Buffalo Bill’s Girl Pard
DAUNTLESS DELL’S DARING
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’s Girl Pard
(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.||A DASTARDLY PLOT.||5|
|III.||A QUEER CASE.||25|
|IV.||AT THE “EL RIO.”||38|
|V.||LITTLE CAYUSE ON THE WAR-PATH.||51|
|VI.||THE OLD SHAFT.||63|
|IX.||WORSTING THE RED THIEVES.||90|
|X.||THE WINNING HAND.||103|
|XI.||DELL, OF THE “DOUBLE D.”||109|
|XIII.||THE NOTE AND THE ARROW.||128|
|XIV.||THE SCOUT’S LETTER.||135|
|XV.||LITTLE CAYUSE CAUGHT.||153|
|XVI.||THE RESCUE OF CAYUSE.||160|
|XVII.||BANKS AND HENDRICKS.||173|
|XIX.||SENDING AWAY THE BUCKBOARD.||200|
|XXI.||MESSENGERS TO BONITA.||218|
|XXII.||“’PACHES ARE UP!”||224|
|XXIII.||BUFFALO BILL’S VOW.||243|
|XXIV.||OFF FOR TONIO PASS.||256|
|XXVIII.||THE CAVE NEAR THE PASS.||293|
|XXIX.||PARTING WITH THE GIRL PARD.||306|
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 rôle 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 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 Lome, 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’S GIRL PARD.
A DASTARDLY PLOT.
Nate Bernritter, or “Bern,” as he was usually called when not referred to as “the old man,” was in an unpleasant frame of mind.
He was superintendent in charge of the mining, milling and cyaniding at the Three-ply Gold-mine, but the cares of his official position could not wholly have accounted for the perplexed frown on his brow, the hunted look in his eyes, or the fierce, spasmodic clenching and unclenching of his big, brown hands.
Pacing the narrow confines of his office and chewing savagely on an unlighted cigar, he muttered to himself, over and over again, his voice a husky and hopeless whisper:
“We’re at the end of our rope; McGowan has taken the one step that will put the kibosh on us. Had we better duck out of here between two days and get across the Mexican border, or stay and try and brazen the matter out?”
He stopped before a window. Leaning against the wall, he looked out dejectedly.
The “plant” of the Three-ply lay below him, in the bottom of the scarred and blistered valley.
Off to the right was the bunk-house and chuck-shanty. Several rods below the bunk-house was the ten-stamp mill, throbbing with the roar of the great stamps pounding out the gold. To the left of the mill were rows of big wooden tanks, where the mill “tailings” were treated with cyanid of potassium; and to the left of the tanks again, was the little adobe laboratory where the man—Jacobs by name—who had charge of the cyaniding, made his tests and did the assaying, refined mill, and cyanid bullion, and ran it into molds.
Teamsters were hauling ore to the mill, miners were coming and going between the shaft-house and the blacksmith-shop, Mexicans were hovering over the tops of the cyanid-tanks, dumping into them wheelbarrow-loads of “tailings,” and everywhere was a scene of the utmost activity.
Bernritter’s moody eyes took no account of all the bustle and energy which spelled success for the Three-ply plant and owner, Patrick McGowan. Bernritter’s unofficial affairs were in a tangle, and his everlasting ruin seemed imminent.
When men betray an employer’s trust and do evil and dishonest things, they must expect to have an uneasy conscience. But it was more than an uneasy conscience that troubled Bernritter: His fears told him that he was face to face with exposure and punishment, unless he made some move for his own safety.
As he stared absently through the window, a buxom girl of twenty strolled into his range of vision. Her sleeves were rolled up, she wore an apron, and her course was taking her from the laboratory by the tanks toward the chuck-shanty.
It was not the girl, however, who claimed Bernritter’s attention, but a man—likewise a German—who was walking beside her and awkwardly playing the gallant.
The man was a comical specimen for a lover. He looked like a fall pippin balanced on a couple of toothpicks. An “Old Country” cap rested on the back of his head, there was a long pipe in his teeth, and he wore a California poppy in his buttonhole.
As he walked, he tried to take the girl’s hand, and more than once attempted to put his arm about her ample waist. The girl, laughing the while, slapped her suitor’s face and, finally, knocked the pipe out of his mouth.
There was humor in the situation, had Bernritter been in a mood to see it. But he was not. From the herr and the fraulein the super’s eyes wandered to the laboratory, near which was secured a horse, saddled, bridled, and with saddle-bags in place.
The horse was fresh from the corral. Bernritter knew it belonged to the Dutchman, and that the Dutchman was about to leave camp, and was taking his farewell of Frieda.
A glimmer shot into the super’s eye as a treacherous plan formed itself in his brain. Alert and resourceful at once, he stepped to the office door, called a passing Mexican, and told him to send Jacobs to the office immediately.
When Jacobs—a slender man with a hint of Jewish origin in his face—entered the office, a moment later, he found Bernritter smoking his cigar and sitting in front of his desk.
“You sent for me?” queried Jacobs, with an odd, furtive glance of the eyes.
“I did, Jacobs,” answered Bernritter. “Shut the door, pull a chair close up, and sit down.”
Jacobs, plainly nervous, obeyed the super’s orders.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“You know, I suppose, that McGowan is determined to find out what becomes of the bullion he has been losing.”
“It is but natural,” returned Jacobs, drumming on the chair-arms with his fingers.
Significant glances passed between himself and Bernritter.
“You’re running out a bar of cyanid bullion this , aren’t you?” queried Bernritter.
“Yes,” answered Jacobs, wondering why the super had so abruptly mentioned the cyanid bullion.
“Is the bar out of the mold? Is it cool enough to handle?”
“It is. Why?”
“I’ll tell you in a moment. Just now there is a bit of quick work for you to do. I am expecting McGowan back from Phœnix at any moment, and I am expecting that Dutchman, who has been in camp for the last few days, to pull out as soon as he can break away from Frieda. What I want you to do, Jacobs, is to take that bar of cyanid bullion and put it in the Dutchman’s saddle-bags!”
Jacobs sprang up excitedly.
“Why——” he began, but was impatiently interrupted by Bernritter.
“Put the bar of bullion in the saddle-bags, and don’t let any one see you. Then come back here and I’ll explain.”
Jacobs’ face was now reflecting some of the alarm and fear which had been shown in the super’s. He hesitated a moment, then turned, left the office, and hastened back to the laboratory.
He was back in less than five minutes.
“It is done, Bern,” he announced, in a low voice.
Bernritter looked toward the chuck-shanty. The Dutchman, all unsuspicious of the treachery just done him, was still talking with Frieda at the chuck-shanty door.
Bernritter drew a long breath of relief.
“Do you know why McGowan went to Phœnix, Jacobs?” he asked.
“Well, the man called Buffalo Bill is in Phœnix. Buffalo Bill is an Indian-fighter. McGowan suspects that an organized gang of Apaches, in some manner, is looting the Three-ply of its bullion. He is going to ask Buffalo Bill to help him locate the red thieves, and capture them.”
“But this Buffalo Bill is employed by the government,” said Jacobs, his brown face growing pale. “He would not leave his government work to help McGowan on a job that manifestly belongs to the sheriff of the county.”
“You can’t tell, any more than I can, what Buffalo Bill will do!” said Bernritter sharply. “The governor is a friend of McGowan’s, and Buffalo Bill is a friend of the governor’s. If the governor asks Buffalo Bill to do this for McGowan, the chances are that Buffalo Bill will get on the job. If he does——”
Bernritter ground his teeth.
“What—if he does?” came from Jacobs.
“It’s all day with you and me, Jacobs,” finished Bernritter; “we should have to make a getaway at once, and get over into Sonora. I don’t want to leave here until we make our big clean-up. Then we can clear out with plenty of gold.”
Jacobs fell back in his chair and breathed hard.
“What about the Dutchman?” he asked.
“His name is Schnitzenhauser, isn’t it?”
“Something like that.”
Bernritter took another look through the window. The Dutchman, whistling blithely, had left the chuck-shanty. Every once in a while he would turn around to wave his cap and throw a kiss to the plump-faced Frieda, who stood in the door.
Bernritter watched until Schnitzenhauser reached his horse, untied the animal from the post, and climbed into the saddle. Frieda, by that time, had vanished from the door.
“There he goes,” muttered Bernritter. “Jacobs, we must plan to get the Dutchman suspected! That will carry suspicions away from us—at least, until the redskins help us make our big clean-up. Then we’ll pull out with all the gold our horses can carry.”
“A good plan,” returned Jacobs, casting a wary, guilty glance around the office. “But how is it to be done?”
“Listen,” said Bernritter, leaning close to his confederate and sinking his voice to a whisper.
With their heads together, the two scoundrels plotted together for several minutes; then, hearing a heavy step on the walk outside the door, they drew apart suddenly.
“How are ye, lads?” cried the newcomer heartily, dropping into a chair. “Just in from Phœnix, and just sent my horse to the corral. How’s everything been going at the mine since I left?”
“All right, McGowan,” answered Bernritter. “Jacobs just came to report that he has a five-pound bar from the cyanid clean-up.”
“Well, for Heaven’s sake, Jacobs, take care of it,” said McGowan.
“I’ll try to, sir,” smiled Jacobs, masking as well as he could the evil in his heart.
He left immediately.
“What luck in Phœnix, McGowan?” asked the super, with great show of interest.
“No luck at all, at all,” grumbled McGowan. “Buffalo Bill won’t help us. He says it’s a job for the sheriff, and that he has other fish to fry.”
Although secretly delighted, Bernritter’s face contrived to express disappointment.
“Did you go to the sheriff?” he asked.
“Fiend take the sheriff!” growled McGowan. “Hasn’t he been out here and tried? What did he accomplish? Not a thing! The sheriff’s no good. If he attempts——”
The door was abruptly hurled open, and Jacobs showed himself. He looked wild and excited.
“The bullion!” he gasped; “the bar——” He could hardly talk, and gripped at the edge of the super’s desk to hold himself upright.
“What’s the matter?” demanded the super.
“Speak out!” cried McGowan. “This ain’t a time to hang fire. What’s the matter with the bullion?”
“It’s gone!” groaned Jacobs, dropping down in a chair beside the desk.
The superintendent and the cyanid expert were playing a game and playing it well.
“Gone!” shouted McGowan. “You don’t mean to tell me that some more of my good bullion has been lifted?”
“It—it was in the laboratory,” answered Jacobs, “and—and it isn’t there now.”
“By the powers! Bernritter, what do you think of this?”
McGowan whirled on the super.
“Why didn’t you take care of that bullion, Jacobs?” demanded Bernritter.
“I did take care of it. I had just turned the bar out of the mold when you sent for me. I cooled it off and put it in the safe. When I went back to the laboratory, just now, the safe was open and the bar had disappeared.”
“It must have been some of the greasers who are filling the tanks,” hazarded McGowan.
“It couldn’t have been,” protested Jacobs. “The foreman told me, not more than a minute ago, that not one of them had left the work. They were all under his eyes.”
“It may have been the foreman himself,” suggested Bernritter.
“What!” scoffed McGowan; “Andy O’Connell? Not on your life! I’d stake all I’ve got on Andy, Jacobs,” and McGowan’s eyes glittered as he wheeled on the cyanid expert, “it’s up to you to explain this.”
“Do you think for a minute,” cried Jacobs, “that I’d——”
“I said it is up to you to explain. What I think hasn’t anything to do with it. Did you turn off the combination of the safe when you left the laboratory?”
“I—I think not,” was the hesitating response.
“Fact is, McGowan,” put in Bernritter, “I sent for Jacobs in a hurry. I was figuring out the returns of the cyanid-plant, and I needed the weight and fineness of that bar to complete my figures.”
“That’s no excuse,” stormed McGowan. “Jacobs should have turned the knob on that bar before ever he left the office.”
Bernritter gave a jump, as though an idea had just flickered through his brain.
“Well?” demanded McGowan.
“That Dutchman! He had hitched his horse down by the laboratory, and he was up at the kitchen with Frieda when Jacobs came here. While Jacobs and I were talking, he went down to the laboratory and rode away. Perhaps——”
“That Dutchman seemed honest enough to me,” demurred McGowan. “He has been hanging out here for several days, but we began to miss gold long before he came.”
“At the mill, yes,” said Bernritter, “but this is the first bullion that has gotten away from the cyanid-plant.”
“Well, I don’t believe that Dutchman had anything to do with it.”
“He was snooping around the laboratory all day yesterday,” spoke up Jacobs.
“Getting the lay of things, I’ll bet something handsome,” averred Bernritter. “Did he ask you anything about the cyanid clean-up, Jacobs?”
“Come to think of it,” answered Jacobs, “I believe he did.”
“I thought he was too much interested in Frieda to pay attention to any one, or anything, else around this camp,” remarked McGowan.
“More than likely,” suggested the super, “his fancy for Frieda was only a blind. It’s possible that he has had an eye on the cyanid bullion ever since he struck the Three-ply.”
“Faith,” said McGowan, “I can size a man up pretty well, and if that Dutchman is crooked I’ll be a mightily surprised man.”
“You say, Mr. McGowan,” said Jacobs, “that it is up to me to explain. Well, if that Dutchman doesn’t know anything about the bar, I can’t explain. In justice to me, sir, you ought to overhaul him on the trail, and find out whether he knows anything about the gold.”
McGowan was thoughtful for a moment.
“There’s reason in that, Jacobs,” he answered. “I’ll wrong no man, if I can help it, with unjust suspicions; but, as between you and the Dutchman, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Go to the corral and get three horses.”
A gleam of triumph darted into Bernritter’s eye, and was telegraphed to Jacobs, as the latter left the office.
McGowan stepped to the door and made a trumpet of his hands.
“Frieda!” he shouted.
The girl appeared in the door of the chuck-shanty, and McGowan motioned for her to come to the office.
An order from the “boss” was to be obeyed instantly, at all times, and Frieda hurried across the intervening stretch and came breathlessly into the room where the two men were sitting.
“Vat id iss, Misder McGowan?” asked Frieda.
“I’d like to have you tell me what you know about the Dutchman, Schnitzenhauser, who seems to have been tied to your apron-strings during the last few days?”
“Ach, he iss a fine chentleman, I bed you!” declared Frieda.
“I presume so,” said McGowan dryly. “Bedad, it looks like he’d made something of an impression on you.”
“Impression, iss id? Vell, meppy; only I don’d tell him dot.”
Frieda blushed, and snickered, and then grew very much confused, dropped her eyes, and pulled the edge of her apron through her plump fingers.
“Where did he come from?” asked McGowan.
“He say dot he come from Yuma,” was the stifled response.
“Yuma!” muttered Bernritter. “Why, they have a penitentiary at Yuma. Possibly the Dutchman broke away from there and——”
Frieda lifted her head quick enough, at that. Her eyes snapped, and she stamped her foot.
“You t’ink he vas a chailpird, huh?” she cried fiercely. “Vell, you haf some more t’inks coming. He iss a chentleman, I tell you.”
“His full name is——” began McGowan, then stopped inquiringly.
“Villum von Schnitzenhauser,” , throwing back her shoulders proudly, “und he iss a baron ven he iss at home in der Faterland.” She folded her arms. “Now, I bed you,” she said, with an angry flash at the super, “you von’t say dot he iss some chailpirds! A baron! Ha! Baron von Schnitzenhauser, und a pedder man as you, Nade Pernritter.”
“Baron!” sneered the super. “Bosh! That makes me think more than ever that he’s crooked.” He turned to McGowan. “The Dutchman wouldn’t tell the girl such a yarn as that if he was straight.”
“Look, vonce,” cried Frieda. “He von py his pravery der orter oof der Plack Eagle, und he showed id to me. So!”
“Probably his order of the Black Eagle was a tin tobacco-tag,” came sarcastically from the super. “Frieda wouldn’t know the difference.”
“Iss dot so?” returned Frieda scornfully. “I don’d vas so pig a fool as I look, den. No man can fool me, und you can’t fool me, neider. I vill tell you someding else.”
“What?” asked McGowan.
“Der baron iss a pard oof Buffalo Pill’s!”
The girl’s pride grew to towering dimensions when she said this. Her chin went up in the air and her blue eyes gleamed like a pair of diamonds.
Bernritter looked startled, for a moment, then smiled disdainfully.
“Another yarn, McGowan,” said he.
“He say dot he stop in dis camp shust pecause oof me,” blushed Frieda, “und he don’d tell nopody else der segret oof his being pards mit Puffalo Pill.”
At that moment Jacobs arrived with the horses.
“That will do, Frieda,” said McGowan. “I hope, for your sake, that the Dutchman is all he represented himself to be.”
McGowan and Bernritter went out and climbed into their waiting saddles.
“Which way did the fellow go, I wonder?” muttered the super.
“He took the Phœnix trail,” said McGowan. “I passed him on the road.”
The three horses were put to the gallop and the mine-owner and his assistants dashed out of the camp.
Frieda watched them until they disappeared, and then went back to the chuck-shanty with something like alarm in her eyes.
“Dere iss somet’ing oop,” she murmured, “und I hope dot nodding goes wrong mit Villum.”
The plot was thickening, however, and “Villum” was booked for considerable trouble.
The reader, perhaps, will have recognized the baron from the description of him already given, and will know at once that he told Frieda the truth when he said he was a pard of Buffalo Bill’s.
The baron had been sojourning at Yuma—not in the penitentiary, as Bernritter insinuated—but in one of the town’s best hotels.
He had received a telegram saying that the scout would be in Phœnix at a certain time, and he had started for Phœnix. After several days of leisurely travel, halting betimes at ranches and settlements, Fate directed the German to the Three-ply Mine.
It was the baron’s intention to halt at the Three-ply merely long enough to water his horse and himself, and inquire his most direct road to his destination. But Frieda came out to give him his directions, and the baron’s heart began to pound like a trip-hammer.
Instead of asking which way he ought to go, the baron inquired if he could stay in the camp for a day or two, paying good money for his accommodation. Frau Schlagel, Frieda’s mother, kept all such money as her own perquisite, and the doughty baron was made welcome.
He stayed four days, and hung about the chuck-shanty nearly the entire time.
At any rate, the baron went off whistling “Die Wacht am Rhein,” and so pleased was he with himself, and so wrapped up in his future prospects, that he did not notice the unusual sagging of one of his saddle-bags.
The baron rode slowly. He wanted to commune with himself, and a slow pace made it easier—likewise it made it easier for McGowan, Bernritter, and Jacobs to catch up with him.
“I vill meed Puffalo Pill in Phœnix,” thought the baron, “und I vill tell him how id vas. I haf peen a flying Dutchman long enough, und if Frieda vill haf me for vorse or pedder, den I vill kevit dis roaming pitzness und seddle down. I vill ged a leedle golt-mine somevere und dig goldt for a lifing, und Frieda vill take care oof der house for me, und eferyt’ing vill be schust so fine as I can’t tell. Py shinks, but I’m a lucky Dutchman!”
Just then the baron heard some one yelling at him from behind. He drew rein, and turned in his saddle.
“Himmelplitzen!” he muttered. “Dose fellers haf come from der Dree-ply Mine. Vone iss McGowan, who iss a pooty goot feller; und dere iss der suberintendent, who iss not so goot a feller, und Chacops, who iss vorse. Vat iss id dey vant oof me?”
While the baron sat his horse and waited, he had a foolish thought that made his heart skip a couple of beats.
“Vat oof Frieda has sent dem afder me to say dot she vill haf me, afder all?” the baron fondly asked himself. “Dot’s id, I ped you! Ach, py shimineddy, vat a luck id iss! Oof dere is anypody any blace any habbier dan vat I am, den I don’d know where!”
McGowan, Bernritter, and Jacobs came alongside the baron, and stood their horses in a triangle around him. Bernritter and Jacobs had each a hand pushed suggestively under his coat, but the baron was feeling so good with himself that he did not notice these ominous movements.
“How you vas, chentlemen?” cried the baron. “Vy you shace afder me like dot, hey? Meppy,” and here he gave a good-natured laugh, “you t’ink I chumped my poard-pill?”
“No,” said McGowan, “we don’t think you jumped your board-bill.”
“Meppy you t’ink I shtole someding?” went on the baron, shaking with mirth.
McGowan cast a startled look at Bernritter and Jacobs. That word “stole” was an unfortunate thing for the baron.
“Well,” said McGowan shortly, “did you?”
“Yah,” haw-hawed the baron, “you bed you I shtole someding. I shtole der heart oof dot pooty leedle Frieda, und I don’d gif id pack, neider.”
“Did you take anything else?” went on McGowan, his eye on the overweighted saddle-bag.
“Vell,” jested the baron, “I took my departure. Dot’s aboudt all.”
“What’s the matter with that saddle-bag of yours?”
The baron looked down at the bag.
“Py shinks,” he exclaimed, “id looks heafy, don’d id? I didn’t haf nodding heavy like dot in id. Der frau must haf put in a loaf oof pread ven I vasn’t looking. Vell, oof she dit, id’s my pread, anyvay. Dit you pring me some messaches from Frieda, Misder McGowan?”
“Und you don’d vant to dell me someding?”
“Den vy der tickens you shtop me like dot? Clear oudt oof der vay und I vill rite on.”
The baron had had time, by now, to observe the peculiar actions of the men from the Three-ply. As he finished speaking he tried to spur his horse ahead.
Jacobs, however, blocked the forward movement by grabbing the bit-rings of the baron’s horse.
“You vill ged me madt in a minid,” said the baron. “Led go oof dot horse, or I vill gif you a piece oof my mind mit my fist. I don’d like dot ugly face oof yours, Chacops, und I vill put some marks all ofer id oof you don’t ged avay.”
The baron hauled back his right arm. Another moment and he found Bernritter glaring at him over the muzzle of a revolver.
“No rough-house work, Dutchy,” said Bernritter.
The baron was taken aback. But only for as long as it takes to bat an eye.
“Two can play at dot game!” he cried, and dropped his hand toward his belt.
“Do you want me to shoot?” snarled Bernritter.
“Easy, there, Schnitzenhauser,” spoke up McGowan; “I’ll have no shooting or rough work, but I want to see what you have in your saddle-bag.”
After the way the three men had come at him, the baron would not have shown the inside of his saddle-bags for a farm.
“I do vat I blease mit vat’s mine!” he shouted. “You attend to my pitzness altogedder too mooch to suidt me, und dot’s all aboudt id. I’m der pard oof Puffalo Pill, undt olt Nick Nomat, und dis iss a free gountry, und I’ll do vat I vant, und nodding more.”
The baron, justly indignant, was only making matters worse for himself by refusing to reveal the contents of the bag.
Suddenly something happened. The baron was the cause of it. His fist shot out—not at Jacobs, but at the wrist of Bernritter’s pistol-hand.
The six-shooter was jarred from the super’s fingers into the dust of the trail.
Before Bernritter had recovered from the daze caused by the baron’s first blow, the baron’s knuckles fell a second time—now on the super’s left ear.
Bernritter was knocked off his horse as clean as though he had been dropped by a rifle-bullet.
With the second blow, the baron jabbed the irons into his horse. The animal gave a mad leap forward, directly against Jacobs’ horse.
The collision was tremendous.
Jacobs’ horse went to the knees, and Jacobs himself turned a half-somersault out of his saddle, landing on his head and shoulders, heels in the air.
This was doing pretty well for the baron. He might have got away from the Three-ply men if McGowan hadn’t taken a hand in the set-to. Reaching out swiftly, the mine-owner twined his hands in the baron’s collar and dragged him off his horse; then, falling on him where he lay on the ground, McGowan held the luckless Dutchman in that position.
“Look into the saddle-bag, Bern,” cried McGowan.
The super, whose head was still ringing from the effects of the blow on the ear, had regained his feet and was saying things.
Watched by McGowan, he unbuckled the straps of the saddle-bag, pushed in his hand, and drew out—the bar of yellow bullion.
“Ah!” cried McGowan, his voice like the snap of a whip, “the fellow’s a scoundrel, after all!”
“You might have known that, McGowan,” scowled Bernritter, “from the fight he put up to keep us from looking into the saddle-bag.”
“A rope, Jacobs!” ordered McGowan. “Bedad, we’re headed for Phœnix, and we’ll keep right on to the town and land this thief in the lock-up.”
The baron, dazed by the sight of the yellow bar, was unable to say a word. He did not protest, or disavow any evil intentions, for he was so dumfounded he could not speak. His silence, of course, looked like a tacit confession of guilt.
The whole cut-and-dried affair had worked out to the baron’s disadvantage and to the benefit of the scheming scoundrels, Bernritter and Jacobs.
They had shifted the responsibility of the theft of the cyanid bullion to the Dutchman: And might not McGowan think that he was in league with the red bullion thieves who were believed to be back of the other thefts of bullion?
The sharpest criminals are short-sighted as to one or two details, in even their cleverest trickery. Bernritter had overlooked the fact that possibly the Dutchman might be a pard of Buffalo Bill’s; and, if this should prove to be the case, then nothing could keep Buffalo Bill from getting into the game.
The baron, properly roped, was tied to his horse and led on across the desert in the direction of Phœnix.
He was still silent, but he was doing a lot of thinking.
“What’s ther feller’s name, Buffler?”
“Sounds like er bit o’ th’ brogue.”
“Not much of the brogue about McGowan. He’s Irish, all right, but not so you could notice it. A fine man, take him by and large, Nick, but he ran out the wrong trail when he came to me.”
“What fer sort of a trail was et, Buffler?”
“Going it blind on a hunt for red bullion thieves.”
“Waugh! Sounds kinder good ter me.”
“But it’s sheriff’s work, Nick; plain sleuthing, and nothing in sight for a strong arm. The sheriff gets paid for doing that sort of thing in this county.”
“But reds! From ther way yer mouth went off, Buffler, I opined an Injun er two was tangled up in this hyar bag o’ tricks.”
“McGowan has had three dreams to that effect and stands ready to bet his life that redskins are helping to do him out of his bullion.”
The king of scouts laughed. Dreams and omens, when taken seriously, always struck at the comical side of his matter-of-fact mind.
He and his trapper pard were lounging out the afternoon on the veranda of their hotel, in Phœnix. They were just in from a trying piece of work at Gray Buzzard’s Gulch, and were taking the two or three days of rest which they felt themselves entitled to.
The scout had had his interview with McGowan in the early morning, and immediately afterward the disappointed mine-owner had left for his home camp.
When Buffalo Bill mentioned “dreams,” old Nomad proceeded to take a consuming interest in McGowan’s business. The trapper believed in dreams, and in evil spirits which he called “whiskizoos,” and he was ready to bet his scalp that there were such things as spooks.
The scout’s reference to dreams likewise aroused the deep interest of another of his pards, who had been squatting on the veranda floor at a little distance, nodding in the warm sun.
This was the Piute boy, Little Cayuse.
Getting up from his sitting posture, Cayuse crossed the veranda and settled down nearer the scout’s chair, where he would not miss a word of whatever else might be said.
Buffalo Bill passed his eyes from Cayuse to Nomad and gave a grim smile.
“It’s a queer case,” said he.
“Tell us erbout et, Buffler,” said Nomad.
“I’m not intending to mix up in it, mind you. We are going from here direct to Fort Apache, and report for duty to the colonel commanding.”
“Waal, tell us erbout McGowan an’ his dreams, anyways.”
“It’s this way, pards,” went on the scout, lighting a fresh cigar and tilting back comfortably against the wall behind him. “Patrick McGowan owns the Three-ply Mine, mill, and cyanid-plant, over in the Phœnix mountains.” The scout waved one hand toward the distant blue uplifts, visible from the veranda. “For a long time, now, McGowan has been losing gold. The ore, just before it is fed to the stamps, assays one hundred dollars to the ton; when the tailings come off the mill-plates they assay six dollars to the ton. That leaves a difference of ninety-four dollars a ton which McGowan’s plates ought to catch for him; but they don’t. His mill clean-ups bring in an average of only forty-four dollars a ton. The question is, what becomes of the remaining fifty dollars a ton? It’s a conundrum that’s bothering the life out of McGowan.
“They put through ten tons of ore every twenty-four hours at the Three-ply. That means that McGowan is losing five hundred dollars a day in some mysterious manner. And this has now been going on for two weeks, causing him a loss of seven thousand dollars, so far.”
“Some of his millmen aire workin’ er hocus-pocus on him,” suggested Nomad.
“McGowan swears that his millmen are straight. He has camped in the mill night and day and is ready to make oath that there’s nothing crooked in the mill.”
“Whar do ther dreams come in?”
“Well,” and the scout smiled incredulously as he spoke, “McGowan says that he dreamed, one night, he saw an Apache crawling among the cyanid-tanks. When the Apache came out into the moonlight he held up something that looked to McGowan like a bar of bullion. The next moment the Apache was whiffed out among the shadows. McGowan dreamed the same thing the next night, and the night after that. And for this reason,” laughed the scout, “McGowan believes that thieving redskins are mixed up in the thieving.”
“Waugh!” grunted Nomad. “Et sounds reasonable.”
“Bosh!” said the scout.
“Go out and dip in,” advised the scout. “When you get through, come on to Fort Apache. You’ll find me there, if I’m not away on business.”
Nomad looked startled.
“Nary, pard,” said he, with emphasis. “Ye don’t find me tanglin’ up with any job in which Buffler ain’t consarned.”
“Then,” returned the scout, “this bunch of warriors will hike for Fort Apache about dew-fall.”
“Ain’t ye goin’ ter wait fer ther baron ter show up?”
“The baron has had three days to show up. Evidently he has taken a cross-trail of some kind, and we’re not going to wait for him. If we should happen to——”
“Beg yer pardon, Buffalo Bill, but I’d like a word with ye.”
The scout dropped his chair down on the veranda with a thump, and looked around.
Hawkins, a deputy sheriff, had come out on the veranda and was walking in the scout’s direction.
“Howdy, Hawkins,” said the scout. “What can I do for you?”
“The sher’f would like ter see ye at his office in the jail. Can ye come right over?”
“On the jump. What’s the business about?”
“About the McGowan bullion robberies.”
The scout was already on his feet, but at that he hesitated.
“I told McGowan,” said he, “that I hadn’t time to bother with that matter.”
“A red thief?”
“No, a white ’un.”
“I don’t know why the sheriff thinks I can identity the thief.”
“Ther feller claims ter be a pard o’ your’n.”
“My pards are not drawn from that class.”
“That’s what we all reckoned, but the feller insists that you come over an’ see him.”
“I’ll go, of course,” said the scout, “but I haven’t the least idea I’ll be able to establish the thief’s identity. He’s bluffing, for some reason or other.”
The scout followed the deputy into the hotel, down the stairs, and out upon the street. Nomad and Little Cayuse trailed along behind.
Across the street was Court-house Square. The little party crossed the square, passed along a graveled walk bordered with oleanders and overhung with the branches of pepper-trees, and presently reached the court-house steps.
The sheriff’s office was in the front of the building.
As the scout and his friends entered the office they beheld a little group of men consisting of Rising, the sheriff, McGowan, the mine-owner, and two other white men, all grouped about some one who was sitting in a chair.
“Hello, Cody,” called Rising, stepping forward and grasping the scout’s hand.
“What have you got me over here for, Rising?” queried Buffalo Bill. “You haven’t any idea that I’m on intimate terms with a bullion thief, have you?”
“I’m the one that bothered you, Buffalo Bill,” put in McGowan. “It’s the thief himself that asked us to send for you. He says he’s one of your pards. What we want to do now is to prove him a liar as well as a thief.”
“Puffalo Pill!” came a wail of distress from a corner chair. “Look at here, vonce!”
At the sound of this familiar voice, Buffalo muttered an exclamation and whirled around.
The baron was sitting in the corner chair, a picture of rage and injured innocence. As he spoke, he had lifted up his hands, showing the ugly manacles about his wrists.
“Schnitzenhauser!” cried the scout.
“Ole Weenerwurst hisself!” exclaimed Nomad; “ther ’riginal Hot Termale hisself, decorated with er pair o’ come-erlongs! Waugh!”
“Ugh!” growled Little Cayuse; “heap shame!”
Without another word, Buffalo Bill walked over to the baron and caught his manacled hands in a cordial and reassuring grip.
“What does this mean?” the scout demanded, turning and looking at Rising and McGowan with a glittering eye. “This man is my pard. He has told you the truth.”
“But he’s a thief,” protested McGowan.
“He can’t be!” declared the scout.
“He was caught with the goods on. Why can’t he be?”
“Because he’s Buffalo Bill’s pard!”
Buffalo Bill’s words made an impression. There was no doubt on that score.
“Now ye’re torkin’, Buffler!” seconded Nomad. “Before an ombray kin trot with Pard Buffler he has ter show what he is. Schnitz, thar, hes done thet same. He’s a whole man, game as a hornet, an’ consequently he kain’t be er thief.”
“Wuh!” agreed Little Cayuse.
“Facts are facts, Buffalo Bill,” said McGowan.
“Sometimes facts only seem to be facts,” answered Buffalo Bill, pulling up a chair beside the baron’s and sitting down. “So far as the truth is concerned, you might just as well have those bracelets on me, as on the baron. Tell me about this.”
McGowan pushed forward his superintendent and his cyanid expert, presenting them each in turn to the scout. Both Bernritter and Jacobs were in a tremor of apprehension, for there was that in the scout’s keen, calculating eye which seemed to probe deep into their guilty minds.
McGowan, following the introductions of his assistants, went into the matter of the cyanid bullion at length. The bar was produced in evidence.
“Lastly,” finished McGowan, “your pard’s actions virtually admitted his guilt.”
“How so?” asked the scout.
“Why, he refused to let us examine the inside of his saddle-bags, and tried to fight us off.”
“So far from proving his guilt,” declared the scout, “it goes to show his innocence. Knowing he had done nothing unlawful he denied your right to question his integrity. Any man of spirit would have fought against a dishonoring search of his person or his saddle-bags.”
“How did the gold get in there, then?”
“Somebody put it in.”
“And that somebody,” spoke up Bernritter, with a swagger, “was the Dutchman.”
“Then don’t air your ignorance. Have I heard the whole of this, McGowan?” the scout inquired, turning to the mine-owner.
“Yes, you’ve got our side of it,” was the reply. “If you want to question your pard——”
“I don’t,” promptly. “I know the baron too well to offer him an insult. You might dismiss your two men, McGowan,” the scout added, “and we’ll smoke a talk and see where we land.”
“Go back to the Three-ply, Bern, you and Jacobs,” said McGowan, in a kindly tone. “We can’t leave the plant to run itself, you know. I’ll be along some time to-night.”
Bernritter and Jacobs left the office. The scout, as soon as the door closed, started up from his chair and beckoned Nomad and Cayuse apart.
“Trail those two men secretly,” he ordered, “no matter where they go. Watch every move they make.”
“Ye’re goin’ ter help McGowan?” asked Nomad eagerly.
“That remains to be seen. However, it will make no difference with you. Do your trailing.”
“Whar’ll we report?”
“You’ll find me somewhere when you’re ready to report.”
Again the door opened and closed, this time with Nomad and Little Cayuse on the other side of it.
The scout returned to his chair.
“My pard’s safety must not enter into the question,” returned Buffalo Bill. “He’s the victim of foul play, and his liberty ought not to be imperiled for a moment.”
“You bank heavy on your pards!”
“I never let a man into the inner circle until I know I can bank heavy on him. I’ll admit, McGowan, that since my talk with you this morning, I am more inclined to give you my aid than I was before.”
McGowan began to expand, and to congratulate himself.
“Faith, it’s your strong arm we need,” said he. “It’s a hefty fist you have, Buffalo Bill, and a sharp mind back of it.”
“Thanks,” said the scout dryly. “If I did not bank a little on you, McGowan, I might suspect that this was a put-up job, of which you were fully cognizant.”
“How do you mean?” flared McGowan.
“Why, in order to secure my aid, you might have been tempted to implicate my Dutch pard.”
McGowan’s “Irish” was up in a moment.
“If you think that——” he began angrily, but the scout smiled and stretched out a hand soothingly.
“I don’t,” said he. “I’ve only seen you twice, but I’m willing to bank on your integrity. You’re the sort of a man I’d like to help.”
McGowan was entirely pacified. The king of scouts had a winning way with him, when he so desired, and that way was now much in evidence.
“I’d think it an honor,” said McGowan, “to have Buffalo Bill help me.”
“I’ll do it, on one consideration only.”
“And that is?”
“That you consent to let the sheriff take those irons off my pard’s wrists. In other words, he must be a free man before I hook-up with you.”
“That’s hardly according to Hoyle,” demurred McGowan, visibly worried.
“It’s according to Buffalo Bill. You have my proposition. Take it or leave it.”
“Why, if your pard is left in this jail and brought to trial, you’ll have to work for me in order to prove his innocence, won’t you?”
“I’ll not work for you, McGowan, but I’ll work for him. You’d find that to be vastly different.”
“You’d better do as the scout says, McGowan,” put in Rising. “If he’s going to help you, you’d better let him do it in his own way. Catching a man with the goods on doesn’t always prove him a thief.”
“I don’t know who to suspect,” said McGowan, “if we don’t suspect the Dutchman.”
“I do,” said the scout.
“Who?” demanded McGowan.
“Never mind that. What’s your last word?”
McGowan debated the matter with himself for a moment. Then, finally, “Take off the darbies,” he said to Rising.
The manacles were removed, and Rising shook hands with the baron.
“I haf peen imbosed ubon,” said the baron, “und I feel schust like some hornets mit a shtinger oudt. Puffalo Pill iss my pard, und der pest feller vat efer vore shoe-ledder; he shtands py me, you bed you, aber I feel so madt I vant to fighdt.”
“Get over it,” said McGowan crustily. “You’re free. What more do you want?”
“I vant dot imbression dot I’m guildy all der same remofed from your mindt,” scowled the baron. “Dot’s vot I vant!”
“Then find the man that put that gold-brick in your saddle-bag.”
“We’ll do it, McGowan,” spoke up the scout. “Give us a little time.”
“Will you go out to supper with me, Buffalo Bill?” queried the mine-owner.
“I have other business on hand, just now, McGowan.”
“Anyhow, you’ll ride with me back to the Three-ply this evening?”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to pass that up, too.”
“But if you’re going to hook-up with me——”
“You’ll hear from me and my pards, all right, and probably when you least expect it. Go back to your diggings, McGowan, and be comfortable in your mind. Take things easy, and let things drift as usual.”
“All right, Buffalo Bill, if you want matters that way. But I’m depending on you.”
“Then show that you have confidence in me, McGowan, by heeding instructions.”
McGowan, with a wave of the hand to those in the sheriff’s office, left the room, and the court-house. A few moments later, Buffalo Bill and the baron also left.
“You’ve made a fool of yourself, baron,” said the scout, as soon as he and the Dutchman were out of the court-house.
“How’s dot?” asked the bewildered baron.
“Vell, I like dot Frieda pedder as any girl vat I efer saw. Dot’s right.”
The scout laughed.
“Vat’s to be done now, Puffalo Pill?”
“We’ll have supper, and then we’ll ride out and camp in the vicinity of the Three-ply Mine. We can learn more by playing this game on the strict q. t. than by going about it openly.”
“I’ll bed you dot feller, Pernridder, und dot odder feller, Chacops, knows more as dey vants to——”
“Stow it, baron! You don’t want to throw any suspicions on men who are possibly innocent. Developments will prove who are guilty, and who are not. We’ll let events speak for themselves.”
In the hotel office the clerk halted Buffalo Bill and handed him a letter.
The letter was addressed in an unfamiliar hand, and the postmark showed it had passed through the Phœnix post-office at 4 P. M. It was then only half-past 5. The enclosed sheet bore the following:
“Buffalo Bill: If you know when you’re well off, you’ll leave this bullion business at the Three-ply strictly alone. Attend to your own affairs. This is the sheriff’s business, anyway. A word to the wise is sufficient. Talk is cheap, and writing is fully as cheap as talk, but don’t pass up this warning if you value your scalp.
“One of the Thieves.”
The scout allowed the baron to spell out this warlike communication.
“We have the robbers scared,” remarked the scout. “Whenever a criminal tries to frighten an officer off his trail with such a letter, he proves that he’s losing his nerve. What time did you and McGowan and the other two reach Phœnix, baron?”
“Aboudt haluf-bast dree.”
“Did you stop anywhere on the way to the sheriff’s office?”
“Ve shtopped at der bost-office. Pernridder vent in und asked for der Dree-bly mail.” The baron, putting two and two together, in his logy German way, began to grow excited. “Py shiminy! Dot sgoundrel, Pernridder, must haf mailed dot ledder ven he——”
“Not so fast, baron,” warned the scout. “You’re getting ahead of developments. This is only a small piece of circumstantial evidence, and not half so convincing as finding a bar of stolen bullion in a man’s saddle-bags.”
The baron grew quiet and pensive. After supper he and the scout mounted their horses and, with several days’ rations at their saddle-cantles, rode out through the “Five Points,” then along Grand Avenue, and so into the Black Cañon trail on their way to the Three-ply.
They had not been gone half an hour when Nick Nomad came charging into the hotel with important news. His news was of vital import, and his disappointment was great when he discovered that the scout and the baron had left.
Bernritter and Jacobs, intent on making a big “clean-up” and a safe getaway, were drawing upon all their resources to foil Buffalo Bill and his pards.
When the trapper and the little Piute left the sheriff’s office they were expecting immediate saddle-work; but in this Nomad, at least, was disappointed.
Halting among the oleanders that bordered the gravel-walk leading from the court-house steps to the street, the trapper and the redskin saw their men in animated conversation on the corner by the hotel.
“They don’t appear ter like ther way things aire goin’, Cayuse,” said the trapper.
“Ugh!” said Cayuse, who thought much and said little.
“Anyways, they appears ter hev made up their minds ter somethin’,” went on the trapper, a moment later. “Jacobs is goin’ off down ther street, an Bernritter is goin’ inter ther hotel. Bernritter fer you, son, an’ I’ll shadder Jacobs.”
On reaching the edge of the square, Cayuse crossed in the direction of the hotel, while Nomad turned to the right and sauntered along on the side of the street opposite the one where Jacobs was walking.
Jacobs walked two blocks and turned in at a gambling and drinking-resort which a gold sign proclaimed to be the “El Rio.”
Thereupon Nomad crossed over and entered the El Rio himself.
It was too early for the gamblers. The El Rio was almost deserted.
A bar ran along one side of the mirrored and tinseled room, and along the other side were arranged roulette-tables, faro lay-outs, poker-tables, and other gambling paraphernalia.
Toward the rear, the big room merged into a three-foot corridor, on either side of which doors opened into private gambling-rooms.
Nomad entered the front door of the “chance” establishment just in time to see Jacobs entering a private room. It was the first room on the left, off the rear corridor. A low-browed, villainous-looking man entered the room with Jacobs.
The door closed. The trapper sauntered over to the bar and bought a cigar. Then he walked back, announced his desire for a retired place, and was shown by an attendant into the first room on the right.
“Forty-rod,” said he to the waiter; “a stiff glass o’ et.”
The waiter brought the “forty-rod,” received his pay, and a generous tip, and retired.
Nomad had no intention of beclouding his faculties with the contents of the glass, so he left it untasted.
Pulling off his boots, the moment he was alone, he took them under one arm and passed noiselessly to the door of the room. With a soft hand he turned the knob and drew the door slightly ajar.
No one in the front part of the El Rio was paying any attention to the rear of the establishment. As the old trapper waited and listened, he heard a mumble of low voices coming from the room across the corridor.
Laying a quick, deft hand on the knob of the door next that through which Jacobs and his companion had passed, he pushed it ajar and stepped in. He drew a quick breath when he found the room was already occupied.
A man, far gone in liquor, was lying across a table, breathing heavily.
Nomad wanted to be in that particular room, because only a thin board partition separated him from Jacobs and the man with whom Jacobs was talking. The drunken man, Nomad decided after a second’s observation, was too much under the “influence” to prove anything of an obstacle; so the trapper made up his mind to occupy the room with him.
Closing the door as noiselessly as he had opened it, Nomad ran his eye over the board partition.
The partition was of flooring boards and painted white. The boards had warped considerably, but not enough to make any cracks.
The old man was disappointed. He wanted to “star” himself, in this queer case of McGowan’s, and felt that if he could hear something of what was being said, in the next room, the result would amply repay him for his time and trouble. Jacobs had been ordered by his employer to return to the Three-ply. He had not returned. The very fact that he had not was suspicious in itself.
Nomad had reasoned this all out; and he knew when Buffalo Bill told him and Cayuse to shadow Bernritter and Jacobs that the scout thought the actions of the two men open to question.
While the trapper stood in the room surveying the board partition, the mumble from the other side of it came tantalisingly to his ears. The sound was louder than when he had heard it across the corridor, but it was still impossible to distinguish words.
The snoring of the drunken man interfered with the sounds, and Nomad was ripe for some desperate move which might have spoiled everything, when his eye lit upon a knot in one of the boards of the partition.
The knot was about two feet above the floor, and was so warped from the board that it looked as though it might be easily removed. With hope mounting high, old Nomad drew a knife from his belt and sank to his knees.
Timing his prying with the long and regularly recurring snores of the drunken man, Nomad got out the knot with his knife-point; then, lowering his head, and stopping one ear with his finger to keep out the snores, he was pleased to find that the talk of Jacobs and the other man could be plainly heard.
“You understand that part of it, Bascomb?” Jacobs was saying.
“Sure,” answered the man referred to as Bascomb. “I kin send a couple o’ light-fingered lads ter attend ter the hotel end. Now fer the rest o’ it.”
“Buffalo Bill will certainly take hold and help McGowan.”
“It was a bad move o’ your’n, gittin’ Buffler Bill’s pard mixed up with that thar gold-brick.”
“That was Bern’s idea, but I guess he understands now the move was bad. Buffalo Bill will go to the mine by the Black Cañon trail—it’s the most direct route, and whenever he goes any place, I understand it’s the beeline and a keen jump fer him.”
“Us fellers are up agin’ it, all right, now that the scout has took holt. He’s the wust kind of a propersition ter flash on a lot er grafters. What’s fer me to do? I’ll skin the deck both ways ter do all I kin, Buffler Bill er no Buffler Bill.”
“The mill clean-up comes to-morrow. That’s where we’re to make our big winning and skip out. Bern says to hang Buffalo Bill up to-morrow so that he can’t interfere, and we’ll be able to do our work and make a getaway.”
“I’m ter help hang the scout up, hey?”
“You’re to do it. As soon as you attend to the hotel part of it, make for the hills as fast as you can go, round up your reds, and lay for the scout in some convenient place on the Black Cañon trail. When you capture him, leave him in the hands of enough reds to keep him, then come on to the Three-ply and stand ready to help in running off the loot from the clean-up.”
“Suppose Buffler Bill rides out ter the Three-ply with McGowan?”
“Then nail the two of them. It will be so much the better for us.”
“It’s a scheme fer yer life, Jacobs! Count on me. But s’posin’ Buffler Bill has already left fer the mine?”
“He won’t start before supper—at least, I don’t think he will. If he does, we stand a chance to lose out, that’s all. You’ll have to run your chances.”
“Is that all?”
“Yes; and I can’t waste any more time here. McGowan told Bernritter and me to go right back to the mine; Bern’s gone, and I must follow as soon as I can.”
“If McGowan finds out ye didn’t go with him——”
“Bern will take care of that, in case McGowan makes any remarks. He’ll offer an excuse by saying he had me stay a while in Phœnix to talk with our powder-men about the last lot of high-explosives. Hike out, now, and do your work. I’ll leave after a while myself. Make sure you’re not shadowed, Bascomb, and don’t let any grass grow under your feet. Bern told me to say that everything depends on you, and if we get away with forty-odd thousand in bullion, you’ll be handsomely remembered.”
“Which I ort ter be. Waal, adios fer now.”
Nomad put back the knot carefully and got to his feet. He was astounded by what he had heard.
Here, at the very start-off, was evidence of the plot against the baron, as well as evidence of a greater plot against the clean-up which was to be made on the following day at the Three-ply Mine!
And Buffalo Bill was to be ambushed along the Black Cañon trail!
Nomad exulted to think that he had acquired information which, properly used, would break this far-reaching combination of bullion thieves.
But what, he asked himself, did Jacobs and Bascomb mean in their references to underhand work at the hotel?
