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Title: Frank Merriwell's Triumph - The Disappearance of Felicia
Author: Standish, Burt L., 1866-1945
Language: English
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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.

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                      FRANK MERRIWELL'S TRIUMPH


                     THE DISAPPEARANCE OF FELICIA

                                  BY
                           BURT L. STANDISH

                              AUTHOR OF
               _The World-renowned "Merriwell Stories"_

                PUBLISHED EXCLUSIVELY IN PAPER-COVERED
                   EDITION IN THE NEW MEDAL LIBRARY

                      STREET & SMITH, PUBLISHERS
                  79-89 SEVENTH AVE., NEW YORK CITY



                           Copyright, 1904
                          By STREET & SMITH

                      Frank Merriwell's Triumph

          All rights reserved, including that of translation
         into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian.



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  CONTENTS

        I. A COMPACT OF RASCALS.               5
       II. DAYS OF RETRIBUTION.               12
      III. THE MAP VANISHES.                  24
       IV. THE NIGHT WATCH.                   34
        V. WILEY'S DISAPPEARANCE.             54
       VI. WILEY MEETS MISS FORTUNE.          70
      VII. A STARTLING TELEGRAM.              79
     VIII. FELIPE DULZURA.                    90
       IX. WHAT THE MONK TOLD THEM.          104
        X. THREE IN A TRAP.                  112
       XI. RUFFIANS AT ODDS.                 122
      XII. A LIVELY FISTIC BOUT.             136
     XIII. MACKLYN MORGAN APPEARS.           148
      XIV. THE MESSENGER.                    157
       XV. A DESPERATE SITUATION.            172
      XVI. CROWFOOT MAKES MEDICINE.          184
     XVII. HOW THE MEDICINE WORKED.          190
    XVIII. A BUNCH OF PRISONERS.             195
      XIX. THE VALLEY OF DESOLATION.         206
       XX. THE FINDING OF THE BABES.         220
      XXI. THE LOTTERY OF DEATH.             227
     XXII. AN ACT OF TREACHERY.              244
    XXIII. NEW RICHES PROMISED.              259
     XXIV. WHAT HAPPENED TO DICK.            272
      XXV. HOW WAS IT DONE?                  286
     XXVI. FORCED TO WRITE.                  296
    XXVII. COMPLETE TRIUMPH.                 303



FRANK MERRIWELL'S TRIUMPH.



CHAPTER I.

A COMPACT OF RASCALS.


They were dangerous-looking men, thirty of them in all, armed to the
teeth. They looked like unscrupulous fellows who would hesitate at no
desperate deed. Some of them had bad records, and yet they had served
Frank Merriwell faithfully in guarding his mine, the Queen Mystery,
against those who tried to wrest it from him by force and fraud.

Frank had called these men together, and he now stood on his doorstep in
Mystery Valley, Arizona, looking them over. Bart Hodge, Frank's college
chum and companion in many adventures, was behind him in the doorway.
Little Abe, a hunchback boy whom Merriwell had rescued from ruffians at
a mining camp and befriended for some time, peered from the cabin. Merry
smiled pleasantly as he surveyed the men.

"Well, boys," he said, "the time has come when I shall need your
services no longer."

Some of them stirred restlessly and looked regretful.

"To tell you the truth," Frank went on, "I am genuinely sorry to part
with you. You have served me well. But I need you no more. My enemies
have been defeated, and the courts have recognized my rightful claim to
this property. You fought for me when it was necessary. You risked your
lives for me."

"That's what we is paid for, Mr. Merriwell," said Tombstone Phil, the
leader. "We tries to earn our money."

"You have earned it, every one of you. I remember the day we stood off a
hundred painted ruffians in the desert; I remember the hunting of Jim
Rednight; and I don't forget that when Hodge and I stood beneath a tree
near Phoenix, with ropes about our necks, that you charged to the rescue
and saved us. Have I paid you in a satisfactory manner?"

"Sure thing!"

"You bet!"

"That's whatever!"

"You don't hear us kick any!"

"We're satisfied!"

These exclamations were uttered by various men in the gathering.

"I am glad to know, boys," declared Frank, "that you are all satisfied.
If you must leave me, I like to have you leave feeling that you have
been treated on the square."

"Mr. Merriwell," said Mexican Bob, a wizened little man, "I ken chew up
the galoot what says you ain't plumb on the level. Thar's nary a critter
in the bunch whatever makes a murmur about you."

"You can see, boys," Frank went on, "that I have no further use for you
as a guard to my property. If any of you wish to remain, however, I
shall try to find employment for you. There's work enough to be done
here, although it may not be the sort of work you care to touch. I need
more men in the mine. You know the wages paid. It's hard work and may
not be satisfactory to any of you."

The men were silent.

"As we are parting," Merry added, "I wish to show my appreciation of you
in a manner that will be satisfactory to you all. For that purpose I
have something to distribute among you. Hand them out, Hodge."

Bart stepped back and reappeared some moments later loaded down with a
lot of small canvas pouches.

"Come up one at a time, boys," invited Merry, as he began taking these
from Bart. "Here you are, Phil."

He dropped the first pouch into Tombstone Phil's hand, and it gave forth
a musical, clinking sound that made the eyes of the men sparkle.

One by one they filed past the doorstep, and into each outstretched hand
was dropped a clinking canvas pouch, each one of which was heavy enough
to make its recipient smile.

When the last man had received his present, they gathered again in front
of the door, and suddenly Tombstone Phil roared:

"Give up a youp, boys, for the whitest man on two legs, Frank
Merriwell!"

They swung their hats in the air and uttered a yell that awoke the
echoes of the valley.

"Thanks, men," said Merry quietly. "I appreciate that. As long as you
desire to remain in Mystery Valley you are at liberty to do so; when you
wish to depart you can do so, also. So-long, boys. Good luck to you."

He waved his hand, and they answered with another sharp yell. Then they
turned and moved away, declaring over and over among themselves that he
was the "whitest man." One of those who repeated this assertion a number
of times was a leathery, bowlegged, bewhiskered individual in greasy
garments known as Hull Shawmut. If anything, Shawmut seemed more pleased
and satisfied than his companions.

The only one who said nothing at all was Kip Henry, known as "the
Roper," on account of his skill in throwing the lariat. Henry was thin,
supple, with a small black mustache, and in his appearance was somewhat
dandified, taking great satisfaction in bright colors and in fanciful
Mexican garments. He wore a peaked Mexican hat, and his trousers were
slit at the bottom, Mexican style. Several times Shawmut glanced at
Henry, noting his lack of enthusiasm. When the Thirty retired to their
camp down the valley and lingered there, Henry sat apart by himself,
rolling and smoking a cigarette and frowning at the ground.

"What's the matter, pard?" asked Shawmut, clapping him on the shoulder.
"Didn't yer git yer little present?"

"Yes, I got it," nodded the Roper.

"Then what's eating of yer?"

"Well, Shawmut, I am a whole lot sorry this yere job is ended. That's
what's the matter. It certain was a snap."

"That's right," agreed Kip, sitting down near the other. "We gits good
pay for our time, and we works none to speak of. It certain was a snap.
Howsomever, such snaps can't last always, partner. Do you opine we've
got any kick coming?"

"The only thing I was a-thinking of," answered Kip, "is that here we
fights to keep this yere mine for him, we takes chances o' being called
outlaws, and--now the job is done--we gits dropped. You knows and I
knows that this yere mine is a mighty rich one. Why don't we have the
luck to locate a mine like that? Why should luck always come to other
galoots?"

"I ain't explaining that none," confessed Shawmut, as he filled his
pipe. "Luck is a heap singular. One night I bucks Jimmy Clerg's bank
down in Tucson. I never has much luck hitting the tiger, nohow. This
night things run just the same. I peddles and peddles till I gits down
to my last yeller boy. If I loses that I am broke. I has a good hoss and
outfit, and so I says, 'Here goes.' Well, she does go. Jim's dealer he
rakes her in. I sets thar busted wide. When I goes into that place I has
eight hundred in my clothes. In less than an hour I has nothing.

"Clerg he comes ambling along a-looking the tables over. I sees him, and
I says: 'Jim, how much you let me have on my hoss and outfit?' 'What's
it wurth?' says he. 'Three hundred, cold,' says I. 'That goes,' says he.
And he lets me have the coin. Then I tackles the bank again, and I keeps
right on peddling. Yes, sir, I gits down once more to my last coin. This
is where I walks out of the saloon on my uppers. All the same, I bets
the last red. I wins. Right there, Kip, my luck turns. Arter that it
didn't seem I could lose nohow. Pretty soon I has all the chips stacked
up in front of me. I cashes in once or twice and keeps right on pushing
her. I knows luck is with me, and I takes all kinds o' long chances.
Well, pard, when I ambles out of the place at daylight the bank is
busted and I has all the ready coin of the joint. That's the way luck
works. You gits it in the neck a long time; but bimeby, when she turns,
she just pours in on yer."

"But it don't seem any to me that my luck is going to turn," muttered
the Roper.

"Mebbe you takes a little walk with me," said Shawmut significantly.
"Mebbe I tells you something some interesting."

They arose and walked away from the others, so that their talk might not
be heard.

"Did you ever hear of Benson Clark?" asked Shawmut.

"Clark? Clark? Why, I dunno. Seems ter me I hears o' him."

"I knows him well once. He was a grubstaker. But his is hard luck and
a-plenty of it. All the same, he keeps right on thinking sure that luck
changes for him. Something like two years ago I loses track of him. I
never sees him any since. But old Bense he hits it rich at last.
Somewhere in the Mazatzals he located a claim what opens rich as mud.
Some Indians off their reservation finds him there, and he has to run
for it. He gits out of the mountains, but they cuts him off and shoots
him up. His luck don't do him no good, for he croaks. But right here is
where another lucky gent comes in. This other gent he happens along and
finds old Bense, and Bense he tells him about the mine and gives him a
map. Now, this other lucky gent he proposes to go and locate that mine.
He proposes to do this, though right now he owns two of the best mines
in the whole country. Mebbe you guesses who I'm talking about."

"Why," exclaimed Henry, "you don't mean Mr. Merriwell, do yer?"

"Mebbe I does," answered Shawmut, glancing at his companion slantwise.
"Now, what do yer think of that?"

"What do I think of it?" muttered the Roper. "Well, I will tell yer. I
think it's rotten that all the luck is to come to one gent. I think Mr.
Merriwell has a-plenty and he can do without another mine."

"Just what I thinks," agreed Shawmut. "I figgers it out that way myself.
But he has a map, and that shows him where to find old Bense's claim."

"See here," said Kip, stopping short, "how do you happen to know so much
about this?"

"Well, mebbe I listens around some; mebbe I harks a little; mebbe I
finds it out that way."

"I see," said Henry, in surprise; "but I never thinks it o' you. You
seem so satisfied-like I reckons you don't bother any."

"Mebbe I plays my cards slick and proper," chuckled Shawmut. "You sees I
don't care to be suspected now."

"What do you propose to do?"

"Well, partner, if I tells you, does you opine you're ready to stick by
me?"

"Share even and I am ready for anything," was the assurance.

"Mr. Merriwell he proposes hiking out soon to locate that thar claim o'
Benson Clark's. I am none in a hurry about getting away from here, so I
lingers. When he hikes I follers. When he locates the claim mebbe he has
to leave it; mebbe I jump it; mebbe I gits it recorded first. If he
don't suspect me any, if he don't know I'm arter it, he don't hurry any
about having it recorded. That gives me time to get ahead of him. If
you're with me in this, we goes even on the claim. It's a heap resky,
for this yere Merriwell is dangerous to deal with. Is it settled?"

"Yere's my hand," said Kip Henry.

Shawmut clasped the proffered hand, and the compact was made.



CHAPTER II.

DAYS OF RETRIBUTION.


When Merry had dismissed the men, he turned back into the cabin and sat
down near the table.

"Well, that's the end of that business, Bart," he said.

"Yes," nodded Hodge, sitting opposite. "I congratulate you on the way
you handled those men, Merry. No one else could have done it as well. If
ever I saw a collection of land pirates, it was that bunch."

Frank smiled.

"They were a pretty tough set," he confessed; "but they were just the
men I needed to match the ruffians Sukes set against me."

Milton Sukes was the chief conspirator against Frank in the schemes to
deprive him of the Queen Mystery Mine.

"Sukes will hire no more ruffians," said Hodge.

"I should say not. He has perpetrated his last piece of villainy. He has
gone before the judgment bar on high."

"And the last poor wretch he deluded is an imbecile."

"Poor Worthington!" said Merry. "I fear he will never be right again. It
was his bullet that destroyed Sukes, yet no man can prove it. What he
suffered after that during his flight into the desert, where he nearly
perished for water, completely turned his brain."

"You want to look out for him, Frank. I think he is dangerous."

Merry laughed.

"Ridiculous, Hodge! He is as harmless as a child. When I let him, he
follows me about like a dog."

Even as Frank said this, a crouching figure came creeping to the door
and peered in. It was a man with unshaven, haggard face and eyes from
which the light of reason had fled.

"There he is!" exclaimed this man. "There is my ghost! Do you want me,
ghost?"

"Come in, Worthington!" called Frank.

The man entered hesitatingly and stood near the table, never taking his
eyes from Merry's face for a moment.

"What you command, ghost, I must obey," he said. "You own me, body and
soul. Ha! ha! body and soul! But I have no soul! I bartered it with a
wretch who deceived me! I was an honest man before that! Perhaps you
don't believe me, but I swear I was. You must believe me! It's a
terrible thing to be owned by a ghost who has no confidence in you. But
why should my ghost have confidence! Didn't I deceive him? Didn't I kill
him? I see it now. I see the fire! It is burning--it is burning there!
He has found me as I am setting it. He springs upon me! He is strong--so
strong! Ha! his feet slip! Down he goes! His head strikes! He is
unconscious!"

The wretch seemed living over the terrible experiences through which he
had passed on a certain night in Denver, when he set fire to Merriwell's
office and tried to burn Frank to death. He thought he had accomplished
his purpose, and the appearance of his intended victim alive had turned
his brain.

As he listened Hodge shivered a little.

"Never mind, Worthington," said Frank. "He is all right. He will escape
from the fire."

"No, no, no!" gasped the man, wringing his hands. "See him lying there!
See the fire flashing on his face! See the smoke! It is coming thick. I
must go! I must leave him. It is a fearful thing to do! But if he
escapes he will destroy me. He will send me to prison, and I must leave
him to die!"

He covered his eyes with his hands, as if to shut out a terrible
spectacle.

"No one sees me!" he whispered. "Here are the stairs! It is all
dark--all dark! I must get out quick, before the fire is discovered. I
have done it! I am on the street! I mustn't run! If I run they will
suspect me. I will walk fast--walk fast!"

Merry glanced at Hodge and sadly shook his head.

"Now the engines are coming!" exclaimed the deranged man. "Hear them as
they clang and roar along the streets! See the people run! See the
horses galloping! They are coming to try to put out the fire. What if
they do it in time to save him! Then he will tell them of my treachery!
Then he will send me to prison! I must see--I must know! I must go back
there!"

"He shall not send you to prison, Worthington," asserted Merry
soothingly. "He shall be merciful to you."

"Why should he? Here is the burning building. Here are the engines,
panting and throbbing. See! they pour streams of water on the building.
No use! It is too late; you cannot save him. He is dead long before
this. Who shall say I was to blame? What if they do find his charred
body? No man can prove I had a hand in it. I defy you to prove it!"

Shaking his trembling hands in the air, the wretch almost shrieked these
words.

"This," muttered Bart Hodge, "is retribution."

"I must go away," whispered Worthington. "I must hide where they can't
see me. Look how every one stares at me! They seem to know I have done
it! These infernal lights betray me! I must hide in the darkness. Some
one is following me everywhere. I am afraid of the darkness! I will
always be afraid of the darkness! In the darkness or in the light, there
is no rest for me--no rest! Did you hear that voice? Do you hear? It
accuses me of murder! I am haunted! My God! Haunted, haunted!"

With this heartbroken cry he sank on his knees and crept toward Frank.

"You're the ghost that haunts me!" he exclaimed. "It is my punishment! I
must always be near you, and you must haunt me forever!"

Merry touched him gently.

"Get up, Worthington," he said regretfully. "Your punishment has been
too much. Look at me. Look me straight in the eyes, Worthington. I am
not dead. You didn't kill me."

"No use to tell me that; I know better."

"It is hopeless now, Hodge," said Merry, in a low tone. "The only chance
for him is that time will restore his reason. You may go, Worthington."

"I must stay near by, mustn't I?"

"You may stay outside."

With bowed head and unsteady steps the man left the cabin and
disappeared.

Little Abe had remained speechless and frightened in a corner. Now he
picked up his fiddle, and suddenly from it came a weird melody. It was a
crazy tune, filled with wild fancies and ghostly phantoms.

"He is playing the music of that deranged soul," murmured Frank.

The sound of the fiddle died in a wail, and the boy sat shivering and
silent in the corner.

"This is a little too much of a ghostly thing!" exclaimed Merry as he
arose and shook himself. "Let's talk of something else, Hodge. To-morrow
we start for the Mazatzals, and I have everything ready. If we can
locate that mine, one-half of it is yours."

He took from his pocket a leather case and removed from it a torn and
soiled map, which he spread on the table. Together he and Bart examined
the map once more, as they had done many times before.

"There," said Frank, "is Clear Creek, running down into the Rio Verde.
Somewhere to the northwest of Hawley Peak, as this fellow indicated here
on the map, in the valley shown by this cross, is Benson Clark's claim."

"The location is vaguely marked," said Bart. "We may search for it a
year without discovering it."

"That's true; but we know approximately somewhere near where it is."

"Well," said Hodge, "we will do our best. That's all any one can do. It
is your fortune, Frank, to be lucky; and for that reason we may be
successful."

"Something tells me we shall be," nodded Merriwell.

The start was made next day, and the journey continued until one
afternoon Merry and Bart Hodge stood looking down into a deep, oblong
valley in the heart of the Northern Mazatzals. With them was Cap'n
Walter Wiley, a former seafaring man, who had been Frank's friend in
many thrilling adventures in the West. Little Abe had come with them
from Mystery Valley, as had Worthington, but they were at the camp Merry
had established some distance behind.

"I believe this valley is the one," Merry declared; "but how are we
going to get into it? That's the question that bothers me."

"There must be an inlet or outlet or something to the old valley," said
Hodge. "It cannot be just a sink hole dropped down here like a huge oval
basin in the mountains. There is a stream running through it, too. It is
wooded and watered, and there is plenty of grass for grazing."

"I am almost positive this valley is the one Benson Clark told me of. I
am almost positive it is the one marked on my map. Clark was shot and
dying when I found him. He didn't have time to tell me how to get into
the valley."

"We seem to have struck something that impedes navigation and
investigation and causes agitation," put in Cap'n Wiley. "I would truly
love to have the wings of a dove that I could fly from these heights
above. Poetry just bubbles from me occasionally. I must set my colossal
intellect at work on this perplexing problem and demonstrate my
astounding ability to solve entangling enigmas. (Webster's Dictionary
does contain the loveliest words!) Let me think a thought. Let all
nature stand hushed and silent while I thunk a think."

His companions paid little heed to him; but he continued to discuss the
problem of descending into the valley.

"I have visited the northern end and the southern end," said Frank, "and
I have explored this side and surveyed the other side through my field
glasses. There seems no break in these perpendicular walls. This valley
seems like one of those Southwestern mesas inverted. They rise sheer
from the plains, and it is impossible to reach the top of many of them.
This drops straight down here, and it seems impossible to reach its
bottom."

"The more difficult it is," said Bart, "the greater becomes my desire to
get down there."

"Same here," smiled Frank. "The difficulty makes it something of a
mystery. Scientific expeditions have spent thousands of dollars in
reaching the top of the Mesa Encantada, in New Mexico. By Americans it
is called the Enchanted Mesa. Now, the mere fact that we can't seem to
get down into this valley throws an atmosphere of mystery over it, and
to me it is an enchanted valley."

"Hush!" whispered Wiley, with one finger pressed against his forehead.
"A mighty thought is throbbing and seething in my cohesive brain. If I
only had my gravity destroyer here! Ha! Then I could simply jump down
into the valley and look around, and, when I got ready, jump back up
here. By the way, mates, did you ever know why it was that Santos-Dumont
retired from this country in confusion and dismay? You know he came over
here with his old flying machine, and was going to do stunts to amaze
the gaping multitudes. You know he suddenly packed his Kenebecca and
took passage to foreign shores. The secret of his sudden departure has
never been told. If you will promise to whisper no word of it to the
world, I will reveal the truth to you.

"Just before Santy arrived in the United States I succeeded in
perfecting my great gravity destroyer. As I have on other occasions
explained to you, it was about the size of an ordinary watch, and I
carried it about in my pocket. By pressing a certain spring I
immediately destroyed the force of gravity so that, by giving an easy,
gentle sort of a jump into the air, I could sail right up to the top of
a church steeple. When I got ready to come down, I just let go and
sailed down lightly as a feather. When I heard that Santy was going to
amaze this country with his dinky old flying machine, I resolved to have
a little harmless amusement with him.

"With this object in view, I had a flying machine of my own invented. It
was made of canvas stretched over a light wooden frame, and along the
bottom, to keep it upright, I had a keel of lead. My means of expulsion
was a huge paddle wheel that I could work with my feet. That was the
only thing about the machine that I didn't like. There was some work
connected with it. To the rear end of the arrangement I attached a huge
fanlike rudder that I could operate with ropes running to the cross
pieces, like on ordinary rowboats.

"Mates, there never was a truer word spoken from the chest than that the
prophet is not without honor save in his own country. I had this flying
machine of mine constructed in Cap'n Bean's shipyard, down in Camden,
Maine, my home. The villagers turned out in swarms, and stood around,
and nudged each other in the ribs, and stared at my contrivance, and
tried to josh me. Even Billy Murphy gave me a loud and gleeful ha-ha!
They seemed to think I had gone daffy, but I kept right on about my
business, and one day the _Snowbird_, as I called her, was finished. She
was a beauty, mates, as she lay there, looking so light and airy and
fragile.

"By that time I had become decidedly hot under the collar on account of
so much chaffing from the rustic populace. Says I to myself, says I:
'Cap'n, these Rubes don't deserve to see you fly. If you let them see
you fly you will be giving every mother's son of them two dollars' worth
of entertainment free of charge.' Now, it isn't my custom to give
anything free of charge. Therefore I advertised in the _Herald_ that on
a certain day I would sail the aërial atmosphere. I stated that before
doing so I would pass around the hat, and I expected every person
present to drop two dollars into it. I thought this was a clever idea of
mine.

"On the day and date the people came from near and far. They journeyed
even from Hogansville, South Hope, and Stickney's Corner. When I saw
them massed in one great multitude in and around that shipyard and on
the steamboat wharf, I made merry cachinnation.

"But alas! when I passed through that crowd with my hat and counted up
the collection, I found I had a lead nickel, a trousers button, and a
peppermint lozenger. That was all those measly, close-fisted people
donated for the pleasure of seeing me navigate the ambient air. Although
I am not inclined to be over-sensitive, I felt hurt, and pained, and
disappointed. I then made a little speech to them, and informed them
that over in Searsmont there was a man so mean that he used a wart on
the back of his neck for a collar button to save the expense of buying
one, but I considered him the soul of generosity beside them. I further
informed them that I had postponed sailing. I minded it not that they
guffawed and heaped derision upon me. I was resolute and unbending, and
they were forced to leave without seeing me hoist anchor that day.

"In the soft and stilly hours of the night which followed I seated
myself in the _Snowbird_, applied my feet to the mechanism, pressed the
spring of the gravity destroyer, and away I scooted over Penobscot Bay.
When the sun rose the following morning it found Cap'n Bean's shipyard
empty and little Walter and his flying machine gone.

"I was on hand when Santos-Dumont arrived in New York. I sought an
interview with him, and I told him I proposed making him look like a
plugged quarter when he gave his exhibition. I challenged him to sail
against me and told him I would show him up. Santy didn't seem to like
this, and he made remarks which would not look well in the _Sabbath
School Herald_. Indeed, he became violent, and, though I tried to soothe
him, I discovered myself, when the interview ended, sitting on the
sidewalk outside of the building and feeling of my person for bumps and
sore spots.

"You can imagine with what dignity I arose to my feet and strode
haughtily away. More than ever was I determined to make old Santy look
like an amateur in the flying business. However, he took particular
pains while in New York to scoot around in his machine when he knew I
was not informed that such was his intention. With a great deal of craft
and skill he avoided coming in competition with me. One day some part of
his jigger got out of gear and he had it removed into the country to fix
it. I located him and followed him up. I have forgotten the name of the
village where I found him; but the people were getting much excited, for
he had stated that at a certain time he would show them what he could
do.

"He had gathered scientific men from Oshkosh, Skowhegan, Chicago, and
other centres of culture and refinement. Among them was Professor
Deusenberry, of the Squedunk Elementary College of Fine Fatheads. I
succeeded in getting at Professor Deusenberry's ear. He had a generous
ear, and there was not much trouble in getting at it. I told him all
about my _Snowbird_, and informed him that I had her concealed near at
hand and proposed to show up Santos when he broke loose and sailed. I
took him around to see my craft; but when he looked her over he shook
his head and announced that she'd never rise clear of the skids on which
I had her elevated above the ground.

"Well, mates, the great day came around, and promptly at the hour set
Santos rose like a bird in the air. I was watching for him, and when I
saw him gliding about over the village I promptly started the _Snowbird_
going. The moment I shut off the power of gravitation I scooted upward
like a wild swan. I made straight for Dumont's old machine, and there
before the wildly cheering people, whose shouts rose faint and sweet to
my ear, I proceeded to do a few stunts. I circled around Santos when he
was at his best speed. I sailed over him and under him, and I certain
gave him an attack of nervous prostration. In his excitement he did
something wrong and knocked his machine out of kilter, so that he
suddenly took a collapse and fell into the top of a tree, where his old
craft was badly damaged. I gently lowered myself to the ground, and as I
stepped out of the _Snowbird_ Professor Deusenberry clasped me to his
throbbing bosom and wept on my breast.

"'Professor Wiley!' he cried, 'beyond question you have solved the
problem of aërial navigation. Professor Wiley----' 'Excuse me, Professor
Deusenberry' said I, 'but I am simply plain Cap'n Wiley, a salty old tar
of modesty and few pretensions. I have no rightful claim to the title of
professor.'

"'But you shall have--you shall have!' he earnestly declared. 'I will
see that you're made professor of atmospheric nullity at the Squedunk
Elementary College of Fine Fatheads. Your name shall go ringing down
through the corridor of the ages. Your name shall stand side by side in
history with those of Columbus, Pizarro, and Richard Croker.'

"That night I was wined, and dined, and toasted in that town, while
Santos-Dumont stood outside and shivered in the cold. The scientific men
and professors and men of boodle gazed on me in awe and wonderment and
bowed down before me. Professor Deusenberry was seized with a
determination to own the _Snowbird_. He was fearful lest some one else
should obtain her, and so he hastened to get me to set a price upon her.
I was modest. I told him that I was modest. I told him that in the cause
of science I was ready to part with her for the paltry sum of five
thousand dollars. In less than ten minutes he had gathered some of the
moneyed fatheads of his college and bought my flying machine.

"I suggested to them that the proper way to start her was to get her
onto some eminence and have some one push her off. The following morning
they raised her to the flat roof of a building, and, with no small
amount of agitation, I saw that Professor Deusenberry himself
contemplated making a trip in her. When they pushed her off he started
the paddle wheels going, but without the effect of my little gravity
destroyer to keep her from falling. She dropped straight down to the
ground. When they picked the professor up, several of his lateral ribs,
together with his dispendarium, were fractured. I thought his confidence
in me was also broken. At any rate, I hastened to shake the dust of that
town from my feet and make for the tall timber.

"Nevertheless, mates, my little experience with Santos-Dumont so
disgusted and discouraged him that he immediately left this country,
which explains something that has been puzzling the people for a long
time. They wondered why he didn't remain and do the stunts he had
promised to do. Even now I fancy that Santy often dreams in terror of
Cap'n Wiley and his _Snowbird_."



CHAPTER III.

THE MAP VANISHES.


While Cap'n Wiley had been relating this yarn Merriwell seemed utterly
unconscious of his presence. Having produced his field glasses from the
case at his side, he was surveying the impregnable valley. Suddenly he
started slightly and touched Bart's arm.

"Look yonder, Hodge," he said, in a low tone. "Away up at the far end of
the valley where the timber is, I can see smoke rising there."

"So can I!" exclaimed Hodge. "What does it mean?"

"There is but one thing it can mean, and that is----"

"There's some one in the valley."

"Sure, sure," agreed Cap'n Wiley. "Somebody has found a passage into
that harbor."

"Do you suppose," asked Hodge, in consternation, "that there are other
parties searching for that mine?"

"It's not unlikely."

"But you were the only one told of its existence by Benson Clark."

"Still, it's likely others knew he was prospecting in this vicinity."

"It will be hard luck, Merry, if we find that some one has relocated
that claim ahead of us."

"That's right," nodded Frank. "The fact that there is smoke rising from
that part of the valley proves it is not impossible to get down there.
It's too late to-day to make any further effort in that direction. We
will return to the camp and wait for morning."

"And if you find other men on the claim, what will you do?"

"I haven't decided."

"But it belongs to you!" exclaimed Hodge earnestly. "Clark located it,
and when he died he gave you the right to it."

"Nevertheless, if some one else has found it and has registered his
claim, he can hold it."

"Not if you can prove Clark staked it off and posted notices. Not if you
can prove he gave it to you."

"But I can't prove that. Clark is dead. He left no will. All he left was
quartz in his saddlebags and some dust he had washed from the placer,
together with this map I have in my pocket. You see, I would find it
impossible to prove my right to the mine if I discovered other parties
in possession of it."

Bart's look of disappointment increased.

"I suppose that's right, Merry," he confessed; "but it doesn't seem
right to me. The Consolidated Mining Association of America tried to
take your Queen Mystery Mine from you on a shabbier claim than you have
on this mine here."

"But I defeated them, Bart. You must not forget that."

"I haven't forgotten it," Hodge declared, nodding his head. "All the
same, you had hard work to defeat them, and, later, Milton Sukes made it
still harder for you."

"But I triumphed in both cases. Right is right, Bart; it makes no
difference whether it is on my side or the other fellow's."

"That's so," Hodge confessed. "But it would be an almighty shame to find
some one else squatting on that claim. I'd like to get down into that
valley now!"

"It can't be done before nightfall, so we will go back to camp."

They set out, and an hour later they reached their camp in a small
valley. There they had pitched a tent near a spring, and close at hand
their horses grazed. As they approached the tent, little Abe came
hobbling up to them.

"I am glad you're back," he declared. "That man has been going on just
awful."

"Who? Worthington?" questioned Merry.

"Yes; he said over and over that he knew his ghost would be lost. He
declared his ghost was in danger. He said he could feel the danger
near."

"More of his wild fancies," said Hodge.

"Mates," observed Cap'n Wiley, "if there's anything that upsets my zebro
spinal column it is a crazy gentleman like that. I am prone to confess
that he worries me. I don't trust him. I am afraid that some morning I
will wake up and find a hatchet sticking in my head. I should hate to do
that."

"I am positive he is harmless," declared Merry. "Where is he, Abe?"

"I don't know now. A while ago he just rushed off, calling and calling,
and he's not come back."

Frank looked alarmed. "He promised me he would stay near the camp. He
gave me his word, and this is the first time he has failed to obey me
implicitly in everything."

"He said he'd have to go to save you."

"It was a mistake bringing him here, Frank," asserted Hodge.

"But what could I do with him? He wouldn't remain behind, and I knew the
danger of leaving him there. Any day he might escape from the valley and
lose himself in the desert to perish there."

"Perhaps that is what will happen to him now."

Merry was sorely troubled. He made preparations to go in search of
Worthington without delay. But even as he was doing so the deranged man
came running back into the camp and fell panting at his feet.

"I have found you again, my ghost!" he cried. "They are after you! You
must beware! You must guard yourself constantly!"

"Get up, Worthington!" said Merry. "I am in no danger. No one can hurt a
ghost, you know."

"Ah! you don't know them--you don't know them!" excitedly shouted the
lunatic. "They are wicked and dangerous. I saw them peering over those
rocks. I saw their evil eyes. Abe was asleep. I had been walking up and
down, waiting for you to return. When I saw them I stood still as a
stone and made them believe I was dead. They watched and watched and
whispered. They had weapons in their hands! You must be on your guard
every minute!"

"I have heard about crazy bedbugs," muttered Wiley; "but I never saw one
quite as bad as this. Every time I hear him go on that way I feel the
need of a drink. I could even partake of a portion of Easy Street
firewater with relish."

Worthington seized Frank's arm.

"You must come and see where they were--you must come and see," he
urged.

"Never mind that now," said Merry. "I will look later."

"No! no! Come, now!"

"Be still!" commanded Merry sharply. "I can't waste the time."

But the maniac continued to plead and beg until, in order to appease
him, Merry gave in.

Worthington led him to a mass of bowlders at a distance, and, pointing
at them, he declared in a whisper:

"There's where they were hiding. Look and see. There is where they were,
I tell you!"

More to pacify the poor fellow than anything else, Frank looked around
amid the rocks. Suddenly he made a discovery that caused him to change
countenance and kneel upon the ground. Bart, who had sauntered down,
found him thus.

"What is it, Frank?" he asked.

"See here, Hodge," said Merry. "There has been some one here amid these
rocks. Here's a track. Here's a mark where the nails of a man's boot
heel scratched on the rocks."

Hodge stood looking down, but shook his head.

"You have sharper eyes than I, Frank," he confessed. "Perhaps
Worthington has been here himself."

"No! no!" denied the deranged man. "I was afraid to come! I tell you I
saw them! I tell you I saw their wicked eyes. This is the first time I
have been here!"

"If he tells the truth," said Frank, "then it is certain some one else
has been here."

Behind Worthington's back Bart shook his head and made signals
expressive of his belief that whatever signs Frank had discovered there
had been made by Worthington.

"Now, you see," persisted the madman; "now you know they were here! Now
you know you must be on your guard!"

"Yes, yes," nodded Merry impatiently. "Don't worry about that,
Worthington. I will be on my guard. They will not take me by surprise."

This seemed to satisfy the poor fellow for the time being, and they
returned to the tent. There a fire was again started and supper was
prepared. Shadows gathered in the valley and night came on. Overhead the
bright stars were shining with a clear light peculiar to that
Southwestern land.

After supper they lay about on the ground, talking of the Enchanted
Valley, as Merry had named it, and of the mysterious smoke seen rising
from it. Later, when little Abe and Cap'n Wiley were sleeping and
Worthington had sunk into troubled slumber, through which he muttered
and moaned, Frank and Bart sat in the tent and examined the map by the
light of a small lantern.

"Beyond question, Merry, the mine is near here. There is not a doubt of
it. Here to the east is Hawley Peak, to the south lies Clear Creek. Here
you see marked the stream which must flow through that valley, and here
is the cross made by Clark, which indicates the location of his claim."

They bent over the map with their heads together, sitting near the end
of the tent. Suddenly a hand and arm was thrust in through the
perpendicular slit in the tent flap. That arm reached over Frank's
shoulder, and that hand seized the map from his fingers. It was done in
a twinkling, and in a twinkling it was gone.

With shouts of astonishment and dismay, both Frank and Bart sprang up
and plunged from the tent. They heard the sounds of feet running swiftly
down the valley.

"Halt!" cried Merry, producing a pistol and starting in pursuit.

In the darkness he caught a glimpse of the fleeing figure.

"Stop, or I fire!" he cried again.

There was no answer. Flinging up his hand, he began shooting into the
gloom. He did not stop until he had emptied the weapon. Having run on
some distance, he paused and listened, stopping Bart with an
outstretched hand.

Silence lay over the valley.

"Did you hit him?" asked Bart.

"I don't know," confessed Frank.

"I can hear nothing of him."

"Nor I."

"You may have dropped him here."

"If not----"

"If not, my map is gone."

As he was talking, Frank threw open his pistol and the empty shells were
ejected. He deftly refilled the cylinder.

"By George, Merry!" whispered Bart, "Worthington may have been right
when he told you he saw some one beyond those bowlders."

"He was."

"Then we have been followed! We have been spied upon!"

"No question about it."

"Who did it?"

"That's for us to find out."

Together they searched for the man at whom Frank had fired in the
darkness. They found nothing of him. From the tent little Abe began
calling to them. Then Worthington came hurrying and panting through the
darkness seeking them.

"They have gone!" declared the man wildly. "They were here! In my sleep
I felt them! In my sleep I saw them!"

"We must have a light, Hodge," said Frank. "Bring the lantern."

Bart rushed back to the tent and brought the lantern. With it Frank
began examining the ground.

"Poor show of discovering any sign here," he muttered.

After a time, however, he uttered an exclamation and bent over.

"What have you found?" questioned Hodge excitedly.

"See here," said Frank, pointing on the ground before him.

On a rock at their feet they saw fresh drops of blood.

"By Jove, you did hit him!" burst from Bart's lips. "If we can follow
that trail----"

"We will find the man who has that map," said Merry grimly. "I wonder
how badly he is wounded."

"Blood!" moaned Worthington. "There is blood on the ground! There is
blood in the air! There is death here! Wherever I go there is death!"

"Keep still!" said Frank sharply. "Look out for Abe, Bart."

Then he began seeking to follow the sanguine trail with the aid of the
lighted lantern. It was slow work, but still he made some progress.

"We're taking big chances, Merry," said Bart, who had a pistol in his
hand.

"It's the only way we can follow him."

"Beware!" warned Worthington, in a hollow whisper. "I tell you there is
death in the air!"

They had not proceeded far when suddenly a shot rang out and the bullet
smashed the lantern globe, extinguishing the light. Hodge had been
expecting something of the sort, and he fired almost instantly in
return, aiming at the flash he had vaguely seen.

"Are you hurt, Merry?" he asked.

"No; the lantern was the only thing struck. Did you see where the shot
came from?"

"I caught a glimpse of the flash."

Then a hoarse voice hailed them from the darkness farther down the
valley.

"You gents, there!" it called.

They did not answer.

"Oh, Frank Merriwell!" again came the call.

"It's somebody who knows you," whispered Hodge.

"What is it?" called Merry, in response.

"You holds up where you are!" returned the voice, "or you eats lead
a-plenty."

"Who are you?"

"That's what you finds out if you come. If you wants to know so bad,
mebbe you ambles nearer and takes your chances o' getting shot up."

"It's sure death to try it," warned Hodge, in a whisper.

"Death and destruction!" Worthington screamed. "It is here! Come away!
Come away!"

He seized Merry and attempted to drag him back. Frank was forced to
break the man's hold upon him.

"I must save you!" the deranged man panted. "I knew it would come! Once
I left you to perish in the flames; now I must save you!"

He again flung himself on Frank, and during the struggle that followed
both Hodge and Wiley were compelled to render assistance. Not until the
madman had been tripped and was held helpless on the ground did he
become quiet.

"It's no use!" he groaned; "I can't do it! It is not my fault!"

Merry bent close and stared through the gloom at the eyes of the
unfortunate man.

"You must obey me," he said, in that singular, commanding tone of his.
"You have to obey me! Go back to the tent!"

Then he motioned for Hodge to let Worthington up, and Bart did so.
Without further resistance or struggling, the man turned and walked
slowly back to the tent.

"Go with him, Wiley, and take Abe with you."

Although Wiley protested against this, Frank was firm, and the sailor
yielded. Then, seeking such shelter as they could find amid the rocks
and the darkness, Bart and Frank crept slowly toward the point from
which that warning voice had seemed to come. A long time was spent in
this manner, and when they reached the spot they sought they were
rewarded by finding nothing.

"He has gone, Frank," muttered Hodge. "While we were struggling with
Worthington, he improved the opportunity to escape."

"I fear you are right," said Merriwell.

Further investigation proved this was true. In vain they searched the
valley. The mysterious unknown who had snatched the map and who had been
wounded in his flight by Frank had made good his escape.



CHAPTER IV.

THE NIGHT WATCH.


They were finally compelled to give up the search, although they did so
with the greatest reluctance.

"Unless it aids the other fellow to locate the claim first," said Bart,
"the loss of the map cannot be much of a disadvantage to you, Merry. It
could give us no further assistance in finding the claim."

"That's true," muttered Frank. "But the fact that mysterious men have
been prowling around here and one of them has secured the map seems to
indicate there are others who are searching for Benson Clark's lost
claim. If they locate it first----"

"It's rightfully yours!" growled Hodge. "No one else has a real claim to
it. Clark gave it to you."

"But he made no will."

"All the same, you know he gave it to you."

"We have discussed all that, Hodge," said Merry as they returned to the
tent. "If other parties find the claim first and begin work on it, they
can hold it."

Wiley was teetering up and down in front of the tent, apparently in an
uneasy state of mind.

"I have faced perils by sea and land!" he exclaimed, as they approached.
"It doesn't behoove any one to shunt me off onto a lunatic and a cripple
when there is danger in the air. My fighting blood is stirred, and I
long to look death in the mouth and examine his teeth."

Neither Merry nor Bart paid much attention to the spluttering sailor.
They consulted about the wisdom of changing their camping place for the
night.

"I don't think it is necessary," said Frank. "Whoever it was, the
prowler secured the map, and I fancy it will satisfy him for the
present. Something assures me that was what he was after, and we have
nothing more of interest to him now."

After a time they decided to remain where they were and to take turns in
guarding the camp. The first watch fell on Bart, while Frank was to take
the middle hours of the night, and Wiley's turn came toward morning. It
was found somewhat difficult to quiet Worthington, who remained
intensely wrought up over what had happened; but in time Merry induced
him to lie down in the tent.

Little Abe crept close to Frank and lay there, shivering somewhat.

"You have so many enemies, Frank," he whispered. "Who are these new
enemies you have found here?"

"I don't know at present, Abe; but I will find out in time."

"Why must you always have enemies?"

"I think it is the fortune of every man who succeeds to make enemies.
Other men become jealous. Only idiots and spineless, nerve-lacking
individuals make no enemies at all."

"But sometime your enemies will hurt you," muttered the boy fearfully.
"You can't always escape when they are prowling about and striking at
your back."

"Of course, there is a chance that some of them may get me," confessed
Frank; "but I am not worrying over that now."

"Worthington frightens me, too," confessed the boy. "He is so strange!
But, really and truly, he seems to know when danger is near. He seems to
discover it, somehow."

"Which is a faculty possessed by some people with disordered brains. I
fancied the fellow was dreaming when he declared he saw some one hiding
behind those rocks to-day; but now I know he actually saw what he
claimed to see."

"Oh, I hope they don't get that mine away from you! You have taken so
much trouble to find it!"

"Don't worry," half laughed Merry. "If they should locate the mine ahead
of me, I can stand it. I have two mines now, which are owned jointly by
myself and my brother."

"Your brother!" exclaimed Abe, in surprise. "Why, have you a brother?"

"Yes; a half-brother."

"Where is he?"

"He is attending school far, far away in the East. I received some
letters from him while you were in Denver."

"Is he like you?"

"Well, I don't know. In some things he seems to be like me; in others he
is different."

"He is younger?"

"Yes, several years younger."

"Oh, I'd like to see him!" breathed Abe. "I know I'd like him. What's
his name?"

"Dick."

"Perhaps I'll see him some day."

"Yes, Abe, I think you will. By and by we will go East, and I will take
you to see him at Fardale. That's where he is attending school."

"It must be just the finest thing to go to school. I never went to
school any. What do they do there, Frank?"

"Oh, they do many things, Abe. They study books which prepare them for
successful careers, and they play baseball and football and take part in
other sports. They have a fine gymnasium, where they exercise to develop
their bodies, which need developing, as well as their brains. In some
schools, Abe, the development of the body is neglected. Scholars are
compelled to study in close rooms, regardless of their health and of
their individual weaknesses. And many times their constitutions are
wrecked so that they are unfitted to become successful men and women
through the fact that they have not the energy and stamina in the battle
of life, at which successes must be won.

"I don't know that you understand all this, Abe, but many parents make
sad mistakes in seeking to force too much education into the heads of
their children in a brief space of time. It is not always the boy or
girl who is the smartest as a boy or girl who makes the smartest and
most successful man or woman. Some of the brightest and most brilliant
scholars fail after leaving school. Although at school they were wonders
in their classes, in after life others who were not so brilliant and
promising often rise far above them."

"I don't know nothing about those things, Frank," said the boy. "You
seem to know all about everything. But I want you to tell me more about
the school and the games they play and the things they do there."

"Not to-night, Abe," said Merry. "Go to sleep now. Sometime I will tell
you all about it."

Long after Merry's regular breathing indicated that he was slumbering,
little Abe lay trying to picture to himself that wonderful school, where
so many boys studied, and lived, and prepared themselves for careers. It
was a strange school his fancy pictured. At last he slept also, and he
dreamed that he was in the school with other boys, that he was straight,
and strong, and handsome, and that Dick Merriwell was his friend and
companion. He dreamed that he took part in the sports and games, and was
successful and admired like other lads. It was a joyful dream, and in
his sleep he smiled and laughed a little. But for the poor little
cripple it was a dream that could never come true.

In the night Frank was aroused by Bart, who lay down, while Merry took
his place on guard outside the tent. The night was far spent when Frank
awakened Wiley to take a turn at watching over the camp.

"Port your helm!" muttered the sailor thickly, as Merry shook him.
"Breakers ahead! She's going on the rocks!"

"Turn out here," said Frank. "It's your watch on deck!"

"What's that?" mumbled the sailor. "Who says so? I am cap'n of this
ship. I give off orders here."

Merry seized him by the shoulders and sat him upright.

"In this instance," declared Frank, "you're simply the man before the
mast. I am captain this voyage."

"I deny the allegation and defy the alligator," spluttered Wiley, waving
his arms in the dark. "I never sailed before the mast."

Frank was finally compelled to drag him bodily out of the tent, where at
length Wiley became aware of his surroundings and stood yawning and
rubbing his eyes.

"This is a new turn for me, mate," he said. "It has been my custom in
the past to lay in my royal bunk and listen to the slosh of bilge water
and the plunging of my good ship through the billows, while others did
the real work. I always put in my hardest work at resting. I can work
harder at resting than any man I know of. I have a natural-born talent
for it. Nevertheless, Cap'n Merriwell, I now assume my new duties. You
may go below and turn in with the perfect assurance that little Walter
will guard you faithfully from all harm. Though a thousand foes should
menace you, I will be on hand to repel them."

"That's right, Wiley; keep your eyes open. There may be no danger, but
you know what happened early this night."

"Say no more," assured Wiley. "I am the embodied spirit of active
alertness. Permit rosy slumber to softly close your dewy eyes and dream
sweet dreams of bliss. Talk about real poetry; there's a sample of it
for you."

Smiling a little at the eccentricities of the sailor, Frank slipped into
the tent and again rolled himself in his blanket.

Rosy dawn was smiling over the eastern peaks when Frank opened his eyes.
The others were still fast asleep, and Merry wondered if Wiley had
already started a fire preparatory for breakfast. It seemed singular
that the sailor had not aroused them before this. Stealing softly from
the tent, Merry looked around for the captain. At first he saw nothing
of him, but after some minutes he discovered Wiley seated on the ground,
with his back against a bowlder and with his head bowed. Approaching
nearer, Frank saw the sailor was fast asleep, with a revolver clutched
in his hand.

"Sleeping at your post, are you?" muttered Frank, annoyed. "Had there
been enemies near, they might have crept on us while you were sleeping
and murdered the whole party. You deserve to be taught a lesson."

Making no noise, he drew nearer, keeping somewhat to one side and behind
the sailor, then bent over and uttered a piercing yell in Wiley's ear.
The result was astonishing. With an answering yell, the sailor bounded
into the air like a jack-in-the-box popping up. As he made that first
wild, electrifying leap he began shooting. When his feet struck the
ground he started to run, but continued shooting in all directions.

"Repel boarders!" he yelled. "Give it to them!"

Frank dropped down behind the bowlder to make sure that he was protected
from the bullets so recklessly discharged from the cap'n's revolver.
Peering over it, he saw Wiley bound frantically down the slope toward
the spring, catch his toe, spin over in the air, and plunge headlong. By
a singular chance, he had tripped just before reaching the spring, and
he dived into it, splashing the water in all directions. This
termination of the affair was so surprising and ludicrous that Merry was
convulsed with laughter. He ran quickly out, seized the sailor by the
heels, and dragged him out. Wiley sat up, spluttering and gurgling and
spouting water, very stupefied and very much bewildered.

This sudden commotion had brought Hodge leaping from the tent, a weapon
in hand, while Abe and Worthington crawled forth in alarm.

Merry's hearty laughter awoke the echoes of the valley.

"Why do you disturb the placid peacefulness of this pellucid morning
with the ponderous pyrotechnics of your palpitating pleasure?" inquired
Wiley. "Did it amuse you so much to see me take my regular morning
plunge? Why, I always do that. I believe in a cold bath in the morning.
It's a great thing. It's a regular thing for me. I do it once a year
whether I need it or not. This was my morning for plunging, so I
plunged. But what was that elongated, ear-splitting vibration that
pierced the tympanum of my tingling ear? Somehow I fancy I heard a
slight disturbance. I was dreaming just at that moment of my fearful
encounter with Chinese pirates in the Indian Ocean some several years
agone. Being thus suddenly awakened, I did my best to repel boarders,
and I fancy I shot a number of holes in the ambient atmosphere around
here."

"You did all of that," smiled Merry. "I found it necessary to get under
cover in order to be safe. Cap'n, you certainly cut a queer caper. It
was better than a circus to see you jump and go scooting down the slope;
and when you plunged into the spring I surely thought you were going
right through to China."

"Well," said the sailor, wiping his face and hands on the tail of his
coat, "that saves me the trouble of washing this morning. But I still
fail to understand just how it happened."

"You were sleeping at your post."

"What? Me?"

"Yes, you."

"Impossible; I never sleep. I may occasionally lapse a little, but I
never sleep."

"You were snoring."

Wiley arose, looking sad and offended.

"If I did not love you even as a brother I should feel hurt by your
cruel words," he muttered, picking up an empty pistol that had fallen
near the spring. "But I know you're joking."

"You just said you were dreaming, Wiley," reminded Frank. "Is this the
way you are to be trusted? What if our enemies had crept upon us while
you were supposed to be guarding the camp?"

"Don't speak of it!" entreated the marine marvel. "It hurts me. In case
I closed my eyes by accident for a moment, I hope you will forgive me
the oversight. Be sure I shall never forgive myself. Oh, but that was a
lovely dream! There were seventeen pirates coming over the rail, with
cutlasses, and dirks, and muskets, and cannon in their teeth, and I was
just wading into them in earnest when you disturbed the engagement.

"In that dream I was simply living over again that terrible contest with
the Chinese pirates in which I engaged while commanding my good ship,
the _Sour Dog_. That was my first cruise in Eastern waters. The _Sour
Dog_ was a merchantman of nine billion tons burthen. We were loaded with
indigo, and spice, and everything nice. We had started on a return
voyage, and were bound southward to round the Cape of Good Hope. I had
warned my faithful followers of the dangers we might encounter in the
Indian Ocean, which was just literally boiling over with pirates of
various kinds.

"One thing that had troubled us greatly was the fact that our good ship
was overrun with rats. I set my nimble wits to work to devise a scheme
of ridding us of those rats. I manufactured a number of very crafty
traps, and set them where I believed they would be the most efficacious.
You should have seen the way I gathered in those rats. Every morning I
had thirty or forty rats in those traps, and soon I was struck with a
new scheme. Knowing the value of rats in China, I decided to gather up
those on board, put about, and deliver them as a special cargo at
Hongkong. With this object in view, I had a huge cage manufactured on
the jigger deck. In this cage I confined all the rats captured, and soon
I had several hundred of them. These rats, Mr. Merriwell, saved our
lives, remarkable though it may seem to you. Bear with me just a moment
and I will elucidate.

