FRONTIER BOYS IN FRISCO
CAPT. WYN ROOSEVELT
Illustrated by Rudolf Mencl
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THE FRONTIER BOYS
By CAPT. WYN ROOSEVELT
This series tells the adventures of Jim, Joe, and Tom Darlington, first in their camp wagon as they follow the trail to the great West in the early days. They are real American boys, resourceful, humorous, and—but you must meet them. You will find them interesting company. They meet with thrilling adventures and encounters, and stirring incidents are the rule, not exception.
Historically, these books present a true picture of a period in our history as important as it was picturesque, when the nation set its face toward this vast unknown West, and conquered it.
1. Frontier Boys on Overland Trail 2. Frontier Boys in Colorado 3. Frontier Boys in the Rockies 4. Frontier Boys in the Grand Canyon 5. Frontier Boys in Mexico 6. Frontier Boys on the Coast 7. Frontier Boys in Hawaii 8. Frontier Boys in the Sierras 9. Frontier Boys in the Saddle 10. Frontier Boys in Frisco 11. Frontier Boys in the South Seas
Illustrated, 12mo, Cloth Price per Volume, 50 Cents
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Copyright, 1911, by The Platt & Peck Co.
I. On the Engine 9 II. A Hold Up 17 III. Jim Takes a Chance 24 IV. The Girl and the Engineer 32 V. The Menu 40 VI. An Old Acquaintance 48 VII. Where was He? 56 VIII. In Frisco 64 IX. The Watcher 71 X. The Chase Begins 79 XI. The Chase Continued 87 XII. The Castle 95 XIII. The Man in the Gully 103 XIV. The Visitor 111 XV. The Lawyer and the Pirate 119 XVI. An Odd Restaurant 127 XVII. The Good Frau 135 XVIII. The Reconnoitre 143 XIX. The Castle 151 XX. The Banquet Hall 159 XXI. The Apparition 167 XXII. Brian De Bois Guilbert 175 XXIII. The Crisis 183 XXIV. A Reincarnation 191 XXV. In the Cell 199 XXVI. In the Mow 206 XXVII. Look Down and Not Up 214 XXVIII. A Square Meal 223 XXIX. A Reminiscence 231 XXX. Jim Boards the Pirate 243 XXXI. The End, a New Start 252
FRONTIER BOYS IN FRISCO
ON THE ENGINE
"Would you like to ride on the engine, Jim?" asked the engineer of the south bound train.
"Nothing would suit me better, Bob," replied Jim Darlington. "I guess you can drive this black horse," nodding towards the locomotive, "as well as you did the 'four' that you drove back in Kansas across the plains, when we were boys," and Jim grinned. "Nothing like the real horse," replied Bob Ketchel, "but I can manage this fire eater all right, too."
"Trust you for that," agreed Jim heartily.
"We will be pulling out in about five minutes," remarked Ketchel; "the tourists in the eating house are just swallowing their pie now with an anxious eye on the conductor. Hope they don't choke."
"I'm already, Bob," said Jim.
"No, you're not," replied Ketchel; "go back to your luxurious caboose and get your heaviest coat and your trusty revolver; we might see some game going through the Pass," and Bob winked wisely at his "boyhood" friend.
"Don't pull out until I get back," warned Jim, as he started on a trot toward one of the rear Pullmans, called a "caboose" by the flippant Bob.
"'The General Denver' leaves in three minutes," called Ketchel after the retreating Jim; "wouldn't wait a second for nobody." From the fact that the locomotive was given the dignity of a real name indicates that the time of our narrative belongs to an earlier and more ornate day than this when even the biggest engine gets nothing more than a number.
At Ketchel's warning, Jim quickened his pace to a run, for he would not have missed that ride on the "General Denver" for all the buried wealth he and his brothers had once found on a treasure hunt in Old Mexico. I wonder if an introduction to our old friend, Jim Darlington, is really necessary. At least I am going through the formality. Jim, the leader of "The Frontier Boys," whose adventures began on "The Overland Trail," and were last spoken of in the narrative, "In The Saddle," is now on his way to San Francisco in response to a message sent to him by the engineer of his captured yacht, The Sea Eagle. He had been spending the Christmas time at his home in Maysville, New York, where his brothers, Tom and Jo, remained for the winter, much to their mother's joy, but to their own deep regret, when they saw Jim starting out on a journey whose adventures they could not share.
So much for the introduction, now to the narrative. Jim had no time to spare and he could be very prompt when he had to, as all his old friends can well remember. He swung into the black Pullman near the rear of the long train, glided through the narrow alley way between the smoking-room and the side of the car, just missing a head on collision with a stout party coming out of the sleeper. The latter was about to express a haughty indignation at Jim's abrupt approach, but that worthy gave him no chance, as he dashed for section No. 9 at the end of the car. Here he snatched from his valise his belt and revolver and fastened them with rapid precision around his waist, and then with a heavy sweater in his hand, he made a rapid exit from the car.
Already his three minutes were nearly up, and he had an exasperating delay in the narrow passageway where a file of well-fed diners were coming through. As Jim leaped from the platform the engine gave a short, sharp whistle and the wheels began to revolve. Jim's vacation had not made him fat nor short winded and he sped after the engine, with the swiftness of an Indian on the trail of an enemy. Perhaps Bob Ketchel let his engine take it rather slowly. However that may be, Jim in a few seconds was alongside of "The General Denver" and then his foot was on the ugly saddle stirrup of iron and he was aboard the engine in a jiffy.
"Pretty good for a tenderfoot," grinned Bob. "No wonder the Injuns couldn't catch you."
"It's because my feet are so tender that I take them off the ground so fast," explained Jim.
The fireman laughed at this and his white teeth shone like a darky's from the sooty grime of his face.
"You can have my side of the cab," he said. "It's going to keep me busy firing on the upgrade."
Jim took his place with a pleasurable feeling of excitement and interest. It was a new experience for him and one he was bound to remember. Already the locomotive was gathering momentum. The little town was left behind in the gathering dusk and soon they were threading their narrow iron way through the solitude of the great mountains. Looking back on a sharp curve, and there were many of them on this mountain grade, Jim could see the crescent form of the coaches all alight, where the passengers were seated at their ease.
Then he looked at the intent, grim-faced, young engineer who never took his eyes from the track ahead, keen and quick to act on the first sign of emergency. "They certainly are safe with Bob to pilot 'em, lazy beggars," said Jim to himself, divided between admiration for his friend and contempt for the ease loving passengers in the sleepers, who would soon turn into their berths in comfort and security, while the engineer would guide his roaring, flaming steed through deep gorges, over dizzy bridges, and down the winding grades from some high divide.
Already the night had fallen and all was darkness except where the light from the locomotive sent its fierce thrust of illumination into the night, straight along the steel rails with sudden, quick thrusts as the "General Denver" rounded a curve. "My but it is great!" cried Jim with enthusiasm, as on the engine roared into the depths of the mountains. In a short time the moon rose over the crest of the range, shining with a pure brilliance that the work-a-day sun can only dream of.
After several hours of uneventful progress the train ran into a long siding and came to a gentle stop. It was in the center of a wide mountain valley with nothing to indicate human life except a solitary section house, painted a dull red, and, beyond it a short distance, a water tank of the same color.
"I guess that didn't jar any of those sleeping beauties back there, when I stopped her," said Bob quietly, as he stepped down from the cab.
"Couldn't have done better myself," replied Jim whimsically, "but I would have been tempted to give them a jolt just to make them sit up for a minute."
"Some of the boys do shake 'em up when they feel sort of cranky," admitted Ketchel.
"That's the kind I have always traveled with," remarked Jim, "but what are we waiting here for?"
"No. 10 is due in a few minutes. Here's where we oil up." Jim watched the operation with interest while the engineer and his fireman went methodically from part to part of the engine with their long billed oil cans.
"She must be late," said Ketchel, looking keenly up the track and then at his heavy, open-faced watch. "What do you suppose is the matter with her? No need of losing time on a night like this," he continued.
"Maybe she has been held up," said the fireman.
"That's more likely to happen to us," replied the engineer shortly. "No. 10 doesn't carry anything but the money the newsboy gets out of the passengers for peanuts and bum dime novels but we have something in that express car that's going to California and it's valuable."
"I'm going to California," put in Jim mildly.
"But you ain't valuable," replied the engineer with a grin.
"Except with this," said Jim, putting his hand on his revolver, with a touch of seeming bravado.
"That's where you come in," said the engineer.
"I thought you weren't giving me a ride just for the fresh air, and to get a view of the 'mountings' by moonlight. But where do you expect these villains to jump you?" inquired Jim.
"Well, there are numerous, romantic, little spots along the trail ahead where they might stop us for an interview," said Ketchel.
"I'm thinking they will be a lurking in 'Boxwood Canyon,'" said Bill Sheehan, the fireman. "It's the likes of a dirty black gang that will do the deed, the same that shot poor Jimmie McGuire last month because he wouldn't give up his train to 'em, and him with three childer at home."
"There comes 'No. 10.'" cried Jim, "and it will be all aboard for Boxwood Canyon."
"Aye, but you have sharp ears, I don't hear anything of her as yet," remarked Bill.
"Him has sharp ears and eyes, Bill!" exclaimed the engineer. "That boy there can take the trail with any red Indian and that's the truth."
A HOLD UP
At that moment there came a glare of light sweeping down the track from the headlight of "No. 10." With a roar and swaying of the big engine, the train rushed down upon them and swept past with its hind heels or wheels kicking up the dust. Then its tail lights of cherry red grew dim way down the valley.
"All aboard, boys," cried Ketchel as No. 10 passed; "we've got some time to make up."
"He'll stop just short of murder to the train," declared the fireman who knew his engineer when it came to a question of picking up a few minutes of time.
