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Title: Redskin and Cow-Boy - A Tale of the Western Plains
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred)
Language: English
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REDSKIN AND COW-BOY


  [Illustration: THE MEETING IN THE INN GARDEN AT EL PASO.]


REDSKIN AND COW-BOY

A Tale of the Western Plains

by

G. A. HENTY

Author of "Held Fast for England;" "The Dash for Khartoum;" "By
Right of Conquest;" "True to the Old Flag;" "In Freedom's Cause;"
&c.

With Twelve Page Illustrations by Alfred Pearse



New York
Charles Scribner's Sons
1896

Copyright, 1891,
By Charles Scribner's Sons.



PREFACE.


MY DEAR LADS,

There are but few words of preface needed to a story that is not
historical. The principal part of the tale is laid among the cow-boys
of the Western States of America, a body of men unrivalled in point
of hardihood and devotion to work, as well as in reckless courage
and wild daring. Texas, which twenty-five years ago was the great
ranching state, is no longer the home of the typical cow-boy, but
he still exists and flourishes in New Mexico and the northern States
and Territories. The picture I have given of their life can be relied
upon, and its adventures and dangers are in no degree coloured, as
I have taken them from the lips of a near relative of my own who was
for some years working as a cow-boy in New Mexico. He was an actor in
many of the scenes described, and so far from my having heightened or
embellished them, I may say that I have given but a small proportion
of the perilous adventures through which he went, for had I given them
in full it would, I am sure, have seemed to you that the story was too
improbable to be true. In treating of cow-boy life, indeed, it may well
be said that truth is stranger than fiction.

     Yours sincerely,
          G. A. HENTY.



CONTENTS.


  Chap.                                   Page


      I. An Advertisement,                  11

     II. Terrible News,                     29

    III. The Wanderer's Return              50

     IV. An Explosion,                      67

      V. Across the Sea,                    83

     VI. A Horse Deal,                     100

    VII. Among the Cow-boys,               119

   VIII. A Rattlesnake Diet,               136

     IX. A Round-up,                       156

      X. A Race,                           172

     XI. A Fire on the Plains,             189

    XII. An Indian Raid,                   206

   XIII. Rescued,                          224

    XIV. Surrounded by Redskins,           242

     XV. With the Waggon Teams,            260

    XVI. A Mining Expedition,              284

   XVII. Carried off,                      303

  XVIII. The Brigands' Haunt,              321

    XIX. A Fight and a Rescue,             339

     XX. The Avenger,                      359



ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                                Page

  The Meeting in the Inn Garden at El Paso,          _Frontis. 290_

  Symonds and Bill Tunstall have a Talk,                         39

  Hugh practises shooting with his Revolver,                     72

  "Hugh, seizing a poker, sprang at his Uncle,"                  81

  When the Cow-boy fired, Hugh dropped on one knee,              98

  "The next jump threw him fairly over the horse's head,"       130

  Branding the Calves at the "Round-up",                        167

  "A couple of kicks sent out the planks, and then we bolted,"  195

  "All safe, Father," cried Rosie,                              230

  The Cow-boys charged down upon the Indians,                   262

  Discovering the Body of the Bloodhound,                       313

  Besieged by Brigands,                                         346



  [Illustration]



REDSKIN AND COW-BOY.



CHAPTER I.

AN ADVERTISEMENT.


Cedar Gulch was, in 1851, a flourishing camp. There had been some good
finds by the first prospectors, and a rush had of course followed.
In many cases first discoveries proved illusive, but it was not so at
Cedar Gulch. The ground turned out well, and although no extraordinary
finds were made, the average was good all over the bottom, and there
were few who were not doing fairly well.

The scene was a busy one. Several hundreds of men were hard at work on
the flat, which in winter was the bed of a wide stream, but which in
summer was a mere thread of water among the rocks, scarce enough for
washing purposes.

Everywhere were piles of stones and rubbish that had been brought up
from the shafts; men toiled at windlasses; others emptied the buckets
as they came up into swinging troughs or cradles; others again kept
these supplied with water, and swung or rocked them, taking off the
large stones that the motion brought to the surface, while the slush
and mud ran out at the lower end. New-comers moved about watching the
work with eager eyes, wishing that they had had the luck to get there
among the early arrivals, and to take up a claim, for every foot of
ground far down the valley had already been occupied, and there was
now no getting into a claim except by purchasing a share or altogether
buying out the present holders.

One of the claims that was doing best was held by three men who had
worked in partnership for the last two years, and who had been among
the first to arrive at Cedar Gulch. They were known among the others as
English Bill, Sim Howlett, and Limping Frank. Sim Howlett was perhaps
the leader of the party. He had been one of the earliest gold-diggers,
and was a square, powerfully built man. He was a man of few words, but
the words when spoken were forcible. He was by no means quarrelsome,
but was one whom few cared to quarrel with, even in a place where
serious quarrels were of constant occurrence, and where revolvers
cracked so often that the sound of a fray excited but little attention.

English Bill was a tall wiry man, hot of temper, but a general
favourite. Generous with his money, always ready to lend a helping hand
to anyone who was down on his luck, he also was a capital worker, and
had, in spite of his rough clothes and the use of language as rough as
that of his companions, a certain air which told that, like many others
in the diggings, he was a gentleman by birth. Why these two men should
have taken up with Limping Frank as a comrade was a matter of surprise
to those who knew them. They were both men in the prime of life, while
he was at least ten years their senior. His hair was already white;
his face was that of a student rather than a miner, with a gentle and
almost womanly expression. His frame was slight, and looked altogether
incapable of hard work, and he walked with a distinct limp, the result
of a bullet wound in the hip. And yet there were men in the gulch
who, having known the trio at other diggings, declared that they
would rather quarrel either with English Bill or Sim Howlett than with
Limping Frank, and as some of them were desperate fellows, and noted
pistol shots, their report was quite sufficient to secure respect for
a man who otherwise would have been regarded with pity or contempt.

Very little of the hard work of the partnership fell upon Frank. He
cooked, looked after the shanty, did what washing and mending to the
clothes was necessary, and occasionally came down and assisted to work
the cradle and sort the stuff. They generally addressed him as doctor.
Not that he made any profession of medical knowledge; but he was always
ready to give his services in case of sickness, and many a miner had he
pulled through fevers which, had it not been for his nursing and care,
would have proved fatal.

"I can't make out what yer mean by saying I had best not quarrel with
that little old atomy you call Limping Frank," a big, powerful fellow
who had recently arrived at the camp said to one who had been talking
over with him the characteristics of several of the miners. "I ain't
very pertiklar who I quarrels with; but what on arth there can be in
that little chap to make one keep clear of him beats me. Can he shoot?"

"You bet," the other replied. "He could put a bullet plumb between your
eyes ten times following, the length of the long saloon up there. There
ain't no better shot nor quicker anywhere on the slopes."

"But he don't look as if he could speak up for himself," the other said.

"No; and he doesn't speak up for himself, though his mates would be
ready enough to speak up for him if anyone said anything to him. There
is nothing quarrelsome about him. He is always for peace and order.
He is a sort of Judge Lynch all to himself. He has cleared out one or
two camps I have been at. When a chap gets too bad for anything, and
takes to shooting over and above what is usual and right, 'specially
if he draws on quiet sort of chaps and becomes a terror, then Limping
Frank comes out. I was down at Dead Man's Gulch when there was a gang
of three or four men who were a terror to the place. They had stretched
out seven or eight between them, and Texan Jack, as the worst of them
was called, one day shot down a young fellow who had just come into
camp, for no reason at all, as far as any one knew.

"I happened to be in the saloon five minutes afterwards, when Limping
Frank came in. Texan Jack was standing drinking there with two of his
mates, laughing and jawing. You would scarcely have known that little
chap if you had seen him then! He had been nursing a mate of mine only
the night before, and as I had been sitting near him I thought what a
gentle sort of face he had--more like a woman's than a man's. But now
his eyes were wide open and his lips closed, and there was just a set
look in his face that I knew meant mischief--for I had seen him once
before when his dander was up--and I put my hand into my back pocket
for my pistol, for I knew there was going to be a muss. He stopped in
the middle of the room, and he said in a loud, clear voice that made
every one look sharp round, 'Texan Jack, murderer and villain, we have
borne with you too long. If you are a man, draw.' Texan Jack stared
with astonishment.

"'Are you mad, you little fool?' he said.

"'Draw, or I will shoot you down as you stand,' Limping Frank said,
and the Texan saw that he meant mischief. Frank had no weapon in his
hand, for he was not one to take an advantage. The Texan carried his
weapon up his sleeve, but quick as he was with it, Frank was as quick,
and the two pistols cracked pretty well at the same moment. Frank got
a ball in the shoulder, but the Texan fell dead with a bullet in the
centre of his forehead. His two mates drew in a moment, but Frank's
revolver cracked twice as quick as you could count them, and there were
just three bodies lying dead in a heap. Then he put up his pistol, and
said in his ordinary quiet voice, 'I don't like these things, but we
must have peace and order. Will some of you tell the others that they
had better git.' And you bet they did git. Limping Frank never said
another word about it, but got his arm in a sling, and half an hour
afterwards I saw him quietly cooking his mates' dinner while they were
both standing by blowing him up for starting out without them to back
him."

"What did he say?" the new-comer asked.

"I heard him say, 'It is no use your going on like that, mates. If you
had gone down he would have got his friends, and then there would have
been a general fight, and several would have got hurt. When you have
murderers like these you don't want a fight--you want an execution; and
having a sort of natural knack with the pistol, I took it upon myself
to be executioner.'

"There was another case, although it didn't happen at the camp I was
at, in which a woman was murdered by a half-breed Mexican. I did not
hear the circumstances, but it was a shocking bad case. She left a
child behind her, and her husband, a little German, went clean off his
head.

