Buffalo Bill Among the Sioux
THE FIGHT IN THE RAPIDS
Colonel Prentiss Ingraham
Author of the celebrated “Buffalo Bill” stories, published in the
Border Stories. For other titles see catalogue.
STREET & SMITH CORPORATION
79-89 Seventh Avenue, New York
By STREET & SMITH
Buffalo Bill Among the Sioux
(Printed in the United States of America)
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign
languages, including the Scandinavian.
|IN APPRECIATION OF WILLIAM F. CODY||1|
|I.||WILD BILL’S CLOSE CALL.||5|
|II.||AT FORT LARNED.||11|
|III.||AN IMPENDING ATTACK.||18|
|IV.||A BATTLE WITH REDSKINS.||21|
|V.||WHARTON IN PERIL.||27|
|VII.||A BRISK ENGAGEMENT.||41|
|VIII.||TREED BY A GRIZZLY.||46|
|IX.||A STRANGE STORY.||51|
|X.||IN THE RAPIDS.||63|
|XI.||A DARING DESIGN.||75|
|XII.||A PRECIPICE STRUGGLE.||81|
|XIII.||A TERRIBLE FATE.||88|
|XV.||AT DANGER DIVIDE.||107|
|XVI.||THE DEATH RIDERS.||113|
|XVII.||THE PRICE OF A LIFE.||119|
|XVIII.||A STRANGE DISCOVERY.||131|
|XIX.||EVIL HEART’S SUICIDE.||141|
|XX.||THE RESCUE OF STEVE.||149|
|XXI.||TROOPERS ON THE TRAIL.||154|
|XXIII.||UTES AGAINST SNAKES.||162|
|XXV.||TRAPPED BY DEATH RIDERS.||178|
|XXVI.||IN NICK’S CAVERN.||185|
|XXVII.||A HARD TASK.||191|
|XXVIII.||STORMING THE CAVERN.||195|
|XXIX.||THE HAPPY RETURN.||204|
|XXX.||BUFFALO BILL IN A WRECK.||208|
|XXXI.||JOE CONGO’S DIPLOMACY.||219|
|XXXIII.||A TERRIBLE MISTAKE.||241|
|XXXIV.||ARRESTED FOR MURDER.||246|
|XXXV.||A TALK FOR A LIFE.||253|
|XXXVI.||BLACK PANTHER’S HAND.||261|
|XXXVII.||RUNNING THE GANTLET.||267|
|XXXVIII.||AT THE TORTURE STAKE.||274|
|XXXIX.||AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR.||286|
|XL.||TOO MUCH FIRE WATER.||295|
|XLI.||BLACK PANTHER’S END.||304|
IN APPRECIATION OF WILLIAM F. CODY
It is now some generations since Josh Billings, Ned Buntline, and Colonel Prentiss Ingraham, intimate friends of Colonel William F. Cody, used to forgather in the office of Francis S. Smith, then proprietor of the New York Weekly. It was a dingy little office on Rose Street, New York, but the breath of the great outdoors stirred there when these old-timers got together. As a result of these conversations, Colonel Ingraham and Ned Buntline began to write of the adventures of Buffalo Bill for Street & Smith.
Colonel Cody was born in Scott County, Iowa, February 26, 1846. Before he had reached his teens, his father, Isaac Cody, with his mother and two sisters, migrated to Kansas, which at that time was little more than a wilderness.
When the elder Cody was killed shortly afterward in the Kansas “Border War,” young Bill assumed the difficult role of family breadwinner. During 1860, and until the outbreak of the Civil War, Cody lived the arduous life of a pony-express rider. Cody volunteered his services as government scout and guide and served throughout the Civil War with Generals McNeil and A. J. Smith. He was a distinguished member of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry.
During the Civil War, while riding through the streets of St. Louis, Cody rescued a frightened schoolgirl from a band of annoyers. In true romantic style, Cody and Louisa Federci, the girl, were married March 6, 1866.
In 1867 Cody was employed to furnish a specified amount of buffalo meat to the construction men at work on the Kansas Pacific Railroad. It was in this period that he received the sobriquet “Buffalo Bill.”
In 1868 and for four years thereafter Colonel Cody[Pg 2] served as scout and guide in campaigns against the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. It was General Sheridan who conferred on Cody the honor of chief of scouts of the command.
After completing a period of service in the Nebraska legislature, Cody joined the Fifth Cavalry in 1876, and was again appointed chief of scouts.
Colonel Cody’s fame had reached the East long before, and a great many New Yorkers went out to see him and join in his buffalo hunts, including such men as August Belmont, James Gordon Bennett, Anson Stager, and J. G. Heckscher. In entertaining these visitors at Fort McPherson, Cody was accustomed to arrange wild-West exhibitions. In return his friends invited him to visit New York. It was upon seeing his first play in the metropolis that Cody conceived the idea of going into the show business.
Assisted by Ned Buntline, novelist, and Colonel Ingraham, he started his “Wild West” show, which later developed and expanded into “,” first presented at Omaha, Nebraska. In time it became a familiar yearly entertainment in the great cities of this country and Europe. Many famous personages attended the performances, and became his warm friends, including Mr. Gladstone, the Marquis of Lorne, King Edward, Queen Victoria, and the Prince of Wales, now King of England.
At the outbreak of the Sioux, in 1890 and 1891, Colonel Cody served at the head of the Nebraska National Guard. In 1895 Cody took up the development of Wyoming Valley by introducing irrigation. Not long afterward he became judge advocate general of the Wyoming National Guard.
Colonel Cody (Buffalo Bill) died in Denver, Colorado, on January 10, 1917. His legacy to a grateful world was a large share in the development of the West, and a multitude of achievements in horsemanship, marksmanship, and endurance that will live for ages. His life will continue to be a leading example of the manliness, courage, and devotion to duty that belonged to a picturesque phase of American life now passed, like the great patriot whose career it typified, into the Great Beyond.
BUFFALO BILL AMONG THE SIOUX.
WILD BILL’S CLOSE CALL.
One summer morning, in the sixties, when the Indians in the West and Southwest were still giving much trouble to Uncle Sam’s settlers and soldiers, and when the great railway lines were being pushed forward across the continent to the Pacific coast, a scout rode across country in Kansas from Fort Larned to another military post, about sixty miles distant.
He was carrying the military mail and dispatches from one fort to another, and his mission was an exceedingly dangerous one, for it was known that the Indians in Kansas and the neighboring territory were on the point of rising to attack the whites, if they had not already risen.
Many reports had been received from scouts familiar with the Indians which showed that an alliance was being arranged between several of the tribes with the object of going on the warpath in numbers strong enough, as they imagined, to enable them to bid defiance to Uncle Sam’s troopers, even though the latter were armed with the quick-firing “devil guns” so much feared by the redskins.
The scout who was riding across country was, with one exception, the most remarkable man of his class at that time in the West.
He was none other than our old friend Wild Bill, and it need hardly be added that the exception alluded to was his great friend and comrade, Colonel William F. Cody, better known as “Buffalo Bill,” the king of the scouts.
As he rode along, mounted upon a magnificent mustang, Wild Bill was a splendid, fearless figure that it would have done the heart of any brave man good merely to look upon.
In person he was about six feet one inch in height, and, as has been described by his friend, General George A. Custer, “straight as the straightest of the Indian warriors whose implacable foe he was.” He had broad shoulders, well-formed chest and limbs, and a face strikingly handsome. His sharp, clear blue eyes were used to looking any man straight in the face, whether that man were friend or foe. His nose was a fine aquiline, and his mouth well shaped, with lips partly concealed by a handsome mustache.
His hair and complexion were those of a perfect blond—fair as a Saxon viking. He wore the former in long, flowing ringlets, which fell carelessly over his powerfully formed shoulders. Riding his horse as if he were part of the animal, he looked a perfect type of physical manhood.
He had galloped for about twenty miles, when he stopped on a small hill overlooking a valley through which a river ran.
He cast a quick glance around the landscape to see if any foes were in sight, and his eyes immediately fell upon a band of about fifty Indians not more than a third of a mile away.
They saw him almost at the same moment, and immediately jumped on their horses, from which they had dismounted with the idea of watering them in the river, and gave chase.
Wild Bill waited until they came near enough to enable him to see what tribes they belonged to, and whether they were dressed in their war paint. When he had satisfied his doubts on those scores, and found out that they were really on the warpath, he hastily turned his mustang to make a ride for life. But before he galloped off, he lifted his rifle and shot the foremost of the Indians through the head.
As the brave tumbled from his horse, his comrades gave a yell of rage. Wild Bill responded by turning in the saddle and waving his sombrero toward them defiantly.
They fired a scattering volley, but the bullets whizzed harmlessly around him. Riding over uneven ground, the Indians could not take accurate aim.
The scout was riding a splendid mustang, and the gallant animal fully understood what was expected of him. He knew that it was a ride for life, and that he must put forth his greatest speed to save his master from death and himself from an Indian owner—a fate terrible to any decent horse.
He crossed a wide ravine and tore along the valley toward Fort Larned.
Reaching a ridge beyond, Wild Bill looked back for a moment and saw that the Indians were tearing after him. They rode at great speed, and many of them were evidently well mounted.
“Their own ponies can’t travel like that,” said the scout to himself. “They must have done some raiding before this, and got hold of some of the settlers’ animals. The rising we’ve been looking for has broken out, sure. Them folks at the fort must be put on their guard, whatever happens. I guess the whole country will be ablaze in a couple of days.”
If he had been mounted on a fresh horse, Wild Bill would have had no doubt of the outcome of the race; but his mustang, splendid animal though he was, had already ridden far, and showed signs of flagging.
The Indians began to gain on their quarry for a time, and then the mustang made a spurt and shot ahead again. But the effort was too great for him, and he could not keep up his speed for long.
When he had run about three miles farther, half a dozen of the Indians had crept up to within two or three hundred yards, while several of the other braves were not far behind.
Now and then they fired at him, but their rifles were of inferior quality and their aim was bad, so that neither the scout nor his horse was touched.
The Indians seemed to be shortening the distance from their prey at every stride, but Wild Bill bent over in his saddle and whispered to his mustang: “Get up, old man!”
It was the first effort he had made to urge the animal to greater speed, and immediately he exerted himself to the very utmost, drawing slowly away from the Indians for the next three or four miles.
But there was a limit to the mustang’s power of endurance, if not to his will.
The Indians were nearly as well mounted as Wild Bill, and their steeds were comparatively fresh. One of them in particular—a spotted animal—kept gaining all the time. The others were strung out behind in a long line for a distance of more than a mile, but they were all riding as hard as they knew how, for they wanted to be “in at the death.”
The brave riding the spotted horse was armed with a rifle, and as he drew within a hundred yards he occasionally sent a bullet whizzing unpleasantly close to Wild Bill.
The scout saw that this Indian must be stopped, or a stray shot from his gun might do fatal harm to his mustang or himself.
The Indian was not more than sixty yards off, and as Wild Bill’s rifle cracked he reeled and fell from his saddle.
Without waiting to see whether his enemy was dead or only wounded, the scout wheeled his horse around and fairly flew in the direction of Fort Larned.
He would have liked to stop and take a few shots at the other Indians as they came dashing toward him, but he realized that his first duty was to carry a warning to the fort. He had no right to play with his life when such a duty as that was placed upon him.
It was true that fifty Indians could do nothing against the strong body of troops stationed at the fort, but, if they succeeded in killing him, they would certainly not ride on for that place.
They would wait until reënforced by a much stronger party, and then perhaps carry the fort by surprise if the garrison had not received a timely warning.
Wild Bill realized these facts, and resolved that he must curb his natural propensity to fight, and run away instead—a thing he always hated to do, however great might be the number of the enemies opposed to him.
While he was engaged in shooting their leader, the other Indians had gained upon him, and they sent several shots whizzing after him as he resumed his flight. Now and then he turned in the saddle and returned their fire, shooting two of the foremost horses as they drew near him.
“Buffler Bill would shoot the blamed varmints through the head if he was here,” muttered the scout, “but I’m not sure as how I could do that with a snap aim at a gallop. Anyhow, I can’t run the risk, so I’ll shoot the durned cayuses instead.”
The redskins kept up the pursuit until they were within about three miles of the fort. One of the outposts saw them chasing the scout over the prairie and promptly gave the alarm, for a vigilant watch was being maintained at that critical time.
As Wild Bill rode up, several of the soldiers mounted in hot haste and rode to his rescue. The Indians saw this, and promptly turned on their trail to ride back as quickly as they had come.
A lieutenant, with thirty or forty men behind him, galloped in pursuit, while Wild Bill rode into the fort to make his report to the commandant.
The officer in charge of the fort was a colonel named Mathers, who had had much experience in Indian fighting, and had taken part in several campaigns with Buffalo Bill and Hickok.
As Wild Bill entered his quarters, he rose from his chair and grasped him heartily by the hand.
“Thank Heaven, they didn’t get you, Bill!” the officer exclaimed. “I saw them through my field glasses chasing after you, and I immediately ordered out the men, but the outposts had done the work already.
“We shall need you badly before this business is over, for it looks as if it is going to be one of the most serious Indian wars we have had for years. You did not find it possible to get through to Fort Hays?” he concluded.
“I believe I could have got through,” Hickok replied. “I guess I could have ridden round the Injuns, and maybe got to Fort Hays all right. But it occurred to me that this fort might get surprised and rushed if ye didn’t know the Injuns had broken out at last.”
The commandant nodded his approval. If Wild Bill had been a soldier, he would have expected him to carry the message without exercising his own individual judgment. But a noted scout like Hickok was expected to think for himself, weigh the situation, and act for the best accordingly. That, indeed, was the very reason of his employment.
“Could you tell me who the Indians were—what tribes they belonged to?” the colonel asked.
“Yes, of course; I took care to find that out,” Wild Bill replied, almost in an injured tone of voice. “I waited till they got near enough so as I could find out from their feathers and war paint. They was mostly Sioux, but there was a few Cheyennes and Crows, and I shot an ’Pache. He was the only one in the bunch, so fur as I could see.”
“Then there has been an alliance made between the tribes, and we will have to meet the attack of a strong confederacy,” muttered the commandant.
He rang a bell and an orderly entered the room, saluted him, and stood at attention.
“Ask Colonel Cody to oblige me by stepping in here for a moment,” the colonel said.
The soldier left the room, and in a few moments returned, announcing the famous king of scouts, Buffalo Bill.
He had been making a tour of inspection to see that the horses of the soldiers were in good shape, and that all necessary preparations had been made for a long ride and a hard campaign, if the need should arise.
The famous frontiersman was an even more striking and handsome figure than his friend Hickok. At this time he was in the zenith of his vigorous manhood.
It was only a short time before that he had earned his sobriquet of Buffalo Bill by shooting a record number of buffaloes to supply fresh meat for the workmen engaged in the construction of the Kansas Pacific Railway.
Every line of his face and every movement of his body showed force, courage, and determination such as are rarely seen even among the bravest men.
The border king greeted his friend Hickok warmly, and said:
“So they couldn’t get you, old pard! I wish I’d been with you to help you put up a little bit of a fight.”
The colonel briefly explained the position, and Cody was not surprised to hear that several tribes had joined in the rising.
“The Sioux are at the bottom of it,” he said. “Unless we strike hard and swiftly, the rising will spread not only over Kansas, but over all the territory round about.
“I received a message from my friend and blood brother, Red Cloud, the war chief of the Navahos, only two days ago. He sent one of his braves to tell me that the Sioux had sent their messenger even down into New Mexico to try to persuade the Navahos to join with them in a grand uprising against the whites.
“Red Cloud is a good friend to us, and he promised me once that whenever his tribe had trouble with the government he would send to me, and get me to help him straighten it out without war.
“He tells me now that some of his young men want to dig up the hatchet. He is doing his best, with the help of the old men, to keep them back; but he wants me to come to him.
“I think I’d better go, for if the Navahos join the rest the matter will become very much more serious even than it is now.”
The colonel nodded his head, but remarked:
“You will be putting your head in the lion’s mouth, Cody. You will probably arrive there just about the time the bucks are doing their war dance and putting on their war paint. The peacemaker generally has a hard time of it, and if you ask them to bury the hatchet they are very likely to bury it in your own skull.”
“Of course, that is the risk one is always taking in this business,” replied the border king, laughing lightly, “but I know the Navahos, and they like me pretty well. I had the good luck once to help them save their chief, Red Cloud, from some dangerous enemies.”
The colonel rested his head on his hand, and was absorbed in thought for a few moments. Then he straightened up, and said, with decision:
“Go to the Navahos, and Heaven send that you reach them safely and persuade them not to dig up the hatchet! But first I must have a message sent through to Fort Hays. Maybe they are not on their guard at that post, and even if they are I must let the commandant there know my plans, so that we can work out a joint plan of campaign.
“I have five hundred brave men in this fort, but there is not one among them whom I can trust to take this message when thousands of hostile Indians are riding over the country.
“I know they would all do their best, but there would not be a chance in a thousand of any one of them getting through.
“I can only trust that message to you two men, for you will know how to dodge the enemy as no other would.”
The two scouts immediately signified their desire to make the dangerous trip.
“I think you had better go together,” said the colonel, “for the carrying of the message is vital for the success of our plans.
“I want the commandant at Fort Hays to march to meet me at Fork River, about midway between the two forts. He must not only leave enough men to garrison his fort, but bring along all that can be spared to join my force.
“It is no use for us to skulk behind walls and let the Indians ravage the country as they like. We must strike at them swiftly, even if they do outnumber us by ten to one. That is the only way to nip the rising in the bud.”
Cody applauded this brave resolution, for his knowledge of Indian character told him that the colonel was perfectly right.
“We will saddle our horses and ride at once,” he said, rising to leave the room.
“No, don’t go until after dark,” urged the officer. “You will have a much better chance of getting through then, and it is better to delay a few hours than run the risk of not having the message delivered at all.”
The border king agreed, and the colonel then took up a dispatch which was lying on the table beside him, and asked:
“Do you know anything of a man named Hunky Kennelly? He is known among the Sioux, I am told, by the name of Bad Eye.”
Wild Bill shook his head, but Cody replied:
“I heard of the man a few months ago, when I was doing some hunting in Wyoming. He is an Irishman, and a disgrace to his country. He killed a man in St. Louis, and had to flee from justice.
“I understand he married a Sioux girl in Red Dog, one of the border settlements in Wyoming, and then joined the Sioux tribe, being made a member of one of their clans.”
“Yes, that is the man,” said the commandant. “I am told in this dispatch from Washington that a native spy reports he is the leader in this movement. He has stirred up the Sioux, and through them the other tribes.
“He is said to be a man of gigantic stature and terrible ferocity. They tell me, too, that he possesses extraordinary cunning and military skill, for he was once an officer in the army. He had to leave because he stole money belonging to his regiment.”
“I should say that he is a man to be reckoned with,” observed Buffalo Bill. “I have found that Indians fight better, as a general rule, when they are led by a white renegade.”
“Durn my cats! but I hope I get a chance for a shot at him!” exclaimed Wild Bill.
The three men then left the quarters, and made the round of the fort to see that all was in readiness to repel the attack which they knew might come at any moment.
Several settlers from the country round about had already come into the fort with their wives and families, and such of their household goods as they could move, for the news of the Indian rising had already begun to spread.
The men among the newcomers were all tough frontiersmen, fine riders, and good shots; and Buffalo Bill saw that they would form a valuable addition to the regular troops who garrisoned the fort.
After they had seen that all was in order, the colonel and the two scouts chatted with the fugitive settlers, and found that they were all eager for a fight with the Indians at the earliest possible moment.
They were all true-blue Americans, who hated to be on the defensive when a fight was in prospect.
They discussed the situation, and there was not a man who did not seem convinced that the Indians would get the worst of it before long.
Several of the settlers denounced the redskins in unmeasured terms, saying that hanging and shooting were too good for “sech varmints.”
“The durned skunks hev got every reason ter be grateful to us,” said one old man, “but there ain’t an ounce of gratitude in their natoors. We give ’em lands and huntin’ grounds, and don’t trouble ’em anyways; but whenever they see a chance they want to scalp us and lift our cattle.”
“I don’t think all Indians are vermin,” said Buffalo Bill. “I have met some pretty good ones. And I don’t think they are all ungrateful, either, for I’ve known some, at least, who were as grateful as any white man could be.”
The afternoon wore away, but no bands of hostile Indians appeared in sight. Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill headed scouting parties, and rode some five miles from the fort, but they saw no signs which led them to suppose that an attack was imminent.
The party of soldiers who had chased Wild Bill’s pursuers returned to the fort during the course of the afternoon, and reported that they had followed the Indians about ten miles without coming up to them.
Then they saw another party of Indians, at least five hundred strong, riding across the prairie to join the fugitives, so the lieutenant in command wisely gave the order to turn the horses’ heads back toward the fort. The Indians did not chase them.
More settlers came in during the afternoon, and they lighted fires in the courtyard of the fort, and prepared to cook their dinner, for there was no proper accommodation for them.
As their bear steaks and deer meat frizzled and sizzled on the fire, they told one another queer yarns of Western life, for they were all men who had seen the rough and humorous side of the frontier.
“We’ll come out of this yer business all right,” observed one of the men. “I’ve come through worse gol-durned contraptions than this, by a long sight.”
“Yes, it’s an old saying out in my country,” said a hunter from Arizona, “that if you let things alone long enough they will even up of themselves.
“Take, for instance, the case of Jack Cade. There were two brothers of them—Jack and Bill—and one day a crowd got after Bill for horse stealing, and caught and strung him up. He protested his innocence, but it was no go. We found out a month later, however, that we had actually hung the wrong man and let the real thief get out of the country.”
“And did things even up later on?” he was asked.
“They did. We couldn’t restore Bill to life, and beg his pardon, and elect him alderman of the town, but when we caught his brother Jack, after he had robbed a settler of his outfit, we not only let him off the hanging, but made him sheriff and squared things in proper shape.
“Things don’t always even up for the man who’s been planted, but if he leaves any relatives behind, the public will see to it that his loss turns out to be their gain.”
Just before it grew dark several of the scouts and outposts who had been placed by Buffalo Bill rode into the fort, and reported that a very strong force of Indians was advancing over the prairie in three columns.
Some of the men estimated that the war party numbered more than four thousand men, but others placed it at not over half that number.
The colonel called Buffalo Bill and Hickok to him, and held a hasty council of war.
“It is as I expected,” said the border king. “The Indians are fondest of attacking either at dusk or just at daybreak. They think sentries are likely to be less vigilant at those times, and I guess they are right, as a rule.
“But luckily we are ready for them. If I might make a suggestion, colonel, I think it would be a good plan to pretend that we are much less numerous than we actually are. They are not likely to know our strength.
“Let only fifty or a hundred men reply to their fire. Keep about four hundred in reserve, ready to pour a terrible volley into the redskins when they try to rush the fort, encouraged by what they suppose to be our weakness.
“A surprise like that always knocks the heart out of an Indian. As soon as they recoil, we might make a sudden sortie and charge them vigorously.
“By adopting this plan, I believe we shall have a good chance of inflicting a crushing defeat upon them, although they so greatly outnumber us.”
“It’s a capital idea,” said the colonel, “and we will carry it out. I won’t let more than about seventy men reply to their first volleys, and I’ll tell the officers in charge of our four field guns not to fire until the redskins are swarming outside the walls.”
He hurried away to give these orders, and by the time he had done so the redskin host appeared in sight.
It numbered between two and three thousand men, and approached swiftly, for all the braves were mounted. They belonged to tribes which practically lived in the saddle—the Sioux, the Cheyennes, and the Crows.
There was still sufficient light to see the Indians more or less clearly as they deployed in four large columns until they completely encircled the little fort.
They did not advance immediately to the attack, as the defenders expected. Instead, they sat on their horses like bronze statues, as soon as they had taken up their positions.
The men of the little garrison, clutching their rifles tightly, waited impatiently for the fray behind the log walls where they lay concealed.
In a few moments three men rode out from the Indian host, one of them, in the center, bearing a white flag, which he waved above his head as he approached the walls of the fort.
He was a man of gigantic stature, and he rode a big horse which absolutely dwarfed the small ponies of his companions.
As he halted about twenty yards outside the fort, Buffalo Bill could see at a glance that he was a white man, although he was dressed in the paint and feathers of a Sioux chieftain.
His two companions were redskins, one being a Cheyenne and the other a Crow. Thus the three tribes which had entered into a confederacy were represented under the flag of truce.
“That’s the renegade Irishman, sure enough!” said Buffalo Bill to the colonel, who nodded agreement.
Kennelly, the renegade, otherwise known as Bad Eye, reined up his horse and shouted, in English:
“We want to come inside the fort to discuss terms of surrender with you.”
“This fort will never surrender while I am in command,” the colonel answered, “and we will hold no talk with renegades and murderers. Go back to your redskin allies at once, unless you want a bullet through your head!”
The renegade had expected this answer, but he had had a lingering hope that he might have been allowed inside the fort on the pretense of discussing terms of surrender, and then he would have been able to gain some valuable information as to the number of the garrison and the strength of the defenses.
His disappointment showed plainly in the vicious grin which flitted for a moment over his evil face. His left eye, which had a squint, glared horribly.
It was this defect that had gained for him his Sioux name, Bad Eye.
He shook the rein of his horse, and tried to urge the animal right underneath the wall of the fort; but before it had advanced three steps a bullet from Buffalo Bill’s rifle cut a feather from the headdress of the rider.
As Kennelly hastily reined his horse back, Buffalo Bill sang out:
“The next bullet will go through your head, Bad Eye, unless you clear out at once. The white flag was never meant to protect such scoundrels as you are.”
Seeing that nothing further was to be gained, the three men turned their horses and rode back to the ranks of the Indians.
Before he departed, however, the representative of the Cheyennes drew his scalping knife, and sent it hurtling through the air at the log wall of the fort, where it stuck, quivering. Then he raised his arm and uttered a defiant war cry.
One of the soldiers lifted his rifle to shoot the brave, but Buffalo Bill struck the weapon upward before the man could fire.
“He has a right to defy us,” said the border king, “and he is a brave man. We won’t shoot him under the white flag, even if he is a redskin.”
No sooner had the three envoys retreated than the Indians began their attack.
True to their natural instincts, they were cautious at first, beginning by long-range firing.
Some of them dashed toward the walls of the fort on horseback, circling around and lying down in the saddle to avoid presenting an easy mark. They fired their rifles, and then retreated hastily.
But the greater portion of the Indian army dismounted and advanced to the attack on foot, taking advantage of every bit of cover they could find.
Following out Buffalo Bill’s suggestion, the garrison only made a feeble reply to the heavy fusillade poured in upon them.
The volleys of the Indians did little harm, most of their bullets burying themselves harmlessly in the thick walls of the log fort.
Two of the soldiers were killed by bullets which entered the loopholes through which they were firing, and three others were slightly wounded.
On the other hand, at least a dozen redskins bit the dust in the first few minutes’ fighting, although only twenty or thirty men fired at them.
They approached nearer to the fort, and the colonel ordered another twenty-five men to join the firing party.
By gradually increasing the resistance, he wanted to make it appear that he was putting forth his greatest possible effort to repel the onslaught.
Next moment the entire force of the Indians leaped to their feet and charged toward the fort, uttering a chorus of frightful yells that would have made the blood of most men run cold.
When the leaders of the host were within about thirty yards of the walls, the colonel shouted:
“Now, boys, let them have it!”
Instantly there was a blaze of flame all around the fort.
Over five hundred rifles discharged their dreaded messengers of death at the same moment, and the four field guns, posted one at each corner of the fort, hailed shell at the advancing Indians, tearing terrible gaps in their ranks.
It was impossible for any army to withstand such a sudden and fearful shock. The redskins halted with one accord, as if they had suddenly been struck with paralysis.
Next moment they turned and fled, in spite of the frantic efforts of their chiefs to rally them.
Another volley was poured into them as they ran, and they fell all around the fort by dozens.
The colonel hastily gave orders for a sortie and a charge, with the idea of cutting them up as they fled and keeping them on the run.
The horses were at hand, all saddled, for this purpose, and in less than two minutes three hundred men were speeding from the fort, headed by Buffalo Bill.
But by this time the Indians had reached their own horses and were galloping away in all directions. Many of them were shot before they could escape, and the rest were chased for two or three miles, until they began to bunch together in strong parties and return the fire of the white men.
Then Buffalo Bill, who had been placed in charge of the pursuing party by the colonel, ordered a retreat to the fort.
He did not wish to get too far away in the darkness and risk spoiling the great victory by a subsequent reverse.
The Indians still greatly outnumbered the band under his command, and if they turned on him they would be able to do serious damage. He, therefore, gave them a parting volley and rode back at the head of his men.
“I reckon we must have killed at least two hundred of them around the walls of the fort,” said the colonel, clasping him warmly by the hand. “How many did you get in the pursuit?”
“Fifty or sixty, as nearly as I can figure it,” replied the border king.
It was a great victory, and it had been bought at a comparatively trifling cost. Only about a dozen of the defenders had been killed, most of them during the pursuit, and not more than twenty were wounded.
“Do you suppose the redskins have had enough?” asked the colonel.
“No, I don’t,” Buffalo Bill said. “Of course, this is a galling repulse for them, but all three of the tribes are brave and persevering in warfare, especially the Sioux. This defeat will merely enrage them and make them all the more anxious to have revenge on Uncle Sam’s troopers.”
Wild Bill rode at this moment to the two men as they stood talking. He was mounted on one of the swiftest horses in the fort, and he led another splendid animal, which he offered to Buffalo Bill.
“These are the best beasts I could pick out of the bunch, Buffler,” he said.
Buffalo Bill mounted without a word, and offered his hand to the colonel.
“Where are you going?” asked the astonished officer.
“Where else but to Fort Hays,” said Buffalo Bill. “We had arranged to ride there as soon as it was dark, and if you will hand us the dispatch we will get off at once.”
“But the country is full of the fleeing Indians,” the colonel objected, “and there is not one chance in ten thousand of your getting through. It is sheer madness to attempt to ride under these new conditions.”
The border king laughed lightly, and said:
“We are still waiting for that dispatch, colonel.”
The officer looked at him steadily for a moment, and saw that argument would be useless. Nothing would turn the gallant and famous scout from his heroic purpose. Nor was Wild Bill one whit less resolute.
Without another word, the colonel took the dispatch from his pocket and handed it to Buffalo Bill. Then he shook the two scouts by the hand, and a minute later they were galloping away in the direction of Fort Hays.
Buffalo Bill and his partner rode along swiftly and silently for about half an hour, and saw no traces of the redskins. Then, as they slackened their pace for a moment to breathe the horses, Wild Bill said:
“Gosh all hemlocks, Buffler——”
Buffalo Bill turned in the saddle and interrupted him.
“That’s Nick Wharton’s expression,” he said, “and I know what you are going to say. You wish that old Nick was with us now, joining in the fun. This certainly would be an adventure after his own heart.”
“I guess he’ll be buttin’ into it before we get through,” Wild Bill remarked. “He was away at Fort Leavenworth a couple of weeks ago, so I heard, and he must have known we were around this yer section. I wouldn’t be surprised to run across him any moment.”
There is an English proverb that says: “Talk of angels, and you will hear the flutter of their wings.” There is also another, which runs: “Talk of the devil, and you will see his tail.” The truth of these two adages was speedily made clear to Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill.
They relapsed into silence, each thinking of their old friend, and rode forward over the prairie. They had not gone more than half a mile before they saw, through the darkness, which was illumined only by the pale light of the stars, a figure on horseback spurring toward them at a terrific pace.
Instinctively they grasped their rifles and made ready for anything that might happen.
In a few moments the figure drew up alongside, and they saw from its ungainliness and general tattered and dilapidated appearance that it was none other than that of their old friend Nick Wharton, of whom they had just been speaking.
He was riding his old mare, who, as he often said, was “not much to look at, but a holy terror to go.”
She was certainly tearing along at a great pace, but as she reached the two scouts she stopped dead short and reared up on her haunches.
Old Nick brought her to the ground again by a single dexterous movement of the reins. He recognized his comrades in a flash, but he did not pause to exchange greetings. He merely gasped out the one word:
As he said this, Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill saw, coming toward them through the darkness, half a dozen figures on horseback.
Silhouetted against the horizon of the prairie, they could see that the figures were those of Indians, for their feathers and scalp locks were plainly visible against the light of the stars.
As the Indians came up they were met with a volley from the scouts, and three of them reeled in their saddles and fell to the ground.
Buffalo Bill and his companions were not accustomed to miss their aim.
The remaining Indians drew rein sharply, and gazed in blank astonishment at their fallen comrades.
They had been chasing only one man, and suddenly they were brought face to face with three magnificent marksmen.
As they sat on their horses, hesitating what course to pursue, the rifles spoke again, and their hesitation was solved for them.
Never again would they roam the prairie or lift the scalp of an enemy!
“Darn all catamounts, but them varmints chased me nigh on six miles,” said old Nick, as soon as he had time to make explanations. “I heard, down in Fort Leavenworth, that the Injuns was goin’ on the warpath, so I struck a bee line for Fort Larned, whar I knowed you two boys war.
“I guess you’ve had a hot time. As I was comin’ ’cross the prairie I butted inter a hull army o’ Injuns, who seemed ter hev met with a rough time. Somebody had thrown a scare into them, an’ I thought I reckernized yer trade-mark, Buffler.
“Waal, I ducked under cover, and the most of them passed me by, but I got up too soon, an’ ’bout twenty of ’em, comin’ along last, caught sight o’ me, an’ give me a hot chase.
“My mare laid herself down to it noble, and I managed to shake off all of ’em ’cept them six what’s layin’ over there in thar tracks now.
“But what sort of a game aire you two boys puttin’ up now? I guess thar’s somethin’ doin’, ain’t thar?”
Buffalo Bill gave him a brief account of what had happened, and told him that they had planned to reach Fort Hays and subsequently go down to the country of the Navahos, if necessary, to try to prevent that tribe from taking the warpath.
Old Nick was delighted at the prospect, and immediately insisted on accompanying them.
“Gol-durn all fishhooks!” he exclaimed. “I’ve been buttin’ round Fort Leavenworth for a couple o’ weeks, and thar ain’t been nothin’ doin’.
“I got into a bit of a dispute with a young lootenant, an’ I h’isted him off the colonel’s verandy onto the ground. I thought sure he’d want to hev my blood fer thet, but he merely obsairved thet I was an unedicated person who didn’t know the proper rules of ettyket.
“Then I got into a mix-up with a couple o’ settlers. They was heeled, all right, but ’stead of drawing their guns they walked ten miles to the nearest sheriff to demand justice. When the sheriff come around, I told him to fergit it, and he forgot quick enough.
“But this yer sort o’ business didn’t seem to make me popular around the fort. The colonel was a bully good sort o’ a feller, but at last he hinted that the place was sorter narrer fer my talents. So when I heerd that somethin’ might be doin’ around Fort Larned I saddled up and came to find you boys.”
“You certainly need Hickok and me to look after you, Nick,” said Buffalo Bill, laughing heartily.
“I dunno how it is,” Wharton responded, heaving a sigh. “I’m jest about the most peaceful critter on airth, an’ yet I always seem to be runnin’ inter trouble.”
The three scouts rode on for some time, chatting about their former adventures and the chances of the present campaign, until they had covered about half the distance between the two forts.
Then, as they crested a hill and looked down into a wide-stretching valley beyond, they saw half a dozen camp fires gleaming through the darkness about two miles away.
They reined up their horses sharply, and held a council of war.
“Those must be the Indians we fought,” said Buffalo Bill. “They have stopped their flight and gone into camp until morning.”
“What shall we do?” asked Wild Bill. “Shall we make a detour and pass by them, about a mile away, so as to be out of touch of their scouts and sentries; or shall we creep in on them, and see if we can learn anything of their plans? The chances are they are discussing them around the fire.”
He knew that the carrying of the message safely to Fort Hays was of the utmost importance, but on the other hand, he felt that a chance of learning what the Indians proposed to do ought not to be missed.
“I tell you what we will do, boys,” he said, after a few moments’ thought. “Nick and I will creep into the camp and see what we can find out. You know the Cheyenne and Sioux lingo, don’t you, Nick?”
“So do I. Hickok, you must take the dispatch and wait on horseback, holding our two beasts at a safe distance. If they catch sight of us, you mustn’t attempt a rescue. You must ride at top speed for Fort Hays. We will shift for ourselves as best we can, but that message must be carried, at all costs.”
“May I be scalped ef I leave you and Nick in the lurch!” exclaimed Wild Bill.
“You must do it, if needs be, old pard,” urged the border king. “The lives of many men, the peace of the border, the whole plan of campaign depend upon that message reaching Fort Hays. I don’t suppose the Indians will see us, but if they do you must ride the best you know, as soon as you hear the first war whoop.”
The manner of the king of the scouts was so impressive that Wild Bill at last agreed to do as he commanded.
They rode cautiously toward the camp fires, and as they approached they saw that the encampment of the Indians was a very large one.
Evidently the Indians had rallied after the first shock of the retreat had passed; and they again constituted a very formidable fighting force.
About a quarter of a mile from the camp the three scouts drew rein and dismounted, Buffalo Bill and Nick Wharton leaving their horses in charge of Hickok.
“Don’t try to cut up the hull gang o’ them Injuns,” Wild Bill said, as his two friends strode off into the darkness toward the camp fires that twinkled ahead of them.
As Buffalo Bill and Nick Wharton approached the first of the camp fires, they saw that the Indians were dancing the Sioux ghost dance around it, while at the next fire several of the Cheyennes were indulging in their own tribal war dance.
Several sentinels had been placed around the camp, but, by careful scouting and judiciously taking advantage of cover, the two comrades managed to dodge them and get inside the cordon.
When they had accomplished this feat, Buffalo Bill uttered a sigh of relief. They were now fairly safe, unless they were observed by some of the braves around the fire. In that event, the sentries were likely to cut off their retreat, unless it were made too rapidly to give them time to take up the alarm.
Nothing was going on around the first two fires except the dancing, which both Buffalo Bill and Wharton had seen many a time before.
Taking shelter behind a clump of bushes, they crawled forward until they were right in the center of the camp, and opposite the largest of the bivouac fires.
Here they saw that most of the leading chiefs of the three tribes were gathered, and they rightly concluded that a war council was being held.
Four braves were posted near the camp fire, evidently for the purpose of keeping the other Indians from intruding while the chiefs and the old men discussed their plan of campaign.
Among the men seated around the fire the two scouts saw the renegade Kennelly.
He was smoking a big pipe, which looked incongruous in the midst of such wild and weird surroundings. His face was stained with blood from a wound in the forehead where a bullet had grazed him, and this intensified his ordinary ferocious look.
Nick Wharton drew his revolver—the rifles had been left behind with Wild Bill—and in another moment would have sent a bullet through the head of the renegade, but Buffalo Bill seized his arm and signed to him to control himself.
They crept nearer and nearer to the camp fire, until they were within about fifteen paces of it, lying hidden in a small clump of low brushwood.
They could get no nearer, for the light of the fire brightly illuminated the surroundings, and there was no other cover.
The Indians were talking angrily in the Sioux tongue, and the scouts, who were both familiar with it, were pleased to find that they were loudly abusing Kennelly for the failure of the attack on Fort Larned.
One after another denounced him as a bad leader, who had betrayed them into believing that they had hardly any opposition to meet, and had then taken them up against an almost impregnable position.
At last, after a young war chief had denounced him as a lying traitor, Kennelly took the pipe from between his lips and broke silence for the first time.
“Listen, my brothers, and pay heed to my words, for I do not speak with a false tongue,” he said. “I told you that it would not be easy to take the fort, and that you must be willing to lose many braves in the attempt.
“I told you that Long Hair, the slayer of many buffaloes, was there, and you know well that he is worth a hundred men in himself. Yet you persisted in making the attempt, and you have no right to blame me for the failure.
“Did I hang back in the charge? Did I not lead your young men up to the walls of the fort? If they had followed me, we would have got inside and taken the scalps of all the men there.
“It was not my fault that they reeled back and would not follow me when the big firing began. How was I to know that your warriors are nothing but women and babes?”
At this gross insult half a dozen of the chiefs sprang to their feet and menaced the renegade with the tomahawks which they drew from their belts.
But the Irishman, in spite of his villainy, was a brave man. He merely gazed at them contemptuously, without deigning to draw his gun, and went on:
“You think that you have a quarrel with me. Very well. Name your champion, and I will meet him in single combat before you all.
“If he overcomes me, he may take my scalp; but if I slay him there must be no more disputing of my orders. My brothers, the Sioux, chose me for their war chief in this fight, and I will be obeyed.”
The young chief who had denounced Kennelly most hotly eagerly accepted this challenge, and begged his red comrades to let him act as their champion.
After a few minutes’ consultation among themselves, they agreed. Kennelly watched them from the corner of his squint eye, but pretended to be utterly uninterested in the matter which spelled life or death to him.
The young chief threw off his buffalo robe and stepped out into an open space near the fire, naked to the waist, but gorgeously painted with the war colors of his tribe. He was a Cheyenne.
Kennelly glanced at him for a few moments through half-closed eyelids, and then yawned sleepily and knocked the ashes out of the bowl of his pipe.
The Indians, on the one side, and the two scouts, hidden behind the bushes on the other, watched the scene with interest.
The young chief stamped his foot impatiently, and Kennelly slowly raised his huge, bulky form from the ground.
Once he was upon his feet, however, a wonderful change came over him.
Seated upon the ground, he had seemed as lazy and inert as a hog, but now his body was as tense and active as that of a panther.
Stealthily he crept toward the Indian, and they looked into one another’s eyes as intently as if they were both hypnotized.
An old Crow chieftain gave the signal for the duel to commence by dropping his tomahawk to the ground.
Instantly the young Cheyenne rushed forward, whirled his tomahawk around his head, and flung it straight at the skull of his enemy.
But he had reckoned without his adversary’s lightninglike quickness of eye.
Kennelly ducked just in time to escape the deadly missile, which tore off part of one of the feathers in his headdress.
Straightening himself immediately, he flung his own tomahawk at the Cheyenne, burying it deep in his skull.
The man staggered, yelling his death whoop; but before he could fall to the ground Kennelly leaped upon him, caught him in his arms as if he was a baby, and tossed him high into the air over his own head.
Bad Eye calmly drew his knife and took the dead man’s scalp, although he knew that that act would doubly enrage the already furious Cheyennes.
Then, holding the bloodstained knife above his head, and dangling the scalp in the other hand, he cried:
“I have overcome your champion, oh, chiefs! Who will be next to yield up his scalp to Bad Eye?”
There was no response to this challenge. The Indians were brave men, and the Cheyennes, at least, were much irritated at the death of their champion; but not one among them cared to try conclusions with such a redoubtable fighter as Kennelly had shown himself to be.
Suddenly Buffalo Bill rose from a clump of bushes in which he had lain concealed, and stalked, a majestic figure, into the circle of light cast by the glow of the fire.
To say that the Indians were surprised by this sudden apparition is but faintly to convey their absolute amazement. They looked as if a ghost had suddenly emerged into their midst.
The renegade Kennelly was not less astonished. He stared at the border king for a moment, and then sat down heavily upon the ground, picked up his discarded pipe, and began to fill it with tobacco.
Buffalo Bill surveyed the scene for a moment with quiet amusement, and then said, in the Sioux tongue:
“Greeting to you, chiefs and elders of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Crow tribes! I have heard the challenge thrown down by Bad Eye, and I come into your midst to accept it.
“You know me for your enemy. I am Long Hair, and I have slain many of your braves. But I come fearlessly among you for the ordeal by single combat, for I know your code of honor must give me a fair start on my horse after the fight is over, supposing that I come out of it victorious. Is it not so, oh, chiefs?”
Cody’s action might have seemed to the outsider to be nothing else but suicide. To a man acquainted with the Indian laws of chivalry, however, there was nothing so very extraordinary about it.
One of their most stringent rules was that an enemy who challenged one of their braves to the ordeal by single combat must be held sacred, like an envoy under the white man’s flag of truce; and after the fight was over he must be allowed a good chance of retreat.
The oldest chieftain by the camp fire, after looking round the circle and catching the eyes of his comrades, acted as spokesman. He bent his head gravely, and said:
“It is as you say, Long Hair. You are a great warrior, and your fame has been sung by our young men round the camp fires. You shall fight Bad Eye if you desire to do so, and at the end, if you live, you shall go forth unharmed and bestride your horse, and ride away from us. None of our braves shall seek your scalp until you are half a mile distant.”
Buffalo Bill saluted the chief gravely, after the Sioux fashion, and then turned to Kennelly, who sat smoking and glowering at him, and asked:
“Tomahawks,” growled the renegade, as he rose to his feet and fronted the border king.
Nick Wharton had followed Buffalo Bill, after a moment’s pause, due to his absolute amazement at the bold course Cody had taken. His appearance did not alarm or surprise the Indians. Too many startling events had happened that evening for one more to have any effect on them.
“Durn my cats, Buffler!” said old Nick, after he had glanced defiantly round the circle of Indians. “You are the queerest duck I ever struck in my galumpin’ existence. What in thunder d’ye want to butt into this yere controversy for? Let me tackle thet thar Irish mountain o’ flesh! I guess I kin manage to settle his hash for him.”
The border king waved his friend aside, and whispered:
“Be on the watch, Nick, in case any of the Indians tries to get me in the back while I am fighting him.”
Wharton nodded, and promptly rested his hand upon his six-shooter in his belt, ready to whip it out and fire at a moment’s notice.
The Indians formed a ring, which was speedily added to by hundreds of other braves who flocked to the scene from the camp fires near by.
Buffalo Bill and the renegade stood in the center.
Kennelly held his tomahawk, red with the blood of the slain Cheyenne, in his hand.
Buffalo Bill did not possess such a weapon, but a Cheyenne brave stepped out of the circle of onlookers and handed one to him.
It was a weird and impressive scene.
The firelight cast a fitful glow on the faces of the duelists, and illumined their eyes as they circled around for a few moments, waiting the opportunity to send their sharp-edged weapons whizzing to the mark.
Suddenly Kennelly stepped forward with a rapid motion and flung his tomahawk at the border king’s head.
He flung himself forward, and the tomahawk passed harmlessly a foot above his head.
“Wah!” cried the Indians, in admiration of the border king’s clever movement.
Before the exclamation had died upon their lips, Buffalo Bill had darted forward and struck Kennelly a terrible blow on the crown, which cleft his head asunder almost to the chin.
Bad Eye would trouble the peace of the border no more. The renegade had met with his deserts at last.
The Indians gazed silently at the corpse of their white ally, and not one of them showed the slightest sign of grief or indignation at his death.
Buffalo Bill had only done what many of them would have liked to do if they had possessed the courage and skill.
The border king wrenched his dripping tomahawk from the skull of his fallen enemy, and, holding it tightly in his right hand, boldly faced the assembly of chiefs, with a questioning glance in his eyes that seemed to say:
“Now, what are you going to do about it?”
Nick Wharton stood by his side, with his hand on his six-shooter, ready to fight to the death.
The bold aspect of the two scouts profoundly impressed the redskins, and not a thought of revenge crossed their minds.
Even if the renegade had been more popular than he was, their code of honor would not have allowed them to attack the victor in an ordeal by single combat without giving him a fair chance for his life.
“Go in peace, Long Hair,” said an old Crow chief, stepping forward and saluting him. “You are indeed a great warrior, and I would that you were one of my tribe. I hope that some day I may meet you in the front rank of battle, or, if that cannot be, in the happy hunting grounds of the Great Manitou.”
With a majestic wave of his hand, the chieftain motioned three of his followers toward him, and ordered them to escort Buffalo Bill and Nick Wharton past the sentries and see them safely to their horses.
Then the redskin, who was imbued with all the chivalry of his race, drew from his waist belt a pipe, filled it with tobacco, and said to Buffalo Bill:
“As soon as you are gone, oh, Long Hair, I will light this pipe, and not until I have smoked it and the flame dies out need you fear that we will mount our horses and pursue. Is not that all you ask?”
Buffalo Bill bent his head in token of assent, and muttered to Nick Wharton:
“Will you say that Indians are no better than varmints now, old pard? Could anything be fairer than that?”
“I guess he is a white man whose skin went red by mistake,” growled old Nick.
As the two scouts strode away from the camp fire, accompanied by their Indian escort, Buffalo Bill glanced back and saw the Crow chief lift a burning stick from the fire and light his pipe.
He immediately increased his pace, for he wanted to get as long a start as possible before the calumet of peace burned out.
In a few minutes they reached the spot where Wild Bill was holding the three horses. He was naturally surprised at the appearance of the Indians with his friends, but a warning cry from Cody prevented him from firing, although he had immediately whipped his rifle up to his shoulder.
Buffalo Bill explained the situation in a few hurried words, and then the three scouts lost no time in mounting their horses and putting as much distance between themselves and the camp of the redskins as they could before the truce pipe was smoked out.