"We had put about and set our course for the Sunda Islands when an
unfortunate calm befell us. Now, a calm in those waters is the real
thing. When it gets calm there it is so still that you can hear a man
think a mile away. The tropical sun blazed down on the blazing ocean,
and our sails hung as still and silent as Willie Bryan's tongue after
the last Presidential election. The heat was so intense that the tar in
the caulking of the vessel bubbled and sizzled, and the deck of the
_Sour Dog_ was hot as a pancake griddle. Suddenly the watch aloft sent
down a cry, 'Ship, ho!' We sighted her heaving up over the horizon and
bearing straight down on us."

"But I thought you said there was no wind," interrupted Merry. "How
could a ship come bearing down upon you with no wind to sail by?"

"It was not exactly a ship, Mr. Merriwell; we soon saw it was a Chinese
junk. She was manned with a great crew of rowers, who were propelling
her with long oars. We could see their oar blades flashing in the sun as
they rose and fell with machine-like regularity. I seized my marine
glasses and mounted aloft. Through them I surveyed the approaching
craft. I confess to you, sir, that the appearance of that vessel
agitated my equilibrium. I didn't like her looks. Something told me she
was a pirate.

"Unfortunately for us, we were not prepared for such an emergency. Had
there been a good breeze blowing, we could have sailed away and laughed
at her. As there was no breeze, we were helpless to escape. It was an
awful moment. When I told my crew that she was a pirate they fell on
their knees and wept and prayed. That worried me exceedingly, for up to
that time they had been the most profane, unreligious set of lubbers it
was ever my fortune to command. I told them in choice language just
about what I thought of them; but it didn't seem to have any effect on
them. I told them that our only chance for life was to repel those
pirates in some manner. I warned them to arm themselves with such
weapons as they could find and to fight to the last. We didn't have a
gun on board. One fellow had a good keen knife, but even with the aid of
that we seemed in a precarious predicament.

"The pirate vessel came straight on. When she was near enough, I hailed
her through my speaking trumpet and asked her what she wanted. She made
no answer. Soon we could see those yellow-skinned, pigtailed wretches,
and every man of them was armed with deadly weapons. Having heard the
fearful tales of butcheries committed by those monsters, I knew the fate
in store for us unless we could repulse them somehow. Again I appealed
to my men, and again I saw it was useless.

"The pirate swung alongside and fastened to us. Then those yellow fiends
came swarming over the rail with their weapons in their teeth, intent on
carving us up. The whole crew boarded us as one man. Just as they were
about to begin their horrid work a brilliant thought flashed through my
brain. I opened the rat cage and let those rats loose upon the deck. As
the Chinamen saw hundreds of rats running around over the deck they
uttered yells of joy and started in pursuit of them.

"When they yelled they dropped their cutlasses and knives from their
teeth, and the clang of steel upon the deck was almost deafening. It was
a surprising sight to see the chinks diving here and there after the
rats and trying to capture them. To them those rats were far more
valuable than anything they had expected to find on board. For the time
being they had wholly forgotten their real object in boarding us.

"Seeing the opening offered, at the precise psychological moment I
seized a cutlass and fell upon them. With my first blow I severed a
pirate's head from his body. At the same time I shouted to my crew to
follow my example. They caught up the weapons the pirates had dropped,
and in less time than it takes to tell it that deck ran knee-deep in
Chinese gore. Even after we had attacked them in that manner they seemed
so excited over those rats that they continued to chase the fleeing
rodents and paid little attention to us.

"If was not more than ten minutes before I finished the last wretch of
them and stood looking around at that horrible spectacle. With my own
hand I had slain forty-one of those pirates. We had wiped out the entire
crew. Of course, I felt disappointed in having to lose the rats in that
manner, but I decided that it should not be a loss, and straightway I
began shaving the pigtails from the Chinamen's heads. We cut them off
and piled them up, after which we cast the bodies overboard and washed
the deck clean.

"When I arrived in New York I made a deal with a manufacturer of hair
mattresses and sold out that lot of pigtails for a handsome sum. It was
one of the most successful voyages of my life. When Congress heard of
the wonderful things I had done in destroying the pirates, it voted me a
leather medal of honor. That's the whole story, Mr. Merriwell. I was
dreaming of that frightful encounter when you aroused me. Perhaps you
may doubt the veracity of my narrative; but it is as true as anything I
ever told you."

"I haven't a doubt of it," laughed Frank. "It seems to me that the most
of your wonderful adventures are things of dreams, cap'n. According to
your tell, you should have been a rich man to-day. You have had chances
enough."

"That's right," nodded the sailor. "But my bountiful generosity has kept
me poor. In order to get ahead in this world a fellow has to hustle. He
can't become a Rockefeller or a Morgan if he's whole-souled and generous
like me. I never did have any sympathy with chaps who complain that they
had no chance. I fully agree with my friend, Sam Foss, who wrote some
touching little lines which it would delight me to recite to you. Sam is
the real thing when it comes to turning out poetry. He can oil up his
machine and grind it out by the yard. Listen, and I will recite to you
the touching stanzas in question."

In his own inimitable manner Wiley began to recite, and this was the
poem he delivered:

  "Joe Beall 'ud set upon a keg,
    Down to the groc'ry store, an' throw
  One leg right over t'other leg,
    An' swear he'd never had a show.
          'O, no,' said Joe,
          'Hain't hed no show;'
  Then shift his quid to t'other jaw,
  An' chaw, an' chaw, an' chaw, an' chaw.

  "He said he got no start in life,
    Didn't get no money from his dad
  The washing took in by his wife
    Earned all the funds he ever had.
          'O, no,' said Joe,
          'Hain't hed no show;'
  An' then he'd look up at the clock,
  An' talk, an' talk, an' talk, an' talk.

  "'I've waited twenty year--let's see----
    Yes, twenty-four, an' never struck,
  Altho' I've sot roun' patiently,
    The fust tarnation streak er luck.
          'O, no,' said Joe,
          'Hain't hed no show;'
  Then stuck like mucilage to the spot,
  An' sot, an' sot, an' sot, an' sot.

  "'I've come down regeler every day
    For twenty years to Piper's store;
  I've sot here in a patient way,
    Say, hain't I, Piper?' Piper swore.
          'I tell yer, Joe,
          Yer hain't no show;
  Yer too dern patient'----ther hull raft
  Just laffed, an' laffed, an' laffed, an' laffed."

"That will about do for this morning," laughed Frank. "We will have
breakfast now."

That day Frank set about a systematic search for some method of getting
into the Enchanted Valley, as he had called it. Having broken camp and
packed everything, with the entire party he set about circling the
valley. It was slow and difficult work, for at points it became
necessary that one or two of them should take the horses around by a
détour, while the others followed the rim of the valley.

Midday had passed when at last Merry discovered a hidden cleft or
fissure, like a huge crack in the rocky wall, which ran downward and
seemed a possible means of reaching the valley. He had the horses
brought to the head of this fissure before exploring it.

"At best, it is going to be a mighty difficult thing to get the horses
down there," said Bart.

"We may not be able to do it," acknowledged Merry; "but I am greatly in
hopes that we can get into the valley ourselves at last."

When they had descended some distance, Frank found indications which
convinced him that other parties had lately traversed that fissure.
These signs were not very plain to Bart, but he relied on Merry's
judgment.

They finally reached a point from where they could see the bottom and
look out into the valley.

"We can get down here ourselves, all right," said Hodge. "What do you
think about the horses?"

"It will be a ticklish job to bring them down," acknowledged Merry; "but
I am in for trying it."

"If one of the beasts should lose his footing and take a tumble----"

"We'd be out a horse, that's all. We must look out that, in case such a
thing happens, no one of us is carried down with the animal."

They returned to the place where Wiley, Worthington, and little Abe were
waiting. When Frank announced that they could get into the valley that
way, the deranged man suddenly cried:

"There's doom down there! Those who enter never return!"

"That fellow is a real cheerful chap!" said the sailor. "He has been
making it pleasant for us while you were gone, with his joyful
predictions of death and disaster."

They gave little heed to Worthington. Making sure the packs were secure
on the backs of the animals, they fully arranged their plans of descent
and entered the fissure. More than an hour later they reached the valley
below, having descended without the slightest mishap.

"Well, here we are," smiled Merry. "We have found our way into the
Enchanted Valley at last."

"Never to return! Never to return!" croaked Worthington.

"It's too late to do much exploring to-night, Merry," said Hodge.

"It's too late to do anything but find a good spot and pitch our tent."

"Where had we better camp?"

After looking around, Merriwell suggested that they proceed toward the
northern end of the valley, where there was timber.

"It's up that way we saw smoke, Frank," said Hodge.

"I know it."

As they advanced toward the timber they came to a narrow gorge that cut
for a short distance into the side of a mighty mountain. The stream
which ran through the valley flowed from this gorge, and further
investigation showed that it came from an opening in the mountainside
itself. Beside this stream they found the dead embers of a camp fire.

"Who built it, Frank?" asked Bart, as Merry looked the ground over. "Was
it Indians, do you think?"

Merriwell shook his head.

"No; it was built by white men."

Hodge frowned.

"It makes little difference," he said. "One is likely to be as dangerous
as the other."

"We will camp here ourselves," decided Merry.

The animals were relieved of their packs, and they busied themselves in
erecting a tent and making ready for the night. Little Abe was set to
gathering wood with which to build a fire. Darkness came on ere they had
completed their tasks, but they finished by the light of the fire, which
crackled and gleamed beside the flowing stream.

Wiley had shown himself to be something of a cook, and on him fell the
task of preparing supper. He soon had the coffeepot steaming on a bed of
coals, and the aroma made them all ravenous. He made up a batter of corn
meal and cooked it in a pan over the fire. This, together with the
coffee and their dried beef, satisfied their hunger, and all partook
heartily.

"Now," said Wiley, as he stretched himself on the ground, "if some one
had a perfecto which he could lend me, I would be supinely content. As
it is, I shall have to be satisfied with a soothing pipe."

He filled his pipe, lighted it, and lay puffing contentedly. Bart and
Merry were talking of what the morrow might bring forth, when suddenly
Worthington uttered a sharp hiss and held up his hand. Then, to the
surprise of all, from some unknown point, seemingly above them, a voice
burst forth in song. It was the voice of a man, and the narrow gorge
echoed with the weird melody. Not one of them could tell whence the
singing came.

  "Where dead men roam the dark
    The world is cold and chill;
  You hear their voices--hark!
    They cry o'er vale and hill:
          'Beware!
          Take care!
  For death is cold and still.'"

These were the words of the song as given by that mysterious singer.
They were ominous and full of warning.

"That certainly is a soulful little ditty," observed Wiley. "It is so
hilariously funny and laughable, don't you know."

Frank kicked aside the blazing brands of the fire with his foot and
stamped them out, plunging the place into darkness.

"That's right," muttered Hodge. "They might pick us off any time by the
firelight."

A hollow, blood-chilling groan sounded near at hand, and Wiley nearly
collapsed from sudden fright. The groan, however, came from the lips of
Worthington, who was standing straight and silent as a tree, his arms
stretched above his head in a singular manner.

"The stars are going to fall!" he declared, in a sibilant whisper that
was strangely piercing. "Save yourselves! Hold them off! Hold them off!
If they strike you, you will be destroyed!"

"Say, Worth, old bughouse!" exclaimed Wiley, slapping the deranged man
on the shoulder; "don't ever let out another geezly groan like that!
Why, my heart rose up and kicked my hair just about a foot into the air.
I thought all the ghosts, and spooks, and things of the unseen world had
broken loose at one break. You ought to take something for that. You
need a tonic. I would recommend Lizzie Pinkham's Vegetable Compound."

"Keep still, can't you!" exclaimed Hodge, in a low tone. "If we hear
that voice again, I'd like to locate the point from whence it comes."

"Oh, I will keep still if you will guarantee to muzzle Worth here,"
assured the sailor.

The deranged man was silent now, and they all seemed to be listening
with eager intentness.

"Why doesn't he sing some more, Merry?" whispered Bart.

After some moments, the mysterious voice was heard again. It seemed to
come from the air above them, and they distinctly heard it call a name:

"Frank!"

Merry stood perfectly still, but, in spite of himself, Bart Hodge gave a
start of astonishment.

"Frank Merriwell!"

Again the voice called.

"Great Cæsar's ghost!" panted Hodge in Merry's ear. "Whoever it is, he
knows you! He is calling your name. What do you think of that?"

"That's not so very strange, Bart."

"Why not?"

"Since we came into the valley, either you, or Wiley, or Abe have spoken
my name so this unknown party overheard it."

"Frank Merriwell!" distinctly spoke the mysterious voice; "come to me!
You must come! You can't escape! You buried me in the shadow of Chaves
Pass! My bones lie there still; but my spirit is here calling to you!"

"Booh!" said Wiley. "I've had more or less dealings with spirits in my
time, but never with just this kind. Now, ardent spirits and _spritis
fermenti_ are congenial things; but a spooky spirit is not in my line."

"I tell you to keep still," whispered Hodge once more.

"I am dumb as a clam," asserted the sailor.

"Do you hear me, Frank Merriwell?" again called the mysterious voice. "I
am the ghost of Benson Clark. I have returned here to guard my mine.
Human hands shall never desecrate it. If you seek farther for it, you
are doomed--doomed!"

At this point Worthington broke into a shriek of maniacal laughter.

"Go back to your grave!" he yelled. "No plotting there! No
violence--nothing but rest!"

"Now, I tell you what, mates," broke in Cap'n Wiley protestingly;
"between spook voices and this maniac, I am on the verge of nervous
prostration. If I had a bottle of Doctor Brown's nervura, I'd drink the
whole thing at one gulp."

Having shouted the words quoted, Worthington crouched on the ground and
covered his face with his hands.

"What do you think about it now?" whispered Bart in Frank's ear.
"Whoever it is, he knows about Benson Clark and his claim. He knows you
buried Clark. How do you explain that?"

"I can see only one explanation," answered Frank, in a low tone. "This
man has been near enough at some time when we were speaking of Clark to
overhear our words."

"This man," muttered Wiley. "Why, jigger it all! it claims to be an
ethereal and vapid spook."

"Don't be a fool, Wiley!" growled Hodge. "You know as well as we do that
it is not a spook."

"You relieve me greatly by your assurance," said the sailor. "I have
never seen a spook, but once, after a protracted visit on Easy Street, I
saw other things just as bad. I don't think my nerves have gained their
equilibrium."

"What will we do about this business, Merry?" asked Hodge.

"I don't propose to be driven away from here by any such childish
trick," answered Frank grimly. "We will not build another fire to-night,
for I don't care to take the chances of being picked off by any one
shooting at us from the dark. However, we will stay right here and show
this party that he cannot frighten us in such a silly manner."

"That's the talk!" nodded Hodge. "I am with you."

"Don't forget me," interjected the sailor.

"You!" exclaimed Frank sharply. "How can we depend on a fellow who
sleeps at his post when on guard?"

"It's ever thus my little failings have counted against me!" sighed
Wiley. "Those things have caused me to be vastly misunderstood. Well, it
can't be helped. If I am not permitted to take my turn of standing guard
to-night, I must suffer and sleep in silence."

Having said this in an injured and doleful manner, he retreated to the
tent and flung himself on the ground.

Frank and Bart sat down near the tent, and listened and waited a long
time, thinking it possible they might hear that voice once more. The
silence remained undisturbed, however, save for the gurgle of the little
brook which ran near at hand.



CHAPTER V.

WILEY'S DISAPPEARANCE.


Night passed without anything further to disturb or annoy them. The
morning came bright and peaceful, and the sun shone pleasantly into the
Enchanted Valley. Wiley turned out at an early hour, built the fire, and
prepared the breakfast.

"Seems like I had an unpleasant dream last eve," he remarked. "These
measly dreams are coming thick and fast. Night before last it was
pirates; last night it was spooks. It seems to be getting worse and
worse. If this thing keeps up, I will be in poor condition when the
baseball season opens in the spring."

"Then you intend to play baseball again, do you, cap'n?" asked Merry.

"Intend to play it! Why, mate, I cannot help it! As long as my good
right arm retains its cunning I shall continue to project the sphere
through the atmosphere. To me it is a pleasure to behold a batter wildly
swat the empty air as one of my marvelous curves serenely dodges his
willow wand. I have thought many times that I would get a divorce from
baseball and return to it no more. But each spring, as the little birds
joyfully hie themselves northward from their winter pilgrimage in the
Sunny South, the old-time feeling gets into my veins, and I amble forth
upon the turf and disport myself upon the chalk-marked diamond. Yes, I
expect to be in the game again, and when little Walter gets into the
game he gets into it for keeps."

"What if some one should offer you a prominent position at a salary of
ten thousand a year where you would be unable to play baseball?"
inquired Merry, with a sly twinkle in his eye. "You'd have to give it up
then."

"Not on your tintype!" was the prompt retort.

"What would you do?"

"I'd give up the position."

Frank laughed heartily.

"Cap'n, you're a confirmed baseball crank. But if you live your natural
life, there'll come a time when your joints will stiffen, when
rheumatism may come into your good arm, when your keen eye will lose its
brightness, when your skill to hit a pitched ball will vanish--then what
will you do?"

The sailor heaved a deep sigh.

"Don't," he sadly said, wiping his eye. "Talk to me of dreadful
things--funerals, and deaths, and all that; but don't ever suggest to me
that the day will dawn when little Walter will recognize the fact that
he is a has-been. It fills my soul with such unutterable sadness that
words fail me. However, ere that day appears I propose to daze and
bewilder the staring world. Why, even with my wonderful record as a ball
player, it was only last year that I failed to obtain a show on the
measly little dried-up old New England League. I knew I was a hundred
times better than the players given a show. I even confessed it to the
managers of the different teams. Still, I didn't happen to have the
proper pull, and they took on the cheap slobs who were chumps enough to
play for nothing in order to get a chance to play at all.

"I knew my value, and I refused to play unless I could feel the coin of
the realm tickling my palm. I rather think I opened the eyes of some of
those dinky old managers. But even though Selee, McGraw, and others of
the big leagues have been imploring me on their knees to play with them,
I have haughtily declined. What I really desire is to get into the New
England League, where I will be a star of the first magnitude. I had
much rather be a big toad in a little puddle than a medium-sized toad in
a big puddle. The manager who signs me for his team in the New England
League will draw a glittering prize. If I could have my old-time chum,
Peckie Prescott, with me, we'd show those New England Leaguers some
stunts that would curl their hair.

"Speaking of Peckie, Mr. Merriwell, reminds me that there is a boy lost
to professional baseball who would be worth millions of dollars to any
manager who got hold of him and gave him a show. Play ball! Why, Peckie
was born to play ball! He just can't help it. He has an arm of iron, and
he can throw from the plate to second base on a dead line and as quick
as a bullet from a rifle. As a backstop he is a wizard. And when it
comes to hitting--oh, la! la! he can average his two base hits a game
off any pitcher in the New England League. To be sure, the boy is a
little new and needs some coaching; but give him a show and he will be
in the National or American inside of three seasons."

"Are you serious about this fellow, cap'n?" asked Frank. "I am aware
that you know a real baseball player when you see him, but you have a
little way of exaggerating that sometimes leads people to doubt your
statements."

"Mr. Merriwell, I was never more serious in all my life. I give you my
word that everything I have said of Prescott is true; but I fear, like
some sweet, fragile wild-woods flower, he was born to blush unseen. I
fear he will never get the show he deserves. While these dunkhead
managers are scrabbling around over the country to rake up players, he
remains in the modest seclusion of his home, and they fail to stumble on
him. He is a retiring sort of chap, and this has prevented him from
pushing himself forward."

"You should be able to push him a little yourself, cap'n."

"What! When I am turned down by the blind and deluded managers, how am I
to help another? Alas! 'tis impossible! Coffee is served, Mr. Merriwell.
Let's proceed to surround our breakfast and forget our misfortunes."

After breakfast Frank and Bart discussed the programme for the day. They
decided to make an immediate and vigorous search for the lost mine. It
was considered necessary, however, that one of the party should remain
at the camp and guard their outfit. Neither Abe nor Worthington was
suitable for this, and, as both Frank and Bart wished to take part in
the search, Wiley seemed the only one left for the task.

"Very well," said the sailor, "I will remain. Leave me with a Winchester
in my hands, and I will guarantee to protect things here with the last
drop of my heroic blood."

In this manner it was settled. The sailor remained to guard the camp and
the two pack horses, while the others mounted and rode away into the
valley.

Late in the afternoon they returned, bringing with them a mountain goat
which Merry had shot. As they came in sight of the spot where the tent
had stood they were astonished to see that it was no longer there.

"Look, Frank!" cried Bart, pointing. "The tent is gone!"

"Sure enough," nodded Merriwell grimly. "It's not where we left it."

"What do you suppose has happened?"

"We will soon find out."

Not only had the tent and camping outfit disappeared, but the two pack
horses were missing. Nor was Wiley to be found.

Hodge looked at Merry in blank inquiry.

"Where is this fellow we left to guard our property?" he finally
exclaimed.

"You know as well as I," confessed Frank.

"As a guard over anything, he seems to be a failure."

"We can't tell what has happened to him."

"What has happened to him!" cried Bart. "Why, he has taken French leave,
that's what has happened! He has stolen our horses and piked out of the
valley."

Merry shook his head.

"I don't believe that, Hodge," he said. "I don't think Wiley would do
such a thing."

"Then, why isn't he here?"

"He may have been attacked by enemies."

"If that had been the case, we would see some signs of the struggle. You
can see for yourself that no struggle has taken place here."

"It's true," confessed Merry, "that there seem to be no indications of a
struggle."

"Do you know, Frank, that I never have fully trusted that chap."

"I know, Bart, you made a serious mistake on one occasion by mistrusting
him. You must remember that yourself."

"I do," confessed Hodge, reproved by Merry's words. "All the same, this
disappearance is hard to explain. Our tent and outfit are gone. We're
left here without provisions and without anything. In this condition it
is possible we may starve."

"The condition is serious," Frank acknowledged. "At the same time, I
think it possible Wiley decided this location was dangerous and
transferred the camp to some other place. That's a reasonable
explanation of his disappearance."

"A reasonable one perhaps; but if that had happened! he should be here
on the watch for our return."

"Perhaps we have returned sooner than he expected."

"Well, what's to be done, Merry?"

"We will sit here a while and see if he doesn't turn up. At least, we
can make some sort of a meal off this mountain goat."

"A mighty poor meal it will be!" muttered Hodge disgustedly.

A fire was built, however, and the mountain goat served to appease their
hunger somewhat, although without salt it was far from palatable. There
was plenty of feed and drink for the horses, therefore the animals did
not suffer. In vain they waited for Wiley to return. Afternoon faded
into nightfall and the sailor came not.

"Do you propose to remain here all night, Merry?" inquired Bart.

Frank shook his head.

"I don't think it advisable. We will find another spot."

With the gloom of night upon them, they set out, Frank in the lead. He
had taken notice of a clump of thick timber in another part of the
valley, and toward this he rode. In the timber they ensconced themselves
and prepared to pass the night there. Worthington was strangely silent,
but seemed as docile and as harmless as a child. When all preparations
to spend the night in that spot were made, Frank announced to Bart that
he proposed to go in search of their missing companion.

"What can you do in the night?" questioned Hodge. "You can't find him."

"Perhaps not," said Merry; "but I am going to try."

"I hate to have you do it alone."

"You must remain here to look out for Abe and Worthington."

When this was settled, Merry set out on foot. During their exploration
of the valley he had observed a deep, narrow fissure near the southern
extremity, into which the stream plunged before disappearing into the
underground channel. To him on discovering this it had seemed a possible
hiding place for any one seeking to escape observation. Something caused
him to set his course toward this spot.

An hour later, from a place of concealment high up on a steep bank,
Frank was peering into the fissure. What he discovered there surprised
and puzzled him not a little. On a little level spot close by the stream
a tent had been pitched. Before the tent a small fire was burning, and
squatted around this fire were three persons who seemed to be enjoying
themselves in fancied security. The moment Merry's eyes fell on two of
them he recognized them as having been members of the Terrible Thirty.
They were the ruffians Hank Shawmut and Kip Henry. The third person, who
seemed perfectly at his ease as he reclined on the ground and puffed at
a corn-cob pipe, was Cap'n Wiley!

Was Wiley a traitor? This question, which flashed through Frank's mind,
seemed answered in the affirmative by the behavior of the sailor, who
was chatting on intimate terms with his new associates.

Of course Frank had decided at once that Shawmut and Henry had somehow
learned of his expedition in search of Benson Clark's lost mine and had
followed him. Henry's left hand was swathed in a blood-stained bandage,
the sight of which convinced the watching youth that it was this fellow
who had snatched the map and who afterward had been winged in the
pursuit. In spite of appearances, Frank did not like to believe that
Cap'n Wiley had played him false. From his position he was able to hear
the conversation of the trio, and so he lay still and listened.

"We sartain is all right here fer ter-night," observed Shawmut. "We will
never be disturbed any afore morning."

"Perchance you are right, mate," said the sailor; "but in the morning we
must seek the seclusion of some still more secure retreat. My late
associate, the only and original Frank Merriwell, will be considerable
aroused over what has happened. I am positive it will agitate his
equipoise to a protracted extent. My vivid imagination pictures a look
of supine astonishment on his intellectual countenance when he returns
and finds his whole outfit and little Walter vanished into thin,
pellucid air."

Shawmut laughed hoarsely.

"I certain opine he was knocked silly," he said.

"But he is a bad man," put in Henry. "To-morrow he rakes this valley
with a fine-toothed comb. And he is a heap keerless with his shooting
irons. Look at this yere paw of mine. He done that, and some time I'll
settle with him."

The fellow snarled the final words as he held up his bandaged hand.

"Yes," nodded the sailor, "he has a way of shooting in a most
obstreperous manner. The only thing that is disturbing my mental
placitude is that he may take to the war path in search of my lovely
scalp."

"Confound you!" thought Frank, in great anger. "So you are a traitor,
after all! Hodge was right about you. You're due for a very unpleasant
settlement with me, Cap'n Wiley."

"What binds me to you with links of steel, mates," said the sailor, "is
the fact that you are well supplied with that necessary article of
exuberancy known to the vulgar and unpoetical as tanglefoot. Seems to me
it's a long time between drinks."

"You certain must have a big thirst," observed Shawmut, as he produced a
cold bottle and held it toward the sailor, who immediately arose and
clutched it with both hands.

"Mates, it has been so long since I have looked a drink in the face that
it seems like a total stranger to me. Excuse me while I absorb a small
portion of mountain dew."

His pipe was dropped, and he wiped the mouth of the bottle with his hand
after drawing the cork. He then placed the bottle to his lips and turned
its bottom skyward.

"So it is for that stuff you sell your friends, is it?" thought Frank.

Having remained with his eyes closed and the bottle upturned for some
moments, the sailor finally lowered it and heaved a sigh of mingled
satisfaction and regret.

"My only sorrow," he said, "is that I haven't a neck as long as a
giraffe's. If the giraffe should take to drink, what delight he would
enjoy in feeling the ardent trickle down his oozle! Have something on
me, boys."

He then returned the bottle, and the ruffians drank from it.

"There," said Wiley, picking up his pipe, "my interior anatomy glows
with golden rapture. I am once more myself. Oh, booze, thou art the
comforter of mankind! You cause the poor man to forget his sorrows and
his misfortunes. For him you build bright castles and paint glorious
pictures. For him you remove far away the cares and troubles of life.
You make him a king, even while you make him still more of a pauper. You
give him at first all the joys of the world and at last the delirium
tremens.

"Next to women, you are the best thing and the worst thing in this whole
wide world. Mates, you see I am both a poet and a philosopher. It's no
disparagement to me, for I was born that way, and I can't help it. Ever
since my joyful boyhood days on Negro Island I have looked with a loving
eye on the beauties of nature and on the extracted fluid of the corn.
But what of this world's riches has my mighty intellect and my poetic
soul brought me? I am still a poor man."

"But you won't be long arter we diskeevers this mine," said Shawmut. "If
you sticks by us, we gives you a third share."

"Your generosity overwhelms me. But it must not be forgotten that we yet
have Frank Merriwell to dispose of. It is vain for you to try to
frighten him away from this valley. Last night you attempted it with
your spook trick, but it didn't work."

"What's that?" exclaimed Henry. "What are you talking about?"

"Oh," said the sailor, "you can't deceive little Walter. We heard you
doing that spook turn. But it was time wasted."

Henry and Shawmut exchanged puzzled looks.

"You certain will have to explain what you are driving at," growled
Shawmut.

"Don't you know?"

"None whatever."

"I fear you are still seeking to deceive me."

"Not a bit of it," averred Henry. "Whatever was yer talking about,
Wiley?"

"Why, last eve, after we had partaken of our repast and were disporting
ourselves in comfort on the bosom of mother earth, there came through
the atmosphere above us a singing voice which sang a sweet song all
about dead men and such things. Afterward the voice warned us to hoist
anchor, set sail, and get out of this port. It claimed to be the voice
of Benson Clark, the man who first found the mine here, and who was
afterward shot full of holes by some amusement-seeking redskins. I
surely fancied you were concerned in that little joke, mates."

Both the ruffians shook their heads.

"We has nothing to do with it," denied Shawmut.

"Well, now it is indeed a deep, dark mystery," observed the sailor. "Do
you suppose, mates, that the spook of Benson Clark is lingering in this
vicinity?"

"We takes no stock in spooks," asserted Henry.

"And thus you show your deep logical sense," slowly nodded the sailor.
"I congratulate you; but the mystery of that voice is unsolved, and it
continues to perplex me."

The listening man high up on the embankment was also perplexed. If
Shawmut and Henry knew nothing of the mysterious warning voice, the
enigma was still unsolved. As he thought of this matter, Merry soon
decided that these ruffians had spoken the truth in denying all
knowledge of the affair. These men talked in the rough dialect of their
kind. The unseen singer had not used that dialect; and, therefore, the
mystery of the valley remained a mystery still.

Frank continued to watch and listen.

"It's no spook we're worried about," declared Henry. "If we dispose of
this yere Merriwell, we will be all right. With you ter help us, Wiley,
we oughter do the trick."

"Sure, sure," agreed the sailor.

"Thar is three of us," said Shawmut, "and that certain makes us more
than a match for them. The kid and the crazy galoot don't count. We has
only Merriwell and Hodge to buck against."

"They are quite enough, mates--quite enough," put in the sailor. "We
will have to get up early in the morning to get ahead of them."

"This yere Merriwell certain is no tenderfoot," agreed Shawmut.

Wiley arose and slapped the speaker on the shoulder in a friendly,
familiar manner.

"Now you're talking," he nodded. "He is a bad man with a record longer
than your arm. I have dealt with hundreds of them, however; and I think
my colossal brain will be more than a match for him. Did you ever hear
how I got the best of Bat Masterson? It's a thrilling tale. Listen and I
will unfold it to you. You know Bat was the real thing. Beyond question,
he was the worst bad man that ever perambulated the border. Yet I
humbled him to his knees and made him beg for mercy. That was some
several years ago. At that time--"

Wiley was fairly launched on one of his yarns, but at that moment Frank
Merriwell heard a slight movement and attempted to turn quickly, when he
was given a thrust by a powerful pair of hands, which hurled him forward
from the embankment and sent him whirling down toward the tent below.

Frank struck on the tent, which served to break his fall somewhat, but
he was temporarily stunned. When he recovered, he found himself bound
hand and foot and his three captors surveying him by the light of the
fire.

"Well, wouldn't it jar you!" exclaimed the sailor. "It was almost too
easy. Why, mates, he must 'a' been up there listening to our innocent
conversation, and somehow he lost his hold and took a tumble."

Shawmut laughed hoarsely.

"It was a mighty bad tumble for him," he said. "He falls right into our
paws, and we has him foul. Now we're all right. Talk about luck; this is
it!"

Kip Henry shook his wounded and bandaged hand before Frank's eyes.

"You did that, hang you!" he snarled. "Now you gits paid fer it!"

As the ruffian uttered these words he placed a hand on his revolver and
seemed on the point of shooting the helpless captive.

"Wait a minute, mate," urged Wiley. "Let's not be too hasty. There are
three of us here, and I have a sagacious opinion that any one of us will
take morbid pleasure in putting Mr. Merriwell out of his misery. I
propose that we draw lots to see who will do the little job."

"You seem mighty anxious to take a hand at it!" growled Henry.

"I wish to prove my readiness to stand by you through thick and thin,"
asserted the sailor. "In this way I shall win your absolute confidence.
Should it fall on me to do this unpleasant task, you will see the job
most scientifically done."

As he made this assertion Wiley laughed in a manner that seemed wholly
heartless and brutal.

"I didn't think it of you, cap'n!" exclaimed Frank.

"That's all right," returned the sailor brazenly. "I'm a solicitor of
fortune; I am out for the dust. These gents here have assured me that I
shall have a third interest in the mine when it is located. Every bird
feathers its own nest. I have a chance to feather mine, and I don't
propose to lose the opportunity. If the task devolves upon me to
transport you to the shining shore, rest easy in the assurance that I'll
do a scientific job. I will provide you in short order with a pair of
wings."

"That's the talk!" chuckled Shawmut. "How does we settle who does it?"

"Have you a pack of cards?" inquired Wiley.

"Sartin," said Shawmut, fishing in his pocket and producing a greasy
pack. "We has 'em."

"Then I propose that we cut. The one who gets the lowest does the
trick."

That was agreed to, and a moment later the cards had been shuffled and
placed on a flat stone near the fire. Henry cut first and exposed a
king.

"That lets you out," said the sailor. "I can beat that. Come ahead, Mate
Shawmut."

Shawmut cut and turned up a trey.

"I reckon I'm the one," he said.

Then Wiley cut the cards and held up in the firelight a deuce!

Both Henry and Shawmut uttered exclamations.

"Well, you has your wish," said the latter. "Now it's up to you to go
ahead with the business."

Wiley actually smiled.

"Let me take your popgun, mate," he said, extending his hand toward
Henry. "Mine is a little too small to do the trick properly."

Henry handed over his pistol.

Wiley examined it critically, finally shaking his head.

"It's a mighty poor gun for a man of your standing to carry, mate," he
asserted. "Perhaps you have a better one, Shawmut? Let me see."

Shawmut also gave up his pistol.

Having a revolver in each hand, Cap'n Wiley cocked them both.

"They seem to be in good working order," he said. "I should fancy either
of them would kill a man quicker than he could wink his eye."

"You bet your boots!" said Henry.

"That being the case," observed Wiley, "I will now proceed to business."

Then, to the surprise of the two ruffians, he leveled the pistols
straight at them.

"Now, you double-and-twisted yeller dogs!" he cried, "if you so much as
wiggle your little finger, I will perforate both of you! I have the
pleasure to inform you that I am a fancy pistol shot, and I think I can
soak you with about six bullets each before you can say skat."

The astounded ruffians were taken completely by surprise.

"What in blazes does you mean?" snarled Shawmut.

"I mean business," declared the sailor. "Did you low-born whelps think
that Cap'n Wiley would go back on his old side pard, Frank Merriwell? If
you fancied such a thing for the fraction of a momentous moment, you
deceived yourselves most erroneously. Now you keep still where you are,
for I give you my sworn statement that I will shoot at the first move
either of you make."

As Wiley said this he stepped close to Frank, beside whom he knelt, at
the same time keeping the ruffians covered. He placed one of the
revolvers on the ground and drew his hunting knife. With remarkable
swiftness he severed the cords which held Frank helpless.

"Pick up that shooting iron, Merry," he directed. "I rather think we
have these fine chaps just where we want them."

Frank lost no time in obeying, and the tables were completely turned on
Shawmut and Henry.

"Stand up, you thugs!" ordered Merry. "Stand close together, and be
careful what you do."

Infuriated beyond measure, they obeyed, for they were in mortal terror
of their lives.

"Take those ropes, Wiley, and tie their hands behind their backs,"
directed Frank.

"With the greatest pleasure," laughed the sailor. And he proceeded to do
so.

When the ruffians were thus bound Merry turned to Wiley, whose hand he
grasped.

"Cap'n, forgive me!" he cried. "I was mistaken in you. I couldn't
believe it possible; still, everything was against you. How did it
happen?"

"A few words will clear up my seeming unworthiness," said the sailor.
"When you departed to-day I found everything calm, and peaceful, and
serene about the camp, and, after smoking my pipe a while, I fell asleep
beside the tent. When I awoke these fine gentlemen had me. They
proceeded to tie me up to the queen's taste. Seeing my predicament, I
made no resistance. I permitted them to do just as they liked. I
depended on my tongue, which has never failed me, to get me out of the
predicament, I saw them gather up the outfit, pack it on the horses and
prepare to remove it. During this I craftily assured them that I would
gleefully embrace the opportunity to join issues with them.

"It's needless to enter into details, but they decided that it was best
to let me linger yet a while on this mundane sphere while thinking my
proposition over. So I was brought thither, along with the goods and
chattels, and I further succeeded in satisfying them that they could
trust me. It was my object, when I found they were well supplied with
corn juice, to get them both helplessly intoxicated, after which I hoped
to capture them alone and unaided. Your sudden tumble into this little
nest upset my plans in that direction, but everything has worked out
handsomely."



CHAPTER VI.

WILEY MEETS MISS FORTUNE.


When they returned with their captives and the stolen horses and outfit
to the timber in which Frank had left Hodge and the others it was
learned that Worthington had disappeared. In vain they searched for him.
He had slipped away without attracting Hodge's attention, and he failed
to answer their calls. In the morning the search was continued. They
returned to their former camping place at the head of the valley where
the mysterious voice had been heard, and there Frank finally discovered
some rude steps in the face of the cliff, by which he mounted to an
opening which proved to be the mouth of a cave.

There were evidences that this cave had been occupied by some person.
Merry saw at once that this unknown person might have been in the mouth
of the cave at the time the mysterious voice was heard, and that beyond
question he was the singer and the one who had warned them.

It was midday when Worthington was found. They discovered him in a
thicket, locked fast in the arms of another man, whose clothes were
ragged and torn, and who looked like a hermit or a wild man. The thicket
in that vicinity was smashed and broken, and betrayed evidences of a
fierce struggle. Worthington's hands were fastened on the stranger's
throat, and both men were stone-dead.

"I know that man!" cried Merry, in astonishment. "I met him in Holbrook
last spring. I told him of Benson Clark's death. He was once Clark's
partner. Since that time he must have searched for Clark's mine and made
his way to this valley. This explains the mystery. This explains how he
knew me and knew of Benson Clark."

"Yes, that explains it," nodded Hodge. "But now, Frank--what are we to
do?"

"We will give these poor fellows decent burial, and after that----"

"After that--what?"

"Shawmut and Henry must be turned over to the law. We must dispose of
them as soon as possible. Then there will be plenty of time to return
here and locate Benson Clark's lost mine."

And that plan was carried out. In a few days Frank Merriwell, Bart
Hodge, Cap'n Wiley and little Abe rode into Prescott, Arizona, escorting
their captives, whom they turned over to the officers of the law. Merry
was ready to make a serious charge against the men, but, after listening
to his story, the city official said:

"Better not trouble yourself about it, Mr. Merriwell. Those chaps are
old offenders! They have been wanted for some time for stage robbing,
horse stealing, and for the malicious murder of a man in Crown King and
another in Cherry. Did you ever hear of Spike Riley?"

"Seems to me," said Frank, "I have heard of him as a bad man who was
associated with the Kid Grafton gang."

"Well, sir, this chap you call Shawmut is Spike Riley. Since then little
has been heard from him. I am glad to get my hands on him."

"Then I'll leave him to your gentle care," said Frank, with a smile.
"You will relieve me of further bother on his part. As for Henry----"

"Henry!" laughed the official. "Why, he's got a record pretty nearly as
bad as that of Riley. He is known down in Northern Mexico as one Lobo,
and he has been concerned with Juan Colorado in some few raids. I think
there is a reward offered for both of these men. In that case I presume
you will claim it, sir."

Cap'n Wiley, who had listened with his head cocked on one side and a
peculiar look in his eyes, now coughed suggestively. Frank glanced at
the sailor and smiled.

"In case there is a reward, sir," he said, "it belongs to this
gentleman."

As he rested a hand on Wiley's shoulder the latter threw out his chest
and swelled up like a toad taking in air.

"Thanks, mate," he said. "My modesty would have prevented me from
mentioning such a trifling matter."

"Oh, I will give you all the credit that's your due, cap'n," assured
Merry. "You pulled me out of a bad pickle and tricked those ruffians
very handsomely."

"That will do, that will do," said the sailor. "Let it go at that,
Frank, old side partner. It is as natural for me to do such things as
for the sweet flowers to open in the blooming spring. I never think
anything about them after I do them. I never mention them to a soul.
Why, if I were to relate half of the astounding things that have
happened to me some people might suspect me of telling what is not
strictly true. That's what binds my tongue to silence. That's why I
never speak of myself. Some day my history will be written up, and I
shall get great glory even though I do not collect a royalty."

"This is a pretty good thing, Merry," said Hodge. "It relieves you of
all responsibility in regard to those ruffians, and you can now go about
your business."

In this manner it was settled, and Frank left the two ruffians to be
locked up in the Prescott jail.

Rooms were obtained at the best hotel in the place, and both Frank and
Bart proceeded without delay to "spruce up." Having bathed, and shaved,
and obtained clean clothes, they felt decidedly better.

It was useless for Cap'n Wiley to indulge in such needless trouble, as
he regarded it.

"This is not my month to bathe," he murmured, as he sat with his feet on
the sill of Frank's window and puffed leisurely at a cigar. "Besides, I
am resting now. I find myself on the verge of nervous prostration, and
therefore I need rest. Later I may blossom forth and take the town by
surprise."

Later he did. Although he had jocosely stated that it was not his month
to bathe, he indulged in such a luxury before nightfall, was shaved at a
barber's shop and purchased a complete outfit of clothes at a clothing
store. He even contemplated buying a silk hat, but finally gave this up
when he found that silk hats of the latest style were decidedly scarce
in Prescott. When he swaggered into Frank's room, where Merry and Hodge
were holding a consultation, they both surveyed him in surprise.

"I am the real thing now," he declared.

"What has brought about this sudden change on your part?" questioned
Frank.

"Hush!" said the sailor. "Breathe it softly. When I sat by yonder window
musing on my variegated career I beheld passing on the street a charming
maiden. I had not fancied there could be such a fair creature in this
town. When I beheld her my being glowed. I decided that it was up to me
to shed my coat of dust and grime and adorn myself. I have resolved to
make my ontray into the midst of society here."

"But aren't you going back with us to the Mazatzals?" questioned Merry.

"When do you contemplate such a thing?"

"We expect to leave to-morrow."

"Why this agitated haste?"

"You know we've not definitely located Benson Clark's lost claim,
although we feel certain it must be in the Enchanted Valley or in that
vicinity. We're going back to prospect for that mine. If you return with
us and we discover it, of course you will have an interest in it."

"Thanks for your thoughtful consideration, mate. At the same time, it
seems to me that I have had about enough prospecting to do me for a
while."

"Do you mean that you're not going with us?" exclaimed Hodge, in
surprise. "Why, if we discover that mine it may make you rich!"

"Well, I will think the matter over with all due seriousness," said
Wiley easily. "I know you will miss my charming society if I don't go."

"It may be the chance of your lifetime," said Merry.

"I'm not worrying about that. Wherever I go, Dame Fortune is bound to
smile upon me. I have a mash on that old girl. She seems to like my
style."

"I think you will make a mistake, Wiley, if you don't go," asserted
Frank.

"Possibly so; but I've made so many mistakes in the brief span of my
legitimate life that one or two more will hardly ruffle me. If I have to
confess the truth to you, that valley is to me a ghastly and turgid
memory. When I think of it I seem to hear ghostly voices, and I remember
Worthington raving and ranting about death and destruction, and I
picture him as we discovered him in the thicket, dead in the clutch of
another dead man. These things are grewsome to me, and I fain would
forget them."

"All right, cap'n," said Frank; "you are at liberty to do as you like."

Then he and Bart continued arranging their plans.

That evening Wiley disappeared. Frank and Bart left little Abe at the
hotel and went out to "see the sights." In the biggest gambling place of
the town they found the sailor playing roulette. Wiley had a streak of
luck, and he was hitting the bank hard. Around him had gathered a crowd
to watch his plunging, and the coolness with which he won large sums of
money commanded their admiration.

"It's nothing, mates," he declared--"merely nothing. When I was at Monte
Carlo I won eleventeen thousand pesoses, or whatever they call them, at
one turn of the wheel. Such a streak of luck caused the croupier to die
of apoplexy, broke the bank, and put the Prince of Monte Carlo out of
business for twenty-four hours. The next day the prince came to me and
besought me to leave the island. He declared that if I played again he
feared he would die in the poorhouse. As it was, he found it necessary
to mortgage the Casino in order to raise skads to continue in business.
To-night I am merely amusing myself. Five thousand on the red."

"Well, what do you think of that?" asked Hodge in Frank's ear.

"I think," said Frank, "that it is about time for Cap'n Wiley to cash in
and stop playing."

He pushed his way through the throng and reached the sailor.

"Now is the time for you to stop," said Frank in Wiley's ear, speaking
in a low tone, in order not to attract attention, for he knew such
advice would not be relished by the proprietor and might get him into
trouble.

"Never fear about me, mate," returned the sailor serenely. "Ere morning
dawns I shall own this place. Talk about your gold mines! Why, this
beats them all!"

"It's a wise man who knows when to stop," said Frank.

"It's a wise man who knows how to work a streak clean through to the
finish," was the retort. "I have my luck with me to-night, and the world
is mine. In the morning I shall build a fence around it."

"Red wins," quietly announced the croupier.

"You observe how easy it is, I presume," said Wiley, smiling. "I can't
help it. It's as natural as breathing."

Frank saw that it was useless to argue with the sailor, and so he and
Hodge left him still playing, while they strolled through the place.
There was a dance hall connected, which provided amusement for them a
while, although neither danced. Barely half an hour passed before Frank,
who was somewhat anxious about Wiley, returned to note how Wiley was
getting along.

Luck had turned, and Wiley was losing steadily. Still he continued to
bet with the same harebrained carelessness, apparently perfectly
confident that his bad luck could not keep up.

"He will go broke within twenty minutes if he sticks to it, Frank," said
Hodge.

Merry nodded.

"That's right," he agreed; "but he won't listen to advice. If we attempt
to get him away, we will simply kick up a disturbance and find ourselves
in a peck of trouble. Even if he should cash in now and quit ahead of
the game, he'd come back to it and lose all he's won. Therefore we may
as well let him alone."

They did so, and Bart's prophecy came true. The sailor's reckless
betting lowered his pile so that it seemed to melt like dew before the
sun. Finally he seemed to resolve on a grand stroke, and he bet
everything before him on the red.

The little ball clicked and whirred in the whirling wheel. The
spectators seemed breathless as they watched for the result of that
plunge. Slower and slower grew the revolutions of the wheel. The ball
spun around on its rim like a cork on the water. At length it dropped.

"He wins!" panted an excited man.

"No--see!" exclaimed another.

The ball had bobbed out of its pocket and spun on again.

"Lost!" was the cry, as it finally settled and rested securely in a
pocket.

Wiley swallowed down a lump in his throat as the man behind the table
raked in the wager.

"Excuse me," said the sailor, rising. "I hope you will pardon me while I
go drown myself. Can any one direct me to a tub of tanglefoot?"

As he left the table, knowing now that it would cause no disturbance,
Frank grasped his arm and again advised him to leave the place.

"I admit to you," said Wiley, "that I was mistaken when I stated that I
had a mash on Dame Fortune. I have discovered that it was her daughter,
Miss Fortune. Leave me--leave me to my fate! I shall now attempt to lap
up all the liquids in the place, and in the morning I'll have a large
aching head."

Frank insisted, however, and his command led Wiley reluctantly to permit
them to escort him from the place.

"I might read you a lecture on the evils of gambling, cap'n," said
Merry; "but I shall not do so to-night. It strikes me that you have
learned your lesson."

"It is only one of many such lessons," sighed the sailor. "By this time
I should have them by heart, but somehow I seem to forget them. I wish
to tell you a secret that I have held buried in my bosom these many
years. It is this:

"Somewhere about my machinery there is a screw loose. In vain I have
sought to find it. I know it is there just as well as I know that I am
Cap'n Wiley. Now, you are a perfect piece of machinery, with everything
tight, and firm, and well oiled, and polished. As an example you are the
real thing. Perhaps to-morrow I may conclude to follow in your
footsteps. Just tuck me in my little bed and leave me to dreamy
slumber."

After being left in his room, however, Wiley did not remain long in bed.
Knowing they would not suspect such a thing of him, he arose, and
dressed, and returned to the gambling house. When morning came he was
not only broke, but he had pawned everything of value in his possession
and was practically destitute.

"Well," said Merry, having discovered the cap'n's condition, "I presume
now you will return with us to the Mazatzals?"

"No use," was the answer; "I shall stay here in Prescott. I have my eye
on a good thing. Don't worry about me."

It was useless to urge him, for he persisted in his determination to
stay there. And so before leaving Frank made some final arrangements
with him.

"I have wired for my mail to be forwarded here, Wiley," he said. "If
anything of importance comes, anything marked to be delivered in haste,
I wish you would see that it reaches me. Cannot you do so?"

"Depend upon me, Frank," assured the sailor. "I will not fail you in
this. But before departing it seems to me that you should make
arrangements that any such message be delivered into my hands."

"I will do so," said Merry. "Now, see here, cap'n, I don't like to leave
you strapped in this town. At the same time, I don't care to let you
have money of mine to gamble with. If I provide you with some loose
change, will you give me your word not to use it in gambling?"

"Your generosity is almost ignoble!" exclaimed Wiley. "However, I accept
it in the same manner that it is tendered. I give you my word."

"Well, that goes with me," nodded Merry. "Before leaving I shall see
that you are fixed with ready money."



CHAPTER VII.

A STARTLING TELEGRAM.


Sunset in the Enchanted Valley. Below the little waterfall which plunged
down into the fissure at the southern end of the valley Frank and Bart
had toiled hard all through the day. Their sleeves were rolled up and
their clothes mud-bespattered. There they had worked in the sandy soil
near the stream, and there they had found the shining stuff for which
they sought. Every panful was carefully washed in the stream, showing
dull yellow grains in the bottom when the last particles remained.

Not far away, on the level of the valley above them, set near the
stream, was their tent. In front of it little Abe was building a fire
and was seeking to prepare supper for them, knowing they would be
ravenously hungry when they quit work for the night. At intervals the
cripple hobbled to the brink of the fissure and looked down at them as
they toiled.

No one had troubled them since their return to the valley. No longer did
the place seem enchanted or mysterious. All the mysteries were solved,
and it lay sleeping and silent amid that vast mountainous solitude.

"Well, Bart," said Frank, as he dropped his spade, "it seems to me that
the thing is done to our satisfaction. At the northern end of the valley
we have found Clark's quartz claim, and the specimens we have taken from
it seem decidedly promising. Here we have located this placer, and we
know from what we have washed out that it is rich and will prove
extremely valuable while it lasts. Now it's up to us to register our
claims and open them for operation in the proper manner. We ought to be
satisfied."

"Satisfied!" exclaimed Bart. "You bet I am satisfied! What if I had
remained in Boston, Merry? Why, I would be plugging away to-day on a
poor paying job, with decidedly poor prospects ahead of me. It was a
most fortunate thing for me when I decided to stick by you and come
West."

Frank smiled.

"It was lucky, Hodge," he agreed. "But I don't forget that you came
without a selfish thought on your part. You came to help me in my fight
against Milton Sukes. I am far better pleased for your sake than for my
own that we have had this streak of luck. Let's knock off for the night,
old man. There's no reason why we should stick to it longer."