"Next morning Limping Frank was missing. All that was known was that
he had bought a horse of a man who had come in late the night before,
and was gone. His two mates looked high and low for him, but said at
last they guessed he would turn up again. It was well-nigh two months
before he came back. He brought back with him a watch and some trinkets
that had been stolen from the murdered woman, and it seems that he had
followed the fellow right down into New Mexico, and had shot him there.
The man who told me said he never made any talk about it, but was at
work as usual the morning after he came back. I tell you I would rather
quarrel with Sim Howlett and English Bill together than I would get
that little man's dander up. He is a peacemaker too, he is, and many a
quarrel he has smoothed down. At one camp we were in we made him a sort
of judge, and whenever there was a dispute about claims, or tools, or
anything else, we went to him and he decided, and no judge could have
gone into the case fairer or given a better judgment; and though, in
course, those he decided against were not pleased, they had to put up
with it. In the first place, the camp was with him; and in the second,
there ain't much use disputing with a judge who can shoot as straight
as he can, and is ready to do it if necessary."

The three partners had finished their day's work, and sat down to a
meal of tea, steak, and corn-cakes that Limping Frank had prepared for
them.

"We shall have to be moving from here soon," the Englishman said.
"Another week and our claim will be worked out. We have not done badly,
on the whole. The question is, had we better buy up somebody else's
claim and go on working here, or make a start for some fresh field?"

"I vote for a move," Sim Howlett said. "I don't say the claim hasn't
panned out well, but there is no excitement about it. The gold lies
regular right through the gravel, and it is almost as bad as working
for wages. You can always tell within an ounce or so what there will
be when you come to clean up the cradle. I like a bit of excitement.
Nothing one day and eight or ten ounces the next."

"It comes to the same thing in the long run," the Englishman said.
"We don't get very much forwarder. Grub costs a lot of money, and
then what there is over and above slips through our fingers somehow.
The gambling-tables take a large share of mine; and your weakness for
champagne, Sim, when you break out about once a month, makes a hole in
yours; and as to Frank's, he spends half his in getting meat for soups
and wines and medicines for his patients."

"What is one to do?" Frank said apologetically. "One cannot see people
die for want of ordinary necessaries. Besides, Bill, you give away a
lot too."

"Only my money is not so well spent as yours, doctor."

"Well, no, I don't think it is."

"I suppose it comes to the same thing in the end. I don't want to lay
by money. What should I do with it if I had it?"

"You don't want to lay by money because you are strong, and can go on
earning it for years yet; and you both know very well that if you had
a hundred thousand dollars you would chuck it all away in six months."

Sim Howlett laughed aloud.

"Perhaps you are right, doctor," English Bill said. "But if your
argument means anything, it means that we are fools for working as hard
as we do."

"Not at all," the doctor said gently. "You don't earn more than you
want, as is shown by the fact that you lay by so little, and that we
haven't more than enough dust in our sack to keep us for a month or
two if we don't happen to strike it in the next claim we take up. No; I
think we earn just enough. If you earned three times as much you would
go three times as often to that cursed gambling-table, and it would be
bad for your temper. If Sim earned three times as much he would go on
the spree three times as often, and it would be bad for his health.
If I were to earn three times as much, I should have three times as
many patients to attend to, and I couldn't stand such a strain; so you
see we are just right as we are," and he nodded pleasantly to his two
comrades.

"You are the most perplexing beggar I ever came across, doctor," the
Englishman said, "and I have seen some rum specimens during the twenty
years I have been knocking about in the States."

The little man nodded as if it had been a compliment.

"I know, Bill. That is what I think myself sometimes; there is a tile
just a little loose somewhere."

"Not at all, not at all," Bill said hotly; while Sim Howlett growled
that he would like to hear any one else say so.

"Not off, you know," Frank said, "but just a little loose. I know,
dear boys. You see my machine gets muddled up. It may work right enough
sometimes, but the chances are that a cog has got bent, or that there
is a little twist in a crank, and the thing never works quite even. It
just catches, you know--rattles now and then. You may look it all over
as much as you like, but you cannot spot where it is. You say it wants
grease, but you may pour bucketfuls over it and it makes no difference.
There"--and he broke off--"they are at it again up in that saloon."

Two or three pistol-shots rang out in the evening air.

"Things are not going on as they ought to," he went on quietly. "That
is another machine that wants regulating. There are more bad men in
this camp than there ought to be."

"Don't you worry yourself," Bill said hastily. "You cannot expect a
mining camp to be a sort of paradise, doctor, and all the bad men kept
outside. Things have been going on pretty smooth of late. It has been
quite a peaceful camp."

"I don't like the ways of that man Symonds the gambler," the doctor
said meditatively, with his head a little on one side.

"He is a bad lot," Sim Howlett agreed; "but he is going. I heard tell
yesterday that he said he was going down to Frisco at the end of the
week; and if he doesn't go, Bill and I will get a dozen other fellows
to go with us and tell him that he had better git, or the air of this
camp is likely to be unhealthy for him."

"Well, if that is so we need not think any more about it," the doctor
said. "I dreamt last night I saw him with a bullet mark in the centre
of his forehead; but perhaps that was a mistake, or the mark will not
come at present. It will come sooner or later," he added musingly, "but
perhaps not for a good time yet."

"Well, well," Sim Howlett broke in, "we are wandering about like green
hands lost in a sage-bush. We started by talking about whether, when we
have worked up our claim, we shall stop here or foot it."

"If we foot it, where do you propose to go, Sim?"

"I heard this morning that they are doing well in that new place they
call Gold Run. Then, again, you know we have always had a fancy for a
month's prospecting up at the head of the Yuba. The gold must come from
somewhere, though nobody has ever hit the spot yet."

"I am ready to go where you like, Sim," the doctor said; "but as I have
often told you before, you miners are altogether wrong in your notions,
as any one can see with half an eye by the fact, that whether you are
down here in the bottom of a gulch, or whether you are up on those
flats, 2000 feet above us, you always find gravel. Now those flats were
once the bed of a great river, that was when the mountains round were
tens of thousands of feet higher than they are now; they must have been
all that or there would never be water enough for such a river as that
must have been. That river must have rolled on for thousands of years,
for the gravel, which you can see in some places is 500 feet thick, is
all water-worn; whether it is big boulders or little stones, it has all
been rolled about.

"Well, in time these mountains were all worn away. There wasn't water
then for the big river, and the water from the hills, as you see
them now, began to cut fresh channels, and this Yuba, which is one of
them, lies a thousand feet below the old gravel bed. In some places it
has crossed the old bed, and the gold that came down from the former
mountains into the gravel has been washed down into these valleys. You
will never find, as you all dream of doing, a quartz vein stuck full of
gold. There may have been veins like that in the old mountains, but the
quartz veins that you find now, and lots of them have been assayed, are
all very poor; they have got gold in them, but scarce enough to pay for
working even when they get the best machinery. I fancy gold goes off
with depth, though why it should I cannot say, and that these quartz
veins which near the surface had big nuggets, and were choke-full of
small stuff, just pettered away to nothing as they went deeper. That
is why I think, Sim, that you will find no quartz reefs worth working
anywhere now, and why you are less likely to find much pay dirt in
the upper gorges, because the water there has not gone through the old
gravel fields as it has in its windings lower down."

"But according to that, doctor, we should find it richest of all if we
were to sink in the bed of the river down by the plains."

"Not at all, not at all, Bill. From the point where the Yuba's course
leaves the old gravel bed of the big river and makes its own way
through hills down to the plains it has picked up no more gold. As
you know the big nuggets are generally found pretty high up, as was
natural they should be, for as soon as the new river washed them out
of the old bed they would sink down in some convenient hole; and as in
the course of ages the Yuba cut down deeper and deeper, they would go
down too. Their weight would prevent their rolling far; the light stuff
would wash down, moving onwards with the sands and gravel. And so, as
you search lower down, you get better surface washings, but find less
coarse gold."

"I dare say you are right, doctor," Sim Howlett said yawning, "so we
won't go prospecting up in the hills, though some nice little finds
have been made up there in spite of what you say. I vote we leave it
open until we have cleared up, and then look round. A new rush may be
started before a week is over, and if we are ready to move at once we
may manage to take up claims in the thick of it; if one isn't pretty
early at a new place, one may just as well stay away altogether. There
is the horn. The mail is late to-night. I will go out and see if I
can get hold of a Sacramento paper--one sees all about the new places
there. Not that one need swallow all they say, for the lies about what
is being got are tremendous. One fellow strikes it rich, and then they
put it in that every fellow in the camp is making from four to ten
ounces a day. I believe most of these lies come from the store-keepers.
Of course, it is to their interest to get up a rush to places where
they have set up their stores, and if a newspaper man comes along they
lay it on thick. Well, here goes;" and throwing on his wide-awake, Sim
Howlett sauntered off.

In a quarter of an hour he returned with a newspaper. "Here you are,
Bill, you may as well do the reading. I am out of practice, and the
doctor is not to be depended upon, and will miss the very bits we want
to know."

Taking the paper the Englishman read the columns devoted to reports
from the mining camps. A stranger would have thought from the perusal
that every miner on the Pacific slope must have been making a fortune,
so brilliant were the accounts of the gold that was being obtained in
every mining camp. "_John Wilkins and party obtained at their week's
clear-up 304 ounces of gold, including many fine nuggets. Many others
have met with almost equal good fortune; the sand on the shoulder is
panning out very rich._"

Such was a sample of the descriptions. The three men were unmoved by
them. They knew too well how untrustworthy were the reports. Many
were, as has been said, the work of the store-keepers; others were
the invention of miners desirous of disposing of their claims to
new-comers, and shifting to more promising regions. Little was said of
the fabulous prices of provisions, of the fever that decimated some of
the camps, of the total abandonment of others; and yet even the miners,
although knowing by frequent experience that no dependence could be
placed on these reports, were prone to cling to the hope that this
time they were correct, and the roads were thronged by parties who,
having failed at one camp, were making their way to a distant location
of which they had heard brilliant reports, and who were met, perhaps,
on their way by parties coming from that very camp to the one they had
just quitted.

"It sounds well," the doctor said with a quiet smile when the reading
was concluded.

"Sounds be blowed!" Sim growled. "They are thundering lies. What do
they say of this camp?--read it again, Bill."

