Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Frank Among The Rancheros
Author: Castlemon, Harry, [pseud.], 1842-1915
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Frank Among The Rancheros" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Illustration: THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES]



_THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES._


FRANK AMONG THE RANCHEROS.

BY
HARRY CASTLEMON,
AUTHOR OF "THE GUN-BOAT SERIES," "THE GO-AHEAD
SERIES," ETC.


THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO.,
PHILADELPHIA,
CHICAGO, TORONTO.



FAMOUS CASTLEMON BOOKS.


GUNBOAT SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 6 vols. 12mo.

FRANK THE YOUNG NATURALIST.
FRANK IN THE WOODS.
FRANK ON THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI.
FRANK ON A GUNBOAT.
FRANK BEFORE VICKSBURG.
FRANK ON THE PRAIRIE.


ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo.
Cloth.

FRANK AMONG THE RANCHEROS.
FRANK AT DON CARLOS' RANCH.
FRANK IN THE MOUNTAINS.


SPORTSMAN'S CLUB SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo.
Cloth.

THE SPORTSMAN'S CLUB IN THE SADDLE.
THE SPORTSMAN'S CLUB AFLOAT.
THE SPORTSMAN'S CLUB AMONG THE TRAPPERS.


FRANK NELSON SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

SNOWED UP.
FRANK IN THE FORECASTLE.
THE BOY TRADERS.


BOY TRAPPER SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

THE BURIED TREASURE.
THE BOY TRAPPER.
THE MAIL-CARRIER.


ROUGHING IT SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

GEORGE IN CAMP.
GEORGE AT THE WHEEL.
GEORGE AT THE FORT.


ROD AND GUN SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

DON GORDON'S SHOOTING BOX.
ROD AND GUN CLUB.
THE YOUNG WILD FOWLERS.


GO-AHEAD SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

TOM NEWCOMBE.
GO-AHEAD.
NO MOSS.


FOREST AND STREAM SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 3 vols. 12mo.
Cloth.

JOE WAYRING.
SNAGGED AND SUNK.
STEEL HORSE.


WAR SERIES. By HARRY CASTLEMON. 5 vols. 12mo. Cloth.

TRUE TO HIS COLORS.
RODNEY THE PARTISAN.
RODNEY THE OVERSEER.
MARCY THE BLOCKADE-RUNNER.
MARCY THE REFUGEE.


Other Volumes in Preparation.

       *       *       *       *       *

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868,
by R.W. CARROLL & CO.,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States,
for the Southern District of Ohio.

COPYRIGHT, 1896, BY CHARLES A. FOSDICK.



CONTENTS.


                                 PAGE

CHAPTER I.

A Novel Battle,                     5


CHAPTER II.

Frank's New Home,                  16


CHAPTER III.

Twelve Thousand Dollars,           29


CHAPTER IV.

Frank Proves Himself a Hero,       40


CHAPTER V.

The Fight in the Court,            54


CHAPTER VI.

The Mysteries Solved,              68


CHAPTER VII.

Frank Meets a Highwayman,          81


CHAPTER VIII.

Colonel Arthur Vane,               95


CHAPTER IX.

An Old Boy,                       110

CHAPTER X.

Arthur Shows His Courage,         126


CHAPTER XI.

Arthur Plans Revenge,             137


CHAPTER XII.

Off for the Mountains,            154


CHAPTER XIII.

Pierre and His Band,              168


CHAPTER XIV.

A Dinner in the Mountains,        180


CHAPTER XV.

More Treachery,                   193


CHAPTER XVI.

The Escape,                       204


CHAPTER XVII.

The Struggle on the Cliff,        221


CHAPTER XVIII.

Conclusion,                       237



FRANK AMONG THE RANCHEROS.

CHAPTER I.

A NOVEL BATTLE.


"Pull him along, Carlos! Pull him along!" shouted a young gentleman
about sixteen years of age, as he danced about on the back porch of his
uncle's house, in a state of great excitement; "why don't you pull him
along?"

"He'll come, after awhile," replied the person addressed; "but he is
very wild and obstinate."

The boy on the porch was almost beside himself--so much so, in fact,
that he found it utterly impossible to stand still. He was jumping
wildly about, swinging his arms around his head, and laughing and
shouting at the top of his lungs.

We have met this young gentleman before. We have been with him through
the woods, accompanied him across the prairie, and seen him in some
exciting situations; but, for all that, it is by no means certain that
his most intimate friend, could he have beheld him while he was dancing
about on the porch, would have recognized him. The last time we saw him
he was dressed in a suit of blue jeans, rather the worse for wear, a
slouch hat, and a pair of heavy horseman's boots. Now, he sports a suit
of clothes cut in the height of fashion--that is, Mexican fashion. They
are not exactly of the description that we see on the streets every day,
but they are common among the farmers of Southern California, for that
is where this young gentleman lives. He is dressed in a short jacket of
dark blue cloth, trimmed around the edges, and on the sleeves, with gold
lace, and wide trousers of the same material, also gaudily ornamented.
The hat, with which he fans his flushed face, is a sombrero, bound with
gold cord, the ends of which are adorned with tassels, that fall
jauntily over the edge of the brim. An embroidered shirt of gray cloth,
and shoes and stockings, complete his attire; or, we may add, a long
crimson sash, which is wound several times around his waist, and tied at
the side, and a pair of small Mexican spurs, whose rowels are ornamented
with little silver bells, which tinkle musically as he moves his feet
about. If you fail to recognize an old acquaintance in this excited,
sunburnt boy, you surely can call the name of the tall,
broad-shouldered, sober-looking youth, who stands at his side. Three
months in the saddle have not changed Frank Nelson a great deal, only he
is a little more robust, and, perhaps, more sedate. He has lost none of
his love of excitement, and he is quite as interested in what is going
on before him as Archie; but he stands with his hands in his pockets,
looking as dignified as a judge. It would be a wonder if they were not
somewhat excited, as they are witnessing a desperate battle that is
going on between two of their uncle's Rancheros and a wild steer, which
one of them has lassoed, and is trying to pull through the gate into the
cow-pen. The animal is struggling furiously for his freedom, and the
issue of the contest is doubtful.

At the time our story begins, Frank and his cousin had lived two months
in Southern California, where Mr. Winters owned a farm--or, in the
language of that country, a _rancho_--of sixteen thousand acres. Besides
attending to his business in the mines, and superintending his affairs
in Sacramento, Uncle James had devoted a portion of his time to
stock-raising; and, when Frank and Archie first saw his immense droves
of horses and cattle, they thought them sufficient in numbers to supply
all the markets in America.

Mr. Winters's rancho was not managed like the farms in our part of the
country. To begin with, there were but three fences on it--one inclosed
two small barns and corn-cribs; another, a pasture of two or three
acres, and the third formed the cow-pen. In the barns, Uncle James kept
his riding and farm horses; the pasture was for the use of the half
dozen cows which supplied the rancho with butter and milk; and the
cow-pen was nothing more nor less than a prison, into which, in the
spring of the year, all the young cattle and horses were driven and
branded with the initials of the owner's name. This was done so that
Mr. Winters and his hired men might be able to recognize the stock
anywhere. The cattle sometimes strayed, and became mixed up with those
of the neighbors, and the marks on their flanks showed to whom they
belonged.

[Illustration]

A fence around that farm would have been useless. None of the cattle and
horses had ever been handled, except when they were branded, and,
consequently, they were very wild. Sometimes they became frightened and
stampeded; and then they behaved like a herd of buffaloes, which turn
aside for nothing, and stop only when they are completely tired out. On
these occasions, the strongest fences that could have been made would
have been trampled down like the grass beneath their feet.

Of course, these cattle and horses had never seen the inside of a
stable. Indeed, a barn large enough to accommodate them would have been
an immense building, and would have cost more money than all the
stock-raisers in the country were worth. However, there was no need of
shelter for them. The grass on the prairie was abundant at all seasons
of the year, the winters were very mild, and the cattle were always fat
and in condition to be driven to market.

All this stock was managed by half a dozen men, called Rancheros. Four
of them were Mexicans; the others were our old friends, Dick Lewis and
Bob Kelly. So skillful were these men in their business, that a herd of
cattle, which, in the hands of any one else, would have proved utterly
unmanageable, was driven about by them with perfect ease. Sometimes it
became necessary to secure a single member of these droves. Perhaps the
housekeeper wanted some fresh meat for dinner, or Uncle James desired a
new riding horse; in either case, the services of these men were
invaluable. Mr. Winters would issue the necessary orders to Carlos--who
was the chief of the Rancheros, and the man who managed the farm during
the absence of his employer--and an hour or two afterward four quarters
of fine beef would be carried into the cellar, or Mr. Winters would be
requested to step to the door and see if they had captured the horse he
wanted. The Rancheros accomplished this with their lassos, which they
carried suspended from the horns of their saddles wherever they went. A
lasso is a long rope, about as large as a clothes-line, and is generally
made of rawhide. One end of it is fastened to the saddle, and the other,
by the aid of a strong iron ring, formed into a running noose. This
contrivance these herdsmen could use with a skill that was astonishing.
Mounted on their fleet horses, they would ride up behind a wild steer,
and catch him by the horns, around his neck, or by one of his feet, as
suited their fancy.

On the morning we find Frank and Archie on the porch, their nearest
neighbor, also a stock-raiser, had ridden over to inform them that one
of his fine steers, which he had intended to drive to market, had
escaped from his Rancheros, and joined one of Mr. Winters's droves;
whereupon Frank, who, in the absence of his uncle, acted as the head man
of the ranch, sent for Carlos, and commanded him to capture the runaway,
and confine him in the cow-pen until his owner should send for him.
Carlos had obeyed the first part of the order, but just then it seemed
that that was all he could do. The steer had suddenly taken it into his
head that he had been driven far enough, and that he would not go
through the gate that led into the cow-pen; and, although Carlos pulled
him by his lasso, which he had thrown over his horns, and another
Ranchero, named Felix, vigorously applied a whip from behind, the
obstinate animal refused to budge an inch. Sometimes he would kick, and
plunge, and try to run off; and then the horse on which Carlos was
mounted, which seemed to understand the business quite as well as his
master, would plant his fore-feet firmly on the ground to stop him.
Finding that he could not effect his escape in that way, the steer would
run around in a circle; and the horse would turn around also, keeping
his face toward the animal all the while, and thus avoid being wrapped
up in the lasso. This novel battle had been going on for nearly ten
minutes, and even Frank had become highly excited over it.

"Pull him along, Carlos!" shouted Archie, jumping about on the porch as
if he had lost all control over his legs, and they would dance in spite
of every thing he could do to prevent it. "Pull him along! Whip up
behind, Felix; hit him hard!"

Archie continued to shout his orders at the top of his voice; but they
did not seem to help the matter any, for the steer still refused to
move. He had fallen to his knees, and laid his head close to the ground,
as if he had deliberately resolved that he would remain there; and for a
long time, all the pulling and whipping the two Rancheros could do,
brought nothing from him but angry snorts and shakes of the head.

"Now, Archie," said Carlos, as he stopped to wipe the big drops of
perspiration from his face, "what would you do with this fellow?"

The boys, who never neglected an opportunity to pick up items of
information concerning every thing that came in their way, had been
taking lessons of the Rancheros in horsemanship, throwing the lasso, and
managing wild cattle; and Carlos thought this a proper occasion to
ascertain how much they remembered of what they had learned.

"Well," replied Archie, pulling off his sombrero, and digging his
fingers into his head, to stir up his ideas, "I'd keep pulling and
hauling at him until I got him tired out, and then I think I could
manage him."

"That would take up too much time," said Carlos; "I've got other work to
do, and I am in a hurry."

"Make your lasso fast to the horn of your saddle, and start up your
horse, and drag him in," suggested Frank.

"That's the idea, and that's just what I'm going to do," said Carlos.

But that was just what the Ranchero did _not_ do. While he was preparing
to put this plan into operation, the steer suddenly jumped to his feet,
and made another desperate attempt to effect his escape, and this time
he was successful. There was a loud snap, Carlos's heels made a flourish
in the air like the shafts of a windmill, and, in an instant, he was
stretched at full length on the ground. His saddle-girth had parted, and
the steer was at liberty to take himself off, which he did in short
order.

The boys gazed in astonishment at the fallen horseman, who righted
himself with alacrity, stretched his arms and legs to satisfy himself
that there were no bones broken, and then commenced shouting some
orders to his companion, who put spurs to his horse and started in
pursuit of the steer, which was galloping over the prairie, dragging
Carlos's saddle after him. He was very soon overtaken, and Felix,
raising himself in his stirrups, swung his lasso around his head once or
twice, to make sure of an accurate aim, and launched it at the steer.
The lariat whistled through the air, as true to its course as a ball
from a rifle, the noose settled down over his horns, the horse stopped
suddenly, and the runaway lay struggling on the ground.

His last attempt at escape seemed to have exhausted his energies, for
when he had regained his feet, he allowed Felix to lead him back to the
gate and into the cow-pen, where he was turned loose, to remain until
his owner should send for him.



CHAPTER II.

FRANK'S NEW HOME.


Frank and Archie, as we have before remarked, had been in California
about two months; and, between riding, hunting, visiting, and assisting
Uncle James, who was engaged in selling off his stock and closing up his
business, preparatory to his return to Lawrence, they had passed the
time most agreeably. They were as fond as ever of excitement, were
almost constantly in the saddle, and Mr. Winters often said that if they
and their horses and dog did not travel a thousand miles every day, it
was not because they did not try.

When the boys first arrived in California, they thought themselves
expert in all manner of frontier accomplishments. But one morning, they
rode over to visit Johnny Harris and Dick Thomas--two boys, about their
own age, with whom they had become acquainted--and, during the day,
they witnessed some feats of skill that made them wonder. Johnny and
Dick, to show what they could do, captured and rode a couple of wild
horses, that had never been handled before; and Frank and Archie were
compelled to admit that they had some things yet to learn. Every boy in
that country could throw the lasso, and the cousins found that, if they
desired to keep up their reputation, they must put themselves under
instructions. Dick and Bob readily took them in hand, and, although the
boys were awkward at first, they improved rapidly. They soon learned to
throw the lasso with considerable skill, and Frank speedily took the
lead in rifle-shooting, while Archie began to brag of his horsemanship.
The former could bring a squirrel out of the top of the highest oak on
the farm, at every shot; and his cousin could bend down from his saddle
and pick up his sombrero from the ground, while his horse was going at
the top of his speed.

The horses the boys rode were the same that had carried them across the
prairie, and they were now hitched at the end of the porch, saddled and
bridled, and awaiting the pleasure of their masters. One of them, Sleepy
Sam, looked as sleepy as ever. He stood with his head down, and his eyes
half closed, as if it made no difference to him whether Archie took his
morning ride or not. The other, a magnificent iron-gray, pulled
impatiently at his halter, and pranced about, apparently as much excited
as Archie had been a few moments before. This was the "king of the
drove"--the one the trappers had captured during their sojourn at the
Old Bear's Hole. He answered to the name of Roderick; for Frank had read
Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake," and, admiring the character of
the rebel chieftain, had named his favorite after him. Perhaps the name
was appropriate, for the animal sometimes showed a disposition to rebel
against lawful authority, especially when any one besides Frank
attempted to put a saddle or bridle on him. He was a wild-looking
fellow, and he had a way of laying back his ears, and opening his mouth,
when any one came near him, that would have made a stranger think twice
before trying to mount him. With Frank, however, he was as gentle as a
dog. He would come at his call, stand on his hind legs, and carry his
master's whip or sombrero. He would kick and bite at Frank when the
latter tickled him in the ribs, all in sport, of course; but if Mr.
Winters, or one of the herdsmen, came about him, he would use his teeth
and heels in good earnest. He was as swift as ever, and Frank had yet to
see the horse that could beat him.

The saddles these horses wore were like every thing else about
themselves and masters, of the Mexican pattern. They were made of
beautifully-stamped leather, with high pommels in front, the tops of
which were flat, and as large around as the crown of Frank's sombrero. A
pair of saddle-bags was fastened across the seat of each, in which the
boys carried several handy articles, such as flint, steel, and tinder
for lighting a fire; ammunition for their revolvers, which were safely
stowed away in bearskin holsters strapped in front of the saddles, and
large clasp-knives, that were useful in skinning squirrels when the boys
went hunting. Behind the saddles, neatly rolled up, and held in their
places by straps, were a couple of pouches, which they used in rainy
weather. They were pieces of India-rubber cloth, with holes in the
center for the wearers' heads. They were large enough to afford complete
protection from the rain, and could also be used as tents in case the
boys found it necessary to camp all night on the prairie.

We have spoken of Frank's dog; but were we to let the matter drop here,
it would be slighting an animal which had played a somewhat important
part in the history of Frank's life in California. His name was Marmion,
and he had been presented to Frank by Captain Porter--an old fur-trader,
who lived a few miles distant from the rancho, and with whom the cousins
were great favorites. Archie did not like the dog, and, if the truth
must be told, the dog had not the smallest particle of affection for
Archie. In fact, he cared for no one except his master, and that was the
reason the fur-trader had given him to Frank. He was as large as two
ordinary dogs--very courageous, and so savage that no one cared to
trouble him. He had seen some stirring times during his life, and his
body was covered with wounds, some of which were not entirely healed.
Frank was quite as fond of him as he was of Brave, and with good reason,
too. Marmion had received those wounds while fighting for his master,
and it was through his interference that Frank had been saved from a
long captivity. It happened before the commencement of our story, and
how it came to pass shall be told in the following chapters.

The house in which Frank and Archie lived stood in a grove of stately
oak-trees, and, externally, was in perfect keeping with its
surroundings. It was built of massive logs, in the form of a hollow
square, with an open court in the center, which was paved with stone.
The windows, which extended down to the floor, and which were used for
ingress and egress quite as often as the doors, were protected by
shutters made of heavy planks, and there were four loop-holes on each
side of the house, showing that it had been intended to serve as a
defense as well as a shelter. Indeed, it looked more like a
fortification than a dwelling.

The house was old, and had a history--an exciting one, too, as any one
could have told after examining it closely. The walls bore numerous
scars, which had been made by bullets, and the trees surrounding the
dwelling were marked in the same manner. The grove had not always been
as peaceful and quiet as we found it. Its echoes had been awakened by
the yells of infuriated men and the reports of hostile rifles, and the
very sod upon which Frank sometimes stretched himself after dinner, to
while away an hour with some favorite author, had been wet with blood.

When the house was built, there was not another human habitation within
a circle of twenty miles. The country was an unbroken wilderness. Mr.
Winters's nearest neighbors were bands of roving freebooters, who robbed
all who came in their way. They did not, however, content themselves
with waylaying solitary travelers. They frequently made organized
attacks upon remote farm-houses, and one night they made a sudden
descent upon Mr. Winters's rancho. But the old frontiersman had lived
too long in that country, and was too well acquainted with the
character of his neighbors, to be caught napping. He and his Rancheros
were armed to the teeth, and prepared for a fight; and, after a siege of
two days, during which time the robbers poured an almost constant shower
of bullets against the walls of the house, they withdrew, after shooting
and dispersing the cattle, and destroying the crops. Not one of Mr.
Winters's party was injured; but the outlaws suffered so severely, that
they never repeated the attempt to rob that rancho.

Frank and Archie never grew tired of hearing Uncle James tell the story
of that fight, and nearly every day they examined the marks of the
bullets on the logs, sometimes being foolish enough to wish that they
had been there to take part in those exciting scenes, or that the
robbers would return and make another attack on the house, so that they
might be able to say that they had been in a real battle. Then they
should have a story to tell that would be worth listening to. They never
imagined that, before they were many years older, they could recount
adventures quite as exciting as their uncle's.

The interior of the house presented a strange contrast to the outside.
When one crossed the threshold, he found himself surrounded with all the
comforts of civilization. There were fine carpets on the floors, oil
paintings on the walls, and easy chairs, sofas, and musical instruments
in abundance. The room the boys occupied was the only one in which could
be found any traces of the backwoods. It was a pleasant, cheerful
apartment, quite as nicely furnished as the other rooms in the house,
and every thing about it bespoke the taste and character of its young
masters. A stranger, having taken a single glance at the numerous
articles hung upon the walls, and scattered about over the floor--some
of them useful and ornamental, others apparently of no value or service
to any one--could have told that its presiding geniuses were live,
wide-awake, restless boys.

The room contained a fine library, an extensive collection of relics of
all descriptions, and its walls were adorned with pictures, only they
were of a different character from those in the other parts of the
house. Frank and Archie cared nothing for such scenes as the "Soldier's
Dream" and "Sunrise in the Mountains;" their tastes ran in another
channel. Their favorite picture hung over their writing desk, and was
entitled, "One Rubbed Out." In the foreground was a man mounted on a
mustang that was going at full speed. The man was dressed in the garb of
a hunter, with leggins, moccasins, and coonskin cap, and in one hand he
carried a rifle, while the other held the reins which guided his horse.
The hunter was turned half around in the saddle, looking back toward
half a dozen Indians, who had been pursuing him, but were now gathered
about their chief, who had been struck from his horse by a ball from the
hunter's rifle. The latter's face wore a broad grin, which testified to
the satisfaction he felt at the result of this shot. This picture had
been shown to old Bob Kelly, who, after regarding it attentively for a
few moments, declared that it must have been painted by some one who was
acquainted with the story of his last trip to the Saskatchewan, the
particulars of which he had related to Dick on the night he made his
first appearance in their camp.

"I don't know how the chap that made that ar' pictur' could have found
it out," said old Bob, who, simple-hearted fellow that he was, really
believed that the hunter in the painting was intended to represent him,
"'cause I never told the story to nobody 'cept you an' my chum Dick. But
thar's one thing wrong about it, youngsters. When I shot a Injun, I
didn't hold my rifle on the horn of my saddle, an' waste time laughin'
over it. I loaded up again to onct, an' got ready for another shot."

At the opposite end of the room hung a picture of a hunters' camp. Two
or three men were stretched out on the ground before a cheerful fire,
resting after the labors of the day, while others were coming in from
the woods--some loaded with water-fowl, some with fish, and the two who
brought up the rear were staggering under the weight of a fine deer they
had shot. Archie often wondered where that camp could have been located.
He did not believe there was a place in the United States where game of
all kinds was as abundant as the hunters in the picture found it.

Paintings of this character occupied prominent places on the walls of
the room, and between them hung numerous relics the boys had collected
during their journey across the prairie, and a few trophies of their
skill as hunters. Over the door were the antlers of the first and only
elk they had killed, and upon them hung a string of grizzly bear's
claws, which had once been worn as a necklace by an Indian chief, and
also a bow, a quiver full of arrows, a stone tomahawk, and a
scalping-knife--all of which had been presented to them by Captain
Porter. At the head of the bed were two pairs of deer's horns fastened
to the wall, and supporting their rifles, bullet-pouches, powder-horns,
and hunting-knives.

These articles were all highly prized by the boys; but, upon a nail
driven into the wall beside the book-case, hung something that, next to
his horse and dog, held the most exalted place in Frank's estimation. It
was the remnant of the first lasso he had ever owned. He thought more of
it than of any other article he possessed, and he would have surrendered
every thing, except Roderick and Marmion, before he would have parted
with that piece of a rawhide rope. It had once saved his uncle's life;
and, more than that, Frank himself had been hanged with it. Yes, as
improbable as it may seem, one end of that lasso had been placed around
his neck, the other thrown over the hook which supported one of his
large pictures, and Frank had been drawn up until his toes only rested
on the floor; and all because he refused to tell where he had hidden a
key. Where the rest of the lasso was he did not know. The last time he
saw it, it was around the neck of a man who was running through the
grove at the top of his speed, with Marmion close at his heels. The dog
came back, but the man and the piece of lasso did not; and this brings
us to our story.



CHAPTER III.

TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS.


One day, about six weeks before the commencement of our story, Frank and
Archie were sent to San Diego on business for Uncle James. When they
returned, they found a new face among the Rancheros--that of Pierre
Costello, a man for whom Frank at once conceived a violent dislike.
Pierre was a full-blooded Mexican, dark-browed, morose, and
sinister-looking, and he had a pair of small, black eyes that were never
still, but constantly roving about, as if on the lookout for something.
His appearance was certainly forbidding; but that was not the reason why
Frank disliked him. It was because Marmion regarded him with suspicion,
and seemed to think he had no business on the rancho. When the Ranchero
came about the house, Marmion would follow him wherever he went, as if
he feared that the man was about to attempt some mischief; and, when
Pierre returned to his quarters, the dog always seemed to be immensely
relieved. Frank invariably made common cause with his favorites, whether
they belonged to the human or brute creation, and without taking the
trouble to inquire into the merits of the case; and, when he found how
matters stood between Pierre and Marmion, he at once espoused the cause
of his dog, and hated the Ranchero as cordially as though the latter had
done him some terrible injury, although the man had never spoken to him,
except to salute him very respectfully every time they met.

That Pierre hated and feared the dog, quite as much as the animal
disliked him, was evident. He would scowl, and say "_Carrajo_," every
time Marmion came near him, and lay his hand on his knife, as if it
would have afforded him infinite pleasure could he have found an
opportunity, to draw it across the dog's throat. Frank had often noticed
this, and consequently, when he one day came suddenly upon the dog,
which was looking wistfully at a piece of meat Pierre was holding out
to him, he was astonished, and not a little alarmed. The Mexican
scowled, as he always did when Frank came near him, and walked away,
hiding the meat under his coat.

"Give it to me, Pierre," said Frank; "Marmion don't like to be fed by
strangers."

The Ranchero kept on as if he were not aware that he had been spoken to;
and his conduct went a long way in confirming the new suspicions that
had suddenly sprung up in Frank's mind.

"Uncle," said he, that evening, after supper, as he joined Mr. Winters
and Archie, who had seated themselves on the porch to enjoy the cool
breeze of evening, "how long do you intend to keep that new Ranchero?"

"As long as he will stay," replied Mr. Winters. "He is one of the most
faithful men I ever had, and he is quite as skillful in his business as
either Carlos or Dick."

"He is a mean man for all that," said Frank; "he tried to poison
Marmion, to-day."

"I don't blame him," said Archie; "a meaner, uglier dog I never saw"--

"Now, Archie," interrupted Frank, "I like the dog; and even if I didn't,
I would keep him because he is a present."

"How do you know that Pierre tried to poison him?" asked Mr. Winters.

"Why, he was holding a piece of meat out to the dog, and when I came up
he walked off in a great hurry," replied Frank, who, when he came to
state the case, found that it was not quite so strong against the
Ranchero as he had at first supposed.

"He may have done all that, and still be innocent of any desire to
injure your favorite. Marmion doesn't like him, and, no doubt, Pierre is
trying his best to make friends with him. I'll insure your dog's life
for a quarter."