As they were climbing from the fissure by the narrow and difficult path,
little Abe came rushing excitedly to the brink above and called to them.

"Come quick! Come quick!" he cried.

"What's the matter, Abe?" asked Frank, alarmed by the boy's manner.

"Somebody's coming," said the hunchback; "a man on a horse. He is coming
right this way. He has seen the tent!"

"We may have some trouble after all, Merry," said Hodge.

Ere they could reach the head of the path near the waterfall they
plainly heard the thudding hoofs of the horse coming rapidly in that
direction. When they had reached the level ground above they beheld the
horseman approaching. It seemed that he observed them at the same time,
for he suddenly waved his hat in the air and gave a yell.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Merry, "I know him! It is Wiley!"

"Right you are!" agreed Hodge. "What the dickens could have brought him
here at this time?"

"Perhaps he has some message for me. You know I made arrangements with
him to bring any message of importance."

The sailor drew up his horse as he approached.

"Ahoy there, mates!" he cried. "At last I have struck port, although I'd
begun to wonder if I'd ever find it. This confounded old valley has
moved since I was here last. I thought I knew just where it was, but I
have spent two whole days cruising around in search of it."

"Hello, cap'n!" said Frank. "You're just in time for supper."

"Supper!" exclaimed the sailor. "Say it again! Supper! Why, I have been
living on condensed air for the last twenty-four hours. Look at me! I am
so thin and emaciated that I can't cast a shadow. Hungry! Mates, a
bootleg stew would be a culinary luxury to me. I will introduce ravage
and devastation among your provisions. This morning I found an empty
tomato can and another that once contained deviled ham, and I lunched
off them. They were rather hard to digest, but they were better than
nothing."

He sprang down from his horse, which betrayed evidence of hard usage.

"How did you happen to come?" asked Merry.

Wiley fumbled in his pocket and brought forth a telegram.

"I believe I made arrangements to deliver anything of importance
directed to you," he said. "This dispatch arrived in Prescott, and I
lost no time in starting to fulfill my compact."

Merry took the telegram and quickly tore it open. There was a look of
anxiety on his face when he had read its contents.

"Anything serious the matter?" asked Hodge.

"It's a message from my brother, Dick," answered Frank. "You know I
wired him to address his letters to Prescott. He didn't stop to send a
letter. Instead he sent this telegram. You know Felicia Delores, Dick's
cousin, with whom he was brought up? The climate of the East did not
agree with her, therefore I provided a home for her in San Diego,
California, where she could attend school. Dick has learned that she is
ill and in trouble. He wants me to go to her at once."

"What will you do?" asked Hodge.

"I must go," said Frank quietly.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Frank mounted the steps of a modern residence, standing on a palm-lined
street in San Diego, and rang the bell. He was compelled to ring twice
more before the door was opened by a sleepy-looking Mongolian.

"I wish to see Mr. Staples at once," said Merry. "Is he home?"

"Mistal Staple not home," was the serene answer, as the Chinaman moved
to close the door.

Frank promptly blocked this movement with a foot and leg.

"Don't be so hasty," he said sharply. "If Mr. Staples is not home, where
can I find him?"

"No tellee. Velly solly."

"Then I must see Mrs. Staples," persisted Merry.

"She velly sick. Velly solly. She can't slee anyblody."

"Well, you take her my card," directed Merry, as he took out a card-case
and tendered his card to the yellow-skinned servant.

"No take cald. She tellee me no bothal her. Go 'way. Come
bimeby--to-mollow."

"Now, look here, you son of the Flowery Kingdom," exclaimed Merry, "I am
going to see Mrs. Staples immediately, if she's in condition to see
anyone. If you don't take her my card, you will simply compel me to
intrude without being announced."

"Bold, blad man!" chattered the Chinaman, with growing fear. "I callee
police; have you 'lested."

"You're too thick-headed for the position you hold!" exasperatedly
declared Merry. "Take my card to Mrs. Staples instantly, and she will
see me as soon as she reads my name, Frank Merriwell, upon it."

"Flank Mellowell!" almost shouted the Celestial. "You Flank Mellowell?
Clome light in, quickee! Mladam, she expectee you."

The door was flung open now, and Frank entered.

"Well, you have come to your senses at last!" he said.

"You no undelstand. Blad men velly thick. Blad men make velly glate
tloubal. Little glil she glone; mladam she cly velly much, velly much!"

"Hustle yourself!" ordered Frank. "Don't stand there chattering like a
monkey. Hurry up!"

"Hully velly flast," was the assurance, as the Mongolian turned and
toddled away at a snail's pace, leaving Frank in the reception room.

A few moments later there was a rustle of skirts, and a middle-aged
woman, whose face was pale and eyes red and who carried a handkerchief
in her hand, came down the stairs and found him waiting.

"Oh, Mr. Merriwell!" she exclaimed, the moment she saw him. "So it's
really you! So you have come! We didn't know where to reach you, and so
we wired your brother. He wired back that he had dispatched you and that
he thought you would come without delay."

Her agitation and distress were apparent.

"Felicia," questioned Frank huskily; "what of her?"

"Oh, I can't tell you--I can't tell you!" choked the woman, placing the
handkerchief to her eyes. "It's so dreadful!"

"Tell me, Mrs. Staples, at once," said Frank, immediately cool and
self-controlled. "Don't waste time, please. What has happened to
Felicia? Where is she?"

"She's gone!" came in a muffled voice from behind the handkerchief.

"Gone--where?"

The agitated woman shook her head.

"No one knows. No one can tell! Oh, it's a terrible thing, Mr.
Merriwell!"

"Where is Mr. Staples?" questioned Frank, thinking he might succeed far
better in obtaining the facts from the woman's husband.

"That I don't know. He is searching for her. He, too, has been gone
several days. I heard from him once. He was then in Warner, away up in
the mountains."

Merry saw that he must learn the truth from the woman.

"Mrs. Staples," he said, "please tell me everything in connection with
this singular affair. It's the only way that you can be of immediate
assistance. You know I am quite in the dark, save for such information
as I received from my brother's telegram. It informed me that Felicia
was in trouble and in danger. What sort of trouble or what sort of
danger threatens her, I was not told. In order for me to do anything I
must know the facts immediately."

"It was nearly a month ago," said Mrs. Staples, "that we first
discovered anything was wrong. Felicia had not been very well for some
time. She's so frail and delicate! It has been my custom each night
before retiring to look in upon her to see if she was comfortable and
all right. One night, as I entered her room, light in hand, I was nearly
frightened out of my senses to see a man standing near her bed. He saw
me or heard me even before I saw him. Like a flash he whirled and sprang
out of the window to the veranda roof, from which he easily escaped to
the ground.

"I obtained barely a glimpse of him, and I was so frightened at the time
that I could not tell how he looked. Felicia seemed to be sleeping
soundly at the time, and didn't awake until I gave a cry that aroused
her and the whole house as well. I never had a thought then that the man
meant her harm. She was so innocent and helpless it seemed no one would
dream of harming her. I took him for a burglar who had entered the house
by the way of her window. After that we took pains to have her window
opened only a short space, and tightly locked in that position, so that
it could not be opened further from the outside without smashing it and
alarming some one. I was thankful we had escaped so easily, and my
husband felt sure there would be no further cause for worry. He said
that, having been frightened off in such a manner, the burglar was not
liable to return.

"Somehow it seemed to me that Felicia was still more nervous and pale
after that. She seemed worried about something, but whenever I
questioned her she protested she was not. The doctor came to see her
several times, but he could give her nothing that benefited her. I
continued my practice of looking in at her each night before retiring.
One night, a week later, after going to bed, something--I don't know
what--led me to rise again and go to her room. Outside her door I paused
in astonishment, for I distinctly heard her voice, and she seemed to be
in conversation with some one. I almost fancied I heard another voice,
but was not certain about that. I pushed open the door and entered.
Felicia was kneeling by her partly opened window, and she gave a great
start when I came in so quickly. A moment later I fancied I heard a
sound as of some one or something dropping from the roof upon the
ground.

"I was so astonished that I scarcely knew what to say. 'Felicia!' I
exclaimed. 'What were you doing at that window?'

"'Oh, I was getting a breath of the cool night air,' she answered. 'With
my window partly closed it is almost stuffy in here. Sometimes I can't
seem to breathe.'

"'But I heard you talking, child,' I declared. 'Who were you talking
to?'

"'I talk to myself sometimes, auntie, you know,' she said, in her
innocent way. She always called me auntie. I confess, Mr. Merriwell,
that I was completely deceived. This came all the more natural because
Felicia was such a frank, open-hearted little thing, and I'd never known
her to deceive me in the slightest. I decided that my imagination had
led me to believe I heard another voice than her own, and also had
caused me to fancy that some one had dropped from the roof of the
veranda. After that, however, I was uneasy. And my uneasiness was
increased by the fact that the child seemed to grow steadily worse
instead of better.

"Often I dreamed of her and of the man I had seen in her room. One night
I dreamed that a terrible black shadow was hanging over her and had
reached out huge clawlike hands to clutch her. That dream awoke me in
the middle of the night, and I could not shake off the impression that
some danger menaced her. With this feeling on me I slipped out of bed,
lighted a candle, and again proceeded to her room. This time I was
astonished once more to hear her talking as if in conversation with some
one. But now I knew that, unless I was dreaming or bewitched, I also
heard another voice than her own--that of a man. My bewilderment was so
great that I forgot caution and flung her door wide open. The light of
the candle showed her sitting up in bed, while leaning on the footboard
was a dark-faced man with a black-pointed mustache. I screamed, and, in
my excitement, dropped the candle, which was extinguished. I think I
fainted, for Mr. Staples found me in a dazed condition just outside
Felicia's door. She was bending over me, but when I told her of the man
I had seen and when she was questioned, she behaved in a most singular
manner. Not a word would she answer. Had she denied everything I might
have fancied it all a grewsome dream. I might have fancied I'd walked in
my sleep and dreamed of seeing a man there, for he was gone when my
husband reached the spot.

"She would deny nothing, however, and what convinced us beyond question
that some one had been in her room was the fact that the window was
standing wide open. After that we changed her room to another part of
the house and watched her closely. Although we persisted in urging her
to tell everything, not a word could we get from her. Then it was that
Mr. Staples wired Richard, your brother.

"Three days later Felicia disappeared. She vanished in the daytime, when
every one supposed her to be safe in the house. No one saw her go out.
She must have slipped out without being observed. Of course we notified
the police as soon as we were sure she was gone, and the city was
searched for her. Oh! it is a terrible thing, Mr. Merriwell; but she has
not been found! Mr. Staples believes he has found traces of her, and
that's why he is now away from home. That's all I can tell you. I hope
you will not think we were careless or neglected her. She was the last
child in the world to do such a thing. I can't understand it. I think
she must have been bewitched."

Frank had listened quietly to this story, drinking in every word, the
expression on his face failing to show how much it affected him.

"I am sure it was no fault of yours, Mrs. Staples," he said.

"But what do you think has happened to her? She was too young to be led
into an intrigue with a man. Still, I----"

"You mustn't suspect her of that, Mrs. Staples!" exclaimed Merry.
"Whatever has happened, I believe it was not the child's fault. When I
placed her in your hands, you remember, I hinted to you of the fact that
there was a mystery connected with her father's life, and that he was an
outcast nobleman of Spain. Where he is now I cannot say. I last saw him
in Fardale. He was then hunted by enemies, and he disappeared and has
never been heard from since. I believe it was his intention to seek some
spot where he would be safe from annoyance and could lead his enemies to
believe he was dead. I believe this mystery which hung like a shadow
over him has fallen at last on little Felicia. I would that I had known
something of this before, that I might have arrived here sooner. I think
Felicia would have trusted me--I am sure of it!"

"But now--now?"

"Now," said Frank grimly, shaking his head, "now I must find her. You
say you heard from your husband, who was then in a place called Warner?"

"Yes."

"Then he may have tracked her thus far. It's a start on the trail."

Mrs. Staples placed a trembling hand on Frank's sleeve.

"If you find her--the moment you find her," she pleaded, "let me know.
Remember I shall be in constant suspense until I hear from you."

"Depend upon me to let you know," assured Frank.

A moment later he was descending the steps. He walked swiftly along the
palm-lined streets, revolving in his mind the perplexing problem with
which he was confronted. Seemingly he was buried in deep thought and
quite oblivious of his surroundings. As he passed around a corner into
another street he glanced back without turning his head. Already he had
noted that another man was walking rapidly in the same direction, and
this sidelong glance gave him a glimpse of the man.

Three corners he turned, coming at length to the main street of the
city. There he turned about a moment later and was face to face with the
man who had been following him. This chap would have passed on, but
Frank promptly stepped out and confronted him. He saw a small, wiry,
dark-skinned individual, on whose right cheek there was a triangular
scar.

"I beg your pardon," said Merry.

"_Si, señor_," returned the man with the scar, lifting his eyebrows in
apparent surprise.

"You seem very interested in me," said Merry quietly. "But I wish to
tell you something for your own benefit. It is dangerous for you to
follow me, and you had better quit it. That's all. _Adios!_"

"_Carramba!_" muttered the man, glaring at Frank's back as Merriwell
again strode away.



CHAPTER VIII.

FELIPE DULZURA.


Frank did not find Rufus Staples at Warner. He had been there, however,
and gone; but no one seemed to know where. The afternoon of a sunny day
found Merry mounted on a fine horse, emerging from the mountains into a
black valley that was shut in on either side by savage peaks. Through
this valley lay a faint trail winding over the sand and through the
forests of hideous cactus and yucca trees.

He had not journeyed many miles along this trail ere he drew up. Turning
his horse about, he took a powerful pair of field glasses from a case
and adjusted them over his eyes. With their aid he surveyed the trail
behind him as far as it could be seen.

"I thought I was not mistaken," he muttered, as his glasses showed him a
mounted man coming steadily along from the foothills of the mountains.
"I wonder if he is the gentleman with the scarred cheek. I think I will
wait and see."

He dismounted and waited beside the trail for the horseman to approach.
The man came on steadily and unhesitatingly and finally discovered Frank
lingering there. Like Merry, the stranger was well mounted, and his
appearance seemed to indicate that there was Spanish blood in his veins.
He had a dark, carefully trimmed Van Dyke beard and was carelessly
rolling a cigarette when he appeared in plain view. His clothing was
plain and serviceable.

Merry stood beside his horse and watched the stranger draw near. Frank's
hand rested lightly on his hip close to the butt of his holstered
revolver, but the unknown made no offensive move. Instead of that he
called, in a pleasant, musical voice:

"Good-day, sir. I have overtaken you at last. I saw you in advance, and
I hastened somewhat."

"Did you, indeed?" retorted Merry, with a faint smile. "I fancied you
were coming after me in a most leisurely manner. But, then, I suppose
that's what you call hurrying in this country."

"Oh, we never rush and exhaust ourselves after the manner of the East,"
was the smiling declaration, as the handsome stranger struck a match and
lighted the cigarette.

Although Frank was confident the man was a Spaniard, he spoke with
scarcely a hint of an accent. In his speech, if not in his manner, he
was more like an American.

"Seems rather singular," questioned Frank, "that you should be traveling
alone through this desolate region."

"The same question in reference to you has been troubling me, sir,"
retorted the stranger, puffing lightly at his cigarette. "To me it seems
altogether remarkable to find you here."

"In that case, we are something of a mystery to each other."

"Very true. As far as I am concerned, the mystery is easily solved. My
name is Felipe Dulzura. I am from Santa Barbara. I own some vineyards
there."

Having made this apparently frank explanation, the man paused and looked
inquiringly at Merry, as if expecting at least as much in return.

Frank did not hesitate.

"My name is Frank Merriwell," he said, "and I am a miner."

"A miner?"

"Yes, sir."

"You can't have any mines in this vicinity."

"Possibly I am looking the country over for an investment."

"It's possible," nodded Dulzura. "But from your intelligent appearance,
I should fancy it hardly probable."

"Thanks for the compliment. In regard to you, being a planter, it seems
quite unlikely that you should be surveying this region in search of a
vineyard. It seems to me that I have been fully as frank, sir, as you
have."

Felipe Dulzura lifted an objecting hand.

"I have not finished," he protested. "I didn't mean to give you the
impression that I was seeking vineyards here. Far from it. On the
contrary, having a little leisure, I am visiting the old missions in
this part of the country. They interest me greatly. There was a time,
long ago, you know, when this land belonged to my ancestors. My
grandfather owned a vast tract of it. That was before gold was
discovered and the great rush of 'forty-nine occurred.

"I presume it is needless to state that my grandfather's title to his
lands was regarded as worthless after that and he lost everything. He
died a poor man. My father was always very bitter about it, and he
retired to Old Mexico where he spent his last days. I am happy to say
that he did not transfer his bitterness toward the people of this
country to me, and I have found it to my advantage to return here and
engage in my present occupation. You should see my vineyard, Mr.
Merriwell. I think I have one of the finest in the State."

The manner in which this statement was made seemed frankly open and
aboveboard. To all appearances, Felipe Dulzura had nothing to conceal
and was unhesitating in telling his business.

"I, too," declared Merry, "am interested in the old Spanish missions.
They remind me of the days of romance, which seem so far removed."

"Ah!" cried Dulzura, "then it may happen that we can journey a while in
company. That will be agreeable to me. I confess that the trail has been
lonely."

The planter was most agreeable and friendly in his manner, and his smile
was exceedingly pleasant. In every way he seemed a most harmless
individual, but experience had taught Merry the danger of always
trusting to outward appearances.

"Company of the right sort will not be disagreeable to me," assured
Frank.

"Good!" laughed Dulzura. "I am sick of talking to myself, to my horse,
or to the landscape. I am a sociable chap, and I like some one to whom I
can talk. Do you smoke, Mr. Merriwell? I have tobacco and papers."

"Thank you; I don't smoke."

"Ah, you miss one of the soothing friends of life. When I have no other
company, my cigarette serves as one. This beastly valley is hot enough!
The mountains shut it in and cut off all the cool breezes. However, ere
nightfall we should get safely out of it and come to San Monica Mission.
It lies yonder near the old Indian reservation. I have heard my father
tell of it, and it has long been my object to see it."

For some little time they chatted, Dulzura seeming to be in the most
communicative mood, but finally they prepared to go on together. When
they were ready Frank suggested that his companion lead the way, as it
was far more likely that he knew the trail better.

"No, no, Mr. Merriwell," was the protest. "There is but one trail here.
Like you, I have never passed over it. You were in advance; it would
scarcely be polite for me to take the lead."

Frank, however, had no thought of placing himself with his back turned
on the self-styled planter, and, therefore, he insisted that Dulzura
should proceed in advance, to which the latter acquiesced. As they rode
on through the somewhat stifling heat of the valley, the Spaniard
continued to talk profusely, now and then turning his head and smiling
back at Merry.

"Next year," he said, "I mean to visit Spain. I have never been there,
you know. Years and years ago my ancestors lived there. I trust you will
pardon the seeming egotism, Mr. Merriwell, if I say it's not poor blood
that runs in my veins. My ancestors far back were grandees. Did you ever
hear of the Costolas? It's likely not. There were three branches of the
family. I am a descendant of one branch."

"Costola?" murmured Frank. "The name seems familiar to me, but I presume
there are many who bear it."

"Quite true. As for our family, however, an old feud has nearly wiped it
out. It started in politics, and it divided the Costolas against
themselves. A divided house, you know, cannot stand. My grandmother was
a Costola. She was compelled to leave Spain. At that time another branch
of the family was in power. Since then things have changed. Since then
that powerful branch of the family has declined and fallen. It was not
so many years ago that the sole surviving member was compelled, like my
grandmother, to escape secretly from Spain. He came to this country and
here lived under another name, taking that of his mother's family. I
don't even remember the name he assumed after reaching America; but I
did know that the surviving Costolas hunted him persistently, although
he managed to evade and avoid them. What has become of him now is
likewise a mystery. Perhaps he is dead."

The speaker suddenly turned so that he could look fairly into Frank's
face, smiling a little, and said:

"It's not likely this interests you, sir."

"On the contrary," Merry smiled back, "I find it quite interesting. To
me Spain is a land of romance. Being a plain American, the tales of
those deadly feuds are fascinating to me. I presume the Costolas must
have possessed large estates in Spain?"

"Once they did."

"And the one you speak of--the one who was compelled to flee from the
country--was he wealthy?"

"I believe he was reckoned so at one time."

"And now," said Frank, "if this feud were ended, if any offense of his
were pardoned, could he not claim his property?"

"That I don't know," declared Dulzura, shaking his head.

"Well, then, if he has any descendants, surely they must be the rightful
heirs to his estate."

"I doubt, sir, if they could ever possess it. It must eventually be
divided among his living relatives."

"Ah!" cried Merry. "I understand, Mr. Dulzura, why you must have a
particular interest in visiting Spain. It seems probable that you, being
distantly related to this exiled nobleman, may finally come into
possession of a portion of his property."

"It's not impossible," was the confession, as the man in advance rolled
a fresh cigarette. "But I am not counting on such uncertainties.
Although my grandfather and my father both died poor, I am not a pauper
myself. To be sure, I am not immensely rich, but my vineyards support me
well. I have lived in this country and in Mexico all my life. In fact, I
feel that I am more American than anything else. My father could not
understand the democracy of the Americans. He could not understand their
disregard of title and royalty."

Frank laughed.

"Had he lived in these days," he said, "and associated with a certain
class of degenerate Americans, he would have discovered that they are
the greatest worshipers of titles and royal blood in the whole world."

"I think that may be true," agreed the Spaniard, puffing at his
cigarette. "I have seen some of it. I know that many of your rich
American girls sell themselves for the sake of titles to broken-down and
rakish noblemen of other countries. I think most Americans are ashamed
of this."

"Indeed they are," seriously agreed Merry. "It makes them blush when a
rich American girl is led to the altar by some broken-down old _roué_
with a title, who has spent his manhood and wrecked his constitution in
dissipation and licentiousness. Almost every week we read in the papers
of some titled foreigner who is coming to America in search of a rich
wife. We don't hear of the scores and scores of American girls with
wealthy parents who go abroad in search of titles. But we have forgotten
the Costolas. Can you tell me anything more of them?"

"You seem strangely interested in them," said Dulzura, again glancing
back. "It almost seems as if you had heard of them before."

"And it almost seems so to me," confessed Frank. "I think I must have
heard of them before. Sometime I shall remember when it was and what I
have heard."

But, although they continued to talk, the Spaniard told Merry nothing
more of interest in that line. Finally they relapsed into silence and
rode on thus.

Frank's thoughts were busy when his tongue became silent. He remembered
well that the most malignant and persistent enemy of little Felicia's
father was a man who called himself Felipe Costola. This man had made
repeated efforts to get possession of Felicia, but had been baffled by
Delores and had finally lost his life in Fardale. Beyond question,
Felipe Costola was dead, and what had become of Juan Delores no man
seemed to know.

Putting two and two together, Frank began to wonder if Delores might not
be a Costola who had assumed the name of his mother's family while
living in Spain, thus arousing the everlasting enmity of all the
Costolas, and who had finally been compelled to flee to America. In many
respects the history of this man agreed with that told by Juan Delores
himself. He had once told Frank the name and title by which he was known
in Spain, but never had he explained the fierce enmity of Felipe
Costola. Now Merry was speculating over the possibility that Delores
must have once been a Costola.

If this was true, then little Felicia was, by the statement of Dulzura,
the rightful heir to the estate in Spain. Meditating on this
possibility, Frank fancied he obtained a peep behind the curtain which
hid the mystery of Felicia's disappearance. With the child out of the
way, a false heir might be substituted, and the schemers behind the plot
would reap their reward.

The shadows of evening were thickening in the mountain when Merry and
his companion passed from the valley and reached the abrupt foothills.
Here the trail was more clearly defined, and soon they were startled to
see standing beside it an aged Indian, who regarded them with the stony
gaze of the Sphinx. Dulzura drew up and asked the Indian in Spanish if
the San Monica Mission was near. The reply was that it was less than
half a mile in advance.

They came to it, sitting on a little plateau, silent and sad in the
purple twilight. It was worn and battered by the storms of years. On its
ancient tower the cross stood tremblingly. A great crack showed in its
wall, running from base to apex. In the dark opening of the tower a huge
bell hung, silent and soundless.

Merry drew up and sat regarding the ancient pile in almost speechless
awe and reverence. It was a monument of other days in that sunny land.
Here, long before the coming of the gold seekers, the Spanish priest had
taught the Indian to bow his knee to the one true God. Here they had
lived their calm and peaceful lives, which were devoted to the holy
cause.

"Come," urged Dulzura, "let's get a peep within ere it becomes quite
dark. There must be an Indian village somewhere near, and there, after
looking into the mission, we may find accommodations."

Frank did not say that he was doubtful if such accommodations as they
might find in an Indian village could satisfy him; but he followed his
companion to the stone gate of the old mission, where Dulzura hastily
dismounted. Even as Frank sprang from his horse he saw a dark figure
slowly and sedately approaching the gate. It proved to be a bare-headed
old monk in brown robes, who supported his trembling limbs with a short,
stout staff.

Dulzura saluted the aged guardian of the mission in a manner of mingled
worship and respect.

"What do ye here, my son?" asked the father, in a voice no less unsteady
than his aged limbs.

"We have come, father, to see the mission," answered the Spaniard. "We
have journeyed for that purpose."

"It's now too late, my son, to see it to-night. On the morrow I will
take you through it."

"You live here alone, father?"

"All alone since the passing of Father Junipero," was the sad answer, as
the aged monk made the sign of the cross.

Frank was deeply touched by the melancholy in the old man's voice and in
the lonely life he led there in the ruined mission.

"What is the mission's income?" questioned Merry.

"Our lands are gone. We have very little," was the reply. "Still Father
Perez has promised to join me, and I have been looking for him. When I
heard your horse approaching I thought it might be he. It was but
another disappointment. Still, it matters not."

"Let us take a peep inside," urged Dulzura. "Just one peep to-night,
father."

"You can see nothing but shadows, my son; but you shall look, if you
wish."

He turned and moved slowly along the path, aided by the staff. They
followed him through the gate and into the long stone corridor, where
even then the twilight was thick with shadows. In the yard the foliage
grew luxuriantly, but in sad neglect and much need of trimming and
attention.

At the mission door they paused.

"Let's go in," urged Dulzura.

"To-morrow will be time enough," answered Frank, a sudden sensation of
uneasiness and apprehension upon him.

At this refusal Dulzura uttered a sudden low exclamation and took a
swift step as if to pass Merry. Frank instantly turned in such a manner
that he placed his back against the wall, with the door on his left and
the old monk close at hand at his right.

Suddenly, from beyond the shadows of the foliage in the yard, dark forms
sprang up and came bounding into the corridor. Out from the door rushed
another figure. Dulzura uttered a cry in Spanish and pointed at Frank.
They leaped toward him.

Merry's hand dropped toward the holster on his hip, but with a gasp he
discovered that it was empty. Instead of grasping the butt of his
pistol, he found no weapon there with which to defend himself.

For all of the shadows he saw the glint of steel in the hands of those
men as they leaped toward him, and he knew his life was in frightful
peril.

How his pistol had escaped from the holster, whether it had slipped out
by accident, or had in some inexplicable manner been removed by human
hands, Frank could not say. It was gone, however, and he seemed
defenseless against his murderous assailants.

In times of danger Frank's brain moved swiftly, and on this occasion it
did not fail him. With one sudden side-step, he snatched from the old
monk's hand the heavy staff. With a swift blow from this he was barely
in time to send the nearest assailant reeling backward. The others did
not pause, and during the next few moments Frank was given the liveliest
battle of his career.

"Cut him down! Cut him down!" cried Dulzura, in Spanish.

They responded by making every effort to sink their knives in Frank.
They were wiry, catlike little men, and in the gloom their eyes seemed
to gleam fiercely, while their lips curled back from their white teeth.

Merriwell's skill as a swordsman stood him in good stead now. He took
care not to be driven against the wall. He whirled, and cut, and struck
in every direction, seeking ample room for evolutions. He knew full well
that to be pressed close against the wall would put him at a
disadvantage, for then he would not have room for his leaps, and swings,
and thrusts, and jabs.

The fighting American bewildered and astounded them. He seemed to have
eyes in the back of his head. When one leaped at him from behind to sink
a knife between his shoulders Frank suddenly whirled like lightning and
smote the fellow across the wrist, sending the steel flying from his
fingers to clang upon the stones. The old monk lifted his trembling
hands in prayer and tottered away. What had happened seemed to him most
astounding and appalling.

"Come on, you dogs!" rang Frank's clear voice. "Come on yourself, Felipe
Dulzura, you treacherous cur! Why do you keep out of reach and urge your
little beasts on?"

The Spaniard uttered an oath in his own language.

"Close in! Close in!" he directed. "Press him from all sides! Don't let
one man beat you off like that!"

"You seem to be taking good care of your own precious hide," half
laughed Frank. Then, as the opportunity presented, he made a sudden rush
and reached Dulzura with a crack of the staff that caused the fellow to
howl and stagger.

It did not seem, however, that, armed only with that stick, Merry could
long contend against such odds. Soon something must happen. Soon one of
those little wretches would find the opportunity to come in and strike
swift and sure with a glittering knife.

The racket and uproar of the conflict startled the echoes of the mission
building, and in that peaceful, dreamy spot such sounds seemed most
appalling. Frank knew the end must come. Had he possessed a pistol he
might have triumphed over them all in spite of the odds.

Suddenly in the distance, from far down the trail toward the valley,
came the sound of singing. As it reached Merry's ears he started in the
utmost amazement, for he knew that tune. Many a time had he joined in
singing it in the old days. Although the words were not distinguishable
at first, he could follow them by the sound of the tune. This is the
stanza the unseen singers voiced:

  "Deep in our hearts we hold the love
    Of one dear spot by vale and hill;
  We'll not forget while life may last
    Where first we learned the soldier's skill;
  The green, the field, the barracks grim,
    The years that come shall not avail
  To blot from us the mem'ry dear
    Of Fardale--fair Fardale."

"Fair Fardale!"--that was the song. How often Frank had joined in
singing it when a boy at Fardale Military Academy. No wonder Frank knew
it well! By the time the stanza was finished the singers were much
nearer, and their words could be plainly distinguished. Dulzura and his
tools were astounded, but the man urged them still more fiercely to
accomplish their task before the singers could arrive.

The singing of that song, however, seemed to redouble Merry's wonderful
strength and skill. He was now like a flashing phantom as he leaped, and
dodged, and swung, and thrust with the heavy staff. His heart was
beating high, and he felt that he could not be defeated then.

Finally the baffled and wondering assailants seemed to pause and draw
back. Frank retreated toward the wall and stood waiting, his stick
poised. The musical voices of the unseen singers broke into the chorus,
and involuntarily Frank joined them, his own clear voice floating
through the evening air:

  "Then sing of Fardale, fair Fardale!
    Your voices raise in joyous praise
  Of Fardale--fair Fardale!
    Forevermore 'twixt hill and shore,
  Oh, may she stand with open hand
    To welcome those who come to her--
  Our Fardale--fair Fardale!"

It was plain that, for some reason, Dulzura and his band of assassins
had not wished to use firearms in their dreadful work. Now, however, the
leader seemed to feel that there was but one course left for him. Merry
saw him reach into a pocket and felt certain the scoundrel was in search
of a pistol.

He was right. Even as Dulzura brought the weapon forth, Frank made two
pantherish bounds, knocking the others aside, and smote the chief rascal
a terrible blow over the ear. Dulzura was sent whirling out between two
of the heavy pillars to crash down into the shrubbery of the yard.

That blow seemed to settle everything, for with the fall of their master
the wretches who had been urged on by him took flight. Like frightened
deer they scudded, disappearing silently. Merry stood there unharmed,
left alone with the old monk, who was still breathing his agitated
prayers. From beyond the gate came a call, and the sound of that voice
made Frank laugh softly with satisfaction.

He leaped down from the corridor and ran along the path to the gate,
outside which, in the shadows, were two young horsemen.

"Dick--my brother!" exclaimed Merry.

"Frank!" was the cry, as one of the two leaped from the horse and sprang
to meet him.



CHAPTER IX.

WHAT THE MONK TOLD THEM.


"By all that's wonderful!" exclaimed Merry, as he beheld his brother. "I
thought I must be dreaming when I heard you singing. Dick, how did you
come here?"

"I heard nothing from you, Frank," was the reply. "I didn't know for
sure that you had received my message. I did know that Felicia was in
trouble and in danger, and so I resolved to hasten to her at once. When
I reached San Diego I found she was gone and that you had been there
ahead of me. I have been seeking to overtake you ever since. This
afternoon we saw you far away in the valley, although we could not be
certain it was you. You had a companion. We thought it might be Bart
Hodge."

Dick had made this explanation hastily, after the affectionate meeting
between the brothers.

"It was not Hodge," said Frank; "far from it! It was a man I fell in
with on the trail, and a most treacherous individual he proved to be."

Then he told of the encounter with Dulzura's ruffianly crew, upon
hearing which Dick's companion of the trail uttered a cry.

"Whoop!" he shouted. "That certain was a hot old scrimmage. Great
tarantulas! Why didn't we come up in time to get into the fracas!
Howling tomcats! but that certain would have been the real stuff! And
you beat the whole bunch off, did you, Mr. Merriwell? That's the kind of
timber the Merriwells are made of! You hear me gently warble!"

"Hello, Buckhart!" exclaimed Frank, as the chap swung down from the
saddle. Brad Buckhart and Dick Merriwell were chums at the Fardale
Military Academy, and Frank knew him for one of the pluckiest young
fellows he had ever met. Buckhart was a Texan through and through.

"Put her there, Mr. Merriwell," said Brad, as he extended his hand--"put
her there for ninety days! It does my optics a heap of good to rest them
on your phiz. But I'll never get over our late arrival on the scene of
action."

"We knew you were here somewhere, Frank, when we heard you join in 'Fair
Fardale,'" said Dick.

"And by that sound the greasers knew I had friends coming," added Merry.
"It stopped them and sent them scurrying off in a hurry."

"Where are they now?" asked Brad. "Why don't they sail right out here
and light into us? Oh, great horn spoon! I haven't taken in a red-hot
fight for so long that I am all rusty in the joints."

"Where is Felicia, Frank?" anxiously asked Dick.

Merry shook his head.

"I can't answer that question yet," he confessed. "I have followed her
thus far; of that I am satisfied, for otherwise I don't believe these
men would have attacked me."

Through the shadows a dark figure came slowly toward them from the
direction of the mission building.

"Whoever is this yere?" exclaimed Buckhart.

"It's the old priest," said Merry, as he saw the cloaked and hooded
figure.

The old man was once more leaning on his crooked staff, which Merry had
dropped as he hastened to meet his brother. Even in the gathering
darkness there was about him an air of agitation and excitement.

"My son," he said, in a trembling voice, still speaking in Spanish, "I
hope you are not harmed."

"Whatever is this he is shooting at you?" inquired Buckhart. "Is it
Choctaw or Chinese?"

Paying no attention to Brad, Merry questioned the monk, also speaking in
Spanish.

"Father," he said, "who were those men, and how came they to be here?"

"My son, I knew not that there were so many of them. Two came to me to
pray in the mission. The others, who were hidden outside, I saw not
until they appeared. Why did they attack you?"

"Because they are wicked men, father, who have stolen from her home a
little girl. I am seeking her, hoping to restore her to her friends."

"This is a strange story you tell me, my son. Who is the child, and why
did they take her from her home?"

"There's much mystery about it, father. She's the daughter of a Spanish
gentleman, who became an exile from his own country. There are reasons
to suppose she may be an heiress. Indeed, that seems the only
explanation of her singular abduction. I have traced her hither, father.
Can you tell me anything to assist in my search?"

The old man shook his hooded head, his face hidden by deep shadows.

"Nothing, my son--nothing," he declared, drawing a little nearer, as if
to lay his hand upon Frank. "I would I could aid you."

Suddenly, to the astonishment of both Dick and Brad, Merry flung himself
upon the monk, grasping his wrist and dropping him in a twinkling. He
hurled the agitated recluse flat upon his back and knelt upon his chest.

"Frank! Frank!" palpitated Dick. "What are you doing? Don't hurt him!"

"Strike a match, one of you," commanded Merry. "Give us a look at his
face."

The man struggled violently, but Frank's strength was too much for him,
and he was pinned fast.

Dick quickly struck a match and bent over, shading it with his hands,
flinging the light downward upon the face of the man Merry held.

"Just as I thought!" Merry exclaimed, in satisfaction, as the light
showed him, not the features of the old monk, but those of a much
younger man, with dark complexion and a prominent triangular scar on his
right cheek. "This is not the holy father. He couldn't deceive me with
his attempt to imitate the father's voice. I have seen this gentleman on
a previous occasion. He dogged my steps in San Diego after I left Rufus
Staples' house."

It was, in truth, the same man Merry had warned on the street corner in
San Diego. The little wretch swore savagely in Spanish and glared at his
captors.

"Spare your breath, my fine fellow," said Frank. "Profanity will not
help you."

"Well, whatever was the varmint trying to do?" cried Buckhart. "I
certain thought he was going to bless you."

"He would have blessed me with a knife between my ribs had I been
deceived by him," asserted Merriwell. "In my saddlebags you will find
some stout cord. Give it to me."

A few moments later, in spite of his occasional struggles, the captured
rascal was securely bound.

"There," said Merry, "I think that will hold you for a while. Now, boys,
I am going to see what has become of the holy father. This is his
cloak."

"You're not going back there alone," protested Dick, at once.

"Not on your life!" agreed Buckhart. "We are with you, Frank."

They followed him into the yard, where the darkness was now deep, and
came together to the entrance of the mission, but without discovering
anything of the aged monk. Standing in the corridor, they peered in at
the yawning door, but could see or hear nothing. Frank called to the
monk, but only echoes answered him from the black interior of the
mission.

"Here's where you may get all the fight you want, Buckhart," he said
grimly. "Be ready for anything, boys."

"I am a heap ready, you bet your boots!" answered the Texan, who had a
pistol in his hand.

"Same here," said Dick.

Frank struck a match on the cemented wall. A cold wind from the interior
of the building came rushing through the open door and blew it out. It
was like the breath of some dangerous, unseen monster hidden within the
mission. Merry promptly struck another match. This time he shaded it
with his hands and protected it until it sprang into a strong glow.
Then, with his hands concaved behind it, he advanced through the
doorway, throwing its light forward. Almost immediately an exclamation
escaped his lips, for a few feet within, lying on the cold floor, he
discovered a human form. As he bent over the figure, he saw to his
dismay it was the monk from whose body the brown cloak had been
stripped.

Then the match went out.

"Is he dead, Frank?" whispered Dick.

"I can't tell," answered Merry. "I didn't get a fair look at him. We
will know in a moment."

He lighted another match and bent over the prostrate man. The light
showed him the eyes of the monk fixed stonily on his face. It also
showed him that a gag had been forced between the old man's teeth and
fastened there. The father was bound securely with a lariat.

"He is far from dead!" exclaimed Merry, in satisfaction. "Here, Dick,
cut this rope and set him free. Get that gag out of his mouth, while I
hold matches for you to do so."

Soon the rope was cut, the gag removed, and together they lifted the old
man to his feet. Frank then picked him up and carried him out into the
open air.

"You seem to have met with misfortune, father," he said. "I sincerely
hope you are not harmed much."

"My son," quavered the agitated monk, "it is not my body that is harmed;
it is my spirit. Against no living creature in all the world would I
raise my hand. Why should any one seize me and choke me in such a
manner? Much less, why should any who profess to be of the holy faith do
such a thing?"

"They were frauds, father--frauds and rascals of the blackest dye."

"But two of them came here to pray," murmured the priest, as if he could
not believe such a thing possible. "Have we not suffered indignities
enough? Our lands have been taken from us and we have been stripped of
everything."

"They were infidels, father. You may be sure of that."

"Infidels and impostors!" exclaimed the old man, with a slight show of
spirit. "But I couldn't think men who spoke the language of old Spain
and who prayed to Heaven could be such base creatures."

"What they certain deserve," growled Buckhart, unable to repress his
indignation longer, "is to be shot up a whole lot, and I'd sure like the
job of doing it."

"I don't understand it--I cannot understand it!" muttered the monk.
"It's far beyond me to comprehend. Why did they set upon me, my son?" he
questioned, his unsteady hand touching Frank's arm. "Why did they seek
to slay you?"

"Wait a minute, father, and I will explain," said Merry.

He then told briefly of the abduction of Felicia and his pursuit of her
captors. As he spoke, the aged listener betrayed some signs of
excitement.

"My son, is all this true?" he solemnly questioned. "You are not one of
our faith, yet your words ring true."

"I swear it, father."

"Then I have been twice deceived!" cried the old man, with surprising
energy, shaking his hands in the empty air. "Yesterday there came here
two men and a sweet-faced child. They told me they were taking her home.
I believed them. With her they knelt at the shrine to pray. I blessed
them, and they went on their way."

"At last!" burst from Merry's lips. "Now there's no question. Now we
know we're on the right trail! Father, that little girl is a cousin of
my half-brother here. He will tell you if I have spoken the truth."

"Every word of it is true," affirmed Dick, who spoke Spanish as fluently
as Frank. "If you can tell us whither they were taking her, father, you
may aid us greatly in our search for her."

"Alas! it is not possible for me to tell you! I know that they were
bound eastward. Beyond these mountains are the great San Bernardino
plains, a mighty and trackless desert. Where they could go in that
direction I cannot say."

"Is it possible to cross the desert?" questioned Dick.

"It is a waste of burning sand. Who tries to cross it on foot or mounted
is almost certain to leave his bones somewhere in that desert."

"Then if they kept straight on----"

"If they kept straight on," said the old monk, "I fear greatly you will
never again behold the child you seek."

"They are not fools!" exclaimed Frank. "It is not likely they will try
to cross the desert. The fact that they have taken so much trouble to
endeavor to check pursuit here is proof they felt hard pushed. Is there
no town, no human habitation beyond these mountains?"

"No town," declared the father. "Straight over to the east you will come
to the El Diablo Valley. It is deep and wild, and in it are some ruined
buildings of stone and cement. Tradition says they were built long ago
by Joaquin Murietta, a Californian outlaw, who waged war on all
Americans. He expected to retreat there some day and defend himself
against all assailants. At least, so the legend runs, although I much
doubt if he built the castle which is now called Castle Hidalgo. Of late
it has another occupant, who has taken the name of Joaquin--Black
Joaquin he is called."

"Well, this is somewhat interesting, too," declared Merry. "Is this new
Joaquin endeavoring to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor?"

"I believe there is a price upon his head."

Merry turned to Dick with sudden conviction.

"Our trail leads to Castle Hidalgo," he asserted. "I am satisfied of
that. I am also satisfied that I have here encountered some of Black
Joaquin's satellites."

"And I will wager something," Dick added, "that we have one of them this
minute, bound hand and foot, a short distance away."

"That's right," said Frank, "and we may be able to squeeze a little
information from him. Father, the man who has your cloak is outside the
gate. Perhaps you may know him. Come and look at him."

Together they left the yard and came to the spot where the man with the
scar was supposed to be. On the ground lay the old monk's cloak, but the
man was gone. Undoubtedly he had been set free by some of his comrades.



CHAPTER X.

THREE IN A TRAP.


The day was declining when Frank, Dick, and Brad came down into El
Diablo Valley. It was, indeed, a dark, wild place, and for some time it
seemed almost impossible of access. No plain trail led into it. On an
elevation in the valley they had seen a ruined pile that bore a strong
resemblance to a crumbling castle. The very appearance of these
buildings belied the tale that Joaquin Murietta had built them there.
Had they been so recently constructed their ruined condition was
unaccountable. It seemed certain that at least a hundred years had
passed since their erection. About the valley and the castle appeared
hanging an air of mystery and romance.

That any one should choose such a remote and desolate spot to rear those
buildings was beyond comprehension to the three young Americans who now
beheld the ruins for the first time. Somehow those crumbling stones
reminded them of the march of Cortez and his conquering treasure
hunters. What Spaniard of that day, left behind in Mexico and supposed
to be dead, had enriched himself with the treasures of the Aztecs and
had escaped northward, only to find himself imprisoned in the new land,
and to finally use a part of his treasures to erect this castle?

During the middle hours of the day alone did the southern sunshine fall
soft and golden in El Diablo Valley. Therefore, they descended into the
shadows and approached the castle, which seemed to lie silent and
deserted in the midst of the valley.

"It's a whole lot strange we never heard of this place before," observed
Buckhart. "Of course, others have seen it."

There was a cloud on Dick's face.

"Do you think, Frank," he questioned, "that there is any hope of finding
Felicia here? Since leaving the mission we have seen nothing to indicate
that we were still on the right trail."

"It's a good deal like hunting for a needle in a hay-stack," confessed
Merry.

"Maybe those galoots who have her doubled back on us," suggested Brad.
"Maybe they turned on us there at the mission."

"It's not impossible," was Merry's regretful admission. "However, we are
here, and we will find what there is to find."

There were no echoes in the valley. It seemed a place of silence and
gloom. As they approached the ruins they surveyed them with increasing
wonder. There were old turrets and towers, crumbling and cracked, as if
shaken by many earthquakes. The black windows glared at them like grim
eyes.

"I will bet my boots that there is no one around this yere ranch,"
muttered Buckhart. "Perhaps that old priest fooled us a whole lot."

Merry shook his head.

"I am sure not," he said.

They mounted the rise on which the castle was built and passed through a
huge gate and dark passage, coming into a courtyard, with the crumbling
ruins all around them. Here they paused. Suddenly at one of the narrow,
upper windows of the old turret a face appeared. Some one was there
looking out at them. Frank's keen eyes were the first to discover it.
Then to their ears came the cry of a voice electrifying them. The face
at the window pressed nearer, and, together with the voice, it was
recognized.

Dick gave a shout of joy.

"Felicia!" he exclaimed. "There she is, Frank. Can you see her in that
window up there? Felicia! Felicia!"

But even as he called to her thus she suddenly vanished. As they stared
at the window, another face showed for a moment and another pair of eyes
looked down at them.

Then these also disappeared.

"Waugh!" exploded Brad Buckhart. "Here's where we get into action."

"She's there," declared Frank. "She's there--a captive!"

"It's sure to be a red-hot scrimmage," said Buckhart, looking at his
revolver. "Take care that your guns are ready for action."

They leaped from their horses and swiftly approached the ruins, leaving
the animals to wander where they might in the valley, well knowing they
would not leave it.

Up the stone steps they bounded, coming to the deepset door, which by
its own weight or by the working of time had fallen from its hinges.
Nothing barred them there, and they entered. As they dashed in, there
was a sudden whirring sound, and they felt themselves struck and beaten
upon as by phantom hands. This was startling enough, but Frank
immediately comprehended that they were bats and the creatures were
fluttering wildly about them. From one dark room to another they
wandered, seeking the stairs that should lead them up into the turret.

"We need a light," said Merry.

"That certain is correct, pardner," agreed Buckhart. "We are a heap
likely to break our necks here in the dark."

"But we have no light," panted Dick, "and no time to secure a torch. If
we waste time for that we may lose her."

"Where are those pesky stairs?" growled the Texan.

Their search led them into a huge echoing room that seemed windowless.
Frank was exasperated by the aimlessness of their search. Had they not
seen Felicia's face at the window and heard her voice, the silence and
desolation of the place must have convinced them that it was in truth
deserted. But now, of a sudden, there was a sound behind them. It was a
creak on the rusty stairs. It was followed by a heavy thud and absolute
silence.

"What was that?" asked Dick.

"It sounded to me," muttered Merry, "like the closing of a massive
door."

A moment later he struck a match, and by its light they looked around.
Holding it above his head, it served to illumine the chamber dimly.

"Wherever did we get into this hole?" asked Brad. "I fail to see any
door."

The repeated lighting of matches seemed to show them only four bare
walls. At last Frank found the door, but he discovered it was closed.
More than that, he discovered that it was immovable.

"Boys," he said grimly, as the match in his fingers fluttered out and
fell into a little glowing, coal at his feet, "we are trapped. It's
plain now that we did a foolish thing in rushing in here without a
light. That glimpse of Felicia lured us into the snare, and it will be
no easy thing to escape."

"Let me get at that door!" growled Buckhart.

He flung himself against it with all his strength, but it stood
immovable. They joined in using their united strength upon it, but still
it did not stir.

"Well, this certain is a right bad scrape," admitted the Texan. "I don't
mind any a good hot fight with the odds on the other side, but I admit
this staggers me."

"What are we to do, Frank?" whispered Dick.

"Easier asked than answered," confessed Merry. "It's up to us to find
some means of escape, but how we can do so I am not ready to say."

"Pards," said the Texan, "it seems to me that we are going to get
a-plenty hungry before we leave this corral. We are some likely to
starve here. The joke is on us."

"Hush!" cautioned Merry. "Listen!"

As they stood still in the dense darkness of that chamber they heard a
muffled voice speaking in English. It seemed to be calling to them
derisively.

"You're very courageous, Frank Merriwell," mocked the voice; "but see
what your courage has brought you to. Here you are trapped, and here you
will die!"

"Hello!" muttered Merry. "So my friend, Felipe Dulzura, is near at
hand!"

The situation was one to appall the stoutest heart, but Frank Merriwell
was not the one to give up as long as there was the slightest gleam of
hope. Indeed, in that darkness there seemed no gleam. It is not
wonderful that even stout-hearted Brad Buckhart began to feel that "the
jig was up."

In most times of danger, perplexity, or peril, Dick relied solely on
himself and his own resources; now, however, having Frank at hand, he
turned to him.

"Is there any chance for us to escape?"

"Boys," said Merry, "we must not think of giving up until we have made
every effort in our power. The first thing to be done is to sound the
walls. You can help me in this. Go around the walls, rapping on them and
listening. See if you can find a hollow place. This is not the donjon,
and it may have been originally intended for something different from a
prison room."

Directed by him, they set about their task, sounding the walls. Hopeless
enough it seemed as they went knocking, knocking through the darkness.
When the room had been circled once and no discovery made, Buckhart
seemed quite ready to give up the effort in that direction. Frank was
not satisfied, but continued feeling his way along the walls, rapping
and listening as he went. Finally he remained a long time in one place,
which aroused the curiosity of his boy comrades.

"Have you discovered anything?" asked Dick.

Before replying Merry struck a match.

"Here, boys," he said, "you will see there is a crack in the wall. That
may be the cause of the hollow sound I fancied it gave. But, look!" he
added, holding the match high above his head, "see how the crack widens
as it rises toward the ceiling. By Jove, boys! it's almost wide enough
up there for a cat to get through."

Then the match burned too short to be held longer, and he dropped it.
Several moments he stood in silence, paying no heed to the words of Dick
or Brad. His mind was busy. Finally he said:

"Get up here, boys, both of you. Face this wall and stand close
together. I want to climb on your shoulders. I am going to examine that
crack. It may be our only hope of salvation."

They followed instructions, and Merry mounted to their shoulders, on
which he stood. In this manner he was high enough to reach some distance
into the crack in the wall. He found nothing but crumbling bits of
cement and stone, which was a disappointment to him.

"Keep your heads down," he said. "I am going to see if I can loosen some
of this outer coat of cement here. It may rattle down about your ears."

He pulled away at the cement, cleaving it off easily and exposing the
fact that the wall was somewhat shabbily built above a distance of eight
feet from the floor. An earthquake or convulsion of nature, or whatever
had caused the crack in the wall, had seriously affected it, and it
seemed very shaky and unstable indeed.

Several times he shifted about on the boys' shoulders to give them rest,
as his heavy boots were rather painful after remaining in one position a
few moments. They were eager to know what progress he was making.

"I can't tell what it amounts to, boys," he declared. "This crack may
lead nowhere, even if I can make an opening large enough to enter."