"_It is difficult to get at the exact state of things at Cedar Gulch.
Men who are doing well are always reticent as to their earnings; but
there is little doubt that all are doing well, and that while those
working in companies are obtaining very large results, the average
through the camp is not less than from two to three ounces a day._"

"The camp is not doing badly," Sim remarked. "There are mighty few
here who ain't earning their grub. I don't believe there is one who is
making from three to four ounces a day, not regular. Of course if he
comes on a pocket, or strikes the bed rock, he may earn a good bit over
that, ten times as much perhaps in a day; but take it all round, an
ounce, or at most an ounce and a quarter, would be the outside."

English Bill nodded. "I should say an ounce at the outside. There are
scores who ain't earning half an ounce regular, and there are a few
who have to run into debt for their grub. Well, there is nothing very
tempting in that lot of notices. We have tried a good many of them in
the last two years, and at any rate we have got another week before we
need make up our minds. I expect it will come again, Bill, to what it
has come to half a dozen times before. Write all the names on a piece
of paper, put them into a bag, let the doctor draw one, and go for
it. It is as good a plan as another, and the doctor's luck has always
pulled us through."

Sim and the Englishman stretched themselves upon their blankets and lay
there smoking, while Limping Frank squatted down by the side of the
solitary candle and began to look at the small portion of the paper
devoted to general news. This was soon finished, and then he ran his
eye over the advertisements. These principally related to articles
in demand by miners--patent rockers and cradles, picks and shovels,
revolvers and bowie-knives, iron houses for stores, tents, clothing,
waterproof boots, and flannel shirts. Then there was a column of town
lots in Sacramento, notices of steamers starting for San Francisco,
notices of stolen horses, offers of rewards for the capture of
notorious criminals, and advertisements for missing friends.

"Bill," he said presently.

"Hello!" said the Englishman with a start. He had just laid his pipe
down and was already dozing.

"Didn't you once say your name was Tunstall?"

"Yes, that's it, though I have pretty well forgotten it. What is it?"

"Well, there is an advertisement here that may relate to you."

"What is it, say? I haven't been running off with a horse, or shooting
a sheriff, so I don't know why they are advertising for me."

"_Five hundred dollars reward. The above sum will be paid by James
Campbell, attorney, San Francisco, to any one who will give him
information as to the whereabouts of William Tunstall, who was last
heard of four years ago in California. The said William Tunstall is
entitled to property in England under the will of his brother, the late
Edgar Tunstall of Byrneside, Cumberland._"

"That's me," the Englishman said, sitting upright and staring at the
doctor. "Well, well, so Edgar has gone, poor lad! Well, I am sorry."

Sim Howlett had also roused himself at the news. "Well, Bill, I was
going to congratulate you," he said; "but that doesn't seem the light
you take the news in."

"No, I am not thinking of money," the other said. "I could have had
that long ago if I had chosen to take it. I was thinking of my brother.
It is twenty years since I saw him, and I don't suppose I should have
ever seen him again any way; but it is a shock to know that he has
gone. It never was his fault, and I am sorry now I held off so. I never
thought of this. It has come to me sometimes that when I got old and
past work I might go back to the old place and end my days there; but I
never thought that he would go before me. I am sorry, mates, more sorry
than I can say."

"How was it, Bill?" the doctor asked. "Don't tell us if you don't like;
it is no business of ours. Here in the diggings there are few men who
talk of old times. Their eyes are all on the future, and what they
will do with their wealth when they gain it; but no one asks another
as to his past history. The answer might sometimes be a pistol-shot.
Here we three have been living together for more than two years and
not one of us has wanted to know what the others were before we met. It
is quite an accident that I know your name. You gave it when you gave
evidence as to the murder of that old German that we hung Red Hugh for.
It struck me it was an odd name then, but I never thought of it again
until I saw it in the paper. And you said once--it was Christmas Day, I
remember--you said there was a home for you in England if you liked to
go to it."

"I will tell you the story," the Englishman said. "I would have told it
to you long ago, only there was nothing in it to tell you. It was just
what has happened ten thousand times, and will happen as often again.
My father was one of the largest land-owners in Cumberland. I was his
eldest son. We never got on well together. He was cold and haughty, a
hard landlord, and a despot at home. We should have quarrelled earlier
than we did; but I was sent to Rugby, and often did not even come home
for the holidays, for I had a good many friends in those days. I went
back when I was eighteen, and was to have gone to college a month or
two later. I made a fool of myself, as boys do, and fancied I was in
love with one of our tenants' daughters.

"Some meddling busybody--I always thought it was the parson's wife, for
she drove along one evening just as I was saying good-bye to the girl
at the stile--told my father about it, and there was a frightful row.
For once he got in a passion, and I lost my temper too. It was really
a harmless flirtation, I think, and would have died out when I went
off to college. However, when my father swore that if I ever spoke to
her again he would turn me out of the house, I said he might do as he
liked, and that I would marry her when I came of age. He ordered me to
leave the house and never see his face again; said that I was no longer
his son, and might go to the devil, or words to that effect. So, being
just as obstinate in my way as he was in his, I went, and never did see
him again. Of course, I went first to see the girl. She was frightened
out of her life when she heard of what had happened, said that her
father would be turned out of his house, and all sorts of things, and
at any rate she would have nothing more to say to me.

"So I walked to Liverpool, and took my berth in the first sailing ship
to the States. My brother Edgar, who was two years younger than I,
was away at the time. We had always been capital friends. Ten years
later, when my father died, he advertised for me, and, the name being
an uncommon one, someone pointed it out to me, and I answered. He wrote
most affectionately, and lamented that our father had died without
forgiving me, and had not only cut me entirely out of his will, but
had, knowing his affection for me, inserted a clause that should he
endeavour to alter the purport of the will, or to hand over by deed or
otherwise any part or share of the estates to me, the property should
revert at once to a distant relative. Edgar said, however, that he had
consulted his lawyers, and they were of opinion that this clause in no
way affected his power to dispose of his income drawn from the estate,
and that he proposed to share this equally with me.

"I wrote back that while I was obliged to him for his offer I should
not accept it, for, as the property was not entailed, our father had
a perfect right to leave it as he liked. He had left it to him, and
there was an end of it. We exchanged several letters, but I was just
as obstinate as my father had been. I was too busy or too lazy for
letter-writing. Somehow no one writes here, and then one is constantly
on the move. Anyhow, I had one or two letters from him which I never
answered. The last was three or four years ago. And now he is dead, and
I suppose has left me some of the property I would not take during his
lifetime. Of course I was a fool, and an obstinate fool, all along, but
one never acknowledges this until it is too late."

The others made no remark for some time.

"Well, anyhow, Bill, you ought to go down to Frisco and see this
lawyer."

"I will think it over," the other said as, after relighting his pipe,
he lay back on the blankets again; "there is no hurry for a day or
two."

No further mention was made of the matter until the claim was cleared
up, but that evening Bill returned to the subject. "I have thought it
over, and I suppose I had better go down to Frisco. I don't think I
shall take this money. I should be like a fish out of water in England,
and should be miserable there. If I take anything it will be a thousand
pounds or so. I should sink that in buying a snug little place on the
foothills, and I should put somebody on to work it and plant it up with
fruit-trees or vines, or that sort of thing, and then some day when I
get too old for knocking about I shall settle down there; and I needn't
say that my home will also be yours, mates. I sha'n't be much more than
a week away. I shall come back here, and if you hear of anything before
I return leave a line with the store-keeper telling me where you are
off to. I have my kit packed, and if I start in half an hour I shall
catch the night coach as it comes along past the top of the gulch."

Sim Howlett made no comment, but simply observed, "I expect you will
find us here." But just as Bill was starting the doctor put his hand
on his arm and said, "Don't do anything hasty, mate. You see you made
rather a mess of your life by putting your foot down before when it
seems there was no occasion for it. There is never any good comes of
making up your mind in a hurry when there is no need for it. When you
see a man slipping his hand round towards his back trouser-pocket, I
allow that is not the time for thinking. You have got to act, and to
act mighty sharp too, or you will get a bullet in you before you have
drawn; but in a thing of this sort it makes no difference whether you
decide now or six months hence. You need only write and say that you
are found, and ask for particulars and so on, and when you have got
them you can take your time about giving an answer. Many men before
now have refused a good thing and been sorry for it afterwards. Your
brother, according to your own account, has acted kindly and well
towards you. Why should you refuse what he wished you to have, merely
because you think that it ought to have come to you in the first place?
That is all I have to say, Bill;" and he walked slowly back to the
tent, while Bill started at a steady pace up the long steep hill from
the gulch to the plateau above, along which ran one of the principal
roads from Sacramento through the mining district.

"We shall miss him, Sim," Limping Frank said as he and his mate lighted
their pipes after their meal that evening. "It seems kinder lonely
without him after sitting down regularly for two years now."

"He ain't gone yet," Sim growled, "and I don't think as he is going.
What Bill said he will stick to, you bet."

"Oh, yes! he means what he says, Sim. Bill has gone away from here with
the fixed idea of going down there, writing a letter or two, coming
back here, waiting for his money to come over, investing it in a farm,
and going on working with us just as before; but, bless you, it is one
thing to make up your mind and another to carry it out."

"What is to prevent his carrying it out, doctor?"

"Lots of things, Sim. When a man once gets mixed up in a will, or in
any kind of law business, he ceases to be a free agent."

"Ceases to be what, doctor?"

"Well, he ceases to be his own master. Bill thinks he has only got
to go into a lawyer's office, and say,--'Here I am. I am the chap
mentioned in that advertisement. I dare say my brother has left me a
good lot, but I don't want it. Just write and tell them to send me on
five thousand dollars, that's all I want out of it. I am going back to
Sacramento to-morrow. When the money comes pay it into the bank there
for me.' Then he thinks that he will have a day's spree at Frisco, and
come back by steamer next day."

"And why shouldn't he? What is to hinder him?"