“I don’t believe they will trouble to pursue us,” said Buffalo Bill, as they sped along over the prairie at a tearing gallop. “That old chief is a pretty smart fellow, and he will know very well that there is no chance of catching us, after the start we have got. Our only danger, as I figure it, is that we may stumble across another war party, or some of their scouts, before we reach Fort Hays.”
They rode along for a couple of hours, occasionally glancing behind to see if they were followed; but they saw nothing to indicate danger.
Suddenly, as they emerged from a brush-covered ravine, Buffalo Bill held up his hand in warning.
His comrades reined up their horses and listened intently.
They had not remained silent more than a few seconds before they heard an almost noiseless pad of hoofs on the turf of the prairie.
The scouts knew that Indian ponies were always unshod, and they realized in a moment that another fight was ahead of them. Rifle in hand, they waited for the enemy.
The darkness was so intense that they could hardly see ten yards ahead of them. Suddenly, out of the gloom, half a dozen mounted figures emerged.
The scouts saw at a glance that they were Indians, even if they had not known, as they did the next moment, by the startled war whoop that broke from the lips of the redskins.
Buffalo Bill galloped toward them, revolver in hand, and before the redskins fully understood their peril he had shot down two of them and broken through the party.
Wild Bill and Nick Wharton followed close behind him, and in their passage they each sent an Indian to join his forefathers in the happy hunting grounds.
The two remaining redskins hastily fired their rifles at random, and fled into the darkness at top speed.
Wild Bill was eager to pursue them, but the border king reminded him of the necessity of reaching Fort Hays, and the scouts resumed their adventurous journey.
Shortly before dawn they reached the fort and were sharply challenged by one of the sentries.
News of the Indian rising had been carried thither, and a vigilant watch was being maintained.
Buffalo Bill cried out that they were friends, and in a few moments they stood within the gates of the fort and in the presence of the commandant, who was hastily summoned from his bed, where he had lain down to take a couple of hours’ sleep after a night of anxious watching.
The news of the victory over the Indians at Fort Larned caused great rejoicing, and the daring feat of the three scouts in riding through a territory infested with Indians made the commandant exhaust his vocabulary of compliments.
“Do you think the Indians will accept battle with the combined garrison of the two forts?” asked the commandant.
“I doubt it,” replied Buffalo Bill. “They have lost a good many men, and they will not care to fight in the open until they get reënforcements. Unless you move swiftly and make a junction with the troops from Fort Larned, they will escape to the hills and scatter, until fresh war parties can be brought up from the villages of the three tribes. Meanwhile the most important thing that I and my two companions can do is to ride down to New Mexico and help Red Cloud to prevent the Navahos from joining the confederacy. If they do so, other tribes may join it, too, and the whole frontier would be ablaze. That must be prevented, at any cost.”
The commandant agreed, and, after a brief rest at the fort, Buffalo Bill and his two friends started on their long ride down to New Mexico, taking with them spare horses and provisions, as they did not wish to waste time by hunting on the way.
Several days later the three men were compelled to part when they were approaching the border of the Navaho country.
Nick Wharton was not able to resist the temptation of following some panther tracks which he found near the spot where they camped one afternoon. He followed the trail into the thick woods, and the panther sprang upon his shoulders before he was aware of its presence. He killed it with his bowie knife, after a terrible struggle; but he was so badly mauled that he had to be taken by his friends to the house of a rancher near by.
Wild Bill agreed to stay and look after him here, while Buffalo Bill went on alone to visit his friend Red Cloud, the chief of the Navahos.
It was a late New Mexican afternoon. Red Cloud, was out alone on a hunt, and had just pitched his camp.
He was a tall, finely built, athletic young fellow, thoroughly trained in all the craft and skill of the Indian.
None of his fellow braves could throw a tomahawk with more unerring aim; none could shoot straighter, either with the rifle or with the bow.
Red Cloud lighted a fire of dry twigs, and set to work to fry some deer meat—the result of his successful hunting on the previous evening. He had crept down to the pool where the deer were wont to drink, and, keeping well to windward of them, had shot a couple before the rest of the herd took flight.
The stream beside which he had camped ran through wooded country, and from time to time Red Cloud’s piercing black eyes roved around the trees in his immediate vicinity, for he was too well trained to let an enemy, whether man or beast, creep upon him unawares.
Nevertheless, as he took his fried steak from the fire and became absorbed in eating it, with the keen appetite of a youthful hunter, he narrowly escaped being caught.
Suddenly his quick ear heard the sound of the snapping of a twig, and, turning round hastily, he saw an immense grizzly bear—by far the biggest he had ever met—approaching swiftly toward him through the trees.
The animal was running on all fours, with the peculiar, humped-up gait of the grizzly; but, despite its ungainliness, it was wonderfully quick. It had scented the meat and the man, and was evidently determined to have both of them.
Red Cloud had fought grizzlies before, and knew full well that they were about the most dangerous enemies a man could encounter. He seized his bow, and sent an arrow whizzing into the flesh of the bear, just below the shoulder.
The animal gave a howl of rage and pain, but came on as if nothing more had happened to him than the mere pricking of a pin.
The Indian hastily launched another arrow, without any better effect, and then threw down his bow and seized the rifle which lay on the ground near by his camp fire. By this time the grizzly was not more than twenty yards away. Red Cloud fired one shot, which wounded the beast, but only served to further enrage it without doing any mortal injury.
Then the man turned on his heel and fled to the nearest tree, hoping to dodge the beast around its trunk and find a chance of getting in a death shot.
But the grizzly was already at his heels, and, as he sprinted to the tree, he could feel the hot breath of the angry bear upon his back.
He gained the shelter only a yard or two ahead of his enemy, and the bear, carried on by the momentum of his speed, went about ten yards beyond the trunk, giving the Indian a second or two in which to catch his breath and bring his gun to his shoulder.
The animal turned with incredible swiftness and charged again. But Red Cloud had dodged to the other side of the trunk, and met him with a bullet squarely in the breast.
Before he could fire another shot with his repeater, the grizzly was upon him, rearing upon its haunches.
The beast presented a terrible sight, that might well have inspired terror even in the heart of a brave man like the young Indian hunter.
It was covered with blood from head to foot from its wounds. Its mouth was wide open, exposing its long, cruel teeth and a terrible snarl; and its forepaws, with their frightful claws extended, were raised to tear the man to fragments.
Before Red Cloud could press the trigger again the rifle was dashed from his hands by a terrific blow of one of the bear’s paws. Next moment he was clasped in the beast’s merciless hug and borne to the ground.
He abandoned all hope of life, but, with the game instinct of a well-trained Indian, he managed to draw his hunting knife and deal the beast several deep wounds in its side.
Hit through the head, the animal turned, with a vicious snarl, to meet its new enemy. It took a few rapid bounds in the direction from which the shot had come, and then rolled over on its side—stone-dead. It had struggled for life and revenge with desperate tenacity, but a bullet through the brain had settled it at last.
Buffalo Bill, with a smoking rifle in his hand, stepped out from behind a tree and walked toward the prostrate Indian, glancing at the body of the bear as he passed it, to make sure that it was really dead.
As he approached, the young Indian lifted himself slowly and painfully upon his elbow, and said:
“Brother, I thank you.”
Then, as he tried to rise to his feet, he was overcome by the loss of blood from the many wounds inflicted upon him by the claws of the bear, and he sank back unconscious.
Buffalo Bill promptly attended to his injuries, bandaging the wounds and stopping the flow of blood as cleverly as any surgeon could have done.
This accomplished, he forced some brandy and water from his flask between the Indian’s teeth, and gradually brought him back to consciousness.
“Let my brother rest quietly, so that his wounds will not reopen,” said Buffalo Bill, as Red Cloud opened his eyes and gazed gratefully at him. The Indian, trained in a severe school of discipline, did as he was bidden. Buffalo Bill would not allow him even to talk until his faintness had passed away.
The border king threw fresh twigs on the fire and made some strong broth, which Red Cloud drank eagerly.
The Indian, who had been watching him in grave silence, presently said:
“My brother has saved my life for the second time, and Red Cloud is grateful. But my brother is on a journey, and he must not delay himself upon my account. Let him place my rifle by my side and some meat near by, and Red Cloud will wait until he is strong enough to return to the tents of his people.”
“No, Red Cloud, you need not think I am going to leave you like this. You are not in a fit condition to travel. We will camp together until you can ride to your village.
“Indeed, it was you that I was coming to see. I have traveled all the way from Kansas to talk with you and your braves, and tell you the words of the Great White Father. Some of the tribes to the north have risen against him and dug up the tomahawk to smite the palefaces, but they have themselves been smitten, and they will be sorely punished.”
In a few brief but rapid sentences Buffalo Bill told the young Navaho chief about what had happened at Fort Larned.
Red Cloud replied that he had personally every desire to live on good terms with the white men, and so had most of his tribe, but there were some trouble makers among the young braves who were always talking war. However, nothing was likely to be done in the matter until his return to the village, then he would call a war council and give Buffalo Bill an opportunity of explaining the matter to the whole tribe.
Buffalo Bill and Red Cloud lived together, by the side of the stream, for several days. The border king constructed a hut of wattled branches, in which he put the Indian. There he tended him until his injuries were healed.
It was some time, however, before he was able to totter out into the sunlight again.
At nighttime the king of the scouts kept guard over his friend until long after dawn, for he knew that in his weak state the Navaho would easily fall a prey to any prowling animal or marauding enemy.
The scout took his rest during the day, lying by the side of his patient, who could wake him at the least sign of danger.
He was sleeping thus one afternoon, when he was awakened by his shoulder being violently shaken. He opened his eyes and reached for his gun in a moment.
Red Cloud, who was evidently in a state of great excitement, although he repressed outward signs of it with Indian stoicism, pointed to an arrow that was still quivering in the wall of their little shelter above his head.
“The Cave Dwellers! The Cave Dwellers!” he cried, and he pointed toward a clump of trees about fifty yards from their hut.
Glancing thither, Buffalo Bill saw two squat, deformed, misshapen creatures who looked more like big apes than men. They were almost black in color, and their arms and legs were bowed like those of a gorilla. As he watched them they danced to and fro and gave vent to several hideous yells, making the most hideous grimaces at the same time.
Buffalo Bill had heard of these strange creatures before, but he had never imagined they could look so demoniac and inhuman. After a few seconds one of the savages leaped forward, fitted an arrow to the bow which he carried in his left hand, and was about to pull the string.
Before he could do so Buffalo Bill drew a quick bead on him and shot him dead.
The other Indian gave a wail of dismay, looked at his slain companion for a moment in a dazed way, and then promptly took to his heels and fled through the trees. The border king did not attempt to pursue him, for he thought it possible that some other of his comrades might be lurking about, and it would therefore be dangerous to leave his patient.
“It was a lucky shot, brother,” said Red Cloud. “The arrows of the Cave Dwellers are almost always poisoned, and the slightest scratch with one of them is likely to kill a man. If the first arrow they fired had struck me, I should now be roaming the happy hunting grounds of the Great Manitou.”
“Who are they, and why did they attack us?” asked Buffalo Bill, after he had satisfied himself that the savage he had shot was really dead.
“They are the Cave Dwellers,” replied the Indian, “and they attacked us because they have a mortal feud with my tribe, and especially with myself. It is a long story, brother, but it were well that you should know it.”
“Let me get rid of the body first,” remarked Buffalo Bill. “If I leave it here, the coyotes and buzzards will come around pretty soon and trouble us. See! they are beginning to circle already.”
He pointed overhead, where several vultures were circling in whirls that approached constantly nearer to the ground.
With his strong, broad-bladed bowie knife, the scout hollowed out a grave a few feet deep in the loose, sandy earth, and placed the body of the dead savage in it. Over the shoveled-in earth he rolled a number of heavy stones, so that the coyotes would be unable to dig up the body.
Having thus given his slain enemy decent sepulture, the border king returned to the hut and prepared a meal for himself and his patient. As they sat smoking their pipes, after they had finished the repast, he asked Red Cloud for the story of his feud with the Cave Dwellers.
Red Cloud thought a moment, and then began:
“They are the old people, these Cave Dwellers—the oldest people in all this country. They are older than the Moquis, or the Piutes, or the Navahos, or the Apaches. They were here from the beginning of time, but when the other tribes came into the country they were driven to take refuge in great caves far up on the sides of the mountains, where hardly a goat can climb.
“There has always been enmity between them and the other tribes, and though they often dwell for long months up in their caves and do not trouble us, yet the hatchet is never buried. These Cave Dwellers are more like beasts than men, and they are fond of eating the flesh of their enemies, when they can capture them and carry them up the secret paths that lead to their caves.
“But it is not alone in the caves of the mountains that they live. They have also subterranean caverns running far into the bowels of the earth, and they also dwell in tents on the plains at some seasons of the year, when they come out of their caves to hunt and steal the cattle and ponies of the other tribes.”
“And how did you manage to incur their special enmity, Red Cloud?” asked Buffalo Bill.
“Three years ago, my tribe dwelt peacefully in our country, under the strong and good rule of our great chief, Spotted Snake. The neighboring tribes feared and respected us, and we had beaten the Cave Dwellers into submission. We had buried the hatchet with the white man, and we were left alone in our hunting grounds without interference. It was a happy time for the tribe.
“But Spotted Snake died, and his son, Scared Coyote, was a weakling. He ruled over the tribe like a woman, scarcely ever leaving his wigwam, and never risking his skin in the perils of the chase.
“Gradually the tribes which his father had kept so well in check began to encroach upon our territory, and the Cave Dwellers especially caused us great trouble, stealing our ponies and raiding our crops. Scared Coyote never resented this insult, for his heart was as weak as water within him.
“Our main camp was pitched at that time by the side of the Giant Spring.
“Does my brother know it? It is a spring that bubbles up from the earth and makes a big pond, coming from a subterranean river that flows many miles under the ground of the open prairie.”
“Yes, I have seen it,” answered Buffalo Bill.
“Then my brother will be able to understand my story. In those days I was just beginning to win my name as a scout and brave among my tribe, and I was always eager to do some great deed.
“My arm was big with muscle and sinew, and I could shoot an arrow farther than most of the braves; but I was yet counted as a boy by many of them.
“I learned one day that the Cave Dwellers had ridden into our country and established a camp there in great numbers. I crawled to the place by night and listened secretly as they talked around their fire. I learned that they were preparing a great surprise for us. Our tents were to be surrounded by them, and the Navahos would be destroyed forever, so that they could enter into possession of our hunting grounds and no longer be obliged to live in their desolate caves.
“I hastened back to camp with this startling intelligence, and asked to see Scared Coyote, who, as usual, was in his wigwam with his squaws.
“‘Tell the dog of a boy,’ was his message in reply, ‘that the chief will see him to-morrow, because he is too busy now mixing his paints with which he adorns himself.’
“I told the messenger that my mission was most important, and that the fate of the tribe depended on my seeing him.
“I waited over an hour for the reply to the second message, and then Scared Coyote—who was jealous of the prowess I had gained in hunting—sent out another messenger to say that he was a man who did not change his mind. He had said that he would not see me until to-morrow, and therefore he would not see me, whatever I might have to say. With the pride of an ignorant, foolish youth, he added that the word of a great chief was not lightly given and could not be lightly taken back.
“‘Tell Scared Coyote,’ I said, with my heart hot with anger within me, ‘that his word is the word of an infant in swathing clothes. Even a chicken just hatched by his mother hen would have the sense to flee from danger, but he will stay here and die. Then let him die!’
“I told them what I had learned, and we held a war council.
“We decided that we would shift our tents secretly in the night and leave Scared Coyote alone while he was asleep. Everybody heartily detested him, and therefore the plan was agreed to by all. We threatened to throw the squaws into the Giant Spring if they told the chief of our plans. We resolved to wait our chance of raiding the Cave Dwellers at a convenient season, for they greatly outnumbered us, many of our tribe being away on a distant hunting expedition.
“We struck our tents silently at the dead of night. The stamping of the horses was muffled by tying their feet in the long prairie grass. Any other Indian would have heard us, none the less; but Scared Coyote did not sleep with one eye open, like the rest of his people. He slept the heavy sleep of a prairie dog in his burrow.
“As we rode away over the prairie, and looked back to see the chief’s tent standing alone, we laughed at the thought of how surprised he would be when the sun arose and showed him that his tribe had left him.
“But there was a greater surprise even than this one in store for Scared Coyote. By a wonderful happening, the Cave Dwellers decided to make their attack on us the very same night that we rode away, although when I heard them talking around their fire they were going to postpone it till the following night, in the hope that some of their tribe would join them.
“One of the Cave Dwellers, whom we took prisoner afterward by a daring feat, of which I shall tell you, informed us that Scared Coyote swooned away like a woman when he saw them.
“How we laughed when we heard of the traitor’s death—for was he not a traitor to skulk in his wigwam with the women instead of looking after the welfare of his tribe?”
Red Cloud looked at Buffalo Bill inquiringly.
“Yes, he was certainly a skulker and a traitor,” the border king agreed. “I do not know that you did right to leave him, but I can understand how enraged you and your fellow braves must have been.”
“The Cave Dwellers, in overwhelming numbers, moved after us, and we were obliged to move farther away,” continued Red Cloud. “At last the braves who had been out hunting joined us, and then our enemies retreated and camped near the Giant Spring.”
“But you have not told me what happened to Scared Coyote,” remarked Buffalo Bill, interrupting the story.
“Oh, they threw him into the Giant Spring, with his paints tied around his neck, for he behaved in so womanly a manner that they got a greater contempt for him than we had, and they would not give him a warrior’s death.
“Though we had abandoned the place which had for so long been our headquarters, we had no idea of giving up the struggle,” Red Cloud continued. “We knew that the Cave Dwellers still greatly outnumbered us, but we nevertheless meant to attack them. At a grand council of war I was chosen chief, in place of Scared Coyote; for, although I was such a young man, I had distinguished myself by saving the tribe from certain annihilation.
“I thought long and hard what I should do, and presently I hit upon a good plan, although it was one fraught with great danger.
“Five hundred yards above the Giant Spring, on the north, there is a great hole covered over with brushwood and prairie grass. A narrow furrow in the ground, also covered by grass and brush, leads to this hole, the furrow extending along the prairie for nearly a mile.
“I thought that we would creep along this furrow and hide in the hole, and then surprise the hostile tribe when they struck their camp and marched northward, as I would contrive they should do by sending some of my men to make a feint of attacking them from that direction.
“I expected that by this ambush I would have them at my mercy, for they would be surprised beyond measure to see us spring up from the ground to attack them practically within the limits of their camp.
“But on reconnoitering the place, after we had crept along the furrow, I met with a great surprise. The hole at the bottom was filled only by a thin crust of earth, which broke when I pushed the end of my bow into it. I found that the hole actually went down into the subterranean river which led to the Giant Spring.
“Instantly a new and better plan occurred to me. Why not drop into the water and be swept along to the spring, and thence emerge into the center of the enemy’s camp, and attack the Cave Dwellers as they slept in their tents? The sentries would not be able to see us, for they were posted on the outskirts of the camp, and we should emerge from the center.
“As we looked down through the hole we could see that the water was surging by with tremendous force, and several of the braves who were with me said that my plan was sheer folly. They thought that any man who dropped through that hole would meet instant death. None of them would agree to the plan, and we returned to our camp.
“The next night I crept back to the place, with one of my best men, and got him to lower me down into the hole by some buffalo thongs tied tightly together and looped under my armpits.
“I was overjoyed to find that the river ran swiftly through a wide, high-vaulted passage. It was almost a cavern, and there was no danger of a man having his head knocked off or being battered to pieces as he was swept along, as the braves had predicted.
“We went back to the camp and told the braves what we had found, and they immediately agreed to follow my lead. I selected thirty of the best among them, and just before dawn we had assembled at the hole again.
“Our plan was to let ourselves drop well into the river, descending to some depth; for we did not know how low the rocks might be at the other end of the passage, where we would have to emerge. It would not do, therefore, to float down on the surface of the river; and this fact made our enterprise ten times more difficult and dangerous than it would otherwise have been.
“We agreed to wait for one another on the sides of the Giant Spring, hidden among the water lilies and other plants that grew there; and then, when all had arrived through the tunnel, we would rise up with a yell and attack our sleeping enemies.
“This yell was to be the signal for the rest of our braves, lurking around the camp, to rush in and help us to utterly annihilate the Cave Dwellers. Finding enemies in their very midst, and thinking themselves surrounded on all sides, I felt sure they would be too demoralized to be able to make any real resistance.
“As I was the chief it naturally fell to me to lead the way. I slipped down the buffalo thongs until I was within eight feet of the water. Then I let go, dropping my hands to my sides, and went down into the river feet first.
“The water was as cold as the snow of the mountains, and it seemed to me that I would never cease going downward into icy depths. The moment after I struck the surface of the stream I felt as if I had been seized by some giant wrestler, in whose hands I was a mere baby.
“My arms were pulled from my sides by the surging, swiftly flowing waters, and it seemed to me as if somebody was pulling my limbs apart with terrible force. I held my breath until I thought I would be obliged to take in some of the water, and at one moment my lungs felt as if they were being torn asunder. There was a loud roaring in my ears, and I thought my head would split open.
“Fortunately, just at the moment when my senses were leaving me, I came up to the surface, and my hands instinctively grasped some reeds. I took a long breath, and looked up, and there were the stars looking down at me from the sky. I had come safely through the tunnel and reached the side of the Giant Spring. As I looked to one side I saw a number of tents, from some of which smoke was ascending.
“I was in the midst of the enemy’s camp, and my position was one of great danger. I kept my head well down among the reeds, and waited impatiently for my comrades. It seemed as if they would never come. I waited for what seemed like an hour, but probably it was only a minute or two, at the most, and then, one after another, I saw heads bobbing up around me, first on one side and then on the other.
“One of the braves, as he came up, gave a loud gasp for breath, and then went down, never to appear again. I regretted his loss, but only one man lost out of thirty in such an enterprise was better than I had ever expected.
“We got together silently on the bank, and then, drawing our tomahawks, rushed upon the silent tents with a mighty war cry. We were instantly answered by loud whoops from our friends on the outskirts of the camp, and in a few moments we had the Cave Dwellers at our mercy.
“We captured several of their chiefs and head men as they were sleeping in their tents, and many others we slew. It was the most complete victory that my tribe has ever achieved, and it reduced the Cave Dwellers to complete submission. A few of them managed to escape and get back to their inaccessible caves, but never again did they make a concerted raid upon our territory.
“Nevertheless, they cherish a bitter animosity against the Navahos, and especially against me. One of the chiefs whom we took prisoner managed to escape, after learning that I was the man who had dealt such a heavy blow to his people. Evidently he told them about it, for two or three times since then a few of the Cave Dwellers have tried their best to take my scalp.
“This attack that you saw, my brother, was not by any means the first one they have made upon me. I guard myself against them as well as I can, but I expect that some day I shall fall a victim to their poisoned arrows or be carried away a prisoner to one of their caves, and there be devoured by them in one of their hideous feasts.”
Red Cloud said these last words calmly, with all the stoical philosophy of an Indian, and then folded his buffalo robe about him and sank into profound thought, gazing into the dying embers of the camp fire.
The young warrior was not a man to worry over even the worst that might happen. The matter was in the hands of the Great Manitou, and when his time came he would die as bravely as he had lived.
In a few days Red Cloud was sufficiently recovered to travel, and Buffalo Bill was glad of the opportunity to carry out his mission at last.
The Indian and the scout mounted their horses, which were very fresh and mettlesome after their long rest in camp, and each man secretly admired the great skill and horsemanship which the other showed.
“You are a great rider, Red Cloud,” said Buffalo Bill, after he had watched his blood brother for a few moments, sitting his horse like a bronzed statue as it reared and bucked and cavorted in all directions.
A gratified smile shone on the Indian’s face, and he replied:
“Would my brother care to try to mount this horse? No other man but myself has ever ridden him. Once he kicked a brave to death who tried to ride him.”
“I don’t mind trying,” said the border king, who had never yet met the horse that he could not subdue.
He leaped from his own mustang as he spoke, but Red Cloud kept his place in the saddle.
“No, my brother,” he exclaimed. “I did but jest. I might as well take my tomahawk and bury it in your head as let you mount this beast. He would surely kill you, for he is very savage to all but myself.”
By this time Buffalo Bill’s blood was up, and he was determined to mount the Indian’s mettlesome animal.
“Here is a fair offer, Red Cloud,” he exclaimed. “If your wounds are quite well, will you try to mount my mustang and ride him? He is not fierce, but he will certainly shake you off gently to the ground if I give him the word to do so. And if you cannot keep your seat on him you must let me try to mount your beast.”
The Indian’s spirit was aroused by this challenge. He eagerly accepted it, feeling confident that he would be able to sit the mustang without any difficulty. Like his white companion, he was used to conquering any animal he met.
He dismounted and approached the mustang, which cocked up its ears suspiciously and looked inquiringly at his master.
Buffalo Bill said: “Steady, old girl!” The mare kept as quiet as a lamb while the Indian mounted her, and allowed him to ride her gently up and down.
“Ugh! Do you call her troublesome?” the redskin exclaimed. “I never rode a gentler horse.”
Buffalo Bill smiled and gave a low, peculiar whistle. Instantly the mare stopped her quiet gait and began to rear and buck violently.
The Indian clung to the saddle with great skill and resolution, but the animal suddenly stopped its plunging and rolled gently on the ground, shaking him off and depositing him gently in the long grass of the prairie.
He got up, with a shamefaced look, and waved his hand toward his own pony.
“Mount her if you wish my brother,” he said. “But I pray you be careful, for her rage is sometimes terrible. I would much prefer that you did not try.”
Buffalo Bill went fearlessly up to the animal, caught it by the bridle, and vaulted into the saddle. Instantly the pony started on a wild gallop, and before it had gone twenty yards stopped suddenly in the middle of its stride and reared up almost erect on its hind legs.
The border king leaned forward, patted its head soothingly, and whispered in its ear. The animal became quiet in a moment, brought its forefeet to the ground, and trotted along peacefully, with Buffalo Bill bending forward and soothing it all the time.
In less than two minutes he had got it under complete control, and brought it back at a gentle canter to Red Cloud, who had watched the scene with the most intense astonishment.
“Are you a medicine man, oh, brother?” he exclaimed, in amazement. “You must have some spell that you cast over horses, for I never saw anything like this in all my days.”
“There is no spell needed,” said the border king lightly. “I have a way of letting animals know that I am their friend, and so I never have any trouble with them. This is particularly the case with dogs and horses. I never yet met one that I could not get along with.”
The two men then mounted their own steeds and rode toward Red Cloud’s village, which they entered at evening on the following day.
The chief was welcomed with loud cries of delight by the women and children, and with deep grunts of satisfaction by the less demonstrative braves, whom he had led to victory against their enemies on so many occasions.
He had gone away from the village on his hunting trip for only a day or two, and they had been much alarmed by his long absence, especially as one of the braves who had been out scouting had returned to report the discovery of Cave Dwellers’ footprints in the direction which Red Cloud had taken.
Naturally the redskins welcomed him warmly, and the chiefs and old men smoked the pipe of peace with him, and swore that he would always be to them as their brother, because he had restored to them their beloved chief.
Under such circumstances as these, Cody’s mission was naturally rendered easy for him. At a council of the tribe he told of the crushing defeat which had been inflicted on the Crows, Cheyennes, and Sioux at Fort Larned, and he appealed to the Navahos to keep the peace and try to induce the other tribes in the Southwest to do the same.
There was hardly any dispute about the matter. Only two or three of the younger and more hot-headed braves spoke in favor of war, and they were speedily overruled. Solemn pledges were given that the peace with the palefaces would be kept, and when at last the time came for Buffalo Bill to leave the village and rejoin his friends, he did so with a feeling of deep satisfaction at the complete success he had achieved in his diplomatic task.
“Do not go back on horseback, my brother,” said Red Cloud to him, when the king of the scouts announced that he must make his preparations for departure. “Go by the river. It is much easier, and it will land you within a few miles of the ranch where your friends are waiting for you. One of my braves can take your horse for you to that place, and he can bring back the canoe which you will use.”
Buffalo Bill agreed to this arrangement willingly. Although he traveled so much on horseback, he was not averse to other means of transportation, now and then.
Red Cloud loaned him a fine birch-bark canoe, and the greater part of the population of the village came down to the river bank to see him off, parting from him with expressions of the deepest regret.
“Take care you don’t fall in with the Nez Perces, my brother,” was Red Cloud’s final warning. “They are a cruel and treacherous tribe, and Yellow Plume, their chief, has no love for white men.”
“I know that,” Buffalo Bill replied. “I have met Yellow Plume twice, and once I had a very narrow escape from falling into his clutches.”
With a parting wave of his hand, the king of the scouts plied the paddle vigorously and sent his frail bark into the center of the stream. In a few moments, he had passed round the bend of the river, and was out of sight of the Navahos.
The journey to the ranch was not a long one, but it was considerably increased by the windings of the stream. The banks were clad thickly with timber and brushwood, and the bushes in many places grew right down into the water.
Buffalo Bill had been traveling for about five hours when he saw a canoe suddenly shoot out into the middle of the river from under the cover of some of these bushes. In it were seated two Indians.
They yelled at him threateningly, and ordered him to halt.
The border king saw at a glance that they belonged to the Nez Perces tribe, and that their motives were obviously hostile.
As he came near to them, he put down his paddle and took up his rifle. At the same moment one of the Indians fitted an arrow to his bow and drew it up to his head.
Before he could discharge the shaft, Buffalo Bill tumbled him over into the water with a bullet through his breast.
The other Nez Perce gave a yell of alarm and paddled swiftly for the shelter of the bank. Before he could reach it, however, he, too, fell a victim to the deadly rifle of the king of the scouts. Cody had no wish that the man should escape and bring a horde of his companions down upon him.
Putting down his rifle, Buffalo Bill paddled on. He soon got into broken water, which suggested that he was approaching some rapids.
The strength and roughness of the stream rapidly increased, and just as the scout was thinking that it would soon be advisable to paddle in to the bank and make a portage with the canoe, a new and serious danger confronted him. Just behind him, over toward the left, he heard a chorus of loud and angry yells.
Recognizing the war cry of the Nez Perces, he looked over his shoulder, and saw a large canoe shoot out from the cover of some low-growing bushes. It was filled by six stalwart Indians, and their powerful arms made the craft shoot toward Buffalo Bill’s canoe at terrific speed.
The border king paddled as hard as he could, but escape in that way was out of the question.
The Indians did not seem to want to kill him. They were intent upon making him a prisoner.
With every stroke of the paddle, it became more and more apparent that some dangerous rapids were being neared. But neither Buffalo Bill nor his pursuers, in the excitement of the chase, took much heed of that fact.
Cody thought of stopping and fighting it out, but the Indians were so close that he knew he could only kill two or three of them before the rest settled with him. Therefore, when they had almost drawn alongside, he cast a swift glance around and decided that his only chance was to take to the water and swim to the other bank, where he might find cover and escape.
As he looked round he saw that the man in the bow of the Indians’ canoe was none other than Yellow Plume, the chief of the Nez Perces; and he determined that he would take any risk rather than fall into his hands as a prisoner.
Suddenly, to the intense amazement of the redskins, Buffalo Bill flung down his paddle and slipped over the side of the canoe farthest from them.
With a yell of hate, Yellow Plume leaped to his feet and, bending his bow, let drive full at the scout. But with the quickness of thought Buffalo Bill dived ere the shaft could reach him, and, drawing his bowie, slashed fiercely at the bottom of the savages’ frail craft as it swept past him.
Still keeping under water, he swam to the bank and pulled himself up under cover of a weeping willow that grew right down into the stream.
Peering through the branches, he saw that the Nez Perces had come to grief. Their canoe had speedily filled with water and sunk.
As he watched he saw Yellow Plume swirled violently by the swift current against a rock, which cracked his skull as if it were an eggshell. Two of the other savages, unable to struggle against the rapids into which they had now entered, were speedily drowned; but the remaining three, taking advantage of an eddy in the current, managed to swim to the opposite bank.
Buffalo Bill continued his journey on foot, and at last reached his destination. He was warmly welcomed by the rancher, an old man who had known him for many years in several parts of the West and who had a great reputation as an Indian fighter. His name was Hank Jones. He was much pleased when he heard the news of Buffalo Bill’s dealing with the Navahos, for he lived near the border of their country and was naturally delighted to know that they were likely to keep the hatchet buried.
“Have you had any trouble with the Cave Dwellers?” the king of the scouts asked, as they sat smoking after dinner.
The old man said that he had not had any for the last year or so, but that they were in the habit of stealing his cattle before the Navahos broke their power in the manner Red Cloud had described. The border had now been at peace for some time, and the settlers were consequently enjoying a period of unusual prosperity.
“Gol-durned dull, I should call it,” said Nick Wharton, who had now fully recovered from his injuries. “What in thunder do you do to pass the time?”
His host explained that there was plenty of good hunting in the neighborhood, and he hoped to show them some before they left his ranch.
“Grizzlies and mountain lions is pretty well in thar way,” growled old Nick, “but a man hunt for mine, that’s the greatest sport of all.”
Next morning, Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill went out for a ride together, and stopped for a glass of milk at the log cabin of a settler about ten miles off. As the man was handing it to them, his glance fell upon a couple of Indians who were coming toward them at full gallop.
“Injuns!” he said, and he ran inside to fetch his gun.
Buffalo Bill looked carefully at the men as they rode up, and saw that they were Navahos. They were not dressed in their war paint, and when they came near enough he recognized their features as those of two of Red Cloud’s best braves.
“What is the matter, Eagle Eye?” he asked the leader of the two braves.
The Indian was much excited. Instead of wasting time beating about the bush and exchanging empty compliments, after the manner of his people, he went straight to the point at once.
“Red Cloud has been captured by the Cave Dwellers, and carried off to one of their inaccessible caves in the mountains,” he said. “We fear that they are saving him to offer up as a sacrifice at their great feast of Toshak, five nights hence, and that then they will devour his flesh, and so disgrace our tribe and the bones of our ancestors forever.”
Buffalo Bill recoiled in horror at this news, for he had grown to like the young Indian extremely, on account of his high courage and manly qualities.
“How did this happen?” he asked. “Where were your braves, that they allowed their chief to be captured?”
“Blame us not, oh great white chief,” said Eagle Eye, “although in truth I sometimes blame myself. Yet I could not help it.
“Red Cloud went by night to visit the graves of his father and uncle and pray to the Great Manitou to give him wisdom and strength to rule properly over the tribe. It was his custom to do this once every moon.
“Knowing that the Cave Dwellers had sought his life many times, I begged him to let me accompany him to the graves and watch over his safety while he prayed. But he would not permit it. He strictly commanded me not to follow him, saying that he must be alone with the spirit of his father.
“When day dawned he had not returned to the village, and I began to grow alarmed. After an hour had passed I went to the burying place with six other braves. Red Cloud had disappeared, but two dead Cave Dwellers lay on the ground near his father’s grave.
“There had been a fierce struggle, as the marks on the ground plainly showed; but the Cave Dwellers were more than twenty to one, and at last they had overpowered him and carried him away to one of their caves.
“Following swiftly on their trail, we found this message, which he had managed to write and drop on the path when they were not watching him closely.”
Eagle Eye handed to the border king a fragment of white cloth, evidently torn from the Navaho chief’s shirt, on which was written, in Indian hieroglyphics with the man’s own blood, the following brief but appealing message:
“Tell my brother, Long Hair.”
Buffalo Bill’s heart burned within him with rage against the Cave Dwellers as he read these words, and he registered a mental vow to do all that a man could do to save his blood brother from their clutches.
“We could not catch the Cave Dwellers before they reached their mountains and ascended to their lofty retreats,” said Eagle Eye, continuing his story. “It was hopeless to try to follow them there, for they had many sentries posted on rocky ledges on the hillside. These sentries shook their spears at us and shouted their defiance.
“We would have ascended, but we could find no path by which to climb. Every time we followed one, we found it terminated in a sheer wall of rock or a precipice.
“At last I pretended to withdraw, with my men, but really lay concealed in the brushwood near the foot of the mountain until one of the Cave Dwellers came down, thinking we had gone. We captured him, and forced him to tell us what they were going to do with Red Cloud. He said they were keeping him for a sacrifice at their cannibal feast of Toshak.
“I sent two of my braves to bring the rest of the tribe to the spot, left the others on watch near the mountains, with the prisoner, and then followed you as hard as we could ride to give you Red Cloud’s message.
“I have heard much of your great deeds, oh Long Hair, and I thought that if anybody could rescue Red Cloud it would be you, who are his blood brother. But, indeed, it seems hopeless, for we are not birds that we can fly to the abode of the Cave Dwellers.”
“If they can climb up, we can,” said Buffalo Bill, with his usual brave confidence. “There must be a path, and we must find it.”
During this conversation they had been riding back to the ranch at a sharp canter, and they soon reached it. While food and drink were being served to the two Indians by the orders of the hospitable rancher, the border king told Nick Wharton and his host that he would have to postpone the hunting trip they had arranged, and go instead to the rescue of his blood brother.
“Have as good a time as you can while I’m away, Nick,” he said, “but don’t shoot everything in sight. Leave a little hunting for me to do when I get back.”
“Shuck my hide, Buffler!” exclaimed the old scout, in aggrieved tones, “but did you sagashuate that I was goin’ ter let yer go off by yer lonesome among those Injuns? I’m comin’ along, too, and if we don’t find some way ter flutter up that gol-durned mountain, call me a blamed tenderfoot.”
Ten minutes later Buffalo Bill, accompanied by Wild Bill and Nick Wharton, rode with the Indians to join the Navaho braves who had assembled at the foot of the Cave Dwellers’ mountain to rescue their chief.
When evening came the little party was still far from its destination. As twilight stole over the prairie Buffalo Bill called a halt for supper, and the Indians set to work to build a fire.
When they had done this one of them took his earthen pot, which he always carried at the bow of his saddle and went to a stream near by for water.
He was back in a few moments, and ran up to Buffalo Bill and said:
“Come! Bring gun, grizzly coming up!”
The border king was on his feet in an instant, and he followed the Indian to a little thicket of trees down by the side of the stream.
Peering through the fast-growing darkness, he made out a great gray form advancing toward him. When within about twenty yards, it scented danger and stopped with an angry howl.
Buffalo Bill leveled his rifle and fired, but the bear, although mortally wounded, charged forward. When it was within a few paces of the scout, it exposed its flank in turning toward the Indian; and thus gave the border king an opportunity to finish it with a bullet through the heart.
“Good! That’s the first grizzly I ever killed with only a couple of bullets,” said Buffalo Bill to himself, as the other men ran up, alarmed by the sound of the shots.
The Indians lost no time in skinning the animal. A portion of the flesh was carried to the fire, cut up into strips, and at once cooked. As soon as the meal was finished, the rest of the meat was cut up and divided among the party, who then mounted and rode on, the two Indians again leading the way.
Next day they reached the mountain where the Cave Dwellers lived, and found that the Navahos, to the number of over two hundred, had pitched their camp in front of it. But they had been able to do nothing toward the rescue of their chief, for the face of the mountain was a perpendicular cliff, at the foot of which a stream flowed.
Buffalo Bill crossed the stream and rode forward to reconnoiter the position, accompanied by several of the Indians. They had not gone more than a hundred yards along the foot of the cliff when a great stone came bounding down from above, striking the ground a few yards in front of Buffalo Bill’s horse and breaking into fragments.
At the same moment a shrill yell was heard from the cliff above, and, looking up, they saw a number of the Cave Dwellers on a ledge two hundred feet above them, with their bows bent threateningly.
“Back, all of you!” shouted Buffalo Bill. “Their arrows may be poisoned.”
Seeing that the party retreated quickly, the savages did not shoot.
When they had got out of range, Buffalo Bill called a council of war, but found that nobody had any useful suggestions to offer. Then he mounted his horse and rode along the bank of the river farthest from the Cave Dwellers to get a good view of the cliff. He saw that there were three or four openings in the solid rock on the level of the ledge on which the Indians were posted.
He was astonished to notice that above these openings the cliff, which was in this place quite perpendicular, was covered with many strange sculptured figures, some of which still retained the color with which they had been painted in times long past.
Evidently the Cave Dwellers had not always been the degraded savages they were at present, or, more probably, a higher race had formerly occupied the caves and made these sculptures.
“Now, Eagle Eye,” said the border king, as the Navaho brave came up to his side and watched the cliff with him, “we have to see how this place can be climbed.”
The Navaho shook his head sorrowfully.
“I’m afraid it is impossible, Long Hair,” he replied in his own tongue. “You see that there is a zigzag path cut in the face of the cliff up to that ledge. In some places, as you can see, the rock is cut away altogether and the path is broken. They must have ladders to cross these breaks, and no doubt they would draw them up at once if they were attacked. You see that the lower ones have already been pulled up.
“Likely enough, sentries are posted at each of those breaks whenever they are threatened with an attack. Besides, we must remember that our first aim is not to attack, but to rescue Red Cloud. If they thought there was any risk of our getting up, they would almost certainly kill him without waiting for the feast of Toshak.”
“I understand all that, Eagle Eye,” replied Buffalo Bill, “and I have no idea that we could make our way up by that zigzag path. The question is, could the cliff be climbed elsewhere? The other end of the ledge would be the best point to get up at, for any watch that they might be keeping would certainly be where the steps of this path come down to the ground.”
Eagle Eye looked doubtful.
“Unless a man could fly, Long Hair, there would be no way of getting up there.”
“I don’t know about that,” the border king responded, carefully scanning the cliff. “Wait till I have had a good look at it.”
For a long while he gazed intently at the cliff, observing even the most trifling projections, the tiny ledges that ran here and there along its face.
“It would be a difficult job and a dangerous one,” he muttered presently, “but I am not sure that it cannot be done. At any rate, I shall try. When I was a boy one of my favorite sports was cliff climbing, and there was nobody who could beat me at it, Eagle Eye.
“Do you see, just in the middle of that ledge, where the large square entrance to the principal cave is, that the cliff bulges outward? That is lucky, for if there are any sentries on the steps of the zigzag path, they will not be able to see round that point. If they could, I would not have much chance of getting up, for it will be a bright, moonlight night.
“When I get to the ledge, if I do get there, I will lower down a rope. You can fasten the lariats of your braves together to make that rope; they will hold the weight of a dozen men easily. The lightest and most active of the warriors must come up first, and when two or three of them have mounted the ledge we can haul the rest of them up easily.
“Now you can leave me and see that the rope is made ready, and tell your braves what I propose. I shall be here for half an hour at the least. I must see exactly the way to climb and calculate the number of feet along each of those little ledges to the point where I can reach the big one above. I must have the whole thing well in my mind before I start to climb.”
Such was the opinion of the rest of the tribe when he told them what the white man proposed.
Buffalo Bill, however, had a look of confidence on his face when he rejoined them.
“I’m more convinced than ever that it can be done,” he said, after the evening meal of bear’s meat had been eaten. He filled his pipe and began to smoke quietly.
Wild Bill and Nick Wharton remonstrated with him and told him that his scheme was pure folly, and he would simply throw his life away. When they found that they could not turn him from his purpose, they both begged him to let them climb the cliff in his stead, but he would not hear of it.
“You are a brave man, Long Hair,” said Eagle Eye, “but no man can do what you are talking of, and you will simply sacrifice yourself for nothing.”
“I will wager my horse against yours that I will succeed,” replied Buffalo Bill.
The Navaho gravely nodded and took the bet. Indians of all tribes are much given to wagering, and the horse which Buffalo Bill was riding was a far better one than his own. Eagle Eye regarded the matter in the light of a legacy, rather than a gamble.
In order to lull the Cave Dwellers into a feeling of security, the border king ordered that the camp be struck, and the whole party rode away as if they had given up the enterprise as hopeless.
When they got out of sight a halt was called, and Buffalo Bill gave instructions for the operation of the night.
“We will cross the river on the horses a mile above the caves,” he said. “We must use the animals, or we shall not be able to keep our rifles and revolvers dry. We will tear up a couple of blankets and twist the cloth round the barrel of the guns so that if they knock against the rocks, as we climb up, they will not make a noise and put our enemies on their guard.”
The border king then chose the lightest of the Indians to follow him up the rope of lariats after the ascent had been made. Another lightweight was to be the third, Wild Bill was to follow, and then those on the ledge were to pull up Nick Wharton, Eagle Eye, and the rest. The lariats were securely knotted together, and the knots tied over again with strips of hide to prevent their slipping.
The Indians obeyed all of Buffalo Bill’s orders without a word, but it was evident from their manner that they had not the slightest hope that his daring attempt would prove successful. Even Nick Wharton, who usually had the utmost confidence in his friend and leader, shook his head dubiously and said to Wild Bill:
“He is an all-fired wonder, is Buffler, but I sagashuate he hev stepped up agin’ a bigger contraption than he kin manage this time.”
About an hour after sunset they started, riding slowly and scouting carefully to see that none of the Cave Dwellers was on the watch. It was two days after full moon, and they had therefore as many hours to reach the foot of the cliff before it rose.
An hour was more than sufficient to travel the distance. They therefore rested for a time, after darkness set in, before they started. Then they swam the river on horseback, and made their way noiselessly along, keeping at some distance from the river bank, until they reached the place where the cliff rose perpendicularly.
They pressed on, keeping close to the base of the rocks, until they arrived at the place which Buffalo Bill had decided upon as the easiest at which to make the ascent. Then they lay down among the bowlders at the foot of the wall of rock, and remained there until the moon rose, for it was impossible to attempt such a difficult and dangerous climb in the darkness.
While they waited they discussed the best way of getting the lariat rope up, for it was obvious that whether it was carried in a coil over the shoulder or wound around the body it would hamper the movements of the climber.
At last Buffalo Bill solved the problem by putting a ball of twine in his pocket and saying that he would throw it down from the ledge when he got up, so that the lariat could be tied to it and then pulled up.
“Good luck, pard!” said Wild Bill, as the border king prepared to start, and both he and Nick Wharton gripped their friend by the hand, while Eagle Eye laid his hand on his shoulder, saying: “Ugh, heap brave!”
The ascent was comparatively easy for a short distance. Then Buffalo Bill came to the first of the ledges he had noticed.
It was only about ten inches wide, but, keeping his face to the rocky wall, and using his hands to grip the most trifling irregularities in the smooth surface, or to get a hold in small crevices, he managed to make his way along until he arrived at a bulge in the wall which seemed to effectually bar further progress.
Buffalo Bill drew his bowie knife, bent forward, and cut a hole in the rock just large enough to rest his feet in. Thus, gaining a step forward, he cut another foothold, and so went on until he had got round the projecting rock at a frightful risk, and gained a secure footing on the next ledge.
But this ledge narrowed rapidly as he passed around it. He was now at one of the points which had appeared to him to be the most difficult, for, as he had looked up from the ground in the afternoon, the ledge seemed almost to cease, while the next one above it was also so narrow that he doubted whether he could obtain standing room upon it.
The scout now made his way along on tiptoe, in imminent peril of falling down the face of the cliff with every step.
In some places the ledge was not more than three inches wide.
After he had gone about thirty feet it widened, and the next forty or fifty feet upward were comparatively easy, for the rock sloped to some extent inward, and there were many fissures in which he could get a tight grip with his strong fingers.
Then came several difficult places, but he was now thoroughly confident, and he attacked the rocky wall with the utmost daring. At last he reached his goal and drew himself up on to the broad ledge that led to the caves.
None of the Cave Dwellers were in sight, and he flung himself down on the ground and rested for a few minutes, for he was utterly exhausted by his difficult climb, which not one man in a hundred thousand could have accomplished safely.
As soon as he felt refreshed by his brief rest he took the ball of twine from his pocket and flung one end, weighted by a bullet, over the side of the cliff. He knew that he had allowed ample length, and he drew it in until he felt a slight strain, followed by three jerks—the prearranged signal.
His friends below had hold of the string. Two more jerks told him that they had fastened the lariat rope to it, and in a couple of minutes he had the rope in his hands.
The scout found a big rock jutting out of the ground in the path, and he tied the rope firmly around it, and then shook the rope to show that he was ready for the first Indian to ascend.
Two pulls upon the lariat told him that the man had been tied on, and he began at once to haul. He found the weight much less than he expected. Not only was the Navaho a short and wiry man, but he used his hands and feet with such good effect that in about five minutes he stood beside Buffalo Bill.
“You can haul up the next man, while I go forward and reconnoiter the cave,” said the border king.
The Indian nodded, and immediately signaled with the rope for the next man to be tied on.
Buffalo Bill meanwhile stepped forward cautiously along the ledge until he came to the wide entrance of the principal cave. As he approached it, a short figure rose up from behind a rock. It was one of the Cave Dwellers keeping vigilant watch.
Before the man could utter a yell, Buffalo Bill had gripped him tightly by the throat, so that he could only gurgle feebly. Yet he managed to draw his tomahawk and raise it above his head to dash out the brains of the king of scouts.