At length he was compelled to descend in order to give them a chance to
rest. Three times he mounted on their shoulders and worked at the cement
and stones until the skin of his fingers was torn and his hands
bleeding. He was making progress, nevertheless, and it seemed more and
more apparent that, if given time enough, an opening might be made there
at that height in the wall. In his final efforts he loosened a mass of
the stuff, that suddenly gave way and went rattling and rumbling down
into the wall somewhere. To his intense satisfaction, this left a hole
large enough for a human being to creep into.

"Brace hard, boys," he whispered. "I am going to make a venture here. I
am going to crawl into this place."

"Be careful, Frank!" palpitated Dick. "What if you get in there and the
old wall crumbles on you! You will be buried alive! You will be
smothered, and killed!"

"Better that than starvation in this wretched hole," he half laughed.
"We will have to take chances if we ever escape at all. Steady now."

They stiffened their bodies, and he gave a little spring, diving into
the opening as far as he could and slowly wiggling and dragging himself
forward. In this manner he gradually crept into it, although it was no
simple matter. There was barely room enough for him to accomplish this
feat, and when it was done he lay still a few moments to rest. As he lay
thus he heard some of the stones and cement rattling and falling beneath
him, and felt the whole wall seem to settle. His heart leaped into his
throat, for it seemed, indeed, that he was about to be smothered and
crushed to death in that place. Still he did not retreat. Instead of
that, he squirmed and crawled forward as fast as possible. Suddenly a
mass of the wall came down upon his back and shoulders, and he was
pinned fast.

Trying to squirm forward still farther, he found himself held as if in
the jaws of a vise, and never in his adventurous career had his position
seemed more desperate and helpless. Dust filled his eyes and nostrils,
and he seemed smothered.

Summoning all his wonderful strength, Merry made a mighty effort.
Suddenly, as he did so, the wall beneath him seemed to give way, and
downward he fell, amid showers of stones and cement, which rained upon
him. He had fallen into some sort of open space, and, although somewhat
dazed and stunned, he quickly crept forward to escape the falling mass
of stuff. In this he was successful, and, although the air of the place
seemed dense and stifling, he was practically uninjured.

As soon as possible, he sought to learn what kind of a place he had
dropped into so unexpectedly. There were yet a few matches left in his
match safe, and one of these he lighted. Its light showed him a small,
narrow passage, leading away he knew not where. Behind him there was a
mass of fallen debris where the top of the passage had caved in. Even
then still more was threatening to fall, and he quickly moved away.

"I have heard of secret passages in old castles and mansions," Frank
muttered, "and this must be one of them. Where will it lead me? It must
take me somewhere, and this is better than remaining in the chamber
where we were trapped."

For a long time he felt his way cautiously onward along the passage. He
came in time to its end. His hand could feel nothing but the bare
stones, and it seemed that the passage terminated there. Once more he
struck a match, the light of which revealed to him nothing of an
encouraging nature.

"Well," he said, "I seem to be in a trap still. It can't be possible
this was simply a blind passage. Why was it constructed? There must be
some way of getting out of it."

Again at the end of the passage he fell to sounding the wall and
listening. His hands roamed over it, feeling every protrusion or
irregularity. Finally he touched something that was loose. Immediately
he pressed it with considerable vigor, upon which there was a faint
muffled click, and a heavy door that had been skillfully covered by
cement swung slowly against his hands.

Frank's wonderful command of his nerves kept him from uttering an
exclamation of satisfaction. He quickly seized the edge of the door and
pulled it wide open. Fresh air rushed in upon him, and he filled his
lungs with a sensation of satisfaction and relief.

He now thought of returning and seeking to assist Dick and Brad in
following him, but after a few moments he decided to investigate still
further. Soon he found himself on a high terrace, which opened into an
inclosed courtyard of the ruins. As he leaned there, looking down, the
ring of ironshod hoofs came through the arched gate, reaching his ears.
A moment later two horsemen rode into the courtyard, leading behind them
three animals. The clank and clang of the horses' feet upon the
flagstones echoed in the inclosure. Merry drew back, watching and
listening.

"Three fine beasts," said a voice in Spanish. "And they are ours,
comrade. The chief said we were to have them if we captured them."

"Why not?" sullenly returned the other man. "Are we to have nothing? Is
the chief to get it all?"

"Hush, Jimenez!" hastily warned the first speaker. "Better not let him
hear you utter such words."

"At least one can think, Monte," retorted Jimenez. "We take all the
risks, and what do we get? Not even when we faced that young devil
Americano at the mission did the chief put himself in peril. He urged us
on, but he took good care of his precious self, I noticed."

"If you talk more in this manner, Jimenez," exclaimed Monte, "with you I
will have nothing whatever to do!"

"Bah! You are a coward," snarled the other. "Now, be not hasty in your
movements, for I, too, am armed."

"Fly at it!" whispered Frank, in satisfaction. "Go at each other, and do
your prettiest. Cut each other's throats, and I will applaud you, you
rascals!"

But the two scoundrels did not engage in an encounter. After growling a
little at each other, they proceeded with the horses to a part of the
courtyard where the stables seemed to be, and there disappeared. Merry
did not have to watch long for their return. They again crossed the open
space below and disappeared; but, listening where he stood, he heard
their voices, and they seemed ascending stairs not far away.

His curiosity now fully aroused, with a pistol in his hand, Frank stole
onward as swiftly as possible in an attempt to keep track of them. He
left the terrace and came to the stairs by which they ascended. Even as
he stole like a panther up those stairs, he caught the hum of voices and
the flash of a light.

Thus it was that the daring young man at last reached a dark nook, from
which sheltered spot he could peer through an open door into a lighted
room where several men were gathered. Beyond doubt these were the
members of Black Joaquin's band, several of whom had set upon him at San
Monica Mission.



CHAPTER XI.

RUFFIANS AT ODDS.


Some of the men were idly lounging about as they smoked, while others
were playing cards. The card players were gambling, and money clinked on
the table before them. A picturesque and desperate-looking group they
were, yet Merriwell felt and knew by experience that they were far more
dangerous in appearance than in actual fact. He had met a number of them
face to face, and succeeded in holding them in check with no more than
the crooked staff of the old monk for his weapon of defense. They were
the kind to strike at a man's back and cower before his face.

The card players did not always get along amicably. At times they
quarreled excitedly, over their game. Finally one of them lost
everything and flew into a passion, roundly berating his more lucky
companions. They laughed at him as they puffed their cigarettes.

"What matters it, Pachuca?" cried one. "It is only a little. Soon you
will have more."

"Oh, yes, much more!" smiled another. "The chief has promised you plenty
when he shall get the girl safely away."

"I much prefer money to promises," solemnly retorted Pachuca. "It's an
honest game I play. Why should I win with you?"

"Now, it's best that you have a care with your tongue," rather hotly
returned one of the winners. "Yesterday it was your luck to win; now it
is mine."

"Is it luck you call it?" sneered Pachuca. "Ha! ha!"

"Yes, luck. What was it when you won?"

"It was my skill," declared Pachuca loftily. "But even skill is no match
for some methods."

At this the little fellow who had won the most sprang up and struck the
table with his fist, glaring across at Pachuca.

"Do you dare say to my face that I cheat?" he sharply cried. "Speak it
out, if you do!"

Merry was quite satisfied by the course events seemed to be taking, for
he felt that it might be much to his advantage if a quarrel between
these two men followed.

Pachuca, however, shrugged his shoulders and showed his teeth, as he
rolled a cigarette.

"You have won, Ramon," he returned. "Keep the money. My turn comes."

"Any time you like," was the defiant challenge. "When I lose it is not
like a stuck pig that I squeal."

Then Ramon sat down as if quite satisfied, and the game proceeded
without Pachuca participating further.

Merry was disappointed. Still he saw there was bad blood among the men,
and he felt that what he had heard in the courtyard and since indicated
dissension and dissatisfaction.

As the gamblers continued they again fell to speaking of "the girl."

Suddenly behind him, toward the stairs, Merry heard a soft footfall. He
pressed himself closer into the darkness of his niche and scarcely
breathed as a man brushed past. This man halted in the door, hearing
something of the words of the gamblers. Suddenly he stepped forward.

"What is this?" he demanded angrily. "Again you are talking too much. I
have warned you before. You are not to speak at all of the girl. You
know she's here; let that be enough, and hold your tongues!"

"Hello, my fine friend!" whispered Frank to himself, as the light fell
on the face of the newcomer and he saw that there was a scar on the
man's cheek. "So it's you?"

Sudden silence fell upon the men. The man with the the scar singled out
Ramon, at whom he pointed.

"You are always talking too much," he declared. "When will you learn
better?"

As he stood behind the table, Ramon's hand slipped down to his sash,
where it touched the hilt of a knife, and the look on his face was far
from pleasant.

"It's me you always single out, Carlos!" he exclaimed. "Why do you never
talk thus to the others?"

"Because it is you who make trouble. It is you I have been compelled to
caution. What think you the chief would say should he hear you?"

"The chief!" cried Ramon. "Where is he? It is easy to make promises,
Carlos. How know we that we are to receive all that is promised?"

"Have you not been satisfied in the past?"

"Not always," was the bold retort. "I am not the only one; there are
others here who have not been satisfied. It is time to speak plainly.
When all danger is over----"

"It is already," was the assertion.

"How so?"

"You know the three dogs who followed the trail have been trapped. They
are secure, and never from this place will they go forth."

"But there may be others. There was another who followed us far."

"What of him?" sneered Carlos, snapping his fingers. "He has long lost
the scent. It is only these three fellows who tracked us here, and
better for them had they never come. Here their bones will rot!"

"If that is true, there is now nothing to prevent the chief from
carrying the girl whither he likes. Who is she? That you have not told
us, Carlos."

"That is nothing to you. It is a matter to concern the chief alone."

"Ah! we know she must be of great value to him, else he would have never
taken so many chances. Why was she deceived with the tale that she was
to be carried to her father?"

"How know you so much?" grimly demanded Carlos.

Then suddenly he wheeled on Jimenez.

"It's you who talk a great deal likewise!" he snarled.

Up to this point Jimenez had been silent. Now, like a flash, he sprang
up and advanced to the side of Ramon.

"My tongue is my own," he harshly said. "On it no one has placed a lock.
What harm has the child done that she should be deceived? We are the men
who did the work; why should not we be trusted? Answer that--if you can.
I know that she was told that she should find her father here. I know,
too, that he is a fugitive and has long hidden from his enemies.
However, I know that she was led to believe that he had sent for her.
Where is this man?"

"You fool!" burst from Carlos. "I knew that it was a mistake when you
were placed to guard her. I knew it was unsafe that she should tell you
too much. Wait until the chief learns of this."

"Let him pay us what he has promised," said Ramon. "We will take it and
be silent. He may then go where he pleases and carry the girl. Carlos,
we are not the only ones here who demand to see this money and to hear
it clink in our hands. Comrades, it is time we show our colors. Let
those who are with me stand forth."

At this there was a stir. Some of the men seemed to hesitate, but a
moment later two more men came over to the side of Ramon and Jimenez.

"This is not all," Ramon declared. "There are still others who are not
satisfied with bare promises. Let the chief satisfy us. Where is he?"

Merry had been so deeply interested that he failed to hear a step behind
him, and had not he been cautiously pressed in the shadows of his nook
he might have been observed. The approaching man, however, had heard
sounds of a quarrel in that room, and he strode past Frank and entered
by the door.

"Who calls for me?" he demanded, in a clear, steady voice. "Why all this
uproar?"

"Joaquin!" muttered one, while others exclaimed, "The chief!"

And Frank recognized Felipe Dulzura!

Sudden silence fell upon them. Dulzura, whom Frank now knew to be Black
Joaquin, stood boldly looking them over. Despite the assertion made by
one of the men that the chief was one who avoided danger, his bearing
now seemed that of utter fearlessness and command.

"Speak!" he exclaimed. "What is the meaning of this?"

"Ask Ramon," said Carlos. "He will tell you--perhaps."

Ramon drew himself up. The time had come that he must face the matter
unflinchingly.

"It is this," he said; "we have been promised much and have received
little. Some of us are not satisfied."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Black Joaquin. "And you are one of the dissatisfied,
I see."

"I am," was the admission; "but I am not alone. You will find that there
are many more. Ask them. You will find nearly all are dissatisfied."

The chief glanced them over, and what he saw in their faces convinced
him that Ramon spoke truly. Suddenly he smiled on them in that pleasant
manner of his, and his voice was soft and musical as he spoke again.

"I would not have any of my faithful fellows dissatisfied," he declared.
"If there is anything I can do in justice, let them name it."

Carlos seemed disappointed by this unexpected manner of their leader.

"It is that you have promised us a great deal we have not received,"
said Ramon.

"And is it yet time?" was the placid question.

"Why not? You said the time would come when the girl was safely yours,
with no danger of pursuit. To me it seems that time has come. The three
Americans who pursued you are captured and cannot escape. The girl is
now yours to do with as you like. Is it strange we suspect she is a
prize of great value? If she were not, why should Black Joaquin put
himself to so much trouble?"

"You are right," smiled the man Merry knew as Dulzura. "But you are
hasty. It is only lately the pursuers I most feared have fallen into my
hands. Had you waited a little it might have given me more satisfaction.
You were always too hasty, Ramon."

The rebuke was of the mildest sort, and Ramon accepted it without a show
of anger.

"However," continued the chief, "I can pardon you this once, but you
shall be satisfied. I have not at hand all I have promised you, but it
is where I can soon secure it. Nevertheless, I have something here, and
it shall be divided among you."

As he said this, he drew forth a leather pouch, which he flung with a
careless gesture upon the table. It struck with a heavy thud and a
slight clanking sound.

"I call upon you," he said, "to see that it is divided equally and
fairly. The rest shall be paid you soon. Carlos, I would speak with
you."

He then turned toward the door, and Carlos followed him. Outside, in the
shadows, they halted not fifteen feet from Frank.

"Carlos," said Joaquin, "not one coin more will those dogs get. I have
no further use for them. You and I must abandon them and get away before
the coming of another day. It is no longer well for us to remain in this
land. As Black Joaquin my work is done. Can we reach Spain in safety
with the girl, our fortunes are made. But those snarling curs will
object if they suspect we are contemplating leaving them behind. You I
depend on. You know where the wine is kept. Take this which I give you
and with it drug the wine. When you have done so, bring it for them to
drink. Make merry with them, and encourage them to drink deeply. They
will sleep soundly after that, and we shall have no trouble. I will get
the girl ready. Before those fools awaken I shall be far from here, and
we can laugh at them."

"Good!" said Carlos, having accepted from Joaquin's hand the bottle
proffered him. "It shall be done. Leave it to me."

The chief clapped his trusted comrade upon the shoulder.

"Faithful Carlos!" he said. "With me you shall share the reward. Lose no
time, for time is precious now."

"The Americans," questioned Carlos, "what of them?"

"Leave them where they are. Let them starve there."

Little did they dream when they turned away that they were followed by
Frank Merriwell, who observed the greatest possible caution. They
separated, and it was Black Joaquin whose footsteps led Frank through
many winding ways and up long flights of stairs into one of the turrets.
When Joaquin unbarred the door and entered the little room up there
Frank was near at hand. Merry stole forward and peered into that room,
from which the light shone forth.

"She's there!" he told himself, in deep satisfaction, as he beheld
Felicia.

The captive girl had been weeping. When Joaquin saw this he spoke to her
in a voice that seemed full of tenderness and compassion.

"My dear child," he said, "why do you shed these foolish tears?"

"Oh, sir!" exclaimed Felicia, "where are the friends I saw from the
window? Why are they not permitted to come to me?"

"They are near and you shall see them soon," was the treacherous
promise.

"How am I to believe you?" cried the girl. "You told me I should find my
father here. You told me he was hiding here to escape his enemies. You
told me he had sent for me to come to him, longing to see my face once
more. I believed you. I trusted you. At your command I even deceived the
good friends I knew in San Diego. Now I fear it was wrong and wicked for
me to do so. Now I know it was wrong! But what was I to do? You told me,
over and over, that my father would be placed in awful peril if I
breathed a word of the truth."

"Which clears up that part of the mystery," thought Frank, as he
listened outside.

"I told you nothing but the truth," declared Joaquin. "Your father sent
that message to you by me."

"But he is not here--he is not here!" panted the distressed child. "You
said I should find him here. If you deceive me in that, why not in
everything?"

"Your father was here, but ere we could reach this place he found it
necessary to depart. Enemies were searching for him, and he was forced
to flee; but he left a message for me, telling me whither he went and
directing me to bring you. Trust me, Felicia, and you shall soon see
him."

Frank quivered a little with rage as he listened to the lying wretch.

Felicia drew a little nearer and looked earnestly into the face of the
man.

"Oh, I can't believe you are deceiving me!" she said. "You do not seem
so terribly wicked."

He laughed pleasantly.

"I know it must seem suspicious to you, child; but trust me a little
longer."

"If you had only let my friends come to me!"

"Within two hours you shall be with them. Some of my men, I regret to
say, I cannot trust, and so I hastened to send your friends away. They
are not far from here, and we will join them. Are you ready to go,
child?"

"Quite ready," she answered.

"Then give me your hand and trust me in everything."

She placed her hand confidingly in his, and they turned toward the door.
Then Black Joaquin found himself face to face with a great surprise, for
in that doorway stood Frank Merriwell, a cocked pistol leveled straight
toward the scoundrel's heart.

"Up with your hands, Joaquin!" commanded Merry sharply. "One moment of
hesitation on your part and I shall pull the trigger. I will send your
black soul to the bar of judgment as true as my name is Frank
Merriwell!"

The villain paled and was utterly dumfounded by the marvelous appearance
of the man he believed secure in the dungeon.

"Put up your hands!" palpitated Frank, and in that second command there
was something that caused Black Joaquin to quickly lift his hands above
his head.

"One cry, one sound, even a murmur from your lips, will cause me to
shoot you on the spot," declared the young American.

Felicia had been spellbound, but now she started forward, uttering a
cry.

"Be careful," warned Frank, not taking his eyes off Joaquin for an
instant. "Don't touch me! Keep out of the way!"

She paused and hastened to say:

"You must not hurt him, Frank. He is taking me to my father."

"He has lied to you from start to finish, like the treacherous snake he
is," asserted Merry. "He doesn't mean to take you to your father."

Then he advanced two steps, and another command came from his lips.

"Face about, Joaquin," he said, "and walk straight toward that wall. Be
quick about it, too."

Now, for all of the complaints of his followers that he seldom placed
himself in danger, Black Joaquin was not a coward. Nevertheless, in
those terrible, gleaming eyes of the American youth he had seen
something that robbed him of his usual nerve and convinced him beyond
doubt that unless he obeyed to the letter he would be shot on the spot.
This being the case, he turned as directed and advanced until his face
was against the wall.

"Stand thus," said Frank, "and don't move for your very life."

One glance around showed him a blanket upon a couch. Behind Joaquin's
back he quickly took out and opened a knife.

"Here, Felicia, take this and cut that blanket into narrow strips.
Hasten as much as possible."

She was, however, too trembling and excited to make the needed haste.
Seeing this, Frank lost no time in searching Joaquin's person and
disarming him, removing every dangerous weapon he found upon the man.

When this was done, he directed Felicia to bring the blanket, and,
holding his pistol ready in his left hand, he gave her directions and
assistance in cutting and tearing it into strips. As soon as one good,
strong strip had been removed from the blanket Frank took it, seized
Joaquin's hands, twisting them downward and backward behind his back,
and tied them thus. After this he was able to remove from the blanket
further strips he needed, although as he worked his pistol was ready for
instant use. All the while he kept Joaquin with his face toward the
wall, three times cautioning the man against turning his head in the
slightest.

With the strips removed from the blanket Joaquin's ankles were securely
tied. Then Frank unceremoniously kicked the fellow's feet from beneath
him and lowered him to the floor upon his back. The rage, fury, and
hatred in the conquered fellow's eyes was terrible to behold, but
Merriwell heeded it not in the least. Deftly he rolled a wad of the
blanket and forced it between Joaquin's teeth. With another piece of the
torn blanket he fastened it there, knotting a strip behind the man's
head. He took pains to make this as secure as possible, so that it would
require no simple effort to remove it.

"Now, Black Joaquin, otherwise known as Felipe Dulzura," said Frank,
standing over the man and looking down on him, "we will bid you
good-night. You can rest easy here until your comrades recover on the
morrow and release you. Perhaps they will find you. I hope, for your
sake, that you do not smother before they awaken and come here. You have
my best wishes for a short life and a speedy hanging."

With Felicia he left the chamber, closing and barring the door behind
them.

Thus far Frank's success had been enough to astonish himself, but now he
thought with dismay of Dick and Brad still confined in the chamber from
which he had escaped. As with Felicia he descended the stairs he paused,
hearing in some distant portion of the ruins the sound of singing.

"Carlos is doing his work," he thought. "He has brought them the wine.
Thanks, Carlos; you have given me great assistance."

Merry decided that it would be necessary to conceal Felicia somewhere
while he sought to return to Dick and Brad by means of the secret
passage.

He found his way back to the terrace from which he had first looked down
into the courtyard after his escape. As they reached that place, Merry
heard beneath him some slight sound that caused him to again look
downward. He was surprised to see a dark figure coming from the
direction of the stables and leading three horses. His surprise
increased when the feet of the horses gave forth no more than a faint,
muffled sound on the courtyard flagging.

"What's up now?" he asked himself. "That must be Carlos preparing for
flight. Whoever it is, he has muffled the feet of those horses. More
than that, I believe they are our horses."

The human being and the horses crossed the courtyard and disappeared
into the arched passage that led outward.

"Keep close behind me, Felicia," whispered Merry. "Be courageous. I may
have to leave you for a short time; but I will return as soon as
possible."

He had decided to conceal her in the secret passage while he endeavored
to return to the prison chamber. The door of the passage he found to be
slightly ajar. Swinging it open, he entered, with Felicia at his heels.
Barely had he advanced ten feet into the passage before he felt himself
suddenly clutched by a pair of strong hands.

"Keep still, Felicia!" called Frank, knowing she would be greatly
frightened by the struggle.

Instantly the hold of these hands slackened and a joyous voice exclaimed
in his ear:

"Frank! Frank! my brother, is it you?"

"Dick!" gasped Frank; "how did you get here?"

"We managed to pry open a hidden door which was disclosed when a part of
the wall fell after you crept into that opening," said Dick.

"Where is Brad?"

"That's what I'd like to know. We separated to search for you. He was to
meet me here. We agreed on a signal. When you entered the passage
without giving the signal I thought you must be an enemy."

"It's up to us now," said Merry, "to find Brad and get away from here in
a hurry. We have a fine chance to do so. I can't explain everything, but
I will tell you later. Here is Felicia."

"Felicia!" gasped Dick.

She uttered a low cry of joy, and the cousins were clasped in each
other's arms.

"Come," said Merry. "Moments are precious."

"But Brad----"

"We will hope that luck may lead us to him."

But it was something more than luck, for Brad Buckhart was returning to
meet Dick as he had promised when they encountered him. He heard them,
and, thinking it might be Dick, whistled the soft signal agreed upon.
Immediately Dick answered, and when the Texan found them all together,
he came very near throwing up his hat and giving a cowboy yell.

"Oh, great jumping horned toads!" he whispered. "If this don't beat the
record you can have my horse, saddle, and the whole blamed outfit! Talk
about your miracles! So help me Davy Crockett, this is the greatest on
record. You hear me gurgle!"

"There is yet danger in the air," said Merry. "As we were seeking the
passage I saw a man, leading three horses with muffled feet, crossing
the courtyard below. It must have been Carlos, Black Joaquin's
lieutenant, for they planned a flight to-night, and Joaquin's wretched
gang has been drugged."

"Guess again," advised the Texan, chuckling. "The gent you observed was
yours truly, Bradley Buckhart."

"You?" gasped Frank, astonished.

"Precisely, pard--precisely. I was it. In my perambulations I discovered
our horses, and it struck me as being something a whole lot proper to
get them outside and have them where we could straddle them in a hurry
when we took to our heels. I muffled their feet with the aid of
blankets, and I can lead the way straight to them."

"Brad, you're a dandy!" laughed Frank softly. "Watch out for Carlos and
lead on, you son of the Lone Star State."

They had come down into the courtyard when somewhere above, amid the
ruins, there was a sudden sound of high-pitched voices, followed by a
single pistol shot. Then came silence.

"If fortune is still with us," said Merry, "the bullet from that pistol
lodged in the carcass of Carlos. Evidently he has kicked up some sort of
trouble, and I fancy a little chap by the name of Ramon fired that
shot."

Outside the ruins they came upon the horses where Buckhart had concealed
them. They were not long in mounting. Frank took up Felicia behind him,
and away they rode into the night, with no hand raised to stay them.



CHAPTER XII.

A LIVELY FISTIC BOUT.


Three days later they arrived in San Diego, where Felicia was returned
to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Staples, the former having given up the
search in despair.

It was Frank who led a party of Americans to the Castle Hidalgo, in El
Diablo Valley. The only human being found there was a man who had been
shot and left where he fell in one of the chambers of the ruins. As
Merry looked at the body, he grimly said:

"Retribution, swift and terrible, overtook you, Carlos, on that dark
night. Who can say the hand of Providence was not in it? You were the
only one who might have given us trouble, for your chief was bound and
gagged, and your mates were drugged by your own hands. It is likely that
Black Joaquin yet lives; but it is certain he must in time meet his just
deserts."

Fearing that Black Joaquin would not give up his scheming to get
possession of the girl, Frank decided that it was unsafe to leave her in
San Diego. Therefore, when he started on his return to Arizona,
accompanied by Dick and Brad, he took Felicia along.

The railroad journey to Prescott was made without any incident worth
recording. Having arrived there, Merry secured accommodations at the
best hotel, for he expected to remain in the place a day or more before
setting out for his new mines in the Enchanted Valley, where he had left
Wiley and Hodge.

Little Abe was found safe in Prescott, where he had been left by Merry.
But for the fact that what she had passed through had shaken Felicia's
nerves and left her in a very excited frame of mind, the whole party
would have been in high spirits. Dick was anxious to visit the mines,
and the prospect was also attractive to Buckhart.

Imagine Frank's surprise, on leaving the hotel an hour after his
arrival, to encounter Cap'n Wiley on the street. The sailor looked
somewhat battered and weather-worn, and there was an unnatural flush in
his cheeks and a suspicious odor upon his breath. The moment his eyes
fell on Merry he stopped short and made a profound salute.

"Mate Merriwell!" he cried, "it is with a sensation of the most profound
satisfaction that my eyes again behold your unexpected reappearance."

"Cap'n," said Frank soberly, shaking his head, "I fear you have been
looking on the corn juice. There is something suspicious about your
breath and your heightened color."

"Hush!" said the marine marvel. "The dreadful ordeal through which I
have lately promulgated myself made it necessary for me to take
something in the way of medicine. Mr. Merriwell, there have been riotous
doings since you departed."

"Any trouble in regard to the new mine?" asked Merry, somewhat
anxiously.

"Oh, no; nothing of that sort. I have been tending strictly to business.
At the suggestion of Mate Hodge, I gathered up in Cottonwood, Central
Butte, Stoddard, Bigbug, Cherry and elsewhere a score of hale and hearty
laborers and piloted them safely to the valley, where they now are. He
then sent me hither for supplies and other needed articles. I have
secured half a dozen more good men, who will journey with us to the
valley."

"Now, Wiley," said Frank, "tell me about these men you say you have
engaged. What sort of men are they?"

"They are charming," assured the sailor. "You remember your Terrible
Thirty."

"Yes."

"Well, they are men of the same class. They are the real thing."

"But I am afraid such men are not just what we want, cap'n."

The sailor looked surprised.

"Why not?" he questioned.

"What we need are miners, not fighting men. It happened that I was able
to control the Thirty, and they proved valuable to me at that time. You
remember that as miners I couldn't retain one of them. You say you have
picked up some more men here?"

"Sure, sure."

"I'd like to look them over, cap'n. Where are they?"

"If you will perambulate with me, I will present you to the bunch. I
have them corralled not far away."

"Lead on," said Frank. "I will look them over."

Wiley led the way straight to a saloon, which they entered. As they
walked in, several men were drinking at the bar, and Merry distinctly
heard one of them, a huge, pockmarked fellow, say:

"It sure is ten chances to one the gent loses his mine afore he ever
sets eyes on it again."

Frank recognized the fellow at a glance. He was a desperado with a bad
reputation, and was known as Spotted Dan.

"There they are," said Wiley. "Those fine boys I have collected. You can
see at a glance that they are the real thing."

"Altogether too real!" muttered Frank.

He was confident that the words of Spotted Dan referred to him, and in a
twinkling his mind was made up.

"Mates," said Wiley, calling the attention of the ruffians, "it gives me
untold pleasure to introduce you to Mr. Merriwell, the owner of the
mines I told you about."

They turned and looked Frank over. His youthful appearance seemed to
surprise them, and it was evident that they regarded him as a
tenderfoot.

Frank lost no time.

"It's my duty to inform you, gentlemen," he said, "that Cap'n Wiley has
made a slight mistake. I shall not need you."

This seemed to astonish them.

"What's that?" cried Spotted Dan hoarsely. "Whatever is this you says,
mister?"

Frank quietly repeated his words, upon which one of the ruffians swore.

"I reckons you is the one mistaken," said Spotted Dan, stepping out. "I
opines, sir, that you does need us."

"Then you opine wrong."

"We has been engaged all fair and square, and we sticks by it. We
proposes to see that you sticks by it, too."

"Cap'n Wiley had no authority from me to engage anybody," declared
Merry. "That being the case, you can see at once that no agreement made
with him counts for anything."

"Say you so?" sneered Dan. "Well, now, we thinks a heap different."

"What you think is a matter of indifference to me," said Merry, looking
the ruffian straight in the eyes.

"Whatever does you take us fer?" snarled the pox-marked fellow. "We're
no kids to be fooled with this yere way. You shakes us none whatever. If
you tries it----"

"What then?" asked Merry, in a low tone.

"What then? Well, by the everlasting, I chaws you up! I flattens you
out! There will be a funeral in Prescott to-morrow!"

"There may be," said Frank; "but, if there is, you will be highly
interested, and yet you will know nothing about it."

Spotted Dan glared at Merry in his fiercest manner. It seemed to
astonish him that the smooth-faced young man was not in the least awed
by this fierceness.

"Look a here, Mr. Merriwell," he said, "do yer know who yer dealing with
in this yere piece of business?"

"From all appearances, I should say that I am dealing with a
thoroughbred ruffian," was the serene answer.

"Yer dealing with a bad man with a record, and don't yer forget it,"
snarled Dan. "My record is as long as my arm. And whar I goes I leaves
graves in my footsteps. I adds to the population of the cemeteries."

"You're plainly a big bluffer and a blowhard," said Frank.

Then, as Spotted Dan made a suspicious movement, quick as a flash of
light a pistol appeared in Merriwell's hand.

"Don't try to pull a gun on me, you big duffer!" exclaimed the youth.
"If you do, I will run a couple of tunnels in you."

"Correct in the most minute particular," chipped in Cap'n Wiley. "He
will do it scientifically and skillfully. When it comes to shooting, he
is a shooter from Shooterville. Say, you oughter see him shoot out a
pigeon's eye at four thousand yards! Why, he can shoot with his feet
better than any man in this bunch! At the same time I happen to be
provided with a couple of large-bore fowling pieces, and I shall feel it
my duty to shed real gore in case any of you other gents take a notion
to chip in to this little circus."

While speaking the sailor had produced a pair of Colt's revolvers, which
he now flourished with reckless abandon.

"Oh, that is the way yer does it, is it?" sneered Spotted Dan. "Mebbe
yer thinks this settles it. Well, wait and see. You has the drop now;
but our turn comes. It's a good thing fer you, young feller," he
declared, still glaring at Frank, "that I don't git my paws on yer. Ef
I'd ever hit yer a crack with my maul you would sprout wings instanter.
Sometimes I gits at yer, tenderfoot, and I hammers yer all up."

"You think you will," retorted Merry. "You might find yourself up
against a snag."

"Waal, ef I can't knock you stiff in less than one minute, I'll take to
my hole and stay thar for a year."

"I presume you would consider this engagement ended in case you fail to
put me down and out in short order?" said Merry. "If you were the one
whipped, you would call all dealings off?"

"Sartin sure. I'd be so ashamed of myself I'd never look a dog in the
face again."

"Give your weapons to one of your pards there," directed Merry. "I will
pass mine to Wiley, and I'll agree to take off my coat and give you a
chance to do me up right here."

"I think I smell smoke," murmured the sailor, sniffing the air. "I think
I smell fire and brimstone. I think there will be doings around here
directly."

"Whoop!" cried Spotted Dan. "It's a go! Say, I makes you look like a
piece of fresh beefsteak in just about two shakes."

Then he turned to one of his companions and handed over a pistol and
knife. He wore no coat, and when he had cast his old hat on the floor
and thrust back his sleeves, exposing his brawny, hairy arms, he
declared he was ready.

The barkeeper had remonstrated. Merry was known in Prescott, and to the
man behind the bar he said:

"Whatever damage is done I will pay for. I will set 'em up for every one
who comes in for the next hour besides."

Then he placed his revolver on the bar and coolly drew off his coat,
which he lay beside the pistol.

"Keep your ellipticals parabolically peeled," warned Cap'n Wiley. "The
gent with the dented countenance looks like a Peruvian dog. I don't know
as there is a Peruvian dog, but I judge so, because I have heard of
Peruvian bark."

Merry said nothing. His face was calm and grim as he thrust back the
sleeves of his woolen shirt. He had a handsome forearm, finely developed
and finely moulded, with the flesh firm and hard and the supple muscles
showing beneath the silken skin.

"Come on!" cried Spotted Dan eagerly. "Step right out yere and git yer
medicine."

The ruffian's friends were chuckling and muttering among themselves.

"Dan paralyzes him the first time he hits him," declared one.

"You bet your boots he does!" put in another.

"I seen him break Bill Goddard's neck with a blow down in Buckeye," said
a third.

Frank removed his wide-brimmed hat and laid it on the bar, tossing back
his head with a slight shaking motion to fling a lock of hair out of his
eyes. Then he suddenly advanced to meet his antagonist, his arms hanging
straight at his sides and his hands open. It seemed as if he invited
annihilation, and Spotted Dan improved the occasion by making a strong
swinging blow with his huge fist, aiming straight at the face of the
fearless youth.

Quick as a flash of light, Merry ducked just the slightest and tipped
his head to one side.

Dan's fist shot over Frank's shoulder. With a quick movement of his
foot, Merriwell struck the ruffian's feet from beneath him, and the
giant crashed to the floor so heavily that the glasses and bottles
rattled on the shelves behind the bar.

With a roar of surprise, Spotted Dan made a spring and landed on his
feet. Before him stood Merriwell, still with his hands hanging at his
sides, regarding him with just the faintest suggestion of an amused
smile. That smile was enough to infuriate the bruiser beyond
description.

"Dodges, does yer!" snarled the man. "Well, dodge this if yer ken!"

Again he struck, and again Merry escaped by simply tipping his head like
a flash over upon his shoulder and crouching the least bit. He did not
lift a hand to ward off the blow. Like a panther he leaped to one side,
and his outstretched toe caught his enemy's ankle as the force of that
blow, wasted on the empty air, sent Dan staggering forward. A second
time the fellow went crashing to the floor. A second time he sprang up
with amazing agility for one so huge and ponderous.

"Whatever kind of fighting does yer call this?" he shouted, in a rage.
"Why don't yer stand up like a man and fight? Is that all yer can do?
Does yer know nothing else but jest ter dodge?"

"You're too easy," declared Frank. "I hate to hurt you--really I do. It
seems a shame."

"Yah!" shouted the infuriated man. "You would hurt nobody if yer hit
um."

"I beg you to pause a moment, Daniel," put in Wiley. "Have you made your
will? If not, I entreat you to do so. If he ever hits you--oh, luddy,
luddy! you'll think you've been kicked by a can of dynamite."

The ruffian's companions had been astonished by the ease with which
Merriwell escaped Dan's blows; but they, too, believed the fight would
quickly end if Merry stood up and met his enemy.

Spotted Dan slyly edged around Frank, seeking to force him into a
corner. Apparently without suspecting the fellow's object, Merry
permitted himself to be driven back just as Dan seemed to desire.
Getting the young mine owner cornered, as he thought, the bruiser
quickly advanced, seeking now to seize him with one hand, while the
other hand was drawn back and clinched, ready for another terrible blow.

With a snapping movement, Frank clutched the wrist of Dan's outstretched
arm. There was a sudden twist and a whirl, and although the ruffian
struck with all his force, he felt his shoulder wrenched in the socket
and knew he had missed even as he delivered the blow. That twisting
movement turned the fellow about and brought his arm up behind him on
his back. Then Merry sent him forward with a well-directed and vigorous
kick.

"It is too easy!" sighed Cap'n Wiley, sadly shaking his head. "It isn't
even interesting. I fancied possibly there might be some excitement in
the affair, but I am growing sleepy, and I fear I shall miss the finish
while I take a nap."

Spotted Dan was astonished now. Never had he encountered any one who
fought in such a singular manner, and he could not understand it. Just
when he felt certain that he had the youth where he wanted him, Merry
would thwart his design and trip him, or, with the utmost ease, send him
staggering.

"Dern yer! What makes yer fight with yer feet?" rasped the ruffian.
"That ain't no way whatever ter fight. Fight with yer fists on the
squar, and I will annihilate yer."

"I don't believe that anything was said about the style of fighting,"
retorted Merry pleasantly. "However, if you don't like my methods I will
agree not to use my feet any more."

"That settles it!" roared Dan. "I will fix yer in thirty seconds now."

"Dear, dear!" yawned Wiley, leaning on the bar. "How sleepy I am! I
think this bout should have been pulled off under Marquis of Deusenbury
rules. I, too, am against the use of feet. Cut it out, mates, and come
down to real business."

"Very well," said Frank.

"You kick no more?" questioned the ruffian.

"Not to-day."

"Then I thumps the head off you right away."

Spotted Dan sailed into it then, and for a few moments the fight was
rather lively, although the ruffian was doing all the hitting. That is,
he was trying to do all the hitting, but he was wasting his blows on the
air, for Frank parried them all or ducked and dodged and escaped by such
cleverness as none of Dan's comrades had ever before witnessed. Still
the bruiser was the aggressor, and they were confident he would soon
weary the youth, when a single blow would bring about the finish of the
encounter.

Indeed, one thing that led Dan on and made him force the fight harder
and harder was the fact that Merry seemed to be panting heavily and
betrayed signs of great exhaustion. The desperado was sure the youth was
giving out, and so, although he was likewise somewhat winded, he
continued to follow Merry up. At length, quick as a flash, Frank's
manner changed. He no longer retreated. He no longer sought to escape
his enemy. He made Dan parry two heavy blows aimed at him. Then he
countered, and the big fellow was sent reeling. Like a wolf Frank
followed the bruiser up, hitting him again and again until he went down.

Cap'n Wiley roused up a little at this and observed:

"That's somewhat better. Now it grows slightly interesting. But he
hasn't oiled his machinery and started in earnest yet. Wait a few
moments, gents, and see him cut parabolical circles through the
diametrical space around Daniel's dizzy cranium."

Spotted Dan sat up, astonished beyond measure at what had happened. He
saw Frank standing at a little distance, with his hands on his hips,
smiling down at him and showing not the least sign of exhaustion. The
man who had seemed winded a few moments before and ready to drop was now
as fresh and unwearied as if nothing had happened.

Through the bruiser's dull brain crept a suspicion that he had been
deceived by this handsome, smooth-faced young man. He knew now that
Merriwell could fight in the most astounding manner. This, however,
enraged him to such an extent that he banished reason and coolness and
rose to charge on Merry, with a roar like that of a mad bull. Frank
avoided the rush, but hit the ruffian a staggering blow on the ear as he
went past. Dan turned quickly and charged again.

Four times the big bruiser charged, and four times Merry avoided him and
sent him reeling. The fourth time Frank followed him up. He gave Spotted
Dan no chance to recover. Blow after blow rained on the man's face and
body. Dan was driven back until he was close upon the card table that
sat in the rear of the room. Then, with a swinging upward blow,
Merriwell's fist hit the fellow on the point of the jaw, and the ruffian
was actually lifted off his feet and hurled clean over the table against
the wall. He fell to the floor and lay there in a huddled, senseless
heap, literally knocked out.

Frank turned toward the bar, rolling down his sleeves.

"Watch his pards like a hawk, Wiley," he said. "Now is the time they may
try treachery, if ever."

"Depend on me," nodded the sailor.

Frank quickly slipped on his coat and placed his hat upon his head. Then
he turned to the amazed ruffians, saying, quietly:

"Gents, you heard the agreement between us. If I whipped that fellow,
the engagement which he claims to have made for himself and for you
through Cap'n Wiley was off. I think you will acknowledge that he is
whipped. That settles it."

He backed toward the door of the saloon, followed by the sailor, also
backing in the same manner and keeping his pistols ready. When the door
was reached Merry turned and disappeared, and Wiley followed him.



CHAPTER XIII.

MACKLYN MORGAN APPEARS.


"Mate," said Cap'n Wiley, as they hurried along the street on their way
back to the hotel, "you are in every minute particular the finest
specimen of exuberant manhood that it has ever been my fortune to
associate with. Of course, I felt sure you would do up that fellow, but
you came through the seething and turgid fray without so much as a scar.
I don't believe he even touched you once."

"Yes, he did," said Merry, "a couple of times. He hit me on the
shoulder, but the blow was spent, and he caught me a fair one over the
heart. I leaped away just in time to spoil the effectiveness of that."

"But you are certainly the supreme fighter of this period of scrappers.
If you chose to enter the ring, you might be champion of the world. It
would delight my soul to be able to put up a real fight like that."

"It disgusts me," returned Merry.

"Wha-a-at?" gasped the sailor. "I think I fail to catch your meaning."

"It disgusts me," repeated Merry. "If there is anything that makes me
feel degraded, it is being compelled to take part in a fight of that
sort. I was practically forced into it on this occasion. I saw those
fellows meant mischief, and I felt that the only way to settle the
affair was to give that big duffer a thumping. It's about the only
reasoning a man can use on men of his calibre. Words and arguments fail
to affect them, and a good thrashing moves them to respect."

"But do you mean to tell me," said Wiley, "that you are not an admirer
of the manly art of self-defense? Do you mean to tell me that you take
no interest in the prize ring and the glorious heroes of it?"

"If there is anything for which I have absolutely no use," said Merry,
"it is a professional prize fighter. To me prize fighting is the most
degrading of all the so-called sports."

"This is more than passing strange," said the sailor. "If such can be
the case, will you elucidate to me how it happened that you ever learned
to use your little dukes in such a marvelously scientific manner?"

"I think it is the duty of every American youth to learn to defend
himself with his fists. No matter how peacefully inclined he is, no
matter how much of a gentleman he is, no matter how much forbearance he
may have, there is bound to come a time in his life when he will be
forced to fight or suffer insults or bodily injury. As a rule, I never
fight if I can avoid it. In this instance I might have avoided it for
the time being, but I was certain that if I did so the matter would
culminate in something more serious than a fistic encounter. Had I
escaped from that saloon without meeting Spotted Dan, he and all his
partners would have regarded me as afraid of them, and you know very
well that they would have sought to force trouble on me at every
opportunity. The easiest way to settle the whole matter was to fight
then and there, and therefore I did so."

"Well, you oughter feel proud of the job you did!"

"Instead of that, I feel as if I had lowered and degraded myself. I'll
not throw off the feeling for some time. To make the matter still worse,
it was a saloon fight. However, I do not go there to drink. Out in this
country the man who does business with the men he finds here is
sometimes compelled to enter a saloon."

"That's true--quite true," sighed Wiley. "I sometimes find it necessary
to enter one myself."

By this time they had reached the hotel, and as they entered the office
Merry suddenly paused in surprise, his eyes fastened on a man who stood
before the desk.

This man was tall and well dressed, with a somewhat ministerial face and
flowing grayish side whiskers. He was speaking to the clerk.

"I see here the name of Mr. Frank Merriwell on the register," he was
saying. "Can you tell me where to find him?"

"Mr. Merriwell!" called the clerk. "Here is a gentleman inquiring for
you."

The man at the desk turned and faced Frank.

"Is that so?" muttered Frank. "It is Macklyn Morgan!"

Morgan, one of the money kings of the great Consolidated Mining
Association of America, looked Merriwell over with a glance as cold as
ice.

"How do you do, sir?" he said, in a calm, low voice. "It seems that I
have found you at last."

"From your words," returned Merry, "I should fancy you had been looking
for me for some time?"

"I have."

"Indeed?"

"Yes, I have looked for you in Denver, in Holbrook, and at your Queen
Mystery Mine."

"It appears that I have given you considerable trouble?"

"Not a little; but I was determined to find you."

"You have done so."

"Yes; you can't hide from me."

"I have not the least desire in the world to hide from you, Mr. Morgan."

"You say so," returned the man, with a cold sneer; "but I am certain you
have taken pains to keep out of my way for the last two weeks."

"You are utterly mistaken. I would not take pains to keep out of your
way for two minutes. What do you want of me?"

"I have a little matter to talk over with you--some private business."

"I was not aware that there could be business dealings of any sort
between us, Macklyn Morgan."

"Be careful!" warned Morgan, lifting a thin finger. "You are putting on
a very bold face."

"And is there any reason why I should not? I know, Mr. Morgan, of your
methods at the time of my affair with the C. M. A. of A."

"I have not forgotten that."

"Nor I. Nor do I regret that, although the C. M. A. of A. was compelled
to give up its unlawful efforts to rob me, you entered into a
combination with another moneyed rascal to accomplish the work."

"Be careful!" again warned Morgan. "I am not the man to whom you can
talk in such a manner."

"Like any other man, you are one to whom I can tell the truth. If the
truth cuts, so much the worse for you, sir."

"Don't get on your high horse, young man; it will be better for you if
you refrain. Don't be so free with your accusations, for you will soon
find that there is an accusation against you of a most serious nature."

"What new game are you up to, Mr. Morgan? It seems to me that the
failures of the past should teach you the folly of your plots and
schemes."

"I have told you that I wish to have a private talk with you, young man.
Perhaps you had better grant me the privilege."

"As far as I am concerned, there is no necessity of doing so; but really
I am curious to know just what you're up to. This being the case, I will
not object. I have a room, and we may go there."

"Your record indicates that you are a desperate character, Merriwell. I
should hesitate to place myself alone with you in any room unless you
were first disarmed. If you will leave your weapons here at the desk we
will go to your room."

"I am quite willing in case you leave your own revolver, sir."

"I never carry a revolver, Merriwell."

"But you have one in your pocket now," declared Frank positively.

He seemed to know this to be a fact, and, after a moment's hesitation,
Morgan took out a small revolver, which he laid upon the desk.

"I thought it best to provide myself with such an article while in this
part of the country," he said. "There it is. I will leave it here."

Immediately Frank walked to the desk and placed his own pistol upon it.

"Come," he said. "You may follow me to my room."

In Frank's room, with the door closed behind them, Merry motioned to a
chair.

"Sit down, Mr. Morgan," he said, "and make whatever statement you
choose. I will listen."

Morgan took the chair.

"First," observed Morgan, "I wish to speak of Milton Sukes."

"I thought likely."

"You know the interests of Mr. Sukes and myself were closely allied."

Frank laughed.

"Yes; although Sukes was at the head of the concern, I know that you
conspired with him to defraud me."

"Have a care!" again warned Morgan. "You are now dealing with a man of
power and influence."

"I have dealt with such men before. As a bugaboo, the mere fact that you
have money does not frighten me in the least, Mr. Morgan. If, like
Sukes, you fancy that money gives you power to commit any fraud, like
Sukes, you are to learn your mistake."

"I know all about your scandalous attack on Mr. Sukes in Denver. I know
of your attempted blackmailing of him, Merriwell. You did try to
blackmail him, and you can't deny it."

"You lie, Morgan!" retorted Frank, with perfect control of himself.

"Then what was the meaning of your threat to expose his mining
operations?"

"Morgan, Milton Sukes pitted himself against me and attempted to rob me
of my mine. When he did so he aroused my fighting blood. He was defeated
in every effort he made against me, and the decision against him in the
courts of the Territory was the final blow that upset his plans. In the
meantime I had learned that his Great Northwest Territory Mining Company
was a swindle of the most outrageous sort. I had threatened to expose
him, and, when he found himself whipped to a standstill, he sought to
enter into a compact with me, by which I was to remain silent and let
him go on with his dishonest work.

"He sent one of his tools to me with a contract for me to sign. I tore
it up. As I say, my blood had been aroused, and I warned him then that
neither cajolery nor money could silence me. I warned him that I would
expose and disgrace him, so that every honest man in the country would
regard him with scorn and aversion. Had it been mere blackmail, Sukes
could have silenced me with money. He sought to do so, but found he was
barking up the wrong tree. He threatened libel suits and all that; but I
kept on at my work. As a last desperate resort he paid an employee of
mine to fire my office in Denver, and the result of that affair was that
the treacherous fellow who betrayed me fancied I had perished in the
fire. It drove him insane. He pursued Sukes relentlessly, and it is
certain that Sukes was finally killed by that man's hand."

"So you say, Merriwell; but I hold quite a different opinion--quite a
different opinion."

"Whatever your opinion may be, Morgan, it is a matter of absolute
indifference to me."

Macklyn Morgan showed his teeth.

"You may think so just now, young man, but you will change your mind. I
have been investigating this matter thoroughly. I have followed it up
faithfully. I know how and where Sukes was shot. I have taken pains to
secure all the evidence possible. You were present at the time. You were
there in disguise. Why did you pursue and hunt him in disguise? It looks
black for you, Mr. Merriwell--it looks black. These things will count
against you at the day of reckoning, which is surely coming. How will
you explain your behavior to the satisfaction of the law?"

"That's no matter to worry you, Macklyn Morgan," calmly returned
Merriwell. "If there is anything of explanation, I shall have the
explaining to do. Don't trouble yourself over it."

"You have a great deal of nerve just now, young man; but it will
weaken--it will weaken. Wait until you are arrested on the charge of
murder. Had you killed an ordinary man it might have been different; but
Milton Sukes was a man of money, a man of power, a man of influence. All
his money, if necessary, will be used to convict you. You cannot escape.
Just as true as this case is put into the hands of the law you will
eventually be hanged."

In his cold, calm, accusing way, Morgan was doing everything in his
power to unsettle Frank's nerves. As he spoke, he watched the youth as a
hawk watches its prey.

"I fail to see your object in coming to me with this," said Merry. "It
seems most remarkable. If you intend to push such a charge against me,
why don't you go ahead and do it? Why do you tell me what you
contemplate doing? The proper method is to secure every scrap of
evidence and then have me arrested without warning and thrown into
jail."

"I have all the evidence I need," asserted the money king. "Merriwell, I
have men who will swear that you fired that shot."

"Did they see me do it?"

"They did."

"Most amazing, Morgan! Are you aware of the fact that Sukes was shot in
the dark? Are you aware that every light in the place had first been
extinguished by other shots? Will you explain to me how any one could
have seen me shoot him under such circumstances?"

"One of the men was standing within two feet of you. He saw the flash of
your weapon, as did the other man, who was a little farther away."

Frank smiled derisively.

"Wonderful evidence!" he said. "I doubt a great deal if a jury anywhere
in this country would convict a man on such proof. At the time, as I
think you will acknowledge, there was another man who did some shooting.
I deny that I fired the shot. But even had I done so, who could say that
it was not I who shot out the lights and the other man who killed Milton
Sukes?"

"Did you know that you left a pistol with your name upon it in a hotel
where you stopped in Snowflake?"

"I did nothing of the sort."

"You did, Merriwell! The bullet that killed Sukes is in my possession.
It is a bullet such as would have been fired from that pistol. The
pistol is in my possession, Merriwell! I have the evidence against you,
and you can't escape!"