That part of it had escaped Nomad. He felt that he had overheard enough, however, and was not disposed to find any fault because a little of the conversation had got away from him.
A few minutes after Bascomb left, Nomad heard the door of the next room open and close. This was Jacobs, going out.
Jacobs must have passed quickly through the front of the El Rio when he left the small room. Nomad could not see him, and hurried out through the front door to the sidewalk. There he caught a vanishing glimpse of his man around a corner.
Still trailing, he followed until he saw Jacobs enter the gate of a corral. This was not the corral where the scout and his pards kept their own horses, and Nomad had no business in the place, and no reasonable excuse for calling there.
While he stood watching for Jacobs to reappear, the bell of the court-house clock tolled the hour of seven. Nomad was surprised. Time had passed quickly for him since he and Cayuse had parted in front of the Court-house Square.
On the last peal of the bell, Jacobs rode out of the corral and headed east along Washington Street.
“Hyar’s whar our trails fork fer a spell, you pizen whelp,” muttered Nomad. “I got ter find Buffler, an’ tell him er few things thet’ll open his eyes some. But we’ll meet-up with each other ag’in, Jacobs, ye kin gamble er blue stack on thet. Go ahead with ther preparations fer yer ‘clean-up.’ While ye’re a-doin’ of et, Buffler an’ me’ll be plannin’ er leetle clean-up of our own. What er rum game this hyar is, anyways! Bernritter an’ Jacobs plannin’ ter beat McGowan out o’ more-n forty thousand in bullion! Oh, no! I reckon I didn’t find out er thing in thet El Rio place.”
Nomad pointed in the direction of the hotel, swinging along at a swift stride.
“An’ thar’s Injuns mixed up in et, too, jest as McGowan dreamt et,” said the trapper to himself. “I wonder what Pard Buffler’ll say ter thet? You kin bet yer moccasins thar’s a hull lot in dreams, spacially ef ye dreams ther same thing three times, hand-runnin’.”
Nomad turned into the hotel and peered around the lobby for the scout. The scout was not in evidence, and neither was Little Cayuse.
The Piute boy, Nomad thought, was probably well away toward Three-ply, on the track of Bernritter; but Buffalo Bill—— Could it be that he also had pulled out, in company with McGowan? This notion gave the old trapper something of a jolt.
Walking over to the counter, he put an inquiry to the clerk.
“Buffalo Bill, Mr. Nomad?” returned the clerk, lifting his eyebrows. “Why, he went away from here half an hour ago. He rode off with a queer-looking character that I took to be a Dutchman.”
The trapper gulped wildly, and a chill of apprehension shot through him.
“Any idee whar Buffler went?” he asked.
“Not the slightest.”
Nomad turned thoughtfully away.
There could be little doubt but that Buffalo Bill had started for the Three-ply Mine. He had also secured the release of the baron and had taken him along.
What was to be done? Just one thing—ride after the scout and the baron and overtake them before they dropped into Bascomb’s ambush.
Nomad started on a rush for the hotel door. At the entrance he paused, suddenly remembering that his spurs were in his room.
It would take him a few minutes to get the spurs, but it would be time well spent.
“Say, pard,” said he, pausing at the counter for an instant on his way to the stairs, “call up Nickerson’s corral, will ye, an’ tell Nickerson ter git ole Nomad’s hoss under saddle, muy pronto. I’m in a tearin’ hurry, an’ ef ye’ll do thet much fer me, I’ll be obliged.”
“Certainly, Mr. Nomad,” answered the clerk. “Glad to do it.”
Nomad raced on up the stairs, pulling his key out of his pocket as he went. Unlocking the door, he flung it open and raced into the room. He did not shut the door behind him, as he had no time for any extra or unnecessary frills.
His spurs were hanging from a hook in the closet, along with his war-bag. The war-bag would not be needed; and he jerked down the spurs, unbuckled the straps that held them together, and hurried to the window.
Here, where the light was better, he threw up his foot on a chair and deftly affixed one of the spurs. Putting up the other foot, he began adjusting the second spur.
He remembered putting the end of the strap through the buckle and beginning to pull. Following that, memories of every kind grew hazy and mixed.
Something landed on his head, from behind. It was a terrific blow, and the trapper lurched forward, overturned the chair, and still further injured his head by bringing it into contact with the sharp edge of the window-casing.
Then it seemed to Nomad that he dropped, and then that he was floating around in the air. Little gleams danced before his eyes, resembling varicolored fire-balls, like those which are thrown by Roman candles. Then night engulfed the fire-balls, and a dead silence intervened—a silence of complete oblivion.
Nomad opened his eyes in the dark. The first thing he heard was the court-house bell.
One, two, three—— He counted the strokes. There were nine of them. Nine o’clock! Suffering catamounts! What had happened to him since seven?
Then, as his mind once more became active, he began to piece together his experiences. While he was putting on that second spur, some one must have crowded in on him through the open door and struck him from behind.
Foul play, of course! But by whom? Who could have done it if not some one of the Bernritter and Jacobs outfit?
Then Nomad recalled what Bascomb had said to Jacobs regarding the “hotel end” of their plotting. Was he, Nomad, the object of the hotel plot?
Nomad knew that he could not have been the direct object, for Jacobs and Bascomb, during their talk in the El Rio, had not known that he was on Jacobs’ trail.
And yet, somehow, the trapper was sure that he had dropped into Bascomb’s work in the hotel. Bascomb’s light-fingered men may not have meant to get Nomad at the start-off, but they had got him, nevertheless.
The trapper’s hands and feet were bound with towels, and there was a towel tied over his mouth.
Where was he? He moved his feet around, and in this way discovered that he was in cramped quarters.
The air was suffocating. Undoubtedly the miscreants who had treated him to this surprise had dragged him into the closet.
Nomad groaned at the thought.
What good would all the information he had gained at the El Rio do him now? He was powerless to save Buffalo Bill!
After his first spasm of chagrin and disappointment, Nomad fell to thinking more calmly.
He recalled that Bascomb was merely to capture and hold the scout, thus keeping him away from the Three-ply Mine until the white and red thieves could accomplish their daring robbery of the mill bullion.
Those who had placed Nomad in his uncomfortable position probably did not know what the old trapper had discovered at the El Rio.
The robbery planned to take place at the Three-ply would, no doubt, still be attempted on the following day.
Nomad’s work lay clearly before him: He must effect his escape as soon as possible, do something for Buffalo Bill if he needed anything done, and then, together, they would take what steps the scout deemed necessary for saving the Three-ply bullion.
This line of action fired the trapper with a determination to get effectively busy.
With the sweat pouring off him, and his breath coming from behind the towel-gag in gasps, he fought with the bonds at his wrists.
A twisted towel is not nearly so effective as a rope when used for binding the hands of a powerful man like Nomad.
He got his hands free, but a deep boom of the court-house bell marked the half-hour before he had succeeded.
He was drenched with sweat, and there was a sound in his ears as of the buzzing of a swarm of bees. That blow on the head was responsible for the buzzing. And what mattered it? Nomad was free! The trail to the Three-ply lay before him.
Fumbling for a match, he lighted a gas-jet. The room seemed in order. The chair by the window was overturned, and a spur lay near it, but, aside from that, everything was in place.
The hall door was closed. Nomad pulled at it, and found it locked. The key, he discovered, was sticking in the lock on the outside.
“What did thet pizen, light-fingered man blow in hyar fer, ef et wasn’t ter do me up an’ put me in ther closet?” thought Nomad. “Ain’t nothin’ in ther room been teched. Arter usin’ them towels on me, ther feller went out an’ turned ther key on ther outside. Waugh, but thet was er bump!” and the old man felt of the lump on the back of his head.
He had no time, however, to waste on himself. Pushing on the bell for the call-boy, he picked up the spur, righted the chair, and finished the operation he had begun something like two hours and a half before.
By then, “front” was rapping to find out what was wanted.
“Unlock ther door,” said Nomad.
The key grated, the door opened, and the astonished boy showed himself.
“Say,” said he, “how did ye happen t’ lock yerself in the room an’ leave yer key on the outside?”
“Never mind thet,” snorted Nomad. “I didn’t happen ter, an’ thet’s all ye need ter know.”
He put on his hat, pushed the boy out, relocked the door, and handed him the key.
“Take that down ter ther man behind ther counter,” said he; “I ain’t got time ter stop.”
Then, with spurs jingling at his heels, he raced down the stairs three steps at a time, and dashed out of the hotel.
At the corral he found his horse ready and waiting.
“Thought ye wanted the animile in a hurry?” remarked Nickerson. “He’s been standin’ thar fer the better part o’ two hours.”
“I was delayed gittin’ hyar,” answered Nomad, leaping into the saddle. “See how quick ye kin tell me ther way ter ther Three-ply Mine, Nickerson.”
Nickerson used up a dozen words, and when he had done, the old trapper dug in with the irons and shot through the corral-gate.
The Piute boy had an easy time of it, compared with the strenuous experience fate had marked out for old Nomad.
Bernritter did not linger long in the hotel. When he came out he made directly for the corral, to which Jacobs was later followed by the trapper.
Little Cayuse, shadowing along on the super’s trail, knew at once that the man he was watching must have gone to the corral for his horse.
The boy, therefore, made rapidly for Nickerson’s, and got his bridle and riding-blanket on his pinto cayuse.
“Take um Black Cañon trail to Three-ply Mine?” he queried, of one of Nickerson’s men.
“Thet’s ther way ye go, ef ye go direct,” answered the man.
Little Cayuse galloped to the Five Points, and then along the dusty thoroughfare known as Grand Avenue. His sharp eyes were always straight ahead, keenly scrutinizing the road for some sign of Bernritter.
The boy was several miles down the Black Cañon trail before he glimpsed the man he was looking for. Although Cayuse could see only Bernritter’s back, yet the form of the man, and the clothes he wore, were indelibly impressed upon the little Indian’s mind, and he knew he could not be mistaken.
Yet Bernritter did not seem to have the least idea he was being followed. Not once, so far as Cayuse could discover, did he look back.
Quite probably Bernritter was deep in his nefarious plans for the next day, and had no time to watch his back trail. Be that as it might, Cayuse found the trailing easy; and it grew easier when the sun went down and the evening shadows began to lengthen.
At sunset Bernritter had crossed the Arizona canal, eighteen miles out of Phœnix. From there on the trail led across several miles of flat desert, and directly into the scarred and cactus-covered hills.
The twilight favored the boy while crossing the level ground, and when they drew into the hill valleys he needed no favoring of any sort.
The Indian instinct, born in him, made him as wary as a fox, and as quick and certain in his movements as a wildcat.
Cutting pieces from his riding-blanket, he tied them about his pinto’s hoofs, thus muffling the noise of his own travel, and bringing out distinctly the ringing fall of the hoofs ahead.
His trailing, through the gloomy gullies, was almost entirely by ear alone. Whether Bernritter was galloping, or trotting, or walking he knew at any moment, and he kept a distance that gave the hoof-beats in the lead the same volume of sound.
Suddenly he heard the hoof-strokes come to a halt. On the instant Little Cayuse drew rein and backed silently into a cranny of the hills.
Was Bernritter coming back to see whether he was being followed?
He did not show himself, however; nor did the hoofs of his horse resume their clatter.
Cayuse dismounted and slipped forward along the gully to investigate.
Before he had gone far he heard voices, one voice Bernritter’s, and the other unmistakably that of an Indian.
The Piute had no love for the Apaches, and a thrill shot through him as he realized that this redskin with whom the superintendent was talking must be one of the hated people.
Then Cayuse had another thought: Why was Bernritter talking with an Apache—holding with him a pow-wow that had already lasted several minutes?
Little Cayuse crawled closer, slipping through the loose stones like a snake.
When he paused again, he was as near the two men as he dared to go. One was an Apache, and the boy was not slow to realize that his danger was greater than if he had been lying in the vicinity of two white men.
From his last position Cayuse was able to see the dark form of the horse, and the upright figures of the men. While he watched, Bernritter turned to his horse and thrust his foot into the stirrup.
“You sabe, eh?” Cayuse heard Bernritter ask the Apache. “Round up the warriors and wait for word from Bascomb. You’ll hear from him in two, three hour, mebbyso.”
“Me sabe,” grunted the Indian.
Little Cayuse returned to his waiting pinto, kicked the pony with his heels, and rode on after Bernritter.
When he caught the tinkling sound of the hoofs ahead, he slowed his pace with a grunt of satisfaction.
Then, from the beaded medicine-pouch that swung from his belt, he took some yellow pigment, dabbed one of his fingers into it, and ran a wavering line up and down either side of his face.
This was Cayuse’s war-paint. He put it on, now that he knew he was to take the war-path against foes of his own color.
White men like Bernritter and Jacobs were not worth the trouble of dipping into his medicine-bag. Besides, Cayuse’s grievance against them was not yet well defined.
Pa-e-has-ka had set him on Bernritter’s trail, but that was all. Recent developments had given a fresh twist to the course of events. Who was Bascomb? And why was the Apache to round up more warriors?
Little Cayuse did not like the prospect.
As he followed along after Bernritter, he became suddenly aware that the hoofs in the lead were being drowned out by a steadily increasing roar.
The mill-stamps! Ah! At last they were coming close to the Three-ply Mine.
The gully the two were following suddenly opened out into a wide valley.
At the entrance to the valley Cayuse drew rein; then, dismounting, he sat down on a boulder and watched Bernritter ride down into the camp and lose himself among the twinkling lights in mill, bunk-house, and chuck-shanty.
For a long time the boy sat there, watching the trailing plume of smoke from the mill, and listening to the clamor of the stamps.
Suddenly he was startled. Another horseman galloped past him. Cayuse and his pinto were a little to one side of the trail, and somewhat in the shadow. Fortunately they had not been seen.
The man was Jacobs. In spite of the darkness, the boy instinctively recognized the galloping horseman.
If the man was Jacobs, then Nomad must be somewhere near.
Eagerly the Piute waited, straining his eyes back along the gully.
But no Nomad appeared. Had Wolf-killer lost the trail? It was not like him to do that, for Wolf-killer could follow a trail like an Indian.
Mounting his pinto, Little Cayuse retraced his course through the gully.
When he had reached a place where the drumming of the stamps sounded low in his ears, the echoes were taken up by more hoof-beats. Cayuse drew aside, and McGowan, owner of the mine, swung past.
The boy had thought, at first, that it might be Nomad and only his native caution had kept him from giving a shout from the trail-side. A moment later he had recognized McGowan as instinctively as he had recognized Jacobs.
He recalled that McGowan had told Jacobs to return to the mine with Bernritter, and both to go at once. And here Jacobs had preceded his employer into the camp by only a few minutes!
The boy plagued himself with questions in an attempt to account for this, and for Bernritter’s meeting and talking with the Apache.
Above these things, which mightily puzzled the Piute, was the more important question as to what had become of old Nomad.
Still riding and hoping, Cayuse drew well away from the croon of the stamps.
Then he heard a sound, far in the distance, that sent a chill to his heart.
The sound was a pistol-shot!
Just the one report, and no more. Cayuse listened breathlessly, but only deep and ominous silence followed the faint but incisive note of the six-shooter.
The boy’s fears leaped to Nomad. He had met with treachery, of some sort, on the trail!
Setting the pinto to a rapid gait, the Piute rode like the wind along the gully, the pony, with his muffled hoofs, carrying him onward like a darting shadow.
All roads, that night, seemed to lead to the Three-ply Mine. At least it seemed so to Little Cayuse.
And, for the young Indian, the way seemed wrapped in profound and forbidding mystery.
As he made in the direction of the pistol-shot, he believed he had a clue to at least part of the puzzle.
Bernritter had told the Apache to round up more warriors and wait for Bascomb. This had been done; and Wolf-killer, galloping along the trail after Jacobs, had fallen into a snare laid by Bascomb and the Apaches.
This is what the boy thought, but he was soon to be undeceived. A snare had been laid, but not for Nomad.
A few minutes of swift riding brought Little Cayuse into a zone where a sixth sense told him of danger.
Turning from the gully into a small defile that broke through its left-hand bank, he halted, secured the pinto to a white-thorn bush, and carried out his further investigations on foot.
Proceeding onward along the gully, keeping in the shadow and dodging from boulder to boulder, Cayuse presently came upon a scene that made him congratulate himself that he had not plumped into it full tilt on his pinto.
At the point where the scene unrolled before the boy’s eyes the gully widened, and the starlight sifted brightly downward and dispelled much of the gloom.
He saw two horses quite near him. They were riderless, had been roped together, and the riata tethering them had been wrapped about a stone.
Beyond the horses were many Apaches; just how many the boy could not tell, but certainly there were a dozen, at the least.
The Apaches were working over some objects lying on the ground, and a white man was moving about among them, hurrying them about their work with gruff oaths.
Presently the Apaches started up the eastern bank of the gully in two groups, each group apparently carrying a burden.
What those burdens were Cayuse could guess.
Without doubt they were the men who had ridden the two horses that now stood bound together and secured to the stone.
Up and up the steep slope toiled the Apaches, the white man swearing and urging them on. In a little while the whole villainous crew disappeared over the top of the gully-bank, each group still carrying its helpless burden.
One horse he could not recognize, either by sight or touch. The other, unless his reasoning deceived him, belonged to Pa-e-has-ka!
Pa-e-has-ka! The Piute caught his breath.
Was Buffalo Bill one of the prisoners just captured by the white man and the Apaches?
It was a startling thing for Cayuse to come looking for Nomad and find Buffalo Bill.
That was not a time for useless thought, however, but for action.
Hurrying to the eastern wall of the gully, Cayuse climbed the slope. Its top gave him an outlook over a small, flat plain, stretching eastward and lying distinctly under the starlight.
The Indians and the white man were carrying their prisoners across the level ground toward a little hill of stones. A black opening yawned in the top of the stone hill, and Cayuse knew it to be an old, and probably abandoned, mine.
The boy dared not go farther, and he knelt where he was and continued to watch. Owing to the distance, he could trace the movements of the white man and the Apaches but indistinctly; yet he saw enough to convince him that the two prisoners were being lowered down into the old mine.
The white man and his red helpers clambered up the ore-dump, hovered together there for several minutes, all busily engaged, and then came back down the ragged little hill. And on their return Cayuse could see that they were carrying no one.
Facing about, the boy scrambled back into the gully, untied the riata that tethered the two horses to the stone, jumped into the saddle of Buffalo Bill’s mount, and galloped toward the place where he had left his pinto, with the other of the two horses in tow.
This move was characteristic of Little Cayuse. The white man and the Apaches were Buffalo Bill’s enemies, and Cayuse considered them his. It is always the proper thing to get away from an enemy everything you can. On this principle, partly, Cayuse was taking the horses. Then, again, he was looking forward to the time when Buffalo Bill and the man with him should be taken out of the old mine and need their mounts.
On reaching the defile where he had left his pinto, Cayuse pulled the pinto’s thong from the thorn-bush, changed his seat to the pony’s back, and raced up the defile, leading the animals picked up in the gully.
The boy was now in his element. He understood very well that the white man and the Apaches would miss the horses, and would imagine that they had broken away. Search would be made for the missing animals, but Cayuse would make it his business to see that the search was not successful.
If the Apaches caught him, Cayuse knew that a bullet or a knife would settle his earthly account.
But the Piute was not intending to let himself be caught. He was an Indian no less than the Apaches, and fully as able to take care of himself.
The defile the boy was following led out onto the flat desert.
Leading his horses, he circled to the south over the plain, found a place where he could descend into the gully, and was just crossing to the western wall, when a rider spurred out from behind a pile of rocks and laid his horse lengthwise across his path.
A revolver gleamed feebly in the starlight, leveled straight at the Piute’s breast.
“Ugh!” grunted Little Cayuse.
“Waugh, ye pizen varmint!” growled a voice. “Whar ye goin’ with them cabyos?”
“!” muttered Little Cayuse.
“Snarlin’ hyeners ef et ain’t Cayuse? Waal, blazes ter blazes an’ all hands round! Say, I thort ye was told ter foller Bernritter?”
“All same,” answered Cayuse. “You no follow Jacobs, huh?”
“I’m follerin’ him now. But look hyar, son, what ye doin’ with them two hosses? One of ’em looks like Buffler’s, blamed ef et don’t.”
“Wuh! All same Pa-e-has-ka. We no stay here. Heap Apache right ahead. Cayuse steal um cayuses from Apaches.”
“What’s thet ye’re tellin’? Apaches loose in this part o’ ther range? I reckons, Cayuse, ye must be shy a few, ain’t ye?”
Nomad was himself keeping a sharp lookout for redskins. In fact, when he saw Little Cayuse coming over the eastern wall of the gully with the two led horses, he had felt sure that he was one of Bascomb’s Apaches, and had screened himself behind the rock-pile.
The question he had put to the boy was for the purpose of making certain the Piute had made no mistake.
“Heap Apache,” insisted Cayuse; “one white man.”
“Jumpin’ tarantelers!” breathed the trapper, “I was gittin’ warmer’n I thort. Ye’ve got Buffler’s hoss, an’ ther baron’s. Aire ye meanin’ ter tell me thet Buffler an’ ther baron hev been captered?”
“Wuh! Me see um take Pa-e-has-ka and Dutch brave and put um in old mine.”
“Ole mine? What ole mine?”
“Him little way from here; not far. We get out of gully, so Apaches no find us when they come looking for horses. Sabe? ”
“I’m savvyin’ like er house afire. But tell me fust off ef Buffler was hurt?”
“No can tell, Wolf-killer. Him carried to old mine; and Dutch brave, him carried to old mine, too.”
“Ain’t this er piece o’ thunderin’ mean luck for ye?” grumbled the old trapper. “Thar was me, knowin’ all erbout this hyar trap in ther hills, layin’ in ther closet o’ thet hotel like er trapped rat, an’ not able ter do er thing ter keep Buffler from runnin’ inter thet ambush. Things sartinly does turn out all-fired queer sometimes.”
While the old man was spluttering, he and Cayuse were climbing up the steep slope, each with one of the led horses.
They reached the top, went a little way down on the other side, and then dismounted to watch for some sign of the Apaches.
But no Apaches showed themselves.
While they were waiting, Cayuse told of his trailing, of the way Jacobs and McGowan had passed him, of his search for Nomad, of his hearing the pistol-shot, discovering the two horses, and watching the white man and the Indians carry Buffalo Bill and the baron to the old mine. He finished with an account of how he had taken the two animals and rode off with them.
“Ye’ve done well, Cayuse,” said Nomad, when the boy had finished. “From what ye say, Buffler an’ Schnitz aire in some ole mine-shaft whar this hyar Bascomb fixes ter keep ’em pris’ners all durin’ ter-morrer. But you an’ me’ll fool Bascomb an’ his reds, Cayuse. Jest as soon as we’re shore the Apaches hev given up lookin’ fer the missin’ cabyos, we’ll make headway to’rds thet ole mine an’ snake Buffler an’ ther baron out o’ et quick.”
“Wuh!” said Little Cayuse.
For half an hour longer they watched the gully, and as the Apaches failed to appear, they reasoned that the redskins had given up the horses and had gone away about their own business, whatever that might be.
“I reckon we kin hike out now, Cayuse,” said Nomad, “an’ feel purty safe about Bascomb an’ his Injuns. Straddle yer pinto, boy, an’ lead ther way ter this hyar ole mine. Ye don’t reckon any o’ Bascomb’s reds aire watchin’ et, do ye?”
“All come away,” answered Cayuse. “Me see um.”
“Kerect. Mount an’ ride, Cayuse, an’ we’ll soon put Pard Buffler inter ther game ag’in.”
The Black Cañon trail, up to the point where the road to Castle Creek Cañon broke away from it, was familiar ground to the king of scouts. He and Nomad had had some exciting experiences in this part of the country—experiences which impress land-marks and topography indelibly upon a man’s mind.
Therefore, although the scout and the baron traversed the Three-ply road during the earlier half of the night, the scout’s knowledge, added to that acquired by the baron, was sufficient to keep them on the right course.
As the scout had stated, it was his intention to camp out somewhere in the vicinity of the Three-ply Mine, prosecuting his work of apprehending the bullion thieves, unknown even to McGowan.
The Black Cañon trail was to be followed until they were hard upon the Three-ply camp; then they would break from it and establish themselves in some favorable locality where water could be had, and where they would yet be in touch with the mine.
As to what he intended to do, the scout’s plans were rather vague, but he was hoping for good results from the work of Nomad and Cayuse.
If the trapper and the little Piute trailed Bernritter and Jacobs according to instructions, they would sooner or later arrive at the Three-ply camp. When they arrived there, the scout felt sure he would have little difficulty in getting into communication with them. Undoubtedly Nomad and Cayuse would themselves be hunting quarters among the neighboring hills, as it was part of their instructions to keep their surveillance of the super and the cyanid expert a secret.
Completely oblivious of the Apaches, gathered under the leadership of Bascomb, Buffalo Bill and the baron dropped easily into the trap they had spread.
The blow was struck swiftly, suddenly, and effectively. Not a sound heralded it.
From each side of the gully half a dozen noosed riatas leaped out from the rocks.
The scout and the baron saw the flying nooses. One or two might have been dodged, but there was no getting away from twelve of them.
Buffalo Bill had barely time to jerk a revolver clear and fire in the direction of the rocks at the gully-side. The next moment he was roped and dragged bodily out of the saddle.
The noose had slipped part way down his body before it tightened, and when it closed on him it pinned his arms to his sides and rendered him helpless.
He struggled to the best of his ability, but a swarm of redskins dropped down on him and fairly smothered him by force of numbers.
Among the red faces bending over him he saw a white one. While the Apaches held him, the white man laid a handkerchief over the scout’s face.
The handkerchief was saturated with chloroform, and it was impossible for the scout to get away from the sense-destroying fumes of the drug.
Unconsciousness followed; and when the period of lethargy was finally broken, the scout sat up and stared about him into pitch-black night.
The drug, in clearing out of his faculties, had left a nausea in his stomach. From somewhere in the darkness the baron was groaning in the depths of a similar misery.
“Baron!” called the scout.
“Puffalo Pill!” gulped the baron. “Gootness me! I t’ought meppy you vas deadt. I peen pooty near deadt meinseluf. Ach, vat a trouple in mein inside. Ach! I hope dot I don’d haf to live mooch longer und suffer like vat I am.”
“Nonsense, baron! You were drugged, just as I was. You’ll feel better when you get over the effects.”
“Vell, meppy. I vish Frieda vas here to do somet’ing for me.”
“Don’t waste any time thinking of Frieda. We have other things to command our attention. Are you tied?”
“No, I don’d vas tied.”
“Neither am I: That’s something, at all events. Strange those scoundrels left us the use of our hands. I can’t understand what they mean by making such a play as this.”
“Id vas mighdy sutten.”
“Sudden! It came like lightning out of a clear sky.”
“Who dit id?”
“Apaches; but there was one white man among them.”
“Vy dit dey dit id?” groaned the baron.
“Give it up,” answered the scout. “It must be that this has something to do with those bullion robberies at the Three-ply.”
“Vell, meppy. I can’t undershtand nodding aboudt id, only I haf sooch a sickness. Ach, ach! Oof I don’d ged vell, id vill be some hardt plows for Frieda, I bed you.”
Rising dizzily to his feet, the scout began groping about him. He touched a steep, jagged wall on every side save one. He looked up and saw a circular patch of sky, glimmering with stars; then the truth dawned upon him.
“We’re in an old mine, baron,” he announced.
“Yah? Iss dere any vay to ged oudt?”
The scout’s distress was rapidly passing. With every minute he was getting better, and feeling more like himself.
His belt and guns had been taken from him, and his money and watch were missing from his pockets; but his matches had been left, and he was able to make a brief survey of the shaft.
As nearly as he could judge, it was some thirty feet from the bottom of the shaft to the top. The walls were straight up and down, so that scaling them without a rope, or ladders, was an impossibility.
Oft at one side of the shaft a level had been run. The baron was sitting in front of the black opening, and the scout peered over his head into the dark.
“It’s an abandoned mine, all right,” averred the scout.
“I vish dot ve couldt apandon id,” said the baron. “I mighdt schust as vell be in chail as in a blace like dis. Und id vas all so sutten! Vy, Puffalo Pill, I didn’t haf no shance to do any shooding mit my guns, or any fighding mit my fists. Two ropes tropped ofer my headt, my horse vent righht oudt from unter me, und dere I vas, mit Inchuns piled t’ree deep on top. Und den dot shmell!”
“Come, come, baron,” adjured the scout, “brace up! Those Apaches have stowed us away here for safe-keeping, but they have left us the use of our hands and feet, and perhaps we won’t have to stay here, after all. Pull yourself together and we’ll see where that level will take us.”
“Meppy id vill take us oudt oof dis hole!” exclaimed the baron, getting up.
“No such good luck as that. Those reds and that white scoundrel must have known about this place before they dropped us into it. I’m obliged to them for not doing us any injury. No matter what happens to you in this life, baron, there’s always something to be thankful for.”
It was an odd adventure. In all the scout’s experience with Indians, he had never before known them to fall back on a drug when they wished to put an enemy “out of the running.” More than likely it was their white leader who had furnished the drug, however, and had planned to use it.
“Vell,” said the baron, “I t’ink ve can feel t’ankful dot ve’re alife, even oof ve don’d got no guns left, und no vay oof gedding oudt oof dis hole. Meppy, Puffalo Pill, dose fellers vas going to leaf us down here undil ve shtarve to deat’!”
“Starve to death!” scoffed the scout. “We’ll not do that while there’s no more than thirty feet of shaft keeping us from the surface of the ground. There’s a way to get out of here, and we’ll find it. How are you feeling now?”
“Pedder. Der pain ain’d so pad like id vas. I t’ink I vill live long enough to shtarve to deat’, anyvay.”
“Come on after me,” said the scout, “and let’s see what we can make out of the level.”
“Nothing much here, baron,” said he. “The men who located this property drifted twenty feet off the shaft to find the lead. They didn’t find it, and so gave up.”
“I haf found somet’ing,” said the baron. “Look here, vonce.”
The scout retraced his way a few feet to where the baron was standing. On the floor of the level, directly in front of the baron, was something that looked like a pile of silver balls. Each ball was about the size of a man’s fist, and there must have been more than a hundred of them.
The scout picked up one of the balls, examined it a moment, and then dropped it in amazement.
“Vat’s der madder, Puffalo Pill?” queried the baron, in some excitement. “Meppy dis iss a silfer-mine, hey?”
The match flickered out in the scout’s fingers, and the baron heard a low laugh.
“Vat for you laugh like dot?” demanded the baron. “Meppy ve can take dot silfer avay, und sell him und make some money. Oof dere iss money enough for me to ged marrit on, all vat habbened mit me I vill call a goot t’ing. Dose Inchuns dropped us indo a silfer-mine; und der choke’s on dem, hey?”
“Baron,” said the scout, “this isn’t a silver-mine.”
“Ain’d dose palls silfer?”
“No, they’re gold.”
“Goldt? Himmelplitzen! I t’ought goldt vas yellow. Dose palls are vite.”
“Py chimineddy! Iss dot some oof McGowan’s lost goldt, Puffalo Pill?”
“I’ll bet my pile it is. Those redskins have dropped us into the place where the bullion thieves have been caching their loot.”
“Und id don’d pelong to us, but to McGowan!”
“It’s McGowan’s gold, all right, baron.” Once more a laugh broke from the scout’s lips. “We’d never have found it if that white villain and those Apaches hadn’t——”
A whistle echoed down the shaft and drifted in along the level to where the scout and the baron were standing, near the pile of amalgam.
“Vat id iss?” whispered the baron, taking a tense grip on the scout’s arm. “Meppy der Inchuns haf gome pack to put us oudt oof der vay.”
But the baron was wrong in this conclusion. While he and the scout stood there, trying to puzzle out the cause of that whistle, a voice came to their ears.
“Buffler! Aire ye thar, ole pard?”
“Nomad!” cried the scout, starting for the shaft.
“Py shinks oof id ain’d!” added the baron, with a whoop of joy.
“Thet’s yerself, is et, Buffler?” called the old trapper, from the top of the shaft.
“Sure, Nick,” replied the scout, looking upward to where two heads were framed darkly against the background of sky. “Who’s that with you?”
“Great Scott! I can’t understand this at all.”
“Jest wait till we git ye out o’ thar an’ we’ll spring a shore enough surprise-party on ye. Aire ye all right?”
“As well as ever.”
“An’ Schnitz—hes he got any bones broke?”
“Nod dot I know anyt’ing aboudt,” the baron answered for himself.
“Hooray! I was thinkin’ mebbyso ther reds had damaged ye some when they sprang their leetle trap. I’m goin’ ter throw down the end of er rope. Lay holt o’ et, you two, an’ we’ll snake ye out with one o’ ther hosses.”
The scout and the baron stepped back into the drift until the end of the rope had come swishing down; then they went out and laid firm hold of it.
“All ready, Nick!” shouted Buffalo Bill.
“Gee-haw with thet pesky cabyo, Cayuse,” called Nomad to the Piute boy; “git him a-goin’, son, an’ stop ther minit I sing out.”
The rope tightened, then straightened out under the weight of the scout and the baron. Up and up they went at a smart clip until they reached the mouth of the shaft. At a quick command from the trapper, Cayuse stopped the horse; then Buffalo Bill and the baron climbed out on top of the old ore-dump.
“Howlin’ painters,” jubilated Nomad, grabbing his pard’s hand, “but et’s good ter see ye, Buffler, an’ ter know ye pulled out o’ thet trap without so much as moultin’ er feather.”
“Weren’t there any Apaches on guard around here?” inquired the scout, sitting down on the rocks.
“Nary. I reckon ther reds thort they had ye bottled up fer keeps down thar, an’ thet thar wasn’t no way fer ye ter git out without help. ’Course,” laughed Nomad, “they didn’t opine noways thet ye was goin’ ter git help.”
“I can’t understand that play of theirs at all. They snagged the baron and me with riatas, dumped us out of our saddles, drugged us, and then lowered us into that old shaft. If they had wanted to put us out of the way, why didn’t they use their guns, or their knives? It isn’t like a pack of reds to go to all that extra trouble.”
“Thar was a white man with ’em, wasn’t thar?”
“Waal, them Injuns was bein’ bossed by ther white man. All ther pesky white varmint wanted ter do was ter hang ye up, hard an’ fast, durin’ ter-morrer.”
“Why was that?”
“They hev a mill clean-up at ther Three-ply ter-morrer, an’ Bernritter an’ Jacobs an’ them reds aire plannin’ ter git away with more’n forty thousand in bullion.”
The scout stared at the old man in astonishment.
“Where did you get next to all that, Nick?” he asked.
“By doin’ what ye told me ter do an’ follerin’ Jacobs.”
“This is important. Give me the whole of it.”
The trapper went into details, leaving out nothing that had the slightest bearing on the peculiar situation.
Little Cayuse likewise added his testimony, explaining how he had discovered that the scout and the baron had been lowered into the old shaft.
“So far,” applauded the scout, “this little drama has been a two-star performance, with Nomad and Cayuse occupying the center of the stage. Nick, you and Cayuse have done mighty well. By acting on this information you two have collected, we’ll be able to run out this trail of McGowan’s in short order.
“Bascomb and the redskins, unless I misread the signs are going to storm the Three-ply camp to-morrow, after the amalgam has been scraped off the mill-plates, and make ’way with it.
“I have suspected Bernritter and Jacobs ever since I saw them in the sheriff’s office. What do you think of them for a pair of contemptible, scheming scoundrels? McGowan has all the confidence in the world in Bernritter, and the super has taken advantage of that confidence to rob his employer systematically.
“I know, now, just as well as I know I am sitting here, that those rascals contrived to put that bar into the baron’s saddle-bag, solely for the purpose of bringing our Dutch pard under suspicion and sidetracking McGowan’s distrust until the mill clean-up could be stolen and rushed away.
“We’ll nip this pretty plot in the bud, but we shall have to go about it carefully. Bascomb and his Indians think the baron and I are holed up in that shaft. We’ll let them continue to think so, and will so mask our movements that they will not know we’re at large until we show ourselves to frustrate their designs on the Three-ply gold. Give me a saddle-blanket, one of you fellows.”
Nomad was puzzled by this request, but he immediately loosened his saddle-cinches and drew out the blanket. Then the scout dropped the riata into the shaft once more and let himself down.
He was down a short time, when he called out to be drawn to the surface again.
He came up with the saddle-blanket secured at the corners, and a heavy weight in it.
“What ye got thar, Buffler?” asked the curious trapper.
“About thirty pounds of amalgam, at a rough guess,” was the answer.
“Amalgam!” cried the startled Nomad.
Then the scout explained, and when the truth dawned on the trapper he chuckled mightily.
“Et wasn’t er good thing for them varmints ter put ye down thar with thet Three-ply loot,” said he. “Didn’t ther ijuts know better, er was they jest takin’ er chance ye wouldn’t find et?”
“They were taking the chance that we couldn’t get out if we did find it,” answered the scout, “and it was Little Cayuse’s work that enabled us to fool them. The baron and I will stow the stuff in our war-bags, and then we’ll ride.”
“Whar’ll we ride ter, Buffler?”
“To some place near the Three-ply camp.”
The amalgam was quickly stowed in the war-bags, Nomad replaced his saddle-blanket, and the little party mounted.
Cayuse and Nomad took the lead to the gully. This was followed almost to the point where it entered the valley, and there the horsemen spurred out of it, crossed two or three low hills, and rounded up in a small arroyo. During the entire journey from the old shaft nothing had been seen of Bascomb or any of his Indians.
“Whar d’ye reckon ther reds aire, Buffler?” asked Nomad.
“They are probably lying low and waiting for their work to-morrow,” was the reply.
The scout turned to the baron.
“Where does McGowan sleep, baron?” he inquired.
“In a leedle room off der office,” answered the baron.
“Where do Bernritter and Jacobs sleep?”
“Pernritter shleeps by der bunk-house, und Chacops shleeps in der laporadory glose to der cyanit-danks.”
“Good. Cayuse, you and the baron come up this hill with me. Nomad, keep your eye on the horses.”
The scout, followed by the Dutchman and the little Piute, gained the crest of the hill. The camp lay below them, with all lights extinguished save those in the mill. The stamps were still pounding away, powdering ore and releasing gold which Bernritter, Jacobs, and their gang were planning to get away with on the following day.
“Where’s the office, baron?” went on the scout. “Point it out to me.”
“Dere,” said the baron, stretching out his hand. “Id iss dot leedle puilding oop der site oof der hill.”
The office, being of whitewashed adobe, stood out plainly against the dark slope of the hill.
“You see it, Cayuse?” asked the scout.
“Wuh!” said the boy.
“I want you to go down there, Cayuse, and wake up McGowan. Do this quietly, so that no one in the camp finds out about it. Tell McGowan that Buffalo Bill wants to see him at once. Then bring him here.”
Without waiting for further words, Little Cayuse slipped down the descent, while the scout and the baron turned back to the place where Nomad was watching the horses.
“Vell,” remarked the baron, “I couldt haf done dot schust so vell as Cayuse.”
“I can’t do dot. She iss a leedle sunpeam, I tell you for sure. Dere iss only vone girl in dis vorldt for me, und dot’s Frieda. Somedime, pefore long, meppy, Frieda vill be Frau von Schnitzenhauser. Ach, vat a habbiness!”
“Waugh!” grunted Nomad. “Ther baron hes been chewin’ loco-weed. Wimmen gits ombrays inter trouble, an’ ef et hadn’t been fer thet thar Frieda ther baron wouldn’t hev rode away from ther Three-ply with thet bar o’ cyanid bullion.”
“I don’d care aboudt dot,” averred the baron stoutly. “Frieda is vort’ anyt’ing vat habbens to me.”
Little Cayuse was entirely successful in his errand to the Three-ply camp. It was not long before he returned to the scout, bringing McGowan with him.
“Faith,” said McGowan, sizing up the scout and his pards in the faint light, “I wasn’t expecting this.”
“I told you,” laughed the scout, “that you would probably hear from us when you least expected to.”
“You were right in that, Buffalo Bill. But why don’t you and your pards come down to the camp? I can make you comfortable there, and——”
“It won’t do,” interrupted the scout. “We don’t want any of your men to know that we’re anywhere near the camp.”
“Why is that?”
“Because the bullion thieves are planning to get away with your clean-up to-morrow, and we can back-cap them to better advantage if they don’t know we’re anywhere around.”
“What!” gasped McGowan. “You must be mistaken, Buffalo Bill.”
“You’re going to have a mill clean-up to-morrow, aren’t you, McGowan?”
“Yes. As soon as the night-shift knocks off work in the mill we’ll hang up the stamps and the day-shift will begin the clean-up.”
“How long will it take?”
“What do you do with the amalgam?”
“It is kept in the mill until it is ready for Jacobs; then it is taken over to the laboratory by the tanks and Jacobs gets to work on it.”
“It will be taken to the laboratory about two o’clock?”
“Who’s with Jacobs while he’s refining and running out the bullion?”
“I am, usually, and so is Bernritter.”
“You will be with him to-morrow?”
“Of course. But why all this questioning?”
“I want to collect information for our work to-morrow, that’s all. Shortly after two o’clock, McGowan, you may look for an attack on the laboratory.”
“An attack? From whom?”
“From a gang of stray Apaches led by a white scoundrel named Bascomb; and from Bernritter and Jacobs.”
“An attack from Bernritter? You’re wide of your trail, Cody. Bernritter is loyalty itself. There’s not a dishonest hair in Bernritter’s head.”
“You’re mistaken. Bernritter is a contemptible scoundrel.”
“I’ll not believe it.”
“He’ll prove it to you. Do as I say and you’ll see him caught red-handed to-morrow.”
McGowan seemed dazed. For a moment he was silent.
“Then Indians are mixed up in this?” he asked finally.
“Yes. There are a dozen or more of them. They intend to swoop down on the Three-ply to-morrow afternoon, steal the amalgam from that clean-up, stand off any of your miners and millmen who show fight, and escape into Mexico.”
“I’m willing to take your word about the intended robbery, but I can’t think that Bernritter has anything to do with it. Why, man, that fellow has worked for me five years. He’s—he’s engaged to marry my daughter, Annie, who is away visiting in ’Frisco. I can’t think he’d do me dirt like that!”
“It’s hard, I know,” said the scout, in a kindly tone, “to have your confidence betrayed by a man like Bernritter. Still, the facts are sometimes brutal, McGowan. It is far and away better for you to find out what sort of a fellow Bernritter is now than after his marriage to your daughter.”
McGowan, greatly shaken, bowed his head thoughtfully.
“The night is wearing to a close,” went on the scout briskly, “and we must have our plans all laid before morning. How many men have you in the camp on whom you can absolutely rely?”
“I thought I could rely on all of them,” was the slow answer, “with the possible exception of Jacobs. The cyanid expert has only been here for a few months, and I never liked him. He’s a good workman, however, and I’ve kept him solely for that reason.”
“How many men are on the night-shift in the mine?”
“They will be in the bunk-house to-morrow afternoon?”
“How many are on the day-shift in the mill?”
“A batteryman, two amalgamators, and an engineer. The engineer and the batteryman will help the amalgamators make the clean-up, since the fires will be banked and the stamps hung up.”
“Then there will be four in the mill?”
“How many Mexicans are working about the cyanid-tanks?”
“Six. Their foreman is a white man, Andy O’Connell—as game and honest a man as ever walked.”
“Can you depend on all the men who are to be in the bunk-house, in the mill, and around the tanks to-morrow afternoon?”
“I don’t know about the Mexicans, but I can bank on the rest.”
“Then here is what you must do: Contrive in some way to have the men in the bunk-house and in the mill armed with six-shooters. Arm O’Connell, too, but don’t arm the Mexicans. Do this at noon, and don’t let either Bernritter or Jacobs know that you do it.”
“That will take a lot of guns, Buffalo Bill, and I haven’t so many. Most of the men, however, have weapons of their own.”
“If you can’t arm all of them with guns, arm them with iron drills, axes, picks—anything that comes handiest. My Dutch pard and I would also like a six-shooter apiece—we had the misfortune to be stripped of our own hardware. Is there any place, near the laboratory and the cyanid-tanks, where you could hide Nomad and the baron and me?”
“At noon,” proceeded the scout, “when you arm your men tell your mill-engineer to keep a lookout in the direction of the cyanid-tanks. The moment he sees a man there waving a handkerchief, tell him to blow the whistle as long as he can. That will be the signal for your men to get busy. I presume there will be steam enough in the boiler for that?”
“Yes. The mill starts up again when the night-shift goes on. I’ll tell the engineer. Nevertheless, this may be a case of all cry and no wool, Buffalo Bill.”
“I hope it will prove to be, but I am positive it will not. Will you carry out instructions, McGowan?”
“Certainly! I’d be a fool if I didn’t. I can’t afford to lose forty thousand dollars’ worth of bullion. But you’re wrong about Bernritter.”
“Why, Bernritter has been stealing you blind for the last two weeks!”
“Can you prove that?”
“I wouldn’t make such an assertion if I couldn’t prove it. Didn’t you tell me that you and Bernritter have been in the mill almost every night since you have been missing gold?”
“And that you watched the body of the mill while Bernritter kept behind the battery-boxes?”
“That was the way of it.”
“Nomad,” said the scout, “dump those war-bags here, in front of McGowan.”
The war-bags were brought and emptied of their contents.
“Amalgam!” cried McGowan, starting back with one of the silver balls in his hand.
“Exactly,” returned the scout; “amalgam taken from the Three-ply Mine. It was stored in an abandoned shaft, not far from here and close to the Black Cañon trail.”
“But—but how was it taken?” gulped McGowan.
The scout took from under his coat two sets of copper wires. From each set of wires dangled flat pieces of copper.
“You see these contrivances?” the scout asked, striking a match to afford McGowan a better view of the wires and the dangling pieces of copper. “Bernritter strung those in the battery-boxes, and the copper pieces captured all your best gold before it ever reached the mill-plates. At the proper time the wires were removed from the boxes, replaced with others, and the amalgam cleaned from the copper pieces at Bernritter’s leisure, or at Jacobs’. The stolen amalgam was then conveyed to that old shaft and stored away until it could be marketed. I found those wires,” the scout added, “under the pile of amalgam balls, in the deserted shaft.”
McGowan was thunderstruck at the case made out by Buffalo Bill. Then, as he realized how audaciously he had been robbed, his anger began to mount.
“By thunder,” he cried, smiting his hands fiercely together, “I’ll have the scalps of the men who did this, no matter who they are! Buffalo Bill, you have done great work! In one night you have unraveled a mystery that has bothered the life out of me for two weeks. I’ll remember you for this.”
“You’ll have to thank my two pards, Nick Nomad and Little Cayuse,” said the scout, “for what has been accomplished. They have done the bulk of the work so far. But,” he broke off abruptly, pointing to the glimmer of dawn in the east, “morning is coming, and Nomad, the baron, and I must get into that powder-house. Cayuse,” and the scout turned to the boy, “you will take charge of the horses. We can’t take them into the camp, for Bernritter or Jacobs would see them, and suspect something. Keep them out here in the hills. We’ll help you carry the amalgam to the camp, McGowan,” he finished, facing the mine-owner, “and when you get it there, see that you stow it away where Bernritter won’t see it.”
The amalgam was put back into the war-bags. The scout took one sack of rations from his horse, told Cayuse to use the other sack for himself, and then the scout, Nomad, and the baron climbed the hill with McGowan and descended into the still quiet camp.
Buffalo Bill’s plans had been cleverly laid. If nothing went wrong with them, there would be hot times at the Three-ply during the day to come.
The powder-house backed up against the rear wall of the laboratory. It was small, constructed of stone, and was considerably dilapidated through disuse. In earlier days it had answered very well as a storing-place for high-explosives, but that was when the Three-ply Mine was young, and had not expanded to its present dimensions. Now, owing to the mine’s growth, the old powder-house was altogether too close to the scene of operations for safety, and another storeroom had been built farther up the hillside.
Very quietly Buffalo Bill, Nomad, and the baron took up their quarters in the ruinous structure, swung the battered old door into place, and seated themselves on the pounded-clay floor.
The scout and the baron had each a six-shooter, which had been given to them by McGowan, together with a supply of cartridges.
By the time they were safely ensconced in their hiding-place, the sun was on the rise and the camp was astir.