Taking his right hand from the man’s throat, which he still held tightly gripped with the left, Buffalo Bill caught his wrist and wrenched away the weapon. He struck the Cave Dweller a heavy blow on the head with the flat of the blade, which knocked him senseless.
The border king then stepped swiftly into the cave. He could see several recumbent forms lying on the ground, and from the back of the cave there came a confused hum of voices. The light of the moon shone full into the entrance, and the place was almost as light as day.
The intruder had not taken more than a few paces when he stumbled against a body lying in the shadow. The man arose and bent forward into the moonlight, uttering a low cry of surprise.
Buffalo Bill raised the tomahawk, but before he could use it he saw that the man was none other than his blood brother, Red Cloud, the Navaho chieftain.
Without a word Red Cloud extended his hands, and Buffalo Bill saw that they were bound together by a rawhide rope. He drew his bowie knife and cut the bonds, and then handed the Indian the tomahawk which he had taken from the sentry at the mouth of the cave.
Red Cloud rose to his feet and eagerly gripped the weapon. “I expected you, my brother,” he said simply.
The cry which the Indian had given when Buffalo Bill stumbled against him had aroused one of the Cave Dwellers sleeping near by. He was, as it appeared afterward, the chief of the tribe, and he raised his body on his elbow and glanced around suspiciously.
His eyes fell upon Buffalo Bill and Red Cloud, and he instantly leaped to his feet, with a frightful yell of rage and warning.
In a moment the cavern was alive with the forms of the Cave Dwellers, wakened from their sleep, while those who had been talking at the back also ran forward. All this had happened in a much shorter space of time than the telling takes. The rest of the attacking party had not yet come up, and the blood brothers were in the most deadly peril.
The chief of the Cave Dwellers rushed forward, and in a moment was locked in a death grapple with the border king on the ledge at the mouth of the cave. As the rest of the band came forward, Red Cloud advanced a pace or two to meet them.
Buffalo Bill and the chief of the Cave Dwellers struggled on the edge of the precipice, locked in a deadly embrace; while the brave Navaho, tomahawk in hand, kept the other Indians at bay.
Although he was a man of small stature, the savage chief possessed the strength and ferocity of a giant ape. He strove to throw Buffalo Bill over the cliff, and in his rage he cared not whether he went over with him.
To and fro they swayed, and it seemed as if they must go down to death together, locked in one another’s arms. But with a mighty effort Buffalo Bill overpowered the savage, raised him from the ground, and flung him sheer over the cliff, making a quick turn on his heel as he did so, in order to avoid being carried over himself by the impetus of the falling body.
He had got rid of his dangerous adversary none too soon, for the Cave Dwellers were attacking Red Cloud with great ferocity and would have overpowered him in another moment, although he was making fine play with his tomahawk and had stretched two of the savages dead at his feet.
Buffalo Bill drew his six-shooter and speedily dropped three of the foremost Cave Dwellers. But the rest pressed on to the attack, and the blood brothers had to battle for their lives more desperately than either of them had ever done before, accustomed though they were to wild adventures.
“The last shot, Red Cloud!” gasped Buffalo Bill, after a few moments of rapid firing, as he thrust his second six-shooter into his belt and drew his bowie knife.
The Cave Dwellers, demoralized by the rapidity and accuracy of his aim, had retreated a few paces; but they were getting together again for another rush. The doom of the blood brothers seemed to be sealed.
But just as the Indians rushed forward Wild Bill, Eagle Eye, Nick Wharton, and a couple of Navaho braves charged to the rescue round the ledge and into the cave. They met the Cave Dwellers with a volley of shots and drove them back into the recesses of the cavern.
Realizing that their only chance of life was to cut their way out through their enemies, the savages soon rallied to the attack, and several minutes’ hard fighting followed. But Buffalo Bill’s party managed to hold the entrance until reënforcements came up, for Eagle Eye had left a couple of braves at the rope to draw up the rest.
It was a fight to the death. The Cave Dwellers refused quarter, and in the end only three or four of them managed to escape down the zigzag path.
Red Cloud and his warriors took many scalps that night, and there was much rejoicing in the Navaho village on their return, for they had not lost more than half a dozen braves in the fight and had utterly annihilated their troublesome neighbors.
Buffalo Bill had escaped from one of the fiercest fights in his experience without a scratch, and Wild Bill and Nick Wharton were also unwounded.
On the night following the fight with the Cave Dwellers, a feast was held in the village of the Navahos to celebrate the great victory they had gained.
The Indian braves and their three paleface brethren gathered closely around the camp fire after the feasting was over. The warriors told stories and legends of their tribe and indulged in wrestling and other sports, in all of which they showed great skill.
Buffalo Bill and his friends noticed that in the wrestling a tall and truculent-looking warrior named Leaping Dog overcame the other braves with ease. He threw one of them after another with scarcely an effort, until at last he could find none willing to meet him.
Then he turned to the white men, insolent with his triumph, and cried:
“Will you wrestle with me, palefaces? I will wager my tomahawk that there is none of you who can throw me.”
“Remember that the white chiefs are guests in our lodges, Leaping Dog,” said Red Cloud, in a reproving voice. “It is not seemly to challenge them thus.”
“I mean them no harm,” declared the truculent brave. “All men say that Long Hair is a great warrior and a mighty champion among his own people. If that is so, he should not fear me.”
“Fear you!” yelled Nick Wharton angrily. “It ’u’d take a sight more than you, ye durned red devil, ter scare the bravest man thet ever straddled a hoss on the plains.”
In his indignation the old trapper spoke in English, which the Indian did not understand. But he knew from the tone that what was said was not particularly complimentary to himself, so he turned his piercing black eyes on Wharton with an angry glance.
“If Long Hair will not wrestle with me, perhaps the old chief who roars like a bull will do so,” he said sarcastically.
“Sure, thar’s nothin’ better I’d like than ter break yer neck, ye durned savage,” retorted old Nick.
“Let him alone, old pard,” Buffalo Bill said soothingly. “I’ll take him on, if one of us must. I guess your muscles aren’t quite as tough, or your limbs as supple as they used to be when you were a young man.”
“You be everlastingly gol-durned, Billy Cody!” exclaimed Nick, now thoroughly incensed. “I kalk’late I kin tackle a blamed Indian still, even if I hev come ter be an old man. You let him get at me—an’ don’t you or Bill Hickok butt in.”
“All right! Go as far as you like, but try not to quite kill him,” laughed Cody.
Nick Wharton advanced into the center of the ring of redskins, in which his adversary was already standing in an attitude of defiant challenge.
Old Nick was a husky fellow, despite his age, but he did not look the physical equal of the red man, who was a giant over six feet tall, with muscles that stood out like masses of whipcord all over his arms and legs.
“I guess I may be a gone coon,” said the old trapper, as he removed his hunting jacket and stared critically at his opponent. “I used ter be powerful strong on the wrassle onct, but I guess I’m weakening a bit now. In all my wrasslin’ days, I reckon I never hit up agin’ a tougher proposition than thet thar redskin.”
Old Nick advanced boldly to the encounter, but his anticipation was soon justified.
The redskin rushed suddenly forward and had him in a resistless grip almost before he understood what was happening. He tried to struggle, but, with a mighty heave, the Indian sent him squarely to the ground and rose from his prostrate body with a sarcastic laugh.
“Will either of the other palefaces wrestle with Leaping Dog now?” he asked.
Cody and Hickok both jumped up, ready to accept the challenge and avenge their friend, but Wharton had already risen from the ground, and he stepped in between them.
“Wait a minute, old pards!” he said. “This hyar is my funeral. I ain’t had my bellyful yet, not by a long shot! I want the best two out of three.”
When Leaping Dog understood this he said that he was perfectly willing. He would throw the white man again, as he had thrown him before.
“It is no use, my brother,” said Red Cloud, taking Nick Wharton aside for a moment. “In wrestling we are all as children in the hands of Leaping Dog. He is a champion against whom no man can stand. He has beaten the best wrestlers of all the tribes.”
Old Wharton said nothing, but a look of grim determination came into his face that meant volumes.
The other Indians seemed to be of the same opinion as their chief, for they shouted to the white man not to meet their champion again, saying that he might hurt him seriously.
“Gol-durn him, let him go as fur as he kin!” muttered Nick savagely, as he stepped forward and faced his late victor.
He held his body as tense and rigid as that of a panther, and his coal-black eyes did not waver for a second in their baleful glance into those of the white man.
Suddenly he leaped like a wild beast straight at the throat of his opponent, seeking to grapple him round the neck—a favorite hold among the less sportsman-like of Indian wrestlers.
But Nick had seen Indians wrestle too often to allow himself to be caught in that manner.
He showed an agility surprising in so old a man.
With a movement even quicker than that of the Indian, he side-stepped, and, before his foe could recover his balance, he had grasped him round the shoulders in a clever hold that left him little chance to break away.
After swaying to and fro for a few moments, he forced the redskin backward until his shoulders fairly touched the ground.
The Indians were dumb with intense surprise for a second or two, and then they hailed the victory with loud whoops of delight. Leaping Dog, being a surly fellow, was not popular in the tribe. As the wrestling champion he had always been overbearing in his manner, and they were therefore glad to see his pride .
“Quits!” cried Nick. “Now fur the rubber!”
Leaping Dog got to his feet, looking angry and crestfallen. There was an expression of fierce vindictiveness in his eyes as he faced Wharton for the final bout.
Before they could clinch, Red Cloud rushed in between them, put his hand down to the brave’s belt, and pulled out a knife, which he tossed to the ground at Buffalo Bill’s feet.
There was nothing wrong in the fellow having the knife. All the braves were wearing one, as they commonly did; but Red Cloud had caught that evil look in Leaping Dog’s eyes, and he thought that the man might be tempted to use his weapon, if he were worsted again.
Leaping Dog glared at his chief savagely, but said nothing.
A chorus of emphatic “Ughs!” of approval went up from the Indians around the circle. It was clear that they did not think their chief’s suspicions were altogether unjust.
As the two men met again the Indian was far more wary than on either of the other occasions. Nick Wharton, tired of his cautious feints, eventually had to rush in and grapple him.
He secured a good grip, but the redskin struggled stoutly, bringing all his tremendous strength to bear to overcome the old scout.
The men struggled backward and forward for more than two minutes, panting heavily. Now one, and now the other, would gain a slight advantage, only to lose it again in a moment.
Then Wharton thought of an old trick which he had often used in his youth. It was too old to be used with any good effect on an expert American wrestler, but it might be new to the redskin, whose style of wrestling was altogether different.
Putting forth all his strength, he started to push the Navaho backward, inch by inch, as if he meant to force him over to the ground, as he had done before.
Leaping Dog strained his muscles to resist this attempt, just as Wharton had expected he would do. The redskin was thus pushing forward with all his strength.
Suddenly the trapper stopped pushing and pulled him violently forward.
As the Navaho’s own strength was being exerted in the same direction, he could not save himself in time. He struggled for a second or two to keep his balance, but in vain.
Before the spectators could fully realize the cleverness of Wharton’s trick, Leaping Dog was lying face downward on the ground, as flat as the proverbial pancake.
He was badly shaken up, for the fall was a heavy one. For several moments he lay prostrate, and then Nick Wharton helped him to his feet and offered to shake hands with him.
The surly Indian brushed aside the proffered hand and shouted savagely:
“I will fight you with knife or with tomahawk!”
“That you shall not!” declared Red Cloud angrily, stepping in between them. “Begone to your tepee, Leaping Dog! You blacken the face of our tribe. Learn respect for our white brothers, who have fought so well for us.”
The other braves around the fire shouted angrily that Leaping Dog ought to be expelled from the tribe.
Seeing how strong was the feeling against him, Leaping Dog retired to his lodge, as commanded, but he did not lie down to sleep.
Had any one drawn aside the flap of buffalo hide that served for a door, the buck would have been seen busy at a task congenial to his savage nature.
He was whetting a long, broad-bladed knife by the light of a lamp of crude oil, and singing a savage death song as he did so.
Cody and his two comrades were conducted by Red Cloud to his own tepee, which was the best in the village. He begged them to use it for the night, saying that he would sleep in the medicine lodge with Silver Fox, the venerable medicine man of the tribe.
As the chief turned to leave his white friends, after bidding them good night, he did not notice that a figure was watching him from the shadow cast by an adjoining wigwam.
The figure was that of Leaping Dog. He had caught the last words uttered by the chief.
He had sharpened the knife until its edge was as keen as that of a razor, and now he thirsted to plunge it deep into the hearts of his enemies.
But he knew he must be cautious. He must stab them when they were asleep. If he were discovered in his crime, his life would not be worth a moment’s purchase.
Even when the bodies were found it would go hard with him, though there might be no actual evidence that he was the guilty party. His fellow braves would at once suspect him, and they were likely enough to kill him on suspicion—for he knew that most of them disliked him strongly.
Lurking in the shadows, he wondered whom he should attack first—the whites or his own chief. Red Cloud had disgraced him before his own people, and his savage heart burned with rage at the thought. But the old white man had beaten him at wrestling, and made him a laughingstock before them all.
He must carry out his revenge quickly, and put a long distance between himself and the village before the dawn. He would have to travel fast and far, for the avengers of blood would follow on his trail as soon as the dead bodies were discovered.
With this idea in his mind Leaping Dog went to his tepee, and made preparations for a long journey. He saddled his pony, and placed some provisions and his weapons upon it. This done, he stole quietly to the medicine lodge of Silver Fox.
He had made up his mind. He would slay his chief first, and then assassinate the white men. He had a violent hatred of all palefaces, and the blood of Nick Wharton alone would not satisfy his lust for revenge.
He listened outside the lodge and heard voices talking inside. The chief of the Navahos and his venerable host of the night had not yet gone to sleep. They were talking of the white men and praising them highly. Their words added fuel to the fire of hatred in Leaping Dog’s heart.
At last their voices ceased, and by the sound of their deep and regular breathing, the watcher concluded they were asleep.
Meanwhile, the three scouts had made themselves comfortable in their wigwam, and were talking over the events of the evening.
Cody and Wild Bill congratulated their old friend heartily on his victory over the redskin wrestler.
“Thet’s all right,” said Nick, “but thar’s goin’ ter be more trouble over that. Thet redskin is out fur blood.”
“If that’s the case, we had better not all go to sleep to-night,” remarked Buffalo Bill. “He did look pretty wicked. This is his chance to get even with us, for he knows we shall probably leave the village to-morrow.
“Of course, the tribe would punish him with death if he stuck a knife into any one of us, but when an Indian sees blood he isn’t going to stop out of fear of the consequences. We must take turns at keeping watch to-night.
“By the way, don’t you think he is as likely to stab Red Cloud as any one of us? Remember how the chief treated him in front of all the other braves. That must have been a bitter pill for him to swallow.”
“Let us go to Silver Fox’s lodge and warn Red Cloud to be on his guard,” said Wild Bill. “I know which lodge it is. It’s only about a hundred yards down the line of tepees.”
His companions agreed, and they all stepped out into the cold, biting night air. Buffalo Bill took the precaution to pick up his revolver before he sallied forth.
As they came in sight of the medicine lodge they saw a figure outside it.
Before they could get near enough to recognize the man, the latter lifted the buffalo robe that hung over the door of the lodge, and passed inside.
“Come on!” said Cody, in a hoarse whisper, to his friends. “If that is Leaping Dog he may do his work before we can stop him.”
He ran toward the lodge at the top of his speed, but before he could reach it a frightful scream rang out—a cry far worse than any death yell he had ever heard. It froze his blood with horror, and for a moment he stood still—aghast.
Then he rushed forward, expecting to find the dead body of the young chief of the Navahos.
He tore aside the flap of the tent, but the sight which met his eyes was very different from that which he had expected.
Buffalo Bill let the hand which grasped his revolver fall to his side, for he saw that the body of Leaping Dog was lying in a twisted and huddled heap on the floor.
The aged medicine man was towering over him, with his right arm outstretched, and his finger pointing down at the prostrate figure.
He looked as stern as an avenging angel. Fire seemed to flash from his eyes, and his frail form shook like an aspen leaf with the intensity of his passion.
Buffalo Bill bent down, and saw at a glance that Leaping Dog was dead.
There was a look of unfathomable terror in his eyes, and his body was twisted like the trunk of a blasted tree.
“He is dead,” said the border king. “You don’t want your tomahawk, Red Cloud. But how did he die, Silver Fox?”
“The dog was smitten by the wrath of the Great Manitou,” replied the old medicine man cautiously.
“So we see. But that wrath came through the medium of the Great Spirit’s servant, Silver Fox, I suppose. How did you do it?”
“Seek not to know the mysteries of the medicine lodge, Long Hair,” said the old priest solemnly. “They are known only to a few of us, who are bound by the most solemn oaths. We may not reveal them to our children or brothers—still less to white men. Let it suffice that there is an Indian magic which in some matters is greater than the wisdom of the palefaces.
“I knew what was in the heart of this dead dog,” he went on, spurning the body of Leaping Dog with his foot as he spoke. “I knew that he meant to murder Red Cloud as soon as he had formed the purpose in his mind. I waited for him to come and raise the knife, as I knew he would do, and then I invoked the wrath of the Great Manitou and slew him.”
“You mean that you killed him by sheer terror, Silver Fox,” said Buffalo Bill.
He bade good night to his red friends and went back, with Wild Bill and Nick Wharton, to their own tepee.
They discussed the strange death of Leaping Dog, but could come to no satisfactory conclusion about it.
“It must have been done in some way by means of hypnotism,” said Buffalo Bill. “Silver Fox must, in one momentary glance, have made the man think he saw something terrible enough to frighten him to death. And that Indian had pretty good nerves, too, I should say. Yet I never saw such a crazy look of fear and horror in any man’s eyes—not even in the eyes of men who have died under the tortures of the redskins—and you know what they look like. I tell you I’m afraid to go to sleep to-night, for I know I shall dream of that look in the eyes of Leaping Dog.”
However, in a few minutes, the border king was fast asleep. His nerves were much stronger than he had represented them to be.
The three scouts only stayed for a day or two with the Navahos after the rescue of Red Cloud. They were anxious to hurry back to Kansas and find out how the campaign against the three rebel tribes was proceeding.
A toilsome but unadventurous journey brought them back at last to Fort Larned, where they were warmly welcomed by the commandant. He heard with great pleasure the results of Cody’s mission—that there was no danger of the Navahos giving trouble, but that, on the contrary, they would do all in their power to restrain the other tribes in the Southwest from digging up the hatchet.
“Have you done much fighting with the confederated tribes while we have been away?” asked Buffalo Bill.
“No,” replied the officer. “They have kept carefully out of our way. They retreated to the mountains, where our troops could not follow them. We have had a few small skirmishes, but they are still unconquered. They have been gathering strength lately, according to the reports brought in by my scouts, and I am expecting them soon to descend down into the plains again and assume the offensive.”
“Will you be ready to meet them?” asked Buffalo Bill.
“Yes, with the help of the troops at Fort Hays. The commandant there and I have arranged to move together against the redskins as soon as they give us a chance. Between us, we ought to be able to account for any number of them.”
The commandant’s expectations were justified that very night.
A scout came riding in, with his horse all used up and himself on the point of exhaustion. He staggered into the commandant’s headquarters, where Buffalo Bill was dining as a guest, and sank limply into a chair.
Buffalo Bill saw at a glance that the man had been through a very rough experience. So it proved when, revived by a glass of wine, he told his story.
He had been scouting away up in the hills, and had witnessed the descent down into the plains of several large war parties of the three allied tribes. He had been detected by one party, and had been forced to flee for his life. After a long and hard chase, he managed to escape from his pursuers shortly before he came in sight of the fort.
The man was closely questioned as to the course the Indians had taken, and he said the war parties were converging on a point by the bank of a river about midway between the two forts where they were going to establish their military camp.
“This news must be carried to Fort Hays at once,” said Cody.
The commandant nodded.
“And I will take it as soon as my horse is saddled,” added the king of scouts.
The officer thanked him and gave him a letter to the commandant at Fort Hays, making arrangements for them to meet at a rendezvous and attack the Indians.
It was a hard ride that Cody had that night, but an hour after dawn he drew rein at Fort Hays and delivered his message. This done, he flung himself down on a sofa for a few hours’ sleep.
The border king awoke about six o’clock, and, going out of the commandant’s house into the courtyard of the fort, found that two hundred troopers were already saddling their horses to ride to make the junction with the Fort Larned contingent.
A well-equipped expedition was being got ready. Pack mules carrying provisions, water, ammunition, and tents were awaiting to accompany the soldiers. Their commander evidently expected a long and hard campaign.
As the men were having their breakfast, Wild Bill and Nick Wharton appeared on the scene; and the three scouts rode out with the column when it left the fort.
The march was kept up nearly all day, until late in the afternoon the rendezvous was reached.
Strong parties of Indians had been observed hovering around the flanks of the column during the morning; but they had not dared to attack, and the officer in command would not allow his men to break ranks in order to chase them.
Arrived at the rendezvous, he gave orders to pitch the camp and await the arrival of the Fort Larned forces. As yet, they were nowhere to be seen.
The mules were unloaded, and soon rows of white tents were erected on the green prairie.
Before any steps could be taken to fortify the encampment, the Indian bands which had been observed during the morning appeared again.
They hovered round the camp at some distance, keeping well out of rifle shot, but presently they were strongly reënforced by other war parties, which had evidently been sent for.
Toward the close of the afternoon the camp was ringed round by nearly two thousand redskins, who outnumbered the white soldiers by almost ten to one.
It looked as if Uncle Sam’s troopers would be doomed immediately an attack was made. However bravely they might fight, they must succumb at last to overwhelming numbers.
Buffalo Bill figured out the situation, and when the Indians were gathering their forces together for an advance he decided it was high time to try the effect of a bluff.
He remembered that the Indians had used the white flag at Fort Larned, and he decided that he would try it himself.
At the worst, he hoped to be able to hold them by talk for some time, and thus increase the chance of the troops from Fort Larned arriving before the fight was over.
He drew out his handkerchief, tied it to the barrel of his rifle, and rode toward the Indians, waving his improvised flag of truce.
His action evidently surprised the Indians, but in a few moments three or four of them, who seemed to be chiefs, rode out to meet him.
The commander of the soldiers and two or three of his officers spurred their horses after the border king, and were by his side before he met the Indians.
“What in thunder are you up to, Cody?” the commander asked.
“I am going to try to work a bluff on them,” the border king replied. “We would stand very little show if it came to a fight. I want to hold them off until the Fort Larned people show up, or else bluff them into not fighting at all.”
“How on earth are you going to do that?”
Cody did not reply, for at that moment the Indian chiefs came up to him, and he turned to salute them with his usual dignified courtesy.
“Greeting to you, Long Hair!” the Crow exclaimed. “Our tomahawks are thirsting for the blood of white soldiers. Why do you call upon us to delay the fight? Do you wish to surrender? It is useless, for our braves are determined to take the scalps of all your men. The Crows and the Cheyennes and the Sioux do not take prisoners.”
“Listen to my words,” replied Buffalo Bill, speaking in his most impressive manner. “My tongue is not forked, and my words are the words of wisdom and mercy. I have no hatred in my heart against your tribes, and I wish to save you from absolute defeat and annihilation.
“If you attack the white soldiers, you will surely die. They are armed with rifles which cannot miss. You know how many of your braves lost their scalps in the fight at Fort Larned. Many more will bite the dust now unless you go back to your tents in peace and bury the hatchet.
“What can you gain by fighting against the white man? You know that you are always beaten. I cannot count on my fingers the number of times I have seen your braves scattered and shot down by the white soldiers, as the clouds are driven before the wind.”
Buffalo Bill’s harangue, delivered in a stern and impressive tone of voice, seemed to shake the warlike resolution of the Indian chiefs. They were all old warriors, and each one of them could remember previous occasions when he had fought against the white man and been hopelessly beaten.
“Here is one of them,” replied the border king, tapping his own weapon as he spoke.
“Show me what it can do,” demanded the Indian.
Buffalo Bill noticed that the Indian had a bow and a quiver full of arrows slung on his back. A daring thought came to him.
It seemed impossible to execute, but he determined to try it. It was the only way he could think of to save Uncle Sam’s troopers from an attack by their overwhelming enemy.
“Shoot an arrow into the air as far and as hard as you can,” he said, “and I will cut it in halves with a bullet as it falls backward and comes whizzing down to the ground. My rifle cannot miss, and you will find, if you attack our camp, that the rifles of the white soldiers cannot miss, either.”
The Crow looked at him in amazement for a moment, and then took his bow from his shoulder, fitted an arrow to the string, and shot it into the air with all the force of which he was capable.
Buffalo Bill stood about ten paces off, with his Remington to his shoulder. The arrow soared far into the air, and then, when the momentum was exhausted, came down swiftly, turning round and round with an erratic motion.
Buffalo Bill’s rifle cracked when the feathered missile was about ten feet from the ground.
The Indian chieftain stooped and picked up the shattered shaft, with a cry of amazement.
“See,” he exclaimed, “the bullet has broken the arrow!”
The other Indians gathered round, surprised out of their ordinary gravity and reserve. They handled the broken arrow as children would handle a new top, and looked at Buffalo Bill as if he were a magician.
They had never seen such shooting before, and they regarded it as something beyond the scope of merely human skill. There must be some witchcraft in it.
Buffalo Bill struck while the iron was hot.
He knew the Indian character thoroughly, and he immediately began another harangue about the terrible results that would ensue to their tribes unless they immediately consented to bury the hatchet and return to their villages and live in peace.
While the Indians were hanging in the wind, anxious to do as he counseled, and yet unwilling to abandon their blood lust, they saw a column of dust approaching across the prairie.
They watched it silently for a few moments, and then saw that it was a column of cavalry coming up at full gallop.
The men from Fort Larned had arrived at last to their outnumbered comrades.
This sight decided the redskins. Turning toward Buffalo Bill, the Crow chief threw his tomahawk to the ground, and said:
“Let it be buried, my brother! We will return to our villages, and dwell in peace with the white man. Bad Eye, who stirred up all this trouble, is dead; and there is nothing to be gained by keeping on the warpath. There will be wailing in our villages for the braves whose scalps have already fallen. We will bury the hatchet before worse befalls.”
Thus ended the war of the confederacy of the three tribes, which might have led to widespread massacre and suffering had it not been for the border king’s ready wit and marvelous skill with the rifle.
There was a joyous party at the bivouac that night. The troopers, while somewhat disappointed at the thought that the fighting was over, were satisfied with the complete victory that had been won.
They had seen the backs of their late enemies, who, before retreating to their villages, delivered over two chiefs from each tribe as hostages.
These prisoners were to be returned after all the details of peace had been arranged by the officials of the government.
of the credit was given by all to Buffalo Bill for the suppression of the rebellion, and his fame stood even higher in Kansas and all along the frontier than it had ever done before.
Several weeks after Buffalo Bill had taken leave of his friends of Fort Larned, he stood one day upon the veranda of a little hotel in the frontier settlement of Danger Divide, when a young man came up, and, taking him by the arm, led him courteously to the other end of the veranda.
“Mr. Doyle, let me introduce to you Colonel Cody, the chief of scouts of the Department of the Platte.”
The speaker was a tall, handsome sun-tanned young man, whose frank, honest look and kindly, smiling eyes would at once have prepossessed any one in his favor.
The man to whom he spoke was old enough to have been his grandfather. His appearance was distinguished, but his face bore deep lines that spoke of some great sorrow which had clouded his life.
The old gentleman rose from the chair in which he was sitting and bowed courteously to the man who was being introduced to him.
“Any friend of yours, Mr. Mainwaring, honors me by his acquaintance,” he said. “But it gives me especial pleasure to meet Colonel Cody. I have heard much about his great deeds out here in the West, and now that I see him I am sure that nothing I have heard has been exaggerated.”
“I am delighted to meet you, sir,” replied the scout.
“I heard you make a speech in the Senate two years ago, when I was in Washington on some business with the War Department,” he added cordially.
“Ah, they say that you never forget a face, Colonel Cody, and it appears to be true. But I have resigned from the Senate and left Washington forever.”
Buffalo Bill’s face expressed polite interest, but he made no remark. He could not help wondering, however, how it had come about that one of the most distinguished statesmen at that time in America should have abandoned his great career, and instead of being in his proper place at Washington should be found at a wretched little frontier shanty—which was all that the best “hotel” in Danger Divide could really be called.
“Yes, I have turned my back on Washington,” Mr. Doyle went on, “and I am now on my way to California, with my two daughters. I am going to buy a ranch there and make it my home for the small balance of my days. I want to leave all the old associations of my life behind. They have become painful to me.
“My eldest boy died three months ago in Washington. He was the last of my three sons. My wife died years ago, and now I have only my two girls left—May and Gertrude. Like myself, they wish to live in a new country, among fresh scenes and people who will not remind us of the past.”
It was a strangely frank speech to make to a new acquaintance, but Buffalo Bill was a man who inspired confidence at first sight, and Mr. Doyle found it natural to talk to him of his most sacred and private affairs as he could not have done to another man.
A smiling, honest-looking negro came out onto the veranda and said to the old man:
“Lunch done got ready, massa. Missie Gertrude and Missie May waiting for you. I ’clar’ to goodness, suh, I cooked de best lunch I could, but you can’t get nuthin’ more in this place than down in ole Virginny at de end ob de wah.”
“All right, Norfolk Ben,” replied Mr. Doyle, smiling kindly at the man. “I’ve no doubt that you have done the best you can, and probably you have done wonders, under the circumstances.”
The honest fellow, grinning his appreciation of these words, vanished through the door.
“That is my servant, Norfolk Ben,” said Mr. Doyle, turning to Cody and Jack Mainwaring. “I don’t think any one ever had a more faithful one. He has been with us for many years, and is perfectly devoted to my daughters. He comes from Norfolk, in Virginia—hence his name.”
“A good Virginian servant of the old stock is indeed a treasure,” remarked Mainwaring.
“Will you join us at lunch, Colonel Cody, and you, too, Mr. Mainwaring? I want to hear some more about that ranch of yours in Texas, and my girls will be delighted to meet you, Colonel Cody, and listen to some stories about your adventures.”
“I don’t think it will be easy to induce Cody to tell them,” said Jack Mainwaring, smiling. “Somebody else is always the hero of the stories he tells. I have known him for three weeks, but all that I have heard about his adventures has been from other people.”
Both men accepted Mr. Doyle’s invitation and went into the small, stuffy dining room of the hotel with him.
They found there two girls, of about twenty and eighteen years of age respectively, whom they were introduced to by Mr. Doyle. The elder was his daughter May and the younger was Gertrude.
Both were pretty, but the elder was by far the prettier, and Buffalo Bill, wise in such matters, could see at a glance that young Mainwaring was powerfully attracted by her. It was the first time they had met, for he had only made the acquaintance of Mr. Doyle a short time before he introduced Cody to him.
The party sat down to lunch, Norfolk Ben waiting on them, and they were soon in the midst of an animated conversation.
Jack Mainwaring told stories of his life on his ranch in Texas. He was a wealthy young fellow, owning one of the best cattle runs in that State. He was now enjoying a hunting trip in the farther West, and Buffalo Bill, whom he met some time before, had been able to show him some very good sport.
As Mr. Doyle had prophesied, the two girls were eager to hear the king of scouts tell about his own deeds, but he evaded their questions and appeals as well as he could. He was more silent and abstracted than was his wont, and something seemed to be weighing on his mind, in spite of the gayety of the little party.
“Mr. Doyle,” he said suddenly, in a lull in the conversation, “would you mind telling me why you have halted in this little place on your journey to California? The accommodations are so bad that I am sure you would not have done so without some very good reason.”
“Necessity was my reason,” replied the old gentleman, smiling. “I have a train of three wagons, and one of the wagons was so badly damaged in crossing a deep gully near here that we had to stop to have it repaired. From what they tell me, it will be a pretty long job. They have few facilities for such work in a little place like Danger Divide.”
“It is a pity you could not have gone on to Fort McPherson, seventy miles farther on,” said Buffalo Bill. “It is a military post, and they have all the means for doing such work. The general who commands the post would have been pleased to help you. I know him well, for I am attached to the post as his chief of scouts.”
“We could hardly get to Danger Divide,” replied the old man.
Buffalo Bill thought deeply for a few minutes, hesitating whether or not he should speak out what was in his mind. Then he said:
“Mr. Doyle, what I am going to say to you will no doubt sound extraordinary and impertinent, but it is prompted by my knowledge of this country.”
“Whatever it is, I am sure it will be well meant, Colonel Cody,” remarked the ex-senator, looking puzzled.
“Well, then, it is this: When your wagon is repaired you would, in my opinion, be well advised to turn back east, instead of trying to cross the great plains at present. If I were in your position I would wait for a few months at least before trying to reach California by the overland route.”
Mr. Doyle and his daughters looked very much surprised at this remark. A shadow of annoyance crossed the old man’s face, as if he thought an unwarrantable liberty was being taken with him and his plans, but it passed almost as quickly as it came, and he turned to the king of the scouts and said:
“What you have just told me, Colonel Cody, is certainly rather strange, but I am sure you must have some good reason for saying it.”
“I have,” replied the border king. “The great plains are very unsafe for wagon teams at present—more unsafe, I think, than they have ever been before in my experience.”
Mr. Doyle looked surprised.
Buffalo Bill smiled.
“What they don’t know about this part of the country in Washington would fill a big book,” he retorted. “The troops do their best—they do wonderfully, indeed. But they can’t be everywhere at once. Sometimes they are too late to protect, and can only avenge.”
The old man looked grave, but at the same time obstinate. He had made his plans, and he was not of the kind to give them up readily.
“Of course, I know that there is always a certain amount of risk on the overland route,” he said. “That must be taken for granted. We have reckoned it in the plans we have made, and the girls are not at all afraid, I can assure you.”
“Indeed we are not, father!” exclaimed May, glancing at Buffalo Bill with some indignation.
“What is the special danger at present?” the old man asked.
“It is twofold: The Shawnee Indians, under their chief, Evil Heart, are in a very ugly mood toward the whites, and there is a band of outlaws calling themselves Death Riders who have held up several wagon trains during the past few months, and even ventured to raid some of the settlements.”
“The Death Riders!” exclaimed the old man. “It is an ominous name.”
“And it fits them well,” returned Cody. “They show mercy to none who fall into their power. They are the worst gang of outlaws who ever cursed the West in all my experience.”
“Have you met these Death Riders?” asked Mr. Doyle, after a brief silence produced by the impressive manner in which Buffalo Bill had spoken. “Have you had any personal experience with them?”
“Yes,” replied Buffalo Bill. “As chief of scouts I have assisted more than once in efforts to hunt them down, but those efforts have not yet been successful, although in three little skirmishes we have thinned down the gang considerably. They have a great knowledge of the best hiding places in the hills, and so have been able to elude pursuit.
“They have particular hatred of me, because of my efforts to hunt them down, and they have sent me more than one message threatening my life. Only six weeks ago Wild Bill and myself were caught by seven of them in a narrow cañon, and we had a pretty close call.”
“What happened when you met them?” asked Mr. Doyle, looking at the king of the scouts curiously.
“Oh, we managed to get away from them,” answered Buffalo Bill lightly.
“Why don’t you tell the story as I heard it from Wild Bill, Cody?” said young Mainwaring. “He told me that he was knocked senseless after two of the men were down, and that you killed the other five single-handed. Isn’t that true?”
The knight of the plains was loath to admit this, for he had an almost morbid dislike of anything that savored of boasting, but finally, under the cross-questioning of the girls, he was obliged to confess that Wild Bill had stated the facts.
“But the Shawnees are fully as dangerous as the Death Riders,” the king of the scouts added. “Indeed, I think they are even more so. I’ve had a good deal of experience of that tribe during my life on the plains.
“Unlike the tribe which is so nearly related to them—the Pawnees—they have a most inveterate hatred of the white man, and they never lose a chance of gratifying it.
“They’ve always been ugly neighbors for us, but since their present chief, Evil Heart, has risen to power they have been worse than ever.
“They have not actually dug up the hatchet and declared war against us at the present time, but there are nasty reports from our Pawnee scouts that all is not right with them in their villages.
“They are talking fight all the time, and Evil Heart and the medicine men are doing all they can to encourage it. I have had a good deal to do with Evil Heart myself at various times, and we don’t like one another much. I spared his life once when I had him in my power, and I think it was a great mistake on my part.”
“Well,” said Mr. Doyle, setting his teeth grimly, “I am much obliged to you, Colonel Cody, for this information, but I am afraid that I cannot change my plans on account of it. The dangers which you mention seem, to my mind, rather remote, and I should feel myself a coward if I were to abandon my journey on account of them.”
Buffalo Bill looked at the two girls across the table, and thought sadly that they were the ones who were likely to suffer through their father’s obstinacy.
If the party with the wagon train had consisted only of men he would have had nothing to say. They could have taken their chances, as men should.
But the thought of the danger to which May and Gertrude would be exposed worried him greatly. He was only too familiar with the tortures which the Indians were accustomed to inflict upon helpless women or any other white captives who might chance to fall into their hands.
Yet it was evidently hopeless to try to induce Mr. Doyle to change his opinion and abandon his journey. The border king was a good reader of faces and of character, and he could see quite clearly that there was a strain of obstinacy in the old man’s nature which would make him reject the best advice if it did not happen to coincide with his preconceived opinions.
“How many men have you with your wagon train?” asked the scout.
“There are four of them, not counting Norfolk Ben,” replied the old man.
“What sort of men are they?”
“They are all old frontiersmen, who have been many journeys on the overland trail.”
“Who is their boss?”
“An old man named Jake Wallace.”
“Jake Wallace! I know him well. He and I have hunted on the plains together more than once. What did he say to you when you proposed to make the trip at the present time?”
Mr. Doyle hesitated for a moment, for this question had struck home to him.
“I must confess that he took very much the same view that you do, Colonel Cody,” he finally said. “He told me that it was his business to guide parties across the plains, and that he liked to get all the jobs he could. But he added that he could not reconcile it with his conscience to let me go along with my daughters without giving me a warning.
“He did not tell me what you have said about the Shawnees and the Death Riders, but he gave me to understand that the territory was particularly disturbed and dangerous just now.”
“And in face of that—in face of these two warnings you have received from men who are in a position to know—you will persist in this mad journey!” cried Buffalo Bill, rising to his feet and facing the old man, with a look of anger on his face.
Mr. Doyle and the others looked at him in surprise, so carried beyond himself was he by his indignation at the thought of the peril to which the girls might be recklessly and needlessly exposed.
May and Gertrude were quick to reply to him. They were both angry at what they thought was an insult to their father.
“You are surely forgetting yourself, Colonel Cody!” cried May. “My father is quite able to judge what is best. He is quite able to take care of us. I know you are experienced in regard to these matters, but I think you are exaggerating the danger. In any case, if we have decided to go on we will go on in spite of all your Shawnees and outlaws.”
Gertrude was briefer in her retort, but certainly not less explicit.
“I think you are just horrid, Colonel Cody!” she cried.
Then she got up from the table and swept indignantly out of the room, followed by her sister.
Their father looked after the two girls quizzically as they went out.
“You must excuse them,” he said, turning apologetically toward Buffalo Bill. “I am sure I don’t deserve it, but as a matter of fact they idolize me, and when you questioned my judgment you touched them on a sore point.”
“They are quite right,” said Cody. “I assure you, sir, that I have no grievance in the matter. But I beg you, none the less, to think over what I have said, and to do what I suggest, if you feel that it is possible.
“In any case, if you resume your journey call at Fort McPherson on your way, and no doubt the commandant will supply you with an escort of troopers to conduct you beyond the danger zone.”
“That is not a bad idea,” replied Mr. Doyle. “But I do not feel that I can abandon my journey.”
Buffalo Bill, seeing that nothing further could be done, in view of the obstinacy of the old man, now hastened to change the subject, and the talk ranged over a variety of topics connected with frontier life and with Mainwaring’s experiences in Texas.
In the course of the conversation Mr. Doyle begged that Buffalo Bill and Mainwaring would join his party, so long as they happened to be at Danger Divide.
He did not expect, he said, to be able to get away for two or three days, and he and his daughters would be very glad to have their society while they were staying there.
The old gentleman was perfectly sincere in this invitation, and his motive was not altogether unselfish.
The other inhabitants of the place were of a rough type and repugnant to his polished nature, and he was delighted at the prospect of the society of men with whom he felt he had something in common.
Buffalo Bill, feeling that some protection was needed for the party under the circumstances, accepted the invitation, and Jack Mainwaring gladly did the same, because he desired, above all things, to have the chance to improve his acquaintance with May.
On that same evening Buffalo Bill and young Mainwaring were sitting on the veranda of the saloon alone, and the young rancher took the opportunity to cross-question his friend about the Death Riders.
Buffalo Bill told him how he had met them, and of the danger in which he and his friends stood from them and also from the Shawnees.
“The scoundrels!” exclaimed the rancher fiercely. “I have heard a great deal about the doings of these outlaws, and how they have even dared to defy the authority of the United States and fight American troops.
“I can’t think what has come to our government, that it does not make them either obey the law or wipe them out. If we only had some of them on our ranches down in Texas for a few weeks we’d make them precious sorry for themselves, I can tell you!”
“I wish you had them there,” said Cody, with a laugh.
“Pardon me, gentlemen, but I don’t think you know very much about these people you are talking of.”
The two friends looked up hastily.
They had thought that they were alone on the veranda, but a man had stolen up to them as silently as a cat while they were talking, and he stood at the young rancher’s shoulder, less than a yard away.
He was a big, broad-chested man, with a coarse, bloated face, a swaggering figure, and a bristling red mustache.
Buffalo Bill recognized him at once.
He was Simon Ketchum, known to everybody as a professional gambler and suspected to be the spy and agent of the Death Riders in the settlement of Danger Divide.
“I think I ought to know something about the Death Riders,” said the border king, after he had looked at the man in silence for a few moments. “I am in their black books, as you probably know very well.”
“How should I know anything about it?” asked the intruder quickly. “The Death Riders? There are no such people. It is an old story that they tell around here to scare tenderfeet.”
“It’s hard to prove, isn’t it?” said the king of the scouts, giving the man a significant look. “Dead men tell no tales.”
“You seem to be quite nervous about these imaginary Death Riders,” sneered Ketchum. “I should not have thought that a man with Buffalo Bill’s great reputation feared anything.”
Buffalo Bill did not reply, for he did not care to assert his courage in words. But his companion faced the swaggering stranger and said hotly:
“Cody and one of his friends managed to account for a gang of your rascally assassins between them. You had better send ten times the number next time if you want to make sure of your bloody work!
“But you had better be careful. You are suspected, and if we can only get some good evidence against you, you will find that there is some law and justice in the West, after all!”
The swaggerer’s red face grew as black as night with rage, and he seemed about to spring at the throat of his bold challenger, but Cody stepped in between them and eyed him calmly and steadily.
“Get out of here!” said the border king. “We understand one another perfectly, I think. You can do your worst, and we will be ready to defend ourselves—and to strike back!”
Frightened by these words, Ketchum turned on his heel and left the veranda. He knew Buffalo Bill well by reputation, and thoroughly understood that he was not the kind of man to speak at random.
“You had better not meddle in this affair, old fellow,” said Cody to Mainwaring when they were alone again. “That man Ketchum is a coarse brute, and I’ve been inclined to insult him publicly and make him fight me. But I don’t think it would be the wisest course. I have other plans for meeting his murderous schemes.”
“Count on me to help you in any way I can,” said the brave young rancher, setting his lips in a stern line. “It is of no use for you to tell me to keep out of this business. I am in it, and I’m going to stay in it.
“Let me tell you one thing: I love May Doyle, and I mean to try to win her for my wife. It is true I have only just met her, but I fell in love at first sight. Now, do you expect to persuade me to keep out of this trouble in order to save my own skin?”
“No, I don’t,” admitted the border king, smiling cheerfully at his friend. “I wish you luck. You couldn’t find a better girl than May Doyle if you searched all through the West.
“But let me give you a word of advice about Ketchum. He is a notorious bully, gambler, and duelist. He has killed several men in duels and has the reputation of being one of the best pistol shots in this section. If you meet him again don’t let him draw you into a quarrel.”
An ominous bending of the rancher’s dark brows was his only reply.
Just then May and her father came out to call the two men in to eat the roughly cooked dinner, which was the best that this frontier hostelry had to offer, and Mainwaring instantly forgot all about the bully in the pleasant society of the girl he loved.
But later in the evening the hot-headed young fellow met Ketchum again.
May had gone to bed, after sitting out on the veranda with him for some time, and he was wandering about the saloon disconsolately, when he happened to stroll into the card room at the back of the bar. It was full of men, sitting around little tables and playing poker, écarté, and other games.
Mainwaring sat down by the open window to smoke a cigar before going to bed, and presently, happening to turn around, he saw that Ketchum was playing poker at a small table near him with another of the men staying at the saloon.
Obeying the instinct of keen observation which had been bred in him by his life on the ranch, the young man began to watch the game with close attention.
Ketchum did not seem to like this. He was still sore, perhaps, at the memory of the meeting earlier in the evening, for he shot angry glances at Mainwaring now and then.
The other player was having a run of the very worst kind of luck. After winning a trifle, the cards went steadily against him. He lost once—twice—thrice—four times running.
He was just about to put down a fifth stake when Mainwaring jumped up from his chair and stopped him.
Instantly an excited group of spectators came pressing around them.
Ketchum rose to his feet, trembling with passion, and asked fiercely:
“Whom do you accuse of foul play, you young whelp?”
“You—you card sharper and thief!” cried the young rancher.
Tearing the cards from the bully’s hand, he dashed them in his face with such violence that the blood started from his cut cheek.
The two men sprang at one another’s throats, and in a moment they would have rolled down on the floor, perhaps not to rise again, but the other men standing around closed in and dragged them apart by main force.
Such a dispute could have but one ending, even without the deadly insult in which it had culminated.
In those early days in the West dueling was common on very much smaller cause than this quarrel afforded. Any one who had dared to dissent from the custom and refused to meet his enemy on the “field of honor” would have been publicly branded as the most cowardly of men.
“You will meet me to-morrow morning!” hissed the bully, choking back his rage with an effort.
“Certainly—whenever and wherever you like,” replied the young rancher.
At this point Buffalo Bill, who had been smoking on the veranda and had heard the scuffle, entered the room. He took in the situation at a glance and went up to Ketchum.
“I don’t like your face or your manner, Mr. Ketchum,” he said, in a hard, clear voice, which every man in the room could hear. “It will give me great pleasure if you will meet me in the morning before you fulfill your engagement with my friend here.”
Ketchum looked into the eyes of the border king, which were filled with a somber and dangerous light, and he quailed before them.
“I have no quarrel with you,” he muttered. “My quarrel is with your friend. He struck me in a most unwarranted manner.”
“Oh, is that all? Well, he’s not the only man who can do it.”
Buffalo Bill stepped lightly forward and struck the bully a smashing blow between the eyes, which sent him reeling to the floor.
“Have you got a quarrel with me now?” he asked, as the man got up and wiped away the blood that was streaming from his nose.
“Yes, curse you! I suppose I must fight you, but I insist on my right to fight this young whelp here first!”
“And so do I!” cried Mainwaring. “Cody, you mean well, but I won’t let you take up my quarrel in this way. I can fight my own battles, and I will. But I’ll be very much obliged to you if you will act as my second.”
“Certainly I will,” said Cody, seeing that it was hopeless to try to prevent the duel, now that the quarrel had gone so far. “And if you fall it will not be long before I avenge you. But, you hot-headed young ass, why couldn’t you leave him alone, as I wanted you to do?”
It was a clear, bright, beautiful morning when the two men went forth from the little frontier hotel to kill or be killed.
The sun was rising in cloudless glory over the green-clad prairie. All nature seemed peaceful and glad and bright around these two men who had murder in their breasts toward one another.
All the men who had witnessed the quarrel on the previous evening were present. One of them consented to act as a second for Ketchum, who seemed to have no friends of his own.
As the insulted party, Ketchum had not only the choice of weapons, but also the decision as to the manner in which the duel should be fought out. He chose the French “barrier” method, in spite of the protest of his second that it was altogether too bloodthirsty.
A rope was stretched between two small posts driven into the earth. Each combatant was to stand at a dozen paces from the rope barrier on either side and to advance toward it to meet the other. One shot only was allowed, and it rested with the duelists to fire when they chose as soon as the signal was given by one of the seconds dropping his handkerchief.
Thus the duel, while perfectly fair, was almost certain to end in the death of at least one of the combatants.
The man who fired first, before he got to the barrier, would be absolutely at the mercy of his opponent if he missed, for he would be obliged to walk up to the rope and be shot at a few inches’ distance—unless, of course, he chose to confess himself a coward by refusing the ordeal.
It was a thrilling moment when Ketchum’s second dropped the handkerchief.
The toughest old fire eater present felt his heart beat quicker when the two men began to move slowly toward each other, step by step, gradually raising their weapons as they advanced, and eying each other like panthers.
