BEADLE'S HALF DIME LIBRARY
1877, BEADLE AND ADAMS.
Vol. I. Single BEADLE AND ADAMS, PUBLISHERS, Price, No. 1 Number. No. 98 WILLIAM STREET, NEW YORK. 5 cents
Deadwood Dick, THE PRINCE OF THE ROAD; OR, THE BLACK RIDER of the BLACK HILLS.
BY EDWARD L. WHEELER.
FEARLESS FRANK TO THE RESCUE.
On the plains, midway between Cheyenne and the Black Hills, a train had halted for a noonday feed. Not a railway train, mind you, but a line of those white-covered vehicles drawn by strong-limbed mules, which are most properly styled "prairie schooners."
There were four wagons of this type, and they had been drawn in a circle about a camp-fire, over which was roasting a savory haunch of venison. Around the camp-fire were grouped half a score of men, all rough, bearded, and grizzled, with one exception. This being a youth whose age one could have safely put at twenty, so perfectly developed of physique and intelligent of facial appearance was he. There was something about him that was not handsome, and yet you would have been puzzled to tell what it was, for his countenance was strikingly handsome, and surely no form in the crowd was more noticeable for its grace, symmetry, and proportionate development. It would have taken a scholar to have studied out the secret.
He was of about medium stature, and as straight and square-shouldered as an athlete. His complexion was nut-brown, from long exposure to the sun; hair of hue of the raven's wing, and hanging in long, straight strands adown his back; eyes black and piercing as an eagle's; features well molded, with a firm, resolute mouth and prominent chin. He was an interesting specimen of young, healthy manhood, and, even though a youth in years, was one that could command respect, if not admiration, wheresoever he might choose to go.
One remarkable item about his personal appearance, apt to strike the beholder as being exceedingly strange and eccentric, was his costume—buck-skin throughout, and that dyed to the brightest scarlet hue.
On being asked the cause of his odd freak of dress, when he had joined the train a few miles out from Cheyenne, the youth had laughingly replied:
"Why, you see, it is to attract bufflers, if we should meet any, out on the plains 'twixt this and the Hills."
He gave his name as Fearless Frank, and said he was aiming for the Hills; that if the party in question would furnish him a place among them, he would extend to them his assistance as a hunter, guide, or whatever, until the destination was reached.
Seeing that he was well armed, and judging from external appearances that he would prove a valuable accessory, the miners were nothing loth in accepting his services.
Of the others grouped about the camp-fire only one is specially noticeable, for, as Mark Twain remarks, "the average of gold-diggers look alike." This person was a little, deformed old man; hump-backed, bow-legged, and white-haired, with cross eyes, a large mouth, a big head, set upon a slim, crane-like neck; blue eyes, and an immense brown beard, that flowed downward half-way to the belt about his waist, which contained a small arsenal of knives and revolvers. He hobbled about with a heavy crutch constantly under his left arm, and was certainly a pitiable sight to behold.
He too had joined the caravan after it had quitted Cheyenne, his advent taking place about an hour subsequent to that of Fearless Frank. His name he asserted was Nix—Geoffrey Walsingham Nix—and where he came from, and what he sought in the Black Hills, was simply a matter of conjecture among the miners, as he refused to talk on the subject of his past, present or future.
The train was under the command of an irascible old plainsman who had served out his apprenticeship in the Kansas border war, and whose name was Charity Joe, which, considering his avaricious disposition, was the wrong handle on the wrong man. Charity was the least of all old Joe's redeeming characteristics; charity was the very thing he did not recognize, yet some wag had facetiously branded him Charity Joe, and the appellation had clung to him ever since. He was well advanced in years, yet withal a good trailer and an expert guide, as the success of his many late expeditions into the Black Hills had evidenced.
Those who had heard of Joe's skill as a guide, intrusted themselves in his care, for, while the stages were stopped more or less on each trip, Charity Joe's train invariably went through all safe and sound. This was partly owing to his acquaintance with various bands of Indians, who were the chief cause of annoyance on the trip.
So far we see the train toward the land of gold, without their having seen sight or sound of hostile red-skins, and Charity is just chuckling over his usual good luck:
"I tell ye what, fellers, we've hed a fa'r sort uv a shake, so fur, an' no mistake 'bout it. Barrin' thar ain't no Sittin' Bulls layin' in wait fer us, behead yander, in ther mounts, I'm of ther candid opinion we'll get through wi'out scrapin' a ha'r."
"I hope so," said Fearless Frank, rolling over on the grass and gazing at the guide, thoughtfully, "but I doubt it. It seems to me that one hears of more butchering, lately, than there was a month ago—all on account of the influx of ruffianly characters into the Black Hills!"
"Not all owing to that, chippy," interposed "General" Nix, as he had immediately been christened by the miners—"not all owing to that. Thar's them gol danged copper-colored guests uv ther government—they're kickin' up three pints uv the'r rumpus, more or less—consider'bly less of more than more o' less. Take a passel uv them barbarities an' shet 'em up inter a prison for three or thirteen yeers, an' ye'd see w'at an impression et'd make, now. Thar'd be siveral less massycrees a week, an' ye wouldn't see a rufyan onc't a month. W'y, gentlefellows, thar'd nevyar been a ruffian, ef et hedn't been fer ther cussed Injun tribe—not one! Ther infarnal critters ar' ther instignators uv more deviltry nor a cat wi' nine tails."
"Yes, we will admit that the reds are not of saintly origin," said Fearless Frank, with a quiet smile. "In fact I know of several who are far from being angels, myself. There is old Sitting Bull, for instance, and Lone Lion, Rain-in-the-Face, and Horse-with-the-Red-Eye, and so forth, and so forth!"
"Exactly. Every one o' 'em's a danged descendant o' ther old Satan, hisself."
"Layin' aside ther Injun subjeck," said Charity Joe, forking into the roasted venison, "I move thet we take up a silent debate on ther pecooliarities uv a deer's hind legs; so heer goes!"
He cut out a huge slice with his bowie, sprinkled it over with salt, and began to devour it by very large mouthfuls. All hands proceeded to follow his example, and the noonday meal was dispatched in silence. After each man had fully satisfied his appetite and the mules and Fearless Frank's horse had grazed until they were full as ticks, the order was given to hitch up, which was speedily done, and the caravan was soon in motion, toiling along like a diminutive serpent across the plain.
The afternoon was a mild, sunny one in early autumn, with a refreshing breeze perfumed with the delicate scent of after-harvest flowers wafting down from the cool regions of the Northwest, where lay the new El Dorado—the land of gold.
Fearless Frank bestrode a noble bay steed of fire and nerve, while old General Nix rode an extra mule that he had purchased of Charity Joe. The remainder of the company rode in the wagons or "hoofed it," as best suited their mood—walking sometimes being preferable to the rumbling and jolting of the heavy vehicles.
Steadily along through the afternoon sunlight the train wended its way, the teamsters alternately singing and cursing their mules, as they jogged along. Fearless Frank and the "General" rode several hundred yards in advance, both apparently engrossed in deepest thought, for neither spoke until, toward the close of the afternoon, Charity Joe called their attention to a series of low, faint cries brought down upon their hearing by the stiff northerly wind.
"'Pears to me as how them sound sorter human like," said the old guide, trotting along beside the young man's horse, as he made known the discovery. "Jes' listen, now, an' see if ye ain't uv ther same opinion!"
The youth did listen, and at the same time swept the plain with his eagle eyes, in search of the object from which the cries emanated. But nothing of animal life was visible in any direction beyond the train, and more was the mystery, since the cries sounded but a little way off.
"They are human cries!" exclaimed Fearless Frank, excitedly, "and come from some one in distress. Boys, we must investigate this matter."
"You can investigate all ye want," grunted Charity Joe, "but I hain't a-goin' ter stop ther train till dusk, squawk or no squawk. I jedge we won't get inter their Hills any too soon, as it ar'."
"You're an old fool!" retorted Frank, contemptuously. "I wouldn't be as mean as you for all the gold in the Black Hills country, say nothin' about that in California and Colorado."
He turned his horse's head toward the north, and rode away, followed, to the wonder of all, by the "General."
"Ha! ha!" laughed Charity Joe, grimly, "I wish you success."
"You needn't; I do not want any of your wishes. I'm going to search for the person who makes them cries, an' ef you don't want to wait, why go to the deuce with your old train!"
"There ye err," shouted the guide: "I'm goin' ter Deadwood, instead uv ter the deuce."
"Maybe you will go to Deadwood, and then, again, maybe ye won't," answered back Fearless Frank.
"More or less!" chimed in the general—"consider'bly more of less than less of more. Look out thet ther allies uv Sittin' Bull don't git ther dead wood on ye."
On marched the train—steadily on over the level, sandy plain, and Fearless Frank and his strange companion turned their attention to the cries that had been the means of separating them from the train. They had ceased now, altogether, and the two men were at a loss what to do.
"Guv a whoop, like a Government Injun," suggested "General" Nix; "an' thet'll let ther critter know thet we be friends a-comin'. Par'ps she'm g'in out ontirely, a-thinkin' as no one war a-comin' ter her resky!"
"She, you say?"
"Yas, she; fer I calkylate 'twern't no he as made them squawks. Sing out like a bellerin' bull, now, an' et ar' more or less likely—consider'bly more of less 'n less of more—that she will respond!"