"He will swing her like he used to drive the old stagecoach on the down grade," remarked Jim, "and that will be going some."
Already they were gathering speed, as he sent "The General Denver" along the level of the valley. In a short time the train came to a steep descent through a narrow canyon, and Jim was in for a new experience. Enured though he was to all kinds of dangers it made him catch his breath when the engine went straight for a wall of solid rock and then turned as though to dash straight from the track, into the brawling stream below.
It righted itself with an effort and leaped down the shining trail rocking from side to side and trembling with the vibrations of its fierce power, dashing straight for the depths of the shadows between the towering cliffs. Little did the sleeping passengers realize the dangers through which they were passing every minute.
"Gee!" exclaimed Jim, "suppose a bowlder has rolled onto the track just ahead. It might happen easy enough too."
Just then, Bill Sheehan, the fireman, touched Jim with the end of his shovel to call his attention to something they were coming to ahead. Jim saw a jumbled heap of freight cars half in the stream and half out, and a little ways further on was the rusty ruin of a once powerful locomotive. Jim nodded to the fireman.
"Something has been doing there," he yelled, but the words were blown from his lips and lost in the roar as steam disappears in the air. Jim took a look at his friend, the engineer. He was alert and intent, ready for any emergency, and Jim felt a sense of absolute confidence in his friend's skill. After a ten mile run, the canyon began to broaden out and there were other trees besides the solemn pines. A sense of impending danger came over Jim. He had experienced it many times before and whether it was an ambush of Indians, or the plans of some band of outlaws it had rarely betrayed him. It was something in the air; a vibration that the human nerves are as conscious of as a dog's nose is cognizant of the scent of some wild animal. Jim turned and looked at the engineer, who nodded back at him for a second, with a look that indicated there was business ahead; then his eyes were fastened on the track again.
Jim took out his watch and saw that it was a quarter to two. It brought a quizzical smile to his face. Time and again he had noted the fact that it was just about this time that an attack was sure to come. It sent a thrill through his nerves for he felt that they were rushing straight to a crisis. Much depended on the three men in the engine, for there were many helpless women and children on the train for whose safety they were responsible. Jim noted that the country through which they were going was well suited for the purposes of the bandits desiring to hold up the train.
On either side the walls of the mountains rose at the distance of only a few hundred yards, covered with dark pines and huge rocks showing here and there on the bare fall of some precipice. Between the foot of the mountains and the track was rugged ground, with large bowlders scattered here and there. Clumps of trees and bushes and numerous gullies could be discerned.
It was just the country for a surprise of this kind. Jim stepped down from his narrow seat and got his hands thoroughly warm and pliable, took off his coat and folded it neatly on the seat and stood with his revolver in hand, seeing whether its action was all right. He was a stalwart figure indeed, dressed in his characteristic regimentals, with a thick, tight fitting sweater of blue, pants of the same color, and a new sombrero of a dark hue, for the old one had been battered and worn out of all semblance to a hat, and he was obliged to give it up, though it was like parting with an old friend.
Jim as you remember, perhaps, was a trifle over six feet in height and during his short stay at home he had gained in flesh, so that he weighed one hundred and eighty-five pounds. His hair was brown and straight and his eyes gray. He was doubtless fit for this battle or any that should come his way.
Just at that moment, Bob Ketchel saw an obstruction on the track, about two hundred yards distant, and applied the air brakes instantly. He had been on the watch for just this thing, and noted that there was plenty of cover where the express was halted wherein the desperadoes could hide.
Slowly the panting engine came to a stop with its nose almost against the stone obstruction and there were flashes from a half dozen rifles on either side of "The General Denver." A simultaneous attack was made at the rear of the train.
It was hardly a fair duel but Jim and Bob Ketchel were competent hands at this game and keeping under cover they managed to get in some telling shots. A near bullet sent a splinter from the cab into Jim's cheek, but he paid no attention to it at the time. When he caught a sudden glimpse of two men skulking behind a clump of bushes trying to get a bead on him, he sent two shots straight at them and then ducked into the cab in time to escape a side shot from behind a rock.
He could hear Bob's fusillade from the other side of the cab and the return volleys from the enemy, but he did not worry about his friend, the engineer, for he knew full well that he could take care of himself. It was the other fellows who would have to look out. But Jim saw a figure leap in behind a rock, near the side of the express car, where he would have the drop on Bob.
There was but one thing to do and James did it. He leaped into the tender which made an excellent fort, and there for a few minutes he kept the bandits at bay. He would have laughed heartily at the fireman, Bill Sheehan, if he could have spared the time, for that worthy had taken up the battle in his own way. Having quickly discarded his revolver with which he was not an expert, he began hurling chunks of coal, wherever he saw the flash of the enemy's fire, and filled with fighting fury he exposed himself most recklessly, but with no apparent harm. Whether Bill's novel form of attack made the attacking party helpless with laughter or because he was in such constant motion that it was hard to get a bead on him, be the reason what it may, at least Sheehan came through unscathed.
For a brief time, the battle was even, in fact the engineer and Jim probably had the best of it, and then there came a change in the situation. The party in the rear, saw that their brethren were meeting with a sharp resistance from the engine, so two of them swiftly and stealthily ran along by the side of the train until they came to the baggage car next to the engine.
Slipping in between the two cars they quickly got on top of the baggage. Any noise they might have made being deadened by the firing going on just below. The desperadoes redoubled their attack when they saw two of their number about to turn the fight in their favor, for it was perfectly clear what an advantage their position on the roof of the car would give them.
They could not be hit themselves even if discovered, and it was certain death for Jim and the engineer for they would not be more than thirty feet from the two desperadoes. Even a tenderfoot would not miss at that distance and these men were not in that class. Neither Jim nor Bob Ketchel were standing so that they could catch a glimpse of the two men who were crawling along the top of the blind baggage. At that instant, Bill Sheehan made a rush for the top of the coal pile to get a chunk of ammunition of sufficient size and weight.
JIM TAKES A CHANCE
As Sheehan mounted the coal, he caught a glimpse of one of the desperadoes on top of the car and yelled to Ketchel and Jim who jumped just in the nick of time, and by sheer luck not uncommon in battles, escaped unhurt. As for the fireman he took a novel way of making his escape, by diving into the shelving bank of coal and letting it slide over him. In the excitement of the flurry of firing he was able to do this.
Jim and Ketchel both leaped from the same side of the engine and were protected by a slight cut alongside of the track. Bullets whirred and cut into the dirt around them. As they ran both of them sent a shot at the man on the near side of the blind baggage, with such good effect that he pitched to the ground with an injured leg.
"Duck low, Jim," yelled the engineer; "we will beat them yet. I've got a scheme."
"I'm with you," replied Jim.
This was literally true, for he was right at the heels of the scurrying Bob. As they passed the barricade of stones, Ketchel gave it a quick, searching look, then in a few strides they got to cover in a culvert a number of yards in front of the pile of stone. By the help of a few ties they made a respectable fort.
"So far, so well," said Ketchel, "but it won't do to stay here very long, for they will loot the train."
"Nearly the whole gang is down there," cried Jim, "I can tell by the firing."
"We've got to clear that barricade off the track and quick, too," declared the engineer. "It's our only hope."
"Those stones are pretty heavy to lift off under fire," said Jim composedly, "but I guess we can make a go of it."
"I like your nerve," said Ketchel, a gleam of admiration showing for an instant in his usually noncommittal face, "but I've got something here, that will help us in this hoisting business," and he thrust his hand into one of the pockets of his overalls.
"What is it?" queried Jim.
"Dynamite," replied the engineer, producing a small chunk of the same to view.
"Won't it blow up the engine, too?" asked Jim.
"Not likely with this amount," said Ketchel. "We will have to chance it anyhow."
"Ain't you afraid that you might take a chaw on it, by mistake for your tobacco?" queried Jim in a matter-of-fact voice. Bob Ketchel only grinned by way of reply.
"Now is our chance," whispered the engineer; "keep the beggars lying low while I start the fireworks."
"I'll attend to that," replied Jim briefly and with emphasis.
Then two crouching figures slipped out from the culvert, and Jim kept on the move with the quick dodging motions of a boxer so that the enemy in ambush could not get a bead on him. Flashing the fire of his revolver this side and that at a cluster of rock, or a clump of bushes he dodged on, and such was his accuracy that not a man in the attacking party dared show himself in the open.
Jim was able to keep down their fire, as his ally rushed to the barricade; then Ketchel stooped down and thrust the dynamite into an opening between the rocks and drawing off quickly threw himself flat down by the track. Then there came an upheaval that shook things. A geyser of rocks shot into the air, and in a jiffy Jim and the engineer had cleared off what remained on the track in the shape of debris. The engine itself had most of the cowcatcher torn off and the headlight smashed.
"Spoiled her beauty for you," said Jim. "But we will spoil their game I guess, and I don't think the railroad company will complain at the loss of a cowcatcher." Meantime both had raced back to the engine.
Before the gang had time to fully realize what had happened, Ketchel had regained his place in the cab and had turned the engine loose on the sanded rails. Within a remarkably short distance he had her full speed ahead, with a parting salute of shots from the enraged and baffled "hold ups."
"There goes three of 'em," cried Jim, who had swung aboard. "My what a jump."
They shot from the rear of the train like projectiles from a catapult, rolling over and over down a steep embankment. Two got up very slowly but the third lay as if dead.
"Where's Sheehan?" cried the engineer; "we haven't lost him I hope."
"Gosh! he's in the coal!" exclaimed Jim.
He leaped into the tender and saw a movement under the coal. Working frantically, Jim was able to drag their submerged ally from the retreat that had almost buried him. The cold air brought him to, and he rose staggeringly to his feet.
"Yer started your thrain too suddint, Mr. Ketchel, and pulled two ton of coal over my poor head," cried the fireman in half humorous indignation. "Why didn't you whistle and give me fair warning as to your intentions. And how did you lads escape without bullets in your hides. Yer must have charmed lives the both of you."