"Although you are lying in every particular, Morgan, I am curious to
know what your game may be. What is behind this singular procedure of
yours?"

Macklyn Morgan seemed to hesitate for a few moments, and then, leaning
forward on the edge of his chair and holding up one finger, he suddenly
exclaimed:

"There is only one escape for you!"

"And that is----"

"If I abandon the case you may escape. If I drop it there will be no one
to push it."

"And you will drop it?" questioned Merry, with pretended anxiety. "On
what inducements?"

"Now you're coming to your senses," nodded the man. "Now I fancy you
comprehend just where you are. You possess several mines, and they are
of considerable value. I have spent some money to get possession of one
of those mines, having, as both Milton Sukes and I believed, a good
claim to it. I speak of the Queen Mystery. Frank Merriwell, the day you
deed over to me the Queen Mystery and give me possession of it I will
abandon my determination to prosecute you for murder. I will even place
such proofs as I have in your hands and you may destroy them. Of course
there will remain the two men who are ready to swear they saw you fire
the shot, but they may be easily silenced. That's my proposition. And it
is by that method alone you can save your neck. Now give me your
answer."

"I will!" exclaimed Merriwell suddenly.

And then, with a spring, he seized Macklyn Morgan by the collar.
Immediately he ran the man to the door, which he hurled open.

"That is my answer!" he cried, as he kicked Morgan out of the room.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE MESSENGER.


As Morgan was hurled headlong from Merry's room he collided with a man
outside, who was very nearly upset. This young man caught a glimpse of
Frank in the act of violently ejecting the man of money, and what
immediately happened to Morgan was the result of this discovery.

"What's the meaning of this great agitation by which you seek to
overthrow my corporosity?" savagely demanded Cap'n Wiley, for it was he.
"This insult to my indignity is several degrees beyond my comprehension,
and without waste of verbosity or the expenditure of violent language, I
feel called upon to precipitate your corporosity on its journey."

Saying which, he sprang, catlike, on the millionaire, seized him, ran
him swiftly along the corridor and flung him head over heels down the
stairs. As Morgan crashed to the bottom, Wiley stood at the head of the
stairs, his arms akimbo, nodding with satisfaction, and remarked:

"Possibly that jarred you some."

Morgan was not seriously hurt, but he arose in a terrible fury.

"I will land you both where you belong for this outrage!" he declared,
white to the lips. "I will place you both behind iron bars!"

Then he limped away. Merriwell had followed, and his hand fell on the
sailor's shoulder.

"Why do you mix up in this, Wiley?" he demanded sternly. "It was not
your quarrel."

"If I have offended by my impulsive and impetuous demeanor, I entreat
pardon," said the sailor. "When the gent bumped me and I saw that he had
been scientifically ejected by you, I couldn't resist the temptation to
give him another gentle boost."

"And by doing so you may find yourself in a peck of trouble," said
Frank. "That man has power and influence, and he will try to make good
his threat, which you heard. He is a money king."

"What is money?" loftily returned Wiley. "I scorn the filthy stuff. But,
regardless of his money, it seems to me that you unhesitatingly elevated
his anatomy with the toe of your boot."

"It was my quarrel, Wiley; and there is no reason why you should pitch
in."

"My dear comrade, I ever feel it my duty to stand by my friends, and
your quarrel in some degree must be mine. I inferred that in some manner
he offended you most copiously."

"He did arouse my ire," admitted Merry, as he walked back to his room,
followed by the sailor. "But he is the sort of a man who will seek to
make good his threat and place us behind bars."

"It will not be the first time your humble servant has lingered in
endurance vile. In connection with that, I might mention another little
nannygoat. On the last occasion when I indulged too freely in Western
jag juice I was living in regal splendor in one of those hotels where
they have lots of furniture and little to eat. I started out to put a
red stripe on the city, and somewhere during my cruise I lost my
bearings. I didn't seem to remember much of anything after that until I
awoke with my throat feeling as dry as the desert of Sahara and my head
splitting.

"Just where I was I couldn't tell. I had some vague remembrance of
whooping things up in glorious style, and knew I had been hitting the
redeye. In a somewhat dormant condition I stretched my hands above my
head, and, to my horror, they encountered iron bars. This aroused me
slightly, and I looked in that direction and beheld before me, to my
unutterable dismay, the bars I had touched. 'Cap'n,' says I, 'you have
again collided with the blue-coated guardians of the peace, and you are
pinched.'

"I noted, however, that these iron bars seemed somewhat frail and
slender, and it struck me that my colossal strength might be able to
bend them. With the thought of escape, I wrenched the bars apart and
thrust my head between them. By vigorous pushing I injected my
shoulders, but there I stuck. In spite of all my desperate efforts, I
could not crawl through, and I finally discovered that I couldn't get
back. I floundered and kicked a while and then gave it up and yelled for
help. My cries finally brought some one, who entered the place and
dragged me from the trap, at the same time nearly shaving off my left
ear with one of the bars. My rescuer proved to be a hotel attendant, who
asked me, in no small astonishment, what I was trying to do. Then, to my
inexpressible relief, on sitting up and looking round, I found that I
was in my own room at the hotel, where I had somehow landed, and that my
delusion had led me to endeavor to escape from limbo by crawling through
the bars at the head of my iron bedstead. I gave the attendant who had
dragged me out seven thousand dollars and pledged him to eternal
silence. This is the first time my lips have ever betrayed the tale to
mortal ears."

In spite of the humor of the sailor's whimsical story, Merry did not
laugh. This convinced Wiley that the affair with Macklyn Morgan was far
more serious than he had at first apprehended.

"Cap'n," said Frank, "I wish you would find Dick and send him here.
After that, if you can get track of Morgan and keep watch of his
movements it will be a good thing. I'd like to know just what he means
to do."

"Depend upon me," nodded the sailor. "I will shadow him with all the
skill of those heroes about whom I used to read in the yellow-backed
literature."

Saying which, he hastily left the room. Within ten minutes Dick appeared
and found Merry walking up and down.

"What's the matter, Frank?" he asked. "From Wiley's words I inferred
there was trouble in the air."

"There is," Merry nodded; and he proceeded to tell his brother the whole
story.

Dick's indignation burst forth.

"The unmitigated scoundrel!" he cried. "Tried to force you to give up
the Queen Mystery, did he?"

"That was his game."

"Well, you didn't give him half what he deserves. And he threatened to
have you arrested for murder--you, Frank, arrested for murder!"

Merry smiled grimly.

"That was the threat he made."

"But it was a bluff, Frank--a bluff pure and simple. He will never try
that game."

"You can't tell what a man like Morgan may try. Sukes was desperate and
dangerous, but I regard Macklyn Morgan as even more so. As a rule, he is
quiet, cold, and calculating, and he lays his plans well. He would not
have started in on this thing had he not been convinced that there was a
good prospect of succeeding."

"Why, he can't succeed! It is impossible!"

"I don't propose to let him succeed, but I feel certain I am going to
have a hot time with him. I am ready for it; let it come."

Again Frank's fighting blood was aroused, and Dick saw it in the
sternness of his handsome face and the gleam of his flashing eyes.

"That's the talk, Frank!" cried the boy, thrilled by the spirit of his
brother. "They can't down you. They've tried it and failed too many
times. But what are your plans now? You intend to start for the new
mines early to-morrow?"

"I may alter my plans. I may remain here for a while to face Macklyn
Morgan. For all of his power and his money, I think I have a few friends
and some influence in Prescott. There is one, at least, whom I can
depend upon, and that is Frank Mansfield. He is white to the bone, and
he always stands by his friends."

"But you cannot depend upon your friends alone in an emergency like
this," said Dick. "You will have to rely on yourself. Of course, Brad
and I will stand by you, no matter what happens."

While they were talking Wiley came rushing in.

"The gent who lately descended the stairs with such graceful impetuosity
is now in consultation with the city marshal," he declared. "I traced
him thither, and I have left one Bradley Buckhart to linger near and
keep an eagle eye upon his movements."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Dick; "I believe he does mean to have you arrested,
Frank."

"His movement seems to indicate something of the sort," was Frank's cool
confession. "I suppose he will make a charge of personal assault, with
the idea of putting me to inconvenience and detaining me until he can
again try the effect of his threats of arrest on a more serious charge.
Were I sure things are all right at the Enchanted Valley, I would not
mind. I am afraid you have made a mess of it, cap'n, in sending those
men there."

"It seems that I have a clever little way of putting my foot into it,"
retorted the sailor. "When I seek to do what I supremely consider to be
for the best I make a bobble."

"Yet we will not worry over that now," said Merry. "However, in case of
emergency, Dick, I wish you to have my horse constantly ready for me. If
anything happens that I decide to get out in a hurry, you, and Brad, and
Wiley are to take care of Felicia and little Abe."

"All right," nodded Dick. "I will see to it at once."

Ten minutes later Frank was standing alone upon the steps of the hotel,
when a man on horseback came riding furiously down the street. He was
covered with dust, and his horse was so spent that it was only by the
most savage urging that the beast was forced into a gallop. Behind the
man, at a distance, came two more horsemen, who were likewise spurring
their mounts mercilessly. Plainly they were in pursuit of the man in
advance.

As Merry was wondering what it meant, the horse of the fugitive went
down, as if shot, directly in front of the hotel, flinging the rider,
who seemed stunned.

With a great clatter of hoofs, the pursuers came up and stopped short,
leaping from their saddles. As one of them dismounted, he whipped out a
wicked-looking knife. Both seemed to be desperadoes, and it was evident
that their intention toward the fugitive was anything but friendly.

Now, it was not Frank's nature to stand idly by and see two men jump on
a third who was helpless and do him up. Without a moment's hesitation,
Merry leaped from the steps and rushed upon those men. A heavy blow sent
one of them to the ground.

The other had stooped above the fallen man when Frank's toe precipitated
him headlong and caused him to roll over and over in the dust.

At the same time Merriwell drew a pistol.

"Get up and sneak, both of you!" he ordered. "If you linger, I will blow
a window in each of you!"

Muttering oaths, the ruffians rose, but the look they saw in Frank's
face caused them to decide that the best thing they could do would be to
obey.

"It's none of your funeral!" cried one, as he grasped the bridle rein of
his horse.

"But it will be yours if you linger here ten seconds!" retorted Merry.
"Git! If you value your skins, don't even turn to look back until you
are out of shooting distance."

As the baffled ruffians were retreating, the fugitive sat up, slowly
recovering from his shock.

"Thank you, pard," he said. "It was mighty lucky for me you pitched in
just as you did. But for you, they had me dead to rights, and I opine
they would have finished me."

"What is it all about?" questioned Merry.

"Got a message," answered the man. "Got to send it without fail. They
meant to stop me. It has been a hot run. They headed me off from Bigbug,
and I had to strike for this town. They've wasted lots of lead on me;
but they were riding too fast to shoot well. And I didn't hold up to
give them an easy chance at me."

As the man was speaking, Merry assisted him to his feet. His horse had
likewise risen, but stood with hanging head, completely pegged out.

"Poor devil!" said the man, sympathetically patting the creature's neck.
"It's a wonder I didn't kill you. But even if I did, I was going to send
the message to Frank Merriwell, if possible."

"What's that?" shouted Frank, in astonishment. "A message to Frank
Merriwell! Man, I am Frank Merriwell!"

"You?" was the almost incredulous answer. "Why, Hodge told me to wire to
San Diego. He said it might reach you there."

"I am just back from San Diego. Give me the message."

The man fumbled in his pocket and brought forth a crumpled piece of
paper, which he placed in Merriwell's hand.

Opening the paper, this was what Merry read:

    "If possible, come at once. Trouble at the mines. Plot to seize
    them. --Hodge."

"Come into the hotel," said Frank, turning to the man who had brought
this message. "We will send some one to take charge of your horse."

The man followed him. Having asked that the horse be cared for, Merry
instructed his companion to follow, and he proceeded to his room.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"It's Colvin--Dash Colvin."

"Well, Colvin, you are from the Enchanted Valley?"

"Yes, sir."

"You were one of the men engaged by Wiley, I presume?"

"Yes, sir."

"It seems that Hodge trusts you?"

"He did, sir."

"What's the trouble there?"

"Those men are plotting a heap to take the mines, sir. Hodge discovered
it."

"How did he make the discovery?"

"That I don't know. He discovers it, somehow, and he sends me with this
yere message. He picks me out and asks me could he trust me a whole lot.
I tells him he could, and he chances it. I plans with him to git out in
the night, and I does so."

"But you were followed?"

"Yes. One of the crew sees me a-talking with Mr. Hodge, and they
suspects me. Arter that they watches me mighty close. That makes it
plenty hard for me to git away. I don't opine I am much more than out of
the valley afore they finds out I am gone. I didn't think they'd git on
so quick, and so I fails to push as hard as I might at first. Shortly
after sun-up I sees two horsemen coming miles behind me. Even then I'm
not dead sure they're arter me. But they was, sir--they was. I had a
hard run for it, but I have made good by getting the message to you."

"And you shan't lose by it, Colvin. Be sure of that. Did you know about
this plot to seize the mines--before Hodge discovered it?"

"I knows there was something up, sir; but the rest of the gang they
don't trust me complete, and so I don't find out just what was a-doing.
I sees them whispering and acting queer, and I thinks there's trouble
brewing before Hodge speaks to me about it."

"What sort of men are they?"

"A right tough lot, Mr. Merriwell. They has liquor, too. Somehow it's
brought to them, but the head one of the bunch, Texas Bland, he don't
ladle it out free at once. He seems to keep it for some occasion later."

Merry's face wore a serious expression.

"How many men do you think there are in this plot?"

"Fifteen or twenty, sir."

"All armed?"

"Every mother's son of them."

"If I had my Thirty!" muttered Frank.

But he was not prepared with an organized force to meet the plotting
ruffians, and he felt that it would require precious time in order to
get together a band of fighting men.

"Whatever do you propose to do, Mr. Merriwell?" asked Colvin.

"I see it is necessary for me to lose no time in reaching the mines."

"But you don't go alone, I judge? You takes some good men with you?"

"If possible."

"Better do it, sir. That gang is a heap tough, and it takes twice as
many men to down 'em."

"Not twice as many of the right sort. I have two or three comrades I can
depend upon."

"But two or three are no good, Mr. Merriwell; you hears me."

"Perhaps not; but if I can get the move on those rascals it will count
in my favor."

"Now, don't you reckon any on holding those mines with the aid of two or
three backers," warned Dash Colvin. "You will never do it."

At this juncture Dick came in.

"Your horse is ready, Frank," he said. "I have given orders to have it
saddled and held prepared for you."

"I may have to use it within an hour."

Dick immediately perceived that some new development had transpired, and
he glanced from his brother to the stranger in the room.

"What is now, Frank?" he anxiously questioned.

"Read that," said Merry, thrusting the message into his hand.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Dick, "this is bad business, Frank--bad business!
How did you get this?"

"It was brought by Mr. Colvin here. He was pursued and barely reached me
with his life."

"Which I allows I would not have done but for Mr. Merriwell himself,"
said Colvin. "My horse throws me unexpected, and the two galoots arter
me has me down and is about to silence me some when Mr. Merriwell takes
a hand."

"Are you sure this is straight goods?" questioned Dick.

"That's Bart's writing," declared Merry. "I'd know it anywhere."

"Then there can be no mistake."

"Certainly not. Colvin tells me that there are fifteen or more ruffians
in this plot."

"Do you believe, Frank, that it is their scheme?"

"I can't say."

"Perhaps this Macklyn Morgan is behind it."

"He may be."

"I believe he is!" cried Dick. "Somehow I am confident of it, Frank. If
he detains you here in Prescott, you will lose those mines. You must get
out of this place without delay."

"It certainly looks that way. I shall do so, Dick."

"But we must go with you."

"Have you thought of Felicia? She is here. Some one must remain to look
after her."

"But, good gracious, Frank! I can't stay here, knowing that you are in
such difficulties. It is impossible!"

"It may seem impossible to you, Dick, but you know the peril through
which Felicia has lately passed. You also know that Black Joaquin is at
liberty and may find her again."

"But can't we take her?"

"Do you think she is prepared to endure the hardships she would be
compelled to face? No, Dick, it can't be done. You will have to stay
with her."

"I will be crazy, Frank. When I think of you pitting yourself against
such odds I will literally explode."

Dick's cheeks were flushed and he was panting with excitement. It seemed
that even then the scent of battle was in his nostrils and he longed for
the fray.

"Don't let your hot blood run away with your judgment, boy," half smiled
Merriwell. "Colvin, do you know anybody in Prescott?"

"I reckons not, sir."

"You don't know a man you can depend upon--a good fighter who will stick
by us if paid well?"

"Nary a one, sir."

"Then that's not to be reckoned on."

Merriwell frowned as he walked the floor. Of a sudden there came a sound
of heavy feet outside and the door burst open. Into the room strode Brad
Buckhart, color in his cheeks and fire in his eyes.

"Waugh!" he cried. "Get out your artillery and prepare for action!"

"What's up now, Brad?" demanded Frank.

"I certain judge they're after you in earnest," said the Texan. "Cap'n
Wiley left me to watch a fine gent named Morgan. I did the trick, and
I'll bet my shooting irons that Morgan has a warrant sworn out for you
this minute, and he is on his way here with officers. They mean to jug
you, pard, sure as shooting. You hear me gently murmur!"

"Then," said Frank calmly, "it's about time for me to make myself scarce
in Prescott."

"If you're going, you want to get a move on," declared Brad. "I am not a
whole lot ahead of old Morgan and the officers."

Even as he spoke there reached their ears the sound of many feet
outside.

"Here they come!" said Dick.

With a leap, the Texan reached the door and pressed himself against it.
A hand fell on the knob of the door, but the powerful shoulder of
Buckhart prevented any one from entering. Immediately there was a heavy
knock.

"Open this door!" commanded a voice.

"Who is there? and what do you want?" demanded Buckhart.

"We want Frank Merriwell. Open this door!"

"Perhaps you will wait some," retorted Brad.

Then another voice was heard outside, and it was that of Morgan himself.

"Break down the door!" he commanded. "Merriwell is in there! Break it
down!"

"Remember my instructions, Dick," said Frank, as he coolly turned and
opened a window. "Just hold this window a moment."

On the door there fell a crashing blow.

"That's right!" growled Buckhart, who remained immovable. "I hope you
don't damage yourself in doing it."

Frank balanced himself on the window ledge, glancing downward.

"Remember, Dick," he said again.

Crash, crash! fell the blows upon the door. It could not withstand such
shocks, and the hinges began to break clear.

"I am good for four seconds more!" grated Brad, maintaining his
position.

Frank made a light spring outward and dropped. It was more than fifteen
feet to the ground, but he landed like a cat upon his feet, turned to
wave his hand to Dick, and disappeared round the corner.

Dick quietly lowered the window.

"Let them in, Brad," he said.

The Texan sprang away from the door and two men came plunging into the
room as it fell. Behind them was a third, and behind him was Macklyn
Morgan.

Dick faced them, his eyes flashing.

"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded.

"Where is Frank Merriwell?" questioned one of the officers.

"He is here! He is here!" asserted Morgan, in the doorway. "I know he is
here!"

"You're a whole lot wise," sneered Buckhart. "You certain could have
given old Solomon a few points! I admire you a great deal--not!"

"He is hiding somewhere in this room," asserted Morgan, paying no
attention to the Texan.

"If that is so, he may as well come out," said the leading officer. "We
will have him in a minute."

"Go ahead," said Dick, beginning to laugh. "Pull him out."

Dick's laughter was tantalizing, and one of the officers became enraged
and threatened him.

"Why, you're real amusing!" said Dick. "Ha! ha! ha! Oh! ha! ha! ha! Some
one has a door to pay for. There is a joke on somebody here."

"Who are you?" demanded Morgan.

Dick took a step nearer, his dark eyes fixing on the man's face.

"Who am I? I will tell you who I am. I am Frank Merriwell's brother."

"His brother? I have heard of you."

"Not for the last time, Macklyn Morgan; nor have you heard of Frank for
the last time. Your plot will fizzle. Your infamous schemes will fail.
You know what the plotting of your partner, Milton Sukes, brought him
to. Look out, Mr. Morgan--look out for yourself!"

"Don't you dare threaten me, you impudent young whelp!" raged Morgan.

"You will find, sir, that I dare tell you just what you are. Your money
and your power do not alarm me in the least. You're an unscrupulous
scoundrel! You have trumped up a charge against my brother. He will fool
you, and he will show you up, just as he did Milton Sukes. Where is
Sukes now? Look out, Macklyn Morgan!"

Although usually able to command his passions and appear cold as ice,
the words of this fearless, dark-eyed lad were too much for Morgan, and
he lifted his clinched fist.

Quick as thought, his wrist was seized by Buckhart, who growled in his
ear:

"If you ever hit my pard, you will take a trip instanter to join Milton
Sukes down below!"

Then he thrust Morgan aside. In the meantime the officers had been
searching the room. They opened the closet, looked under the bed, and
inspected every place where a person could hide.

"You're mistaken," said one of them. "Your man is not here."

"He must be!" asserted Morgan. "I know it!"

"You can see for yourself he is not here."

"Then where is he?"

As this question fell from Morgan's lips there was a clatter of hoofs
outside. Morgan himself glanced from the window and quickly uttered a
cry of baffled rage.

"There he is now!" he shouted. "There he goes on a horse! He is getting
away! After him!"

"And may the Old Nick give you the luck you deserve!" laughed Dick.



CHAPTER XV.

A DESPERATE SITUATION.


Morning in the Enchanted Valley. Bart Hodge was standing in front of a
newly constructed cabin. His ear was turned to listen for sounds of
labor from the lower end of the valley, where a crew of men was supposed
to be at work building other cabins. The valley was strangely still.

"They're not working," muttered Hodge, a dark frown on his face. "They
have quit. What will this day bring? Oh, if Frank were only here!"

Finally, as he stood there, to his ears from far down the valley came a
faint sound of hoarse voices singing.

"I know the meaning of that!" he declared. "They're drinking. At last
Bland has given them the liquor. They're getting ready for their work."

He turned back into the cabin, the door of which stood open. From a peg
on the wall he took down a Winchester rifle and carefully examined it,
making sure the magazine was filled and the weapon in perfect working
order. He also looked over a brace of revolvers, which he carried ready
for use.

Tossing the rifle in the hollow of his left arm, he left the cabin and
turned toward the end of the valley where the men were engaged. He
observed some caution in approaching that portion of the valley. At last
he reached a point amid some bowlders from which he could look down into
a slight hollow, where stood some half-constructed cabins upon which the
men had been working.

Not one of them was at work now. They were lying around carelessly, or
sitting in such shade as they could find, smoking and drinking. Several
bottles were being passed from hand to hand. Already two or three of
them seemed much under the influence of liquor, and one bowlegged fellow
greatly amused the others by an irregular, unsteady dance, during which
he kicked out first with one foot and then with the other, like a skirt
dancer. At intervals some of them sang a melancholy sort of song.

"The miserable dogs!" grated Bart. "They're ready to defy me now and
carry out their treacherous plans."

A tall man, with a black mustache and imperial, stepped among the
others, saying a word now and then and seeming to be their leader.

"You're the one, Texas Bland!" whispered Hodge. "You have led them into
this!"

As he thought of this his fingers suddenly gripped the rifle, and he
longed to lean over the bowlder before him, steady his aim, and send a
bullet through Texas Bland. Bart was unaware that two men were
approaching until they were close upon him. This compelled him, if he
wished to escape observation, to draw back somewhat, and he did so. He
did not crouch or make any great effort at hiding, for such a thing he
disdained to do. He was not observed, however, although the men stopped
within a short distance.

"Well, what do yer think o' this game, Dug?" said one of them, who was
squat and sandy.

"I reckons the boss has it all his own way, Bight," retorted the other,
a leathery-faced chap with tobacco-stained beard.

"The boss!" exclaimed Bight. "Mebbe you tells me who is the boss?"

"Why, Bland, of course," said Dug. "He is the boss."

"Mebbe he is, and then--mebbe again," returned the sandy one.

"Well, we takes our orders from him."

"Sartin; but I reckons he takes his orders from some one else."

Bight pulled out a bottle.

"Now," he said, "he furnished plenty o' this. My neck is getting dry.
How is yourn, Dug?"

"Ready to squeak," returned Dug, grasping the bottle his comrade
extended.

When they had lowered its contents until very little was left, Bight
observed:

"I s'pose Bland he's going to chaw up this yere chap, Hodge?"

"Sure thing," nodded Dug. "Pretty soon he calls Hodge down yere on a
pretense o' business or something, and then he kicks up a fuss with him.
He has it all fixed for several of the boys to plug him as soon as the
fuss starts. That settles his hash."

The eyes of Bart Hodge gleamed savagely.

"I wonder how he gits onter it that anything's up?" questioned Dug.
"Mebbe that sneak, Colvin, tells him."

"Mebbe so," nodded Bight. "Anyhow, nobody trusts Colvin none, and I
opines he'd been polished off here ef he'd stayed."

"And he'll sartin never git very fur," declared Dug. "Them boys arter
him will sure run him down and make buzzard bait o' him."

Hearing this, Hodge knew for the first time that there were men in
pursuit of Colvin, his messenger, who had slipped out of the valley the
previous night. Colvin had sworn, if he lived, to carry the message for
Frank to the nearest telegraph station and send it. But he was pursued
by ruffians who meant to slay him. It was doubtful if he reached a
telegraph office. If he failed, of course Merriwell would remain
uninformed as to the situation in the Enchanted Valley and would not
hurry about returning there.

Even if Colvin succeeded, it might be too late. Bart believed it
probable that Merry was in San Diego or that vicinity, and therefore it
would take him some time to reach Prescott and travel by horse from
Prescott to the valley. Long before he could make such a journey the
mutineers would be able to accomplish their evil design.

"Who do you s'pose is back of this yere business, Dug?" said Bight. "You
thinks Bland is not behind it, does yer?"

"Dead sartin. Bland he never does this fer hisself. He wouldn't dare. It
wouldn't do him no good."

"Why not?"

"Because he can't hold this yere mine and work it. Somebody locates him,
and he has to evaporate, for his record counts agin' him. Howsomever, he
can jump the mine for some other gent and git paid fer doing the trick,
arter which he ambles into the distance and gently disappears. This is
his little game, and I will bet on it."

"I wonders some who the gent is behind it."

"That's nothing much ter us as long as we gits our coin."

"Does we git it sure?"

"You bet I gits mine. Ef I don't, there'll be blazes a-roaring around
yere."

"Why, you don't buck up agin' Bland none?" half laughed the other. "You
knows better than ter do that."

"I don't do it by my lonesome; but if I raises a holler there is others
does the same thing. But I will git my dust, all right. Don't you worry
about that."

At this point several of the men in the vicinity of the unfinished
cabins set up a wild yell of laughter. One of their number had attempted
to imitate the awkward motions of the former dancer and had fallen
sprawling on his stomach. Immediately after this burst of laughter the
men began to sing again.

"That oughter bring this yere Hodge over this way," said Dug, with a
hoarse laugh. "Ordinarily he comes a-whooping to see what is up, and he
raises thunder. He sets himself up as a boss what is to be obeyed, and I
reckons so far he has had the boys jumping when he gives orders."

"If he comes over now," observed Bight, "he gits his medicine in a
hurry. I don't care any about shooting him up, so I am for staying away
from the rest of the bunch."

"Oh! what ails yer?" growled Dug.

"It's murder!" said Bight.

"Well, I opines you has cooked yer man afore this?"

"Ef I ever has," retorted Bight, "it certain was in self-defense."

"I reckon you're something of a squealer, pard," sneered Dug. "You wants
to git your share o' the dust without taking no part in the danger. You
tells how you raises a roar if you don't git your coin, but what does
yer do to earn it?"

"Well, I fights some when I has to," returned Bight, rather savagely.
"Mebbe you talks too much to me, Dug, and you gits yourself into some
trouble."

Bight was ugly now, and his companion involuntarily retreated a step,
for the squat chap had a reputation as a fighter.

"Go slow, pard!" exclaimed Dug. "I am not a-picking trouble with you."

"All right, all right," nodded Bight, "Only just be a little keerful--a
little keerful. Don't think just because a gent don't keer about
shooting another gent down promiscuous-like that he is soft and easy.
There's Texas Bland out yander. He has a reputation as a bad man. Well,
partner, I picks no quarrels with him, but if he stomps on my tail he
gets my claws."

"What's that?" exclaimed Dug, in astonishment. "You ain't a-giving it
ter me that you bucks up agin' Bland, are yer?"

"I am a-giving it ter yer that I does in case I has to. I don't propose
any ter have ter do it. I jines in with this yer move because it seems
popular with the gang, and I am none anxious ter work myself. This yere
is a nice bunch o' miners, now, ain't it? Why, the gent what hires this
outfit and brings it yere had a whole lot better stick to his sailoring
business! He may know how to pick out seamen, but it's right certain he
makes a mess of it when it comes to engaging miners."

"That's right," agreed Dug. "And he certain is the biggest liar it ever
were my pleasure to harken unto. The way he can tell things to make a
galoot's eyes bug out is a whole lot remarkable. Whither he gits his
lively imagination I cannot surmise. Let's see, whatever was his name?"

"Wiley--Cap'n Wiley he calls himself."

"Well, however does he happen to be hiring men for this yere mine? I
don't judge any that he is interested in it."

"Not a whole lot. The mine is owned by a gent named Merriwell, and by
this yere Hodge. Them two locates it."

"Relocates it, you mean. I onderstand it were located original by
another gent what is dead now. And I reckons some that it is through
this other gent's action that the man that is back o' this yere jumping
movement is going to stake his claim to the mine. I hears one o' the
boys say that if Bland ain't back o' the game, it sartin is a gent with
heaps o' money--one o' them yere money kings we hears about."

This conversation was of no simple interest to Hodge, for, although it
did not reveal the instigator of the movement, it satisfied him that the
plot did not originate among the men themselves. Some enemy of Frank
Merriwell must be behind it all. As Sukes was dead, it was not easy for
Bart to conjecture who this new enemy was.

After a few moments more the two ruffians finished the contents of the
bottle and moved slowly away. This gave Hodge an opportunity to turn
back toward his cabin, and he hastened to get away from that dangerous
locality.

"It's well for me that I suspected what was up," he muttered, as he
hurried along. "Under ordinary circumstances, failing to hear the men at
work and hearing their singing and shouts, I should have hastened over
and demanded to know the meaning of it. As a result they would have
finished me in short order. Now I am prepared for them. But what can I
do? What can I do alone?"

The situation seemed desperate and hopeless.

Another fellow in Bart's position, and realizing his desperate peril,
might have lost no time in getting out of the valley. Even though he
happened to be a courageous person, his judgment might have led him to
pursue such a course, for certainly it seemed a wild and hopeless plan
to think of remaining there alone and contending against those ruffians.

Bart, however, was an obstinate chap and one in whom fear was an emotion
seldom experienced. Not that he had always been fearless, for as a boy
he had sometimes felt the thrill of terror; but his iron will had
conquered, and time after time he had refused to submit to the approach
of the slightest timidity, until at last fear seemed banished from his
heart. Now, as he hastened back to the cabin, he revolved in his mind
certain thoughts in regard to the situation; but not once did he
entertain the idea of leaving the valley and abandoning it to those
desperadoes.

"I will stay," he muttered. "I will stay as long as I am able to shoot.
While I live they will never gain full possession of the valley. Merry
left me here to guard this property, and I will do it with my life. But
for Wiley's carelessness----"

He stopped, suddenly struck by a startling suspicion.

"Was it carelessness?" he asked himself.

An instant later he was ashamed of the suspicion, for he remembered how
on other occasions he had suspected Wiley, and each time had found
himself wrong.

"No, no," murmured Hodge; "it was simply a blunder, on Wiley's part. He
remembered Merriwell's thirty, and thought he was doing the right thing
in engaging men of similar calibre. The cap'n is on the level."

Still troubled and perplexed by his thoughts, he grew, if possible, more
fixed in his determination to defend the mines single-handed. He
approached the cabin, the door of which was still standing open as he
left it. Hurrying in, he stopped, suddenly turned to stone as he saw
sitting on the floor, with his back against the wall, a human being, who
was calmly smoking a long pipe.

A moment later the muzzle of Bart's revolver covered this figure, which,
however, did not stir or lift a hand. Coming, as he did, from the bright
light outside into the shadows within the cabin, Hodge failed at first
to note more than that the smoker who sat thus was wrapped in an old
blanket. After a moment or two, however, he finally saw that he was face
to face with an aged, wrinkled, leathery-skinned Indian. The little
sharp eyes of the old savage were fixed steadily on Bart's face, and he
betrayed not a symptom of alarm as Hodge brought the rifle to bear upon
him. With stoical calmness he deliberately pulled at his pipe.

"What in thunder are you doing here?" demanded Hodge, in astonishment.

"Ugh!" was the only reply vouchsafed.

Somehow that grunt seemed familiar. Bart had heard it before, but it
simply increased his amazement. Lowering the rifle, he stared
wonderingly.

"Great Scott!" he breathed. "Is it possible? Are you old Joe?"

"Heap same," was the curt answer.

In a twinkling Bart dropped the rifle on the table and strode forward to
shake the hand of an old friend.

"Old Joe Crowfoot!" he shouted. "Where under the stars did you drop
from?"

"Joe he come visit. How, how!"

"Why, you amazing old Nomad!" cried Bart, in delight. "You're always
turning up just when you're wanted the most, and if ever you were wanted
it is now."

"Frank him not here?"

"No."

"Joe he want see Frank."

"If that's the case, you will have to wait a while."

"Strong Heart he better be here," declared the aged redskin. "Heap lot
o' trouble pretty soon."

"That's right, Joe. But how do you know anything about it?"

"Joe he know. Him no fool. Him find out."

Bart had extended his hand, and now he assisted the old man to his feet.
Although old Joe tried to conceal the fact, he seemed rather stiff in
his joints just then.

"What's the matter, Crowfoot?" questioned Bart. "Rheumatism troubles you
again?"

"Debble got old Joe in his bones," indignantly returned the savage. "Old
Joe him no good any more. Make old Joe mad when him think he no good."

Under other circumstances the indignation of the redskin over his
infirmities might have been somewhat amusing.

"But tell me--tell me how you came to be here at this time," questioned
Hodge. "We last saw you away up in Wyoming. You said then that you'd
never travel south again."

"Heap think so then. When winter he come Joe have debble ache in his
bones plenty bad. Sabe?"

"And so the rheumatism and cold weather drove you south, eh?"

"One time," said the redskin, drawing his blanket about his shoulders
with an air of dignity, "Joe him face cold and never feel um. One time
him no care how cold. One time he laugh at snow and ice. Then all him
bones be good. Then old Joe a heap strong to hunt. Now it ain't the
same. Once Joe him hunt the grizzly bear for game; now he hunt poker."

In spite of himself, Bart was forced to smile. He knew something of the
skill of old Joe at the white man's game of poker, and the thought of
the old Indian who had once tracked the grizzly now turned to gambling
was both amusing and remarkable.

"So that is what brought you south. You turned this way to escape the
cold and to find at the same time the kind of game you were after?"

"Heap so," nodded Crowfoot, as he produced from beneath his blanket a
greasy pack of cards. "I came to play some. Mebbe I find um good players
here."

"I don't know where, Joe," said Hodge.

"Mebbe over yon," suggested the Indian, waving his hand toward the
southern end of the valley.

"See here, Joe," said Bart, "those men down there are my enemies. They
have betrayed me. There are valuable mines in this valley, and they
belong to Frank Merriwell and myself. These ruffians mean to seize them.
Even now they are ready to shoot me on sight, and intend to drop Frank
when he appears."

"Heap bad," observed Joe, without betraying the slightest emotion.

"Bad!" cried Hodge. "I should say so!"

"Too many for you, Black Eyes," asserted the redskin. "Mebbe you pull up
stake and lope?"

"Not by a blamed sight!" grated Hodge. "I will stay here and defend
these mines as long as I am able to lift a weapon."

The Indian shook his head.

"Heap young, heap young," he declared, as if speaking to himself. "Blood
hot. Joe him know. Once him blood hot."

"Well, you don't suppose I'd let them drive me out, do you?" indignantly
demanded Hodge. "You don't think I'd betray Frank like that! He left me
here in charge of the property, and here I will remain. I want you to
stick by me, Joe."

"Ugh!" grunted the old fellow noncommittally. "Mebbe not much difference
to old Joe. I may croak pretty soon now. Mebbe only make it some
quicker."

"Perhaps that's right," said Hodge slowly. "I have no right to ask you
to lose your life in helping me fight against overwhelming odds. It's
not your quarrel, Joe. You can do as you please."

"Joe him think it over," said the Indian. "No like to see Frank lose um
mines, but him have plenty more."

Bart turned away, not without a feeling of disappointment. As he did so,
through the still open door he caught a glimpse of a man who was
advancing toward the cabin. Instantly he strode toward the door, and his
eyes rested on Texas Bland, who was several rods away.

"Oh, Mr. Hodge!" Bland called at once. "I want yer ter come over yon.
The men has quit work, and they refuse to strike another stroke."

Trying to repress and conceal his indignation, Bart asked, as if wholly
unsuspicious of the real situation:

"What's the matter, Bland?"

"I dunno," lied the scoundrel. "I can't make 'em work; perhaps you can,
sir."

Suddenly, almost without being aware of what was happening, Bart
permitted his hot indignation to get the best of his judgment.
Instantly, as he stepped out of the cabin, he blazed:

"You're lying, Bland, and I know it! I am on to the whole dastardly
game! You're at the bottom of it, too! You have incited the men to
mutiny. I know your plot, you treacherous whelp! I know you meant to get
me over there for the purpose of assassinating me. The end of this
business will be a rope for you, Bland. Go back and tell your dogs I am
onto their game. Go back and bring them here. They will meet a hot
reception!"

Texas Bland had been astonished, but now, quick as a flash, he whipped
out a revolver for the purpose of taking a shot at Hodge, whose hands
were empty. Rapid though he was in his movements, he was not quick
enough, for within the cabin sounded the loud report of a rifle, and the
bullet knocked Bland's pistol from his hand, smashing two of his
fingers.



CHAPTER XVI.

CROWFOOT MAKES MEDICINE.


Although taken by surprise, the man looked at his benumbed and bleeding
hand a moment, then pulled from his neck a handkerchief tied there and
wrapped it around the mutilated member. By this time Hodge had his own
pistol out, and Bland was covered.

"You're lucky to get off with your life, you treacherous cur!" he cried.
"Now make tracks, and hurry about it, too."

"All right," said the leader of the ruffians, still with amazing
coolness. "But you pays dear for this hand--you and the gent inside who
fires the shot."

With that he turned his back and hastily strode away, the handkerchief
already dripping with blood and leaving a red trail behind him.

Hodge watched until the hurrying man disappeared down the valley.
Reentering the cabin, he found old Joe standing near the table on which
still lay Bart's Winchester. The Indian had refilled his pipe and was
smoking again in his most imperturbable manner.

"Crowfoot," said Hodge, with sincere gratitude, "I owe you my life. It's
lucky for me you fired just when you did. An instant more and Bland
would have shot me down. How did you happen to be so quick with the
shot?"

"Look um rifle over," grunted the old man. "Pick um rifle up. When Black
Eyes him go out, Joe think mebbe white man act crooked. Joe watch him
white man. When white man tries to shoot, Joe him shoot."

"You're a jewel, Crowfoot!" declared Bart; "but this thing will bring
trouble to the cabin in a hurry. As soon as Bland can have his hand
cared for, he will lead those ruffians over here to wipe us out. Now is
your chance to get away."

"Oh, no great hurry," returned Crowfoot. "Plenty time, plenty time."

"On the contrary, there may be very little time. If you're going, you
had better go at once."

"Plenty time," persisted the old man placidly. "Joe too old to hurry.
They no come right away. Mebbe Joe him look around a little."

As the old fellow was leaving the cabin, Bart called:

"Here's your own rifle, Joe, standing in the corner. Don't you want to
take it?"

"Leave him there now," returned the redskin. "Take him bimeby."

Outside the door, leaning against the wall, were a pick and spade. To
Bart's surprise, the old man picked these implements up and shouldered
them; after which he found Bland's revolver where it had fallen on being
knocked from the man's hand by the bullet, and took that along. Crowfoot
turned northward toward a tangled wild thicket, into which Bart saw him
disappear.

"Well, of all peculiar things for him to do!" muttered Hodge, completely
puzzled. "What the dickens is he up to?"

This question bothered Bart not a little, and, after a time, having made
sure none of the ruffians were yet approaching from the south, Bart
caught up his rifle and ran swiftly toward the thicket. On entering the
tangled underbrush, he soon came in sight of Crowfoot, who, although he
must have heard the other approaching, paid no attention whatever. The
defender of the mines paused in amazement as he noted the Indian's
occupation, for old Joe was busily at work, engaged with pick and
shovel, digging in the ground.

"What in the name of all mysteries are you doing, Crowfoot?" asked
Hodge, as he approached and stood nearer.

"Dig a little," returned the old man, with something like a joking
twinkle in his keen black eyes. "Mebbe get some exercise. Strong Heart
him great on exercise. Crowfoot hear Strong Heart tell exercise much big
thing."

Now, Hodge knew well enough that the aged redskin was not expending so
much energy and labor in mere exercise, and he lingered to watch a while
longer. Pretty soon old Joe unearthed a long root that ran beneath the
ground, which he immediately seized and dragged forth with considerable
grunting. Hodge noted then that he had one or two similar roots lying
near.

"Mebbe him be 'nuf," observed Crowfoot, as he severed the last root
unearthed and placed it with the others. "Think him be. Joe he get
plenty exercise for to-day."

Then, abandoning the pick and shovel where he had dropped them, the old
man gathered up the roots and started to retrace his steps to the cabin.
Still wondering at Crowfoot's strange actions, Hodge followed.

The sunshine lay warm on the valley, which seemed deserted save for
themselves.

"Man git hand hurt, him no hurry back much," observed Crowfoot.

"Not yet," said Hodge. "But he will come and bring his dogs with him
soon enough."

When the cabin was reached Crowfoot stood some moments looking at a
little pile of wood lying in a corner near the open fireplace.

"You build a fire, Black Eyes," he said. "Joe him cold--him cold."

"Well, your blood must be getting thin," declared Hodge. "You can bake
out in the sun to-day if you want to."

"No like sun bake," was the retort. "Too slow; not right kind. Want fire
bake."

"Oh, all right," said Bart, ready to humor the old man. "I will have a
fire directly."

To his surprise, while he was starting the fire, old Joe brought in more
wood that had been gathered in a little pile outside and threw it down
in the corner. Several times he came with an armful of wood, but
finally, seemed satisfied.

"There's a good hot fire for you, Joe," said Hodge. "Now toast yourself,
if you want to."

"Ugh!" grunted the Indian. "You keep watch. Keep eye open wide. Mebbe
bad palefaces come soon."

Bart knew this was a good suggestion, and he proceeded to watch for the
possible approach of the enemy. At the same time, he occasionally turned
from the open doorway to observe what Crowfoot was about. The old Indian
did not seem very anxious to warm himself at the fire. Instead of that,
he took the roots he had dug and held them toward the fireplace, turning
them over and over and warming them thoroughly, after which he beat off
the particles of dirt that clung to them. While he was beating one of
the roots by holding it toward the fire, he had the others arranged on
the flat stones of the hearth quite near the blaze, where they also
would receive warmth from the flames.

At last, his curiosity reaching a point where he could repress it no
longer, Hodge again asked old Joe what he was doing.

For some minutes the Indian did not reply. Once or twice he grunted to
himself, but finally said:

"Joe him make medicine. Sometime him big medicine maker."

"Oh, so that's it," said Hodge. "You are making medicine for your
rheumatism?"

"Ugh!" was the answer to this.

Bart was surprised and almost annoyed as the day dragged on and the
ruffians failed to appear. It seemed remarkable that they should delay
the attack so long; still, he was confident that it must come sooner or
later. All through the day after securing his roots old Joe worked over
them patiently by the fire. He dried them and turned them over and over.
And, while he was handling one of them and turning it before the heat
like a thing he was toasting, the others remained in a long mound of hot
ashes. The patience of the Indian over such a trifling task was
something to wonder at.

As night came on Crowfoot paused to say:

"Now, Black Eyes, keep sharp watch. Bad white men come to-night. Mebbe
they try to ketch um sleeping."

The first half of the night, however, passed without alarm. During these
hours the old redskin continued to putter with his roots, which he
carefully scraped with a keen knife. At midnight he buried them in the
ashes, on which hot coals were heaped, and then directed Bart to lie
down and sleep.

"Joe him watch now," said the old fellow.

Trusting everything to the redskin, Hodge rolled himself in a blanket
and slept soundly for two hours. He was awakened by Joe, who stirred him
with a moccasin foot.

"Get up, Black Eyes," said the old fellow, in a whisper. "Pretty soon we
fight."

"Those ruffians?" questioned Bart, as he leaped to his feet.

"They coming," declared Crowfoot.

He was right. Bland and his desperadoes were creeping on the cabin,
hoping to take its defenders by surprise. Crowfoot pointed them out, and
when they were near enough, Hodge called from the window for them to
halt. Realizing they were discovered, they sprang up and charged.

Instantly Bart and the redskin opened fire on them, Hodge working his
repeater swiftly and accurately, while the clear spang of Crowfoot's
rifle was heard at irregular intervals. The ruffians were unprepared for
such a defense, and, as they saw several of their number fall and others
were wounded, they halted, wavered, then turned and fled. Looking from
the window, the starlight showed the defenders a few wounded men
dragging themselves away.

"Pretty good," said Joe. "No more bother to-night."

With which he turned from the window, uncovered his roots, and replanted
them in a fresh pile of hot ashes.



CHAPTER XVII.

HOW THE MEDICINE WORKED.


Having left their horses picketed in a secluded spot, four men came
stealing down the steep and narrow fissure that was the one entrance
into the Enchanted Valley. Three days had passed since Dash Colvin stole
out of that valley in his desperate attempt to carry the message to
Frank. The third night had fallen.

Frank had arrived, and with him were Pete Curry, of Cottonwood, an
officer who knew him well and liked him, and two deputies whom Curry had
called into service. Frank had picked these men up at Cottonwood after
his flight from Prescott. The promise of a liberal reward under any
circumstances, and possibly of a big capture, had led them to accompany
him. Before seeking to descend into the valley they had seen from the
heights above, far away to the southern end, the glow of two or three
bright fires, and had heard at intervals something like singing.

Frank feared the entrance to the valley might be in the hands of the
enemy and guarded. He was relieved on discovering that this was not so,
and his satisfaction was great when, with his companions, he found
himself in the valley with no one to block the way.

"What next, Mr. Merriwell?" asked Curry, in a low tone.

"I am for finding out what is going on down there to the south," said
Frank.

"All right, sir. Lead on. We're with you."

In time they approached near enough to look down upon that portion of
the valley where the unfinished cabins were, and saw two or three fires
burning there. Men were lying around on the ground in the light of these
fires. Others were staggering about in a peculiar manner. Now and then
one of them would utter a wild yell and dance about like a crazy man,
sometimes keeping it up until, apparently exhausted, he ended by
flinging himself on the ground and seemed immediately to fall asleep.

As Frank and his companions watched these singular movements they saw
three men join hands and execute a singular dance in the firelight.

"Cæsar's ghost!" muttered Merry, "am I dreaming?"

"What's the matter, pard?" asked Curry.

"Look at those three men--look at them closely. One of them is an
Indian."

"Sure thing," said Curry.

"And I know him!" palpitated Merry. "If my eyes don't fail me, it is old
Joe Crowfoot."

"Who is old Joe Crowfoot?"

"A redskin I have believed to be my friend."

"Waugh!" ejaculated Curry, in disgust. "There never was a red whelp as
could be trusted."

"But you don't know Crowfoot."

"I know 'em all. Here is this yere Crowfoot a-whooping her up with your
enemies, Mr. Merriwell. What do you think of that?"

"It's mighty singular," confessed Merry. "Look! look! they are
drinking!"

It was true. The dance had stopped and one of the three had flung
himself on the ground. Crowfoot bent over this fellow and offered him a
bottle, which he eagerly seized. The Indian snatched it from the man's
lips, refusing to let him drink all he seemed to desire. It was then
given to the other men, and afterward the old redskin passed from one to
another of the reclining men, rousing those he could and offering them
the bottle. Some drank, but others seemed too nerveless to hold the
bottle in their hands.

"Well, this yere is lucky for us," declared Curry. "The whole bunch is
paralyzed drunk. We oughter be able to scoop 'em in without any great
trouble."

"I wonder where Hodge is," speculated Merry. "I wonder if they have
killed him."

This possibility so aroused Frank that he was determined to seek Bart
without delay. Curry was opposed to this; but Frank had his way, and
they stole off leaving Crowfoot and his newly chosen companions to
continue their carousal. As they approached Bart's cabin, there came
from the window a sharp command for them to halt. Merry recognized the
voice and uttered a cry of satisfaction.

"Hodge!" he called. "It is I--Frank."

From within the cabin there was another cry of joy, and a moment later
the door flew open and Hodge came running toward them.

"Merry, thank Heaven you're here!" he exclaimed,

"Thank Heaven you're still alive!" returned Frank. "I was afraid I might
arrive too late. Tell me what has happened. How have you managed to
stand those ruffians off?"

"They attacked the cabin twice," said Hodge; "but we were ready for them
both times."

"We? But aren't you alone?"

"I am now; but old Joe Crowfoot----"

"Crowfoot--what of him?"

"He was with me. I don't know what has become of the old man now. He
left to-night as soon as darkness fell, saying he was going to take a
look at the ruffians down yonder. The old man is pretty well used up; he
is nearly dead with rheumatism. He spent the greater part of the time
after coming here in digging roots and making them into medicine by
drying them at the fire, scraping them, then grinding them into powder
between stones, finally preparing a decoction with water and the powder
of the roots."

Frank then told Bart what he had lately seen, and Hodge was greatly
astonished.

"Old Joe down there with those men?" he muttered. "Why, I don't see----"

"Ugh!" grunted a voice near at hand, and out of the shadows slipped
another shadow that unhesitatingly approached. It was Crowfoot himself,
as they immediately perceived.

"How, how, Strong Heart!" said the old man, extending his hand to Frank.
"Heap glad to see um."

"Why, you old wretch!" cried Merry. "We saw you a short time ago down
there with that bunch of claim jumpers drinking and whooping things up.
What do you mean by such conduct?"

"Old Joe him got very bad rheumatism," returned the redskin. "Him make
medicine. Him think mebbe um white men down there got bad rheumatism,
too. He give um white men some medicine. He find um white man drinking a
heap. Joe he mix um medicine with drink. They like medicine pretty good.
One white man, who lead um, him get shot up a great lot. Him in no shape
to lead um some more. So white men they wait for more men to come. Now
they very much tired. They sleep a lot. Come down see um sleep. You like
it."

Of a sudden the truth dawned on Frank.

"Why, you clever old rascal!" he laughed. "Hanged if I don't believe
you've drugged them some way!"

"Joe he give um medicine, that all," protested the redskin. "Sometimes
medicine make um sleep. Come see."

"Come on," said Frank, "we will follow this slick old rascal and find
out how hard they are sleeping."

As they approached the cabins at the lower end of the valley they saw
the fires were dying down, while from that locality no longer came
shouts and singing, and, in truth, all the ruffians seemed fast asleep
on the ground, where they had fallen or flung themselves.

Unhesitatingly Crowfoot led them amid the mass of drugged men, and the
sinking firelight revealed on his leathery face a ghost of a shriveled
smile.

"Medicine heap good sometimes," he observed. "Strong Heart find him
enemies sleeping. Mebbe he takes hatchet and chop um up? Joe he get many
scalps."

"You're a dandy, Crowfoot!" laughed Frank. "Here they are, Curry, the
whole bunch. You can gather them and escort them to Cottonwood, or
anywhere you please."