Fearless Frank laughed, and forming his hands into a trumpet he gave vent to a loud, ear-splitting "hello!" that made the prairies ring.
"Great whale uv Joner!" gasped the "General," holding his hands toward the region of his organs of hearing. "Holy Mother o' Mercy! don't do et ag'in, b'yee—don' do et; ye've smashed my tinpanum all inter flinders! Good heaven! ye hev got a bugle wus nor enny steam tooter frum heer tew Lowell."
"Hark!" said the youth, bending forward in a listening attitude.
The next instant silence prevailed, and the twain anxiously listened. Wafted down across the plain came in faint piteous accents the repetition of the cry they had first heard, only it was now much fainter. Evidently whoever was in distress, was weakening rapidly. Soon the cries would be inaudible.
"It's straight ahead!" exclaimed Fearless Frank, at last. "Come along, and we'll soon see what the matter is!"
He put the spurs to his spirited animal, and the next instant was dashing wildly off over the sunlit plain. Bent on emulation, the "General" also used his heels with considerable vim, but alas! what dependence can be placed on a mule? The animal bolted, with a vicious nip back at the offending rider's legs, and refused to budge an inch.
On—on dashed the fearless youth, mounted on his noble steed, his eyes bent forward, in a sharp scrutiny of the plain ahead, his mind filled with wonder that the cries were now growing more distinct and yet not a first glimpse could he obtain of the source whence they emanated.
On—on—on; then suddenly he reins his steed back upon its haunches, just in time to avert a frightful plunge into one of those remarkable freaks of nature—the blind canal, or, in other words, a channel valley washed out by heavy rains. These the tourist will frequently encounter in the regions contiguous to the Black Hills.
Below him yawned an abrupt channel, a score or more of feet in depth, at the bottom of which was a dense chaparral thicket. The little valley thus nestled in the earth was about forty rods in width, and one would never have dreamed it existed, unless they chanced to ride to the brink, above.
Fearless Frank took in the situation at a glance, and not hearing the cries, he rightly conjectured that the one in distress had again become exhausted. That that person was in the thicket below seemed more than probable, and he immediately resolved to descend in search. Slipping from his saddle, he stepped forward to the very edge of the precipice and looked over. The next second the ground crumbled beneath his feet, and he was precipitated headlong into the valley. Fortunately he received no serious injuries, and in a moment was on his feet again, all right.
"A miss is as good as a mile," he muttered, brushing the dirt from his clothing. "Now, then, we will find out the secret of the racket in this thicket."
Glancing up to the brink above to see that his horse was standing quietly, he parted the shrubbery, and entered the thicket.
It required considerable pushing and tugging to get through the dense undergrowth, but at last his efforts were rewarded, and he stood in a small break or glade.
Stood there, to behold a sight that made the blood boil in his veins. Securely bound with her face toward a stake, was a young girl—a maiden of perhaps seventeen summers, whom, at a single glance, one might surmise was remarkably pretty.
She was stripped to the waist, and upon her snow-white back were numerous welts from which trickled diminutive rivulets of crimson. Her head was dropped against the stake to which she was bound, and she was evidently insensible.
With a cry of astonishment and indignation Fearless Frank leaped forward to sever her bonds, when like so many grim phantoms there filed out of the chaparral, and circled around him, a score of hideously painted savages. One glance at the portly leader satisfied Frank as to his identity. It was the fiend incarnate—Sitting Bull!
DEADWOOD DICK, THE ROAD-AGENT.
"$500 Reward: For the apprehension and arrest of a notorious young desperado who hails to the name of Deadwood Dick. His present whereabouts are somewhat contiguous to the Black Hills. For further information, and so forth, apply immediately to
"At Metropolitan Saloon, Deadwood City."
Thus read a notice posted up against a big pine tree, three miles above Custer City, on the banks of French creek. It was a large placard tacked up in plain view of all passers-by who took the route north through Custer gulch in order to reach the infant city of the Northwest—Deadwood.
Deadwood! the scene of the most astonishing bustle and activity, this year (1877.) The place where men are literally made rich and poor in one day and night. Prior to 1877 the Black Hills have been for a greater part undeveloped, but now, what a change! In Deadwood districts every foot of available ground has been "claimed" and staked out; the population has increased from fifteen to more than twenty-five hundred souls.
The streets are swarming with constantly arriving new-comers; the stores and saloons are literally crammed at all hours; dance-houses and can-can dens exist; hundreds of eager, expectant, and hopeful miners are working in the mines, and the harvest reaped by them is not at all discouraging. All along the gulch are strung a profusion of cabins, tents and shanties, making Deadwood in reality a town of a dozen miles in length, though some enterprising individual has paired off a couple more infant cities above Deadwood proper, named respectively Elizabeth City and Ten Strike. The quartz formation in these neighborhoods is something extraordinary, and from late reports, under vigorous and earnest development are yielding beyond the most sanguine expectation.
The placer mines west of Camp Crook are being opened to very satisfactory results, and, in fact, from Custer City in the south, to Deadwood in the north, all is the scene of abundant enthusiasm and excitement.
A horseman riding north through Custer gulch, noticed the placard so prominently posted for public inspection, and with a low whistle, expressive of astonishment, wheeled his horse out of the stage road, and rode over to the foot of the tree in question, and ran his eyes over the few irregularly-written lines traced upon the notice.
He was a youth of an age somewhere between sixteen and twenty, trim and compactly built, with a preponderance of muscular development and animal spirits; broad and deep of chest, with square, iron-cast shoulders; limbs small yet like bars of steel, and with a grace of position in the saddle rarely equaled; he made a fine picture for an artist's brush or a poet's pen.
Only one thing marred the captivating beauty of the picture.
His form was clothed in a tight-fitting habit of buck-skin, which was colored a jetty black, and presented a striking contrast to anything one sees as a garment in the wild far West. And this was not all, either. A broad black hat was slouched down over his eyes; he wore a thick black vail over the upper portion of his face, through the eye-holes of which there gleamed a pair of orbs of piercing intensity, and his hands, large and knotted, were hidden in a pair of kid gloves of a light color.
The "Black Rider" he might have been justly termed, for his thoroughbred steed was as black as coal, but we have not seen fit to call him such—his name is Deadwood Dick, and let that suffice for the present.
It was just at the edge of evening that he stopped before, and proceeded to read, the placard posted upon the tree in one of the loneliest portions of Custer's gulch.
Above and on either side rose to a stupendous hight the tree-fringed mountains in all their majestic grandeur.
In front and behind, running nearly north and south, lay the deep, dark chasm—a rift between mighty walls—Custer's gulch.
And over all began to hover the cloak of night, for the sun had already imparted its dying kiss on the mountain craters, and below, the gloom was thickening with rapid strides.
Slowly, over and over, Deadwood Dick, outlaw, road-agent and outcast, read the notice, and then a wild sardonic laugh burst from beneath his mask—a terrible, blood-curdling laugh, that made even the powerful animal he bestrode start and prick up its ears.
"Five hundred dollars reward for the apprehension and arrest of a notorious young desperado who hails to the name of Deadwood Dick! Ha! ha! ha! isn't that rich, now? Ha! ha! ha! arrest Deadwood Dick! Why, 'pon my word it is a sight for sore eyes. I was not aware that I had attained such a desperate notoriety as that document implies. They will make me out a murderer before they get through, I expect. Can't let me alone—everlastingly they must be punching after me, as if I was some obnoxious pestilence on the face of the earth. Never mind, though—let 'em keep on! Let them just continue their hounding game, and see which comes up on top when the bag's shook. If more than one of 'em don't get their fingers burned when they snatch Deadwood Dick bald-headed, why I'm a Spring creek sucker, that's all. Maybe I don't know who foots the bill in this reward business; oh, no; maybe I can't ride down to Deadwood and frighten three kind o' ideas out of this Mr. Hugh Vansevere, whoever he may be. Ha! ha! the fool that h'isted that notice didn't know Deadwood Dick, or he would never have placed his life in jeopardy by performing an act so uninteresting to the party in question. Hugh Vansevere; let me see—I don't think I've got that registered in my collection of appellatives. Perhaps he is a new tool in the employ of the old mechanic."
Darker and thicker grew the night shadows. The after-harvest moon rose up to a sufficient hight to send a silvery bolt of powerful light down into the silent gulch; like an image carved out of the night the horse and rider stood before the placard, motionless, silent.
The head of Deadwood Dick was bent, and he was buried in a deep reverie. A reverie that engrossed his whole attention for a long, long while; then the impatient pawing of his horse aroused him, and he sat once more erect in his saddle.
A last time his eyes wandered over the notice on the tree—a last time his terrible laugh made the mountains ring, and he guided his horse back into the rough, uneven stage-road, and galloped off up the gulch.
"I will go and see what this Hugh Vansevere looks like!" he said, applying the spurs to his horse. "I'll be dashed if I want him to be so numerous with my name, especially with five hundred dollars affixed thereto, as a reward."
* * * * *
Camp Crook, nestling down in one of the wildest gulch pockets of the Black Hills region—basking and sleeping in the flood of moonlight that emanates from the glowing ball up afar in heaven's blue vault, is suddenly and rudely aroused from her dreams.
There is a wild clatter of hoofs, a chorus of strange and varied voices swelling out in a wild mountain song, and up through the very heart of the diminutive city, where the gold-fever has dropped a few sanguine souls, dash a cavalcade of masked horsemen, attired in the picturesque garb of the mountaineer, and mounted on animals of superior speed and endurance.