Frank was far from being satisfied. Somehow, he did not like the scowl
he had often seen on Pierre's face. He was certain that the Ranchero had
intended to harm Marmion; but why? Not simply because he hated the dog,
but for the reason that the animal was in his way. This was the view
Frank took of the case; and, believing that Pierre was there for no
good, he resolved to keep a close watch on all his movements.

A day or two after that, Mr. Winters and Archie set out on horseback for
San Diego, the former to collect the money for a drove of horses he had
sold there, before his departure for the East, and Archie to explore the
city. Frank, hourly expecting his two friends, Johnny Harris and Dick
Thomas, who had promised to spend a week with him, remained at home,
with the housekeeper and two of the Rancheros, one of whom was Pierre,
for company. Dick and Bob, and the rest of the herdsmen, were off
somewhere, attending to the stock.

Frank, being left to himself, tried various plans for his amusement. He
read a few pages in half a dozen different books, took a short gallop
over the prairie, shot a brace of quails for his dinner; all the while
keeping a bright lookout for his expected visitors, who, however, did
not make their appearance. About noon, he was gratified by hearing the
sound of a horse's hoofs in the court. He ran out, expecting to welcome
Johnny and Dick, but, to his disappointment, encountered a stranger,
who reined up his horse at the door, and inquired:

"Is this Mr. Winters's rancho, young man?"

Frank replied that it was.

"He is at home, I suppose?" continued the visitor.

"No, sir; he started for the city early this morning."

The gentleman said that was very unfortunate, and began to make
inquiries concerning the road Mr. Winters generally traveled when he
went to San Diego--whether he took the upper or lower trail--and then he
wondered what he should do.

"My name is Brown," said he; and Frank knew he was the very man his
uncle expected to meet in San Diego. "I owe Mr. Winters some money for a
drove of horses I bought of him before he went to the States, and I have
come up to pay it. I have here twelve thousand dollars in gold," he
added, laying his hand on his saddle-bags, which seemed to be heavy and
well filled.

"Couldn't you remain until day after to-morrow?" asked Frank. "Uncle
James will be at home then."

"I can't spare the time. I am on my way to Fort Yuma, where I have some
business to transact that may detain me three or four days. I don't like
to carry this money there and back, for it is heavy, and there is no
knowing what sort of travelers one may meet on the road. Wouldn't it be
all right if I should leave it here with you?"

"Yes, sir," replied Frank, eager to accept the responsibility; "I can
take care of it. But I thought you might want a receipt."

"I am not particular about that. Mr. Winters has trusted me for about
six months, and I think I can afford to trust him for as many days. I'll
call and get the receipt when I come back."

As Mr. Brown said this, he dismounted, and Pierre, who, ever since his
employer's departure, had seemed to have nothing to do but to loiter
about the house, and who had stood at the opposite side of the court,
listening to every word of the conversation, came up to hold his horse.
The visitor shouldered his saddle-bags, and followed Frank into a room
which went by the name of "the office," where Mr. Winters transacted all
his business. The room was furnished with a high desk, a three-legged
stool, and a small safe, which, like those in banks, was set into the
wall, so that nothing but the door could be seen.

"That is just the place for it," said Mr. Brown; "it will be secure
there."

"But I haven't got the key," replied Frank; "uncle always carries it in
his pocket."

"Well, I don't suppose there would be any danger if you were to leave
the money on the porch. Of course, your hired people can be depended on,
or your uncle wouldn't keep them."

Frank thought there was at least one person on the rancho who could not
be trusted to any great extent; but, of course, he said nothing about
it. He glanced around the room, wondering what he should do with the
money, when he discovered that his uncle had left the key of the desk in
the lock. For want of a better place, Frank decided to put the gold in
there. Mr. Brown took it out of his saddle-bags, and packed it away in
the drawer--six bags in all, each containing two thousand dollars, in
bright, new "yellow-boys." Then, declining Frank's invitation to stay to
dinner, the gentleman bade him good-by, mounted his horse, and resumed
his journey.

"Twelve thousand dollars!" said Frank, to himself, as he locked the desk
and put the key into his pocket. "Why, that's a fortune! Now that I
think of it, I almost wish Mr. Brown hadn't left it here. What would
Uncle James say if somebody should break into the house and steal it?"

As Frank asked himself this question, he turned suddenly, and saw Pierre
standing on the porch, in front of one of the windows, watching him with
eager eyes. He must have moved very quietly to have approached so near
without attracting the boy's attention, and that, to Frank, whose
suspicions had already been thoroughly aroused, was good evidence that
the Ranchero was not just what he ought to be. If he was an honest man,
he would not try to slip around without making any noise.

Finding that he was discovered, Pierre removed his sombrero and said,
without the least embarrassment:

"Is it your pleasure to ride? If so, I will saddle your horse."

"You need not trouble yourself," replied Frank, rather gruffly. "I shall
remain at home."

Pierre bowed and walked away.

"Now, that rascal thinks he is sharp," said Frank, gazing after the
Ranchero. "He never offered to saddle my horse before, and he wouldn't
have done it then if I hadn't caught him looking in at the window. I
wonder if he thinks I am foolish enough to ride for pleasure at this
time of day, with the thermometer standing a hundred degrees in the
shade? That fellow is a scoundrel, and he is up to something. Perhaps he
is after this gold. If he is, he may have the satisfaction of knowing
that he won't get it."

So saying, Frank began to close and fasten the shutters which protected
the windows, and while thus engaged, he caught a glimpse of the
Ranchero's dark face peering at him around the corner of the house.

"If I owned this ranch," said Frank, to himself, "that fellow shouldn't
stay here five minutes longer. I'd pay him off, and tell him to leave as
fast as his horse could carry him."

Having satisfied himself that the windows were so well secured that no
one could effect an entrance through them, Frank opened the drawer and
took another good look at the money, as if he were afraid that it might
have been spirited away even while he was in the room; after which he
locked the desk, and hid the key under the edge of the carpet. Then
glancing about the office, to make sure that every thing was safe, he
closed the door, and hurrying into his own room, he threw the key under
his writing-desk, next to the wall. Then he breathed easier. The money
was as safe as it would have been in the bank at San Diego.



CHAPTER IV.

FRANK PROVES HIMSELF A HERO.


"There!" said Frank, with something like a sigh of relief. "If Pierre
gets into that office to-night, he'll have to use an ax; and if he tries
that"--

Frank finished the sentence by shaking his head in a threatening manner,
and taking down his rifle, which he proceeded to load very carefully. He
had made up his mind to fight, if it should become necessary.

He was now more anxious than ever for the arrival of his two friends,
for he did not like the idea of remaining alone in the house all night,
with so much money under his charge, and a villainous-looking Mexican
hovering about. Frank, as we know, was very far from being a coward; but
having by some means got it into his head that Pierre was a rascal, and
that something unpleasant would happen before morning, he could not
help feeling rather anxious.

The afternoon wore slowly away, but Johnny and Dick did not make their
appearance. Darkness came on apace, and Frank, being at last satisfied
that he was to be left alone in his glory for that night at least, ate
his supper, and visited Roderick in his stable to see that he was well
provided for, and then whistled for his dog, which he had not seen since
the departure of Mr. Brown. Marmion, however, did not respond to the
call. Frank whistled and shouted several times in vain, and then set out
to hunt up his favorite. He visited the Rancheros' quarters, and found
Felix and Pierre sitting in the door of one of the cabins, smoking their
cigarettes. The former had not seen the dog; but, willing to serve Frank
to any extent in his power, offered to go in search of the animal.
Pierre, however, said that would be useless, for he had seen Marmion in
hot pursuit of a rabbit. No doubt he had driven the game into its
burrow, and was engaged in digging it out. When he caught the rabbit, he
would come home of his own free will.

Although Frank was suspicious of every thing Pierre said or did, he
could see no reason for disbelieving this story. Marmion was quite as
fond of the chase as his young master, and frequently indulged in
hunting expeditions on his own responsibility; sometimes being absent
all day and nearly all night. But he was not off hunting then, and
Pierre had told a deliberate falsehood, when he said that he had seen
him in pursuit of a rabbit. The Ranchero had determined upon a course of
action which he knew he could not follow out so long as the dog was at
liberty, and Marmion was, at that very moment, lying bound and muzzled
under one of the corn-cribs, almost within hearing of his master's
voice.

Frank slowly retraced his steps toward the house, feeling more nervous
and uneasy than ever. In Marmion he had an ally that could be depended
on in any emergency; and, if the dog had been at his side, he would have
felt perfectly safe. But he was not the one to indulge long in gloomy
thoughts without a cause, and in order to drive them away, he lighted
his lamp, and, drawing his easy-chair upon the porch, amused himself
until nine o'clock with his guitar. The music not only served to soothe
his troubled feelings, but also had the effect of banishing his
suspicions to a great extent, and left him in a much more cheerful frame
of mind.

"How foolish I have been," said he, to himself. "Because Pierre is ugly,
like all the rest of his race, and because he always carries a knife in
his belt, and hates Marmion, I have been willing to believe him capable
of any villainy. I don't suppose he has thought of that gold since he
saw me lock it up."

As Frank said this, he pulled his chair into the room, and selecting
Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans" from the numerous volumes in the
library, he dismissed all thoughts of the Ranchero, and sat down to read
until he should become sleepy. He soon grew so deeply interested in his
book, that he did not hear the light step that sounded on the porch, nor
did he see the dark, glittering eyes which looked steadily at him
through the open window. He saw them a moment afterward, however, for,
while he was absorbed in that particular part of the fight at Glen's
Falls, where Hawk-Eye snapped his unloaded rifle at the Indian who was
making off with the canoe in which the scout had left his ammunition, a
figure glided quickly but noiselessly into the room, and stopped behind
the boy's chair.

"Now, my opinion is that Hawk-Eye was not much of a backwoodsman, after
all," said Frank, who was in the habit of commenting upon and
criticising every thing he read. "Why did he leave his extra powder-horn
in his canoe, when he knew that the Hurons were all around him? You
wouldn't catch Dick or old Bob Kelly in any such scrape, nor me either,
for that matter, for I would"--

Frank's soliloquy was brought to a close very suddenly, and what he was
about to say must forever remain a secret. His throat was seized with an
iron grasp, and he was lifted bodily out of his chair, and thrown upon
the floor. So quickly was it done that he had no time to resist or to
cry out. Before he could realize what had happened, he found himself
lying flat on his back, and felt a heavy weight upon his breast holding
him down.

Filled with surprise and indignation, he looked up into the face that
was bending over him, and recognized Pierre Costello, whose features
wore a fiendish expression, the effect of which was heightened by a
murderous-looking knife which he carried between his teeth. Scowling
fiercely, as if he were trying to strike terror to the boy's heart by
his very appearance, he loosened his grasp on Frank's throat, and the
latter, after coughing and swallowing to overcome the effects of the
choking he had received, demanded:

"What do you mean, you villain?"

Pierre, without making any reply, coolly proceeded to overhaul the
contents of Frank's pockets. Like all boys of his age, our hero was
supplied with a variety of articles, which, however serviceable they may
be to a youngster of sixteen, no one else could possibly find use for,
and the Ranchero's investigations brought to light a fish-line,
bait-box, a rooster's spur, of which Frank intended to make a charger
for his rifle, a piece of buckskin, half a dozen bullets, a brass
cannon, a pocket comb, a quill pop-gun, a small compass, a silver ring,
a match-box, a jack-knife, and a piece of lead. These articles he
tossed upon the floor, rather contemptuously, and then turned all
Frank's pockets inside out, but failed to discover any thing more.

"Where are they?" demanded Pierre, removing the knife from his mouth,
and looking savagely at his prisoner, who all this time had lain
perfectly still upon the floor, apparently not the least alarmed.

"Where are what?" inquired Frank.

"The keys, you young vagabond!" returned the Ranchero, astonished at the
result of his search, and in a great hurry to get through with his
business. "The keys that open the office and the safe. Speak quick!"

"The safe key is where you'll never get your hands upon it," replied
Frank. "If you want it, you'll have to go to San Diego, catch Uncle
James, and throw him down, as you did me, and search his pockets for it.
But that is something a dozen such fellows as you couldn't do."

"But the office key! Where's that?"

"It's in a safe place, also," said Frank, who had already resolved that
the would-be robber should never learn from him where he had hidden the
key. "If I were a man, I should like to see you hold me down so easily.
Let me up, or I'll call for help!"

"If you speak above your breath, I'll choke you!" said Pierre, with
savage emphasis. "I am not done with you yet! Is the money in the safe?"

"That's none of your business! Let me up, I say! Here, Marmion!
Marmion!"

"_Carrajo!_" muttered the Ranchero, again seizing his prisoner's throat
in his powerful fingers. "Do you want me to kill you?"

Frank, nothing daunted by this rough treatment, struggled manfully, and
tried hard to make a defiant reply, but could not utter a sound. Pierre
tightened his grasp, until it seemed as if he had deliberately resolved
to send him out of the world altogether, and then released his hold, and
waited until Frank was able to speak before he said:

"You see that I am in earnest! Now, answer me! Is the gold in the safe?"

"I am in earnest, too!" replied Frank, as bravely as ever. "I shall not
tell you where it is. Are you going to let me up?"

"I am going to make you tell where you have put that key!" said Pierre,
as he removed the sash his prisoner wore around his waist, and began to
confine his arms behind his back. "If I once get inside the office, I'll
soon find out where you have put that gold."

"But you are not inside the office yet, and I don't think you will get
there very soon. If you were well acquainted with me, you would know
that you can not drive me one inch. You're a coward, Pierre," he added,
as he released one of his hands by a sudden jerk, and made a desperate
but unsuccessful attempt to seize the ruffian by the hair. "You don't
give a fellow a fair chance. I wish my dog was here."

"You need not look for him," said the Ranchero; "he'll never come."

Frank made no reply. He was wondering what his captor intended to do
with him, and turning over in his mind numerous wild plans for escape.
Pierre, in his haste, was tying the sash in a very clumsy manner, and
Frank was certain that, with one vigorous twist, he could set himself
at liberty. In spite of his unpleasant and even painful situation--for,
after his attempt to catch the Ranchero by the hair, the latter had
turned him upon his face, and was kneeling upon him to hold him down--he
could not help chuckling to himself when he thought how he would
astonish Pierre if he did not mind what he was about.

"Perhaps he will leave me, and try to force an entrance into the
office," soliloquized Frank. "If he does, I am all right! I'll jerk my
arms out of this sash, pick up that rifle, and the first thing Mr.
Pierre Costello knows, he'll be the prisoner. I'll march him to the
quarters, and tell Felix to tie him, hand and foot."

Unfortunately for the success of these plans, the Ranchero did not leave
the room after he had tied Frank's arms. He was too well acquainted with
the old house to think of trying to force an entrance into the office.
He knew that the doors and window-shutters were as strong as wood and
iron could make them, and that it would be a dangerous piece of business
to attempt to break them open. Felix, all unconscious of what was going
on in the house, snored lustily in his quarters, and the housekeeper
slept in a room adjoining the kitchen; and if Pierre awakened either of
them, he might bid good-by to all hopes of ever securing possession of
the gold. His only hope was in compelling Frank to tell where he had put
the office key.

"Now, then," said he, "I will give you one more chance. Where is it?"

"Where's what?" asked Frank.

"The office key!" exclaimed the Ranchero, enraged at the coolness of his
prisoner. "Tell me where it is, or I'll drive you through the floor!"

As he said this, he raised his fist over Frank's head, as if he were on
the point of putting his threat into execution.

"Drive away!" replied Frank.

"Then you won't tell me where it is?" yelled the Ranchero.

"No, I won't! And when I say no, I mean it; and all the threats you can
make won't scare me into saying any thing else!"

Pierre hesitated a moment, and then jumped to his feet, his actions
indicating that he was determined to waste no more words. He placed his
knife upon the table, closed the windows, and dropped the curtains, so
that any one who might happen to pass by could not see what was going on
in the room. His next action was to seize Frank by the collar of his
jacket, and pull him roughly to his feet, preparatory to putting into
operation his new plan for compelling him to tell where he had hidden
the office key.

"If you conclude to answer my question, let me know it," said the
Ranchero.

"I will," was Frank's reply.

Pierre stepped upon a chair, and removing one of the pictures from its
hook, tossed it upon the bed. After that, he took Frank's lasso down
from the nail, beside the book-case, and holding the noose in his hand,
threw the other end over the hook.

Frank had thus far shown himself to be possessed of a good share of
courage. He had bravely endured the choking, and had made defiant
replies to all Pierre's threats; but when he saw this movement, he
became thoroughly alarmed. He knew what was coming.

"Aha!" exclaimed the Ranchero, who had not failed to notice the sudden
pallor that overspread the boy's countenance; "Aha!"

"What are you going to do?" asked Frank, in a trembling voice.

"Can't you see?" returned the Ranchero, with a savage smile. "I told you
that I was going to make you tell me where you had put that office key,
didn't I? Well, I intend to do it. I have tamed many a wild colt, and I
know how to tame you!"

As he spoke, he adroitly threw the noose over Frank's head, and drew it
tight around his neck. Then, seizing him by the shoulders, he pushed him
against the wall, under the hook, and pulled down on the lasso, until
Frank began to rise on his toes. This was intended merely to give him a
foretaste of what was in store for him.

"Now you know how it feels," said Pierre, slackening up on the rope,
"and you ought to know, by this time, that I am not playing with you. I
am in sober earnest, and if you don't answer my question, I'll hang
you, right here in your own room, and with your own lasso. This is your
last chance! Where's that key?"

Frank hesitated.



CHAPTER V.

THE FIGHT IN THE COURT.


Frank was certainly in a predicament. He had his choice between
revealing the hiding-place of the office key, and being hanged with his
own lasso--a most disagreeable alternative. On one side was a lingering
death, and on the other, something of which Frank stood almost as much
in awe--disgrace. Never before had so heavy a responsibility rested upon
him; and if he lost that money, what other evidence would be needed to
prove that he was not worthy of being trusted?

"Come, come!" exclaimed the Ranchero, impatiently. "Are you going to
answer my question?"

"I don't know whether I am or not," replied Frank. "Don't be in such a
hurry. Can't you give me time to think about it?"

"You have had time enough already," growled Pierre. "But I'll give you
two minutes more, and while you are thinking the matter over, you can
bear one thing in mind: and that is, if you don't tell me where that
office key is, you'll never see daylight again."

The expression on Pierre's countenance told Frank that the villain meant
all he said.

Frank leaned his head against the wall, closed his eyes, and made use of
those two minutes in trying to conjure up some plan to defeat the
robber. He had not the slightest intention of allowing him to put his
hands on that money if it were possible for him to prevent it, and he
was wondering if he could not make use of a little strategy. If he could
invent some excuse to get Pierre out of the room for a few moments, he
was sure that he could release his hands. Would it not be a good plan to
tell him where he had hidden the key, and while Pierre was in the office
searching for the gold, free himself from his bonds, and seize his
rifle, and make the villain a prisoner? Wouldn't it be a glorious
exploit, one of which he could be justly proud, if he could save the
twelve thousand dollars, and capture the Ranchero besides? Frank
thought it would, and determined to try it.

"Pierre," said he, "if I tell you where that key is, what will you do?"

"_If!_" exclaimed the Ranchero; "there are no ifs or ands about it. You
must tell me where it is."

"But what I want to know is, what will you do with me?"

"I promise you, upon the honor of a gentleman, that no harm shall be
done you."

"Gentleman!" sneered Frank. "The State's prison is full of such
gentlemen as you are. If I were trying to rob a man of a few cents, I'd
never think of calling myself a gentleman."

"Now, just look here," said Pierre, "if you think you can fool me, you
were never more mistaken in your life. A few cents, indeed! I heard all
that passed between you and Mr. Brown, and I know that there are twelve
thousand dollars somewhere in that office. I call it a fortune. It is
much more than I could ever earn herding cattle, and I am bound to have
it. Where's that key?"

"You must answer my question first," said Frank. "If you had the key in
your hand now, what would you do with me?"

"Well, as I am not fool enough to give you the least chance for escape,
the first thing I should do would be to tie you hard and fast to that
bed-post. Then I'd take the gold, mount my horse, and be off to the
mountains."

"And leave me tied up here?" exclaimed the prisoner.

"Exactly. Felix, or the housekeeper, would release you in the morning."

This answer came upon Frank like a bucket of cold water. His fine plan
for releasing himself and capturing the robber would not work. The
latter saw his look of disappointment, and laughed derisively.

"I am too old," said he, "to allow a boy like you to play any tricks
upon me. You won't tell me where the key is, then?"

"No, I won't. If that money was mine, you might take it, and I would run
the risk of catching you before you could get very far away with it. But
it belongs to my uncle; you have no claim upon it, and, what's more, you
sha'n't touch it."

"Is that your final answer?" asked the Ranchero, bracing himself for a
strong pull. "You had better ponder the matter well before you decide.
What do you suppose your uncle will think, when he comes home and finds
you hanging to this hook? He had rather lose the money a thousand times
over than to part with you."

Frank shuddered as the Ranchero said this, and, for the first time, he
felt his firmness giving away. But he was possessed of no ordinary
degree of fortitude, and, after a momentary thrill of terror, his
courage returned, and he looked at Pierre as bravely as ever.

The Ranchero paused for a moment or two, to give his last words time to
have their full effect, and then said: "Once more--yes or no."

"No, I tell you," was the firm reply. Scarcely were the words out of his
mouth, when the Ranchero began to pull down upon the lasso, and Frank,
in spite of his desperate struggles, was drawn up until he almost swung
clear of the floor. Pierre held him in this position for a few
seconds--it seemed an age to Frank, who retained his consciousness all
the while--and then gradually slackened up on the lasso, until his
prisoner's feet once more rested firmly on the floor. Frank reeled a
moment like a drunken man, gazed about him with a bewildered air, and
attempted to raise his hands to his throat, while the Ranchero stood
watching him with a smile of triumph.

"I have given you one more chance," said he. "Have you come to your
senses yet."

Frank tried in vain to reply. The choking he had endured had deprived
him of his power of utterance, but it had not affected his courage or
his determination. There was not the least sign of yielding about him.

Pierre had thus far conducted his operations with the most business-like
coolness, and in much the same spirit that he would have exhibited had
he been breaking one of Mr. Winters's wild horses to the saddle. He had
smiled at times, as he would have smiled at the efforts of the horse to
escape, and the thought that he should fail in his object had never
entered his head. He had been certain that he could frighten or torture
Frank into revealing the hiding-place of the office key; but now he
began to believe that he had reckoned without his host. He was
astonished and enraged at the wonderful firmness displayed by his
prisoner. He had never imagined that this sixteen-year-old boy would
prove an obstacle too great to be overcome.

"You are the most obstinate colt I ever tried to manage," said Pierre,
in a voice choked with passion; "but I'll break one of two things--your
spirit or your neck; it makes no difference to me which."

Without waiting to give his prisoner time to recover his power of
speech, the Ranchero wound the lariat around his hands, and was about to
pull him up again, when he was startled by the clatter of a horse's
hoofs in the court.

The sound worked a great change in Pierre. As if by magic, the savage
scowl faded from his face, and he stood for an instant the very picture
of terror. All thoughts of the twelve thousand dollars, and the
vengeance he had determined to wreak upon his prisoner, were banished
from his mind, and gave place to the desire to escape from the house as
secretly and speedily as possible.

"Who can that be?" he muttered, dropping the lasso, and throwing a
frightened glance ever his shoulder toward the door.

"I'm sure I don't know," said Frank, speaking with the greatest
difficulty; "and I don't care who it is, if he will only make a prisoner
of you."

The Ranchero scowled fiercely upon his plucky captive, hesitated a
moment, as if he had half a mind to be revenged upon him before he left
the house, and then, catching up his knife, and extinguishing the lamp,
he jerked open one of the windows, and disappeared in the darkness.

Frank was no less astonished than delighted at his unexpected
deliverance. He tried to shout, to attract the attention of the unknown
horseman, but all his efforts were unavailing. His attempts to release
his hands, however, which he commenced the instant the Ranchero left the
room, were more successful. Pierre's carelessness in tying the knots was
a point in his favor then; for, in less time than it takes to record the
fact, Frank was free. He threw the noose off his neck, pulled the lasso
down from the hook, and hastily coiling it up in one hand, he ran to
the place where he had left his rifle, fully determined that the robber
should not escape from the ranch without an attempt on his part to
capture him. His rifle was gone. The Ranchero had caught it up as he
bounded through the window, thinking he might find use for it, in case
he should happen to run against the visitor in the dark.

Frank looked upon the loss of his rifle as a great misfortune; for, not
only did he believe the weapon lost to him forever, but he was powerless
to effect the capture of the Ranchero, even if he succeeded in finding
him. However, he did not waste time in vain regrets. He sprang through
the window, and, running around the house, entered the court, to look
for the horseman whose timely arrival had saved his life. He went as far
as the archway that led into the court, and there he suddenly paused,
and the blood rushed back upon his heart, leaving his face as pale as
death itself. He had told the Ranchero that a dozen such men as he could
not overcome his uncle; but the scene before him belied his words. Flat
upon his back, in the middle of the court, lay Mr. Winters, with Pierre
Costello kneeling on his breast, one hand grasping his victim's throat,
and the other holding aloft his murderous-looking bowie, whose bright
blade glistened in the moonlight like burnished silver.

Frank started back, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. There could be no
mistake about it, for the moon shone brightly, rendering all the objects
in the court as plainly visible as if it had been broad daylight. He was
not only terribly frightened, but he was utterly confounded. He had
believed Mr. Winters to be fast asleep in his bed at the hotel in San
Diego; but there he was, when Frank least expected him, and, more than
that, he was being worsted in his struggle with Pierre. The boy could
not understand it.

"Unhand me, you scoundrel!" he heard Uncle James say, in a feeble voice.

"Not until you have given me the key of the safe," was the robber's
answer. "I have worked hard for that gold to-night, and I am not going
to leave the ranch without it."

Then commenced a furious struggle, and Frank turned away his head, lest
he should see that gleaming knife buried in his uncle's body.

Never before had Frank been so thoroughly overcome with fear. He had
just passed through in ordeal that would have tried the nerves of the
bravest man, and he had scarcely flinched; but to stand there a witness
of his uncle's deadly peril, believing himself powerless to aid him, was
indeed enough to strike terror to his heart.

"O, if I only had my rifle, or one of my pistols!" cried Frank,
"wouldn't I tumble that villain in a hurry? Or if I could find a club,
or could loosen one of these stones"--

Frank suddenly remembered that he held in his hand a weapon quite as
effective at short range, when skilfully used, as either a rifle or
pistol. It was his lasso; and, until that instant, he had forgotten all
about it. Then the blood flew to his cheeks; his power of action
returned, and his arms seemed nerved with the strength of giants. How
thankful was he, then, that his desire to become as expert as his two
friends, Johnny Harris and Dick Thomas, had led him to practice with
that novel weapon.