There was a flash—a puff of smoke—the whistle of a bullet—a quick, short, indrawn breath from all the onlookers, breaking the tense silence like a hiss.
Mainwaring had fired—and missed!
He advanced steadily until he touched the rope. Flinging down his useless pistol, he folded his arms on his breast and stood facing his enemy, motionless as a rock. There was not a tremor on his lips.
“It’s all over now!” whispered one of the spectators, who was standing near Buffalo Bill. “Ketchum can hit a silver dollar at ten paces, and no man could miss under these circumstances.”
The bully eyed the doomed lad with the grin of a demon, and then advanced toward him, step by step. It seemed an age before he reached the rope and held his pistol right against the breast of the young rancher.
“Now, then, you young fool, take back that lie you told about me, or I’ll shoot you on the spot!” he said loudly enough for all the men standing around to hear.
“Shoot!” replied Mainwaring sternly. “I said you cheated, and I say so still!”
The spectators held their breath, for it now seemed that nothing could save the brave young fellow.
But Ketchum looked around the circle before he pulled the trigger, and he caught the steely glance of the king of the scouts piercing him through and through.
That look said as plainly as any words could have done:
“Shoot him, and I will shoot you within five minutes! Spare him, and I will spare you.”
Fear conquered even the mad passion of hatred that was raging in the breast of the bully.
“Now, I am ready for you, if you wish, Buffalo Bill!” he said.
The border king walked up to him and replied, in a high, clear voice that all could hear:
“I will stand up to you and fight you, if you wish; but first I wish to offer you an apology for striking you last night. If you care to accept it our duel need not take place. It is for you to decide.”
The men standing around were amazed—and not least among them young Mainwaring. Buffalo Bill apologize and try to avoid a duel! It seemed incredible, but his courage was so well known that he could afford to do what would have branded any other man as a coward.
It was the price he paid for Mainwaring’s life, although the young man never knew it.
Ketchum did not share the surprise of the rest. He understood perfectly.
“I accept your apology, sir,” he said, with a clumsy attempt at dignity. “As you suggest, the duel need not take place.”
The two men bowed to one another, but did not offer to shake hands.
The whole party then strolled home to breakfast at the little hotel.
Buffalo Bill and Mainwaring walked together, arm in arm.
The young rancher tried to find out what had induced his friend to apologize to Ketchum, but the border king dodged the subject.
“I wonder what made the fellow spare me when he had me at his mercy,” the young fellow said, as they walked onto the front veranda of the saloon.
“I wonder!” Cody echoed, smiling inwardly.
“I suppose it must have been because there was some slight streak of decency in his nature, after all—though I confess it seems hard to believe,” said Mainwaring.
“Yes, it does seem hard to believe when you know the man,” Cody remarked, smiling now openly, somewhat to the surprise of his friend.
As they sat down to breakfast with the Doyles, May remarked brightly:
“You two were out early this morning, were you not?”
“Yes; we took a little stroll for the benefit of our health,” the knight of the plains replied.
“I suppose you feel that it has done you good?”
“Oh, yes! It has given us a good appetite.”
Not a word was said about the duel, for Cody had a suspicion that the girl returned the love which Mainwaring confessed he felt for her. He did not wish to alarm her more than was absolutely necessary, and he felt that he had only played the first game in the rubber with the Death Riders.
The stake that hung upon that rubber, as he well knew, was nothing less than life or death; but he believed that he could play out the game successfully.
Later in the day, on making inquiries, Buffalo Bill found that Ketchum had taken his horse, sold all his belongings, and driven away from Danger Divide.
He evidently had not cared to stay in the place after the proceedings of the early morning, or perhaps he feared that the king of the scouts would still call him to account in a manner that would prove fatal for him.
Everybody in the place was agreed that his departure was “a good riddance of bad rubbish,” and the only people who felt any regret at his vanishing were his creditors.
Two days later, the damaged wagon having been repaired, Mr. Doyle and his party set out from the settlement to resume their journey.
With much regret, Buffalo Bill and young Mainwaring bade adieu to them, wondering whether, among the curious chances of life, they would ever see them again.
The young rancher had almost made up his mind that he would go to California later on, seek out the party, and renew his acquaintance with them.
He had not dared to speak to May of his love, after knowing her only for such a brief time, but it was none the less ardent.
Buffalo Bill, noticing how despondent he seemed after the wagon train had lumbered off and disappeared from view over the prairie, invited him to ride with him next day to Fort McPherson.
“We are going to have a big hunt,” the king of the scouts said. “The supply of food for the soldiers of the fort is running low, and we are going out to see if we can fall in with a herd of buffalo. There is a chance of some fine sport. I am to take a band of scouts with me, as well as some Pawnee friendlies.”
Jack Mainwaring’s eyes shone with delight. He was a sportsman through and through, and he knew very well that Buffalo Bill could show him better hunting than any other man in the West.
“Nothing would please me better than to come,” he said.
“And there is another thing that may be an inducement to you,” Buffalo Bill added slyly: “If Mr. Doyle has taken my advice in the matter of getting an escort of troopers we ought to strike Fort McPherson about the time he gets there.
“He has the start of us, but we shall travel faster on horseback than the wagon train. Besides, the general at the fort is a hospitable fellow, and he will be sure to detain them as his guests for a day or two. Visitors of the type of the Doyles are not common at a lonely military post on the edge of the great plains, and when they do arrive they are not allowed to go in a hurry, if it can be helped.”
At this idea Jack Mainwaring was more delighted than ever. He might have a chance of seeing May again, and he was consumed with impatience to start on the journey to the fort.
But Buffalo Bill had some business to finish up in the settlement, and it was not until the following morning that they mounted their horses and rode away.
Buffalo Bill, being in a hurry to reach the fort, took a shorter route than that ordinarily followed by wagon trains, so that the two men did not come up with the Doyle party, and when they reached the fort they found that it had not arrived there.
Two days passed, and still the wagon train did not arrive at the fort.
It was then evident that Mr. Doyle, true to the obstinacy which was so strongly ingrained in his nature, had decided not to take the advice of Buffalo Bill, but had pushed on, with his small force, across the plains, reckless of the dangers he might meet with.
Buffalo Bill hastened the preparations for his big hunt, for he thought it was quite possible that in the course of it he might fall in with the Doyle party.
“And if you do, Cody,” said the general in command of the troops at the fort, “there is one thing that I want to ask of you: You must bring that man and his party back, even if you have to do it by force.”
Buffalo Bill smiled queerly.
“That’s a hard proposition you are putting up to me, general,” he said. “The man is a free-born American citizen. If he wants to travel over any part of the United States I suppose he has a perfect right to do so. I don’t see what authority I have to stop him.”
“Consider the position for a moment, Cody,” said the general, leaning over his desk and addressing the scout with intense earnestness. “This man Doyle is a national character. He was a United States senator, and a great one at that! We can’t afford to allow him and his daughters to get scalped by the Indians, for the sake of our own reputations as the guardians of the frontier—without taking account, even, of the humane aspect of the matter.
“If the man is foolish it is for us to save him from the consequences of his folly. If we don’t do that there will be a national scandal that will reflect badly on the reputation of the troops who are supposed to guard travelers by the overland route.”
“You are right, general,” said Buffalo Bill. “I see the point of your argument perfectly. I will let the hunting slide until I deal with this matter. All our efforts shall be devoted to hitting the trail of that wagon train and coming up with it.
“And when we do reach it I will engage that we’ll bring Mr. Doyle back, even if we have to tie him with rawhide ropes and throw him down on the floor of one of his own wagons.”
The general rose up from his chair and grasped Cody warmly by the hand.
“That’s like you, Bill!” he exclaimed. “You know as well as I do that you must necessarily take all the responsibility in this business. If Doyle gets mad about it and complains to Washington you stand to lose your position as chief of scouts and all prospects of future employment in the government service. And yet you are willing to do it!”
“There is no other way, general,” replied Buffalo Bill simply. “It is clearly my duty—for the sake of those two girls, if not for that of the obstinate old man.”
“Well, Cody, I won’t forget this in a hurry—and if you get into any trouble over it you can rely on me to help you through, if I can possibly do it.”
Buffalo Bill, after bidding farewell to the officer, hastened out to complete the preparations for the starting of his hunting party.
In view of the new task he had before him—the end of which he felt that he could not possibly foresee—he was particularly careful to choose the best men among his corps of scouts and Pawnee friendlies.
He also saw to it that all the men were well mounted, with spare horses, and that they carried an ample supply of ammunition and dried meat for food.
This last detail surprised his great friend and comrade, Nick Wharton, who formed one of the party, as did also Wild Bill, the famous scout who at that time was only second to Buffalo Bill himself in reputation as a hunter and Indian fighter.
“What are ye thinkin’ about, Buffler?” growled old Nick. “I never seed sich a gol-durned lot of meat stocked up by a huntin’ party in all my born days. We might be goin’ ter hit the trail right across the plains ter Californy. Don’t ye think we know enough by this time ter be able ter shoot fur our grub?”
“Everybody knows that you can, Nick—if there’s any game around,” Buffalo Bill replied to this protest, smiling enigmatically. “But you never can tell whether we’ll find any. We may not see hoof or hide of a buffalo for several days. Besides—other things may happen.”
Nick Wharton, unconvinced, went off, growling, to attend to the saddling of his horse.
Buffalo Bill did not wish to take even his two best friends, old Nick and Wild Bill, into his confidence concerning the delicate task with which he had been intrusted.
If he came up with the wagon train—regarding which he had very little doubt, as he knew the course it must take, and it would necessarily have a broad, clear trail—he hoped to be able to persuade Mr. Doyle to return, without having recourse to actual violence.
That being the case, it would be unwise to tell anybody of the lengths to which he felt authorized to go in case of necessity. He allowed all the men, even Jack Mainwaring, to think that there was nothing more in the expedition than a simple hunting trip.
On the day after leaving the fort Buffalo Bill found the trail of the wagon train.
Much to the surprise of his party he had headed on a course which would take them clear away from the region in which buffaloes had been last reported by the Pawnee friendlies.
They thought he was losing his skill as a hunter, but his discipline over them was so good that they made no open protest, though they growled among themselves.
They could not know that Buffalo Bill was not looking after game, but after the Doyle party.
“We’ll follow this trail, boys,” said Buffalo Bill, pointing to the broad tracks left by the wagons. “It’s pretty fresh, and perhaps the folks will be able to tell us where the buffaloes are ranging. Anyway, we can pass the time of day with them.”
“Is Buffer goin’ suddenly crazy?” asked Nick Wharton, in a hoarse aside, of Wild Bill. “What in the name of the everlastin’ hickory do we want ter pass the time o’ day with people fur? I thought we cum out from the fort ter hunt meat.
“It seems we didn’t. We cum out fur a nice sociable ride, payin’ polite calls on wagon parties! It beats all in my knowledge o’ Bill. As if a wagon train wouldn’t scare away all the bufflers within ten miles of it!”
Old Nick only voiced the feelings of the other men. Even the stolid Pawnee friendlies, trained from their boyhood not to express their emotions, looked at Buffalo Bill in sheer amazement—but they said nothing in opposition to his command, and neither did any one of his white comrades.
They all knew him well—and knew that when he gave an order he meant to have it obeyed.
The conduct of the border king was fully justified toward the evening of that same day.
As they were cresting a rise in the prairie the scouts saw the wagons of Mr. Doyle’s train about two miles away.
Buffalo Bill’s keen eye at once perceived that something was wrong. The covers of the wagons were torn, the horses and mules were on the ground, prostrate, and one of the wagons itself was overturned.
The cheeks of the king of the scouts blanched almost as soon as he topped the rise and got his first glimpse of the wagon train.
“They have been attacked!” he gasped, between clenched teeth. “Heaven alone knows what has happened to them! Forward, boys, at the gallop!”
Setting the example, he dug his spurs into the horse—a thing which he did only under stress of the direst necessity—and shot forward from his party like an arrow from the bow.
They were a hard-riding set—those scouts and Pawnees—but the Texan beat them all. Jack Mainwaring alone kept up with Buffalo Bill in that wild ride across the prairie toward the wagons.
Even Wild Bill, one of the hardest riders ever known on the great plains, was left well behind.
But Jack Mainwaring had the spur of love to urge him on, and to make him take out of his horse all the speed it had—even at the risk of killing the animal.
When, in an incredibly short time, they came up to the wagons and leaped off their panting horses, a terrible sight met their eyes.
All the horses and mules attached to the train were dead. Some of them had been pierced by bullets, others by Indian arrows.
The frontiersmen who had driven the teams and guided the party were stretched on the ground beside the animals in attitudes which showed that they had died only after making a bitter and desperate fight for their lives.
This, indeed, was proved by even plainer evidence; for around them were the bodies of more than a score of dead redskins.
“Shawnees!” exclaimed Buffalo Bill, after a single glance at one of these bodies. “This is Evil Heart’s work.”
“Where is May?” gasped Jack Mainwaring.
Buffalo Bill looked at the young man, and saw that his lips were quivering under the stress of his strong emotion. He dared not answer him, for he felt that he could give him no reply which would hold out any hope of the safety of the girl he loved.
Instead of speaking, he started to search around, in the long grass of the prairie, for the bodies of the girls.
In this search he was speedily assisted by Wild Bill and the rest of his party, who came dashing up after him.
Five minutes passed, and then Buffalo Bill came up to Mainwaring, who was standing like a man dazed, and said to him:
“Neither of the girls has been killed. Their bodies are not to be found.”
“And that means?”
The young man was pale to the lips as he asked this question. Cody did not reply.
“You know what it means, Buffalo Bill! They have been carried off by the redskins. They will be exposed to a fate worse than death. They will be tortured with the fiendish cruelty of which only the Indian squaws are capable.”
“Steady! Brace up, old fellow!” said Buffalo Bill. “Don’t give way to despair at once. All is not lost. We can follow the trail of the Shawnees, and the chances are good that we may rescue the girls. The redskins cannot have a big start of us.”
Mainwaring’s face lost its look of blank despair when he heard these words.
“Thank Heaven, Cody!” he gasped. “You have lifted a load off my mind. Yes, we will follow. We will rescue the girls, and we will make the redskins pay dearly for what they have done.”
Before Buffalo Bill could reply he was amazed by hearing a feeble voice calling to him:
Turning on his heel, he saw a black face peering out at him from the upraised tent of one of the wagons. It was the face of Norfolk Ben, the negro servant of the Doyles.
“Marse Cody!” the faithful black repeated, beckoning to him.
Buffalo Bill had been rooted to the spot in amazement for a moment, but now he rushed eagerly up to the wagon.
He jumped into it, and a new surprise awaited him. There, stretched out on the floor, he saw the form of Mr. Doyle, pallid as death and covered with blood from a gunshot wound through the breast and another through the leg.
Bending down swiftly, Buffalo Bill placed his hand over the man’s heart and felt his pulse. To his joy he found that he still lived, and by a swift examination of the wounds, which he dressed and bound up, he convinced himself that he even had a fair chance of recovery.
The poor negro was in a bad way. He had been cut over the shoulder with a tomahawk, which had inflicted a mere flesh wound, but one which, nevertheless, had cost him the loss of a great deal of blood.
It was also plainly to be seen that he had been hit over the head with the butt of a gun with a violence that would have cracked the skull of any one but a negro.
He sat on the floor of the wagon, nursing his sore head, until Buffalo Bill rose up from his ministrations to the unconscious old man.
Then he said:
“Marse Cody!—dem two sweet gals! Dem two cherubims! Whar am dey?”
“I don’t know, Ben. I wish I did,” replied the border king sadly.
Ben gave a groan which evidently came from the bottom of his heart and gave the plainest proof of the sincerity of his affection for his young mistresses.
“How did this happen, Ben?” asked the king of the scouts. “How does it come about that you and your master aren’t killed and scalped. It’s one of the strangest things I ever heard of.”
“I ’clar’ to goodness I don’t know, Marse Cody. Dem Injuns rushed on us ’fore we knowed it. De men with de teams fought like debbils, but dey went down in a few seconds. I was in dis wagon wid de massa, who was feeling some sick, so he couldn’t ride a hoss.
“I rushed in front ob him, but I was jess too late. He got hit by two bullets in the first volley. Then a terr’ble man struck me wid a ax, an’ I felt stars; an’ anodder hit me wid a gun.”
“I seed de reason ob that jess before I fainted off, Marse Cody. Soon as dem Injuns struck me, dere was a loud yell outside, an’ dey turned at once an’ run off. I crawled to de side ob de wagon an’ looked out.
“All de red mens was ridin’ off like as if de debbil was behind them. Anodder red man was tearin’ down on his hoss from de top ob de ridge, ’way off, an’ waving to dem wid his arms.”
“That explains it,” said Buffalo Bill. “They had a scout out there, and he signaled the approach of our party when he saw us at a long distance off. Evil Heart at once gave the yell for his band to mount and ride. But still it is strange they did not wait to lift the scalps. That would only have taken them a few moments.”
The border king assisted Norfolk Ben from the wagon and told him to point in the direction from which he had seen the solitary Indian scout riding and waving his arms.
To his surprise the negro pointed in the opposite direction to that from which his party had ridden, to another ridge.
“You must be making a mistake, Ben,” said the border king. “We came front the other side.”
“I dunno whar you came from, Marse Cody,” protested the black man. “But he was thar.”
He stuck to this so firmly that Buffalo Bill was compelled to believe him. It was evident that the Indians had not been scared away by the approach of his party. They had been alarmed by some other danger which threatened them.
“An’ Norfolk Ben will come wid you, Marse Cody,” said the faithful negro.
“No, Ben,” replied the king of the scouts. “You are wounded. I must send you to Fort McPherson with your master in one of the wagons. We can hitch up some of our spare horses to it.”
“No, massa, Ben is all right. He mus’ jess go wid you an’ try to find dem sweet cherubims.”
He pleaded so earnestly that Cody had no alternative but to give in to his wish.
The wagon was hitched up, and Mr. Doyle, still unconscious, was sent off to the fort in it, under escort of three scouts.
The bodies of the slain frontiersmen were then quickly buried, and Buffalo Bill led his party at a swift pace on the trail of the Shawnees.
Although the Indians had obtained only a short start of the border king and his men, the chase was a long and difficult one.
As the scouts and their Pawnee allies followed the trail, it became more and more evident that every expedient of redskin craft had been employed to hide it.
Even Buffalo Bill’s skill was often at fault, and sometimes for hours—once even for a whole day—the tracks were lost completely and only recovered after the most arduous search.
“Evil Heart is one of the best chiefs on the plains, both in fighting and in running away,” said Buffalo Bill to Wild Bill, as they were riding side by side on the fifth day of the chase. “But I think we shall get him this time, after all. The trail is freshening all the time.”
“Yes, that is so,” Wild Bill replied, “and, of course, you must have noticed one thing—that during the last few hours not a single effort has been made to hide it. That strikes me as being rather strange, for they have done all they could to conceal their tracks up to now.”
“Yes, I have noticed that,” said Buffalo Bill, knitting his brows in some perplexity, “and it has seemed peculiar to me.”
It was not long before this mystery, which so much puzzled the experienced scouts, deepened.
They had not ridden more than a mile when Buffalo Bill, who was in front, pulled up his mustang, with a cry of astonishment.
“Here is another trail!” he exclaimed to Nick Wharton and Wild Bill, who instantly pushed their horses up alongside of his.
It was a fact. Another body of Indians, who had evidently ridden across the prairie from the left at a tangent, had met with the Shawnees.
The tracks plainly showed that the new party outnumbered the first by more than four to one. The Shawnees had been held up, but there were no signs to indicate that a fight had taken place.
There had been a halt and a palaver, but evidently that was all.
The newcomers had not joined the Shawnees. Another trail showed that they had ridden off in a different direction, while the Shawnees had proceeded on their own course.
What had happened? This was a question which all the experience and ingenuity of the scouts failed to answer.
Was the second party composed of Shawnees? From the fact that no fight had taken place, there was some reason to suppose that this was the case; but, on the other hand, if they were Shawnees, why had they not joined the party under Evil Heart, the paramount chief of that tribe?
The scouts examined all the tracks with the greatest care, but they could not solve the riddle.
“Certainly there is more in this than meets the eye,” said the border king. “It is difficult to know what to do.”
“You mean that it is hard to decide which of the two parties to follow?” asked Mainwaring.
“Yes. It is just possible, you see, that the stronger party forced the weaker to give up the girls to them, under threat of attack in case they refused to do so. The chances are against that having happened, but still it is a possibility.”
“Could you not divide our party and follow both trails?”
“No. I am afraid that is out of the question. We have few enough men, in all conscience, to attack the Shawnees, and we could do nothing against the stronger party. If we divided our force we would be helpless against either when we caught up with them. We must take our choice which we will pursue.”
“I can’t speak as an authority,” said Mainwaring, “but, if I may offer an opinion, I would favor going after Evil Heart’s band. We know he has the girls—or, at least, that he had them; and the chances are that he would not give them up without a fight.”
“That is just my way of looking at the matter,” agreed Buffalo Bill. “But let us hear what the others have to say. It is such a dubious question that it ought to be decided by the general voice.”
The king of the scouts called Wild Bill, Nick Wharton, and several of the most experienced scouts and Pawnees around him.
With one exception, they were all in favor of keeping on after the original band they had been pursuing. The exception was an old Pawnee warrior named Dead Eye.
“Ugh!” this veteran grunted. “What for other Injuns ride after Evil Heart? What for they make him stop and hold palaver? They not do it for nothing. They took no scalps. What else they take? White squaws!”
Having delivered himself of this opinion, in opposition to all the others who had spoken, the old brave sat stolidly on his horse, as if the matter had no further concern for him. Indeed, it had not. He was quite willing to follow either party, for there would be a fine fight at the end of the chase and a rich harvest of scalps—both of which things would satisfy his savage nature.
Buffalo Bill looked at him undecidedly.
“How many summers is it since you followed your first war trail and took your first scalp, Dead Eye?” he asked.
Dead Eye made no reply in words, but he held up the fingers of both hands five times. He had been a full-fledged warrior for fifty years.
“And how many scalps have you taken?”
Dead Eye handed his tomahawk to Buffalo Bill without a word.
The border king examined it with curious interest. It was covered with small notches from the blade to the end of the helve. Each notch, of course, stood for a scalp taken.
“All braves!” grunted Dead Eye. “Me no kill women or children.”
Here was a man, thought Buffalo Bill, whose opinion was worth taking.
“We will go after the larger party,” he said.
But Dead Eye interposed.
“You no do that,” he said. “You have called council. All but me say go after Evil Heart. You must do that. How Dead Eye feel if other band no have girls and you follow it?”
Buffalo Bill could not but admit that this view of the matter was a just one. He ought to abide by the general voice of his advisers, even though Dead Eye’s brief arguments had impressed him so strongly.
He gave the word to follow the Shawnees at the best speed possible.
After a few hours the trail left the level prairie and wound up into a range of foothills which led up into frowning mountains beyond. The scouts now knew, from the exceeding freshness of the trail, that they were almost on the heels of their enemies and might expect to catch sight of them at any moment.
Suddenly, as they turned a corner of the broad but rough trail that led up into the hills, they were startled by a loud yell from Buffalo Bill, who, as usual, was riding in advance.
“There they are!” he shouted.
The Shawnees were not more than half a mile in advance. They were toiling slowly and painfully up the trail; for their horses were evidently much fatigued.
Although they largely outnumbered the scouts, they tried to get away without a fight; but Buffalo Bill’s party gained on them so rapidly that they soon saw the attempt was vain and gave it up.
As they turned and scattered out along the trail to take such cover as they could find, Buffalo Bill saw, to his chagrin and horror, that the two girls were not with them.
“You were right, Dead Eye!” he said remorsefully, to the old Pawnee. “I ought to have insisted on taking your advice against that of all the others, as I was inclined to do.”
“Ugh!” grunted the Indian. “Take scalps of Shawnees first—then go back and take scalps of others.”
This was obviously the only course now to be adopted. Buffalo Bill gave the word to charge, and the scouts swept up the trail at a gallop, recking nothing of the hot but ill-directed fire of the Shawnees.
The redskins had the advantage of position and numbers, but that was more than counterbalanced by the superior marksmanship of the scouts and the dash with which they made their assault.
Twice the number of Indians could hardly have withstood their furious charge. In a few minutes they were in the midst of the Shawnees, whose cover then availed them nothing.
Several of the braves, their guns having been emptied vainly, tried to get at close quarters and use their deadly tomahawks; but they were shot down before they could do so.
The fight was brief and bloody, but nearly the whole loss was sustained by the Shawnees.
In a few minutes those who had escaped the first onslaught turned to retreat up the trail. The retreat was soon turned to a rout, and the rout into a veritable stampede.
But, with their fagged ponies, the Indians could not escape the well-mounted scouts. They were ridden down, one after another, until only one man was left toiling far ahead on a spent horse up the mountain.
“I know him,” shouted Buffalo Bill, who had taken the leadership in the pursuit. “He is the chief, Evil Heart. Let no man but myself follow him. There is an old account to be settled between us, and I will settle it now, hand to hand, with this!”
The king of the scouts flourished a tomahawk which he had taken from one of the Shawnee braves whom he had slain.
In deference to their leader’s command, the other scouts held back, and Buffalo Bill on his fine mustang pursued the Shawnee chief at a gallop. But soon the track became so rough that he had to slacken his speed to a trot, and then to a walk.
The foothills had now been left behind, and the way wound steeply up into the mountains beyond.
From time to time Buffalo Bill lost sight of the man he was following, for the track, with a sheer cliff on one side, had many turnings. Yet he was confident that he would catch up with Evil Heart before long, for he had noted how tired the horse of the chief was.
Presently the trail became so rough and encumbered with bowlders that his own mustang could barely keep its footing, and he was thinking of dismounting and following on foot, when he came suddenly on the dead horse of the Indian.
It had stumbled over a rock and fallen, breaking its leg. Evil Heart had then promptly stabbed it to death with his knife and fled onward on foot.
Buffalo Bill had too much affection for his own animal to expose it to the same risk, so he dismounted, ordered the faithful animal to stand still and await his return, and then ran up the trail at a good speed.
Turning the next bend in the cliff he saw the Shawnee ahead of him, not more than five hundred yards away.
Yelling at the top of his voice, the border king challenged the redskin to turn and fight him hand to hand. He emphasized the command by waving the tomahawk which he carried in his hand.
Evil Heart looked round as the king of the scouts came swiftly toward him, gaining at every stride; and when Buffalo Bill came near enough he saw that sheer terror was written plainly on the redskin’s face.
To a man deeply imbued with Indian superstitions, as Evil Heart undoubtedly was, it may have seemed that death itself was following on his trail—so unremitting and relentless had been the pursuit.
Whether this was the case or not, it was plain that Evil Heart, renowned for many years as a famous warrior, had at last lost his nerve.
Then the Shawnee gave up hope entirely. There was a deep chasm on one side of the trail and the cliff on the other.
Yelling defiance to his paleface foe, Evil Heart leaped over the precipice. He preferred suicide to death at the hands of Buffalo Bill.
The border king ran to the edge of the cliff and peered over. He saw that there was a sheer descent of more than five hundred feet, with no trees or shrubs to break a fall—nothing but a smooth face of bare rock.
Far below, lying upon a heap of fallen bowlders, he could see, through his field glasses, the body of the Shawnee chief.
There could be no doubt that he was dead. Every bone in his body must have been broken by that fearful fall.
Cody promptly returned to his horse and rode back to the scene of the fight, where his companions were awaiting him. He briefly told them of the fate of Evil Heart and ordered them to mount and ride back on the trail. He wished to follow the other trail of the larger Indian party without delay and do what he could to recover the girls.
“Wait a moment, Cody,” said Mainwaring, who had distinguished himself in the fight. “I’ve got a prisoner here, and I want to know what you are going to do with him.”
“A prisoner!” exclaimed Buffalo Bill, in amazement. “How did you get a chance to take one in such a fight as this, where quarter is neither asked nor given?”
“Here he is,” said Mainwaring, pointing to a young Shawnee, who was sitting upon the ground, closely guarded by two Pawnees with tomahawks in their hands. “I guess he was a young brave just out on his first trail. Anyway, he got scared when I had the drop on him. He threw down his tomahawk and begged for mercy, and I hadn’t the heart to shoot him then.”
“A strange thing for an Indian to do,” remarked Buffalo Bill. “Well, it’s a nuisance. I don’t see what we are going to do with him.”
“The Pawnees were keen to kill and scalp him,” said Mainwaring. “I had a good deal of trouble in preventing them.”
“I dare say you had,” commented the border king grimly. “They don’t approve of such mercy.”
It was plain from the looks of the two Pawnees who were guarding the brave that they did not. Their fingers clutched their tomahawks with a nervous grip, as though they yearned to send the deadly weapons crashing into the skull of the captive.
The Shawnee looked up beseechingly into the face of the border king. He was evidently afraid to die, and he knew that his fate rested in the hands of the renowned Long Hair.
“White Feather will tell the great chief about the paleface maidens if he will spare his life,” he said. “He will tell how they were taken from Evil Heart and who took them.”
He spoke in his own tongue, which Buffalo Bill understood.
“That’s another matter,” replied the king of the scouts. “Let White Feather speak straight words and tell me all I want to know, and he shall not only have his life, but he shall go free. He is not a warrior we need fear.”
The Shawnee was too nervous for himself to resent or even notice the last cutting remark. He plunged into his story eagerly.
It appeared that the Shawnees had fled from the wrecked wagon train because one of their scouts had signaled the approach of a strong war party of Utes, far outnumbering their own. As the Utes, like the Apaches, had their hands against almost all the other tribes, Evil Heart had feared to meet them.
The Utes had not seen them, apparently, but they had done all they could to hide their trail, without knowing that the white men were after them.
But, nevertheless, quite by accident, the war party of Utes had sighted them later on the prairie and ridden up to them, compelling them to halt. This explained the mystery of the two converging trails.
The Utes were under the command of a famous chief named Bear Killer, and they were out on the warpath against the Snake Indians, having traveled far from their own lodges for that purpose.
Bear Killer and Evil Heart had held a palaver, the result of which was that the Ute chief had demanded that the two white maidens should be handed over to him as the price of his letting the Shawnees go on their way without a fight.
Evil Heart had been loath to grant this, but his braves had prevailed on him to do so, for the Utes so far outnumbered them that a battle would have meant their almost certain extermination.
The Ute chief had ridden away with his followers, saying that he would hunt for the Snakes, and after he had vanquished them he would return to his home far across the great mountains, and make the eldest white maiden his squaw, while his brother, who was with his war party, would take the other to his lodge.
This was valuable information, and Buffalo Bill did not grudge the captive his liberty as the price of it.
Grateful at having saved his life, even at the price of showing cowardice, White Feather departed on foot to seek the lodges of his people.
When they got there the scouts scattered around and examined the tracks carefully in order to estimate the strength of the Utes as nearly as they could.
The result was to show that it was a party of such strength as it seemed almost foolish to try to tackle.
While they were busy in this work Wild Bill heard a low moan coming from a small clump of bushes near by. He called Buffalo Bill to him, and together they hastened to the spot.
There they found a man lying on the prairie. He had been staked out on the ground, so that he would perish of hunger and thirst.
Buffalo Bill cut him loose, helped him to his feet, revived him with a drink, and asked:
“How long have you been here?”
“About five hours, I reckon, pard.”
“Who did it?”
“A large party?”
“Any white girls in it?”
“How many braves?”
“That can’t be Bear Killer’s gang,” said Buffalo Bill, turning to Wild Bill.
“There are Utes all over the country,” said the rescued man. “Several bands. They are spread all over, looking for the Snakes.”
“I know you now,” remarked Buffalo Bill, looking keenly at the man. “You are Steve Hathaway. You used to be a government scout, but you turned outlaw.”
“That’s right, Buffalo Bill,” said Hathaway, who was an old man, hanging his head in shame. “But I’ve got tired of the life and want to be an honest and decent man again. I joined the Death Riders, but I couldn’t stand for their ways, so I left ’em at the risk of my life, an’ I was trying to reach the settlements when the Utes caught me.”
“If you want to turn over a new leaf, I’ll do all I can to help you, Steve,” said the chivalrous knight of the plains. “You used to be a good man in the old days. Now, listen:
“We are chasing the Utes to recover two white girls. If they are as numerous as you say we shall want help. I am going to send a man to Fort McPherson to ask for a troop of cavalry. Will you go and guide them to me? I will send two scouts back later on to meet you and help to direct you.”
“Sure, pard,” replied Steve. “There’s nothing I’d like to do better. If you will trust me I won’t betray your trust. You have saved my life, and it is yours. I will go to Fort McPherson and bring the troopers along, or die in the attempt.”
Hathaway stopped only to eat and drink a little, and then, being supplied with a horse, he rode off to the fort.
When, after some hard riding, he reached there, he gave the commandant a letter with which Buffalo Bill had intrusted him, explaining the nature of the situation.
“Order Captain Meinhold and Company B to go at once,” said the commandant to his adjutant. “They are the boys for this kind of work. Tell Captain Meinhold to spare no effort to bring the girls back. That is the first consideration. Even the punishment of the Indians is a secondary matter.”
Captain Meinhold was on old Indian campaigner, and his lieutenant, a gallant young fellow named Lawson, although much younger in the service, took to the work naturally.
They were fortunate in having all the essentials of a good troop. They had good horses, well seen to and in fine order. Next, they had good men, well disciplined, who liked their officers, and consequently were ready to endure hardship and extra duty without murmuring.
No company, therefore, was better prepared than Company B of the Third Cavalry to make a good record whenever it had a chance.
Pushing on by night as well as by day, and taking only such time to rest and feed as was actually necessary, even Steve Hathaway himself—an old “Overlander” who was used to getting through at all costs, even if the stock went under in doing it—was satisfied with the progress made by the soldiers.
On the third day out from the fort they had news from Buffalo Bill, for the scouts he had promised to send back met them, and now the order to “hurry up” did not require to be repeated.
Feeling almost certain that an Indian fight was before them, the seasoned troopers were as keen as war horses who snuff the smoke of gunpowder. There was no hanging back on the part of any one of them.
Taking a route described to them so minutely by the scouts that Hathaway, with his experience, knew exactly where Buffalo Bill must be, they pushed on at the top of their speed. Steve told Captain Meinhold that they would see the tracks of Buffalo Bill and his party, if nothing more, inside of twenty hours.
“We must do that—or else stop to hunt,” replied the officer. “Our rations are all out.”
“Men who can’t go twenty hours without eating have got no business to come on the great plains at all,” responded the tough old scout, who was himself thoroughly familiar with all the hardships of Western life.
The course now lay directly over the almost boundless plains, with no water except some half-stagnant pools met with now and then in a buffalo wallow, and it was a weary journey for both men and horses. But toward night the blue of the hills once more greeted their eyes, and when at last the grateful evening air, cool and pleasant, came to them, the hills were in full view.
A short halt at sunset by some poor water and yet poorer grass gave the animals and men a brief rest, and then the forced march was resumed, not to be broken by any ordinary circumstances until the hills and good water were reached.
This occurred after a long night ride, just at dawn, and the two hunter scouts, riding ahead, had the good luck to come upon a herd of elk in the mouth of the pass which first opened up before them.
Three of the animals were shot down before they could get out of range, so that meat was plentiful for the soldiers when they made their morning halt. The grass was good, too, and both men and horses had a good chance to recuperate after their hard travel.
Before they left, Captain Meinhold arranged a code of smoke signals with them which would aid his movements—signals that would tell him when and where Buffalo Bill and his men were found, and whether they were fighting.
A halt of about three hours gave both men and animals sufficient rest and feeding time to make them quite fit for another rapid journey.
It was now deemed best to skirt the base of the hills until the trail was found. Hathaway became more and more eager as they went on, for he felt confident that Buffalo Bill would have the prudence to wait, and, therefore, that they would soon join him and his own good faith be proved.
The man had lived a hard and criminal life, but he now saw a chance to redeem the past and he was eager to seize it.
About noon they came upon the trail where Buffalo Bill and his party had entered into the hills.
Captain Meinhold asked Steve how long it was since the king of the scouts had passed.
“The trail is cold,” was the reply. “The night dew has fallen on it. He must be a long way ahead, if he has not halted to wait for us. He is on a trail almost as fresh as his own—and the trail of a bigger crowd, many times over. If he and all with him are wiped out, it is his fault. He should have waited for us, for I told him I’d guide you straight to his trail, and I’ve done it.”
“Halt!” cried the captain, turning to his men. “There are smoke signals rising. They must be from the scouts who left us. Yes, it is so. Three quick smokes half a minute apart. That means that a fight is going on.
“But it is strange. There is no long, steady smoke lasting five minutes—the signal which I arranged with them to show that Buffalo Bill was there. They must surely have forgotten, or else misunderstood me. Ah, there is another smoke spiral—another and another—but they are farther off!”
“And they are not made by those two scouts or by their friends,” said Steve. “Those last puffs of smoke came from the vicinity of that devil’s hole they call Nick’s Cavern.”
“I don’t know the place. Who is there?” asked the officer.
“It is the favorite resort of the Death Riders—and a strong place. They are a gang of cutthroats and outlaws, sir—one of the worst in the West. I know them only too well! They have seen these signals, and the men probably think they are signs of their own comrades.
“They’ll be moving down to help them, too. Whatever gang are fighting over there will get help from them if they are fighting Buffalo Bill. They hate him so bitterly that they would gladly risk their lives on the chance of wiping him out.”
“Then we will move on. If there is a fight going on, the sooner we get into it, the better.”
And the captain at once put his command to a trot.
May and Gertrude had now been for three days in the power of the Ute chief, and so far, though closely watched and guarded, they had not been badly treated.
He seemed to have complete control over his braves, and as band after band joined him in answer to the signal smokes he sent up and the scouts he sent out, until he had gathered a large party, this was very remarkable. For discipline in an Indian tribe is as much to be expected as it is in a newly recruited regiment of volunteers, where every private feels as big as his captain, and sometimes bigger, having no responsibility to settle him down.
But how long this kind treatment would last the poor girls did not know, for the chief and his brother often spoke of them as their squaws to be, when the present war trail was at an end.
For now, with his force augmented, the Ute chief was keener than ever to hunt down his tribal enemies, the Snakes, and kill and scalp all of their war party.
When he got within sight of the plains, upon a trail that led nearly back to where he had emerged from them when he came upon his expedition, only one great mass of hills intervening, the eyes of Bear Killer flashed with a glad fire.
“Now the paleface girls shall see how the !” he cried. “The Snakes are seeking us, and they shall find us soon enough.”
The keen eyes of the chief had detected at the instant he saw them that they were not of his tribe, and he knew that the Snakes would be sure to keep the warpath until the quarrel was fought out. They would be just as keen for battle as he was himself.
“We are strong now, and we will make a big fight,” said Bear Killer. “We will not leave a single Snake dog alive to bark. The paleface girls shall see us fight. They shall see what brave men they will have for their husbands.”
Bear Killer now chose four braves, and gave them strict orders to guard the young girls and to allow no harm to come to them, but to keep them safe until the fight was over. He posted them on the side of the hill beneath a lofty cliff, down which a small stream wound its silvery way in crystal beauty.
From this place they could look in safety over all the plains below, and the coming fight would be decided before their eyes.
Perhaps there was, without his knowing it, a small vein of chivalry in the savage nature of Bear Killer—hence his desire to do battle and distinguish himself before the eyes of the beautiful girl whom he destined to share his lodge.
The girls, guarded by braves who did not understand English, or, at least, appeared not to do so, spoke to one another freely as the Utes in column began to descend the hills, deploying farther down as they were discovered by the Snakes.
“If our horses had been left we might escape now,” said May, whose mind was ever busy in studying how to get away from her captors.
The battle soon commenced.
The Utes, forming a scattered line as they went nearer to where the Snakes were massed to receive them, closed but little more when within rifle shot; but adopted the usual plan of circling around at a gallop and picking off an enemy at every chance.
The Snakes soon met this maneuver by extending their lines and charging here and there till the mêlée became so universal that the girls—now anxious witnesses of the battle—could hardly tell one band from the other, or know which was victorious.
All they could see was bands of mounted Indians whirling here and there, striking and firing at one another in terrible confusion. Clouds of dust rose constantly as they rode over some dry and sterile piece of ground.
The braves who guarded them, in spite of the exciting nature of the fight, stood stolid and calm at the posts assigned to them in front of the girls, for the rear was a wall of solid rock. So far as the expression on their faces went, it seemed as if it mattered nothing to them how the fight went.
May would have questioned them if she could have done so, for she thought that their experienced eyes told them which side was so far victorious, but unfortunately she could not speak their language.
Suddenly one of the braves turned, and his face showed anxiety. He seemed to have heard something to alarm him, for his eyes ranged back to the rocks in their rear.
Almost at the same instant a sharp volley from unseen riflemen came rattling from the back, and the four braves were stretched out dead on the ground.
A band of white men, only six in number, with evil, repulsive faces, which indicated that they were ruffians of the worst type, came rushing forward from among the rocks at the point where the stream came trickling from above.
“Gals! White gals—and beauties, my boys!” shouted their leader, as he sprang forward.
“The trail is hot now!” cried Buffalo Bill, as the sight of the distant plains met his eyes once more and he saw the stones yet damp where the water had dripped from the Indians’ horses as they had crossed and emerged from a brook. “We’ll soon have the rascals before us, and then we’ll have the girls and teach the redskins a lesson they badly need. We’ll give them a hot time if we can do it without risking the girls’ lives.”
“There’s a hot time going on already. Look down there!” said Wild Bill, who was ahead and had halted on the crest of a steep descent.
He pointed to the valley, where all who were up to him could now see that a terrible Indian fight was going on.
“Good!” cried Buffalo Bill. “It’s dog eat dog. We’ll let them fight it out, and then we’ll settle with the winners.”
“But the girls? Where are they?” asked Mainwaring anxiously.
“Hidden away, most likely, while the fight is going on. They are not there, so far as I can see.”
He had been looking over the scene through his field glasses.
“If we had any men we could spare or risk I’d like to take a hand in that fight,” the border king remarked, after a few moments. “Those are Snakes who are fighting the Utes, and they’re getting the worst of it, too—but that’s not our lookout. The Utes have got the girls—that we know quite well—and they have most likely hidden them up here in the hills somewhere under guard.”
“Let us look for them!” said Mainwaring eagerly.
“Not till we see how the fight ends; then we can be ready to play our own hand,” replied Buffalo Bill quietly.
“Look back, pard, and tell me what that means!” exclaimed Wild Bill, whose eyes, ever wandering about, had caught sight of several columns of smoke rising away to the north.
“It’s a conundrum to me,” said the king of the scouts. “It may be Indians signaling or smoke made by those white ruffians, the Death Riders. Their chief hangout, Nick’s Cavern, is over in that direction!”
He turned again to watch the fight going on below.
“Those Snakes fight well, but they’ll be clean whipped,” he said, after a while. “The Utes are too many for them and they’re fighting better. There’ll be a big feast for the crows and the coyotes.”
“A good thing, too!” growled old Nick Wharton. “The fewer live Injuns on the plains the better.”
“Hello! Look up there! Ho, they’re gone!” suddenly cried Mainwaring, pointing to a cliff far over to the right of the party, fully two miles away.
“What’s gone? Your senses?” asked Buffalo Bill, noticing how wildly the young rancher gazed at the place where he himself could see nothing but bleak, bare rock.
“No, no—the girls! I saw them plainly over there on that rock; and it seemed as if a party of men was hurrying on with them!” said Mainwaring.
“I think you must have been mistaken, or some one else would have seen them, too,” replied Buffalo Bill. “They could hardly have got out of sight so soon, either, for you see there is neither tree nor bush on that rock.”
“I certainly did see them, and they disappeared so quickly that it looked as if they had sunk right down into the earth.”
“I’ve had just such visions,” said the border king, smiling. “And it was when I was in love, too.”
“It was no vision; it was real,” persisted Mainwaring.
“Well, after the fight is over down there we’ll see what we can find in the way of tracks up there,” said the king of the scouts.
Then, his face all aglow with pleasure, he cried:
“Here’s some news coming for us now! Here are the men we sent to meet the soldiers coming back!”
He spoke truly. The two scouts who had communicated with Steve Hathaway and the troops were hurrying toward him, having sent up smoke signals to hasten the soldiers forward.
Their report decided Buffalo Bill to remain where he was until the cavalry got up, but to satisfy Mainwaring he suggested that the latter should take a couple of fresh men and go over to the cliff to see whether he could find any tracks where he said he had seen the two girls.
Norfolk Ben, however, volunteered to go, and Mainwaring said he would take him and let the scouts remain.
As Buffalo Bill had no belief that there was really any one where Mainwaring said he had seen people he made no objection to this arrangement. He did not know that the young rancher was really rushing into deadly danger, or he would not have let him go out of his sight.
But his attention was soon drawn away from the fighting Indians and everything else by the sight of the carbines and sabers of cavalrymen glittering in the pass to the north, and he rode up to greet Captain Meinhold and Lieutenant Lawson, and to take Steve Hathaway by the hand and tell him that he had done nobly and well.
“I did my level best, mate,” replied Steve. “I had my life to pay for. Now that I’ve done it, I suppose I’ll be no more use to you.”
“Yes, Steve, you will. I’ll enroll you in my band of scouts of the Department of the Platte, if you wish, and you can ride and fight alongside of me if it suits you. If it doesn’t, I’ll do anything else I can to help you. All you’ve got to do is to say what you want, and you shall have it if I can get it for you.”
“Thank you, Bill. I know I’m not deserving of much in the way of kindness after the life I’ve led, but I’ll try to turn over a new leaf, and we’ll see how things work out as we go along. Has there been much of a fight down there?”
“I reckon there has, and it isn’t over yet. If they keep on for a while longer there won’t be much more of them left than there was of the Kilkenny cats after their scrap.”
“What are they?”
“Snakes and Utes. They’re both just crazy to fight each other, and always were since I’ve known anything about them. Captain Meinhold, you had better let your command rest and feed till it’s over down there, and then we can sail in and finish the job. I see the Utes are getting the upper hand, and it’s them I want to settle with. We’ve traced the two captives we want to rescue to their trail, and they’ll have to give them up or go under.”
The captain was only too glad to take the chance to rest his men and horses, and the necessary orders were at once given, while he and his lieutenant, through their field glasses, watched the fight which was still going on down below.
The Snakes were fast becoming disheartened, for their foes were not only nearly double their number, but better armed and better disciplined. The Utes fought as if they were directed with better generalship than the red man usually has to give.
As a matter of fact, Bear Killer had a great deal of military skill, and he was excelling himself now, for he was fighting under the eyes of the white girl whose love and admiration he wanted to win.
As the Snake braves fell or tried to retreat out of the battle the Utes redoubled their efforts, until in a short time the fight seemed to the gallant officers who were looking on little better than a massacre.
“It really seems to me that it would be a mercy for us to interfere now,” said Captain Meinhold, turning to Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill, who were watching the battle, like himself.
“A mercy to the Snakes, but not to ourselves, captain,” replied Buffalo Bill. “The Utes are very strong yet. Every one who falls strengthens us, and the Snakes, knowing they need expect no quarter, will account for a good many more of them yet before they all go under.”
“Yes; and the Utes are so hot now that they wouldn’t stop if they could, and they couldn’t if they would. They are like tigers who have tasted blood,” said Wild Bill. “They’d pitch into us in a minute unless they had a little time to cool off.”
“Well, we’ll have our horses ready,” said the captain. “One thing is quite certain—it can’t last much longer.”
“That warrior’s a great fighter!” exclaimed Buffalo Bill, as he saw a Snake Indian, evidently a chief, dismounted and fighting hand to hand with five or six of the enemy—only falling when struck from behind with a tomahawk after he had slain three of his foes.
It was the last of the leader of the Snakes, and soon after he fell the sole survivor of the Snake braves drove his own knife home to his heart rather than let a Ute do it.
Then the fierce yells of victory rose louder than ever from the throats of the victorious Utes.
But suddenly these were hushed.
For Bear Killer and his warriors—his brother had been slain in the battle—saw the troops drawn up in line on the hill, their arms and accouterments glittering in the noonday sun, and the scouts, under Buffalo Bill, on their flank.
It looked as if another battle was going to be fought, with fresh and well-armed soldiers against braves who were tired with a long and bloody fight, and most of them wounded in addition.
“Now’s the time to wipe them out, captain!” cried Wild Bill, eager to dash forward.
“I’d like to see whether we can’t get them to give up the girls without a fight first,” said Buffalo Bill. “If they saw that there was no chance they would be sure to kill them.”
“My orders are to save the captives, if I can,” said the captain. “That is the first consideration.”
“Then let me try a palaver with the Ute chief,” suggested Buffalo Bill.
“Certainly—try it first, by all means.”
But when they saw Buffalo Bill borrow a spear from one of the Pawnee “friendlies” in his band of scouts and tie a white handkerchief on the end of it they realized that the matter was going to be settled by talking instead of by fighting, if it was possible.