At their head, looking weird and wonderful in his suit of black, rides he whom all have heard of—he whom some have seen, and he whom no one dare raise a hand against, in single combat—Deadwood Dick, Road-Agent Prince, and the one person whose name is in everybody's mouth.
Straight on through the single northerly street of the infant village ride the dauntless band, making weirdly beautiful music with their rollicking song, some of the voices being cultivated, and clear as the clarion note.
A few miners, wakened from their repose, jump out of bed, come to the door, and stare at the receding cavalcade in a dazed sort of way. Others, thinking that the noise is all resulting from an Indian attack, seize rifles or revolvers, as the case may be, and blaze away out of windows and loopholes at whatever may be in the way to receive their bullets.
But the road-agents only pause a moment in their song to send back a wild, sarcastic laugh; then they resume it, and merrily dash along up the gulch, the ringing of iron-shod hoofs beating a strange tatoo to the sound of the music.
Sleepily the miners crawl back to their respective couches; the moon smiles down on mother earth, and nature once more fans itself to sleep with the breath of a fragrant breeze.
* * * * *
Deadwood—magic city of the West!
Not dead, nor even sleeping, is this headquarters of the Black Hills population at midnight, twenty-four hours subsequent to the rush of the daring road-agents through Camp Crook.
Deadwood is just as lively and hilarious a place during the interval between sunset and sunrise as during the day. Saloons, dance-houses, and gambling dens keep open all night, and stores do not close until a late hour. At one, two and three o'clock in the morning the streets present as lively an appearance as at any period earlier in the evening. Fighting, shooting, stabbing and hideous swearing are features of the night; singing, drinking, dancing and gambling another.
Nightly the majority of the miners come in from such claims as are within a radius of from six to ten miles, and seldom is it that they go away without their "load." To be sure, there are some men in Deadwood who do not drink, but they are so few and scattering as to seem almost entirely a nonentity.
It was midnight, and Deadwood lay basking in a flood of mellow moonlight that cast long shadows from the pine forest on the peaks, and glinted upon the rapid, muddy waters of Whitewood creek, which rumbles noisily by the infant metropolis on its wild journey toward the south.
All the saloons and dance-houses are in full blast; shouts and maudlin yells rend the air. In front of one insignificant board, "ten-by-twenty," an old wretch is singing out lustily:
"Right this way ye cum, pilgrims, ter ther great Black Hills Thee'ter; only costs ye four bits ter go in an' see ther tender sex, already a-kickin' in their striped stockin's; only four bits, recollect, ter see ther greatest show on earth, so heer's yer straight chance!"
But, why the use of yelling? Already the shanty is packed, and judging from the thundering screeches and clapping of hands, the entertainment is such as suits the depraved tastes of the ruffianly "bums" who have paid their "four bits," and gone in.
Madly out of Deadwood gulch, the abode of thousands of lurking shadows, dashes a horseman.
Straight through the main street of the noisy metropolis he spurs, with hat off, and hair blowing backward in a jetty cloud.
On, on, followed by the eyes of scores curious to know the meaning of his haste—on, and at last he halts in front of a large board shanty, over whose doorway is the illuminated canvas sign: "Metropolitan Saloon, by Tom Young."
Evidently his approach is heard, for instantly out of the "Metropolitan" there swarms a crowd of miners, gamblers and bummers to see "what the row is."
"Is there a man among you, gentlemen, who bears the name of Hugh Vansevere?" asks the rider, who from his midnight dress we may judge is no other than Deadwood Dick.
"That is my handle, pilgrim!" and a tall, rough-looking customer of the Minnesotian order steps forward. "What mought yer lay be ag'in me?"
"A sure lay!" hisses the masked road-agent, sternly. "You are advertising for one Deadwood Dick, and he has come to pay you his respects!"
The next instant there is a flash, a pistol report, a fall and a groan, the clattering of iron-shod hoofs; and then, ere anyone scarcely dreams of it, Deadwood Dick is gone!
THE "CATTYMOUNT"—A QUARREL AND ITS RESULTS.
The "Metropolitan" saloon in Deadwood, one week subsequent to the events last narrated, was the scene of a larger "jamboree" than for many weeks before.
It was Saturday night, and up from the mines of Gold Run, Bobtail, Poor Man's Pocket, and Spearfish, and down from the Deadwood in miniature, Crook City, poured a swarm of rugged, grisly gold-diggers, the blear-eyed, used-up-looking "pilgrim," and the inevitable wary sharp, ever on the alert for a new buck to fleece.
The "Metropolitan" was then, as now, the headquarters of the Black Hills metropolis for arriving trains and stages, and as a natural consequence received a goodly share of the public patronage.
A well-stocked bar of liquors in Deadwood was non est yet the saloon in question boasted the best to be had. Every bar has its clerk at a pair of tiny scales, and he is ever kept more than busy weighing out the shining dust that the toiling miner has obtained by the sweat of his brow. And if the deft-fingered clerk cannot put six ounces of dust in his own pouch of a night, it clearly shows that he is not long in the business.
The saloon is full to overflowing—full of brawny rough, and grisly men; full of ribald songs and maudlin curses; full of foul atmospheres, impregnated with the fumes of vile whisky, and worse tobacco, and full of sights and scenes, exciting and repulsive.
As we enter and work our way toward the center of the apartment, our attention is attracted by a coarse, brutal "tough," evidently just fresh in from the diggings; who, mounted on the summit of an empty whisky cask, is exhorting in rough language, and in the tones of a bellowing bull, to an audience of admiring miners assembled at his feet, which, by the way, are not of the most diminutive pattern imaginable. We will listen:
"Feller coots and liquidarians, behold before ye a real descendant uv Cain and Abel. Ye'll reckolect, ef ye've ever bin ter camp-meetin', that Abel got knocked out o' time by his cuzzin Cain, an becawse Abel war misproperly named, and warn't able when the crysis arriv ter defen' himsel' in an able manner.
"Hed he bin 'heeled' wi' a shipment uv Black Hills sixes, thet would hev enabled him to distinguish hisself fer superyer ability. Now, as I sed before, I'm a lineal descendant uv ther notorious Ain and Cable, and I've lit down hyar among ye ter explain a few p'ints 'bout true blessedness and true cussedness.
"Oh! brethern, I tell ye I'm a snorter, I am, when I git a-goin'—a wild screechin' cattymount, right down frum ther sublime spheres up Starkey—ar' a regular epizootic uv religyun, sent down frum clouddum and scattered permiscously ter ther forty winds uv ther earth."
We pass the "cattymount," and presently come to a table at which a young and handsome "pilgrim," and a ferret-eyed sharp are engaged at cards. The first mentioned is a tall, robust fellow, somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-three years of age, with clear-cut features, dark lustrous eyes, and teeth of pearly whiteness. His hair is long and curling, and a soft brown mustache, waxed at the ends, is almost perfection itself.
Evidently he is of quick temperament, for he handles the cards with a swift, nervous dexterity that surprises even the professional sharp himself, who is a black, swarthy-looking customer, with "villain" plainly written in every lineament of his countenance; his eyes, hair, and a tremendous mustache that he occasionally strokes, are of a jetty black; did you ever notice it?—dark hair and complexion predominate among the gambling fraternity.
Perhaps this is owing to the condition of the souls of some of these characters.
The professional sharp in our case was no exception to the rule. He was attired in the hight of fashion, and the diamond cluster, inevitably to be found there, was on his shirt front; a jewel of wonderful size and brilliancy.
"Ah! curse the luck!" exclaimed the sharp, slapping down the cards; "you have won again, pilgrim, and I am five hundred out. By the gods, your luck is something astonishing!"
"Luck!" laughed the other, coolly: "well, no. I do not call it luck, for I never have luck. We'll call it chance!"
"Just as you say," growled the gambler, bringing forth a new pack. "Chance and luck are then twin companions. Will you continue longer, Mr.——"
"Redburn," finished the pilgrim.
"Ah! yes—Mr. Redburn, will you continue?"
"I will play as long as there is anything to play for," again finished Mr. R., twisting the waxed ends of his mustache calmly. "Maybe you have got your fill, eh?"
"No; I'll play all night to win back what I have lost."
A youth, attired in buck-skin, and apparently a couple of years younger than Redburn, came sauntering along at this juncture, and seeing an unoccupied chair at one end of the table (for Redburn and the gambler sat at the sides, facing each other), he took possession of it forthwith.
"Hello!" and the sharp swore roundly. "Who told you to mix in your lip, pilgrim?"
"Nobody, as I know of. Thought I'd squat right here, and watch your sleeves!" was the significant retort, and the youth laid a cocked six-shooter on the table in front of him.
"Go on, gentlemen; don't let me be the means of spoiling your fun."
The gambler uttered a curse, and dealt out the pasteboards.
The youth was watching him intently, with his sharp black eyes.
He was of medium hight, straight as an arrow, and clad in a loose-fitting costume. A broad sombrero was set jauntily upon the left side of his head, the hair of which had been cut close down to the scalp. His face—a pleasant, handsome, youthful face—was devoid of hirsute covering, he having evidently been recently handled by the barber.
The game between Mr. Redburn and the gambler progressed; the eyes of he whom we have just described were on the card sharp constantly.
The cards went down on the table in vigorous slaps, and at last, Mr. Pilgrim Redburn raked in the stakes.