"Well, it won't be like that, Sim, at all. When he goes in and says
'I am William Tunstall,' the lawyer will say, 'I am heartily glad to
see you, sir. Allow me to congratulate you;' and he will shake Bill
by the hand, and Bill will say to himself, 'This is just as it should
be. Five minutes will do this job. I will go out and look up two or
three friends who are in from the mines, and we will have a bottle of
champagne a-piece over this business.' Just as he has thought that over
the lawyer will say to him, 'Of course you are in a position to prove
that you are the Mr. Tunstall advertised for.' Bill will say, 'Oh, yes!
here are my brother's letters.' Then the lawyer will smile and nod and
say, 'Most satisfactory,' and then he will add, 'Of course, you are
in a position to prove that you are the person to whom these letters
were sent? Of course, I don't doubt it for a moment, but letters do get
lost, you know, and fall into other people's hands. In a matter of this
kind we must proceed in a legal and business way.' Then Bill will say,
'Of course, I can prove that. There is Sim Howlett and Frank Bennett,
my mates. They know I am Bill Tunstall.' 'They knew you before you came
out here, I suppose?' 'Oh, no! but they have known me for two years.'
'Known you as William Tunstall?' 'Yes, of course,' Bill will say,
beginning to get riled. Then the lawyer will point out to him that we
can only say that he called himself Will Tunstall, and that as the last
of these letters he has got is dated earlier than that it comes to the
fact that there is only his word to go upon, and that the law requires
very much stronger proofs of identity than this. Then Bill will get
mad, and will say the money can go to the deuce, and that he sha'n't
trouble any more about it."

"What then, doctor?" Sim Howlett asked as his companion stopped.

"Ah! well, that I cannot say. He may come straight off without doing
anything more, or the lawyer may get him to talk it over. As to that I
cannot say; but you may be quite sure that if Bill is to touch a penny
of the money left to him he will have to go back to England to prove
who he is, and it is like enough he may not succeed when he gets there.
By what he says he was only at home just occasionally during his school
holidays. He was little more than a boy when he left, and after twenty
years' knocking about on the plains and here it is like enough he may
not be able to find a soul to recognize him."



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER II.

TERRIBLE NEWS.


William Tunstall returned to Cedar Gulch the very day upon which his
mates began to expect him. Having finished up the work in their claim
on the previous day they strolled up the hill to meet the coach on the
chance of his coming.

"Well, mate, how goes it?" Sim Howlett asked.

"Well, it doesn't go at all, Sim."

"How is that?"

"Well, the lawyer was civil, and all that, but if I had let him he
would have made me believe that I was not Will Tunstall at all. I
showed him my brother's letters, which ought to have satisfied anyone,
and he hinted that these might have come into my possession anyhow,
that Tunstall might be dead, or that his kit, with these letters in it,
might have been stolen."

"That is the very thing the doctor said he would be after," Sim Howlett
exclaimed in great admiration at the latter's perspicacity.

"I suppose he didn't say he thought so, Bill?" the doctor asked.

"No, he knew better than that, doctor. He kept on saying that he was
quite satisfied, but that other people wouldn't be satisfied. Then he
asked about references, who could I refer to? Could I refer to anyone
who had known me as William Tunstall before the date of these letters?
I said that I had been knocking about on the plains and doing trapping
and Indian fighting for years, and that I was known as English Bill,
and that I did not suppose there were half a dozen fellows ever did
know my name, and that, for aught I knew, they had all been scalped,
shot, or hung long ago. He said, in that case I should have to go to
England to prove my claim. I said I would see the claim at the bottom
of the sea first, and then I left him.

"I met some fellows, and made a night of it, but in the morning the
lawyer turned up at the hotel just as I had finished breakfast. I had
told him the hotel where I was staying. He said it was no use being
hasty. I said I wasn't hasty, and we were near having a row again.
Then he said that he had only had instructions to find me, and did not
know how much was left me under the will, or anything about it, except
what he had put in the advertisement. At any rate he would write to the
people who had instructed him in England and tell them that a gentleman
representing himself to be William Tunstall had called, and that he
possessed letters from the late Mr. Edgar Tunstall. That in the present
state of affairs I declined to make the voyage to England for the
purpose of proving my identity, but that he had my address, and could
communicate further with me upon receiving instructions from them.

"I told him to say that I didn't want the money, and was not going to
put myself out one way or the other about it. He listened, and shook
his head, just the way the doctor does when he don't agree with you.
Then he remarked that he would not do anything rash if he were in my
place. I told him it was no odds to me whether he would or would not,
and as I had just time to catch the steamer I wasn't going to waste any
more time jawing over it, so off I came, and here I am. Well, what is
doing here? Has there been any fresh rush?"

"Nary one. The doctor and I think we cannot do better than stay here.
I was talking with Halkett and his partners this afternoon. They don't
get on well together. Halkett said they would sell out if they could
get a fair price. They are getting out about six ounces a day. No
great thing, but they are only half-way down at present. It is in four
shares, for two of the gang are on day wages. Of course, I said that
it wasn't much of a thing to buy, as they were only getting an ounce a
piece, and besides, the shaft is badly timbered. Still, if they would
say what they wanted for it we would talk it over with you when you
got back. Halkett was evidently anxious to sell, and said they would
take a hundred ounces for it right out. Of course I said that was too
much, but I think it is a bargain, so does the doctor. They have got
through the worst half, and there is the best behind. It don't always
turn out rich on the bed-rock here; it didn't with us. Still, there is
the chance of it; and if it only keeps as it is now, and we take on a
couple of men to work with us, we should, after paying them and keeping
ourselves, be making three ounces a day anyhow, and it will take us a
couple of months to get to the bottom, and perhaps more."

"How do we stand after the clear-up, doctor?" for Frank was the
treasurer of the party.

"We got twenty ounces at the last clear-up, and we had eighty-nine
before, so if we give him his price we should have nine ounces left."

"It will take fifty or sixty dollars," Sim Howlett said, "to make that
shaft safe. Halkett is the only one of the lot that knows anything
about that, and it has been done in a very slovenly style. I shouldn't
like to work down there until we have strengthened it all the way down.
I told Halkett the other day that if he didn't mind it would be caving
in. I think that is partly why they are selling."

"Well, I think we couldn't do better than take it, Sim; but you must
get them to knock a few ounces off, otherwise we shan't have enough to
repair the shaft, and from what you say we must do that before we go to
work in the bottom. Let us go and make a bargain at once."

"That will never do, Bill," Sim Howlett said; "that would look as if we
had made up our mind to take it, and they wouldn't come down an ounce.
No, no, we will have our meal, and wait an hour or two, then I will
stroll round to Halkett's tent and say that as we calculate it would
cost a heap of money to make the shaft safe we do not see our way to
it, though we might otherwise have taken to the job. Then you will see
to-morrow morning, when they knock off for breakfast, Halkett will come
round here and make some proposal."

So indeed it turned out. Soon after breakfast Halkett came to the tent
door. "Look here, boys," he said, "I want to get out of this lot. The
men I am working with ain't worth shucks. The three of them don't do a
fair man's work, and I am sick of it. But I have been talking to them,
and they won't take less than twenty-five ounces a share, and they have
been talking to some men who have pretty well made up their minds to
give it. If I had the dust I would buy the others out, but I haven't.
If you will buy the other three out at their terms I will keep my share
and work partners with you. I have got enough dust to pay my share of
retimbering the shaft. What do you say?"

The doctor had gone off to take some broth to two of his patients. The
other two looked at each other, and then Sim Howlett said: "Well, this
is how it stands, Halkett. My mate here and I would have no objection
to work with you; but it is this way: we and the doctor have chummed
together, and have never taken anyone else in with us, partly because
we are quite content as it is, and partly because the doctor can't do
his share of the work--he hasn't got it in him. We don't want to go
away from here now, and we have dust enough to buy your three partners
out. I suppose we should want to work four at that shaft. I don't know
what you have been working six for, except that three of your lot are
of no use."

"That is about it," Halkett said.

"So you see we should have to take on a man to do the doctor's work."

"Well, you would have to do that if you worked it yourselves."

"So we should," Sim Howlett assented. "What do you say, Bill?"

"Halkett's proposal seems a fair one, Sim; it seems to me we can't do
better than accept it. We must consult the doctor, Halkett. He is sure
to agree, but we should not like to do it without speaking to him; that
would not be fair. But you may consider it a bargain."

"Very well, I will go back and tell them I have made the agreement with
you. Then I will come back and bring you fifteen ounces of dust, which
is all I have got; I don't want them to know that I am going to stop
in it. If I do, like enough they will cut up rusty, so I want you to
make it up and hand the hundred ounces over clear; then they will hand
me my share, and I can give you the other ten ounces. They will leave
the camp as soon as they get their money. Somebody has been blowing to
them about a find he has made prospecting among the hills, and I fancy
they mean going off with him, and it would be no use letting on that I
am going to stop in the partnership until they have gone. They are just
the sort of fellows to think that I had been somehow besting them, and
if they said so there would be trouble, and I don't want to do any of
them harm."

The doctor on his return fell in, as a matter of course, with his
mates' arrangement.

At dinner-time Halkett and his partners came in, and the dust was
weighed out and handed over to them. Sim Howlett and Tunstall spent the
afternoon in making a careful examination of the shaft, and in deciding
upon the best plan for strengthening it. Halkett's former partners
left a couple of hours after they got the money, and on the following
morning the new proprietors of the claim set to work. The first step
was to make an arrangement with a man who had horses, to haul timber
from a little saw-mill that had been erected two miles away, and as
soon as this began to arrive, the work of strengthening the shaft was
set about. It took the three men, and another whom they had taken on at
daily pay, a week, and at the end of that time it was pronounced safe
against any pressure it was likely to have to bear.

The advertisement in the Sacramento paper had been noticed by others
than by those for whom it was intended, and there happened to be among
the miners who had worked at various times in the same diggings with
William Tunstall another who had been on the jury when he had mentioned
his name. He did not, however, notice the advertisement until a day or
two after the newspaper had arrived in camp.

"There," he said to some mates who were sitting round the fire, "that
is just like my luck; there is five hundred dollars slipped clean
through my fingers because I did not happen to see this here paper
before."

"How is that, Jones?"

"Why, here is five hundred dollars offered for information as to the
whereabouts of William Tunstall."

"And who is William Tunstall? I never heard of him."

"Why, English Bill; that is his name sure enough; he gave it on a
jury we served on together. I told him then I had never heard the name
before. That is how I came to remember it."