"How many of 'em did you get, Bill," yelled back the engineer from his cab.
"Aye, there is many of them that will carry black marks the rest of their lives, where I handed them some chunks of coal."
"The company will take it out of your salary for wasting their coal," remarked Ketchel.
"And shure and they ain't none too good to do it," remarked Bill Sheehan with conviction.
"Get in, Bill, and throw what coal you have got left into that boiler; we have got to make the siding this side of the Divide to get out of the way of 'The Eastern Express.' That little fracas back there cost us fifteen minutes."
"And half a ton of coal," said the fireman, as he bent his back to the work of shoveling, looking for all the world like a black gnome.
"I wonder what has happened to the passengers," said Jim to the engineer; "there seemed to be a lot going on back there the last five minutes of the fight."
"I can't slow up, Jim," responded the engineer, "because we have got to make that siding."
"I don't expect you to, Bob," replied Jim, "I'll go over the roofs. I can make it if those open air burglars did."
"It's durn risky," warned the engineer; "we are speeding now, and the train is twisting so it will sure throw you on some of the curves."
"I've ridden a few bronchos in my time," declared Jim, "and been aloft in some heavy seas and I guess I can manage this."
Self-confidence is all right but pride often goes before destruction and Jim came very near getting his on this occasion.
"And where do you think you are going, lad?" asked Bill Sheehan, as Jim started on his climb over the tender.
"I'm going back to see how many of the passengers have been scared to death and why some of those guys in the sleepers didn't turn out and help us to fight off those bandits back there."
"Oh, them are tenderfeet from way back the other side of the range, they was too busy hiding behind their women folks to fight," declared the fireman, "but you ain't going on no such trip young feller." He made a dive for Jim but that worthy was not to be detained and was half way up the little iron ladder before Bill Sheehan had recovered his balance. "Come back," he cried, poising a bit of coal in his hand, "or I'll bring you back." This bluff did not disturb Jim who was now on top of the baggage car.
"Just like a young limb," he muttered, as he watched the daring James. "I'd have done the same twenty years ago."
Jim crawled or sneaked his way along the elevated part of the roof, so that he could clutch one side or the other in case of need. The train was now winding through a narrow gulch in a line of hills and a fierce wind tore at his body as though trying to fling him loose. He felt that it was more than he had bargained for, as the grimy roof slipped this way and that under him, then there came a sudden lurch and he was lifted clear off the top of the car and one hand was wrenched loose, and in a second his feet were hanging over the side.
His other hand caught the steel rod that opens one of the small windows in the elevated roof of the car. Would it hold? On its strength depended his only chance of life. He drew himself up slowly with every ounce of his strength. The rod bent but held and once more he was back on the roof. So he took his perilous way along and at last he reached the foreward coach. The door was guarded and he came near being shot by the suspicious conductor, who took him for one of the bandits.
THE GIRL AND THE ENGINEER
Indeed Jim's appearance was much against him. He was covered with dirt and grime and coal dust. It was only by holding his ticket against the pane of glass in the door of the coach, that the conductor was made willing to admit him. But when he was informed who Jim was he treated him with due respect and even cordiality. That was pretty good for a conductor in those days.
Jim was an object of interest as he passed through the coach. He might have blushed at finding himself a hero, but if so he was perfectly disguised by his temporary color, which was decidedly dusky.
"Oh, Mamma," cried a youngster, "I'm afraid of that big black man. Will he steal me!"
"Nonsense, Willie, that's the nice, kind gentleman, who gave you some candy at the station yesterday." Jim laughed and the only show of white about him was his teeth. "I don't blame the little chap for being scared," he said, "I'm a bad looking object for a fact."
"You ought to have seen three of those fellows jump," remarked Mr. Conductor, as they went on their way through the train; "that was when Bob opened up. I guess one of 'em was badly shook up by the way he lit."
"I saw them take their flying leap," returned Jim, "but was anybody hurt back here?"
"The brakeman got it in the shoulder," replied the conductor, "but I guess he will be all right. Have to take a lay-off for some weeks."
"It's curious how many bullets are fired without hurting anybody," remarked Jim, "but I've noticed that before."
The conductor looked at the tall young fellow keenly for a moment.
"I reckon you are no tenderfoot," he asserted.
"Right there!" replied Jim; "that is if experience counts. But I was born in the East."
"You can't help that," remarked the conductor, to Jim's amusement; "you would have laughed to see them fellows lying close to the floor of the car, when the shooting was going on. It ain't a dignified sight to see a round fat man trying to make himself small by lying as flat as possible."
"I can't blame them," replied Jim; "I would have been trying the same maneuver if I had been there."
"No, you wouldn't," contradicted the Taker of Tickets; "you would have been busy trying to get a line on some of the gents who were kicking up a ruction outside.
"Maybe," said Jim doubtfully.
When they entered the first Pullman, Jim was in the lead and at the sight of a tall, blackened-looking individual entering through the plush portieres into the main body of the car several of the women shrieked, and two stout gentlemen dived down between the seats.
"Conductor!" they yelled; "Conductor! help!"
Jim was greatly embarrassed by this reception, and started to back out hastily, but was stopped by the rotund figure of the greatly in demand conductor.
"Ha! ha!" he roared. "Ladies and gentlemen don't be frightened. This young man is no desperado, but he has been fighting them off down in front on the engine during the late hold up."
Slowly like twin round moons rose the faces of the two stout men from opposite sections.
"I say, Conductor," remarked one of them who was an Englishman, "this is a jolly shame. Can't we travel in peace in this beastly country? Always some bally ructions going on, don't yer know."
The conductor's answer was rather abrupt for he did not fancy the Englishman's style of speech, and that testy individual was more upset than ever. Jim went quickly to his section, got a change of clothing, retired to the wash room and proceeded to get thoroughly cleaned up.
This was quite an operation, undertaken in the presence of two drummers who were smoking and talking in bragging tones of what they had done during the recent fight. Jim was too busy to pay any attention to their talk until one of them addressed him directly.
"Where was you, young fellow, when we was held up back there?" questioned one.
"I was forward," replied Jim shortly. He did not take especially to either of the two men.
"Bet you were hiding under the trucks," asserted the other. Jim did not know whether to laugh, or to throw the fellow out of the window. He had not noticed the conductor who was standing in the passageway, but that worthy had overheard the remark.
"Who did you say hid under the trucks?" he inquired belligerently. The man addressed feebly indicated Jim, then the conductor lit into the fellow for fair.
"You trying to run that young fellow? Why if he took the notion into his head, he could turn you up simultaneous and paddle whack both of you. Why you ain't nothing but—" however, I draw a veil over this part of the harangue.
Jim laughed good-naturedly but said nothing.
After the conductor had left, the men took the opposite tack and were very fulsome in their praise of Jim. Wanted him to drink with them and all that sort of cheap comradeship, but he would have none of their game and got out as soon as he could.
At the first stop the train made, James went forward to join his two friends on the engine.
"And who may you be?" queried the fireman; "you look very much like the Vice-president of this railroad instead of the tramp I saw some hours agone trying to ride the blind baggage."
"I've got my face washed, Bill, and a fresh shirt to my back and my moccasins polished if that is what you are aiming at," replied Jim good humoredly.
"I must say, Jim, it gave me a scare when I saw you swing over the edge of the car, but it was no use for me to try and slow up then, besides I had time to make up, and the engineer can't stop for his best friend then. But I must say you have a cast-iron nerve."
"I felt scared," admitted Jim frankly.
"You had reason to," remarked Bill Sheehan.
"All aboard, boys," cried the engineer. "I see the conductor is waving us to go on. You take Bill's side of the cab and watch me drive her into the Junction. That's my terminus and we will have breakfast together."
"Wish you were going to the coast with me, Bob," remarked Jim. "I'm in for some trouble there I'm afraid, and you are the chap I should want to back me up, and that's solid."
"I'd take you up in a minute, Jim," then he lowered his voice, "but you see there's a girl at the Junction and we are to be married next month." Jim gave his friend a hearty slap on his broad back.
"Glad to hear it, Bob, old boy, and may it be a lucky go for both of you."
"Thanks, Jim," replied Ketchel, and there was a dubious moisture in his eyes, which vanished in a second, as he watched keenly the road ahead.
Jim always remembered the ride into the Junction. The moonlight had faded from the sky and the fuller, keener daylight was creeping in to take its place. The train was now puffing along just below timber line, and in the west was a semi-circle of snowy peaks, rugged, superb, symmetrical, with the tint of dawn gilding their summits.
On the mountains through which the train was passing were great patches of snow. The air had that marvelous clearness that Jim knew so well and his eyes sparkled, as he breathed it in deeply. Just as the sun came up he saw below at a distance of several miles, in a snow lined basin in the hills, the dark patch of the Junction. As they neared it, Jim's keen eye saw the figure of a girl standing on the porch of a small white cottage. There was something very attractive about the young figure standing there, with the color of health in her face, and a look of fervor in her eyes. A signal passed between the engineer and the girl and then the train roared on towards the station.
"I don't blame you for not wanting to go to California, Bob," said Jim.
The engineer smiled good-naturedly but was content to let Jim's surmise go unconfirmed.
"The boss is shure done for," interrupted the fireman; "he won't be the same high spirited man in a few years he is now. It's all very tempting, but it's like tolling an ox to get his neck under the yoke. It's a terrible thing to see a young fellow like him bent on taking responsibilities he don't know the heft of." Ketchel only grinned at Bill Sheehan's doleful prophecy for he knew the root of it, as the fireman's wife was something of a termagant and the sound of her scoldings had reached other ears than Bill's.
Now came the whistle for the Junction, and the train slowed to a halt on a long level platform on which lay a six-inch carpet of dazzling snow.