With a bound like an antelope he started toward the struggling men,
swinging his lasso around his head as he ran. Pierre, believing that he
had left Frank securely bound, and being too intent upon taking care of
his new prisoner to look for enemies in his rear, heard not the sound of
his approaching footsteps, nor did he dream of danger until the noose,
which, but a few moments before, had been around Frank's neck, settled
down over his own. Then he knew that his game was up. With a piercing
cry of terror he sprang to his feet, and, with frantic haste, endeavored
to throw off the lariat; but Frank was too quick for him.

"Aha!" he exclaimed, trying to imitate the tone in which the Ranchero
had spoken that same word but a few moments before. "Aha! Now I am going
to break one of two things--your spirit or your neck; I don't care
which. One good turn deserves another, you know."

As Frank said this, he threw all his strength into his arms, and gave
the lasso a vigorous jerk, which caused Pierre's heels to fly up, and
his head to come in violent contact with the pavement of the court.

"Now, then, Uncle James," exclaimed Frank, "we've got him. No you
don't!" he added, as the Ranchero made a desperate attempt to regain his
feet; "come back here!" and he gave him a second jerk, which brought him
to the ground again.

Frank was blessed with more than an ordinary share of muscle for a boy
of his age; but he could not hope to compete successfully with a man of
Pierre's size and experience, even though he held him at great
disadvantage. The Ranchero, as active as a cat, thrashed about at an
astonishing rate, and, before Frank knew what was going on, he had cut
the lasso with his knife--an action which caused our hero, who was
pulling back on the lariat with all his strength, to toss up his heels,
and sit down upon the rough stones of the court, very suddenly, while
Pierre, finding himself at liberty, jumped up, and ran for his life.

Mr. Winters had by this time regained his feet, and, catching up Frank's
rifle, which lay beside him on the pavement, he took a flying shot at
the robber just as he was running through the archway. Pierre's escape
was a very narrow one; for the bullet went through the brim of his
sombrero, and cut off a lock of his hair.



CHAPTER VI.

THE MYSTERIES SOLVED.


Pierre, finding himself uninjured by Mr. Winters's shot, suddenly became
very courageous, and stopped to say a parting word to that gentleman.

"Try it again," said he, with a taunting laugh. "You are a poor shot for
an old frontiersman! I will bid you good-by, now," he added, shaking his
knife at Uncle James, "but you have not seen the last of me. You will
have reason to remember"--

The Ranchero did not say what Mr. Winters would have reason to remember,
for he happened to look toward the opposite side of the court, and saw
something that brought from him an ejaculation of alarm, and caused him
to turn and take to his heels. An instant afterward, a dark object
bounded through the court, and, before the robber had taken half a dozen
steps, Marmion sprang upon his back, and threw him to the ground.

"Hurrah!" shouted Frank. "You are not gone yet, it seems. You're caught
now, easy enough; for that dog never lets go, if he once gets a good
hold. Hang on to him, old fellow!"

But Marmion seemed to be utterly unable to manage the Ranchero. He had
placed his fore-feet upon Pierre's breast, and appeared to be holding
him by the throat; but the latter, with one blow of his arm, knocked him
off, and, regaining his feet, fled through the grove with the speed of
the wind--the piece of the lasso, which was still around his neck,
streaming straight out behind him.

"Take him, Marmion!" yelled Frank, astonished to see his dog so easily
defeated. "Take him! Hi! hi!"

The animal evidently did his best to obey; but there seemed to be
something the matter with him. He ran as if he were dragging a heavy
weight behind him, or as if his feet were tied together, and it was all
he could do to keep up with the robber; and, when he tried to seize
him, Pierre would shake him off without even slackening his pace.

Mr. Winters, in the meantime, had run to his horse--which, during the
struggle, had stood perfectly still in the middle of the court--after
his pistols; but, before he could get an opportunity to use them, both
Pierre and the dog had disappeared among the trees. A moment afterward,
a horse was heard going at full speed through the grove, indicating that
the robber was leaving the ranch as fast as possible.

All this while, Frank has been almost overwhelmed with astonishment. The
ease with which the desperado had vanquished his uncle and the strange
behavior of the hitherto infallible Marmion, were things beyond his
comprehension. He stood gazing, in stupid wonder, toward the trees among
which Pierre had disappeared, while the sound of the horse's hoofs grew
fainter and fainter, and finally died away altogether. Then he seemed to
wake up, and to realize the fact that the Ranchero had made good his
escape, in spite of all their efforts to capture him.

"Let's follow him, uncle!" he exclaimed, in an excited voice. "I can
soon overtake him on Roderick."

"I could not ride a hundred yards to save my life!" replied Mr. Winters,
seating himself on the porch, and resting his head on his hands. "Bring
me some water, Frank."

These words alarmed the boy, who now, for the first time, saw that his
uncle's face was deadly pale, and that his hair was matted with blood,
which was trickling down over his collar.

"O, uncle!" cried Frank, in dismay.

"Don't be uneasy," said Mr. Winters, quietly. "Bring me some water."

Without stopping to make any inquiries, Frank ran into the kitchen and
aroused the housekeeper, giving her a very hasty and disconnected
account of what had happened, and then he hurried to the quarters to
awaken Felix.

"Go to Fort Yuma for the doctor, at once!" shouted Frank, pounding
loudly upon the door.

"What's up?" inquired Felix, from the inside.

"No matter what's up--go for the doctor! Take Roderick; he's the
swiftest horse on the ranch. Uncle's badly wounded."

"Wounded!" repeated Felix, jerking open the door, and appearing upon the
threshold, with a revolver in each hand. "Who did it? Where is he?"

"I can't stop to tell you who did it, or where he is. Hurry up, Felix,
and don't stand there looking at me! We've just had the hardest kind of
a fight with Pierre. Marmion was there, but he didn't do any good. He
threw the villain down, and then wouldn't hold him. I've a good notion
to shoot that dog if he ever comes back. Make haste, Felix! I can't stop
to tell you any more."

But, after all, Frank did stop to tell a great deal more; and, by the
time the Ranchero was dressed, he had given him a complete history of
all that had happened in the house since sunset. Felix, astonished and
enraged at the treachery of his companion, examined his pistols very
carefully before he put them into his holsters, and Frank knew, by the
expression in his eye, that if he should happen to meet Pierre, during
his ride to the Fort, the latter would fall into dangerous hands.

As soon as Frank had seen Roderick saddled, he ran back to the house,
and found Uncle James lying on a sofa, and the housekeeper engaged in
dressing a long, ragged cut on the back of his head. Being weak from the
loss of blood, he sank into a deep slumber before the operation was
completed, and Frank, finding nothing to do, and being too nervous,
after the exciting events of the evening, to keep still, went out to
watch for the doctor, who, seeing that the Fort was sixteen miles from
the ranch, could not reasonably be expected before daylight. For a long
time he paced restlessly up and down the porch, his mind busy with the
three questions that had so astonished and perplexed him: What had
happened to bring his uncle home that night? How had he been so easily
overpowered by Pierre? and, What was the matter with Marmion? The longer
he pondered upon them, the more bewildered he became; and, finally
dismissing them from his mind altogether, he went out to attend to his
uncle's horse, which, all this while, had been running back and forth
between the house and barn, now and then neighing shrilly, as if
impatient at being so long neglected.

As Frank passed through the court, he picked up his rifle, which Mr.
Winters had thrown down after taking that flying shot at Pierre. The
stock felt damp in his grasp, and when he looked at his hand, he saw
that it was red with blood.

"I understand one thing now, just as well as if I had stood here and
witnessed it," said he, to himself. "When Pierre went out of my room, he
ran in here to see who it was visiting the ranch at this late hour, and
when he found that it was Uncle James, he thought he would get the safe
key. He was too much of a coward to attack him openly, and so he slipped
up and knocked him down with the butt of my rifle. That's what made the
wound on uncle's head, and that's how it came that Pierre could hold him
down with one hand. Didn't I know all the time that there was something
up? Now, if Pierre had succeeded in getting the safe key, no doubt he
would have renewed his attempts to make me tell where I had put the key
of the office. Would I have been coward enough to do it? No, sir! I
would have--Hallo!"

This exclamation was called forth by the sudden appearance of the dog,
which crept slowly toward his master, looking altogether as if he had
been guilty of something very mean.

"So you have got back, have you?" said Frank, sternly. "What do you mean
by going off to hunt rabbits when you ought to stay at home? And what
excuse have you to offer for allowing that robber to get up after you
had pulled him down?"

Marmion stopped, and, laying his head close to the pavement, wagged his
tail and whined piteously.

"I don't wonder that you feel ashamed of yourself," said his master.
"Come here, you old coward."

The dog reluctantly obeyed, and, when he came nearer, another mystery
was cleared up, and Frank knew why his favorite had behaved so
strangely. One end of a rope was twisted about his jaws so tightly that
he could scarcely move them, and the other, after being wound around his
head and neck to keep the muzzle from slipping off, was fastened to
both his fore feet, holding them so close together that it was a wonder
that he could walk at all. Frank's anger vanished in an instant. He ran
into his room after his knife, to release the dog from his bonds, and
then he discovered that the animal had not come out of the fight
unharmed. Two gaping wounds in his side bore evidence to the skill with
which Pierre had handled his bowie.

At that moment, Frank felt a good deal as Llewellyn must have felt when
he killed the hound which he imagined had devoured his child, but which
had, in reality, defended him from the attacks of a wolf. He had scolded
Marmion for his failure to hold the robber after he had thrown him down,
and had been more than half inclined to give him a good beating; while
the animal had, all the while, been doing his best, and, in spite of his
wounds and bonds, had kept up the fight until Pierre mounted his horse
and fled from the ranch.

The boy's first care, after he had removed the rope, was to bandage the
wounds as well as he could, and to lead the dog to a comfortable bed on
the porch, where he left him to await the arrival of the doctor; for
Frank resolved that, as Marmion had received his injuries during the
performance of his duty, he should have the very best of care.

Frank never closed his eyes that night. He passed the hours in pacing up
and down the porch watching for the Ranchero, who made his appearance
shortly after daylight, accompanied by the doctor. Mr. Winters's wound,
although very painful, was not a dangerous one, and after it had been
dressed by the skillful hands of the surgeon, he felt well enough to
enter into conversation with those around him.

"Now," said Frank, who had been impatiently awaiting an opportunity to
talk to his uncle, "I'd like to know what brought you back here last
night?"

"I came after the twelve thousand dollars," replied Mr. Winters. "When I
arrived in the city, I learned that Mr. Brown had left there early in
the morning to pay us a visit, taking with him the money he owed me. I
wanted to use it immediately, and as I did not know what might happen if
it should become known that there was so much money in the house, and
no one here to take care of it, I came home; but I should have lost the
money after all, if it hadn't been for you, Frank, and I might have lost
my life with it; for I believe the villain was in earnest."

"I am quite sure he was," said Frank, feeling of his neck, which still
bore the marks of the lasso in the shape of a bright red streak. "If you
had stayed away five minutes longer, I should have been hanged. O, it's
a fact!" he added, earnestly, noticing that the doctor looked at him
incredulously. "I came very near dancing on nothing, now I tell you; and
if you only knew all that has happened in this house since dark, you
wouldn't say that there was no one here to take care of that money. But,
uncle, how came you by that wound?"

"Pierre gave it to me," was the reply. "He slipped up behind me when I
was dismounting, and struck me with something. But what did he do to
you?"

"He pulled me up by the neck with my own lasso," replied Frank; "that's
what he did to me."

"The scoundrel!" exclaimed the doctor. "Tell us all about it."

Thus encouraged, Frank began and related his story, to which his
auditors listened with breathless attention. He told what he had done
with the twelve thousand dollars, where he had hidden the keys, how he
had detected Pierre watching him through the window, and how the
Ranchero had told him that Marmion was off hunting rabbits, when he was
lying bound and muzzled in some out-of-the-way place. Then he explained
how the robber had overpowered him while he was reading, how he had
searched his pockets for the keys, and pulled him up by the neck because
he refused to tell where he had hidden them, and how he was on the very
point of hanging him in earnest when the arrival of Uncle James alarmed
him. Mr. Winters was astonished, and so was the doctor, who patted Frank
on the head, and said:

"You're a chip of the old block. And did you not tell him where you had
put the key?"

"No, sir;" was the answer. "He choked me pretty hard, though, and my
throat feels funny yet."

The boy having finished his story, Mr. Winters took it up where he left
off, and told the doctor how Frank had rescued him from the robber, and
how hard he had worked to effect his capture, and all who heard it
declared that he was a hero.



CHAPTER VII.

FRANK MEETS A HIGHWAYMAN.


Frank passed the next day in making up for the sleep he had lost the
night before. About three o'clock in the afternoon he arose refreshed,
and visited his uncle, whom he found fast asleep. Now that Archie was
gone, the old house was quiet and lonesome--too much so, indeed, to suit
Frank, who, after trying in vain to find some way to amuse himself until
supper time, saddled Roderick, and set out for a short gallop over the
prairie. As he was about to mount his horse, Marmion came out of the
court, and frisked about his master as lively as ever, apparently none
the worse for the ugly-looking wounds he had received during his
encounter with the robber.

"Go home, sir," said Frank. "Don't you know that you are under the
doctor's care?"

If Marmion did know it, he didn't bother his head about it. He had a
will of his own; and having always been permitted to accompany his
master wherever he went, he did not feel disposed to remain behind.
Instead of obeying the command to go home, he ran on before, and Frank
made no further attempts to drive him back.

Frank, having by this time become well acquainted with the country for
twenty miles around his uncle's rancho, knew where he wanted to go, and
about an hour after he left home, he was stretched at full length beside
a spring among the mountains, where he and his friends often camped to
eat their dinner during their hunting expeditions. Roderick stood close
by, lazily cropping the grass, but Marmion was not in sight. The last
time his master saw him, he was trying to gnaw his way into a hollow log
where a rabbit had taken refuge.

Frank lay beside the spring until his increasing hunger reminded him
that it was nearly supper time, and then he mounted his horse, and
started for home. Roderick being permitted to choose his own gait,
walked slowly along a narrow bridle-path that led out of the mountains,
and Frank sat in his saddle with both hands in his pockets, his
sombrero pulled down over his eyes, and his thoughts wandering away to
the ends of the earth. He had ridden in this way about half a mile, when
he was suddenly aroused from his meditations by a commotion in the
bushes at his side, and the next moment a man sprang in front of the
horse, and seized him by the bridle.

"Pierre Costello!" exclaimed Frank, as soon as he had somewhat recovered
from his astonishment.

"Ay, it's Pierre, and no mistake," returned the Ranchero, with a
triumphant smile. "You thought I had left the country, didn't you?"

"I was in hopes you had; but I see you are still on hand, like a bad
dollar-bill."

"We are well met," continued Pierre. "I have been waiting for an
opportunity to thank you for the very friendly manner in which you
treated me last night."

"You need not have put yourself to any trouble about it. You are under
no obligations to me. As I am in something of a hurry, I will now bid
you good-by."

"Not if I know myself, and I think I do," said Pierre, with a laugh.
"You are just as impudent as ever. Climb down off that horse."

Frank's actions indicated that he did not think it best to obey this
order. He sat perfectly still in his saddle, looking at Pierre, and
wondering what he should do. He could show no weapon to intimidate the
robber, for he was entirely unarmed, not having brought even his lasso
or clasp-knife with him; while Pierre held in his hand, ready for
instant use, the bowie that had rendered him such good service during
the fight in the court. At first Frank entertained the bold idea of
riding over the Ranchero. Roderick was as quick as a flash in his
movements, and one touch of the spurs, if his rider could take Pierre
off his guard, would cause the horse to jerk the bridle from his grasp,
and before the robber could recover himself, Frank would be out of
danger. But Pierre had anticipated this movement, and he was too well
acquainted with his prisoner to relax his vigilance for an instant. More
than that, he held both the reins under Roderick's jaw with a firm
grasp, and stood in such a position that he could control the movements
of both the horse and his rider.

A moment's reflection having satisfied Frank that his idea of running
over Pierre could not be carried out, he began to look around for his
dog. But Marmion had not yet come up, and Frank was compelled to
acknowledge to himself that he was as completely in the villain's power
as he had been when Pierre had the lasso around his neck.

"Get down off that horse, I say," commanded the Ranchero.

"So you have turned highwayman, have you?" said Frank, without moving.
"Do you find it a more pleasant and profitable business than herding
cattle?"

"Are you going to get off that horse?" asked the robber, impatiently.

"What's the use? You will not find a red cent in my pockets."

"I suppose not; but if I take you with me, I'll soon find out how many
yellow boys your uncle carries in his pockets."

"If you take me with you!" repeated Frank. "What do you mean?"

"I mean just this: I shall find it exceedingly lonesome living here in
the mountains by myself, and I don't know of any one in the world I had
rather have for a companion than yourself."

"Humph!" exclaimed Frank; "that's a nice idea. I won't go."

"Of course," continued the Ranchero, not heeding the interruption, "when
you fail to make your appearance at home for three or four days, your
uncle will think he has seen the last of you. He will believe that you
have been clawed up by grizzlies, or that you have tumbled into some of
these gullies. He will raise a hue and cry, search high and low for you,
offer rewards, and all that; and, while the fuss is going on, and people
are wondering what in the world could have become of you, you will be
safe and sound, and living like a gentleman, with me, on the fat of the
land."

"But, Pierre," said Frank, now beginning to be really frightened, "I
don't want to live with you on the fat of the land, and I won't do it.
Let go that bridle."

The Ranchero, as before, paid no attention to the interruption. He
seemed to delight in tormenting his prisoner.

"After you have been with me about six months," he went on, "and your
friends have given up all hope of ever seeing you again, I'll send a
note to Mr. Winters, stating that you are alive and well, and that, if
he will give me twenty thousand dollars in gold, I will return you to
him in good order, right side up with care. If I find that we can get
along pretty well together, I may conclude to keep you a year; for the
longer you remain away from your uncle, the more he will want to see
you, and the bigger will be the pile he will give to have you brought
back. What is your opinion of that plan? Don't you think it a capital
way to raise the wind?"

Frank listened to this speech in utter bewilderment. Cruel and reckless
as he knew Pierre to be, he had never for a moment imagined that he
could be guilty of such an enormous crime as this. He did not know what
reply to make--there was nothing he could say or do. Entreaties and
resistance were alike useless.

"Well, what are you thinking about?" inquired the Ranchero.

"I was wondering if a greater villain than yourself ever lived," replied
Frank.

"We will talk about that as we go along," said Pierre. "Get off that
horse, now; I am going to send him home."

Frank, seeing no way of escape, was about to obey this order, when the
truant, Marmion, came in sight, trotting leisurely up the path, carrying
in his mouth the rabbit, which he had succeeded in gnawing out of the
log. He stopped short on discovering Pierre, dropped his game, and
gathered himself for a spring.

"Take him, Marmion!" yelled Frank, as he straightened himself up in his
saddle. "If it is all the same to you, Mr. Pierre, I'll not go to the
mountains this evening."

The Ranchero did not wait to receive the dog. He was an arrant coward,
and, more than that, he stood as much in fear of Marmion as if he had
been a bear or panther. Uttering a cry of terror, he dropped the bridle,
and, with one bound, disappeared in the bushes. Marmion followed close
at his heels, encouraged by terrific yells from his master, who, now
that his dog was neither bound nor muzzled, looked upon the capture of
the robber as a thing beyond a doubt. There was a loud crashing and
snapping in the bushes, as the pursuer and pursued sped on their way,
and presently another loud yell of terror, mingled with an angry growl,
told Frank that the dog had come up with Pierre.

"He is caught at last," thought our hero; "how shall I get him home?
that's the question. How desperately he fights," he added, as the
commotion in the bushes increased, and the yells and growls grew louder.
"But he'll find it's no use, for he can't whip that dog, if he has got a
knife. Now, I ought to have a rope. I'll ride up the path, and see if I
can find Pierre's horse; and, if I can, I'll take his lasso and tie the
rascal hand and foot."

Frank galloped up the path a short distance, but could see nothing of
the horse. The Ranchero had, doubtless, left him in the bushes, and
Frank was about to dismount and go in search of him, when, to his utter
astonishment, he saw Pierre coming toward him. His face was badly
scratched; his jacket and shirt had disappeared altogether; his breast
and arms were covered with blood, and so was his knife, which he still
held in his hand. But, where was Marmion, that he was not following up
his enemy? The answer was plain. The dog had been worsted in his
encounter with the robber, and Frank was left to fight his battles
alone. He thought no more of taking Pierre a prisoner to the rancho. All
he cared for now was to escape.

"Well, now, it was good of you not to run away when you had the chance,"
said the Ranchero, who appeared to be quite as much surprised at seeing
Frank as the latter had been at seeing him.

"If I had thought that you could get away from that dog, I should have
been a mile from here by this time," replied Frank. "I was looking for
your horse, and, if I had found him, I should have gone to Marmion's
assistance."

"Well, he needed you bad enough," said Pierre, with a laugh. "I have
fixed him this time."

"You have!" cried Frank, his worst suspicions confirmed. "Is Marmion
dead?"

"Dead as a door-nail. Now we must be off; we have wasted too much time
already."

If the Ranchero supposed that Frank would allow himself to be captured a
second time, he was sadly mistaken. The boy was free, and he determined
to remain so.

"Pierre," said he, filled with rage at the words of the robber, "I may
have a chance to square accounts with you some day, and if I do I'll
remember that you killed my dog."

"Come, now, no nonsense," said the Ranchero, gruffly. "You are my
prisoner, you know."

"I think not. Stand where you are; don't come a step nearer."

While this conversation was going on, Pierre had been walking slowly up
the path, and, as Frank ceased speaking, he made a sudden rush,
intending to seize Roderick by the bridle. But his rider was on the
alert. Gathering his reins firmly in his hands, he dashed his spurs into
the flanks of his horse, which sprang forward like an arrow from a bow,
and thundered down the path toward Pierre, who turned pale with terror.

"Out of the way, you villain, or I'll ride you down," shouted Frank.

This was very evident to the Ranchero, who, seizing upon the only chance
for escape offered him, plunged head-foremost into the bushes. He barely
missed being run down, for Roderick flew by before he was fairly out of
the path, and, by the time he had recovered his feet, Frank was out of
sight.

When Frank reached home, he shed a great many tears over Marmion's
untimely death; but, as it happened, it was grief wasted. One morning,
about a week after his adventure with the highwayman, while Frank and
Archie were out for their morning's ride, a sorry-looking object crawled
into the court, and thence into the office, where Mr. Winters was busy
at his desk. "Mad dog!" shouted the gentleman, when he discovered the
intruder; and, springing to his feet, he lifted his chair over his head,
and was in the very act of extinguishing the last spark of life left in
the poor brute, when the sight of a collar he wore around his neck
arrested his hand. It was no wonder that Uncle James had not recognized
the animal, for he looked very unlike the lively, well-conditioned dog
which Frank was wont to regard as the apple of his eye. But,
nevertheless, it was Marmion, or, rather, all that was left of him. He
had been severely wounded, and was nearly starved; but he received the
best of care, and it was not long before he was as savage and full of
fight as ever. Although he had failed to capture the robber, he had
rendered his master a most important service, and no one ever heard him
find fault with Marmion after that.

Frank's reputation was by this time firmly established, and he was the
lion of the settlement. Dick Lewis was prouder than ever of him. Of
course, he called him a "keerless feller," and read him several long
lectures, illustrating them by incidents drawn from his own experience.
He related the story of Frank's adventures with the robber every time he
could induce any one to listen to it, and ever afterward called him "the
boy that fit that ar' Greaser." Old Bob Kelly beamed benevolently upon
him every time they met, and more than once told his companion that the
"youngster would make an amazin' trapper;" and that, in Dick's
estimation, was a compliment worth all the rest.

Meanwhile, the country had been made exceedingly unsafe for Pierre
Costello. The neighbors had turned out in force, every nook and corner
of the mountains for miles around had been searched, and a large reward
offered for the robber's apprehension; but it was all in vain. Nothing
more had been heard of Pierre, and Frank hoped that he had seen him for
the last time. Fate, however, had decreed that he was to have other
adventures with the highwayman.



CHAPTER VIII.

COLONEL ARTHUR VANE.


We left Frank and Archie standing on the porch, watching the wild steer
which was being led toward the cow-pen. As soon as they had got over
their excitement, they remembered that they had saddled their horses for
the purpose of riding over to visit their nearest neighbor, Johnny
Harris, one of the boys whose daring horsemanship, and skill with the
lasso, had so excited their admiration. Johnny lived four miles distant;
but he and the cousins were together almost all the time. If Johnny was
not at their house, Frank and Archie were at his; and when you saw one
of the three, it was a sure sign that the others were not a great way
off. Dick Thomas, of whom mention has been made, had been one of the
party; but he was now on a visit to San Francisco and would not return
until winter.

Had Frank and his cousin, while at home, been compelled to ride or walk
four miles in search of a playmate, they might have been disposed to
grumble over what they would have considered a very hard lot in life;
but they had learned to think nothing of it. There were their horses
always ready and willing, and half an hour's gallop over the prairie in
the cool of the morning, or evening, was not looked upon as any thing
very disagreeable. On this particular morning, Roderick and Marmion were
impatient to exhibit their mettle; and even Sleepy Sam lifted his head
and pawed the ground when Archie placed his foot in the stirrup.
Scarcely waiting for their riders to become firmly seated in their
saddles, the horses started down the road at a rattling pace, and the
dog dashed through the bushes and grass on each side, driving the
rabbits from their covers, and creating great consternation among flocks
of quails and prairie-chickens, which flew up at his approach.

The farther the boys went, the faster they went; for Roderick and Sleepy
Sam, warming at their work, and encouraged, perhaps, by some slight
touches from their riders' spurs, increased their speed until they
fairly flew over the ground; and Marmion, unwilling to remain behind,
left the quails and rabbits to rest in security for that morning at
least, and ran along beside his master, now and then looking up into his
face, and uttering a little yelp, as if he were trying to tell how well
he enjoyed the sport.

"Now, isn't this glorious?" exclaimed Archie, pulling off his sombrero,
and holding open his jacket, to catch every breath of the fresh morning
air. "Let's go faster. Yip! yip!"

The horses understood that yell. They had heard it before; and, knowing
that it meant a race, they set off at the top of their speed. But the
race was not a long one; for the old buffalo hunter, fast as he was,
soon fell behind. The gray flew over the ground, as swiftly as a bird on
the wing, and, after allowing him a free rein for a short distance, to
show Archie how badly he could beat him, Frank stopped, and waited for
him to come up.