The arrangements were soon made. Buffalo Bill, with the truce flag, dashed boldly down the hill, followed more slowly by Captain Meinhold and Wild Bill, the lieutenant holding the company ready to charge if a sign of treachery on the part of the Indians demanded it.
The Utes, at first astounded at this unexpected demonstration in their rear, were now seen to gather for consultation, and when Buffalo Bill was well down the hill toward them three of them were seen to ride out from the rest.
The first was Bear Killer himself, and a little to his rear, on his right and left, rode two Ute braves.
The one on his right carried a rather dirty-looking white flag.
Buffalo Bill planted the spear with his flag on it in the earth, and sat motionless on his horse close by, until the Ute brave, leaving his chief behind, dashed forward and planted their flag by the first.
Then, seeing that Buffalo Bill neither dismounted nor put down his weapons, the Ute chief rode forward armed and bloodstained from the recent battle.
Buffalo Bill opened the palaver.
“I have not come to smoke the peace pipe, but to talk,” he said. “If the talk of the Ute is good then we may smoke the peace pipe. If not, the soldiers and the scouts are ready for battle. They are many, and there will be more behind to come if they are not enough.”
“What has the paleface chief to say to Bear Killer, the chief of the Wasatch Utes?”
“The Wasatch? If you belong away over there in Utah what are you doing on this side of the great mountain?”
“That is the business of Bear Killer—not of the paleface. Bear Killer is like the wind; he goes wherever his spirit wills, and asks leave from no man. What is the talk of the paleface?”
“This chief will speak,” said Buffalo Bill, waving his hand toward Captain Meinhold, who came riding up with Wild Bill, thus making the conferring parties equal in numbers.
“Where are the two white captives—the girls who were in your possession?” asked the captain sternly.
The chief glanced off quickly toward the base of the cliff, where Mainwaring had declared he had seen the girls, and a look of pleasure lighted up his face, for he had supposed the whites had recaptured them already while the fight was going on.
“Why does the paleface chief ask?” he said, now ready to prevaricate or do anything else in order to gain time, for he believed that the four braves he had left in charge of the girls had been crafty enough to retreat with them.
“Because he has a right,” was the reply. “The father of these girls mourns for them at the fort of the white soldiers. And they must go back to him, safe and well, or not a red man here shall live to say he has seen them! I speak straight and plain. Where are they? I want them, and mean to have them.”
“Bear Killer is a great warrior. He is chief of the Wasatch. Many braves follow him——”
“Bear Killer, if that’s your name, will be a head less in height very soon if he does not give me a straight answer!” cried the captain angrily. “Where are the girls? Speak—or I pull up that flag and my troops will ride you down!”
“Bear Killer, before the battle, sent them away out of danger,” said the chief, again glancing toward the spot where they had been left.
“Alone?” asked Buffalo Bill, who had detected the look.
“No; with four braves to guard them from harm.”
“Wild Bill, ride to that cliff over there. Call half a dozen men to go with you as you pass,” said Buffalo Bill nervously. “Mainwaring said that he saw women there, and I didn’t believe him. He went with only Norfolk Ben in his company, and neither of them knows much about Indians. Go quickly, old fellow, for I feel uneasy.”
“You left the girls with four braves?” said the captain to the Ute chief. “Can you not call them in now?”
“If I do what will the paleface chief give for the girls whom Bear Killer took from the Shawnees? They are mine by a red man’s right. I took them from the red men—not from the palefaces.”
“I will give you cold steel and lead, and plenty of both, if you don’t give them up!” was the hot retort. “I shan’t waste any more time in talk. Talking is not my trade. I had rather fight.”
“The paleface has seen that the Utes can fight,” said Bear Killer proudly.
Then he glanced uneasily toward the hill whither Wild Bill and half a dozen scouts were galloping, as Buffalo Bill had directed.
“You will soon see—and feel—what my soldiers can do if these girls are not produced and given up!” said the captain. “I am in no mood for trifling. I have not ridden so far for nothing.”
Bear Killer saw with alarm that the cavalry, evidently impatient, were remounting their horses.
“We will talk,” he said. “We do not want to fight you palefaces. You have good guns that shoot a great many times, and we do not want to lose many braves for the sake of two women. You may take them.”
“Then send one of your braves back with orders to your people to stay where they are, and go up with us to get the girls. My people shall not move unless yours do.”
Bear Killer had a struggle with his pride before he could agree to this, but he knew very well what well-armed and mounted white troops could do, so he sent a warrior back, and leaving the truce flags flying between the parties, he rode on toward the cliff with the captain and Buffalo Bill.
Wild Bill and his men were there searching rapidly from rock to rock for signs which might lead to the discovery of the girls.
Four dead Indians, unscalped, lay upon the ground, pierced by rifle balls.
They were seen when Captain Meinhold, Buffalo Bill, and the Ute chief rode up.
“Who has killed these braves?” demanded Bear Killer angrily. “These were the guards I left with the girls.”
“Mainwaring and Norfolk Ben must have done it,” said Buffalo Bill, turning to the captain. “Were they not at our lines when you passed?”
He asked this last question of Wild Bill.
“No. The last seen of them was on that cliff, when they got your permission to ride over this way and search.”
“These men are cold,” said the captain. “They must have been dead a good while. They were killed before you came near the ground, Wild Bill.”
Bear Killer, whose looks showed his passionate indignation, burst out:
“The palefaces speak with double tongues! My braves have been killed with big bullets, such as the palefaces use, for lead does not cost them so much as it does the red man. They ask me for the girls after they have killed their guards and taken them.”
“It is not so,” replied the captain. “Your braves were not killed by our men, neither have any of us seen the girls.”
“It looks very dark. I cannot see my way clear,” said Bear Killer. “My braves are killed—and killed by white men, who do not take scalps. The women are gone. Who did it?”
Buffalo Bill, who had joined Wild Bill in the search, cried out:
“There have been men here who don’t belong to our crowd—white men, too! They wore moccasins, and all of my men wear boots—so do the soldiers of the captain. Those men came down the hill in the water and hid behind the rocks and shot the braves in the back. Their tracks tell the story.”
“Where, then, is Mr. Mainwaring and that man Norfolk Ben you spoke of?” asked the captain.
“They must be on the trail of the men who carried off the girls, for beyond here I see no track of the girls,” said Wild Bill.
“Go to the top of the hill, some of you, quick!” cried Buffalo Bill. “That is where Mainwaring said he had seen them. If only I had believed him then he should not have gone alone.”
Wild Bill and some of the other scouts, by different routes, hurried to reach the indicated spot. Those who followed the bed of the little stream were there first. Wild Bill was not among them, but he was not far behind the rest.
His report was quickly made. In one spot, where dry sand had blown into a gully, there were the tracks of the girls, of men in moccasins, and over these the small, slender boot marks made by Mainwaring and the broader track of Ben’s brogans.
Just beyond this strip of sand there was a sudden descent—a kind of channel between two cliffs—and then the tracks were lost, for it was hard, solid rock in every direction for a considerable distance.
“The girls have been taken by these white ruffians who killed their guards,” said Buffalo Bill, who went up himself and examined the tracks.
“They must be followed,” said Captain Meinhold. “But it is singular that Mr. Mainwaring and the man who went with him have not returned. Surely he would not be so rash as to follow on the trail alone.”
The captain had come up the ascent with Bear Killer.
“There is no trail here to find,” remarked Wild Bill. “If he has followed them he must either have seen them or else gone off on a blind chase.”
“We’ve got to find out. I wouldn’t have him hurt for anything!” cried Buffalo Bill. “Captain, you can settle the truce with the Ute chief, I reckon, while I try to hunt up Mainwaring and the girls.”
“There is nothing to settle,” said Bear Killer gravely. “I have had a big fight and have killed many men. I have lost a great many braves, too. My brother is among them. I do not want to lose any more. The palefaces can go their way in peace, and I will go mine in the same way if they will let me.”
“We have no war with you,” said Captain Meinhold. “Only when the red man raises the hatchet to strike at us do we strike back.”
“It is well. Bear Killer will go bury his dead, and then he will go back over the mountains to the Wasatch, for there will be great mourning in all his villages. But we have many scalps to carry back.”
The chief rode away, and then Captain Meinhold joined Buffalo Bill again.
The latter had just returned from an unavailing search for the trail of Mainwaring and the others, but Wild Bill and the other scouts were still looking for it.
“I’m afraid Mainwaring has met with bad luck, or we should have heard from him before now,” said the border king. “Brave and rash, he has hurried on, and perhaps been shot down by those villains who have now got the girls in their power. I dreaded to keep on looking, for I feared that I would come across his body.”
A shout from Wild Bill, who came hurrying back, told them he had news of some sort for them.
“I’ve found where they took their horses,” he said. “It was a pretty strong party, for some of them remained behind while the rest went forward and attacked the four Indians.”
“Have you seen any sign of Mainwaring?” asked Buffalo Bill eagerly.
“Yes; he and Norfolk Ben have been taken and carried along. Their tracks are plain where the horses were kept.”
“It is strange that they were not killed on the spot. But we must take the trail at once—that is if Meinhold will do it.”
“Of course,” answered the brave officer. “I came to help you out of a scrape, if you were in one, and I and my men will see this business through.”
“Thank you, captain. Some day I hope to repay you. The safety of Mainwaring means more to me than I can say.”
“I never knew Buffalo Bill forget to pay a debt, either to a friend or an enemy,” said Wild Bill. “But we are losing time. Suppose I take the scouts and get along on the trail? I don’t believe there are more of those rascals than we can handle if we should chance to come up with them.”
“I’ll join you with the rest of our fellows, and then the captain and the troopers can come along at their leisure,” said Buffalo Bill.
“We had better all try to keep together,” suggested the captain. “They cannot have much start, and we surely can overtake them.”
“We’ll do it!” said Buffalo Bill, with grim determination; “or there’s one of us here who’ll break his neck trying! If young Mainwaring has been lost or killed I won’t be able to forgive myself easily for letting him go off in that way, with only Norfolk Ben to accompany him. I made a serious error in judgment in not crediting what he said about seeing the girls.”
The captain now sent back orders for the troops to ride around to where the trail could be taken, and then went with Buffalo Bill to the point, guided by Wild Bill.
Sure enough there were tracks showing where a large band of horses had stood for some time, for the ground was all trodden up, and then on the thus softened ground the tracks of men could be seen.
Among these the keen eye of Buffalo Bill soon detected the boot marks made by Mainwaring, the brogan tracks of Ben, and in one place the small impressions left by the girls’ feet.
“We’re surely on their trail now,” he said, when he made this last discovery.
By the time all the horses had been brought up from the place where they had been left at the foot of the cliff the troop, with the rest of the scouts, were there.
Steve Hathaway came with them.
When he saw the tracks he shook his head.
“Boss,” he said to Buffalo Bill, “you might as well count your friend and Norfolk Ben dead and the girls safe in the hands of those fellows. Bill Harkness, the boss of the Death Riders, has been here. Do you see that track? That big track? His foot is the biggest in the gang.”
“I’ll soon have the measure of it,” said Buffalo Bill, springing from his horse.
“Be a little easy, mate, and listen to me, for I may help you more than you think of. These chaps are strong, and they can lay for you in a dozen places between here and Nick’s Tavern, where they quarter.”
“Let them lay, Steve,” said Buffalo Bill. “We’ll lay them out as soon as we get within range!”
“I can’t see him ride right into the jaws of death!” cried Steve Hathaway. “He saved me once, and I’ll save him now!”
And he rode on at a gallop to join Buffalo Bill at the head of the column.
So certain was Mainwaring that he had seen the girls that he was determined to satisfy himself on the point, and he never took thought of the danger into which he might be plunging.
The track which he and Norfolk Ben took to reach the top of the cliff did not lead them past the bodies of the Ute braves, or the young rancher might have got some idea of the peril into which he was walking so blindly.
They rode to a spot where the ridge seemed most accessible on horseback and attempted to ride up, but they found it too steep for the horses and hurried up on foot.
They soon reached the crest of the cliff, and not seeing any one there Mainwaring went on a little way and shouted. He thought that if the girls were near they might answer. Indeed, he even imagined that he heard a cry in response coming from some way farther on, and he pushed forward at his best speed.
“Marse Mainwaring, I wouldn’t go dar out ob sight o’ de odders,” said the thoughtful Ben. “I ’clar’ to goodness, I wouldn’t! You dunno what dar is in dem rocks. Maybe painters—maybe wolves.”
There were wolves, indeed—but they were wolves in human shape, and Mainwaring soon found them, as he hurried on, despite of Ben’s entreaties.
“You can go back if you’re afraid,” he said, most unjustly, to the faithful fellow.
“I’se mighty ’fraid, Marse Mainwaring,” was the response. “But I’se comin’ with you.”
Ben followed doggedly, willing to share the danger if he could not get Mr. Mainwaring to shun it.
Just where a small chasm opened in the rocks, and Mainwaring stepped in to see if there was any sign of the girls there, he was confronted by half a dozen men, with leveled guns.
Ben cried out from behind:
“Look out, Marse Mainwaring! Dere’s men wid shootin’ irons!”
Sure enough they were caught in a trap.
A man of tall stature, with all of his face hidden except his nose and eyes by a tremendous black, bushy beard, cried out:
“Stranger, you’re caught in a trap! If you’ve got any prayin’ ter do, do it quick—an’ then shell out! I see you wear a watch—an’ some diamonds. We’ll take them first an’ yer life afterwards!”
“It might pay you better to think twice about taking my life,” said Mainwaring, growing suddenly calm, though at first he had been momentarily startled.
“I can’t see that!” growled the leader of the gang. “Boys, knock that black man on the head! He’s not doing any good standing there!”
“Don’t do dat, Marse White Man! Don’t do it! You’ll spoil dat gun if you do!”
Ben’s expostulation—his look and his words—spoken as one of the men raised his rifle to strike him down, created such a roar of laughter from the gang that the man could not strike.
“An’ it’s no use killin’ such a good cook an’ servant as I is. ’Fore de wah I’d have brought a heap o’ money—you bet I would!”
Another laugh showed that Ben’s appeal had put his captors in something like a better humor, or else the rich spoil they had taken from Mainwaring had done it.
For the man who seemed to lead the gang had found a full set of diamond shirt studs on the rich young rancher, a diamond ring, a fine watch, and a wallet full of money.
“Rich—this chap sure is rich!” said the outlaw leader gleefully, as he showed the plunder to his mates.
“Maybe he’s got more that could be reached, Bill Harkness. Let’s keep him till we find out about that,” suggested one of the men.
“Well, I’ll agree to that,” said the leader. “We can make use of this black man, anyway, when we get to the cave. He says he can cook.”
“I jest kin do dat, Marse White Man!”
“Well, move on! We can’t stay here long, for some of your gang may likely be on our track.”
The next moment a cry of surprise broke from the lips of Mainwaring and one of real joy from those of Ben.
Two young girls, very pale and fatigued, but, even so, very beautiful, stood near some horses guarded by three or four armed men.
“’Clar’ ter goodness, dere’s de cherubims!” shouted faithful Ben, breaking away from all restraint and rushing up to the girls, whose hands he seized and kissed, while he actually wept with joy to see them alive. “Oh, Missie May an’ Missie Gertrude! Jest to think I’m with you once more! Ben’s ready to go now when Gabriel blows his horn—he is dat! Oh, honeys, is it you—all sure alive?”
“The darky knows you?” asked the leader of the band.
“Yes,” said May. “He is my father’s servant.”
“Yes—I is his serbant, an’ yours, too, Missie May. Your old fadder is alive, an’ he jest would give a hunderd t’ousand dollars—an’ he’s got it, too—to see you an’ Missie Gertrude alive!”
“A hundred thousand dollars! Do you know what you are saying, darky?” cried the leader of the bandits, while the rest of the gang talked eagerly among themselves.
“Yes, Marse White Man, I jest do know what I’m sayin’! And de old boss has done got it, all in hard coin.”
“Where is he now?”
“Away back at de fort. He’s dere sure, an’ so is de money. I know he’d give it all to see dese young ladies back with him.”
“Does this man speak the truth?” asked the bandit leader sternly of Mainwaring.
“I believe he does,” said the latter, who had hardly let his eyes move from the face of May all this time. “If there is any doubt of the father of these ladies having the money, I know who has it, and who will give up even that large sum to see them restored, safe and unharmed, to their father.”
“You mean yourself, I suppose?”
“For such a purpose I can command that sum. I happen to be a fairly rich man.”
“That’s as it may be. Why don’t you bargain for your own life?”
“Because I would rather buy their safety than my own. I am young and single—and not afraid of death.”
“Well, you certainly take things pretty coolly! The things you wear show you are rich. What do you say, boys? Shall we take them all on to the cave and hold them to ransom? I guess we can make more by that than by our regular business.”
“Yes; take them to the cave!” cried one of the men, and all the rest shouted their approval of the proposition.
“Mount at once! We are lucky to have fresh horses!” shouted the leader of the band. “Mount and away!”
Then turning to Mainwaring he said:
“Stranger, I’ll treat you well if you’ll act square. If you don’t, you’ll die without having time to pray!”
“Treat those girls well, and you shall have every dollar I have in the world, if necessary,” replied Mainwaring.
A grateful look from both girls, but especially from May, made him feel that his fortune could not possibly be better expended.
“They shall be well treated—if we are well paid,” said the bandit.
Now they were all mounted and were moving off up among the rugged hills at a sweeping trot, which was increased to a gallop when the road got better.
Mainwaring now had a good chance to look at the party, for he and the girls were placed in the center, Norfolk Ben following close behind them.
There were in all about twenty-five or thirty men, all well armed and mounted, and all looking what they were—outlaws and murderers of the worst type.
For a time they kept on in silence, the route being through a wild and picturesque country, which Mainwaring would have admired under any other circumstances.
But now he was busy thinking what Buffalo Bill would do when he missed him. Would he discover the trail? And if he did, would not the very fact of his following it up be fatal to the hopes, if not to the lives, of the captives?
He thought that he would explain this to the leader of the band, and get his permission to ride back and prevent the border king from following until the ransom matter was negotiated. But the thought of leaving the girls, even for an instant, with such men deterred him from that course.
He was wondering what to do, when one of the rear guard thundered by him and rode to the front. After he spoke to the leader the pace was increased to a swift gallop, and then the leader of the party dropped back along the column to Mainwaring.
“Young man,” he said, “I’ve got a few questions to ask you, and if you don’t answer them we’ll not bother about that ransom. What party were you with when you happened to hit on our trail?”
“A party of scouts, commanded by Buffalo Bill—whom you have probably heard of.”
“Yes; I’ve heard of him!” growled the bandit. “But were there no troops—no cavalry—in the party?”
“None when I left, but they were expecting some to come up. They were expecting them to come every hour.”
“Young fellow, I believe you have told me the truth, and now I’ll tell you some news. These scouts and cavalrymen are on our trail; but you needn’t think it will help your case much. I’d drop you, Indian fashion, with a bullet before I’d lose you.
“In about half an hour you’ll see them the worst-whipped crowd you ever heard of. By that time we’ll be in a place where their cavalry will have about as much play as a horse in a hencoop.
“So you’d better keep cool and remain quiet, without trying to escape, and then you and them gals will be safe. Remember, I’m not foolin’ in this business. A sign or word that looks to me like getting away—and it means a bullet through your heart!”
Mainwaring knew that every word the man said was meant, and that any attempt to escape would not only bring death upon himself, but upon the helpless girls, whom he longed to protect with his own life, if necessary.
The horses were kept to their full speed now for several miles, and they seemed to have left pursuit far behind, when they suddenly rode into a gorge so deep and dark that it seemed as if twilight had descended when they entered.
The leader of the bandits here checked the speed a little, and Mainwaring looked up, almost awe-stricken by the sight which met his eyes.
Great rocks, red as if burned by volcanic fire, hung from either side, almost over their heads, showing only a narrow strip of sky as he looked far up the dark chasm.
And narrower yet seemed the pass as they kept on, until suddenly they came to a place where it was only possible to ride in single file. Here the leader halted and made the rest pass on.
Mainwaring saw the girls go just before him, and then he followed, just as the crack of a rifle shot and a loud, ringing shout reached his ears.
Only too well did he recognize the ring of the long-range rifle of the border king and the sound of Buffalo Bill’s voice.
Mainwaring glanced back when he heard these sounds, and he saw the last man of the party, who rode just to the rear of where the leader sat in his saddle, reel and fall from his horse.
At the same moment he saw Bill Harkness, the bandit chief, spur on into the narrow pass, bringing up the rear. As he did so he managed, by some contrivance which Mainwaring did not understand, to detach a huge mass of rock. This completely blocked up the road, so that pursuit was made impossible until it was cleared out of the way.
Not being able to stop even had he desired to do so, Mainwaring had to keep on with the others a little farther, and then he found himself in the place he had already heard so much about—the far-famed “Nick’s Cavern,” the principal stronghold of the Death Riders, or of what now remained of that villainous band.
It was an immense cleft, or yawning mouth, beneath the mountainside, which seemed to have been hollowed out by a river of fire, so lavalike were its curious and fantastic walls.
The main cave was large enough for a regiment to have maneuvered in handsomely, while away off into the mountain ran dark halls and avenues. How far these went only a few of the outlaws, who had explored their secret recesses, knew.
Mainwaring had no time to see more than that there was quite a large party of men there already, and that fires were burning, which not only served to partially light up the vast place, but gave several men and a few women the opportunity to do some cooking.
A cheer greeted the arrival of the leader of the band, who seemed to be popular with most of his men. They greeted him as “Gallant Bill Harkness,” “Brave Bill,” and by other complimentary terms.
The only answer which he made was a shrill whistle call, which brought all the men from the interior of the cavern to the spot where he had seated himself when he dismounted from his horse.
As soon as they were all gathered around him he raised his hand to command silence and said:
“Men! We have been followed closely by scouts, some Indians—Pawnees, I think—and a troop of cavalrymen from the fort. I’ve dropped the cliff rock in their path, but if they’re as spunky and clever as I think they are they’ll try to get us out of here.
“I’ve left a dozen men at the pass. The next thing to do is to fill the range above with our best shots and try to clean them out.
“So get up there—about thirty of you—and take care of things there so that you’ll make our visitors feel too sick to stay. As soon as I and my crowd have had a bite to eat I’ll go up there and look after things myself.”
The only reply to this speech was a general cheer, and Mainwaring saw the men—all armed—scattering away to obey orders.
“Who have you got there, Bill?” asked one man, who seemed as rough as Harkness himself, approaching the spot where Mainwaring, the two girls, and Norfolk Ben were standing.
“Prisoners—to be well treated for the present, unless they try to get away. Then the men are to be shot and—well, we’ll make the girls stay somehow!”
“Yes,” said the man, with a sardonic laugh. “They’re too pretty to be let go easily.”
Mainwaring could have choked the leering wretch with a good will, but, unarmed as he was, and at the mercy of armed ruffians, what could he do?
He made up his mind, however, to remain near the girls all the time, and if an unkind hand was laid upon them, or any open violence offered, he would die in their defense.
With every new glance that he directed at May he felt his love for her grow stronger, until it filled his whole heart and mind, to the utter exclusion of all thoughts of his own safety.
He had now a chance to say a few words of comfort to her and to her sister. The ruffian Harkness, however, did not seem to like this. He looked at them suspiciously, and then calling a stout, red-faced woman to him he said:
“Here, Lize! You take them two girls to your corner of the cave over there, and keep them under your own eye. Feed ’em well and treat ’em well, but don’t let any man talk to ’em or bother ’em. Mind, now, and do as I say! Hold on! That black man there has been their servant and cook. He can wait on them and help you.”
“Thank you, Marse White Man. De ole lady’ll jest find me handy.”
“Who do you call old, you black idjit?” cried Lize angrily.
Norfolk Ben quailed before the fury of the termagant.
“Beg pardon, missis! I hadn’t looked at you afore. I ’clar’ to goodness, you is younger an’ han’somer dan any lady I done see eber since I left ole Virginny!”
Ben, only too glad to be near May and Gertrude, went right to work, while Bill Harkness beckoned Mainwaring over to him.
“Stranger,” said he, “make yourself comfortable here nigh by this fire. After I’ve attended to them cusses that have followed us I’ll see to that ransom business.
“It’ll take some time, I suppose, for some one of us will have to go for the money; but we’ll make you comfortable as long as you keep quiet and take things easy. We’ll have something to eat and drink soon, an’ then I’ll have to be going.
“If those friends of yours push on for a fight they’ll get it—an’ a great deal more than they’re looking for, too!”
“They’re fighting now, aren’t they?” asked Mainwaring. “I hear guns firing.”
“Maybe they’re wasting some powder. They couldn’t do anything with us here, not if they tried for six months. We’re walled in from the east, for I had it all fixed to tumble forty tons of rock down right on the trail. I meant to wait a little longer, so that the rock would fall on some of them, but the trap worked too easy.
“West from here there’s no opening that isn’t guarded, and only an eagle could get up the cliffs on that side. So you can make your mind easy about those friends of yours. You needn’t worry yourself with any hopes that they are going to save you.”
But Mainwaring could not make his mind easy. He loved Buffalo Bill as well as a brother, and he had been a good comrade with the rest of the border king’s party. And he feared now, seeing how strong the place was, that the knight of the plains and his fellow scouts would lose their lives in trying to rescue him.
Supper was now set out on a rough slab of stone for Mainwaring and Harkness, and a very good meal it was, too, considering the situation.
Mainwaring saw that there was a great deal of dried meat and some fresh game hanging up in the place, and he also noticed that there was forage for the horses stacked in the upper end of the cave, where they were tied, to the number of about two hundred.
There was no lack of water. It dripped in springs on every side, finding its way off in little trickling streams as bright as silver.
The bandit chief noticed how observantly Mainwaring took in the general features of the place, and he said sarcastically:
“Study things out as much as you like, stranger. You’ll never have a chance to tell outsiders how we look or live.”
“What do you mean?” said Mainwaring, in surprise. “You are going to release me if the ransom is paid, aren’t you? That was our bargain.”
“Yes—but we shan’t let you go till the money is paid over. And even then, before we let you leave, you’ll have to swear by an oath that you dare not break never to expose what you have seen here. We’ve got snug quarters here, and we intend to keep them.”
“If I gave you my promise to keep anything secret it would be as good as any oath,” replied Mainwaring, looking the chief straight in the eye.
“Yes, you look honest,” muttered Harkness. “Too honest for this crowd, I reckon. But for all that you’ll have to take the oath. I would be willing to let you go without it, but the men wouldn’t. They wouldn’t trust you or anybody on his bare word.”
Mainwaring had now finished eating, and he asked if there was any objection to his smoking.
“None at all. Eat, drink, and smoke when you feel like it. If you are sleepy, there are blankets for you. But mark me—you must not do any cruising about! If you go over where the horses are, you’ll get a dose of lead through your carcass!
“You can go one hundred yards up this avenue here, but no farther than that. If you go to where a light burns beyond that point you’ll be dropped dead in your tracks. We’ve got rules for our prisoners, and they have to be obeyed.”
“I shall not break them,” said Mainwaring. “It would be foolish. I’m not going to throw away my life while I feel responsible for looking after those girls. You need not be afraid.”
“I’m not, stranger.”
“It seems to me they’re firing pretty often outside,” remarked the young man.
“Yes. I must go and see. Your friends are only wasting powder.”
As Bill Harkness left the place Mainwaring saw a man brought into the cave, evidently badly wounded.
“That doesn’t look like wasting powder,” he muttered to himself, taking care not to be overheard.
It is now time to go outside and see how Buffalo Bill and his crowd get along.
When the trail was taken, Buffalo Bill in the lead, Steve Hathaway following, the horses of the whole party were put to their full speed. For Buffalo Bill argued that to save the life of Mainwaring and the honor of those helpless girls, they must not give those white ruffians any time to rest or to think.
Steve Hathaway was of this opinion, as far as that went, but he knew the country and the stronghold so well that he told Buffalo Bill if the ruffians got to the cave safe there would be no use in trying to attack them, and no hope to drive them out, except by starvation—and that would be difficult—for they had plenty of provisions.
Disguising himself by throwing away his Indian coat and taking a jacket from a soldier, changing hats with Buffalo Bill, Steve now felt no fear of recognition from the band, and, finding no words of his could restrain Cody from charging right on, he rode on with him, showing him short cuts to gain on the others.
Thus it was that Buffalo Bill, coming in sight just before the band reached Nick’s Cavern, got a shot with his long-range rifle, which dropped the last ruffian in the crowd dead from his saddle.
Steve, who knew the secret of the trap, and the peril if the rocks were sent tumbling down, dashed his horse forward at its maddest speed, and got the horse of Buffalo Bill by the rein just in time to rear him back on his haunches and save the heroic rider from being crushed by the terrible avalanche which fell and blocked the way.
Anger flushed the face of the scout for an instant when the horse reared back; but in the next second, when he saw what a terrible death he had been saved from, he turned and said:
“Steve, I owe my life to you. I don’t know how I’ll ever pay the debt.”
“Say no more about it. We’re no more than even, mate. Them hounds are safe now. They’re shut in, and we’re shut out.”
“Is the trail entirely blocked?”
“Yes; entirely. They are all in Nick’s Cavern, where there is enough feed for man and beast kept all the time to last for months. It is shut in every way now.”
“Good! Then they can’t get out?”
“No, but you can’t get in.”
“We’ll see! They went in, and so will I.”
“But they’ll get to the top of the cliff over us, and make it too hot for us here.”
“Will they? Then we’ll make it too hot for them there. If they can shoot at us, we can return the fire. If I see a gun flash, lead will go very near where I see that flash.”
“If you hurt any of them, they’ll murder the prisoners.”
“How are we to know they have not done that already? I tell you what it is, Steve—I’ve done fooling! I have not come this far to go back with my hands down, leaving them here to crow. They’ve got to be wiped out.”
“It will be a hard job!”
“Then I’m just in for it. Here comes Captain Meinhold. What shall I tell him?”
“That you’ve holed your game, but diggin’ for it in a rock will be hard work.”
“Well—why don’t we go on?” asked the captain, who had not been able to hold the wild pace that Buffalo Bill had kept for a few miles back.
“Rocks caved in our way, and the enemy caved in behind them,” said Buffalo Bill.
“Can you see them?”
“No, but I hear them,” said Buffalo Bill, as a bullet flattened against a rock within a foot of his head. “If you’ll get under cover, we’ll talk with Steve here and see what we can do.”
“I don’t like this,” said the captain, as they fell back a little to where some rocks and trees sheltered them partially. From away up in the cliff, out of sight of them, a fusillade was now opened which made it necessary for all hands to take cover.
Two wounded men, a scout and a soldier, proclaimed this necessity.
“Is there no way of getting in and making a charge?” asked the captain. “Hand to hand, saber and revolver, I’ll risk meeting them three to one!”
“Just about the odds, I reckon, captain, but the getting in is the question. There is a passage in and out, besides the one they’ve filled up, where a man can creep, but not where horses can go. But only Bill Harkness and two more know anything about it. It was always kept from the rest for fear of treachery at a time like this,” said Hathaway.
“It can and must be found,” said Buffalo Bill. “I’m going to look for it.”
The brave scout handed his Remington to Steve.
“Take care of it,” said he. “If I don’t get in there, I shan’t need it any more. If I do—I’ll make music with it when they’re on the run among the hills.”
Buffalo Bill started out, determined to climb the cliff. But the instant he was seen near the face of the rock bullets rained at him. That Providence which seems ever to shelter and protect the bravest when cowards fall must have shielded his breast, for he was evidently a target for at least twenty marksmen.
Coolly he dropped back.
“Climbing just now in the face of a leaden hailstorm isn’t in my line. But I’ve got the dot on one fellow. I’ll take the rifle again, Steve.”
Hathaway handed over the rifle to him.
The latter went on to tell Steve that he had seen one gun flash from the limb of a pine which almost overhung the spot where they had first stood.
“I’m going to creep for him,” said Buffalo Bill. “If I can get him between me and the sky, he’ll be dead meat after my rifle sings her song.”
The scout crept from rock to rock under the bushes for some little time, while the scouts and soldiers kept the men above occupied, for the former fired every time they saw a gun flash.
This shooting, however, was entirely at random, and there was no certainty of their hitting a man.
But when the border king’s rifle was heard to crack at last, almost simultaneous with the report came a shriek of agony.
“Buffalo Bill first, last, and forever!” shouted Wild Bill. “Did you hear that wild cat howl? He’ll not keep his den in them rocks any more. I reckon he’s gone up!”
“No—he came down, like Captain Scott’s coon!” said Buffalo Bill, who now crept back. “I let him down out of that tree nicely. But he fell on the bank above. I was in hopes he’d drop over!”
The firing was still kept up, though it was now quite dark, but apparently to no effect, except to show that powder was plentiful on both sides.
After Bill Harkness left Mainwaring, to go up where the firing was now pretty regular, the latter thought he would look around as far as the bounds named by Harkness would allow.
So, after taking a long, earnest look at May, who sat with Gertrude near the fire listening to some droll talk from Ben which kept Lize roaring with laughter, the young rancher strolled back toward the avenue, or chamber, which he was told he could use for a promenade of a hundred yards, if he liked.
It was dimly lighted by the distant fires and torches, but the floor was level, so he walked on and thought.
Thought about home—his good mother, his dear brothers, and the fair sisters who might never see him more, and then, walking back where he could see May with the firelight at play upon her beautiful face, he thought he would risk his very life to get her out of the hands of these ruffians.
Suddenly he became aware that he was approaching a man; and thinking it might be the sentinel who stood at the death line, he began to retreat.
“Halt! Come here, I want to talk with you!” said the man, whoever he was, seen indistinctly in the gloom.
Mainwaring recognized the voice. It was that of the man who had spoken to Harkness, asking who his prisoners were, and what he intended to do with them.
So he made up his mind quickly, as he knew this man was well armed, that it would be folly to refuse his invitation to advance.
He came forward until he was close to the man, who then said, in a low tone:
“Stop—you’re near enough. Speak low, and answer my questions.”
Mainwaring halted, for he heard the click of a pistol as it was cocked. He thought it was rather unnecessary, since he was unarmed, but he made no comments.
“Bill Harkness means to hold you to ransom, don’t he?” asked this man.
“I think I heard him tell you so!” said Mainwaring.
“Ah—you’ve sharp eyes in the dark. I didn’t think you’d know me. But it don’t make any odds. How much are you going to give him?”
Mainwaring hesitated. He did not know if it were prudent to tell this man. If Harkness knew it, it might make him a bitter enemy.
“Come, speak out! It may be the best thing you ever did for yourself. You needn’t fear my telling—I want to know for my own satisfaction, and because”—the stranger spoke in a whisper now—“it might better your bargain.”
Mainwaring did not hesitate any longer. He felt in a moment that there was a man before him whose treachery might be bought.
“One hundred thousand dollars,” said Mainwaring promptly, “for the freedom of those two girls, myself, and the negro Ben!”
“Whew! Bill lied to me! You’ve got the spots, sure?”
“If you mean the money, yes. I’ve got it where, for this purpose, I can command it.”
“You could have it paid into a man’s hand, in the border settlements, wherever he named, and you went quiet, so nobody but him would be the wiser?”
“Yes, I have no doubt of it.”
“Stranger—I can do you a turn, and I can do it twenty-five thousand cheaper than he. I can get you out of here—and the gals, too, for I know a secret passage. There’s only Bill and me and one other man knows of it, and that other man is about past knowing anything—for ’twas him they brought in dying just now. He is shot through the throat, and he can’t speak!”
“Can I trust you?” asked Mainwaring eagerly.
“You’ve got to, you can’t help yourself. And I’ve got to trust you, too, for the captain told me he cleaned you out of all you had on you. But I looked in your eye out there by the fire, and there isn’t any lie in it.”
“I’m not talkin’ for thanks—I’m talkin for money! I’m sick of this kind of life. I haven’t been treated fair, anyway. They made me captain and then broke me, because I wouldn’t go down to the railroad and run trains off. But that isn’t business. Swear that if I’ll get you clear, you’ll give me seventy-five thousand, good money.”
“I will, on my sacred honor and by my soul!”
“Well, I s’pose that is as good as an oath. The next thing is the plan to get you out.”
“You understand the girls and the man Ben are in the bargain?”
“Yes—and there’s the trouble. I could get you off from here in twenty minutes. But that Lize is as sharp as a ferret. Bill knew what he was about when he told her to look out for ’em.”
“I will not move without them.”
“There’s but one other way—and I hate to do that. But there isn’t one in a hundred of them that wouldn’t if they had the chance.”
“Wouldn’t do what?” asked Mainwaring.
“Hush! Don’t speak so loud! If ’twas known we were talking here and about this, we’d be burned alive. What I was thinking of was the letting in of your friends in here. If I did, our fellows would have to git, or go under. And then you and the girls would be safe enough, so safe that if you wanted to go back on me I might whistle for my money!”
“I have sworn that if you help me and the other three away, you shall have it!”
“I might get killed, as I surely would, if Bill Harkness could get one sight of me, and then I’d be where money wouldn’t do me any good. I want to get out in the world and live honest once more—and I can’t do that without money.”
“Why not go out, have an interview with Buffalo Bill, show him how to get in, and then stay where you will be safe?” urged Mainwaring.
“I’ll be as safe here as there, if the party was in, and safer, too. It’ll never do for Bill Harkness to know, while he lives, that I’ve done this. He must be snuffed out first thing. Have you anything to write with?”
“Yes—a pencil and memorandum book.”
“Then write a note to Buffalo Bill, telling him what I will do and what he can do. I’ll get it to him. After that, you go and sit down where he told you to sleep—keep cool and be ready to help yourself when others are ready to help you. Here is a revolver. Keep it out of sight till you need it.”
“I will,” said Mainwaring, rejoiced once more to have a weapon in his hand.
“And be quiet. Don’t let Harkness, should he come down from above, see that you’ve got a bit of hope. He is keen, and if he suspects anything the whole job is gone up; for he could block the secret passage just as easy as he did the pass out there.”
“All right. Trust me now, as I trust you.”
The man took the hasty note which Mainwaring wrote to Buffalo Bill, and in another moment he was out of sight.
Mainwaring, placing the treasured revolver in his pocket, now went back to the place where a heap of blankets had been pointed out by Harkness as his sleeping place.
Here he sat down, and drawing his hat well over his brows, watched, as calmly as he could, the faces of the girls, the comic looks of Ben, and the mingled expressions that came and went on the face of the creature Lize—for it would be an insult to the sex to call her woman.
And he waited—for what, he could hardly tell. If the man, whose name, even, he did not know, for it was so unimportant he had not asked it, was faithful to his promise in a little while his friends would be there, able and willing to rescue and protect those who had become the objects of his dearest interest.
He had not known May long, yet his whole heart had gone out to her, and he felt as if he would rather die with her there than live and leave her behind.
He could see her beautiful, intelligent face, with the flickering light of the fire now making it a glory and then leaving it in shadow; her eyes, despite all this trouble, so full of womanly expression, telling that no matter where the soul is its mirror is the eye—and he felt as if he could worship her.
A noise from men advancing attracted the attention of Mainwaring now, and he turned, to see Bill Harkness coming toward him, leaning on the arm of one of his men.
“I’ve been hit, stranger, and have lost a little blood, but it is nothing bad, only a flesh wound. I stayed too long before I had it seen to,” said the robber, as he sank down near Mainwaring on a pile of buffalo robes.
Then turning to the man who came with him he said:
“Hunt up Dolph Lowell, and tell the cuss to go up above and watch them fellows, or some of ’em will climb the cliff. They’re the sharpest crowd I’ve ever had dealin’s with. There’s one fellow there that shoots the closest I ever knew.”
“Wild Bill, maybe, is the man you mean,” said Mainwaring. “He is one of the best shots on the plains.”
“’Twas him that hit me, and I didn’t think they could see a square inch when I crept up where I could see what they were doing, for they seemed to be holding some kind of a palaver, but I didn’t get my head out before a ball raked my shoulder.
“Jeff Perkins is dead; he got an ounce ball through his neck while he was in a tree. They’re wide awake; but when it comes to daylight we’ll have a fair show—we can pick them off till they’re sick of staying around here.”
The man who went for Dolph Lowell came back and reported that he couldn’t find him.
“The lazy cuss has gone to sleep, I suppose,” said Harkness, “or hid away somewhere. Since he couldn’t be captain he hasn’t wanted to be anything. Go up above yourself, Jake Durn, and look to the boys. After I’ve had my wound dressed and taken a nip to bring the life back I’ll try and crawl up again myself. I wish it was daylight—we’d make that crowd sick then in a hurry.”
The man called Jake Durn now hurried away, and the robber called Lize over to dress his wound.
“Stranger, after you!” he said, as he proffered the bottle to Mainwaring.
“Thank you—I don’t drink,” said the young rancher.
“Don’t drink whisky?” cried Harkness, in surprise. “Don’t drink whisky and come from Texas? Why, I thought ’twas nat’ral born for a Texan to drink? And you told me you was one!”
“I’m proud to be an exception, so don’t wait for me,” said Mainwaring.
“Well, I’m beat!” said Harkness, as he raised the bottle and took a pull that was ample for both, had Mainwaring been a drinker.
“Hark! What was that?” said the robber. “I heard something clash.”
“I saw a horse kicking out over there,” said Mainwaring, whose heart throbbed wildly now, for he had recognized the clatter of a saber against the rocks.
The robber appeared to be satisfied, and he called out to Lize to get him a bite to eat to keep that “forty-rod” whisky from going to his head.
The woman cut him off a huge slice of venison from a roasted haunch and was in the act of handing it to him when her eyes, looking back into the gloom, flashed like those of an angered tigress, and she screamed:
“Bill, ye’re betrayed! Look—the soldiers!”
“Kill them gals!” shouted Harkness, as he sprang to his feet, leveling his pistol at Mainwaring, who, with his revolver out, was on his feet just as quickly.
Mainwaring, hearing the cry, “Kill the girls!” had sprung between them and the woman, and Bill Harkness, following his body with his pistol, fired just as the woman turned, and his ball, instead of hitting Mainwaring, pierced her body.
In a second, with a terrible cry, Buffalo Bill sprang forward. As the woman fell, Harkness, turning to meet the onset, received a blow from the knife of the daring scout, which sent him reeling to the earth, while the cavern, filled with soldiers, Pawnee Indians, and scouts, rang with rapid shots as the robbers came rushing out to defend their stronghold.
“Up above—up above, and wipe ’em all out, now your hand is in!” cried Steve Hathaway, who knew the route to the top of the cliff.
“Traitor, your place is below!” cried Bill Harkness, raising up, with a dying effort, and firing his last shot.
As he saw Steve Hathaway fall he dropped back, with a gurgling death rattle in his throat.
“He wasn’t the traitor!” yelled the woman Lize, who had crept up to Bill in her dying agony. “There he stands!”
And she wrenched the revolver from the hands of the dead man and fired at Dolph Lowell just as he, seeing his danger, leveled his gun at her and fired.
Both shots were sure, and while Mainwaring rushed to the girls, to see that they were unharmed, he saw the man fall who would have held a seventy-five-thousand-dollar claim on him.
But it was wiped out now.
Yet the fight was not all over. The men who were above, hearing the shots below, rushed down in a body, thinking to take the soldiers from the rear, while they supposed Bill Harkness and the others held them in front.
But they reckoned beyond their knowledge.
They were received as brave Captain Meinhold wanted to receive them, and hand to hand, with saber and revolver, while the Pawnee “friendlies,” Buffalo Bill, and Wild Bill, with battle shout and whoop and yell, went through them as fire goes through dry grass.
The robbers, asking no quarter, fought, but they fought without heart and were completely wiped out.
When the light of another day dawned men were busy clearing out the narrow road that led from the cavern.
Mainwaring was now happy. He could talk to his rescued love, May, all that he wanted to.
Ben, too, was in what he termed “de sebenth hebben.” His young mistresses were free; he had heard that his old master was alive and getting well, and he was out of the hands of the bad men.
There was not a great deal of plunder in the place, except in arms and horses, and these were indeed quite a capture.
“I wish that Buffalo Bill were back,” said the commanding officer at Fort McPherson. “The report that Indians are thick between here and the Loup is not agreeable. It seems to me that if they are not checked in time we’ll have a general Indian war on our hands this summer. And Buffalo Bill is the best man to go out and talk to the chiefs and try to drive some sense into them.
“The redskins are getting too bold, and if they make a raid on the railway or some of the frontier settlements we’ll have all the trouble on our hands that we’ll know how to handle.”
While he was thus speaking to the post adjutant an old man, pale and feeble, approached him, leaning on a staff.
“Ah, Mr. Doyle! I’m glad to see you out. I trust you are feeling better at last. We are looking with hope for the safe return of your daughters, for it is quite time that the troop which I sent out under Captain Meinhold returned and reported to me.”
“I have hoped until hope seems a mockery,” replied the old man. “My sons died long since, and sometimes, when I think what may have happened to them in the hands of those cruel redskins, I almost wish that I knew my daughters were dead, also. Then I could bow my head to God’s will and go to my grave conscious that I had nothing left to live for.”
“Look—look, general!” cried the post adjutant. “No man save Buffalo Bill rides like that!”
A man, with his long hair flowing out in the sunlight from his bare head, waving a big white sombrero in his hand and sitting his horse as if he and the animal were one, came riding like the wind toward the fort.
As the three men looked they heard a cheerful bugle call sounding from the direction of the Platte.
“Company B is coming in!” cried the adjutant.
“What is the news?” asked the general hastily, as Buffalo Bill rode up to him. “What is the news, Colonel Cody?”
“The very best, general. We have wiped out one of the worst band of outlaws this country was ever cursed with—the Death Riders.”
“My daughters? You don’t say a word about them!” groaned old Mr. Doyle. “Are they dead?”
“They are alive and well, sir. They are just as happy as they can be, and it won’t be many minutes now before they are here with you. I rode on ahead to bring in the news.”
“Quick! Lift him up! The old gentleman has fainted!” cried the general.
He had fainted from sudden and excessive joy, and not until his daughters arrived did he fully come back to his senses and to a realization of the fact that there was yet happiness in store for him.
By this time the general was receiving the report of Captain Meinhold, who had not only done the country the great service of breaking up a most dangerous band of desperadoes, but had managed so well the care of his command, aided by Buffalo Bill, that he had brought it back efficient in men and horses and ready for immediate service. But the gallant soldiers were not needed again for immediate active service, although the captain himself was wanted at once for special duty with a surveying party on the Great Lakes.
Mr. Doyle gave up all idea of going across the plains and the mountains of the far West to California. The perils to which his daughters had been subjected and the great anxiety he had suffered on their account had thoroughly cured him of his desire to do that.
On the second day after the return to the fort Mainwaring sought out the old gentleman, told him that he had won the love of his daughter May, and asked his consent to their marriage.
“If the dear child loves you she must do as she likes,” Mr. Doyle replied. “I would not stand in the way of her happiness. But it seems rather hard that I have got to lose her again after just getting her back.”
“You need not lose her, sir,” replied Mainwaring. “Neither May nor I would wish that. You have decided not to go on to California, have you not?”
“Yes. I have quite made up my mind on that matter. I have been very fortunate in getting my dear girls back, and I won’t tempt Providence a second time. I will expose them to no more dangers.”
“Then why not come to Texas with me, sir? It is a glorious country, especially the section where my ranch is located. You could buy a ranch near by my place, and see May as often as you wished. We could all be happy together.”
The old gentleman caught eagerly at this idea, and it was carried out without delay.
Mr. Doyle, with his great wealth, bought a handsome estate, and at his death, several years later, it passed by his will to the eldest son of his daughter, Mrs. Mainwaring.
Jack Mainwaring himself handsomely rewarded the scouts and troopers for the work they had done in rescuing him and the girl who became his wife.
His old adversary, Simon Ketchum, did not return to Danger Divide, and was not heard of in that part of the boundless West for several years.
Then his fate was discovered by Buffalo Bill, who rode into a little frontier settlement in Utah and saw a man swinging to the limb of a tree, surrounded by a party of vigilantes, who had just hanged him for horse stealing and murder.
The dead man was Simon Ketchum, who had met with his deserts at last.
The Great Lakes of the United States—yes, and even some of the smaller ones—are often the scenes of storms as terrible as those which occur on the broad bosom of any ocean on the face of the globe.
But there was never a worse storm on any of them than that which raged one night, soon after Buffalo Bill’s return to Fort McPherson, on the dark waters of a large lake on the edge of the great plains.
Driving before the squall which had come down with awful suddenness was a schooner containing the surveying party that had been sent out from Fort McPherson to make surveys and take soundings of the lake.
The party was under the command of our friend Captain Meinhold, and with him on the Enterprise was his old and trusted friend, Buffalo Bill, who had been requested, at the last moment, to accompany him.
There were several surveyors in the party, and their assistants, besides the sailors of the vessel and a few soldiers from Captain Meinhold’s company, who acted as an escort.
Terrified almost out of their wits by the violence of the wind and the fearful height to which the waves ran, tossing the craft up and down as if it were a mere cockleshell, were also three women, wives of three of the surveyors.