Peering through the chinks in the stone wall, the baron could look at the chuck-shanty, and could see Frieda bobbing out and in while making ready the miners’ breakfast.
“Ach, sooch a fine girl vat id iss!” he wheezed, with both hands on his heart.
“Fergit et!” growled Nomad. “Ye’ve got somethin’ else ter think erbout now, baron.”
“I can’t t’ink oof nodding but Frieda!”
“Ye ort ter hev said so afore we come inter camp; then we could have left ye with Cayuse an’ ther hosses.”
“Nod on your life, Nomat!” murmured the baron vehemently. “I vant to blay efen mit dot Pernritter und dot Chacops, who gold-bricked me und almost got me in chail. Oof id hadn’t peen for Puffalo Pill I vould haf peen in der chail dis minid, und dot vould haf fixed me for keeps mit Frieda. She vouldn’t like some fellers ven he vas in der lock-up.”
The baron, gazing soulfully through the crack in the wall, continued to watch for stray glimpses of Frieda.
“Thet Bernritter, Buffler,” said Nomad to the scout, “come purty nigh hevin’ things his own way hyar. He had got McGowan’s darter ter agree ter marry him, an’ then he went on bunkoin’ her daddy out o’ ther funds ter live on. What er fool ther super is! Ef he’d a-played honest, he would prob’ly hev married ther gal; an’ then, sooner er later, he’d hev got all the old man’s money.”
“He’s an out-and-out rascal, Nick,” said the scout; “no two ways about that. But maybe McGowan is misinformed. Perhaps Bernritter’s suit for the girl’s hand was only a blind to give him a better ‘stand-in’ with her father. That’s the only way I can account for it.”
Suddenly the mill-whistle blew a long blast. As soon as the echoes of the whistle died away, the roar of the stamps ceased abruptly, and an unnatural silence pervaded the valley.
The men skylarked among themselves like a lot of schoolboys.
Once more the whistle blew, and there was a general movement in the direction of the chuck-shanty.
“I vish,” sighed the baron, “dot I vas going in dere mit der rest.”
Half an hour later another shrill blast called the day-shift in mine and mill to their work, and the tired men of the night-shift came out of the chuck-shanty and made for the bunk-house. The Mexicans proceeded to their pick-and-shovel and wheelbarrow work about the tanks, and Jacobs could be heard moving around in the laboratory.
With Jacobs astir so close at hand conversation between those in the old powder-house could not be indulged in.
The hours dragged slowly. The mill was the heart of the camp, and it was strange how lifeless the place seemed while the mill was out of commission.
Occasionally Bernritter showed himself between the mill, where the clean-up was going forward, and the office. Once he met Jacobs in the open, and the two exchanged words. The scout and the trapper, peering out from their place of concealment, noticed that both men seemed furtive and apprehensive. When they separated, Jacobs skulked back to his laboratory like a man who was fearful of what was to come.
The pards in the old powder-house munched their rations calmly. They were there for “business,” and their one desire was to get the business over as swiftly as possible.
A blast of the mill-siren told them that noon had come. Again was there a flocking in the direction of the bunk-house, but there were not so many men at dinner as there had been at breakfast. All the miners and millmen on the day-shift had carried their dinners into mine and mill with them.
As the miners on the night-shift loitered back toward the bunk-house, McGowan, with a bundle under his arm wrapped in canvas, followed them.
“There, Nick,” whispered the scout in the trapper’s ear, “McGowan is going to arm the miners and tell them to be on the lookout for trouble.”
“Wonder ef he has posted ther millmen yet?” returned Nomad.
“If he hasn’t, he will. McGowan is mad clear through. When I showed him that stolen amalgam I expected it would swing him around to our side with a whole heart. That’s just what it did. I wouldn’t stand in Bernritter’s shoes for all the gold in these hills.”
Some time later the pards could hear men coming into the laboratory and going out again. They were not in a position to see what was going on in the direction of the mill, as the laboratory shut off their view, but they gathered that the clean-up had been finished, and that the amalgam was being brought into the laboratory for Jacobs to “retort” and run down into bar-bullion.
The movement of men from mill to laboratory ceased. At about the same time Bernritter and McGowan left the office and made for the laboratory.
As they drew close to the building, McGowan passed on ahead and Bernritter dropped behind. The alert pards could see the super cast an upward look at one of the hills that rimmed in the valley; and, as he looked, he waved his hand.
Swerving his eyes to the hilltop, Buffalo Bill caught sight of a white man’s head and shoulders just vanishing downward.
“That was a signal!” whispered the scout. “The thieves are making ready for the attack.”
“Hadn’t ve pedder ged oudt und ged pizzy?” champed the impatient baron.
“No,” answered the scout sharply. “Don’t make a move till I give you the word. I’ll tell you what to do then, and you do it.”
McGowan and Bernritter could be heard entering the laboratory. An instant after their heavy footfalls had sounded on the plank floor of the small house there came sounds of a quick scramble, a sharp cry, and a heavy fall.
Nomad leaped instinctively.
“Wait!” breathed the scout. “Wait for the attack!”
“But ther villains hev downed McGowan, Buffler!” gasped Nomad.
“Undoubtedly; but they won’t add murder to their crime, if they can help it. McGowan is safe enough, for the present. I reckon that will open his eyes as to Bernritter’s character!”
A tall man could be seen hurrying around the old powder-house toward the laboratory door. That was Andy O’Connell. He had heard the scuffle and the cry, and was not waiting for the mill-whistle to call him to the counter-attack.
O’Connell, however, did not reach the laboratory door. Suddenly he paused and whirled about, jerking a revolver from his pocket as he did so.
At the foot of the hill, where Buffalo Bill had seen the disappearing head and shoulders of Bascomb, was a pack of armed Apaches, rushing like wolves in the direction of the laboratory building. A white man was in the lead, springing over the ground with long leaps.
“Nomad,” said the scout, starting up, “you and the baron will get into the laboratory building and prevent the amalgam from being taken. Now!”
The door was flung open and the three pards rushed out. The trapper and the baron, bent only on carrying out orders, paid no attention to O’Connell or the onrushing Bascomb and his Apaches. Their business was to get into the laboratory—and they went at it.
O’Connell, whirling around and seeing the three issue from the powder-house, made up his mind that they were part of the attacking-force, and had been concealed in the powder-house for no good.
He raised his revolver and would have sent a bullet after Nomad had the scout not grabbed his arm and threw it upward.
“I’m Buffalo Bill!” cried the scout; “those men are my pards! We’re helping McGowan. Get into the laboratory and help stand off those red scoundrels. Quick!”
Without waiting for more, Buffalo Bill dashed around the end of the laboratory and rushed for the cyanid-tanks.
Rushing up an incline that led to a plank toe-path along the rim of the tanks, the scout pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and waved it.
The engineer, faithful to instructions, was on the watch. The instant the handkerchief began to wave, the mill-whistle took up its wild clamor and sent ominous echoes through the camp.
The men poured out of the bunk-house and out of the mill.
Up to that moment not a shot had been fired, but the mill-whistle was followed by a chorus of yells from the white defenders and a burst of fierce whoops from the attacking reds.
A revolver cracked; then the popping broke suddenly into a fusillade—and the fight for the Three-ply bullion was on.
Bascomb and his Apaches were almost at the laboratory before the mill-whistle sent out its warning peal. They saw the men rushing from the bunk-house and the mill in answer to the signal, and they realized at once that their attack was no surprise. For a second they halted, on the verge of a panic.
Bascomb saw Buffalo Bill, whom he had put down in the old shaft during the night, and whom he believed to be safely out of the way. The sight of the scout naturally astounded the ruffian; then, apparently realizing that his failure to take the camp by surprise was due to Buffalo Bill, Bascomb’s rage rushed through him and found vent in a wild oath.
“Come on!” he yelled to the redskins. “Kill the long-haired warrior! A hundred pesos ter the buck that does fer Buffler Bill!”
If Bascomb failed to get the gold, he was determined to play even with the man who had caused the failure.
It had been the scout’s intention, as soon as he had given the signal to the engineer, to join the men from the bunk-house and lead them in the battle with the reds.
He now found this plan impracticable.
Acting under Bascomb’s instructions, the fleet-footed Apaches turned the corner of the laboratory and rushed at the tanks.
Not all of them reached the tanks, for Bascomb was obliged to divide his party so as to take care of the force coming from the mill. Much as Bascomb himself desired to come into battle with the scout, he found that he was barred from doing so by a flank movement of the millmen.
He used his revolver, and one of the millmen dropped. Before he could use the weapon a second time, a bullet through the arm caused his revolver to fall from his hand.
Swearing luridly, Bascomb jerked at his second revolver with his left hand. While he was about it, the remaining three millmen rushed him, and he was compelled to retreat in the direction of the piles of tailings clustered about the rear of the mill.
While this was going forward, Buffalo Bill, on the plank-walk at the rim of the tanks, was having the fight of his life.
The Apaches had begun the battle with a rain of bullets. The scout, anticipating the volley, had dropped flat on the planks, and the bullets had passed over him.
But the redskins misinterpreted the scout’s move, and thought he had been hit, and had fallen. Lusty yells of exultation broke from them, and two of the nearest warriors raced up the plank incline to get the coveted scalp.
They did not get the scalp, however. The scout had more use for it than they had.
Regaining his feet like lightning, he pulled the trigger. A futile snap followed. Again and again the trigger fell, and the cylinder revolved, but not a cartridge in the weapon responded to the scout’s will.
With the two armed Indians rushing toward him, and others crawling up the incline, the scout’s situation was a desperate one. But he was equal to it.
Crouching forward, he met the first Apache with a jump and a sledge-hammer blow. The redskin crumpled like a man of straw and dropped face downward over the toe-path.
The second Indian the scout gathered up in his mighty arms as he would have caught a venomous dog. The Indian was a powerful man, and he succeeded in fighting loose, but only for a second. Again the scout was upon him.
Grabbing the redskin, Buffalo Bill lifted his writhing form in both hands and cast him into the tank near which the battle was taking place.
Never was the scout’s strong arm more in evidence than it was then.
A third Indian was creeping toward him. He darted at the warrior like a fury, they came to hand-grips, and in the resulting struggle both tumbled from the toe-path between two of the tanks.
The Indian had a knife in his hand; but in the wrestling-match, the point had been turned toward the Indian’s own breast. In the heavy fall from the plank-walk, the knife was driven to the hilt, and the redskin straightened out with the rattle in his throat.
The scout raced out from among the tanks, to find that the men from the bunk-house and the mill had joined forces and were in hot pursuit of Bascomb and the remnant of his red followers.
Buffalo Bill did not join in the pursuit, but made directly for the laboratory.
There he found a broken window, an overturned assayer’s furnace, two bags loaded with amalgam, and two wounded men.
One of the wounded men was the baron; the other was Jacobs.
McGowan, white and weak, sat in a chair by a table, taking a swig from a flask. Old Nomad stood grimly over the bags of amalgam.
“Well!” exclaimed the scout; “it looks as though there had been doings here, too.”
“Thar has, Buffler,” answered Nomad. “When ther baron an’ me blew in hyar, McGowan lay in a corner, knocked as senseless as I was, back at ther Phœnix hotel. Bernritter an’ Jacobs put up er fight, an’ ther baron got tickled in ther ribs with er bullet, an’ Jacobs got tickled in ther shoulder.”
“He went out by way o’ ther window, and never stopped ter put et up. I couldn’t chase arter him, kase I was ther on’y man left ter purtect ther gold. I hopes some ’un lays ther pizen whelp by ther heels.”
“So do I!” came from McGowan. “The infernal scoundrel!”
“You think he’s a scoundrel now, do you, McGowan?” queried the scout, turning on the mine-owner.
McGowan brought his fist down on the table with all the strength he could muster.
“I know it!” he declared.
“What happened to you in here?”
“Why, I came with Bernritter to superintend the retorting, and the running of the gold into bars. I was ahead of Bernritter when we came into the room, and I had barely got inside the door when he jumped me from behind.
“The impetus of his body carried me down. I gave out a yell—just one—and then the scoundrel hit me with the butt of his revolver. That’s all, so far as I’m concerned. When I came to, matters were just as you see them now! And to think,” cried McGowan, “that that was the man I have trusted for all these years! The man who is engaged to marry my girl, Annie! I wish we could hang him!”
From this it will appear that the mine-owner’s eyes had been thoroughly opened.
“What was the matter with that revolver you gave me, McGowan?” went on the scout.
“Matter with it?” demanded McGowan. “Why, nothing. It was one of my own weapons—an arm that I have depended on a dozen times, and it has never failed me. That was the reason I gave it to you.”
“Well, it failed me. Look at it.”
The mine-owner took the revolver from the scout, “broke” it, and looked at the cartridges.
There were six of them, all apparently ready for use.
“Fire it,” said the scout.
McGowan pointed it at the ceiling and pulled the trigger. Only the click of the hammer sounded. He tried five times more; then, with an imprecation, “broke” the piece again, took out one of the cartridges, and twisted out its lead cap.
There was no powder in the shell!
“Tampered with!” growled McGowan.
“That’s the size of it,” returned the scout.
“Bernritter must have done this!” declared McGowan.
“Did you leave the weapons where he could get at them?”
“They usually hung from a belt on a nail in my room. As my room is off the office, it was easy for Bernritter to get at the guns and fix ’em. Oh, the depth of that villain’s trickery! He laid his wires well, and he would have won out against me, Buffalo Bill, if it hadn’t been for you and your pards.”
“Such a man,” commented the scout, “deserves the worst that can happen to him.”
Nomad was kneeling beside the baron, binding up his injury with a piece of sacking.
“Is it a bad wound, Nick?” the scout asked solicitously.
“Scratch, thet’s all,” said Nomad.
“How’s Jacobs’ wound?”
“That’s worse, but not so bad thet et’ll keep him from goin’ ter ther penitentiary.”
McGowan got up and walked over to the baron.
“How do you feel, Schnitzenhauser?” he asked.
“Pedder as I mighdt oof id vas a whole lot vorse,” said the baron, sitting up.
“Are you able to walk?”
“I don’d t’ink I vas.”
“If you were able to walk,” went on McGowan, “I would have you go to the chuck-shanty and tell Frieda I wanted her to take care of you. But, as you can’t navigate——”
The baron was on his feet in a flash.
“Oh, vell, meppy I could walk so far as der chuck-shandy,” said he eagerly.
“Go on, then,” said McGowan, with a wink at Buffalo Bill.
The baron went, and he was quite brisk about it, too.
“Let’s go out, Buffalo Bill,” suggested McGowan, “and see what our casualties are. I hope none of my boys have been badly injured.”
Together the scout and the mine-owner left the laboratory, Nomad staying behind to look after Jacobs and the amalgam.
The first man the scout and the mine-owner saw as they emerged from the office was Andy O’Connell.
“Are yez all roight, McGowan?” asked O’Connell.
“Barring a blow on the head that still makes me feel a little dizzy,” answered McGowan. “Were you one of those who chased after the thieves?”
“I was that, but sorry a wan av th’ blackguards did we catch. They had horses waitin’ beyant th’ hill, an’ they was on thim an’ away befure we could git to our own mounts. Th’ white scoundrel that led th’ attack was hurted—annyway, his arm was tied up in a bit av cloth. He lit out jist a-smokin’. Bernritter was close behind him. Whyever did Bern break through th’ window an’ chase aff wid th’ villains?”
“Because he was mixed up with them, Andy.”
“What! Bern wan av th’ thaves?”
“He was—and the worst one. Jacobs was also implicated, but he’s wounded and back there in the office.”
“Well, glory be! Av that ain’t news I niver heard any!”
“How many of our men were hurt, Andy? Do you know?”
“Where are Chislett and Harkness?”
“In th’ mill.”
The scout and the mine-owner pushed on to the mill and found the wounded men in the engine-room, sitting up in a couple of chairs and being attended to by the amalgamators.
They were not seriously hurt.
“Lucky for us, Mr. McGowan,” said Chislett, “that we had warning of the attack. But for that there’d been a lot of us caught napping, and the reds wouldn’t been the only ones to cash in.”
“You lads stood by me finely,” said McGowan, “and I’ll not forget it. Harry,” he added to one of the amalgamators, “get on the best horse in the corral and ride to Phœnix. Tell Rising to come out here, and have him bring a doctor.”
The amalgamater started forthwith for the corral. The men of the day-shift in the mine had got wind of the fighting and had flocked up into the shaft-house. McGowan met them, told them the trouble was all over, and sent them back to work.
The men from the bunk-house, who had gone in pursuit of Bascomb, Bernritter, and the redskins, had all straggled back, and were talking over the exciting events in front of the blacksmith-shop.
Buffalo Bill and McGowan went back to the laboratory. There they found that Nomad had made Jacobs comfortable in his bed, in a small room off the workroom. Jacobs was pale and there was an apprehensive look in his eyes when he saw McGowan.
The mine-owner drew up a chair by the head of the bed.
“Did you or Bernritter put that bar of bullion in the Dutchman’s saddle-bag, Jacobs?” he asked.
“I put it in,” said Jacobs. “Bernritter told me to.”
“Why was that done?”
“Bernritter was afraid Buffalo Bill would come out here with you and look into the gold-robberies. He wanted to shift suspicion onto some one else until this job of to-day was pulled off.”
“I see. Bernritter didn’t want Buffalo Bill to help probe the Three-ply robberies, eh?”
“No. He knew the king of scouts wouldn’t be long in finding just how things stood.”
“Well, you and Bernritter took just the right course to get Buffalo Bill interested out here.”
“I can see that, now. But when we put the bar in the Dutchman’s saddle-bag we didn’t know he was a pard of Buffalo Bill’s.”
“That’s the way things go wrong for men like you and Bernritter—sometimes,” put in the scout.
“This stealing has been going on for the past two weeks, has it?” pursued McGowan, anxious to take full advantage of Jacobs’ talkative mood.
“You and Bernritter were tapping the battery-boxes right along, eh?”
Jacobs looked surprised.
“How did you find that out?” he asked.
“Buffalo Bill found it out. Bascomb put the scout and his Dutch pard into an abandoned shaft, last night, and they found in it.”
“Who put the wires in the battery-boxes?”
“Bernritter did that—while you and he were watching the mill for thieves.” Jacobs laughed cynically. “Oh, Bern’s a rum one, I’m telling you. He never intended to marry your daughter, Mr. McGowan. He’s a married man already—he told me so. All he wanted to do was to get himself solid with you so he could make a big clean-up and get away.”
McGowan clenched his hands fiercely and a blaze of savage anger crossed his face.
“I’d like to see the scoundrel hung!” he muttered. “What’s more, I’d like to spring the trap myself, or pull at the rope that lynches him. He’s not fit to live!”
“Who’s this man Bascomb, Jacobs?” asked the scout.
“I don’t know much about Bascomb,” replied Jacobs, “except that he and Bern are pals. Bascomb has a hold on a bunch of renegade Apaches, and he rounded them up to put through this deal here to-day. I won’t be sure, but I think that Bascomb suggested all this gold-robbery business to Bernritter, and has been telling him how to pull it off.”
“Bernritter was a willing tool—there’s not a particle of doubt about that,” interjected McGowan.
“Does Bascomb stay in Phœnix?” asked the scout.
“He doesn’t make it a rule to stay anywhere for very long. I have my suspicions that he’s a badly wanted man.”
“He’ll be badly wanted now, if he wasn’t before,” scowled McGowan.
“Bernritter told you to meet Bascomb in Phœnix, did he?” went on the scout.
Jacobs opened his eyes pretty wide at this.
“How did you know that?” he asked.
“My old pard, Nomad, found it out. When you and Bernritter left the sheriff’s office I had you followed.”
“Does your pard know what sort of a talk I had with Bascomb?” asked Jacobs, alarmed.
“He found out enough to put us next to the work you contemplated, out here. That is how we were able to back-cap you like we did.”
“You and your pards must be regular fiends!” murmured Jacobs.
“Rather a left-handed compliment, I call that,” said the scout. “Didn’t you know my pard, Nomad, was trailing you, Jacobs?”
“I should say not!”
“How did it happen that some one got the best of him in our room at the Phœnix hotel, bound and gagged him with towels, and left him a prisoner in a closet?”
“I didn’t know anything about that. Bascomb, before he rode out into the hills, was to have a couple of men call at your hotel and keep an eye on you or any of your pards who happened to be there. I suppose those men must have roughed things up for Nomad. But I didn’t hear about it.”
“Nomad said Bascomb called the men ‘light-fingered.’ Didn’t Bernritter want them to go through our baggage?”
“I don’t know. Bern didn’t say anything to me about it.”
“Did Bernritter tamper with my guns?” asked McGowan.
“Well, I am rather swift when my mad is up.”
“So Bernritter fixed your guns. Now, Mr. McGowan, I’ve told you all I know. I have been Bernritter’s tool all through this business. He got me my job here, and he swore that if I didn’t help him in his thieving he’d have me discharged. On account of all that, sir, I’m hoping you’ll be easy with me.”
“Oh, yes, I’ll be easy with you!” growled McGowan. “You’ll not be hung, I reckon, but you will go over the road, all right.”
“You haven’t lost any gold——”
“It was not through you that I saved any of it.”
“I didn’t know but that you might, when everything was considered, let me go. I’ll get right out, and this part of the country will never see me again.”
“You’ll get right out just as soon as you’re able to move; and you’ll go with Rising, the sheriff. And you’ll leave this part of the country, all right, when you take that little trip to Yuma.”
“Hyar’s a pard o’ your’n, Buffler!” sung out Nomad, from the other room.
The scout stepped out of the bedroom and found Little Cayuse. The boy had erased the war-paint from his face, for he had reached the end of his war-trail.
“Cayuse all right, Pa-e-has-ka,” said the boy.
“I knew they would be when I told you to take care of them. Where did you put the animals?”
“All same camp corral.”
“That’s all right.”
The boy edged closer to the scout.
“Me done good work, mebbyso?” he went on.
The scout looked at him in surprise. It was not like Little Cayuse to claim credit, or try to get some one to pat him on the back.
“You have done fine work, Cayuse,” said the scout heartily.
“Mebbyso you let Cayuse take scalps of Apaches?” pleaded the boy.
The scout started. Every once in a while the boy’s Indian nature would crop up, just as it did in this request for the scalps of the slain Apaches.
“You want those scalps pretty bad, do you?” the scout asked.
“Wuh!” said Cayuse, with glimmering eyes.
“You like um Pa-e-has-ka?”
“You can take those scalps, Cayuse, if you want to,” went on the scout, “but the moment you do, our trails divide. I’ll have no pard about me who will do such heathen work. Take your choice.”
“No take um scalp,” said Cayuse, wheeling silently and striding out of the room.
“Ye might hev knowed how he’d choose, Buffler,” said he. “Why, he thinks more o’ you than he does o’ his own dad.”
“His own dad sold him for a quart of whisky and a gun,” said the scout quietly, “so that isn’t saying much, Nick.”
In the afternoon Rising drove out in a two-seated buckboard, bringing Hawkins with him and a doctor.
He was astounded when told of what had taken place at the Three-ply.
“Everything seems to happen all in a bunch for you and your pards, Buffalo Bill,” said he. “It would take a lot of average men a month to do what you and your outfit have cleaned up on in twenty-four hours.”
“A lot of average men wouldn’t have the Cody-luck,” said the scout, with a smile.
“I reckon there’s more in that than a person would think.”
“In that, and in having helpers like Nick Nomad and Little Cayuse.”
The doctor examined Jacobs and pronounced him well enough to go back to town with Rising and Hawkins. After dressing Jacobs’ wound, the doctor performed a like service for Chislett and Harkness, and was then sent to the chuck-shanty to look after the baron.
Chislett and Harkness, it was the doctor’s opinion, would soon be as well as ever.
McGowan told them they were to receive double pay while they were laid up, and that they could be laid up as long as they pleased.
While the doctor was looking after the baron, Rising and Hawkins were getting particulars and taking descriptions for use in an effort to apprehend Bernritter, Bascomb, and perhaps some of the Apaches.
The scout was in front of the laboratory when the doctor came out of the chuck-shanty and walked in the direction of the mill. The doctor was wearing a broad grin.
“How’s that Dutch pard of mine, doctor?” asked the scout.
“He’s mighty bad off,” answered the doctor.
“How’s that? Why, I thought his wound——”
“Oh, his wound’s all right. He can be up and around to-morrow, so far as his wound is concerned.”
“Then how is he bad off?”
“It’s his heart. Bad case of heart-disease. That girl Frieda is the cause of it.”
The scout laughed, too.
“Is it all one-sided, this affair of the baron’s?” the scout asked.
“From the way Frieda languishes around the baron, I should imagine not. He wants to see you, Buffalo Bill.”
“I’ll go with ye, Buffler,” said Nomad, who was standing near. “I got er big notion one o’ our pards is goin’ ter be cut out o’ our herd, an’ I’d like to be in at the finish.”
“So would I,” chipped in McGowan. “We’ll all go up.”
So it happened that the three of them made their way to the chuck-shanty, were met by Frau Schlagel, and conducted into the little bedroom off the kitchen where Frau Schlagel’s Chinese assistant usually slept.
But now the baron had usurped the Chinaman’s bed. Beside the bed sat Frieda, holding the baron’s hand in a life-and-death grip.
The baron looked mighty happy.
“Hello, eferypody!” said he. “Frieda und me haf got somet’ing to tell you. Hey, leedle gum-trop?” and the baron turned a pair of sheep’s eyes in the girl’s direction.
“Macht ruhig!” blushed Frieda. “You vas sooch a comical feller.”
“What have you got to tell us, baron?” laughed the scout.
“Vell, Frieda say dot she vill pecome Frau von Schnitzenhauser ven I peen vell enough to shtand id.”
“Oh, ho!” cried the scout. “Then you’re not going to travel with this outfit any more, eh?”
“Vell, I don’d can be in doo places ad der same time; und I couldn’t take Frieda along oof I draveled mit you some more, couldt I?”
“Not very well,” said the scout. “But what are you going to do to make a living, baron?”
“I hafen’t t’ought aboudt dot, yet,” admitted the baron, pulling a long face.
“It’s quite an important thing, baron,” said the scout.
“I can take care oof Frieda some vay, I know dot.”
“Perhaps,” put in McGowan, “I can help you, baron. I will give you a job, here at the Three-ply; you can work in the mill and Frieda can continue to help her mother in the chuck-shanty. Between the two of you you’ll probably make money enough to buy me out, one of these days.”
“Schust a minid, oof you blease,” said the baron. “You t’ought I shtole dot par oof goldt. Vat you t’ink now, hey?”
“Villingly, Misder McGowan!” cried the baron. “You make me so habby dot I can’t see shdraight. Kiss der chentleman, Frieda.”
Frieda did so, much to the “chentleman’s” discomfort. And she did not stop with McGowan, but, in her excitement, kissed Buffalo Bill and Nomad, as well.
“Dere, now, dere, now,” cried the baron; “you vas going too far for my biece oof mindt, Frieda. I don’d like dot. Gif me dree to efen oop.”
Frieda gave the baron the “three,” and they were hearty ones; then the scout and the trapper shook the baron by the hand, wished him luck, and left him—happy.
“Thar goes one o’ yer stand-bys, Buffler,” said Nomad. “Ye’ll never hev ther blunderin’ baron around ye any more.”
“He was a good fellow,” said the scout, “and he was always loyal.”
“How could a pard be anythin’ else but loyal ter Buffler Bill?” demanded Nomad.
Down by the laboratory the sheriff’s buckboard was drawn up, ready to make a start for Phœnix. Hawkins was on the rear seat with Jacobs, and the doctor was on the front seat. Rising was just gathering up the lines, and had one foot on the hub of a forward wheel.
“Off for town?” asked the scout.
“On the jump, Buffalo Bill,” returned Rising.
“We’ll be after you in less than an hour.”
“I should think you’d want to hang out here for a week or two and rest up after your exciting work.”
“Well, the work you’ve done here has put a big feather in your cap.”
The scout smiled.
“Feather!” snorted Nomad. “Give et ter Leetle Cayuse: He’s the on’y one in our bunch thet wears feathers.”
“He’s entitled to one for this Three-ply work, all right enough,” said the scout. “What are you going to do about capturing Bascomb and Bernritter, Rising?”
“To tell the truth, Cody, I don’t believe we can do much of anything. If those two villains are wise, they’ll not stop until they have crossed the Mexican line. I’m thinking they’re wise enough for that. If they are, of course that lets me out.”
“When I get to Fort Apache I’ll talk to the agent about these red renegades that are helping Bascomb out in his lawlessness. They ought to be rounded up and sent back to the reservation.”
“That will be a help to the forces of law and order in this county, Buffalo Bill.”
“Well,” spoke up McGowan, “if five thousand dollars will help any toward the capture of either Bernritter or Bascomb, I stand ready to post that amount on each.”
He turned inquiringly to the scout.
“It wouldn’t be any incentive to me,” said the scout.
“I’ll see what can be done about it when I get back to Phœnix, McGowan,” said Rising.
“I am going to reimburse Cody and the baron,” went on McGowan, “for their time and the loss of some of their valuables when they were roped in the hills and taken to that old shaft.”
“That’s the least you can do, Mac,” said Rising, climbing into the buckboard. “Well, adios, friends, till we meet again.”
“Adios, gentlemen,” called the scout.
The sheriff whipped up his horses and the buckboard with its passengers was soon out of sight in the gully.
“Waugh! Jest lis’en ter thet, will ye? Ther pizen noise seems ter come from every which way. Trailin’ tracks ter ther place whar they goes is er heap easier than trailin’ er noise like thet ter ther place whar et comes from. Whoa, you gangle-legged ole hide-rack, y’u! Stand still fer a brace o’ shakes while I tries ter sense ther location o’ thet distressin’ whoop.”
The speaker was Nick Nomad. As was quite frequently the case when Nomad was journeying alone, he was conversing with himself.
The “gangle-legged old hide-rack” to which he referred was his horse—a rangy, ranch-bred cayuse, all leather and springs.
Horse and rider were in a high-walled basin, formed by the opening out of a gulch through which ran the wagon-trail from McGowan’s mine, to the town of Phœnix, in Arizona.
At its widest, the basin would measure probably an eighth of a mile across. Its bottom was level as a floor and overgrown with mesquit, greasewood, and thorn.
Nomad, entering the basin from the gulch on the north, was crossing to the gulch on the south. He was close to the center of the basin when he heard a prolonged:
The walls of the basin caught up the sound and sent it echoing and reechoing across the intervening spaces, the result being a bewildering clamor coming from everywhere at once, and from nowhere in particular.
“Sartain shore,” muttered old Nomad, cocking up his ear and puzzling his brain, “thar’s another human in this hyar place, an’ he ain’t feelin’ jest right in his mind, someways. But whar is he? Thet’s ther p’int. Ther noises aire all tangled up, an’ et seems like thar was er hundred voices callin’. We got ter make er try, anyways, ole hoss. As er starter, we’ll bushwhack ter ther right.”
The trapper turned from the wagon-trail and spurred into the chaparral. “Whoo-e-e!” he shouted, as he forced his way through the brush.
The echoes of his call were taken up by another “Whoo-yah-h-h!” from the unseen man, and the basin fairly roared with voices.
Nomad forced a passage clear to the basin wall on the right without locating the person he was seeking. Thereupon he rode some fifty feet southward, and cut clear across the basin.
Luck was with him that time, for he came upon a low structure of cottonwood logs, bolted strongly together at the corners, and with other logs bolted to the top, the whole forming a sort of cage.
At one side of the cage was a door of strong, two-inch planks, fastened to slide up and down in grooves. This door was closed, and the top edge of it weighted down with a big stone.
“Waugh!” exclaimed Nomad, pulling up his horse. “Ef et ain’t er b’ar-trap I’m er Piegan.”
“Whoop-yah-h-h!” came the howl of distress once more, and there was not the least doubt about its being inside the trap.
Nomad slid down from the saddle, dropped to his knees, and peered between the logs. Then he began to laugh.
Inside the trap, likewise on his hands and knees, was a caged man.
The man had fiery red hair, and his broad face was fringed all around with fiery red whiskers.
“Divil take yez!” snorted the man in the trap, with a brogue that was rich and fluent. “A laughin’ matther, is ut? Come insoide a whoile, like mesilf, an’ see av yez can laugh.”
“Sufferin’ varmints!” chuckled the trapper. “Et’s an Irish b’ar, blamed ef et ain’t.”
“Begorry,” came the response, “Oi’m Irish, an’ proud av bein’ from th’ ould sod, but it’s no b’ar Oi am. Rub yer eyes, an’ look ag’in. Did yez iver hear a bear talk? G’wan wid yer funnin’.”
“I’ve seen er b’ar do everythin’ but talk. What’s yer name, my unforchnit friend?”
“An’ how did ye come ter git in ther trap?”
“Och, wurra, Oi didn’t come t’ git in. Oi was on me way t’ Phanix, an’ was shtopped on th’ road an’ put in.”
“Whar ye from?”
“Th’ Three-ply Moine. Oi do be worrukin’ f’r McGowan.”
“I don’t riccolect seein’ ye at ther Three-ply, Golightly, an’ I’ve been thar fer two er three days.”
“Oi’ve seen yersilf there, wid Buffalo Bill an’ th’ little redshkin yez call Cayuse. Are yez goin’ t’ let me out, or are yez goin’ t’ set there chinnin’ wid me on me hands an’ knees an’ me back half-broke?”
“I’m goin’ ter let ye out, pilgrim,” said Nomad, getting up and walking to the door of the trap.
Throwing off the stone, he lifted the door, and Golightly rolled out, with a shout of satisfaction at finding himself free.
Clenching his fists, he shook them in the air; then, jumping high and knocking his heels together, he stooped down and patted the earth with one hand.
“Yez hear me?” he roared. “Oi can lick th’ blackguards wid me wan hand tied behind me back!”
“Ef ye’re able ter do thet, Golightly,” grinned Nomad, “fer why did ye let ther blackguards put ye in ther b’ar-trap?”
“Oi was taken by surprise, that’s whoy!” glared Golightly.
“Tell me erbout et,” returned the old trapper, climbing into his saddle and hooking one knee about the horn.
“This is th’ way av ut,” went on Golightly, ramming some tobacco into the bowl of a short clay pipe and scratchin’ a match on the sole of his boot. “McGowan is expectin’ av his girrul from ’Frisco th’ marnin’, an’ it was mesilf he sint t’ Phanix t’ mate her. McGowan was busy an’ couldn’t go himsilf. Oi got an early shtart wid th’ buckboard, an’ whin Oi was goin’ through here, a mon wid a mask over his face—bad cess t’ him f’r th’ blackguard he is!—rode out av th’ bushes an’ grabbed th’ two horses by th’ bits.
“Simulchuniously, an’ whoile Oi was arguin’ wid th’ mon t’ let go av th’ bits, two more wid masks rode out, wan on each soide av me, laid hold av me collar an’ tipped me aff th’ sate av th’ buckboard. They had guns, d’ye moind, an’ sorry a thing had Oi but me two fists. What could Oi do? I ask yez that. Not a thing, says you, but do as yez was bid. I did that same, an’ was poked into th’ thrap, th’ door was closed, an’ th’ blackguards wint aff wid th’ buckboard.”
“Thet was a pizen queer move, Golightly,” remarked Nomad, the humor of the situation dying out with the serious business that seemed back of it.
“Queer, is ut? Oi do be callin’ ut worse than queer. What did they want iv th’ ould man’s buckboard? An’ what did th’ ould man’s girrul do whin there was no wan t’ meet her at th’ thrain in Phanix?”
“Ther ole man’s darter’s name is Annie, ain’t et?”
“Annie McGowan—ye’ve shtruck ut. She’s been visitin’ in ’Frisco, an’ was expected home this marnin’. By th’ same token, she was expectin’ some wan from th’ moine to mate her, an’ that same was what McGowan tould me t’ do—which Oi didn’t do, account av bein’ penned up in th’ thrap f’r six mortil hours. Och, wurra, but Oi can’t ondershtand ut at all!”
Golightly had not lighted his pipe. He scratched half a dozen matches on his boot-sole, but each time he became interested in his explanation, and allowed the match to flicker out between his fingers. It was a keen expression of his state of mind.
“I knowed McGowan was expectin’ his darter from ’Frisco,” said Nomad, “an’ thet he’d sent some ’un ter meet her; but why ye’d be stopped on er peaceful journey like thet thar, an’ ther buckboard took erway from ye, is somethin’ I don’t understand. What use hev a lot er men on hossback fer a buckboard, anyways? An’ why was they masked? A feller don’t wear a mask onless he wants ter hide his identity; an’ ef he hides his identity, ye kin bet yer moccasins thar’s somethin’ onlawful up his sleeve.”
“Where are yez bound f’r, Nomad?” asked Golightly.
“Phœnix. Buffler, an’ Leetle Cayuse, an’ me aire startin’ fer Fort Apache. Leetle Cayuse an’ Buffler will start from ther Three-ply this arternoon. Hevin’ er piece o’ bizness ter attend ter in Phœnix, I started on ahead.”
“What had Oi betther do? Go on t’ Phanix,
“Ef Miss McGowan was comin’ on ther mornin’ train——”
“She was that.”
“Then she reached Phœnix three hours since, an’ prob’ly hes gone ter ther hotel. Yore cue, Golightly, is ter mosey back ter ther Three-ply, an’ report what’s happened. Someway, I don’t like ther looks o’ things. This underhand work may p’int ter some big villainy er other, an’ McGowan ort ter be informed o’ et as soon as possible.”
“Oi do be sizin’ av ut up in th’ same way, Nomad; but it’s severeal moiles back t’ th’ Three-ply, an’ Oi’ll be some toime coverin’ th’ ground on foot.”
“Ye’ll not kiver the ground on foot, Golightly, fer I’m goin’ ter give ye a lift. I’ll erbout-face an’ make front on thet Three-ply camp, so’st ye kin give McGowan ther nub o’ this diffikilty in short order. Climb up behind me.”
Nomad kicked his foot out of one of the stirrups, and Golightly was just mounting, when a clatter of hoofs reached their ears from southward.
The trapper hoisted himself in his saddle and looked across the tops of the bushes toward the gulch opening at the south side of the basin.
“Waugh!” he cried, startled; “thar comes er gal on er white pinto, slashing erlong ter beat four of er kind, with two handy boys in masks in hot persoot! Take er look, Golightly! Is thet Annie McGowan?”
“Annie! Jest from ’Frisco in that rig? Niver! That’s Dell, av th’ Double D Ranch—a fri’nd av Annie McGowan’s.”
“Whoever she is, Golightly, she needs us, an’ we’ll cut her out o’ thet bunch in er couple er jerks. Hang on, kase I’m goin’ ter plow through ther chaparral at top speed.”
Pointing straight for the wagon-trail, the old trapper made quick use of his spurs, and the double-burdened horse crashed away on the jump.
By the time Nomad and Golightly had reached the wagon-trail, Dell of the Double D was well to the north of the basin. The old trapper and the Irishman thus came out of the scrub between her and the two pursuing men.
Facing about in the trail, old Nomad unloosened “Saucy Susan” and “Scoldin’ Sairy”—as he called his forty-fours—and the result, as he afterward expressed it, was “shore comical.”
The masked pursuers, evidently, were not expecting interference, and the sudden materializing of the trapper and the Irishman from the bushes was in the nature of a disagreeable surprise.
Although their faces were masked, it could easily be seen that they were ruffians of the border brand—the sort who can be very brave when there are two of them in pursuit of a woman, but immediately experience panic when the odds are more nearly equal.
The bullets fired by the trapper went into the air, and the horses of the pursuers were stopped so suddenly that the men on their backs almost went over their heads.
Frantically the two ruffians whirled about and went slashing along on the back trail, plying whip and spur for all they were worth.
To follow them was the last thing Nomad would consider, with his own horse so heavily burdened.
“Aire them plug-uglies two o’ ther gang thet put ye in ther b’ar-trap, Golightly, and run off with ther buckboard?” asked the trapper.
“Faith, they look like ut,” answered the Irishman. “They didn’t shtop t’ tell us whoy they took th’ buckboard.”
“Nary, they didn’t,” chuckled Nomad. “Mebbyso they’ll send their explanations by mail. Let’s see what ther young woman has ter tell us. What did ye say her name was.”
“Dell av th’ Double D Ranch.”
“Dell, hey? Ain’t thar nothin’ more to et?”
“Dauntless, Dell Dauntless, Oi belave, is her full name, but nobody iver calls her that. F’r ivery wan in these parts she’s Dell—Dell av’ th’ Double D.”
Nomad, after watching the two masked men disappear in the gulch, had turned his horse the other way.
“Dell Dauntless,” he muttered, his eyes on the girl as she came riding back on her white cayuse. “Waal, thet’s er great name. Et somehow tickles my fancy like, an’ appeals ter my imagination. Et makes Dauntless Dell, when ye turns et front-end to, an’ shore stacks up ther clear quill. Ther name’s purty, an’ ther gal thet wears She looks like she was got up ter play ther star part in ‘Ther Cowboy’s Pride,’ er some other mellerdrammer with lots er blue fire and trembly music. Mebbyso ther name’s er false alarm, an’ thet war-rig o’ her’n is on’y fer looks.”
“Arrah, ye’re wrong!” declared Golightly; “they do be sayin’ Dell av th’ Double D is nervier than any mon in these parts. She can hit a squirrel in th’ eye as far as she can git a sight av him, an’ she can shtand aff twinty feet an’ throw th’ p’int av a bowie through anny pip ye name in a playin’-card.”
“Waugh! Ye’re gittin’ me plum interested; but go lightly, will ye, ef thet’s yer name. What ye tell me is more’n ary woman kin do.”
“Yez don’t know Dell av th’ Double D,” muttered Golightly.
As she came loping easily toward the trapper and the Irishman, perfect mistress of her horse and her lithe body swaying rhythmically in the saddle, the girl was certainly a “picture.” Nomad, who cared little for the sex feminine, felt a mighty stirring of admiration in his old heart. Certainly, Dell of the Double D appealed to his admiration for the picturesque.
The girl could not have been more than nineteen or twenty years of age, and that she was athletic by training and temperament was manifest in every graceful move.
Her blouselike waist was of softest doeskin, fringed and beaded and secured about her trim waist by a carved Mexican belt, from which depended an ornate knife-sheath, showing the pearl handle of a bowie; her short skirt was of buckskin, likewise fringed and beaded; below the skirt’s edge were laced tan leggings, and below the leggings were small russet shoes, with silver spurs at the heels. Her hat was a rakish brown sombrero.
Her riding gear was decorated with silver trimmings, which dazzlingly reflected the sun.
The cayuse, white and pink-nosed, was as smooth as satin.
“A foine horse she has,” commented Golightly, in a low tone, as the girl came nearer.
“Never seen er white bronk thet was wuth his keep,” demurred Nomad.
“Yez are lookin’ at wan now, thin,” insisted Golightly. “She do be callin’ av him ‘Silver Heels.’”
“Silver Heels!” muttered the old trapper. “Et’s er name thet stacks up fine with Dauntless Dell. Mebbyso thar’s somethin’ back er all them fine feathers, but I won’t believe et till I’m showed.”
“Howdy?” called the girl, bringing Silver Heels to a halt. “Whyever did you push into this chase and scare those two ombrays away?”
This last question was a startler. Nomad rubbed his chin and silently turned it over in his mind.
“Golightly,” the girl went on, “you ought to have known better, even if that grizzly old warrior in front of you didn’t.”
Nomad gulped hard on a swear-word. What was the girl trying to get at, anyhow?
“Waal, I reckon!” growled the old trapper. “Say, I’ve been a grizzled warrior fer three times as many y’ars as you’ve been on airth, an’ I ain’t never yit seen ther time when I wouldn’t interfere with two masked tinhorns as was er chasin’ er lady.”
The girl leaned back in her saddle, stared a minute, then gave vent to a rippling laugh.
“Glory be, Dell,” said Golightly, “yez hadn’t ought t’ talk like that. This gint is Buffalo Bill’s pard, ould Nomad.”
A smile still twitched at the girl’s lips, but there was interest and gratification in her blue eyes as she held out one gauntleted hand to the trapper.
“Shake, old Nomad,” said she. “I’m Dell—Dell Dauntless of the Double D Ranch. Any fellow who trains with Buffalo Bill must be in the list of big high boys. You didn’t understand what I was trying to do, that’s all. But I’ll forgive you. Your intentions were all right, I reckon.”
Nomad took the small hand gingerly.
“What in blazes was ye doin’, miss, ef ye warn’t tryin’ ter git erway from them thar masked riders?”
“Well, I was plugging along for the gulch,” said Dell; “the gulch is rocky and crooked. I was intending to round in under the lee of a boulder, draw a bead on the two masked men”—she slapped at a brace of holsters as she spoke, such small holsters that they had, up till then, escaped the trapper’s eye—“and make them tell me what their game was.”
“Their game was ter ketch ye,” averred Nomad.
“But why? So far as I can tell, I never met the men before.”
“Them leetle poppers look ter be rale cute,” hazarded Nomad, “but them fellers is so hardened, I’m afeared yer toy bullets wouldn’t hev punctured ’em.”
“They’re sawed-off thirty-eights,” said the girl promptly, jerking one of the weapons into view. “I can take your sizing, all right, Nomad. You think I’m too much of a spectacle to make good in a fight. I’ll admit to you that I don’t like rowdyism. I try to be a lady, both at home on the ranch and when I’m abroad in the hills. But I don’t think any the less of a lady because she’s able to take care of herself. Do you?”
“Nary, I don’t,” said Nomad.
“I’m no second edition of Rowdy Kate or Calamity Jane; but when my father died”—the girl’s voice trembled, and a mist came into her fine eyes—“and left no one but me to look after mother and take care of the ranch, it was up to Dell of the Double D to show her hand. In self-defense I was obliged to learn the ways of the frontier. How well I have learned them, Nomad, any one in these parts can tell you.”
Nomad pulled off his hat.
“Ye’re all right, Miss Dauntless,” said he, “an’ thet shot goes as it lays.”
“I’m Dell to my friends,” said the girl, her eyes dancing again, “and I want to be friends with old Nomad, and with Buffalo Bill, too.”
“Thar won’t be no sort er trouble erbout thet. But I’d like ter hear more erbout them fellers thet was chasin’ ye.”
“They have been dogging my heels ever since I left Phœnix, picking up my trail about the time I crossed the Arizona canal. I don’t know why they did this any more than you. As I just said, I was going to make a play to find out when you came to my”—she laughed—“my rescue.”
“Waal,” grinned Nomad, “now thet ye’re rescued, ye kin jest trot erlong home ter ther Double D, an’ Golightly an’ me’ll pike fer ther Three-ply.”
“I’m piking for the Three-ply myself,” said Dell.
“Sure. You see, I have important business with Buffalo Bill.”
“S’posin’ we ride tergether?”
The girl whirled Silver Heels, clicked her spurs, and both horses started off on an easy lope.
Nomad’s first impression of Dell of the Double D was undergoing a change.
“How do you happen to be so far from the mine without a mount of your own, Golightly?” the girl inquired, as they traveled.
“Bedad,” answered the Irishman, “th’ two blackguards that was chasin’ yerself could have tould yez.”
He scowled, looked back along the trail, and shook his clenched fist.
“Here’s mystery,” said Dell, “and it must be serious to get your Irish up like that. However did those two men who were chasing me have anything to do with you?”
“They snaked him off’n er buckboard an’ put him inter a b’ar-trap,” guffawed Nomad. “He was yellin’ ter git out while I was passin’ through ther basin, an’ arter a spell o’ lookin’ I managed ter locate him.”
“In a bear-trap!” cried Dell. “Did they rob you, Golightly?”
“Sorry a thing did Oi have about me that was worth th’ takin’,” answered Golightly, “barrin’ th’ ould man’s team an’ buckboard.”
“Why did they take that?”
“Ask me somethin’ aisy.”
“Were you going to Phœnix?”
“Oi was. Oi got as far as th’ basin, an’ shpent th’ rest av th’ toime in that bear-thrap!”
“Ah!” exclaimed the girl, straightening suddenly in her saddle, while a look of alarm crossed her face. “Were you going to meet Annie?”
“Nawthin’ ilse! Now, begorry, Oi’ll bet she’s waitin’ in th’ hotel wondherin’ where th’ blazes is Golightly.”