The four miles were quickly accomplished, and, presently, the boys drew
up at the door of Mr. Harris's farm-house, where they found Johnny
waiting to receive them.

"How are you, strangers?" cried Johnny. "Get down and make those posts
fast to your horses, and come in."

This was the way travelers were welcomed in that country, where every
house was a hotel, and every farmer ready, at all times, to feed and
shelter a stranger.

"How is the rifle-shot, this morning?" continued Johnny, as he shook
hands with the boys; "and what news has the champion horseman to
communicate?"

"I didn't claim to be the champion horseman," said Archie, quickly. "I
am not conceited enough to believe that I can beat you riding wild
horses, but I'll tell you what I can do, Johnny. In a fair race from
here to the mountains, I can leave you a quarter of a mile behind."

"Well, come in, and wait till I saddle my horse, and we'll see about
that," said Johnny. "Until you came here, I could beat any boy in the
settlement. I give in to Frank, but I can show that ugly old buffalo
hunter of yours a pretty pair of heels. Boys!" he added, suddenly, "my
day's fun is all knocked in the head. See there!"

The cousins looked in the direction indicated, and saw a horseman
approaching at a rapid gallop. He was mounted on a large iron-gray,
which looked enough like Roderick to have been his brother, sat as
straight as an arrow in his saddle, and managed his fiery charger with
an ease and dexterity that showed him to be an accomplished rider.

"That's _Colonel_ Arthur Vane--a neighbor with whom you are not yet
acquainted," said Johnny, with strong emphasis on the word colonel. "He
is from Kentucky. His father came to this country about six months
since, and bought the rancho adjoining your uncle's. Arthur remained
here long enough for Dick and me to become as well acquainted with him
as we cared to be, and then went back to Kentucky to visit his friends.
He returned a few days ago, and now we may make up our minds to have him
for a companion."

"What sort of a fellow is he, Johnny?" asked Frank.

"I don't admire him," replied Johnny, who, like Archie, never hesitated
to speak his mind very freely. "From what I have seen of him, I should
say that he is not a boy who is calculated to make friends. He talks and
brags too much. He tries to use big words in conversation, and
criticises every one around him most unmercifully. He is one of those
knowing fellows; but, after you have exchanged a few words with him, you
will find that he doesn't know so very much after all. He has been all
over the world, if we are to believe what he says, and has been the hero
of adventures that throw your encounter with Pierre Costello into the
shade. He carries no less than seven bullets in his body."

"Seven bullets!" echoed Archie. "Why, I should think they would kill
him."

"So they would, most likely, if he only had them in him," replied
Johnny. "He is a famous hunter and trapper, owns two splendid horses, a
pack of hounds, three or four fine guns, and makes himself hot and happy
in a suit of buckskin. If it were not for his smooth face and dandy
airs, one would take him for some old mountain man. He gave Dick and me
a short history of his life--which he will be sure to repeat for your
benefit--and was foolish enough to believe that we were as green as two
pumpkins because we had never been in the States, and that we would
swallow any thing. But, if we have always lived in a wilderness, we have
not neglected our books, and we are well enough posted to know that
Arthur makes great mistakes sometimes."

"But why is your day's fun all knocked in the head?" asked Archie.

"Because I can't enjoy myself when Arthur is around. I am always afraid
that I shall do or say something that he won't like. Every time I look
at him, I am reminded of Byron's Corsair, who, you know, was

  '--the mildest mannered man
  That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat.'

I don't mean to say that Arthur would cut any body's throat, but I do
say that if he should happen to get angry at any of us, we shall wish
him safe in Kentucky, where he belongs. I can't very well avoid
introducing him, but, after what I have said, you will understand that
I do not indorse him."

The conversation was brought to a close by the near approach of Arthur
Vane, who presently dashed up to the porch, and dismounted. Frank and
Archie made a rapid examination of the new-comer. He was dressed in a
full suit of buckskin--hunting-shirt, leggins, and moccasins, the latter
ornamented with bright-colored beads--which set off his tall, slender,
well-knit frame to good advantage. He evidently possessed a fair share
of muscle and agility, and that, according to Archie's way of thinking,
was a great recommendation. He little dreamed that his own pluck,
strength, and endurance would one day be severely tested by that boy in
buckskin.

Arthur's weapons were objects of no less curiosity to the cousins than
his dress. Instead of the short, light rifle in which the boys of that
country took so much delight, and which was so handy to be used on
horseback, he carried a double-barrel shot-gun as long as himself,
elaborately ornamented, and the boys judged, from the way he handled it,
that it must be very heavy. From his belt protruded the buckhorn handle
of a sheath-knife, and the bright, polished head of an Indian tomahawk.
The lasso was nowhere to be seen.

When the boys had noted these points, they glanced at the face of the
new-comer. It was a handsome face, and might have made a favorable
impression on them, had it not been for the haughty glances which its
owner directed toward them as he rode up.

"He looks at us as though he thought we had no business here," whispered
Archie, as Johnny went down the steps to receive the visitor.

"A second Charley Morgan," replied his cousin.

"If he is blessed with Morgan's amiable disposition," returned Archie,
"we'll see fun before we are done with him."

"Frank Nelson," said Johnny, leading his visitor upon the porch, "this
is our new neighbor, Arthur Vane."

"Colonel of the Second Kentucky Cavalry during the Florida war, and, for
a short time captain of the scouts attached to the head-quarters of the
general commanding the department of the plains," said Arthur, in
dignified tones, drawing himself up to his full height, and looking at
Frank as if to ask, What do you think of me, anyhow?

"How do you do?" said Frank, accepting Vane's proffered hand. He did not
say that he was glad to see him, or happy to make his acquaintance, for
he wasn't.

"Archie Winters, Colonel Vane," continued Johnny, "formerly commander of
the Second Kentucky--ahem!"

Johnny was going on to repeat Arthur's pompous speech, when he saw
Archie biting his lip, and knew that it was time for him to stop.

"How are you, Colonel?" said Archie, as sober as a judge.

"I can not complain of my health," replied Arthur, still holding Frank's
hand with his right, while he extended his left to Archie, in much the
same manner that a monarch might have given his hand to a kneeling
subject. "The musket-ball that Osceola sent through my shoulder
sometimes troubles me a little; but I am so accustomed to wounds that I
scarcely mind it."

"How do you like California," inquired Frank, thinking that he ought to
say something.

"O, I like the country well enough; but belonging, as I do, to one of
the oldest and wealthiest families of the State of Kentucky, I can find
no congenial society among these backwoodsmen."

Frank had no reply to make to this declaration. That one remark had
revealed as much of the character of Arthur Vane as he cared to become
acquainted with. The latter evidently looked upon himself as something
better than the common herd of mankind, and Frank wondered why he did
not stay at home, if he could find no pleasure in the society of the
boys of that country.

"I have heard of you," continued Arthur, loftily; "and I understand that
you are looked upon as a hero in this settlement."

"I do not claim the honor," modestly replied Frank.

"I have always observed," the visitor went on to say, "that the ideas
which ignorant people entertain concerning heroes are ludicrous in the
extreme. Now, I have met with more adventures than generally fall to the
lot of mortals; but, being a modest young man, I have never allowed any
one to apply that name to me. I have been in battles--desperate battles.
I have seen the cheek of the bravest blanched with terror; but I never
flinched. Twice have I been a prisoner in the hands of the Indians, and
once I was bound to the stake. I have whipped a grizzly bear in a fair
fight, with no weapon but my knife, and I can show seven honorable
scars, made by as many bullets, which I carry in my body to-day."

Here Arthur stopped to take breath, and looked at his auditors as if
waiting for applause. Frank and Archie had nothing to say, but Johnny
observed:

"You have seen some rough times for one of your age."

"Rough!" repeated Arthur, with evident disgust. "Don't use such
words--they are so vulgar. Thrilling, or exciting, would sound much
better."

"I stand corrected," remarked Johnny, very gravely, while Archie
coughed, and Frank turned away his head to conceal his laughter.

"I can not begin to convey to you even a slight idea of what I have
endured," said Arthur, as if nothing had happened. "It is true that I am
young in years, but I am old in experience. I have known every variety
of danger incident to a reckless and roving life. I have skirmished with
Arabs on the burning sands of Patagonia; have hunted the ferocious polar
bear amid the icebergs of India; have followed lions and tigers through
the jungles and forests of Europe; have risked my life in four different
battles with the Algerines, and, on one occasion, was captured by those
murderous villains. If adventures make the hero, I can certainly lay
claim to that honor as well as anybody."

As the visitor ceased speaking, he looked suspiciously at the three boys
before him, two of whom seemed to be strangely affected by the recital
of his thrilling adventures. Frank had grown very red in the face, while
Johnny was holding his handkerchief over his mouth, trying to restrain
a violent fit of coughing with which he had suddenly been seized. Archie
was the only one who could keep a straight face. He stood with his hands
behind his back, his feet spread out, his sombrero pushed as far back on
his head as he could get it, looking intently at Arthur, as if he were
very much interested in what he was saying. He came to the relief of the
others, however, by observing:

"If I had seen all those countries you speak of, Vane, I should be proud
of it. No one delights more in truthful stories of adventure than I do,
and, if you have no objection, we will sit down here and talk, while
Johnny saddles his horse. We are going over to visit old Captain Porter.
You will go with us, of course?"

"Certainly. I have often heard of Captain Porter, and I shall be pleased
to make his acquaintance. He and I can talk over our adventures, and you
can listen, and you will, no doubt, learn something."

Johnny, knowing that Frank wanted some excuse to get away where he could
enjoy a hearty laugh, asked him to assist in catching his horse; and,
together, they went toward the barn, leaving Archie behind to listen to
Arthur's stories.



CHAPTER IX.

AN OLD BOY.


By the exercise of wonderful self-control, Frank and Johnny succeeded in
restraining their risibilities until they reached the barn, and then one
leaned against the door-post, while the other seated himself upon the
floor, both holding their sides, and giving vent to peals of uproarious
laughter.

"O dear!" exclaimed Frank, "I shall never dare look that fellow in the
face again. 'Icebergs of India!' 'Burning sands of Patagonia!' How my
jaws ache!"

"I wonder what part of Europe he visited to find his lions and tigers?"
said Johnny. "And how do you suppose he escaped from the Indians when
they had him bound to the stake? We must ask him about that."

"How old is he?" inquired Frank.

"He says he is sixteen."

"Well, he is older than that, if he risked his life in battles with the
Algerians; for, if my memory serves me, Decatur settled our accounts
with those gentlemen in the year 1815. That would make our new friend
old enough to be a grandfather. He holds his age well, doesn't he?"

Then the two boys looked up at the rafters, and laughed louder than
ever.

"I remember of hearing old Captain Porter say," observed Johnny, as soon
as he could speak, "that the strongest and most active man that ever
lived could not whip a grizzly in a fair fight; and that the bravest
hunter would take to his heels if he found himself in close quarters
with one of those animals, and would not think he was guilty of
cowardice, either."

"And what I have seen with my own eyes confirms it," said Frank. "While
we were camped at the Old Bear's Hole, Dick Lewis got into a fight with
a grizzly, and, although it didn't last more than half a minute, he was
so badly cut up that his own mother wouldn't have recognized him. Dick
is a giant in strength, and as quick as a cat in his movements, and if
he can't whip a grizzly, I am sure that Arthur Vane can't."

"Humph!" said Johnny, "he never saw a grizzly. I never did either, and
there are plenty of them in this country. Arthur had better be careful
how he talks in Captain Porter's hearing. The rough old fellow will see
through him in an instant, and he may not be as careful of his feelings
as we have been."

Johnny, having by this time saddled his horse, he and Frank returned to
the house, where they found Archie deeply interested in one of Arthur's
stories. "That is high up, I should think," they heard the former say.

"Yes, higher than the tops of these trees," replied Arthur. "I was
relating some of the incidents of one of my voyages at sea," he
continued, addressing himself to Frank. "I was telling Archie how I used
to stand on the very top of the mast and look out for whales."

"Which mast?" asked Frank.

"Why, the middle mast, of course. What's the matter with you?" he added,
turning suddenly upon Archie, who seemed to be on the point of
strangling.

"Nothing," was the reply, "only something got stuck in my throat."

Arthur had taken up a dangerous subject when he began to talk about
nautical matters; for they were something in which Frank and his cousin
had always been interested, and were well posted. Archie lived in a
sea-port town, and, although he had never been a sailor, he knew the
names of all the ropes, and could talk as "salt" as any old tar. He
knew, and so did Frank, that what Arthur had called the "middle mast,"
was known on shipboard as the mainmast. They knew that the "very top" of
the mainmast was called the main truck; and that the look-outs were not
generally stationed so high up in the world.

"We can talk as we ride along," said Johnny. "We have ten miles to go,
and we ought to reach the captain's by twelve o'clock. The old fellow
tells a capital story over his after-dinner pipe."

The boys mounted their horses, and, led by Johnny, galloped off in the
direction of the old fur-trader's ranch. They rode in silence for a few
minutes, and then Archie said:

"If you wouldn't think me too inquisitive, Arthur, I'd like to know at
what age you began your travels?"

"At the age of eleven," was the prompt reply, "I was a midshipman in the
navy, and made my first voyage under the gallant Decatur. I spent four
years at sea with him, and during that time I had those terrible fights
with the Algerines, of which I have before spoken. In the last battle, I
was captured, and compelled to walk the plank."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Johnny, who had never devoted any of
his time to yellow-covered literature.

"Why, you must know that the inhabitants of Algiers, and the adjacent
countries, were, at one time, nothing but pirates. When they captured a
vessel, their first hard work, after taking care of the valuable part of
the cargo, was to dispose of their prisoners. It was too much trouble to
set them ashore, so they balanced a plank out of one of the
gangways--one end being out over the water, and the other on board the
ship. The pirates placed their feet on the end inboard, to hold it in
its place, and then ordered their prisoners, one at a time, to walk out
on the plank. Of course, they were compelled to obey; and, when they got
out to the end of the plank over the water, the pirates lifted up their
feet, and down went the prisoners; and they generally found their way to
the bottom in a hurry. I escaped by swimming. I was in the water
twenty-four hours, and was picked up by a vessel bound to New York."

"I suppose you had a life-preserver," said Johnny.

"No, sir. I had nothing to depend upon but my own exertions."

"You must be some relation to a duck," said Archie, speaking before he
thought.

"I suppose you mean to convey the idea that I am an excellent swimmer,"
said Arthur, turning around in his saddle, and looking sharply at
Archie.

"Yes; that's what I intended to say," replied Archie, demurely.

"The vessel landed me in New York," continued Arthur, "and I went home;
and, having become tired of wandering about, and our troubles with
Algiers being settled, I led the quiet life of a student until the
Florida war broke out, and then I enlisted in the army."

"Now, then," thought Archie, who had been paying strict attention to all
Arthur said, "I have got a basis for a calculation, and I am going to
find out how old this new friend of ours is. War was declared against
Algeria (not Algiers) in March, 1815; and on the 30th day of June, in
the same year, the Dey cried for quarter, and signed a treaty of peace.
If Arthur began his wanderings at eleven, and spent four years with
Decatur, he must have been fifteen years old when the war closed. After
that, he led the quiet life of a student until the Florida war broke
out. That commenced in 1835; so Arthur must have spent just twenty years
at school. By the way, it's a great pity that he didn't devote a portion
of his time to geography and natural history, for then he would have
known that there are no icebergs and polar bears in India, or Arabs and
burning sands in Patagonia, or wild lions and tigers in Europe. If he
spent twenty years at school, and was fifteen years old when he had
those terrible battles with the Algerians, he must have been
thirty-five years old when the Florida war broke out."

"Did you go through the war?" Johnny asked.

"I did."

"How long did it last?" inquired Frank, "and what was the cause of it?"

"It continued nearly two years, and was brought about by the hatred the
Choctaws cherished toward the white people."

"Three mistakes there," thought Archie. "The war lasted seven years, and
cost our Government forty millions of dollars. The Choctaws had nothing
to do with it. It was the Seminoles and Creeks--principally the former.
The immediate cause of the trouble was the attempt on the part of the
Government to remove those tribes to the country west of the
Mississippi. They didn't want to go, and they were determined they
wouldn't; and, consequently, they got themselves decently whipped. If
Arthur was thirty-five years of age when he went into the war, and spent
two years in it, he was thirty-seven when he came out."

"After the war closed," continued Arthur, "I went to Patagonia, and
there I spent five years."

"Thirty-seven and five are forty-two," said Archie, to himself.

"I had a great many thrilling adventures in Patagonia. The country is
one immense desert, and being directly under the equator, it is--if you
will for once allow me to use a slang expression--as hot as a
frying-pan. The Arabs are hostile, and are more troublesome than ever
the Indians were on the plains. From Patagonia I went to Europe, and
there I spent six years in hunting lions and tigers."

"Forty-eight," thought Archie; "and Patagonia isn't under the equator,
either."

"That must have been exciting," said Frank, while Johnny looked over his
shoulder, and grinned at Archie.

"It was indeed exciting, and dangerous, too. It takes a man with nerves
of iron to stand perfectly still, and let a roaring lion walk up within
ten paces of him, before he puts a bullet through his head."

"Could you do it?"

"Could I? I have done it more than once. If one of those ferocious
animals were here now, I would give you a specimen of my shooting, which
is an accomplishment in which I can not be beaten. I expect that you
would be so badly frightened that you would desert me, and leave me to
fight him alone."

"Wouldn't you run?"

"Not an inch."

"Would you fire that blunderbuss at him?" asked Johnny.

"Blunderbuss?" repeated Arthur.

"That shot-gun, I mean."

"Certainly I would. You see I have the nerve to do it. From Europe I
went to India, and there I risked my life for six years more among the
polar bears."

"Forty-eight and six are fifty-four," soliloquized Archie.

"After that I went to the plains, where I remained three years; and when
the governor wrote to me that he was about to remove from Kentucky, I
resigned my commission as captain of scouts, and here I am. I must
confess that I am sorry enough for it; for I never saw a duller country
than California. There's no society here, no excitement--nothing to
stir up a fellow's blood."

"Fifty-four and three are fifty-seven," said Archie.

Arthur had evidently finished the history of his exploits, for he had
nothing more to say just then. Archie, after waiting a few minutes for
him to resume his narrative, pulled his sombrero down over his eyes, and
thrust his hands into his pockets--two movements he always executed when
he wished to concentrate his mind upon any thing--and began to ponder
upon what he had just heard.

"Vane," said he, suddenly, an idea striking him, "who commanded your
vessel when you were captured?"

Arthur knitted his brows, and looked down at the horn of his saddle, as
if thinking intently, and finally said: "Why, it was Mr.--, Mr.--; I
declare, I have forgotten his name."

Archie again relapsed into silence.

"We had two wars with those pirates," thought he. "The first was with
Tripoli; but as that happened in 1805, Arthur, of course, could not have
taken part in it, for he made his first voyage at sea in 1815. We lost
but one vessel, and that was captured in 1803--two years before war with
Tripoli was declared. It was the frigate Philadelphia, and she wasn't
whipped, either, but was run aground while pursuing a piratical vessel.
She was commanded by Captain Bainbridge, who surrendered himself and
crew. They were not compelled to 'walk the plank,' however, but were
reduced to a horrible captivity, and treated worse than dogs. The
Tripolitans never got a chance to use the Philadelphia against us, for
Decatur--who was at that time a lieutenant serving under Commodore
Preble, who commanded our navy in those waters--boarded her one night
with twenty men while she was lying in the harbor, swept the deck of
more than double that number of pirates, burned the vessel under their
very noses, and returned to his ship with only one man wounded. I never
did care much for history, but a fellow finds a great deal of
satisfaction sometimes in knowing a little about it."

Archie had at first been highly amused by what Arthur had to say; but
now, that the novelty had somewhat worn off, he began to wonder how it
was possible for a boy to look another in the face and tell such
improbable stories. If Arthur was not ashamed of himself Archie was
heartily ashamed for him, and he was more than half inclined to put
spurs to Sleepy Sam and start for home. He was not fond of such company.

Arthur Vane is not an imaginary character. There are a great many like
him in the world, boys, and men, too, who endeavor to make amends for
the absence of real merit by recounting just such impossible exploits.
The result, however, is always the exact reverse of what they wish it to
be. Instead of impressing their auditors with a sense of their great
importance, they only succeed in awakening in their minds feelings of
pity and contempt.

After Arthur had finished the history of his life, he rode along
whistling snatches of the "Hunter's Chorus," happy in the belief that
his reputation was established. Well, it was established, but how?
Archie thought: "Brag is a splendid dog, but Holdfast is better. Perhaps
we may have a chance to test the courage of this mighty man of valor."

Johnny soliloquized: "Does this fellow imagine that we are green enough
to believe that he would stand and let a lion walk up within ten paces
of him? Hump! a good-sized rabbit would scare him to death."

Frank, who had taken but little part in the conversation, told himself
that he had never become acquainted with a boy as deserving of pity as
was Arthur Vane. He was not a desirable companion, and Frank hoped that
he would not often be thrown into his society.

For a long time the boys rode in silence, keeping their horses in an
easy gallop, and presently they entered the woods that fringed the base
of the mountains, through which ran a bridle-path that led toward the
old fur-trader's ranch. Two young hounds belonging to Johnny led the
way, Johnny came next, and Frank and Archie brought up the rear. They
had ridden in this order for a short distance, when the singular
movements of the hounds attracted their attention, and caused them to
draw rein. The dogs stood in the path, snuffing the air, and gazing
intently at the bushes in advance of them, and then, suddenly uttering
a dismal howl, they ran back to the boys, and took refuge behind them.
At the same instant, the horse on which Johnny was mounted arose on his
hind feet, turned square around, and, in spite of all the efforts of his
rider to stop him, dashed by the others, and went down the path at the
top of his speed.

"Good-by, fellows," shouted Johnny; "and look out for yourselves, for
there is"--

What else Johnny said the boys could not understand, for the clatter of
his horse's hoofs drowned his voice, and in a moment he was out of sight
among the trees.

"There's something in those bushes," said Frank, with difficulty
restraining his own horse, which seemed determined to follow Johnny,
"and who knows but it might be a grizzly?"

"I am quite sure it is," said Archie. "Don't you remember how badly
frightened Pete used to be when there was one of those varmints around?"

As Archie said this, the bushes were violently agitated, and the twigs
cracked and snapped as if some heavy body was forcing its way through
them. The hounds, waiting to hear no more, turned and fled down the
path, leaving the boys to themselves. Frank turned and looked at Arthur.
Could it be possible that the pale, terror-stricken youth he saw before
him was the one who but a few moments ago had boasted so loudly of his
courage? That noise in the bushes had produced a great change in him.



CHAPTER X.

ARTHUR SHOWS HIS COURAGE


It must not be supposed that Frank and Archie were entirely unmoved by
what had just happened. The strange conduct of the hounds, and the
desperate flight of Johnny's horse, were enough to satisfy them that
there was some dangerous animal in the bushes in front of them, and the
uncertainty of what that animal might be, caused them no little
uneasiness. Grizzly bears were frequently met with among the mountains,
and they sometimes extended their excursions into the plains,
occasioning a general stampede among the stock of the nearest ranch. The
grizzly is as much the king of beasts in his own country as the lion in
Africa and Asia; and Frank and Archie, during their sojourn at the Old
Bear's Hole, had become well enough acquainted with his habits and
disposition to know that, if their enemy in the bushes belonged to that
species, they were in a dangerous neighborhood. The grizzly might, at
any moment, assume the offensive, and in that event, if their horses
became entangled in the bushes, or were rendered unmanageable by fright,
their destruction was certain. This knowledge caused their hearts to
beat a trifle faster than usual, and Frank's hand trembled a little as
he unbuckled the holsters in front of his saddle, and grasped one of his
revolvers. But neither he nor Archie had any intention of discontinuing
their journey, or of leaving the field without having at least one shot
at the animal, whatever it might be.

"Now, boys," said Frank, in an excited whisper, "we have a splendid
chance to immortalize ourselves. If that is a grizzly, and we should be
fortunate enough to kill him, it would be something worth bragging
about, wouldn't it? If I only had my rifle!"

"We must rely upon our friend, here," said Archie. "It's lucky that he
is with us, for he is an old hunter, and he won't mind riding into the
bushes, and driving him out--will you, Arthur?"

"Eh!" exclaimed that young gentleman, who trembled so violently that he
could scarcely hold his reins.

"I say, that, as you are the most experienced in such matters, we shall
be obliged to depend upon you to drive the bear out of the bushes into
open ground," repeated Archie, who did not appear to notice his friend's
trepidation. "We can't all go in there to attack him, for he would be
sure to catch some of us. What have you in that gun?"

"B-u-c-k-s-h-o-t," replied Arthur, in an almost inaudible voice. "Let's
go home."

"Go home!" exclaimed Frank; "and without even one shot at that fellow!
No, sir. You've got the only gun in the party, and, of course, you are
the one to attack him. Go right up the path, and when you see him, bang
away."

"How big is he?" asked Arthur.

"Why, if he is a full-grown grizzly, he is as big as a cow."

"Will he fight much?"

"I should say he would," answered Archie, who was somewhat surprised at
these questions. "Have you forgotten the one you killed with your
knife? He will be certain to follow you, if you don't disable him at the
first shot, but he can't catch your horse. Besides, as soon as he comes
in sight, Frank and I will give him a volley from our revolvers. You are
not afraid?"

"Afraid!" repeated Arthur, compressing his lips, and scowling fiercely.
"O, no."

"Well, then, make haste," said Frank, who was beginning to get
impatient. "Ride up within ten paces of him, and let him have it. That's
the way you used to serve the lions in Europe."

"Yes, go on," urged Archie; and he gave Arthur's horse a cut with his
whip, to hurry him up.

"O, stop that!" whined Arthur, as the horse sprang forward so suddenly
that his rider was nearly unseated. "I am going home."

What might have happened next, it is impossible to tell, had not the
boys' attention been turned from Arthur by the yelping of a dog in the
bushes a short distance up the mountain.

"That's Carlo," exclaimed Archie. "Now we will soon know what sort of an
enemy we have to deal with."

The dog was evidently following the trail of the bear, for he broke out
into a continuous baying, which grew louder and fiercer as he
approached. The bear heard it, and was either making efforts to escape,
or preparing to defend himself; for he thrashed about among the bushes
in a way that quite bewildered Frank and Archie, who drew their
revolvers, and turned their horses' heads down the path, ready to fight
or run, as they might find it necessary. An instant afterward, a large,
tan-colored hound bounded across the path, and dashed into the bushes
where the game was concealed. It was not one of those which had so
disgracefully left the field a few moments before--it was Carlo,
Johnny's favorite hound--an animal whose strength had been tested in
many a desperate encounter, and which had never been found wanting in
courage. Scarcely had he disappeared when Marmion came in sight, also
following the trail. He ran with his nose close to the ground, the hair
on his back standing straight up like the quills on a porcupine, and
his whole appearance indicating great rage and excitement.