That morning always stood out in Jim's memory, not because of any unusual adventure, nor because it marked any period in his young existence, but simply that he felt full of the exuberance of life, after the night's adventure; the very air was intoxicating. That, by the way, was the only intoxicant James ever took. He was glad to be with his old friend, Bob Ketchel, even for a short time.
Then, too, there was the certainty of immediate events of interest as soon as he reached San Francisco, and he felt confident that he could meet whatever might come. His past experiences had taught him self-reliance and he thrilled to the sense of coming adventures. But the fact that he was soon to enjoy a good breakfast had something to do with his feeling of contentment. Besides, he and the engineer were objects of interest in this little mountain settlement, for the story of the attempted hold up was soon common property, and the two were the observed of all observers. This is not unpleasant, as many a schoolboy hero of the football field or track knows right well.
In about fifteen minutes' time Jim and the engineer were seated at a pleasant looking table in a sunny corner of the dining-room, with the whitest of cloths and everything about the table neat and attractive. It was not at all like the Wild West, and it is at the eating stations that whatever of luxury or comfort there is in this wild country is concentrated.
There was a hearty menu of several kinds of meats and gravies, fried potatoes in abundance, excellent coffee in large cups, and smoking plates of griddle cakes with plenty of syrup. Jim ate with an appetite derived from a long fast, and plenty of exercise. The reader can vouch as to the amount of exercise that James had undergone in the past few hours. The dining-room was full of tourists at the different tables, and it was a lively and animated scene. The events of the previous night were the general subject of discussion and Jim was fully aware that he was being talked about. But he was a well balanced chap, and was not the least "swelled" by the notice taken of him.
He and the engineer had a good time telling each other of the adventures that had come their way during the years since they last met. Jim could tell his friend of their wonderful trip into Mexico, the excursion into Hawaii, and what occurred in the Hollow Mountain, likewise of their encounter with Captain Broome, that booming old pirate whose splendid yacht they had seized after a struggle that required strategy as well as bravery. However, Captain Broome was not through with Jim as we shall soon see.
"Well, Jim," said Ketchel finally, as he pushed his chair back from the table, and took a quick look at his watch, "the train you pass here is due in ten minutes and then you will be pulling out. Let's go outside; it's a bit too warm in here to suit me."
"All right, Bob, the fresh air will seem good to both of us."
As they stopped at the office just outside the dining-room door, there was a moment's friendly rivalry to see who should settle for the breakfast but Ketchel winked at the clerk behind the circular counter with its usual cigar case, and porcupine arrangement of toothpicks. "His money is no good, Sam," he asserted, "when he's traveling in my company."
"You're the judge, Bob," said the clerk. "I hear you and your friend were held up in Bear Valley last night, together with the train you were toting along. How about it?"
"I'll tell you later, Sam. Jim here is leaving on No. 7 and we are old pals and have got some talking yet."
"I see!" acquiesced Sam. "Good luck to you," and he nodded good humoredly to Jim. The two friends went out into the crisp, clear air. The snow crunched under their feet as they paced along the platform, and the elixir of the atmosphere made every bit of them tingle with its vivacity and life.
Jim's eyes sparkled and his face was ruddy with the glow of healthy blood in the cold air. He took in the scene about him with an appreciative eye for he truely loved the West and was at home in it. He noted the white smoke rising into the clear cold from the chimneys of the little settlement, the encircling hills of the basin where it lay, all of a crystalline whiteness and the sky as blue, as the snow was white, with an intensity all its own. The fresh engine was backing down to the train as the two friends made the second turn on the platform. "I'll introduce you, Jim, to the fellow who runs this engine."
The new engineer was a short and very solid man of quiet demeanor; he looked Jim over thoroughly in a brief moment.
"Glad to know you, Darlington. Hear you had a run-in with that Bear Valley gang, Bob. Stole the pilot off your engine, eh?" And the engineer gave a silent laugh that shook his whole system.
"You notice we came in on time, Joe," said Ketchel, briefly.
"If we are going to pull out on time, we'll have to start now. Anything I can do for your friend, Bob?"
"Yes," returned Ketchel, "give him a ride through the Red Canyon."
"I will," replied Joe as he climbed into his engine and the train slowly got under way.
"Good-by, Jim," said Ketchel, as they gripped hands; "take care of yourself."
"The best luck to you and the Missus, Bob," cried Jim as he swung onto the train, that was now gathering speed and soon the settlement was left behind as the cars swayed through a narrow passage in the encircling hills.
Jim slept during the morning hours and nothing of peculiar interest happened on the day's trip, though Jim enjoyed every minute of it, especially the ride on the locomotive through Red Canyon, with its walls rising for several thousands of feet in breathless grandeur. Gazing from above, the train must have appeared like a worm crawling along the base of the cliffs.
Twenty-four hours later the huge rounded bulk of the Sierra Nevada loomed dead ahead. When the train came to a halt at a small station at the foot of the range, Jim got out as usual to take a walk up and down the platform. He saw a small box in front of the station supported on a larger one with a curtain in front of it. Upon the lower box was inscribed the legend, "The Famous Rocky Mountain Bat."
Jim was naturally interested in all fauna. (Note the word, youthful reader, and look it up in the dictionary.) So he sauntered up to the cage and lifting the cheap red curtain looked in. What he saw made him gasp for a second, but he did not run, his native courage standing him in good stead. Upon a rich green cloth of Irish hue, was an ordinary red brick.
There was a number of the inhabitants leaning against the side of the depot, waiting for just such an occasion as this. They went into paroxysms of laughter, clasping their knees, or beating each other on the back, and their mouths were opened wide enough to have swallowed the aforesaid Bat (Brick). Jim felt like a fool and a strong inclination welled up within him to punch one of these border humorists, but he put the brakes on his temper and thus kept from sliding any further down grade.
Reaching into his coat pocket, he drew forth not his trusty revolver, but a small diary with a red cover and a dainty ivory knobbed pencil in the small sheath. Dost thou remember, honored reader, when thou hadst one of them given thee to keep the record of thy important life? I bet thou dustest. Perhaps, for ten successive days were daily jottings put down; if very persistent perchance fifteen days were recorded and then you quit. Carried away in the rushing course of events, the little diary was left to wither on the shores of Time.
While this stuff has been recited Jim made a careful drawing of the brick which he annotated with proper data, keeping all the time an imperturbable face under the very pointed jibes of the station loungers.
His work in the interests of Science being finished he stepped over to the place of the scorners, and planting himself squarely in front of the most boisterous of the group, began calmly to make a sketch of this wide-mouthed individual. Instantly the fellow's face grew sober, and the crowd ready for any kind of fun began to jeer him.
This made the man angry and he made a bull-like rush for Jim, who was not prepared for this maneuver and he was thrown from his balance, striking with considerable force upon the station platform.
AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE
The crowd, which was a good-natured one, gathered around cheering its champion and laughing at Jim's fall. But James was thoroughly aroused by the fall, which had added insult to an injury, and exerting part of his unusual strength he struggled to his feet, and caught his opponent at arms' length from him, and then turning him over gave him a few hearty spanks while the crowd roared.
Naturally the man was furious when Jim turned him loose with a shove that sent him staggering back for a number of feet, and he picked up a good sized rock. He came on to demolish Jim with it, but some of his comrades collared him so that he could not do any mischief and the attention of the crowd was diverted to some more visitors to the shrine of the wonderful Rocky Mountain Bat. One was a tall and angular Englishman dressed in some rough looking suiting and his good lady who had on a long ulster and a hat with a green veil accompanied him.
"Aw, and what is that?" he questioned, standing and looking at the curtained box.
"Why, Charles, it says on the box, that it contains 'The famous Rocky Mountain Bat,'" said his wife with a show of her prominent teeth.
"Bah Jove, we'll have a look into that."
They did and viewed it with closer and closer scrutiny.
"Why d'ye know the beast has escaped. That bit of brick wouldn't hold him. I daresay the villagers will be surprised when they find it has gone."
"It certainly is astonishing," exclaimed the lady. "Do you suppose it can be a joke?"
"Impossible. How quite absurd you are."
Jim who was standing near by looking on with deepest interest, grinned audibly while the overwrought "villagers" could stand no more. They regarded the Englishman solemnly, shook their heads sadly and adjourned to the nearest public house, to discuss the awful density of some foreigners.
"Most extraordinary people," commented the Englishman; "sometimes awfully jolly, and then take to drink because they lose something like a bloomin' bat."
Jim moved away lest he, too, should be driven to drink. He walked towards the train, which was due to start in a short time, taking no notice of anyone. But there was one individual who was keeping an eye on Jim. He had been standing in front of a saloon just across from the station watching all that was going on.
This man was short like a dwarf, and was evidently a Mexican, and the proud possessor of one glass eye. But his other eye was fixed upon the tall young fellow in the blue suit, and the dark sombrero. When Jim was safely on the sleeper, the Mexican did not attempt to follow him but went into the smoker, and puffed at a cigarette; meantime he was doing some thinking and planning.
Jim was soon to find that his old pirate friend, Captain Bill Broome, had a long arm. A dry word of explanation is necessary here. Frontier Boys on the Coast served to introduce this redoubtable man to the readers of this series. The Frontier Boys though badly beaten by the captain at first, finally under the leadership of Jim, out-maneuvered him and captured his ship.
The Mexican who was watching Jim was one of Bill Broome's trusted agents, and the most vicious, if not the most skillful that he made use of in his nefarious business. Jim might have recognized him, though he was much changed by a short, curly black beard that he had purposely allowed to grow and which did not make his personal appearance the more attractive.
However, Jim did not dream of anyone being on his trail at such a distance from San Francisco, though he knew from the letter that he carried that there was trouble to be expected when he arrived there. But for the present he was just content to take things easy and to enjoy his trip, which he was certainly doing. Moreover, Jim was naturally of a frank and straightforward nature and unsuspicious, unless something put him on his guard and then he was not to be easily fooled.