"Well, why are you too late? Why don't you write off at once and say he
is here, and claim the money?"

"Because he is gone, mate. Sim Howlett asked Black Johnson yesterday,
when I was standing by, if he knew of a good man he could take on for a
week's work, as he was single-handed, for of course Limping Frank don't
count in the way of work. I asked him if English Bill was laid up, and
he said, No; he had gone the night before down to Frisco. I wondered
then at his starting just before they had cleaned up their claim. Now
it is clear enough, he had seen this advertisement."

"Bolted?" one of the other men asked.

"Bolted! no," Jones said in a tone of contemptuous disgust. "You don't
suppose English Bill has been cutting anyone's throat, do you? or
robbing some digger of his swag? No, he has gone down to Frisco to see
the chap that put this into the paper. Why, look here," and he read
the advertisement aloud; "he has come into a fortune, I expect. They
would never have taken the trouble to advertise for him if it hadn't
been a big sum. You bet English Bill has struck it rich; like enough it
is a thundering big ranche, with two or three hundred thousand head of
cattle."

"They don't have estates like that in England," another digger put in.
"I was chatting with an Englishman at Holly Creek. He said land was
worth a heap there, but it was all cultivated and hedged in, and he
didn't suppose as there was a man in the whole country who had got as
much as five thousand head of cattle. However, cattle or not, I expect
it is a big thing English Bill has come in for, and we shan't see him
in here again."

The news spread quickly through the camp. It was discussed by the men
as they worked the rockers, by the gamblers up at the saloon, and in
the tents when the work was done. Sim Howlett was soon questioned, but
was surly, and little could be got from him. Limping Frank was no more
communicative. He was accosted frequently, as he went from the tents
with his soups and medicines, with "Well, Frank, so I hear your mate
has come in for a big thing, and gone down to Frisco. Jack Jones saw
the advertisement for him in the paper."

"If Jack Jones saw it, of course it was there," the doctor said with
his quiet smile; "couldn't have seen it otherwise, could he? Yes, Bill
has gone off. I am glad to hear that it is a big thing; hadn't heard it
before. It will be a surprise to him, for he didn't expect it would be
a big thing. Didn't think it would be worth troubling about, you see.
However, I daresay he will be back in a week or two, and then no doubt
he will tell you all about it."

Cedar Gulch was greatly disappointed when English Bill reappeared in
his ordinary red shirt, high boots, and miner's hat, and went to work
on the following afternoon as if nothing had happened. There had been
a general idea that if he came back he would appear in store-clothes
and a high hat, and perhaps come in a carriage with four horses all
to himself, and that he would stand champagne to the whole camp, and
that there would be generally a good time. He himself, when questioned
on the subject, turned the matter off by saying he had not thought
the thing worth bothering about; that he could not get what there
was without going to England to fetch it, and that it might go to the
bottom of the sea before he took that trouble.

The only person to whom he said more was the man who ran the
gambling-table. Things had been lately going on more quietly there, and
the gambler had postponed his departure to San Francisco. Bill Tunstall
spent, as the doctor said, no inconsiderable portion of his earnings at
the gambling-tables, and had struck up an acquaintance with Symonds.
The latter was, like many of his class, a man of quiet and pleasant
manners. For his profession a nerve of iron was required, for pistols
were frequently drawn by disappointed miners, flushed with drink and
furious at their losses, and the professional gambler had his life
constantly in his hands. The accusation, "You cheated me!" was the sure
signal for one or two pistol shots to ring out in sharp succession,
then a body would be carried out, and play resumed.

Symonds bore no worse reputation than others of the class. It was
assumed, of course, that he would cheat if he had the chance; but with
a dozen men looking on and watching every movement of the fingers, even
the cleverest gambler generally played fair. These men were generally,
by birth and education, far above those with whom they played. They
had fallen from the position they had once occupied; had, perhaps, in
the first place been victims of gamblers, just as they now victimized
others; had been cast out from society as detected cheats or convicted
swindlers; but now, thanks to nerve, recklessness of life, and sleight
of hand, they reaped a fortune, until the bullet of a ruined miner, or
the rope of Judge Lynch, cut short their career.

Symonds was not unpopular among the miners. He was liberal with his
money, had many times spared men who, according to the code of the
diggings, had forfeited their lives by an insult or by a shot that
had missed its aim. He had often set men on their legs again who had
lost their all to him; and if there was a subscription raised for
some man down with fever, or for a woman whose husband had been killed
in a shaft, Symonds would head the list with a handsome sum. And yet
there were few men more feared. Magnanimous on some occasions, he was
ruthless on others. He was a dead shot, and handled his pistol with
a lightning speed, that in nine cases out of ten enabled him to fire
first; and while he would contemptuously spare a man who was simply
maddened by ruin and drink, the notorious bully, the terror of a camp,
a man who deliberately forced a quarrel upon him, relying upon his
strength or skill, would be shot down without hesitation.

Thus in nine cases out of ten the feeling of the communities among
whom he plied his vocation was in his favour. While he himself was a
dangerous man, he rid the camp of others who were still more obnoxious,
and the verdict after most of these saloon frays was, "Served him
right;" but as a rule men avoided discussing Symonds or his affairs. It
was dangerous to do so, for somehow he seemed always to learn what was
said of him, and sooner or later the words were paid for.

Will Tunstall knew that he was a dangerous man, and had no doubt that
he was an utterly unscrupulous one, but he himself never drank while
he played, and was never out of temper when he lost, therefore he had
no reason whatever to fear the man, and Symonds had always been civil
and pleasant with him, recognizing that there was something in him
that placed him somewhat apart from the rough crowd. He met him one
afternoon soon after his return.

"Is it true all this they are saying about you, Bill?" Symonds asked.

"Well, it is true enough that I was advertised for, and went down to
Frisco to see a man there about it. Of course it is all nonsense as to
what they are saying about the value of it. It is some family property
that might have come to me long ago if I hadn't kicked over the traces;
but I am not going to trouble about it. I shall have all the bother and
expense of going to England to prove who I am, and I wouldn't do it if
it were ten times as much."

"Come and have a glass of cham, Bill. My own story is a good deal like
yours. I daresay I might be master of a good estate in the old country
now, if I hadn't gone a mucker."

"It is too early to drink," Will said; "if I did drink it would be just
a cocktail. The champagne you get is poison."

"Just as you like. By the way, if I can be of any use to you let me
know. It is an expensive run home to England from here, and if you
have need for a thousand dollars, I could let you have them. I have
had a good run of luck this last six months. It would be a business
transaction, you know, and you could pay me a couple of hundred for the
use of it. It is of no use losing a good thing for the want of funds."

"Thank you, Symonds. I have enough to take me home if I have to go; but
I am very much obliged for the offer all the same."

"It is business," the other said carelessly, "and there are no thanks
due. If you change your mind let me know; mind I owe you a cocktail
next time we meet in the saloon."

The gambler went on. Will Tunstall looked after him with a little
wonder at the offer he had made. "It is a good-natured thing to offer,
for, of course, if I went to England he could not make anything out of
me beyond the interest of the money, and he would get more than that
putting it on house property in Frisco. He is a queer card, and would
look more at home in New York than in Cedar Gulch!"

  [Illustration: SYMONDS AND BILL TUNSTALL HAVE A TALK.]

The gambler's dress, indeed, was out of place with the surroundings.
Like most of his class he dressed with scrupulous neatness; his clothes
were well made, and fitted him; he wore a white shirt, the only one
in the camp, and abstained from the diamond studs and rings, and heavy
gold watch-chain that was generally affected by professional gamblers.
He was tall, as tall as Tunstall himself, though not so broad or so
strongly built; but his figure was well knit, there was in his walk
and action an air of lightness and activity, and he had more than
once shown that he possessed an altogether unusual amount of muscular
strength.

"It is a pity that the fellow is what he is," Will Tunstall said when
he turned away; "what a soldier he would have made, with his strength,
and pluck, and wonderful coolness!"

This little conversation was followed by several others. Somehow or
other they met more frequently than they had done before, and one
evening, when there was no play in the saloon, Symonds asked him to
come in and have a chat with him in his private room at the hotel. For
some time they chatted on different subjects. Symonds had brought out a
box of superb cigars, and a bottle of such claret as Will Tunstall had
not drunk for years, saying carelessly as he did so, "I always carry my
own tipple about with me. It would ruin my nerves to drink the poison
they keep at these places."

After a time he brought the subject round to the legacy. "I have been
thinking over what you said about not going back, and I think you
are wrong, if you don't mind my saying so. What have you got to look
forward to here? Toil and slave year after year, without ever getting
a step further, living all the time a life harder than that of the
poorest labourer at home. It is well enough now, I suppose. You are
seven or eight and thirty, just about my own age; in another ten years
you will be sorry you let the chance slip. Of course it is different
with me. As far as money goes, I could give it up now, but I cannot
go back again. Men don't take to my sort of life," he said with some
bitterness, "unless they have got a pretty bad record behind them; but
I shall give it up before very long, unless I am wiped out first. Then
I'll go and settle in South America, or some place of that sort, buy an
estate, and set up as a rich and virtuous Englishman whose own climate
doesn't agree with him."

Then he carelessly changed the subject again, but it was reverted to
once or twice in the course of the evening, and before Will left he had
said enough to enable his companion to gather a fair estimate of the
value of the property, and the share he was likely to have of it.

The new claim turned out fairly well, improving somewhat in depth, and
yielding a good though not an extraordinary profit to the partners.
Some four months after Will Tunstall had been down to San Francisco,
he received a bulky letter from the attorney there. It contained an
abstract of his brother's will. This left him half the property, with
a statement saying that he considered it to be his brother's by right,
and inclosed with it was a copy of a letter written a few days before
his death. It ran as follows:--

     "MY DEAR WILL,--You have wandered about long enough. It is
     high time for you to come back to the old place that you
     ought never to have left. I shall not see you again, for I
     have long been suffering from heart-disease, and the doctors
     tell me the end may come any day. I have had the opinion
     of some of the best authorities, and they all say that,
     thanks to some peculiar wording in the will, which I don't
     understand in the slightest, the prohibition to divide with
     you is only binding during my lifetime, and that nothing is
     said that restricts my right to leave it as I please. I don't
     suppose the contingency of your surviving me ever entered
     into our father's mind, and probably he thought that you
     would never be heard of again. However, you see it has turned
     out otherwise. You have wandered and roughed it, and gone
     through dangers of all sorts, and are still, you tell me,
     strong and healthy. I have lived quietly and comfortably with
     every luxury, and without a day's trouble, save my terrible
     grief when my wife died, and the ever-constant regret that
     you were not here beside me; yet I am dying, but that enables
     me at last to redress to some extent the cruel wrong you have
     suffered.