"Thunder 'n' Moses!" ejaculated the sharp, pulling out his watch—an elegant affair, of pure gold, and studded with diamonds—and laying it forcibly down upon the table.
"There! what will you plank on that!"
Redburn took up the time-piece, turned it over and over in his hands, opened and shut it, gave a glance at the works, and then handed it over to the youth, whom he instinctively felt was his friend. Redburn had come from the East to dig gold, and therefore was a stranger in Deadwood.
"What is its money value?" he asked, familiarizing his tone. "Good, I suppose."
"Yes, perfectly good, and cheap at two hundred," was the unhesitating reply. "Do you lack funds, stranger?"
"Oh! no. I am three hundred ahead of this cuss yet, and—"
"You'd better quit where you are!" said the other, decisively. "You'll lose the next round, mark my word."
"Ha! ha!" laughed Redburn, who had begun to show symptoms of recklessness. "I'll take my chances. Here, you gamin, I'll cover the watch with two hundred dollars."
Without more ado the stakes were planked, the cards dealt, and the game began.
The youth, whom we will call Ned Harris, was not idle.
He took the revolvers from the table, changed his position so that his face was just in the opposite direction of what it had been, and commenced to pare his finger nails. The fingers were as white and soft as any girl's. In his hand he also held a strangely-angled little box, the sides of which were mirror-glass. Looking at his finger-nails he also looked into the mirror, which gave a complete view of the card-sharp, as he sat at the table.
Swiftly progressed the game, and no one could fail to see how it was going by watching the cunning light in the gambler's eye. At last the game-card went down, and next instant, after the sharp had raked in his stakes, a cocked revolver in either hand of Ned Harris covered the hearts of the two players.
"Hello!" gasped Redburn, quailing under the gaze of a cold steel tube—"what's the row, now?"
"Draw your revolver!" commanded Harris, sternly, having an eye on the card-sharp at the same time, "Come! don't be all night about it!"
Redburn obeyed; he had no other choice.
"Cock it and cover your man!"
"Who do you mean?"
"The cuss under my left-hand aim."
Again the "pilgrim" felt that he could not afford to do otherwise than obey.
So he took "squint" at the gambler's left breast after which Harris withdrew the siege of his left weapon, although he still covered the young Easterner, the same. Quietly he moved around to where the card-sharp sat, white and trembling.
"Gentlemen!" he yelled, in a clear, ringing voice, "will some of you step this way a moment?"
A crowd gathered around in a moment: then the youth resumed:
"Feller-citizens, all of you know how to play cards, no doubt. What is the penalty of cheating, out here in the Hills?"
For a few seconds the room was wrapt in silence; then a chorus of voices gave answer, using a single word:
"Exactly," said Harris, calmly. "When a sharp hides cards in Chinaman fashion up his sleeve, I reckon that's what you call cheatin', don't you?"
"That's the size of it," assented each bystander, grimly.
Ned Harris pressed his pistol-muzzle against the gambler's forehead, inserted his fingers in each of the capacious sleeves, and a moment later laid several high cards upon the table.
A murmur of incredulity went through the crowd of spectators. Even "pilgrim" Redburn was astonished.
After removing the cards, Ned Harris turned and leveled his revolver at the head of the young man from the East.
"Your name?" he said, briefly, "is—"
"Very well. Harry Redburn, that gambler under cover of your pistol is guilty of a crime, punishable in the Black Hills by death. As you are his victim—or, rather, were to be—it only remains for you to aim straight and rid your country of an A No. 1 dead-beat and swindler!"
"Oh! no!" gasped Redburn, horrified at the thought of taking the life of a fellow-creature—"I cannot, I cannot!"
"You can!" said Harris, sternly; "go on—you must salt that card-sharp, or I'll certainly salt you!"
A deathlike silence followed.
"One!" said Harris, after a moment.
Redburn grew very pale, but not paler was he than the card-sharp just opposite. Redburn was no coward; neither was he accustomed to the desperate character of the population of the Hills. Should he shoot the tricky wretch before him, he knew he should be always calling himself a murderer. On the contrary, in the natural laws of Deadwood, such a murder would be classed justice.
"Two!" said Ned Harris, drawing his pistol-hammer back to full cock. "Come, pilgrim, are you going to shoot?"
Another silence; only the low breathing of the spectators could be heard.
Redburn raised his pistol and fired—blindly and carelessly, not knowing or caring whither went the compulsory death-dealing bullet.
There was a heavy fall, a groan of pain, as the gambler dropped over on the floor; then for the space of a few seconds all was the wildest confusion throughout the mammoth saloon.
Revolvers were in every hand, knives flashed in the glare of the lamplight, curses and threats were in scores of mouths, while some of the vast surging crowd cheered lustily.
At the table Harry Redburn still sat, as motionless as a statue, the revolver still held in his hand, his face white, his eyes staring.
There he remained, the center of general attraction, with a hundred pair of blazing eyes leveled at him from every side.
"Come!" said Ned Harris, in a low tone, tapping him on the shoulder—"come, pardner; let's git out of this, for times will be brisk soon. You've wounded one of the biggest card-devils in the Hills, and he'll be rearin' pretty quick. Look! d'ye see that feller comin' yonder, who was preachin' from on top of the barrel, a bit ago? Well, that is Catamount Cass, an' he's a pard of Chet Diamond, the feller you salted, an' them fellers behind him are his gang. Come! follow me, Henry, and I'll nose our way out of here."
Redburn signified his readiness, and with a cocked six-shooter in either hand Ned Harris led the way.
SAD ANITA—THE MINE LOCATER—TROUBLE
Straight toward the door of the saloon he marched, the muzzles of the grim sixes clearing a path to him; for Ned Harris had become notorious in Deadwood for his coolness, courage and audacity. It had been said of him that he would "just es lief shute a man as ter look at 'im," and perhaps the speaker was not far from right.
Anyway, he led off through the savage-faced audience with a composure that was remarkable, and, strange to say, not a hand was raised to stop him until he came face to face with Catamount Cass and his gang; here was where the youth had expected molestation and hindrance, if anywhere.
Catamount Cass was a rough, illiterate "tough" of the mountain species, and possessed more brute courage than the general run of his type of men, and a bull-dog determination that made him all the more dangerous as an enemy.
Harry Redburn kept close at Ned Harris' heels, a cocked "six" in either hand ready for any emergency.
It took but a few moments before the two parties met, the "Cattymount" throwing out his foot to block the path.
"Hello!" roared the "tough," folding his huge knotty arms across his partially bared breast; "ho! ho! whoa up thar, pilgrims! Don' ye go ter bein' so fast. Fo'kes harn't so much in a hurry now-'days as they uster war. Ter be sure ther Lord manyfactered this futstool in seven days; sum times I think he did, an' then, ag'in, my geological ijees convince me he didn't."
"What has that to do with us?" demanded Ned, sternly. "I opine ye'd better spread, some of you, if you don't want me to run a canyon through your midst. Preach to some other pilgrim than me; I'm in a hurry!"
"Haw! haw! Yas, I obsarve ye be; but if ye're my meat, an' I think prob'ble ye be, I ain't a-goin' fer ter let yer off so nice and easy. P'arps ye kin tell who fired the popgun, a minnit ago, w'at basted my ole pard?"
"I shall not take trouble to tell!" replied Ned, fingering the trigger of his left six uneasily. "Ef you want to know who salted Chet Diamond, the worst blackleg, trickster and card-player in Dakota, all you've got to do is to go and ask him!"
"Hold!" cried Harry Redburn, stepping out from behind Harris; "I'll hide behind no man's shoulder. I salted the gambler—if you call shooting salting—and I'm not afraid to repeat the action by salting a dozen more just of his particular style."
Ned Harris was surprised.
He had set Redburn down as a faint-hearted, dubious-couraged counter-jumper from the East; he saw now that there was something of him, after all.
"Come on, young man!" and the young miner stepped forward a pace; "are you with me?"
"To the ears!" replied Harris, grimly.
The next instant the twain leaped forward and broke the barrier, and mid the crack of pistol-shots and shouts of rage, they cleared the saloon. Once outside, Ned Harris led the way.
"Come along!" he said, dodging along the shadowy side of the street; "we'll have to scratch gravel, for them up-range 'toughs' will follow us, I reckon. They're a game gang, and 'hain't the most desirable kind of enemies one could wish for. I'll take you over to my coop, and you can lay low there until this jamboree blows over. You'll have to promise me one thing, however, ere I can admit you as a member of my household."
"Certainly. What is it?" and Harry Redburn redoubled his efforts in order to keep alongside his swift-footed guide.
"Promise me that you will divulge nothing, no matter what you may see or hear. Also that, should you fall in love with one who is a member of my family, you will forbear and not speak of love to her."
"It is a woman, then?"
"Yes—a young lady."
"I will promise;—how can I afford to do otherwise, under the existing circumstances. But, tell me, why did you force me to shoot that gambler?"
"He was a rascal, and cheated you."
"I know; but I did not want his life; I am averse to bloodshed."
"So I perceived, and that made me all the more determined you should salivate him. You'll find before you're in the Hills long that it won't do to take lip or lead from any one. A green pilgrim is the first to get salted; I illustrated how to serve 'em!"
Redburn's eyes sparkled. He was just beginning to see into the different phases of this wild exciting life.
"Good!" he exclaimed, warmly. "I have much to thank you for. Did I kill that card-sharp?"
"No; you simply perforated him in the right side. This way."