How was it that Captain Broome knew of Jim's exact whereabouts. He was certainly not a confidante in regard to his plans and had no direct means of knowing that James was on his way West. The explanation is simple enough. The news of the train robbery or rather the attempt at it was telegraphed to San Francisco and printed in the usual flamboyant style.
True, Jim's name appeared in the account as Mr. James Damington, but that was pretty accurate for a newspaper and a brief reference to some of his former exploits made identification very simple to the shrewd eyes of old Bill Broome, who was naturally interested in an account of a robbery even if he did not have a hand in it. It was evident that Jim was likely to become as famous as Kit Carson, who performed many of his wonderful exploits by the time that he was seventeen. So it behoves James to be careful. No sooner did Captain Broome's eagle eye see this plum of information about "Mr. Damington," whom he heartily hated, than he set things in motion by sending his greaser scout, with certain specific instructions, to meet and trail Jim.
Once Jim passed through the smoker, but the Mexican pretended to be fast asleep with his hat pulled well down and his head half buried in his overcoat. Jim noticed the reclining figure casually, but thought no more about the man, though his interest might have been aroused if he had chanced to turn quickly for the desperado had raised his head with the quickness of a rattlesnake and his beady eye was fixed with malevolent intentness on Jim's every movement.
That night Jim slept with great soundness as was usual with him, unless there was something to watch out for. As it happened there was, though Jim did not know it. As a link in the chain of what was to occur, I must mention the negro porter of Jim's car. He was an undersized, grumpy person, and Jim had earned his ill will by giving him a call down for his impudence to a lady who had the section across from him.
The darky had vowed to do him dirt, and, though he was afraid of Jim, the opportunity soon came for him to get even. At one of the stations the Mexican got acquainted with the porter and soon insinuated himself into his good graces, and it did not take him long to find out that this colored person had it in for the tall young gringo, which was sugar to his coffee.
It was a simple matter for him to find out the number and location of Jim's berth, and to make arrangements to get into the car about midnight, so as to carry out his plans. It was shortly after twelve that night, that the porter unlocked the door of the Pullman, and admitted an undersized Mexican.
It was a sinister figure that crouched in the corner of the deserted smoking-room, like a black spider lurking for his prey. At that moment the porter rushed in, and collared the Mexican. The reason was not far to seek. Looking out from the door of the car, he had chanced to see the conductor coming with his lantern; the latter was just opening the door to step out on the platform between the two sleepers.
It would not do for him to discover the interloper in the car, for there would be a riot call immediately if not sooner as the Frontier Boys used to say. The porter hustled the Mexican through the narrow aisle and shut him into the tall thin closet where a supply of bedding was wont to be kept, just as the conductor looked into the smoking-room.
"Somebody in here with a cigarette, Porter?"
"No sah," replied the porter. "Not a living pusson in this heah car but's sleepin'!"
"What's the matter with you?" asked the conductor "you look pale."
"A niggah look pale?" laughed the porter but with mock mirth; "you must be joking, sah."
"Yaller then," replied the conductor brusquely.
He was not entirely satisfied with the negro's reply, and with his round lantern, protected by the steel wires held high on his arm he looked through the smoking-and drawing-rooms which were unoccupied but found nothing. Then he went along the car aisle and into the next sleeper banging the door. Immediately the porter let out the imprisoned Mexican who crouched back into the smoking-room, where he lingered for only a moment.
Then he glided into the dusky aisle of the car, between the heavy curtains with their hanging decorations of velvet bands with large steel figures on them indicating the number of the section. There was the constant roar of the train, and the swaying of the big brass lamps, and from all sides came the loud snores of the sleeping citizens.
Once there came a loud cry of a person frightened by some dream, just where the Mexican was passing and he stopped, crouching low in the aisle. Then as nothing further came of it, he glided along until he reached section No. 9, where James Darlington lay asleep.
WHERE WAS HE?
Jim was breathing heavily, profoundly asleep, and the fellow's first action was to rifle Jim's valise with the skill of an old hand, taking every scrap of paper he could find, a few letters and a memorandum book; these he glanced through; they were not what he wanted, at least the paper that he had been told to bring was not there.
As he shoved the valise under the berth he heard the conductor coming back on his return trip, and he remained as quiet as a frozen mummy, leaning far into the berth and behind the curtain, as the conductor brushed past him. Then he proceeded to the dangerous part of his task. Jim's coat lay under his head, a precaution he never neglected.
With his knife in his teeth, better than a revolver for close work and entirely noiseless, the fellow began slowly and with great cunning to work his hand into the pockets of the coat. He found a long flat letter; this was what he was told to get. Now his cupidity was aroused. He had found nothing of pecuniary value, and he knew that this young fellow carried some treasures of value in the way of jewels.
Jim was too old a campaigner to put these even in the coat on which he was asleep. The spy knew that they must be in a belt around the boy's body. Carefully he located it, and now the lust of theft as strong as that of the Italian for blood gripped him. He despised all risk though he did not lose his craft or caution; he cut the leather belt at Jim's back, and began to draw it by minute particles towards him.
Then Jim was aroused and was wide awake in an instant. He knew that he had been robbed and grabbed for the fellow who slipped away as though he had been quicksilver and when Jim who became entangled in the bed clothes got to the door of the sleeper it was locked. Perhaps he has gone the other way, thought Jim, and he rushed to the other end of the car; the door there was likewise locked.
Jim hated to raise a hue and cry, but he was determined to get the thief. The loss of the belt which contained many of the jewels which he had brought from Mexico was a severe jolt. It would cripple him cruelly in his plans for his coming campaign when he reached San Francisco. At all hazards he must recover that belt.
He went to his berth and slipped into his trousers and sweater and then he found the porter apparently asleep in the smoking-room.
"Here you wake up," cried Jim, shaking him by the shoulder; "I've been robbed not three minutes ago."
"I didn't rob you. I dunno nothing about it," declared the porter surlily. "I've been sleeping all the time."
"You go and get the conductor," ordered Jim.
"I can't leave this hyah car," replied the negro.
Jim's face grew hard with anger, and he grabbed the porter by the back of the neck in a grip that fairly made that worthy's bones crack, and lifted him towards the door.
"All right, Boss, all right, I'll fatch him sure," cried the terrified porter. "I dunno you was in such a hurry."
Jim said nothing but kept watch until the porter returned with the conductor to whom he briefly explained the situation. He looked hard at the porter, who began to protest his utter innocence with great vehemence. "Why, Boss, I wouldn't steal a chicken if he crowed right in my face," he concluded.
"I smelled a rat when I came through this car a time back. You say you caught sight of this fellow when he escaped from your section?"
"Yes," replied Jim. "It was dark of course. But when he slipped through the curtains I got a glimpse of him. He was very short, with a hat pulled down, hiding most of his face, but I think that he had a beard. I reckon he must be in here somewhere for I found both doors locked and I was out in a hurry."
"Here you get in there, Porter," cried the conductor, his face red with wrath, and he gave the negro a shove into the smoking-room, and slammed and locked the door. "That will hold him for a while. I saw that fellow all right enough. He was a Mexican and he got on at Reno."
"A Mexican!" cried Jim, starting back. "No, it can't be, this fellow had a beard."
"Sure! he had a beard!" agreed the conductor. "Well if he is on this train we will get him."
"He couldn't be anywhere else," declared Jim.
"Not at the rate we are going," agreed the conductor. "This is no country to jump off in, especially this time of the year."
A thorough search was made of the sleeper which aroused all the passengers, but the Mexican was not found. However, a trace was discovered when the conductor unlocked the tall, narrow door, to the linen closet.
"Somebody has been here all right," declared the conductor. "I bet he hid here when I came through the train. Something is liable to happen to that Coon when we get to Oakland."
Meanwhile the search was going on through the other cars of the train. Nearly everyone had been asleep at the time and the fellow might have passed through a number of the coaches and not been seen. One woman in the chair car declared that she had seen someone just like the Mexican going through the car, about one o'clock.
Everyone joined in the search, looking under the seats in every nook and corner of the cars. If he was inside the train, it seemed that he must have the trick of invisibility to escape. At that moment, an idea came into Jim's mind suggested by a former experience.
"Maybe the beggar has crawled up on top of the cars," he said.
"He must be an acrobat," remarked the conductor, "to do that."
"I'm going to have a look, anyway," Jim declared. The trainmen regarded him with amazement.
"No, you don't," said the conductor; "that's foolhardy."
"It's slippery as the deuce on top of the cars," put in the brakeman. "I wouldn't risk it myself."
Then Jim's face broke into a grin, as a sudden thought struck him, in regard to the subject.
"It won't take long to find out whether the Mexican gent is enjoying the fresh air on top of the cars," announced Jim; "there's plenty of snow on top and none has fallen for the past six hours."
The conductor hit Jim a clip on the shoulder.
"Long head, boy!" he exclaimed, "I never thought of that."
They went outside and Jim, the tallest of the crowd, was boosted up by a couple of trainmen, between the swaying cars (this was long before the days of vestibules), but they found no trace of the bandit.
"He's certainly not roosting up there," declared Jim.
"Well, if he jumped off, he's a dead greaser," asserted the conductor.
"We will watch and see that he don't slide off at the next station," remarked one of the brakemen.
"He couldn't have slipped under one of the cars, could he?" questioned Jim.
The conductor shook his head with emphasis.
"There's no telling what that fellow mightn't do," said one of the trainmen.
"With the devil to help him," put in Jim.
"To make sure we will search under the train," decided the conductor, "at the next stop."
In a few minutes the train rolled into a small station, near the top of the range. There was a flare of yellow torches under the cars as the trainmen searched every possible foothold, while Jim stood a short distance back so that he could see on either side of the train if a short, dark figure should dart forth to seek escape in the wilds of the mountains; but their quarry was not flushed into the open, even by the flare and glare of the torches.
