits of mountains--that grew larger and bolder to the northwestward as the sides of the valley drew together. And westward the valley opened until a distant darkness under the sky told where the forests began. But the three men looked neither east nor west, but only steadfastly across the valley.
The gaunt man with the scarred lip was the first to speak. "Nowhere," he said, with a sigh of disappointment in his voice. "But, after all, they had a full day's start."
"They don't know we are after them," said the little man on the white horse.
"She would know," said the leader bitterly, as if speaking to himself.
"Even then they can't go fast. They've got no beast but the mule, and all to-day the girl's foot has been bleeding----"
The man with the silver bridle flashed a quick intensity of rage on him. "Do you think I haven't seen that?" he snarled.
"It helps, anyhow," whispered the little man to himself.
The gaunt man with the scarred lip stared impassively. "They can't be over the valley," he said. "If we ride hard----"
He glanced at the white horse and paused.
"Curse all white horses!" said the man with the silver bridle, and turned to scan the beast his curse included.
The little man looked down between the melancholy ears of his steed.
"I did my best," he said.