"And a great haul it is, pard," nodded Curry. "I sees three gents now
what has rewards offered for them. It's my opinion that they hangs. Get
to work, boys, and we will tie up the whole bunch so they can't wiggle
when they awake."

Old Joe looked on in apparent dissatisfaction and dismay.

"You no chop um up some?" he questioned. "You no kill um a heap. Then
what Joe him get? He no have a scalp."

"What do you get, Joe?" exclaimed Merry. "You have saved my mines for
me. You get anything you want--anything but scalps."



CHAPTER XVIII.

A BUNCH OF PRISONERS.


Pete Curry and his two deputies set off the next morning with their
prisoners--thirteen in all. They were taking the ruffians direct to the
nearest point where they could be confined and afterward delivered for
trial into the hands of certain officers, who would take several of them
to different parts of Arizona where they had committed crimes. At noon
the second day they reached a point in a barren valley where the sun
beat fiercely. Scorched mountains rose to the east and west. They came
to a halt.

In the party of sixteen there were only three horses, ridden by the
officers. The prisoners had been compelled to tramp over the desert, the
mountains, and valleys. The wrists of each captive were bound behind his
back.

A tough-looking, desperate lot they were, taken all together. There were
Mexicans and men with Indian blood in their veins among them. They had
weather-beaten, leathery, bearded faces. Many of them had a hangdog
expression. Their eyes were shiftless and full of treachery.

It was a most important capture for Curry, as there were among those men
desperate characters for whose apprehension rewards had been offered. In
short, it was a round-up of criminals that would make Curry's name known
as that of a wonderfully successful officer of the law. He was proud of
his accomplishment, although he regretfully admitted to himself that he
deserved very little credit for it. He and his two companions had
already been well paid by Frank Merriwell.

Now, with his weapons ready, Curry was watching the prisoners, while his
two companions sought for water in the bed of the creek.

"How are you hitting her, Bill?" he called.

"She's moist, Pete," answered one of the diggers. "There's water here."

"It takes a right good while for her to gather in the hole," said the
other digger. "If we makes a hole big enough, we will have some in an
hour or so."

Curry took a look at the sky, the mountains, and the westering sun.

"Well, I opines we stops here a while," he said. "We may as well."

A big, burly fellow among the captives carelessly stalked toward Curry,
who watched him with a keen eye.

"I say, Pete," said the prisoner familiarly, "mebbe you tells me just
how this yere thing happens. I am a whole lot bothered over it."

"Why, Bland, I has you--I has you foul," retorted Curry, with a grim
smile.

"That I certain admits," nodded the other; "but how it was did is what
puzzles me a-plenty."

"You has some bad habits, Bland," returned the captor. "You monkeys with
firewater, and, for a man like you, with a price on him, it's a keerless
thing to do."

"No firewater ever lays me out," proudly retorted he of the drooping
black mustache. "I knows my capacity when it come to the real stuff. But
what I gits against this yere time is different a whole lot."

The deputy sheriff smiled again.

"Mebbe you're right, Bland," he admitted. "You thinks yourself a heap
clever, but this time you is fooled right slick."

Texas Bland frowned.

"I confess, Pete, that it cuts me deep to realize it, but it certain is
a fact that I gits tripped up. However, how it happened is what I wants
ter know. There sure was dope in that booze."

"Likely you're correct," nodded Curry.

"How does it git there?"

"Have you noticed a certain old Injun in this bunch sence we started
out?" asked the officer.

"No," said Bland, shaking his head. "I looks fer him some, but he is not
yere. Does yer mean to insinuate that the old varmint loaded this bunch
with dope?"

"Well, how does it look to you?"

"Why, ding his old pelt!" exclaimed the captive indignantly. "Some of
the boys knowed him. Some o' them had seen him afore. One or two had
seen him to their sorrer. They say to me that he plays poker somewhat
slick. When he comes ambling into our camp, seeming a whole lot jagged
hisself, I was a bit suspicious; but the boys what knowed him says he is
all right, and so I takes a drink with him. Arter that I gits a heap
sleepy and snoozes. Next I knows you is there, Pete, and you has us
nailed solid."

"That's about the way of it," nodded Curry.

"And the old whelp dopes us, does he!" growled Texas Bland. "Whatever
does he do that fer?"

"Why, Bland, that yere old redskin is a friend of Mr. Merriwell. He
gives you the dope to help Merriwell. When we comes down into the valley
there and finds you all sleeping sweetly, the old Injun proposes to
scalp you up some. To be course, we objects, and then he seems mighty
disappointed-like. He seems to think he is cheated. He seems to reckon
that, having done the job so slick, your scalps belong to him."

Bland listened with a strange look on his face and a vengeful glare in
his deepset eyes.

"So that's however it is!" he growled. "Well, I am some glad I finds it
out."

"Mebbe it relieves your mind some of worry," returned the captor; "but
it does you little good."

"Don't you think it!" returned Bland harshly. "I settles with that old
Injun, you bet your boots!"

"First you settles with the law, Bland. You roams free a long time with
a good price on your head. I am sorry fer you, but I reckons you are due
to stretch hemp."

Texas Bland actually laughed.

"Pete," he said, "the rope ain't made yet what hangs me."

"Your nerve is good, but I opine you're wrong this yere time. I has you,
Bland, and I keeps you. I deliver you to them what wants you bad."

"That's all right, Pete," was the cool retort. "No hard feelings on my
account, you understand. I takes my medicine when I has to, and so I
swallows this all pleasant and smiling. Just the same, you mark what I
tells you, the rope ain't made what hangs Texas Bland. I goes back
a-looking for that red skunk later, and I pots him. When I gits a
chance, I starts a lead mine in his carcass. The idea of being fooled by
a redskin galls me up a heap. But you don't tell me any how it happens
you drops down thar and gathers us in just then."

"I am some acquainted with Frank Merriwell. I has done business for him
before. When he comes sailing into Cottonwood and locates me, he says:
'Curry, I am up against it some, and I needs assistance.' 'I am yours to
order,' says I. 'Whatever is a-doing?'

"Then he up and tells me that a gent with a whole lot of coin, what
calls himself a money king, is trying to get possession of some new
mines he has located. This gent, he says, has faked up a false charge
against him and gives him a heap o' trouble. This gent's partner once
tried mighty hard to get his paws on another mine belonging to
Merriwell, and in the end he runs up against a bullet and lays down
peaceful and calm. This gent's name were Sukes. The one what is
a-bothering Merriwell now is Macklyn Morgan."

"You interest me a-plenty," nodded Bland. "Now, there were some gent
behind this yere deal what says it pays us well if we seizes those
mines. Just who it were that puts up the coin fer the job I didn't know
for sure. All I knows is that it comes straight through a gent what I
depends on, and the coin is in sight the minute we delivers the mines
over. I reckons, Pete, the gent you speak of is the one what lays the
job out fer us."

Curry nodded.

"Likely that's all correct, Bland. But he makes a big mistake if he
thinks this yere Merriwell is easy. Merriwell is a fighter from 'Way
Back."

"He is a whole lot young."

"In experience he is a whole lot old. Mebbe he don't grow whiskers much,
but he gets there just the same. Whiskers don't always make the man,
Bland. With all his money, this yere Sukes don't get ahead of Merriwell
any. When Morgan he tackles the job he finds it just as hard or harder.
It does him no good to fake a charge that Merriwell shoots up Sukes."

"Where did this yere shooting happen, Pete?"

"Over yon in Snowflake."

Bland shook his head.

"Then it's ten to one he gits disturbed none fer it. If he proves
conclusive this yere Sukes bothers him, why, supposing he did do the
shooting, it convicts him of nothing but self-defense down in this yere
country!"

"Sukes was a whole lot wealthy, you understand."

"All the same, I reckons it is pretty hard to put murder on a gent
yereabouts in case he is defending his rights."

"That's so," nodded Curry, at the same time lifting his eyes and
watching with interest several horsemen who now appeared far up the
valley, riding toward them through the heat haze.

Bland noticed Curry's look and turned in the same direction.

"Who does you allow is coming?" he questioned, with repressed eagerness.

Instead of answering, Curry called to the men who were laboring in the
bed of the creek.

"Oh, Bill! Oh, Abe! Come up yere right away."

The inflection of his voice indicated that something was wrong, and the
two men hastened to join him.

Curry motioned toward the approaching horsemen.

"Mebbe we is troubled some," he observed. "We needs to be ready."

The horsemen came on rapidly. There were seven of them in all. Like
Curry and his two companions, the captives watched the approaching men
with no small amount of anxiety. As the horsemen drew near, having told
Bill and Abe to watch the prisoners closely, Curry rode forward.

"Howdy, gents!" he called.

"Howdy!" returned one of the men. "Is that you, Curry?"

"Surest thing you know," said the deputy sheriff. "Somehow I don't seem
to recall you any."

"That's none strange," said the spokesman of the party. "I am Gad
Hackett. No particular reason why you should know me."

"Whatever are you doing yere?" inquired the officer suspiciously.

"Just making a short cut, leaving all trails, from Fulton to Oxboro."

"Say you so? Seems ter me you're hitting in the wrong direction."

"I reckon I know my course," returned Hackett. "I have traveled this
section a-plenty. There seems to be a good bunch of you gents. Whatever
are you a-doing?"

"We're holding up for water now," answered Curry evasively. "Mebbe you
hurries right along? Mebbe you has no great time to waste?"

"We look some for water ourselves," returned the other man.

"Well, you has to look mighty sharp yereabouts. We digs our own water
hole, and unfortunately we can't share it any. If you goes down the
valley a mile or two, mebbe you finds a locality where water is easier
to reach."

"Seems ter me you're some anxious to hurry us on," laughed Hackett.
"We're slightly tired, and I reckons we holds up for rest, water or no
water."

"That being the case," said Curry, "let me give you some advice. Yander
I has a few gents what are wanted for various little doings in different
parts, and I am takin' pains careful-like to deliver them over. They're
lawbreakers to the last galoot of the bunch. Mebbe you bothers them
none. I does my duty."

"Oh--ho!" retorted Hackett, "so that's how the wind blows! Why, certain,
Curry, we interferes none whatever with your business. Instead o' that,
we helps you any we can in running in your bunch of bad men."

"Thanks," returned the deputy sheriff coolly. "So long as I am not
bothered with, I needs no help."

Hackett laughed again.

"I see, pard," he said, "you counts on gathering in the reward money
yourself, and proposes to divide it none. All right; you're welcome."

Then, with his companions, he again rode forward. Curry looked them over
critically. In his eyes, with one or two exceptions, they appeared
little different from the collection of ruffians who were his prisoners.
With them he recognized one man, at least, who had an unenviable
reputation--a tall, pockmarked individual--no less a person than Spotted
Dan.

There was in the party a man who seemed strangely out of place there.
His every appearance was that of a tenderfoot, while his face, with his
shaven lips and iron-gray beard, looked like that of a stern old church
deacon. Somehow this person interested Curry more than all the others.
He wondered not a little at the appearance of such a man in such a
party.

"Who is the parsonish gentleman?" asked the deputy sheriff, as Hackett
came up with him. He spoke in a low tone and jerked his hand slightly
toward the tenderfoot.

"That?" said Hackett loudly. "Why, that is Mr. Felton Cleveland, a
gentleman what is looking around some for mining property, and it is him
we escorts to Oxboro. He engages us to see that he gets there all
safe-like, and he is in a hurry."

The man indicated did not betray that these words had reached his ears,
although he had not missed the statement.

"He looks more like a missionary than a mining man," declared Curry.

As the new arrivals reached the captives and their guards, Felton
Cleveland was soon looking the captives over with an expression of
interest, not to say of sympathy. He turned to the deputy sheriff and
observed:

"It seems hardly possible, sir, that so many men could be lawbreakers;
still, their faces indicate that they are desperate characters."

"I reckon you're some unfamiliar with this part of the country,"
returned the officer. "We tries to keep our towns clean, but down along
the Mexican border there are a few bad men. Sometimes they go in
bunches."

"But it is remarkable that you should capture so many of them at one
time. Do you mind telling how it happened?"

"I am not feeling a whole lot like talking just now," returned the
deputy sheriff. "I opines you takes my word for it that they are just
what I says."

"Oh, certainly, sir--certainly," nodded Cleveland. "I don't dispute you
in the least. I assure you it is not mere idle curiosity on my part, for
I have interests in this part of the country, and I wish to be well
informed about it and its inhabitants. However, if you don't care to
tell me what these men have been doing, we will let it drop."

"Well, I don't mind saying that they was caught redhanded trying to jump
a claim. Mebbe that is the charge made agin' a few o' them, but I
reckons the most of the bunch is to face things a heap more serious."

"Trying to jump a claim?" said Cleveland. "Where was this, if you don't
mind giving that much information?"

"Over yon," answered Pete indefinitely, with a wave of his hand.

"Well, it's truly remarkable that you should be able to capture so many
of them. They outnumber you, it appears. If they are such desperate men,
it surely is a strange thing that you could take them all."

"We has a way of doing things sometimes, mister. Let me advise you to
keep your own eyes open. Mebbe some o' that bunch you has is not to be
trusted too far."

"There is no reason why they should betray me," was the assertion. "I
have nothing on my person that could tempt them. They will be paid well
when we reach our destination. That should be enough to guarantee their
faithfulness to me."

"You're some wise in leaving your valuables behind," nodded Curry.

Some of the captives attempted to converse with the newcomers, but
Curry's companions promptly put a stop to that. Between Spotted Dan and
one or two of them passed significant looks. The horsemen dismounted, as
if to take a brief rest and give their animals a breathing spell.

Gad Hackett lighted his pipe and engaged one of Curry's comrades in
conversation. Seeing this, Curry approached them and quietly said:

"You talks a little, Bill--a very little."

Bill nodded.

"I knows my business, Pete," he assured.

Hackett laughed.

"Why does he seem so mighty suspicious?" he asked. "We don't bother him
none."

After talking with Bill a few moments, however, he turned to Abe and
engaged him in conversation. He seemed careless and indifferent in his
manner, and occasionally a few low words passed between them. After a
time, Abe examined the water hole and announced that water was rising in
it. Bill joined him, and they were on their knees beside the hole when a
startling thing happened. Curry suddenly felt something thrust against
the back of his head and heard a harsh voice commanding him to stand
still or be shot in his tracks.

The voice was that of Spotted Dan, who held the muzzle of a revolver
touching the deputy sheriff's head. Curry knew on the instant that he
was in for it. He knew better than to attempt the drawing of a weapon,
although one hung ready in the holster at his side. Hackett, a pistol in
his hand, appeared before the officer.

"We don't care to shoot you up, Curry," he said; "but we has to do it if
you gits foolish. Put up your hands."

"Whatever is this game?" exclaimed the startled man. "You arrays
yourself agin' the law. You gits yourself into a heap o' trouble."

"Put up your hands," repeated Hackett sharply. "If you delays any, the
gent behind you blows off the top of your head."

Knowing the folly of refusing to obey, Curry lifted his empty hands.
Hackett then removed the revolver from the officer's holster.
Instinctively Curry turned his eyes toward the water hole to see what
was happening to his assistants there. He found them on their feet, but
covered by drawn weapons of several men. He saw them also disarmed. Then
one of the newcomers went among the captives and rapidly cut their bonds
and set them free.

Texas Bland turned to Curry and laughed in his face.

"Pete," he said, "I tells you a while ago that the rope is not made that
hangs me."



CHAPTER XIX.

THE VALLEY OF DESOLATION.


Six persons, all mounted, sat on their horses and gazed down the valley.
From that elevation they were able to see its full length. The six were
Dick Merriwell, Brad Buckhart, Cap'n Wiley, Dash Colvin, little Abe, and
Felicia Delores. Being aware that Macklyn Morgan had started with a
number of desperate men in pursuit of Frank, in spite of Frank's
admonition to stay in Prescott and care for Felicia, Dick found it
impossible to remain quiet.

He knew his brother was in deadly danger, and he longed to be with him
when the tug of war came. Feeling certain likewise that the men employed
by Cap'n Wiley and taken to the Enchanted Valley as miners were
desperate characters, it did not seem possible to Dick that Frank and
Bart unaided could cope with so many and overcome them.

Dick had not worried long over the matter. Calling Brad, he said:

"Buckhart, I am going to follow Frank and the men who are in pursuit of
him."

The eyes of the Texan gleamed.

"Pard," he said, "I observed that you were notified to stay hereabouts
and guard your cousin. Frank told you to do that. Do you let on that
you're going to disobey orders?"

"I can't stay here, Brad. I feel certain Frank needs me. His enemies are
very powerful and desperate. What would I think of myself if anything
serious happened to my brother? I should hate myself forever afterward."

The rancher's son nodded.

"I allow that's dead right, partner," he agreed. "I am feeling some that
way myself. I certain smell smoke in the air, and I have an itching to
be in the midst of the fray. But whatever are you going to do with
Felicia?"

"Why, I did think of leaving her here with you. I thought of leaving you
in charge of her."

"What, me?" squealed the Texan. "Leave me behind when there's a ruction
brewing? Do you mean, pard, that you propose to cut me out of this yere
scrimmage? Oh, say, Dick, you'd never treat me that low down! I came
West to stick by you a heap close, and I am going to do it. Why don't
you leave your cousin in the care of Cap'n Wiley?"

"I wouldn't dare," answered Dick. "Wiley is square enough; but he is
careless. Besides that, how can I find my way to the Enchanted Valley
unless guided by Wiley himself?"

"That's so. I never thought of that. You've got to take Wiley
along--unless you can get hold of that man Colvin, who brought the
message to Merry."

Dick frowned a little, seeming deep in serious thought.

"Then there's the hunchback boy," he finally muttered. "Possibly he
might know the trail, but I doubt it."

"You can't depend on him none whatever," put in Buckhart. "He looks like
a good wind would blow him away."

Dick rose to his feet.

"Brad," he said, "we will find Wiley and talk this matter over."

The sailor was found, and he turned an attentive ear to Dick's words.

"My young mate," he observed, resting a hand on Dick's shoulder, "I have
been seriously meditating on the problematical problem of hoisting
anchor and setting my course for the Enchanted Valley all by my
lonesome. In my mouth danger leaves a sweet and pleasant taste. I love
it with all my yearning heart. If you are bound to set sail for the
Enchanted Valley, I am ready to ship with you as pilot. It may be well
for me to do so. If I linger here I may dally with the delusive
jag-juice. When there is no temptation I can be the most virtuous man in
the world. Yes, my boy, we will pull out of Prescott and cut away toward
the valley in question. You may depend on me."

"Then let's lose no time!" impatiently exclaimed Dick, feeling a
powerful desire to hasten to his brother's side. "Let's make
preparations without the least delay."

This was done. Dick found Felicia and little Abe together, for the two
had become fast friends in a short time. Felicia settled the question in
regard to herself by immediately declaring that she was ready to
accompany them.

"It will do me good," she said. "The doctor in San Diego told me that
what I most needed was more open-air exercise. I am feeling much better
now. Oh, you will take me with you, won't you, Dick? Please take me!"

"Me, too," urged little Abe. "You can't leave me behind."

It was found necessary to take them both, and when the time for starting
came Cap'n Wiley appeared in company with Dash Colvin, the messenger.
Colvin likewise was anxious to return to the Enchanted Valley, for he
declared that there were two of his late companions in the valley with
whom he had a score to settle. Although they had pursued him into the
very heart of Prescott, on recovering from the effects of that desperate
race he had sought them in vain. He learned, however, that they had
joined Macklyn Morgan's party in the pursuit of Frank.

Thus it may be seen how it happened that Dick and his friends were
watching to see what transpired in the barren valley amid the mountains
at the time when Morgan's party released Texas Bland and his ruffians
from the custody of Pete Curry, of Cottonwood. Wiley had pressed forward
with such restless determination that they were close on the heels of
Morgan and his men when this valley was reached, although this fact was
not known by any of the men in advance. Provided with a powerful pair of
field glasses, Dick watched what transpired, and saw Curry and his
assistants held up while the captured desperadoes were set free.

Although he had only his eyes to observe what was taking place, Buckhart
grew greatly excited and eagerly proposed a dash into the valley for the
purpose of aiding Curry.

"Steady, Brad, old man!" warned Dick. "We're too far away for that. By
the time we got there the whole thing would be over. The best we can do
is to keep quiet and take care that we are not seen."

"Who do you suppose those men are?" asked Buckhart.

"It doesn't seem possible!" Dash Colvin was muttering to himself.

"What is it that doesn't seem possible?" questioned Dick.

"Let me take your glass a moment," requested Colvin.

Dick handed it over. The man took a hasty look through it.

"Well, of all things wonderful, this is the most remarkable!" he
exclaimed.

"What is it?" questioned Dick impatiently.

"Yes, whatever is it you're driving at?" demanded Buckhart.

"Speak up, you, and keep us no longer in suspenders!" cried Wiley.

"Those men--those men who have been released----"

"What of them?" demanded Dick.

Colvin passed the glass quickly to Wiley.

"Take a look yourself, cap'n," he directed. "You oughter to know some of
them."

After one glance, the sailor ejaculated:

"Dash my toplights! Shiver my timbers! May I be keelhauled if they ain't
that sweet little aggregation I gathered for the purpose of operating
the new mines! Why, there's Texas Bland! I recognize his sable mustache
and flowing hair."

"That's it," nodded Colvin--"that's it exactly. They are the very men.
What air they doin' here?"

"A short time ago they seemed to be in endurance vile. If I mistake not,
three gentlemen in that party were escorting them as captives of war to
some unknown port. Mates, I will stake my life there have been
voluminous doings in the Enchanted Valley. Something of a critical
nature surely happened there."

"But Frank is not in that party," said Dick. "Where can he be?"

"At this precise moment," confessed Wiley, "I am in no calm and placid
frame of mind, therefore I am unable to answer the riddle. One thing, at
least, is certain: Those gay boys have not seized your brother's
property. That should relieve your agitated mental equilibrium to a
conclusive susceptibility."

"We take chances of being seen here," said Dick. "Let's retire."

They did so, but from a point of partial concealment continued to watch
everything that occurred in the valley. Within an hour Morgan's men,
accompanied by the rescued ruffians, turned toward the south, which
action assured the watchers that once more they were headed for the
Enchanted Valley. They appropriated the horses of Curry and his two
assistants, taking also the weapons of the three men, who were left
a-foot and unarmed in that desolate region. The trio was warned not to
follow and were further advised to make straight for Cottonwood or the
nearest camp. Apparently Curry and his assistants decided this was the
only course to pursue, for they turned to the north and hurried up the
valley. Morgan and his men soon disappeared far away to the south.

Burning with eagerness to know the truth, Dick rode forward into the
valley the moment the ruffians were beyond view. He was followed closely
by Buckhart and Colvin. Cap'n Wiley remained long enough to caution Abe
and Felicia to remain where they were, for, knowing nothing of Curry and
his companions, Wiley fancied it possible there might be trouble of some
sort.

"I will look out for Felicia," declared little Abe, whose violin was
hung over his back by a cord. "I will take care of her."

"All right, my noble tar," said the sailor. And then he also rode
forward into the valley.

Curry and his assistants halted in some alarm when they saw four
horsemen dashing swiftly toward them. As they were unarmed, they could
not think of offering resistance in case the quartette proved to be
enemies. Being on foot, they could not escape, and, therefore, they did
the only thing possible, which was to wait for the approaching riders.

Dick was the first to reach them.

"We have been watching this whole affair," he said. "We don't understand
it."

"Well, we do!" growled Curry in disgust, while his companions growled
likewise. "We understands that we have lost a bunch of valuable
prisoners."

"But how did you happen to have such prisoners in the first place?"
questioned Dick.

"That's our business, yonker. Why should we be for telling you any?"

"Because I am interested. Because those men are my brother's enemies."

"Who is your brother, kid?"

"Frank Merriwell."

"What?" shouted Curry. "Whatever are you giving us?"

"He is giving you the dead-level truth, stranger," put in Brad,

"That's right," agreed Dash Colvin, coming up. "Look here, Pete Curry,
you knows me and I knows you. This boy is Frank Merriwell's brother."

"That being the case," said Curry, "he wants to get a hustle on and join
his brother some lively. That fine bunch you saw hiking down the valley
is bound for Frank Merriwell's new mines, which they propose seizing a
heap violent. We counts ourselves some in luck to get off with whole
skins from such a measly outfit. All the same, if we had played our hand
proper I reckon they'd never set that lot of mavericks loose. I am
a-plenty ashamed of myself."

"But tell me," urged Dick, "how you came to have those men as
prisoners?"

Curry then briefly related the whole story, to which Dick and his
friends listened with the greatest interest.

"That's how it were," finished Curry. "I allows to your brother I sure
could take that gang to the nearest jail. He and his pard, Hodge, stays
to guard their mines, leaving the job of disposing of those tough gents
to we three. We makes a fizzle of it, and now the whole outfit is bound
back for the Enchanted Valley. They are frothing to get at your brother
and do him up. At the same time, they counts on salivating the old Injun
what fools them a-plenty."

"Frank will fight to the last," said Dick. "We must help him some way.
We're all armed, and I think we can furnish you with weapons. Are you
with us, or are you ready to give up?"

"Pete Curry, of Cottonwood, gives up none at all," was the reply. "I
counts on hiking somewhar to get weapons and horses and then hustling
back for the purpose of doing whatever I can to help your brother."

"If you try to do that, you will be too late to render any assistance,"
declared Dick.

"Then give us some shooting irons and what goes in 'em and we're with
yer," said Curry.

This arrangement was quickly settled on, after which Dick rode back for
Felicia and little Abe. When he reached the spot where they had been
left, however, he was not a little surprised and alarmed to find they
were no longer there. In vain he looked for them. He called their names,
but his voice died in the silence of the desolate hollows. There was no
answer, and Dick's fears grew apace.

                  *       *       *       *       *

What had become of Felicia and little Abe?

Left to themselves, they fell to talking of the singular things which
had happened.

Felicia's horse champed its bit and restlessly stamped the ground.

"That horse acts awful queer," said the boy. "He has got a funny look in
his eye, just the same as a horse I once saw that was locoed. You know
what that is, don't you?"

Felicia laughed.

"I was born in the West," she said. "Of course I know what it means when
an animal is locoed. They have been eating loco weed and it makes them
crazy. But I don't think this horse has been doing that."

"Never can tell," said the hunchback.

"Why, it should have shown on him before."

"Not always. Sometimes it breaks out awful unexpected. Look how your
horse rolls its eyes. Say, I'm going to----"

Abe did not tell what he was going to do, for, starting his own horse
forward, he reached for the bridle of Felicia's animal. To the horse it
seemed that the boy's hand was large as a grizzly bear. The animal
started back with a snort of alarm, quivering with sudden terror.

"Whoa! whoa!" cried Abe, hastening in his attempt to seize the
creature's bit.

These efforts simply served to add to the horse's fear, and suddenly he
wheeled and went tearing away, Felicia being unable to check its flight.

Immediately the hunchback pursued, his one thought being to overtake the
girl and save her from danger, for he was now confident that something
was the matter with the horse.

If the creature was really locoed, Abe knew it might do the most
astonishing and crazy things. To a horse thus afflicted a little gully a
foot wide sometimes seems a chasm a mile across, or a great ravine,
yawning a hundred feet deep and as many in width, sometimes appears no
more than a crack in the surface of the earth. Deluded by this distorted
view of things, horses and cattle frequently plunge to their death in
gorges and ravines, or do other things equally crazy and unaccountable.

Felicia's horse fled madly, as if in fear of a thousand pursuing demons.
The girl was a good rider, and she stuck to the animal's back with
comparative ease, although unable to check its wild career.

Doing everything in his power to overtake the runaway, the hunchback boy
continued the pursuit, regardless of the direction in which it took
them. The flying horse turned hither and thither and kept on and on
until it was in a lather of perspiration and was almost exhausted to the
point of dropping. Mile after mile was left behind them in this manner,
Abe finding it barely possible to keep the runaway in sight. At length
they came from the hills into a broad plain, and there, in the very
midst of the waste, the runaway halted with such suddenness that Felicia
barely saved herself from a serious fall. What had caused this sudden
stopping of the horse was impossible to imagine, but the beast stood
still with its fore feet braced, as if fearing to advance another inch.
It quivered in every limb and shook all over.

Felicia heard the clatter of horses' hoofs and turned to see little Abe
coming with the greatest haste. The boy cried out to her, and she
answered him.

"Oh, Felicia!" he panted, as he came up on his winded horse; "I'm so
glad you're safe! Get down, quick--get down! He might run again!"

She slipped from the saddle to the ground, and little Abe also
dismounted, but now neither of the horses showed the slightest
inclination to run. Both were in such an exhausted condition that they
stood with hanging heads, their sides heaving.

"I was afraid you'd be killed, Felicia!" gasped the boy.

Then he saw her suddenly sink to the ground and cover her pale face with
her hands. Quickly he knelt beside her, seeking to soothe and reassure
her.

"It's all right--it's all right," he said. "Don't you cry, Felicia."

"Where are we, Abe?" she whispered.

"We're right here," was the answer, which seemed the only one he could
give.

"Where is Dick?"

"He will come pretty soon. Don't you worry."

"We must find our way back. Can you do that, Abe?"

"Of course I can," he assured stoutly. "Just you trust me."

Then once more he did his best to reassure her, and after a while
succeeded in calming her somewhat. To his relief, she did not cry or
become hysterical. Over and over the boy assured her that he could find
the way back without the least trouble, and after a while he must have
convinced her this was true.

"You're so brave, Abe," she half smiled.

"Brave!" he exclaimed. "Me! I reckon you don't know me! Why, I ain't
brave at all! I'm just the biggest coward that ever lived."

She shook her head.

"Don't tell me that," she said. "I know better. You're just as brave as
you can be."

"Well, I never knowed it before," he said wonderingly. "If I am brave,
it is something I never found out about myself. My, but I was scared
when I saw that horse run!"

"What will Dick think when he finds us gone?"

"Oh, he will foller us, he will foller us," nodded the boy. "Don't you
worry about that. We'll meet him coming."

"But I will never dare mount that horse again."

"Course you won't. You will take my horse. I will ride that critter.
Just let him try to run with me!" He said this as if he really fancied
he could control the animal in case it attempted to run away with him.

The horses were submissive enough while the hunchback removed and
changed their saddles. The animal that had lately seemed crazy and
frantic with fear was now calm and docile. Apparently the furious run
had worked off the effect of the loco weed.

After a while, Abe did what he could to assist Felicia to mount, and
then managed to scramble and pull himself with no small difficulty to
the back of the other horse. They turned their animals to retrace the
course over which they had come. This, however, was to prove no small
task, for the runaway had twisted and turned in a score of different
directions during its flight; and, shortly after entering the hills, Abe
found himself quite bewildered as to the proper course they should
pursue. This fact, however, he tried to conceal from Felicia, knowing it
would add to her alarm. So they rode on and on until finally they came
to a tiny stream that lay in the little hollows of a broad watercourse.
There they found water for themselves and horses.

Now, for the first time, Felicia began to suspect that they were not
retracing the course over which they had come.

"I don't remember this place," she said.

"Of course you don't," put in Abe quickly. "It's a wonder you remember
anything. By jing! you must 'a' been awful scart when that horse was
running so. Course you didn't notice much of anything else."

"But are you sure, Abe--are you sure we're taking the right course?"

"Just you leave it to me," nodded the hunchback.

"But what if we should miss Dick? If we should not find him, what would
become of us, Abe? We might starve here, perish from thirst, or be
killed by Indians or something."

Abe did his best to laugh reassuringly.

"Don't you go to getting all fussed up that way. We're all right. Let's
hurry up now, for it is getting late."

It was getting late. The sun hung low in the west and the afternoon was
far spent. In the boy's heart there was a great fear that night would
come upon them and find them alone in that wild region. When they sought
to push on, the horses barely crept forward, having been badly used up
by the mad flight and pursuit.

Lower and lower sank the great golden sun.

"Abe," said Felicia, at last, her face pale and drawn, "we're lost.
Don't try to deceive me; I know it."

"Mebbe we are turned round some," he admitted. "But that ain't any
reason why you should get frightened. There are lots of mining camps
pretty near here. And even if we don't find Dick--which we shall--we
will be just sure to find a town."

The girl's chin quivered, and it was with no small difficulty that she
kept back her tears. Finally, as the sun dropped behind the western
ranges, the horses seemed to give out entirely, refusing to proceed
farther.

"No use, Abe!" murmured Felicia. "We may as well give up and stop right
here to-night."

"I am just awful sorry," murmured the boy; "but don't you be afraid. I
will guard you. I will watch you all night long. There shan't anything
touch you, I tell you that."

They were in a long, shallow valley where there was some scanty herbage,
and the horses were permitted to find such grazing as they could. The
western sky glowed with glorious colors, which gradually faded and
passed away, after the bright, silvery stars gleamed forth, and the heat
of the day passed before the night was fairly on them.

Felicia lay down in the silence, gazing up at the millions of stars
above them. Abe sat near, wondering what he could do to reassure her. At
length he thought of his fiddle and pulled it round from his back, where
it hung. Lifting the loop of the cord over his head, he held the fiddle
to his bosom, softly patting and caressing it. After a time, he found
his rosin and applied it to the bow. Then he put the instrument in tune
and began to play.

The music was soft, and sweet, and soothing, like the lullaby of a
mother over a sleeping child. With this sound throbbing in her ears,
Felicia finally slept. When he knew she was fast asleep, the boy slipped
off his coat and spread it over her shoulders.

The silence of the night was awesome, and he felt keenly the lonely
desolation of their situation. So again he lifted the fiddle to his
chin, and again it throbbed with such a soft, sweet melody that even the
twinkling stars seemed bending to listen.



CHAPTER XX.

THE FINDING OF THE BABES.


"Get up yere, pard," said one of the two men who were standing guard
over Macklyn Morgan's bivouac. "I sure hears some queer sort of a wild
critter a-yowling out yander."

Morgan himself had been eager to push forward through the night toward
Merriwell's valley, but the men lately released from the custody of Pete
Curry were exhausted by their tramp and refused at nightfall to proceed
farther. Therefore, it had been necessary for the party to divide or to
stop where they were and make camp. The latter course had been decided
upon.

Not feeling positive that Curry and his comrades would not follow them,
Morgan had given orders for two of the men to remain constantly on guard
through the night. Of course the guard was to be changed at intervals.
Now, shortly after nightfall, one of the original two appointed to watch
over the camp called his comrade for the purpose of listening to certain
strange sounds which came to his ears through the darkness.

They advanced cautiously to the top of a ridge, where they halted and
stood listening. The sounds could be faintly heard now and then.

"Whatever does yer make of it, partner?" asked the one who had first
heard them.

"Mighty quar sounds for a wild critter to make," declared the other.

"Just what I thought. More like some sort o' music."

"That's it. Dinged if it ain't something like a fiddle!"

"Mebbe we'd better nose out that way and see if we can diskeever what it
is."

"We leaves the camp onprotected."

"Only for a short time. There won't anything happen, partner. This yere
standing guard is all foolishness, anyhow."

"I reckon you're right."

"Then come on."

Together they advanced in the direction from which the strange sounds
seemed to proceed. As they made their way slowly and cautiously into the
valley they were able to hear those sounds more and more distinctly, and
before long both were satisfied that it was indeed a fiddle.

"Well, wouldn't that chaw yer up!" muttered one. "Whoever does yer
reckon is a-playing a fiddle out yere?"

"You have got me."

"Well, we will certain find out. Have your gun ready, pard, in case we
runs into a muss."

Pretty soon they saw through the starlight two horses grazing unhobbled
and unpicketed.

"Only two," whispered one of the men. "We are as many as they be."

"Whar are they?"

The violin was silent now, and they remained crouching and awaiting
until it began again. It led them straight to the spot where little Abe
sat playing beside the sleeping girl. So absorbed was he in his music,
with his head bowed over the violin, that he failed to observe the
approach of the men until they were right beside him and one of them
stooped and took him by the shoulder. With a cry of terror, the boy
sprang up.

Felicia awoke in great alarm and sat up, staring bewildered at Abe and
the two men.

"Oh, ho!" said one of the guards. "What is this we finds? It is a
strange bird we diskeevers."

"There's two," said the other. "And, by smoke, t'other one is a gal!"

"Don't you touch her!" shrilly screamed the boy. "Don't you put a hand
on her!"

He endeavored to jerk himself from the grip of the man who had seized
him, but the strong hand held him fast.

"Whatever is the use to jump around this yere way?" said the man. "We
ain't a-hurting you none. Don't git so excited-like. Mebbe it's a right
good thing we finds ye yere."

"Who are they, Abe? Who are they?" whispered Felicia.

"I dunno," confessed the boy, filled with regret and despair at his own
carelessness in permitting the men to come upon them in such a manner
while he was absorbed in his playing. "But they shan't hurt yer. I won't
let um."

"Mebbe you tells us what you're doing yere, you two kids," suggested one
of the men.

"We're jest lost," said Abe.

"Only that?" laughed the man. "Well, that sure is nothing much. Perhaps
if we don't find yer you stays lost. Where did yer get lost from?"

"Oh, I know you won't hurt us!" said Felicia quickly. "Why should you?
We can't hurt any one. My horse was frightened and ran away. Abe tried
to catch him. That was how we got separated from Dick and the others."

"Dick! Who is this yere Dick?"

Before Abe could check her, Felicia answered.

"Why, Dick Merriwell!"

"Hey?" ejaculated one of the men. "Merriwell! Why, I sure opines that
name is a heap familiar. Dick Merriwell! Mebbe you means Frank
Merriwell?"

"No! no! I mean Dick Merriwell, his brother."

"His brother?" burst from both of the men.

"Yes," said Felicia.

"Then he has a brother, has he? Well, this is right interesting and no
mistake."

"You bet it is!" ejaculated the other. "Where is this yere Dick
Merriwell, Hunchy?"

It was the old hateful name which Abe detested, and his soul revolted
against it.

"Don't you call me Hunchy!" he shrilly exclaimed. "I won't be called
Hunchy!"

In his excitement he actually bristled at the ruffian.

"Ho! ho!" laughed the other man. "What do yer think of that, partner?
Why, he is going ter soak me one."

"Ho! ho!" came hoarsely. "That's what he is. Don't let him hit yer hard,
for he'll sure fix yer!"

The one who had addressed Abe as "Hunchy" now removed his hat and made a
profound bow.

"I begs yer pardon, your royal highness," he said. "If I treads on the
tail of yer coat any, I hopes you excuses me. I am not counting to rile
you up any, for I reckon you might be a whole lot dangerous."

Abe knew this was said in derision, but he muttered:

"I won't have anybody calling me Hunchy no more. Don't you forget that!"

Felicia was clinging to the cripple now, and he could feel her
trembling. He put one of his long arms about her and sought to reassure
her by a firm pressure.

"If I hasn't offended your highness," said the man who had asked the
question, "perhaps you tells me now where this Dick Merriwell is?"

"Don't tell him, Abe!" whispered the girl. "They are bad men. I'm afraid
of them."

"I wist you could tell me," said the boy. "I'd like ter find him
myself."

"Then he is somewhere yereabouts?"

"Don't tell!" breathed Felicia again.

"I dunno 'bout that," said Abe. "Mebbe he is two hundred miles away now.
I dunno."

"Ef he is so fur, however is it you expects ter find him in a hurry?"

Barely a moment, did the boy hesitate, and then he declared:

"Why, he was a-going through to Californy on the train. We live down on
the Rio Verde. Our dad, he's got a cattle ranch down there. Yesterday we
started out to go to Flagstaff. They wouldn't let us go alone, so we
runned away. We thought mebbe we could find the way there all right, but
I guess we can't."

The two men looked at each other in the starlight and shook their heads.

"Sounds fishy," said one, immediately detecting that this statement
conflicted with the one made by Felicia.

"A whole lot," agreed the other.

Felicia had gasped when she heard Abe fabricate so glibly. It was a
surprise to her, and she was almost sorry she had cautioned him not to
tell the facts to those men.

"Well, you certain is off the trail, kids, providing you're bound for
Flagstaff. It's right lucky we finds you. We takes you to the camp, and
mebbe your dad what you speaks of pays us well if we returns you to him
safe and sound. I opines he runs a pretty big ranch."

"You bet," said the boy quickly. "He's got one of the biggest down that
way. He has jest heaps of cattle and keeps lots of cowpunchers."

"That being the case," chuckled the man who had grasped the boy's
shoulder, "he certain pays liberal when he gits his children back. Now
you two come along with us."

He marched them along, one on either side, while his companion set out
to catch the grazing horses and bring them.

Felicia slipped from the man's hand and again sought Abe's side,
pressing close to him. In his ear she whispered:

"I am afraid we're in awful trouble now, Abe. You remember the bad men
we saw in the valley before my horse ran. Perhaps these are two of
them."

"Better be ketched by bad men than starve," he returned, with an effort
to reassure her. "I have seen heaps of bad men before this, and I am
still alive."

One of the horses was easily captured, but, to the surprise of the man,
the other one charged viciously at him. When he sought to get at its
head, the creature wheeled with a squeal and kicked wildly.

The man swore.

"What ails ye, drat yer?" he growled.

Then he released the docile animal and turned his attention to the
other.

To his astonishment, the creature was fierce as a raging lion. It
charged on him repeatedly, and he escaped only by the utmost nimbleness.
It squealed, and whirled, and kicked in all directions. Apparently it
fancied a thousand men were trying to capture it, and its wild gyrations
were exceedingly surprising, to say the least.

After a little, the man ran away when he found the opportunity and stood
at a distance, with his hands on his hips, watching the cavorting
creature.

"The dinged hoss is sure crazy!" he declared. "Why, its a-trying to chew
itself up, or kick itself to pieces. Never see but one critter act that
way before."

"It's locoed," said Abe to the man with him.

Immediately this man called to his companion, saying:

"Let the beast alone. The kid says it's locoed, and ef that's so, I
reckon it's no good to anybody."

"Never see no locoed horse feed nateral like this one was," returned the
other. "I opines the critter is just ugly, that's all."

But, suddenly uttering snorts and squeals, the horse went dashing off
into the distance, as if pursued by some frightful thing. Nor did it
stop until it had disappeared far, far away.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE LOTTERY OF DEATH.


Men were lying about on the ground, sleeping where they had dropped.
Picketed horses were grazing at a little distance. The most of the men
slept heavily, but one or two routed up as the guards brought the boy
and girl and the captured horse to the bivouac.

"Whatever has you there?" growlingly asked one of the men who had
awakened.

"Some lost children we finds near yere," was the answer.

Macklyn Morgan, wrapped in his blanket, had also awakened. His curiosity
was aroused, and he flung off the blanket and got up.

"Children!" he said. "How does it happen that there are children in this
wretched region?"

One of the men explained how he had heard the sound of the fiddle, which
had led them to the boy and girl. He also repeated Abe's story, adding
that it sounded "fishy." The interest of Morgan was redoubled at once.
He immediately turned his attention to the hunchback.

"Going to Flagstaff to meet Frank Merriwell's brother, did you say?" he
questioned, attempting a kindly manner. "Seems to me that was rather a
crazy undertaking, my lad. And what is Frank Merriwell's brother doing
in Flagstaff?"

"He jest said he was going there on his way to Californy," declared Abe,
trying to stick to his original story and make it seem consistent. "We
hope to see him there."

Felicia was silent; but she felt that Abe's yarn was not believed by the
men.

"How did you happen to know this Dick Merriwell?" questioned Morgan.

Abe started to reply, but faltered and stammered a little, whereupon
Felicia quickly said:

"I am his cousin."

Instantly the man's interest was redoubled.

"His cousin, eh?" he exclaimed. "Now we're getting at it. Curtis, start
a fire. I want to look these children over."

While the man thus ordered was complying Morgan continued to question
the girl and boy, but now his interest seemed centred in Felicia.

"So you are also the cousin of Frank Merriwell?" he said. "Tell me more
about these two Merriwells. I have heard of Frank Merriwell, and I
consider him a most excellent young man. I admire him very much."

He endeavored to make his words sound sincere, but little Abe fancied
there was a false ring in them.

"You know Dick is Frank's half-brother, sir," said the girl. "He attends
school in the East. I was at school in the same place once, but the
climate didn't agree with me, and so Frank sent me West for my health."

"Have you seen him lately?"

"Yes, sir."

"When?"

"In Prescott, a few days ago. He was there, but some bad men made a lot
of trouble for him and he left."

"This boy is your brother?" asked Morgan, indicating Abe.

"Why, yes, sir!" broke in Abe, quickly, seeing that Felicia would soon
be trapped. "I am a sort of brother; an adopted brother, you know."

"Oh, that's it?" said Morgan. "But if you were living on a ranch down on
the Rio Verde, how did you happen to be in Prescott when Frank Merriwell
was there?"

"Why, we jest went there. Dad he took us there," hastily asserted the
hunchback, seeking to maintain the original deception.

"Is that true?" asked Morgan of Felicia.

She was silent.

"Of course it's true!" indignantly exclaimed the boy.

"It seems to me that you are somewhat mixed, my child. Now, I advise you
to trust me. It will be the best thing you can do. I advise you to tell
me the truth. At this time we're on our way to join Frank Merriwell and
help him to defend his new mines. He has many enemies, you know. We
might take you directly to him."

"Oh, splendid!" exclaimed the girl, all her suspicions disarmed. "Frank
will be so glad! We thought, perhaps, you might be his enemy; that's why
we were afraid of you."

Macklyn Morgan forced a laugh, which he tried to make very pleasant and
reassuring.

"You see how wrong you were," he said. "You see now that it's a mistake
to try to deceive me. It's best to tell me the truth and nothing else.
This story about living on a ranch--how about it?"

"Oh, Abe told you that when he thought you must be Frank's enemy," said
Felicia.

"Then it wasn't quite true?"

"No, no."

"And you were not on your way to Flagstaff to meet Dick Merriwell
there?"

"No; we left Prescott in company with Dick and some friends, who were on
their way to join Frank."

Felicia hastened on and told the entire story.

Abe listened in doubt as to the wisdom of this, shaking his head a
little, but remaining silent.

"Now we're getting at the facts," smiled Morgan, as the fire was started
and its light fell on his face. "It's much better for us all."

He had assumed a free, benevolent, kindly expression, and to the girl it
seemed that he could not be deceiving them. Morgan continued to question
her until at length he learned everything he desired.

"Now, my child," he said, "just you rest easy. We will soon join Frank
Merriwell, and, of course, this brother of his with his friends will
arrive all right in due time."

Morgan then stepped over to where one of the sleeping men lay and
aroused him.

"Wake up, Hackett," he said, in a low tone. "Something mighty important
has taken place."

He then told the man what had happened, and Hackett listened
attentively.

"It seems to me," he said, "that these yere kids are going to be an
incumbrance on us."

"That's where you're wrong," asserted Morgan. "With the aid of these
children we ought to be able to bring Frank Merriwell to some sort of
terms."

"I don't see how, sir."

"Why, it's plain he thinks a lot of this girl. We have her. If that
doesn't trouble him some, I am greatly mistaken."

"Mebbe you're right," nodded Hackett. "I reckon I begin to see your
little game, Mr. Morgan. Let me look these yere kids over some."

He arose and proceeded to the fire, in company with Morgan, who
cautioned him, however, to say little to the boy and girl, fearing
Hackett might make some observation that would betray the truth.

"She's some pretty, sir," said Gad, admiring Felicia; "though she's
nothing but a kid. I reckon she makes a stunner when she gits older."

"Hush!" said Morgan. "That's nothing to you."

"Oh, I has an eye for female beauty!" grinned Hackett. "It's nateral
with me."

Suddenly, to their surprise, without the least warning, a man seemed to
rise from the ground a short distance away and walk straight toward the
fire. Hackett had his pistol out in a twinkling, but he stood with mouth
agape as he saw the newcomer was an old Indian, about whose shoulders a
dirty red blanket was draped. It was Felicia, however, who was the most
surprised, and a cry left her lips, for she recognized old Joe Crowfoot.

Even as she uttered that cry the eyes of the old redskin shot her a
warning look that somehow silenced her. Without giving Hackett as much
as a glance, old Joe walked up to the fire, before which he squatted,
extending his hands to its warmth.

"Well, dern me, if that don't beat the deck!" growled Hackett. "These
yere red wards of the government are a-getting so they makes theirselves
to home anywhere. And you never knows when they're around. Now, this
yere one he pops right out o' the ground like."

Then he turned savagely on Joe.

"What are you prowling around yere for, you old vagrant?" he demanded
threateningly. "Who are you?"

Crowfoot rolled his little beady eyes up at the man.

"Heap flying bird," he answered. "Go through air; go everywhere. Go
through ground. White man did him see red snake with horse's head? Injun
ride on red snake like the wind."

"What's this jargon?" muttered Morgan.

"Hark!" warned the Indian, lifting a hand. "You hear the flying lizard
sing? See that big one up there. See um great green eyes."

Then he stared straight upward, as if beholding something in the air.
Involuntarily both men looked upward, but they saw nothing above them
save the stars of the sky.

Felicia, who knew old Joe very well, was more than astonished by his
singular manner and remarkable words. Her first impulse had been to
spring up and greet him joyously, but the look from his black eyes had
stopped her. Now, as if she were a total stranger to him, he gave her no
attention. Suddenly he thumped himself on the breast with his clinched
fist.

"Injun him all iron!" he declared. "Him like pale-face iron horse. When
sun he comes up again Injun he go on white man's iron track. He blow
smoke and fire and shriek same as iron horse."

"Well, bat me, if the old whelp ain't daffy!" exclaimed Hackett. "He's
plumb off his nut, sure as shooting."

"When Injun him lay down to sleep," said Crowfoot, "many stars come and
jump like antelope over him. No let him sleep. Him try to scare um away,
but star no scare. Bimeby Injun he get sick. He get up and run away.
Then star chase um Injun."

"You're right, Hackett," said Morgan, "He's loony, for a fact."

At this point one of the guards came walking up to the fire. The moment
his eyes fell on Crowfoot he uttered a shout that instantly aroused
every one of the sleeping men.

"By the great horn toads!" he exploded savagely; "that's the old skunk
what drugged the whole bunch of us when Pete Curry nabbed us! Whatever
is he doing here?"

Without even looking up, Crowfoot began to chant a strange, doleful song
in his own language.

"The boys will certain salivate him," asserted the guard, as the men
were rising and approaching the fire.

Old Joe apparently heard nothing and saw nothing. That singular chant
continued.

"He is dead loony," said Hackett.

"Then mebbe he's been taking some of his own dope," growled the guard.
"The boys will knock some o' his looniness out o' him, you bet!"

As the men gathered around, a number of them recognized the aged
redskin, and immediately there was a great commotion. Several drew their
weapons, and it seemed that Joe would be murdered on the spot. With a
scream of terror, Felicia flung herself before the old man, to whom she
clung.

"No! no! no!" she cried. "You shall not hurt him!"

In the excitement old Joe whispered in her ear:

"Keep still, Night Eyes. Um bad men no hurt Joe. Him touched by Great
Spirit. Nobody hurt um man touched by Great Spirit."

This, then, was the old fellow's scheme. This explained how it happened
that he dared venture into the nest of desperadoes. Among the Indians of
all tribes a deranged man is regarded with awe as one who has felt the
touch of the Great Spirit. No redskin will harm a deranged person,
believing the vengeance of the Great Father must fall on whoever does
such a thing. Shrewd as he was, Crowfoot had not yet discovered that
palefaces did not regard crazed people with such a feeling of awe.

"Take the girl away," roared several of the men. "Let us settle with the
old Injun."

If Morgan thought of interfering, he was too late, for rude hands seized
Felicia and dragged her away, in spite of her struggles. She cried and
pleaded, but all her efforts were useless. Crowfoot paid no attention to
her, nor did he heed the threatening weapons in the hands of the
ruffians. Rising to his feet, he did a solemn dance around the fire, at
the same time continuing his doleful chant.