"Well, boy, we will have to give it up," said the conductor to Jim, when the train started once more.
"It seems so," admitted Jim quietly.
It was hard for him to accept defeat, in this very first skirmish with his old enemy, Bill Broome, and harder still to lose his treasure that was to be the sinews of war in the campaign that had already opened. But Jim soon pulled himself together with rugged determination.
"If I remember right, old Broome gave us a jolly good licking to start with, when he captured us in the canyon in the coast range," mused Jim to himself, "and we beat him in the end."
But the reader is probably asking about the "Mysterious Mexican or Where Did He Go To." Well, friend, I will tell you in confidence that Mr. Mexican was in the train all the time. Perhaps the ingenious reader has already solved the problem of the Mexican's escape, but for those who do not care to be bothered, I will relate what happened, and where he was located.
When he slipped through the door of the sleeping car, which his confederate, the negro, locked after him, he glided through several coaches, where the occupants were all soundly and some loudly asleep, until he came to the forward car which carried a number of emigrants, on their way to the coast.
It must be remembered that the Mexican was a dwarf, no larger than a child. It was easy for him to reach one of the long brass brackets above one of the rear seats, intended for bundles often heavier than he was; here he curled up in his heavy coat, for all the world like one of the bundles belonging to an emigrant and thus escaped detection.
"Well, Jim," said the chief engineer of the Sea Eagle, James Darlington's yacht, "Captain William Broome, able seaman, and all round pirate, has routed us horse and foot, taken your riches by proxy and the yacht away from me by his own personal efforts."
"It does look like we were up against it," admitted Jim, "but we have a fighting chance, and I propose to keep on that old codger's trail."
"Good for you, Jim," said his friend heartily, "but if I had a crew that had been worth a tinker's curse, the night that he attacked the yacht, I would have saved that for you! I verily believe that Broome owned several men in my crew, and the rest of them were half breeds and renegades, but the best that I could get together down in that forsaken port."
"I don't blame you a bit, Chief," said Jim; "no man could have done more for me than you did. Have some more of the olives."
"Thanks, I will."
The two were seated in a well-known restaurant, by a window looking down on a busy thoroughfare. It was shortly after one o'clock in the afternoon but the lights were lit, as a dense fog peculiar to San Francisco had filled the atmosphere with an opaque gloom. There is a peculiar attractiveness about a first class metropolitan restaurant. It is a warm and pleasant refuge from the bleak heartlessness and merciless activity of a great city.
Jim, in an unconscious way, was aware of this inner delightfulness of the large softly lighted room, with the noiseless and obsequious waiters, the flowers, the music, the presence of many women, whose beauty and charm made the social life of this remarkable city a brilliant one. Jim was by no means an adept social lion, but he had an outward self-possession that stood him in good stead no matter where he was. The music, and the lights, and the subdued gayety of the scene about him, filled him with a certain elation.
Life seemed a very good thing to him, in spite of his present defeat, and the fact that he was surrounded by very pressing dangers. He would have been a very much surprised lad if he had been told that any of these beautiful gowned women regarded him with any interest. But he carried himself with a simple distinction and poise, that was derived from varied and harsh experiences, that gave him a quiet self-reliance.
James Darlington was not handsome, but he was not bad looking, as he had the power and grace of perfect health and condition. Even the few scars of desperate encounters in the past had not disfigured him, and in his neatly fitting gray suit, which his friend, the engineer, had helped him select, his brown straight hair, smoothly brushed upon his long masculine head, and clear gray eyes, Jim was a pleasant looking specimen of American youth. The chief engineer of the Sea Eagle, was perfectly aware of the certain amount of interest which Jim excited even if the boy was entirely oblivious of it. He was a thorough man of the world and regarded the scene which elated Jim, with a cool contentment and a certain appraisal of contempt.
"I do hope that no girl will come along, and disturb the lad's head, he is too good a fighting man to be made a fool of," he mused to himself, as he noted the sparkle of interest in Jim's eyes as the boy watched the diners at the different tables.
At that moment the orchestra in the flower hidden balcony began to play the Mexican national anthem La Poloma, with its enchanting melody, and the well-known strains made a deep rhythmic run through the boy's blood. Outwardly the young masculine has no sentiment, but inwardly he is full of a sense of romance, that he would be shy to confess.
"Here comes the distinguished personage himself," said John Berwick, the chief engineer, "and his fair daughter, Castilians from Mexico, and that accounts for the music. Why didn't they render 'Yankee Doodle,' when we made our triumphal entry, eh, James?"
Jim merely grinned at his companion, and then his face sobered, and his eyes opened wide. The new arrivals were by no means strangers to him. The gentleman was tall and distinguished looking with white mustachios, while his daughter was very dark after the Spanish type; the sheen of her hair like that of a raven's wing, and her complexion of a pellucid pallor, while her dark eyes had depth, and not merely surface.
Under the obsequious guidance of the head waiter, they passed directly by the table where Jim and John Berwick were seated, so close indeed that the flutter of the senorita's mantilla brushed Jim's arm. At the second table beyond they were assigned places, the senor facing Jim. In a way this was a relief to the youth, for he was terribly confused at the sight of the girl and he was afforded time to collect his wits. The senor did not even give a casual glance around, but confined his attention to the menu.
"Old friends, Jim?" asked Berwick who was quick to note the lad's perturbation.
"Why, yes," answered Jim, "there can be no doubt about it. I have told you about our adventure in Mexico, where we saved the Senorita Cordova from Cal Jenkins and his gang and were entertained at the castle by her father. Well, there they are. I hardly think the senorita would recognize me. It seems a long time ago."
"Don't you flatter yourself on that point," said the engineer. "Let her once get a square look at you, and she will know you all right enough. She had an uneasy suspicion when she went past, that she had seen the distinguished gentleman with his back to her somewhere. She would like to turn around now. What did I tell you, she has dropped her fan."
"You must have eyes in the back of your head," remarked James, "but the waiter has picked it up."
"She smiles very sweetly in thanks," improvised the engineer, "but she would like to swat him with it. These dear creatures are not as sweet as they sometimes appear. Have you still the rose she gave you in the castle in Spain—I mean Mexico?"
"Why, I didn't tell you about that did I?" asked the simple Jim. John Berwick doubled over with silent laughter.
"You did not need to tell me," he said when he got his breath; "that method is as old as the daughters of Eve."
"I guess I will go and introduce myself," said Jim hurriedly. "Come on, Berwick."
"Hold on, Jim," said the engineer, "I don't think that is the wisest plan. It makes it awkward for both sides, and people don't like to have their lunch broken in on. We will wait for them in the lobby, or find out at what hotel they are stopping and you can send up your card."
"You are coming, too, to call on them," said Jim impulsively; "I want them to meet you." But John Berwick shook his head with slow emphasis and decision.
"Nay, nay, James," he said, "I have a very susceptible heart. I might become enamored with the fair senorita, that would be trouble, sequel two ex-friends on the sea sands by moonlight, two revolvers flashing at the signal, two beautiful corpses stretched out on the sad sea sands, then slow music, all on account of a girl with dark hair who once wore a red rose in it. Life to me is too interesting for any such nonsense."
Jim laughed at his friend's way of expressing himself, and tried to make him change his mind about the proposed call, but an older man would have told him that there was much sound sense under John Berwick's odd humor. The truth was that the more experienced man of the world knew that the real danger lay in the senorita's caring for him instead of the more simple and straightforward Jim. Berwick knew that it was social experience and knowledge that was apt to count for most in such matters.
"Lucky this isn't our busy day," remarked the engineer, as they waited for the Senor da Cordova and his daughter to finish their lunch.
"It's Broome's move, anyway," replied Jim.
Just then there was an incident at the other table that invited their attention.
The Senorita da Cordova, had suddenly leaned forward in an animated manner and spoke to her father indicating at the same time someone who was standing under an awning on the other side of the thoroughfare. Whether the man's presence caused her fright, or mere excitement it was hard to tell.
"There he is, there he is!" she was heard to exclaim.
Jim followed the direction of her glance, and immediately he jumped to his feet.
"Come on, Berwick," he cried, "we want that fellow across the street."
Berwick was puzzled but he knew that Jim was no alarmist who would start on a wild goose chase, without rhyme or reason. He saw the figure across the way but did not recognize who it was. Thrusting a bill into the waiter's hands, a procedure the waiter did not resent, he followed Jim out of the restaurant. As their sudden departure made a slight commotion, the senorita turned her head and got a fair look at Jim. A flush of surprise came into her face, and her dark eyes opened wide.
"Why, Father, look at the tall American going out," she whispered; "it is the senor who saved me from the bandits."
"There are other tall Americans," he said with a smile; "there was a resemblance but that happens frequently in life, my daughter, the other man bore no resemblance to his brothers." The senorita shook her dark head with emphasis.
"It was not nice of Senor James to run away from us, as though we had the plague; it was certainly very far from nice, and I shall make him pay some day."
"Senor James," exclaimed her father, a slight frown on his brow; "you certainly have a remarkable memory, Marie."
"It is not at all wonderful, Father," replied the girl with much spirit; "did he not save me from that terrible Senor Jenkins and his band? I shall remember him as long as there is the breath of life in my little body."
"His memory does not seem to be as retentive as yours," said her father with quiet sarcasm. The senorita's face flushed at this thrust and she sat moodily silent for a while, then something happened which changed the current of her interest.
"Look," she cried, "the man across the street is running. What can be the matter?"
"It is your friend, Senor James, and his comrade is the matter," remarked her father.
Sure enough the two were in fast pursuit of, "the man across the street," and then they turned a corner but crossing to the further side of the thoroughfare they were still in view.