Suddenly, when the storm was at its height, a wave swept over the quarter of the schooner, washing away a deck house and carrying five men with it.
To save them was impossible. Even if the skipper could have worn schooner, instead of merely driving helplessly before the wind, they could not have been found and picked up on such a stormy night in such a raging sea.
A few minutes later the mainmast went by the board, killing two more men and leaving the vessel a helpless wreck.
The skipper was one of the two men killed by the fall of the mast. His mate had been washed overboard. There was no one left who was competent to navigate the vessel, even if she had been navigable.
The well had been sounded a little while before, and it had been found that the craft was leaking badly.
Captain Meinhold ordered one of the seamen to find out if the water was gaining. The man did so, and returned with the terrible news that it was simply pouring in and the schooner was fast settling down.
“She’s nothing but a sieve now,” said the man. “The fall of the mainmast just racked her to pieces and opened the seams.”
It was not necessary, indeed, to sound the well; for it was obvious to the veriest landsman that the schooner was sinking, and must soon disappear beneath the raging billows.
“We must take to the boats at once,” said Captain Meinhold to Buffalo Bill, who was standing calmly by his side, as fearless on sea as on land.
“There is no other course,” the scout agreed. “The schooner is evidently doomed.”
Having anticipated the order which was now given to them, the sailors who survived had already commenced to cut loose the boats, ready for launching.
“I will run down below and get my weapons,” Cody said to Meinhold. “I would not lose them for a trifle.”
He turned to execute this purpose, and as he got to the head of the companionway a tall negro came rushing up the stairs and butted into him. He was Joe Congo, the steward of the vessel, and one of the best specimens of the African race to be met with anywhere.
“No time to go below, Massa Cody,” the black cried to him. “De ole ship go down plumb quick now.”
Buffalo Bill would have gone, nevertheless; but at that moment another wave came sweeping over the vessel, carrying Joe Congo off his feet.
The border king, who was gripping a rail on the companion, caught hold of the man with an iron grip, just in time to prevent him from being swept overboard.
“Golly, massa!” said Congo, as soon as he could recover his breath and speak. “Dat was a near t’ing! I owe you a life. Maybe I pay it some day.”
“All right, Congo. Don’t worry about that. I must go below for my guns.”
As he was about to do so a voice sang out in stentorian tones that sounded clearly above the roaring of the storm:
“All for the boats! We can’t wait any longer.”
“Leave de guns, massa,” said Congo. “T’ink ob your life.”
Buffalo Bill concluded that this was good advice to follow under the circumstances. Helping Congo along, he hurried across the slippery deck to the side where one of the boats was even then being launched.
He helped the three women into it, and then motioned to Congo to enter, following himself.
The other boats were being got away at the same time, and in a few moments all the crew and passengers who survived had left the doomed vessel, which sank below the waves with a heavy lurch after they had got a little distance away from it.
The danger of their position was understood by all, and it is probable that not a soul in the company expected to set foot on dry land again.
All through the long night, however, the men battled manfully at the oars trying to keep the head of the boats to the waves and avoid being capsized.
Again and again large volumes of water poured over the sides and had to be bailed out.
It seemed as though the night would never wear through, but at last it ended, and with the first rosy streaks of dawn the sea moderated somewhat.
The welcome sun revived the sinking spirits of the worn-out men in the boats, and they looked around eagerly for signs of land, but they could see none.
They had little or no knowledge of their location. They had been somewhere near the center of the lake when they were wrecked, but the only men who could have given them any exact idea of their bearings—the captain and the mate—were both dead.
Buffalo Bill, who had been looking around constantly, in accordance with his usual habit, suddenly exclaimed:
“Hello, what’s the matter with that boat? She’s going over, by thunder! Bad management there! See!”
There was no need to call attention to the foundering craft. Yells from a dozen voices in it did that. It was the biggest boat of the lot, and carried the greatest number of men.
Then the oval bottom of the boat was seen, with several men clinging to it for dear life, while others were struggling in the water, upborne by life preservers and floating like corks on the billows.
Both came to her relief as speedily as possible, not without increased peril to themselves. This was still more augmented when some of the struggling swimmers came clinging to the sides of the boats and begging to be taken in.
These appeals, of course, could not be disregarded, and the sufferers were hauled in as fast as they came.
Some of them, however, being strong and brave men, and seeing that their comrades were making an attempt to right the boat, swam back to aid in it, for the danger of overloading the two other craft was apparent to all.
Captain Meinhold called for volunteers to follow him into the water and help to right the boat, and Buffalo Bill was the first to respond.
Luckily the sea had now gone down still farther, though it was still running high, and thus making the task one of extreme difficulty.
All of the men in the water were buoyed up by life preservers, but unfortunately two soldiers who had not worn any had sunk when the boat first went over.
For a time the violence of the sea defeated all the efforts of the men to right the boat, but at last they got it over on its keel again and with infinite labor bailed it free of the water.
Its crew got back, and the other men swam to their boats and were hauled in.
The men were so thoroughly worn out by their labors that Captain Meinhold realized that it was hopeless to try to head for land at present.
He advised them not to still further exhaust their strength by any attempt at making progress while the sea still continued rough, but merely to keep the heads of the boats straight with the waves and avoid being caught broadside on.
“No matter which way we go or how far or how little,” he said, “let your aim be only to keep from filling and upsetting. After it becomes calmer it will be time enough to try to make progress. A few miles more or less now can make little difference. These waves cannot always roll like this. The sea seems to be going down all the time.”
The advice was followed. The utmost vigilance was observed by all, and every attention was given to “trimming ship” by changing positions at critical moments.
Now and then, when nothing else apparently would have saved the boats, some of the boldest of the men would spring overboard on the elevated side and by clinging to it restore the equilibrium.
Thus the day wore on until afternoon. No one but Buffalo Bill continued to be hopeful, for they seemed to have been saved so long only by a series of miracles—and miracles could not go on like that forever.
Had it not been for the border king’s cheery voice and manner some of the men would have thrown down their oars in blank despair; but his heroic helpfulness inspired new life and courage in many a sinking heart.
Fortunately there was as yet no lack of provisions. The schooner’s larder had been well provisioned for the surveying trip, and some of the food had been brought up and distributed before the boats left the sinking craft. The passengers and sailors carried their rations as best they could in their pockets or in the loose bosoms of their rough shirts.
Buffalo Bill continued to talk a great deal, whatever else he might chance to be doing, and listeners were not wanting; for the sound of a cheerful voice without a tremor in it was very welcome amid a babel of wails and groans and stifled shrieks—welcome even to those who, having lost their nerve, contributed most to the dismal chorus.
The king of the scouts took his turn regularly at rowing and at bailing, for he never shirked a duty—but whether he was doing these things, or taking a brief rest, or clambering with others over the highest gunwale of the boat to avoid a threatened upsetting, he talked incessantly, loudly cheering, sometimes even jokingly.
Many a pallid face in all three boats looked wonderingly into his and caught his infectious hope.
Captain Meinhold acknowledged his valuable services in this way again and again, and at one time said to him, pointing the compliment with an expressive look:
“I begin to think we shall get through safely after all, old fellow. We certainly ‘carry Cæsar.’”
“I don’t know about that,” was the quick response. “Perhaps you carry Jonah.”
It was right that such a man, who had long sustained the despairing hearts of his fellow voyagers, should be the first to discover for them the signs of a well-grounded hope of safety.
About noon the clouds which had been obscuring the sky began to break away, and the sun came out in all its glory, lighting a pathway through the distant haze.
“Land ahead!” shouted Buffalo Bill, in stentorian tones.
“Land ahead!” came back in wild response from the other boats, while cheer after cheer rose again and again, until the glad voices failed from exhaustion.
The land was miles distant, and they had only the vaguest idea of what sort of place it might be.
In all probability it was a wilderness inhabited by savage Indians, who, although nominally at peace with the white man, would yet not hesitate to take their scalps when they saw their weak, if not utterly hopeless, condition.
Buffalo Bill wished now that Congo had not prevented him from dashing down below and getting his weapons. They were likely to be badly needed when that land was reached.
But the rest of the company recked little of the dangers which might confront them ashore. The main fact in their minds was that there in front of them was the solid earth—grass-covered, tree-crowned, and beautiful. Could they but reach it and feel sure that a watery grave no longer yawned for them they felt that their happiness would be complete.
The greatest care was still needed, for there was danger that the excitement of this joy might produce some indiscretion which would result in wrecking them on the shore.
They were no longer content to remain stationary, and the boats were urged forward with moderate speed, instead of being simply kept head-on to the waves. But as every man was now hopeful and vigilant, and ready to plunge into the water, if necessary, in order to prevent a disaster, the peril rapidly diminished.
Their new hope did not deceive them. There began to be more appreciable abatement in the violence of the waves and the wind—slight, yet plainly perceptible.
After an hour and a half of laborious rowing they drew near the shore. Long before the keels grated on the pebbly beach some of the men jumped overboard in their excitement and swam to the shore. They were eager to set their feet firmly on it and make sure that it was no mirage—no mocking dream.
The place where they had landed was utterly unknown even to Buffalo Bill, for he had not hitherto explored the coasts of the lake. For all that he knew they might be a hundred miles from any human habitation, except, perhaps, those of men whom it would be dangerous to meet—the redskins.
While most of the men rested and ate their rations the border king set out with Captain Meinhold on an exploring trip.
The news which they had to bring back when they returned to their party toward evening was not encouraging.
They had discovered that they had landed on an island—and one of no great dimensions, either.
They had seen no signs of human habitations—not even a track or so much as a broken twig to show that the place was visited by men from the mainland.
This was not strange, for it was evident to the two explorers that the island could not support life for any length of time, certainly not for such a large party as theirs.
The men ate their supper gloomily when they heard these tidings. They had had enough of the boats and never wanted to enter them again, but it was evident that they must.
“Let us wait here for to-night, at all events,” said a young fellow named Hare, who was one of the surveyors, and was now having his first taste of Western life, having been born and bred in the East, where he had left his wife and his people when he got his as surveyor in the government service.
Buffalo Bill agreed that this was a good idea, and all of the party made themselves as comfortable as they could for the night. They were too tired to talk, and soon after dark nearly all of them were fast asleep.
Besides, all the men were too tired to do sentry duty, unless their lives certainly and surely depended upon it. Even then it was doubtful if they would have been able to keep awake.
In the morning they were all feeling better for their long and refreshing sleep, but a new difficulty presented itself. Their stock of provisions was running perilously low, and the island afforded apparently no chance of replenishing it.
This naturally hastened the departure from the island, and the men rowed lustily for the mainland, still out of sight. The bad weather had abated, though the sea was still by no means smooth. The work was hard, but not by any means so exhausting as on the previous day.
“It looks as if we shall get through our troubles after all,” said Captain Meinhold to Cody.
“I’m sure I hope so,” said the king of the scouts. “When we hit the land we must try to find out where we are, and then make a bee line for Fort McPherson. It won’t be an easy journey, I’m afraid, in the wretched condition we are in. Why, we haven’t even got a rifle with which to shoot game.”
Needless to say, Cody did not let the men overhear this last rather gloomy view of the case. He whispered it to Captain Meinhold. To them he kept a face as smiling and a manner as cheery as ever.
All day the men rowed, but when darkness fell they were still out of sight of land.
During the night another violent squall sprang up on the treacherous surface of the lake, and again they had to battle desperately for their lives against .
When the dawn broke one of the boats was missing. It was the one that had overturned and been righted. After looking vainly for it for some time Meinhold and Cody came to the conclusion that it had been sunk in the squall.
A few hours after dawn, in splendid weather, the shipwrecked party sighted the mainland.
There was some reason for haste, for the fine weather did not promise to last long; heavy clouds rose in the west, which soon obscured the whole sky, and it became impossible, with neither sun nor stars to guide them, to keep anything near to a direct westward course, which they thought would take them to Fort McPherson.
Nor could they tell in which direction they varied from it; but shoreward they were sure they were going, though they no longer hoped to effect a landing very near the fort they were seeking.
Vainly they had looked for land during the seemingly long night, and when daylight at length revealed it a few miles distant they coasted it for several hours in the hope of discovering some traces of others of their comrades who might have escaped from the wreck of the missing boat.
Not succeeding in this, they landed about nine o’clock in the morning, to rest, and to make their breakfast with the scant remains of the food which they had taken with them; and of which there was enough left only to sharpen their appetites, not to satisfy them.
The shore was low and marshy, and, although it was thickly wooded, they had no means of procuring game; and they soon departed in search of a more hospitable region.
Nearly the whole day was spent in this quest, and late in the afternoon they again debarked on a bolder shore in a prairielike region, with little timber in view, yet with some elevated land in the background.
Here they hoped to find some human habitation, and an hour’s search by the scattered party resulted in the discovery of a cluster of Indian wigwams, nearly a hundred and fifty in number, on the edge of a strip of woodland not far from the lake shore.
This was a doubtful advantage, for it was of course uncertain whether the savages—who were probably a branch of the Sioux nation—would prove friendly or hostile; but it was argued that from their position the Indians must have seen the boats coasting their territory, and that if they were evil-disposed they would already have attacked the white men while they were separated from each other.
They drew together for consultation, and being impelled by extreme hunger—and, indeed, by fear of starvation—they decided to apply to the red men for food.
They would not go in a body, but would send one or two of their number, in order that their own pacific intentions might be understood; for they thought it not improbable that the warriors of the little village, at least equal in number to their wigwams, were in the wood watching their movements.
“Let Joe go,” said Buffalo Bill. “The Indians are very partial to colored men, and——”
“Is dey?” said Congo, who, when sober, had a penchant for big words, and sometimes got hold of a larger one than he could manage. “Den dare sentiments isn’t ’ciprocated, sah—they’se not at all mutoo-toot-tual, sah!”
“And, besides, if the worst comes to worst, you owe me a life.”
“Yes—dat ar is fact, Massa Cody, but nobody pays debts nowadays, sah. De gemmen are all failin’, sah, an’ goin’ into solvency, and I don’t t’ink I can pay more’n twenty cents on de dollar on dat debt, sah.”
“Very good, Joe,” said the captain, “but suppose we should raise a purse for you of a hundred dollars. How then?”
“Well, sah, dat is anudder p’int of view. I’ll ’volve it a little. Maybe dar is nobody dar. Den you’ll gib it to me all de same?”
“And some day I’ll git up airly and run away. But maybe dey kill me?”
“I don’t believe they would, Joe.”
“Nor I, too—not ef I go polite, sah. But ef dey should, den my wife——”
“She shall have the money—oh, yes.”
“I’ll do it, sah. Jiminy, but I will! A hull hundred dollars earned in half an hour! It’s more’n I could save in t’ree years. Golly! I never saved anyt’ing yet. I ain’t afraid. I’ve seen Injuns afore now. I’ll go.”
The money was at once raised and put into the captain’s hands, and the negro, having inspected it to make sure that it was all right, prepared for immediate departure.
He received some instructions as to how he was to act, what he was to say if he could make the red men understand his language, and what gestures he was to make if they did not.
No weapon was allowed him, lest he should make indiscreet use of it and precipitate ruin upon the whole party.
In fact, there were no weapons in the company except one clumsy five-barreled revolver and three small pistols. In the wreck it had been all they could do to escape with their lives.
“Be sure to tell them that we are well armed,” said the captain, smiling, “but that we are good men, and do not want to harm them. Tell them we want nothing but food and we will pay for that, and then we’ll go right away.”
They gave him some money in silver, and told him to give that to the Indians and to promise them as much more as soon as the provisions were sent.
“Be discreet, Joe, now, for everything depends on that,” said Cody. “Remember the ladies must not be endangered.”
“I will, sah; I’ll be bery ’screet.”
“And whatever happens don’t get angry. When you get near them stop and lay your hand on your heart—so—and point to the sky.”
Joe, in attempting to imitate the gesture of his instructor, put his hand on a region a great deal lower than his heart and one that might be considered the more immediate seat of suffering from his prolonged fasting.
This error being corrected, he was permitted to depart, and he set out with perfect confidence and with no small sense of the dignity of his mission.
The huts were about a mile distant, and he walked rapidly at first, but with more deliberation when he got within ordinary rifle shot of the settlement.
From this point he proceeded warily and with great vigilance, soliloquizing some; but, fearing that he might be overheard, he was very chary of his language.
“If de red debbils—gemmen, I mean—is gwine to fire I wish to gracious dey’d do it now,” he said, “before I git any closer and w’ile dare’s time to run. I can’t see nuffin’ movin’ ober dare.”
At a quarter of a mile from the village he stopped and bowed very low, cap in hand, and he repeated his performance every few rods as he proceeded, varying it at times by smiting his heart and pointing upward.
Still he saw nobody, and, although he believed the Indians were in hiding, near to or in their lodges, he went forward, though with much trepidation, repeating in the intervals between his obeisances the only prayer he could recall to memory—beginning, “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
At the edge of the wood and not a dozen yards from the nearest wigwam, he stopped. After peering carefully around in all directions he called out:
“Is any of the gemmen or ladies to hum?”
Receiving no answer to this polite inquiry, he advanced near enough to one of the huts to look through an opening which served for a window and to obtain a view of the interior.
A glance showed him that no one was within, and he ventured to push aside the door or curtain of skin which hung before the entrance and walk in.
The building, if such it may be called, was conical or tentlike in shape, entirely made of saplings, and boughs, and bushes carelessly intertwined, and partly covered with skins.
A bed of the same material was in one corner of the lodge, on the bare earth, and a large log, hewn smooth on one side, served the purpose of a bench or settee.
A few cooking utensils of stone and iron completed the furniture, but that there was nothing edible in the room the hungry negro quickly ascertained.
He went out and entered another wigwam, with a similar result; but here everything bore the marks of a hasty evacuation.
A fire was burning outside the hut, within a little circular wall of stones: an iron kettle and a large gourd of water stood beside it, and near the door a few ears of dried corn had been dropped, evidently in the haste of departure.
“Dey’re all run away,” he said, “and took dere victuals with ’em. Let’s try dis ’ere next one.”
To his surprise the next lodge which he entered had an inmate—a very old and decrepit Indian, who seemed neither able to work nor to stand, and whom his alarmed companions had evidently abandoned to his fate.
He was tall and gaunt, was dressed in a sort of tunic of dirty deerskin, with bead-embroidered leggings and moccasins of the same material; had heavy gold rings in his ears, a wampum belt about his waist, and an eagle feather fastened in his scalp lock.
He was seated on a pile of skins, chanting in a low voice, and he had probably decorated himself for the “happy dispatch” which he anticipated receiving at the hand of his visitor.
“Good mornin’, sah—sarvant, sah!” said Congo, bowing and scraping, as he caught sight of this strange individual. “Hope you’re quite well!”
The Indian bent his head a little lower, as if for the expected blow, and continued to sing.
“Neber mind de music now,” said the negro; “I’se in a hurry. Where’s all your folks?”
The old warrior looked up, and, seeing that his visitor was unarmed and was making pacific demonstrations, he gazed at and listened to him for some seconds in silence and amazement.
“Do you talky Englishy?” continued Joe, who seemed to think he would make himself more easily understood by this mode of speech.
The chief, for such he was, or had been in his better days, nodded emphatically, as if he would have said: “Yes, you have come to the right shop for English, my boy.”
What he did say was:
“Ess, me spokes him. Me Sioux, uh! Wise chief!”
“Glad you mentioned it, sah! Happy to make your acquaintance. Whare is your folks?”
The Indian shook his head.
“Don’t you understandy?” asked Joe.
Again the chief made a negative gesture.
“Whare’s all de Injins, and de squaws, and de papooses?” continued the negro, looking around the room.
“My braves hunt. Squaws and papooses much scare and run.”
“In de woods?” asked Joe, pointing that way.
The chief seemed disposed to be noncommital on this point, and his visitor repeated his question.
“Um, sink in the ground,” replied the Sioux, gravely pointing downward.
“Debbil dey did!” said Joe, with a wondering stare; and then, after a pause, he continued:
“Tell you wot, old chap, I’se very hungry.”
He opened his huge mouth and pointed into it by way of explaining this remark.
“Dare’s ten men back here, all berry hungry; good men, understandy?”
“Good!” said the chief, echoing the word used by his guest.
“Yes—goody men—all armed wid rifles and ’volvers and knives, understandy?”
“Rifles, knives, ugh!” repeated the Indian.
“Sackly! You understand. Now hab you got any victuals to sell?”
The chief looked steadily at him a while, and then said:
“Spoke him again.”
“Hab you any victuals to sell?”
“Ess,” was the reply. “Me Sioux—wise chief. Know ’em.”
And without more ado he took up the money and slipped it, piece by piece, inside his belt.
“All righty,” said Joe. “Now, whare’s de victuals?”
“Ah! No understan’ English.”
“De victuals!” screamed the negro again, pointing down his widely opened mouth.
“Corn—venison—bear’s meat—anything to eat,” continued the pertinacious Joe, pantomiming mastication by snapping his great white teeth together like a hungry mastiff.
“Ah! ah! phuff! ess! Buckle, tuckle, gon so ripta, honorable much tosh-a-long! Uh! uh!” said the chief, smiling with a sudden gleam of intelligence and trying to rise.
“Dat’s it!” replied Joe. “You’ve got it now, I guess, dough I can’t say I quite understand you.”
“Listen, my son!” said the chief, sinking back upon the skins from which he had partly risen. “Me great chief.”
“Sartain. You tole me dat afore.”
“Me much old.”
“I s’spected dat ar, too.”
“Me seen t’ousand moons.”
“Thunder!” exclaimed Congo. “Dat must hab made it berry light!”
“Now great chief going to happy hunting grounds.”
“Is you, dough? Golly! Ef you’d lend me a rifle, I’d go along.”
“Listen! My son wants meat?”
The Sioux took out one of the silver pieces from his belt, and held it up in one hand, while he extended the other toward his visitor.
“More!” he said.
“Oh, dat’s your game, is it, you avaricious old cormudgeon?—t’anks to goodness, he can’t understand dat!” said the negro, laughing and taking out another handful of silver.
“No, you don’t!” he continued, as the sachem offered to take it. “Not ef dis child know hisself!”
“Dollars,” said the Indian, still reaching out his hand.
“Corn and meat,” replied Joe.
“De victuals fust.”
The Indian smiled now, and, rising with difficulty, stood shaking a moment, and then pointed to the skins on which he had been sitting.
“I see,” said Joe, “but we can’t eat dem.”
The chief motioned to the negro to push them aside, and when he had done so, an opening was discovered in the ground about three feet by two, and apparently of considerable depth.
In this little cellar was the unskinned carcass of a deer, which had evidently been recently killed, and which had probably been thrown in there in haste when the alarm of invasion had been given.
Joe’s mouth watered at the sight, and he took hold of a leg of the venison to lift it out, but the old man shook his head and growled a refusal.
He had only shown his wares with a view of eliciting a larger offer of pay.
“I will hab it, Mr. Chiefy,” said the negro, jerking the carcass out, “or, at least, half ob it. How muchy for de halfy?”
The Indian showed a silver quarter of a dollar, and then held up ten fingers.
“All righty,” replied Joe, counting down three half dollars and four quarters; but the chief could not be made to comprehend that he had got his price. There were but seven pieces, and he held up three fingers more.
All attempts at explanation were useless, and the ludicrous efforts of the negro to convince the Indian that one “halfy” was equal to two quarters were only responded to by a puzzled look and by renewed shakings of the head.
“But I habn’t got any more,” said the black man.
“Ess—more—more. Me wise chief.”
“It’s my private opinion dat you is an old rip,” replied Joe, smiling and turning his pockets wrong side out, by which means he succeeded in finding one more quarter, which he put into the extended hand of his companion. “See—all goney!”
Pending this controversy the old man tottered to the window and looked out, but his visitor supposed it was only in apprehension of the approach of the white men, and continued his negotiations.
“Dey shan’t hurty you,” he said. “Don’t be fraidy. All good men. Jest gib me hatchet, ef you please, cap’n, to cut dis in two.”
“Little axy—papoose axy—eh? Understan’?” continued the black man, making strange signs by way of elucidation.
A shake of the head followed.
“You drefful dumb! Habn’t you got leetle tommyhawky?”
A distant shout was heard at this moment, and the negro, looking out of the door, saw about thirty armed Indians and half a dozen large dogs, scarcely a quarter of a mile distant, approaching the settlement.
The red men were sauntering lazily, and several bore heavy backloads of game, while others were singing and cutting antics like merry men after a successful chase.
Not a little alarmed, but guessing that it would be useless—nay, most dangerous—to run before so many weapons and dogs, Congo retreated into the cabin.
“Is dem your folks?” he asked, holding the skin curtain aside that the old man might see out.
“Ess. My young man. Me great chief.”
“Yes, sah—dat you is! You next to de President ob United States! You good man, too! You no let ’em hurty me, eh?”
Joe shook hands with the chief and smote his breast and made all manner of pacific demonstrations while he said this.
“Oh—debble you don’t! You grow dumb jes’ w’en it suits you, I t’ink. And dey looks like mighty ugly customers.”
So saying, he tumbled the dead deer back into the hole and drew the pile of skins over it, fearing that he might otherwise be suspected of being a robber, and be slain before any explanations could be made.
Partly by urging, and partly by force, he induced the “wise chief” to resume his seat, and then again tried to make him understand that he wanted his protection from the coming warriors.
“Do dey speak English?” he asked anxiously.
“Ess—Running Water, he spokes ’em—great much.”
“Running Water, eh? Dat’s cur’ous name. Is he a chief?”
“Young chief. Me older. Wise man.”
“I see. You’ve been laid on de shelf a good w’ile, and ain’t of near as much consequence as you makes yourself out. Is Running Water a good man?”
“Ess—good! Got much scalps!”
“Golly! I hope he’s got enough! Dare dey come now close by; I hear ’em. I wish I wus back on de boat or anywhere else but here.”
Peeping out, he saw that the hunters had been joined by a rabble of squaws and children, who had rushed out of their hiding places in the woods to meet them, and that the whole party, babbling loudly, were within a few rods of the lodges.
“Now for it!” said Joe, with great trepidation. “Stand by me, old gemmen, or I’m a goner. ‘Now I lay me down to sleep.’ Oh, Jiminy! what a fool I was to come here and git in sich a scrape as dis! Dey look fierce as wild wolves and dem old squaws are tellin’ ’em all manner of lies about me. I know dat dey are. Dey’ll sartain make mincemeat of me jes’ as soon as dey find me.”
The red men were certainly in considerable excitement.
Some had stopped and were looking earnestly at the distant party of whites who had been pointed out to them by the women, and others were advancing warily toward the wigwam of the old chief, for vigilant eyes from the brakes and bushes in the wood had watched the negro’s arrival in the village.
His entrance into the several lodges, and the fact that he had not departed from that one, were both well known to them.
The negro stationed himself a little behind the old chief, where, with the greatest trepidation, but with many smiles and genuflexions, he greeted the band of astonished savages who came crowding into the little hut.
They were as wild and uncouth-looking as well could be. All were more or less painted; and only Running Water, their seeming leader, was fully clad in a hunting suit of undressed deerskin; the soiled and frayed condition of which fully entitled him to the sobriquet which the negro had so innocently bestowed upon him.
He might have been called an old man but for the contrast between him and the decrepit chief; certainly, he was not less than sixty, though he was seemingly in the full vigor of manhood.
There was a heavy scowl on his forehead when he entered the hut, and his tomahawk was upraised in his hand. But, after a brief glance at the propitiatory motions of the negro, and at the unharmed veteran, the scowl subsided and he returned his hatchet to its place in his belt.
Not so others—for several of his followers had already presented their guns at Joe; and one, who was doubtless emulous of the glory of being the first to bring the strange enemy down, rushed furiously upon him, and aimed a blow at him, which the negro avoided only by leaping backward and crouching to the ground.
He begged piteously for mercy, but his words were lost in the clamor of voices which ensued, and as many of the squaws had by this time crowded in and others were looking in at the door and window, and were adding their shrill chorus to the general outcry, the tumult became very great.
Running Water’s voice could not be distinguished in the uproar, and Joe’s minutes would have been few had not the Indian leader rushed forward and forcibly held back the foremost of the assailants.
His wishes, being thus made known, were at once acquiesced in, and something like order was restored while he addressed his companions, angrily enough at first, but with a voice which subsided into gentle and more persuasive tones as he proceeded.
There was nothing savage in this man’s appearance except the inevitable scalp lock, and the few dashes of paint with which his cheeks were besmeared; yet this was not the terrifying war paint, but the rouge of the red man’s toilet, intended for a beautifying effect, and answering its purpose in the main quite as well as the cosmetics of civilized life.
In one respect it had a marked advantage over them, for there was no false pretense about it. It did not claim to be nature’s pure bloom. It was paint—open, honest, undisguised paint.
Running Water was a tall man, with a high, smooth forehead, and, as he now motioned to the negro to rise, and addressed him in broken English, his manner was anything but threatening.
“Sarvant, sah!” said Joe, coming slowly forward and bowing repeatedly, yet keeping a watchful eye upon the bystanders. “Hope you’s well, sah—you and Mrs. Running Water, sah, and de chillen——”
“Who you be?” asked the Indian.
“I’m Joe, sah. Joe Congo, one ob de stewards, sah, to de Enterprise, wot was lost, sah. You must hab seen it in de newspapers, sah”—and Joe was rattling off a long story when the red man interrupted him.
“Speakum slow,” he said, “and don’t chatter-chatter.”
“Yes, sah—sartain! Den—dat’s all! Dat’s who I am.”
Joe became conscious now, for the first time, that he was an object of the greatest curiosity to the whole crowd. Their alarm having subsided, they were pressing closely to him on all sides, looking narrowly at him, and some reaching out their fingers gently to touch his hands and his face, until, being rebuked by their leader, they drew back, and contented themselves with staring.
“Are you great medicine man?” asked Running Water, after a pause for reflection.
“Not very,” replied Congo. “I don’t often take medicine. I berry well—t’ank you.”
“Ware you git your paint?”
“Uh! Ware you git um?” repeated the savage, rubbing his fingers over the negro’s hands, and then looking at them to see if the color came off.
“Jingo! Dat ain’t paint, cap’n! Dat’s my nat’ral color, sah. Didn’t you nebber see culled gemmen before?”
The chief did not reply, but gave some direction in his own tongue to one of his people, who disappeared, and presently appeared with a gourd of water, which he put down before Congo.
Running Water pointed first to the water and then to the left hand of the negro, and said:
“Wash! Make um white!”
“Golly! But I wish I could, sah! I can’t!”
“Make um white!” repeated the other severely.
“Dare, sah—you see, I can’t and dat water is jes’ as clean as it was afore; not quite, dough—but dat is only de dirt.”
“More water!” said the chief, looking at the discolored fluid.
“I tell you it’s no use, sah! It won’t come off. I only wish it would.”
Another experiment failing to make the hand any whiter, and leaving the liquid scarcely discolored. Running Water seemed satisfied, and said:
“Good paint! Stick fast. Have you got um?”
Puzzled for a reply, Joe hesitated for a moment, and then, pointing to the sky, said:
“Up dar. I was borned so.”
The Indian bowed profoundly.
“From the Great Spirit?” he said.
More convinced now than before that Joe was a great medicine man, endowed with power to heal the sick, to give success in war and the chase, or to harm them with an evil eye, Running Water and his followers treated him with the respect which was due to his supposed character.
They set food before him, but Joe, though very hungry, stopped only to swallow a few large mouthfuls before resuming his negotiations in behalf of his friends, from whom he had been absent so long that he feared they might return to their boats without him.
He informed Running Water of the nature of his errand, told him of the money which he had given to the old chief, which, by the way, that old man was keeping very close and showed no disposition to disgorge.
Running Water listened with evident surprise to this story, and then addressed a few sharp words to the aged chief, who nodded his head quickly in reply—as if he had only just remembered it—and handed out about half the coin, after which he seemed to relapse into a comatose state.
“Is this all?” the younger leader asked, at the same time handing the money back to Joe and compelling him to take it.
“Yes, sah; near enough,” responded the negro, fearful of giving offense in any quarter. “Let de old gemman keep de rest and welcome.”
But Running Water fumbled in the belt of the seemingly sleeping patriarch until he had recovered most of the silver and returned it to Congo.
Then he addressed the negro in a sort of chant, the burden of which was the duties of hospitality.
The strangers, he said, must not pay for food or rest in their tents, but were welcome to come and partake of their corn and venison, and the coldest water from their springs.
Their young men should wait upon them, and their maidens should watch their sleep, and drive off the lizard and the spotted toad from their couch.
His song being ended, he added a more prosaic but seemingly cordial invitation to Joe to go and bring his friends to the wigwams, and he pointed to the pile of game outside the hut as the source from which their bountiful feast should be supplied.
But they must come unarmed, he said, for otherwise their women would be frightened, and their little children would run and hide.
But Joe well knew that his white companions would not trust themselves so unreservedly in the power of the savages.
“T’ank you berry much,” he said, “but dey ’fraid to leave all deir rifles and ’volvers, ’cause some bad Injuns from ’nudder tribe might come along and stole ’em. Dey ’fraid to go out of sight o’ deir boats, too, ’cause dere is two little cannon in each of dem dat might get pitched into de lake.”
The Indians looked at each other in alarm at this intelligence, and even their leader seemed disconcerted; for savage men, it is well known, have a most exaggerated opinion of the power of artillery.
“What! Have my white brothers brought thunder guns here?” asked Running Water.
“Yes, sah! Thunder an’ lightnin’, sah, and brimstone! Dey could blow all your wigwams right up to de sky, sah; but dey goody men, and dey won’t do it—not at all. Dey only want victuals, and dey is quite willin’ to pay for dem. I t’ink you’d better send two or t’ree quarters of deers, Cap’n Running Water, and take de money, and dat will be de end ob it.”
The chief consulted with a few of the braves, and in a few moments, to the great joy of Congo, he announced their decision to send the largest deer and some sweet corn dried on the ear; but said that they would take no money from their white brothers.
“It is a gift,” said Running Water. “Speak no more of it. Four of my young men shall carry it.”
But here arose another difficulty. The bearers of the provisions would discover, and report, that the strangers were unarmed, and if the Indians were evil-disposed they might pursue them and attack them before they could get in their boats, or at least before they could obtain a safe offering.
Doubtless, also, they had canoes moored somewhere on the shore, with which they could give chase upon the water.
These thoughts occurred to the sagacious negro, and he tried hard to avert the danger by proposing to take a single quarter of the venison to his friends, and then return to get another, which, he said, would be enough to last them several days until they came to where food was plenty.
He would not trouble “de gemmen” to carry it for him—not at all.
But Running Water was equally polite, and would hear of no such arrangement. His young men were idle. Three at least of them should go with his guest, each carrying one quarter of the venison, while Congo might, if he chose, shoulder the fourth himself. He seemed very amiable—his eyes gleamed with a soft, genial light, and it was easy to doubt that he was acting in perfect good faith.
Finding it useless further to protest, Joe acquiesced in his plan, trusting to his white friends to foresee and in some way to avoid the danger—if danger there were.
The quarters of a large buck—which had been skinned and cut up where it fell—were quickly selected, and the three porters, being designated by the chief, at once took their stations near their respective loads, prepared to shoulder them, and to follow Congo as soon as he was ready to start.
“Good-by, den, cap’n,” said the negro, extending his hand to Running Water. “Ef you come my way, gib me a call, sah, and I’ll be glad to see you.”
“Wait!” said the savage, who was not yet ready to let his visitor depart, for he had given orders to have a patient brought in, to obtain the benefit of his healing powers.
In a few minutes, a tall, olive-colored lad was led in, and was conducted up to Joe, evidently in a state of considerable apprehension.
“Him sick,” said the chief. “Burn, burn now, by an’ by shaky—shaky with cold—un’stan’?”
“Goodness gracious—yes! He’s got the fever an’ agur, I s’pose.”
“Cure him!” said Running Water.
“Wot! I cure him!”
“Yes—you wise man—medicine man,” repeated the other persuasively.
Joe laughed and reflected. It could do no harm to encourage this notion, and might do some good. He happened to have in his pocket a corkscrew, and he was pretty sure that the Indian had never seen such a utensil.
He took it out gravely, opened it, and all crowded nearer to see. It was a large one of shining steel.
“Did you ebber see anyt’ing like dis afore?” he asked of Running Water.
The chief shook his head solemnly, and gazed with awe at the mysterious implement.
“It’s a screwemcorkibus!”
“It draws out de sickness, sah. Make de boy sot down, an’ you all keep berry still, an’ I show you.”
Joe said this very gravely, and his orders being promptly obeyed, he approached the alarmed lad and slowly introduced the end of the corkscrew into one of his ears, and turned it around several times, being careful to inflict no wound.
Then removing it, he affected to examine the spiral part very carefully—wiped it—pronounced it all right, and repeated the operation on the other ear, the savages manifesting the profoundest interest, and fairly holding their breath in order to preserve the strict silence which had been enjoined.
“Dat ’ar is all,” said Congo solemnly. “I hab drawn de feber out ob one ear, and de agur out ob de oder. In two days de boy will be well, sah. He won’t nebber shake ag’in after dat.”
Running Water asked permission to examine the wonderful implement with which this cure had been wrought, and he handled it a minute or so with the greatest respect, while others of the warriors pressed forward and barely touched it with their fingers, perhaps thinking that they thus secured to themselves immunity from the dreaded disease.
The chief returned it to Congo with a regretful look at parting with such a treasure, and the negro was about magnanimously presenting it to him, when it occurred to him that such a course would have a tendency to lower their estimation of its powers and his own.
He, therefore, wiped it carefully, closed it, and returned it to his pocket, after which he again essayed to depart, but the red men had not yet done with him.
They brought forward their guns, their fishing tackle, and their bows and arrows, and begged that the medicine man would pass them through his hands, which process they believed would impart some of his mysterious power to them.
Joe complied, repeating the chorus of an old song in a croaking, ravenlike voice, as he manipulated the weapons, and thus giving the most unbounded satisfaction to the savages.
“Ef dem guns and bows don’t shoot straight arter dis, gemmen, it will be your own fault,” he said, “and ef you put good bait on dem hooks and go where de fish is, you’ll ketch ’em. Mind, I tell you! How you feel?”
This question was addressed to the lad, who did not understand it until it was repeated by the chief in the Indian tongue. According to that linguist’s report, the boy replied that he felt “much gooder.”
“All right,” said Joe, “you jes’ wait a day or two and you won’t know yourself. Good-by, Running Water; good-by, gemmen and ladies! Do ole grandfer is asleep, I see, so I won’t shake hands with him.”
So Congo and his followers at last set out, each bearing his backload of venison.
It was near sunset when the little company of half-famished men and women, after long and anxious waiting, saw the welcome procession approaching, and their joy and relief were so great that they no longer thought of the necessity of any precaution, nor doubted the pacific disposition of the red men who had sent them so bounteous a supply of food.
This conviction was confirmed when Congo came and returned the money to its owners, and briefly told the story, but it was not fully shared by the negro himself.
“Day may be all right,” he said, “but dey t’ink you’ve got rifles and cannons, and dat makes a difference. Dese boys are using dere eyes, you see, and will tell ’em what a whopper I told ’em about de guns. So I t’ink we’d better be off.”
Captain Meinhold considered this to be prudent counsel, on the whole, and, although disposed to judge the Indians leniently, he advised an immediate return to the boats, which were in full view, and which the three red men seemed to be eying very narrowly.
They expressed no surprise, however, at the absence of the “thunder guns,” nor at the unarmed condition of the white men, which could not have escaped their observation. Having accepted some presents of pocket-knives and jewelry, they departed, and the white men started for their boats.
They were much enfeebled, however, by fasting and toil; the way was rough, and they had the venison to carry, so they made but slow progress, and some alarm was excited by seeing that the Indians, who had started moderately enough, were all soon on a rapid run.
It does not take an Indian long to run a mile, but there was plenty of time to embark and obtain a safe offing, unless they were to be followed by the savages in boats, and if such a pursuit should be made with hostile intent, fight or resistance would be equally vain.
Thus Buffalo Bill argued, and, keeping very calm himself, advised the others to do so.
“I believe they are all right,” he said. “Pray let’s have a little faith in human nature, my friends, and not believe men to be fiends when they have shown us nothing but kindness.”
“Gosh! Dey tried pretty hard to cut me to pieces at fust!” said the negro.
“Because they thought you were an enemy, and had come to harm them. That’s all, Joe.”
“Yes—de squaws was at de bottom of it. Dey fust got frightened for nothin’, an’ den told awful lies about me, an’ sot de men on.”
“Don’t reflect on the gentle sex, Joe,” said the captain, laughing.
“Gentle! Dey’se she catamounts, sah, dem squaws! Some of ’em. I wish you could ’a’ seed one dat tried to git at me with a club. I should like to cure her of de feber’n agur. De corkscrew shouldn’t come out ob de same ear it went in at. Not at all, sah—it should go clear through.”
“Yet probably she was a good wife and mother, and thought she was defending her children from a robber and murderer. Probably she had a woman’s nature, and under other circumstances she would have fed and protected you,” said Buffalo Bill.
“Oh—would she dough? You’se a good man, Massa Cody; you t’ink well ob everybody—even ob de grizzly bears an’ de sharks, I s’pose.”
“Yes, they are what God made them. They eat men, indeed, as we eat mutton, not out of malice, but because they are hungry and like that kind of food.”
“Wouldn’t you kill dem?”
“Yes, if they came in my way and endangered my life, or that of others, or if I needed them—not otherwise.”
While they talked they reached the boats and embarked safely without further sight of the red men, and they began to anticipate with delight the substantial supper they should make an hour or so later in some secure spot on the coast.
“We made one great mistake in not inquiring of the Indians something about the country, and whether we are near any white settlement,” said Captain Meinhold. “They might have saved us several days’ journey by heading us the right way.”
“Yes—that was a mistake,” replied Buffalo Bill; “but I think we are going to have an opportunity of correcting it. Look at the canoes coming around yonder point.”
True enough. The red men were coming. There was no escaping that conclusion, nor avoiding them, if they had any evil design.
“Here they are!” exclaimed Hare, in great alarm, for he had from the first refused to believe anything good of the savages. According to his views they were all treacherous, crafty, cruel, and, in short, utterly depraved. “We are all lost, I say, unless we can frighten them off, but I suppose Cody would like to try a little ‘moral suasion’ upon them.”
The village which Congo had visited was north of the spot where the white party had landed, but not very near the coast, having been built in the shelter of a piece of woodland which did not extend to the shore.
In resuming their voyage northward—for in this direction they were almost certain they should find their friends—they were compelled to pass the Indian settlement, but they had designed to do so out of gunshot of the shore, and were making their way outward for this purpose when the pursuit was discovered.
Four long canoes, containing seven or eight men apiece, were coming around a little jutting cape, about due east of the wigwams; and as they were headed directly toward a point at which they must intercept the two boats, no doubt could be entertained that a meeting, either hostile or friendly, was intended.
“We are in their power, and they know it,” replied Cody to Hare, as the canoes swiftly advanced, going at twice the utmost speed which could have been made by the heavier boats of the whites. “There is not much credit in pacific measures on our part now. We have no other resource.”
“Haven’t we?” replied Hare, who was wild with excitement and alarm, drawing the only revolver in the party’s possession.
“Put it up!” shouted Buffalo Bill.
“Put it up!” repeated Captain Meinhold, “or, at least, do nothing more than show it, or you’ll draw down death upon all of us.”
“Death is coming fast enough, in my opinion,” replied Hare. “I have a right to defend myself, and shall, and, perhaps, save all the rest of you.”
There was great danger that the imprudent man would precipitate fatal results, and the captain and Buffalo Bill, who were not in the same boat with him, made signs to some of those who were, to disarm him. But, in the confusion, these gestures were misunderstood or disregarded.
The canoes were already close at hand, and as the foremost drew near to the boat in which Hare sat, although the red men were bowing and smiling, and talking unintelligently, the frantic young man presented his revolver, shouting:
“Keep off! Keep off! or I’ll fire!”
The Indians could not have instantly stopped the headway of their canoe if they had wished. It still darted forward, and, amid cries of, “Don’t, Hare! Don’t! For Heaven’s sake, stop him!” two quick reports were heard, and one of the red men fell backward, paddle in hand, and lay stretched upon the bottom of the canoe.
It was a terrible moment. A dozen guns came into sight and half of them were already presented and the click of the locks was heard on every side, when the still outstretched revolver was knocked from Hare’s hand into the lake by one of his companions, and the loud voice of Running Water arrested the leaden storm which in another instant would have dealt destruction upon the dismayed white men.
But, although the guns were lowered at the chief’s command, they were not put down, and for some minutes there was a jargon of loud and angry words among the Indians, with fierce gestures and scowls, and it was evidently all that their leader could do to restrain them from taking instant vengeance for the outrage which had been inflicted upon them.
Some raised and succored the man who had been shot, but his wound was evidently mortal, and as they tried to stanch the blood which flowed profusely from his breast, their wrath and grief broke out afresh and threatened to set the authority of their leader at defiance.
Running Water, in fact, did not look much less indignant than his comrades, when, their clamor having abated, he turned toward Congo, and asked, in a mournful voice:
“Why have my brothers done this?”
Captain Meinhold was about replying, when Buffalo Bill laid his hand upon his arm and said:
The chief repeated his question, and Joe, getting as near to him as he could, replied, rubbing his eyes:
“I tell you wot, cap’n—it’s all a mistake.”
“You see dis man?” pointing to Captain Meinhold.
The Indian nodded.
“He is our chief. He good man; we all goody men, except him,” pointing to Hare.
“What do you mean, you black rascal?” said the excited man.
“Keep still, Hare,” replied Cody authoritatively, “or you will be compelled to. This matter has got to be explained. You would not take our advice, and you must now bear the blame of your own actions.”
“I did what I thought was right.”
“Very well! And now we shall do what we think is right. You just keep still, that’s all you’ve got to do.”
“He bad man,” continued Congo. “He shooty-shooty. We try to stop him berry much. We all berry sorry. Cap’n Running Water—berry,” and again the negro knuckled his eyes and almost brought tears.
All this had to be repeated several times before it was understood, and when the chief had explained it to his people their concentrated gaze of hatred fell upon the rash offender, who evidently quailed before it.
“We came in peace,” said Running Water. “We brought presents to our white brothers. See!”
He pointed, as he spoke, to a very large salmon trout and a string of black bass which lay in one of the boats, together with a bundle of dried corn and a gourd full of wild strawberries, red and luscious.
Captain Meinhold now addressed the chief, expressing the deepest sorrow for what had happened, and begging that they might be forgiven and be permitted to proceed on their voyage, as they were a party of shipwrecked men in great distress, being separated from their friends, and some of them from wives and children at their homes, besides the women in their charge.
Having seemingly made himself understood by words and signs, he next collected and offered to the chief all the silver coin in possession of the company, and Hare, taking the hint from these proceedings, hastily drew out his watch and handed it to the captain to be added to the presents.
But Running Water turned scornfully away from these gifts, and refused to receive or to look at them.
“We must not sell our brother’s blood,” he said, and, turning to his men, he conferred with them for a few minutes, and then announced, as the general voice of his party, that the white men were all at liberty to proceed on their voyage, except the offender, who must be given up to them to be dealt with after their customs.
Hare turned pale and trembled very much when this decision was announced, but no argument or entreaties of his own or of his friends could produce any change or sign of wavering in the minds of the red men.
They listened attentively to all that was said, but still Running Water replied to it all in the same words, and almost in the same tone.
“Life for life,” was their law. He was very sorry for the young man, he said, but he could not protect him, if he would, from those who had a right to demand his blood—the relations of the slain man.
“Pray don’t give me up, gentlemen,” exclaimed Hare. “They will burn me at the stake. They will torture me for a whole day.”
“We can’t possibly save you, Hare,” replied the captain. “We have no weapons excepting three small pistols, and here are twenty-six armed men.”
“Don’t give me up!”
“We certainly shall not give you up,” said Buffalo Bill; “but we can’t prevent them from taking you. The best that I can advise you to do, is to meet your fate like a man. As to their torturing you, I don’t believe they will do it.
“Even as it is, we might fight for you if it were not for the women. If we make a fight, they will be killed—or, worse still, made prisoners and forced to live all their lives as the squaws of brutal savages.
“I will speak to the Indians about the torturing, and beg them to let you off it; or, rather, if our friends agree, we will all return with you to their village, and see if anything further can be done for you.”
“Thank you a thousand times, Cody. Yes, stay by me to the last.”
“I will do that,” replied Cody, “and try to save you even at the eleventh hour.”
“It will be something to have my friends near me, and not be left quite alone with these demons,” moaned Hare. “Oh, my father—my poor father! It will break his heart when he hears of this, and it will break my wife’s heart, too.”
Several of the white party protested earnestly against returning with the Indians, saying that it would mean running into terrible and unnecessary danger.