"That yere certain is a death dance for him," muttered Hackett, who
realized that the men were aroused to a pitch at which they would insist
on wiping the fellow out.

"The black moon him soon come up," said Joe, standing with one hand
outstretched as he finished his dance. "Then we see spirits of many dead
warriors chase um buffalo over it."

"You will have a chance to take a chase with the rest o' the bunch,"
snarled one of the men. "Stand back, boys, and watch me cook him."

"Hold on!" cried another, catching the man's wrist. "I opine I am in
this yere."

Immediately an argument arose as to which of them should have the
satisfaction of killing the Indian who had once fooled them so
thoroughly. While this was taking place Joe continued, apparently
oblivious of his danger, talking of flying horses and a dozen other
impossible creatures. He must have realized that his apparent madness
was making no impression on these men, but he seemed determined to play
the game through to the finish. At length, he squatted again beside the
fire, resuming his doleful chant.

By this time it had been settled that some one of the party should have
the privilege of shooting the Indian, for it was agreed that to waste a
number of bullets on him was folly. There was some discussion as to the
manner of choosing the slayer, but the desperadoes finally decided on
drawing lots.

Hackett, who took no part in this demand for the Indian's life, was
chosen to prepare the lots, which he did. Then the men eagerly pressed
forward to draw. The one who drew the shortest piece was to be the
"fortunate" individual. All the while Crowfoot was guarded by men with
drawn and ready weapons. Had he made an effort to get away he would have
been riddled immediately.

Finally the lots were compared, and a half-blood Mexican, with leathery
skin, drooping mustache, deep-furrowed face, and matted black hair, was
the one who held the shortest piece. He laughed as he displayed it.

"Stand back!" he cried, flashing a pistol and striding forward to within
four paces of the Indian. "I will settle him with one piece of lead."

Then, as this wretch lifted his weapon, old Joe realized at last that
his game had failed utterly. There was no escape for him. His long life
had led him at last to this, and he believed he stood at the gateway of
the happy hunting grounds. Had there been hope of escape he would have
made the attempt. Now, as he still crouched by the fire, he drew his red
blanket over his head, and from beneath its muffling folds came the sad
and doleful chant of the redman's death song.

The executioner stood fair and full in the firelight. He brought his
weapon to a level and a shot rang out. It was not he, however, who
fired. From somewhere near at hand a report sounded, and the pistol flew
from his hand as the bullet tore through his forearm. A yell of pain
escaped his lips.

Instantly the ruffians were thrown into the utmost confusion. Feeling
that they were about to be attacked, they hastened to get away from the
fire, the light of which must betray them to the enemy.

In spite of his age, like a leaping panther, old Joe shot to his feet.
With one hand he seized little Abe, whom he snatched clear of the
ground. And the next instant the old savage was running for his life.
Two or three shots were fired, but in the excitement Crowfoot was
untouched.

They were given no further time to turn their attention on him. From out
of the shadows came a single horseman, bearing straight down upon them,
his weapons flashing. The recklessness of this charge and the astounding
suddenness with which it came was too much for the nerves of those men.

Felicia had been released by the man who was holding her as the first
shot was fired. This man pulled a weapon and fired once at the shadowy
horseman, after which he ran like a frightened antelope, for a screaming
bullet had cut his ear. It seemed that the horseman meant to ride
Felicia down. In her fear she stood still, as if turned to stone, which
was the best thing she could have done.

As he swept past her, the rider swung low to one side in the saddle, and
somehow one strong young hand grasped her and snatched her from the
ground. She felt herself lifted with such suddenness that her breath
seemed snapped away, and then she lay across the horse in front of the
rider, who now bent low over her.

Bullets whined, and whistled, and sang about them, but some good fairy
must have guarded them, for they were untouched. On they went. The
sounds of irregular shooting fell farther and farther behind them.

Felicia had not fainted, although her senses swam and she seemed on the
verge of losing consciousness. She could not understand just what had
taken place. Suddenly her rescuer began to laugh, and a strange, wild,
boyish laugh it was. It thrilled her through and through.

"Dick!" she gasped. "Oh, Dick!"

He straightened up and lifted her, holding her before him with one
strong arm.

"Felicia!" he exclaimed, "are you hurt?"

"Oh, Dick! Dick!" she repeated, in wonder. "And is it you?"

"You are not hurt?" he persisted in questioning.

"No, Dick--no."

"Thank goodness!"

"But how was it? My head is swimming; I can't understand. I am dazed."

"Well, I fancy I dazed those fine gentlemen a little," said the boy.
"Felicia, I have been searching, searching everywhere for you. We
followed your trail as well as we could. When night came we had not
found you. I couldn't rest. What fate it was that led me to those
ruffians I cannot say, but I believe the hand of Heaven was in it. In
their excitement over Crowfoot none of them heard my approach. I was
quite near when that brute lifted his weapon to shoot Joe. I didn't want
to kill him, and I fired at his arm. It was a lucky shot, for I hit him.
He stood between me and the firelight, so that the light fell on the
barrel of my pistol. Crowfoot took his cue quickly enough, for I saw him
scamper."

"How brave you are! How brave you are!" murmured the girl, in untold
admiration. "Oh, Dick, I can't believe it now."

"It was not such a brave thing, after all," he said. "I suppose most
people would call it folly. But I had to do it. Why, old Joe saved my
life a dozen times when I used to hunt with him years ago. He loved me
as a father might love a son. You see it was impossible for me to keep
still and see him murdered. I had to do something to save him. He can
hide like a gopher on the open plain."

"But Abe, Dick--Abe?"

"I saw Crowfoot snatch him up as he ran. We must leave Abe to old Joe."

"Listen, Dick! Are they pursuing us?"

"We have the start on them, Felicia, and I don't believe they will be
able to overtake us if they try it."

Through the night they rode. At the first opportunity Dick turned from
his course and doubled in a manner intended to baffle the pursuers.

"It will be a long pull back to Bart and the others, Felicia," he said;
"but I think we can make it all right. For all of the time I have spent
at school, I have not forgotten the lessons taught me by Crowfoot when I
was a mere kid. He taught me to set my course by the stars, the wind,
the trees, by a score of things. To-night our guide shall be the stars."

Brad Buckhart was worried and troubled greatly over Dick's long absence,
and was on guard where they had camped as night fell. The Texan tramped
restlessly up and down, now and then pausing to listen. The others
slept. Wiley snored lustily and muttered in his sleep.

"Avast, there!" he mumbled. "Put her to port, you lubber!"

Then, after snoring again in the most peaceful manner, he broke out:

"Right over the corner of the pan, Breck, old boy. Let's see you make a
home run off that bender!"

Brad moved still farther away that he might listen without being
disturbed by the sailor. Far in the night he seemed to hear a sound.
Kneeling, he leaned his ear close to the ground and listened
attentively.

"Horseman coming," he decided. "It must be Dick--it must be!"

Finally the hoofbeats of the approaching horse became more and more
distinct. Then through the still, clear night came a clear, faint
whistle.

"Dick it is!" exclaimed the Texan joyously.

Dick it was, and with him he brought Felicia safely back to them. They
did not arouse the others, but she was wrapped in blankets and left to
sleep, if possible, through the remainder of the still, cool night.
Young Merriwell's story filled the Texan with unbounded astonishment and
admiration. He seized Dick's hand and shook it with almost savage
delight.

"Talk about a howling terror on ten wheels!" he exclaimed. "Why, you
simply beat the universe. You hear me gurgle! Now you just turn in, for
I reckon you're a whole lot pegged out."

"Well, sleep won't hurt me if I can corral some of it," acknowledged
Dick.

Brad continued to stand guard, thinking that later he would arouse one
of the others to take his place. His restlessness and worry had passed
somewhat, and after a time he sat down, thinking over the startling
things that had happened. It was thus that, exhausted more than he knew,
he finally slid to the ground and also slept. The night passed without
any of them being disturbed. But in the morning the first man to awaken
was Pete Curry, who sat up, rubbing his eyes, and uttered a shout of
astonishment. The remaining sleepers awoke and started up.

What they saw astounded them no less than it had Curry, for on the
ground near at hand lay little Abe, with Joe Crowfoot's dirty red
blanket tucked about him, and within three feet sat the redskin, calmly
and serenely smoking his pipe.

Dick flung off his blanket and was on his feet in a twinkling.

"Crowfoot!" he joyously cried, rushing forward with his arms
outstretched.

For one who complained of rheumatism and advancing age the redskin rose
with remarkable quickness. Usually stolid and indifferent in manner, the
look that now came to his wrinkled, leathery face was one of such deep
feeling and affection that it astounded every one but himself. The old
man clasped Dick in his arms as a father might a long-lost son. To Curry
and his companions this was a most singular spectacle. Curry had seized
a weapon on discovering Crowfoot. He did not use it when the old fellow
remained silent and indifferent after his shout of astonishment and
alarm.

That the boy should embrace the Indian in such an affectionate manner
seemed almost disgusting to Curry and his assistants, all three of whom
held Indians in the utmost contempt. For a moment it seemed that the old
man's heart was too full for speech. Finally, with a strange tenderness
and depth of feeling in his voice, he said:

"Injun Heart, Great Spirit heap good to old Joe! He let him live to see
you some more. What him eyes see make him heart swell with heap big
gladness. Soon him go to happy hunting ground; now him go and make um no
big kick 'bout it."

"Joe, I have longed to see you again," declared Dick, his voice unsteady
and a mist in his eyes. "Sometimes my heart has yearned for the old days
with you on the plains and amid the mountains. I have longed to be with
you again, hunting the grizzly, or sleeping in the shade by a murmuring
brook and beneath whispering trees. Then you taught me the secrets of
the wild animals and the birds. I have forgotten them now, Joe. I can no
longer call the birds and tiny animals of the forest to me. In that way
I am changed, Joe; but my heart remains the same toward you, and ever
will."

Now the old redskin held Dick off by both shoulders and surveyed him up
and down with those beady eyes, which finally rested on the boy's
handsome face with a look of inexpressible admiration.

"Heap fine! Heap fine!" said the old man. "Joe him know it. Joe him sure
you make great man. Joe him no live to see you have whiskers on um face,
but you sure make great man. Joe him getting heap close to end of trail.
Rheumatism crook him and make um swear sometime."

"Don't talk about getting near the end of the trail, Crowfoot," laughed
Dick, whose heart was full of delight over this meeting. "You old
hypocrite! I saw you last night! I saw you when you took to your heels
after I perforated the gentleman who contemplated cutting your thread of
life short. Rheumatism! Why, you deceptive old rascal, you ran like a
deer! If your rheumatism was very bad, you couldn't take to your heels
in that fashion."

Crowfoot actually grinned.

"Injun him have to run," he asserted. "Bullets come fast and thick. If
Injun him run slow mebbe he get ketched by bullet."

Little Abe had risen on one elbow, the blanket falling from his
shoulders, and watched the meeting between Dick and the old savage.
Felicia also was awakened, and now she came hastening forward, her dark
eyes aglow and a slight flush in her delicate cheeks.

"Joe! Joe! have you forgotten me?" she asked.

The redskin turned at once and held out his hands to her.

"Night Eyes," he said, with such softness that all save Dick and Felicia
were astonished, "little child of silent valley hid in mountains, next
to Injun Heart, old Joe him love you most. You good to old Joe. Long
time 'go Joe he come to valley hid in mountains and he sit by cabin
there. He see you play with Injun Heart. Warm sun shine in valley
through long, long day. All Joe do he smoked, and sat, and watched.
Bimeby when Night Eyes was very tired she come crawling close up side
old Joe and lean her head 'gainst Joe, and sleep shut her eyes. Then old
Joe him keep still. When Injun Heart he come near old Joe, him say,
'Sh-h!' He hold up his hand; he say, 'Keep much still.' Then mebbe Night
Eyes she sleep and sleep, and sun he go down, and birds they sing last
good-night song, and stars shine out, and old Joe him sit still all the
time. Oh, he no forget--he no forget!"

Somehow the simple words of the old redskin brought back all the past,
which seemed so very, very far away, and tears welled from Felicia's
eyes.

"Oh, those were happy days, Joe--happy days!" she murmured. "I fear I
shall never be so happy again--never, never!"

"Oh, must be happy!" declared the old fellow. "Dick him make um Night
Eyes happy. Him look out for Night Eyes."

"Just the same," she declared, "I would give anything, anything, to be
back in that valley now, just as I was long, long ago."

With his head cocked on one side, Cap'n Wiley had been watching the
meeting between the Indian and his young friends. Wiley now turned to
Buckhart and remarked:

"I am learning extensively in this variegated world. As the years roll
on my accumulation of knowledge increases with susceptible rapidity. Up
to the present occasion I have been inclined to think that about the
only thing a real Injun could be good for was for a target. It seems to
my acute perception that in this immediate instance there is at least
one exception to the rule. Although yonder copper-hued individual looks
somewhat scarred and weather-beaten, I observe that Richard Merriwell
hesitates in no degree to embrace him. Who is the old tike, mate?"

"Why, old Joe Crowfoot!" answered Brad. "The only Indian I ever saw of
his kind."

Immediately Wiley approached old Joe, walking teeteringly on the balls
of his feet, after his own peculiar fashion, made a salute, and
exclaimed:

"I salute you, Joseph Crowfoot, Esquire, and may your shadow never grow
less. May you take your medicine regularly and live to the ripe round
age of one hundred years. Perhaps you don't know me. Perhaps you haven't
heard of me. That is your misfortune. I am Cap'n Wiley, a rover of the
briny deep and a corking first-class baseball player. Ever play
baseball, Joe, old boy? It's a great game. You would enjoy it. In my
mind's eye I see you swing the bat like a war club and swat the sphere
hard enough to dent it. Or perchance you are attempting to overhaul the
base runner, and I see him fleeing wildly before you, as if he fancied
you were reaching for his scalp locks."

"Ugh!" grunted old Joe. "No know who um be; but know heap good name for
um. Joe he give you name. He call you Wind-in-the-head."

At this the others, with the exception of Wiley himself, laughed
outright. The sailor, however, did not seem at all pleased.

"It's plain, Joseph," he observed, "that you have a reckless little
habit of getting gay occasionally. Take my advice and check that habit
before it leads you up against a colossal calamity."

"Wind-in-the-head he talk heap many big words," said the Indian. "Mebbe
sometime he talk big words that choke him."

"That's a choke, Wiley," laughed Dick.

"And that certainly is the worst pun it has ever been my misfortune to
hear," half sobbed the sailor. "One more like that would give me heart
failure. Did you ever hear of the time I had heart failure in that
baseball game with the Cleveland Nationals? Well, mates, it was----"

"We can't stand one of them before breakfast, Wiley," interrupted Dick.
"It may prove too much for us. After breakfast we will endeavor to
listen while you relate one of your harrowing experiences."

"But this thing is burning in my bosom. I long to disgorge it."

"You have to let it burn, I think. We should be on the move by this
time."

Thus Wiley was repressed and prevented from relating one of his
marvelous yarns, not a little to his disgust.



CHAPTER XXII.

AN ACT OF TREACHERY.


It was past midday. Guided by Wiley, who seemed to know the way well,
the party had pushed on into the mountains and followed a course that
led them over ragged slopes and steep declivities.

Finally the sailor paused and turned.

"There, mates," he said, stretching out his hand, "barely half a mile
away lies the Enchanted Valley. I have a tickling fancy that we have
reached it ahead of that delectable crew we sought to avoid."

Even as he said this, Pete Curry uttered an exclamation and pointed
toward the mouth of a ragged ravine or fissure, from which at this
moment several horsemen suddenly debouched. They were followed closely
by a band of men on foot.

"That's the whole bunch!" exclaimed Curry. "And they're coming as fast
as they can chase theirselves. They are heading to cut us off."

"That's right!" burst from Dick. "We've got to make a dash for it. Lead
the way, Wiley, and be sure you make no mistake."

A hot dash it was for the fissure that led into the Enchanted Valley.
The enemy, yelling like a lot of savages, did their best to cut the
party off. Seeing they would fail at this, they opened fire, and a few
bullets sang dangerously near the fugitives.

"Oh, bilge-water and brine!" muttered the sailor. "There'll certainly be
doings when we attempt to scurry down that crack into the valley! It's
going to be a very disagreeable piece of business for us."

Nearer and nearer they came to the fissure for which they were heading.
Straight toward the beginning of it they raced, Wiley telling Dick it
would be necessary for several of them to halt there and try to stand
off the enemy while the rest of the party descended. But as they reached
the beginning of the fissure, from behind some bowlders two young men
opened fire with repeating rifles on the pursuers. In a moment the hail
of bullets sent into the ranks of the enemy threw them into confusion. A
horse dropped in its tracks, and another, being wounded, began bucking
and kicking. One man was hit in the shoulder.

This unexpected occurrence threw the pursuers into consternation, so
that they wheeled immediately and sought to get beyond rifle range.

"Avast there, my hearties!" cried Wiley, as he caught sight of the
youths who knelt behind the bowlders. "Permit me to lay alongside and
join you in the merry carnage."

"Hello, Wiley!" called Frank, who, aided by Hodge, had checked the
ruffians. "It seems that we happened up this way at just about the right
time."

"At the precise psychological moment," nodded the marine marvel. "This
being just in time is getting habitual with you."

While the enemy was still in confusion Frank and Bart hastened to join
the new arrivals and greet them. Of course they were surprised to see
Curry and his companions, and the story told by the deputy sheriff, who
explained everything in a few words, made clear the cause of his
unexpected reappearance at the valley.

"A ministerial-looking gentleman who called himself Felton Cleveland,
eh?" said Frank. "He was with the gang that cut loose your prisoners,
was he? Well, I am dead sure Felton Cleveland is----"

"Macklyn Morgan!" cried Dick. "I saw him last night. He is the man."

"And Macklyn Morgan is the instigator of this whole business," said
Frank. "Wiley, get Abe and Felicia down into the valley without delay.
We have got to stand this gang off right here. We can't afford to let
them reach this entrance to the valley. We're in for a siege. You will
find provisions down there at the cabin. Bring supplies when you return.
Abe and Felicia will be safe down there as long as we hold this
passage."

"Ay, ay, sir!" said the sailor. "I am yours to command."

Fortunately near the mouth of the fissure there were heaped-up bowlders
which seemed to form something of a natural fortress. Behind these rocks
the defenders concealed themselves, their horses being taken down into
the valley one after another. For a long time the enemy made no
offensive move. It seemed to Frank and his friends that the ruffians had
been dismayed by their warm reception, and they seemed disagreeing.

"If they will only chew the rag and get into trouble among themselves,
it will be greatly to our advantage," said Hodge.

"Let them sail right into us if they are looking for a warm time!"
exclaimed Brad Buckhart, who seemed thirsting for more trouble. "I opine
we can give them all they want."

Wiley brought a supply of provisions from the valley, and the defenders
satiated their hunger while ensconced behind the bowlders.

"This is even better than salt horse," declared Wiley, munching away.
"One time when shipwrecked in the South Atlantic, longitude unty-three,
latitude oxty-one, I subsisted on raw salt horse for nineteen
consecutive days. That was one of the most harrowing experiences of my
long and sinuous career."

"Spare us! Spare us!" exclaimed Frank. "We have got to stand off those
ruffians, so don't deprive us of our nerve and strength."

"Look here!" exclaimed the sailor, "this thing is getting somewhat
monotonous! Whenever I attempt to tell a little nannygoat somebody rises
up and yells, 'Stop it!' Pretty soon I will get so I'll have to talk to
myself. There was a man I knew once who kept a bowling alley and the
doctor told him he mustn't talk; but he kept right on talking. He talked
everybody deaf, and dumb, and black, and blue, and stone-blind, so at
last there was nobody left for him to talk to but himself. Then he went
to talking to himself in his sleep, which disturbed him so that he
always woke up and couldn't sleep. The result was that he became so
utterly exhausted for the want of rest that it was necessary to take him
to the hospital. But even in the hospital they couldn't keep him still
until they gagged him. That was the only thing that saved his life. What
a sad thing it would be if anything like that should happen to me!"

Late in the afternoon the enemy made a move. Protected by rocks and such
cover as they could find, they attempted to close in on the defenders of
the valley.

Frank was keenly alert, and he discovered this move almost as soon as it
began. Immediately he posted his companions where they could watch, and
they agreed on a dead line, across which they would not permit the
ruffians to creep without firing on them. As the ruffians drew nearer
the cover was less available, and when the dead line was crossed the
defenders opened fire on them. Within three minutes several of the enemy
had been wounded, and the advance was not only checked, but the ruffians
were filled with such dismay that the greater part of them took to their
heels and fled. Several of these might have been shot down, but Frank
would not permit it.

"I opine that just about gives them all they want for a while," said
Brad Buckhart.

It seemed that he was right. The besiegers disappeared amid the rocks,
and the afternoon crept on with no further effort in that direction to
enter the valley by assault.

Some of the defenders were beginning to wonder if the enemy had not
given up when, with the sun hanging low, a man appeared in the distance,
waving a white handkerchief, attached like a flag to the end of a stick.

"Whatever's up now?" muttered Pete Curry.

"It is a flag of truce," said Merry.

"Look out, Frank!" exclaimed Bart. "It may be a trick."

Merry rose and stood on a mound of bowlders, drawing out his own
handkerchief and waved it in return.

"What are you going to do?" asked Hodge.

"I am going to find out what they are up to," was the answer.

"I tell you it may be a trick."

"We will see."

The man in the distance with the flag of truce immediately advanced
alone. Barely had he walked out into full view when Merry said:

"It is Macklyn Morgan, or my eyes are no good!"

"Old Joe he fix um," said the aged Indian, carefully thrusting his rifle
over the rocks and preparing to take aim.

"Stop him!" exclaimed Merry. "Don't let him fire on a man with a white
flag!"

The old savage seemed greatly surprised and disappointed when he was
prevented from shooting.

"When um Morgan man he is killed that stop all trouble," said Joe. "Good
chance to do it."

"Watch him close, Dick," directed Frank. "I am going out there to meet
Morgan."

"Let me go with you."

"No; he's alone. I will go alone. He is taking his chances. If anything
happens to me, if one of those ruffians should fire on me, Morgan knows
my friends here will shoot him down. Still, there may be some trick
about it, and I want every one of you to watch close and be on the
alert."

"Depend on us, Frank," said Dick. "Only I'm sorry you won't let me go
with you."

A few moments later Merriwell strode out boldly from the rocks, with the
white handkerchief still fluttering in his hand, advancing to meet
Morgan, who was slowly coming forward.

They met in the centre of the open space near the little heap of
bowlders. In grim silence, regarding his enemy with accusing eyes, Merry
waited for Morgan to open the conversation.

"This is a very unfortunate affair, young man," said the hypocritical
money king. "I am sorry it has happened."

"Are you?" asked Frank derisively.

"I am, I am," nodded Morgan. "It's very bad--very bad."

"If you feel so bad about it, sir, it's the easiest thing in the world
for you to bring it to an end."

"But you are the one to terminate it, young man."

"How do you make that out?"

"You know how you can settle this affair without delay. You heard my
proposition in Prescott."

"I believe I did. It was very interesting as the proposition of a
thoroughly unscrupulous man."

"Don't get insulting, Mr. Merriwell. I am doing my duty. Milton Sukes
was my partner. Do you think I can conscientiously ignore the fact that
he was murdered?"

"I fail to understand what that has to do with me."

"You know I have proofs," said Morgan sternly. "You know they will
convict you."

"I know nothing of the sort. You have no proofs that are worth being
called that."

"Everything points accusingly and decisively at you. You were Mr. Sukes'
bitter enemy. It was to your advantage that he should be put out of the
way. He annoyed you. He gave you great trouble."

"And I fancy, Macklyn Morgan, that I annoyed him a little. But why do
you pretend that it is on his account you are carrying out this lawless
piece of business? You know its nature. You know in your heart that you
are a hypocrite. You have even offered, if I turn over my property to
you here, to make no proceeding against me. Is that the way you obtain
justice for your dead partner? Is that the sort of justice you are
looking for, Morgan? Don't talk to me of justice! I know the sort of man
you are! I know you from the ground up!"

"Be careful! Be careful! You are making a mistake, young man. Mr. Sukes
annoyed you and harassed you because he believed you held property that
he should possess--property that rightfully belonged to him. He obtained
no satisfaction from you. If I am willing to settle with you by securing
possession of this undeveloped mine here, which I now offer to do, you
ought to think yourself getting off easy. It is not often that I enter
into an affair of this sort. It is not often that I take hold of it
personally. I allow my agents to carry such things through under my
directions. In this case, however, I have considered it best to see the
matter to an end myself. I confess that it seemed probable that you
might be too slick for my agents."

"No thanks whatever for the compliment. Have you anything new to
propose, Mr. Morgan?"

"My proposition is this: that you and your companions retire at once
from this vicinity, and if you do I give you my word that you will not
be molested. It is an easy and simple way to settle this whole affair.
If you comply, we will let the Sukes matter drop where it is. You will
escape prosecution for murder. Think well of it--think well. It is the
best thing you can do. You are trapped now. You are penned in here and
you can't get out. If we see fit, we can lay siege to this place and
keep you here until we starve you out. In the end you will be compelled
to surrender. In the end you will lose everything. If you force me to
such a course, not only will I obtain possession of this undeveloped
mine, but I tell you now that I shall do my best to see you hanged for
the murder of Milton Sukes."

Frank laughed in the man's face.

"It's plain," he said, "that even now, Macklyn Morgan, you don't
understand me. It's plain that you still fancy it possible to frighten
me. You are wasting your time, sir. Go ahead with your siege and see
what comes of it."

This seemed to enrage Morgan, for suddenly he violently shook the flag
at Frank and cried:

"Then take the result of your obstinacy!"

Instantly there were several puffs of white smoke from beyond the
distant rocks and Frank pitched forward upon his face.

At the same moment Macklyn Morgan made a spring and dropped behind a
little pile of bowlders, where he was fully protected from the defenders
of the valley.

Apparently Frank had been treacherously shot down in cold blood while
under the flag of truce.

The watchers of the defense were horrified as they saw Frank fall. Dick
uttered a savage cry and would have rushed out from behind the rocks had
he not been seized by Brad Buckhart.

"Steady, pard--steady!" warned the Texan, finding it difficult to detain
young Merriwell.

"Let go!" panted Dick. "Don't you see! My brother! The dastardly
wretches have shot him!"

"And do you propose to prance out there and let them shoot you up, too?
Do you propose to let these measly galoots wipe out the Merriwell family
in a bunch? Cool down, pard, and have some sense."

Bart Hodge had been no less excited than Dick, and nothing could have
prevented him from rushing forth to Frank had he not suddenly made a
discovery as he sprang up. His eyes were on his chum of school and
college days, and he saw Frank quickly roll over and over until he lay
close against a bowlder, where he would be protected in case the enemy
fired again. Then, as he lay thus, Merry lifted the hand that still
clutched the white handkerchief and waved it in a signal to his friends.

Hodge was shaking in every limb.

"He is not killed!" he exclaimed.

"Heap keep still," came from old Joe. "No shot at all. Him all right.
Him see gun flash, him drop quick, bullets go over um. Him fool bad
palefaces a heap."

"What's that?" fluttered Dick. "Do you mean that he wasn't hurt, Joe?"

"No hurt him much," asserted the old savage, "Strong Heart he have keen
eye. He watch all the time. He see gun flash. He see smoke. He drop
quick."

It was not easy to make Dick believe his brother had not been hurt, but
Frank managed to convey to them by signals that he was all right. Their
relief was unbounded. Indeed, Dick's eyes filled with a mist of joy,
although his anxiety was intense, for he feared that his brother might
still be in a position where the enemy could get further shots at him.
Frank, however, hugged the rocks closely, and there was no more
shooting.

On the other side of the bowlders lay Macklyn Morgan, his evil heart
filled with triumph, for he believed Merriwell had been slain. His
astonishment was unbounded when he heard Frank's voice calling his name.

"Morgan," called Merry, "can you hear me?"

"Yes, I hear you," answered the astounded villain. "So they didn't kill
you outright, did they?"

"Hardly that," returned Merry. "They didn't even touch me."

"What did you say?" burst from Morgan. "Why, those men were the best
shots in our party! They were carefully chosen for this piece of
business."

"A fine piece of business, Macklyn Morgan!" contemptuously retorted
Merry. "And you planned it, I presume! You are a smooth-faced,
hypocritical man of wealth, known far and wide and greatly respected
because of your riches. Yet you have descended to a piece of business
like this! Sukes was bad enough, Morgan; but you're a hundred times
worse. You have failed in your most dastardly plot, just as you will
fail in everything. Lie still, Macklyn Morgan. Keep close to those rocks
where you are, for if you show yourself you will be riddled by my
watching friends. From this time on your life will not be worth a pinch
of snuff if they get a chance at you."

So the two men, the fearless youth and the treacherous money king, lay
each sheltered by the bowlders while the sun sank in the west and day
slipped softly into night. When the shadows had deepened sufficiently,
Frank crept away on his stomach toward the valley, taking the utmost
pains not to expose himself, and, through his skill in this, returned at
last in safety to his friends, who welcomed him joyously.

"Heap well done!" grunted old Joe. "But now Strong Heart him know more
than to trust um bad men. No do it some more."

Dick was able to repress his emotion, although Frank read in the few
words his brother said the intense anxiety he had felt.

"What will be their next move?" exclaimed Hodge.

"They will attempt to overpower us by some sudden move to-night," said
Frank. "We must remain on the alert every moment."

The stars came out bright and clear, as they always do in that
Southwestern land, and, if possible, their light seemed more brilliant
than usual. The night advanced, and still the enemy before them remained
silent. It was Curry who discovered something down in the valley that
attracted his attention and interested him. He called the attention of
Frank, who saw down there a light waving to and fro and then in circles.

"Whatever does yer make of that, pard Merriwell?" asked Curry.

"It's a signal," said Frank--"a signal from Abe and Felicia. They are
seeking to attract our attention. I must go down there at once."

"There's trouble of some sort down there, Frank," said Dick, who had
reached his brother's side. "Let's go quickly."

Merry found Bart and directed him to take charge of the defense at that
point and be constantly on the alert. With Dick close behind him, he
hastened down the fissure leading into the valley. In the narrow place
through which they descended the starlight was dim and uncertain, yet
they hastened with reckless speed. Reaching the valley, they made
straight for the cabin, where the signal light was still waving. As they
drew near, they saw the grotesque figure of little Abe swinging a
lighted torch over his head and then waving it round and round. The
flaring torch revealed Felicia, who stood near.

"What's the matter, Abe?" demanded Frank, as he dashed up.

"I am glad you saw it! I am glad you came!" said the boy. "Frank, those
men are trying to get into the valley another way."

"Where? How?"

"Felicia saw them first. Some of them are on the other side."

"But there is no entrance save the one we are defending."

"They are planning to get in by descending the face of the precipice. We
saw them creep down over the rocks, three or four of them, and it took
them a long time. They have reached a precipice that is perpendicular."

"That should stop them."

"I watched them through your field glasses, which I found in the cabin.
They were letting themselves down with the aid of ropes."

"Ropes?" exclaimed Dick.

"A new game," said Frank.

"Can they descend that way?" questioned the boy.

"It's possible," admitted Frank. "Show us where they are, Abe. Drop that
torch and lose not a moment."

The hunchback led the way, running on before them, and they followed him
closely. As they came at length to the vicinity of the precipice, they
saw through the pale starlight that Abe had spoken truly, for already
long lariats had been spliced together, and, by the aid of these, which
now dangled from the top of the precipice to the bottom, one of the men
had already begun to descend. They saw the shadowy figure of his
companions waiting above, and it seemed that the men did not dare trust
themselves more than one at a time upon the spliced rope.

"We've got to stop that, Frank!" panted Dick.

"We will stop it," said Merry. "Don't attract attention. Let's get
nearer."

They stole forward still nearer, watching the man as he came down slowly
and carefully. This man had descended almost half the distance when a
sudden rifle shot broke the stillness of the valley. Immediately, with a
cry, the dark form of a man dropped like a stone.

Frank and his companions had been startled by the shot, but Merry
instantly recognized the peculiar spang of the rifle.

"Old Joe!" whispered Merry.

As they stood there a silent figure came slipping toward them, and the
old Indian stopped close at hand.

"Bad men no come down that way," he said quietly. "Joe him shoot pretty
good--pretty good. Joe him think mebbe he shoot four, five, six times,
he might cut rope. Joe him shoot once, him cut rope. Joe him got
rheumatism. Him pretty old, but him shoot pretty good."

"Was that what you fired at?" asked Merry, in astonishment. "You didn't
shoot at the man on the rope?"

"Plenty time to shoot man when Joe him find out he no cut rope," was the
retort. "When rope him cut one man he come down pretty fast. Him strike,
bump! Mebbe it jar him some."

"The fall must have killed him instantly," said Frank. "If you cut that
rope, Joe, you have spoiled their attack on this side of the valley.
Stay here. Watch sharp, and make sure they don't resume the attempt. If
they do, Abe can signal again."

"All right," said Crowfoot. "Me watch."

With this assurance, Frank felt safe to return again to the defenders
above, and Dick returned with him. When he told what had taken place in
the valley Cap'n Wiley observed:

"I had it in for Joseph Crowfoot, Esquire, for calling me
Wind-in-the-head; but I will overlook the insult. Evidently the old boy
is a whole army in himself."

As they lay waiting for the attack they fully expected must take place,
there came to their ears from the direction in which the enemy was
supposed to be the sounds of shots, followed immediately by hoarse
yelling and more shooting.

"Well, what do you make of that, Merry?" cried Hodge. "There seems to be
a ruction of some sort going on over there."

Frank listened a few moments. The sound of the shooting receded, and the
yelling seemed dying out in the distance.

"It may be a trick," he said; "but I am in hopes those ruffians have
quarreled among themselves. If it is a trick, we will keep still and
wait. Time will tell what has happened."

Time did tell, but all through the rest of the night they waited in vain
for the attack. When morning finally dawned the mountains lay silent in
the flood of light which poured from the rising sun. Nowhere was the
enemy to be discovered.

Old Joe came up to them from the valley and declared that the men on the
other side had been driven away. The fate of their comrade seemed to
dishearten them, and they had crept back like snails over the rocks and
vanished during the night.

It was the old Indian who set out to find what had happened among the
besiegers led by Morgan. He slipped away among the rocks and brush and
vanished like a phantom. He was gone an hour or more when he suddenly
reappeared and beckoned to them.

"Come see," he invited.

They knew it was safe to follow him, and they did so. Where the enemy
had been ensconced they found one man, sorely wounded and in a critical
condition. That was all. The others, to the last rascal of them, had
vanished.

"Where have they gone, Joe?" exclaimed Frank.

"Ask him," directed the Indian, motioning toward the wounded man. "Mebbe
he tell."

This man was questioned, and the story he told surprised and satisfied
the defenders beyond measure. Disgusted over their failure to get into
the valley, the ruffians had plotted among themselves. A number of them
had devised a plan which to them seemed likely to be profitable. Knowing
Macklyn Morgan was a very rich man, they had schemed to take him
personally, carry him off, and hold him in captivity until he should pay
them handsomely for his freedom. Not all the ruffians had been taken
into this plot, and when the schemers started to carry Morgan off there
was an outbreak and some shooting, but they got away successfully.

With Morgan and the leading spirits of the affair gone, the others
quickly decided to give up the assault on the valley, and that was why
they had departed in the night, leaving the wounded man behind to such
mercy as Merriwell and his friends might show.

"Well, what do you think of that?" exclaimed Dick.

"Think?" said Frank, with a laugh. "Why, I think Macklyn Morgan has been
caught in his own trap. Now let him get out of it!"



CHAPTER XXIII.

NEW RICHES PROMISED.


When a week had passed Frank and his friends began to feel that all
their troubles were over, for the time being, at least. Old Joe
Crowfoot, who had been scouting in the vicinity, reported that he found
no signs of probable marauders and himself settled down contentedly to
smoke and loaf in the warm sunshine of the valley. With Dick and Felicia
near, where he could watch them occasionally or hear their voices, the
peaceful happiness of the old fellow seemed complete.

Cap'n Wiley likewise loafed to his heart's content And if ever a person
could make a whole-souled and hearty success of loafing it was the
cap'n. He became so friendly with Crowfoot that old Joe even permitted
him sometimes to smoke his pipe.

One beautiful morning the entire party was gathered in front of
Merriwell's cabin talking things over.

"There seems nothing now, Frank, to prevent us from securing miners and
opening up this new claim," said Hodge. "Macklyn Morgan seems to have
disappeared off the face of the earth."

"Perhaps he has learned that it is dangerous for a man like him to
attempt dealing with the ruffians of this part of the country," put in
Dick. "It seems certain now that he was actually carried into captivity
by the very gang he employed to seize these mines."

"But he will get free all right," declared Frank. "He will turn up again
sometime."

"If they don't kill him any," said Buckhart.

"They won't do that," asserted Merriwell. "They can make nothing out of
him in that fashion; but they might make a good thing by forcing him to
pay a large sum for his liberty."

"Well, now that everything seems all right here, Frank," said Dick, "I
suppose Brad and I will have to light out for the East and old Fardale."

"Waugh! That certain is right!" exclaimed the Texan. "We must be on
hand, pard, when Fardale gets into gear for baseball this spring."

"Baseball!" cried Wiley, giving a great start. "Why, that word thrills
my palpitating bosom. Baseball! Why, I will be in great shape for the
game this season! My arm is like iron. Never had such a fine arm on me
before. Speed! Why, I will put 'um over the plate like peas! Curves!
Why, my curves will paralyze 'um this year!"

"Ugh!" grunted old Joe. "Wind-in-the-head blow a heap. Him talk a lot
with him jaw. Mebbe him jaw git tired sometime."

"Look here, Joseph," expostulated Wiley, "I don't like sarcasm. If I
didn't love you as a brother, I might resent it."

"Great horn spoon!" cried Buckhart, scratching vigorously. "These fleas
are the biggest and worst I ever saw. You hear me murmur!"

"What, these?" squealed Wiley, in derision. "Why, these little creatures
are nothing at all--nothing at all. They just tickle a fellow up a bit.
Fleas! Say, mates, you should have seen the fleas I have beheld in my
tempestuous career. You should have seen the fleas I met up with in the
heart of darkest Africa. Those were the real thing. Don't 'spose I ever
told you about those fleas?"

And he told them a long and wonderful story about African fleas.

"Ugh!" grunted the old Indian, when Wiley had finished.
"Wind-in-the-head biggest blame liar old Joe ebber see."

Some days later, with the exception of Hodge and Crowfoot, Frank and the
rest of his party arrived in Prescott. Hodge and the aged redskin were
left, together with one of Pete Curry's men, to guard the valley after a
fashion. Besides going to Prescott for the purpose of seeing his brother
and Buckhart off, Frank had several other objects in view. With him he
brought considerable ore, taken from the quartz vein they had located in
the valley, and also a small leather pouch that was nearly filled with
dull yellow grains and particles washed from the placer mine. With these
specimens Frank proceeded direct to an assayer, who was instructed to
make an assay and give a report.

Following this, Frank set about picking up some genuine miners who knew
their business and who could be relied on. It was his purpose to keep a
few men at work on the claims while he completed the plans talked over
by himself and Hodge and arrange for the transportation to the valley of
such machinery as they needed to work the mines. As far as the placer
was concerned, this was not such a difficult problem. With the quartz
mine, however, it was quite a serious matter, as the valley was far from
any railroad and extremely difficult of access.

Frank knew very well that it would cost a big sum of money to begin
practical operations on the quartz claim, and already, for a young man
of his years, he had his hands pretty full. Hodge, however, had been
enthusiastic, and Merry felt that Bart would, with the greatest
readiness and satisfaction, remain where he could oversee everything and
carry all plans out successfully.

Merry felt that he was greatly indebted to Wiley, and he saw that the
sailor had one of the best rooms in the best hotel of Prescott and was
provided with every comfort the house could afford. This was not the
only way in which Frank intended to reward the captain.

Wiley himself was somewhat "sore" because he had declined to accompany
Frank and Bart at the time they had returned to the valley and
successfully located Benson Clark's lost mines.

"'Tis ever thus," he sighed wearily, when the matter was spoken of. "I
will bet eleventeen thousand dollars that I have lost more than a barrel
of good opportunities to become rotten with wealth during my sinuous
career. Not that I haven't felt the salubrious touch of real money to an
extensive extent, for sometimes I have been so loaded down with it that
it rattled out of my clothes every step I took. When I sauntered
carelessly along the street in days past I have shed doubloons, and
picaroons, and silver shekels at every step, and I have often been
followed by a tumultuous throng, who fought among themselves over the
coin that rained from my radiant person. Still to-day here I am broke,
busted, while the world jogs on just the same, and nobody seems to care
a ripityrap. Excuse these few lamentations and wails of woe. By and by I
will take a little medicine for my nerves and feel a great deal better."

"Don't worry over it, Wiley," said Frank, laughing. "It will all come
out in the wash. I don't think you will die in the poorhouse."

"Not on your tintype!" cried the sailor. "I propose to shuffle off this
mortal coil in a palace."

"Wiley," cried Frank, "I believe you would joke in the face of old Death
himself!"

"Why not? I regard life as a joke, and I don't propose to show the white
feather when my time comes. I will have no mourning at my funeral. I
propose to have my funeral the gayest one on record. Everybody shall
dress in their best, and the band shall play quicksteps and ragtime on
the way to the silent tomb. And then I shall warn them in advance to be
careful, if they want to finish the job, not to pass a baseball ground
where a game is going on, for just as sure as such a thing happened I'll
kick off the lid, rise up, and prance out onto the diamond and git into
the game."

"Don't you worry about what will become of you, cap'n," advised Merry.
"For all that you failed to stick by us in relocating those claims, I
fancy we shall be able to make some provisions for you."

"That's charity!" shouted Wiley. "I will have none of it! I want you to
understand that little Walter is well able to hustle for himself and
reap his daily bread. Not even my best friend can make me a pauper by
giving me alms."

"Oh, all right, my obstinate young tar," smiled Merry. "Have your own
way. Go your own course."

"Of course, of course," nodded Wiley. "I always have, and I always will.
Now leave me to my brooding thoughts, and I will evolve some sort of a
scheme to make a few million dollars before sundown."

Wiley's schemes, however, did not seem to pan out, although his brain
was full of them, and he had a new one every day, and sometimes a new
one every hour of the day. Knowing they were soon to be separated again,
Dick and Felicia spent much of their time together. It was Merriwell's
plan, of which he had spoken, to take Felicia to Denver and find her a
home there where she could attend school.

The assay of the quartz Merry had brought to Prescott showed that the
mine was marvelously rich. Beyond question it would prove a good thing,
for all of the great expense that must be entailed in working it. On the
day following the report of the assayer, Merry was writing letters in
the little room of the hotel provided for such use when a man entered,
approached him, and addressed him.

"Excuse me," said this man, who was middle-aged and looked like a
business man from the ground up. "I suppose you are Mr. Frank
Merriwell?"

"That's my name."

"Well, my name is Kensington--Thomas Kensington. Perhaps you have not
heard of me?"

"On the contrary, I have heard of you, Mr. Kensington. I believe you
have a mine in this vicinity?"

"Yes, and another in Colorado. I hear that you have lately located a
promising quartz claim. I understand that the assay indicates it is a
valuable find."

"Perhaps that's right," admitted Merry; "but I am at a loss just how you
acquired the information."

"My eyes and ears are open for such things. I am in Prescott to have a
little assaying done myself, and I happened, by the merest chance, to
hear Mr. Given, the assayist, speaking with an assistant about the
result of his investigation of your specimens. You understand that it
was barely a chance."

"I presume so," said Merry. "I don't suppose that Given would talk of
such matters publicly."

"And he did not, sir--he did not. I assure you of that. I have also
learned, Mr. Merriwell, that you have other mines?"

"Yes, sir."

"And this new claim of yours is inconveniently located at a distance
from any railway town?"

"That is correct."

"Now, I am a man of business, Mr. Merriwell, and if you care to have me
do so, I would like to investigate your property with the possibility of
purchasing this new mine of yours."

Frank was somewhat surprised.

"I am not at all certain, Mr. Kensington, that I wish to sell. Besides
that, I have a partner who would have to be consulted in the matter."

"But we might talk it over, sir--we might talk it over. Are you willing
to do so?"

"I have no objections to that."

Kensington then drew up a chair and sat down close by the desk at which
Merry had been writing.

"If I were to make you an offer for your property, on being satisfied
with it as something I want," he said, "would you consider it?"

"It's not impossible. But you must remember that my partner is to be
consulted in the matter."

"Of course, of course."

"He might not care to sell. In that case I can do nothing."

"You might use your influence."

Frank shook his head.

"I wouldn't think of that, sir. I would leave the question entirely to
Hodge, and he could do as he pleased."

"Do you fancy that there is a possibility that he might be induced to
sell in case the offer seemed an advantageous one?"

"Yes, I think it possible."

"Good!" nodded Kensington. "That being the case, we can discuss the
matter further. Do you mind showing me the report of the assayer?"

"Not at all. Here it is."

Merry took the paper from his pocket and handed it to Kensington, who
glanced over the figures and statements, lifted his eyebrows slightly,
puckered his lips, and whistled softly.

"Do you mean to tell me, Mr. Merriwell, that this assay was made from an
average lot of quartz from your mine, or was it from specially chosen
specimens?"

"Mr. Kensington, I had this assay made for myself, and not for the
public. I had it made in order that I might find out just how valuable
the mine is. That being the case, you can understand that I would not be
foolish enough to pick what appeared to be the richest ore. On the
contrary, sir, I took it as it came."

Again Kensington whistled softly, his eyes once more surveying the
figures.

"How far is this mine from the nearest railroad point?"

"Just about one hundred miles."

"And in a difficult country as to access?"

"Decidedly so," was Merry's frank answer.

"It will cost a huge sum to open this mine and operate it."

"There is no question on that point."

"Still, this report shows it will be worth it, if the vein pans out to
be one-half as promising as this assay of your specimens."

Merry laughed.

"Mr. Kensington," he said, "it is my belief that we have not fully
uncovered the vein. It is my conviction that it will prove twice as
valuable as it now seems when we get into it in earnest."

For some moments Kensington continued to whistle softly to himself. It
seemed to be a habit of his when thinking.

"Are your other mines valuable, Mr. Merriwell?"

"Yes, sir."

"As valuable as this one?"

"I believe they are."

"And you have them in operation?"

"I have one of them in operation."

"That is the Queen Mystery, I believe?"

"Then you have heard of it, sir?"

"There is not much going on in mining matters in Arizona that I have not
heard of. It's my business to keep posted. You have never thought of
selling the Queen Mystery?"

"Mr. Kensington, the Mystery is opened and is in operation. I have not
contemplated selling it, and I do not think I shall do so. If you wish
to talk of this new mine, all right. I can listen. Nothing whatever may
come of it, but I see no harm in hearing whatever you have to say."

"Now we're getting at an understanding, Mr. Merriwell. Of course, I
wouldn't think of making you any sort of an offer for your mine unless
thoroughly satisfied as to its value. I should insist on having it
inspected by men of my own choice, who are experts. Their report I can
rely on, and from that I would figure."

"That would be business-like," Merry nodded.

"And you would have no objections to that, of course?"

"Certainly not, sir. Still, you must not forget that I have a partner
who might object. It will be necessary to consult him before anything of
the sort is done."

"All right, all right. Where is he?"

"He is at the mine."

Kensington seemed somewhat disappointed.

"I was in hopes he might be in Prescott."

"He is not."

"Another point, Mr. Merriwell. Are you certain your title to this
property is clear?"

"Absolutely certain, sir."

"I am glad to hear that. Of course, I should look into that matter
likewise. Unless the title was clear, I wouldn't care to become
involved."

"In that case," said a voice behind them, which caused them both to
start slightly, "I advise you, Mr. Kensington, to let that property
alone."

Merriwell turned quickly and found himself face to face with Macklyn
Morgan!

"Morgan!" exclaimed Frank.

To the ministerial face of the money king there came a smile of grim
satisfaction, for he knew he had startled Frank.

"Yes, Mr. Kensington," he said, "you had better be careful about this
piece of business. There are some doubts as to the validity of this
young man's claim to that mine."

Kensington did not seem pleased, and immediately he demanded:

"How do you happen to know so much about it, sir?"

"Because I am interested. My name is Macklyn Morgan. It is barely
possible you have heard of me?"

"Macklyn Morgan!" exclaimed Thomas Kensington. "Why, not--why, not----"

"Exactly," nodded Morgan. "I belong to the Consolidated Mining
Association of America. You may know something of that association; it's
quite probable that you do."

"I should say so!" exclaimed Kensington, rather warmly. "I know that
it's a trust and that it has been gobbling up some of the best mines in
the country."

"Very well. You know, then, that the C. M. A. of A. makes few mistakes.
As a member of that association I warn you now that you may involve
yourself in difficulty if you negotiate with this young man for this
mine which he claims."

Frank rose to his feet, his eyes flashing with indignation.

"That will about do for you, Morgan!" he exclaimed. "I think I have
stood about as much from you as I am in the mood to stand. Mr.
Kensington, this man does belong to the Consolidated Mining Association.
That association attempted to get possession of my Queen Mystery and San
Pablo mines. I fought the whole bunch of them to a standstill and made
them back water. They have given up the fight. But after they did so
this Mr. Morgan, in conjunction with another one of the trust, did his
level best to wring the Queen Mystery from me.

"The matter was finally settled right here in the courts. They were
beaten. It was shown that their claims to my property were not worth a
pinch of snuff. Since then Sukes, this man's partner, met his just
deserts, being shot by one of his tools, a half-crazed fellow whom he
led into an infamous piece of business. This Morgan is persistent and
vengeful. He has trumped up some silly charge against me and tried to
frighten me into giving up to him my Queen Mystery or my new mine. It is
a pure case of bluff on his part, and it has no further effect on me
than to annoy me."

Both Kensington and Morgan had listened while Frank was speaking, the
latter with a hard smile on his face.

"You can judge, Mr. Kensington," said Morgan, "whether a man of my
reputation would be the sort to take part in anything of that kind. When
it comes to bluff, this young fellow here is the limit. I tell you once
more that you will make a serious mistake if you have any dealings with
him. Any day he is likely to be arrested on the charge of murder, for
there is evidence that he conspired in the assassination of my partner.
It even seems possible that he fired the fatal shot. That's the kind of
a chap he is."

"Mr. Kensington," said Frank, with grim calmness, "this man, Morgan, has
done his level best in trying to blackmail me out of one of my mines.
This murder charge he talks about he has trumped up in hopes to frighten
me; but I fancy he has found by this time that I am not so easily
frightened. I can prove that he employed ruffians to jump my claim--to
seize these new mines. We were forced to defend it with firearms. Morgan
himself tried to have me treacherously shot, but he was not the kind of
a man to deal with the ruffians he had employed, and he fell into a
trap, from which he has now somehow escaped. He was captured and carried
off by those same ruffians of his, whose object it was to hold him until
he should pay a handsome sum for his liberty. Either he has managed to
escape or he has paid the money demanded by those rascals."

Morgan laughed.

"It is not possible, Mr. Kensington, that you will believe such a
ridiculous story. I give you my word--the word of a gentleman and a man
of business and honor--that the whole thing is a fabrication."

"Morgan," said Frank, "I propose to make this statement public just as
you have heard it from my lips. If it is not true, you can have me
arrested immediately for criminal libel. I dare you to have me arrested!
If you do, I shall prove every word of what I have just said and show
you up as the black-hearted rascal you really are. Instead of having me
arrested, it is more than likely that you will employ some ruffian to
shoot at my back. I'll guarantee you will never try it yourself. If I
were to step out here now and make a similar charge against Mr.
Kensington, what would be the result?"

"By thunder!" burst from Kensington, "I'd shoot you on sight!"