“Were the star-faced cayuses at the pole of the buckboard?” demanded the girl, a smoldering excitement shining from the depths of her blue eyes.
“They were that. A hunnerd an’ sixty dollar team they were, an’ th’ buckboard was worth a hunnerd more. Och, wurra, but it’s me day f’r throuble!”
“What erbout et, Dell?” queried Nomad, his speculative glance on the girl. “Ye’ve got somethin’ in yer head thet lies er b’arin’ on ther sitiwation. Out with et. Thar’s er nigger in this hyar wood-pile, an’ we’re arter locatin’ him.”
“First off,” answered the girl, her attitude one of alert attention, “I want to know something about what recently happened at the Three-ply. The superintendent, Bernritter, and the cyanid expert, Jacobs, were mixed up in an attempt to steal the bullion from the mill clean-up, weren’t they? And Buffalo Bill and his pards jumped in, saved the bullion, stood off an attack of Apaches, and helped in the capture of Jacobs?”
“Thet’s erbout ther way o’ et,” returned Nomad. “A white tinhorn named Bascomb led the Apaches. He an’ Bernritter, an’ most o’ ther Apaches, got erway. Ther sher’f come out from Phœnix, last night, an’ took Jacobs back ter town. Buffler, an’ me, an’ Leetle Cayuse was goin’ ter foller ther sher’f on ther way ter Phœnix, bound fer Fort Apache, but McGowan asked us ter stay over. I had started ahead o’ Buffler an’ Cayuse, when I found Golightly in ther trap. I’m now givin’ him er lift back, ter make his report.”
“Then at the present time,” said Dell, “this fellow, Bascomb, and Bernritter, and a few red renegades, are loose in the hills?”
“Thet’s ther how o’ et. But I don’t reckon they’re loose eround hyar. Ef I figgers et right, Bascomb an’ Bernritter took er runnin’ start fer ther Mexican border.”
“That may be,” continued Dell reflectively; “then, on the other hand, they may be hiding out in this vicinity, laying their plans to play even with Buffalo Bill and his pards, and McGowan.”
“Ye don’t think et was Bascomb an’ Bernritter thet chased you, do ye?”
“I know Bernritter wasn’t one of the two,” flashed the girl. “No mask could keep me from knowing him. This Bascomb I don’t know anything about.”
“I do,” scowled Nomad, “an’ I could tell ther whelp with er without er mask, as fur as I could see him. He wasn’t one o’ ther two as chased you, Dell. Now, aside from Jacobs, thar was on’y two whites with ther Apaches when the Three-ply Mine was set upon. So these hyar two thet was chasin’ ye, bein’ neither Bascomb ner Bernritter, couldn’t hev had nothin’ ter do with ther trouble at ther Three-ply. Golightly says, too, thet ther men who was makin’ arter you was two o’ ther three thet put him in ther b’ar-trap and hiked out with ther buckboard. Mebbyso ther third man might hev been Bernritter.”
“Faith,” spoke up Golightly, who had been intently listening, “Oi’ll take me oath it wasn’t. Oi know Bernritter some mesilf.”
“They may be in the hire of Bascomb and Bernritter,” said Dell.
“Le’me tell ye, gal,” averred Nomad, “them two false-alarms aire on the run, an’ they ain’t goin’ ter stop runnin’ ter hire three pizen varmints ter do any underhand business eround hyar. Take my word fer it.”
“Thin whoy th’ dickens did they take th’ buckboard?” demanded Golightly. “Answer me that.”
Dell Dauntless faced about in her saddle.
“I can tell you,” said she, in a low, tense voice.
Her manner claimed the fullest attention of Nomad and Golightly. She was about to tell them something of vital importance—the fact stood out in her eyes.
“Don’t hang fire, gal,” urged Nomad. “Our ears aire wide open.”
“They took the buckboard and horses because the rig is known in Phœnix as belonging to Mr. McGowan,” said Dell.
“Waal, what o’ thet? Arter stealin’ ther rig ther scoundrels wouldn’t drive et inter Phœnix.”
“That is what they did, nevertheless,” was the girl’s surprising statement; “what is more, one of them unmasked and drove the rig.”
“Did ye see et in ther town?”
“I did. I had to go to Phœnix on ranch business to-day, and, as Annie McGowan is a friend of mine, and as I knew she was to arrive this morning, I went to the railroad-station to meet her.”
“An’ she come?” queried Golightly.
“She did. I talked with her a few minutes on the station platform.”
“What did she say because no wan was there t’ meet her an’ bring her t’ th’ moine? What hotel was she afther shtoppin’ at?”
“She did not go to any hotel,” returned Dell deliberately. “She was met by a man who said he came from the mine for that purpose.”
Golightly nearly fell off the horse.
Nomad stiffened, and a look of astonishment quivered across his sun-browned face.
“Glory be!” gasped Golightly, thunderstruck.
“I knowed thar was some kind of er hen on,” grunted Nomad.
“What’s more,” proceeded Dell, “the man who met Annie had McGowan’s rig.”
“Cut an’ dried game ter git holt o’ ther ole man’s gal,” boomed Nomad, “thet’s what et was. Did she drive off with thet feller in ther rig?”
“Of course she drove off with him, bag and baggage,” answered Dell. “Why shouldn’t she? He said he came from the mine for her, and that her father was too busy to come himself. Then, too, don’t forget that he had the star-faced cayuses and the mine buckboard. Annie knows that rig as she knows her two hands. Why should she suspect that anything was wrong? No, no! Those scheming villains laid their plans too cleverly. Ah, if I had only known that Golightly had been sent from the mine by Mr. McGowan!”
Dell clenched her small hands and a look of fiery indignation crossed her face—indignation not unmixed with self-reproach and righteous anger.
“Now,” she resumed, “for the rest of it. I called at the post-office for mail. They had a letter there for Buffalo Bill, and it was marked ‘urgent.’ The postmaster knew that Buffalo Bill was at the Three-ply Mine, and that the Double D Ranch was not a great way from the mine. So he gave me the letter, and asked me to take it to the mining-camp and deliver it. That is the errand that brought me in this direction. And it may be that that letter is what those two masked men were chasing me for, and trying to get. Who knows? It’s a guess, and it may be a good one.”
“I’m all scrambled up erbout these hyar doin’s,” mumbled Nomad, rubbing his chin perplexedly. “Whyever should thet feller want ter run off with Annie McGowan?”
“Did you hear,” asked Dell, “that Annie was engaged to be married to Bernritter? That she engaged herself to him before she went to ’Frisco?”
“I heerd thet, yes.”
“I always looked upon Bernritter as a scoundrel,” continued Dell, “and always doubted his loyally and intentions. Annie doesn’t know about how Bernritter has been unmasked during the last few days. So it seems to me that this stealing of the buckboard may have been engineered by Bernritter, and that the man who met Annie at the railroad-station may have been executing his treachery on Bernritter’s behalf.”
Dell pulled fiercely at one of her gauntlets.
“I don’t know,” she said, “but I’m going to find out; what’s more, after I deliver Buffalo Bill’s letter, I’m going to take the trail and find Annie and get her back. There’s a villainous plot of some kind on foot, and I’ll bet something that Bernritter and Bascomb are back of it.”
What the girl had said had had a tremendous effect upon Golightly and Nick Nomad.
“Let me tell ye, gal,” said the old trapper, “ef things aire like ye figger out, Buffler Bill an’ his pards’ll also hev er hand in ther game. Don’t let thet git past yer guard fer a minit.”
The girl’s face brightened.
“Do you really think Buffalo Bill will help?” she asked.
“Thet’s Buffler, fer ye. Arter he hears yer story, take my word for it, he’ll be as anxious as ye aire ter do somethin’ fer Miss McGowan. Anyways”—and Nomad waved his hand toward a valley which lay in front of them and contained the “plant” of the Three-ply Mine, “we’re clost ter whar Buffler is now, an’ et won’t be long afore he’ll tell ye hisself what he’ll do.”
Quickening their pace, the three riders hastened down among the mine buildings and laid their course direct for the adobe office.
“There’s not a particle of doubt, in my own mind, about Bernritter and Bascomb being somewhere in these Arizona hills, Buffalo Bill.”
“I won’t dispute the statement, McGowan, although it seems to me they would be smart enough to look after their own safety. After the way they were balked in that attempted robbery, they must know that this section of the country isn’t very healthful for them. I don’t think you need to worry, McGowan.”
“I’m not worrying about myself. I’ve looked out for Number One so long that I feel perfectly qualified to do it successfully. Nevertheless, I have a feeling—a vague and oppressive premonition, notion, call it what you will—that something is going wrong. That’s the reason I asked you to delay your departure from the mine last night. However, I don’t suppose I can reasonably insist on your remaining here much longer.”
“My old pard has been gone for several hours, McGowan, and Cayuse and I ought to be following him before long. He had business of some sort to attend to in Phœnix, and because of that he left in advance of us.”
“At least, Buffalo Bill, you can wait until Golightly gets back with my daughter. They ought to have got here some time ago, but I suppose the train was late, and that is what is delaying them.”
“Oh, well, if you desire it, Cayuse and I will wait until Golightly gets here with your daughter.”
The king of scouts and McGowan sat in the shade in front of the adobe office building.
McGowan was nervous. This was his natural temperament. The scout, in judging of his present state of mind, remembered how he had had three dreams concerning the bullion robberies, and how those dreams had come true—at least partially.
“You’re fretting too much over those robberies, McGowan,” admonished the scout. “Forget them. A man ought to teach himself to forget the things that wear on his nerves.”
“It isn’t the trouble here that wears on my nerves, Buffalo Bill; it’s the fact that Bernritter has proved himself a scoundrel; and the fact that Annie must be told of his duplicity when she gets here. I don’t know how the girl will take it. Certainly it will be a cruel blow for her, and one that will strike her like a bolt from the blue.”
“When she learns how unworthy Bernritter was of her regard,” said the scout reassuringly, “she will consider herself fortunate in escaping an alliance with such a man. She has reason to congratulate herself, and I believe she will look at it in that way.”
For the dozenth time McGowan got up, walked to the end of the office, and looked off along the Black Cañon trail in the direction along which his daughter and Golightly would come on their way from Phœnix. But still his anxious eyes failed to see anything of the star-faced cayuses and the buckboard. He turned back to Buffalo Bill, shaking his head forebodingly.
“Faith,” he remarked, with a strained laugh, “I don’t know what’s the matter with me, but I’m all on edge. If you ever had premonitions——”
“I have had,” interrupted the scout, “but I never allowed them to make me uncomfortable. Life’s too short to spend it borrowing trouble, or in crossing bridges before you get to them. If I were you——”
The scout himself was interrupted. Something hummed through the air with a shrill swish-h-h that made itself plain in spite of the throbbing of the mill-stamps; and the swishing sound was finished with a quick spat against the door of the office.
Both the scout and the mine-owner turned their eyes quickly to the door. A long, thin arrow was quivering in the wood, a bit of white paper, compactly folded, bound to it midway of its length.
“Ugh! Him Apache arrow!”
The speaker was Little Cayuse. He had appeared from around the office as suddenly as had the arrow.
Buffalo Bill’s quick eye discerned the scrap of paper, and his quick wit immediately inferred that the arrow had been launched by some one who was afraid to appear in person in the camp and bring a message.
“Cayuse!” said he.
“Wuh!” said Little Cayuse.
“See if you can locate the Apache who fired that arrow.”
The boy leaped back, studied the inclination of the shaft, whirled and swept his eyes over the hills, using the inclination as a clue, and then started off at a rapid pace.
“Why do you send him to look for the Apache?” asked McGowan.
“Because any Apache now loose in the hills is a renegade,” was the answer, “and may have had a hand in the dastardly work engineered by Bascomb and Bernritter. That arrow brings a message.”
“We might first have examined the message, Buffalo Bill, before you sent Little Cayuse after the Indian.”
“It would then have been too late. It may be too late now. The Apache who launched the arrow is undoubtedly making the best use of his legs to get out of the vicinity.”
The scout stepped to the arrow and, with an exertion of considerable strength, pulled its steel point from the wood. Next he untied the folded paper, dropped the arrow, and began opening out the paper so he could read it.
Before he read a word he looked toward McGowan. The mine-owner, drooping limply in his chair, was shaking like a man in an ague fit.
“Why, McGowan,” cried the scout, “what ails you?”
“Nothing but—premonitions,” returned McGowan huskily, making an attempt to straighten up. “Go on, Buffalo Bill. Read that message. Something tells me that the lightning is going to strike.”
The scout read the message first to himself. It ran as follows:
“McGowan: Your daughter is in our hands, and we have a place where we can keep her safely, defying you and Buffalo Bill and his pards to find her. You will never see her again unless you give a written promise not to proceed against us on account of that attempted robbery, and unless you leave a five-pound bar of bullion at the mouth of the deserted shaft three miles north of the Three-ply, just off the Black Cañon trail. Both the written promise and the bullion to be left at the deserted shaft at midnight to-night. It is neck or nothing with us, and we mean business.
“Bascomb and Bernritter.”
Buffalo Bill was dumfounded by this message. The first question he asked himself was whether or not it might be a “bluff.” Then, when he recalled that McGowan’s daughter was long overdue from Phœnix, he knew that the fact pointed to the two white scoundrels successfully accomplishing the stroke mentioned in the note, viz.: the capture, in some way, of the person of Miss McGowan.
The scout hesitated to read the message to McGowan. Noting his hesitation, and auguring dire things from it, McGowan gave a wild cry and flung himself toward the scout.
“What is it?” he demanded; “tell me, quick! I can stand anything better than uncertainty.”
“Sit down,” said the scout sternly. “Get the whip-hand of yourself, McGowan, and, if it will be any comfort to you, just remember that Buffalo Bill and his pards will stand by you, and see you safely out of the trouble.”
“You will?” cried McGowan, with an air of intense relief. “I could ask for nothing more than that, Buffalo Bill. I am calm enough now to stand anything. Go on with the message.”
Buffalo Bill read it slowly. McGowan, with set face and nervously clenching hands, missed not a word.
So far from being cast down, he threw back his shoulders as though suddenly relieved from a burden.
“Now,” he observed, “we have something tangible to go on, some object at which to point our efforts. Hazy forebodings are unsettling; it is only when we know the truth, no matter how grievous it is, that we are able to lay out our work and get busy. With you to help me, Buffalo Bill, I know that Annie will be rescued from the hands of those two infamous villains, Bascomb and Bernritter. Already I am beginning to breathe more freely. But—what are we to do?”
“That is something to be thought about and carefully planned.”
“I could make out a written notice that no steps would be taken against Bascomb and Bernritter, and could leave it, with a five-pound bar of bullion, at the mouth of the old shaft——”
“Personally,” cut in the scout, “I prefer to fight the devil with fire. Bascomb and Bernritter deserve a penitentiary sentence, and I would not allow their plot to succeed.”
“But if any harm should come to Annie——”
“Of course, that is what most concerns you. It is your affair, so do not let my own sentiments stand in the way of your doing what you think best.”
McGowan got up and began pacing the ground in front of the office. Before he arrived at a conclusion, the scout saw two horses and three riders descending into the valley from the Black Cañon trail.
One of the riders was a woman; the other two, mounted on one horse, consisted of old Nomad and Golightly.
Old Nomad would not be returning to the Three-ply unless he had something of importance to communicate; and he would not be bringing Golightly unless the Irishman also had an important report.
“McGowan!” called the scout; “come this way.”
The mine-owner hastened to the scout’s side, and followed the scout’s pointing finger with his eyes.
“It’s a puzzle, then, that soon will be solved,” returned the scout. “Who’s the girl?”
“Dell of the Double D,” answered McGowan; “Dell Dauntless, a friend of Annie’s.”
The scout, impressed by the girl’s beauty, but somewhat disappointed by the sight of her showy apparel and accouterments, watched the party approach.
Now, at last, he felt sure, they were to get developments worth while.
“Golightly!” exclaimed McGowan, when the riders had drawn rein in front of the office and the Irishman had dismounted, “what does this mean? Where’s the buckboard and the horses?”
While Golightly, stamping the ground wrathfully and shaking his fists, was telling of the theft of the rig and of the bear-trap, Nomad had been introducing the scout to Dell Dauntless.
“It’s an honor,” said the girl, leaning down from her saddle and grasping the scout’s hand firmly, “to meet a veteran of the plains like Buffalo Bill.”
“Thank you,” smiled the scout, and turned somewhat abruptly to Nomad. “Why are you back at the mine, old pard?” he asked. “I thought you were in Phœnix, by this time, waiting for Cayuse and me.”
“Would er been, Buffler, of important things hadn’t happened,” said Nomad. “Wouldn’t expect me ter keep cl’ar o’ ther mine when fireworks is due ter be set off, would ye? Miss McGowan hes been run away with, an’ we’re hyar ter tell ye erbout et.”
“We are already informed on that point, Nick. But how did you happen to discover it?”
“Already informed?” repeated Dell. “How, may I ask?”
Turning back to the girl, the scout silently handed her the message, at the same time pointing to where the arrow lay on the ground.
“This was fired into camp with an arrow, eh?” murmured the girl, passing her eyes swiftly over the communication received from the scout.
When she had done with the reading, she laid the note on the horn of her saddle and brought her gauntleted fist down on it sharply.
“This proves it!” she declared.
“Proves what?” queried the scout.
“Why, the guess I had already made that Bernritter and Bascomb were back of Dell’s abduction.”
“Listen to Golightly, Buffalo Bill,” spoke up McGowan. “We’re getting down to cases in this matter. Go on, Golightly,” he added to the Irishman, “and tell Buffalo Bill what you have just told me.”
Golightly, with many “begorrys” and “bedads,” and a wrathful twist of his brogue, repeated to the scout what he had just told the mine-owner.
Dell followed the recital with a narration of her own experiences.
Thus the method of the abduction was cleared up, and the scout and McGowan were given clear understanding of all the details.
Thereupon Dell explained about the letter which she had brought from Phœnix for Buffalo Bill, and placed it in his hand.
The scout tore open the envelope and was soon deep in the letter’s contents. His face expressed surprise and wonder as he read.
“Here’s something,” said he, folding up the letter and placing it in his pocket, “something that makes it necessary for me to take the field against Bascomb, no matter what your decision regarding Bascomb and Bernritter may be, McGowan.”
“What is it?” inquired the mine-owner.
“My letter is from the commandant at Fort Apache, and asks me to use my utmost endeavors to capture a deserter from the army. The man’s name is Slocum, but he was last seen in Phœnix, where he was using the name of Bascomb.”
“Jumpin’ taranches!” crooned old Nomad. “How these hyar trails o’ trouble does cross each other, sometimes!”
“Slocum, otherwise Bascomb,” proceeded the scout, “was a mutinous soldier. He was under arrest at Fort Apache, some weeks ago, for insubordination. In some manner he got hold of a revolver, shot his guard, and took to the hills. From the description of the fellow contained in the letter, there is no doubt in my mind but that the rascal with Bernritter is the same man.”
McGowan looked perturbed.
“If you have to take the field against Bascomb,” said he, “then it will be impossible for me to promise him and Bernritter immunity, and place the writing, with a five-pound bar of bullion, by the old shaft. Your activity would be construed as a breach of confidence on my own part. Can’t you put this off, Buffalo Bill, until my daughter is safely in my hands?”
Dell Dauntless whirled on McGowan with fiercy eyes.
“Mr. McGowan!” she cried. “Can it be possible that you are scared?—and that you intend to carry out the demands of two bluffing rascals like Bascomb and Bernritter?”
“I am anxious only for my daughter’s safety.”
“How do you know that Annie will be returned to you, even if you should give up what Bascomb and Bernritter demand?”
“I—I don’t; but I don’t feel like taking any chances.”
“Tush! Annie McGowan is my best friend, and I would face any danger for her. I would think of her safety, too, but I wouldn’t fall in with the schemes of these lawless scoundrels. I shall not return to the Double D Ranch until Annie is safe at the Three-ply—but you take my advice and give Buffalo Bill and me a free hand in this matter. Being Annie’s father, it is only natural that you should be so worried you can’t get the proper perspective of this business. Leave it to others. You’ll help, Buffalo Bill?” she asked, facing the scout.
“Of course,” was the scout’s reply.
“Nomad said you would,” said the girl.
“Orders from Fort Apache make it necessary for me to do my best to capture Bascomb; but, before I had received the orders, I had already promised McGowan my aid.”
“What’s the first thing to be done?” queried McGowan anxiously.
A Chinaman stepped out of the door of the chuck-shanty just then, and began pounding a gong. A long whistle came from the mill, and instantly the roar of the stamps ceased. Night-shift miners and day-shift mill men came running from bunk-house and mill.
“The first thing,” laughed the scout, “is to eat a good dinner.”
“I can’t eat,” said McGowan. “Isn’t there something we can do, at once?”
“I’m formulating a plan,” the scout answered; “but the time we spend on our dinner will not be lost, nor affect one iota our chances for effecting the rescue of your daughter. If you’re in on this deal, Miss Dauntless,” he added to the girl, “you had better put out that white pinto while we’re in the chuck-shanty. Do the same with your horse, Nick,” he finished.
The horses were taken to the corral, and McGowan, Buffalo Bill, Nomad, and Dell Dauntless went to the mine-owner’s table in the dining-room. Golightly joined the miners and mill men at their own table.
It was a silent meal that was eaten at McGowan’s table. The mine-owner, his mind on his daughter, ate little; the scout and the girl were thoughtful, and Nomad, furtively watching his pard’s face, held his peace to let his pard’s mind finish its planning.
“Well?” queried McGowan impatiently, when they had reassembled in front of the office, “what is your plan, Buffalo Bill?”
“Write out your agreement to drop proceedings against Bascomb and Bernritter, McGowan,” returned the scout, “and have ready your five-pound bar of bullion.”
“You’re going to fall in with the scoundrelly plan, then?” cried Dell disappointedly.
“I am merely going to seem to do so,” the scout answered. “About eleven o’clock to-night Nomad will take the agreement and the bullion and go to the deserted shaft. He will place both on the ore-dump; then he will draw away, hide himself, and see what happens. Whoever comes for what he leaves, he will follow. In this manner it may be possible to discover the rendezvous of Bascomb and Bernritter and their red allies.”
“My agreement will hold, Buffalo Bill, if I sign it,” said McGowan.
“Your agreement may hold, but I have made no agreement. Bascomb is a deserter. As such, your agreement will not be binding upon me. Then, too, unless your daughter is released, your agreement will not be binding upon you, McGowan.”
“I see, I see,” murmured the mine-owner.
“Meanwhile,” pursued the scout, with an anxious look at the hills, “I shall go and try to discover what Little Cayuse is doing. Miss Dauntless, while I’m at the corral making ready, will you go to the chuck-shanty and get a day’s rations for me?”
“I’ll get a day’s rations for each of us,” answered Dell, “for I’m going to ride with you. When you make your own horse ready, Buffalo Bill, get mine under saddle, too, will you?”
The scout studied the girl with fresh interest.
“It is only right to tell you, Miss Dauntless,” said he, “that the Apaches are probably in the hills with Bascomb and Bernritter; also three white scoundrels who have joined issue with them. The danger——”
“You don’t know me,” laughed the girl. “Will you let me go?”
“Very well, if you feel that you want to.”
The scout started for the corral, and Dell hastened toward the chuck-shanty. It was about two o’clock when they mounted, the girl on her white cayuse, Silver Heels, and the scout on his big black horse Bear Paw, and rode over the rim of the valley.
The inclination of the arrow, as it clung to the office door, had given Little Cayuse his clue as to the direction from which the Apache had done his shooting. The scout, no less than the Piute, had taken note of the arrow’s slant, and his course across the rim of the valley was in the exact direction taken by Cayuse.
Just over the rise, the scout and the girl found themselves in a rocky arroyo.
“Here’s a clue left by Little Cayuse,” remarked the scout, drawing rein in the bottom of the arroyo and sliding out of his saddle. “I felt sure he would leave one. Just a moment, Miss Dauntless.”
“Dell, if you please,” said the girl, “unless you want me to call you Mr. Cody. We’re not at all formal out here, as I reckon you know. I’m Dell to all my friends.”
“Dell, then,” smiled the scout, kneeling down in front of Little Cayuse’s clue, which consisted of a heap of white quartz from a “blow-out” which strewed the arroyo. Six fragments of quartz were arranged in a pile, and to one side of the pile lay two more fragments in a line.
“That,” said the scout, “is the work of my little Piute pard. It proves that he picked up the trail of the Apache that launched the arrow, and that he followed him up the arroyo. Those two pieces to one side of the heap and lying in a line, tell the direction.”
The scout climbed into his saddle again, and he and the girl continued up the arroyo.
“Your little Piute pard must be a wonder,” said Dell.
“He is,” averred the scout. “He is not only immune from what is called ‘fear,’ but he has also a clever brain, and never fails to use it. I did not tell him to leave a clue as to where he had gone, or to leave a trail for us to follow; yet we have found the clue, and you can depend on it we will find some sort of a trail.”
“I’d like to know him,” said Dell. “Having trained with you so long, he has probably adopted some of your methods. Ah!” she finished, her eyes on the flinty earth of the arroyo’s bottom, “the Apache was mounted.”
The girl slipped from her saddle and pointed to a stone. The stone had been overturned, with the stained part that had been lying next the earth now uppermost.
“A horse kicked that stone over,” said she. “No moccasined Indian ever did it, traveling afoot.”
“Right,” said the scout; and, like Nomad’s, his first impressions of the girl began to change.
“Besides,” smiled the girl, getting back into her saddle, “near that heap of quartz the mesquit brush had been nibbled by a horse’s teeth.”
“That’s what proved to me that the Apache left a horse by the bushes when he climbed up the rise and unloosed the arrow. I see you’re wise to the trail. There’s a pleasure for me in reading such signs.”
“For me, too.”
After a few minutes of steady riding, the arroyo divided itself into two branches. Well within the right-hand branch were three pieces of quartz, laid in a line as the other two had been.
“What would you argue from that, Dell?” queried the scout.
“Why,” answered the girl, “I should say that Little Cayuse followed the right-hand fork.”
“And that the Apache had been joined by another.”
“Right again. Can you shoot?”
“A little,” Dell answered diffidently. “I can throw a rope, or a knife, too—after a fashion. I have had entire charge of the Double D Ranch ever since my father died, three years ago.”
Her voice quivered a little, but almost instantly she put her emotion from her.
The scout made no answer. Slowly Dell Dauntless was revealing herself to him as a spirited and capable young woman.
As they progressed of the arroyo, the walls grew higher and steeper, giving the defile almost the appearance of a gulch.
They passed more fragments of quartz, the number having been added to until, at the last, there were six pieces.
“There are more Apaches joining the one who shot the arrow,” said Buffalo Bill, “and——”
The last word was clipped short by an incisive report, the whistle of a bullet, a flapping of the brim of Dell’s brown sombrero, and a little spout of sand between Silver Heels and Bear Paw.
If Dell Dauntless was startled she did not show it.
“A poor shot,” she commented, taking off her hat and looking at the brim.
“It lacked only an inch of being a murderous shot,” returned Buffalo Bill. “It came from the top of the right-hand wall, and proves that the Apaches know what we are about and are trailing us along the rim of the gulch. They can get at us, and it is impossible for us to get at them. Let’s see what Silver Heels can do in a pinch.”
The scout dug in with his irons and Bear Paw flung himself up the gulch, taking at a leap every bush or boulder that got in his way.
Dell raced along behind, Silver Heels doing nobly, and displaying more fire and bottom than the scout had supposed him to have under his sleek white hide.
The cayuse, like his rider, was something of a revelation to Buffalo Bill.
The wisdom of speed in that forward movement along the gulch was quickly apparent.
The crack of firearms began all along the top of the right-hand wall.
Both walls continued to increase in height and to draw nearer and nearer together. The sun could not penetrate the depths of the gulch, and the bottom lay in heavy shadow.
“So long as the Apaches hide themselves,” said Buffalo Bill, “we can do nothing to discourage them in this attack they are making. I am going to try a ruse to draw them down into the gulch, and within reach of our six-shooters. It is a time-honored ruse, but it will work nine times out of ten. At the next shot, Dell, I’m going to tumble out of my saddle. You ride on, as though too frightened to turn back, and catch Bear Paw. Don’t stop until you reach the darkest part of the gulch, then round-to under the lee of a boulder, and watch.”
“Trust me,” answered the girl.
The shot for which the scout was waiting was not long in coming. It cracked out above and gouged into the flinty earth several feet in advance of Buffalo Bill; nevertheless, he gave a wild cry, dropped his reins, flung up his hands, and wilted from Bear Paw’s back.
Apparently his fall was a heavy one; but, really, it was only nicely calculated to appear so. With hardly a jar, the scout had struck the ground and straightened out.
It was all so well done that, for an instant, Dell’s heart flew into her throat, and she feared that the last bullet really had reached its mark. She would have drawn rein, in spite of her instructions, had Buffalo Bill not called softly for her to ride on and catch Bear Paw.
As Dell flickered on up the gulch, fierce cries of triumph floated down from the right-hand wall. Indians on horseback showed themselves against the sky-line—five of them—and peered downward with hands shielding their eyes.
Well in the shadow of the gulch above, Dell captured Bear Paw, dropped his bridle-reins over her saddle-pommel, and tossed her own reins over Silver Heels’ head. With the reins in this position, the white cayuse would stand as though tied to a post.
Dropping to the ground, the girl crept back down the gulch for a little way, and watched further developments from behind a boulder.
The five Apaches, thinking the scout had been slain, were dismounting and making a hurried descent into the gulch.
Their descent was a race, for the first man to reach the scout would secure his scalp. And to secure the scalp of Pa-e-has-ka, the long-haired chief, was an honor, indeed!
Slipping, sliding, jumping, the redskins drew nearer and nearer the bottom of the gulch. One was well in the lead, and Dell, her nerves aquiver with excitement, watched his dark form come closer and closer to the scout.
At last, when the leading Apache was about to make the final jump to the bottom of the gulch, and was already fingering the hilt of his scalping-knife, Buffalo Bill regained his feet.
Crack, crack, crack! rang out his revolvers.
Two of the Apaches—the one in advance and the other next behind him—were wounded and dropped into the gulch bottom; but they were not badly wounded. They were scared far more than hurt, and they at once took to their heels, one going up the gulch and the other down.
Instantly a thrill of alarm shot through the scout on the girl’s account.
Four Indians were still on the gulch wall, but they were frantically climbing toward the top again. Leaving them to their own devices, the scout rushed after the Apache who had gone bounding up the gulch.
This redskin had a wound in his left arm, but he still clung to the hilt of the knife.
Dell saw him coming, covering the ground with great leaps. If he ever reached the horses, the girl knew that he would make way with one, or both, of them—and this was something that must not be allowed to happen.
Fearlessly the girl sprang out from behind her boulder and planted herself between the Apache and the horses.
Undaunted by the sight, the savage kept on, flourishing his knife and yelling furiously.
“Shoot!” cried Buffalo Bill.
He feared to let loose a bullet himself, for he, and the Indian, and the girl, were in a direct line with each other. Had he fired, and had the redskin dodged at the exact moment, the bullet might have struck Dell.
But there was no need for the scout to use his weapons.
Hardly had the command to fire left his lips when the gulch took up the echoes of the girl’s revolver.
The Apache was caught in the air; and when he fell, he came down sprawling—wounded a second time, and harmless to do the girl any injury.
“Well done!” cried the scout. “Dell Dauntless, you’re a plucky girl.”
“That wasn’t so much,” Dell answered deprecatingly. “He had only a knife, and you had already wounded him at that.”
“His first wound did not interfere very much with his ability to attack you. I only shot to wound.”
“That was the way with me.”
“These Apaches are the tools of Bascomb and Bernritter. They ought to be rounded up and driven back to their reservation. Why Apache got such a bad heart?” the scout asked, halting beside the wounded Indian.
The Apache made no response, other than to try and sink his teeth into the scout’s leg. The scout stepped back quickly.
“Look out for him, Buffalo Bill!” exclaimed Dell. “He’s as venomous as a tiger-cat.”
Dell’s bullet had struck the Apache in the thigh, making walking impossible.
“We can’t bother with him,” said the scout. “There are four more reds around here, and they’ll probably happen along and take care of him. We’ll mount and keep on until we find Little Cayuse. I can’t understand what’s become of the boy. The Apache he was following was joined by four others; if he still continued to follow the Apaches, he ought to be somewhere in this vicinity.”
“I should think,” hazarded Dell, “we ought to have met him before this.”
“We ought to, and there must be some good reason why we haven’t. We’ll try and discover the reason.”
The darkness of the gulch rendered difficult the task of looking for the stones Cayuse had been piling at irregular intervals. Nevertheless, the scout scanned every step of the way carefully, but without result.
Meanwhile, as they rode, Dell kept a sharp watch for Indians. She saw none, so it was evident that the taste the Apaches had had of the scout’s resourcefulness had been sufficient to discourage them in their sniping tactics.
As the scout spurred on, his alarm for Little Cayuse increased.
“He’s plenty able to take care of himself,” the scout said to the girl, “but any one, I don’t care how wary and cautious, is apt to be caught napping, or taken at a disadvantage.”
“He’s an Indian, and only a boy. It doesn’t seem to me that the Apaches would be very hard on him even if they did capture him.”
“He’s a Piute, Dell, and the Piutes and Apaches haven’t any use for each other. Then, apart from their tribal hostility, I suppose the Apaches are smarting to play even for what happened at the Three-ply Mine the other day. They lost a couple of warriors during that fight. They know Cayuse is a pard of mine, and that it was owing to myself and my pards that the fight went against them. The fact that Cayuse is a boy wouldn’t cause the Apaches to have any mercy on him.”
The gulch walls widened by degrees as they continued on. This allowed more sunlight to come into the defile and made the surroundings plainer.
“The Apaches must have doubled back on their trail,” Dell suggested, “or else Cayuse never followed them this far.”
“It’s about an even chance whether the Apaches have doubled back, or whether something went wrong with Cayuse farther down the gulch. If we don’t pick up another clue pretty soon, we’ll about face and double back on our own trail.”
At that moment the scout’s attention was attracted to another defile opening into the left wall of the one they were following.
It was a narrow break in the lavalike crust of the earth, and, inasmuch as its trend was due east and west, the sun penetrated it to the bottom.
It is doubtful whether the scout would have paid much attention to the defile had the sunlight not rested upon some object which flashed in his eyes.
The wide-awake Dell caught the flash as quickly as did the scout.
“Is that a piece of ore with mica in it, Buffalo Bill?” she queried, pulling up her horse.
“It may be,” was the scout’s response. “But we’ll take a look at the thing and make sure of it before we pass on.”
Together they rode over to the mouth of the smaller gulch.
The flashing object was not a piece of iron pyrites, but a short, double-edged knife.
With an exclamation, the scout hung down from his saddle and picked it up.
On the flat handle was a very crude drawing of a horse, burned into the horn.
“This belongs to Cayuse,” said the scout. “That picture on the handle is the way he signs his name.”
“Then he lost the knife?” queried the girl.
“Cayuse never loses anything so long as he is master of his own actions. I incline to the opinion that the Apaches laid a trap for him and sprung it about here. The ground shows signs of a struggle. During the struggle Cayuse’s knife dropped from its sheath, and when he was carried off his captors failed to see it. There seems to be no doubt, Dell, but that the boy is in the hands of the Apaches.”
“Then there must be more Indians than those who attacked us. They could not have had Cayuse with them while they were following us on the gulch wall and shooting down.”
“He may have been with them, or they may have left him somewhere, or——”
The scout broke off his words, while his face tightened in sharp lines.
“Or?” asked Dell.
“Or,” the scout finished, in a low tone, “they have already taken vengeance on him for their defeat at the mine.”
Thrusting the boy’s knife through his belt, Buffalo Bill dismounted, and looked carefully over the ground where the struggle resulting in the boy’s capture had taken place.
Owing to the nature of the soil, the signs were none too plain—a misplaced stone here and there and a few indentations which might have been considered only the natural results of wind and weather but for the disturbed stones.
Walking up the smaller defile a little way, the scout saw enough to convince him that the Apaches, with their prisoner, had ascended the branch.
Coming back to the waiting girl, he mounted.
“The Apaches, after the capture,” he announced, “went up the defile. They were on foot.”
“This was a good place for an ambush,” said Dell, turning in her saddle and looking back as they rode onward. “The Indians could have hidden behind boulders on both sides of the defile and sprung out on Little Cayuse as he passed.”
“It wouldn’t be like the boy to let himself get caught in such a trap. Still, it’s possible. You can trap a fox if you go about it right.”
“I’d like to know who those three white men are who are helping Bascomb and Bernritter.”
“Ruffians, I reckon, whom Bascomb managed to pick up. There are plenty of scoundrels loose in this part of the country who would help at anything if they got paid for it. The desert is full of white Arabs, as ready to slit a man’s throat as they are to eat a meal. You ought to know that, Dell.”
“I do, of course, and I haven’t any doubt but that it was easy for Bascomb and Bernritter to find men to help them in their villainy. Don’t you think, too, that they have spies in the Three-ply camp? Some one who found out Golightly was to leave, early this morning, to meet Annie at the Phœnix station?”
“Possibly. It has not been so very long, however, since Bernritter was a trusted superintendent at the camp. He must have known when Miss McGowan was expected. Armed with this knowledge, he and Bascomb laid their plans to capture the girl. They set their three masked men to watching the trail for the horses and the buckboard; and, even if McGowan himself had gone to meet the girl, instead of Golightly, the plan would have been carried out just as it was.”
This smaller defile, which the scout and the girl were ascending, had many angles and turns.
Horror rose in the girl’s eyes, and a gasp escaped her lips. She looked at the scout. His face wore an ominous frown.
Leaping out of the saddle, he hurried forward without a word.
Dell likewise dismounted and hastened after him.
The scout’s praise of Little Cayuse was well-deserved. The lad was brave and quick-witted, and prided himself on being a warrior, on having won an eagle-feather, and on knowing how to carry out the orders of Pa-e-has-ka.
Yet bravery and quick wit are not always sufficient to keep their possessor from disaster.
Little Cayuse had been sent to find the Apache who had launched the arrow. This was entirely owing to the scout’s forethought, and was done before the contents of the note brought by the arrow had been read.
Cayuse had not the least idea why he was to follow the Apache who had shot the arrow into the office door. He had received his orders direct from Pa-e-has-ka, however, and that was enough for him.
As he crossed the rim of the valley in which lay the buildings of the Three-ply Mine, the roar of the mill-stamps was muffled by the wind, and his quick ear could distinguish a fall of hoofs from somewhere up the arroyo.
To pile his little heap of quartz “float” took him but a few moments, and then he started along the arroyo at a run.
If the Apache rode at speed, Cayuse knew that he would not be able to come anywhere near him. But this did not discourage the boy. He would run out the trail as far as he could, and when he gave up it would be because no one else—not even Pa-e-has-ka himself—could have followed it any farther.
In his trailing, he had much better luck than he had expected. While he was dodging on along the arroyo he heard the yelp of a wolf—not of a real wolf, but an imitation by a human being.
He was approaching a bend in the arroyo, and this yelp, which was clearly a signal, caused him to approach the bend with more than usual caution.
This was well for him; since presently, from behind a shoulder of rock, he was able to peer out and see a mounted Apache, waiting for another who was riding down the arroyo’s bank.
The Indian Cayuse had been following had a bow and quiver slung at his back. The bow was still bent, showing that the Apache had not yet taken the time to unstring it. Aside from the bow and arrows, both Apaches were likewise armed with rifles.
They met in the arroyo’s bottom, exchanged a few words, and started on again. They looked behind them carefully, but they did not see Cayuse. At that moment the boy was busily engaged laying his quartz pieces on the ground, not only showing his course, but informing any one who might follow that the first Apache had been joined by another.
The Apaches rode at a leisurely gait on into the gulchlike gash into which the arroyo presently changed.
At the place where the gulch forked the two halted and one of them repeated his wolf-yelp.
A little later the rocky walls reechoed with galloping hoofs, and three more Apaches showed themselves, and joined the other two.
The entire party then turned into the right-hand branch of the defile.
Cayuse continued to follow, noiselessly, swiftly, screening his passage with all the cunning of a coyote.
The gloom thickened in the bottom of the gulch. He was glad of it, for it made his trailing easier.
The Apaches talked and laughed as they journeyed, entirely oblivious of the fact that a hated Piute was hanging upon their trail.
All might have gone well with the boy had he noticed a figure on the top of the gulch wall, looking down. It was the figure of a white man, and the white man had under his eyes both the forms of the mounted Apaches and the trailing Piute.
The man stared for a space, then drew back.
Little Cayuse wondered why, when the Apaches arrived opposite the narrow defile that entered the wall of the gulch, they ceased their talking and laughing and came to an abrupt halt.
Of course he could not hear the low voice of the white man, calling from within the lateral defile.
One of the Apaches, leaving the rest, spurred into the smaller gash. And again it was impossible for Cayuse to see that the white man had appeared and beckoned to the Apache.
“Fools!” said the white man to the Apache, partly in Spanish and partly with the hand-talk; “don’t you know that you are being trailed by the little Piute, Buffalo Bill’s pard? He is behind you, in the gulch. He must be captured, and this is the way you are to do it:
“You will ride back to the rest of the Apaches. Then, taking care not to turn and look down the gulch, you will all ride into this cut. When well within the cut, four of you will dismount and hide behind the boulders; the other one will ride forward, leading the four horses, and get beyond that turn.
“The Piute will come in. The four who are behind the boulders will spring out and capture him—capture him, mind, for I want to talk with the rascally imp before anything else is done with him.”
The white man hid himself, and the Apache rode back.
Little Cayuse, his black eyes glimmering like a snake’s, watched the Apaches trail into the smaller defile. He made after them.
At the entrance to the defile he listened. From around a turn he could hear the pattering hoofs of the ponies.
Swiftly he passed into the smaller defile—and then, almost before he could realize what had happened—he was set upon from every side, flung down, and bound at the wrists.
He struggled, but what availed the struggles of one Piute boy against four brawny, full-grown Apaches?
Physically, he was not injured. His chief hurt was to his pride.
What would Pa-e-has-ka say when he learned what had happened?
Jerking Cayuse to his feet, two of the bucks caught his bound hands and pulled him farther along the defile to a place where it ran into a blind wall, rising high into the air.
At this place the white man was waiting.
Who the white man was, Cayuse did not know; but he began to understand, dimly, that the white man had helped the Apaches entrap him.
The white man, stepping angrily up to the boy, drew back the flat of his hand and struck him in the face.
Cayuse reeled with the blow, but not a sound came from his lips.
“You’re Little Cayuse, huh?” demanded the man fiercely.
“Wuh!” answered the boy, his black eyes darting lightning.
“Pard of Buffalo Bill’s?”
Little Cayuse straightened his shoulders and threw back his head proudly.
“Wuh! Me all same pard Pa-e-has-ka’s.”
“Why were you trailin’ the Apaches?”
Cayuse did not answer. Instead, he looked straight into the eyes of the white ruffian with studied insolence and defiance.
The white man pulled a revolver from his belt and pressed it against the boy’s breast.
“Answer, or I’ll blow a hole through ye!” he threatened.
Cayuse did not open his lips. He continued to dare the man with his eyes, however, even more insolently and defiantly.
“Blast ye!” raged the man, lowering his revolver and giving the helpless boy a kick that threw him to the ground. “Ye won’t talk, huh? Waal, ye needn’t! I know Buffalo Bill sent ye to trail the reds, an’ I reckon Buffalo Bill will be follerin’ ye, afore long, but that won’t do you any good.”
The ruffian turned and growled an order to the Indians. Immediately the entire five mounted their horses and began climbing to the top of the wall of the defile.
Cayuse, breathless from the kick he had received, lay on the ground and watched.
The ruffian thereupon grabbed Cayuse by the shoulders and dragged him to the foot of the wall. The next moment he had made the swinging rope fast to the bonds that secured Cayuse’s wrists.
“Haul away, ’Pachies!” roared the white man, stepping back.
The pull of the rope drew the boy’s arms above his head, and then he was lifted up and up the sheer cliff wall.
“There!” yelled the white man; “make it fast.”
The rope was secured at the brink of the cliff, and Cayuse, hanging by his bound hands, was left swinging against the face of the smooth rock.
Revolver in hand, the ruffian began to fire at the rock, planting his bullets all about the swinging boy.
“Goin’ ter tell me about Buffalo Bill?” he asked.
Cayuse would not answer.
The white man swore a fierce oath, threw his left arm in front of his face, and laid the barrel of his six-shooter across.
Just as he was about to shoot, he suddenly changed his mind.
“I won’t do it,” he growled; “that would make it too easy fer you. Hang there, ye measly Piute! Hang there until yer arms pull out o’ their sockets, and ye starve an’ die. That’ll teach ye to butt inter a game of Bascomb’s, I reckon. Hi, there, you!” he shouted, lifting his gaze to the Apaches on top of the cliff. “I’m goin’ to Squaw Rock to wait for Hendricks, but you’re to go back along the rim of the gulch and pick off Buffalo Bill and his pards if they come this way follerin’ the Piute. Come ter Squaw Rock an’ report ter me if anythin’ happens. Scatter, now, the five o’ ye, an’ see that ye carry out orders. If you don’t, look out for Bascomb!”
In addressing the Apaches now the white man was not using Spanish or the hand-talk; some among them, presumably, understood English sufficiently to catch his meaning.
Leaping to the back of their ponies, the Indians rode away.
The white man, springing to the path that led to the top of the wall of the defile, mounted it swiftly.
In a few minutes Little Cayuse’s captors were all gone, and Little Cayuse was left swinging helplessly against the bare cliff wall.
The pull on his arms was frightful. The rope seemed to be tearing them out of his body.
But he had said no word about Pa-e-has-ka’s orders, and he was glad. He had faced death, and was then facing it, because he had been true to Pa-e-has-ka.
What if the rope did pull at his arms and torture him? Was Little Cayuse a squaw that he should whimper and cry with the torture?
No; Little Cayuse was a warrior. He had won his eagle-feather, and was entitled to take the place among the braves of the Piutes.
So he gritted his teeth and hung where the merciless white ruffian had left him.
This was the scene which had brought the fierce frown to Buffalo Bill’s brow, and the gasp to Dell’s lips and the white to her check.
Little Cayuse, suspended by the arms against the smooth cliff wall, swinging and twisting with the rope.
Was he alive?
That was the question the scout asked himself as he ran forward toward the wall of the blind gully, and it was the question Dell Dauntless put to herself as she followed.
Cayuse was about ten feet above the ground, his eyes were closed and his head was drooping forward.
“Cayuse?” cried the scout, halting close and peering up at the slender form.
Instantly the boy opened his eyes and threw back his head.
“Wuh!” he answered.
“What fiends those Apaches are!” exclaimed Dell. “They drew him up there and left him to die!”
The scout drew his revolver.
“What are you about to do, Buffalo Bill?” the girl asked.
“I could cut the rope with two or three bullets,” answered the scout hesitatingly, “or I could ride up on my horse——”
Dell took a position in front of Cayuse and drew the bowie-knife that swung at her belt.
“What can you do with that?” asked the scout.
“Cut the rope above Cayuse’s hands.”
The scout started and stared at the girl.
Such a feat, if successfully accomplished, would be one of the most remarkable he had ever seen.
To throw a knife and keep it perpendicular was comparatively easy; but, in order to sever the rope, Dell would have to throw the blade so that its edge would meet the rope horizontally.
“Are you sure you can do it?” went on the scout gravely.
“I would not try if I were not.”
“If you made a miss——”
“I know what would happen if I made a miss, but I shall not. Stand close enough to catch him when the rope parts, Buffalo Bill.”
Dell Dauntless was perfectly cool. The scout marveled at her self-control, and her stony calmness.
Without removing her gauntlet, she took the knife in her right hand by the point; then she measured the distance and the height with a quick eye.
Once, twice, three times her hand went up in a circle, the pearl handle of the bowie flashing in the sun.
“Now!” she murmured.
There was a second or two in the preparation for the throw, but the feat itself consumed less than a second.
“Bravo!” cried Buffalo Bill, as the girl hurled the knife and its edge bit into the rope above Little Cayuse’s head.
The rope was not cut cleanly through, but the few strands that were left parted quickly, and Cayuse shot downward into the scout’s arms.