There was no telling what might happen when the savages were incited to wrath by their women and by their orators, who would harangue them over the dead body of the murdered man and demand a tenfold retribution.
Buffalo Bill, however, with the aid of Captain Meinhold, persuaded the men to stay by their comrade.
It was at first proposed by the whites that Hare should remain with them on the way back to the village, but when this was attempted Running Water directed that he be put at once into one of the canoes, which movement better suited the Indians, who seemed anxious to get hold of their prisoner at once.
He was taken into the very boat which held his unfortunate victim, who was already quite dead.
Hare was made to sit down in the bottom of the craft, alongside of the corpse. The horror of his position was indescribable, and was fully expressed in his countenance, although he strove hard to maintain some degree of fortitude and manliness.
“Promise that you will shoot me, Cody, if it comes to the worst,” he said eagerly, “and not let me be tortured. For Heaven’s sake, promise me that.”
“We will do all that we can for you,” was the evasive reply; “but remember that we are all in the power of these men, and that we have to be careful not to give them further offense, for the sake of the women, if not for our own.”
The wretched man sighed, and looked over into the blue waters of the lake, as if he were tempted to throw himself into their calm depths and thus end his woes. But watchful eyes were upon him and active hands would have defeated any such attempt.
Running Water made no objection to Buffalo Bill and his companions returning with them to the village.
He said, indeed, that they would be quite welcome, and would be at liberty to depart whenever they chose; but he warned them that they must not attempt to interfere in any way with the course of justice, or he would not be answerable for the consequences.
Of course the chief did not use exactly this language, but he contrived by words and signs to express himself in that way.
Running Water, who had waited with perfect composure and patience while the white men were discussing among themselves, now began the signal for starting to his own men.
The little fleet of canoes began to glide swiftly forward in the direction of the Indian village, followed more leisurely by the heavier boats of the white party, which was soon left far behind, and to which the prisoner continued to look eagerly back. He feared, indeed, that his friends, finding themselves so entirely at liberty, might change their minds and desert him, after all.
This fear of his, indeed, was not by any means unreasonable or without justification.
When the Indian canoes had got some distance ahead, one of the men in the white party stopped rowing at his oar, and said:
“What’s the use of going on? We can’t save that poor fellow, and we shall only run ourselves into danger, and the women, too.”
“We can’t abandon him now,” replied Cody. “We gave him our promise and we can’t go back on it. We should be disgraced for life if we did.”
“It’s no use for us to indulge in any hope, or to promise what we cannot do—and shall not attempt,” was the blunt retort.
“We certainly shall attempt it,” said Cody, with a dangerous gleam in his eye, as he drew out of his belt one of the few pistols possessed by the party, which had been confided to his care.
He did not level it at the man, but the latter read his meaning plainly enough, and quailed visibly.
“We must stand by our own comrade to the last,” Buffalo Bill went on quietly. “Pick up that oar and go on rowing.”
The man obeyed without a word.
It was after sunset when the white party reached the Indian village, where the red men had preceded them with their prisoner, and the former had not the opportunity of witnessing the first reception of the mournful news by the women and children of the tribe.
But the commotion was very great when they arrived. The squaws were screaming and chattering, and one, the widow of the deceased warrior, was sitting beside his corpse on the grass, her head entirely enveloped in her blanket, rocking herself to and fro, and now and then emitting a wail of grief which seemed quite as genuine and intense as those which bereavement everywhere elicits in the world of civilization.
There was a lad of apparently eighteen or nineteen years, and two olive-skinned girls of about twelve and fourteen, children of the slain man, who hovered about the mother, and who, although they gave way now and then to passionate cries of grief, seemed chiefly bent on comforting her.
The son, indeed, mingled his words of consolation to his remaining parent with the promise that on the morrow she should herself see her husband’s murderer immolated beneath the clubs of their people, or burned at the glowing pile.
But in this he was doubtless influenced more by his education than by the promptings of his nature, for he was mild and placid in demeanor, and as yet no baleful look of hatred or revenge gleamed in his dark eyes.
Buffalo Bill and Captain Meinhold gathered some encouragement from these appearances, but they soon learned from Running Water that there was no ground for hope.
Even if the wife and children of the slain man should prove lenient, he had a brother and father, who would both be implacable, and indeed most of the small band could claim some affinity to the deceased, and had a right to insist on their revenge.
The council sat in the evening. It was short, and its decision was unanimous, not even Running Water raising his voice in behalf of the man who had so grossly wronged his people.
Hare was condemned to death, with the privilege of running the gantlet if he chose and taking the slight chance of escape which it offered him.
In other words, he was to be burned at the stake in the first place, or he was to run for his life between two files of men and women—composing all the tribe—armed with clubs, who were to stand facing each other, and were to strike at him as he went past.
No firearms or knives were to be used upon him, and if he passed unharmed through the files, he was to have his liberty; but if he were knocked down or disabled, he was to be taken at once to the stake and burned.
“How much chance of escape did this process offer?” Cody inquired of the chief, though he knew well how little it offered.
When made to comprehend the question, Running Water replied in substance that a strong, active warrior, who was accustomed to ruses and feints, who could dodge, and dive, and leap like a fox, and who could stand up under heavy blows, might possibly get through safely. There would be one chance in ten for him.
“But how would it be with the present prisoner?” the border king inquired, again. “What was his chance?”
“Much little,” replied the chief, smiling faintly; “’bout half of nothing at all. He no get past six squaws. He much too scare!”
Poor Hare had been tightly bound with bearskin thongs, and thrown down at the foot of a tree, where a single guard kept watch over him, but he had been provided with food, and his friends were permitted to communicate freely with him. From them he received the tidings of his doom.
He listened at first with some gleam of hope, but this soon vanished when he learned the full program of the scene to be enacted.
The women and large boys were to be placed first in the line—the oldest and least skillful of the men next, while the far end of this valley of death was to be composed of the best braves of the tribe, to whom it would be a lasting disgrace to allow the panting fugitive to get past them.
“I’ve a mind to refuse it,” said Hare, with a groan. “It’s only for their sport, as a cat plays with a mouse, which it is sure to destroy at last. But they may kill me with a blow, and that will be better than burning. No, I’ll run! At what time is it to be?”
“Soon after breakfast, and we are to have breakfast at sunrise,” Cody told him. “Try to get a good night’s sleep, and that will strengthen you for the task.”
“Yes, I shall probably sleep well and have pleasant dreams,” said the prisoner bitterly.
“You may. Such things have been. And then in the morning I will see that you have a good breakfast; and, if you wish, some brandy to give you courage, for I have some still left in my flask. Come, cheer up, and make an effort for your life!”
“Thank you, Cody. You would make a man hope under the descending guillotine, I believe. Well, I will try. But I cannot sleep yet. I want to write to my poor wife and father first. I have a pencil and some old letters which I can cross, and you, perhaps, can obtain for me the freedom of my right hand for an hour. At least, I know you will try.”
Buffalo Bill obtained this favor and others for the prisoner. His bands were all so far loosened that they might not give him pain, and he was removed into one of the huts for the night and was furnished with a bed of boughs.
Still, he was watched all night long, closely and ceaselessly, not by one man now, but by two, who stood motionless at the two ends of his couch.
His eyes closed at last, and, after long waiting, he sank into a troubled sleep, but he still saw the motionless sentries in dreams, and he woke many times ere morning to behold them, still and statuesque—but always facing each other, and always facing him.
But he could have done nothing toward escape if they had been less vigilant, for his ankles were bound together and his arms were pinioned to his sides.
Buffalo Bill’s sympathy for the young man was extreme. He could not bear to give him up, but he had to consider the women first. Yet he spent a considerable portion of the night in talking with the patient chief, and trying to induce a change of action; but as Running Water was evidently acting on principle, and not from passion, the chance of winning him over to the side of mercy was very slight.
Nor would it do any good, he said, for him to urge the prisoner’s release, while by such a course he would only render himself unpopular and aid the pretensions of a rival claimant to his station without effecting the end in view.
He had no right to command them contrary to their well-established customs, which would seem to be equivalent to the common law of civilized lands.
“But will you let me talk to them all together in the morning, and try to persuade them?” Buffalo Bill urged.
“Yes,” Running Water promised. He would at least do that.
“And will you say to them in your own tongue the words that I speak to them in English, so that they will understand me?”
Buffalo Bill did not understand the dialect spoken by the chief.
Running Water agreed that he would do that, so far as he could. It was very hard for him to understand his white friend, or to make himself understood by him. It was “slow talk,” he said, and “much fog.”
“Let me tell you then, now, part of .”
The chief nodded.
“A man has a right to kill his enemy in order to save his own life, has he not?”
With some difficulty, the Sioux was made to understand this proposition, but when he did he heartily assented to it.
“This white man whom you have made prisoner thought that you had come to kill us.”
“Uh! No—no! No business t’ink dat.”
“No matter. He did think it. He was foolish, I admit; but——”
“Yes—me tell um. But no good. The brave, Strong Arm, is dead. See?”
The chief pointed to the corpse, which still lay unsheltered and watched by the faithful widow.
“Was that his name?”
“Yes. But he no strong now. A-a-a-a-h!”
Something like a wail escaped from the chieftain’s lips, and he shook his head angrily.
“But you will tell them?”
“Tell them that the white man thought he was defending his life?”
“You need not say that. You will speak for me. You will use my tongue. Do you understand?”
“Yes. My white brother is right.”
“Tell them that the white man’s God is the same as the red man’s Great Spirit—that He is up there looking down on all of us now.”
Running Water looked up to the sky, and bowed his head reverently.
“Yes,” he said. “Manitou there. Running Water hear Him thunder—Running Water see His fire in the sky many times. But he not think Manitou was the white man’s God.”
“There is but one God,” replied Cody. “He has ‘made of one blood all the nations of men.’”
“It may be so.”
“Will you tell them all this for me?”
“Tell them also that many thousands of moons ago He sent His Son down out of the sky to teach all the people of the earth His will. Do you understand?”
The chief nodded his head. He had heard the story before, he said, when he visited a village of the Pawnees and listened to the words of a “white medicine man.” He did not know whether it was true or not, but some of the Pawnees had believed it.
“It is certainly true,” replied the border king. “We white men believe it. He healed the sick. He brought dead men to life. He walked on the great lake. He stilled the tempest. He made the winds and waves obey Him. Our fathers saw it long ago, and they have told us.”
“Good! He was a great man.”
“He was the son of the Great Spirit.”
Running Water bowed his head in reverence.
“He told us what was His will, and what we must do to be happy after death, when we go to the land of spirits. He said we must forgive our enemies and do good to them, and then the Great Spirit would forgive us and make us happy in His hunting grounds. Do you understand all this?”
Running Water seemed greatly interested, although a look of indignation and scorn crossed his features when his companion spoke of forgiving his enemies. That was utterly opposed to all he had been taught, from his youth up, though not to his natural disposition. But the look passed, and to the last question he replied quickly:
“We un’stand little. Not too much. My white brother may speak um again.”
Buffalo Bill did so, telling the story over and over again.
Running Water listened very attentively, and promised to report this strange tale to his people in the morning.
“Are you sure, my brother,” he asked, “that the son of the Great Spirit walked on the top of the water?”
“And made the wind go back and the waves fall down flat?”
“And made dead men live again?”
“Are you sure?”
“Me tell my people. Let my brother sleep now. It is late.”
The prisoner was awakened early, and had the bonds removed from his arms and ankles, so that his limbs might recover their natural vigor before the hour of the dreadful ordeal appointed for him.
His friends found him utterly despondent, and Buffalo Bill, who was first at his side, said nothing of his last interview with Running Water, or of the promised conference of the morning. He did not wish to arouse hopes which might be doomed to disappointment.
“I know it will be useless for me to run,” the captive said, “and I am resolved not to attempt it, save on one condition.”
“What is that?”
“Let me have that loaded revolver,” the man whispered. “Smuggle it to me somehow, so that none of these guards will see it.”
“What will you do with it?”
“Use it on myself in case of failure in the lines. It will save me from the stake. Otherwise, they may as well burn me first as last, and I will at least escape the additional torture of running the gantlet.”
The unfortunate man had begged repeatedly for the weapon before, when his friends visited him, and they had refused to give it to him.
But, as he now seemed resolute in his present determination, Captain Meinhold promised to give it to him, on his word of honor that he would not make use of it except in the last extremity—not until the fagots around him were fired, or some equivalent torture was begun.
Buffalo Bill, Meinhold, and the other men had debated long and earnestly together as to the course they should take if things came to the worst with Hare; and they had found it very hard to arrive at a decision.
Their natural impulse, being all brave men, was to die in his defense, ineffectual as a fight would undoubtedly be.
But they had to think first of the women in the party. If necessary, Hare must be sacrificed for their sake. In the event of a fight, the chances were a hundred to one that they would spend their lives as the squaws of Indian braves.
Captain Meinhold exhorted Hare to do his best in running the gantlet, reminding him that there was a chance of escape if he was vigilant and active.
“Well, captain, I will try,” the doomed man replied. “I will do my best, if I have this pistol as a last resort.”
“You shall have it.”
“How am I to get it?”
“It is in my pocket. I will find an opportunity, in a few minutes, to give it to you when these men are not looking. Then you can take it up and secrete it about you. As you have already been searched, they will probably not trouble to look you over again.”
Hare was supplied with an early and good breakfast—a repast which he would have enjoyed but for the doom which awaited him, and which was now so close at hand.
As it was, he ate pretty heartily, and while he was doing so the captain succeeded in giving him the pistol unobserved.
The rest of the white men and Congo breakfasted, as they had supped, unobserved.
The women of the party were served, by the orders of Running Water, by the women of the tribe.
Breakfast was over in the chief’s tepee about sunrise, and still earlier in the other lodges, so that when Running Water and his guests went forth, the bustle of preparations for the great event of the day was everywhere to be seen.
The women were running in and out of each other’s lodges, clamorous and merry. The children were playing heartily, with whoop and shout, for they were anticipating a gala day as inspiriting to them as the Fourth of July to our own boys. Here and there, a brave, with his war paint on, might be seen hurrying about the village with all the important air of a militia officer on training day.
Outside of the village, on the edge of the timber, two rows of larger boys and girls were playing a mimic game of running the gantlet.
They rehearsed it with great accuracy, excepting that they were very careful not to hit the seemingly frightened fugitive at whom their blows were aimed with apparent fury.
Had not a loud laugh pealed out now and then from the two ranks, and been echoed by the runner himself, the scene might have seemed as real as the terrible one shortly to be enacted by the braves.
Running Water did not require to be reminded of his promise to the king of the scouts. He called a hasty and informal council of his warriors in front of his own lodge. They came to it rather wonderingly, and some of them were a bit surly, for they did not wish their sport to be deferred by talking.
He told them that their white brethren had something to say to them, but he was interrupted by derisive cries, and by inquiries whether the palefaces could not talk as well to them later on, when the great business of the day was over.
Over his head and shoulders he wore the skin of a large black panther, with the head and its grinning teeth still preserved. He had slain the animal in a hand-to-hand fight with a knife. This deed had won him the respect of his comrades, more than all his other achievements in war and hunting; for the black panther is a foe which some hunters regard as even more terrible than the grizzly bear.
He had been named Black Panther in honor of the deed. Besides being such a distinguished warrior, he was the orator of the tribe. He aspired to the chieftainship of that band of the Sioux nation over which Running Water ruled, but as he had not been able to get it he had left the band and gone to dwell with another. He had returned on a brief visit to his brother shortly before Congo came to the village.
Standing right in front of the chief, with his right arm upraised impressively, Black Panther said:
“Do the palefaces wish to pay for the blood of Strong Arm? How much will they give? The big fire canoe, that makes white the waters of the lake when it passes by, could not carry enough silver to pay for this great crime! The great lake itself could not wash out the sin of our brother’s blood from our hands, if we should accept money for it and let the paleface who slew him go free. Tell that to the palefaces.”
Running Water made no response. He recognized the force of the argument, and knew how it must appeal to the savage warriors, who were listening with intense eagerness to Black Panther’s words.
Black Panther went on, his voice becoming more and more passionate with every sentence:
“What do we want of their shining silver? We cannot use it. We are already rich in the things that we need. The forests, the lake, and the prairies are ours. We draw from them all that we want, and more—for we had abundance to give to the hungry palefaces who came begging to us, and then repaid our kindness by killing one of our best warriors.
“They ought all to die, and, if Black Panther had his way, they should. The ghost of Strong Arm is unappeased, and his widow and children weep over his body and cry out for vengeance. They look reproachfully upon us.
“They ask, ‘Why tarries the avenger? Why are the brethren and friends of the murderer protected—nay, more, even feasted in our lodges?’ It is not the part of a good chief, who should be the father of his people, to do this. Black Panther has spoken.”
Running Water looked angry at the last reference to himself, but kept his temper. He had been thoroughly won over by Buffalo Bill, and was determined to save Hare’s life, if he could do so. He knew very well that a quarrel would not help matters, but would probably destroy the last chance.
The speech of Black Panther was applauded by many of the warriors and by all the women. The chief, who looked much disturbed, translated it to the whites in English.
Buffalo Bill, who had been warned against making any offer of money for Hare’s life, spoke earnestly with the chief, and told him that he must impress on the warriors, as strongly as he could, that no such offer had been made by any of the palefaces—that they appealed for the release of the captive upon higher grounds.
At first some of the men were inclined to jeer, but they were soon all listening attentively, although it was plain that many of them strongly disagreed with what was being said.
A long consultation ensued between the Indians, ten or twelve of them speaking in turn, slowly and seemingly without passion. Only by an occasional gleam in their eyes could the white men guess how powerfully they were moved.
The chief remained silent until all who wished to speak had finished. Doubtless he wanted to allow time for the effect of Black Panther’s vigorous speech to abate.
At last he arose, with much dignity, and spoke for about five minutes in a slow but earnest way, with not a little emphasis and many gestures.
There were some nods of approval at his remarks, but no other manifestations of applause or agreement were made.
When he had finished, he turned toward Buffalo Bill and shook his head dubiously.
“What will they do?” asked the border king and Meinhold, in the same breath.
“Bad—bad!” replied the chief. “They must go with Black Panther. So it look. But we see soon. They count how many one side—how many other.”
The prisoner had, in the meantime, been brought out, and was sitting under a tree a few yards from the council ground, surrounded by a crowd of squaws and children and guarded by two young braves, who had not yet taken a scalp in battle, and, therefore, were not allowed to have any voice or vote in deciding his fate.
He was unbound. His friends, except Buffalo Bill, were with him. As he knew of this last effort which was being made in his behalf, he was, of course, waiting for the verdict in great excitement.
Congo was the first to speak.
“Here comes Massa Cody! He’s a-shakin’ his head an’ lookin’ berry sober. I reckon it’s all ober wid you.”
So it was. The decision was against mercy by a majority of fifteen votes.
A shout from the prisoner and a beckoning of his hands toward his friends showed that he desired them to come to him. They at once followed the rabble of squaws and children who were moving, with the condemned man in their midst, toward the place where the gantlet was to be run.
The lines were already being formed, almost at the same spot where the mimic punishment had taken place half an hour before.
Poor Hare now seemed too much frightened to stand any chance of escape in the ordeal that was before him—that was now so close at hand.
He had already thrown off his hunting jacket, and was dressed only in his underclothing, shirt and trousers, with boots and a sombrero.
He was deathly pale about the forehead and temples, but there was a flush on his cheeks which went and came quickly. This, with his pallor, his wide-open nostrils, and his glaring eyes, proclaimed his excitement than that of a madman.
Perhaps it would have been well for him if he had been mad at this moment, for insanity might have nerved him to some deed of daring that would have saved his life.
His conductors stopped for his friends to come up when they saw that was his wish, and he handed to Buffalo Bill the letters which he had written to his wife and father. He had kept them by him until now, for the purpose of adding some pencil postscripts to them from time to time.
He had given his watch and pocketbook to Buffalo Bill secretly the evening before, being afraid that he might be plundered of them, though the border king had faith enough in the honor of the Sioux to believe that there was no danger of such a thing happening.
Two redskins caught hold of the prisoner’s arm and dragged him along, one of them saying impatiently, in English:
“Too much talk. No good!”
Hare looked back and exclaimed:
“Try—try, Cody, for mercy’s sake! Don’t give me up yet! Try something—try anything!”
“We would fight it out for you, Hare,” Cody replied—even at the risk of the Indians understanding. “But you know we must think of the women first. What would their fate be if we fell, as fall we almost certainly all would?”
Black Panther was hurrying to and fro like a field officer on parade day, except that he was on foot; and if he came near the white men he gave them no opportunity to address him, but plainly showed by his manner toward them that he considered their presence there an impertinence and an intrusion.
“He feels mighty big,” said Congo angrily. “I should just like to have him alone a little while out in a field dere, widout any weapons ’cept our fists. I’d give him such a drubbin’ dat he’d squeal like a dog cotched under a wagon wheel.”
“Come, Cody,” said the captain, who saw the painfully anxious look of the king of the scouts. “It is plain that nothing more can be done. We must think of the women before everything. It will never do to turn the vengeance of these savages against the whole lot of us.”
“Don’t let us stay and see the man butchered,” said another of the party.
“So say I,” agreed another. “We have stayed here too long for the safety of the women already.”
The other men concurred, except Buffalo Bill.
“Go, my friends, if you consider it your duty,” he said. “There are the boats—take them and go. I shall certainly stay. I promised this poor man to stay by him to the last, and I shall do it. We cannot tell what chance may turn up, even at this eleventh hour. I do not think he has many minutes of life left, but still there may be an opportunity of saving him.”
Captain Meinhold hesitated, but, as it now became evident that the lines were complete and the race about to begin, curiosity detained him. Indeed, that same feeling—morbid, though not unnatural—induced the whole party to press closer to the course to get a better view.
The crowd had broken away from the starting end of the line; some of the squaws and larger boys having taken their places in the ranks, clubs in hand, and others being scattered along the route, where they could better see its whole extent.
As the white spectators were scarcely more than fifty yards distant from the lists, they could now distinctly see everything that took place.
Hare, catching sight of them through the opening that had been made, beckoned to them eagerly to come nearer.
Buffalo Bill alone attempted to comply, but about halfway he was stopped by loud cries and angry gestures from the Indians.
Thinking still of the women and the danger of provoking a conflict, he went no nearer.
The prisoner was stationed with his back against a tree, and the nearest of his watchful foes were about six feet from him, they being two lads of sixteen or seventeen years at the head of the line. They were evidently anxious to bring him down at the very outset of his course.
They did not look in any way wrathful, Buffalo Bill thought. They even exchanged nods and smiles now and then, while they waited for the “sport” to begin; but as the starting moment drew nearer there was an eager, intent look on their faces, like that of hunters when the deer is breaking cover.
Running Water was seated at the end of the ground at the lower end of the lists, where he could command a view of the race and see that no rule of the course was violated. By him, also, the signal for the start was to be given.
One who acted as a sort of marshal rode along the lines to see that every man was in his proper place.
Half a minute later the starting signal was given by the chief rising to his feet and clapping his hands loudly. Before he had struck them twice together the prisoner sprang forward with an unexpected velocity that carried him past the first half dozen of his enemies unharmed, while their swift blows fell upon the empty air.
Inspired by this success, the young man dashed onward, receiving some blows from the women and dodging others, and now and then stooping low and darting beneath the extended clubs of his assailants.
Some happy instinct, or some rapid mental action, appeared to govern his movements, for he seemed to see where his most formidable foes were stationed, and to avoid them by brushing close along the other line—too close for club blows and too swiftly for arrest or detention by the grapple of long arms, which, dropping their weapons, strove to clutch him as he passed.
Never, perhaps, had so singular a race been run; for although the desperate fugitive violated no rule of the lists, he made so many feints and dodges and sudden turns that he disappointed all calculations as to where he would be found at any given instant.
In fact, his unexpected pluck and activity surprised both friends and foes.
Buffalo Bill could not help sending forth a cheer of encouragement as the fugitive sped onward.
But the cheer was ill-timed and evoked a defiant response from the lower half of the line, where the best warriors were stationed.
But even when he had entered upon the latter half of his race his good fortune seemed still to attend him. Although some sounding blows fell upon him and staggered him at times, he kept on, making a little progress, though doubling often and standing at bay occasionally for a few seconds to get breath for renewed exertions.
And now, to the astonishment of all, he had passed two-thirds of his foes and yet retained his feet, while a tumult of cries and shouts came up from those he had deluded, inciting the others to more vigilant and energetic action.
That he should have gone so far unharmed seemed little less than a miracle, but Buffalo Bill was nearly certain that some of the blows seemingly aimed at him with the greatest fury were mere feints, and were made by those warriors who had voted for his release in council, and were still willing to see him go free.
But this favoritism, alas! was not likely to save him.
Black Panther, perhaps, had anticipated it; for many of his partisans were stationed near him, and they formed a terrible phalanx which the prisoner had yet to pass before his safety could be attained.
Jaded, breathless, bruised, and weakened, what could he do?
There was no mercy in the fierce faces before him. The sacred teachings of forgiveness had not moved those fierce hearts.
The despised and trembling prisoner had grown almost into a hero in their estimation, whom it would be an honor to imitate and whose escape would be a lasting disgrace to their prowess.
The result was almost inevitable.
Poor Hare, after his really gallant effort to escape, fell under a heavy blow. He was not a dozen yards from the goal of safety, but he lay stunned and motionless on the ground. To all appearance he was quite dead.
His friends, indeed, hoped that such might be the case and that his sufferings were ended.
But in this they were disappointed, for when a few gourdfuls of water had been dashed over him by his exultant foes he revived and showed that he had yet enough of life in him to gratify their ferocity, which was only now fully awakened.
When some gathered around the fallen man, and jeered and taunted him with his defeat, others busied themselves in making preparations for their next scene in the tragic entertainment.
The pyre was soon in process of construction around the trunk of a tree, and as there were many willing hands to gather the dry fagots and green boughs of which it was composed, it did not take long to complete it.
Space was left between the fuel and the tree for the prisoner to stand, and there was also an opening through the pile wide enough to admit of his passage and to allow access to him for any preliminary torments.
Still, no haste was made in leading the condemned man to execution. The pleasure of anticipation was something, and, perhaps, it was deemed best not to have the popular show terminate too soon.
It was yet only about eight o’clock in the morning, and while some of the women and children surrounded the captive—who had again been bound—and amused themselves by inflicting small annoyances upon him, the warriors gathered in squads and entered into an animated discussion of the sport in which they had just been engaged.
Some justified their blunders; some extolled their skill, which had only been defeated by the most extraordinary ill luck; but all agreed in awarding the honors of the day to valiant Bulboo—whatever that might mean—whose club had brought the exhausted man down.
Now, as Bulboo was a half brother to Strong Arm, this result was generally satisfactory, and was probably considered a proof of approval of the ordeal on the part of those unseen powers which guide the destinies of men.
However this may have been, the victor had certainly gained caste and influence by his success, and the thought at once occurred to Buffalo Bill that if anything more could be attempted in behalf of the prisoner in the short time which remained for action, this was the most promising field for effort.
Running Water could do nothing, and the proud Black Panther could not even be approached directly by the white men, to whom he had evidently conceived a hatred; but Bulboo, satisfied with his exploits, might, perhaps, listen to the voice of mercy, for a “consideration,” and be made the medium of a new communication with, and further overtures to, the imperious Black Panther.
Buffalo Bill, in younger days, had been an amateur artist, and he was still a ready, if not very correct, draftsman with the pencil.
Seated under a tree, with his knee for an easel, he drew on the blank leaf of a letter a picture of a prancing horse saddled and bridled, with a tolerable likeness of Bulboo at his side, holding him by the reins.
Then he sketched two other horses, similarly caparisoned, eight or ten guns, two kegs, and made a rather bungling attempt to represent a box of clay pipes and a pile of blankets.
Having completed this picture writing, he watched his opportunity when Black Panther was at a distance, and then he dispatched Congo to ask the chief if he would come and see his white brother once more for a few minutes, and would bring the great warrior Bulboo with him.
Running Water was seated on the grass, smoking his reed pipe and watching the proceedings of those around him, and when he saw the negro approaching he motioned to him to go back, and pointed to the place where the boats were moored, as an intimation that the strangers ought now to depart.
But these inhospitable gestures were evidently made more in sorrow than in anger, and as Joe insisted on coming forward, and began to speak, the chief, by a quick motion of the hand, signified to him to sit down on the ground, with his back to the crowd, of whom but few, if any, were near enough to hear what might be said.
Congo obeyed, and then delivered his message as intelligibly as he could.
“My brother is not wise,” replied Running Water. “He is free now. By and by he may be tied to a tree.”
“Guess notty,” replied Congo. “Come—be goody, Mr. Running Water. You great chiefy.”
The Indian smiled, and replied with a brief eulogy upon his own greatness, of which Joe could understand but little except the drift, but he nodded gravely at the end of each sentence, and repeated:
But the potent leader did not deport himself like one at liberty to do all that he pleased.
He looked carefully on either side of him, and particularly in the direction in which Black Panther had vanished, and then informed Congo that he would meet his brother in one of the remote wigwams, which he pointed out to him.
“Him go; I come,” he said.
“An’ bring Cap’n Bully Boy?” asked the negro.
“Yes, me bring um.”
Joe returned with this message, being careful to keep his eye on the lodge which had been named as the rendezvous, and Buffalo Bill, with hopes slightly revived, was soon on his way thither, accompanied by the negro, and regardless of the renewed entreaties of Captain Meinhold to embark, and of the threats of some of the party that they would seize the boats and go without him.
He went saunteringly, so as not to attract attention, and when he was sure that he was unwatched, unless by Running Water, he entered the deserted cabin, and from its one open window looked anxiously forth for the approach of the two men to whom this his last appeal was to be made.
The fact that this was his last hope, and that if it failed his young friend and companion would in a few minutes be in the hands of his tormentors and executioners made him exceedingly nervous.
At one moment he thought that he was foolishly persistent and that, so far from there being any prospect of success, he was only risking his own life and that of his other comrades and the safety of the women by his importunities. But at the next there seemed a little ground for hope, and he could not bear to abandon it.
Running Water and Bulboo soon came, the latter evidently wondering and looking by no means mild and benignant. Yet if his war paint had been washed off, perhaps all his fierceness of expression would have gone with it.
He was a young man, scarcely past thirty years, tall and slim, and clad in a kirtle of deerskin, which extended to his knees, and which, with his leggings and moccasins, constituted his only apparel.
Two dried claws of the grizzly bear, fastened by a leathern string around his neck, rested like epaulets upon his shoulders, and were the badge of his rank as a brave, he having killed the monster whose trophies he thus wore.
Buffalo Bill opened the conference by frankly informing Running Water of his designs, and, by way of making his meaning clear, he exhibited the pictures he had drawn, which at once enlisted the curiosity and excited the admiration of the savages.
Bulboo at once recognized the portraits of himself, for the figure and dress were sufficient to individualize it, and he seemed much pleased with it as a work of art before he comprehended the object for which it had been drawn.
Buffalo Bill, before making any offer of presents which were so likely to delight a savage, reminded the chief that he did not propose to pay for the blood of Strong Arm; but if his people were inclined to be just and merciful he wished to show them what they would gain by it.
The prisoner, he said, was rich. He would give three horses, like those in the sketch, all saddled and bridled, to Running Water, Black Panther, and Bulboo, so that they might each ride to the chase or the battlefield as became their rank.
He would also give a dozen good rifles, a dozen broadcloth blankets, five kegs of fire water, five pounds of powder, two hundred pipes, a barrel of tobacco, a big box full of colored glass beads, and enough earrings and finger rings of the best brass to supply the whole tribe.
“An’ de rigimintals, Massa Cody,” said the watchful Congo, when the other had ended this enumeration of tempting gifts; “put in de rigimintals, for de Injuns t’ink an orful sight of dem.”
Yes, it was well thought of. Two military suits, with epaulets, were added to the list—these also being sketched by Buffalo Bill’s facile pencil—one of them being for the great chief and the other for the great brave, Black Panther.
“An’ one for Bully Boy,” whispered Congo.
No. Buffalo Bill did not wish to make these coveted articles too common, and, but for the fear of offending the chief, he would have offered only one, making it a special prize for Black Panther, whose extensive influence he was especially anxious to secure.
The savages listened with an amazed and puzzled look to this catalogue of treasures, but, much to the disappointment of Buffalo Bill, who watched their countenance closely, they showed no sign of being particularly pleased.
After conversing gruffly, and with seeming anger, in their own language, the chief took up the pictured paper, and said:
“My brother is not wise. These things are not for men—they are for children.”
“No good! No shoot!” added Bulboo.
“Why, Massa Cody,” added Joe, “I’m blamed if dey don’t t’ink it’s de paper horses an’ guns you’se offerin’ dem. Ha! ha! What a pair of ninnyhammers!”
“Keep still, Joe,” replied the other, smiling, and then proceeding to correct the mistake by assuring the red men, in the best mixed English and Indian that he could command, that he offered them real, living horses, of any color that they chose, and real rifles and blankets, and everything else which he had enumerated, real and substantial, and of the best kind.
“Me no see um,” replied the chief, affecting to look around through the door and window. “Does my brother keep his horses in the clouds or under the great lake?”
That both the Indians were altogether incredulous, and were now inclined to depart in disgust, was quite apparent, and it was with no little difficulty that Buffalo Bill succeeded in making them understand the remaining part of his proposition.
They should retain their prisoner, he said, until the time came, which should be at the farthest by the next new moon—about twenty days ahead—and if they failed to receive all that had been promised they might then carry out their sentence against him.
As a pledge of his sincerity and of his expectations to redeem his promises, he offered the chief his watch to keep until he came back, bringing all the gifts; and Joe added to this offer that of his magic corkscrew, on the special condition that it should be kept safe and should be returned to him “w’en de hosses and guns come.”
The Indians, though still looking amazed, now seemed much pleased, and said they would both talk to Black Panther and to their people, and try to turn their hearts if it was not too late; but that the prisoner was already being led to the tree, as his friends could see, and that his tortures had probably begun.
“Then, for Heaven’s sake, make haste!” exclaimed Cody, who remembered the pistol in Hare’s possession; “and you, Congo, run! run! Get as near to him as you can, and tell him what we are doing.”
“Yes, sah; I’ll try,” said Joe. “But Black Panther, he’ll drive me off, I know, and I ’fraid he tommyhawk me.
“Run! run! I’ll follow as fast as I can. If you can’t get near enough to speak to him, make signs that we are coming.”
The four men all started for the scene of torture, but at very different rates of speed, for the two Indians walked with stately gravity, conversing as they went.
Buffalo Bill and Congo ran as fast as they could.
Finding it impossible to get through the throng, he imitated the example of many of the Indian boys and girls, and climbed a tree, from the lowest branches of which he could overlook the crowd and get a view of all that was going on.
The condemned man was bound to a small maple by a rope of bark, which was passed several times around his waist, but his limbs and head were left free, probably for the additional amusement to be derived from seeing him attempt to dodge or ward off the various missiles aimed at him by his persecutors.
This sport had already begun, as was apparent from some arrows and knives sticking in the tree near his head, and a shout of laughter which rang through the crowd just as Congo attained his elevated seat applauded the successful feat of pinning one ear of the captive to the tree by a shaft from a bow.
Pale as a ghost and frantic with terror, poor Hare now put up his hands to ward off the flying weapons, and now tried to extricate the arrow from his ear, groaning meanwhile and begging for mercy in language, of course, which would have been unintelligible to most of his tormentors if heard, but which was drowned by their own shouts and cries.
He had been left clad in the garments in which he had run his race, with the exception of his hat, which was off, and Congo could plainly see the stock of his pistol slightly protruding from his pocket, as if he had partly drawn it out, but feared to use it.
His hand wandered irresolutely toward it now and then, and as it seemed that his sufferings and dread must nerve him to a speedy use of this effectual means of escaping the malice of his enemies, Joe hastily tried to attract his attention without drawing upon himself the observation of the savage crowd.
He drew from his pocket a yellow cotton kerchief, and waved it toward him; but, failing to accomplish his object in this way, and seeing that his hand again sought his pistol and rested with firm grasp upon the protruding stock, he shouted desperately to him, heedless of the danger which he was drawing upon himself.
“Massa Hare, Massa Hare!” he cried. “Hold on, dar! Don’t shoot yourself! Dey’se comin’ to save you yit!”
Probably little or nothing of this was understood by the prisoner, but he heard the negro’s voice, and, following the eyes of the crowd who turned like one man to look at the intruder, saw him still waving his yellow flag.
Great confusion ensued, many of the savages believing that the black “medicine man” was performing some incantation to save the life of his friend, and others, less superstitious, aiming guns and arrows at him, seemingly by direction of the irate Black Panther, whose shouted orders sounded over the field.
The vigilant Joe, seeing his danger, leaped to the ground and ran to meet Buffalo Bill, who was now close at hand, followed at a little distance by the chief and Bulboo, who had also quickened their speed and were fast coming up.
“Stop, Massa Cody! Stop! An’ let’s git behind de chief an’ Cap’n Bully Boy!” exclaimed the frightened Joe. “Or dey’ll shoot us bofe, just as sure as a gun.”
Cody complied with this prudent request, for many of the Indians were rushing toward them.
“Is he alive?” asked Cody, in a whisper, as he complied with this order, for his solicitude for Hare still outweighed his sense of personal danger.
“Yes, massa, but he got de pistol in his hand, and I expect to hear it go off every minute.”
“No—you’ve effected a diversion, for the present, I guess.”
“I don’t t’ink it’s very diverting, massa,” replied the trembling negro. “See how mad dey is.”
“They won’t come any nearer. See, the chief is speaking to them, and Bulboo stands close at his side to show that he agrees with him.”
“What does he say?”
“He is only telling them to be quiet, I believe, and to send Black Panther to him. At least, I judge so by his gestures, and his frequent mention of the orator’s name.”
“Yes—yes—dare comes Black Panther lookin’ as fierce as a turkey gobbler; and a lot of others jest like him. It’s all up with us now, Massa Cody. I never was so scairt before. I tell you dey’ll burn us all.”
“Well, well, keep still. There’s nothing else that we can do now; for to speak would incense them still further, and to run would probably be fatal.”
But little of the dialogue which now ensued between the chief and his warriors was understood by Cody, but, judging from its tones, it was not over-courteous on either side.
If it was not an angry altercation, it was something very near it, and if Running Water had not been supported by Bulboo—the victor in the lists, and a near relative of Strong Arm—he would scarcely have gained a hearing in asking, as he now did, for an hour’s suspension of the proceedings against the prisoner until a new talk could be had and a new proposition considered.
Shouts of indignant refusal met this request at first, but when Bulboo had gone over to Black Panther and whispered a few words to him, doubtless about the presents, that dignitary consented to a respite and a new council, but scouted the idea of its terminating differently from the preceding ones.
That no time might be lost, the braves were at once separated from the crowd and were seated upon the ground under the shade of a large tree, while the prisoner, still bound, was left exposed to such annoyances as the squaws and small children saw fit to inflict. But they did not use any weapons upon him, for they had received orders not to do so.
They pulled his hair, they pinched his flesh, they made mocking faces at him, they pelted him with tufts of sod and dirt, and loaded him with opprobrious epithets. These last, however, were lost upon him, as he did not understand them.
But his friends, Cody and Congo, although not allowed to approach him, were now within his view, and as long as he was not abandoned he would not quite despair, nor resort to suicide, as he had been momentarily tempted to do in order to escape the indignities and tortures which were being heaped upon him.
As to hope of escape or release, he could scarcely be said to indulge it, for he knew nothing of the reason why his severer tortures were suspended, and he supposed it was only for the purpose of giving the women and children their share of the sport.
Buffalo Bill and his sable friend did not know whether they were in custody or not. Several armed savages remained near them, and Joe, who had evidently given serious offense, was disposed to take a somber view of affairs.
“If Black Panther has his way, it’s all up with us, sah,” he said. “He won’t believe in all these promises. ’Cause why? You’ve offered dem too much, sah. He’ll say you’se only goin’ hum after soldiers to rescue Massa Hare. You’ll see. Why for they no send for you to de council if dey friendly?”
Sure enough, Cody was far from easy in his mind; and almost at this moment a new cause for alarm was discovered, and was announced to them by one of the red men. He came near, and then, with some unintelligible ejaculation, pointed to the lake, where Captain Meinhold’s boat was seen rapidly departing, and already many rods from the shore.
The chase after Congo had added the climax to the fears of the officer and his companions. They were alarmed for the safety of the women.
Meinhold was as brave as a lion personally, and he would have stayed behind with Cody gladly; but he and the rest had felt that they dared not risk the lives or safety of the helpless women in their care.
The deserted men made no efforts to win back their comrades, for Buffalo Bill not only believed that such an effort would be useless now, but he felt that he had not the right to ask them further to imperil their safety and that of the women against their own convictions of duty.
He had no hard feelings against Captain Meinhold, for he perfectly understood the reason that had led him to take such a course. He knew the gallant officer too well to suppose that it had been a cowardly anxiety on his own account.
He was not long left unrewarded for this self-abnegation, however; for a messenger from the council soon summoned both himself and Congo to attend the deliberations of that body.
The border king found that the braves were much excited over the new proposition that had been made to them, and were quite disposed to be good-natured.
Black Panther himself, in spite of the high-sounding speech he had made scorning the silver of the palefaces, was really of a selfish and covetous nature. He now found a good pretext for abandoning his lofty, patriotic stand in the fact that a near relative of the slain man had set him the example.
The orator was examining the pictured prizes with much interest. With his eyes fixed solely on the horse and regimentals promised to himself, he was descanting loudly on the benefits that would accrue to others from the proposed arrangement.
The rifles were very much needed, he said, as nearly half of the braves were without guns, and the blankets would be of much service; while the whisky and tobacco and pipes and trinkets would make the hearts of all the people glad.
He professed, indeed, not to believe in the ability of Buffalo Bill to make all these gorgeous promises good. He must be a very great man if he could do so; but personally he, Black Panther, was willing to give him a trial.
They would risk little in doing this. The prisoner would remain in their hands, and could as well be put to death a few weeks hence as now.
In short, Black Panther said—quite mildly now—that he agreed with Bulboo and with his cousin, the good chief, and would give his voice for postponing the execution, and for finally releasing the prisoner if all the presents came.
There was no difficulty about this, especially as so many of the warriors had originally been in favor of mercy, and had been overruled in the vote taken on the subject.
In a few minutes another vote was taken, and a favorable decision was announced.
Buffalo Bill, delighted beyond all expression, hastened to ask permission to inform the prisoner of his respite. This was granted by the council.
The chief and others followed to see the man released from his bonds.
No words could describe the ecstasy of joy with which the good news was received by poor Hare, who swooned in his first excitement. For a minute or two he lay on the ground, unconscious of the good fortune that had come to him.
When he revived he found himself on the grass, resting in the arms of his two friends.
After restoring him fully by dashing cold water in his face, and dressing his wounds, they told him the particulars of what had taken place and what they had promised in his behalf.
“It will probably take pretty nearly all you have in the world to pay your ransom,” said Buffalo Bill.
“Oh, that’s of no consequence! What of that?” exclaimed the happy man. “If you had been where I was just now, you would have thought millions of dollars a cheap price to pay to get loose.”
“Of course,” said Buffalo Bill. “And you are to stay here quietly until the presents come. Running Water says you will not be bound, but you will be watched. If you try to escape, you will be killed. It would be foolish for you to try to get away, for even if you did they would follow you and track you down.”
“That’s all right. I’ll consent to that willingly enough. But, for Heaven’s sake, don’t fail to get the things here on time. Do you think you can do it? How can I ever thank you for all you have done for me, Cody? I owe my life to you.”
“I have only done what I would have wished any other man to do for me,” the king of the scouts replied.
“May Heaven help you in the same way when you are in your utmost need!” continued the grateful man. “And Congo, too—for he has done what he could. He has, at least, stayed near me and encouraged me.”
“He has done a great deal more than that,” replied Cody, “as you will find out presently. But our other friends are gone, Hare.”
“Gone? I thought they were back in the woods waiting for you.”
“No; they took the boats and went, as they had a right to do. They got alarmed for the safety of the women, and Captain Meinhold, I suppose, thought it was best to go. I do not blame them. They thought there was no hope for you, and they were all in great danger. They gave me fair warning repeatedly, but I——”
“Massa Cody wouldn’t go an’ leave you, sah, till de last was ober, let come what would. Dat’s it, sah.”
“I see—I see. I am even more indebted to him than I supposed. Cody, you have risked life and everything for me—for me, a traitor!”
“I have only done my duty,” replied the border king simply. “Say no more of it.”
But Hare, who, if he could not always be courageous, was at least grateful, would not be repressed on this point, and he continued to manifest his gratitude to his deliverer with childlike earnestness and simplicity.
“But how are you to get off, and when?” he asked.
“I do not know. Probably our red friends will help to put us in the way of getting to the nearest white settlement or to Fort McPherson.”
“Ah, I hope you get through safely, both for your sake and for mine. If you are lost, I shall be lost also. Yes; even if anything happens to delay you beyond the three weeks stipulated, my fate will be sealed.”
“Never fear. We shall doubtless get through without trouble, or one of us, at least; and even Congo could attend to your business. He could get assistance, you know.”
“Is there money enough at my command, I wonder?”
“How much can you raise?”
“About a thousand dollars. I will give you a letter which will enable you to get the money.”
“It ought to be enough. If it is not, I will make up the deficiency.”
“Yes, yes; and I will repay you the last cent, if I have to live on bread and water to do it. But you may have time to communicate with my father, and he will supply all you need. How will you get the things here?”
“The best way will be to charter a small sloop and sail across the lake, I suppose,” replied Buffalo Bill. “It will be quicker and less perilous than traveling by land through a country so infested by Indians, who, if they are not actually hostile, are yet not by any means to be trusted—especially if they saw articles so much coveted by them as those which we shall bring.”
“Massa Cody, dere’s Cap’n Running Water an’ Bully Boy, looking as if dey was waitin’ to spoke to you,” said Joe.
“So they are. They are too polite to interrupt our talk. You find more courtesy among Indians than you do among most white men. I will go to them.”
He went, and the chief, advancing to meet him, pointed to the lake and asked if he and Congo would like to be sent in a canoe to rejoin their friends, who had not been gone more than an hour and could be easily overtaken.
Of course, the border king replied in the affirmative, and instant preparations were made for departure, Cody hurrying back to bid Hare good-by and give him a last word of advice.
Hare promised compliance with his admonitions, and his friends, after a more formal farewell with the chief and principal braves, proceeded to the beach and embarked in a canoe which was awaiting them, manned by two young Indians who had been instructed by Running Water to go “much quick.”
Certainly the red paddlers propelled their little bark with great rapidity, and within an hour, on doubling a little promontory, they came in sight of Captain Meinhold’s boat, apparently about three miles ahead.
But here a new difficulty occurred, for the men in the forward boat, having discovered the pursuing canoe, believed themselves to be chased with hostile intent, and they quickened their speed to escape.
They could not distinguish white men from red at that distance. They could only see that there were four people in the craft behind them, and as it was impossible for them to conjecture the true state of things, it was most natural to suppose that those four men were foes.
The outbreak of which they had witnessed the beginning, and from which they had fled, had ended, they did not doubt, in the arrest of Buffalo Bill and Congo and the sending of the canoe after themselves.
So they fled, and as they put all their strength to their oars, the chase was a long one.
“It’s just as I expected,” said a man named Hutton, who was not by any means a courageous fellow, and had been one of the foremost in counseling Captain Meinhold to leave. “That obstinate fellow Cody has brought ruin upon us all. Here we are now with four or five Indians after us, and probably more behind, and nothing but a pistol or two to defend ourselves with. In a little while they will be within rifle shot, and then they will begin to fire upon us.”
So they made for the shore with a view of scattering and hiding in the wood until night. But they were a long way from the land, having kept far out for safety.
In spite of the most exhausting labor at the oars, the Indians gained on them. The canoe, increasing its speed and taking a diagonal course, was soon within bullet range.
While, however, the wearied fugitives were expecting a shot and were watching for the leveling of the guns, so that they might throw themselves down in the bottom of the boat, they saw a more welcome sight.
Two hats were waved in the air, and, as the Indians did not wear hats, the conclusion was inevitable that they were followed by friends instead of foes.
A closer inspection, which but for their alarm they might sooner have made, justified this hope, and they turned joyfully to meet their pursuers.
The tidings which Buffalo Bill brought were most astonishing and gratifying to Captain Meinhold, who complimented the scout highly on his success, and took shame to himself for having deserted him, even for the sake of the women.
But the border king was not disposed to blame any one, and, so far from reproaching the captain, he awarded him a large share of credit for the happy result.
“If you had said no when we talked of going back with Hare,” he said, “his fate would have been sealed. The rest of the men would have sided with you, and I should have been obliged to submit.”
“Tell you wot, gemmen, afore you leave these red boys you better borry or buy one of dere guns, or we shall starve ag’in,” said Joe. “We ain’t got a mouthful o’ nuffin’.”