     "I have left you half the estate, and it makes me happy to
     think that you will come back again to it. I have appointed
     you sole guardian of my boy. He is only twelve years old, and
     I want you to be a father to him. The estate is large enough
     for you both, and I hope that you may, on your return, marry,
     and be happy here; if not, I suppose it will all go to him
     at your death. In any case, I pray you to come home, for the
     boy's sake, and for your own. It is my last request, and I
     hope and believe that you will grant it. You were always good
     to me when we were boys together, and I feel sure that you
     will well supply my place to Hugh. God bless you, old fellow!
     Your affectionate brother,                          EDGAR."

With these documents was a letter from the solicitors to the family
saying that they had heard from their agents at San Francisco that
he had presented himself in answer to their advertisement, and had
shown them the letters of the late Mr. Edgar Tunstall. They therefore
forwarded him copies of the will, and of Mr. Tunstall's letter, and
begged him to return home without delay, as his presence was urgently
required. They assumed, of course, that they were writing to Mr.
William Tunstall, and that when he arrived he would have no difficulty
whatever in proving his identity.

"I think I must go, boys," he said as, after reading his brother's
letter three or four times, he folded the papers up, and put them in
his pocket. "My brother has made me guardian of his boy, and puts it
so strongly that I think I must go over for a bit. I don't suppose
I shall have to stop; although the lawyers say that I am urgently
required there; but, mind, I mean to do just what I said. I shall take
a thousand pounds or so, and renounce the rest. A nice figure I should
make setting up at home as a big land-owner. I should be perfectly
miserable there. No, you take my word for it, I shall be back here in
six months at the outside. I shall get a joint guardian appointed to
the boy; the clergyman of the place, or some one who is better fitted
to see after his education and bringing up than I am. When he gets to
seventeen or eighteen, and a staunch friend who knows the world pretty
well may be really of use to him, I shall go over and take him on his
travels for two or three years. Bring him out here a bit, perhaps.
However, that is in the distance. I am going now for a few months;
then you will see me back here. I wish I wasn't going; it is a horrible
nuisance, but I don't see that I can get out of it."

"Certainly you cannot, Bill; it is your plain duty. We don't go by duty
much in these diggings, and it will be pleasant to see somebody do a
thing that he doesn't like because it is right. We shall miss you, of
course--miss you badly. But we all lose friends, and nowhere so much
as here; for what with drink and fever and bullets the percentage wiped
out is large. You are going because, in fact, you can't help yourself.
We shall be glad when you come back; but if you don't come back, we
shall know that it was because you couldn't. Yes, I know you have quite
made up your mind about that; but circumstances are too strong for men,
and it may be that, however much you may wish it, you won't be able to
come. Well, we shall be clearing up the claim in another two or three
days, so it could not come at a better time if it had to come."

The work was continued to the end of the week, and then, the last pan
of dirt having been washed, the partners divided the result. Each
week's take had been sent down by the weekly convoy to the bank at
Sacramento, for robberies were not uncommon, and prudent men only
retained enough gold-dust by them for their immediate wants. But adding
the dust and nuggets acquired during the last and best week's work to
the amount for which they had the bank's receipt, the four partners
found that they had, after paying all their expenses, two hundred and
fifty ounces of gold.

"Sixty-two ounces and a half each," the doctor said. "It might have
been better, it might have been worse. We put in twenty-five each four
months ago, so we have got thirty-seven ounces each for our work, after
paying expenses, and each drawing half an ounce a day to spend as he
liked. This we have, of course, all of us laid by."

There was a general laugh, for not one of them had above an ounce or
two remaining.

"Well, it isn't bad anyhow, doctor," William Tunstall said. "Sixty-two
ounces apiece will make roughly £250, which is as much as we have ever
had before on winding up a job. My share will be enough to lake me to
England and back."

"Yes, provided you don't drop it all in some gambling saloon at
Sacramento or San Francisco," the doctor said.

"I shan't do that, doctor. I have lost big sums before now in a night's
play, I confess; but I knew I could set to work and earn more. Now I
have got an object before me."

That afternoon English Bill went round the camp saying good-bye to his
acquaintances, and although it was very seldom that he drank too much,
the standing treat and being treated in turn was too much for his head,
and it was with a very unsteady step indeed that he returned late in
the evening to his tent. Sim Howlett, who had started with him, had
succumbed hours before, and had been carried down from the saloon by a
party who were scarcely able to keep on their own legs.

When Will Tunstall woke in the morning he had but a vague idea of the
events of the latter part of the evening. He remembered hazily that
there had been many quarrels and rows, but what they had been about he
knew not, though he felt sure that there had been no shooting. He had
a dim recollection that he had gone into Symonds' room at the hotel,
where he had some champagne, and a talk about his trip to England and
about the people there.

"What the deuce could have set me talking about them?" he wondered in
his mind. He was roused from these thoughts by the doctor.

"If you are going to catch this morning's coach, Bill, you must pull
yourself together."

"All right!" he said, getting on to his feet. "I shall be myself when I
have put my head in a bucket of water. I'm afraid I was very drunk last
night."

"Well, you were drunk, Bill. I have never seen you drunk but once
before since we were partners; but I suppose no one ever did get out of
a mining camp where he had been working for some time, and had fairly
good luck, without getting pretty well bowled over after going the
rounds to say good-bye. Now, then, Sim, wake up! Bill will be off in a
quarter of an hour. I have got breakfast ready."

Sim Howlett needed no second call. It was no very unusual thing for him
to be drunk overnight and at work by daybreak the following morning. So
after stretching himself and yawning, and following Will's example of
having a wash, he was ready to sit down to breakfast with an excellent
appetite. Will, however, did poor justice to the doctor's efforts,
and ten minutes later the trio started off to meet the coach. There
were many shouts of "Good-bye, mate! good luck to yer!" from the men
going down to the diggings, but they were soon beyond the camp. Few
words were said as they went up the hill, for the three men were much
attached to each other, and all felt the parting. Fortunately they had
but two or three minutes to wait before the coach came in sight.

"Just you look out for me in about six months' time, mates; but I'll
write directly I get home, and tell you all about things. I shall
direct here, and you can get someone to ask for your letters and send
them after you if you have moved to a new camp."

With a last grasp of the hand, Tunstall climbed up to the top of the
coach, his bundle was thrown up to him, the coachman cracked his whip,
the horses started again at a gallop, and Sim Howlett and his mate went
down to Cedar Gulch without another word being spoken between them.

Three days later, as they were breakfasting in their tent, for they had
not yet made up their minds what they should do, a miner entered.

"Hello, Dick! Back from your spree? How did you get on at Frisco?"

"Yes, I have just got off the coach. I have got some bad news to tell
you, mates."

"Bad news! Why, what is that, Dick?" Sim Howlett asked.

"Well, I know it will hit you pretty hard, mates, for I know you
thought a heap of him. Well, lads, it is no use making a long story of
it, but your mate, English Bill, has been murdered."

The two men started to their feet--Sim Howlett with a terrible
imprecation, the doctor with a cry like the scream of a woman.

"It is true, mates, for I saw the body. I should have been up
yesterday, but I had to wait for the inquest to say who he was. I
was going to the coach in the morning when I saw half a dozen men
gathered round a body on the footway of a small street. There was
nothing unusual in that at Sacramento. I don't know what made me turn
off to have a look at the body. Directly I saw it I knew who it was.
It was English Bill, so I put off coming, and stopped to the inquest.
He hadn't been killed fair, he had been shot down from behind with a
bullet in the back of his head. No one had heard the shot particular.
No one thinks anything of a shot in Sacramento. No one seemed to know
anything about him, and the inquest didn't take five minutes. Of course
they found a verdict of wilful murder against some person unknown."

Sim Howlett listened to the narration with his hands clenched as
if grasping a weapon, his eyes blazing with fury, and muttering
ejaculations of rage and horror. The doctor hardly seemed to hear
what was said. He was moving about the tent in a seemingly aimless
way, blinded with tears. Presently he came upon his revolver, which he
thrust into his belt, then he dropped his bag of gold-dust inside his
shirt, and he then picked up his hat.

"Come along, Sim," he said in hurried tones, touching his companion on
the arm.

"Come along!" Sim repeated. "Where are you going?"

"To Sacramento, of course. We will hunt him down, whoever did it. I
will find him and kill him if it takes years to do it."

"I am with you," Sim said; "but there is no coach until to-night."

"There is a coach that passes through Alta at twelve o'clock. It is
fifteen miles to walk, but we shall be there in time, and it will take
us into Sacramento by midnight."

Sim Howlett snatched up his revolver, secured his bag of gold-dust, and
said to the man who had brought the news, "Fasten up the tent, Dick,
and keep an eye on it and the traps. The best thing will be for you to
fix yourself here until we come back."

"That will suit me, Sim. I got rid of all my swag before I left. You
will find it all right when you return."

They had but four hours to do the distance across a very broken and
hilly country, but they were at Alta a quarter of an hour before the
coach was due. It taxed Sim Howlett's powers to the utmost, and even in
his rage and grief he could not help looking with astonishment at his
companion, who seemed to keep up with him without difficulty. They ran
down the steep hills and toiled up the formidable ascents. The doctor's
breath came quick and short, but he seemed almost unconscious of the
exertions he was making. His eyes were fixed in front of him, his face
was deadly pale, his white hair damp with perspiration. Not a word
had been spoken since the start, except that, towards the end of the
journey, Howlett had glanced at his watch and said they were in good
time and could take it easy. His companion paid no attention, but kept
on at the top of his speed.