Carrying the boy to the horses, Buffalo Bill laid him on the ground.
Dell took her canteen from the saddle-horn, sank down beside the boy, and took his head on her knee.
Her tenderness as she ministered to Cayuse gave the scout a glimpse of another side of her nature.
“Poor little chap!” she murmured, pressing the canteen to his lips. “You had a tough time of it, didn’t you?”
The water gurgled down the boy’s throat, and his black eyes gazed into the blue ones above him, then swerved to the scout.
For a few moments he lay quietly, while the scout removed the rope from his wrists and the girl removed her gauntlets and chafed his temples with her soft hands.
“Ugh!” grunted Little Cayuse suddenly. “White squaw got heap good heart; but Cayuse no squaw, him warrior.”
He sat up on the ground and began working his benumbed arms back and forth between his knees. In spite of his stoicism, he winced, and the scout saw that one of his shoulders was dislocated.
“Down on the ground again, Cayuse!” ordered the scout; “on your left side, boy.”
Cayuse tumbled over obediently, the scout standing astride his body and firmly gripping his right arm.
“Hold him down, Dell,” went on the scout.
With the girl pushing and the scout pulling, and Cayuse making no outcry whatever, the shoulder was slipped back into place.
Cayuse crawled to the wall of the defile and sat up with his back against it. His bare breast jumped with his hard breathing so that his necklace of bear-claws and elk-teeth fairly rattled, but a ghost of a smile flickered about his lips.
“Heap hard time,” said he. “Me no care. Umph! Me warrior; Pa-e-has-ka’s pard.”
“You’re a brave little fellow, that’s what you are!” declared Dell admiringly.
Cayuse studied her face attentively.
“Who you?” he asked.
“I’m Buffalo Bill’s girl pard,” laughed Dell. “And I’m your pard, too, Cayuse, if you’ll have me for one.”
“No like um squaw pard. Squaw make um fire, boil um kettle, sew um beads on , no go on war-path with braves.”
“I’m different from the Cayuse,” said Dell, with a humorous side-glance at the scout.
“You throw um knife heap fine,” observed Cayuse.
“I can shoot as well as I can throw a knife.”
“Umph! You make um squaw your pard, Pa-e-has-ka?”
“Yes,” smiled the scout.
“Squaw your pard, squaw my pard. Shake um hand.”
Cayuse lifted his hand—his left one—and the compact was sealed.
“Now that that formality is over, Cayuse,” said Buffalo Bill, “you might tell us how you came to be strung up there against the cliff.”
The boy looked distressed.
“Cayuse no good. Make um worst break this grass. Let Apaches and paleface ketch um.”
“Wuh. One paleface, five Apaches. Paleface make um heap swear, say Cayuse tell um if Pa-e-has-ka sent um. Cayuse no tell um. Apaches haul Cayuse up with rope. Ugh.”
“Was the paleface Bernritter?”
Cayuse shook his head.
“Was it Bascomb?”
Again Cayuse shook his head.
“There has been underhand work at the mine, Cayuse,” explained Buffalo Bill. “Bascomb and Bernritter have taken away McGowan’s daughter, who was coming from ’Frisco, and the arrow that was shot into camp contained a message. Understand?”
“The message was from Bascomb and Bernritter, and stated that if McGowan would not agree not to prosecute them for their attempt to get the mine bullion the other day, and would not leave a bar of gold at the old shaft near the Black Cañon trail, he would never see his daughter again.”
The boy fixed his eyes on the scout’s face.
“Apaches and bad white men got heap black hearts,” said he. “You like ketch um white man that string me up?”
“Yes, if we can. He’s probably in this plot with Bascomb and Bernritter. If we could capture him we might be able to discover something of importance.”
“Where Squaw Rock?” asked Cayuse.
“That’s too many for me,” said the scout.
“I know where it is,” spoke up Dell. “It’s about two miles and a half from here.”
“Good!” exclaimed the scout. “That gives us something to work on, Dell, and we won’t have to go back to the camp and wait for Nomad to carry that agreement and that bar of bullion to the deserted shaft.”
“Me go too?” asked Little Cayuse.
“We’ll have to take you, Cayuse. I wouldn’t let you try to tramp back to the mine in your present condition.”
“Ugh, me all right.”
“Most white boys, with a shoulder like yours, would be in bed, Cayuse.”
“Me use um left hand.”
“All aboard, Dell,” said the scout, getting into his saddle. “If we’re going to do anything with that ruffian who mistreated Cayuse, we’ll have to lay him by the heels before the Apaches join him. You lead the way and set the pace. Cayuse and I will tag along on Bear Paw.”
“It’s a rough road,” said the girl, rising to her own saddle; “by taking an even rougher one we can lop off that extra half mile.”
“Lop it off,” answered the scout. “I’ll lay a blue stack Bear Paw can follow wherever Silver Heels can lead.”
“This way, then,” cried the girl.
She spurred straight to the side of the defile and started up the dizzy path which the Apaches had climbed some time before.
Arizona is full of difficult country for a horseman; but of all the up-and-down trails the scout ever covered in the saddle, the course Dell led him on the way to Squaw Rock was one of the worst.
Not once during the entire trip were the horses on a level. When they were not standing almost straight up in the air, pawing their way aloft like mountain-goats, they were inclined downward so far that the stirrups touched their ears, and the riders had to brace back in them to keep from sliding over their heads.
Such a rough passage was hard on Cayuse’s tender shoulder, but he would have scorned to make the slightest complaint.
At one place on the devious path there was a cool spring, and here for a space the riders halted, refreshing themselves and their sweltering mounts with a drink.
At one place, too, Dell forced Silver Heels to a jump of half a dozen feet over a crevasse; and at another place she made a leap downward over a bluff of twelve feet. Bear Paw and his two riders were always behind, the scout marveling at Dell’s perfect horsemanship.
The girl, it was plain, was entirely at home in the saddle. Was there anything, the scout was asking himself, in which Dell Dauntless did not excel?
Throughout the entire journey it was necessary to keep a keen lookout for enemies, white and red. None were seen, perhaps because none would dare this almost impossible trail.
At last, after two hours of sweating labor, Dell pulled Silver Heels to a halt under the brow of a steep hill.
“Going to rest and breathe the bronks?” asked the scout.
“Nary, pard,” answered Dell, with an easy return to the colloquialism of the West; “we’re close to the end of our trail, and that’s why we’re rounded up. Squaw Rock is just over the rise. I thought perhaps you might like to reconnoiter before we shacked down on the place.”
“That’s the sensible thing to do, of course. Cayuse will look after the horses while you and I climb the slope.”
Leaving the boy below with the mounts, the scout and the girl crawled up the sun-baked rise to the crest, and peered over.
What the scout saw was a circular, cactus-covered plain. In the midst of the plain arose a boulder about the size of a two-story house.
But it was not the shape of a two-story house. On the contrary, from the angle at which the scout and the girl viewed it, the boulder had the contour of a woman’s head and shoulders, with the shoulders blanketed.
To all seeming, the rock was the upper part of some gigantic statue, embedded in the sand from the shoulders down.
In the shadow of the rock stood a horse, head down and listlessly panting with the heat. Closer to the base of the rock a man half sat and half reclined. He was smoking a pipe and gazing out across the plain. Evidently this was the man they wanted, and he was alone.
The scout and the girl slipped downward on the slope for a hurried consultation.
“The scoundrel is there, all right,” whispered Dell.
“The question now is to capture him,” returned the scout. “He’s on the east side of the rock, and we’re to the north of it.”
“We could rush him,” suggested Dell, “and have him covered before he could mount and ride away. Even if he did get on his horse, we could overhaul him.”
“A better plan, I think,” said the scout, who hesitated to place Dell in the peril her plan would call for, “would be to take him by surprise. While he’s mooning down there, and looking across the desert; I’ll slip down the slope, crawl around the base of the rock, and have a bead drawn on him before he’ll know there’s any one else within a mile of him.”
“If he should hear you getting down the slope he might shake a bullet out of his gun before you had a chance to fire first.”
“He’d have to be quick, if he did. However, you can remain here and keep him covered.”
“You’re taking all the risk,” demurred the girl.
“It’s right I should.”
Without debating the question further, Buffalo Bill regained the top of the hill, rolled over, and started downward on hands and knees.
As he crawled, a foot at a time, he kept his eyes on the man at the foot of the rock.
The fellow seemed completely absorbed in his reflections. He smoked languidly, like one half asleep.
The scout, remembering the brutal treatment accorded Little Cayuse—and the boy had not told him the half of it—would have been only too quick to meet the ruffian in a two-gun game. But he wanted to make a capture, and try persuasion in an attempt to find out something about Annie McGowan.
The girl was certainly hidden away somewhere among the hills. Wherever she was, quite likely Bernritter and Bascomb were, also; and the scout was not losing sight of the fact that he wanted to get hands on Bascomb quite as much as he wanted to rescue Miss McGowan.
His task now was to follow the base of the rock around until he came near the spot where the man was sitting. This was almost directly under the chin of the profile, and the scout had to get around one of the shoulders.
Drawing his revolver, the scout immediately began his flanking movement, still on all-fours and pushing the weapon ahead of him.
Just as he was on the point of passing around the edge of the shoulder, and coming out in plain view of the man, if he happened to be looking in the right direction, the scout observed peculiar actions on the part of Dell.
With head and shoulders above the hill-crest, the girl was waving her hands and pointing westward.
The scout could not understand, and the girl, in her excitement, had risen so far above the ridge that the ruffian might catch sight of her at any moment.
As the quickest way to terminate the situation, the scout hurried on around the rock. Rising to his feet the moment he had the man squarely in front of him, Buffalo Bill leveled his six-shooter.
“Hands up, you!” he shouted.
The ruffian shot into the air as though propelled by some powerful spring. His pipe went one way and his hat another. Also, his hand darted at his hip, but a warning bullet from the scout’s forty-four buzzed past his ear.
“Hands up, I said!” shouted the scout. “The next bullet I send at you won’t go so wide.”
The man turned, at that, and lifted his arms.
“Who the blazes are you, anyhow?” he snarled.
“Buffalo Bill is the label I tote. What’s your own mark?”
“Well, Banks, you’re mine. Come this way till I strip off your guns.”
“What’s the matter with ye?” scowled Banks. “What have I ever done to you that you make a play like this?”
“Never you mind that for now. I feel hostile enough to put a bullet into you, right where you stand, on account of the way you treated my little Piute pard. Are you coming?”
“Your hand has the call,” grunted Banks. “Sure I’m coming.”
He moved toward the scout, but slowly.
“I reckon I’ll have to plant a little lead around your feet so’st to make ’em more lively,” remarked Buffalo Bill. “Step off, high, wide, and handsome. Try it, now, before my patience begins to mill. You’re slower than molasses in zero weather.”
The man increased his pace. When he had come within a couple of yards of the scout, something happened which the scout had not been expecting.
“Up with your hands, pilgrim! That’s my pard ye’re a-drawin’ a bead on.”
This raucous voice came from behind. A thrill ran through the scout’s nerves as he began to understand what Dell’s dumb-show meant.
She had been trying to tell him that another of the ruffians was coming.
The man had come, and was now in the scout’s rear.
“That you, Hendricks?” the scout called, without making a move to lift his hands, and without taking his eyes off the fellow in front of him.
“Sure it’s me,” came the voice, “big as life an’ twicet as onnery. Did ye hear me when I told ye to put up yer hands?”
“I heard you,” the scout answered, “and I’m not going to do it. The click of a trigger in your hands will be my signal to throw lead into Banks.”
“I ain’t a-goin’ to have no foolin’,” snorted Hendricks. “If you want to drop yer guns an’ skin out, well an’ good; Banks an’ me won’t object. You’ll find it a heap healthier, I reckon, than to try to make front on the pair of us. We ain’t got no crow to pick with you, and you hadn’t ort to force our hands. Will ye git?”
“Well, I’m a-goin’ to count three. By the time I finish the count I’m a-goin’ to turn loose the fireworks, unless you either git or throw up yer hands. That’s plain enough, ain’t it?”
“I understand you, but——”
There was a tone in the voice behind that plainly meant business.
The scout was just planning to jerk his second revolver from his belt and whirl about so as to cover both Hendricks and Banks, when a fourth person took a hand in the odd game.
This was Dell. From the hill-crest she was leveling a revolver at Hendricks.
“Drop that gun!” she cried; “drop it quick or you’ll hear from me!”
Buffalo Bill could hear Hendricks swearing to himself at this unexpected summons.
There was something humorous in the situation, now that Dell had forced herself into the peculiar combination, and held the key to it, so to speak.
Buffalo Bill had covered Banks, Hendricks had covered Buffalo Bill, and now Dell was looking at Hendricks over a diamond-sight.
“Who the blazes are ye, up there on the hill?” shouted Hendricks, seeking to temporize.
“All you need to know is that I’ve got the drop,” cried Dell sharply. “You heard what I said about dropping that revolver. I’m not going to repeat the order.”
“Ye’re a woman, by ther sound o’ yer voice,” shouted Hendricks, who did not dare remove his eyes from the scout, any more than the scout dared take his from Banks, “an’ I reckon ye daren’t shoot at——”
The thirty-eight spoke, and the report was followed by a ring of lead against steel.
Dell’s shot had struck the barrel of Hendricks’ revolver close to the cylinder, knocking the weapon out of the man’s hand.
A startled yell broke from Hendricks, followed quickly by the cool voice of the girl:
“Disarm your man, Buffalo Bill; I’ve disarmed Hendricks, and he’s not able to interfere.”
“Come closer, Banks,” said the scout. “You don’t want to force me to take your miserable life, do you? This trigger works on a hair.”
Banks stepped up to within arm’s length of the scout. With his left hand the scout disarmed Banks, then whirled on Hendricks.
Dell Dauntless had descended the hill-slope and was standing within a dozen feet of Hendricks, her revolver leveled, and a look of determination in her blue eyes.
“It’s all over but payin’ the bets, ain’t it?” grinned Hendricks sourly.
“When a man dances he has to pay the fiddler,” said Buffalo Bill. “You and Banks will pay with a few years in the ‘pen.’ Take his guns, Dell,” he added to the girl.
Dell stepped forward and picked the revolver out of Hendricks’ belt, and took its mate off the ground.
“That was a blame’ purty shot,” remarked Hendricks, referring to the one that had knocked the revolver out of his hand, “’specially when ye think as how it was a woman done it.”
“I could have taken your finger along with the revolver, if I had wanted to,” said Dell.
“’Bliged ter ye fer not doin’ it. I needs the finger.”
Hendricks’ horse stood a few yards around the base of the rock.
“Take both mounts, Dell,” said the scout, “and bring them along after Banks and Hendricks. Fall in, you fellows,” he added to the prisoners, “shoulder to shoulder, ahead of me.”
With Buffalo Bill’s guns staring them in the face, the ruffians could do nothing less than obey; thereupon the scout marched them over the top of the hill and down on the other side to the place where Cayuse was waiting with Bear Paw and Silver Heels.
The boy’s eyes gleamed like those of an angry panther as he looked at Banks.
“Was that the man who had you pulled up at the face of the cliff, Cayuse?” asked the scout, indicating Banks.
“Wuh!” snarled Cayuse, his hand groping for his knife.
“Leave him alone, boy,” said the scout, in a tone of sharp command. “The law is going to take care of him.”
“Hendricks, there,” said Dell, “is the man who met Annie McGowan at the railroad-station in Phœnix.”
“They were both concerned in the abduction,” returned Buffalo Bill, “and they can both be sent over the road.”
“What ye givin’ us?” scowled Banks. “We ain’t done nothin’ we can be sent up fer.”
“We have the proof, Banks, and you and Hendricks will go to Yuma just as surely as the sun rises and sets.” The scout turned to the Piute. “Go up the hill, Cayuse, and keep watch for Apaches.”
Hendricks watched Cayuse moodily as he climbed the slope.
“What ye goin’ ter do with us, Buffalo Bill?” he asked.
“Take you to Phœnix and turn you over to the sheriff,” said the scout promptly. “Cover Banks, Dell,” he added, “while I get Hendricks in shape to travel.”
Dell was loaded down with the four revolvers taken from Banks and Hendricks. Kneeling in the sand, she laid the extra weapons beside her, and drew a bead on Banks.
“If Banks makes a move to bolt,” instructed the scout, “shoot him. Get on your horse, Hendricks,” he went on, to the other man.
“Look here,” demurred Hendricks, “can’t we fix this thing up somehow?”
“The only way you can fix it up,” snapped the scout, “is by taking your medicine. Get on your horse, I said!”
Muttering to himself, Hendricks got astride his mount. Taking the prisoner’s riata off the horn, the scout bound his wrists at the back and his feet under the saddle-girths.
There were several feet of rope left, and this the scout ran up to the pommel, where he made a half hitch, then on along the horse’s neck and through one of the bit-rings. From the bit-ring he led the rope to his own saddle and made it secure at the horn.
In this manner Hendricks was firmly bound to his horse, and his horse was firmly secured to Bear Paw.
Banks was treated in identically the same manner.
Now, as a matter of fact, the scout had no intention of taking the two prisoners to Phœnix. What he wanted from them was information, and he was willing to give them their liberty if they would tell him what he wanted to know.
Hendricks and Banks were the kind of men, however, who understand nothing but the “iron hand.” The scout wanted overtures to come from them.
“Get into your saddle, Dell,” said the scout, when both horses ridden by the prisoners had been made fast to Bear Paw. “If we start now, we ought to be able to reach Phœnix some time before midnight. The quicker we get these scoundrels behind the bars, the better.”
So well was the scout playing up his “bluff” that even Dell was deceived.
“Hadn’t we better wait, Buffalo Bill,” she returned, “until after——”
“We’ll wait for nothing,” he cut in, at the same time telegraphing her a message with his eyes. “We have a dead open-and-shut on these two men. Hendricks met Annie McGowan at Phœnix, and Banks and Hendricks were both mixed up in the theft of the team and buckboard.”
The girl started toward Silver Heels and the scout placed one foot in his stirrup.
“Jest a minit, you Buffalo Bill,” said Hendricks. “Don’t go off half cocked till ye hear what Banks an’ me hev got ter say.”
“You haven’t a thing to say that interests me,” Buffalo Bill answered. “Get up here, Cayuse,” he called. “Sit on the horse with your back to mine, so you can watch the prisoners as we ride. Give him one of those revolvers, Dell. He can shoot with his left hand, if the prisoners make it necessary.”
While these orders were being carried out, the prisoners, who were stirrup to stirrup with each other, were exchanging low-spoken words.
When the cavalcade was ready to start, Cayuse was riding with his face to the rear, a six-shooter in his left hand, and Dell was behind the prisoners. Thus watched from front and rear, and bound and helpless, such a thing as escape was an impossibility.
“I tell ye ter wait,” cried Hendricks, “afore ye go on any further with this here pufformance. Takin’ us ter the Phœnix calaboose ain’t goin’ ter help ye none in locatin’ Annie McGowan.”
“We’ll find her,” said the scout confidently, “and we’ll find Bascomb and Bernritter, too.”
“Ye’ll never find ’em if ye don’t listen ter Banks an’ me.”
“It’s my opinion,” said the scout, “that Banks and you can lie faster than a dog can trot.”
“We’ll make a deal with ye,” proceeded Hendricks, anxious and desperate.
“What sort of a deal?” asked the scout casually. “It takes two to make a bargain.”
“Right ye are, Buffalo Bill. If ye’ll make a bargain with us, we’ll keep our side of it.”
“What sort of a bargain have you to propose?”
Even yet the scout was not showing much interest, although he was throbbing with it.
“Well, Bascomb an’ Bernritter ain’t nothin’ ter Banks an’ me,” went on Hendricks. “They promised us money if we’d help ’em pull off this here deal; but they said it was a safe deal, an’ that nothin’ would happen to us.” Hendricks laughed sardonically. “An’ here,” he added, “is what happens ter us, fust crack out o’ the box. All in one day we pull off a penitentiary offense an’ git snagged fer it.”
“What’s your proposition?” asked the scout impatiently.
“It’s this: We’ll tell ye where Bascomb and Bernritter are hangin’ out with the gal, purvidin’ ye turns us loose with our hosses an’ our hardware an’ gives us time to git out of the kentry.”
“And maybe you’ll tell the truth and maybe you won’t. I wouldn’t trust you two as far as I could throw a steer by the tail.”
“We’ll tell ye the truth,” insisted Banks. “Why, man, ye kin prove we’ve told ye the truth afore ye let us go.”
“Probably you want to run us into some trap or other,” reflected the scout.
“Nary a trap,” went on Hendricks. “Bein’ with ye, we’d be gittin’ inter a trap ourselves.”
“I’ll give you a trial,” said the scout, after a period of reflection.
The prisoners brightened.
“How do we know,” said Banks, “ye’ll keep yer word an’ turn us loose after we tell ye?”
“You don’t,” returned the scout. “All you’ve got is my word for it. If I take your word, you’ll have to take mine.”
“That’s enough fer me, Banks,” said Hendricks.
“Where’s Miss McGowan?” asked the scout.
“She, along with Bascomb and Bernritter, is on the island in Quicksand Lake.”
“Island in Quicksand Lake!” echoed the scout derisively.
“There is such a place as Quicksand Lake, Buffalo Bill,” put in Dell, “and there is an island in the lake. But, so far as I know, no one has ever been able to reach the island.”
“Bascomb and Bernritter hev been able ter reach the island,” averred Hendricks, “an’ I was there myself, jest before I started fer Squaw Rock to meet Banks. Consarn the luck! If I’d ’a’ stayed on the island, I wouldn’t be here now.”
“Do you know the way to Quicksand Lake, Dell?” asked the scout.
“How far is it from here?”
“Three miles, if we cut across the plain around Squaw Rock.”
“We’ll go there, and see what we can find. Hendricks and Banks will go with us. If we learn they are not telling the truth, we’ll take them on to Phœnix; and if we find they’re up to any treacherous dodge, we’ll have a bullet for each of them. Ride for Squaw Rock, and we’ll——”
A quavering, long-drawn-out whoop reached the ears of the scout and his pards, coming from over the hill in the direction of the big boulder.
“Apaches!” grunted Little Cayuse.
A gleam of hope shot athwart the faces of the prisoners.
“Dell,” said the scout, “if either one of the prisoners speaks a word, use your revolver on him; and if the Apaches make an attack on us, we’ll put the prisoners in front to receive the first volley; and if luck goes against us, and the Apaches make a surround, if they get Hendricks and Banks we’ll see to it that they get them with their boots on.”
The gleam of hope faded from the faces of Banks and Hendricks and a look of concern took its place.
“Watch them, Dell, you and Cayuse,” finished the scout, leaping to the ground.
Crawling up the slope once more, he peered over the top.
The sun was down and evening was coming on; but, in spite of the hovering shadows, the scout could see the five Apaches from the gulch.
Two were wounded. One had a bandage about his thigh and another about his left arm, and had to be tied to his cayuse in order to stay on the animal’s back.
Returning back down the slope, the scout got astride his horse.
“Can we get to Quicksand Lake, Dell,” he asked, “without crossing the plain in the vicinity of Squaw Rock?”
“We can, but it is a hard trail and will take us a great deal longer,” answered Dell.
“Better a hard trail and more time spent on the trip, than another set-to with the Apaches. You’d better take the lead, Dell. Cayuse will watch the prisoners.”
The girl got around in front and started off along the base of the hill.
Realizing the difficulties of traveling when Buffalo Bill had two prisoners in tow, Dell picked out the easiest trail she could find.
Even at that the way was difficult enough, in all conscience.
For the first quarter of a mile of their riding they were careful to make as little noise as they could; after that, knowing themselves to be pretty well clear of the five Indians, it was not necessary for them to be so cautious.
The path Dell selected was not nearly so rough a one as that which they had followed to Squaw Rock from the defile, but they had now the growing darkness to contend with, and this hampered their progress.
Climbing ascents and sliding down descents, threading tortuous valleys, and traversing the scarps of sharp ridges, they pursued their way steadily.
Buffalo Bill experienced considerable discomfort from the ropes with which the two led horses were secured to his saddle. One of these ropes passed on either side of him, and when the led horses came close together he was caught between the tethers; and occasionally, when the led horses swerved to one side, he was all but thrown from Bear Paw’s back.
He could do nothing else, however, but bear with the discomfort.
After two hours of saddle-work, the moon came up over the hills, round and bright. The landscape came out distinctly under its brilliant beams.
“How much farther, Dell?” called the scout.
“We’re almost there,” the girl answered. “This valley, through which we are now traveling, runs down to the shore of the lake.”
The valley referred to by Dell was broad and shallow, and it became broader and more shallow as they followed it, finally giving way to the flat desert, which sloped in front of them to the edge of a level of bubbling sand.
“There’s the lake,” said Dell.
“Where’s the island?”
“It’s off to the right, about forty feet from the shore.”
“It’s a quicksand lake, is it?”
“Exactly so, Buffalo Bill, and true in every particular to its name. It is oblong in shape, and measures two hundred yards across its narrowest, and three hundred yards across its widest, part.”
“There’s no reef of solid ground between the shore and the island?”
“Absolutely none. One step off shore and a person would go into the sands up to his waist. To get out, when once entrapped in the sand, would be an utter impossibility. The sand sucks a person down and down, until he is smothered and buried. Quicksand Lake not only takes a man’s life, but also furnishes him with a grave.”
“The men we are looking for must have some way of crossing back and forth,” observed the scout.
“Then they must have some sort of a drawbridge,” commented the girl, “for the sands could not be crossed unless a person had something to walk on.”
“You and Cayuse stay here and take care of the prisoners and the horses, Dell, while I investigate.”
Leaving Bear Paw in charge of Cayuse, Buffalo Bill went down toward the shore of the strange lake, Dell warning him as he went to be careful and not step off the bank.
There was some need of this caution, for the scout found that the solid earth merged gradually into the bubbling sand, and that one reckless step might prove a person’s undoing.
In the moonlight the lake was an odd sight. The sands that composed it seemed in constant motion, bubbling and rippling from some underlying force. It was very like the “jumping quicksands” of the Bad Lands, with which the scout was familiar, only here there were no gliding hillocks, but minute ridges like small waves.
No doubt there were springs under the whole extent of the lake, and the water impregnated the sand and gave it its motion.
As far as the scout could see, the slope to the quicksands was an easy one. A dark mass, rising clear of the sands off on the right, impressed the scout as being the island, and he moved in that direction.
He stopped before he came opposite the island, for there was an object on the bank of the lake which claimed his attention. This object was a buckboard—McGowan’s buckboard, undoubtedly, and the one in which Hendricks had spirited Annie McGowan to that rendezvous in Quicksand Lake.
This was a bit of proof that Hendricks and Banks had been giving the scout correct information.
But where were the star-faced cayuses? Had Bascomb and Bernritter some means of taking the animals to the island, along with their own mounts?
Passing the buckboard, Buffalo Bill continued his investigation.
As he came abreast of the island, he grew more cautious in his movements. The short distance which separated the island from the shore, together with the bright moonlight, would enable those on the island to see him unless he was wary and careful.
Creeping onward, several yards from the shore, he finally halted and crouched in the sand.
The island was low and small. It appeared to be covered with large stones, heaped at its center into a sort of breastwork.
No sounds came from the island, and there was no other evidence that criminals had taken possession of it as a rendezvous.
Something nearer the edge of the quicksands captured the scout’s attention, and he crept down to investigate.
Close inspection showed the dark blot to be comprised of a dozen kegs and several boxes. The kegs contained water and the boxes food.
“This is the food and water supply for those on the island,” reasoned the scout. “Presumably Hendricks brought the plunder in the buckboard, and Bascomb and Bernritter have not yet taken it across. It looks as though they were laying in supplies so as to be in shape to withstand a possible siege.”
An idea struck the scout. Crouching under the screen of the kegs, he turned it over in his mind.
“About the only way to get at those scoundrels,” he mentally debated, “will be to starve them out. No charge could be made across the quicksands, unless an attacking force had the outlaws’ means for getting across, and a few men behind those rocks on the island could stand off a besieging force indefinitely. If we could remove these supplies, and keep Bascomb and Bernritter from——”
The scout, while he was thinking, was also keeping his eyes over the top of the kegs. Suddenly he detected a movement among the shadows that lay under the rocks of the island. Ceasing his reflections, he leaned across the kegs and watched intently.
Somebody was doing something; but what? The shadows lay so thick about the island’s shore that he could not tell.
Presently he saw a man moving out upon the surface of the treacherous quicksand. As the man walked, he seemed to be pushing something ahead of him.
Curious, and profoundly interested, the scout kept his eyes on the dark figure.
Farther and farther the man left the shore of the island behind him, still pushing a round object in advance of him as he walked.
How was he able to keep on top of the bubbling sands? What sort of an object was it that he was pushing?
The man appeared to be leaving a broad, dark trail behind him. For some time the scout was mystified.
The man was laying a course that would bring him to the shore at the place where the kegs and boxes had been placed. When he had covered half the distance that separated him from the shore, the scout began to make discoveries.
The long, round object the fellow was pushing in front of him had diminished by half since he had left the island shore.
Plainly, then, he was leaving part of the object behind him; and it was equally plain that it was this object which gave him a secure foothold on the treacherous and shifting sands.
The scout strained his eyes upon the diminishing roll in front of the figure.
He made out long, thin slabs of wood, bound closely together by ropes.
Ah! The scout had pierced the mystery.
The thin slabs, bound together by ropes, when unrolled formed a sort of movable causeway, the length of each slab being sufficient to resist the soft sands and offer footing and support.
By that time the man was quite near, and his bundle of slabs had been almost exhausted.
The scout had made up his mind as to what he should do.
Crouching down behind the kegs, he waited, every nerve tense as a forestay, and every muscle primed for quick action.
The actions of the man had they been planned by the scout himself, could not have worked out better for the scout’s plans.
Tired from his work of unrolling the big bundle of slabs, the man stepped from the causeway and plumped down on one of the kegs, his back to the scout.
The man was a stranger to the scout. He was one whom Buffalo Bill had never seen before.
Quite likely he had helped Hendricks and Banks in carrying out the rascally plan for the abduction of Annie McGowan.
While the man sat on the keg, Buffalo Bill rose softly behind him, caught him about the throat with both hands, and jerked him backward to the ground.
The fellow’s surprise must have been overwhelming, but he had no way of manifesting it. The compression at his throat rendered any spoken sound impossible.
After a moment of limp inaction, however, he began to struggle. Being a powerfully built man, it was necessary for the scout to get the whip-hand of him quickly.
Pulling his right hand from the fellow’s throat, Buffalo Bill dealt him a heavy blow between the eyes—a blow calculated to do little damage other than to stun and thus afford leeway for making him secure.
The blow was successful in this, for the man ceased his struggles on the instant, and straightened out with a stifled gasp.
Working rapidly, the scout pulled a couple of revolvers from the scoundrel’s belt, then unbuckled the belt and bound it about his ankles. With a cotton handkerchief taken from his throat he gagged him, and with his own handkerchief, twisted into a rope, he bound his hands at his back.
All this was accomplished by the resourceful scout in hardly more time than it takes to tell of it. Scarcely was the work done, when a hail came from the island.
“What ye doin’, Giles?” called a voice.
“Restin’,” answered the scout, disguising his voice.
“What’s the matter? Got a frog in yer throat?”
“Tired an’ winded, thet’s all,” replied the scout.
“Waal, hustle up with that plunder. Git it all over here an’ pile it up on the shore. We’ll take it behind the breastworks ter-morrer, when we kin have daylight fer it. Don’t fergit ter pull in ther bridge, an’ roll it up tight when ye do it. Look sharp, now! Them’s the on’y supplies we got, an’ if ye should drop a box inter the sands we’d miss ’em mightily. Bring a water-keg first. Our canteens are purty nigh empty.”
The scout heard the speaker moving away, and saw his dark form vanish among the boulders.
The move the scout had planned was a reckless one. Yet, nevertheless, he proceeded to carry it out with all his usual determination.
Picking up one of the kegs, he stepped out on the causeway. The wooden slabs gave slightly under his feet, but, by moving swiftly, he did not sink more than an inch on any one of them.
Swiftly he crossed to the other end of the peculiar bridge and stepped off upon the rocky shore with his keg. There he set the keg down and deftly removed the plug from the bung-hole, allowing the water slowly to trickle out.
He did not start back across the causeway again. That had not been his intention. Now that he was on the island, he would take a look around.
The little area of rocks, he discovered, was even smaller than he had calculated it to be from the opposite shore. Fifty steps, he believed, would have measured its diameter. It was slightly conical in shape, and seemed to be the peak of a hill pushed up through the shifting sands.
On the top was the heap of boulders referred to by the man, who had called from the island’s shore, as the “breastworks.”
To penetrate directly into the breastworks would have meant instant discovery by Bascomb and Bernritter. To avoid this, and yet develop some information that might later prove useful, the scout began crawling around the island’s shore on his hands and knees.
This maneuver presently brought him to the side of the island where the moonlight lay full upon the rocks. What he saw in the moonlight gave him a start.
By a boulder, just below the breastworks, sat a woman.
Her hands were lying in front of her in her lap, and the scout could see that they were bound. Her ankles, stretched down the flinty slope, were also bound. In addition to these cords, a rope was tied about her waist and passed around the boulder.
After the first flush of surprise, a fierce anger against the miscreants who could treat a woman in such a way arose in the scout’s breast.
Muttering to himself, Buffalo Bill arose softly to his full height and peered about him.
From behind the boulder breastwork he heard a sudden mumbling of voices.
Bascomb and Bernritter were there!
If they two were alone on the island with the girl, the daring notion ran through the scout’s brain that he might be able to effect a rescue.
Farther along the moonlit shore he could see clumps of brush and could hear the trampling of horses. But he could see no other men.
Whatever he did, the scout realized must be done quickly.
Giles was supposed to be transporting the supplies from the main shore to the island; unless those back of the breastworks heard sounds indicative of such labor, their suspicions would be presently aroused.
Dropping to his hands and knees, the scout crept up behind the bound girl. Her head was bowed and she did not hear his approach.
To avoid a possible alarm which the girl’s surprise might cause her to give, and which would effectually block the scout’s game of rescue, he reached forward and clasped one hand over the girl’s lips.
She straightened her shoulders suddenly and tried to scream, but the hand over her mouth stifled the sound.
“Don’t make any noise,” whispered the scout in the girl’s ear. “I am a friend, and am going to try and take you from the island. But, if I succeed, you must not make any noise. Bascomb and Bernritter are within a few yards of us, and if they heard what I was doing, they would shoot. Do you understand? I am Buffalo Bill, and I have come from your father.”
Whether it was the magical name of “Buffalo Bill,” standing for so much of chivalry and daring throughout the West, or whether it was the scout’s mention of her father, the girl became pacified at once, and apparently plucked up courage and hope.
The scout removed his hand.
“Oh, take me away, take me away!” breathed the girl. “I will be quiet—I will not make a sound—but get me away from this awful place and these hateful men as quickly as you can.”
The sorrow and anxiety in the girl’s words went straight to the heart of the scout.
Without taking time to reply, he pulled his knife from its sheath and slashed it through the rope that bound the girl to the boulder, and then through the bonds that secured her hands and feet.
Miss McGowan then attempted to stand, but her limbs, benumbed by the bonds, would not support her weight.
Seeing how matters stood, the scout bent down and lifted her in his arms.
Then, quickly and silently as might be, he started around into the shadow of the island and stepped out on the causeway.
He had been obliged to make some noise, and to show himself very plainly, but his daring work had not aroused the men behind the breastwork.
Every step he now took across the slabs brought him and the girl nearer the shore and safety.
But it was too much to hope for that he should get across the frail bridge entirely unseen and undetected. Once more he was hailed huskily from the bank.
“Giles!” roared the voice that had spoken before; “what the blazes are ye kerryin’ off? All that plunder on the bank is to be toted over here, and not——”
“The girl!” yelled a second voice front the island. “She’s gone. Bascomb!”
A wild oath leaped from the lips of the man who had been yelling at the scout, under belief that he was Giles.
Sping, sping! came the vicious reports of a six-shooter.
The leaden bees buzzed on either side of the scout’s head, and Annie McGowan’s arms clasped frantically about his neck.
“It ain’t Giles at all!” whooped Bascomb; “but it’s some other meddlin’ whelp——”
“Rush after the fellow!” interrupted the frantic voice of Bernritter. “All is up with us if he gets away! Stop him! The girl! We must not let him get away with the girl!”
By that time the scout had reached the kegs and the boxes. Dropping the girl down behind them, he crouched at her side and gave vent to a mocking laugh.
“You fellows are close to the end of your rope!” he shouted. “It’s Buffalo Bill that’s calling your game!”
The scout’s last word faded into the echo of a shot from one of his forty-fours.
Bascomb and Bernritter had piled full-tilt out upon the island end of the causeway, but the scout’s bullet, fanning the air close to their heads, sent them back pell-mell into the shadow of the rocks.
“Buffalo Bill!” cried a voice from the direction of the valley.
Dell Dauntless, creeping warily along the shore to the pile of kegs and boxes at the edge of the bubbling sands, came abruptly face to face with her friend, Annie McGowan.
“Dell!” screamed the rescued girl tearfully.
“Annie!” cried Dell, her voice vibrant with the deep surprise that surged within her.
For a moment the girls clung in each other’s arms, Miss McGowan sobbing hysterically.
“There, there, Annie!” murmured Dell, in a soothing tone. “How do you happen to be here?”
“Buffalo Bill came to the island and brought me away,” answered Miss McGowan.
“Came to the island!” gasped Dell, dumfounded. “Buffalo Bill, did you really go to the island and take Annie right out from under the noses of Bascomb and Bernritter and the other men they had with them?”
“They had only one other man with them, Dell,” answered the scout, “and I took care of that fellow before I started for the island. There he lies, on the sand, within a yard of you.”
“But how did you do it?” cried the amazed Dell. “Are you a wizard, that you could cross the quicksands and bring Annie away from the island?”
“No,” laughed the scout, “I don’t happen to be a wizard. An opportunity presented itself, and I took advantage of it. That’s all.”
“All!” murmured the girl. “Well, I should say it is enough. I can scarcely believe——”
The two men on the island gave up their attempt on the shaking bridge. Retreating to the protecting shadow of the boulders, they began boring holes in the night with their bullets, seeking to injure those behind the barricade of kegs and boxes.
Their efforts in this direction were vain. Slugs plumped into the barricade, but failed to reach those behind it.
“It’s a case of the trappers trapped,” exulted the scout. “That trail of boards is the only way for Bascomb and Bernritter to come from the island, and one man can lie here, back of this barricade, and keep them where they are. We’ll have them, and it’s only a matter of a short time, at that. These kegs contain water, and the boxes hold provisions; they are all the supplies Bascomb and Bernritter have—and they are in our hands! Did you ever hear of a situation to beat it, Dell?”
“Never!” laughed the girl. “You have turned the tables on the scoundrels with a vengeance. But how did you ever do it, Buffalo Bill? Tell me!”
The scout told her, talking to the girls but keeping his eyes on the causeway.
Dell clapped her hands in applause of the scout’s daring and successful efforts.
“No wonder they call you king of scouts, Buffalo Bill!” she exclaimed admiringly. “Not one man in a thousand could have done what you have.”
“Bosh!” deprecated the scout. “Were these water-kegs and boxes of provisions brought here in the buckboard, Miss McGowan?” he inquired of the rescued girl.
“Yes. The man who drove the buckboard took them aboard at Phœnix.”
“Did he bring your trunk and hand-baggage?”
“No, there was no room. My baggage was left at a hotel in Phœnix, and the man who drove the buckboard said that one of my father’s freighters would bring them out.”
“You never suspected that anything was wrong, Annie?” queried Dell.
“I never suspected a thing, Dell,” replied Annie, “until we turned off the Black Cañon trail to come here. Then I began to get nervous. I demanded to be allowed to leave the buckboard, but the man only laughed at me. I tried to jump, but he caught me and bound my hands and tied me to the seat of the buckboard.
“When we got here I saw a man called Bascomb. He took me off the buckboard and carried me out to the island. And there”—the girl choked—“there I met—Bernritter!”
Dell put one arm around her friend’s waist.
“You know now,” said she, “something I have all along suspected, and that is that Bernritter is a scoundrel. It is better that you should have your eyes opened to that fact now, Annie, than later.”
“I suppose so,” answered Annie, in a tone of grief and sorrow, “but it is a terrible thing to have your faith destroyed at one blow, as mine was.”
“You’ll get over it,” reassured Dell. “Were you kindly treated on the island?”
“Yes, although I was bound hand and foot and tied to a big stone. All day long and most of the night I have been there, Dell,” finished the girl, with a shiver, “and I had abundant time to think.”
“And your thoughts were far from pleasant, I’ll warrant. But, never mind, Annie.”
“I had such a good time in ’Frisco,” quavered the distressed girl, “and now to have it end like this!”
“Oh, well, it might have ended worse.”
“I want Buffalo Bill to understand that I am grateful for what he has done——”
“There, there!” broke in the scout. “Your father, Miss McGowan, is a good friend of mine, and I am glad fate put it in my power to serve him and you in this way.”
“All I want, now, is to get to the mine.”
“You shall go there just as soon as we can get matters in readiness. Guard the causeway, Dell, while I talk with our prisoner.”
Dell took Buffalo Bill’s position behind the foremost kegs and boxes, her revolvers in her hands.
The scout, having appropriated Giles’ revolvers, took the bonds from his limbs.
“I have nothing particular against you, Giles,” said the scout, addressing the dazed man, “although you were one of the three who captured Golightly and put him in the bear-trap and helped Hendricks get away to Phœnix in McGowan’s buckboard. You are liable in the eyes of the law, and you could be put through. Hendricks and Banks are in my hands, but they gave me information concerning the rendezvous of Bascomb and Bernritter, and, for doing so, I intend to give them their freedom. You also have a chance to earn your freedom, if you want to take advantage of it.”
“What’s the chance?” Giles asked eagerly.
“Can you go to the island and bring ashore the star-faced cayuses belonging to McGowan?”
“Bascomb and Bernritter won’t let me, I reckon.”
“Bascomb and are as good as in the Phœnix jail this minute. If they make any more trouble it will go all the harder with them. Go to the island and get the two horses. If the harness is on the island, see that it is on the horses. Do this, and when I turn Hendricks and Banks loose you can go with them.”
“Let me have one o’ my guns,” pleaded Giles.
“Nary a gun, Giles. You’ll have to do this with your bare hands.”
“Waal, here goes.”
Giles sprang to the causeway and started across. A bullet was launched at him by Bascomb and Bernritter.
“Let up on that, you fellers!” howled Giles. “It’s me, Giles.”
“Come ahead, then,” called Bascomb.
Giles hurried on, and finally vanished in the shadows of the rocks.
“That will make three on the island,” said Dell, “and probably Bascomb and Bernritter will be able to give Giles a weapon.”
“What if they do?” the scout answered. “With some one here to guard the causeway, half a dozen men would be as secure on that island as though they were locked in a cell. Giles may get the horses, or he may not. We’ll see.”
Sounds of conversation floated across the bubbling sands from the island, and it was apparent that Giles was telling how the resourceful scout had accomplished his coup. Presently the voices died away, and then, a little later, some one could be seen leading two horses. The horses were in single file, Giles leading the first, and the one behind tied to its mate in front.
“They’re letting the horses come without a word of protest,” remarked the scout, peering warily at the approaching animals.
“They may be up to some job or other, Buffalo Bill,” warned Dell.
“They are,” returned the scout grimly. “Bascomb and Bernritter are each walking on the off-side of one of the horses.”
The thump of hoofs on the boards, and the snorting of the horses, drowned the footfalls of Bascomb and Bernritter, but the scout could see their legs plainly under the horses’ bodies.
“Stop, Giles!” shouted the scout.
“Kain’t stop!” answered Giles, in a flutter. “If we stand still the boards’ll sink under us. We got ter keep movin’. The hosses weighs more’n what a man does.”
“I don’t like to see Bascomb and Bernritter coming across with you,” shouted the scout. “Stand still, for I’m going to shoot.”
Giles gave vent to a terrified yell, but he halted. The scout fired, and his bullet, passing under the body of one of the horses, seared Bascomb’s leg.
Bascomb yelled and leaped back toward the shore of the island. Bernritter followed him.
“Come on, Giles!” ordered the scout, “and come quick. Bascomb,” he added, addressing the black shore of the island, “if you or Bernritter do any more shooting, or make any more trouble, it will go all the harder with you. You’re as good as captured, and you ought to know it.”
A defiant shout was returned from the island; but neither Bascomb nor Bernritter indulged in any more shooting.
“Leave the horses at the edge of the quicksands, Giles,” commanded the scout, “and then go back to the island.”
“But ye said I was ter be free if I got the bronks!” demurred Giles wrathfully.
“And I’ll keep my word,” returned the scout; “you’ll go free, along with Banks and Hendricks, but not until I’m ready to let you. And, until I am ready, I’d rather have you on the island than here. Careful, man! I’ve got you covered. Even if Bascomb or Bernritter did give you a revolver, I’ll put a hole through you before you have a chance to draw it. Get back to the island, I tell you!”
Giles, baffled and beaten, let go the bridle of the horse, stepped upon the causeway, and returned to his former companions.
“What are we to do now, Buffalo Bill?” inquired Dell. “We have the star-faced cayuses, all right. What’s to be done with them?”
“You left Little Cayuse guarding Banks and Hendricks?” returned the scout.
“Yes. When we heard firing in this direction, Cayuse and I thought that one of us ought to come and investigate. We decided that I should be the one.”
“When you came here you passed the buckboard, didn’t you?”
“Well, there are the horses, harnessed and ready to be put to the pole. I suppose you know how to hitch up?”
“Well, I reckon!” laughed Dell.
“Then hitch the cayuses to the buckboard and take Annie to the mine. You’ll not be troubled on the trip. The five Apaches are at Squaw Rock, and so cannot molest you. You’ll have to drive from here to the Black Cañon trail, I suppose?”
“Yes. We can reach the Black Cañon trail easily from this place.”
“Could you also go by way of that old mining-shaft? Nomad, you know, was to be there with the letter and the bar of bullion, and I told him to hide somewhere and then follow the man who came to get the letter and the gold. You can probably locate Nomad, all right. Do that, and send him here. Then you can tear up McGowan’s letter, and let Miss McGowan carry the bullion back to her father.”
“What letter?” asked Annie McGowan. “And what bullion is this you’re talking about?”
“Dell will tell you on the way to the mine, Miss McGowan,” replied the scout. “As soon as you reach the mine, Dell, have McGowan send a man to Phœnix after Rising, the sheriff. Tell the messenger to inform Rising that we have Bascomb and Bernritter trapped, and waiting for him.”
“I’ll do it, Buffalo Bill,” said Dell. “You’ll be able to take care of those fellows on the island, all right?”
“Easily. There’s nothing to do but to watch sharply and keep hold of my guns. Get the horses, you and Miss McGowan. Each of you had better lead one, and walk on this side of the animal. I don’t think Bascomb and Bernritter will do any more shooting, but it is just as well for you to be on the safe side.”
The two girls got up and stepped toward the waiting horses.
“Where and when will I see you again, Buffalo Bill?” Dell asked.
“I can’t tell that, Dell, but I hope it will be soon. You’re a brave girl, and you have been a big help to me in this bit of work.”
“I haven’t done so much, Buffalo Bill, but my intentions were good. I’m your pard, am I not?”
“Thank you. It’s something to be Buffalo Bill’s girl pard. Come on, Annie.”
“When you pass Little Cayuse, Dell,” the scout called, “you might tell him to ride on here with Bear Paw and to bring Banks and Hendricks along. Until Nomad comes, I’ll feel better to have the boy with me.”
“I’ll tell him,” Dell answered.
The scout watched until the forms of the horses and the girls had vanished in the dusk.
All was silent on the island. From appearances, Bascomb and Bernritter had given up the fight, and were probably behind the breastwork talking over recent disastrous events with Giles.
Quick with his weapons as was Buffalo Bill, he would have felt abundantly able to keep a dozen men bottled up on the island. The only way Bascomb and Bernritter could possibly escape would be by rushing across the causeway at top speed, in the hope of gaining the main shore. With a marksman like the scout guarding the shore-end of the shaking bridge, such an attempt would have been nothing less than suicide.