"Oh, dear!" cried the senorita, "I wish I could be informed as to what all this commotion is about and know who will win."
Let us follow them, and perhaps we shall find out. I daresay the astute reader has already guessed the name of the gentleman who caused this distinct and sudden interest and flung consternation and activity into two separate groups. As James Darlington followed the glance of the young girl, he had recognized the dwarfish figure of the Mexican who had robbed him of his treasure and who had previously led him and his party into dire trouble—hence his excitement, but why the interest of the Senorita da Cordova?—Ah! that is another tale, but now to tell the story of the chase, for upon the result much would depend.
"Take your hat and coat, Jim!" warned John Berwick, as the two rushed from the restaurant.
"I won't bother with my overcoat!" shouted Jim; "I'm going to catch that fellow now!"
"Take care of his coat!" cried Berwick to the boy in the lobby, tossing him a quarter.
Then the two friends were outside in the foggy street, where phantom street cars and passersby were moving through the thick white density that had rolled in from the Pacific.
"Just wait here, James," said the engineer, as they stood sheltered by the corner of the building from observation. "He don't know me from Adam and I'll just saunter up and collar him."
"No, John," said Jim decidedly, "I'm just aching to get my hands on him!"
Another reason which he was too wise to give, was that this same Mexican was a most dangerous animal to handle even if taken unawares, and he preferred to run the risk himself.
"I don't wish to spoil your game, Jim," replied Berwick, "so I will just saunter along this side, and capture him if he escapes your clutches."
"All right," said Jim, "but he is a wary old fox and some of his pals may be on the lookout too, so you had better stay here until you see me on the other side of the street; I am not going directly across."
Jim was too old a campaigner to make a wild rush at his quarry and thus run a chance of losing him in the shuffle. Then, too, he had a wholesome regard for the cunning of his enemy, who was not to be easily trapped. Accordingly Jim, instead of crossing the street, went down around the next block.
In a short time Berwick saw a tall figure, with a black sombrero, emerge from the fog down the street, walking casually along as if not particularly interested in any of the landscape, but out of the corner of his eye he watched the short, sinister-looking fellow he was after. By some obscure instinct the Mexican scented danger and started up the street, and Jim quickened his pace, as Berwick came around the corner where he had been concealed. Instantly the Mexican took the alarm and started on the run, but Jim was like a lion unleashed for his prey; in another leap he would have felled the rascal to the earth, but the Mexican, handicapped as to speed, knew the city as hand to glove, especially every by-way, crooked lane, or devious alley.
His knowledge stood him in good stead now; he swerved into a narrow passageway between two buildings, that was shut off from the street by a wooden gate, which at this moment was left unfastened; this was not by accident, either. Before Jim could turn, the fellow had turned the wooden button fastening the door.
Jim was furious at this escape, almost under his fingers, and his pleasure was not increased when he heard a gentle voice from the other side of the gate: "Good-by, Senor Gringo, I cannot wait here all the afternoon. I have some money to spend." Jim with one bound threw his one hundred and eighty odd pounds against the obstruction. There was a splintering crash, and then Jim tore into the alleyway followed a moment later by his comrade.
At the sound, a fat policeman a block away started on a waddling run to find the cause of the outbreak, and the father and daughter who were watching from the window of the restaurant were more than interested.
"Ah, Mother of Mercies!" cried the girl, "he will be killed." Then she could not help exclaiming in admiration, "What strength! It is Senor James, as I told you, Father."
"You may be right, my daughter," he admitted; "this Americana is very brave and strong, but I trust he will not get himself disliked by killing this Manuel del Garrote, who is of importance not in keeping with his size."
"He had not better come into my presence if he harms the Senor," said the Senorita da Cordova with a bitter emphasis, which her dark eyes endorsed.
"You must learn, my daughter, that in great enterprises we cannot always choose our associates."
* * * * *
When Jim tore through into the passageway between two brick walls, he saw the Mexican dodging around the corner of one of the buildings about a hundred and fifty feet ahead. It did not take Jim many seconds to reach the same corner, and although the rascal was nowhere in sight, the way of his escape was plain.
Opening from the areaway back of the buildings was another gate, that the fleeing Mexican had not time to close; beyond was the blank wall of fog filling the side street with soft gray density. In much less time than I write it, James was out through the gate on to the lustrous black sidewalk, polished with the moisture. But once again the man made his escape and it seemed this time that it was for good. There was a four-wheeler standing near the curb, into which the fellow plunged, and the driver, without a word, gave his two rusty blacks the whip and away they dashed.
Jim was just in time to see the dwarf jump into the coupe. He did not stop with his mouth open, but set out undaunted to overtake the fugitive; neither was he distanced, for Jim had not stayed in the effete East long enough to get pursy and to lose his wind.
Now it was different with the engineer, John Berwick. He was lithe and active enough, and at a hundred yards, was no doubt faster than his friend Jim, but he knew that he was not equal to a cross-city run of several miles in the wake of a four-wheeler drawn by two sturdy mustangs.
THE CHASE BEGINS
At the corner of a street stood a hack to which was hitched a big black, and the rusty-looking individual who held the reins was anxious for immediate service. "Right this way, gents!" he yelled, as he noted the signs of a chase. "I'll catch Bill Durnell's team if I bust a wheel."
"Five dollars if you do," cried John Berwick, as he and Jim leaped into the musty interior of the cab. Before they were fairly inside the vehicle was in motion. The driver hit his horse a clip, and away the hack rattled and jounced in furious pursuit, making racket enough for ten ordinary carts. The noise of the wheels upon the cobbles aroused the immediate interest of the street urchins on both sides of the thoroughfare. They threw compliments as well as stones. One, quicker than the others, managed to get a perilous hold on the back of the vehicle, only to be hurled sprawling on the hard road as the hack whirled around a corner on two wheels. He stayed there for a few seconds, with a pained and surprised look on his befreckled face, then he jumped up and fired a rock from the gutter that swatted the coach squarely making a big dent in the black expanse of back.
"I'll break ye for that ye little gutter snipe," yelled the infuriated driver standing up on his box.
"Yer ought to drive a coal wagon, you chump," retorted the urchin with a shrill yell.
"He's been to a wake," greeted another crowd of boys, who stretched an audacious line across the street directly in front of the surging gallop of the black horse. This time the driver got some revenge by lashing a couple of them with his long whip. This provoked a volley of stones, causing Jim and his friend to duck down to avoid being hit.
"Boys certainly are the deuce," declared the engineer with a laugh; "they think we are fair game."
"I'll give them a little of their own game!" grinned Jim as he picked up a couple of stones on the seat opposite, and he leaned out of the window of the door, sending a stone at the group with accuracy and precision.
"Look at the guy!" they yelled; "paste him in the head."
To their surprise Jim did not duck back at their return volley but fended off a couple of the shots with his forearm, and one he caught with his right hand as though it were a baseball, and hurled it back with a snappy, short arm throw that caught the thrower squarely on the thigh.
"Hurrah for you, fellar!" yelled the crowd.
Jim acknowledged the salute with a graceful wave of his hand.
"Catching 'em Bill!" he yelled up at the driver.
"Gained half a block on 'em!" cried Bill with enthusiasm. Jim could just make out a dark blur in the fog ahead where the pursued hack was galloping to some unknown destination. At the sight all the fierce excitement of the chase came over Jim. He must not let that Mexican escape this time. It meant everything to get a hold of him. He would recover his treasure belt, whose loss was not only a serious blow to his present plans, but an injury to his natural pride and confidence in himself. He could imagine his brother Tom saying:
"Ought to have had me along, Jim; you are too innocent to travel alone."
Hearing the voice of his comrade, Jim drew in his head.
"Catch a sight of the black pirate craft?" inquired the engineer.
"Dead ahead, and a smooth sea, sir," replied Jim touching his hat.
"Glad to be off the pebbles anyway, Captain," returned the engineer; "it may aid digestion, but it is doocid hard on old bones, like mine."
"I'm going upon deck with the pilot," said Jim. "I can't stay below here while that fellow is within hail."
"Natural feeling, Jim," agreed the engineer, "but you will have to have the Jehu up there slow down."
"Can't afford to lose the time," declared Jim. "I can reach the forward step and make it all right."
"Risky," said the engineer, "but that fact won't stop you."
He was correct, it did not, and the driver almost fell off his box in astonishment when he saw Jim's head at his elbow.
"Hey! what's this!" he yelled, as he clubbed his whip to strike. "Oh! it's you is it, Mister," he changed his tone when he saw who it was. "By thunder! I thought I was to be kilt."
"I'll sit in front here, Bill," said Jim genially. "I want to keep an eye open to see that that greaser don't give us the slip."
"He's there in that hack yet," assured the driver; "he hain't had a chance to jump out yit."
"They ain't pulling ahead are they?" inquired Jim, anxiously.
"Holding 'em level going down this hill," replied the driver. "My horse is a leetle heavy for a down grade, but you will see something different when we are going up hill or on the flat."
"I believe you," said Jim heartily; "that horse of yours is a good one."
"Paid five hundred for him, he ought to be," declared his owner proudly.
Inside the hack the engineer was making himself as comfortable as possible. His feet were upon the opposite seat, the green carriage robe was wrapped snugly around him and his head was dented back into the soft cushions. He was thoroughly enjoying the chase in his own way. The lurching of the vehicle did not disturb him, and he felt a certain pleasure in the freedom from any immediate responsibility. There was an excitement, too, in not knowing where the chase would carry. It was all a strange section of the city where they now were. He could see the ghostly fronts of long lines of houses, one not distinguishably different from another, but as similar as if they had been sawn from the same block of wood. The fog palliated many a monstrosity of wooden ornament, little balcony, or carved pinnacle.
