The pig's huge jaws road opened with deliberate width. One forefoot was pinning the helplessly battling dog to earth, while she made ready to tear out his throat.
The second shot whizzed about her head and face. Two or three of the pellets entered the open mouth.
With a sound that was neither grunt nor howl, yet which savored of both, the sow lurched back from the flash and roar and the anguishing pain in her tender mouth. The Mistress whirled aloft the empty and useless gun and brought it crashing down on the pig's skull. The carved mahogany stock broke in two. The jar of impact knocked the weapon from its wielder's numbed fingers.
The sow seemed scarce to notice the blow. She continued backing away; and champed her jaws as if to locate the cause of the agony in her mouth. Her eyes were inflamed and dazed by the flash of the gun.
The Mistress took advantage of the moment's breathing space to bend over the staggeringly rising Lad; and, catching him by the ruff, to urge him toward the house. For once, the big collie refused to obey. He knew pig nature better than did she. And he knew the sow was not yet finished with the battle. He strove to break free from the loved grasp and to stagger back to his adversary.
The Mistress, by main strength, drew him, snarling and protesting, toward the safety of the house. Panting, bleeding, reeling, pitiably weak, yet he resisted the tender urging; and kept twisting his bloody head back for a glimpse of his foe. Nor was the precaution useless. For, before the Mistress and her wounded dog were half-way across the remaining strip of lawn, the sow recovered enough of her deflected wits and fury to lower her head and gallop down after them.
At her first step, Lad, by a stupendous effort, wrenched free from the Mistress's clasp; and flung himself between her and the charging mass of pork. But, as he did so, he found breath for a trumpet-bark that sounded more like a rallying cry.
For, dulled as were his ears, they were still keener than any human's. And they had caught the sound of eight flying paws amid the dead leaves of the drive. Wolf and Bruce, coming home at a leisurely trot, from their ramble in the forest, had heard the two reports of the shotgun; and had broken into a run. They read the meaning in Lad's exhausted bark, as clearly as humans might read a printed word. And it lent wings to their feet.