They had been running straight up the main street. Now they turned a corner and darted down one that was dark and deserted.
A moment later a trim boyish figure stepped before them, from out of the shadow of a new frame building; a hand of creamy whiteness was laid upon the arm of Ned Harris.
"This way, pilgrims," said a low musical voice, and at the same instant a gust of wind lifted the jaunty sombrero from the speaker's head, revealing a most wonderful wealth of long glossy hair; "the 'toughs' are after you, and you cannot find a better place to coop than in here." The soft hand drew Ned Harris inside the building, which was finished, but unoccupied, and Redburn followed, nothing loth to get into a place of safety. So far, Deadwood had not impressed him favorably as being the most peaceable city within the scope of a continent.
Into an inner room of the building they went, and the door was closed behind them. The apartment was small and smelled of green lumber. A table and a few chairs comprised the furniture; a dark lantern burned suspended from the ceiling by a wire. Redburn eyed the strange youth as he and Harris were handed seats.
Of medium hight and symmetrically built; dressed in a carefully tanned costume of buck-skin, the vest being fringed with the fur of the mink; wearing a jaunty Spanish sombrero; boots on the dainty feet of patent leather, with tops reaching to the knees; a face slightly sun-burned, yet showing the traces of beauty that even excessive dissipation could not obliterate; eyes black and piercing; mouth firm, resolute, and devoid of sensual expression: hair of raven color and of remarkable length;—such was the picture of the youth as beheld by Redburn and Harris.
"You can remain here till you think it will be safe to again venture forth, gentlemen," and a smile—evidently a stranger there—broke out about the speaker's lips. "Good-evening!" "Good-evening!" nodded Harris, with a quizzical stare. The next moment the youth was gone.
"Who was that chap?" asked Redburn, not a little bewildered.
"That?—why that's Calamity Jane!"
"Calamity Jane? What a name."
"Yes, she's an odd one. Can ride like the wind, shoot like a sharp-shooter, and swear like a trooper. Is here, there and everywhere, seemingly all at one time. Owns this coop and two or three other lots in Deadwood; a herding ranch at Laramie, an interest in a paying placer claim near Elizabeth City, and the Lord only knows how much more."
"But it is not a woman?"
"Reckon 'tain't nothin' else."
"God forbid that a child of mine should ever become so debased and—"
"Hold! there are yet a few redeeming qualities about her. She was ruined—" and here a shade dark as a thunder-cloud passed over Ned Harris' face—"and set adrift upon the world, homeless and friendless; yet she has bravely fought her way through the storm, without asking anybody's assistance. True, she may not now have a heart; that was trampled upon, years ago, but her character has not suffered blemish since the day a foul wretch stole away her honor!"
"What is her real name?"
"I do not know; few in Deadwood do. It is said, however, that she comes of a Virginia City, Nevada, family of respectability and intelligence."
At this juncture there was a great hubbub outside, and instinctively the twain drew their revolvers, expecting that Catamount Cass and his toughs had discovered their retreat, and were about to make an attack. But soon the gang were beard to tramp away, making the night hideous with their hoarse yells.
"They'll pay a visit to every shanty in Deadwood," said Harris, with a grim smile, "and if they don't find us, which they won't, they'll h'ist more than a barrel of bug-juice over their defeat. Come, let's be going."
They left the building and once more emerged onto the darkened street, Ned taking the lead.
"Follow me, now," he said, tightening his belt, "and we'll get home before sunrise, after all."
He struck out up the gulch, or, rather, down it, for his course lay southward. Redburn followed, and in fifteen minutes the lights of Deadwood—magic city of the wilderness—were left behind. Harris led the way along the rugged mountain stage-road, that, after leaving Deadwood on its way to Camp Crook and Custer City in the south, runs alternately through deep, dark canyons and gorges, with an ease and rapidity that showed him to be well acquainted with the route. About three miles below Deadwood he struck a trail through a transverse canyon running north-west, through which flowed a small stream, known as Brown's creek. The bottom was level and smooth, and a brisk walk of a half-hour brought them to where a horse was tied to an alder sapling.
"You mount and ride on ahead until you come to the end of the canyon," said Harris, untying the horse. "I will follow on after you, and be there almost as soon as you."
Redburn would have offered some objections, but the other motioned for him to mount and be off, so he concluded it best to obey.
The animal was a fiery one, and soon carried him out of sight of Ned, whom he left standing in the yellow moonlight. Sooner than he expected the gorge came to an abrupt termination in the face of a stupendous wall of rock, and nothing remained to do but wait for young Harris.
He soon came, trotting leisurely up, only a trifle flushed in countenance.
"This way!" he said, and seizing the animal by the bit he led horse and rider into a black, gaping fissure in one side of the canyon, that had hitherto escaped Redburn's notice. It was a large, narrow, subterranean passage, barely large enough to admit the horse and rider. Redburn soon was forced to dismount and bring up the rear.
"How far do we journey in this shape?" he demanded, after what seemed to him a long while.
"No further," replied Ned, and the next instant they emerged into a small, circular pocket in the midst of the mountains—one of those beauteous flower-strewn valleys which are often found in the Black Hills.
This "pocket," as they are called, consisted of perhaps fifty acres, walled in on every side by rugged mountains as steep, and steeper, in some places, than a house-roof. On the western side Brown's creek had its source, and leaped merrily down from ledge to ledge into the valley, across which it flowed, sinking into the earth on the eastern side, only to bubble up again, in the canyon, with renewed strength.
The valley was one vast, indiscriminate bed of wild, fragrant flowers, whose volume of perfume was almost sickening when first greeting the nostrils. Every color and variety imaginable was here, all in the most perfect bloom. In the center of the valley stood a log-cabin, overgrown with clinging vines. There was a light in the window, and Harris pointed toward it, as, with young Redburn, he emerged from the fissure.
"There's my coop, pilgrim. There you will be safe for a time, at least." He unsaddled the horse and set it free to graze.
Then they set off down across the slope, arriving at the cabin in due time.
The door was open; a young woman, sweet, yet sad-faced, was seated upon the steps, fast asleep.
Redburn gave an involuntary cry of incredulity and admiration as his eyes rested upon the picture—upon the pure, sweet face, surrounded by a wealth of golden, glossy hair, and the sylph-like form, so perfect in every contour. But a charge of silence from Harris, made him mute.
The young man knelt by the side of the sleeping girl and imprinted a kiss upon the fresh, unpolluted lips, which caused the sleeping beauty to smile in her dreams.
A moment later, however, she opened her eyes and sprung to her feet with a startled scream.
"Oh, Ned!" she gasped, trembling, as she saw him, "how you frightened me. I had a dream—oh, such a sweet dream! and I thought he came and kissed—"
Suddenly did she stop as, for the first time, her penetrating blue eyes rested upon Harry Blackburn.
A moment she gazed at him as in a sort of fascination; then, with a low cry, began to retreat, growing deathly pale. Ned Harris stepped quickly forward and supported her on his arm.
"Be calm, Anita," he said, in a gentle, reassuring tone. "This is a young gentleman whom I have brought here to our home for a few days until it will be safe for him to be seen in Deadwood. Mr. Redburn, I make you acquainted with Anita."
A courteous bow from Redburn, a slight inclination of Anita's head, and the introduction was made. A moment later the three entered the cabin, a model of neatness and primitive luxury.
"How is it that you are up so early, dear?" young Harris asked, as he unbuckled his belt and hung it upon a peg in the wall. "You are rarely as spry, eh?"
"Indeed! I have not been to bed at all," replied the girl, a weary smile wreathing her lips. "I was nervous, and feared something was going to happen, so I staid up."
"Your old plea—the presentiment of coming danger, I suppose," and the youth laughed, gayly. "But you need not fear. No one will invade our little Paradise, right away. What is your opinion of it, Redburn?"
"I should say not. I think this little mountain retreat is without equal," replied Harry, with enthusiasm. "The only wonder is, how did you ever stumble into such a delightful place."
"Of that I will perhaps tell you, another time," said Harris, musingly.
Day soon dawned over the mountains, and the early morning sunlight fell with charming effect into the little "pocket," with its countless thousands of odorous flowers, and the little ivy-clad cabin nestling down among them all.
Sweet, sad-faced Anita prepared a sumptuous morning repast out of antelope-steak and the eggs of wild birds, with dainty side dishes of late summer berries, and a large luscious melon which had been grown on a cultivated patch, contiguous to the cabin.
Both Harris and his guest did ample justice to the meal, for they had neither eaten anything since the preceding noon. When they had finished, Ned arose from the table, saying: "Pardner, I shall leave you here for a few days, during which time I shall probably be mostly away on business. Make yourself at home and see that Anita is properly protected; I will return in a week at the furthest;—perhaps in a day or two."
He took down his rifle and belt from the wall, buckled on the latter, and half an hour later left the "pocket." That was a day of days to Harry Redburn. He rambled about the picturesque little valley, romped on the luxuriant grass and gathered wild flowers, alternately. At night he sat in the cabin door and listened to the cries of the night birds and the incessant hooting of the mountain owls (which by the way, are very abundant throughout the Black Hills.)
All efforts to engage Anita in conversation proved fruitless.
On the following day both were considerably astonished to perceive that there was a stranger in their Paradise;—a bow-legged, hump-backed, grisly little old fellow, who walked with a staff. He approached the cabin, and Redburn went out to find who he was.