An hour passed before Little Cayuse came with Bear Paw and the two horses on which were Banks and Hendricks. Banks and Hendricks had seen the buckboard go past the valley with Annie McGowan and Dell, so they knew Buffalo Bill had been successful in rescuing the girl. How he had done it was more than they could tell, for Dell Dauntless had not taken time to explain the situation to Little Cayuse.
“Where’s Bascomb an’ Bernritter?” asked Hendricks.
“Over there on the island.”
“What’s become o’ Giles?”
“Ye never!” breathed the astounded Banks.
“And then,” proceeded the scout, “I carried a keg of water across, rescued Miss McGowan, sent Giles for the horses, and then sent him back again after he had got the horses over.”
“The three of ’em’s over thar, hey?” stuttered Hendricks.
“An’ they hevn’t tried ter come across?”
“Oh, yes, they’ve tried three times; but I’m pretty well barricaded here, and they’re afraid of my bullets.”
“Blazes ter blazes an’ kerry one!” breathed Banks.
“How’s this fer a layout?” muttered Hendricks. “An’ all done by one man.”
“Buffalo Bill,” added Banks. “No use tryin’ ter pull off a deal when he butts inter it. We was lame, Hendricks, in agreein’ ter help Bascomb an’ Bernritter when we knowed the king of scouts was agin’ us.”
“But Bascomb said that hevin’ possession o’ the girl would knock the scout galley-west, an’ that he couldn’t do a thing.”
“Waal, what’s he done?” queried Banks satirically. “Here’s us, an’ where’s Bascomb, an’ Bernritter, an’ Giles? We’re down an’ out, the hull kit an’ caboodle o’ us.”
“Nary, Banks,” said Hendricks. “We’ve saved our own bacon onless the scout goes back on his word. How is it, Buffalo Bill?”
“I’ll keep my promise to you,” answered the scout, “but I don’t want to turn you adrift until the sheriff comes.”
“Sher’f! Is he coming?”
“He’ll be here to-morrow.”
“I don’t keer pertic’l’rly erbout meetin’ up with the sher’f, but if you say ye’ll keep yer word I don’t reckon we got any kick comin’.”
“It wouldn’t do you any good if you had, Hendricks,” said the scout.
Untying the feet of the two prisoners, Buffalo Bill let them dismount; then he bound their ankles again, and they sat upon the ground, their backs against the boxes of provisions.
“How are you feeling, Cayuse?” asked the scout.
“Me all right,” answered the boy, who had had his ears wide open listening to all the scout had said.
“How’s your shoulder?”
“You haven’t had any dinner or supper, Cayuse. Get down from Bear Paw and untie that bag from the saddle-cantle. It’s full of chuck, and I reckon we’d both enjoy a dip into it. While we’re eating, Cayuse, you might help me keep watch of that bridge across the quicksands.”
Cayuse followed the scout’s instructions, and he and the scout made a hurried meal off the food brought from the mine, and likewise supplied Banks and Hendricks with some of it.
“How did Bascomb and Bernritter happen upon such a place as this for a rendezvous, Hendricks?” asked Buffalo Bill.
“Bernritter knowed about it, I was told,” replied Hendricks, “an’ he put it up ter Bascomb.”
“Who invented that causeway?”
“Bernritter. He made it while he was at the mine, Bascomb said, an’ then brought it down here an’ tried it. It worked ter a charm. Ye see, ye kin unroll it and walk out from the island; then, when ye’re ready ter go back ter the island, ye kin roll it up behind ye an’ take it in. No one kin cross unless them as is on the island wants ’em to.”
“Very clever,” commented the scout, “but Bascomb and Bernritter evidently overlooked the fact that it’s a thing that will work both ways. The quicksand keeps enemies away from them, and, at the same time, it keeps them away from their enemies.”
“Waal,” muttered Hendricks, “thar’s a flaw in most schemes, an’ I ain’t s’prised none ter find er flaw in this ’un o’ Bernritter’s.”
At this juncture, Little Cayuse started to his feet with a warning, “Ugh! Lis’en!”
What the boy heard was a patter of galloping hoofs on the sand. A moment later a familiar voice boomed out into the night:
“Buffler! Whar ther tarnation aire ye, anyways? Whoo-ee!”
“This way, Nick!” shouted the scout. Half a minute later old Nomad and his horse took form in the moonlight, and galloped up to the barricade.
“Waal,” cried old Nomad, “what ther blazes hes been goin’ on, Buffler? Hyer I’ve been hidin’ out in the chaparral fer three mortil hours, watchin’ a letter an’ a five-pound bar o’ bullion what I’d placed, with exceedin’ keer, on the top o’ ther ore-dump at thet ole minin’-shaft. Then, all ter oncet, erlong comes Dell in a buckboard with a gal beside her.
“‘Thet you, Nomad?’ says she.
“‘Ther same,’ says I, ‘but chase yerself off kase ye’ll skeer erway ther man I’m expectin’.’
“‘The man will not come,’ says she, with er laff.
“‘Fer why won’t he come?’ I says.
“‘Fer ther reason,’ she expounds, ‘thet Buffler hes got him erbout es good as captered.’
“‘Now, what d’ye think o’ thet?’ says I. ‘Who’s thet with ye?’ I goes on.
“‘This hyar is Annie McGowan,’ says Dell. ‘Annie, Mr. Nomad, Buffler Bill’s pard.’
“‘Wharever did Annie come from?’ I asks.
“‘Buffler rescued her,’ says Dell.
“‘Sufferin’ catermounts!’ I says; ‘ain’t nobody been doin’ nothin’ but Buffler?’
“‘Hardly,’ says Dell, then tells me whar ter come, and she an’ the McGowan gal rides off with the bar o’ gold, tearin’ up McGowan’s agreement as they goes.
“So,” finished the trapper, “thet’s why I’m hyar, Buffler, an’ I’m plumb hungry ter find out what ye done an’ how ye done et. Blaze erway, won’t ye?”
The scout “blazed away,” and Nomad was soon in possession of all the facts.
He had an admiring word for the scout, and a word of regret because he had not himself been able to figure in the exciting affair of the afternoon and night.
Nick was placed on guard at the end of the causeway, however, and he was hoping against hope that Bascomb or Bernritter would make a dash, and offer him a little excitement. But nothing of the kind happened.
Morning came, and as the light increased the scout got a better view of the island. Bascomb and Bernritter were not to be seen, and were probably keeping closely under cover of their stone breastwork.
A little after noon Rising, the sheriff, came whipping along the shore from the direction of the trail.
“Hello, there, Cody!” he shouted. “Here we are again, Hawkins and I. Some one brought word to us that you had captured Bascomb and Bernritter.”
“They’re not exactly captured, but the next thing to it, Rising,” the scout answered, as the sheriff and his deputy leaped out of the buckboard. “They’re on the island, out there, and the only way they can escape is by coming across that patent bridge.”
“Before we proceed any farther, you’d better tell me about it.”
Once more the scout sketched the important details of recent events.
“Well, I’ll be dinged!” muttered Hawkins, the deputy. “It only took Buffalo Bill a night an’ a day ter git next ter Bernritter’s game fer robbing the Three-ply an’ ter put ther kibosh on it, an’ only a day an’ a night ter rescue Annie McGowan an’ git Bascomb an’ Bernritter up a tree. What’s ther move, Rising? Shall we go across an’ hunt ther varmints out?”
“Let’s see if they won’t come ashore without making any trouble,” said Rising, stepping to the edge of the quicksands. Making a trumpet of his hands, he yelled: “Hello, out there!”
Three heads appeared above the boulders of the breastworks.
“Hello, yerself!” called Bascomb.
“I’m the sheriff,” explained Rising. “Will you fellows come ashore, or shall we come after you?”
“Oh, we won’t make you any more trouble than necessary,” answered Bernritter. “We’ll come ashore.”
“We’ll have to bring our horses,” said Bernritter.
“Certainly; but lead them—don’t get on their backs.”
The three heads vanished from the top of the breastwork and, presently, Bascomb, Bernritter, and Giles appeared leading their horses and making for the causeway.
Just before reaching the bridge Giles forged ahead, and Bascomb and Bernritter tendered him their revolvers. With the weapons under his arm, Giles came across the bridge.
“Drop the guns,” said the scout, “get on your horse and scatter out of this.”
“That’s me!” said the gratified Giles, and he was into his saddle like a flash, and spurring away toward the hills.
While Bascomb and Bernritter were coming across, Buffalo Bill released Banks and Hendricks, emptied their six-shooters of cartridges, and dumped all the shells out of their cartridge-belts.
“When you release a couple of wolves,” the scout remarked, “it’s a good plan to draw their fangs. Now, then, Banks and Hendricks, show us your heels; and remember this, both of you: If your trails ever again cross mine, you’ll have cause to regret it.”
“They’ll not cross yours if I’ve got anythin’ ter say erbout it!” cried Banks.
“Them’s my sentiments, too!” added Hendricks.
With that the two villains loped away.
The scout turned to Bascomb, on whose wrists Hawkins had just slipped a pair of bracelets.
“Bascomb, otherwise Slocum,” said the scout, “you’re my prisoner. I have orders to take you to Fort Apache.”
Bascomb whirled on the scout like a tiger.
“Ye’re after me fer desertin’, hey?” he snarled.
“If I’d knowed that, I’d hev stayed on that island an’ fought ye off as long as I’d had a ca’tridge fer my guns.”
“Then you would have done a very foolish thing, and probably have lost your life.”
“I’d ruther a heap lose my life than go back ter Fort Apache!”
“The man you shot there didn’t die,” said the scout, “so you needn’t worry about the gallows.” He turned to Rising. “Will you hold Bascomb for me, in Phœnix, till I want him?” he asked.
“Sure,” replied the sheriff.
Half an hour later, Rising, Hawkins, Bernritter, and Bascomb were traveling in the direction of Phœnix, while Buffalo Bill, Nomad, and Little Cayuse were going the other way, toward the Three-ply Mine.
The meeting between Annie McGowan and her father was as happy as it was unexpected on the mine-owner’s part.
McGowan could scarcely believe that the scout had really found and rescued his daughter in the way described to him by Dell and Annie. It seemed impossible that one man, lone-handed, could accomplish so much.
When the scout and his pards arrived at the camp, on the following afternoon, McGowan and his daughter met them, and both tendered their deepest thanks.
“You saved more than forty thousand dollars’ worth of bullion for me, a few days ago, Buffalo Bill,” observed McGowan, with feeling, “and now you have rescued my daughter. What can I do for you to show my gratitude?”
“Your thanks are more than enough, McGowan,” said the scout kindly. “I was doing some work for the government, too, you remember, and in carrying out my duty as government scout, it was surely a pleasure to find that I could serve you and Miss McGowan as I did. Only”—and the scout’s eyes twinkled as he said it—“don’t try to keep me here any longer. When we make our next start for Phœnix, I and my pards want to get away.”
“Annie and I were hoping that you would remain with us for a few days, anyhow,” said McGowan.
“Impossible,” said the scout. “We must leave here in the morning and take Bascomb back to Fort Apache.” Then, as he looked around, he asked: “By the way, what’s become of Dauntless Dell?”
“She had to go back to the Double D Ranch, Buffalo Bill,” said McGowan. “When she left, she said she hoped you and your pards would stay here for a day or two so that she might ride over again and see you.”
“Much as I should like to see my girl pard again,” said the scout, “it will be impossible for us to wait. That girl is a little brick—one of the bravest and finest young women I ever met.”
“Shore she is!” cried Nomad.
“Wuh!” added Little Cayuse, nodding vigorously.
Dress parade at Fort Grant!
Five troops were engaged—all of the gallant Tenth—and the dying rays of the Arizona sun fell upon waving plumes, flashing sabers, the shimmering satin bodies of the horses, the fluttering guidons, offering a sight that stirred the pulses in unison with the strains of the regimental band.
At last the troops formed in a long line, and their officers rode forward on prancing chargers and lifted their sword-points in salute of the officer in command.
The sun went down, and the boom of the sunset-gun rattled the windows of barracks and officers’ row. The band struck up the Star Spangled Banner. As the inspiring air echoed and reechoed across the parade-ground, Old Glory came fluttering down from its tall staff, was caught in the arms of a waiting “non-com,” and transferred to the guard-house for the night.
The soldiers trotted away, the dust settled, and the shadows began to lengthen. Dress parade was over for that day.
In front of the officers’ quarters children were playing. On the veranda of Colonel Grayson’s house was a little group of ladies.
Grayson, the colonel in command of the post, was just climbing the veranda steps to Mrs. Colonel, in command of the colonel.
“What do you think of it, Miss Dauntless?” he asked, his eyes wandering to one of the group of young women who surrounded his wife.
“Fine!” cried the girl addressed. “Such a sight makes one proud to think that he or she is an American. Oh, I wish I were a man! I’d be a soldier, sure thing.”
“My dear Dell!” breathed Mrs. Colonel, horrified. “What are you saying?”
“Tut, tut!” said the colonel. “Why shouldn’t she wish to be a soldier? I’m a soldier, and I take it as an honor that such a pretty American girl should envy me.”
“You know what I mean, colonel,” cried Mrs. Colonel. “Such a pretty girl as Dell Dauntless ought to be content with her sex.”
“Gad, yes!” exclaimed the colonel. “Dell can do more havoc with those blue eyes of hers than a whole squadron with sabers.”
“Now it’s my turn to say ‘tut, tut!’” flashed Dell Dauntless, with a dazzling smile. “I’m the sort of girl that clamors for action, colonel.”
She looked off through the clear evening to where some of the officers and some of the post young ladies were thumping a ball over a net with rackets.
“For instance”—and she waved her hand toward the tennis-court—“I couldn’t be hired to play that.”
“Don’t blame you,” chuckled the colonel; “I couldn’t be hired to play it myself.”
“You’re too fat, dad,” laughed his daughter Mamie.
“Fat! And I only weigh two hundred. If you can catch a man of my size, miss, you can be thankful.”
“Dancing is also off my sky-line,” explained Dell calmly. “I didn’t bring any clothes for that sort of thing, anyhow. Look at me!” and she stood out in front of the colonel. “I’d be a fright on a ballroom floor, wouldn’t I?”
The colonel did look at her, and there was admiration in his eyes.
Tall, lithe, and fair-haired, the girl was clad in her fringed and beaded buckskin shirt, knee-length buckskin skirt, tan shoes and leggings, and a rakish little brown sombrero.
She wore about her waist the belt with the diminutive revolver-holsters and a knife-sheath swinging from it. The pearl handle of a knife showed over the top of the sheath, but the holsters were empty, Dell having laid aside the six-shooters out of regard for Mrs. Colonel’s feelings.
Trave Dauntless, Dell’s father, had been a hard and fast friend of Colonel Grayson’s. When Trave Dauntless died, the colonel had felt himself instinctively drawn toward Mrs. Dauntless and Dell. When the colonel came to Grant, he had expressed a desire for Dell to come and visit him; and, for that reason, the girl had been at the post for a few days.
“’Pon my soul, Dell,” said the colonel, “that costume of ”
“Colonel!” rebuked Mrs. Colonel; “how can you talk so? You’re giving Dell a lot of wrong ideas. Now, if she would only go to the hop to-night, Mamie would let her take one of her dresses——”
“And I’d take Dell’s,” spoke up Mamie mischievously. “It’s perfectly stunning.”
“These are my working clothes, Mame,” said Dell demurely. “I wear them all the time at the ranch. When I ride, you see, I ride like a man, and the short skirt——”
“Horrors!” gulped Mrs. Colonel. “My dear child, I wish you and your mother would sell that ranch and come to live with the colonel and me.”
“I’d smother,” averred Dell. “I’m so full of action, you see, that I’ve got to have room—and plenty of it.”
The colonel laughed delightedly.
“She’s Trave Dauntless, over and over again,” said he. “It makes my old heart pound just to hear her talk. By the way,” he added, “I found out something about you to-day, Dell. One of our ’Pache scouts was telling me.”
“What’s that?” queried the girl.
“Why, you’re a friend of my old comrade, Cody—as gallant and true a man as ever followed a trail.”
“I’m more than that, colonel,” returned Dell, with a touch of quiet pride, “for I’m Buffalo Bill’s girl pard.”
“Better and better!” cried the colonel, and Mrs. Colonel shook her shoulders despairingly and retreated into the house. “I understand that you helped the scout in his fight with renegade Apaches in the vicinity of the Three-ply Mine, and that you were of considerable assistance in capturing Slocum, otherwise Bascomb, the murderous deserter from Fort Apache.”
“I was with Buffalo Bill and his pards, old Nomad and Little Cayuse, colonel, but I wasn’t of much real service.”
“That’s your word for it. I’d like to hear what Cody has to say. Bascomb, I’m told, was captured on an island in Quicksand Lake, and a girl, the daughter of the owner of the Three-ply Mine, was rescued——”
“By the king of scouts, single-handed!” said Dell, her admiration fiery and vehement.
“I’m willing to believe that,” went on the colonel. “A braver man than Cody never stepped; and his bravery is of the best and most telling kind, for he always couples head-work with it. I reckon that’s what makes him so successful. The last I heard of Bascomb he had been landed in the Phœnix jail, and a guard of troopers from Fort Apache was going after him. That was several days ago, and I presume the villainous deserter is safely lodged in the strong room at Apache by now. Sit down here, Dell, and tell me about it.”
Dell Dauntless took her place obediently in the chair by the colonel’s side, and launched into the story. The king of scouts, as Dell recited the thrilling incidents connected with the deserter’s capture, received ample eulogy and credit.
Just as the recital was finished, an orderly hurried up the veranda steps, drew himself up in front of the colonel and saluted. The hand that went to his cap held a folded paper.
“An important message, sir,” announced the orderly, “just wired from Bowie.”
“Very well, Bryce,” said the colonel, taking the message; “just wait a minute.”
Excusing himself to Dell, Mamie, and the others, the colonel retired into the house to read his message by the lamplight.
While the young women were talking and laughing on the veranda, the colonel’s voice was heard from within:
“Dell! See here a moment.”
The girl hastened to answer the call.
She found Colonel Grayson standing beside a swinging lamp, the message in his hand and an exceedingly grave look on his face.
“What—what is wrong?” whispered Dell, her thoughts leaping to her mother and the Double D Ranch.
“Don’t be alarmed,” said the colonel. “This news by military telegraph is to the effect that Geronimo, with a hundred and fifty bucks, has jumped the reservation at Fort Apache——”
“I felt sure it would be only a matter of time until Geronimo broke out again,” said Dell.
“But that isn’t all,” pursued the colonel, in a low voice. “The renegades attacked the guard escorting that deserter from Phœnix to Fort Apache, killed them all, and rescued the deserter!”
Dell gasped, and fell back, her blue eyes wide and staring in the lamplight. For an instant she stood thus, speechless and without movement.
“Do you understand, Dell?” went on the colonel. “Geronimo and his renegades have——”
“I understand,” said the girl, drawing a quick breath and groping her way to a chair, “but there must be some mistake, there must be.”
“It is here, plain enough,” and the colonel shook the message.
“Why,” murmured Dell, “Buffalo Bill, Nomad, and Little Cayuse were traveling with Bascomb’s escort—and that message says that all were killed.”
The colonel started forward, and every muscle grew rigid.
He did not finish. Without pausing to get his hat he rushed out of the room, clattered across the veranda and toward the telegraph-office.
Dell, in the sitting-room, was gazing listlessly into space, thinking of the brave and chivalrous scout, the redoubtable old trapper, and the loyal little Piute, Cayuse.
The mining-camp of Bonita was in Bonita Cañon among the Chiricahua Mountains, fifty miles to the south of Fort Grant. Sixteen miles from Bonita lay Fort Bowie. Here, at Bonita, was the military headquarters in the campaign against the hostiles.
Grayson tried feverishly to secure further news from Bowie, only to discover that the telegraph-line had been cut. The message apprising him of the escape of Geronimo and his renegades, and of the overwhelming of the deserter’s escort, was the last one, barring a few details of military operations, to get through.
Leaving word that he was to be apprised the moment communication with Bowie was reestablished, the colonel returned to his house. On his way he stopped at his office and wrote out some despatches. Then, sending his orderly for Captain Lund, he continued on to his home.
The young ladies had retired from the porch, and the colonel paced it impatiently while waiting for Lund.
When the captain appeared, the colonel acquainted him with the details of the message just received.
“The telegraph-wire has been cut between here and Bowie, Lund,” finished the colonel crisply, “and there are important despatches to be sent to Bonita.”
“I understand,” returned the captain. “I should be glad to volunteer——”
“You will have your hands full, and so will the rest of us, guarding the water and protecting settlers in this vicinity. We know Geronimo, and his habit of striking quick and telling blows in widely separated places. Our work is mapped out for us, and our five troops are none too many. Can you suggest a reliable man to carry the despatches? It is dangerous work, and will take some one able to use his head as well as his heels.”
“Sergeant Patterson is the man, colonel,” answered Lund promptly. “I’ll back him to make his way through any number of Apaches and bob up smiling at the far end of the trail.”
“Just the man I would have selected. Have him report to me as soon as he can get ready.”
Lund saluted and withdrew. The colonel went into the house.
“What in the world is the matter?” clamored Mrs. Colonel. “It must be something mighty important, colonel, to keep you from supper. We’ve been waiting for you for half an hour.”
“Business first, supper afterward,” said the colonel.
“Renegade bucks have jumped the reservation at Fort Apache, that’s all.”
Mrs. Colonel was all in a twitter in an instant.
“Not Geronimo?” she fluttered. “Don’t tell me that Geronimo has——”
“What’s Geronimo but a scoundrelly, skulking red ruffian? He’s no more to be feared than any other renegade.”
But the very name of Geronimo carried with it a terror for Mrs. Colonel. She clasped her hands convulsively and collapsed into a chair.
“My family is safe enough right here. Where’s Dell?”
“I haven’t seen her, colonel, since——”
At that moment Dell came hurriedly into the room. The colonel noticed that she had her revolvers in her belt-holsters. She was also carrying a pair of silver spurs.
“One good thing about me,” said she, “is that I travel light. Whenever I decide to make a move, I don’t usually have to rustle even my spurs or my hardware.”
Seating herself, she began buckling the spurs to her small heels.
“My goodness, child,” cried Mrs. Colonel, “what are you going to do?”
“Ride,” answered Dell, bending down and pulling at the spur-straps.
“Ride!” palpitated Mrs. Colonel, with a wild look at her husband. “Why, haven’t you heard Geronimo is loose, and that——”
“That’s why I’m going,” said Dell.
“You’re mad,” almost screamed Mrs. Colonel.
“The Double D Ranch isn’t in danger, Dell,” said the colonel.
“Not with the Double D boys to take care of the cattle and the ranch-house. I don’t think that for a minute.”
“Then why are you leaving us?”
“Because Buffalo Bill and his pards may have escaped, and because, if they have or have not, they may need me. I told you I was Buffalo Bill’s girl pard.”
The colonel started back, astounded.
“What good can you do Buffalo Bill and his pards?” he demanded. “Cody is an old Indian-fighter, and so is Nick Nomad. The little Piute, too, has been in the army, and all that an Apache knows he knows.”
“Nevertheless, colonel,” said Dell resolutely, “I’m going.”
“Madness! I’m boss here, and I command you to remain at the post.”
A steely glint came into Dell’s eyes.
“You’re boss of the military; but, as for the army, I don’t belong. I’m my own boss, colonel.”
The colonel braced himself.
“You’re the daughter of my old friend, and I shall not allow you to put yourself in peril.”
“Peril!” The girl laughed. “Do you think that peril and I are strangers? If you lived nearer the Double D, you’d find plenty to tell you that Dell Dauntless knows how to take care of herself.”
“Be reasonable, can’t you?” stormed the colonel, one eye on Mrs. Colonel, who was weeping copiously in a handkerchief.
“You don’t see my duty as I see it, that’s all,” said Dell. “Do you think I could rest easy a moment after the news received in that telegram?”
“I was a fool to tell you anything about it.”
“You were not, Colonel Grayson. You were just the good, generous friend to me that you have always been. Don’t make a fuss now,” she wheedled, pulling her gauntlets from the breast of her buckskin blouse and swiftly drawing them on. “Remember”—and with gauntleted hand she slapped at one of the holsters—“I have something to defend myself with.”
“Defend fiddlesticks! I’ll not have this folly perpetrated at Grant! What—what do you intend to do?”
“My room is over the porch,” explained Dell. “While I was up there, getting my spurs and my hardware, I overheard your talk with Captain Lund. Sergeant Patterson is going south to Bonita; I’m going with Sergeant Patterson.”
“Not if I can help it, or——”
A tramp of hoofs was heard in front.
“Sergeant Patterson, sir,” announced the orderly, in the doorway.
“Send him in,” answered the colonel gruffly.
While he was talking with the sergeant, giving him his despatches and certain other oral directions, Mrs. Colonel had thrown herself across the exit to prevent the departure of Dell.
Dell threw her arms about Mrs. Colonel, kissed her, and set her aside as easily as she would have moved a child.
“Don’t worry about me, please!” and Dell went out.
A moment later Patterson followed her.
“Where’s Dell?” demanded the colonel, whirling around.
“She’s—she’s gone!” answered Mrs. Colonel.
“Orderly,” champed the colonel, “to the stable, at once. See that Miss Dauntless, on no account, is allowed to saddle and ride off with her mount, Silver Heels—the white cayuse—everybody here knows the animal.”
“Sorry, sir,” announced the orderly, with a troubled look, “but the white cayuse was put under saddle at the same time Patterson’s mount was made ready.”
“She asked me to have it done, calling out from an up-stairs window a moment after you and Captain Lund separated.”
“And you did it! What was done with the horse?”
“The sergeant brought Silver Heels along when he rode up to the porch, sir.”
The colonel rushed to the porch. Silver Heels was nowhere in sight, and neither was Dell. Patterson was just riding through the stockade gate.
“She’s gone, for sure!” growled the colonel. “Orderly, tell Lund and Hepburn to mount quickly and ride south, to overtake Miss Dauntless, if they can, and bring her back. Tell them to keep the trail for two hours, if need be.”
That night the colonel had little appetite for his supper. There was much to do, however, and he busied himself about it until eleven o’clock. By that time, Lund and Hepburn had returned.
Dell Dauntless was not with them.
“No luck, colonel,” reported Captain Lund. “Miss Dauntless got away from us.”
“She’ll have to go, then,” growled the colonel, tossing his hands. “Whoever heard of such a madcap?”
“I’ve been talkin’ with Pecos, the ’Pache scout, colonel,” said Lund, “and, personally, when a girl can do what she did while with Cody and his pards down near the Three-ply Mine, I don’t think there need be much worry on her account.”
“It doesn’t make any difference whether we need to worry or not,” went on the colonel; “she’s gone, and she got away from me. What would her father say if he were alive?”
“She’s a daring girl—and a pretty one,” and there was a far-away look in Lund’s eyes as he said it.
He was a bachelor.
“Too all-fired daring,” snorted the colonel, “but we’ve got business on our hands and can’t bother about Dell.”
Dell Dauntless was not only a daring and pretty young woman, but she was also a most determined one. She was not obstinate or foolhardy, as the colonel, perhaps, was tempted to think her. It was merely that she knew her own resourcefulness much better than did her friends at the post.
Skilled in plainscraft and versed in the ways of the wilderness, she knew well her abilities to get through a hostile country. She asked no odds of renegades, white or red—simply an even chance in the broad country.
Her cayuse, Silver Heels, had had several days of absolute rest at the post, gorging himself the while on government fodder. He was in fine fettle, and ready, if necessary, to make the race of his life.
As Nomad had had the trick of talking to his horse, Nebuchadnezzar, so Dell had acquired the habit of communing with Silver Heels—not a rare thing with people when duty leads them in solitary ways with only a horse for company.
“The good old colonel is afraid the ’Paches will catch us, Silver,” said the girl, when they had flung past the sentry at the gate and laid their course southward, “but he doesn’t know our mettle, does he?” She laughed softly, but instantly sobered as thoughts of the king of scouts and his pards flashed into her mind. “It can’t be, little horse,” she went on, “that Buffalo Bill, and Nomad, and Cayuse have fallen by the hands of Geronimo. Nothing can make me believe it; I won’t believe it!
“We’ll ride to Bonita with the sergeant, but we’ll not stop and wait for the sergeant, Silver. Oh, no. We’re too clever for that. It would be like the colonel to send somebody after us, so show me your best pace, and we’ll first distance pursuit before we join the sergeant. If I’m any judge, he’ll take the direct trail to Beaver River, for if the ’Paches are anywhere, they’ll be in the country to the south of the Beaver. We’ll lay for the sergeant at the ford, pony, and we’ll get to the river just as quick as the nation will let us.”
The small spurs jingled, and the white cayuse snorted and plunged ahead into the starlight.
Silver Heels was a wonder when it came to the matter of speed. The ground jumped from under him at a terrific clip, and Dell, leaning far over the saddle-horn, peered steadily ahead.
She was not worrying any about the trail behind, for she knew that her present pace would bid defiance to any pursuers who might be sent after her.
Greasewood clumps and mesquit chaparral hurled past her, and she glimpsed their gloomy tangles as a traveler might view them from the window of a railroad-coach.
“You’re the limited express, Silver,” she murmured jestingly, “and Beaver River is the only place where you can take water. Hustle, boy!”
And Silver Heels “hustled.” Without let or stay he reeled off the dizzy miles, seemingly proud to show his speed and mettle.
In two hours the cayuse carried his rider over the sandy bank of the Beaver and down into the stream. The river was shallow, and in the middle of it Silver Heels caught his promised drink—a small one, however, for a warm horse, who is to stand for some time, has no business with his fill of water.
Ascending the opposite bank carefully, Dell left the trail and backed Silver Heels into a thicket of paloverde. There she dismounted, and, with reins over one arm, sat down in the warm sand in front of her horse, waiting for Patterson and watching the ford.
Coyotes yelped in the hills; at intervals, from somewhere, came the shrill, humanlike scream of a mountain lion; gray forms of desert-rats slid across the open stretch in front of her, and the ungainly form of a Gila monster shambled slowly near, only to puff himself up and blow when she rolled a stone, and then turn and shamble off into the thick bushes again.
None of these things did Dell heed. She was used to such sights and sounds. Only the crawling form of an Apache would have aroused her from her position in the sand.
The slow minutes dragged on, but without bringing the messenger from Grant.
She began to fear that, after all, Patterson had not taken the trail she had followed from Grant. Certainly the sergeant had not been long in following her from the post.
If he did not come, she would traverse the country to Bonita alone. She could do it, and easily, and she was not afraid. But she would have preferred to travel with Patterson.
Just as she was on the point of giving up her wait, mounting and continuing south alone, a fall of galloping hoofs reached her ears from north of the river. Presently a horseman came into sight, splashed into the stream, watered his horse, and made for the southern bank.
Dell strained her eyes.
Undoubtedly it was Patterson. The moonlight silvered against his belt-buckle and struck a gleam from the carbine at his saddle-horn.
With cautious looks to right and left, the sergeant rode out of the river and up the bank.
Dell arose, mounted, and gathered up the reins in one hand.
The alert sergeant, hearing movements among the low trees, drew to a halt and unshipped his carbine in a flash. The gun was at his shoulder and leveled before Dell had showed herself.
“Don’t shoot, sergeant!” the girl called.
“What the blazes——” Patterson did not lower the gun, and the words merely evidenced his complete astonishment. “Who are ye?”
“Dell Dauntless. I’ve been waiting for you.”
Thereupon Dell pushed out into the open, and Patterson gave vent to a low whistle and lowered his gun.
“Here’s a surprise-party!” he muttered. “You must have come a-smokin’ to be waiting here like this.”
“I did. I was afraid the colonel would send some one after me.”
“That was sure a good guess. He sent two men after ye, but they gave up and went back. What’re you intendin’ to do, Miss Dauntless?”
“Ride with you.”
“By all the rules o’ the game, I reckon I ought to send ye back.”
“Because I won’t go.”
“That’s you, an’ right spunky, I must say; but look! D’you understand that we’re in hostile country?”
“An’ that we’ll have to hike through the bear-grass an’ scrub, leavin’ the trail to wind along its unfollered way?”
“Sure I do.”
“Think ye kin stand it?”
“If I can’t, sergeant, you can drop me by the wayside.”
“Drop ye I’ll have to, then, kase I’m kerryin’ despatches that have got to git through. But I can’t take time to send you back, and I can’t waste any more chinnin’ here. I’d feel mighty bad if any harm happened to ye, but my bizness is important. Drop in behind if ye’re bound to come.”
Curtly enough—for Patterson was thinking of the important work before him, and, truth to tell, hated to be bothered with a trailing “petticoat”—the messenger spurred onward, dropping the loop of his carbine-strap over the pommel as he went.
Where the trail entered the scrub he entered it, pointing up a slope and turning southward again on the crest of a divide.
For an hour Dell followed, searching with her eyes to right and left as did Patterson, and listening intently for sounds that might indicate skulking Apaches.
Drawing to a halt in a ravine, where thirsty deer had gouged a water-hole, while the horses were taking a few swallows of water, Patterson spoke for the first time since leaving the Beaver.
“I don’t like the white hide o’ that cayuse, an’ that’s a fact.” He nibbled at the corner of a plug of tobacco as he spoke, and his words were a bit cut up. “’Paches are up, an’ they could spot the critter a mile.”
“Silver Heels is the best cayuse in Arizona, in spite of his color,” bristled Dell. “I’ll drop so far behind you, sergeant, that, if there are any ’Paches around, they’ll spot me and give you a chance to keep on.”
“I don’t like that, Miss Dauntless, nary mucho; but I’m the boy with despatches, so I can’t act like I would if I didn’t have ’em. Savvy?”
“Of course I understand. Your first duty is to get those despatches through. Never mind me.”
Patterson jerked his horse’s head out of the water-hole, kicked in the spurs, and pushed on up the ravine.
Dell, following by ear alone, allowed him to get well in the lead.
Another hour slipped past—an hour of scrambling through chaparral, and through Spanish bayonet and catsclaw, through dungeonlike gullies and up steep slopes; then followed another hour of passably easy traveling.
Dell was still behind, still following the sounds ahead.
For Patterson to lose her, trained as she was in ways of the trail, was impossible.
Disaster was hovering in the vicinity of the two, but it was not threatening them on account of the white cayuse.
While Dell, busy with her thoughts, was sweeping the shadowy country on every side and following the sergeant mechanically, she was abruptly startled by the husky note of a rifle. A bloodthirsty yell followed the report; such a yell as only an Apache can give. Following the yell came the snort of a horse, and a thud of jumping hoofs.
Without a moment’s hesitation the daring girl spurred forward, jerking a revolver from her belt as she rode.
Patterson was in trouble! If so, he might need her.
That was her one thought, and she knew not the meaning of the word fear.
A dozen leaps of the white cayuse carried the girl to the scene of the shooting.
Again an unseen rifle cracked, and a bullet whistled past the girl’s head. But she gave attention to nothing and to no one save Patterson.
And if ever a man stood in need of aid, it was the brave sergeant at that moment.
Patterson had dropped from his saddle and was lying helpless on his side. His horse, a few yards away, was standing stock-still, fore hoofs planted wide apart, head thrown back, and nostrils sniffing the night air.
The sergeant, when attacked, had been traversing a “hogback.” The hogback was bare, and rose out of a thick tangle of brush. In traversing the rise, the messenger had been prominently in sight of savage foes lurking in the brush below. Two of these were now bounding up the side of the hogback.
Dell saw the two Apaches almost as soon as she had seen the sergeant. Both Indians carried rifles, but they must have been muzzle-loaders. Had they been repeating rifles, the girl would probably have paid with her life for her reckless charge along the hogback.
Having no time to halt and reload, the Apaches were springing up the rocky slope, one with a knife in his free hand and the other with a hatchet.
Tumbling out of her saddle, Dell rushed to Patterson’s side, jerking out her revolvers as she ran.
The Indians were within thirty paces of her when she opened fire. One fell, throwing up his arms and tipping backward down the slope; the other—the one with the knife—flung himself behind a boulder.
Dell understood very well what this meant. Screened by the boulder, the Apache intended to reload his rifle and then take his time picking her off with a bullet.
Without a moment’s hesitation the girl charged the boulder, so that the Indian had no time to use powder-horn or bullet-pouch. Forced from cover, he bounded back toward the bushes at the base of the hogback, zigzagging and ducking to avoid the lead sent after him.
Whether she hit the redskin or not Dell could not tell, but she realized that it would be unwise to pursue him any farther.
Returning hastily to the sergeant, she knelt at his side.
“How badly are you hurt, sergeant?” she asked.
“Too badly to go on with the despatches,” he answered, lifting himself on one elbow and jerking a packet from the breast of his blouse. “Ye’re a brave ’un, Miss Dauntless. Here, take the despatches an’ get ’em through.”
“And leave you?” she answered. “Not I.”
“Hang it, girl, can’t ye understand? I’ve got a lead plug in my side, and to take me on will be a bother. Ye can’t do it and land the despatches in Bonita.”
“Despatches or no despatches,” answered the girl, “I’ll not leave you here to be killed.”
“I tell ye to go on!” growled the sergeant fiercely.
“And I tell you I won’t until you go with me. If you want me to get the despatches through, you’ll have to let me help you.”
Already Dell had opened the sergeant’s blouse. The moonlight was brilliant, there on top of the hogback, and she folded the trooper’s cotton handkerchief, laid it over the wound in his right side, then pulled the army belt up until it compressed the handkerchief and held it in place. Next she led up the trooper’s horse.
“I’ll help you to get into the saddle,” said she.
“It’ll be a tough job,” Patterson groaned; “an’ I doubt if we can make it.”
“We will make it.”
“I can’t keep my saddle after ye get me into it.”
“Then I’ll tie you there. You’re going with me to Bonita.”
“There’s more Apaches. We’ll hear from ’em.”
“All right; if that’s how it pans out, they’d hear from me, too.”
Dell was strong, in spite of her slender build. Patterson could help himself but very little, but the girl pulled him upright, got one of his feet into the stirrup, and then heaved him onto the horse’s back.
There the sergeant drooped limply, hanging with both hands to the saddle-horn.
Hastily unshipping her picket-rope, Dell bound the wounded trooper to his mount, her deft fingers flying like lightning.
Then, with Patterson’s carbine in her hands, she leaped swiftly to the back of Silver Heels, caught the end of the picket-rope, which she had passed through the bit-rings of the army horse, and started on.
The Apache’s rifle spoke again, the bullet whistling sibilantly through the air.
Dell felt a twitching of her buckskin blouse on the left side. She had not been hit by the flying slug, but she had had a close call.
As she turned in the saddle, carbine in her hands and eyes on the alert for red foes, an arrow sailed toward her, and cut through the brim of her brown sombrero.
“Better let me go, girl,” groaned Patterson. “With me out o’ the way ye can show ’em a clean pair o’ heels.”
“We’ll pull through together,” returned the girl resolutely, “or go down together. That’s flat.”
The next moment she saw three Apaches racing along the top of the hogback.
Without taking the trouble to raise the carbine to her shoulder, she fired from the hip. Her aim was unerring, and the foremost of the savages careened sideways.
Another bullet came at her. She heard a ring of lead upon steel, felt the carbine shiver in her hands, and a shock like that from an electric battery raced through her arms.
Again she essayed to pull the trigger of the carbine. The attempt brought a revelation. The bullet that had struck the carbine had shattered its mechanism and rendered it useless.
Again and again she essayed to shoot, but each time she failed. The two remaining Apaches were leaping toward her, coming up under cover of the wounded sergeant.
Flinging aside the carbine, Dell once more fell back on her revolvers. But to use these smaller arms without hurt to Patterson was well-nigh impossible.
The Apaches, who appeared originally to have numbered four, and undoubtedly were a small detachment from Geronimo’s main band, had lost two of their number. This fact not only rendered them murderously vindictive, but exceedingly wary.
The sergeant, unable to make a single defensive move in his weakened condition, saw the Indians and understood their maneuver. The situation brought another groan from his lips.
“I’m liable to prove the death o’ ye,” he muttered. “Cast loose from me an’ hike! There’s a chance yet.”
“No!” cried Dell.
Pulling Silver Heels backward, Dell sought to find an opening for a shot; but the two Apaches moved forward as she moved back, and thus frustrated her plans.
In the midst of the maneuvering, the unexpected happened, taking form in the crack of a rifle from the bushes below the hogback.
One of the two remaining Apaches dropped his rifle and staggered. Again the unseen marksman launched a bullet. This time the second of the two Apaches stiffened in his tracks for a moment, then crumpled to his knees.
The other, without lingering further, whirled about and plunged down the slope and into the chaparral.
The astounded Dell strained her eyes toward the point from which the unexpected shots had come.
“A friend in need, Patterson!” she cried.
The sergeant’s head was hanging forward. He heard Dell’s words, and made a response, but his voice was too low and mumbling for the girl to understand what he said.
The Apache on his knees had straightened out along the rocky slope. An instant later a form came bounding up out of the shadows, paused at the Apache’s side an instant, then came on to Dell and the sergeant.
Dell’s amazement increased as the newcomer came more and more into the light of the hogback’s crest.
He was not a white man, but an Indian—a slender, lithely built boy, bare to the waist, his nether limbs clad in buckskins and moccasins. An eagle-feather ornamented his scalp-lock, and he carried a small repeating rifle.
“Ugh!” he exclaimed, halting close to Dell. “Yellow Hair, Pa-e-has-ka’s girl-pard!”
“Little Cayuse!” cried Dell, her surprise and delight throbbing in her voice.
A moment more and she was down from her saddle and had caught the little Piute in a swift embrace.
Little Cayuse deemed it derogatory to the pride of a warrior to let himself be betrayed into any show of affection. His feelings the boy tried strenuously to keep in check at all times. And, as he frowned upon any display of feelings by himself, he looked askance at it in others.
With a grunt he withdrew himself from Dell’s arms.
“How does it happen I find you here, Cayuse?” went on the overjoyed Dell.
The fact that Cayuse was there proved that he, at least, had escaped the slaughter of Bascomb’s escort; and, from this fact, the girl argued that Buffalo Bill and Nomad had likewise escaped.
“No time for powwow,” returned Cayuse gruffly. “Plenty ’Pache in hills. ’Pache who git away tell um other ’Pache. We ride quick, or mebbyso we lose um scalp. Where you go, Yellow Hair?”
“Who white soldier?”
“A trouper from Grant with important despatches. He is baldly wounded. We must take him with us.”
Cayuse flashed his eyes over the limp trooper.
“Wuh!” said he. “Yellow Hair wait till Cayuse git um pinto.”
The boy whirled and darted down the slope and into the brush again. When he returned he was mounted on a calico cayuse—his own horse, Navi.
There were two slain Apaches on the hogback, and between them Little Cayuse halted Navi, looking from one Indian to the other, and his hand hesitating about the handle of a scalping-knife that swung from his belt.
“Cayuse!” called Dell.
The boy turned his eyes upon the girl.
“You know what Pa-e-has-ka told you about taking scalps?” went on the girl.
Little Cayuse withdrew his hand hastily from the knife and dug his heels into Navi’s sides. His Piute nature craved the scalps, for on one of them he was entitled to a second eagle-feather; but the better side of his nature had listened to the teachings of the king of scouts, although profiting by the teachings reluctantly.
“Come!” said he, taking the lead and crossing the crest of the hogback.
Dell, leading Patterson’s mount, followed. Into and through the chaparral the little Piute led the girl and the helpless trooper, selecting ground whose flinty soil would leave no trail visible in the daylight.
As the boy rode, his eyes glimmered like an owl’s into the surrounding darkness, and he listened at every step like a coyote.
It was close on to an hour later that the boy called a halt. They had reached a water-hole. Probably Cayuse would not have halted even then had he not discovered that Patterson was in a pitiable condition of weakness, and that Dell was obliged to ride at his side and support him with her arm.
“Ugh!” said Cayuse, slipping from Navi’s back. “Pony-soldier heap bad hurt. We give um little rest. No like make um stop, but we got to.”
Patterson was unroped from his saddle and lifted down.
After he had been stretched out beside the water-hole, Cayuse unbuckled the belt and pulled aside the blouse and the clothing beneath.
Removing the red-soaked handkerchief, he lowered his eyes to within a few inches of the wound, and examined it as well as the moonlight would permit.
Presently he began probing with his fingers—a painful process which the unconscious trooper could not feel.
“Him plenty bad hurt, Yellow Hair,” said Cayuse, “but bullet him no stay in wound. Umph! Me fix um.”
Going to the edge of the water. Cayuse wrung out the handkerchief; then, coming back, he bathed the wound.
From a medicine-bag swinging at his belt he took a brown powder and sprinkled it plentifully over the wound. Next the medicine-bag yielded a compactly rolled strip of soft doeskin. The strip was unrolled and passed completely around Patterson’s body, the ends brought tightly together and fastened with a long, sharp thorn. The clothing was then replaced over the wound and a drink from the boy’s canteen was forced between the sergeant’s lips.
Complete rest, assisted by the cooling draft, soon caused Patterson’s wits to return.
“Where’s the despatches?” were his first words.
“They’re safe, sergeant,” said Dell reassuringly.
“I’ve got you to thank for that, Miss Dauntless.”
“We’ve both got Little Cayuse to thank for it.”
“Who’s Little Cayuse?”
“The Indian boy beside you. He is Buffalo Bill’s pard.”
“Then he must be the clear quill,” muttered Patterson. “Any pard o’ Buffler Bill’s is ace-high with me. How did he happen to be around that hogback?”
“That’s just what I want to know,” said Dell. “From the despatch the colonel received, I supposed that Buffalo Bill, Nomad, and Cayuse were with the escort taking Bascomb from Phœnix to Fort Apache. That despatch said that all the escort had been killed by Geronimo and his hostiles, but I had a feeling that the murderous work could not have extended to the scout and his pards.”
Little Cayuse gave a disgusted grunt and squatted on the ground by the water-hole, his knees up under his chin and his hands twined about them.
“Where’s Pa-e-has-ka, Cayuse?” inquired Dell, impatient because of the boy’s provoking silence.
“Mebbyso Bonita,” answered Cayuse.
“Weren’t you, and Buffalo Bill, and Nomad with the soldiers who were taking Bascomb to Fort Apache?”
“We leave Phœnix all same with escort. Pa-e-has-ka meet pony-soldier from Bowie. Pony-soldier say something to Pa-e-has-ka, and Pa-e-has-ka go with pony-soldier to Bonita. Wuh.”
“What about you and Nomad?”
Cayuse was silent for a space, breathing hard and looking gloomily around.
“Wolf-killer and Cayuse go on with escort,” said he finally. “Two pony-soldiers in escort; two pony-soldiers, Wolf-killer, and Cayuse—him four por todos; five you count Bascomb.”
Again the boy relapsed into gloomy silence, his hands clenching about his upraised knees and his black eyes smoldering in the half-light.
“What happened?” asked Dell.
“’Paches come,” answered Cayuse fiercely. “’Paches kill um pony-soldiers, take away Bascomb, make um Wolf-killer prisoner. Cayuse he run!” The boy released his hands, doubled his fist, and brought it savagely down on the ground. “Cayuse run,” he repeated, as though, by so saving himself, he had stretched the score of disgrace to the uttermost.
“That was the proper thing for you to do, Cayuse,” returned Dell.
“Cayuse warrior,” grunted the boy; “him ought to stand by Nomad until him die. Cayuse think um Wolf-killer get away, too; but him captured. Ugh!”
“Ye’re a queer little imp,” remarked Patterson. “Used to be in the army, didn’t ye? Bugler ’r somethin’?”
“Wuh. No like um army; rather stay with Pa-e-has-ka.”
“Cayuse thinks the world and all of Buffalo Bill, Patterson,” said Dell. “For Cayuse the sun rises and sets in the king of scouts. It’s a knack Buffalo Bill has of drawing his pards to him.”
“When did the Apaches attack you, Cayuse?” went on Dell.
“How many were there?”
Cayuse lifted both hands, fingers outspread, three times.
“So many. Mebbyso more.”
“It’s a wonder you ever got away,” breathed Dell.
“Me fool um. Piute fool um ’Pache every time.”
“Where have you been since the fight?”
“All same scout through hills; find out where um ’Pache take Bascomb.”