"Hi! hi!" yelled Frank. "Take hold of him, you rascal! Now's your time,
Arthur. Ride up and give him the contents of your double-barrel; only,
be careful, and don't shoot the dogs."

For an instant, it seemed as if Arthur's courage had returned, and that
he was about to yield to the entreaties of his companions. He
straightened up in his saddle, and, assuming what he, no doubt, imagined
to be a very determined look, was on the point of urging his horse
forward, when suddenly there arose from the woods a chorus of yells, and
snarls, and growls, that made the cold chills creep all over him, and
caused him to forget every thing in the desire to put a safe distance
between himself and the terrible animal in the bushes. Acting on the
impulse of the moment, he wheeled his horse, and, before Frank or Archie
could utter a word, he shot by them, and disappeared down the path.

For a moment, the two boys, forgetting that a furious battle was going
on a little way from them, gazed at each other in blank amazement. The
mighty hunter, who had boasted of whipping a grizzly-bear in a fair
fight, with no weapon but his knife, had fled ingloriously, without
having seen any thing to be frightened at.

"That's one lie nailed," said Frank.

"More than one, I should think," returned Archie, contemptuously. "I
shall have nothing more to do with that fellow. This is the end of my
acquaintance with him."

No doubt Archie was in earnest when he said this; but, had he been able
to look into the future, he would have discovered that he was destined
to have a great deal more to do with Arthur Vane. Instead of being the
end of his acquaintance with that young gentleman, it was only the
beginning of it.

Meanwhile, the fight in the bushes, desperate as it was, judging by the
noise it occasioned, was ended, and Arthur had scarcely disappeared when
Marmion and Carlo walked out into the path, and, after looking up at the
boys, and giving their tails a few jerks, as if to say "We've done it!"
seated themselves on their haunches, and awaited further orders. Archie
threw his reins to his cousin, and, springing out of his saddle, went
forward to survey the scene of the conflict. He was gone but a moment,
and when he came out of the bushes, he was dragging after him--not a
grizzly bear, but a large gray wolf, which had been overpowered and
killed by the dogs. One of the wolf's hind-legs was caught in a trap, to
which was fastened a short piece of chain and a clog. The animal had
doubtless been paying his respects to some sheep-fold during the night,
and had put his foot into the trap while searching for his supper. He
had retreated toward the mountains, and had dragged the trap until the
clog caught, and held him fast. That was the reason he did not run off
when the boys came up, and the commotion in the bushes had been caused
by his efforts to free himself.

While the boys were examining their prize, Johnny, having succeeded in
stopping his frantic horse, was returning to the place from which he had
started on his involuntary ride. As he was about to enter the woods at
the base of the mountains, he saw a horse emerge from the trees, and
come toward him at a rapid gallop. His bridle was flying loose in the
wind, and Johnny at first thought he was running away; but a second
glance showed him that there was somebody on his back.

"Stampeded," thought Johnny. "If I am laughed at, it will be some
consolation to know that I am not alone in my misery."

The rider of the stampeded horse was bent almost double; his feet were
out of the stirrups, which were being thrown wildly about; both hands
were holding fast to the horn of the saddle; his face was deadly pale,
and, altogether, he presented the appearance of one who had been
thoroughly alarmed. Although he looked very unlike the dignified Arthur
Vane, who had ridden so gayly over that road but a few moments before,
Johnny recognized him at once; and the first thought that flashed
through his mind was that something terrible had happened to Frank and
Archie.

"What's the matter?" asked Johnny, pulling up his horse with a jerk.

"Grizzly bears!" shouted Arthur, in reply, without attempting to check
his headlong flight.

"Grizzly bears!" echoed Johnny, in dismay. "And are you going off
without trying to help those boys? Stop, and go back with me."

But Arthur was past stopping, either by ability or inclination. Digging
his spurs into the sides of his horse, which was already going at the
top of his speed, he went by Johnny like the wind, and in a moment was
so far away that it was useless to make any further attempts to stop
him. For an instant, Johnny was irresolute; then he turned in his
saddle, and shouted one word, which the wind caught up and carried to
the ears of the flying horseman, and which did much to bring about the
events we have yet to describe.

"_Coward!_" yelled Johnny, with all the strength of his lungs.

Having thus given utterance to his opinion of Arthur Vane, he put spurs
to his horse and galloped into the woods, hoping to reach the scene of
the conflict in time to be of service to his friends. But, as we know,
the grizzly bear had proved to be a wolf, and had already been killed by
the dogs.



CHAPTER XI.

ARTHUR PLANS REVENGE.


Meanwhile, Arthur Vane continued his mad flight toward the settlement.
His hat was gone, his fine shot-gun had been thrown aside as a useless
incumbrance, and his tomahawk and knife had dropped out of his belt; but
he was too frightened to stop to pick them up. No pause he knew until he
reached Mr. Harris's rancho, where he reined up his panting horse, and
electrified the family by shouting through the open window:

"Grizzly bears! Grizzly bears!"

"Where?" breathlessly inquired Mr. Harris, running out on the porch.

Before Arthur could reply, Johnny's mother appeared; and a single glance
at the frightened hunter and his dripping steed, was enough to awaken in
her mind the most terrible apprehensions. She knew, instinctively, that
something dreadful had happened.

"O, my son!" she screamed, sinking down on the porch, and covering her
face with her hands.

Mr. Harris did not stop to ask any questions then. He knew the route the
boys had taken in the morning, and his first thought was to start for
the scene of the conflict, although he had little hopes of arriving in
time to be of any assistance to the young hunters.

"José!" he shouted to one of his Rancheros, who happened to pass by the
house at that moment, "call all the men to saddle up at once. The boys
have been attacked by a grizzly in the mountains."

The gentleman carried his fainting wife into the house, and presently
re-appeared with a brace of revolvers strapped to his waist, and a rifle
in his hand.

"Did you see any of the boys hurt?"

He asked this question in a firm voice; but his pale face and quivering
lips showed that the news he had just received had not been without its
effect upon him.

"No, sir," replied Arthur. "My horse ran away with me; but I heard the
fight, and I know that the dogs were all cut to pieces. The bear was an
awful monster--as large as an ox; and such teeth and claws as he had! I
never saw the like in all my hunting."

In a few moments, half a dozen herdsmen, all well armed, galloped up,
one of them leading his employer's horse.

"Vane," said Mr. Harris, as he sprang into his saddle, "you will stop on
your way home, and tell Mr. Winters, will you not?"

Arthur replied by putting spurs to his horse, and in a few moments he
was standing in Mr. Winters's court, spreading consternation among the
people of the rancho. Dick and Bob were there; but, unlike the rest of
the herdsmen, they seemed to be but little affected by Arthur's story.

"You'll never see those boys again," said the latter, winding up his
narrative with a description of the bear by which they had been
attacked.

"Now, don't you be anyways oneasy," replied Dick, hurrying off to saddle
his horse. "If it war a grizzly, he's dead enough by this time, for I
knowed them youngsters long afore you sot eyes on to 'em, an' I know
what they can do. Didn't I tell you, 'Squire," he added, turning to Mr.
Winters, who was pacing anxiously up and down the porch, "that Frank
would come out all right when he war stampeded with them buffaler? Wal,
I tell you the same now."

Arthur remained at the rancho until Uncle James and his herdsmen set out
for the mountains, and then turned his face homeward.

It is a rule that seldom fails, that when one meets a braggadocio, he
can put him down as a coward. We have seen that it held good in Arthur's
case; for, although he had not caught the smallest glimpse of the animal
in the bushes, he was so terrified that he had run his horse eight
miles; and, while he was plunging his spurs into the gray's sides at
almost every jump, he imagined that the animal was running away with
him. He was so badly frightened that he did not pause to consider that
he might have occasioned a great deal of unnecessary anxiety and alarm
by the stories he had circulated. He really believed that every word he
had uttered was the truth; and he reached this conclusion by a process
of reasoning perfectly satisfactory to himself. He had heard the growls
and snarls uttered by the animal in the bushes, when attacked by the
dogs, and they were so appalling, that he felt safe in believing that
they came from some terrible monster. The conduct of the hounds, and of
Johnny's horse, confirmed this opinion. Besides, Frank and Archie had
pronounced the animal a grizzly, and Arthur was quite sure it was; for
nothing else, except a lion or tiger, could have uttered such growls. He
had heard that grizzlies were very tenacious of life, and hard to whip,
and, consequently, it followed, as a thing of course, that Frank and
Archie, and the dogs, were utterly annihilated.

"I'm safe, thank goodness!" said Arthur, to himself. "If those fellows
were foolish enough to stay there and be clawed to pieces, that's their
lookout and not mine. Johnny Harris insulted me by calling me a coward.
He may escape from the bear, and if he does, I shall think up a plan to
punish him."

When Arthur reached home, he repeated his story as he had told it to Mr.
Harris and Uncle James, and he straightway found himself a hero. He had
seen a grizzly bear with terrible claws, and a frightful array of teeth;
his horse had run away with him, and carried him eight miles before he
could stop him, and he had come home with a whole skin. It was
wonderful.

Arthur threw on airs accordingly. He strutted about among the herdsmen,
and entertained his servant, a Mexican boy about his own age, named
Pedro, with a description of the fight, in which he had seen four fierce
dogs completely demolished.

Pedro complimented him highly, and the Rancheros called him a brave
lad--although Arthur himself failed to see what he had done that was
deserving of praise. He went to bed in excellent spirits, and was
awakened in the morning, about daylight, by Pedro, who came into his
room, carrying in his hand a double-barreled shot-gun, a tomahawk, and
sheath-knife, and, under his arm, he held a hat, and a bundle wrapped up
in a newspaper. Pedro held his sombrero over his face, so that nothing
could be seen but his eyes, which were brimful of laughter.

"Now, then," exclaimed Arthur, raising himself on his elbow, and looking
fiercely at the boy, "what do you want in here at this barbarous hour,
and what are you grinning at?"

"Why, sir--the bear, you know; it wasn't a bear after all," stammered
Pedro, in reply.

"It wasn't! I say it was. Didn't I see him with my own eyes, and hear
him growl with my own ears? Take that hat down from your face, and stop
your laughing."

Pedro obeyed. He placed the bundle on a chair beside the bed, leaned the
gun up in one corner, deposited the other articles upon the table, and
then pulled out of his pocket a note which he handed to Arthur.

"Now take yourself off," commanded that young gentleman.

Pedro vanished, and Arthur heard him laughing to himself as he passed
through the hall.

"What does the rascal mean, I wonder; and who can be writing to me so
early in the morning?"

Arthur looked at the bundle, which lay on the chair beside him, felt of
it with his fingers, and then turned his attention to the note, which
ran as follows:

     "Frank, Archie, and Johnny present their compliments to Colonel
     Vane, and beg leave to inform him that, after a struggle
     unequaled in the annals of hunting, they succeeded in dispatching
     the monster by which they were attacked yesterday. They are,
     also, happy to announce that the dogs, which were so badly cut up
     during the fight, have so far recovered as to be out, and to take
     their regular rations. They request the Colonel to accept the
     accompanying articles, including the skin of the grizzly bear,
     and to preserve them as mementoes of the most exciting event of
     his life. They sincerely hope that the Colonel sustained no
     injury during his ride on his runaway horse."

Arthur read this letter over twice, and, although he made no comments
upon it, it was easy enough to see that he was highly enraged. He sat up
in the bed, and, with trembling hands, tore off the covering of the
bundle, and discovered the skin of the gray wolf.

"By gracious!" exclaimed Arthur, jumping out on the floor. "Was a
gentleman ever before so insulted? That little Yankee, Archie Winters,
is at the bottom of all this, and if he don't suffer for it, I'll know
the reason why."

He tore the note into fragments, pitched the bundle out of the window,
and walked angrily about the room, shaking his fists in the air, and
threatening all sorts of vengeance against Archie and his two friends.
If he had been in his sober senses, he would have felt heartily ashamed
of himself; but the note had opened his eyes to the fact that he had
sadly injured his reputation, and he was angry at his companions because
he had done so--although how they could be blamed for that, it would
have puzzled a sensible boy to determine. But, after all, his case was
not an isolated one. It is by no means uncommon for boys, when they get
angry, to revenge themselves upon some innocent thing. We remember that,
on a certain rainy day, several boys were congregated in a barn, amusing
themselves by turning hand-springs. One clumsy fellow, whose feet were
so heavy that he could not get them over his head, became greatly
enraged at his failures, and finally tried to soothe his wounded pride
by whipping one of his companions.

Arthur was actuated by the same spirit. He walked up and down his room
for a long time, trying to make up his mind what he should do, and, when
he was called to breakfast, he had decided upon a plan of operations,
which promised to make Archie and his friends a great deal of trouble.

"I'll be revenged upon the whole lot of them at once," said Arthur, to
himself. "Upon Johnny Harris, for calling me a coward; upon Archie
Winters, for writing me that note--for I know he did it, although
Johnny's name does come last--and upon Frank Nelson, for being a friend
to those fellows, and for being so stuck up. He scarcely spoke to me
yesterday, and I won't stand such treatment from any boy. I'll teach
these backwoodsmen to insult a gentleman!"

"Well, Arthur," said Mr. Vane, as the boy seated himself at the table,
"you must have looked through a very badly-frightened pair of eyes, to
make a grizzly bear out of a wolf."

"Who told you it was a wolf?" asked Arthur, gruffly.

"One of Mr. Winters's herdsmen--Dick Lewis, I believe, they call him. He
came over this morning to bring your weapons and hat."

Dick despised a coward quite as much as he admired a boy of spirit and
courage, and it is certain that the story, as he had heard it from Frank
and Archie, lost nothing in passing through his hands. He first told it
to Mr. Vane, as he handed him the articles he had brought, and then
repeated it to one of the Rancheros; and, by the time Arthur had
finished his breakfast, the occurrences of the previous day were known
to every one on the rancho. Pedro laughed when he brought out Arthur's
horse, and the herdsmen, as he rode through their quarters, exchanged
winks with one another, and made a great many remarks about grizzly
bears, especially concerning the one Arthur had seen the day before.
There was one man, however, who took no part in the joking and laughing,
and that was Joaquin, who was just mounting his horse to drive up some
stock.

"Don't mind them," said he, as Arthur rode beside him. "They are a set
of blackguards, and don't know how to treat a gentleman."

"Now, that's like a true friend," replied Arthur. "You're the only one I
have on the ranch."

Joaquin was a villainous-looking Mexican, and since he had been in Mr.
Vane's employ, he had had little to do with the other herdsmen. He
seemed to prefer to be alone, unless he could have Arthur for company.
He always took a great deal of interest in the boy's affairs, and it was
from his lips that Arthur had heard the story of Frank's adventures with
Pierre Costello. Joaquin had gained Arthur's good will by confiding to
him a great many secrets, and one day he went so far as to confess that
Pierre was his particular friend, and that, if he felt so disposed, he
could point out the cave in the mountains where the robber was
concealed, and tell who it was that supplied him with food, and kept him
posted in all that happened in the settlement. Joaquin might have added,
further, that he himself had held several long interviews with Pierre of
late, and had talked over with him certain plans, in which Arthur Vane
and his three companions of the previous day bore prominent parts. But
this was one secret that the Ranchero kept to himself.

"If you know where the robber is hidden, why don't you tell Mr. Winters,
and claim the reward?" Arthur had one day asked Joaquin.

"What! betray my best friend!" exclaimed that worthy, in great
astonishment. "I am not base enough to abuse any man's confidence. Do
you suppose that if you were in Pierre's place, and I knew where you
were concealed, that I could be hired to play false to you? No, sir!"

Arthur remembered this remark, and on this particular morning, as he
rode out with the Ranchero, he called the latter's attention to it, and
asked if he could trust him. The reply was a strong affirmative, which
satisfied Arthur that he might speak freely, and the result was, the
revelation of his plan for taking revenge on Frank, Johnny, and Archie.
Joaquin listened attentively, and Arthur was delighted at the readiness,
and even eagerness, with which the herdsman fell in with his ideas, and
promised his assistance. He had one amendment to propose, that did not
exactly suit Arthur; but, after a little argument, he agreed to it. They
talked the matter over for half an hour, and then Arthur started for
home, and the Ranchero galloped off to attend to his stock.

That night, after all his companions were asleep, Joaquin crept quietly
out of his quarters, and, after saddling his horse, rode toward the
mountains. He was gone nearly all night, but returned in time to get to
bed before the herdsmen awoke; and, when he arose with the others, none
of them knew that he had been away from the rancho. Arthur Vane must
have known something about it, however, for the next morning, as soon as
he had eaten his breakfast, he mounted his horse, and overtook Joaquin,
just as he was leaving his quarters.

"Well!" said Arthur.

The Ranchero looked suspiciously about him, and, finding that there was
no one within sight or hearing, he detached his knife and sheath from
his belt, produced a folded paper from the crown of his sombrero, and
handed them both to Arthur, saying, in a suppressed whisper:

"It's all right."

"Did you see him?" asked Arthur, eagerly.

"I did, and he says your plan is an excellent one, and he will help you
to carry it out. The black line on that paper points out the road you
are to follow; the light lines, that branch off from it, are old
bridle-paths. Look at the paper often, and you can't get lost. He has
never seen you, you know, and, when you find him, you must show him my
knife to prove that you are a friend. Bear one thing in mind, now, and
that is, you are playing a dangerous game, and if you are found out, the
country around here will be too hot to hold you. Remember that I am your
only friend in this matter, and say nothing to nobody except me."

With this piece of advice, the Ranchero galloped off, and Arthur, after
placing the knife in his belt, and putting the paper carefully away in
his pocket, rode toward the mountains.

During the next few hours, Arthur consulted his paper frequently, and,
about noon, he was standing at the base of a precipitous cliff, twenty
miles from home, examining the natural features of the place, and
comparing them with his diagram. He saw no one; but half way up the
cliff was a huge bowlder, over which peered a pair of eyes that were
closely watching every move he made; and, when Arthur whistled twice,
the eyes disappeared, and a man stepped from behind the rock, and said,
in a gruff voice:

"Who are you, and what do you want here?"

"Are you Pierre Costello?" asked Arthur.

"Well, now, that's no concern of yours," replied the man. "Who are you?"
As he spoke, he drew a revolver from his sash, and rested it on the rock
beside him, the muzzle pointing straight at the boy's head.

"Don't!" cried Arthur, turning pale, and stepping back. "I am Arthur
Vane, and I have come here to have a talk with you. Here is Joaquin's
knife, which will prove that I am all right."

The man returned his revolver to his belt, and came down the cliff; and,
presently, Arthur found himself standing face to face with a live
robber.

"I am Pierre Costello," said the latter; "and I was waiting for you."



CHAPTER XII.

OFF FOR THE MOUNTAINS.


Arthur looked at the robber with curiosity. Yellow-covered novels had
always been his favorite reading, and highwaymen, brigands, and pirates
were, in his estimation, the only heroes worthy of emulation. Pierre,
but for one thing, would have come up to his beau ideal of a robber. He
was loaded with weapons, and he was tall and broad-shouldered, sported a
ferocious mustache, and his hair fell down upon his shoulders. He was
dressed in the gayest Mexican style, but his clothing had seen long
service, and was not quite as neat as Arthur would have liked to have
seen it. It was plain that Pierre did not waste much time upon his
toilet; but, after all, he was a very good-looking villain.

The robber was quite as much interested in his visitor as the latter was
in him. He had often heard of Arthur through Joaquin; and, if the boy
had known all Pierre's intentions concerning him, he might not have felt
quite so much at his ease.

"I can't spare much time," said the robber, breaking the silence at
last.

"Nor I either," returned Arthur; "so I will begin my business at once,
and get through as soon as I can. I have heard the particulars of your
fights with Frank Nelson, and I propose to put you in the way of making
five times the amount of money you would have made if you had captured
him when you met him in the mountains. I want to be revenged upon Frank
and his crowd, for they have grossly insulted me."

"Of course they have," said Pierre. "I know all about it."

"I can't punish them by myself," continued Arthur, "for they are three
to my one. I am not afraid of Johnny Harris, or Archie Winters; but
there's that other Yankee, Frank Nelson. He is as strong as a lion, and
if he once gets his blood up, he don't care for any thing. I am afraid
of him."

"I don't wonder at it. I have had some experience with him, and, if he
had a few more years on his shoulders, I should be afraid of him
myself."

"I can't punish them unless I have help," repeated Arthur; "and, if you
will lend me your assistance, you can make sixty thousand dollars by it.
I heard those fellows say, yesterday, that they are going on a hunting
expedition, next week. I will make friends with them again, and find out
when they intend to start, and I propose that you capture them, and take
them to some safe place in the mountains, and demand twenty thousand
dollars apiece for them. You can demand more, if you choose, and get it,
too; for Mr. Harris is rich, and so is Mr. Winters. You must have some
men to assist you, however."

"I understand that," said Pierre. "I'll find the men."

"Will you do it?"

"Certainly, I will."

"Give me your hand, Pierre; I knew you would help me. But let me tell
you one thing, and that is, when you capture them you must look out for
yourself. They will have plenty of weapons, and, from what I have seen
of them, I don't think they would hesitate to use them if they got a
chance. There's one thing about this business I don't exactly admire. Of
course, I shall start with their expedition--I want to have the
satisfaction of seeing them captured--and my idea was, that, when you
made the attack on them, you should give me a chance to escape; but
Joaquin says, that won't do at all."

"Certainly not;" said Pierre, quickly. "I shall have five men with me,
and if we should let you get away, the boys would be suspicious of you
at once."

"That's just what Joaquin said; and since I have thought the matter
over, I have come to the conclusion that he was right. I don't want them
to know that I had a hand in this matter, for they might make me some
trouble."

"Very likely they would. You must allow yourself to be captured with the
others."

"Well, I sha'n't mind that, for, I believe, I can enjoy myself among the
mountains for a month or two. But, Pierre, when you get them you must
hold fast to them."

"I am not the man to let sixty thousand dollars slip through my
fingers," said the Ranchero, with a laugh.

"And there are three other things I want you to remember," continued
Arthur, earnestly. "The first is, you must not demand any ransom for
me."

"Oh no; of course not."

"The second is, I shall expect to be treated at all times like a
visitor. I am a gentleman, and a gentleman's son."

"I am well aware of that fact. I knew it the moment I put my eyes on
you."

"The third thing I want you to bear in mind, is, that I shall not be
captured without a struggle; and that every chance I get I shall try to
escape. I am going to show those fellows that I have some spunk. I want
you to act natural, and to prevent me from getting away from you; but
you must not abuse me. You can treat the others as roughly as you
please. Do you agree to all this?"

"I do, and there's my hand on it," said Pierre. "I fully understand
your plans now, and know just what you want me to do; and, what's more,
I'll do it. If you have got through with what you have to say, you had
better be off. I have a good many enemies, and I am in danger as long as
you are here. Watch those boys closely, and keep Joaquin posted. I can
find out every thing I want to know from him."

"My plans are working nicely," chuckled Arthur, as he rode homeward.
"I'll teach these backwoodsmen manners, before I am done with them."

"Eighty thousand dollars!" said Pierre, gazing after the retreating
horseman. "That's a nice little sum to be divided among six of us."

This remark will show whether or not the robber intended to abide by the
promises he had just made to Arthur Vane; and, while we are on this
subject, it may not be amiss to say, that the scheme Arthur had
proposed, was one on which the robber had been meditating for many days.
During the time he had lived in the mountains, he had kept his brain
busy, and had been allowed ample opportunity to decide upon his future
operations. He had been astonished and enraged at his failure to secure
the twelve thousand dollars, and to make Frank Nelson a prisoner, and he
had resolved to make amends for his defeat by capturing Frank and all
his companions, including Arthur Vane. Pierre had plenty of friends to
assist him, but there was one question that troubled him, and presented
an obstacle that he could see no way to overcome; and that was, how to
capture all the boys at once. That must be done, or his plan would fail.
He could get his hands upon Arthur Vane at any time; but the others were
like birds on the wing--here to-day, and miles away to-morrow--and
Pierre did not know where to find them. Now, however, the difficulty was
removed. Frank and his friends were going on a hunting expedition,
Arthur would ascertain when they were going to start, and what road they
intended to take, and when the day arrived, the robber could call in his
men, who were employed on the neighboring ranchos, and capture the boys
without the least trouble. Pierre was very glad that Arthur had got
angry at Frank.

Meanwhile Frank, Archie, and Johnny, all unconscious of the plans that
were being formed against them, enjoyed themselves to the utmost, and
wasted a good deal of time every day in laughing over the incidents that
had transpired during their ride to Captain Porter's ranch. Archie,
especially, had a great deal to say about it. He had an accomplishment,
of which we have never before had occasion to speak: he was a
first-class mimic; and he took no little pride in showing off his
powers. He could imitate the brogue of an Irishman the broken English of
a Dutchman, or the nasal twang of a Yankee, to perfection; and one day,
while he was in the barn saddling his horse, he carried on a lengthy
conversation with Bob Kelly (who was on the outside of the building),
about some runaway cattle, and the old trapper thought all the while
that he was talking to his chum, Dick Lewis. Now Archie had a new
subject to practice upon. He laid himself out to personate Arthur Vane;
and he not only successfully imitated that young gentleman's pompous
style of talking, and his dignified manner of riding and walking, but
even the tone of his voice. He criticised Frank and Johnny continually,
and made them laugh, till their jaws ached, by recounting imaginary
adventures on the burning sands of Patagonia, and among the icebergs and
polar bears of India.

The day following the one on which Arthur Vane visited the robber in the
mountains, found the three boys on the back porch of Mr. Winters's
rancho, making preparations for their hunting expedition. Frank was
cleaning his rifle, and Archie and Johnny were repairing an old
pack-saddle, in which they intended to carry their provisions and extra
ammunition. Archie was seated on the floor, with an awl in one hand, and
a piece of stout twine in the other; and, while he was working at the
pack-saddle, his tongue was moving rapidly.

"I am young in years, fellows," he was saying, "but I am aged in
experience. If I had my rights, I should long ago have been gray-headed.
I have seen thrilling times in my life, and have been the hero of
adventures, that, were I to relate them to you, would make each
particular hair of your heads stand on end, like the quills of a
punched hedge-hog. I am--if you will kindly permit me to use a slang
expression--an old hand at the business of hunting and trapping, and
have accomplishments in which I can not be beaten. Among them, stands my
ability to whip a grizzly bear in a fair fight, with no weapon but my
knife. I have hunted wild gorillas in the streets of New York City;
have"--

"Good morning, fellows!"