"Gude-mornin'!" nodded General Nix, (for it was he) with a grin. "I jes' kim over inter this deestrict ter prospect fer gold. Don' seem ter recognize yer unkle, eh? boy; I'm Nix Walsingham Nix, Esquire, geological surveyor an' mine-locater. I've located more nor forty thousan' mines in my day, more or less—ginerally a consider'ble more of less than less of more. I perdict frum ther geological formation o' this nest an' a dream I hed last night, thet thar's sum uv ther biggest veins right in this yere valley as ye'll find in ther Hills!"
"Humph! no gold here," replied Redburn, who had already learned from study and experience how to guess a fat strike. "It is out of the channel."
"No; et's right in the channel."
"Well, I'll not dispute you. How did you get into the valley?"
"Through ther pass," and the General chuckled approvingly. "See'd a feller kim down ther canyon, yesterday, so I nosed about ter find whar he kim from, that's how I got here; 'sides, I hed a dream about this place."
"Indeed!" Redburn was puzzled how to act under the circumstances. Just then there came a piercing scream from the direction of the cabin.
What could it mean? Was Nix an enemy, and was some one else of his gang attacking Anita?
Certainly she was in trouble!
SITTING BULL—THE FAIR CAPTIVE.
Fearless Frank stepped back aghast, as he saw the inhuman chief of the Sioux—the cruel, grim-faced warrior, Sitting Bull; shrunk back, and laid his hand upon the butt of a revolver.
"Ha!" he articulated, "is that you, chief? You, and at such work as this?" there was stern reproach in the youth's tone, and certain it is that the Sioux warrior heard the words spoken.
"My friend, Scarlet Boy, is keen with the tongue," he said, frowning. "Let him put shackles upon it, before it leaps over the bounds of reason."
"I see no reason why I should not speak in behalf of yon suffering girl!" retorted the youth, fearlessly, "on whom you have been inflicting one of the most inhuman tortures Indian cunning could conceive. For shame, chief, that you should ever assent to such an act—lower yourself to the grade of a dog by such a dastard deed. For shame, I say!"
Instantly the form of the great warrior straightened up like an arrow, and his painted hand flew toward the pistols in his belt.
But the succeeding second he seemed to change his intention; his hand went out toward the youth in greeting:
"The Scarlet Boy is right," he said, with as much graveness as a red-skin can conceive. "Sitting Bull listens to his words as he would to those of a brother. Scarlet Boy is no stranger in the land of the Sioux; he is the friend of the great chief and his warriors. Once when the storm-gods were at war over the pine forests and picture rocks of the Hills; when the Great Spirit was sending fiery messengers down in vivid streaks from the skies, the Big Chief cast a thunderbolt in playfulness at the feet of Sitting Bull. The shock of the hand of the Great Spirit did not escape me; for hours I lay like one slain in battle. My warriors were in consternation; they ran hither and thither in affright, calling on the Manitou to preserve their chief. You came, Scarlet Boy, in the midst of all the panic;—came, and though then but a stripling, you applied simple remedies that restored Sitting Bull to the arms of his warriors.[A]
"From that hour Sitting Bull was your friend—is your friend, now, and will be as long as the red-men exist as a tribe."
"Thank you, chief;" and Fearless Frank grasped the Indian's hand and wrung it warmly. "I believe you mean all you say. But I am surprised to find you engaged at such work as this. I have been told that Sitting Bull made war only on warriors—not on women."
An ugly frown darkened the savage's face—a frown wherein was depicted a number of slumbering passions.
"The pale-face girl is the last survivor of a train that the warriors of Sitting Bull attacked in Red Canyon. Sitting Bull lost many warriors; yon pale squaw shot down full a half-score before she could be captured; she belongs to the warriors of Sitting Bull, and not to the great chief himself."
"Yet you have the power to free her—to yield her up to me. Consider, chief; are you not enough my friend that you can afford to give me the pale-face girl? Surely, she has been tortured sufficiently to satisfy your braves' thirst for vengeance."
Sitting Bull was silent.
"What will the Scarlet Boy do with the fair maiden of his tribe?"
"Bear her to a place of safety, chief, and care for her until I can find her friends—probably she has friends in the East."
"It shall be as he says. Sitting Bull will withdraw his braves and Scarlet Boy can have the red-man's prize."
A friendly hand-shake between the youth and the Sioux chieftain, a word from the latter to the grim painted warriors, and the next instant the glade was cleared of the savages.
Fearless Frank then hastened to approach the insensible captive, and, with a couple sweeps of his knife, cut the bonds that held her to the torture-stake. Gently he laid her on the grass, and arranged about her half-nude form the garments Sitting Bull's warriors had torn off, and soon he had the satisfaction of seeing her once more clothed properly. It still remained for him to restore her to consciousness, and this promised to be no easy task, for she was in a dead swoon. She was even more beautiful of face and figure than one would have imagined at a first glance. Of a delicate blonde complexion, with pink-tinged cheeks, she made a very pretty picture, her face framed as it was in a wild disheveled cloud of auburn hair.
A hatful of cold water from a neighboring spring dashed into her upturned face; a continued chafing of the pure white soft hands; then there was a convulsive twitching of the features, a low moan, and the eyes opened and darted a glance of affright into the face of the Scarlet Boy.
"Fear not, miss;" and the youth gently supported her to a sitting posture. "I am a friend, and your cruel captors have vamosed. Lucky I came along just as I did, or it's likely they'd have killed you."
"Oh! sir, how can I ever thank you for rescuing me from those merciless fiends!" and the maiden gave him a grateful glance. "They whipped me, terribly!"
"I know, lady—all because you defended yourself in Red Canyon."
"I suppose so: but how did you find out so much, and, also, effect my release from the savages?"
Fearless Frank leaned up against the tree which had been used as the torture-stake, and related what is already known to the reader.
When he had finished, the rescued captive seized his hand between both her own, and thanked him warmly.
"Had it not been for you, sir, no one but our God knows what would have been my fate. Oh! sir, what can I do, more than to thank you a thousand times, to repay you for the great service you have rendered me?"
"Nothing, lady; nothing that I think of at present. Was it not my duty, while I had the power, to free you from the hands of those barbarians? Certainly it was, and I deserve no thanks. But tell me, what is your name, and were your friends all killed in the train from which you were taken?"
"I had no friends, sir, save a lady whose acquaintance I made on the journey out from Cheyenne. As to my name—you can call me Miss Terry."
"Mystery!" in blank amazement.
"Yes;" with a gay laugh—"Mystery, if you choose. My name is Alice Terry."
"Oh!" and the youth began to brighten. "Miss Terry, to be sure; Mystery! ha! ha! good joke. I shall call you the latter. Have you friends and relatives East?"
"No. I came West to meet my father, who is somewhere in the Black Hills."
"Do you know at what place?"
"I do not."
"I fear it will be a hard matter to find him, then. The Hills now have a floating population of about twenty-five thousand souls. Your father would be one to find out of that lot."
A faint smile came over the girl's face. "I should know papa among fifty thousand, if necessary;" she said, "although I have not seen him for years."
She failed to mention how many, or what peculiarities she would recognize him by. Was he blind, deaf or dumb?
Fearless Frank glanced around him, and saw that a path rugged and steep led up to the prairie above.
"Come," he said, offering his arm, "we will get up to the plains and go."
"Where to?" asked Miss Terry, rising with an effort. The welts across her back were swollen and painful.
"Deadwood is my destination. I can deviate my course, however, if it will accommodate you."
"Oh! no; you must not inconvenience yourself on my account. I am of little or no consequence, you know."
She leaned upon his arm, and they ascended the path to the plain above.
Frank's horse was grazing near by where the scarlet youth had taken his unceremonious tumble.
Off to the north-west a cloud of dust rose heavenward, and he rightly conjectured that it hid from view the chieftain, Sitting Bull, and his warriors.
His thoughts reverting to his companion, "General" Nix, and the train of Charity Joe, he glanced toward where he had last seen them.
Neither were to be seen, now. Probably Nix had rejoined the train, and it was out of eye-shot behind a swell in the plains.
"Were you looking for some one?" Alice asked, looking into her rescuer's face.
"Yes, I was with a train when I first heard your cries; I left the boys, and came to investigate. I guess they have gone on without me."
"How mean of them! Will we have to make the journey to the Hills alone?"
"Yes, unless we should providentially fall in with a train or be overtaken by a stage."
"Are you not afraid?"
"My cognomen is Fearless Frank, lady; you can draw conclusions from that."
He went and caught the horse, arranged a blanket in the saddle so that she could ride side-fashion, and assisted her to mount.
The sun was touching the lips of the horizon with a golden kiss; more time than Frank had supposed' had elapsed since he left the train.
Far off toward the east shadows were hugging close behind the last lingering rays of sunlight; a couple of coyotes were sneaking into view a few rods away; birds were winging homeward; a perfume-laden breeze swept down from the Black Hills, and fanned the pink cheeks of Alice Terry into a vivid glow.
"We cannot go far," said Frank, thoughtfully, "before darkness will overtake us. Perhaps we had better remain in the canal, here, where there is both grass and water. In the morning we will take a fresh start."
The plan was adopted; they camped in the break, or "canal," near where Alice had been tortured.
Out of his saddle-bags Frank brought forth crackers, biscuit and dried venison; these, with clear sparkling water from the spring in the chaparral, made a meal good enough for anybody.
The night was warm; no fire was needed.