Patterson stirred excitedly.
“You found that out, did you?” he demanded.
“All same. Bascomb wounded, no can travel. Me find out where ’Pache keep um.”
“Bully!” applauded the sergeant, stifling a groan of pain. “You’re more kinds of a phenomenon, Little Cayuse, than I know how to mention.”
“Ugh!” grunted Cayuse dejectedly. “Me run from ’Paches. What Pa-e-has-ka say, huh?”
He cast an appealing look at Dell.
“Buffalo Bill,” returned the girl warmly, “will say that you did exactly right.”
“Mebbyso,” said Cayuse, only half-convinced.
“Where is Bascomb?” asked the sergeant.
“Me tell um Pa-e-has-ka at Bonita.”
“Did you see anything of Geronimo?”
“Me see um: him with Bascomb.”
“Better and better!” Patterson turned to Dell. “That means,” he finished, “that we’ve lost all the time we can at this water-hole. The quicker Little Cayuse gets to Bonita and delivers his news, the quicker this raid of Geronimo’s can be nipped in the bud, and Bascomb recaptured. We’ve got to ride.”
The sergeant lifted himself to a sitting posture, but almost immediately fell back with a groan of pain.
“I’m next to bein’ on the retired-list,” said he gaspingly; “but for you, Miss Dauntless, I’d be lying, scalped, this minute on that hogback. It was a lucky thing for me you broke away from the post like ye did, an’ decided to trail along in my wake. First time I ever fell down on a job the T. C. set for me!”
“You haven’t fallen down now,” said Dell.
“I’d like to know what ye call it!”
Cayuse was already on his feet, having caught the drift of Patterson’s remarks relative to a hurried descent upon Bonita.
With Dell’s aid, the boy succeeded in getting Patterson back into his saddle and again roping him there. After that he and Dell mounted, and the journey was continued.
Steadily onward rode the three through the night and into the coming dawn. No Apaches appeared to bother them, although the ominous silences of rock niche and chaparral were on every side as they rode.
At last they entered Bonita Cañon.
“We’re gettin’ clost now,” Patterson roused to remark just as the sun, like a golden pip snapped by the fingers of a Mighty Hand, leaped upward over the rim of the cañon.
His words were taken up by the notes of a bugle, coming from around a turn in the gorge.
The sergeant’s face brightened.
“That sound never rang in my ears so fine as it does now!” he remarked.
Dell rode alongside of him and pulled the packet from her waist. In the daylight she could see that it was stained redly.
“What ye goin’ to do with that?” inquired Patterson.
“You started with the despatches,” answered Dell, “and you’re going to deliver them.”
“That’s your right,” expostulated the sergeant.
“It’s your right, Sergeant Patterson! You’re a brave man, and delivering the despatches is your duty.”
Leaning sidewise in her saddle, Dell thrust the packet into the front of the trooper’s red-stained blouse.
Patterson tried to thank her for her thoughtfulness and generosity, but the words died on his lips and he drooped forward, again fainting from sheer weariness and loss of blood.
Dell supported him as she had done before, and thus they rounded the bend in the cañon and came within sight of the military headquarters in the field.
In a log cabin in Bonita, the king of scouts sat in consultation with Captain Markham. Outside the cabin, in the shade, a reserve force of Pima scouts were lolling and smoking cigarettes.
A stir of activity filled the camp. Couriers were coming and going between Bonita and Bowie, and scouting-parties and squads of troopers were departing and arriving.
Buffalo Bill’s face wore a heavy frown. News had come from Fort Bowie the evening before relative to the escape of Geronimo and his bucks from the reservation at Apache, and also of the annihilation of Bascomb’s escort and the rescue of Bascomb.
The scout, in charge of a picked party, had at once taken the saddle. The entire night had been spent in the hills, but in spite of every effort not one of the renegades had been apprehended, and not a “sign” had been picked up.
“Of course,” said Captain Markham, as he and the scout sat in the cabin that morning, “Geronimo will head this way, killing and stealing and burning a trail toward Mexico. It’s his old game. Once he gets across the border, Heaven only knows when we’ll catch him.”
“I’m less concerned about Geronimo,” returned the scout, “than I am about my two pards, old Nomad and Little Cayuse. Bascomb”—the scout’s eyes glittered—“has made us plenty of trouble. I’ll have him back. You hear that, Markham? I’ll never rest until I lay hands on the scoundrel and land him in the strong room at Fort Apache.”
“You’ll have a job of it, Cody. Bascomb seems to have curried favor with the Apaches, and it’s ten to one that he’s with Geronimo this minute. You know Geronimo—a regular firebrand, and wily as a side-winder. He’ll crow-hop on every reservation but his own, and all the while he’s here, there, and everywhere, like the Irishman’s flea. Now you see him and now you don’t. Next time he’s captured he ought to be shot.”
“I’ll get Bascomb!” averred the scout.
“I suppose your pards are done for?”
Buffalo Bill got up and walked to the door. What he felt he hid by turning his back on Markham. For a moment he stood in the doorway looking out at the Pimas; then he went to a bucket, took a drink from a gourd dipper, and went back to his chair opposite Markham. His face was expressionless, except as to the eyes—they flashed like steel.
“I’ll get Bascomb!” said he, his voice vibrant with resolution. “If he’s with Geronimo, I’ll take the two of them. As for my pards, game old Nick and the loyal little Piute, if they’ve crossed the divide, that runs up a personal debt which I owe the renegades, particularly Geronimo.
“You know what it is, I reckon,” he went on, dropping his voice, “to share the same blanket with a man year in and year out; to scout with him at your side; to stand shoulder to shoulder with him in more fights than you can count; to find him at all times a pard to be depended on for sand and sagacity; and——” He broke off curtly. “I don’t need to tell you what the loss of Nick Nomad means to me, or the loss of Little Cayuse.”
“No,” returned the captain sympathetically, “you don’t need to tell me, Cody. The fortunes of war are hard on a man sometimes. You say you’ll get Bascomb, and I hope——”
An orderly, his clothes dusty with alkali, showed himself in the doorway and saluted.
“Come in, Carter,” said Markham. “What’s to pay? Anything new?”
“One of our Apache scouts has jest come in, sir,” answered the orderly. “He reports having been captured by Geronimo, quirted and sent back to Bonita with a message.”
“Send him in,” ordered Markham. “These Apache scouts,” he added to Buffalo Bill when the orderly had vanished, “may be depended on, or they may not. It’s a doubtful point.”
“When fighting Geronimo,” counseled the scout, “it’s well to look with suspicion on what an Apache says. Only the Pimas are to be depended on when fighting Apaches. Pimas have been foes of the Apaches for a hundred years and more, and never a Pima has raised his hand against a white.”
came in. He wore a pair of blue overalls, fastened to his waist with a piece of rope. His shoulders were bare.
Standing silently before Markham and Buffalo Bill for a moment, he turned slowly and exhibited his back. Great, livid welts crossed and recrossed the coppery skin.
“Well!” exclaimed Markham, as the Apache faced about. “So you were captured by Geronimo, were you, Chico?”
“Si,” snarled the red man.
“Blind gully off Tres Alamos Gulch.”
“Fifteen miles away!” muttered Markham. “When was this?”
“When were you released?”
“Mebbyso, hours, so many.”
Chico lifted four dirty fingers.
“How many bucks with Geronimo?”
Chico thrust both hands into the air ten times.
“A hundred, eh? He’s got most all of those who jumped the reservation with him under his wing. Did you learn anything?”
“No; but Geronimo he send this, with message for Pa-e-has-ka.”
Chico dipped one hand into the pocket of the overalls and brought out a pair of rusty steel handcuffs.
“Thunder!” muttered Markham. “What trick is the sly old scoundrel up to now? Why did he send those to Buffalo Bill?”
Laying the handcuffs on the table, Chico groped about in the depths of his pocket and brought forth a small key, which he laid beside the iron bracelets.
“Geronimo say he take um handcuffs from Bascomb, take um key from dead pony-soldier,” explained Chico. “Geronimo say for Pa-e-has-ka to take iron bracelets, then bymby Geronimo find Pa-e-has-ka and put um on him. Geronimo make powwow before he turn Chico loose.”
The scout laughed grimly.
“All same. Geronimo send um.”
Buffalo Bill took up the handcuffs and the key and put them in his pocket.
“You sabe Pa-e-has-ka’s pards, Wolf-killer and Little Cayuse?” he asked.
“Did you see or hear anything of them?”
Chico shook his head.
“Probably the party that did the business for Bascomb’s escort haven’t all joined Geronimo as yet,” suggested Markham.
“Probably not; although one must have joined, or Geronimo wouldn’t have the come-alongs.”
“Are they the same cuffs that were put on Bascomb?”
“They look like them, my oath that they’re the same. When the man from Bowie met the escort and asked me to come here, in view of possible Indian troubles, we hadn’t been long on the trail to Apache.”
“I see.” Markham had got up and was buckling on his belt and army Colts. “Coming with us, Buffalo Bill?” he queried.
“To the blind gully off Tres Alamos Gulch?”
“Sure. We’ll make a quick run of it. I don’t hope to find the scoundrelly renegades there, but we may be able to pick up signs and give them a run of it between here and the border. They’ll be trying to head the fugitives off at Fort Huachuca, and there’s a chance—if luck’s on our side.”
“Naturally. If he’s running us into any sort of a trap, he’ll be along to enjoy it with the rest of us. Sabe the burro, Chico?”
The Apache nodded sullenly, hunched his shoulders and rubbed his lacerated back gingerly.
“He’s straight goods,” muttered Markham, “and I’ll gamble on it.”
“His back is no proof he’s not talking with two tongues,” returned the scout. “He’d cut himself up worse than that to help Geronimo, if he’s at all inclined to be treacherous.”
Calling Carter, Markham shot orders at him with the rapidity of a Gatling. A few minutes later and fresh activity was added to the stir of the camp. The bugle called, and troopers made a run for their mounts.
As the scout and the captain were preparing to leave the cabin, the orderly once more presented himself.
“Despatches from Grant, sir,” he announced.
“From Grant, eh?” returned Markham. “Bully! The wire’s cut, and we’ll be able to find out what Grayson is doing. Bring in the courier, Carter.”
“He’s in a faint, sir, and they’re untying him from his horse.”
“Wounded?” demanded Carter.
“Badly—brush with the reds, sir. There’s a young woman with him——”
“Woman!” exclaimed the captain blankly.
“Yes, sir, and an Indian boy——”
Buffalo Bill waited for no more, but rushed from the cabin. The Pimas, attracted by the excitement of fresh arrivals, had left the shade and were clustered, with several troopers, about three horses—a pinto, a white cayuse, and a big, raw-boned army mount. From the latter the wounded courier was being lifted.
But the scout, for the moment, did not see the courier, his attention being entirely taken up by the two who had come with the wounded trooper.
“Dell!” cried Buffalo Bill, in amazement; “and Little Cayuse! Well, here’s a bit of luck, anyhow.”
Dell Dauntless sprang toward the scout and caught him by the hand.
“It’s mighty good to see you again, pard!” said the girl, her blue eyes dancing. “Before the military wire to Grant was cut, we got word that Geronimo and some of his bucks had gone on a raid, that Bascomb, the deserter, had been rescued, and that the escort with Bascomb had all been killed. I knew you, and Nomad, and Cayuse were to return to Fort Apache with Bascomb, and I was afraid that—that——”
The girl hesitated.
“That Geronimo had played a trump card and got rid of us, eh?” finished Buffalo Bill. “I left the escort very soon after we had quitted Phœnix, being summoned to Bonita on account of prospective Indian troubles. Cayuse and Nomad stayed with the escort. The same news that reached you also reached me, and I had begun to do a little worrying about Nomad and Cayuse myself. But here’s the boy, as chipper as ever! Do you know anything about Nomad?”
“He says Nomad was captured—but I’ll let him tell you, Buffalo Bill.”
“You couldn’t expect me to stay there after Colonel Grayson had received that message about Bascomb and the escort, could you?” queried Dell artlessly.
Buffalo Bill drew back and stared at her.
“Why, what could you hope to do?” he asked.
“I didn’t know exactly; but, when you’ve got a pard in trouble, you don’t loll around and take things easy, do you? And it isn’t your way to keep clear of the scene of your pard’s trouble, is it?”
“Well, there’s a different set of rules governing the actions of a girl pard,” returned the scout, a twinkle in his eye.
“Not much there ain’t,” asserted Dell.
The scout touched the side of her blouse where the Apache bullet had gouged a rent.
“That’s where a redskin paid me his compliments,” said Dell.
“And this?” The scout touched the brim of her hat.
“Another token of Apache esteem,” went on Dell. “One was made by a bullet, and the other by an arrow.”
“Close!” murmured the scout.
“A miss is as good as a mile,” Dell answered lightly.
“Not many girls would come through a night trip from Grant, at this time, with the same coolness you show. You’re a remarkable girl, Dell Dauntless.”
“Only different,” smiled Dell. “It’s enough to put me in fine fettle just to find you alive and hearty at this end of the trail. And we have Cayuse, too, you see.”
“He feels cut up and out of sorts, Buffalo Bill,” said Dell, with a soft look at Cayuse.
Cayuse did not come near the scout, but hung around Navi, and apparently gave the scout no more attention than if he had been a thousand miles away. Nevertheless, not a move of the scout’s escaped the boy.
When Buffalo Bill walked toward him, Cayuse turned his back, folded his arms, and fixed his gaze on the opposite wall of the cañon.
“What’s the matter, Cayuse?” said the scout, laying a kindly hand on the lad’s bare shoulder.
“Ugh! Cayuse free, Nomad prisoner.”
The Piute never shifted his eyes from the cañon wall.
“What of that?” proceeded the scout, instantly catching the drift of the boy’s sentiments. “Better one free than both prisoners. When one is free he can help to release the other. Sabe?”
“Cayuse run,” breathed the boy; “run, all same scared coyote. Cayuse think Wolf-killer run, too, but not so. Wolf-killer captured.”
“I was afraid both you and Nomad had fallen, and I am glad to hear that Nomad is alive, even though a prisoner. Little Cayuse has acted like a true warrior in getting away and coming to tell me about Wolf-killer. Pa-e-has-ka thanks Little Cayuse.”
The boy’s pride, thus oddly humiliated, began to recover. He turned around face to face with the scout.
“Pa-e-has-ka think Cayuse did right?” he asked.
“Bascomb wounded,” said Cayuse. “Hard for Bascomb to sit cayuse and ride. Me know where Bascomb taken by ’Paches.”
“What?” demanded the scout, instantly on the alert.
The Piute repeated his words.
“Good! We’ll get Bascomb. Do you know where Nomad was taken?”
“No see um.”
“How do you know he wasn’t killed, then? How do you know he was taken prisoner?”
“Me come back to place of ambush. Hunt over ground. Find um pony-soldiers, no find um Wolf-killer.”
“Ah! What of Geronimo?”
“Him with Bascomb.”
“All same cave by Tonio Pass.”
“Here’s something to look into at once!” exclaimed the scout. “Come into the cabin, Cayuse; you, too, Dell.”
The scout led the way into Markham’s headquarters.
Patterson had been carried into the cabin and laid in a bunk. While a doctor was working over him, Markham sat at a table reading the despatches that had just fallen into his hands.
“These are important, Cody,” said Markham, looking up. “Grayson tells me what he intends to do, and what the commander at Apache intends to do. Troops from both posts will look after the settlers and hem Geronimo out of the north. Huachuca will guard the south. Somewhere in between the two lines of troops Geronimo will be dodging—so our chances to corner him in that blind gully are growing brighter.”
Markham shoved the despatches together, and locked them in a despatch-box.
“How’s the courier, doctor?” he called.
“He’ll do, captain,” was the answer. “Two weeks in hospital will set him on his pins again.”
“I’ll send a man to Bowie for the ambulance, and we’ll have him taken there as soon as possible. He did a brave thing, and Grayson shall know about it.”
A troop of mounted men galloped up to the door.
“All ready, captain,” called a voice from without.
“Come on, Cody,” said Markham, pulling on his gloves.
“Just a second, captain,” returned Buffalo Bill. “I have fresh news regarding Geronimo, just brought by my two pards. Miss Dauntless, Captain Markham—Buffalo Bill’s girl pard, Markham, and Buffalo Bill is sure proud of her. Also Little Cayuse, my Piute pard.”
Markham vouchsafed Dell a passive glance, which quickly gave place to one of admiration. He bowed. Then, turning, he caught Cayuse by the hand.
“Glad the Indian boy is accounted for, at all events,” said he. “Sorry I haven’t time to stay and talk, Miss Dauntless, for you’ve got a story to tell which I’d like to hear. We can’t waste much time, Cody,” he added to the scout. “That blind gully is fifteen miles off, and the reds are fliers when they get started. What’s your news?”
“Cayuse escaped from the ambush the Apaches laid for the Bascomb escort,” explained Buffalo Bill: “but, after his escape, Cayuse scouted and followed the Apaches to Tonio Pass. Bascomb is wounded, he says, and unable to travel. The Indians have him in the pass, and Geronimo is with them.”
“Tonio Pass is dead away from Tres Alamos Gulch,” said he. “Geronimo can’t be in both places. The boy must be mistaken.”
“I’d believe him before I would an Apache scout,” returned Buffalo Bill.
Markham stood for a moment thinking.
“Perhaps you have more faith in the Piute than in the Apache,” he said finally, “but my opinion inclines the other way. Cayuse is only a boy, and a Piute at that. Likely enough he doesn’t know Geronimo as well as Chico does.”
“Cayuse is the lad that gets my gilt, all the same.”
“I think the Tres Alamos trail the most promising.”
“Very good,” said the scout calmly. “Merely a matter of divided opinions.”
“That’s all. Either of us may have the wrong pig by the ear, but that remains to be seen. Are you traveling with me?”
“I’m going to the pass,” said the scout decidedly.
“Very well. It may not be a bad idea to cover both points. I can’t spare many men for you, Cody, as I’m taking the bulk of the force I have left here. A hundred bucks under Geronimo is a gang not to be sneezed at, and there’ll be brisk work if we come up with them. However, take Lieutenant Doyle and ten troopers, if you wish——”
“I’ll go it alone with my pards.”
“What? A girl and a boy? Think again, Cody.”
“I don’t need to, captain. If you knew the girl and the boy as well as I do——”
“You’ve got a head of your own, and a way of your own about doing things,” laughed Markham. “Do as you please. You’re welcome to any Pimas I leave, even if you don’t want the troopers. Adios, and good luck. Hope you find Nomad.”
Without waiting longer, Markham hurried out of the cabin, flung himself into the saddle, gave orders relative to sending a courier after the Bowie ambulance, then galloped away up the cañon at the head of his troop.
“Tired out, Dell?” asked Buffalo Bill, whirling on the girl as soon as Markham and his detachment had ridden away.
“Did you ever know me to be that?” the girl countered.
“I don’t think any one ever knew you to say so. Go to the cook’s hang-out and get something to eat, you and Cayuse. Then come back here and we’ll hold a powwow.”
“We can hold the powwow first, if you’d rather.”
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“Not to hurt.”
“Well, the horses are. Cayuse can put them out and then join you at the chuck-shanty.”
Dell and Cayuse left the cabin. When they had gone, Buffalo Bill walked over to the bunk where Patterson was lying. The doctor was sitting at the head of the bunk watching his patient. The sergeant had opened his eyes, and, as the scout came toward the bunk, kept them on him.
“Buffalo Bill?” said Patterson.
“I’ve heard a lot about ye, but this is the first time our trails have ever crossed.”
“Hope it won’t be the last time. It’s a pleasure to meet up with a man like you. Sergeant, eh?” he added, his eyes on the diamond of one of Patterson’s sleeves.
“I reckon you had a hard time getting through with your despatches.”
“That’s the size of it. Wouldn’t have got through, either, but for that girl pard of yours. Say, she’s a brick.”
“She is,” agreed the scout. “What did she do in your case?”
Patterson went into the matter at length, beginning with the way Dell scampered off from Fort Grant. Then he followed the recital on down to the fight, and the way Dell and Little Cayuse had brought him in.
The doctor interfered, once or twice, to say that Patterson was talking too much. But Patterson wouldn’t stop until he had finished all he had in mind.
“Certainly Dell should have stayed at Grant,” said the scout, “but fate usually knows best when it takes such matters in hand and regulates them. If Dell had stayed at the post, you’d be on the hogback now minus your scalp; and Geronimo would have had Grayson’s despatches. The wily old red would have given a lot to get hold of those papers.”
Buffalo Bill went back to the table and seated himself. Ten minutes later, Dell and Cayuse reappeared.
“Sit down now,” said the scout, “and give me the whole of this thing. You first, Dell, and then Cayuse can open fire.”
Dell, as might be expected, glossed over her part in the night’s doings, gave Patterson a lot of credit, and Cayuse considerably more.
Cayuse began his recital with an account of the disaster to Bascomb’s escort.
He told how the escort, expecting no trouble, rode into the Apache ambush; how a murderous fire opened upon the escort from right and left; how Nomad, unhurt, turned to flee; and how he—Cayuse—thinking Nomad would escape, gave attention to his own safety.
Outmaneuvering the Apaches, Cayuse went on to describe how he skirmished back toward the scene of the ambush, hoping to find Nomad; how he examined the slain and scalped soldiers, without being successful in locating the trapper; how he picked up the trail of the Apaches and followed them to Tonio Pass, saw the wounded Bascomb lifted from his horse, and saw Geronimo personally superintending the work of caring for the white renegade.
After this Cayuse started for Bonita to report to Buffalo Bill, crossed the trail of more Apaches, and followed it to the hogback, where he made such good use of his Dell and the sergeant.
“All three of you distinguished yourselves,” said the scout; “you acted just as Buffalo Bill likes to see his pards act. But, Cayuse, I should like to know whether you are positive the Indian you saw at Tonio Pass was Geronimo.”
“Heap sure,” declared the boy.
“You know him, do you?”
“Me see um plenty times when me belong with the army.”
“Very good. For some time, now, this deserter, Bascomb, has made us a good deal of trouble. He had a few renegade Apaches with him, you remember, in the hills around the Three-ply Mine. When we caught the scoundrel on that island in Quicksand Lake, I was sure we had him at the end of his rope; and I am about equally sure that Geronimo and his bucks jumped the reservation in order to get Bascomb away from the soldiers. If that is the case, then Bascomb is the man for us to lay hold of. I have started on his trail, and I do not intend to hold back until he is landed.
“Naturally, I am more anxious to rescue Nomad than to recapture Bascomb, but this matter of Nomad’s is a point that puzzles me. If he was really taken prisoner, as Cayuse thinks, what became of him? He wasn’t with Bascomb and Geronimo; and, if Geronimo had him, it seems odd he wouldn’t keep such a prisoner by him. Nomad is a captive the wily old chief would be proud of.”
“Mebbyso Geronimo kill um Wolf-killer.”
This remark of Cayuse’s was a logical deduction, but the scout would not accept it.
“No, Cayuse,” said he, “if Geronimo was going to put Nomad out of the way, he’d have done it there on the scene of the ambush. Geronimo, however, is sharp enough to understand that Nomad is worth more to him alive than he would be dead. So we come back to the thing I can’t understand: If Nomad is a prisoner, where is he? And why wasn’t he taken to Tonio Pass?”
A silence of several minutes followed.
“As I figure the matter,” the scout resumed presently, “it amounts to this: Geronimo, with all the troopers at Grant, Apache, Bowie, and Huachuca against him, has none too many warriors. Evidently the chief thinks a lot of Bascomb, and will take care of him, but the chief can’t leave very many warriors for that purpose. Probably he will leave two or three. So, if we ride to Tonio Pass and exercise a fair amount of caution, we have a good chance of getting hold of Bascomb; then, with Bascomb once in our hands, perhaps we can force him to tell us where Nomad was taken. That is our cue. As soon as your horses are able to take the road we’ll be off for Tonio Pass.”
“Silver Heels is ready now,” said Dell. “He’s all leather and whalebone, and never gets tired.”
“Navi all right, too,” averred Cayuse.
“It’s not a piece of work, Dell,” said the scout, “in which you ought to join.”
Dell threw back her head, and her face reddened.
“Why not?” she demanded.
“Don’t make a mistake, little one,” laughed the scout, “for I’m not cutting you out of this little surprise-party. I’m going to take you along because I think it’s safer to take you than to leave you. This camp is badly depleted of troops, and if Geronimo should take it into his rascally head to come down on Bonita, there’d be a hot fight. For that reason, in view of possible contingencies, I’d rather take you with me than leave you here.
“And then, again,” he said slyly, “if I left you behind, Dell, you might take the bit in your teeth just as you did at Grant. You wouldn’t mind the colonel, and perhaps you wouldn’t mind me.”
“The sergeant must have been saying things,” murmured Dell.
“He couldn’t find words enough to tell me how much he admires you for your daring and courage. However, we’ll let that pass. Wait here, Dell, and Cayuse and I will go for the horses.”
As the scout and the Indian boy left the cabin, Dell moved over to where the sergeant was lying. She wanted a last word with him before she, and the scout, and Cayuse galloped out of Bonita.
“Wuh,” said Little Cayuse.
“You can take us to Tonio Pass without any trouble?”
“In that case, then, I won’t take any of the Pimas as guides. The smaller our force the more mobile it will be. Our foray is more of a scouting-expedition than anything else, although we shall be prepared to take care of double our numbers if we come to a show-down with the renegades.”
The horses were saddled, bridled, and watered; canteens were filled, and a day’s rations were secured at the chuck-shanty.
Silver Heels and Navi certainly looked fit enough for any kind of a trail.
Lieutenant Doyle, second in command now that Markham was away, halted the scout as he and Cayuse were riding for the headquarters cabin with Silver Heels in tow.
“You’d better take a few of the boys with you, Cody,” he advised.
“You may need all the boys yourself, Doyle,” smiled the scout.
“Of course Geronimo is the sort of lightning that strikes where and when least expected,” returned Doyle, “but I don’t think he’ll fool with the military so close to headquarters. Anyhow, we can spare some Pimas.”
“None for me. One Indian is all I’m going to take on this trip,” and the scout laid a hand on Cayuse’s arm. “My Piute pard is worth a dozen Pimas.”
“You’re too old a hand for me to tell you to look out for yourself. You always do that, I reckon.”
“If I hadn’t, my scalp would have been hung up in a Sioux lodge years ago.”
The scout and the boy rode on, halted at the door of the cabin, and Dell came out and vaulted lightly into her saddle.
“Now,” said she, with a sparkle in her eyes, “we’re off for Tonio Pass.”
Could the scout have foreseen what was to happen on that venturesome journey, rather than take Dauntless Dell with him, he would have had Doyle send her to Bowie under escort.
But, to quote Catamount Tom, the old hunter, “we can’t be so wise all the time as we are just some of the time;” so the little party galloped down the cañon on its way through the hostile country to Tonio Pass.
Of all the murderous chiefs of the Apaches, including in the list such demons as Victorio, Nachez, Chato, Loco, and Juh, perhaps none had given the military authorities more trouble than Geronimo. Certainly none was more warlike, for at the age of sixteen Geronimo had become a chief. From that time his raiding began, his blood-thirsty operations being carried on in Northern Mexico and Southern New Mexico and Arizona.
When one side of the border became too hot for him, Geronimo would slip across to the other, repeating and repeating the maneuver until finally run to earth and driven to the place where he belonged. Watching his chances, he would again dig up the hatchet stealthily, evade the vigilance of his guards, “jump” the reservation and continue his old tactics.
That hair-raising cry, “The Apaches are up!” was to be expected at any moment, and never failed to inspire panic among the white settlers of the arid lands.
Among his lesser accomplishments Geronimo was said to be a past master in the art of manufacturing illegal tizwin, a native beverage, of which there is more fight and deviltry in a single glass than in a whole barrel of ordinary fire-water.
Not only was he reported adept in tizwin production, but also it was said that he had extensive knowledge of poisonous herbs, and of others with purely narcotic properties—such as those which science calls of the datura family—indigenous to the soil over which he roamed.
How much of all this was true and how much false will probably never be known; but that a part, at least, was reliable, the weird disaster which befell the scout and his pards will bear testimony.
From the northern outlet of Bonita Cañon Little Cayuse led the way directly westward through a spur of the Chiricahuas.
Traveling was rough and difficult, and toward nightfall the scout deemed it essential that they should locate a spring or water-hole and rest their mounts for a few hours. Silver Heels and Navi, despite the vaunts of their owners, had begun to show unmistakable traces of weariness.
Cayuse’s service with the army had given him a good knowledge of the topography of that part of the country, and he lead the scout and Dell toward a spring with which he was well acquainted.
The spring was in a little valley, hemmed in on all sides by granite bluffs.
Before descending into the valley, the scout and his pards made a careful survey of the spring from a safe distance. Water was a precious quantity in those parts, and its presence was quite apt to draw the roving bands of red trouble-makers.
Careful scouting failed to reveal the presence of any Apaches, and the three riders picked their way down the valley’s slope and reached the spring.
The spring was merely a scant dribble of water from a crevice in one of the bluffs. Under it, however, a basin-shaped rock formed a pool. This reservoir had filled, and there was sufficient water for the horses as well as their riders.
The riders, naturally, drank first. Buffalo Bill, Dell, and Cayuse all knelt at the brim and assuaged their thirst at the same time.
“Queer taste to the water, don’t you think?” remarked Dell.
The scout had noticed the acrid taste, but supposed that it was perhaps due to a touch of alkali.
“Do you remember, Cayuse,” Buffalo Bill asked, as he straightened up at the brink of the pool, “whether this particular spring always has this peculiar taste?”
Cayuse shook his head.
“Him Arizona spring all kind tastes, all kinds smell,” observed the boy philosophically. “Better so you drink and be glad what you drink is wet. Huh?”
“I reckon that about hits it,” laughed the scout, leading up his horse.
Bear Paw, the scout’s black charger, nosed about in the pool for some time, slapping the water with his muscular upper lip. Thirsty as he was, for several moments the horse refused to drink, but at last, apparently deciding to make the best of it, took a few sparing swallows.
Silver Heels and Navi acted very much in the same way, but cut short their objections and went to their refreshment much more quickly than had Bear Paw.
“The animals don’t like it, either,” commented Dell.
“I don’t blame them,” said Buffalo Bill, “but water is water in this region, and, as Cayuse says, if it’s wet, neither man nor beast should demand more.”
The horses, freed of their saddles, were roped out in the scant grass which grew along the overflow from the pool. While they grazed, the scout and his companions took their first meal off their rations.
Dell, with a piece of jerked meat in one hand and a cracker in the other, leaned back against a rock and became exceedingly loquacious.
“Lawn-tennis!” she exclaimed. “It’s all the go at the post, Nomad—I mean Buffalo Bill. It’s a great game, for those who like it. They play it on snow-shoes—I should say overshoes——” She stopped with a grimacing twist of her pretty face. “What am I trying to say, anyhow?” she demanded.
“Pass the ante, Lolita—I mean Dell,” Buffalo Bill returned, and wondered why he could feel no surprise at the way both he and the girl were handling their English.
“I thought you were Buffalo Bill, for a minute,” cried Dell, almost choking with laughter.
“So did I,” roared the scout. Then added, quite serious: “I wonder who’s running this baille, anyhow?”
“That’s one too many for me,” answered Dell. “Who owns the honkatonk? Where’s the music?”
Little Cayuse, leaping up suddenly, raised his arms high and held up his head. He began to mutter, and the muttering gave way to a sort of crooning song:
Piute song, meaning:
The little Piute’s attitude was rapt and ecstatic. His eyes were raised to the darkening sky, where the stars were already beginning to shine dimly. But what he meant, or what he was trying to get at, was altogether more than the scout or the girl could fathom.
“There’s the music,” said Dell. “That’s Geronimo; he’s furnishing the music.”
“Good boy, Geronimo!” cried Buffalo Bill, clapping his hands. “Give us another! Where’s your fiddle?”
Little Cayuse dropped his arms and stood scowling at Buffalo Bill and Dell.
Suddenly the scout sprang erect and struck his clenched fist against his forehead.
“Merciful heavens!” he gasped hoarsely. “Dell! What’s the matter with you, with me, with Little Cayuse? Let us get the horses and ride—ride, do you hear? This valley is bewitched, bewitched!”
He ran toward the horses, conscious that he had a lucid interval in the midst of a horrible, uncanny madness. Midway between the pool and the horses he stopped, staring.
Bear Paw was backing slowly around in a circle at the end of his picket-rope, backing with the methodical rhythm of a trick-horse, stamping his hoofs as he went.
Silver Heels appeared to be trying to up-end himself on his fore feet, while Navi was giving an exhibition of what is technically known as the “bedpost buck.”
The scout staggered, dug at his throat and twisted his fingers in his long hair. What was this sensation that filled him and robbed him of reason? Even as he tried to fight against it, the last thin barrier of sense was broken down. He burst into a loud laugh, and whirled back toward Dell and Little Cayuse.
He pulled the handcuffs from his pocket and flourished them in the air.
Dell came up to him, smiling. She put away the revolver and reached out her hand.
“One belongs to me,” she said coaxingly.
“Certainly,” answered the scout, snapping one of the handcuffs about his right wrist. “There’s yours, Calamity Jane;” and he snapped the other cuff about Dell’s left wrist. “It’s a good long way to town, sis,” he added, in a kindly tone, “and we’d better be moving.”
Without paying the slightest attention to Little Cayuse or the horses, Buffalo Bill started to climb the rough valley wall, dragging Dell with him.
The secret of the spring—Geronimo’s secret—had wrought its folly in the usually well-balanced brain of the scout.
He was going to town, and he was taking his sister with him. Obsessed with this one idea, which he clung to with all the morbid earnestness of a man deranged, he went on and on.
Night deepened, the stars in the Arizona sky brightened against the velvet vault like so many diamonds. One star guided Buffalo Bill; the “pointers” in the “Dipper” showed it to him, and he followed as he would have followed a compass.
From somewhere, far away, came the wild, shrill chant of the Indian boy. The chant died out like a lisping of waves on a rocky beach.
But the scout and his sister went on and on, following the star.
Buffalo Bill shivered, and opened his eyes.
“Dell!” he exclaimed; “Cayuse!”
No answer was returned, and slowly the scout’s faculties began drifting out of a maze of experiences, trying to eliminate false impressions and hold to the true.
First, where was he?
He was sitting on a stone. Before him was a wagon-trail, crawling along an eight-foot shelf.
At the outer edge of the shelf the mountain fell away in a dizzy precipice; the inner edge was a perpendicular wall, with the stone on which he was sitting at its foot.
The last thing he remembered he was in a little valley, close to a spring. The horses were feeding, and he, and Dell, and Cayuse were having a meal off their rations.
But was that the last thing he remembered?
He tried to lift his hands to his face and brush them across his eyes. Only one hand obeyed his will—the left one. The right seemed bound to a weight. Just then he did not investigate the weight, for he could reason but slowly and deal with only one thing at a time.
No, the last thing he remembered was seeing Bear Paw moving backward in a circle at the end of his picket-rope, and Navi and Silver Heels also acting queerly.
Just before that Buffalo Bill recalled that he had been acting queerly himself, and Dell, too, and Cayuse. A flickering memory of his fight to get back his reason came to him; then followed—oblivion.
A moment before, it seemed, they were on the borders of night; now they were at the edge of day, and the sun was rising over the scarred uplifts of a region to him unknown.
He dropped his eyes to his right hand. The wrist was red and swollen. There was a manacle about it, connected by a bit of chain to a smaller and more shapely hand.
Then, for the first time, he realized that Dell was beside him, leaning wearily back against the cliff wall and sleeping soundly.
“Dell!” he called, laying his left hand on the girl’s, which was bound to his right by the handcuff and the length of chain.
The puzzle of it all defied the scout’s reasoning. He needed help to unravel the mystery.
“Dell!” he called again, in a louder tone.
The girl opened her eyes dreamily.
“Time to start for Tonio Pass, Buffalo Bill?” she asked.
Impulsively she started to rise, but felt her hand secured. Settling back on the rock, her troubled eyes wandered from the handcuffs to the scout’s face.
“What has happened?” she asked, bewildered. “What does this mean?”
“I wish I could tell you,” the scout answered. “I have been racking my brain over it for several minutes.”
“Where are we?”
“I don’t know.”
“How do we happen to be here?”
“That’s another poser.”
For a brief space the two stared at each other in amazement.
“Who handcuffed us together?” pursued Dell.
“You’ll have to ask me something easier,” said the scout. “If I believed in witches, I should say that they had been exceedingly busy last night.”
“This—this is awful!” breathed Dell. “Let us think. My brain seems all in a whirl. If we take a little time to think, perhaps we can arrive at some solution of the mystery.”
They took time; and, finally, the scout began to voice the result of his mental labor.
“You remember the spring,” said he, “and the peculiar taste of the water?”
“Yes, yes!” returned the girl eagerly.
“That spring must have been drugged with some peculiar loco-weed. I can remember saying crazy things, and trying to stop myself and talk sense, shortly after we had taken a drink at the pool.”
“I can remember something like that, too.”
“And I can remember the horses acted queerly, and I recall a desperate but unsuccessful attempt which I made to pull myself together and keep my wits. Following that, all is a blank until a little while ago, when I opened my eyes here, on this rock, and found you beside me.”
“Where did the handcuffs come from?”
The scout explained about the Apache scout, and how he had brought the handcuffs from Geronimo.
“First thing,” said he, “we’ll remove the cuffs. Can you slip your hand free?”
Dell tried, but could not, for her small hand seemed swollen terribly.
“There’s a key to the cuffs somewhere,” went on the scout.
He dug into his pockets for the key, but it was gone.
“Here’s an odd situation, and no mistake,” he said, with a rueful laugh. “We’ll have to stay manacled together, Dell—for a while, at least.”
“Do you think the Apaches drugged the pool?” asked Dell.
“Who else could it have been if not the Apaches?”
“But what do they know about drugs?”
“Geronimo, they say, knows many things the white men do not dream of. There are herbs growing in this country which are said to have powerful medicinal properties. Indians, as a rule, are versed in the use of herbs.”
“It is all very dark to me,” said the girl helplessly. “If Geronimo drugged the pool from which we drank, in the valley, why was he not there to make prisoners of us?”
“Some of the Apaches may have put on these manacles as we find them; then, in some manner, we may have eluded the Apaches and got away. It’s all guesswork, Dell, and one guess is as good as another.”
“But Cayuse!” exclaimed Dell, taking sudden thought of the little Piute. “Where can he be?”
The scout lifted his voice in a loud cry: “Cayuse! Cayuse!”
Echoes alone answered him, booming out across the dizzy chasm that lay under the outer edge of the shelf.
“There’s no telling where he is,” said Dell. “Had we not been manacled together like this, quite likely we should have become separated from each other.”
“True enough. This road, winding around the mountain, appears to be a military road. Perhaps if we follow it, it will lead us to Bowie.”
“But our horses!”
“As for finding our horses, I haven’t the least notion which way the valley and that drugged pool lies from this place. I have my six-shooters,” the scout added, looking down at his belt and holsters; “and, while that is surprising, it is certainly an .”
“I have mine, too,” returned Dell. “We must have retained enough of our wits to carefully guard our revolvers.”
“That may have been less a matter of wits than of mere chance. However, we have them, and——”
The scout’s body grew rigid. A voice—the familiar voice of Nick Nomad—had suddenly called the scout’s name.
“Did you hear it, Dell?” Buffalo Bill muttered.
“I—I thought I might be imagining it; that, perhaps, it might be a part of the mystery we are trying to unravel.”
“No imagination about the voice, Buffalo Bill,” reassured the girl. “It was real enough, and it certainly belonged to Nomad.”
“Buffler!” cried the voice again. “Injuns—’Paches! Take ter ther road, an’ hustle.”
Still in the dark as to where Nomad was, the mention of Apaches brought the peril of the situation clearly before the scout’s mind.
“Come, Dell!” said the scout; “we can’t ignore that warning. Nomad is somewhere, and he is doing his best for us. We’ll go down the trail.”
Together the two arose from the rock. The next moment they made the discovery that they were unsteady on their feet—and this at a time when they needed all their steadiness and strength.
Reeling back and forth, they started down the trail.
“Where are you, Nick?” shouted the scout.
“Go on, Buffler, go on!” roared the voice of the trapper. “I’ll be on hand when ye need me. But keep ter ther trail! Keep ter ther middle o’ ther trail! Steady, thar, steady! Look out fer Dell—look out——”
Dell was on the side nearest the brink of the precipice. As the words of Nomad, seemingly coming from infinite space, throbbed in the scout’s ears, he felt a sudden, terrific pull at his right hand.
A cry came from Dell.
Another instant and the scout was dragged downward across the trail, his right arm doubled over the brink, and a tremendous weight pulling him closer and closer to the chasm. He flung out his left hand, and, by rare fortune, the arm encircled a tree that grew on the edge of the precipice.
He was too dazed for a moment to realize what had happened; and then, presently, the awful truth broke over him.
Dell had slipped from the brink of the cliff, and was suspended in mid-air by the steel cuff and the short length of chain!
On the strength of the cuffs and the chain hung the girl’s life!
Buffalo Bill was a powerful man, fibered with nerves of steel and muscles of iron; and Dell, although she was slender, was compactly built, and of more than the average weight for a girl of her inches.
In considering the perilous situation into which the scout and the girl were thus suddenly plunged, it must be remembered that they had just emerged from another condition of baffling mystery which had tried them body and mind.
It was physical unsteadiness which had caused Dell to slip over the brink of the precipice while the scout was staggering across the trail in an attempt to locate the place whence his pard’s voice proceeded.
The truth, when it finally dawned on the scout, broke over him like a thunderclap.
He could not see Dell, for she was swinging below the brink; and he knew that she was swinging there by the awful pull on his right wrist and arm. It seemed to him as though the arm was being gradually drawn from its socket.
All that kept him from going over the edge with Dell and dropping to the depths of the gulch was his hold on the small tree which grew out of the rock crevices.
Buffalo Bill’s faculties were all taken up with the predicament that immediately faced himself and Dell. Suddenly his eyes, close to the ground, turned up the trail. He saw two painted forms creeping down relentlessly upon him and the girl.
Had those redskins, at that moment, stood over the scout with uplifted knives, he could not have made the slightest move in his own defense.
The scout turned his eyes away from the creeping savages with a stifled groan. Not a sound came from the form that hung below the brink. What the girl’s thoughts must have been, providing she retained the full use of her faculties, may readily be imagined.
The terrific strain was as trying to Dauntless Dell as it was to the iron muscles of Buffalo Bill. The Indians were coming; and where was Nomad?
Buffalo Bill had been so wrapped up in his own life-and-death struggle at the cliff’s edge that, for a time, he had ceased to think of Nomad. Abruptly, thoughts of the old trapper darted through the scout’s brain.
“Nick!” he shouted, his voice hoarse and muffled by its proximity to the ground.
There was no answer from Nomad. After all, it must have been a dream—the scout’s imagining he had heard his pard’s voice in warning.
It was Dell’s voice, floating upward front the chasm.
“Yes?” the scout gasped.
“This is hard on you. Why not let go and end it all?”
“Never! The last ditch and the last breath always for me.”
“But the Apaches are coming—two of them. I can see them as I swing out and back. Once they looked over at me, and they acted queerly. It can only be a matter of a minute or two, at most. Why not cheat them of their intended prey?”
“No!” said the scout, his voice little more than a whisper.
“If I could release myself,” said Dell, “I would. If I were not hanging here, you could take care of the Indians and save your own life.”
Further response from the scout was impossible. His lips moved, but not a wisp of sound came through them.
He turned his eyes toward the redskins again. He saw, now, that they were coming down the trail on all fours, jumping and springing about on their hands and knees in a most unheard-of manner. Occasionally they would bump into each other, whereupon they would snarl and snap their teeth like wolves.
The scout was too wrought up to think much of this remarkable exhibition at the time. The principal point was, the Indians had spared him; and how much longer could he hold out against the dragging weight?
The two Apaches wabbled and snapped and snarled until they had vanished around a turn in the road; then, all at once, Buffalo Bill became aware of a form kneeling beside him and bending down far over the brink.
This word, in Nick Nomad’s voice, beat stridently in the scout’s ears.
“Here,” came Dell’s answer. “What is it, Nomad?”
“Reach up with yer right arm an’ see ef ye kin grab holt er my hand. Easy, now. No quick moves, mind, er we’ll hev Buffler rocketin’ out inter space, and ther two o’ ye drappin’ er mile er two straight down on ther rocks. Kin ye reach?”
“Yes—just a second.”
There was a breathless pause.
“Bully fer you, Dell!” said Nomad, and took a grip on the scout’s tree. “Now throw all yer heft in yer right an’ leave ther rest ter me.”
Buffalo Bill felt the weight leave his right arm, and his body buckled under the release like an overstrained girder that has suddenly snapped.
His left arm dropped from the tree, and his right still hung at the brink. Panting like a spent dog, he continued to lie with his face to the rocks.
“Hyar ye come!” said Nomad, and foot by foot he pulled Dell over the edge of the wall. “An’ thet,” he finished, as Dell sank down on the rocks, “is erbout ther closest call Pard Buffler an’ Dauntless Dell hev had in many a day. Waugh! I feel like ther strain on me was as bad as et was on you an’ Buffler. Every minit I thort was shore goin’ ter be ther next with ye. Et took me some time ter git hyar, an’ I was almost skeered ter look when I got whar I could see ye when I struck ther trail. However did et happen, anyways?”
“I—I was unsteady and could not walk straight,” replied Dell. “I felt all right in every other way, only my feet would not go where I wanted them to. Getting too close to the edge, I slipped over, and——”
“I seen thet, Dell. What I means is, how did you an’ Buffler come ter be ironed tergether like thet?”
“Neither of us know.”
Nomad stared incredulously.
“What! Ye don’t know? Howlin’ hyeners, gal, ye don’t mean ter tell me ye an’ Buffler could git manacled tergether without never knowin’ who et was done et?”
“That’s precisely what I do mean to tell you, Nomad,” insisted the girl. “Queer things happened last night. Buffalo Bill and I know that much.”
“When was ye manacled?” pursued the wondering trapper.
“It was some time after sundown, yesterday.”
The scout, lifting himself slowly, took a sitting posture beside the girl. His right wrist was gouged and bleeding, as was also Dell’s.
“Ye had er plumb tough time, Buffler,” commiserated Nomad, his eyes on the two wrists and the red-stained manacles.
“One of the roughest times I ever had, Nick,” returned the scout in a low tone.
“I reckoned yer arm would be pulled off’n yer body.”
“So did I.”
“If I could have released myself,” cried Dell, “I would have done so.”
“And lost your life, pard,” said the scout, “while now it has been saved. We’ll both get over the effects of that experience in due time. I wonder how long it lasted?”
“Et couldn’t hev been more’n five minits,” said Nomad.
“Five minutes! It seemed like five years. Is my hair white, Nick?”
“Nary, Buffler. Et’s ther same color et allers was. Why don’t ye take ’em off?” and the trapper indicated the handcuffs.
“Can’t do it without a file.”
“A key gin’rally op’rates things like them. Who’s got ther key?”
“I did have it in my pockets, along with the cuffs. Go through my clothes carefully, Nick, and see if you can find it. I took a look, a while ago, but I couldn’t do it very well with one hand fastened to Dell’s.”
The trapper looked through his pard’s pockets thoroughly, but without result.
“I reckon,” observed the scout, “that Dell and I are hooked up to stay until we get back to Bonita. Do what you can to take care of that wrist of yours, Dell. See if you can’t get a handkerchief around the wrist, under the cuff.”
Dell groped for her handkerchief, and finally found it in the breast of her blouse. As she jerked it out, a small object flew from it and dropped on the cliff, within an inch of the edge. The scout gazed at the object as though fascinated.
“Thar’s a key now!” cried the trapper.
“Right, old pard,” said Buffalo Bill; “it’s the key to the handcuffs. It was in my pocket last night. Will somebody please explain how it comes to be in Dell’s handkerchief this morning?”
“More mystery,” murmured Dell. “One more incomprehensible thing to be added to the night’s list. Some time and somehow I hope we shall be able to understand all that has happened.”
“Here, too,” added the scout.