Archie brought the story of his adventures to a sudden close, and,
looking over his shoulder, saw Arthur Vane standing at the end of the
porch. The boys had never expected him to call upon them again, and
Archie and Johnny were too surprised to speak; but Frank, who always
kept his wits about him, returned Arthur's greeting, and invited him to
occupy the chair he pushed toward him. He was not at all pleased to see
the visitor, but he was too much of a gentleman to show it.

One would suppose, that the remembrance of what had happened, three days
before, would have caused Arthur some embarrassment; but such was not
the case. On the contrary, he was as dignified as ever, and seemed to be
perfectly at his ease. Frank and his friends were considerate enough to
refrain from making any allusions to the fright he had sustained, but
Arthur brought the subject up himself.

"I received your note," said he, "and also the articles you were kind
enough to send me; and I am here now to say, that I feel heartily
ashamed of myself. From some cause or another, that I could not explain
if I should try, I was extremely nervous that day; but I may, some time,
have an opportunity to show you that I am not as much of a coward as I
know you now believe me to be."

Arthur remained at the rancho all that day, sitting down at the same,
table, and eating his dinner with the boys he was about to betray into
the hands of the robbers; and, when he went home that night, he had
asked, and received, permission to accompany them to the mountains.
Their consent had been given reluctantly, and with very bad grace; but
they could see no way to get around it. Arthur was a boy with whom they
did not care to associate; but he had done them no injury, and they
could not bring themselves to refuse his request.

"They will start early Monday morning," soliloquized Arthur, as he rode
homeward, "and will take the road that leads to Captain Porter's. This
is Friday. I shall send word by Joaquin to Pierre to-night, and he will
have plenty of time to make all his arrangements."

Arthur spent the next day with the boys at Mr. Winters's rancho, and,
when he rode over on Monday morning, he brought with him a supply of
provisions, which were stowed away in the pack-saddle with the rest.
Frank and his friends had been waiting for him, and now that they were
all ready, they mounted their horses and rode off--Archie leading an
extra horse, which carried the pack-saddle. As they galloped through the
Rancheros' quarters, Dick appeared at the door of his cabin, and shouted
after them words, which, taken in connection with the events that were
about to transpire, seemed like prophecy.

"You'll be wishin' fur me an' Bob, to get you out of the hands of that
ar' greaser, afore you're two days older," yelled Dick.

"You don't suppose that we four fellows will let one man capture us, do
you?" shouted Archie, in reply. "If we do get into trouble, and you find
it out, you'll come to our rescue, won't you?"

"Sartin. Now, don't be keerless, like you allers are."

The boys kept their horses in a rapid gallop until they reached the
bridle-path in the mountains, and then Archie went ahead with the
pack-horse, and the others followed in single file. They rode along
singing and shouting, and little dreaming of the danger that was so
near, until they arrived in sight of the spring, near which Frank had
his last encounter with the robber. He soon found that he was to have
another adventure there; for, as he and his companions rode toward the
spring, they were startled by a shrill whistle, which echoed among the
mountains, and was answered on all sides of them; and, before they had
recovered from their surprise, Pierre Costello appeared in the path, as
suddenly as though he had dropped from the clouds, and came toward them,
holding a pistol in each hand.

"Halt!" shouted the robber.

The boys looked about them, as if seeking some avenue of escape, and
then they saw that Pierre was not alone. Every thicket, toward which
they turned their eyes, bristled with weapons, and a dozen revolvers
were leveled straight at their heads. It was useless to think of flight.



CHAPTER XIII.

PIERRE AND HIS BAND.


"Halt, I say!" repeated Pierre, riding up beside Frank, and seizing his
horse by the bridle. "Disarm them, men, and shoot down the first one
that resists," he added, as the band closed up around the boys.

Frank, seeing, at a glance, that it was useless to think of escape, sat
quietly in his saddle, and allowed Pierre to take possession of his
rifle, pistols, and lasso.

Johnny and Archie also surrendered at discretion; but Arthur, believing
that the time had come to retrieve the reputation he had lost so
ingloriously a few days before, determined that he would not surrender
without a fight. It was a part of his contract with the robber chief,
that he should be allowed to resist as desperately as he pleased, and he
took advantage of it. He gazed at the Rancheros for a moment with
well-assumed astonishment, and then, appearing to comprehend the
situation, he shouted:

"Stick together, fellows, and fight for your liberties! Don't give up,
like a pack of cowards! Knock 'em down! Shoot 'em! Take your hand off
that bridle, you villain!"

As Arthur spoke, he dashed his spurs into the flanks of his horse, which
bounded forward so suddenly, that he jerked the bridle from the grasp of
the Ranchero who was holding him.

"Hurrah! I'm free, boys!" he shouted, clubbing his gun, and swinging it
around his head. "Follow me, and I'll show you how we used to clean out
the Indians."

Arthur's triumph was of short duration. The Ranchero, from whom he had
escaped, was at his side in an instant, and, again seizing his bridle
with one hand, he leveled a pistol full at his prisoner's head with the
other, while Pierre caught his gun from behind, and wrested it from his
grasp. At the same moment, a lasso, thrown by the Ranchero who had taken
charge of Archie, settled down over his shoulders, and was drawn tight.

Pierre and his band were obeying their instructions to the very letter,
indeed, they were altogether too zealous in their efforts to appear
"natural," and Arthur began to be suspicious that they were in sober
earnest with him, as well as with the others. He looked up into Pierre's
face, in the hope of receiving from him some friendly token--a sly wink
or a nod, which would satisfy him that he was "all right," and in no
danger of receiving bodily injury; but he saw nothing of the kind. The
chieftain's face wore a terrible scowl, and he even lifted Arthur's gun
above his head, as if he had half a mind to knock him out of his saddle.

"Quarter! quarter!" gasped Arthur, striving, with nervous fingers, to
pull the lasso from his neck, and beginning to be thoroughly alarmed. "I
surrender."

"Well, let that be your last attempt at escape," said Pierre, in a very
savage tone of voice, "or you will find, to your cost, that we are not
to be trifled with."

In the meantime, the other Rancheros, while holding fast to their
prisoners, had relieved them of their weapons; and, as soon as Pierre
had seen Arthur conquered, he seized the bridle of the pack-horse,
while each of the other members of the band took charge of one of the
boys, and the cavalcade started down the ravine at a rapid gallop.

All this happened in much less time than we have taken to describe it.
Before the young hunters had fairly recovered from the astonishment
caused by the sudden appearance of Pierre and his band, they had been
disarmed, and were being led captive into the mountains.

Frank and his two friends were more bewildered than alarmed. The whole
thing was so unexpected, and had been accomplished so quickly and
quietly! Remembering the particulars of Frank's previous encounter with
Pierre Costello, they did not stand in fear of bodily harm. Although
they had not the slightest suspicion that their capture was the result
of treachery on the part of Arthur Vane, they well understood the
motives of the robbers, and knew, as well as if Pierre had explained the
matter to them, that they were to be used as a means to extort money
from their relatives, and that they had nothing to fear, so long as
they submitted quietly to their enemies. But this was something that one
of the three boys, at least, had no intention of doing. Frank's brain
was already busy with plans for escape. He had twice beaten Pierre at
his own game, and, if the robber did not keep his wits about him, he
would do it again. As for Arthur, although his plans were, thus far, as
successful as he could have desired, he was very much disappointed. The
three boys, who had dared to hold him up to the people of the settlement
in his true character, were prisoners, and he had Pierre's assurance
that they would remain such until the demands he intended to make upon
their relatives should be complied with. But, after all, Arthur did not
experience the satisfaction he had hoped he would, for the robbers had
treated him very roughly. The chief had raised his own gun over his
head; another had choked him with his lasso, and a third had pointed a
loaded pistol at him. That was a nice way to treat a visitor! Arthur
began to wish that he had never had any thing to do with Pierre and his
band.

The chief, who rode in advance with the pack-horse, led the way at a
break-neck pace, and the boys, being one behind the other, each in
company with the Ranchero who had him in charge, were allowed no
opportunity to converse with one another, even had they desired it.
Frank, for want of something better to do, began to make an examination
of the members of the band. Like their leader, they were full-blooded
Mexicans, with enormous mustaches, and long, tangled hair, which looked
as though it had never seen a comb. They were dressed in gay-colored
clothes--blue jackets, buckskin pants, very wide at the knee, and
covered with buttons, ribbons, and gold lace. They wore long sashes
around their waists, which were thrust full of bowie-knives and
revolvers. They carried short, heavy rifles, slung over their shoulders
by leather bands, and behind their saddles were their ponchos, which did
duty both as overcoats and beds. Taken altogether, they were a
hard-looking set, and seemed capable of any atrocity. The man who had
charge of Frank was particularly noticeable in this respect, and our
hero thought that all he needed were the leggins, and high-pointed hat,
to make him a first-class brigand. This man kept a sharp eye upon his
prisoner, and scowled at him, as if he regarded him as his most
implacable foe.

"You needn't look so mad," said Frank, at length. "I don't remember that
I ever did you any harm, and I certainly am not foolish enough to try to
escape, as long as you keep hold of my bridle."

"You had better not," said the Ranchero, smiling grimly, and shaking his
head in a very threatening manner.

"I don't know that you can frighten me," returned Frank, coolly. "I wish
I was a man for about five minutes."

"What would you do?" asked the Ranchero, who seemed to be pleased, as
well as astonished, at the boy's courage and independence.

"I'd make your head and your heels change places in a great hurry. In
other words, I'd knock you out of your saddle. Then I'd say: 'Good-by,
Mr.--Mr.'--what's your name?"

"Mercedes--Antoine Mercedes."

"Well, Mr. Mercedes, I'll never forget that benevolent-looking face of
yours. As I was saying, I would bid you good-by, and leave. I'd pass
those fellows," he added, jerking his thumb over his shoulder toward the
robbers in the rear, "before they could say 'General Jackson' with their
mouth's open. You haven't got a horse, in this party, that can catch
Roderick."

The Ranchero smiled again, and tapped the butt of one of his revolvers
with his finger.

"Oh, you wouldn't have a chance to fire a pistol at me," said Frank,
quickly. "By the time you could get on your feet again, after I had
knocked you down, I would be a mile from here. Did Pierre ever tell you
how nicely I fooled him?" he continued, noticing that the chief was
turned half around in his saddle, listening to what he had to say. "Well
I am not surprised that he never mentioned it, for he ought to feel
ashamed of himself."

"Ay; but I have got you fast this time," said Pierre, with a laugh. "Let
us see how nicely you will fool me now. One at a time here, men," he
added, in a louder tone, "and keep close watch of those prisoners."

As Pierre spoke, the cavalcade emerged from the woods, and Frank found
himself on the brink of a rocky chasm, which stretched away to the
right as far as his eye could reach, and seemed to extend down into the
very bowels of the earth. It was so deep that his head grew dizzy, as he
looked into it. On his left, and directly in front of him, was a
precipitous mountain, the top of which hung threateningly over the gorge
below. It seemed to Frank that they could go no farther in this
direction, until Pierre urged his horse upon a narrow ledge that ran
around the base of the cliff. Antoine followed after the pack-horse, and
Frank came next. Roderick pricked up his ears, looked over into the
gorge, and snorted loudly. He moved very slowly and carefully, and well
he might: for a single misstep on his part would have sent both him and
his rider to destruction. The path was so narrow that, although Roderick
walked on the extreme outer edge, Frank's feet now and then brushed
against the rock on the opposite side. Our hero felt his sombrero rise
on his head, whenever he looked into the chasm, or allowed himself to
reflect how slight an accident might launch him into eternity. But there
was no backing out. Once on that ledge, a person must go forward; for
there was no room to turn around.

After Frank came another of the band, and Johnny followed at his heels.
Archie and his keeper came next, and Arthur and _his_ keeper brought up
the rear. They all rode fearlessly upon the ledge, until it came
Arthur's turn, and then was heard a cry of remonstrance. The young
gentleman, who had been brave enough to fill the perilous office of
scout among the Indians of the plains, did not possess the courage
necessary to carry him through this ordeal. He turned as pale as death,
and stopped his horse.

"Go on," sternly commanded his keeper.

"Oh, it's dangerous," returned Arthur, in pitiful tones. "What if my
horse should slip off? That gully must be a thousand feet deep!"

"More than that," said Archie, who, although very far from being pleased
at his own situation, could not resist the inclination to torment
Arthur. "It reaches clear through to India, where you used to hunt polar
bears."

"That's so," said Johnny; "for just now, as I looked over into the
gorge, I saw a lot of half naked Hindoos tumbling about among the
icebergs."

"And I heard them yelling," chimed in Frank; "and saw one of those big
white bears after them."

"Go on!" repeated the Ranchero, impatiently.

"O, now, see here!" exclaimed Arthur, in a trembling voice, trying to
turn his horse's head away from the pass, "I believe, I'll"--

He was about to say, that he believed he would not go any further, but
that he would return home and leave Pierre and his band to take care of
his three enemies; but his keeper did not give him time to finish the
sentence. Seeing that Arthur had no intention of following the rest of
the party, the robber took his lasso from the pommel of his saddle, and
with it struck his prisoner's horse a blow that caused the fiery animal
to give one tremendous spring, which brought him to the very brink of
the precipice. In his efforts to stop himself, a portion of the earth
was detached by his hoofs and fell with a loud noise into the abyss,
bounding down its rocky sides, and crashing through bushes and branches
of trees in its rapid descent to the bottom. The horse, frightened by
the sound, and smarting under the blow of the lasso, reared so straight
upon his hind legs that he seemed in imminent danger of toppling over
into the chasm; and then, for the first time in his life, Arthur found
himself in real peril. He screamed loudly, clung to the horn of his
saddle with a death grip, and closed his eyes, expecting every instant
to find himself whirling through the air toward the bottom of the gorge.
But help was near: the strong hand of his keeper grasped the bridle, and
brought the horse back upon firm ground.

"Now, then, go on!" commanded the Ranchero, without giving his prisoner
time to recover from his fright.

Arthur was powerless to obey, for so great was his terror that he could
not move a muscle; but his horse, being left to himself, stepped boldly
upon the ledge, and followed after the rest of the party, who had, by
this time, disappeared around the base of the mountain.



CHAPTER XIV.

A DINNER IN THE MOUNTAINS.


Pass Christian--for that was the name of the gorge--was two miles long.
About half that distance from the entrance, was a natural recess in the
mountains, comprising perhaps half an acre, which was covered with grass
and stunted oaks, and watered by a spring that gushed out from under a
huge bowlder, which had fallen into the glade from the mountains above.
Here the robber chief had decided to remain long enough to send a
message to Mr. Winters. The horses had been unsaddled, and were cropping
the grass, and the Rancheros were stretched out under the shade of the
trees--all except two of their number, one of whom, having lighted a
fire, was engaged in cooking the dinner, and the other was standing near
the entrance to the glade, leaning on his rifle, and keeping a close
watch over the prisoners. Frank and his two friends were reposing on
their blankets near the spring, and when Arthur rode up, they greeted
him with a broad grin.

"Well, Colonel," said Frank, "you come near going back to India by a
short route, didn't you?"

"Did you ever travel on horseback in such frightful places as this,
during your wanderings in Europe?" asked Johnny.

Arthur had, by this time, somewhat recovered from his fright, though his
face was still very pale, and he drew a long breath every now and then,
when he thought of the dangers he had passed through.

"No," he replied, to Johnny's question. "I never traveled much among the
mountains. It always makes my head dizzy, to look down from a height."

"How, then, did you stand it," said Archie, with a sly wink at his
companions, "when you were perched upon the 'very top of the middle
mast' of your ship, looking out for whales?"

"Eh?" exclaimed Arthur. "Why--I--you know"--

Arthur was cornered. He did not know how to answer this question, so he
kneeled down by the spring, and took a drink, in order to gain time to
reflect. "I was obliged to stand it," said he, at length, looking up at
his companions. "I couldn't help myself. I say, boys," he added,
desiring to turn the conversation into another channel, "you've got us
into a nice scrape by your cowardice. If you had followed me, those
fellows would have been the prisoners now."

At this moment the robber chief approached the group, holding in his
hand a sheet of soiled paper and a lead pencil. "Take these," said he,
handing the articles to Frank, "and write to your uncle, telling him how
matters stand. Say to him that you and your friends are prisoners, that
I am going to take you where no one will ever think of looking for you,
and that when I am paid eighty thousand dollars in gold, I will set you
at liberty, and not before. Tell him, further, that I shall send this
note to him by one of my men; and that if he does not return in safety
by sunrise to-morrow morning, I will make scare-crows of you."

Frank picked up his saddle-bags, which he used as a desk, and, after
borrowing the robber's bowie-knife to sharpen his pencil, he began the
letter, and wrote down what Pierre had dictated, using as nearly as
possible the chief's own words.

"That's all right," said the latter, when his prisoner had read the
letter aloud.

"Now," said Frank, "may I not add a postscript, telling Uncle James that
we are well and hearty, and that we have been kindly treated, and so
on."

"Certainly; only be careful that you do not advise him to capture my
messenger."

Frank again picked up his pencil, and wrote as follows:

     "The above was written by Pierre's command, and I have his
     permission to say a word for ourselves. You need not pay out any
     money for Archie and me; and I know that if I was allowed an
     opportunity to talk to Johnny, he would send the same message to
     his father. We are now in Pass Christian--a difficult place to
     escape from, but we intend to make the attempt this very night.
     Detain Pierre's messenger, by all means; then send Dick and Bob
     with a party of men up here by daylight, and they can capture
     every one of these villains."

That was what Frank added to the letter, but, when Pierre ordered him to
read it, he made up a postscript as he went along; for he knew that if
the chief were made acquainted with the real contents of the note, he
would not send it. The Ranchero did not know one letter from another,
and he was obliged to rely entirely upon Frank, who read:

"We're all hunky-dory thus far. Pierre don't seem to be so bad a fellow,
after all; in fact, he's a brick. He treats us like gentlemen; but, of
course, we'd rather be at home, so please send on the money for Archie
and me, and see that Mr. Harris and Mr. Vane do the same for Johnny and
Arthur."

"You're sure, now," said Pierre, as Frank handed him the letter, after
addressing it to Mr. Winters, "that you haven't told your uncle where we
are, or advised him to try to rescue you?"

"There's the note," replied the prisoner, "and if you think I have been
trying to deceive you, read it yourself."

"I guess it's all right," said the chief. "At any rate, I'll run the
risk. I have treated you like gentlemen, and if you want me to continue
to do so, you must behave yourselves, and not try to play any tricks
upon me. Now, mind what I say. If any of you hear the others talking of
escape, and don't tell me of it, I'll pitch every one of you into that
gully."

Having given utterance to this threat, and emphasized it by scowling
savagely at his prisoners, Pierre turned on his heel and walked away.

By this time, dinner was ready, and the boys were invited to sit down
and help themselves. The principal dish was dried meat, but there were
luxuries in the shape of sandwiches, cakes, crackers, and tea and
coffee, which the cook had found in the pack-saddle, and which he did
not hesitate to appropriate. The table was the ground under one of the
trees, and the grass did duty both as table-cloth and dishes.

"Now, boys," said the chief, "here's a dinner fit for a king. Pitch in,
and don't stand upon ceremony."

"I don't think you will find us at all bashful," said Archie, dryly,
"seeing that the most of this grub belongs to us."

As the robbers and their prisoners were hungry after their long ride,
they fell to work in earnest. Archie sat on his knees in the midst of
the group, and, while his teeth were busy upon a sandwich, his eyes
wandered from one to another of the Rancheros, and finally rested upon
Mr. Mercedes, whose actions instantly riveted his attention. It had
evidently been a long time since the robbers had sat down to a
respectable dinner, and they all seemed determined to make the most of
it--especially Antoine, who devoted his attention entirely to the
eatables that had been found in the pack-saddle. He lay stretched out at
full length on the ground, one hand being occupied in supporting his
head, and the other in transferring the sandwiches from the table to his
capacious mouth. Two of the sandwiches would have made a good meal for
an ordinary man, unless he was very hungry; but they did not go far
toward satisfying the appetite of Mr. Mercedes, for, during the short
time that Archie sat looking at him, he put no less than half a dozen
out of sight, and seemed to have room for plenty more. Archie began to
be alarmed. By the time he could finish one sandwich, Antoine would have
swallowed every one on the table, and there would be nothing left but
the dried meat.

"Will the small gentleman from Maine be kind enough to pass the
plum-pudding--I mean the one that's got the most raisins in it?" said
Johnny, who was inclined to be facetious.

"See here, fellows!" exclaimed Archie, and the earnest expression of his
countenance arrested the laughing at once. "This is no time for joking.
The rule of this boarding-house seems to be, Look out for number one. I
intend to do it; and, if you want to get any thing to eat, you had
better follow my example."

So saying, he caught up three or four sandwiches, and half a dozen
cakes, and started toward the spring, where he sat down to finish his
dinner. The other boys comprehended this piece of strategy, and, in less
time than it takes to tell it, the table was cleared of every thing
except the dried meat. Mr. Mercedes uttered an angry growl, and gazed
after Johnny, who had snatched the last sandwich almost out of his hand,
and then whipped out his knife, and turned his attention to the meat.

When the robbers had finished their dinner, Pierre held a whispered
consultation with one of his men, who, after placing Frank's letter
carefully away in the crown of his sombrero, mounted his horse, and rode
down the pass. The others, with the exception of a solitary sentinel,
sought their blankets, and the boys were left to themselves.

"Now," said Johnny, in a whisper, addressing himself to Frank, "tell us
what you wrote in that postscript. You surely did not ask your uncle to
send any money for you and Archie?"

"Of course not!" replied Frank. "I, for one, am not worth twenty
thousand dollars; and I would rather stay here until I am gray-headed,
and live on nothing but dried meat all the while, than ask Uncle James
to give twenty cents for me."

"That's the talk," said Johnny, approvingly, while Archie raised himself
on his elbow, and patted his cousin on the back. Frank then repeated
what he had written in the postscript, as nearly as he could recollect
it, and it was heartily indorsed by all the boys, even including Arthur
Vane, who said:

"I am glad to see that you are recovering your courage, Frank. If you
had all showed a little pluck, when Pierre attacked us this morning, we
should not have been in this predicament."

"We'll not argue that point now," said Archie. "Let's talk about our
plans for escape. By the way, what sort of fellows do you suppose Pierre
takes us for, if he imagines that he can frighten us into carrying tales
about one another?"

"I'd like to know, too," said Arthur, sitting up on his blanket, and
looking very indignant. "I wonder if he is foolish enough to believe
that one of us would tell him, if he heard the others talking of escape!
If I thought there was one in this party mean enough to do that, I
would never speak to him again."

"Now, don't you be alarmed," said Johnny. "We've been through too much
to go back on each other. But how shall we get away? that's the
question."

"Let us rush up and knock them down, and pitch them over into the
gully," said Arthur. "Follow me; I'll get you out of this scrape."

"We couldn't gain any thing by a fight," said Frank. "Four boys are no
match for five grown men."

"I'd give Sleepy Sam if I could only see Dick and Bob poke their noses
over some of these rocks around here," said Archie. "They will be after
us, as soon as they find out that we are captured; and when they get
their eyes on these 'Greasers,' as they call them, there'll be fun."

"But we don't want to wait for them," said Frank. "We must escape
to-night, if possible. We can find our way home from here; but, if we
stay with these villains two or three days longer, they will have taken
us so far into the mountains, that we never can get out. I propose that
we wait until dark, and see what arrangements they intend to make for
the night, before we determine upon our plans. If they allow us to
remain unbound, and leave only one sentinel to guard us, we'll see what
can be done. In the meantime, I move that we all take a nap."

The prisoners settled themselves comfortably on their blankets, and, in
a few moments, three of them were sleeping soundly, all unconscious of
the fact that their wide-awake companion was impatiently awaiting an
opportunity to repeat to the robber chief every word of their recent
conversation.

"Pierre said, that if any of us heard the others talking of escape, and
didn't tell him of it, he would pitch us over that precipice," muttered
Arthur. "He looked straight at me when he said it; so I shall take him
at his word, and put him on his guard against these fellows. I'll not go
back on them--O, no! Johnny Harris didn't call me a coward, did he? And
that little spindle-shanked Yankee, and his cousin, didn't insult me, by
sending me my hat and gun, and the skin of that wolf, and by telling
every body in the settlement that I was frightened out of my senses,
without seeing any thing to be frightened at, did they? I'd like to
catch that Archie Winters by himself. He's little, and I am sure that I
could whip him. I'll pay them all for what they have done to me, and
before I get through with them, they will learn, that it is always best
to treat a gentleman with respect."

As Arthur said this, he looked contemptuously at his slumbering
companions, and then turned his back to them, and went to sleep.



CHAPTER XV.

MORE TREACHERY.


When Frank awoke, it was nearly dark. The glade was lighted up by a
fire, that one of the Rancheros had kindled, and beside which he stood,
superintending the cooking of the supper. Archie and Johnny were still
sleeping soundly, but Arthur Vane's blanket was empty, and that young
gentleman was nowhere to be seen.

Frank raised himself to a sitting posture, rubbed his eyes, and yawned;
and then, seeing that the cook was rummaging in the pack-saddle after
more luxuries, and judging by that that supper was nearly ready, he
shook his companions, and arose to his feet. He went to the spring, and
was preparing to wash his hands and face in the little brook that ran
across the glade, when his attention was attracted by the sound of
voices close by. He found that they came from behind the bowlder; and,
after listening a moment, he recognized the voices as those of Pierre
Costello, and Arthur Vane. At first, Frank thought nothing of this
circumstance. He bent over the brook, and plunged his hands into the
water, when the thought occurred to him that this was a strange
proceeding on the part of Arthur Vane. If the latter had any thing to
say to the chief, why did he not talk to him in the camp? Frank's
suspicions were aroused. He stood, for a moment, undecided how to act,
and then, dropping on his hands and knees, he crept cautiously around
the end of the bowlder, and presently came in sight of Pierre and his
companion. They were sitting on the ground, facing each other--the chief
calmly smoking a cigarette, while Arthur was amusing himself by cutting
the grass around him with the Ranchero's bowie-knife.

"This is very odd," thought Frank. "Arthur acts more like a confidential
friend than a prisoner."

Our hero drew back, and listened to the conversation that followed,
during which he gained some insight into the character of his new
acquaintance.