When the coach arrived it was full, but the doctor cried out, "It is a
matter of life and death; we must go! We will give five ounces apiece
to any one who will give us up their places and go on by the next
coach."

Two men gladly availed themselves of the offer, and at midnight the two
companions arrived at Sacramento. The doctor's strength had given way
when the necessity for exertion was over, and he had collapsed.

"Perhaps someone has got a flask with him?" Sim Howlett suggested.
"My mate and I have just heard of the murder of an old chum of ours at
Sacramento, and we are on our way down to find out who did it and to
wipe him out. We have had a hard push for it, and, as you see, it has
been too much for my mate, who is not over strong."

Half a dozen bottles were instantly produced, and some whiskey poured
down the doctor's throat. It was not long before he opened his eyes,
but remained for some time leaning upon Sim Howlett's shoulder.

"Take it easy, doctor, take it easy," the latter said as he felt the
doctor straightening himself up. "You have got to save yourself. You
know we may have a long job before us."

There was nothing to do when they entered the town but to find a
lodging for the night. In the morning they commenced their search. It
was easy to find the under-sheriff who had conducted the inquest. He
had but little to tell. The body had been found as they had already
heard. There were no signs of a struggle. The pockets were all turned
inside out. The sheriff supposed that the man had probably been in
a gambling-house, had won money there, and had been followed and
murdered. Their first care was to find where Will Tunstall was buried,
and then to order a stone to be erected at his head. Then they spent a
week visiting every gambling-den in Sacramento, but nowhere could they
find that anyone at all answering to their mate's description had been
gambling there on the night before he was killed.

They then found the hotel where he had put up on the arrival of the
coach. He had gone out after breakfast and had returned alone to
dinner, and had then gone out again. He had not returned; it was
supposed that he had gone away suddenly, and as the value of the
clothes he had left behind was sufficient to cover his bill, no
inquiries had been made. At the bank they learned that in the course
of the afternoon he had drawn his portion of the joint fund on the
order signed by them all. At another hotel they learned that a man
certainly answering to his description had come in one evening a week
or so before with a gentleman staying at the house. They did not know
who the gentleman was; he was a stranger, but he was well dressed,
and they thought he must have come from Frisco. He had left the next
day. They had not noticed him particularly, but he was tall and dark,
and so was the man who came in with him. The latter was in regular
miner's dress. They had not sat in the saloon, but had gone up to the
stranger's bed-room, and a bottle of spirits had been taken up there.
They did not notice what time the miner left, or whether the other went
out with him. The house was full, and they did not bother themselves
as to who went in or out. It was from a German waiter they learned all
this, after having made inquiries in vain two or three times previously
at this hotel.

As soon as they left the place the doctor seized Sim's arm. "We have
got a clew at last, Sim."

"Not much of a clue, doctor; still there is something to go upon. We
have got to hunt out this man."

"Do you mind going back to the camp to-night, Sim?"

"No, I don't mind; but what for, doctor?"

"You go and see whether Symonds is still there, and if not, find out
what day and hour he left."

"Good heavens! you don't suspect him?"

"I feel sure, Sim, just as sure as if I had seen it. The description
fits him exactly. Who else could Bill have known dressed like a
gentleman that he would have gone up to drink with when he had £250
about him. You know he had got rather thick with that villain before
he left the camp, and likely enough the fellow may have got out of him
that he was going to draw his money from the bank, and thought that it
was a good bit more than it was. At any rate go and see."

Two days later Sim Howlett returned with the news that Symonds had left
two or three hours after Tunstall had done so. He had said that he had
a letter that rendered it necessary that he should go to Frisco, and
had hired a vehicle, driven to Alta, and caught the coach there. He had
not returned to the camp.

"That settles it, Sim. When I find Symonds the gambler, I find the
murderer of Bill Tunstall. I have been thinking it over. It may be
months before I catch him. He may have gone east into Colorado or south
into Mexico, but I am going to find him and kill him. I don't think it
is any use for us both to hunt; it may take months and years."

"Perhaps he thinks he is safe, and hasn't gone far. He may think that
poor Bill will be picked up and buried, and that no one will be any the
wiser. We would have thought that he had gone off to England; and so it
would have been if Dick hadn't happened to come along and turn off to
look at the body. Like enough he will turn up at Cedar Gulch again."

"He may," the doctor said thoughtfully, "and that is the more reason
why you should stop about here. You would hear of his coming back to
any of the mining camps on the slopes. But I don't think he will. He
will feel safe, and yet he won't feel quite safe. Besides, you know, I
dreamt that I should kill him. However, if he does come back anywhere
here I leave him to you, Sim. Shoot him at sight as if he were a mad
dog. You don't want any fair play with a fellow like that. When you
tell the boys the story they will all say you did right. I will write
to you from time to time to let you know where I am. If you have killed
him let me know. I shall come back to you as soon as I have found him."

And so it was settled; for, eager as Sim Howlett was for vengeance,
he did not care for the thought of years spent in a vain search, and
believed that his chance of meeting Symonds again was as good among the
mining camps as elsewhere.

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER III.

THE WANDERER'S RETURN.


Had the circumstances of William Tunstall's leaving his home been
more recent, or had the son of Edgar Tunstall been older, the news
that William Tunstall had returned and had taken up his residence
at Byrneside as master of the portion of the estate left him by his
brother, and as guardian to the young heir to the remainder, would have
caused a good deal of interest and excitement in the county. The twenty
years, however, that had elapsed since Will Tunstall had left home,
and the fact that when he went away he was but a lad quite unknown
personally to his father's acquaintances, deprived the matter of any
personal interest. It had generally been thought that it was hard that
he should have been entirely cut out of his father's will, and the
clause forbidding his brother to make any division of the property was
considered particularly so, especially as it was known that Edgar was
attached to his brother, and would have gladly shared the property with
him.

But William had been away twenty years, and no one had a personal
interest in him. Ten years had elapsed since he had been finally
disinherited by his father's will. Beyond a feeling of satisfaction
that justice had been done, and that there would not be a long minority
at Byrneside, the news that the eldest son had returned created no
excitement.

Messrs. Randolph & Son of Carlisle, who were business agents for half
the estates in the county, reported well of the new-comer. They had
never seen him as a boy, but they expressed themselves as agreeably
surprised that the long period he had passed knocking about among
rough people in the States had in no way affected him unfavourably. His
manners were particularly good, his appearance was altogether in his
favour, he was a true Cumberland man, tall and powerful like his father
and brother, though somewhat slighter in build.

He was accompanied by his wife. Yes, they had seen her. They had both
dined with them. They had not been previously aware that Mr. Tunstall
was married. Their client, Mr. Edgar Tunstall, had not mentioned the
fact to them. They were not prepared to give any decided opinion as
to Mrs. Tunstall. She had spoken but little, and struck them as being
nervous; probably the position was a novel one for her. There were,
they understood, no children.

Messrs. Randolph, father and son, old-fashioned practitioners, had from
the first considered the scruples of their agents in San Francisco
to be absurd. Mr. Tunstall had presented himself as soon as they had
advertised. He had produced the letters of his brother as proof of
his identity, and had offered to bring forward witnesses who had known
him for years as William Tunstall. What on earth would they have had
more than that? Mr. Tunstall had had reason already for resentment,
and it was not surprising that he had refused to set out at once
for England when he found his identity so absurdly questioned. So
they had immediately sent off the abstract of the will and a copy of
Edgar Tunstall's letter, and were much gratified when in due time Mr.
Tunstall had presented himself at their office, and had personally
announced his arrival.

It was indeed a relief to them; for, had he not arrived, various
difficulties would have arisen as to his moiety of the estate, there
being no provision in the will as to what was to be done should he
refuse to accept it. Moreover, application must have been made to the
court for the appointment of fresh guardians for the boy. Altogether
they were glad that a business that might have been troublesome was
satisfactorily settled. Mr. Tunstall, after introducing himself,
had produced the letters he had received from his brother, with the
abstract of the will and copy of the letter they had sent him.

He had said smilingly, "I don't know whether this is sufficient,
gentlemen, for I am not up in English law. If it is necessary I can, of
course, get a dozen witnesses from the States to prove that I have been
always known as William Tunstall; though I generally passed, as is the
custom there, under a variety of nicknames, such as English Bill, Stiff
Bill, and a whole lot of others. It will naturally take some little
time and great expense to get witnesses over, especially as men are
earning pretty high wages in California at present; but, of course, it
can be managed if necessary."

"I do not see that there is any necessity for it," Mr. Randolph said.
"Besides, no doubt we shall find plenty of people here to identify
you."

"I don't know that, Mr. Randolph. You see I was little more than a
boy when I went away. I had been at Rugby for years, and often did
not come home for the holidays. Twenty years have completely changed
me in appearance, and I own that I have but a very faint recollection
of Byrneside. Of course I remember the house itself, and the stables
and grounds; but as to the neighbours, I don't recollect any of them.
Neither my brother nor myself dined in the parlour when my father had
dinner parties; but it seems to me that, after all, the best proof of
my identity is my correspondence with my brother. Certainly, he would
not have been deceived by any stranger, and the fact that we exchanged
letters occasionally for some years seems to me definite proof that he
recognized me as his brother."

"Undoubtedly so," Mr. Randolph said. "That in itself is the strongest
proof that can be brought. We mentioned that in our letter to Mr.
Campbell in San Francisco. His doubts appeared to us, I may say, to be
absurd."

"Not altogether absurd, Mr. Randolph. California has been turned pretty
well topsy-turvy during the last four or five years, and he was not to
be blamed for being suspicious. May I ask you if you have come across
my letters to my brother among his papers?"

"No, we have not done so. In fact, your brother told us that he had
not preserved them, for as you were wandering about constantly the
addresses you gave were no benefit, and that beyond the fact that you
were in California he had no idea where you could be found. That is why
it became necessary to advertise for you."

"It is unfortunate that he did not keep them, Mr. Randolph, for in that
case, of course, I could have told you most of their contents, and that
would have been an additional proof of my identity."