“Waal,” put in the trapper, “how ther key happened ter git from Buffler’s pocket inter Dell’s handkercher is er hocus-pocus thet don’t matter much, seein’ as how ther key is ther main thing, an’ we got et.” He stooped and recovered the key from the rocks. “Hyar’s whar I bust this combination an’ git you two separated. Stand up er minit.”
The scout and the girl got to their feet, and Nomad unlocked the old-fashioned iron bracelets. He was about to fling them over the cliff when Buffalo Bill stopped him, took the cuffs and the key, and returned them to his pocket.
“Now,” said the scout, “we’ll hunt up a scrap of shade and try to understand how you got here, Nick, along with a few other details that are easier to comprehend than the mysterious things that happened to Dell and me last night.”
“Jest er minit, pards, afore we dip inter thet,” said the trapper.
Bounding off down the trail, he disappeared from sight behind the turn.
“Where has he gone?” queried Dell.
“To look after those two Apaches who came down on us while we were hung up at the brink,” the scout answered, leading the way to the stone on which he and the girl had found themselves when their senses returned.
“Ah, yes,” mused Dell, seating herself at the scout’s side, “I had forgotten the Apaches. I saw them while I was swinging over the cliff. Did Nomad frighten them away?”
“No. They came down the trail on all fours, acting like a pair of coyotes. When they reached me, they sprang over and went sniffing and snarling down the trail. They acted as though they were locoed.”
Dell started and dropped a hand on the scout’s arm.
“Can it be——” she began, and suddenly stopped.
“That they drank from the same pool that played hob with us?” finished Buffalo Bill. “I shouldn’t wonder, Dell. Nothing else could have caused a pair of murderous reds to pass me by like they did. I was utterly helpless to defend myself. One swift blow would have done the work.”
“But if Geronimo had doctored that little pool of water, wouldn’t he have warned his followers to beware of it?”
“One would naturally think so. We’re only guessing at things now, and, as I said before, one guess is as good as another.”
At that moment Nomad returned.
“Couldn’t find ther pizen whelps,” he announced, dropping down at Buffalo Bill’s side. “I never set eyes on sich crazy varmints. At fust I thort they was creepin’ up on you an’ Dell, but they acted so plumb bughouse, I didn’t know what ter think.”
“Where were you, Nick, when you called to me?” the scout asked.
Nomad lifted his eyes and waved a hand toward the top of the cliff.
“Up thar,” said he. “Up thar, an’ gazin’ down on ye. When I seen Dell go over, I couldn’t drap ter ther trail without mebbyso breakin’ my neck, so I had ter hunt fer er place ter come down. When I found ther place, an’ got down, I was skeered ter look at ther place whar I’d seen ” and the old man shook himself. “I was under somethin’ of er strain, too,” he finished.
“Did you just happen to find us sitting on this rock here this morning?”
“Nary, Buffler. I been follerin’ er mighty devious night trail, I kin tell ye. I jest happened ter find ye last night.”
“I was skirmishin’ in ther direction o’ Bonita, intendin’ ter arrive thar, somehow, ef I didn’t git double-crossed in my calkerlations. I’d been dodgin’ Apaches ever sence I saved my skelp in thet ambush, appeasin’ my hunger with mesquit-beans an’ sichlike forage, feedin’ like er pizen hoss, an’ glad ter git my fodder at thet.
“When I seen you an’ Dell, I reckoned ye was two more Apaches, kase et was in er dark gully whar I fust seen ye. I ducked inter ther bresh, an’, when ye got by, began movin’ down ther gully. But et was er blind gully, an’, not hevin’ my wings erlong, I couldn’t git out o’ et without comin’ back ther way I went in.
“I passed er cave. Ther mouth o’ et looked like a tollable place fer a fugertive like me ter bunk down fer an hour’s snooze: but, as I was erbout ter start in an’ investigate, I seen a ’Pache on gyard at ther entrance, so I says: ‘Excuse me,’ ter myself, an’ moseyed on.
“T’other end o’ ther blind gully opened inter a gulch. When I hit ther gulch, I seen you an’ Dell ahead o’ me, an’ at fust glance I thort ye was ther same two ’Paches I passed in ther gully; then another look, with ther moonlight shinin’ full on ye, showed me I was mistook. I seen one o’ ye was er gal, an’ t’other er man, but I didn’t suspect one was Dell an’ t’other Buffler Bill till I’d come closter.
“As soon as I found out I was nigh ter my pards, I give er joysome yell an’ jumped arter ye; direckly tharafter, I give another yell thet wasn’t so joysome an’ ducked fer the shelter of er rock. I’m er Piegan, Buffler, ef you an’ Dell didn’t both open on me with yer hardware!
“Was I rattled? Was I dumfoundered? Waal, some. ‘Say, pard,’ I whoops, ‘et’s me, Nick!’ With thet I showed my shoulders over ther rock so’st ye an’ Dell could see me in ther moonlight, an’ know I wasn’t talkin’ with two tongues, even ef ye didn’t reckernize ther meller trill o’ my bazoo.
“Then I was rattled some more, kase ye fanned my face with er lead pill, an’ howled like er Commanche. ‘Don’t ye dare come nigh me!’ sez you, like thet; ‘don’t ye dare come nigh me,’ you says, knockin’ me all of a heap. ‘This hyar’s my sister, an’ I’m takin’ her ter town.’
“I allowed right off, Buffler, thet ye was madder’n a locoed steer, but I didn’t see how Dell could be locoed, too. So I whoops ter Dell: ‘Don’t you reckernize old Nomad, gal?’
“An’ would ye b’leeve et? Dell larfs right out. ‘Go ’way,’ says she; ‘I’m goin’ ter town with my brother, an’ you ain’t got no call ter interfere. I’m ther Queen o’ Sheeby, an’ he’s King Bill, brother Bill. Hands off, er we’ll give ye yer ticket.’
“I knowed by thet thet Dell had been grazin’ on ther same crazy weed that growed on yore range, Buffler. I didn’t dare come up with ye, an’ I didn’t dare let ye git erway from me, seein’ as how ye might run onter ’Paches an’ git inter trouble. So I follered.”
Nomad leaned back against the cliff and drew his sleeve over his wet forehead.
“Tork erbout yer night trails,” he went on, “thet was ther wust thing o’ ther kind I ever went up ag’inst. Think er me, trailin’ two pards through them gullies an’ uplifts, fearin’ any minit ye’ll turn on me an’ do me up with er bullet! An’ all ther time, ye onderstand, I was afraid ye’d plump inter a bunch o’ ’Paches. Ef ye’d done thet, I’d hev had ter run ter yer rescue, an’ mebbyso got peppered by you as well as ther reds. Oh, I dunno! I reckons thar’s times when a feller feels wuss nor he does at others, but ef I ever sees er time I feels wuss nor I did last night, I wants some ’un ter wake me up an’ tell me.”
A slight smile curled about the scout’s lips. There was a humorous side to the situation, and he saw it. Dell, however, saw the other side, and she reached out her hand and laid it on Nomad’s big, hairy paw.
“Nick,” she said gently, “of course you know that Buffalo Bill and I hadn’t the least idea what we were doing.”
Nomad gave the small hand a pat, and grinned a little himself.
“’Course I knows et, Dell,” said he, “but thet didn’t lighten matters none fer yore ole pard last night. I had ter keep arter ye, kase I couldn’t let ye git away. Now an’ ergin ye’d sot down ter rest, wharupon it was me ter hover in ther background, breathin’ on’y when necessary an’ imaginin’ every minit Buffler ’u’d find me out.
“Some time clost ter mornin’ ye give me ther slip. Kain’t onderstand noways how it was done. You two went inter a short ravine. I didn’t see ye come out. Waitin’ fer er spell, I trailed keerful through thet ravine, an’ ye wasn’t thar! No, sir, ye’d vanished plumb.
“From then on I was huntin’ all ways, up an’ down, for’ard an’ back an’ crossover. Day began ter loom up, ther sun climbed over ther peaks an’ found me on ther top of thet clift, up thar, lookin’ down on this trail an’ ther edge o’ another clift. Then”—Nomad heaved a long breath—“I seen you two a-settin’ on this rock, bound tergether with them bracelets, torkin’ ter each other. I passed my eyes along ther trail tryin’ fer a place ter git down. Somehow, you struck me as hevin’ got yer senses back, an’ I wanted to bust in on ye, an’ say: ‘Buffler, hyar’s me; take er good look, an’ fer Heaven’s sake don’t shoot yer ole pard.’ I didn’t see er way down jest then, but I did see them thar ’Paches a-creepin’ down on ye, as I thort. Then I tuned up, an’ you two looked every way but ther right ’un. Ye got up, staggerin’like, an’ I tuned up ergin. Then I seen Dell tumble off ther clift, an’ I near tumbled off’n thet other clift, up thar, myself. I scrambled eround fer er place ter git down, an’—an’—— Waal, thet’s erbout all. Hyar we aire, big as life, an’ we hev come through things, Buffler, like we never went through afore, an’ like I hopes we’ll never go through ergin.”
Once more Nomad pulled his sleeve across his forehead.
Sometimes there is more in the telling of a story than there is meat in it. But there was meat in Nomad’s recital, and, profoundly stirred as he was, he told it with a simple effectiveness that made Dell and the scout live over with him his night’s trailing.
“That’s good, Nick,” remarked the scout, after a brief silence, “as far as it goes.”
“Sufferin’ catermounts!” exclaimed Nomad. “Don’t et go fur enough ter suit ye, Buffler?”
“It doesn’t go back far enough. How did you get away from that ambush in which Bascomb’s soldier escort was slain?”
“Thet’s another kink in ther twist o’ events,” said Nomad gloomily. “At ther fust fire my hoss was shot down under me. As soon as I could kick clear o’ ther stirrups I hiked. Thet’s what I done, Buffler. Never thinkin’ o’ thet leetle pard o’ ours, Cayuse, I hiked like er express-train plumb out o’ thet smotherin’ batch o’ ’Paches. Cayuse”—and Nomad’s voice rolled in his throat—“was killed er took pris’ner, an’ I wasn’t thar ter lend him er hand. I ain’t hardly fit ter look ye in ther face, Buffler, arter thet. Ther idee o’ me turnin’ away from er pard! My on’y excuse is thet I was rattled. When I got cl’ar o’ ther ’Paches, an’ had time ter think, I ricollected Leetle Cayuse, an’ went back ter whar ther ambush was pulled off. But I couldn’t find him. From thet I jedged thet Cayuse was took pris’ner.”
Here was an odd situation, and no mistake. Both Dell and Buffalo Bill saw it immediately, and exchanged humorous looks.
Little Cayuse had blamed himself for not risking death and remaining in that ambush just to help Nomad, and here was Nomad likewise blaming himself for not staying to help Cayuse. By a queer process of reasoning, both Cayuse and Nomad had labored under the impression that the other had been captured by Geronimo’s men.
“Cayuse wasn’t captured, Nick,” said Buffalo Bill. “He got away, and has been finding fault with himself because he didn’t stand by you, just as you are all gloomed up because you didn’t stand by him. You think he’s a prisoner, and he thinks you are. Well, well!”
“An’ ther kid is all right, is he?” said Nomad, in a tone of deep relief.
“Whar is he, Buffler?”
“He was in the place where Dell and I got locoed. Cayuse got locoed, too. It was in a little valley, where there was a dribble of water and a pool. The pool was drugged. All three of us, as well as our horses, fell victims to the drug.”
“Whar is this hyar valley, Buffler?”
“I don’t know. Dell and I didn’t know what we were doing when we left it; consequently, we can’t find our way back.”
“Blazes ter blazes an’ all hands ’round!” gulped the old trapper. “Tork erbout doin’s! Say, ain’t this ther banner play o’ all ther doin’s thet ever happened?”
“Tell me more, Buffler. I’m hungry ter hyer everythin’ that ye kin remember thet happened to ye.”
The scout and the girl, between them, relieved the old trapper’s mind. When they came down to Cayuse’s report about Tonio Pass and the cave, Nomad pricked up his ears.
“Thet cave whar I seen ther ’Pache at ther entrance,” cried the old trapper, “must hev been ther same one Cayuse was tellin’ ye of! An’ Bascomb is thar, hey?”
“I don’t know, Nick, whether you’ve got the right place or not,” returned the scout. “You spoke of a blind gully——”
“Et’s thar, all right.”
“Well, by an odd coincidence, then, Tonio Pass has a blind gully as well as Tres Alamos Gulch. A force from Bonita, under Markham, has gone to Tres Alamos Gulch in the hope of picking up Geronimo’s trail. The fact that you found a cave would seem to indicate that you had found the very place where Cayuse saw Bascomb and Geronimo. How far is the place from here?”
“An’ hour’s walk, I reckon.”
“Could you take us there?”
“I could, sure; but hadn’t ye better git yer hosses fust, Buffler?”
“You overlook the fact, Nick, that it is impossible for us to get our horses until we can locate that valley with the drugged pool. To do that, we’ll first have to find some one who knows the lay of the land better than we do. Meanwhile, we can go to this cave in Tonio Pass and get Bascomb. If there are Apaches in the place, there will be food and water there, too; and if there is not too strong a force of Apaches, we can get the whip-hand of them and have the run of the cave—to say nothing of recapturing Bascomb.”
“I reckon yore head is level, as per usual, Buffler,” said the old trapper. “When d’ye want ter start fer this hyar Tonio Pass?”
“At once. The quicker we start, the quicker we can wind up the affair with Bascomb and get something to eat and drink. This road, I suppose, must lead to Bonita or Bowie?”
“I pass. Et’s er road, an’ thet’s erbout all I knows. Ter git ter Tonio Pass an’ ther place whar I seen ther cave”—here Nomad got up and squinted around—“et’ll be necessary ter go down ther road ther same as how them two ’Paches went. Ef ye’re ready, we’ll lope.”
The start along the shelf and down the trail was made immediately, the initial movement carrying the pards toward the turn around which the two Apaches had vanished a little while before.
“I been hoofin’ et all night, Buffler,” complained Nomad; “an’ when a feller gits bow-legged from saddle-work, et’s plumb hard fer him ter navigate on anythin’ but er hoss. Now, ef we knowed whar thet thar valley with ther pizened spring was, we could hev things er heap easier, an’——”
The trapper broke off his talk with a wild yell. He, and the scout, and the girl had rounded the turn and had come plump upon a full dozen Apache warriors.
No wonder Nomad was startled. The scout and the girl likewise realized that they were face to face with unforeseen peril. All hands leaped to revolver-grips. The scout and the girl hesitated, but Nomad was on the point of pulling both triggers when the scout gripped his arm sharply.
“Wait, Nick!” he cautioned.
“Why ever d’ye want ter wait?” demanded Nomad. “Et’s er wonder ther pizen whelps hevn’t shot us down afore this.”
“Watch them! If I’m any judge, the entire outfit is locoed.”
The Indians were on foot, and in full war-paint. The appearance of the three whites, against whom they had taken the war-path, did not appear to cause them the least surprise, or to arouse the slightest sign of hostility.
The Apaches began chanting some song of their own, and eleven of them clasped hands and started dancing around the twelfth, who stood in the center of the circle.
“Sort of er ring-eround-a-rosy,” muttered Nomad.
When they had danced around the central Indian for a minute, there came a gap in the outer cordon, and the buck who had been in the center stepped to the edge of the precipice, and hurled first his rifle, then his bows and arrows, then his scalping-knife and hatchet, into the chasm.
Having thus relieved himself of his arms, the buck returned, took his place among those who were clasping hands in a circle, and another armed buck got in the center.
After chanting and circling around the armed buck, the cordon broke again, and he stepped to the brink and relieved himself of his weapons.
This strange proceeding must have been going on for some time, for the second buck, as the pards could see, was the last one with weapons.
When the second buck had stripped himself, he started on a lope up the trail.
The scout, the trapper, and the girl, weapons in hand, backed against the cliff and waited.
All the other Apaches fell in behind the one recently disarmed, and trotted after him in single file.
Arriving opposite the whites, not an Indian paid the slightest attention to them. With eyes glittering and head-feathers bobbing, they kept on up the trail until the last one had vanished behind the jutting rocks.
Old Nomad almost collapsed.
“Wouldn’t thet jest nacherly rattle yer spurs?” he said, in an awed voice. “Whoever heerd of ’Paches actin’ like thet?”
“They have had a drink from that pool in the valley,” said Buffalo Bill. “That lot of reds hasn’t the least idea of what’s going on.”
Nomad flung back his head and gave vent to a roaring laugh.
“This hyar is plumb comical!” he choked. “How long will ther spell last, Buffler?”
“It lasted Dell and me all night,” replied the scout. “How much longer it will hold the reds depends altogether on how much of the water they drank, and when they drank it.”
“Reckon we better hike fer Tonio Pass afore they comes out from under ther influence,” suggested the trapper; “although I ain’t skeered none of er passel o’ unarmed reds, so long as I’ve got Saucy Susan an’ Scoldin’ Sairy in my hands.”
“Queer, isn’t it, Buffalo Bill?” observed Dell, as she and the scout trailed after Nomad.
“It is that,” said the scout. “If Geronimo doctored that pool, he certainly overplayed his hand.”
“Ef Geronimo would only take er drink out o’ ther pool hisself,” said Nomad, “mebbyso he’d walk right inter Camp Bonita er Fort Bowie an’ ask ther sojers ter put him in ther gyard-house. Thar’s er heap er strange things in this leetle ole world thet we never know anything erbout till we finds ’em out. Hey, Buffler?”
Tonio Pass was a gap through one spur of the Chiricahuas. Old Nomad retraced his way to it easily, and on the journey no Apaches, locoed or otherwise, were encountered.
Descending into the pass by means of the blind gully, already mentioned, Nomad brought the scout and the girl to a spur of rocks which interposed itself between them and the cave.
“We’ll have to scout and see how many Apaches have been left with Bascomb,” counseled the scout, during the brief halt behind the spur. “I don’t believe Geronimo would leave more than two or three, at the most. With so many troopers in the field against him, the wily old chief will find himself short-handed in the matter of bucks. Should there be no more than two or three at the cave, our work of getting in will be easy.”
“Want me ter go ahead an’ see how things lie in ther cave?” asked Nomad. “I’m dryer’n ther desert o’ Sahary an’ plumb anxious ter git at some water, ef thar’s any thar.”
“Go ahead, Nick,” said Buffalo Bill. “Dell and I will wait here. If you get into trouble, a couple of shots will bring us.”
“Thet’s me,” answered the old trapper, crawling around the edge of the spur.
Pausing with the mouth of the cave in sight, Nomad inspected the surroundings carefully. Evidently there were no redskins on guard at the entrance, for he got up and hastened noiselessly and swiftly forward.
Both the scout and the girl watched the trapper from around the edge of the boulders.
The mouth of the tunnel was narrow and high, almost like a gash in the granite wall. Boulders lay strewn about it, and there was a chance that some of those boulders screened one or more of the guard Geronimo had left with Bascomb.
This latter possibility, however, did not pan out, and Nomad reached the cavern entrance unmolested.
Halting there for a moment, he suddenly dashed into the cave, his aim being to put himself in the darkness of the interior before the savages could get a shot at him, in case there happened to be any savages there.
No shot was fired, and from this Buffalo Bill augured hopefully.
“Nick doesn’t seem to be having any trouble at all, Dell,” said he to the girl. “It would be hard luck if Bascomb had been taken away by the reds.”
“What would you do in that case, Buffalo Bill?” Dell asked.
“Find the trail again, and follow it.”
“Suppose it led you into Mexico?”
“Then I’d go there. I shall not halt my pursuit of Bascomb until I have laid the scoundrel by the heels. He has made trouble enough. In some manner he has wormed himself into the good graces of Geronimo, and so long as Bascomb is at large he will help the old chief in his villainy. So far as Geronimo himself is concerned, the military can take care of him, and I will not mix up in the game; but Bascomb I intend to get myself. I feel a sort of personal obligation in his case.”
“Then you will quit the trail and go away from this part of the country as soon as you capture Bascomb?”
There was a touch of sadness in Dell’s voice.
“Yes; duty, probably, will call Nick and myself to other places, and, of course, where duty calls we have to go.”
“Then, I reckon, you’ll be losing your girl pard.”
“And mighty sorry I’ll be for that. In a fight, or in any sort of trouble, Dell, I couldn’t ask for a better side partner than yourself. Ah,” the scout finished, “there’s Nomad again. He has come out of the cave.”
Nomad, standing in the entrance to the cave, shouted to his pards behind the spur.
“Come on, Buffler, you an’ Dell. I reckon we got hyar too late; thar ain’t er single red erbout ther place.”
An exclamation of disappointment escaped the scout’s lips.
“Tough luck, Dell,” said he, as he started around the spur. “There’s no telling, now, where this trail of Bascomb’s will lead us, nor how long it will take to get to the end of it. The fellow, I reckon, was not so badly wounded in that ambush as Cayuse thought.”
The scout and the girl were soon at Nomad’s side.
“How big a cave is it, Nick?” asked the scout.
“No more’n twenty-five paces one way, Buffler. I walked cl’ar through ter ther end wall an’ back ergin. Not hevin’ no matches I couldn’t light up; but ef thar had ben Injuns in ther place, I’d shore hev heerd from ’em. Got any fire-sticks yerself?”
“Then ye mout scratch a few an’ look ther cut-out over more keerful than what I did. Mebbyso ther reds left a can o’ water, er a piece o’ jerked meat behind ’em. I’m hopin’ they did, kase I’m gittin’ dryer an’ dryer right erlong. I kin stand et ter be hungry—pullin’ up yer belt a hole’ll fix thet—but when ye’re thirsty, somethin’ takes holt o’ yer throat fit ter strangle ye.”
Buffalo Bill, with Dell and Nomad at his heels, entered the cave. It widened out quickly, a few feet from the entrance.
Halting well within the opening, the scout struck a match. The glow of light was feeble, and pierced the gloom for only a few feet in advance. Holding the light in front of him, he passed on into the darkness.
Perhaps he was half-way to the rear wall when a cry from Dell brought the scout to an abrupt stop.
“What is it, Dell?” he asked, letting the burned match fall from his fingers.
“There’s some one lying on the floor,” said Dell, “off here to the right.”
“White man er ’Pache?” spoke up Nomad.
“I couldn’t see. Come back this way, Buffalo Bill, and strike another match.”
The scout followed the suggestion. What was found, a moment later, startled all of them.
A man was, indeed, lying on the floor, just as Dell had said, and he was a white man. His rough clothing was ragged and torn, and there was a clotted smear on the breast of his faded blue shirt. His head was thrown back, his arms were flung out stiffly from his shoulders, and there was a glassy stare—the stare of death—in his eyes.
“Bascomb!” muttered Nomad.
“Yes,” said the scout, “it is Bascomb, and he has paid the penalty of his misdeeds with his life. The wound he received in that ambush was mortal. Once more, pards, Geronimo has overplayed his hand. It may be that the chief collected his renegades and left the reservation for the sole purpose of laying that ambush and taking Bascomb away from the soldiers; but, in the attempt, Bascomb stopped a bullet. Instead of rescuing the deserter, Geronimo killed him.”
“Justice reaches an evil-doer in many ways,” remarked Dell.
“Right you are, Dell. And it is just as well, I take it, that Bascomb should fall by the guns of his red allies as to spring a trap in some Federal prison. He shot a guard when he escaped from Fort Apache, but the guard was not killed. Bascomb could not have been hung for that; but, unless I am far wide of my trail, he could have been swung up for this last bit of treachery. Undoubtedly he had knowledge of Geronimo’s plans, and, having that, was virtually a confederate and jointly responsible with Geronimo for the lives of the escort.”
The scout turned to his trapper pard.
“Search through the fellow’s pockets, Nick,” said he. “There may be something of importance there that the military will be glad to get hold of.”
Nomad made the search, but did not find a single article of personal property.
“Ther ’Paches hev gone through his pockets ahead o’ us,” said Nomad. “But hyar’s somethin’, Buffler.”
Nomad picked up a canteen from Bascomb’s side, and shook it. The canteen was nearly full. There was also a canvas bag within reach of Bascomb’s hand which was found to contain jerked venison, and a few corn-cakes.
“How d’ye account fer ther water an’ ther chuck, Buffler?” inquired Nomad. “Think ther ’Paches left ’em hyar so’st Bascomb’s sperrit could hev somethin’ ter live on while goin’ ter ther happy huntin’-grounds?”
“No,” reflected the scout. “More than likely, Nick, the Apaches saw that Bascomb could not live. After stripping him of what few articles he had upon his person, the reds abandoned him—left him in this hole in the hill to die alone. The water and food were left beside him to keep the spark of life in his body as long as possible.”
“Waal, no loss without some gain,” growled the trapper. “We kin use ther water and ther grub mighty handy. Hev a drink, Dell?”
At first the girl drew back from the offered canteen with an expression of horror on her face; then, shrugging her shoulders and making a virtue of necessity, she swallowed some of the water.
“Good girl!” exclaimed the scout. “The water and food are here, and we might just as well drink and eat as to leave it to the desert-rats.”
The scout likewise drank, and Nomad helped himself last. Then, returning to the daylight in front of the cavern, they parceled out the jerked venison and the corn-cakes and made a hasty meal.
“What next, Buffler?” asked Nomad, priming his pipe and borrowing a match from the scout. “Ef we’re at ther end o’ Bascomb’s trail, I reckons we’re close ter ther end o’ our own; hey?”
“Yes,” said Buffalo Bill. “It remains for us to find Little Cayuse now, and then recover Bear Paw, Silver Heels, and Navi. The horses, I have no doubt, will be found picketed in the valley, unless they were interfered with by some of the Apaches who visited the valley and drank from the pool after we did.”
“They interfered with ther critters, all right,” averred Nomad. “Did ye ever hear of an Apache, runnin’ across three good horses with no one ter watch ’em, thet didn’t git his lead-ropes on muy pronto? Ten ter one, pards, yere mounts aire some’r’s on ther way ter Mexico with Geronimo—as lost ter ye as ole Kick-an’-Bite-’Em is ter me, which same I left at ther place o’ ther ambush.”
“You overlook one thing, Nick,” said the scout.
“What is et? I’m allers overlookin’ things, Buffler, but what’s ther pertic’l’r thing in this case o’ ther hosses?”
“The Apaches were locoed by drinking from the pool,” expounded the scout. “After they finished drinking, if they did like Dell and myself, they never once thought of the horses. In my opinion, if we can get back to that valley pretty soon, we’ll not only find Bear Paw, Silver Heels, and Navi, but a lot of Indian cayuses as well.”
“Tally another fer Buffler!” said Nomad. “Ther thing ter be done, now, is ter find ther valley an’ git ther hosses. Arter thet, properly mounted, mebbyso we kin diskiver Cayuse. I’m hopin’ thar’s Injun cayuses in ther valley, too, kase et’s up ter me ter git another hoss, an’ a ’Pache mustang’ll do till I kin hook up better.”
“How’ll we go to find the valley, Buffalo Bill?” asked Dell anxiously.
“Our best course, I think, is to return to that military road,” said the scout, “and follow it to Bonita, or Bowie, providing it leads there. In one or other of the two places, we ought to be able to find some one who will recognize the valley and the spring from our description, and take us——”
Buffalo Bill was interrupted. At that moment a clatter of hoofs was heard along the pass.
“Whistlin’ whipperwills!” yelled Nomad, jumping to his feet; “swatties, er I’m er Piegan!”
“Soldiers!” echoed Dell.
“Lieutenant Doyle and six troopers from Bonita!” added Buffalo Bill. “Well, well, pards, here’s luck with all the trimmings.”
Racing out into the middle of the gap, Buffalo Bill mounted a boulder and waved his hat vigorously.
“’Pon my soul if it isn’t Cody!” cried Doyle, as he and his dusty troopers pulled to a halt. “But how’s this?” the lieutenant added, with a look at Nomad and Dell. “You left camp with a girl pard and a Piute pard, Buffalo Bill. You still have your girl pard, but where’s the Piute? And who’s this other warrior, that’s new to us?”
“The other warrior,” smiled the scout, “is my old trapper pard, Nick Nomad.”
“The deuce you say! Then he wasn’t killed in that ambush that played havoc with Bascomb’s escort?”
“Not as anybody knows on,” spoke up Nomad. “I’m feelin’ quite chipper jest at present.”
“So I observe,” grinned Doyle. “Where’s the boy, Cody?”
“We don’t know, Doyle,” said the scout, “but we’re going to ask you and your men to help us find him. By the way, though, how do you happen to be here?”
“Orders,” answered Doyle.
“Captain Markham. He picked up Geronimo’s trail over in that blind gully in Tres Alamos Gulch, and sent a runner back with a note that I was to take six men, hike for Tonio Pass and look for Buffalo Bill. When I found Buffalo Bill I was to report to him that Geronimo and a part of his Chiricahua renegades are hustling for Mexico, and that Bascomb, the deserter, is supposed to be with him. A captured Apache told Captain Markham that the renegades who jumped the reservation have divided into two parties—one party deserting from Geronimo and rounding up in Pool Spring Valley. After coming here and looking for you, we’re to make for Pool Spring and see how the land lies.”
Several parts of the lieutenant’s communication caught the scout’s attention. The first thing concerned the deserter.
“Captain Markham is wrong about Bascomb, Doyle,” averred Buffalo Bill.
“I learn that Markham got his information pretty straight.”
“It may seem straight, but it’s mightily tangled, for all that. Bascomb is in that cave there”—the scout waved a hand toward the cavern entrance—“and he lies on the floor with his boots on.”
“Another surprise!” muttered Doyle. “Sure it’s Bascomb?”
Doyle rose in his stirrups and looked back at his handful of troopers.
“Any of you lads know Bascomb, otherwise Slocum, the deserter from Fort Apache, by sight?” he demanded.
“I do,” replied a grizzled trooper.
“Go into that cave, Smith,” ordered Doyle, “and report whether the fellow you find there is Bascomb.”
Smith threw his reins to a comrade, slid down from his saddle, and rattled into the cave. A minute later he rattled out:
“It’s him, all right, leftenant,” said Smith. “I could pick him out from among a thousand.”
“Dead, is he?”
“As a smelt.”
Smith lurched back into his saddle.
“That’s a job the government has been saved, at all events,” remarked Doyle. “What can we do for you, Buffalo Bill?” he added.
“Help us recover our horses,” said the scout. “That’s one thing. After that, we’d like to have you help us find the Piute.”
“Where are your horses?”
“First off, Doyle, let me ask you if you know such a place as this.”
The scout followed with a lengthy description of the valley and the spring where the horses had been left. Before he had fairly finished, Doyle cut him short.
“Why, man,” cried the lieutenant, “you’re telling me about Pool Spring Valley, our next port of call.”
“I had an idea to that effect,” went on Buffalo Bill. “Well, lieutenant, that is where our mounts were left. I’m hoping they’re there now. If you can manage to give us a lift that far, perhaps we’ll have horses of our own during our hunt for Cayuse.”
“We can fix that, all right.”
Doyle gave orders which caused two of the troopers to double up on one horse.
“There, Miss Dauntless,” said Doyle, “you’re to have that animal all to yourself. Cody and Nomad will double with any two troopers they select. Give ’em the saddles, boys,” Doyle added to his men.
With three horses carrying double burdens, and with Dell riding alone, the detachment presently took its way out of the pass.
The scout, and the man at his saddle-cantle, rode stirrup to stirrup with the lieutenant. While the latter pointed the way, and all eyes watched sharply for hostiles, the shortest cut to Pool Spring Valley was pursued, and talking went on apace.
Buffalo Bill had things to say that opened Doyle’s eyes, and were passed back and forth among the troopers with deep interest and curiosity.
Everything that had happened to the scout and the girl, from the time they left Bonita to go to Tonio Pass, was gone over carefully. The drugging of the spring, naturally, was the point that claimed most attention.
“That was Geronimo’s work, all right,” averred Doyle. “He’s a foxy old red, and whenever he plays a card it’s usually a trump.”
“How did he know we were going to stop at Pool Spring Valley?” queried the scout.
“Then why did he tamper with the water in the pool?”
“That wasn’t for your benefit, Cody, if I’ve got this thing right. As I said, a little while back, a few of the reds have broken away from Geronimo, and I’ll bet the old rascal was properly mad when they did it. The mutineers were to rendezvous in Pool Spring Valley. What more natural, then, than that Geronimo should send a trusty warrior with a bag of dope to fix Pool Spring before the mutineers got there? Say, I’ll gamble my pile that’s exactly what old Geronimo did. It sounds just like him. I’m only making a guess, but I flatter myself it’s next door to the truth.”
“Waugh!” spoke up the trapper. “I’ll bet et’s ther truth. Them reds we seen, Buffler—the two thet was coyotin’ along ther trail, an’ thet other lot thet was tossin’ away their arms—must er been the mutineers. They was all locoed.”
“You have made a good guess, lieutenant,” said the scout. “So far as I am personally concerned, I am perfectly satisfied even if I never get any other explanation. The pool was ‘fixed’ for the mutineers; but I and my pards reached the valley in advance of the mutineers and sampled old Geronimo’s dope and got away before the mutineers came. They presented themselves later, and drank up all the drug we left.”
“The way you tell me the dope acts,” said Doyle, highly pleased with himself because of his theory, “sounds sort of fishy. Don’t mistake me,” he went on hastily; “I don’t doubt your word, in the least. It’s only that I never heard of any weed growing around these parts that would act on man and beast in the way you describe.”
“I presume there are medicinal herbs that would have such an effect,” said the scout, “if properly stewed up and mixed with drinking-water. Something had the effect, anyway, no matter whether it was herbs or something else.”
“Of course,” said Doyle. “Anyhow, I and my men will go dry in the valley, you can bet heavy on that. When we get to the top of this rise, Cody, you’ll be looking down on the place,” and Doyle waved his gloved hand to a slope in from of them.
The moment the scout and the girl had topped the crest, and had flashed their eyes over the valley, they recognized the scene of their weird experience.
“There are horses down there, all right,” observed Doyle; “more than a dozen of them. But I can’t make out a single human being.”
“I can see Bear Paw and Navi,” said the scout, much gratified. “They appear to be in the same place where they were picketed last night.”
“And there’s Silver Heels!” cried Dell, clapping her hands. “More luck, Buffalo Bill.”
“For which,” laughed the scout, “we’re to thank Geronimo.”
“I reckon, Buffler,” put in Nomad, who had been steadily eying the group of horses, “that I’ll pick out thet big buckskin. I never seen a better hoss than thet among these hyar Southwestern Injuns.”
“Steady, there, boys!” called Doyle, lifting a pair of field-glasses to his eyes. “I see some one coming this way. He’s taken one of the horses, a pinto, and he’s galloping in our direction. ’Pon my soul, Cody, I think it’s—— Here, take the glasses and look for yourself.”
“I don’t need the glasses, lieutenant,” returned the scout. “I know who it is. It’s Little Cayuse. He has hung around this valley ever since last night, knowing full well that we’d come back after our horses.”
The detachment, with Doyle and the scout and his pards in the lead, rode down to meet Little Cayuse.
The boy’s eyes were sparkling with excitement and satisfaction as they roved from the scout to the girl, and from the girl to the trapper.
A halt was made when Navi came nose to nose with the leading mounts of the detachment.
“How?” called Cayuse, shaking hands with the scout and his pards, and holding Nomad’s hand rather longer than he did the others.
“How yerself, ye leetle fistful o’ glory?” demanded Nomad. “You an’ me, Cayuse, hev got ter git tergether, afore long, an’ beg each other’s parding. You done me a mean trick, an’ I done you ther same, although neither o’ us meant et. Everythin’ hes turned out all ter ther good, howsumever, so I reckons we kin call ther account square, hey?”
“Wuh,” answered Cayuse.
“Where have you been since we separated, boy?” asked the scout, when they were all riding on together toward the horses.
“Water heap bad medicine,” said Cayuse. “Me forget heap lots about last sleep; just begin to remember when sun come up. Me up on hill, looking down in valley. See heap cayuse, plenty others more than Bear Paw, Silver Heels, and Navi. No savvy so many cayuses. No see um Injuns ’round, although plenty sure cayuses Apache cayuses. Me wait on hill. Then me come down in valley. Pa-e-has-ka come for Bear Paw, I know. So I stay.”
“Is that all?” asked the scout.
Buffalo Bill was a little disappointed, as he had been hoping Cayuse might be able to throw some light on the Apaches who had come to the valley and had plainly drunk of the water in the pool. When the mutineers had visited the place and put out their horses, however, Cayuse had been under the influence of Geronimo’s drug himself. So it was not to be supposed that he had discovered anything.
When the detachment came near enough to give the Indian cayuses a good sizing, Doyle sat back in his saddle and laughed loudly.
“Say, but this is a caution!” he cried.
“How do you mean?”
“Why, I and my men bag these horses, Cody, see? We take them to Bonita and keep them there. When the Apaches get over the effects of the drugged water, they’ll come here to find their mounts—and they’ll be disappointed. Nothing takes the tuck out of a renegade like foot-work under a hot sun. Mark what I say, every last one of this detachment of original reservation-jumpers will flock into Bowie and give themselves up. Oh, I don’t know! There’s more ways than one to skin a rabbit.”
Further satisfaction was awaiting the scout and the girl, for they discovered their riding-gear close to the place where they had left it. Although it was quite evident that the gear had been overhauled by the Apaches, nothing had been taken away.
“Geronimo’s doctored water got in its work, Dell,” laughed the scout, “before the Apaches could exercise reason enough to get away with our horses and their trappings.”
“Such a cross-play of fortune couldn’t happen more than once in a thousand times!” declared Dell.
“In er million, more like,” said Nomad, pawing over a lot of Indian blankets to get the best one for the buckskin. “I got ter ride without er saddle,” he went on, “till I git whar I kin buy one. Some one o’ Geronimo’s bucks prob’ly has my own ridin’-gear by now. ’Course ther reds thet ambushed us stripped ther hoss.”
“You can wager they did, Nomad,” returned Dell. “It takes an Apache to tell a good saddle and bridle when he sees them.”
“An’ et don’t take him long ter seize ’em, nuther, onless ye happen ter be lookin’.”
When Bear Paw, Silver Heels, and the buckskin were in readiness, and while the troopers were collecting the Indian cayuses and stringing them together, the scout and the lieutenant stood by the pool.
It had filled to the brim, since the Apaches had paid their visit.
“Geronimo must have had a powerful lot of dope put in there, Cody,” said Doyle. “You and your party emptied the pool, didn’t you?”
“It filled up again in time for the Apaches, and after they left it has filled up and been running over. Probably there’s enough of the drug in there now to put us out of balance if we took a drink. If I didn’t have all these cayuses to look after, I’d be tempted to take a swig.”
“You’d be a mighty foolish man if you did,” admonished the scout. “Better leave such things as this alone.”
“I guess that’s right,” agreed Doyle, returning to his horse and mounting.
As he rode off, Buffalo Bill saw him cast a half-regretful look over his shoulder at the pool.
Late that afternoon, the scout and his pards, and the detachment, rode into Bonita with the horses of the Apaches, and all hands were able to take their fill of comfort and congratulate themselves on their success in the work they had set out to accomplish.
But little more remains to be told, so far as the wind-up of the scout’s work, in connection with the deserter, Bascomb, is concerned.
The man was dead, and was no more to be reckoned with.
As the scout had already informed Dell, he did not intend to take the field against Geronimo, as there were plenty to do that.
Buffalo Bill’s duty called him and Nomad and Little Cayuse to other parts, and they could not long delay answering the call.
The military telegraph between Bonita, Bowie, and Grant had been repaired by the time the scout and his pards regained Bonita, and the first message sent through by Colonel Grayson asked after Dell.
Dell herself answered the message. Patterson, in a hospital at Bowie, sent his report of the trip from Grant to Bonita, and it followed closely on the heels of Dell’s message to the colonel. After hearing of the girl’s daring and bravery, the colonel sent another telegram to Dell, forgiving her for the way she broke out of Fort Grant, and asking her to come back and finish her visit.
But Dell did not go back. An opportunity offered for her to accompany a detachment of troopers bound for Fort Whipple. As this detachment would pass near the Double D Ranch, Dell decided to go along.
The parting of the girl with Buffalo Bill, Nomad, and Cayuse was the occasion of much regret for all. The plucky and daring Dell had won her way to the hearts of the scout and his pards, and they hated to lose her.
“Perhaps,” said Dell, with a little catch in her voice, “we shall meet up with each other again.”
“Here’s hopin’, anyways, leetle ’un!” answered Nomad.
“If you should ever need a lot of husky warriors like us, Dell,” smiled the scout, “don’t forget to send us a call.”
“Send um call, Yellow Hair,” put in the Piute boy; “you bet Little Cayuse come, too.”
Dell turned away her face and could not answer. The bugle had already sounded “boots and saddles,” and a few moments later she rode off down the cañon with the men bound for Whipple.
“I’ve seen er hull lot er petticoat warriors, Buffler,” remarked Nomad, following the retreating dust with moody eyes, “but I never seen one ter match Dauntless Dell, o’ ther Double D.”
“Nor I,” returned the scout. “She’s Class A among Western girls.”
“Right you are,” said Doyle, who had drawn near. “Miss Dauntless has been the hit of the piece that was pulled off here. You’re not going after Geronimo, Cody, they tell me?”
“There are enough after him as it is, Doyle.”
“He’ll give ’em all the slip, mind what I’m telling you. After he raids around in Mexico until he gets tired, he’ll let the soldiers take him in and conduct him back to the reservation; then, when he gets good and ready, he’ll break out again. He has got to have a certain amount of excitement, every so often, in order to get along and feel right.”
“I’d like ter know what he put in thet pool,” said Nomad, firing up his pipe. “Ther more I think o’ thet loco bizness, ther stranger et gits.”
“I don’t suppose anybody will ever find out, Nomad,” said Doyle. “Geronimo knows a lot of things that he keeps to himself.”
“Thet loco stuff must be one o’ them thar things, then, leftenant. Ef ther gov’ment could find out what et is, an’ go round doctorin’ all ther springs in the hills arter a gang o’ ’Paches break loose, et wouldn’t be long afore them Injun fad fer jumpin’ ther reservation would die out.”
“That sounds well, Nomad,” laughed Doyle, “but I’m afraid the scheme wouldn’t work, even if we knew the secret of Geronimo’s dope.”
“Mebby et wouldn’t,” mused Nomad, “but I’d shore like ter try ther stuff on some ’un.”
No. 78 of the New Border Stories, entitled “Buffalo Bill’s Private War,” takes the reader through a wild series of adventure with the great scout, in which the hairbreadth escapes are many and interesting.
Clean Adventure Stories for Boys
Price, Fifteen Cents
The Most Complete List Published
The following list does not contain all the books that Horatio Alger wrote, but it contains most of them, and certainly the best.
Horatio Alger is to boys what Charles Dickens is to grown-ups. His work is just as popular to-day as it was years ago. The books have a quality, the value of which is beyond computation.
There are legions of boys of foreign parents who are being helped along the road to true Americanism by reading these books which are so peculiarly American in tone that the reader cannot fail to absorb some of the spirit of fair play and clean living which is so characteristically American.
In this list are included certain books by Edward Stratemeyer upon whose shoulders the cloak of Horatio Alger has fallen. They are books of the Alger type, and to a very large extent vie with Mr. Alger’s books in interest and wholesomeness.
ALL TITLES ALWAYS IN PRINT
|1||—||Driven From Home||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|2||—||A Cousin’s Conspiracy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|3||—||Ned Newton||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|4||—||Andy Gordon||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|5||—||Tony, the Tramp||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|6||—||The Five Hundred Dollar Check||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|7||—||Helping Himself||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|8||—||Making His Way||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|9||—||Try and Trust||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|10||—||Only an Irish Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|11||—||Jed, the Poorhouse Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|12||—||Chester Rand||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|13||—||Grit, the Young Boatman of Pine Point||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|14||—||Joe’s Luck||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|15||—||From Farm Boy to Senator||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|16||—||The Young Outlaw||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|17||—||Jack’s Ward||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|18||—||Dean Dunham||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|19||—||In a New World||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|20||—||Both Sides of the Continent||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|21||—||The Store Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|22||—||Brave and Bold||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|23||—||A New York Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|24||—||Bob Burton||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|25||—||The Young Adventurer||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|26||—||Julius, the Street Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|27||—||Adrift in New York||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|28||—||Tom Brace||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|29||—||Struggling Upward||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|30||—||The Adventures of a New York Telegraph Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|31||—||Tom Tracy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|32||—||The Young Acrobat||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|33||—||Bound to Rise||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|34||—||Hector’s Inheritance||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|35||—||Do and Dare||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|36||—||The Tin Box||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|37||—||Tom, the Bootblack||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|38||—||Risen from the Ranks||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|39||—||Shifting for Himself||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|40||—||Wait and Hope||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|41||—||Sam’s Chance||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|42||—||Striving for Fortune||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|43||—||Phil, the Fiddler||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|44||—||Slow and Sure||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|45||—||Walter Sherwood’s Probation||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|46||—||The Trials and Triumphs of Mark Mason||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|47||—||The Young Salesman||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|48||—||Andy Grant’s Pluck||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|49||—||Facing the World||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|50||—||Luke Walton||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|51||—||Strive and Succeed||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|52||—||From Canal Boy to President||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|53||—||The Erie Train Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|54||—||Paul, the Peddler||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|55||—||The Young Miner||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|56||—||Charlie Codman’s Cruise||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|57||—||A Debt of Honor||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|58||—||The Young Explorer||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|59||—||Ben’s Nugget||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|60||—||The Errand Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|61||—||Frank and Fearless||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|62||—||Frank Hunter’s Peril||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|63||—||Adrift in the City||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|64||—||Tom Thatcher’s Fortune||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|65||—||Tom Turner’s Legacy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|66||—||Dan, the Newsboy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|67||—||Digging for Gold||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|68||—||Lester’s Luck||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|69||—||In Search of Treasure||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|70||—||Frank’s Campaign||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|71||—||Bernard Brook’s Adventures||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|72||—||Robert Coverdale’s Struggles||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|73||—||Paul Prescott’s Charge||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|74||—||Mark Manning’s Mission||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|75||—||Rupert’s Ambition||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|76||—||Sink or Swim||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|77||—||The Backwood’s Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|78||—||Tom Temple’s Career||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|79||—||Ben Bruce||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|80||—||The Young Musician||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|81||—||The Telegraph Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|82||—||Work and Win||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|83||—||The Train Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|84||—||The Cash Boy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
|85||—||Herbert Carter’s Legacy||By Horatio Alger, Jr.|
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|
|155||—||Buffalo Bill’s Wizard Pard||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|156||—||Buffalo Bill and Hawkeye||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|157||—||Buffalo Bill and Grizzly Dan||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|158||—||Buffalo Bill’s Ghost Play||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|159||—||Buffalo Bill’s Lost Prisoner||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|160||—||Buffalo Bill and The Klan of Kau||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|161||—||Buffalo Bill’s Crow Scouts||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|162||—||Buffalo Bill’s Lassoed Spectre||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|163||—||Buffalo Bill and the Wanderers||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|164||—||Buffalo Bill and the White Queen||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
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, 1923.
|165||—||Buffalo Bill’s Yellow Guardian||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|166||—||Buffalo Bill’s Double “B” Brand||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
To Be Published in August, 1923.
|167||—||Buffalo Bill’s Dangerous Duty||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|168||—||Buffalo Bill and the Talking Statue||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
To Be Published in September, 1923.
|169||—||Buffalo Bill Between Two Fires||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|170||—||Buffalo Bill and the Giant Apache||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
To Be Published in October, 1923.
|171||—||Buffalo Bill’s Best Bet||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|172||—||Buffalo Bill’s Blockhouse Siege||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|173||—||Buffalo Bill’s Fight for Right||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
To Be Published in November, 1923.
|174||—||Buffalo Bill’s Sad Tidings||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|175||—||Buffalo Bill and “Lucky” Benson||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
To Be Published in December, 1923.
|176||—||Buffalo Bill Among the Sioux||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
|177||—||Buffalo Bill’s Mystery Box||By Col. Prentiss Ingraham|
Never, in the history of publishing, have there been so many stories of the West published in book and serial form. These books are even reprinted in England to be read there just as eagerly as they are sought after here.
Some of the best Western stories ever written are listed in Buffalo Bill Border Stories a list of which will be found on the pages immediately preceding this.
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,
79 Seventh Avenue,
New York, N. Y.