This was considered a good idea, and the attempt was made to purchase a gun and some ammunition, the men offering all the silver they had, and the women some jewelry. But the Indians refused to sell, saying that the guns did not belong to them, but to two other braves, and had only been lent to them for self-protection on this trip.
“Let’s take them by force,” said Hutton. “Our lives may depend on it.”
This proposition was indignantly rejected by the others, and the Indians, who fortunately did not understand it, offered instead a fishing line which lay in the bottom of the canoe.
They would take nothing for it, but after it had been delivered and thankfully accepted they suddenly turned their canoe around and started homeward, waving a parting salutation.
The voyagers, after an hour of brisk rowing along the coast, all felt the pressing demand of hunger, and went ashore, where some searched for edible roots and fruits and others for bait for fishing.
Congo soon had a pocketful of worms, and, while others roamed on land for food or rested beneath the trees, he rowed out about twenty rods from shore and tried his luck.
Perhaps the finny inhabitants of this part of the lake had never before seen a baited hook, and had no tradition of their ancestors having been caught by one. Perhaps there was a political or educational convention of fishes assembled at this particular time and place; but, whatever the cause, Joe’s success was immediate and extraordinary.
Perch and bass and catfish contended for the honor of being caught. No sooner did the impaled worm drop in the water than it was seized by one of the voracious throng and darted at by others, who followed the envied captive almost to the surface of the lake, little dreaming that his upward flight was other than voluntary.
“Bress my soul!” exclaimed Congo, as he soon found himself the center of a circle of flopping life which grew momentarily larger and more demonstrative. “I neber seed nuffin’ like dis afore. Dis ’ere must be an enchanted line! Whoop! Here comes anudder! A whopper, too! A three-pound bass, dat ar is! Dere you go, dancing wid de rest, w’ile I cotch your brudder an’ de rest ob your relations.”
Thus Joe fished and chattered, nor did the sport cease until the last of his bait had gone, by which time he had upward of sixty fish, averaging over a pound in weight, and all caught in a little over an hour.
Great was the amazement and delight of the party when they heard of Joe’s success. After a hearty repast, during which everybody grew jollier than they had been for a long time past, the voyagers resumed their journey, taking with them the remainder of their provisions, but feeling reluctant to leave so wonderful a fishing ground without further sport.
After three days of easy journeying, the party reached a white settlement on the shores of the lake, and there Buffalo Bill, Congo, and Captain Meinhold secured horses on which they could journey to Fort McPherson quickly.
The rest of the party would follow at their leisure, but it was imperative for Buffalo Bill to reach the fort, as from that place he would be able to speedily make the necessary arrangements for Hare’s ransom.
He well knew the danger of delay in this matter. If the presents did not arrive within the stipulated time, it was likely enough that the Indians, always more or less suspicious in their nature, would decline to wait any longer, but would at once proceed to torture the unfortunate captive to death.
No doubt Running Water would do his best to prevent this, but his influence with the tribe over which he was chief seemed to be less than that of Black Panther—at all events, in this matter.
Fort McPherson was safely reached without any incidents worthy of record happening on the way.
The commandant already knew of the loss of the schooner; for the men who had escaped in the other boat, from which the Buffalo Bill party had been separated in the storm, had made their way to the fort just before, reporting that they were the sole survivors.
There was naturally much rejoicing among the officers and soldiers when they found that so many others of their comrades had also managed to save their lives, and especially at the fact that the women were safe.
The commandant listened with deep interest to the story of their adventures in Running Water’s village, as told to him by Buffalo Bill and Captain Meinhold.
He was at first inclined to send a force of soldiers back with Buffalo Bill to punish the Indians for daring to capture a white man, hold him captive, and threaten to put him to death by torture.
Buffalo Bill, however, managed to persuade him that this would be neither fair nor wise.
He pointed out that the Indians had been kind and hospitable toward the shipwrecked party until Hare shot one of their number, that then they had only thought to carry out their idea of strict justice, and that in the end they had been willing to temper even that with mercy.
If soldiers were sent after them under such conditions, the faith of the redskins in the fair dealing of the whites would be shattered all through the country.
The commandant recognized the force of these arguments, and satisfied himself with helping the king of the scouts to get together the promised presents for the red men.
There was little difficulty in arranging this, and two days after his arrival at the fort Buffalo Bill set out on his way back to Running Water’s village, accompanied by Joe Congo, Wild Bill, and Captain Meinhold, the latter obtaining a short leave of absence for the purpose.
“After deserting you and Hare in the way I did,” the officer said to the border king, “I could never feel easy in my mind unless I saw the end of this business.”
The Indian village was reached three days before the end of the period of reprieve which had been granted by the council to the captive.
“I was beginning to grow nervous,” Hare confessed, as he shook hands warmly with Buffalo Bill. “I knew you would not desert me, but as the time drew toward an end I feared that you might have met with some accident that would delay you, or even prevent you from coming at all.”
The man had been well treated by the Indians during his period of captivity, but he had been closely watched night and day. Even had he been disposed to disregard Cody’s advice against attempting to escape, he would have found no chance to do so.
All of the Indians, from Running Water himself down to the youngest brave, were delighted with the presents. They fell short in no particular of the border king’s pictured descriptions. On the contrary, they exceeded the wildest anticipations of the red men.
The horses and the rifles were particularly admired, for they were far better than any the tribe could get. But unfortunately there was one item of the ransom which led to trouble; it was the whisky.
Buffalo Bill had hesitated whether he should bring it with him. He was much opposed to the selling or giving of fire water to the redskins, and had always fought bitterly against it.
Sure enough, that night the whisky caused trouble, as it always does among palefaces as well as redskins.
Buffalo Bill and his friend had arrived at the village in the middle of the afternoon, and by the time the Indians had finished inspecting the presents and talking with the whites it needed only about two hours to sunset.
Buffalo Bill proposed to start on his journey back at once, taking Hare with him. He feared that the Indians would indulge in a drunken orgy that night, and it might not be safe for the white men to remain in the village. At all events, there would be a risk of trouble, for the worst passions of the braves would almost certainly be aroused by the whisky.
But Running Water would by no means hear of their going. Hospitable as ever, he begged Buffalo Bill and his friends to stay and take part in the great feast which would be held that night to celebrate the wealth that had come to his band.
Buffalo Bill tried hard to get out of the invitation, but the chief and his braves were so insistent that in the end he was obliged to give way, very much against his will.
The feast started early, and enormous quantities of meat were consumed by the gluttonous braves.
Unfortunately enormous quantities of whisky were drunk also.
It was not long before the ugly traits in the Indian character began to come to the front.
Several of the braves, reeling to their feet, yelled and shouted defiantly at one another, declaring, as most men are apt to do when they are drunk, that they could “lick the earth.”
Old enemies and feuds were recalled under the influence of the liquor, and there would have been more than one deadly fight had it not been for the restraining influence of Running Water, aided by Buffalo Bill and the other whites, who had become very popular with most of the warriors on account of the rich presents they had brought.
Black Panther was one of those who had indulged heavily, but the liquor did not seem to take quite the same effect on him as it did on the others.
He seemed to retain his senses perfectly, but, as he took drink after drink, his fierce black eyes became fixed upon the white men with an even deadlier glance of hatred.
He did not think of any quarrels that he might have with his own tribesmen. One of the great passions of his life was hatred of the whites, and it came uppermost now.
This hatred was particularly concentrated upon Buffalo Bill, whom he knew to be the leader of the little party.
The memory of the presents he had received that afternoon did not soothe him, by any means. Indeed, he had clean forgotten them under the influence of the whisky. He thought of only one thing—that he hated all white men, and particularly Buffalo Bill.
Running Water had not touched a drop of the liquor. When Buffalo Bill had asked him why, early in the evening, he had replied:
“Fire water bad for de man. Make him fool. Make him act like crazy man. Running Water must watch his braves. Running Water cannot drink.”
But of all the braves whom the chief watched, there was none he kept his eye on more intently than Black Panther.
That warrior said no word, but he looked steadily at Buffalo Bill with a baleful glare that would have done credit to the ferocious animal after which he was named.
“All right, chief,” replied the border king. “I’m sure I don’t want to fight him, if I can help it. You have treated us well, and we don’t want to have any trouble. We’d like to remain friends with all your band.”
The words were hardly spoken, when Black Panther rose suddenly to his feet and commenced to declaim a loud, passionate speech which even awakened some of the drunken sleepers.
Buffalo Bill could not understand many of the words. Although he was familiar with some dialects of the Sioux tongue, he did not know the particular one spoken by this band.
But the purport of his speech was plain enough from Black Panther’s impassioned gestures and the look of hatred which he concentrated on the king of the scouts.
Even Captain Meinhold and Hare, although less versed than the two scouts in the ways of the Indians, could not help seeing that what Black Panther wanted to do was to provoke a fight with Buffalo Bill.
In the middle of the harangue, Running Water rose to his feet and motioned to the brave to seat himself on the ground again; but Black Panther remained defiantly standing.
“What does he say?” the border king asked the chief.
“Him say he fight you with tomahawk—with knife—with revolver—with anything you like. But we not let him. You our friend. If a brave fight you here when you eat our meat, the face of my band is blackened.”
Running Water replied in this same strain to Black Panther, but he might as well have spoken to the wind.
Several of the braves—the more sober of them—supported their chief; but others wanted to see a fight, and they clamored to let Black Panther have his way. If the white man did not fight, they said, he was a coward.
Buffalo Bill caught this, for the word used was the same as in another dialect of the Sioux, which he knew.
He rose at once, repressing his anger with difficulty, and suggested to Running Water that he should wrestle with Black Panther. They need not fight a deadly duel, he urged, but they could at least see who was the better man.
The chief grasped eagerly at this proposal, for things were beginning to look serious, and bloodshed seemed imminent.
He translated Buffalo Bill’s challenge to Black Panther, and the latter fiercely accepted the suggestion.
He knew that he was far and away the best wrestler in the whole of the Sioux nation—the admitted champion of all the bands—and he had no doubt that he could vanquish his white opponent easily.
But he reckoned without his host, for he little knew that the king of the scouts had muscles as strong as steel, and had been trained in the art of wrestling from his youth up. So proficient, indeed, had he become in it that he had never yet met the redskin who could beat him—or the white man, either.
Black Panther stood up, naked to the waist, for the bout. He did not seem to be much affected by the quantity of whisky he had taken. His eye was clear, his attitude agile, and his movements as rapid as those of the animal from whom he had taken his name.
With a loud yell, he darted straight at Buffalo Bill, and in a second the two men were locked in a close embrace.
It was soon over. Buffalo Bill, with a mighty heave, flung the redskin clean over his shoulder.
For a few moments Black Panther lay upon the ground stunned. Then he rose unsteadily to his feet and glared at Buffalo Bill like a tiger.
The king of the scouts held himself ready for another wrestle, if his opponent chose to take it—but Black Panther had another idea in his mind.
He whipped a knife out of his belt, and would have rushed at Buffalo Bill and stabbed him to the heart, but Running Water and several of the other braves, fearing just this thing, had watched him closely.
In a trice they seized and disarmed him. He struggled furiously, but in the hands of half a dozen strong braves he was as helpless as a baby.
There was no one to say a word in his defense. Even the most drunken of the braves condemned his action, for hospitality is a sacred obligation to the red man. And Black Panther had actually tried to murder a guest!
By command of Running Water he was taken to a lodge and closely guarded until the white men left the village on the following morning.
Three braves, the most sober whom Running Water could select, watched him all night, tomahawk in hand.
They had orders to slay him on the spot if he made any attempt to break out of the lodge.
Black Panther knew this, and he was wise enough to keep still. But the flame of hatred in his heart burned more and more fiercely as the hours went by, and he vowed to himself that he would never rest until he had vengeance on his white opponent.
No man knew this better than Buffalo Bill, who was as familiar with the nature of the redskins as any white man can be.
“He shall not remain with us,” the chief added. “He left us before. He shall go back to the band he joined. He shall not remain another day in the village.”
“Don’t drive him out on my account, chief,” said Buffalo Bill. “I bear him no ill will. It was the whisky that did it.”
“But he feel ill will to you,” replied Running Water gravely. “He kill you when he meet you, unless you kill him first.”
Buffalo Bill laughed.
“Well, I’ll do my best to look out for myself if I ever do meet him again,” he said.
“You better shoot quick,” was the parting warning of the chief to the border king, as he and his friends bade farewell and mounted their horses for the return journey.
“I reckon Running Water is about right,” said Buffalo Bill to Wild Bill, as they rode onward.
“How was he on the wrestle?” asked Wild Bill curiously.
“A mighty good man. If it hadn’t been for all that drink that was in him, he’d have been the toughest proposition to handle that I ever ran up against. As it was, he was not particularly difficult to throw.”
The fort was reached safely, and soon afterward Hare, the rescued captive, returned to his relatives, quite cured of any desire for further experiences of Western life.
Buffalo Bill had not seen the last of Black Panther.
Two months after the encounter in Running Water’s village the commandant of Fort McPherson ordered him to go, with a small band of his scouts, to the village of the Bear band of the Sioux nation.
They were threatening to cause trouble, the officer said, and they must be looked after, warned, and over-awed by a show of force. The famous Company B of the Third Cavalry, under command of Captain Meinhold, would go along with the scouts.
The village, when it was at last reached after a toilsome journey, was found to be deserted, except by a few women and children and old men, who, having had experience of the white soldiers before, knew that they had nothing to fear from them.
One of the old men, when closely questioned by Buffalo Bill, admitted that all the braves had gone away on the previous day on the war trail. They had had information from one of their hunters of the approach of the white force, and had concluded that it was too strong for them to meet.
The old man would not say in what direction they had gone, or what point they were aiming for; but it was easy enough for Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill, who was with him, to hit the trail of such a large party and follow it.
Before he left the village the king of the scouts made inquiries as to whether Black Panther was with the war party.
He was told that his enemy was not only with it, but was its leader.
“But I thought that Wolf Claw was the chief of the Bear clan,” said the border king to the squaw who told him this.
“He was,” the woman replied. “But Wolf Claw is dead. He was killed by a grizzly bear while out hunting two moons ago, and the braves chose Black Panther to succeed him. He is a great warrior.”
The squaw did not know what valuable information she had given to the enemy of her people.
Buffalo Bill rode on with the knowledge that the conflict with the Sioux, when he came up with them, would be a more than ordinarily perilous one for him. Either Black Panther or himself would have to “go under.”
He was under no illusions as to the inveterate character of the hatred which the Sioux bore him. He knew that Black Panther would, if necessary, be ready to give his own life in order to take that of the man who had beaten him in wrestling and been the unwitting cause of his disgrace before Running Water’s band.
Who should know better than William F. Cody that an Indian is not wont either to forget or forgive?
After the trail of the Sioux had been followed for a few miles, Buffalo Bill found that the horses of the soldiers in Captain Meinhold’s troop could not keep up with those of the scouts under his own immediate command. The men were not such good riders and the animals were not so good.
He, therefore, suggested that he and his men should ride on ahead and the troopers should follow as quickly as they could.
Meinhold saw the wisdom of this arrangement, for it was imperative that the Indians should be caught up with as speedily as was possible. It was impossible to tell what scheme they had in mind. They might intend to raid one of the settlements within easy reach of such hard riders as they were.
All that day the trail was followed over the prairie, and the scouts kept on far into the night, for it was bright moonlight, and the broad track left by the horses of the Sioux could be followed without difficulty by such experts in the business of Indian fighting as they were.
A few hours’ rest—more for the sake of the horses than of the tough frontiersmen—was at last ordered by Buffalo Bill, and soon after dawn the chase was resumed.
The redskins outnumbered them by more than three to one, as the trail plainly showed; but neither Buffalo Bill nor any of his men cared anything for that. They were used to taking such odds—and far worse ones, too.
Toward the close of the afternoon they sighted the Sioux, who had offsaddled for a rest.
The vedettes of the Indians saw them at the same moment, and hastened in to carry the news to Black Panther.
The chief had no thought of flight. He knew that his braves largely outnumbered the white men, and he was only too glad to accept the gage of battle.
He had heard, too, from his scouts who had reported to him the approach of the white force before he left the village, that the famous “Long Hair” was in command of the white scouts. That alone would have been sufficient inducement to him to fight if there had been no other.
The conflict opened at long range, and the two parties fired at one another for two or three hours, taking such cover as they could behind their horses in the long grass, or behind small hummocks in the otherwise flat expanse of the prairie.
But the Indians found that this way of skirmishing did not pay them. The scouts were far better shots than they were, and possessed better rifles. So at last Black Panther gave the word to force the fighting to close quarters.
Buffalo Bill, like the good general that he was, tried to avoid this; but he could not do so. The horses of his men were jaded, while those of the Indians were fresh from their long rest.
Soon the two contending forces had closed, and the fighting was furious and animated beyond all description.
Buffalo Bill and Black Panther sought one another out in the middle of the scrimmage, and fought desperately hand to hand.
Then Buffalo Bill found out what a terrible enemy the Sioux chief was. The king of the scouts was wont to say in after years that he was the worst foe he had ever encountered.
Black Panther fired at him and missed. Then, angrily flinging down his gun, he drew his tomahawk and struck at him.
The king of the scouts had fired the last shot in the magazine of his repeater. He raised the weapon, and the blade of Black Panther’s hatchet fell on the stock, shearing the tough wood clean through—so terrible was the force of the blow.
But that blow was broken by the guard, and the tomahawk fell almost harmlessly on Buffalo Bill’s shoulder, merely inflicting a slight flesh wound.
Next moment the heavy breech of the border king’s rifle fell with fearful force on Black Panther’s head, dashing out his brains.
The fall of the chief marked the close of the fight.
The Indians had lost heavily, and when they saw the death of Black Panther the heart was taken out of the remnant of them.
Those who were not lying dead or wounded on the prairie turned to flee; and, as they did so, the sound of a bugle proclaimed the arrival on the scene of Captain Meinhold and his men—too late to take part in the fight, but just in time to assist in the pursuit, at the end of which few indeed of the Sioux were left alive.
Little more of the story remains to be told.
The defeat and almost total annihilation of the Bear clan kept the rest of the Sioux nation quiet for some time to come, and the peaceful and generous-minded Chief Running Water assisted in that task, ruling over his tribe in prosperity and honor for many years, and maintaining a close friendship with Buffalo Bill, who visited his village on many occasions—but was careful never to take any more whisky there.
As for the brave and cheerful Joe Congo, he obtained employment as a cook in the officers’ mess at Fort McPherson, and he was never tired of telling of the stirring times he had in “Cap’n Runnin’ Water’s” village.
No. 177 of the Buffalo Bill Border Stories, entitled “Buffalo Bill’s Mystery Box,” by Colonel Prentiss Ingraham, is a thrilling account of the Moqui Indians on the warpath, and the adventures that befell the great scout and his followers in quelling them.
WESTERN STORIES ABOUT
Price, Fifteen Cents
Red-blooded Adventure Stories for Men
There is no more romantic character in American history than William F. Cody, or as he was internationally known, Buffalo Bill. He, with Colonel Prentiss Ingraham, , General Custer, and a few other adventurous spirits, laid the foundation of our great West.
There is no more brilliant page in American history than the winning of the West. Never did pioneers live more thrilling lives, so rife with adventure and brave deeds as the old scouts and plainsmen. Foremost among these stands the imposing figure of Buffalo Bill.
All of the books in this list are intensely interesting. They were written by the close friend and companion of Buffalo Bill—Colonel Prentiss Ingraham. They depict actual adventures which this pair of hard-hitting comrades experienced, while the story of these adventures is interwoven with fiction; historically the books are correct.
ALL TITLES ALWAYS IN PRINT
|1||—||Buffalo Bill, the Border King||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|2||—||Buffalo Bill’s Raid||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|3||—||Buffalo Bill’s Bravery||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|4||—||Buffalo Bill’s Trump Card||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|5||—||Buffalo Bill’s Pledge||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|6||—||Buffalo Bill’s Vengeance||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|7||—||Buffalo Bill’s Iron Grip||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|8||—||Buffalo Bill’s Capture||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|9||—||Buffalo Bill’s Danger Line||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|10||—||Buffalo Bill’s Comrades||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|11||—||Buffalo Bill’s Reckoning||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|12||—||Buffalo Bill’s Warning||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|13||—||Buffalo Bill at Bay||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|14||—||Buffalo Bill’s Buckskin Pards||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|15||—||Buffalo Bill’s Brand||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|16||—||Buffalo Bill’s Honor||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|17||—||Buffalo Bill’s Phantom Hunt||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|18||—||Buffalo Bill’s Fight With Fire||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|19||—||Buffalo Bill’s Danite Trail||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|20||—||Buffalo Bill’s Ranch Riders||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|21||—||Buffalo Bill’s Death Trail||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|22||—||Buffalo Bill’s Trackers||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|23||—||Buffalo Bill’s Mid-air Flight||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|24||—||Buffalo Bill, Ambassador||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|25||—||Buffalo Bill’s Air Voyage||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|26||—||Buffalo Bill’s Secret Mission||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|27||—||Buffalo Bill’s Long Trail||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|28||—||Buffalo Bill Against Odds||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|29||—||Buffalo Bill’s Hot Chase||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|30||—||Buffalo Bill’s Redskin Ally||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|31||—||Buffalo Bill’s Treasure Trove||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|32||—||Buffalo Bill’s Hidden Foes||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|33||—||Buffalo Bill’s Crack Shot||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|34||—||Buffalo Bill’s Close Call||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|35||—||Buffalo Bill’s Double Surprise||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|36||—||Buffalo Bill’s Ambush||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|37||—||Buffalo Bill’s Outlaw Hunt||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|38||—||Buffalo Bill’s Border Duel||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|39||—||Buffalo Bill’s Bid for Fame||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|40||—||Buffalo Bill’s Triumph||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|41||—||Buffalo Bill’s Spy Trailer||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|42||—||Buffalo Bill’s Death Call||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|43||—||Buffalo Bill’s Body Guard||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|44||—||Buffalo Bill’s Still Hunt||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|45||—||Buffalo Bill and the Doomed Dozen||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|46||—||Buffalo Bill’s Prairie Scout||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|47||—||Buffalo Bill’s Traitor Guide||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|48||—||Buffalo Bill’s Bonanza||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|49||—||Buffalo Bill’s Swoop||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|50||—||Buffalo Bill and the Gold King||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|51||—||Buffalo Bill, Deadshot||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|52||—||Buffalo Bill’s Buckskin Bravos||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|53||—||Buffalo Bill’s Big Four||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|54||—||Buffalo Bill’s One-armed Pard||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|55||—||Buffalo Bill’s Race for Life||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|56||—||Buffalo Bill’s Return||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|57||—||Buffalo Bill’s Conquest||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|58||—||Buffalo Bill to the Rescue||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|59||—||Buffalo Bill’s Beautiful Foe||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|60||—||Buffalo Bill’s Perilous Task||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|61||—||Buffalo Bill’s Queer Find||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|62||—||Buffalo Bill’s Blind Lead||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|63||—||Buffalo Bill’s Resolution||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|64||—||Buffalo Bill, the Avenger||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|65||—||Buffalo Bill’s Pledged Pard||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|66||—||Buffalo Bill’s Weird Warning||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|67||—||Buffalo Bill’s Wild Ride||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|68||—||Buffalo Bill’s Redskin Stampede||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|69||—||Buffalo Bill’s Mine Mystery||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|70||—||Buffalo Bill’s Gold Hunt||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|71||—||Buffalo Bill’s Daring Dash||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|72||—||Buffalo Bill on Hand||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|73||—||Buffalo Bill’s Alliance||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|74||—||Buffalo Bill’s Relentless Foe||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|75||—||Buffalo Bill’s Midnight Ride||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|76||—||Buffalo Bill’s Chivalry||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|77||—||Buffalo Bill’s Girl Pard||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|78||—||Buffalo Bill’s Private War||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|79||—||Buffalo Bill’s Diamond Mine||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|80||—||Buffalo Bill’s Big Contract||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|81||—||Buffalo Bill’s Woman Foe||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|82||—||Buffalo Bill’s Ruse||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|83||—||Buffalo Bill’s Pursuit||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|84||—||Buffalo Bill’s Hidden Gold||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|85||—||Buffalo Bill in Mid-air||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|86||—||Buffalo Bill’s Queer Mission||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|87||—||Buffalo Bill’s Verdict||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|88||—||Buffalo Bill’s Ordeal||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|89||—||Buffalo Bill’s Camp Fires||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|90||—||Buffalo Bill’s Iron Nerve||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|91||—||Buffalo Bill’s Rival||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|92||—||Buffalo Bill’s Lone Hand||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|93||—||Buffalo Bill’s Sacrifice||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|94||—||Buffalo Bill’s Thunderbolt||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|95||—||Buffalo Bill’s Black Fortune||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|96||—||Buffalo Bill’s Wild Work||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|97||—||Buffalo Bill’s Yellow Trail||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|98||—||Buffalo Bill’s Treasure Train||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|99||—||Buffalo Bill’s Bowie Duel||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|100||—||Buffalo Bill’s Mystery Man||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|101||—||Buffalo Bill’s Bold Play||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|102||—||Buffalo Bill: Peacemaker||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|103||—||Buffalo Bill’s Big Surprise||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|104||—||Buffalo Bill’s Barricade||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|105||—||Buffalo Bill’s Test||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|106||—||Buffalo Bill’s Powwow||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|107||—||Buffalo Bill’s Stern Justice||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|108||—||Buffalo Bill’s Mysterious Friend||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|109||—||Buffalo Bill and the Boomers||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|110||—||Buffalo Bill’s Panther Fight||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|111||—||Buffalo Bill and the Overland Mail||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|112||—||Buffalo Bill on the Deadwood Trail||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|113||—||Buffalo Bill in Apache Land||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|114||—||Buffalo Bill’s Blindfold Duel||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|115||—||Buffalo Bill and the Lone Camper||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|116||—||Buffalo Bill’s Merry War||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|117||—||Buffalo Bill’s Star Play||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|118||—||Buffalo Bill’s War Cry||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|119||—||Buffalo Bill on Black Panther’s Trail||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|120||—||Buffalo Bill’s Slim Chance||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|121||—||Buffalo Bill Besieged||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|122||—||Buffalo Bill’s Bandit Round-up||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|123||—||Buffalo Bill’s Surprise Party||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|124||—||Buffalo Bill’s Lightning Raid||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|125||—||Buffalo Bill in Mexico||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|126||—||Buffalo Bill’s Traitor Foe||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|127||—||Buffalo Bill’s Tireless Chase||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|128||—||Buffalo Bill’s Boy Bugler||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|129||—||Buffalo Bill’s Sure Guess||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|130||—||Buffalo Bill’s Record Jump||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|131||—||Buffalo Bill in the Land of Dread||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|132||—||Buffalo Bill’s Tangled Clue||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|133||—||Buffalo Bill’s Wolf Skin||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|134||—||Buffalo Bill’s Twice Four Puzzle||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|135||—||Buffalo Bill and the Devil Bird||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|136||—||Buffalo Bill and the Indian’s Mascot||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|137||—||Buffalo Bill Entrapped||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|138||—||Buffalo Bill’s Totem Trail||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|139||—||Buffalo Bill at Fort Challis||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|140||—||Buffalo Bill’s Determination||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|141||—||Buffalo Bill’s Battle Axe||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|142||—||Buffalo Bill’s Game with Fate||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|143||—||Buffalo Bill’s Comanche Raid||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|144||—||Buffalo Bill’s Aerial Island||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|145||—||Buffalo Bill’s Lucky Shot||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|146||—||Buffalo Bill’s Sioux Friends||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|147||—||Buffalo Bill’s Supreme Test||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|148||—||Buffalo Bill’s Boldest Strike||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|149||—||Buffalo Bill and the Red Hand||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|150||—||Buffalo Bill’s Dance with Death||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|151||—||Buffalo Bill’s Running Fight||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|152||—||Buffalo Bill in Harness||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|153||—||Buffalo Bill Corralled||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|154||—||Buffalo Bill’s Waif of the West||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
NICK CARTER STORIES
New Magnet Library
PRICE, FIFTEEN CENTS
Not a Dull Book in This List
Nick Carter stands for an interesting detective story. The fact that the books in this line are so uniformly good is entirely due to the work of a specialist. The man who wrote these stories produced no other type of fiction. His mind was concentrated upon the creation of new plots and situations in which his hero emerged triumphantly from all sorts of trouble, and landed the criminal just where he should be—behind the bars.
The author of these stories knew more about writing detective stories than any other single person.
Following is a list of the best Nick Carter stories. They have been selected with extreme care, and we unhesitatingly recommend each of them as being fully as interesting as any detective story between cloth covers which sells at ten times the price.
If you do not know Nick Carter, buy a copy of any of the New Magnet Library books, and get acquainted. He will surprise and delight you.
ALL TITLES ALWAYS IN PRINT
|850||—||Wanted: A Clew||By Nicholas Carter|
|851||—||A Tangled Skein||By Nicholas Carter|
|852||—||The Bullion Mystery||By Nicholas Carter|
|853||—||The Man of Riddles||By Nicholas Carter|
|854||—||A Miscarriage of Justice||By Nicholas Carter|
|855||—||The Gloved Hand||By Nicholas Carter|
|856||—||Spoilers and the Spoils||By Nicholas Carter|
|857||—||The Deeper Game||By Nicholas Carter|
|858||—||Bolts from Blue Skies||By Nicholas Carter|
|859||—||Unseen Foes||By Nicholas Carter|
|860||—||Knaves in High Places||By Nicholas Carter|
|861||—||The Microbe of Crime||By Nicholas Carter|
|862||—||In the Toils of Fear||By Nicholas Carter|
|863||—||A Heritage of Trouble||By Nicholas Carter|
|864||—||Called to Account||By Nicholas Carter|
|865||—||The Just and the Unjust||By Nicholas Carter|
|866||—||Instinct at Fault||By Nicholas Carter|
|867||—||A Rogue Worth Trapping||By Nicholas Carter|
|868||—||A Rope of Slender Threads||By Nicholas Carter|
|869||—||The Last Call||By Nicholas Carter|
|870||—||The Spoils of Chance||By Nicholas Carter|
|871||—||A Struggle With Destiny||By Nicholas Carter|
|872||—||The Slave of Crime||By Nicholas Carter|
|873||—||The Crook’s Blind||By Nicholas Carter|
|874||—||A Rascal of Quality||By Nicholas Carter|
|875||—||With Shackles of Fire||By Nicholas Carter|
|876||—||The Man Who Changed Faces||By Nicholas Carter|
|877||—||The Fixed Alibi||By Nicholas Carter|
|878||—||Out With the Tide||By Nicholas Carter|
|879||—||The Soul Destroyers||By Nicholas Carter|
|880||—||The Wages of Rascality||By Nicholas Carter|
|881||—||Birds of Prey||By Nicholas Carter|
|882||—||When Destruction Threatens||By Nicholas Carter|
|883||—||The Keeper of Black Hounds||By Nicholas Carter|
|884||—||The Door of Doubt||By Nicholas Carter|
|885||—||The Wolf Within||By Nicholas Carter|
|886||—||A Perilous Parole||By Nicholas Carter|
|887||—||The Trail of the Fingerprints||By Nicholas Carter|
|888||—||Dodging the Law||By Nicholas Carter|
|889||—||A Crime in Paradise||By Nicholas Carter|
|890||—||On the Ragged Edge||By Nicholas Carter|
|891||—||The Red God of Tragedy||By Nicholas Carter|
|892||—||The Man Who Paid||By Nicholas Carter|
|893||—||The Blind Man’s Daughter||By Nicholas Carter|
|894||—||One Object in Life||By Nicholas Carter|
|895||—||As a Crook Sows||By Nicholas Carter|
|896||—||In Record Time||By Nicholas Carter|
|897||—||Held in Suspense||By Nicholas Carter|
|898||—||The $100,000 Kiss||By Nicholas Carter|
|899||—||Just One Slip||By Nicholas Carter|
|900||—||On a Million-dollar Trail||By Nicholas Carter|
|901||—||A Weird Treasure||By Nicholas Carter|
|902||—||The Middle Link||By Nicholas Carter|
|903||—||To the Ends of the Earth||By Nicholas Carter|
|904||—||When Honors Pall||By Nicholas Carter|
|905||—||The Yellow Brand||By Nicholas Carter|
|906||—||A New Serpent in Eden||By Nicholas Carter|
|907||—||When Brave Men Tremble||By Nicholas Carter|
|908||—||A Test of Courage||By Nicholas Carter|
|909||—||Where Peril Beckons||By Nicholas Carter|
|910||—||The Gargoni Girdle||By Nicholas Carter|
|911||—||Rascals & Co.||By Nicholas Carter|
|912||—||Too Late to Talk||By Nicholas Carter|
|913||—||Satan’s Apt Pupil||By Nicholas Carter|
|914||—||The Girl Prisoner||By Nicholas Carter|
|915||—||The Danger of Folly||By Nicholas Carter|
|916||—||One Shipwreck Too Many||By Nicholas Carter|
|917||—||Scourged by Fear||By Nicholas Carter|
|918||—||The Red Plague||By Nicholas Carter|
|919||—||Scoundrels Rampant||By Nicholas Carter|
|920||—||From Clew to Clew||By Nicholas Carter|
|921||—||When Rogues Conspire||By Nicholas Carter|
|922||—||Twelve in a Grave||By Nicholas Carter|
|923||—||The Great Opium Case||By Nicholas Carter|
|924||—||A Conspiracy of Rumors||By Nicholas Carter|
|925||—||A Klondike Claim||By Nicholas Carter|
|926||—||The Evil Formula||By Nicholas Carter|
|927||—||The Man of Many Faces||By Nicholas Carter|
|928||—||The Great Enigma||By Nicholas Carter|
|929||—||The Burden of Proof||By Nicholas Carter|
|930||—||The Stolen Brain||By Nicholas Carter|
|931||—||A Titled Counterfeiter||By Nicholas Carter|
|932||—||The Magic Necklace||By Nicholas Carter|
|933||—||’Round the World for a Quarter||By Nicholas Carter|
|934||—||Over the Edge of the World||By Nicholas Carter|
|935||—||In the Grip of Fate||By Nicholas Carter|
|936||—||The Case of Many Clews||By Nicholas Carter|
|937||—||The Sealed Door||By Nicholas Carter|
|938||—||Nick Carter and the Green Goods Men||By Nicholas Carter|
|939||—||The Man Without a Will||By Nicholas Carter|
|940||—||Tracked Across the Atlantic||By Nicholas Carter|
|941||—||A Clew From the Unknown||By Nicholas Carter|
|942||—||The Crime of a Countess||By Nicholas Carter|
|943||—||A Mixed Up Mess||By Nicholas Carter|
|944||—||The Great Money Order Swindle||By Nicholas Carter|
|945||—||The Adder’s Brood||By Nicholas Carter|
|946||—||A Wall Street Haul||By Nicholas Carter|
|947||—||For a Pawned Crown||By Nicholas Carter|
|948||—||Scaled Orders||By Nicholas Carter|
|949||—||The Hate That Kills||By Nicholas Carter|
|950||—||The American Marquis||By Nicholas Carter|
|951||—||The Needy Nine||By Nicholas Carter|
|952||—||Fighting Against Millions||By Nicholas Carter|
|953||—||Outlaws of the Blue||By Nicholas Carter|
|954||—||The Old Detective’s Pupil||By Nicholas Carter|
|955||—||Found in the Jungle||By Nicholas Carter|
|956||—||The Mysterious Mail Robbery||By Nicholas Carter|
|957||—||Broken Bars||By Nicholas Carter|
|958||—||A Fair Criminal||By Nicholas Carter|
|959||—||Won by Magic||By Nicholas Carter|
|960||—||The Piano Box Mystery||By Nicholas Carter|
|961||—||The Man They Held Back||By Nicholas Carter|
|962||—||A Millionaire Partner||By Nicholas Carter|
|963||—||A Pressing Peril||By Nicholas Carter|
|964||—||An Australian Klondyke||By Nicholas Carter|
|965||—||The Sultan’s Pearls||By Nicholas Carter|
|966||—||The Double Shuffle Club||By Nicholas Carter|
|967||—||Paying the Price||By Nicholas Carter|
|968||—||A Woman’s Hand||By Nicholas Carter|
|969||—||A Network of Crime||By Nicholas Carter|
|970||—||At Thompson’s Ranch||By Nicholas Carter|
|971||—||The Crossed Needles||By Nicholas Carter|
|972||—||The Diamond Mine Case||By Nicholas Carter|
|973||—||Blood Will Tell||By Nicholas Carter|
|974||—||An Accidental Password||By Nicholas Carter|
|975||—||The Crook’s Bauble||By Nicholas Carter|
|976||—||Two Plus Two||By Nicholas Carter|
|977||—||The Yellow Label||By Nicholas Carter|
|978||—||The Clever Celestial||By Nicholas Carter|
|979||—||The Amphitheater Plot||By Nicholas Carter|
|980||—||Gideon Drexel’s Millions||By Nicholas Carter|
|981||—||Death in Life||By Nicholas Carter|
|982||—||A Stolen Identity||By Nicholas Carter|
|983||—||Evidence by Telephone||By Nicholas Carter|
|984||—||The Twelve Tin Boxes||By Nicholas Carter|
|985||—||Clew Against Clew||By Nicholas Carter|
|986||—||Lady Velvet||By Nicholas Carter|
|987||—||Playing a Bold Game||By Nicholas Carter|
|988||—||A Dead Man’s Grip||By Nicholas Carter|
|989||—||Snarled Identities||By Nicholas Carter|
|990||—||A Deposit Vault Puzzle||By Nicholas Carter|
|991||—||The Crescent Brotherhood||By Nicholas Carter|
|992||—||The Stolen Pay Train||By Nicholas Carter|
|993||—||The Sea Fox||By Nicholas Carter|
|994||—||Wanted by Two Clients||By Nicholas Carter|
|995||—||The Van Alstine Case||By Nicholas Carter|
|996||—||Check No. 777||By Nicholas Carter|
|997||—||Partners in Peril||By Nicholas Carter|
|998||—||Nick Carter’s Clever Protégé||By Nicholas Carter|
|999||—||The Sign of the Crossed Knives||By Nicholas Carter|
|1000||—||The Man Who Vanished||By Nicholas Carter|
|1001||—||A Battle for the Right||By Nicholas Carter|
|1002||—||A Game of Craft||By Nicholas Carter|
|1003||—||Nick Carter’s Retainer||By Nicholas Carter|
|1004||—||Caught in the Toils||By Nicholas Carter|
|1005||—||A Broken Bond||By Nicholas Carter|
|1006||—||The Crime of the French Café||By Nicholas Carter|
|1007||—||The Man Who Stole Millions||By Nicholas Carter|
|1008||—||The Twelve Wise Men||By Nicholas Carter|
|1009||—||Hidden Foes||By Nicholas Carter|
|1010||—||A Gamblers’ Syndicate||By Nicholas Carter|
|1011||—||A Chance Discovery||By Nicholas Carter|
|1012||—||Among the Counterfeiters||By Nicholas Carter|
|1013||—||A Threefold Disappearance||By Nicholas Carter|
|1014||—||At Odds With Scotland Yard||By Nicholas Carter|
|1015||—||A Princess of Crime||By Nicholas Carter|
|1016||—||Found on the Beach||By Nicholas Carter|
|1017||—||A Spinner of Death||By Nicholas Carter|
|1018||—||The Detective’s Pretty Neighbor||By Nicholas Carter|
|1019||—||A Bogus Clew||By Nicholas Carter|
|1020||—||The Puzzle of Five Pistols||By Nicholas Carter|
|1021||—||The Secret of the Marble Mantel||By Nicholas Carter|
|1022||—||A Bite of an Apple||By Nicholas Carter|
|1023||—||A Triple Crime||By Nicholas Carter|
|1024||—||The Stolen Race Horse||By Nicholas Carter|
|1025||—||Wildfire||By Nicholas Carter|
|1026||—||A _Herald_ Personal||By Nicholas Carter|
|1027||—||The Finger of Suspicion||By Nicholas Carter|
|1028||—||The Crimson Clue||By Nicholas Carter|
|1029||—||Nick Carter Down East||By Nicholas Carter|
|1030||—||The Chain of Clues||By Nicholas Carter|
|1031||—||A Victim of Circumstances||By Nicholas Carter|
|1032||—||Brought to Bay||By Nicholas Carter|
|1033||—||The Dynamite Trap||By Nicholas Carter|
|1034||—||A Scrap of Black Lace||By Nicholas Carter|
|1035||—||The Woman of Evil||By Nicholas Carter|
|1036||—||A Legacy of Hate||By Nicholas Carter|
|1037||—||A Trusted Rogue||By Nicholas Carter|
|1038||—||Man Against Man||By Nicholas Carter|
|1039||—||The Demons of the Night||By Nicholas Carter|
|1040||—||The Brotherhood of Death||By Nicholas Carter|
|1041||—||At the Knife’s Point||By Nicholas Carter|
|1042||—||A Cry for Help||By Nicholas Carter|
|1043||—||A Stroke of Policy||By Nicholas Carter|
|1044||—||Hounded to Death||By Nicholas Carter|
|1045||—||A Bargain in Crime||By Nicholas Carter|
|1046||—||The Fatal Prescription||By Nicholas Carter|
|1047||—||The Man of Iron||By Nicholas Carter|
|1048||—||An Amazing Scoundrel||By Nicholas Carter|
|1049||—||The Chain of Evidence||By Nicholas Carter|
|1050||—||Paid with Death||By Nicholas Carter|
|1051||—||A Fight for a Throne||By Nicholas Carter|
|1052||—||The Woman of Steel||By Nicholas Carter|
|1053||—||The Seal of Death||By Nicholas Carter|
|1054||—||The Human Fiend||By Nicholas Carter|
|1055||—||A Desperate Chance||By Nicholas Carter|
|1056||—||A Chase in the Dark||By Nicholas Carter|
|1057||—||The Snare and the Game||By Nicholas Carter|
|1058||—||The Murray Hill Mystery||By Nicholas Carter|
|1059||—||Nick Carter’s Close Call||By Nicholas Carter|
|1060||—||The Missing Cotton King||By Nicholas Carter|
|1061||—||A Game of Plots||By Nicholas Carter|
|1062||—||The Prince of Liars||By Nicholas Carter|
|1063||—||The Man at the Window||By Nicholas Carter|
|1064||—||The Red League||By Nicholas Carter|
|1065||—||The Price of a Secret||By Nicholas Carter|
|1066||—||The Worst Case on Record||By Nicholas Carter|
|1067||—||From Peril to Peril||By Nicholas Carter|
|1068||—||The Seal of Silence||By Nicholas Carter|
|1069||—||Nick Carter’s Chinese Puzzle||By Nicholas Carter|
|1070||—||A Blackmailer’s Bluff||By Nicholas Carter|
|1071||—||Heard in the Dark||By Nicholas Carter|
|1072||—||A Checkmated Scoundrel||By Nicholas Carter|
|1073||—||The Cashier’s Secret||By Nicholas Carter|
|1074||—||Behind a Mask||By Nicholas Carter|
|1075||—||The Cloak of Guilt||By Nicholas Carter|
|1076||—||Two Villains in One||By Nicholas Carter|
|1077||—||The Hot Air Clue||By Nicholas Carter|
|1078||—||Run to Earth||By Nicholas Carter|
|1079||—||The Certified Check||By Nicholas Carter|
|1080||—||Weaving the Web||By Nicholas Carter|
|1081||—||Beyond Pursuit||By Nicholas Carter|
|1082||—||The Claws of the Tiger||By Nicholas Carter|
|1083||—||Driven From Cover||By Nicholas Carter|
|1084||—||A Deal in Diamonds||By Nicholas Carter|
|1085||—||The Wizard of the Cue||By Nicholas Carter|
|1086||—||A Race for Ten Thousand||By Nicholas Carter|
|1087||—||The Criminal Link||By Nicholas Carter|
|1088||—||The Red Signal||By Nicholas Carter|
|1089||—||The Secret Panel||By Nicholas Carter|
|1090||—||A Bonded Villain||By Nicholas Carter|
|1091||—||A Move in the Dark||By Nicholas Carter|
|1092||—||Against Desperate Odds||By Nicholas Carter|
|1093||—||The Telltale Photographs||By Nicholas Carter|
|1094||—||The Ruby Pin||By Nicholas Carter|
|1095||—||The Queen of Diamonds||By Nicholas Carter|
|1096||—||A Broken Trail||By Nicholas Carter|
|1097||—||An Ingenious Stratagem||By Nicholas Carter|
|1098||—||A Sharper’s Downfall||By Nicholas Carter|
|1099||—||A Race Track Gamble||By Nicholas Carter|
|1100||—||Without a Clew||By Nicholas Carter|
|1101||—||The Council of Death||By Nicholas Carter|
|1102||—||The Hole in the Vault||By Nicholas Carter|
|1103||—||In Death’s Grip||By Nicholas Carter|
|1104||—||A Great Conspiracy||By Nicholas Carter|
|1105||—||The Guilty Governor||By Nicholas Carter|
|1106||—||A Ring of Rascals||By Nicholas Carter|
|1107||—||A Masterpiece of Crime||By Nicholas Carter|
|1108||—||A Blow For Vengeance||By Nicholas Carter|
|1109||—||Tangled Threads||By Nicholas Carter|
|1110||—||The Crime of the Camera||By Nicholas Carter|
|1111||—||The Sign of the Dagger||By Nicholas Carter|
|1112||—||Nick Carter’s Promise||By Nicholas Carter|
|1113||—||Marked for Death||By Nicholas Carter|
|1114||—||The Limited Holdup||By Nicholas Carter|
|1115||—||When the Trap Was Sprung||By Nicholas Carter|
|1116||—||Through the Cellar Wall||By Nicholas Carter|
|1117||—||Under the Tiger’s Claws||By Nicholas Carter|
|1118||—||The Girl in the Case||By Nicholas Carter|
|1119||—||Behind a Throne||By Nicholas Carter|
|1120||—||The Lure of Gold||By Nicholas Carter|
|1121||—||Hand to Hand||By Nicholas Carter|
|1122||—||From a Prison Cell||By Nicholas Carter|
|1123||—||Dr. Quartz, Magician||By Nicholas Carter|
|1124||—||Into Nick Carter’s Web||By Nicholas Carter|
|1125||—||The Mystic Diagram||By Nicholas Carter|
|1126||—||The Hand That Won||By Nicholas Carter|
|1127||—||Playing a Lone Hand||By Nicholas Carter|
|1128||—||The Master Villain||By Nicholas Carter|
|1129||—||The False Claimant||By Nicholas Carter|
|1130||—||The Living Mask||By Nicholas Carter|
|1131||—||The Crime and the Motive||By Nicholas Carter|
|1132||—||A Mysterious Foe||By Nicholas Carter|
|1133||—||A Missing Man||By Nicholas Carter|
|1134||—||A Game Well Played||By Nicholas Carter|
In order that there may be no confusion, we desire to say that the books listed below will be issued during the respective months in New York City and vicinity. They may not reach the readers at a distance promptly, on account of delays in transportation.
To Be Published in July, 1924.
|1135||—||A Cigarette Clew||By Nicholas Carter|
|1136||—||The Diamond Trail||By Nicholas Carter|
|1137||—||The Silent Guardian||By Nicholas Carter|
To Be Published in August, 1924.
|1138||—||The Dead Stranger||By Nicholas Carter|
|1139||—||A Scientific Forger||By Nicholas Carter|
To Be Published in September, 1924.
|1140||—||The Doctor’s Stratagem||By Nicholas Carter|
|1141||—||Following a Chance Clew||By Nicholas Carter|
To Be Published in October, 1924.
|1142||—||The Bank Draft Puzzle||By Nicholas Carter|
|1143||—||The Price of Treachery||By Nicholas Carter|
To Be Published in November, 1924.
|1144||—||The Silent Partner||By Nicholas Carter|
|1145||—||Ahead of the Game||By Nicholas Carter|
To Be Published in December, 1924.
|1146||—||A Trap of Tangled Wire||By Nicholas Carter|
|1147||—||In the Gloom of Night||By Nicholas Carter|
who keeps a good line of the STREET & SMITH NOVELS is progressive.
The STREET & SMITH NOVELS represent the favorite reading matter of ten million Americans. They are up-to-date, attractive in contents, and are greater value for the money than can be purchased anywhere else.
A few of the authors whose copyrighted works we publish exclusively are—
E. D. E. N. Southworth
Bertha M. Clay
Burt L. Standish
Effie Adelaide Rowlands
You can readily see from this list why the STREET & SMITH NOVELS are popular.
Price 15 Cents
STREET & SMITH CORPORATION
79 Seventh Avenue :: :: New York City
All classes of fiction are to be found among the Street & Smith novels. Our line contains reading matter for every one, irrespective of age or preference.
The person who has only a moderate sum to spend on reading matter will find this line a veritable gold mine.
STREET & SMITH CORPORATION,
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New York, N. Y.