A blanket spread on the grass served as a resting-place for Alice; the strange youth in scarlet lay with his head resting against the side of his horse. The least movement of the animal, he said, would arouse him; he was keen of scent and quick to detect danger—meaning the horse.
The night passed away without incident; as early as four o'clock—when it is daylight on the plains—Fearless Frank was astir.
Be found the rivulet flowing from the spring to abound with trout, and caught and dressed the morning meal.
Alice was awake by the time breakfast was ready. She bathed her face and hands in the stream, combed her long auburn hair through her fingers, and looked sweeter than on the previous night—at least, so thought Fearless Frank.
"The day promises to be delightful, does it not?" she remarked, as she seated herself to partake of the repast.
"Exactly. Autumn months are ever enjoyable in the West."
The meal dispatched, no delay was made in leaving the place.
Fearless Frank strode along beside his horse and its fair rider, chatting pleasantly, and at the same time making a close observation of his surroundings. He knew he was in parts frequented by both red and white savages, and it would do no harm to keep on one's guard.
They traveled all day and reached Sage creek at sunset.
Here they remained over night, taking an early start on the succeeding morning.
That day they made good progress, in consequence of Frank's purchase of a horse at Sage creek from some friendly Crow Indians, and darkness overtook them at the mouth of Red Canyon, where they went into camp.
By steady pushing they reached Rapid creek the next night, for no halt was made at Custer City, and for the first time since leaving the torture-ground, camped with a miner's family. As yet no cabins or shanties had been erected here, canvas tents serving in the stead; to-day there are between fifty and a hundred wooden structures.
Alice was charmed with the wild grandeur of the mountain scenery—with the countless acres of blossoms and flowering shrubs—with the romantic and picturesque surroundings in general, and was very emphatic in her praises.
One day of rest was taken at Rapid Creek; then the twain pushed on, and when night again overtook them, they rode into the bustling, noisy, homely metropolis—Deadwood, magic city of the North-west.
ONLY A SNAKE—LOCATING A MINE.
Harry Redburn hurried off toward the cabin, which was some steps away. In Anita's scream there were both terror and affright.
Walsingham Nix, the hump-backed, bow-legged explorer and prospecter hobbled after him, using his staff for support.
He had heard the scream, but years' experience among the "gals" taught him that a feminine shriek rarely, if ever, meant anything.
Redburn arrived at the cabin in a few flying bounds, and leaped into the kitchen.
There, crouched upon the floor in one corner, all in a little heap, pale, tumbling and terrified, was Anita. Before her, squirming along over the sand-scrubbed floor, evidently disabled by a blow, was an enormous black-snake.
It was creeping away instead of toward Anita, leaving a faint trail of crimson in its wake; yet the young girl's face was blanched with fear.
"You screamed at that?" demanded Redburn, pointing to the coiling serpent.
"Ugh! yes; it is horrible."
"But, it is harmless. See: some one has given it a blow across the back, and it is disabled for harm."
Anita looked up into his handsome face, wonderingly.
"I guv et a rap across the spinal column, when I kim into the valley," said General Nix, thrusting his head in at the door, a ludicrous grin elongating his grisly features. "'Twar a-goin' ter guv me a yard or so uv et's tongue, more or less—consider'bly less of more than more of less—so I jest salivated it across ther back, kerwhack!"
Anita screamed again as she saw the General, he was so rough and homely.
"Who are you?" she managed to articulate as Redburn assisted her to rise from the floor. "What are you doing here, where you were not invited?"
There was a degree of haughtiness in her tone that Redburn did not dream she possessed.
The "General" rubbed the end of his nose, chuckled audibly, then laughed, outright.
"I opine this ar' a free country, ain't it, marm, more or less? When a feller kerflummuxes rite down onter a payin' streek I opine he's goin' ter roost that till he gits reddy to vamoose, ain't he?"
"But, sir, my brother was the first to discover this spot and build us a home here, and he claims that all belongs to him."
"He do? more or less—consider'bly less of more than more uv less, eh? Yas, I kno' yer brother—leastways hev seen him an' heerd heeps about him. Letters uv his name spell Ned Harris, not?"
"Yes, sir; but how can you know him? Few do, in Deadwood."
"Nevyer mind that, my puss. Ole Walsingham Nix do kno' a few things yet, ef he ar' a hard old nut fer w'ich thar is not cra'kin'."
Anita looked at Redburn, doubtfully.
"Brother would be very angry if he were to return and find this man here, what would you advise?"
"I am of the opinion that he will have to vacate," replied Harry, decidedly.
"Nix cum-a-rouse!" disagreed the old prospecter. "I'm hayr, an' thar's no yearthly use o' denyin that. Barrin' ye ar' a right peart-lookin' kid, stranger, allow me ter speculate thet it would take a dozen, more or less—consider'bly less uv more than more o' less—ter put me out."
Redburn laughed heartily. The old fellow's bravado amused him. Anita however, was silent; she put dependence in her protector to arrange matters satisfactorily.
"That savors strongly of rebellion," Redburn observed, sitting down upon a lounge that stood hard by. "Besides, you have an advantage; I would not attack you; you are old and unfitted for combat; deformed and unable to do battle."
"Exactly!" the "General" confidently announced.
"What good can come of your remaining here?" demanded Anita.
"Sit down, marm, sit down, an I'll perceed ter divest myself uv w'at little information I've got stored up in my noddle. Ye see, mum, my name's Walsingham Nix, at yer sarvice—Walsingham bein' my great, great grandad's fronticepiece, while Nix war ther hind-wheeler, like nor w'at a he-mule ar' w'en hitched ter a 'schooner.' Ther Nix family were a great one, bet yer false teeth; originated about ther time Joner swallered the whale, down nigh Long Branch, and 've bin handed down frum time ter time till ye behold in me ther last surrivin' pilgrim frum ther ancestral block. Thar was one remarkable pecooliarity about ther Nix family, frum root ter stump, an' ther war, they war nevyer known ter refuse a gift or an advantageous offer; in this respeck they bore a striking resemblance ter the immortell G'orge Washington. G'orge war innercent; he ked never tell a lie. So war our family; they never hed it in their hearts to say Nix to an offer uv a good feed or a decoction o' brandy.
"It war a disease—a hereditary affection uv ther hull combined system. The terrible malady attacked me w'en I war an infant prodigy, an' I've nevyer yit see'd thet time when I c'u'd resist the temptation an' coldly say 'nix' w'en a brother pilgrim volunteered ter make a liberal dispensation uv grub, terbarker, or bug-juice. Nix ar' a word thet causes sorrer an' suffering ter scores 'n' scores o' people, more or less—generally more uv less than less o' more—an' tharfore I nevyer feel it my duty, as a Christyun, ter set a bad example w'ich others may foller."
Redburn glanced toward Anita, a quizzical expression upon his genial face.
"I fail to see how that has any reference as to the cause of your stay among us," he observed, amused at the quaint lingo of the prospector.
"Sart'in not, sart'in not! I had just begun ter git thar. I've only bin gi'in' ye a geological ijee uv ther Nix family's formation; I'll now perceed to illustrate more clearly, thr'u' veins an' channels hitherto unexplored, endin' up wi' a reg'lar hoss-car proposal."
Then the old fellow proceeded with a rambling "yarn," giving more guesses than actual information and continued on in this strain:
"So thar war gold. I went ter work an' swallered a pill o' opium, w'ich made me sleep, an' while I whar snoozin' I dreampt about ther perzact place whar thet gold war secreted. It war in a little pocket beneath the bed of a spring frum which flowed a little creeklet.
"Next mornin', bright an' early, I shouldered pick, shuvyel an' pan, an' went for thet identical spring. To-day thet pocket, havin' been traced into a rich vein, is payin' as big or bigger nor any claim on Spring creek."[B]
Both Redburn and Anita were unconsciously becoming interested.
"And do you think there is gold here, in this flower-strewn pocket-valley?"
"I don't think it—I know it. I hed a dreem et war hayr in big quantities, so I h'isted my carcass this direction. Ter-nite I'll hev ernuther nighthoss, an' thet'll tell me precisely where ther strike ar'."
Redburn drummed a tattoo on the arm of the lounge his fingers; he was reflecting on what he had heard.
"You are willing to make terms, I suppose," he said, after a while, glancing at Anita to see if he was right. "You are aware, I believe, that we still hold possession above any one else."
"True enuff. Ye war first ter diskiver this place ye orter hev yer say about it."
"Well, then, perhaps we can come to a bargain. You can state your prices for locating and opening up this mine, and we will consider."
"Wal, let me see. Ef the mine proves to be ekal ter the one thet I located on Spring creek, I'll take in a third fer my share uv the divys. Ef 'tain't good's I expect, I'll take a quarter."
Redburn turned to Anita.
"From what little experience I have had, I think it is a fair offer. What is your view of the matter and do you believe your brother will be satisfied?"
"Oh! yes, sir. It will surprise and please him, to return and find his Paradise has been turned into a gold-mine."
"All right; then, we will go ahead and get things to shape. We will have to get tools, though, before we can accomplish much of anything."
"My brother has a miner's outfit here," said Anita. "That will save you a trip to Deadwood, for the present."