"I do not admire your way of doing business," he heard Arthur say, at
length. "You treat me no better than you treat them. You told me that
you knew by my looks that I was a gentleman, and you promised to respect
me as such. You assured me that I should be allowed to show fight
whenever I pleased, and that you would not hurt me for it. How have you
kept those promises? What did you do to me this morning? You jerked my
gun out of my hands, and raised it over my head, as if you were going to
knock me down. One of your men threw his lasso around my neck, and
choked me until I could scarcely breathe, and another aimed a pistol at
me. Is that treating me like a gentleman or a visitor?"

"What else could we do?" demanded Pierre. "Didn't you tell me that you
wanted us to act natural, so that your three enemies would not suspect
that you had a previous understanding with me in regard to their
capture?"

"Certainly; but I didn't tell you to abuse me, did I? See how I was
treated when we were coming through this pass! My keeper struck my
horse with his lasso, and came near sending me over the precipice; and
you laughed at it. When I look toward you, why don't you give me a wink,
or a nod, to show that you have not forgotten your promises, and that
you will protect me?"

"Because I never have had a chance to do it without being seen by the
others. If you know when you are well off, you will take every
precaution to keep those boys from finding out how treacherous you have
been. You must not expect any signs of friendship from me. I shall stick
to my promise, and see that no serious injury is done you; but, if you
will insist in showing your courage by fighting us, you must make up
your mind to be roughly handled. You say that Frank didn't read to me
what he wrote in that letter?"

"No, he did not. He never said a word to his uncle about sending the
money. He told him not to do it. He advised him to capture your
messenger, by all means, and to send those trappers up here, with a
party of men, by daylight to-morrow morning."

"Well, they'll not find us," said the chief, who seemed to take the
matter very coolly. "By daylight we shall be miles from here. We'll
start as soon as the moon rises, so that we can see to travel through
the pass. After supper, I shall have those fellows bound hand and
foot--that will prevent their escape, I think--and, of course, I must
tie you, also."

"I don't like the idea of lying all night with my hands fastened behind
my back," objected Arthur.

"I can't help that. Those boys must be confined; for I am not going to
lose sixty thousand dollars, if I can help it; and, if you wish to avoid
suspicion, you must be tied with the rest."

"I shall resist. I want to make those fellows believe that they are a
pack of cowards. Don't let your men handle me too roughly."

"I'll look out for that," said Pierre. "Now, let us go back to the camp.
You have been away too long already."

"O, you outrageous villain!" thought Frank, who was so astonished and
bewildered by what he had heard, that he scarcely knew what he was
about. "Won't you suffer for this day's work if we ever get back to the
settlement?"

The movements of the traitor, who just then arose to his feet, brought
Frank to himself again. He retreated precipitately, and, when Arthur
came out from behind the bowlder, he was sitting on his blanket, talking
to Archie and Johnny.

"Fellows," said he, in an excited voice, "we're ruined! That rascal has
blabbed the whole thing!"

"Who? What rascal? what thing?" asked both the prisoners in a breath.
"What's the matter with you?" added Archie, in some alarm, seeing that
his cousin wore an exceedingly long face.

"Arthur Vane has just told Pierre that we had made up our minds to
escape to-night," replied Frank.

"No!" exclaimed the boys, almost paralyzed by the information.

"It's a fact. After supper, we are to be bound hand and foot; and
Arthur, to show how brave he is, and how cowardly we are, is going to
resist, and Pierre has promised that his men shall not handle him
roughly. O, you'll find out!" he continued, seeing that his friends
looked incredulous. "I crept up behind that bowlder, and heard all about
it. I did not understand all the conversation; but I know that Arthur is
a traitor, and that we are indebted to him for our capture."

Archie and Johnny were utterly confounded. They could not find words
strong enough to express their feelings. They sat on their blankets, and
looked at each other in blank amazement. Presently, Arthur came in
sight, and his appearance served to restore their power of action; and
then, for the first time, they seemed to realize the full enormity of
the offense of which he had been guilty. Archie jumped to his feet, and
commenced pulling off his jacket.

"Fellows," said he, throwing down his sombrero, and rolling up his
shirt-sleeves, "I'm going to pound some of the meanness out of him."

"And I'll help you!" exclaimed Johnny, excitedly. "Who ever heard of
such a thing?" And Johnny brought his fist down into the palm of his
hand, with a noise like the report of a pistol.

"Don't do it, boys!" interposed Frank. "Come here, Archie! Sit down,
Johnny. He will be punished enough, when he gets back to the settlement.
Let's cut him at once, and have nothing more to do with him. Johnny, put
on your jacket! Behave yourself, Archie!"

Frank found it hard work to turn the two boys from their purpose. Their
indignation had been thoroughly aroused, and, if Arthur had only known
it, he was in a dangerous neighborhood. Although Frank was quite as
angry as his friends, he had more prudence. He did not believe that they
were the proper ones to execute vengeance upon their enemy. His
punishment would come soon enough, and it would be quite as terrible as
Arthur was able to bear. By dint of a good deal of coaxing, and pushing,
and scolding, he finally got Archie and Johnny on their blankets again,
and just then the traitor came up. His face wore a triumphant smile,
that was exceedingly irritating to the three boys just then, and he
approached them with as much assurance as though he had never in his
life been guilty of a mean action.

"I have been out enjoying the cool breeze," said he, not noticing the
angry glances that were directed toward him.

"Put it all in, while you are about it," exclaimed Johnny. "Say that you
have been holding a consultation with Pierre, in regard to our escape
to-night."

Arthur turned very red in the face, and took a step or two backward, as
if Johnny had aimed a blow at him; and then, somewhat recovering
himself, he opened his eyes, puckered up his lips, and looked from one
to the other of his companions, with an expression of intense
astonishment.

"How, now, Innocence!" exclaimed Archie. "You're a nice looking fellow.
Go away from here."

"Why, boys," stammered Arthur, "I do not understand you. I have not seen
Pierre"--

"Go away!" said Johnny, again rising to his feet--a movement that was
instantly imitated by the pugnacious Archie.

"Can't you tell me what's the matter?" demanded Arthur, making a
desperate effort to look unconcerned, and to call up some of that
courage of which he had so often boasted.

"Have you got the impudence--the brass, to come to us, and ask what's
the matter, after what you have done?" asked Archie, angrily. "We'll
soon let you know what's"--

"Hold on, boys!" interrupted Frank, who saw that Archie's rage was in a
fair way to get the better of him. "Johnny, stand back! Keep still,
Archie! Go about your business, Arthur Vane! We know just what passed
between you and Pierre, not five minutes ago, and we don't want to
listen to any excuses or explanations."

"Explanations!" shouted Archie. "Excuses! for being a traitor!"

"Go over there among those yellow gentlemen," continued Frank. "You are
their friend, and there's where you belong. Don't dare come near any of
us again. Start!"

"Yes, start--mizzle--clear out!" roared Archie, getting angrier every
moment. "Begone! Make yourself scarce about here!"

"Well, I think this is a nice way to treat a gentleman," growled
Arthur, as he turned on his heel, and walked slowly away.

"Pick up that blanket and saddle," said Johnny. "Take all your plunder
away from here, and remember that this side of the glade belongs to us."

"Yes, remember it--bear it in mind!" exclaimed Archie, who seemed to
think it his duty to give emphasis to what the others said. "Think of it
continually."

Arthur glared savagely upon Archie; but, fearing to irritate him and his
friends further, by refusing to obey their commands, he shouldered his
baggage, and walked sullenly toward the fire, around which the Rancheros
were congregated, awaiting the summons to supper.

"Benedict Arnold!" said Johnny, as soon as the traitor was out of
hearing.

Frank and Archie thought the name appropriate. It clung to Arthur as
long as he remained in that part of California.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE ESCAPE.


Had the huge bowlder in the middle of the glade suddenly burst into a
thousand fragments, it could scarcely have created greater consternation
than that which filled our three heroes, when they stretched themselves
on their blankets, to discuss the treachery of their companion. Of
course, the first question that arose was, What object could he have in
view? A dozen different opinions were advanced, but none of them were
correct. The boys were all satisfied now, that no ransom was to be
demanded for Arthur, and they were quite willing to believe that he
expected to share in the sixty thousand dollars which Pierre hoped to
receive for them. They never imagined that the traitor had been
instigated by a desire to be revenged upon them, and that all that had
happened to them during the day was the result of the incidents that
had transpired during their ride to the old fur-trader's ranch.

"I really believe that Benedict Arnold belongs to this band of outlaws,"
said Frank. "If he does, that's all the good it will do him, as far as
handling any of my uncle's money is concerned. It's lucky that we have
found him out."

"It's unfortunate that we didn't find him out long ago," said Archie,
who had by this time recovered his usual good nature.

"Our plans for escape are all knocked in the head for this night,"
continued Frank; "but we will hold ourselves in readiness to seize the
first opportunity that is offered. Dick and Bob will be on our trail in
a few hours."

At this moment, Pierre entered the glade from the side opposite the
spring, and stopped to say a few words to the sentinel, who immediately
approached the prisoners, and took his stand within a few paces of them.

"These villains must be afraid of us," said Frank, with a laugh.

"They'd better be," returned Johnny. "I wouldn't like to have sixty
thousand dollars wrapped up in such slippery customers as we are."

"I wonder if Pierre thinks we can fly?" said Archie. "That's the only
way I can see for getting out of here, while these robbers are all
around us. I say, old fellow," he added, turning to the sentinel, "are
you a good shot on the wing?"

The Ranchero shrugged his shoulders, and tapped his revolvers
significantly.

"I judge from that you are a good shot on the wing," continued Archie.
"Let me advise you to keep both eyes open; for the first thing you know,
you'll see us disappearing over the tops of these mountains. Each of us
has a patent, duplex, double-back-action flying-machine in his pocket."

Archie was going on to explain to the Ranchero the principles on which
his imaginary flying-machine operated, when the call to supper
interrupted him.

During the meal, the robbers were quite as polite as they had been at
dinner. They gobbled up every thing within their reach, devouring it
greedily, as though they feared that somebody might get more than his
share, and the boys, having learned by experience, that, when one
sojourns among Romans, it is a good plan to do as Romans do, snatched
what they liked best, and ran back to their blankets.

"Look at Benedict," said Johnny, speaking as plainly as a mouthful of
cracker would permit. "He's hot about something."

Arthur was sitting on the ground beside the robber chief, to whom he was
talking earnestly, and even angrily, judging by the frantic manner in
which he flourished his arms about his head, and struck with his fists
at the empty air. Pierre was listening attentively, and so were all the
other members of the band, who appeared to be deeply interested in what
he was saying. Arthur had told the chief that his secret was discovered,
and Pierre had urged him to use every exertion to allay the suspicions
of the boys.

"You don't know them as well as I do," said the Ranchero; "and, if you
will take my advice, you will try to make friends with them again."

"That's something I'll never do," said Arthur, decidedly. "Shall a
gentleman's son stoop to beg the good-will of a lot of young Arabs? Not
if he knows himself; and he thinks he does. They have found me out,
somehow, and I don't care if they have. I may as well throw off the mask
entirely. I'll let them see that, while they are prisoners, and bound
hand and foot, I am at liberty to go and come when I please."

When Arthur said this, he was gazing into the fire, and consequently did
not see the significant glances which the robber chief exchanged with
his men. It might have astonished him to know that he was not free to go
and come when he pleased; and that Pierre, in spite of all his promises
to the contrary, intended to demand twenty thousand dollars for him, as
well as for the others.

When Frank and his friends had eaten their supper, they began to make
preparations for the night, by collecting a pile of dried leaves and
grass, over which they spread their blankets, placing the saddles at the
head of the bed, to serve as pillows. When the couch was completed, it
was very inviting, and, had it not been for the knowledge of the fact
that they were to be bound hand and foot, they would have been sure of a
good night's rest.

Frank could not go to bed without visiting Roderick. He found the horse
standing quietly by the spring, and when he saw his master approaching,
he raised his head and welcomed him with a shrill neigh.

"O, if we could only get half a minute's start of these robbers!" said
Frank, patting the animal's glossy neck, "wouldn't we show them a clean
pair of heels? They'd never have us prisoners again, I _bet_."

Frank emphasized the last word by punching Roderick in the ribs with his
thumb--an action which caused the animal to lay back his ears, and kick
viciously, with both feet, at some imaginary object behind him.

When our hero returned to the place where he had left Archie and Johnny,
he saw them lying on their beds securely bound. Pierre stood close by,
with a lasso in his hand, and, when Frank came up, he greeted him with a
fierce scowl, and, in a savage tone of voice, commanded him to cross his
arms behind his back. Frank obeyed, and the Ranchero, while he was busy
confining him, inquired:

"Do you remember what I said to you at noon?"

"About what?" asked Frank.

"About making scare-crows of you and your friends, if my messenger does
not return at daylight."

"I believe I do remember something about it."

"Then why did you advise your uncle to detain him? You must be tired of
life. You told Mr. Winters to send those rascally trappers up here, with
a party of men, to capture us."

"Now, see here, Pierre," exclaimed Frank, angrily, "Dick and Bob are not
rascals. They are honest men, and what they own, they have worked hard
for. They will be up here--you may depend upon that--and, if Dick once
gets his hands on you"--

"O, won't he shake him up, though!" cried Archie, from his blanket. "I
wouldn't be in Pierre's shoes then for all the money he will ever get
for us."

"You may make up your minds to one thing," said the chief; "and that is,
if so much as a hair of that messenger's head is harmed, you will be
swinging from some of these trees at sunrise."

"That is a soothing story to tell to a person who is trying to go to
sleep," observed Johnny.

"You can't make us believe that you would throw away sixty thousand
dollars," said Frank. "Be careful," he added, as Pierre, after confining
his arms with one end of the lasso, began to wind the other around his
ankles; "make those knots secure, or I may get away from you again."

"I'll risk that. Now, good-night, and pleasant dreams to you."

The robber lifted Frank in his arms, and laid him upon his blanket, as
if he had been a sack of flour, and then walked off, leaving his
prisoners to their meditations. Scarcely had he disappeared, when
Arthur, who had stood at a little distance, watching the operations of
the chief, came up, and, after regarding the three boys a moment with a
smile of triumph, inquired:

"How do you feel now? I hope you will enjoy a good night's rest. You see
I am at liberty." And he stretched out his arms, to show that they were
not confined.

"Of course," said Frank. "You ought to be; you are one of Pierre's band.
We are under obligations to you for what you have done for us."

"How did you find it out?" asked Arthur.

"Why, one of those Arabs you used to know in Patagonia, came up here,
and told us how you acted while you were in that country, and we thought
it best to keep an eye on you," answered Archie.

"See here, Benedict," said Johnny. "Have you forgotten that we told you
to keep your distance?"

"No; but I generally go where I please," replied Arthur.

"You have done something worth boasting of, haven't you?"

"Well--yes; but I am not done with you yet. If I have any influence with
Pierre--and I think I have--you'll not see home for a year--perhaps
longer."

"Pierre! Pierre!" shouted Archie, suddenly. "I say, Pierre!"

"Well, what's the row?" asked that worthy, from his bed by the fire.

"I'll make you a present of my horse, if you will give me my liberty for
just two minutes. Will you do it?"

"I guess not," replied the robber.

"I promise you that I will not attempt any tricks," pleaded Archie. "I
only want to show Benedict something. Come, Pierre, that's a good
fellow."

The Ranchero laughed, and turned over on his blanket, without making any
answer, and Archie, being satisfied that it was useless to urge the
matter, laid his head upon his hard pillow, and looked indignantly at
the traitor.

"Never mind," said he. "I'll be unbound to-morrow morning, and I'll know
how to get up an appetite for breakfast."

Arthur understood what the prisoner meant by getting up an appetite for
breakfast, and it made him angry. He was very brave, now. His three
enemies were lying before him unable to defend themselves, and it was a
fine opportunity to execute vengeance upon them. He suddenly took it
into his head that it would be a nice thing to punish them all,
beginning with the one who had first excited his animosity.

"Hold on, you little Yankee," said he. "I'll attend to you in a minute.
Johnny Harris, what was that name you applied to me?"

"It was a new one we have given you," answered Johnny. "We have called
you after the meanest man that ever lived--Benedict Arnold. Do you know
him? Did you ever meet him while you were hunting lions and tigers in
Europe?"

Frank and his cousin laughed loudly, which so enraged Arthur that he
caught up a stick, that happened to be lying near him, and struck Johnny
a severe blow with it.

"O, you coward!" shouted Archie, struggling frantically to free his
arms. "What do you mean by hitting a man when he is down, and can't move
hand or foot?"

The traitor turned fiercely upon Archie, and was about to use the stick
upon him, when the gruff voice of the sentinel arrested his hand. The
Ranchero pointed toward the fire, and Arthur, understanding the motion,
threw down the stick, and walked away, shaking his head, and muttering
to himself.

"He had better keep close to his friends to-morrow," said Johnny, his
face all wrinkled up with pain.

The other boys thought so too. Each one of them had rather that Arthur
had struck him instead of Johnny; for the latter, although
high-spirited, and inclined to be belligerent under provocation, was a
good-natured, accommodating fellow, who gained hosts of friends wherever
he went, and who never hesitated to make any sacrifice for the benefit
of others. Frank had never before witnessed such an exhibition of
cowardly vindictiveness, and he was almost sorry that he had protected
Arthur.

The traitor, well satisfied with what he had done, and only regretting
that he had been interrupted before his revenge was complete, spread his
blanket beside the chief; and, after that, nothing happened for a long
time to disturb the silence of the camp. The Rancheros were soon in a
sound sleep, even including Antoine Mercedes, the sentinel, who sat with
his back against a tree, his head hung down upon his breast and his
right hand, which rested on the ground beside him, grasping a revolver.
He had been placed there by his chief to watch the prisoners; but,
believing that there was little danger of their escape, and being
unwilling to be deprived of his usual rest, he had gone to sleep as soon
as the others. The boys, however, were wide awake. The exciting events
of the day, and the pain occasioned by their bonds, effectually banished
sleep from their eyes, and they passed the long hours in pondering upon
what Arthur had done, and trying in vain to find a comfortable position
on their blankets. Johnny, especially, was very restless. He lay for a
long time watching the sentinel, and thinking how easily he and his
companions could effect their escape, if their hands and feet were free;
then he wondered if Pierre was in earnest, when he said that he would
make "scare-crows" of them if his messenger did not return by daylight;
and, finally, he turned over, and tried, for the hundredth time, to go
to sleep.

The fire, which was still burning brightly, lighted up every corner of
the glade, and, from the new position in which he lay, Johnny could see
how Archie's arms were bound. They were crossed behind his back, and the
lasso was wrapped twice around them, and tied in a square knot--a single
glance at which drove all thoughts of sleep out of Johnny's mind, and
suggested to him the idea of an attempt to liberate his friend. The
knot, on account of the stiffness of the lasso, had not been drawn very
tight, and Johnny thought he had hit upon a plan to untie it.

"Archie," he whispered, excitedly.

"Hallo!" was the response.

"Are you asleep?"

"No; nor am I likely to be to-night," growled Archie. "This lasso hurts
me dreadfully. Pierre drew it as tight as he could."

"Don't talk so loud," whispered Johnny. "Keep your eyes on that
sentinel, and, if he moves, shake your arms."

"What for?" demanded Archie. "What are you going to do?"

"I don't know that I can do any thing; but I am going to try."

"All right; go ahead."

Johnny took a long look at the Ranchero, to make sure that he was sound
asleep, and then, rolling up close to Archie, he went to work with his
teeth to untie the lasso, with which the latter's arms were bound. This
was not so easy a task as he had imagined it would be; but the knot
yielded a little with every pull he made upon it, and, after ten minutes
hard work, Johnny rolled back upon his blanket with an expression of
great satisfaction upon his countenance, and watched his friend as he
unwound the lariat with which his feet were confined.

"Hurrah for you, Johnny!" whispered Archie, a moment afterward. "We'll
out-wit these greasers yet. Hold easy, now, and I'll soon give you the
free use of your hands and feet."

Archie's fingers made quick work with Johnny's bonds, and, when he had
untied his arms, he left him to do the rest, and turned to release his
cousin. This he soon accomplished, and then the three boys, astonished
at their success, crept up closer together, to hold a consultation.

"Lead on Frank, and we'll follow," said Johnny.

"I will do the best I can," replied Frank. "Let's stick together as long
as possible; but, if we are discovered, we must separate, and let each
man take of himself. Remember, now, the one that reaches home must not
sleep soundly until the others are rescued."

As Frank said this, he threw himself flat upon the ground, and crawled
slowly and noiselessly through the grass, toward the ledge by which they
had entered the glade in the morning. They passed the sentinel without
arousing him, and approached the fire around which lay the stalwart
forms of the Rancheros, who snored lustily, in blissful ignorance of
what was going on close by them.

The boys' hearts beat high with hope as they neared the ledge, and
Johnny was in the very act of reaching over to give Frank an approving
slap on the back, when the movement was arrested by a loud yawn behind
him. This was followed by an ejaculation of astonishment, and, an
instant afterward, the report of a pistol rang through the glade. The
sentinel had just awakened from his sleep, and discovered that the
prisoners' blankets were empty.

"Help! help!" he shouted, in stentorian tones, discharging another
barrel of his revolver, to arouse his companions. "Pierre, your birds
have flown!"

"Run now, fellows!" whispered Frank, and, suiting the action to the
word, he jumped up, and took to his heels.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE STRUGGLE ON THE CLIFF.


As we have before remarked, the place in which the Rancheros had made
their camp was a natural recess in the mountains. It was surrounded on
three sides by rocky cliffs, the tops of which seemed to pierce the
clouds, and whose sides were so steep that a goat could scarcely have
found footing thereon. In front of the glade was the gorge, the sight of
which had so terrified Arthur Vane, and which was so deep that the roar
of the mountain torrent, that ran through it, could be but faintly heard
by one standing on the cliffs above.

There were three ways to get out of the glade: one was by the narrow
ledge of rocks by which the Rancheros and their captives had entered it
in the morning; another was by a path on the opposite side of the glade,
which also ran along the very brink of the precipice; the third was by
climbing up the cliffs to the dizzy heights above. These avenues of
escape were all more or less dangerous, and one unaccustomed to
traveling in the mountains would have been at a loss to decide which to
take. Indeed, a very timid boy would have preferred to remain a prisoner
among the Rancheros, as long as he was sure of kind treatment and plenty
to eat, rather than risk any of them. If he took either of the paths
that ran along the chasm, he would require the skill of a rope-dancer to
cross it in safety; for they were both narrow and slippery, and a single
misstep in the darkness would launch him into eternity. If he tried to
scale the mountains, which, in some places, overhung the glade, he would
be in equal danger; for he might, at any moment, lose his balance, and
come tumbling back again.

Frank and his two friends had thought of all these things during the
day, and they knew just what perils they were likely to encounter; but
they were not formidable enough to turn them from their purpose. While
they were crawling cautiously through the grass, they had been allowed
ample time to make up their minds what they would do, if their flight
should be discovered before they got out of the glade; and,
consequently, when the yells of the sentinel, and the reports of his
pistol, told them that the pursuit was about to begin, they did not
hesitate, but proceeded at once to carry out the plans they had formed.
Archie, the moment he jumped to his feet, darted toward the cliffs,
while Frank and Johnny ran for the ledge by which they had entered the
pass in the morning; and, by the time the Rancheros were fairly awake,
their prisoners had disappeared as completely as though they had never
been in the glade at all.

Archie had chosen the most difficult way of escape, and he had done so
with an object. He believed that, as soon as Pierre and his band became
aroused, they would rush in a body for the path that led toward the
settlement; and Archie did not like the idea of running a race through
the darkness along the brink of that precipice. He might make a misstep,
and fall into the gorge, and that would be infinitely worse than
remaining a prisoner. His enemies, he thought, would not be likely to
follow him up the cliffs; but if they did, and he found that he could
not distance them, there were plenty of excellent hiding-places among
the bushes and rocks, where he could remain in perfect security, with an
army searching for him. Johnny and Frank did not look at the matter in
that way. They thought not of concealment; they took the nearest and
easiest way home, and trusted entirely to their heels.

"Help! help!" shouted the sentinel, discharging the barrels of his
revolver in quick succession. "The boys have gone!"

For a moment, great confusion reigned in the camp. The Rancheros sprang
to their feet, and hurried hither and thither, each one asking
questions, and giving orders, to which nobody paid the least attention,
and the babel of English and Spanish that arose awoke the echoes far and
near. The chief was the only one who seemed to know what ought to be
done. He examined the beds to satisfy himself that the prisoners had
really gone, and then his voice was heard above the tumult, commanding
silence.

The first thing he did, when quiet had been restored, was to swear
lustily at the sentinel, for allowing the prisoners to escape, and then
he set about making preparations for pursuit. He sent two of the band on
foot down the path that led toward the settlement, another he ordered to
saddle the horses, and the rest he commanded to search every nook and
corner of the glade.

As long as the noise continued, Archie worked industriously; and, being
a very active fellow, he got up the mountain at an astonishing rate. But
as soon as the chief had succeeded in restoring order, he sat down to
recover his breath, and to wait until the Rancheros left the glade: for
he was fearful that the noise he necessarily made, in working his way
through the thick bushes, might direct his enemies in their search.

Although it was pitch dark on the mountainside, Archie could tell
exactly what was going on below him. He knew when the two men left the
glade, chuckled to himself when he heard the Ranchero, who had been
ordered to saddle the horses, growl at the restive animals, and noted
the movements of the party who were searching the bushes. He distinctly
heard their voices, and he knew that Arthur Vane was with them.

"Do you think they will get away, Joaquin?" he heard the traitor ask.

"That's hard to tell," was the reply. "It depends a good deal upon how
long they have been gone. If they get back to the settlement, you had
better keep away from there."

"That's so," said Archie, to himself.

"They'll never reach the settlement if I can help it," declared Arthur.
"If I get my eyes on one of them, I bet he don't escape. I'll take him
prisoner."

Perhaps we shall find that Arthur did "get his eyes on one of them," and
we shall see how he kept his promise.

The party went entirely around the glade, passing directly beneath
Archie, who held himself in readiness to continue his flight, should
they begin to ascend the cliff, and finally one of them called out:

"They're not here, Pierre."

"Mount, then, every one of you," exclaimed the chief. "When you reach
the end of the pass, scatter out and search the mountains, thoroughly.
Antoine, we have to thank you for the loss of a fortune, you idiot."