"Exactly," nodded Frank. "And so would Macklyn Morgan if the statement
were false and if he dared."

Morgan snapped his fingers.

"I consider you of too little consequence to resort to any such method.
I am not a man who shoots; I'm a man who crushes. Frank Merriwell, you
may fancy you have the best of me, but I tell you now that I will crush
you like an eggshell."

As he said this his usually mild and benevolent face was transformed
until it took on a fierce and vengeful look, which fully betrayed his
true character. Quickly lifting his hand, Merry pointed an accusing
finger straight at Morgan's face.

"Look at him, Mr. Kensington!" he directed. "Now you see him as he is
beneath the surface. This is the real Macklyn Morgan. Ordinarily he is a
wolf in sheep's clothing, and it is only the clothing he reveals to
those with whom he has dealings."

Instantly the look vanished from Morgan's face, and in its place there
returned the mild, hypocritical smile he sometimes wore.

"I acknowledge that my indignation was aroused," he said. "And I know it
was foolish of me. I have said all I care to. I think Mr. Kensington
will have a care about making any negotiations with you, Merriwell. Good
day, Mr. Kensington."

Bowing to Frank's companion, Morgan coolly walked away and left the
room.



CHAPTER XXIV.

WHAT HAPPENED TO DICK.


Just at dusk a horse came galloping madly up toward the front of the
hotel, bearing on its back an excited, frightened, pale-faced girl. It
was Felicia. Brad Buckhart happened to be leaving the hotel as the girl
pulled up her sweaty horse.

"Oh, Brad!" she cried, and her voice was filled with the greatest
agitation and distress.

The Texan made a bound down the steps.

"What is it, Felicia?" he asked. "Whatever is the matter? My pard--he
went out to ride with you! Where is he now?"

"Oh, where is he? Oh, where is he?" cried Felicia.

"You don't know? Is that what you mean? Oh, say, Felicia, don't tell me
anything has happened to my pard!"

"Brad! Brad!" she gasped, swaying in her saddle, "a strange thing has
happened. I can't account for it."

In a moment he lifted her down in his strong arms and supported her, as
he tumultuously poured questions upon her.

"What's this strange thing, Felicia? What has happened? Where is Dick?
Tell me, quick!"

"Oh, I wish you could tell me!" she retorted.

"He went out with you?"

"Yes, yes!"

The Texan made an effort to cool down.

"Look here, Felicia," he said. "We're both so excited we don't hit any
sort of a trail and stick to it for shucks. If anything whatever has
happened to my pard, I want to know it right quick. Keep cool and tell
me all about it. What was it that happened?"

"But I tell you I don't know--I don't know," came faintly from the girl.
"We rode some miles to the south. It was splendid. We laughed, and
chatted, and had such a fine time. Then, when we turned to come back, I
challenged Dick to a race. My horse was just eager to let himself out,
and we raced. I had the lead, but my horse was so hard-bitted that I
couldn't look back. Two or three times I called to Dick, and he
answered. I heard his horse right behind me, and felt sure he was near.
Once I thought he was trying to pass me, and I let my horse out more.

"I don't know how far I went that way, but it was a long, long distance.
After a while his horse seemed letting up. He didn't push him so hard.
Then I pulled up some and called back to him again, but he didn't
answer. I had to fight my horse, for he had the bit in his teeth and was
obstinate. After a while I managed to turn, and then I saw something
that gave me an awful jump. Dick's horse was a long distance away, and
was going at a trot, but Dick was not in the saddle. The saddle was
empty, and Dick was nowhere to be seen."

"Great tarantulas! Great horned toads! Great Panhandle!" exploded
Buckhart. "You don't mean to tell me that my pard let any onery horse
dump him out of the saddle? Say, I won't believe it! Say, I can't
believe it! Why, he can ride like a circus performer! He is a regular
centaur, if I ever saw one! Whatever is this joke you're putting up on
me, Felicia?"

"No joke, no joke!" she hastily asserted. "It's the truth, Brad--the
terrible truth! Dick was not on the horse. I don't know what happened to
him, but he wasn't there. As soon as I could I rode back to find him. I
rode and rode, looking for him everywhere. I thought something must have
happened to him that caused him to fall from the saddle. I wondered that
I had heard no cry from him--no sound."

"And you didn't find him?"

She shook her head.

"I found nothing of him anywhere. I rode until I was where we started to
race. After that I had called to him, and he had answered me more than
once. I know that, at first, he was close behind me."

"Jumping jingoes!" spluttered Brad. "This beats anything up to date! You
hear me warble! You must have missed him, somehow."

"It is not possible, Brad. I stuck to the road and followed it all the
way through the chaparral, beyond which we had started to race this
way."

"Then you raced through a piece of woods, did you?"

"Yes, yes."

"Do you remember of hearing him answer any to your calls after you had
passed through those woods?"

"I don't remember."

"Oh, Brad, what if he was thrown from his horse and some wild animal
dragged him into the chaparral after he fell senseless on the road! You
must find him! Where is Frank? Tell Frank at once!"

"That's good sense," declared the Texan. "But wherever is Dick's horse?"

"I don't know where the animal is now. I paid no further attention to it
after I found Dick was missing."

By this time the Texan had heard enough, and, lifting Felicia clear off
her feet, he strode into the hotel with her, as if carrying a feather.
Just inside the door he nearly collided with Cap'n Wiley.

"Port your helm!" exclaimed the sailor. "Don't run me down, even if you
are overloaded with the finest cargo I ever clapped my eyes on."

"Hold on, Wiley!" commanded Brad. "Just you drop anchor where you are. I
want you."

"Ay, ay, sir!" retorted the marine. "I will lay to instantly. Ever hear
the little story about the captain who ran out of provisions and,
getting hard up, decided to have eggs for breakfast and made his ship
lay two?"

"Cut your chestnuts out, now!" growled the Texan. "Where is Frank?"

"I last saw his royal nibs in close communion with a gentleman who is
literally rotten with money."

"Not Macklyn Morgan?"

"Well, hardly. He is not chumming with old Mack to any salubrious
degree. It was Thomas Kensington."

"Do you know where Frank is now? If you do, find him instantly and tell
him something has happened to Dick."

"Ay! ay!" again cried Wiley. "Just you bear off and on right where you
are, and I will sight him directly and bring him round on this course."

The sailor hurried away, leaving Brad to question Felicia still further
about the road they had taken outside of Prescott.

Fortunately Frank was easily found, and Wiley came hurrying back with
him.

"What is it, Brad?" asked Merry, controlling his nerves and betraying
little alarm, for all that he saw by the appearance of Felicia that some
serious thing had occurred.

"Oh, Frank--Dick!" she panted. "You must find him--you must!"

The Texan quickly told Merry what had happened as related by Felicia.

Frank's face grew grim and paled a little--a very little. His jaw
hardened, and his eyes took on a strange gleam.

"I opine I know just the road they took," said Buckhart. "She has told
me all about it. I am dead certain I can go straight back over that
trail."

"Wiley," said Merry, still with that grim command of himself, "get a
move on and have some horses saddled and made ready."

"Leave it to me," cried the sailor, immediately taking to his heels and
dusting away.

By this time others in the hotel knew what had happened, and a number of
people had gathered around. Unmindful of them, Frank took Felicia on his
knee as he sat on a chair and questioned her.

"Oh, Frank!" she suddenly sobbed, clasping him about the neck. "You will
find Dick, won't you?"

"As sure as I am living, Felicia," he asserted, with that same confident
calmness. "Don't you doubt it for a moment, dear. Rest easy about that."

"You don't think some wild animal has got him?"

"I hardly fancy anything of that sort has happened to my brother."

Merry called for the housekeeper, who soon came and he turned Felicia
over to her, saying:

"Look out for her, Mrs. Jones. Take care of her and don't let her worry
more than can be helped."

"Lord love her sweet soul!" exclaimed the housekeeper, as she received
the agitated girl from Frank and patted and petted her. "I will look
after her, Mr. Merriwell. Don't you be afraid of that. There, there,
dear," she said, softly stroking Felicia's cheek. "Don't you take on so.
Why, they will find your cousin all right."

"You bet your boots!" muttered Brad Buckhart, who was examining a
long-barreled revolver as he spoke. "We will hit the trail and find him
in less than two shakes of a steer's hoof."

Wiley now came panting back into the room, struck an attitude, and made
a salute.

"Our land-going craft are at the pier outside."

Frank paused only to kiss Felicia and whisper a last word in her ear. As
he turned to leave the room, he came face to face with Macklyn Morgan
near the door.

Morgan looked at him in a singular manner and smiled.

"Excuse me, sir. You seem to be in a great hurry about something."

Merry stopped short and stood looking straight into the eyes of his
enemy.

"What is your next low trick, Morgan?" he said. "Let me tell you here
and now, and don't forget it for an instant, if ever any harm comes to
me or mine through you, you'll rue it to the last moment of your
miserable life."

With which he strode on out of the hotel.

Away out of Prescott they clattered, and away into the gathering
darkness of a soft spring night. The cool breeze rushed past their ears
and fanned their hot cheeks. Frank was in the lead, for Wiley had taken
pains to see that Merriwell's own fine horse was made ready for him.

"Is this the road, Buckhart?" the young mine owner called back. "This is
the one Felicia told us to take, isn't it?"

"Sure as shooting!" answered the Texan.

"We don't want to make any mistake in our course," put in the sailor.
"That would be fatal to the aspirations of our agitated anatomy. At the
same time we want to keep our optical vision clear for breakers ahead.
We may be due to strike troubled waters before long."

"That's what we're looking for!" growled Buckhart, who seemed hot for
trouble of some sort.

Onward they rode along the brown trail. Beneath them the ground seemed
speeding backward. The lights of the town twinkled far behind them.
Frank's keen eyes detected something that caused him to drop rein and
swerve from the road. At a short distance from the trail a horse was
grazing. This animal shied somewhat and moved away as Merry approached,
but Frank's skill enabled him, after a little, to capture the creature,
which proved to be saddled and bridled.

"Dick's horse," he said. "Hold him, Buckhart. I want to make an
examination."

Brad took the creature by the head, and a moment later Frank struck a
match, which he protected in the hollow of his hand until it was in full
blaze. He then examined the saddle and the creature's back. Several
matches were used for this purpose, while both Buckhart and Wiley waited
anxiously for the result.

"What behold you, mate?" inquired the sailor.

"Nothing," answered Frank. And it seemed there was relief in his voice.

"Whatever did you expect to find?" questioned the Texan.

"I hoped to find nothing, just as I have," was the answer. "Still, I
thought it possible there might be blood stains on the horse. It is not
likely there would be hostile savages in this vicinity. Indeed, such a
thing is almost improbable; yet it was my fancy that Dick might have
been silently shot from his saddle."

"How silently?" asked Brad. "Shooting is pretty certain to be heard, I
opine."

"Not if done with an arrow."

"But the Injun of this day and generation is generally provided with a
different weapon."

"That's true; but still some of them use the bow and arrow even to-day."

"I don't reckon a whole lot on anything of that sort happening to my
pard," asserted the Texan.

"Nor I," admitted Frank. "But I thought it best to investigate."

The horse was again set at liberty. They had no time to bother with it
then. Once more they found the trail and rode on.

Before them loomed the dark chaparral, into which wound the road they
followed. On either hand the tangled thicket was dark and grim.

"A right nasty place for a hold-up!" muttered Buckhart, whose hand was
on his pistol.

"If any one tries that little trick," observed Cap'n Wiley, "it's my
sagacious opinion that they are due to receive a surprise that will
disturb their mental condition and throw their quivering nerves into the
utmost agitation. I am ready to keep the air full of bullets, for in
that way something will surely be hit. Reminds me of the time when I
went gunning with Johnny Johnson. We came to a promising strip of
forest, and he took one side and I took the other. Pretty soon I heard
him banging away, and he kept shooting and shooting until I grew black
in the face with envy. I reckoned he was bagging all the game in that
preserve. In my seething imagination I saw him with partridges, and
woodcock, and other things piled up around him knee-deep.

"For just about an hour he kept on shooting regular every few seconds.
At last I came to him, for I didn't find a single measly thing to pop
at. Imagine my astonishment when I found him idly reclining in a
comfortable position on the ground and firing at intervals into the air.
'John, old man,' says I, 'what are you doing?' 'Wiley,' he answered, 'I
am out for game. I haven't been able to find any, but I know where there
is some in this vicinity. I arrived at the specific conclusion that if I
could keep the air full of shot I'd hit something after a while, and so
I am carrying my wise plan into execution.' Oh, I tell you, John was a
great hunter--a great hunter!"

"Better cut that out," said Frank. "This is a first-class time for you
to give your wagging jaw a rest, cap'n."

"Thanks, mate; your suggestion will be appropriated unto me."

Through the chaparral they went, their eyes searching the trail and
noting every dark spot on the ground. At length they came to the farther
border of the thicket, but without making any discovery.

"Here's where Felicia said the race began," said Brad. "We haven't found
a thing, Frank--not a thing."

Still Merry led them on a little farther before halting and turning
about.

"What's to be done now?" anxiously inquired the Texan.

"We will follow the trail back through the chaparral," said Frank. "We
will call to Dick. That's the only thing it seems possible for us to
do."

Having decided on this, they rode slowly back; calling at intervals to
the missing lad. The thick chaparral rang with their voices, but through
it came no answer. The cold stars watched them in silence. By the time
they had again debouched from the chaparral Brad was in such a state of
mind that reason seemed to have deserted him. He actually proposed
plunging into the thicket and attempting to search through it.

"You couldn't make your way through that tangle in broad daylight,"
declared Merry. "Don't lose your head, Buckhart."

"But, Frank--my pard, we must find him!"

"We will do everything we can. We may not find him to-night. But I will
find him in time."

"What has become of him?" groaned the Texan.

"It's my belief," said Merry, "that he is in the hands of my enemies.
This is a new blow at me. I saw something of it in the eyes of Macklyn
Morgan when I faced him in the hotel just before we started. There was a
look of triumph on his face."

"Whoop!" shouted Brad. "Then he's the galoot we want to git at! It's up
to us to light on him all spraddled out and squeeze the truth out of him
in a hurry. Just let me get at him!"

"And you would simply make the matter worse than it is. You must leave
this thing to me, Buckhart. You must hold yourself in check unless you
want to injure Dick. I will deal with Macklyn Morgan."

"You," said Wiley. "I fancy you have hit on the outrageous and egregious
truth. I don't know just what egregious means, but it sounds well there.
Morgan has scooped Richard and proposes to hold him hard and fast until
he can bring you to terms."

"I think very likely such is his plot," nodded Merry.

"He ought to be shot!" exploded Brad. "It was a whole lot unfortunate
that the ruffians who carried him off did not keep him."

"How do you think the trick was done?" questioned Wiley.

"I haven't decided yet," admitted Frank. "But I feel sure my brother is
nowhere in this vicinity now. It's my object to see Morgan again without
delay."

With this object in view Merriwell lost no further time in riding
straight toward Prescott. When the town was reached he set out
immediately to find Morgan, having first told Brad to see Felicia and do
his best to soothe her fears.

Felicia was waiting. She started up as the Texan tapped on her door.

"There, there, child!" exclaimed Mrs. Jones, who was still with her.
"Sit down and keep quiet. I will see who it is."

When the door was opened and Buckhart entered, Felicia cried out to him:

"Dick--you have found him?"

"Well, not exactly that," said the Texan; "but I opine Frank will find
him pretty quick now."

The girl was greatly disappointed.

"Then you know what has become of him?" she asked.

"I opine we do," nodded Buckhart.

"He is safe?"

"You bet he is. He is all right, Felicia. We know well enough that he
isn't hurt a bit."

She seized his hands.

"Tell me," she pleaded, "tell me all about it."

Brad was placed in an awkward position, and he felt that it was
necessary to draw on his imagination.

"Why, there is not a great deal to tell," he said. "I reckon Dick's
horse must have stumbled and thrown him. It stunned him some, of course.
Then there were some gents what happened along and picked him up, and
that's about all."

She looked at him in doubt and bewilderment.

"But I didn't see any one. Why didn't I see them?"

Buckhart coughed behind his hand to get a little time for thought.

"Why, these yere gents I speak of," he said, "were afraid to be seen,
for they have been up to some doings that were not just exactly on the
level. That being the case, they took him up all quietlike and stepped
into the chaparral with him, and doctored him, and fixed him O. K. Of
course, they will want to be paid for that little job, and that's why
they are keeping him. You leave everything to Frank. He will settle with
them and bring Dick back as sound as a nut. You hear me chirp?"

Having made this statement, the Texan felt greatly relieved. He had
managed to get through it some way, although it was a hard strain on
him. Still, Felicia was not entirely satisfied, and her fears were not
fully allayed.

"If these men are bad men," she said, "won't they harm Dick some way?"

"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed Brad. "What a foolish notion to get into your
head, Felicia. Whatever good would it do them to harm him? What could
they make out of that? It's up to them to take the best care of him, so
Frank will feel like coughing up liberal when he settles. You can see
that easy enough. So don't worry over it any more."

"No, don't worry over it any more, child," put in Mrs. Jones. "Just go
to bed. The strain on you has been severe, and you must rest."

"Oh, I'm afraid I can't rest until I see Dick! Don't you think I may see
him soon? Don't you think Frank will bring him here right away?"

"Oh, mebbe not," said Brad. "It may take some time, for Frank thought
likely Dick had been carried to Goodwin, or Bigbug, or some place. You
see, we didn't find out just where they had taken him. All we found out
was that he had been taken somewhere and was all right. You let Mrs.
Jones tuck you in your little bed, and you just close your peepers and
get to the sleeps. That's the best thing for you to do."

Fearing she might suspect that he had not stuck by the truth if she
questioned him further, Brad now made the excuse that he had to hurry
away, and quickly left the room. In the meantime Frank had been
searching for Morgan. He fully expected to find Morgan without trouble,
and in this he was not disappointed. The money king was talking with
Thomas Kensington in the hotel bar.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Kensington," said Merry. "If I'm not
interrupting an important matter, I'd like a word or two with this man."

Morgan lifted a hand.

"You will have to excuse me, sir," he said. "I am quite busy now."

"On the other hand," said Kensington, "we have finished our business.
Mr. Morgan followed me here and wished to talk of mining matters. I am
in no mood to discuss such matters to-night."

He bowed to Frank and turned away.

Morgan gave Merriwell a defiant look.

"I cannot waste my time on you, young man," he said. "It's altogether
too valuable."

"You have wasted considerable time on me in the past, and I have been
compelled to waste some on you. This night has brought matters to a
climax. I know your game; but it will fail, just as every trick you have
tried has failed. I have a few words to say to you. My brother is
missing."

"What's that to me? I care nothing about your brother."

"Yet you attempted not so very long ago to hold him as a hostage. It was
your scheme to force me into dealing with you by holding my brother a
prisoner in the hands of your ruffians."

"Be careful, young man! Don't accuse me of anything like that! If you
do, I'll----"

"You'll what?" demanded Merry, grim as flint and cold as ice. "Now, what
will you do, Macklyn Morgan?"

"I'll make you smart for it!"

"It's about time you learned, sir, that your threats have no effect on
me whatever. As I have said, my brother is missing. If he is not in
Prescott to-morrow morning, it will be the worse for you. Do you know
how I dealt with Milton Sukes? Do you know that I investigated his
business methods and found out about his crooked dealings, so that when
I was ready to expose him he was driven desperate? Macklyn Morgan, are
you immaculate? Do you mean to tell me that your career as a maker of
millions has been unspotted? Do you mean to tell me that you never have
been concerned in any crooked schemes? I know better, Morgan. I know how
a man like you makes his money. As I dealt with Sukes, so I will deal
with you! I will investigate. I will learn the truth, and then I will
expose you. To-day you may be concerned in several questionable
projects. If those schemes are rotten, the world shall know it. I shall
take hold of this thing in earnest, and I'll do for you what I did for
Sukes."

"That's a threat on my life!" cried Morgan, turning to the others who
were near. "Gentlemen, I call on you to bear witness that this man has
threatened my life."

"You know better, sir, I have threatened nothing but your crooked
business. Your life is safe as far as I am concerned. But you will see
that my brother is in Prescott to-morrow, or I'll hold you up for the
inspection of the whole country and show people what a thoroughbred
scoundrel you are! That's all I have to say to you, sir. Good night."

Frank turned his back on Morgan and walked out of the room.



CHAPTER XXV.

HOW WAS IT DONE?


What had happened to Dick? Intentionally he had permitted Felicia to
keep the lead in the race through the chaparral. It is possible he might
have overtaken her had he tried. He had no thought of danger, and he was
wholly unprepared when out from the shadows of the chaparral shot a
twisting, writhing coil, the loop of which fell over his shoulders and
jerked him like a flash from the saddle. The shock, as he struck the
ground, drove the breath from his body and partly stunned him. Before he
could recover he was pounced upon by two men, who quickly dragged him
into the edge of the thicket, where a third man--a half-blood
Mexican--was coiling the lariat with which the boy had been snatched
from the horse's back.

These men threatened Dick with drawn weapons.

"Make a sound or a cry, kid," growled one of them, "and we sure cuts you
up!"

The boy's dark eyes looked fearlessly at them, and he coolly inquired:

"What's your game? I have not enough money on me to pay you for your
trouble."

"Ho, ho!" laughed one of the trio. "We gits our pay, all right, younker.
Don't worry about that. Tie his elbows close behind him, Mat. Mebbe we
best gags him some."

"No, none of that," declared the one called Mat. "If he utters a cheep,
I'll stick him sure."

But the other insisted that Dick should be gagged, and this they finally
and quickly did. With his arms bound behind him and a gag between his
teeth, he was lifted to his feet and forced into the depth of the
thicket. The Mexican, who was called Tony, seemed to know a path through
the chaparral, although it was dim and indistinct, and this they
followed.

Thus it happened that when Felicia missed Dick and turned back she found
no trace of him. On through the thick chaparral they threaded their way,
now and then crouching low to push through thorny branches, their
progress necessarily being slow. For a long time they tramped on, coming
finally to an opening.

Several horses were grazing there. No time was lost in placing the
captive boy on the back of a horse and fastening his feet together
beneath the animal's belly. Already it was growing dusky, but those men
knew the course they would pursue. The Mexican and Mat mounted one
animal and followed Dick, while the biggest man of the party, who had
once been addressed as Dillon, now took the lead.

Starry night came as they still pushed on, but they had left the
chaparral behind and were on the trackless plain. Finally it was decided
that the captive should be blindfolded. By this time his jaws were
aching, and he was greatly relieved when the gag was removed. They
seemed to think there was little danger of his cries being heard should
he venture to shout for help. Dick did not shout; he felt the folly of
it.

Long hours they rode, and the bandage over the boy's eyes prevented him
from telling what course they followed. At last they halted. The cords
about his ankles were released, and he was unceremoniously dragged from
the saddle to the ground. Following this, he was marched into some sort
of a building. There at last the bandage was removed from his eyes, and
even his arms were set free. Dillon and Mat were with him. The Mexican
had been left to care for the horses.

"Now, kid," said the big man, "you makes yourself comfortable as you
can. Don't worry none whatever; you're all safe here. Nothing troubles
you, and we looks out for you. Oh, yes, we looks out for you."

"Why have you brought me here?" asked Dick.

"We lets you guess at that a while. It amuses you perhaps, and passes
away the time."

"If my brother finds out who did this----"

"Now, don't talk that way!" cried Mat. "We don't bother with your
brother any. We does our business with other parties."

"So that's it--that's it!" exclaimed Dick, "My brother's enemies have
paid you for this piece of work."

"That's one of the little things you has to guess about," hoarsely
chuckled Dillon. "Thar's a bunk in the corner. I sure opines this place
is stout enough to hold you, and all the while Mat or I sits in the next
room. If we hears you kick up restless-like, we comes to soothe you.
We're great at soothing--eh, Mat?"

"Great!" agreed Mat.

"If you has a good appetite," continued Dillon, "in the morning we gives
you a square feed. Oh, we treats you fine, kid--we treats you fine. We
has orders to be ca'm and gentle with you. We're jest as gentle as two
playful kittens--eh, Mat?"

"Jest so," agreed Mat.

"Of course, you being young, it disturbs you some to be introduced to us
so sudden-like. Still, you seems to have a lot of nerve. You don't git
trembly any, and you looks a heap courageous with them fine black eyes
of yours. By smoke! I almost believes you has it in yer ter tackle us
both, kid; but you'd better not--you'd better not. It does no good, and
it ruffles our feelings, although we is so ca'm and gentle. When our
feelings is ruffled we are a heap bad--eh, Mat?"

"Sure," agreed Mat.

"That's about all," said Dillon. "Now we bids you a pleasant good night,
and we hopes you sleeps sweet and dreams agreeable dreams--eh, Mat?"

"We does," nodded Mat.

Then they backed out through the door behind them, which led into the
front room of the building, leaving Dick in darkness, as the door was
closed and barred.

Dick knew there was very little chance for him to escape unaided from
the clutches of those ruffians. Still, he was not the sort of a boy to
give up, and he resolved to keep his ears and eyes open for any
opportunity that might present itself. Left without a light, there was
no hope of making a satisfactory examination of his prison room until
the coming of another day.

He flung himself down on the couch and meditated. But for the fact that
he was in fine physical condition, his fall when jerked from the saddle
might have injured him seriously. As it was, he had simply been somewhat
shaken up. He felt a slight soreness, but regarded it as of no
consequence. Of course, he understood the game the ruffians were
playing. Beyond question he was to be held as a hostage in order that
Frank's enemies might force Merry into some sort of a deal concerning
the mines.

His one satisfaction lay in the belief that Felicia had escaped. As he
lay there on the bunk, he could hear the mumbling voices of his captors
in the next room. After a time his curiosity was aroused, and he felt a
desire to hear what they were saying.

Silently he arose and stole over to the partition between the rooms.
This partition was strangely thick and heavy for a building in that part
of the country. Seemingly it had been constructed for the purpose of
safely imprisoning any one who should be thrust into that room. Although
he pressed his ear close to the partition, he was unable for some time
to understand anything the men were saying. He moved softly about,
seeking a place where he might hear better, and finally found it in a
crack beneath the massive door, through which shone a dim light.

Lying flat on his back, with his ear near this crack, the boy listened.
To his satisfaction, he was now able to hear much of the talk that
passed between the men. Plainly but two of them, Mat and Dillon, were in
the outer room.

"This piece of work certain pays us a good thing, Mat," said Dillon.
"The gent what has it done is rotten with coin, and we makes him plank
down a heap liberal."

"What does yer know about him, pard?" inquired Mat. "Whoever is he,
anyhow?"

"Why, sure, I hears his name is Morgan, though I deals with him direct
none at all myself."

"Well, partner, this is better and some easier than the railroad job."

"All the same, Dan gets a heap sore when he finds we has quit t'other
job. And, as for this being less dangerous, I am none certain of that."

"Why not?"

"Well, this yere Frank Merriwell they say is a holy terror. Dan hisself
has had some dealings with him, you know. He knocks the packing out of
Dan down at Prescott not so long ago."

"Down at Prescott," thought the listening boy; "down at Prescott. Why, I
supposed it was up at Prescott. If it's down, Prescott must be to the
south. In that case these fellows doubled and turned north after
scooping me in."

This was interesting to him, for one thing he desired to know very much
was just where he had been taken. As he was meditating on this, Dick
missed some of the talk between the men, for in order to understand what
they were saying it was necessary for him to listen with the utmost
intentness.

"Do you allow, Dillon," he finally heard Mat say, "that Dan will stick
to his little plan to hold up that train?"

"I opine not. He won't be after trying it all by his lonesome. One man
who holds up a train and goes through it has a heap big job on his
hands."

"So that's the kind of a railroad job they were talking about!" thought
Dick. "They surely are a tough lot."

"Mebbe he comes searching for us," suggested Dillon.

"Mebbe so. Ef he does, we has to deceive him."

"He gits a whole lot hot, I judge."

"You bet he does. And when he is hot we wants to keep our eyes peeled
for a ruction."

"That's whatever."

Although Dick listened a long time after this, the conversation of the
ruffians seemed of no particular importance. Finally they ceased
talking, and evidently one of them at least prepared to sleep. Dick
arose and returned to the bunk, where he lay trying to devise some
possible method of escape. Scores of wild plans flittered through his
brain, but he realized that none of them were practical.

"If I could get word to Frank," he thought. "But how can it be done--how
can it be done?"

Such a thing seemed impossible. At last he became drowsy and realized
that he was sinking off to sleep, in spite of his unpleasant position.
He was fully awakened at last by sudden sounds in the outer room. There
came a heavy hammering at the door, followed by the voice of one of
Dick's captors demanding to know who was there. Dick sat upright on the
bunk, his nerves tingling as he thought of the possibility that the
ruffians had been followed by a party of rescuers, who were now at hand.

The one who was knocking seemed to satisfy the men within, for Dick knew
the door was flung open. He swiftly crossed the floor and lay again with
his ear near the crack beneath the door.

"Well, you two are a fine bunch!" declared a hoarse voice that seemed
full of anger. "You keeps your dates a heap well, don't yer! Oh, yes,
yer two nice birds, you are!"

This was the voice of the newcomer.

"Howdy, Dan?" said Mat. "We thinks mebbe yer comes around this yere
way."

"Oh, yer does, does yer?" snarled the one called Dan. "Why does yer
think that so brightlike? Why does yer reckon that when you agrees ter
meet me at Win'mill Station I comes here to find you five miles away?
That's what I'd like to know."

"Windmill Station," Dick said to himself. "Five miles from Windmill
Station, and Windmill Station is some twelve or fifteen miles north of
Prescott."

"You seems excited, Dan," said Mat, in what was intended to be a
soothing manner. "Mebbe we has reasons why we didn't meet you any."

"Reasons! If you has, spit 'em out."

"Yes, we has reasons," quickly put in Dillon. "Dan, we finds we is
watched a whole lot. We finds somebody suspects that little game we
plans."

"Is that so?" demanded the newcomer, with a sneering doubt in his voice.

"That's what it is," asserted Mat. "We don't have a chance to move much
without being watched, and so we reckons we does best to drop this
little job for the time being."

"Is that so?" sneered Dan.

"Didn't we say it was?" indignantly demanded Dillon. "You hears us, I
judge."

"Now, who is it what watches you so closelike?" questioned the
dissatisfied man. "Mebbe you tells me that."

"We don't know just who it is, but we has been followed for the last two
days. You know a hold-up down on the Southern Pacific gits people
suspicious. Mebbe they thinks we had a hand in that."

"Which we didn't have any at all," hastily put in Mat.

"So you two fine chaps takes water?" contemptuously cried Dan. "You
throws up a chance to make a good thing? Why, it was a snap! We could
'a' stopped the train, gone through her, and then hiked it for Mexico
hot foot, and the Old Boy hisself wouldn't 'a' ketched us."

"Mebbe not," admitted one of the other men. "But we opines it would 'a'
been a whole lot bad for us if the holding up had been expected. Look
here, Dan, we thinks it right and proper to put this thing off some. We
thinks mebbe in a week or so we is in fer it."

"Oh, that's how you figgers. Why didn't you let me know about it any?
That's what I'd like ter have yer explain. You leaves me a-waiting and
a-watching fer yer while you bunks down yere all ca'm and serene-like.
That's what sores me to the limit."

"We thinks," said Mat, "if we goes to meet you, mebbe we is seen, and
that makes more suspicions. We thinks the best thing to do is to lay
low. We're right sorry that we couldn't keep the app'intment, but it
happens that way, and there is nothing else fer it."

"Well, it is evident ter me that you two are squealers. You both lack
nerve, and I quits you cold. The whole business is off, understand
that."

"Well, if you gits hot and quits us that way, we can't help it," said
Dillon.

"Well, I does quit. What I wants is my blanket I leaves in yar. I takes
that an' gits out, and you two goes to blazes for all of me."

Evidently Dan started for the back room at this moment, and the
listening boy prepared to spring away from the door. At the same time
Dick was seized by a sudden determination to attempt a dash for freedom
the moment the door was opened. He knew he might not succeed, but there
was a slim chance of it, and he decided to take that chance. Both the
ruffians on guard, however, were startled when Dan proposed getting his
blanket from the back room. Quickly Dillon interposed.

"Hold on, Dan!" he cried. "Never mind that blanket. We fixes that all
right with you. Yere is mine. You take that."

Had Dick been able to see them he would have beheld the newcomer, a
huge, pockmarked individual, standing in the centre of the floor,
staring at the men before him in no small surprise.

"Why, whatever is this?" asked Dan. "I opine I takes my own blanket."

"But mine is worth more than yours," hastily asserted Dillon.

"And you're a heap anxious ter give it up in place of mine, I sees.
That's right queer. I don't just understand your generosity. It seems
mighty curious."

"It's all right, Dan," declared Mat. "Take the blanket."

"Not by a blamed sight," roared the big man. "I takes my own blanket. I
goes into that room. I sees what you has in there."

As he said this, he suddenly whipped out a long revolver, with which he
menaced the man who attempted to bar his progress.

"Get out of the way," he commanded, "or I furnishes funeral stock for
the undertaker."

"He's coming!" whispered Dick. "They can't stop him!"

The boy rose to his hands and knees, where he listened a moment more. He
heard the men on guard protesting, but their protestations availed
nothing, and a moment later a hand was on the door.

Dick sprang up. The bar that held the door fell, and it was flung open.
With a spring, Dick was out into the lighted room, bending low and
striking the man with the revolver like a battering-ram full and fair in
the pit of the stomach, bowling him over. As Dan went down, his fingers
contracted on the trigger of the pistol, and a shot rang out.



CHAPTER XXVI.

FORCED TO WRITE.


Dick's daring and reckless break for liberty might have been successful
but for the fact that the outer door had been closed and securely
fastened after the entrance of Spotted Dan.

Dan went down with a shock that jarred the whole building, and the boy
leaped toward the door. Both Dillon and Mat uttered cries of
astonishment and grabbed at him. He avoided their hands and reached the
door, but as he was trying to unfasten it they fell on him.

Young Merriwell's fighting blood was up, and for at least five minutes
he gave the ruffians the hardest sort of a struggle. Using hands and
feet in unison, he made them howl as he repeatedly hit and kicked them.
With all his force, he drove his knee into Mat's stomach and doubled the
fellow up like a jackknife.

At this juncture the boy had nearly whipped both the men. Dillon was
panting and dazed, but he had drawn a pistol and reversed it in his
hand, so that he gripped the barrel. With the butt of the weapon he
struck a blinding blow at the fighting boy's head, and by chance the
blow landed full and fair.

Down Dick dropped and lay stunned on the floor. Dillon stood looking
down at the lad, muttering savagely, while Mat gasped for breath and
held both hands on his stomach. Spotted Dan had recovered from the first
shock, and now stood, with his hands on his hips and his feet wide
apart, watching what transpired. He had not even lifted a hand to take
part in the struggle.

"Well, drat the kid!" snarled Dillon. "He sure comes nigh slipping right
through our fingers."

"Confound him!" panted Mat, still gasping for breath. "He soaks his knee
inter my solar plexus and pretty nigh puts me out."

"Haw! haw! haw!" laughed Spotted Dan, throwing back his head. "Well, you
two gents sure has a highly interesting time of it. So that was why yer
didn't want me to go for my blanket! So that's what yer had in the back
room yer didn't want me ter see! Well, I reckons I has clapped my
peepers on this yere youngster before. I opines I smells your little
game. I rather jedge I understands why you drops the railroad job. You
seems ter strike another job that interests you a heap more."

Without paying any attention to the pockmarked fellow, Dillon bent over
the motionless boy, muttering:

"I wonder if I cracks his skull? That certain was a good rap I gave
him."

Blood was trickling down from Dick's hair, and on one side of his head
was a cut.

"I don't care ef you did finish him!" grated Mat.

"Well, I does," asserted Dillon. "We knocks ourselves out of a good
thing ef that happens."

"A good thing," laughed Spotted Dan. "Well, gents, you counts me in on
that good thing. You plays no game like this on me, none at all!"

Dick stirred and opened his eyes.

"He is all right," said Mat.

The boy looked up at the two ruffians near him and then struggled to his
elbow, his black eyes full of defiance.

"Give me a fair show and I'll try it again!" he weakly exclaimed. "If
I'd a fair show then I wouldn't be here now. I was weaponless. You were
three to one against me, and still you had to use a weapon to put me
down and out."

"Haw! haw! haw!" again roared Spotted Dan. "These yere Merriwells sure
is fighters."

Mat turned on him hotly.

"I reckon you found that out in Prescott the first time you met Frank
Merriwell," he said.

Dan suddenly stopped laughing and scowled blackly.

"Don't git so personal!" he cried. "Mebbe I don't like it any!"

Dick lifted his hand to his head and saw blood on his fingers when he
looked at them. Then from his pocket he took a handkerchief, which he
knotted about his head.

"Better put your bird back into the cage," advised Dan. "Ef yer don't,
mebbe he flutters some more. When he flutters he is dangerous."

"That's right," nodded Dillon, laying hold of Dick. "We will chuck him
back there in a hurry."

"Take your hands off me, you brute!" panted the boy. "I will go back of
my own accord. Let me alone."

Dillon dragged him to his feet, but, with a wrench, he suddenly tore
free. If the ruffians expected him to resume the effort, they soon found
he had no such intention, for, with a remarkably steady step, he walked
across the floor to the open door of his prison room.

In the doorway he turned and faced them, the handkerchief about his head
already showing a crimson stain on one side. His dark eyes flashed with
unutterable scorn and contempt.

"I know you all three!" he exclaimed. "Wait till my brother finds out
about this business. The whole Southwest won't be large enough to hide
you in safety."

Then he disappeared into the room, scornfully closing the door behind
him.

"Gents," said Spotted Dan, "for real, genuine sand, give me a kid like
that!"

Then the bar was once more slipped into its socket, and the door was
made secure. With throbbing head and fiery pulse, Dick lay on the bunk
in that back room as the remainder of the night slipped away.

With the coming of another day he heard the faint hoofbeats of a horse
outside, and knew some one had ridden up. Then the muttering of voices
in the next room came to him, and his curiosity, in spite of his injury,
caused him to again slip to the door and listen at the crack beneath it.

He heard the voice of a strange man saying:

"I am to take the letter back myself. The youngster must be forced to
write it. Leave it to me; I will make him do it."

"Partner," said the hoarse voice of Spotted Dan, "I opines you takes a
mighty big contract when you tries to force that kid inter doing
anything of the sort."

"Leave it ter me," urged the stranger. "Let me in there, and I will turn
the trick."

A few minutes later Dick hastily got away from the door and pretended to
be sleeping on the bunk, his ears telling him the bar was being removed.
A flood of light shone in, for there was no window to that dark room to
admit daylight. The four men entered, one of them bringing a lighted
lamp in his hand.

The boy pretended to awaken and then sat up. He saw that the newcomer
had a mask over his face, making it plain he feared recognition by the
captive.

"Yere," said Spotted Dan, "is a gent what wants ter see you some, my
young gamecock. He has a right important piece of business to transact
with yer, and I reckons it pays yer ter do as he tells yer."

The masked man came and stood looking at the boy.

"Kid," he said, in what seemed to be an assumed manner of fierceness,
"you've got to write a letter to your brother, and you will write it
just as I tells yer. Understand that? If you refuse, we will stop
bothering with you any by wringing your neck and throwing you out for
buzzard bait. We can't afford to waste time fooling, and we mean
business. Time is mighty important to us."

"What do you want me to write?" asked Dick.

"We wants you to write a letter telling your brother that you are in the
hands of men who proposes to carve you up piecemeal unless he makes
terms with a certain gent who wants to deal with him for some of his
property. No need to mention this gent's name, mind that. Don't put it
into the letter. You tells your brother nothing whatever about us save
that we has you all tight and fast. But you tells him that, onless he
comes to terms immediate, we sends him to-morrow one of your thumbs. In
case he delays a while longer, we sends him t'other thumb. Then, if he
remains foolish and won't deal any, we kindly sends him your right ear.
If that don't bring him around a whole lot sudden, we presents him with
your left ear. Arter that we gits tired when we waits twenty-four hours,
and we shoots you full of lead and lets it go at that. Mat, pull over
that yere box right close to the kid's bunk, where he can sit all
comfortable-like and write on it."

A box was dragged out of a corner and placed before young Merriwell, who
sat on the edge of the bunk. Then a sheet of paper was produced and
spread in front of the lad, while the stub of a lead pencil was thrust
into his fingers.

"Now write," savagely ordered the masked man--"write just what I tells
yer to a minute ago!"

Dick hesitated, but seemed to succumb. Through his head a wild scheme
had flashed. It bewildered him for a moment, but quickly his mind
cleared and he began to write. He did so, however, with the utmost
slowness, as if the task was a difficult and painful one. Spotted Dan
was surprised to see the boy give in so quickly. He had fancied Dick
would have obstinately refused until compelled to obey.

"Don't put in a thing but just what I tells yer to," commanded the
masked man. "If yer does, youngster, you has ter write another letter,
for we won't deliver this one any at all. If you wants to get free, you
has good sense and obeys all peaceful-like."

"All right," muttered Dick, as he slowly labored over the beginning of
the message to Frank.

"Why, seems ter me this yer boy's eddication has been a heap neglected,"
said Dillon. "He finds it a whole lot hard to write."

The masked man resumed his position where he could read what was being
written. Somehow it didn't seem to please him, for of a sudden he seized
the sheet of paper and tore it up.

"Why for do you ramble around that yere way?" he demanded. "You puts it
down plain and brief, with no preliminaries. Understand that?"

Then he produced another sheet of paper and laid it upon the box.
Immediately Dick flung down the pen and lay back on the bunk.

"You go to Halifax!" he exclaimed, his eyes flashing. "I will write it
just as I want to, or I won't write it at all."

The man instantly whipped out a long, wicked-looking knife.

"Then I slits your oozle!" he snarled.

"Slit away!" defiantly retorted the boy.

Spotted Dan broke into a hoarse laughter.

"What did I tell yer!" he cried. "I certain knowed how it would be."

The masked man seized Dick and held the knife menacingly before his
eyes.

"Will you do as I tell you?" he hissed.

"I will do as I choose," retorted the nervy lad. "I don't propose to
write anything save what you order, but I will write it in my own way.
If I can't, then I won't write at all."

The man hesitated, then straightened up.

"Well, you sure has sand, or you're the biggest fool for a kid I ever
saw," he declared. "Go ahead and write her out, and then I'll examine
her and see that she's all right."

So once more Dick took the pencil and began to write. He preserved the
same deliberate slowness in constructing the early portion of the
missive, but finally began to write faster and faster, and finished it
with a rush, signing his name.

"Well, the kid's eddication seems to be all right, arter all," observed
Mat, as he admiringly watched the boy speedily scribble the last
sentence. "Mebbe he is out of practice some, to begin with, and so he
writes slow till he gits his hand in."

The masked man took the letter and carefully read it over.

"Why were you so particular to say, 'No house shelters me?'" he asked.
"That yere is dead crooked. Is you trying to fool your brother up some?"

Dick actually laughed.

"I put that in just to help you out, gentlemen," he declared. "You have
been so very kind to me I should hate to see anything happen to you."

The masked man wondered vaguely if the boy was mocking them, but decided
almost immediately that he had really frightened Dick to such an extent
that the young captive had put those words in to show his willingness to
hold to the demands made upon him.

"Well, this will do," nodded the wearer of the mask, folding the paper
and thrusting it into his pocket. "Now, pards, just keep the boy all
ca'm and quiet, and mebbe his brother comes to his senses and settles
the deal, arter which we evaporates and leaves them to meet up with each
other and rejoice."

Then he strode out of the room, and his three companions followed,
closing the door and leaving Dick once more to gloom and solitude.



CHAPTER XXVII.

COMPLETE TRIUMPH.


Frank found the letter thrust under the door of his room at the hotel in
Prescott. He was reading it over and over when Brad Buckhart, wearing a
long, doleful face, came into the room.

"You don't find no trace whatever of my pard, do you, Frank?" he asked.

"I have a letter from him here," said Frank.

"What?" shouted the Texan, electrified by Merry's words. "A letter from
him?"

"Yes."

"Why should he write a letter? Why didn't he come himself, instead of
doing that?"

"Well, from what he says in the letter, I fancy it is impossible for him
to come," said Merry. "Here, Buckhart, read it and see what you make of
it."

He handed the missive to Brad, who read it through, his excitement
growing every moment. This is what the Texan read:

    "Dear Frank: I now am held fast in hands that care little for my
    life. No house shelters me. I am not near Prescott. If you
    search, you will find wind and nothing more. Have had a hot mill
    with my captors, but to no use whatever. S.tay here I must. Brad
    will worry, so don't fail to show him this.

    "The men who have me swear to mutilate and finally kill me
    unless you come to terms immediately. You are to settle with the
    man who has demanded from you your mines and has threatened you
    with arrest for murder. As soon as you make terms with him, I am
    to be set free. If you refuse to make terms, this man swears to
    chop me up by inches. To-morrow you will receive one of my
    thumbs; next day the other thumb. Then, if you still delay, an
    ear will follow, and its mate will be delivered to you
    twenty-four hours later. If you remain obstinate, I shall be
    killed.

                                                  "Your brother,
                                                            Dick."

"Great horn spoon!" shouted Buckhart, flourishing the missive in the
air. "Great jumping tarantulas! This certain is a whole lot tough! Why,
Frank, what are you going to do about it? You've got to rescue him, or
else give in to old Morgan, for they will chop him up if you don't."

"How am I going to rescue him," said Merry, "when I don't know where to
find him?"

Brad now stood quite still, with his hands on his hips, a look of
perplexity and distress on his face.

"That's so, Frank," he muttered, shaking his head. "I am afraid they've
got you."

"Do you notice anything peculiar about that letter?" questioned Merry.

"Peculiar? Why, I dunno. Somehow it don't sound just like Dick, though
I'll swear it's his writing. I know his writing."

"Yes, I am certain it is his writing; still, the first part of it sounds
peculiar. I suppose that's because he was ordered to write certain
things and had to take them down from dictation. But look here, Brad,"
Merry continued, taking the letter from the Texan's hand. "Notice that
word, 'sta.y.' Why do you suppose he dropped a period into the midst of
it?"

"Accident," said Brad. "Must have been."

Frank shook his head.

"Somehow I don't think so," he declared. "Somehow there seems to me
there is a hidden meaning in this letter. I am half inclined to believe
it is a cipher letter."

"Gee whilikins!" cried the Texan. "Mebbe that's so!"

Together they puzzled over it a long time, and the Texan grew more and
more excited. Finally he shouted:

"Let me have it, Frank--let me have it! That's why he wanted you to show
it to me. See, he says for you to show it to me. He opined I'd tumble to
the cipher and read it all right."

The boy's hands were shaking as he held the letter. From head to feet he
quivered with the excitement he could not control.

"Steady, Buckhart," said Merry, laying a calming hand on his shoulder.
"Then you believe there is a cipher in it, do you?"

"Sure as shooting! I know there is! You hear me shout! Once on a time,
at Fardale, he studied out right before me a cipher letter that was
written this same way by one of his enemies. He reckoned I would
remember that. He reckoned I would tumble and read the cipher in this
letter."

Although Frank must have been excited also, he still restrained himself.

"If that's the case," he said, "you should be able to read this with
ease. Go ahead and do so."

"Gimme a pencil," panted the Texan.

Frank did so, and then Brad began by underscoring the first word of the
letter after Frank's name, following with the second word, having
skipped one, then he skipped two, and underscored the next word. Then
skipped three, underscoring the next, and so on through the greater part
of the first paragraph. When this was finished, the words underscored
read as follows:

    "I am in little house near windmill sta.y."

"There she is!" Brad almost yelled, waving it wildly around his head.
"That's the message. I followed her up further, but it ends right there.
After that he just writes what they tell him to."

"'I am in little house near windmill sta.y,'" read Frank, having taken
the paper from the Texan's hand. "Are you certain that 'sta.y' comes
into it?"

"Well, part of her comes into it," averred Brad. "She comes into it up
to the period, at least. I reckons that's why the period comes in there.
'Sta.'--what does that stand for, Frank?"

"Station," said Merry at once. "He has written that he is in a little
house near Windmill Station. That's it, Brad, my boy. We know where to
find him at last, thanks to you."

"No, Frank; thanks to that fine head of his. What are we going to do?"

Frank walked over to a corner of the room and picked up a Winchester
rifle, which he examined, a resolute grimness on his handsome face.

"We're going to find that little house near Windmill Station," he said,
in a calm, low voice. "And when we find it, Buckhart, there will be
something doing."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Another night had fallen when a party of at least a dozen persons, all
armed and ready for anything that might take place, surrounded and crept
up to the little house where Dick was held a prisoner near Windmill
Station. Frank led this party, and when the house was thoroughly
surrounded, he advanced without hesitation to the door, Buckhart at his
side, carrying in his hand an axe.

"Give me the axe!" whispered Merry, as he extended his rifle to Brad.

A moment later a crashing blow fell on the heavy door. When of a sudden
Frank swung the axe and made blow after blow at the door, it shook, and
cracked, and splintered before the attack upon it.

"Lay on! lay on!" urged Cap'n Wiley, who was close at hand and ready for
the encounter. "Knock the everlasting jimblistered stuffing out of her!"

Within the hut there was no small commotion.

Dick had been waiting. He heard the first blow, and it brought him to
his feet with a bound. He heard the ruffianly guards in the outer room
uttering excited exclamations. Then he shouted:

"Beat it down, Frank--beat it down! Here I am!"

He could not be sure his words were heard above the sounds of the
assault on the door, but at this moment, with a great splintering crash,
the door fell. Then came shouting, and shots, and sounds of a struggle.
It was over quickly, and Dick was waiting when the door of his prison
room was flung wide and his brother sprang in.

"Hello, Frank!" he cried laughingly. "You're on time. They haven't begun
chopping me up yet."

"Where's my pard?" shouted Buckhart, as he came tearing into the room.
"Here he is!" he whooped joyously, clasping Dick in his arms. "Say,
pard, you're a dandy! But I don't believe I'd tumbled to it that there
was a cipher message in that letter if Frank hadn't suspected such a
thing."

At this moment Cap'n Wiley appeared at the door.

"Mate Merriwell," he said, "there's a fine gent out here who has a
shattered knee and says he's bleeding to death. Perhaps you had better
take a look at him."

Frank turned back, followed by Dick and Brad. In the outer room both Mat
and Dillon were prisoners in the hands of Merriwell's comrades, one of
them having a bullet in his shoulder. But on the floor lay another man,
who had been found there with them, having arrived a short time before
the appearance of the rescuers. It was Macklyn Morgan, and his knee, as
Wiley had declared, was shattered by a bullet.

"I am dying, Merriwell!" said Morgan, his face ghastly pale. "You have
triumphed at last. I will bother you no more."

Frank quickly knelt and ripped open the man's trousers leg with a keen
knife. Then he called sharply for a rope, which he tied loosely about
Morgan's leg above the knee, thrusting through a loop in it a strong
stick supplied him by Wiley. With this stick he twisted the rope until
it cut into the flesh and stopped the profuse bleeding.

"Now, Morgan," said Merry, "we will do our best to save your life by
getting you to the nearest doctor in short order."

"Why should you do that?" whispered the money king wonderingly.

"I don't care to see even my worst enemy die in such a manner," was the
answer.

Macklyn Morgan did not die, although he must have done so but for the
prompt action of Frank at that critical moment. He lost his leg,
however, for it was found necessary to amputate the limb at the knee.

It was some days after this operation that Morgan called for Frank,
begging his attendant to bring Merry to him. When Merry stood beside the
cot on which the wretched man lay, Morgan looked up and said:

"I have been thinking this thing over, Mr. Merriwell, and the more I
think about it the greater grows my astonishment at your action. The
doctor has told me that you saved my life. I can't do much to even up
for that; but from this time on, Frank Merriwell, I shall never lift a
hand against you."

THE END.





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