And so it was all satisfactorily arranged. During the remainder of the day the old "General" and Redburn wandered about through the flower-meadows of the pocket, here and there examining a little soil now chipping rock among the rugged foothills, then "feeling" in the bed of the creek. But, not a sign of anything like gold was to be found, and when night called them to shelter, Redburn was pretty thoroughly convinced that Nix was an enormous "sell," and that he could put all the gold they would find in his eye. The "General," however, was confident of success, and told many doubtful yarns of former discoveries and exploits.
Anita prepared an evening meal that was both tempting and sumptuous, and all satisfied their appetites after which Harry took down the guitar, suspended from the wall, tuned it up, and sung in a clear mellow voice a number of ballads, to which the "General," much to the surprise of both Redburn and Anita, lent a rich deep bass—a voice of superior culture.
The closing piece was a weird melody—the lament of a heart that was broken, love-blasted—and was rendered in a style worthy of a professional vocalist. The last mournful strains filled the cabin just as the last lingering rays of sunlight disappeared from the mountain top, and shadows came creeping down the rugged walls of rock to concentrate in the Flower Pocket, as Anita had named her valley home. Redburn rose from his seat at the window, and reached the instrument to its accustomed shelf, darting a glance toward sad Anita, a moment later. To his surprise he perceived that her head was bowed upon her arm that lay along the window-ledge—that she was weeping, softly, to herself.
Acting the gentlemanly part, the young miner motioned for Nix to follow him, and they both retired to the outside of the cabin to lounge on the grass and smoke, and thus Anita was left alone with her grief and such troubles as were the causes thereof.
Certain it was that she had a secret, but what it was Redburn could not guess.
About ten o'clock he and Nix re-entered the cabin and went to bed in a room allotted to them, off from the little parlor. Both went to sleep at once, and it was well along toward morning when Redburn was aroused by being rudely shaken by "General" Nix, who was up and dressed, and held a torch in his hand.
"Come! come!" he said in a husky whisper, and a glance convinced Harry that he was still asleep, although his eyes were wide open and staring.
Without a word the young man leaped from bed, donned his garments, and the old man then led the way out of the cabin.
In passing through the kitchen, Redburn saw that Anita was up and waiting.
"Come!" he said, seizing a hatchet and stake, "we are about to discover the gold-mine, and our fortunes;" with a merry laugh.
Then both followed in the wake of the sleep walker, and were led to near the center of the valley, which was but a few steps in the rear of the cabin. Here was a bed of sand washed there from an overflow of the stream, and at this the "General" pointed, as he came to a halt.
"There! there is the gold—millions of it deep down—twenty or thirty feet—in sand—easy to get! dig! DIG! DIG!"
Redburn marked the spot by driving the stake in the ground.
It now only remained to dig in the soil to verify the truth of the old man's fancy.
[Footnote A: A fact.]
DEADWOOD DICK ON THE ROAD.
Rumbling noisily through the black canyon road to Deadwood, at an hour long past midnight, came the stage from Cheyenne, loaded down with passengers, and full five hours late, on account of a broken shaft, which had to be replaced on the road. There were six plunging, snarling horses attached, whom the veteran Jehu on the box, managed with the skill of a circusman, and all the time the crack! snap! of his long-lashed gad made the night resound as like so many pistol reports.
The road was through a wild tortuous canyon, fringed with tall spectral pines, which occasionally admitted a bar of ghostly moonlight across the rough road over which the stage tore with wild recklessness.
Inside, the vehicle was crammed full to its utmost capacity, and therefrom emanated the strong fumes of whisky and tobacco smoke, and stronger language, over the delay and the terrible jolting of the conveyance.
In addition to those penned up inside, there were two passengers positioned on top, to the rear of the driver, where they clung to the trunk railings to keep from being jostled off.
One was an elderly man, tall in stature and noticeably portly, with a florid countenance, cold gray eyes, and hair and beard of brown, freely mixed with silvery threads. He was elegantly attired, his costume being of the finest cloth and of the very latest cut: boots patent leathers, and hat glossy as a mirror; diamonds gleamed and sparkled on his immaculate shirt-bosom, on his fingers and from the seal of a heavy gold chain across his vest front.
The other personage was a counterpart of the first to every particular, save that while one was more than a semi-centenarian to years, the other was barely twenty. The same faultless elegance in dress, the same elaborate display of jewels, and the same haughty, aristocratic bearing produced in one was mirrored to the other.
They were father and son.
"Confound such a road!" growled the younger man, as the stage bounced him about like a rubber ball. "For my part I wish I had remained at home, instead of coming out into this outlandish region. It is perfectly awful."
"Y-y-y-e-s!" chattered the elder between the jolts and jerks—"it is not what it should be, that's true. But have patience; ere long we will reach our destination, and—"
"Get shot like poor Vansevere did!" sneered the other. "I tell you, governor, this is a desperate game you are playing."
The old man smiled, grimly.
"Desperate or not, we must carry it through to the end. Vansevere was not the right kind of a man to set after the young scamp."
"How do you mean?"
"He was too rash—entirely too rash. Deadwood Dick is a daring whelp, and Vansevere's open offer of a reward for his apprehension only put the young tiger on his guard, and he will be more wary and watchful in the future."
This in a positive tone.
"Yes; he will be harder to trap than a fox who has lost a foot between jaws of steel. He will be revengeful, too!"
"Bah! I fear him not, old as I am. He is but a boy in years, you remember, and will be easily managed."
"I hope so; I don't want my brains blown out, at least."
The stage rumbled on; the Jehu cursed and lashed his horses; the canyon grew deeper, narrower and darker, the grade slightly descending.
The moon seemed resting on the summit of a peak, hundreds of feet above, and staring down in surprise at the noisy stage.
Alexander Filmore (the elder passenger) succeeded in steadying himself long enough to ignite the end of a cigar to the bowl of Jehu's grimy pipe; then he watched the trees that flitted by. Clarence, his son, had smoked incessantly since leaving Camp Crook, and now threw away his half-used cheroot, and listened to the sighing of the spectral pines.
"The girl—what about her?" he asked, after some moments had elapsed.
"She will be as much to the way as the boy will."
"She? Well, we'll attend to her after we git him out of the way. He is the worst obstacle to our path, at present. Maybe when you see the girl you will take a fancy to her."
"Pish! I want no petticoats clinging to me—much less an ignorant backwoods clodhopper. She is probably a fit mate for an Indian chief."
"You are too rough on the tender sex, boy," and the elder Filmore gave vent to a disconnected laugh. "You must remember that your mother was a woman."
"Was she?" Clarence bit the end of his waxed mustache, and mused over his sire's startling announcement. "You recollect that I never saw her."
"D'ye carry poppin'-jays, pilgrims?" demanded Jehu, turning so suddenly upon the two passengers as to frighten them out of their wits.
"Popping-jays?" echoed Filmore, senior.
"Yas—shutin'-irons—rewolvers—patent perforatin' masheens."
"Yes, we are armed, if that is what you mean."
On dashed the stage through the echoing canyon—on plunged the snorting horses, excited to greater efforts by the frequent application of the cracking lash. The pines grew thicker, and the moonlight less often darted its rays down athwart the road.
"Hey!" yelled a rough voice from within the stage "w'at d'ye drive so fast fer? Ye've jonced the senses clean out uv a score o' us."
"Go to blazes!" shouts back Jehu, giving an extra crack to his whip. "Who'n the name o' John Rodgers ar' drivin' this omnybust, pilgrim?—you or I?"
"You'll floor a hoss ef ye don' mind sharp!"
"Who'n thunder wants ye to pay fer et, ef I do?" rings back, tauntingly. "Reckon w'en Bill McGucken can't drive ther thru-ter-Deadwood stage as gude as ther average, he'll suspend bizness, or hire you ter steer to his place."
On, on rumbles the stage, down through a lower grade of the canyon, where no moonlight penetrates, and all is of Stygian darkness.
The two passengers on top of the stage shiver with dread, and even old Bill McGucken peers around him, a trifle suspiciously.
It is a wild spot, with the mountains rising on each side of the road to a stupendous hight, the towering pines moaning their sad, eternal requiem; the roar of the great wheels over the hardpan bottom; the snorting of the fractious lead-horses; the curses and the cracking of Jehu's whip; the ring of iron-shod hoofs—it is a place and moment conducive to fear, mute wonder, admiration.
High above all other sounds now rings this cry, borne toward the advancing stage from the impenetrable space of gloom ahead, brought down in clear commanding tone whereto there is neither fear nor hesitation.
That one word has marvelous effect. It brings a gripe of iron into the hands of Jehu, and he jerks his snorting steeds back upon their haunches; it is instrumental in stopping the stage. (Who ever knew a Black Hills driver to offer to press on when challenged to halt to a wild dismal place?)
It sends a thrill of lonely horror through the vein of those to whose ears the cry is borne; it causes hands to fly to the butts of weapons, and hearts to beat faster.
"Halt!" Again the cry rings forth, reverberating in a hundred dissimilar echoes up the rugged mountain side.
The horses quiet down: Jehu sits like a carved statue on his box; the silence becomes painful to those within the stage—those who are trembling in a fever of excitement, and peering from the open windows with revolvers cocked for instant use.
The moon suddenly thrusts her golden head over the pinnacle of a hoary peak a thousand feet above and lights up the gorge with a ghastly distinctness that enables the watchers to behold a black horseman blocking the path a few rods ahead.
"Silence! Listen!" Two words this time, in the same clear, commanding voice. A pause of a moment, then the stillness is broken by the ominous click! click! of a score of rifles; this alone announces that the stage is "covered."