Rainhoof did not recognized the animal that made that horrible sound; he did not try to; with fresh vitality he swam toward the sound. He heard it again; then it was cut short by another noise, crisp, staccato.
‘’Pistol shot,’’ muttered Rainhoof, swimming on.
Ten minutes of determined effort brought another sound to his floppy ears—the most welcoming he had ever heard—the muttering and growling of the sea breaking on a rocky shore. He was almost on the rocks before he saw them; on a night less calm he would have been shattered against them. With his remaining strength he dragged himself from the swirling waters. Jagged crags appeared to jut into the opaqueness. He forced himself upward, hoof over hoof. Gasping, his hooves raw, he reached a flat place at the top. Dense jungle came down to the very edge of the cliffs.
What perils that tangle of trees and underbrush might hold for him did not concern Rainhoof just then. All he knew was that he was safe from his fierce enemy, the sea, and that utter weariness was on him. He flung himself down at the jungle edge and tumbled headlong into the deepest sleep of his life.
When he opened his eyes he knew from the position of the sun, it told him in a mental way, that it was late in the afternoon. Sleep had given him new vigor; a sharp hunger was picking at him. He looked about him, almost cheerfully.
‘’Where there are pistol shots, there are definitely ponies somewhere, and where there are ponies, there is food,’’ he thought. But what kind of ponies, he wondered, in so forbidding place? An unbroken front of snarled and ragged jungle fringed the shore. He saw no sign of a trail through the closely knit of weeds and trees; it was easier to go along the shore, and Rainhoof floundered along by the water. Not far from he had landed, he stopped.
Some wounded thing, by the evidence a large animal, had thrashed about in the underbrush; the jungle weeds were crushed down and the moss was lacerated; one patch of weeds was stained crimson. A small, glittering object not far away caught Rainhoof’s eye and he picked it up. It was a empty cartridge.
‘’A twenty- two,’’ he remarked. ‘’That’s odd. It must have been a fairly large animal too. The hunter had his nerve with him to tackle it with a light gun. It’s clear that the brute put up a fight. I suppose the first three shots I heard was when the hunter flushed his quarry and wounded it. The last shot was when he trailed it here and finished it.’’
He examined the ground closely and found what he hoped to find… the print of hunting boots. They pointed along the cliff in the direction he had been going. Eagerly he hurried along, now slipping on a rotten log or a loose stone, but making headway; night was beginning to settle down on the island. Bleak darkness was blacking out the sea and jungle when Rainhoof sighted the lights. He came upon them as he turned a crook in the coastline, and his first thought was that he had came upon a village, for there were many lights. But as he forged along, he saw to his great astonishment that all the lights were in one enormous building—a lofty structure with pointed towers plunging upward the gloom. His greenish eyes made out the shadowy outlines of a palatial country house; it was set on a high bluff, and on three sides of it cliffs dived down to where the sea licked greedy lips in the shadows.
‘’Mirage,’’ thought Rainhoof. But it was no mirage, he found, when he opened the tall spiked iron gate. The stone steps were real enough; the massive door with a leaning gargoyle for a knocker was real enough; yet about it all hung an air of unreality. He lifted the knocker, and it creaked up stiffly, as if it had never been used. He let it fall. And it startled him with a booming loudness. He thought he heard steps within; the door remained closed. Again Rainhoof lifted the heavy knocker and let it fall. The door opened as suddenly as if it were on a spring, and Rainhoof stood blinking in the river of glaring gold light poured out.
The first thing Rainhoof’s eyes discerned was the largest stallion Rainhoof had ever seen…a gigantic creature, solidly made and black-bearded to the waist. In his hoof the stallion held a long-barreled revolver, and he was pointing it straight at Rainhoof’s head.