If John Berwick was quiescent on the inside of the hack, Jim was on the qui vive on the outside. He had no idea of the direction in which they were going, but he was determined never to lose sight of that particular hack. At this moment they reached the bottom of a long hill. An eddy of air lifted the fog aside for an instant and Jim saw a head thrust out of the window of the hack.
"Geewillikins!" he exclaimed, wrathfully; "that isn't the greaser!"
Sure enough the head was not that belonging to the Mexican at all. It was a shaggy bearded face that leered back at Jim, and then he shouted some direction to the driver, and with a belligerent shake of his fist at Jim, jerked his head back.
"I guess that hunchback is in there all the same," cried the driver.
"He'd better be," growled Jim.
At the motion made by the bushy whiskered man, the driver of the first carriage in this active procession, turned his team at right angles into a street running east. "Bill" followed suit making a dangerous swerve, that almost overturned his vehicle, but it righted itself against the curb, and on the pursuit went. But Jim was beginning to be worried, for the big horse was tiring rapidly, while the mustangs seemed unflagging in their energy.
"How far have we gone?" asked Jim.
"About two miles, Boss," replied the driver.
"It won't be long till dusk," said Jim, "with this fog rolling in."
"I'll get back, what they have gained on us," declared Bill with conviction, "before they have gone another mile."
Jim noticed that this new turn was taking them into an apparently better section of the city, where there were really some fine-looking residences.
"They are making a stern chase of it, Jim," called Berwick, poking his head out of the window.
"We will catch them yet, Chief," declared Jim with outward confidence.
"Good boy!" replied the engineer. "I must say I like your spirit."
"How are you putting in the time down there, John?" queried Jim.
"Taking it easy," replied Berwick; "resting up in case I have to hustle a little later on."
"Wise man!" rejoined Jim; "just as well to save your energies. There will be something doing pretty soon or I miss my guess. We should overhaul them on the next hill."
"You look kind of damp, better get under cover, Jim," urged John Berwick. Indeed Jim did have a dampish look—his eyelashes and eyebrows were beaded with the moisture.
"No, I'm going to stay on deck until we overhaul those pirates," he replied, "and it won't be long either."
However, it was somewhat longer than Jim thought. It seemed that the driver of the forward coupe was determined to make a clean getaway at this point for he laid on the whip with fierce determination.
THE CHASE CONTINUED
After going a half a mile further, the leader in the race made another sharp turn, and a short distance ahead his goal was in sight, or it would have been had not the heavy fog prevailed. Of this, Jim was of course in nowise aware. Suddenly the hack ahead whirled and came to a stop. Two figures leaped out into the fog and started on the run.
Jim thrust a coin into the willing grasp of "Bill," and leaped to the ground closely followed from the cab by John Berwick, leaving the two drivers to themselves, and only a few yards apart. These worthies taking no further interest in the performance of their recent fares, engaged in a wordy altercation as to the rival merits of their steeds, and each had a different answer to the problem of "who won the race?" The outcome of this led to blows; as to the result, that belongs to another chronicle than mine. We are at present concerned with the race between Jim and the Mexican, with the chief and "Bushy Whiskers" as runners up.
Jim bounded after the fleeing Mexican and his comrade, with all the speed of his pent-up energy, and was overtaking him rapidly, when what looked like a high dark rampart showed indistinct through the fog a few rods ahead. Then the Mexican bent low and darted out of sight, and his sturdy companion bounding high in the air disappeared.
Jim was thrown suddenly backward; as in mad pursuit, he dashed into an almost invisible fence of wire, steel colored,—which luckily was not barbed. The engineer who was a few paces behind, stopped in the nick of time, his outstretched hand easily breaking the force of his collision.
"Hurt, Jim?" he queried.
"Naw!" replied James. "Come on, John, let's see if you can jump like his whiskers."
"I'm no rat like that greaser," replied Berwick; "I can't crawl through, I've got to jump."
He showed himself something of an acrobat by the grace and agility with which he vaulted the six foot fence, and Jim went over with more power if less grace. Now they were in a quandary for directly before them was a wood of the tall and ghostly eucalyptus, into which the two fugitives had fled.
"We ought to have told our carriage to wait, Jim," said the chief engineer, with nonchalant humor. "This reminds me of two needles and a haystack."
"I've got their trail, Chief, come on before it gets too dark," ordered Jim, who had been casting around like a hound for a scent.
"You are the 'Boy Scout, or the Young Kit Carson,' for fair, James," cried Berwick, giving him a hearty slap of admiration between his broad shoulders.
Jim grinned but made no reply as he followed the trail into the depth of the wood, which was made weird by the slender forms of the trees whose high tops were hidden by the low hanging mists that were as the breath of the huge ocean. The waters of the ocean not far away were slowly surging through the narrow pass of "The Golden Gate."
Then the hanging white strips of bark from the tall eucalyptus trees, added to the ghostly effect of the interior of the wood. James noticed none of these things for his attention was fixed on following the trail of his enemies. Here his long training in wood and plain craft stood him in good stead. It was his friend, Captain Graves, way back in Colorado, who had given him his first lessons in this difficult art and he could have had no better tutor than the captain, who had himself qualified in many a hard contest with the crafty Indian.
Now the Mexican was subtle, if not crafty, and the ordinary observer, even if he were as intelligent and quick as John Berwick, undoubtedly would have been entirely at sea in following the trail. Jim's keen senses, however, trained for such work, were not to be so easily baffled. The Mexican alone would have been exceedingly hard to have tracked, but his heavier footed comrade disturbed the fallen leaves or left a print in the red soil that betrayed the trail.
However, the pursuers were of necessity slowed down to a certain degree so that their chance of overtaking the two rascals grew slimmer every second. At that moment, however, their chase was given a new impetus. It came with a suddenness that was startling. From some distance ahead, it was difficult to tell how far, there came a furious chorus of yelps, barks and howls.
"Dogs!" cried Jim; "they have got our quarry treed!"
"Wild dogs, too!" said the engineer. "I've run across packs of them traveling in Mongolia. Ugly customers they are, too, unless you are good and ready for them."
At that instant there came the sharp report of half-a-dozen pistol shots, and the yelps were turned to howls of pain.
"Why didn't our friends in front ambush us and load us up with some of those lead pellets," remarked John Berwick thoughtfully.
"Perhaps they hadn't got to the place that suited them," said Jim, "or maybe they have orders from old Captain Broome to take us alive rather than dead. You know he is a man who likes to settle his own grudges, rather than by proxy."
"You must be something of a mind reader, James," remarked Berwick.
"I'm not that," declared Jim, "but I have had some dealing with Captain Bill Broome so I can judge."
Meanwhile the two friends were making straight for the noise of the fracas, and when they had gone about two hundred yards they were surprised by the dash of a big, gaunt, snarling yellow hound, who made a leap for Jim with teeth wide spread. Now James was unarmed, not his usual practice, but he was not in the habit of taking lunch at a restaurant armed to the teeth so that when this chase started he was not armed, else the venture would have come to an end long ago.
However, he did have his long, sharp-edged poniard with him. This he could carry inconspicuously in a belt around his waist. He slipped it from its sheath and met the charge of the hound squarely on his bent knee. He was bent back by the fury of the hound's rush, but he got in a thrust with a deadly precision that left the dog done for on the ground.
The engineer was not so lucky as Jim, he had no weapon of any kind and a small limb of a tree that he had hurriedly picked up proved no defense against the attack of a huge black brute, true of mongrel breed, but none the less ugly. He had knocked prostrate the engineer, who was not a large man, and was raving for his throat with cruel jaws, being held off for the moment only, by Berwick's clever use of the stick he had retained in his clutch when felled.
Jim was quick to see his friend's need. He dared not waste one single second, but with a low rush, he grappled with the brute, and by a sudden surge of his really great strength he thrust the beast to one side and for a moment they struggled fiercely on even terms, Jim's hand gripping the animal's throat, while the red, dripping jaws were striving to close on Jim's shoulder.
Exerting all his strength he managed to twist the beast off his balance and before it could recover had sent the death thrust home. The rest of the pack of smaller dogs evidently did not dare to come on and for a moment Jim rested panting, covered with sweat and blood.
"You certainly saved my neck that time, Jim," acknowledged John Berwick. "I guess it is hanging I'm reserved for."
"If you are ready we will move on; I'm afraid that trail will get cold," said Jim.
"I'm with you," declared the engineer, "but I rather hope that we will soon be out of these woods."
"Here's a little stream," remarked Jim, after they had gone a few yards, "guess I had better remove the signs of the late murder."
"You can see where those fellows crossed," remarked Berwick; "here is the mark of the big fellow's shoes."
"You have the making of a detective in you, John," said Jim with a perfectly sober face.
"Oh! I can detect all right, if it is thrust directly under my nose," agreed the engineer, with a smile.
"I don't see for the life of me how you keep so neat, Chief," remarked Jim, as he wrung out his stained handkerchief; "you look ready to enter into the best society, at a moment's notice." The engineer had taken off his brown hat and was smoothing his hair with a gentle stroke that Jim recognized was characteristic of him and this had provoked his remark about his friend's neatness.
"Hardly as bad as that, James," returned Berwick with a smile, "but I must admit that for some reason I never get very badly mussed in appearance no matter what the occasion may be."
Jim regarded his friend thoughtfully, carefully drying his hands meanwhile.
"I should like to wager a reasonable amount, Berwick, that you always don a dress suit for dinner," said Jim finally.
"Why, yes, I do," agreed the engineer, "whenever there is a chance. It makes you feel like a human being after the grease and grime of the engine room."
"Something in that," admitted Jim. "Well, let's hike."
Jim's persistence was rewarded in a short time, when they came to the boundary of the wood. Here they found the trail very clearly marked, as in the old game of hare and hounds where the point of a new departure is marked by a bunch of cut paper. So in this case there were clear footprints, where the two rascals had cleared the fence and lighted on the damp earth on the other side.