Archie heard the Ranchero mutter an angry reply, and then came the
tramping of horses as the band rode from the glade. In a few seconds the
sound died away in the pass, and the fugitive was left alone. His first
impulse was to descend into the glade, mount Sleepy Sam, and follow the
robbers. Archie could ride the animal without saddle or bridle as well
as he could with them; and he was sure that if he could get but a few
feet the start of the Rancheros, his favorite could easily distance
them. But he remembered the chief's order for the band to "scatter out,"
and knowing that every path that led toward the settlement would be
closely guarded, and fearing that he might run against some of his
enemies in the dark, he decided that the safest plan was to remain upon
the cliffs, where he could not be followed by mounted men. It cost him a
struggle to abandon his horse, which was galloping about the glade, and
neighing disconsolately, but he wisely concluded that twenty thousand
dollars were worth more to his uncle than Sleepy Sam was to him; and
drawing in a long breath, he tightened his sash about his waist, and
again began the ascent.

His progress was necessarily slow and laborious, for, in some places,
the cliff was quite perpendicular, and the only way he could advance at
all, was by drawing himself up by the grass and bushes that grew out of
the crevices of the rocks. Sometimes these gave way beneath his weight,
and then Archie would descend the mountain for a short distance much
more rapidly than he had gone up. He was often badly bruised by these
falls. The bushes and the sharp points of the rocks tore his clothing,
and it was not long before he was as ragged as any beggar he had ever
seen in the streets of his native city.

"By gracious!" exclaimed Archie, stopping for the hundredth time to
rest, and feeling of a severe bruise on his cheek which he had received
in his last fall, "I am completely tired out. And this is all the work
of that Benedict Arnold! Didn't I say that we should see trouble with
that fellow? If I were out on clear ground, and had my horse and gun,
I'd be willing to forgive him for what he has done to me, but I'll
always remember that he struck Johnny over the head, when he was tied,
and could not defend himself."

Wiping the big drops of perspiration from his forehead, and panting
loudly after his violent exertions, Archie again toiled up the mountain,
so weary that he could scarcely drag one foot after the other. He
stumbled over logs, fell upon the rocks, and dragged himself through
bushes that cut into his tattered garments like a knife. Hour after hour
passed in this way, and, finally, just as the sun was rising, Archie,
faint with thirst, aching in every joint, and bleeding from numerous
wounds, stepped upon a broad, flat bowlder, which formed the summit of
the cliff.

On his right, between him and a huge rock that rose for fifty feet
without a single break or crevice, was a narrow but deep chasm which ran
down the cliff he had just ascended, and into which he had more than
once been in imminent danger of falling as he stumbled about in the
darkness. Far below him was the glade, a thin wreath of smoke rising
from the smouldering camp-fire, and on his left was the gorge, a
hundred times more frightful in his eyes now than it had ever seemed
before. In front of him the mountain sloped gently down to the valley
below, its base clothed with a thick wood, which at that height looked
like an unbroken mass of green sward, and beyond that, so far away that
it could be but dimly seen, was a broad expanse of prairie, from which
arose the whitewashed walls of his uncle's rancho. It was a view that
would have put an artist into ecstasies, but the fugitive was in no mood
to appreciate it. He had no eye for the beauties of nature then--he had
other things to think of; and he regarded the picturesque mountains and
rocks, and the luxuriant woods, as so many grim monsters that stood
between him and his home.

But Archie could not remain long inactive. After all the dangers he had
incurred, and the bruises and scratches he had received, he had
accomplished but little. He was still thirty miles from home, hungry and
thirsty, and pursued by crafty enemies, who might even then be watching
him from some secret covert.

"Oh, if I were only there!" said he, casting a longing glance toward
the rancho, whose inmates, just then sitting down to a dainty breakfast,
little dreamed how much good a small portion of their bounty would have
done the fugitive on the mountain-top. "But, as the rancho can't come to
me, I must go to it."

Archie found the descent of the mountain comparatively easy. There were
not so many bushes and logs to impede his progress, the slope was more
gradual, and he had not gone more than half a mile when he found a cool
spring bubbling out from under the rocks. He bathed his hands and face,
drank a little of the water, and when he set out again he felt much
refreshed. He followed the course of the stream, which ran from the
spring down the mountain, keeping a bright lookout for enemies all the
while, and stopping now and then to listen for sounds of pursuit, when
suddenly, as he came around the base of a rock, he found himself on the
brink of the gorge, and confronted by a figure in buckskin, who stood
leaning on a long, double-barrel shot-gun. Archie started back in
dismay, and so did the boy in buckskin, who turned pale, and gazed at
the fugitive as if he were hardly prepared to believe that he was a
human being. He speedily recovered himself, however, and after he had
let down the hammer of his gun, which he had cocked when the ragged
apparition first came in sight, he dropped the butt of the weapon to the
ground, exclaiming:

"Archie Winters!"

"Benedict Arnold!"

For a moment the two boys stood looking at each other without moving or
speaking. Archie was wondering if it were possible for him to effect the
capture of the traitor, and Arthur, while he gazed in astonishment at
the fugitive's tattered garments and bloody face, was chuckling to
himself, and enjoying beforehand the punishment he had resolved to
inflict upon Archie. The opportunity he had wished for so long had
arrived at last.

"I have found you, have I?" said Arthur, resting his elbows on the
muzzle of his gun, and looking at Archie with a triumphant smile.

"Well, suppose you have; what do you propose to do about it?"

"It is my intention to teach you to respect a gentleman the next time
you meet one."

[Illustration]

"How are you going to do it?"

"In the first place, by giving you a good beating."

"Humph!" said Archie, contemptuously, looking at Arthur from head to
foot, as if he were taking his exact measure. "It requires a boy with
considerable 'get up' about him to do that."

"None of your impudence, you little Yankee," exclaimed Arthur, angrily.
"I'm going to take some of it out of you before you are two minutes
older."

When the traitor selected Archie as the one upon whom he could wreak his
vengeance without danger to himself, he had made a great mistake. Archie
was smaller than most boys of his age, but, after all, he was an
antagonist not to be despised. He was courageous, active, and as wiry as
an eel; and his body, hardened by all sorts of violent exercise, was as
tough as hickory. He trembled a little when he looked over into the
gorge, and thought of the possible consequences of an encounter on that
cliff, but he was not the one to save himself by taking to his heels,
nor did it come natural to him to stand still and take a whipping as
long as he possessed the strength to defend himself. A single glance was
enough to convince him that the traitor was in earnest, and Archie
watched the opportunity to begin the struggle himself.

"Yes, sir," continued Arthur, "I've got you now just where I want you. I
am going to settle this little difference between us, and then I shall
take you back to Pierre. If you have any apologies to make, I am willing
to listen to them."

The effect of these words not a little astonished the traitor. He had
been sure that Archie would be terribly frightened, and that he would
either seek safety in flight, or beg hard for mercy; consequently, he
was not prepared for what really happened. Scarcely had Arthur ceased
speaking, when the place where Archie was standing became suddenly
vacant, and, before the traitor could move a finger, his gun was torn
from his grasp and pitched over the cliff into the gorge. As the weapon
fell whirling through the air, both barrels were discharged, and the
reports awoke a thousand echoes, which reverberated among the mountains
like peals of thunder.

"Now we are on equal terms," exclaimed Archie, as he clasped the traitor
around the body and attempted to throw him to the ground. "You remember
that you struck Johnny last night, when he was bound, hand and foot, and
couldn't defend himself, don't you?"

"Yes; and now I am going to serve you worse than that," replied Arthur,
who, although surprised and taken at great disadvantage by the
suddenness of the attack, struggled furiously, and to such good purpose
that he very soon broke Archie's hold; "I am going to fling you over the
cliff after that gun."

The contest that followed was carried on on the very edge of the
precipice, and was long and desperate. Archie, bruised and battered in a
hundred places, and weary with a night's travel, was scarcely a match
for the fresh and vigorous Arthur, who, in his blind rage, seemed
determined to fulfill his threat of throwing him over the cliff after
the gun. Fortune favored first one and then the other; but Archie's
indomitable courage and long wind carried the day, and he finally
succeeded in bearing his antagonist to the ground and holding him there.

"You are not going to throw me over, are you?" gasped Arthur, who was
humble enough, now that he had been worsted.

"Do you take me for a savage?" panted Archie, in reply. "I simply wanted
to save myself from a whipping that I did not deserve, and I've done it.
Now you must go to the settlement with me, to"--

"Here you are!" exclaimed a familiar voice. "Let us see if you will
escape me again."

Archie looked up, and saw Antoine Mercedes advancing upon him.



CHAPTER XVIII.

CONCLUSION.


Archie had been so fully occupied with the traitor that he had not
thought of his other enemies, and for a moment he lay upon the ground
beside his antagonist, gazing at Antoine in speechless amazement.
Resistance, of course, was not to be thought of, and it also seemed
useless to make any attempts at escape; for he had been so nearly
exhausted by his struggle with Arthur, that he scarcely possessed the
power to rise from the ground. "I am caught easy enough," thought he,
"and I might as well give up first as last."

"I see before me twenty thousand dollars," said Antoine, hastily coiling
up his lasso as he approached.

These words acted like a spur upon Archie's flagging spirits. He no
longer thought of surrender: on the contrary, almost before he knew it,
he found himself on his feet and going down the mountain like the wind.

"_Carrajo!_" yelled the Ranchero, swinging his lasso around his head.

Archie was afraid of that lasso, for he knew that he was in danger as
long as he was within reach of it; but fortunately he had been too quick
for Antoine. He heard the lariat whistle through the air behind him, and
snap like a whip close to his ear, and then he knew that his enemy had
missed his mark.

"Santa Maria!" shouted the robber. "Stop, you young vagabond, or I'll
shoot you."

The fugitive was not frightened by this threat. He was not afraid of
being shot, nor did he believe that he could be overtaken in a fair
race; for, now that he got started, he found that he had wind enough
left for a long run. He had lived among the Rancheros long enough to
know that they were very poor marksmen, and that they could not boast of
their swiftness of foot; and, having escaped the lasso, his spirits rose
again, and hope lent him wings. He heard Antoine crushing through the
bushes in pursuit, but the sound grew fainter and fainter as he sped on
his way. He jumped over rocks and logs, and cleared ravines that at
almost any other time would have effectually checked his progress, and
when he reached the thick woods at the base of the mountains, the
Ranchero was out of sight and hearing.

Archie was well aware of the fact that he had now reached the most
dangerous part of his route homeward. The chief had ordered the band to
"scatter out" when they reached the end of the pass, and he knew that
every road that led toward the settlement was closely watched. He knew,
also, that his only chance for escape was to avoid these roads and keep
in the thickest part of the woods. He sat down behind some bushes to
rest for a few moments, and then started on again, sometimes creeping on
his hands and knees, making use of every log and rock to cover his
retreat, and stopping frequently to examine the woods in front of him,
and to listen for sounds of pursuit. He had accomplished about a mile in
this way, when he found himself in one of the numerous bridle-paths that
ran through the mountains in every direction, and, what was worse, he
saw the scowling visage of Pierre Costello arise from behind a log not
ten paces from him. With the same glance he saw something else; and that
was a crouching figure in buckskin, which was creeping stealthily toward
the robber.

"Here's one caught," said Pierre, stepping into the path and walking
toward Archie. "None of your tricks, now; you can't escape."

"I don't intend to try," replied Archie, with a boldness that astonished
the robber. "Your game is up, Mr. Pierre, and I advice you to surrender
quietly, if you don't want to get hurt!"

"What!" exclaimed the Ranchero. "Surrender! If you know what you are
about, you will not offer any resistance. I am a desperate man."

The robber spoke these words boldly enough, but he evidently did not
like the looks of things. He gazed earnestly at Archie, as if trying to
determine what it was that had encouraged him to show so bold a front,
and seeing that he held one hand behind him, Pierre came to the
conclusion that he must, by some means, have secured possession of a
revolver.

"Drop that weapon, and hold your arms above your head," said the robber.

Archie did not move. While he appeared to be looking steadily at the
chief, he was really watching the movements of the figure in buckskin,
which had all this while been working its way quickly, but noiselessly,
through the bushes, and had now approached within a few feet of the
Ranchero.

"Did you hear what I said?" demanded the latter, placing his hand on one
of his revolvers. "You are my prisoner."

"Well, then, why don't you come and take me?" asked Archie.

At this moment a slight rustling in the leaves caught the quick ear of
the robber, who turned suddenly, uttered a cry of alarm, and fled down
the path, closely followed by something that to Archie looked like a
gray streak, so swiftly did it move. But it was not a gray streak--it
was Dick Lewis, who, after a few of his long strides, collared the
Ranchero with one hand and threw him to the ground, and with the other
seized the revolver he was trying to draw, and wrested it from his
grasp. Pierre struggled desperately, but to no purpose, for the trapper
handled him as easily as though he had been a child.

"Now, then, you tarnal Greaser," exclaimed Dick, "your jig's danced, an'
you must settle with the fiddler. If I only had you out on the prairie,
I'd larn you a few things I reckon you never heern tell on. Come here,
you keerless feller, an' tell me if you 'member what I said to you
yesterday! Whar's Frank?"

Before Archie had time to reply, an incident happened, which, had the
trapper been a less experienced man than he was, would have turned his
triumph into defeat very suddenly. He had more than one enemy to contend
with, and the first intimation he had of the fact, was a sound that
Archie had heard so often since his residence in California that it had
become familiar to him--the whistling noise made by a lariat in its
passage through the air. Before Archie could look around to discover
whence this new danger came, he saw the trapper stretched at full length
on the ground. For an instant his heart stood still; but it was only
for an instant, for Dick was on his feet again immediately, and Archie
drew a long breath of relief when he saw the lasso, which he feared had
settled around his friend's neck, glide harmlessly over his shoulder.
The trapper, from force of long habit, was always on the watch for
danger, and when he heard that whistling sound in the air, he did not
stop to look for his enemy, but dropped like a flash to avoid the lasso;
and when he arose to his feet his long rifle was leveled at a thicket of
bushes in front of him.

"Show yourself, Greaser!" cried Dick.

The concealed enemy obeyed without an instant's hesitation, and when he
stepped into the path, Archie saw that it was Antoine Mercedes.

"Thar's nothin' like knowin' the tricks of the varmints," said Dick,
coolly, as he handed his rifle to Archie, and proceeded to disarm
Antoine. "If I had been a greenhorn, I should have been well-nigh choked
to death by this time; but a man who has seed prairy life, soon larns
that his ears was made for use as well as his eyes. Now, little un,
whar's the rest of them fellers?"

While the trapper was engaged in confining his prisoners' arms with
their own lassos, Archie gave him a rapid account of all that had
happened during his captivity, dwelling with a good deal of emphasis on
the treachery of Arthur Vane. Dick opened his eyes in astonishment, and,
when Archie had finished his story, declared that they would be serving
Arthur right if they were to leave him among the robbers.

"Why, he doesn't want to get away from them," said Archie. "He is with
them now, hunting for us. He and I had a fight not half an hour ago,
and, if Antoine had only stayed away a few minutes longer, Arthur would
have been a prisoner too."

At this moment, a party of Rancheros galloped up, led by Uncle James and
Mr. Harris, and accompanied by the dogs, which the boys--who had
intended to devote the most of their time to stalking the elks, which
were abundant in the mountains--had left at home. Marmion and Carlo made
every demonstration of joy at seeing Archie once more, and Mr. Winters
greeted him as though he had not met him for years.

Without any unnecessary delay, a trusty herdsman was dismounted, and
sent back to the ranch with the prisoners, and Archie mounted his horse.

"You had better go home," said Mr. Winters, looking at his nephew's rags
and bruises.

"Oh no, uncle," said Archie, quickly. "I promised Frank and Johnny that,
if I succeeded in getting away, I wouldn't sleep until they were safe
among friends. I want to go with you."

Uncle James did not urge the matter, and Dick, although he shook his
head at Archie, and called him a "keerless feller," was proud of his
pluck.

The trapper, who was the acknowledged leader of the party, set out at a
rapid trot toward the pass, but had not gone far, when he stopped, and
turned his head on one side to listen. "Spread out, fellers," said he,
waving his hand toward the bushes on each side of him. "Thar's something
comin'."

The horsemen separated, and took up their positions on each side of the
path. They could hear nothing but the chirping of the birds, and the
sighing of the wind through the branches above their heads; but they had
not been long in their concealments before they found that Dick had not
been deceived. The clatter of a horse's hoofs on the hard path, faint
and far off at first, but growing louder as the animal approached, came
to their ears, and presently Roderick appeared in sight. The first thing
Archie noticed was, that he wore neither saddle nor bridle; the second,
that he carried Frank and Johnny on his back. One of Frank's hands was
twisted in the horse's mane, and his body was tightly clasped in the
arms of Johnny, who sat behind him. Archie had never seen the mustang
run so swiftly before, and he made up his mind that, if any of the
Rancheros were pursuing him, they might as well give up the chase. He
also thought that Frank and Johnny would enjoy a long ride before they
got a chance to put their feet on the ground again; for Roderick was
plainly stampeded. It was fortunate that Dick had sent them into the
bushes; for, had the party been in the path then, some of them would
have been run down, and, perhaps, trampled to death.

"Out of the way there, Greaser!" shouted Frank, when he discovered the
trapper standing in the path.

Dick was not a Greaser; but he thought it best to get out of the way;
and Frank would have gone by him, had not Carlo and Marmion recognized
their masters, and set up a howl of welcome.

"Whoa!" shouted Johnny and Frank, in concert, and Roderick stopped so
suddenly that both his riders were thrown forward on his neck.

"Come here, you boy that fit that ar' Greaser, an' tell me all about it,
to onct," exclaimed Dick. "Be they follerin' you?"

"Not that we know of. We haven't seen any of them since daylight. Lend
me your lasso, Carlos, and we'll go back and hunt up Archie."

But Archie was already found, and when he rode out of the bushes, Frank
was relieved of a great deal of anxiety. He had not seen his cousin
since he left the glade, and he feared that he had been re-captured; or,
what was worse, had slipped off the ledge into the gorge.

A consultation was now held, and, after Uncle James and Mr. Harris had
listened to the boys' story, they decided that it would be a waste of
time to search for Arthur Vane. The latter's conduct had induced the
belief that he was a friend of the robbers, and could go and come when
he pleased. No doubt, when he got tired of life in the mountains, he
would return home of his own free will. The party would keep on to the
glade, however, and recover Sleepy Sam, and the boys' weapons. When this
had been decided upon, Dick's horse, which he had hidden in the bushes,
was brought out for Johnny, a lasso was twisted around Roderick's lower
jaw, to serve as a bridle, and then the trapper shouldered his long
rifle, and gave another exhibition of his "travelin' qualities." He kept
the horses in a steady gallop, sometimes "letting out" a little on
getting far in advance of them, and, when he stopped at the entrance to
the pass, he seemed as fresh as ever.

The boys had expressed the hope that they would surprise some of the
robbers in the glade, but were disappointed. They found their saddles,
bridles, blankets, and weapons, however, and Archie recovered his horse,
which was standing contentedly beside the spring, half asleep, as usual.
Every thing was gathered up, including a few articles the robbers had
left behind, and, as they rode toward the settlement, the boys told each
other that the next time they went hunting, after Pierre's band had all
been captured, they would camp in the glade.

Archie was confined to the house for a day or two after that; but, if
his body was stiff and bruised, his tongue was all right, and it was a
long time before he got through relating the incidents of his fight with
the traitor.

Frank and Johnny had met with no adventures, not having seen any of the
band after they left the glade. They crossed the ledge without
accident--although they confessed that they would think twice before
trying it again--and, when they reached the end of the pass, they
concealed themselves in a hollow log until morning. When they were about
to continue their flight, they discovered the mustang, which, unwilling
to be left alone in the glade, had crossed the ledge, and was on his way
home. Frank easily caught him; but, knowing his favorite's disposition
as well as he did, hesitated about requiring him to carry double;
however, he finally decided that Roderick was large enough and strong
enough to carry them both, and that he must do it, or take the
consequences. Frank thereupon mounted the animal, Johnny climbed up
behind him, and Roderick, after a few angry kicks, consented to the
arrangement. Believing the boldest course to be the safest, they put the
horse to the top of his speed, trusting to his momentum to overcome any
thing that might endeavor to obstruct the path.

While Archie was confined to the house, Dick and old Bob were busy, and
their efforts were rewarded by the capture of three more of the band,
who were sent to San Diego with the others. Only one was left now, and
that was Joaquin, who had thus far successfully eluded pursuit. The
traitor was also missing; and, although Mr. Vane kept his herdsmen in
the mountains continually, nothing had been seen of him. Arthur was
paying the penalty of his treachery, and was being punished in a way he
had not thought of. After his unsuccessful attempt to capture Archie
Winters, he went down the mountain to the place where he had left his
horse, and there he found Joaquin, who had narrowly escaped a ball from
the rifle of old Bob Kelly. He was in ill-humor about something, but his
face brightened when he discovered Arthur.

"We must be off at once," said he. "The mountains are full of men."

"I believe I'll go home," replied Arthur. "I am going to ask my father
to give me money enough to take me back to Kentucky; for, of course, I
can't live here after what I have done. Before I go, however, I want to
tell you, that you and your friends are a set of blockheads. If I had
known that you would be so stupid as to allow those fellows to escape, I
shouldn't have had any thing to do with you. Good-by, Joaquin."

"Not quite so fast, my lad," said the Ranchero, seizing Arthur's horse
by the bridle. "You are worth as much to us as the others."

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Arthur.

"I mean that you are a prisoner, and that you must stay here with us. I
hope you understand that?"

Arthur was thunderstruck. "Why, Joaquin," said he, "Pierre promised me
faithfully that I should be treated as a visitor, and that no ransom
should be demanded for me."

"And did you put any faith in that promise? When your father gives us
twenty thousand dollars, you can go, and not before."

Arthur cried, begged, and threatened in vain. Joaquin was firm, and the
traitor was obliged to accompany him to the mountains. That night he
wrote to his father, informing him of his situation, and Joaquin, after
tying his prisoner to a tree, and gagging him, to prevent him from
shouting for assistance, rode to the settlement, and left the note on
Mr. Vane's door-step.

During the three weeks following, Arthur led a most miserable life. He
had nothing to eat but dried meat, and but little of that. His captor
treated him very harshly, tying him to a tree every night, to prevent
his escape, and moving him about in the day-time, from place to place,
to avoid capture. It soon became known in the settlement, that Arthur
was held as a prisoner, and the search was conducted with redoubled
energy. Joaquin was constantly on the alert, but he was caught at last;
for, one day, just as he and Arthur were about to sit down to their
dinner of dried meat, Frank, Archie, and Johnny suddenly appeared in
sight, accompanied by the two trappers. Archie had repeatedly declared
that he owed the traitor a debt, which he intended to settle the very
first time he met him; but when he saw what a wretched condition Arthur
was in, he relented, and pitied him from the bottom of his heart.

Joaquin was sent to San Diego to be dealt with according to law, and
Arthur went home. He did not remain there long; but, as soon as he was
able to travel, started for Kentucky, and every one was glad that he had
gone.

Frank and Archie could tell stories now that were worth listening to.
They had seen exciting times since their arrival in California, had
been the heroes of some thrilling adventures, and they never got weary
of talking over the incidents that transpired during their captivity
AMONG THE RANCHEROS.


THE END.



THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO.'S POPULAR JUVENILES.

J.T. TROWBRIDGE.


Neither as a writer does he stand apart from the great currents of life
and select some exceptional phase or odd combination of circumstances.
He stands on the common level and appeals to the universal heart, and
all that he suggests or achieves is on the plane and in the line of
march of the great body of humanity.

The Jack Hazard series of stories, published in the late _Our Young
Folks_, and continued in the first volume of _St. Nicholas_, under the
title of "Fast Friends," is no doubt destined to hold a high place in
this class of literature. The delight of the boys in them (and of their
seniors, too) is well founded. They go to the right spot every time.
Trowbridge knows the heart of a boy like a book, and the heart of a man,
too, and he has laid them both open in these books in a most successful
manner. Apart from the qualities that render the series so attractive to
all young readers, they have great value on account of their
portraitures of American country life and character. The drawing is
wonderfully accurate, and as spirited as it is true. The constable,
Sellick, is an original character, and as minor figures where will we
find anything better than Miss Wansey, and Mr. P. Pipkin, Esq. The
picture of Mr. Dink's school, too, is capital, and where else in fiction
is there a better nick-name than that the boys gave to poor little
Stephen Treadwell, "Step Hen," as he himself pronounced his name in an
unfortunate moment when he saw it in print for the first time in his
lesson in school.

On the whole, these books are very satisfactory, and afford the critical
reader the rare pleasure of the works that are just adequate, that
easily fulfill themselves and accomplish all they set out to
do.--_Scribner's Monthly_.

JACK HAZARD SERIES.
6 vols. BY J.T. TROWBRIDGE $7.25

Jack Hazard and His Fortunes.
Doing His Best.
The Young Surveyor.
A Chance for Himself.
Past Friends.
Lawrence's Adventures.
       *       *       *       *       *


CHARLES ASBURY STEPHENS.

This author wrote his "Camping Out Series" at the very height of his
mental and physical powers.

"We do not wonder at the popularity of these books; there is a freshness
and variety about them, and an enthusiasm in the description of sport
and adventure, which even the older folk can hardly fail to
share."--_Worcester Spy_.

"The author of the Camping Out Series is entitled to rank as decidedly
at the head of what may be called boys' literature."--_Buffalo Courier_.


CAMPING OUT SERIES.

By C.A. STEPHENS.

All books in this series are 12mo. with eight full page illustrations.
Cloth, extra, 75 cents.

CAMPING OUT. As Recorded by "Kit."

"This book is bright, breezy, wholesome, instructive, and stands above
the ordinary boys' books of the day by a whole head and
shoulders."--_The Christian Register_, Boston.

LEFT ON LABRADOR; OR, THE CRUISE OF THE SCHOONER YACHT
"CURLEW." As Recorded by "Wash."

"The perils of the voyagers, the narrow escapes, their strange
expedients, and the fun and jollity when danger had passed, will make
boys even unconscious of hunger."--_New Bedford Mercury_.

OFF TO THE GEYSERS; OR THE YOUNG YACHTERS IN ICELAND. As
Recorded by "Wade."

"It is difficult to believe that Wade and Read and Kit and Wash were not
live boys, sailing up Hudson Straits, and reigning temporarily over an
Esquimaux tribe."--_The Independent_, New York.

LYNX HUNTING: From Notes by the Author of "Camping Out."

"Of first quality as a boys' book, and fit to take its place beside the
best."--_Richmond Enquirer_.

FOX HUNTING. As Recorded by "Raed."

"The most spirited and entertaining book that has as yet appeared. It
overflows with incident, and is characterized by dash and brilliancy
throughout."--_Boston Gazette_.

ON THE AMAZON; OR, THE CRUISE OF THE "RAMBLER." As Recorded by
"Wash."

"Gives vivid pictures of Brazilian adventure and scenery."--_Buffalo
Courier_.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Frank Among The Rancheros" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home