"There is not the least occasion for it, Mr. Tunstall. We are perfectly
and entirely satisfied. Mr. Edgar's recognition of you as his brother,
your possession of his letters, the fact that you answered at once to
the advertisement in California, your knowledge of your early life
at Rugby, and so on, all tend to one plain conclusion; in fact, no
shadow of doubt was entertained by my son or myself from the first. I
congratulate you very heartily on your return, because to some extent
the very hard treatment which was dealt to you by your father, Mr.
Philip Tunstall, has now been atoned for. Of course you only received
a short abstract of your brother's will; the various properties which
fall to you are detailed in full in it. Byrneside itself goes to his
son; but against that may be set off a sum invested in good securities,
and equal to the value of the house and home park, so that you can
either build or purchase a mansion as good as Byrneside. We may tell
you also that the estates were added to in your father's time, and that
other properties have been bought by your brother, who, owing to the
death of his wife and the state of his health, has for some years led a
very secluded life, investing the greater part of his savings in land.
So that, in fact, your moiety of the estates will be quite as large
as the elder son's portion you might have expected to receive in the
ordinary course of events."

"What sort of boy is my nephew, Mr. Randolph?"

"I have seen him two or three times when I have been over at Byrneside.
Of course I did not notice him particularly, but he is a bright lad,
and promises to grow into a very fine young man. I fancy from something
his father let drop that his disposition resembles yours. He is
very fond of outdoor exercises, knows every foot of the hills round
Byrneside, and though but eleven or twelve years old he is perfectly at
home on horseback, and he is a good shot. He has, in fact, run a little
wild. His father spoke of him as being warmhearted and of excellent
impulses, but lamented that, like you, he was somewhat quick-tempered
and headstrong."

"Edgar ought not to have selected me for his guardian, Mr. Randolph."

"I said almost as much, Mr. Tunstall, when I drew out the will; but
Mr. Edgar remarked that you had doubtless got over all that long ago,
and would be able to make more allowance for him and to manage him far
better than anyone else could do."

"I shall try and merit Edgar's confidence, Mr. Randolph. I have
suffered enough from my headstrong temper, and have certainly learnt to
control it. I shall not be hard upon him, never fear."

"Are you going over to Byrneside at once, Mr. Tunstall?"

"No; I shall go up to London to-morrow morning. I want a regular outfit
before I present myself there for inspection. Besides, I would rather
that you should give notice to them at Byrneside that I have returned.
It is unpleasant to arrive at a place unannounced, and to have to
explain who you are."

"Perhaps you would like to see the will, and go through the schedule?"

"Not at all, Mr. Randolph. There will be plenty of time for that after
my return."

"You will excuse my asking if you want any money for present use, Mr.
Tunstall?"

"No, thank you; I am amply provided. I was doing very well at the
diggings when your letters called me away, and I have plenty of cash
for present purposes."

"You will, I hope, dine with us to-day, Mr. Tunstall."

"I thank you. I should have been very happy, but I have my wife with
me. I have left her at the 'Bull.'"

"Oh, indeed! I was not aware--"

"That I was married? Yes, I have been married for some years. I did not
think it necessary to mention it to Edgar, as he would only have used
it as an additional argument why I should accept his generous offers."

"We shall be very glad, Mrs. Randolph and myself, if you will bring
Mrs. Tunstall with you."

And so Mrs. Tunstall came. She was a dark woman, and, as Mr. Randolph
and his wife agreed, was probably of Mexican or Spanish blood, and
spoke English with a strange accent. She had evidently at one time
been strikingly pretty, though now faded. She had rather a worn, hard
expression on her face, and impressed Mr. Randolph, his wife, son, and
daughter-in-law less favourably than the lawyer had thought it right to
say to those who made inquiries about her; but she had, as they said,
spoken but little, and had seemed somewhat nervous and ill at ease.

Mr. Tunstall did not appear for some time at Byrneside. He went down to
Rugby to see his nephew, who had, in accordance with his father's wish,
been placed there a month or two after his death. The holidays were
to begin a week later, and Hugh was delighted when his uncle told him
that he and his aunt were thinking of going to the Continent for a few
months before settling down at Byrneside, and would take him with them.

Hugh was very much pleased with his new relative. "He is a splendid
fellow," he told his school-boy friends. "Awful jolly to talk to,
and has been doing all sorts of things--fighting Indians, and hunting
buffalo, and working in the gold diggings. Of course he didn't tell me
much about them; there wasn't time for that. He tipped me a couple of
sovs. I am sure we shall get on first-rate together." And so during the
summer holidays Hugh travelled with his uncle and aunt in Switzerland
and Italy. He did not very much like his aunt. She seemed to try to
be kind to him, and yet he thought she did not like him. His uncle had
taken him about everywhere, and had told him lots of splendid yarns.

At Christmas they would be all together at Byrneside. His uncle had
been very much interested in the place, and was never tired of his
talk about his rambles there. He remembered the pool where his father
had told him they both used to fish as boys, and about Harry Gowan the
fisherman who used to go out in his boat, and who was with them when
that storm suddenly broke when the boat was wrecked on the island and
they were all nearly drowned. He was very glad to hear that Gowan was
still alive; and that James Wilson, who was then under stableman and
used to look after their ponies, was now coachman; and that Sam, the
gardener's boy who used to show them where the birds' nests were, was
now head-gardener; and that Mr. Holbeach the vicar was still alive,
and so was his sister Miss Elizabeth; and that, in fact, he remembered
quite well all the people who had been there when he was a boy.
Altogether it had been a glorious holiday.

His uncle and aunt returned with him when it was over, the former
saying he had had enough of travelling for the present, and instead of
being away, as he had intended, for another couple of months he should
go down home at once. They went with him as far as Rugby, dropped him
there, and then journeyed north. On their arrival at Byrneside, where
they had not been expected, Mr. Tunstall soon made himself extremely
popular. Scarcely had they entered the house when he sent out for James
the coachman, and greeted him with the greatest heartiness.

"I should not have known you, James," he said, "and I don't suppose you
would have known me?"

"No, sir; I cannot say as I should. You were only a slip of a lad then,
though you didn't think yourself so. No, I should not have known you a
bit."

"Twenty years makes a lot of difference, Jim. Ah, we had good fun in
those days! Don't you remember that day's ratting we had when the big
stack was pulled down, and how one of them bit you in the ear, and how
you holloaed?"

"I remember that, sir. Mr. Edgar has often laughed with me about it."

"And you remember how my poor brother and I dressed up in sheets once,
and nearly scared you out of your life, Jim?"

"Ay, ay; I mind that too, sir. That wasn't a fair joke, that wasn't."

"No, that wasn't fair, Jim. Ah! well, I am past such pranks now. Well,
I am very glad to see you again after all these years, and to find
you well. I hear that Sam is still about the old place, and is now
head-gardener. You may as well come out and help me find him while Mrs.
Tunstall is taking off her things."

Sam was soon found, and was as delighted as James at Mr. Tunstall's
recollection of some of their bird-nesting exploits. After a long chat
with him, Mr. Tunstall returned to the house, where a meal was already
prepared.

"You need not wait," he said, after the butler had handed the dishes.
"I have not been accustomed to have a man-servant behind my chair for
the last twenty years, and can do without it now."

He laid down his knife and fork with an air of relief as the door
closed behind the servant.

"Well, Lola," he said in Spanish, "everything has gone off well."

"Yes," she said, "I suppose it has," in the same language. "It is all
very oppressive. I wish we were back in California again."

"You used to be always grumbling there," he said savagely. "I was
always away from you, and altogether you were the most ill-used woman
in the world. Now you have got everything a woman could want. A grand
house, and carriages, and horses; the garden and park. What can you
want more?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "I shall get accustomed to it in time," she
said, "but so far I do not like it. It is all stiff and cold. I would
rather have a little hacienda down on the Del Norte, with a hammock
to swing in, and a cigarette between my lips, and a horse to take a
scamper on if I am disposed, and you with me, than live in this dreary
palace."

"Baby! you will get accustomed to it in time, and you can have a
hammock here if you like, though it is not often that it is warm enough
to use it. And you can smoke cigarettes all day. It would shock them if
you were an Englishwoman, but in a Mexican they will think it right and
proper enough. And you have got your guitar with you, so you can have
most of your pleasures; and as for the heat, there is sure to be some
big glass houses where they grow fruit and flowers, and you can have
one of them fitted up with Mexican plants, and hang your hammock there;
and it won't need a very long stretch of imagination to fancy that you
are at your hacienda on the Del Norte."

"If you can manage that it will be nice," the woman said.

"Anything can be managed in this country when we have got money to pay
for it."

"At any rate it will be a comfort to know that there is no fear of your
being shot here. Every time you went away from me, if it was only for
a week or two, I knew I might never see you again, and that you might
get shot by some of those drunken miners. Well, I shall be free of all
that now, and I own that I was wrong to grumble. I shall be happy here
with you, and I see that it was indeed fortunate that you found those
papers on the body of the man you came across dead in the woods."

She looked closely at him as she spoke.

"Well, that is a subject that there is no use talking about, Lola. It
was a slice of luck; but there is an English proverb, that walls have
ears, and it is much better that you should try and forget the past.
Remember only that I am William Tunstall, who has come back here after
being away twenty years."

She nodded. "I shall not forget it. You know, you always said I was
a splendid actress, and many a fool with more dollars than wit have I
lured on, and got to play with you in the old days at Santa Fé."

"There, there, drop it, Lola," he said; "the less we have of old
memories the better. Now we will have the servants in, or they will
begin to think we have gone to sleep over our meal." And he struck the
bell which the butler, when he went out, had placed on the table beside
him.

"Have you been over the house?" he asked when they were alone again.

"Not over it all. The old woman--she called herself the
housekeeper--showed me a great room which she said was the
drawing-room, and a pretty little room which had been her mistress's
boudoir, and another room full of books, and a gallery with a lot of
ugly pictures in it, and the bed-room that is to be ours, and a lot of
others opening out of it."

"Well, I will go over them now with you, Lola. Of course I am supposed
to know them all. Ah! this is the boudoir. Well, I am sure you can be
comfortable here, Lola. Those chairs are as soft and easy as a hammock.
This will be your sanctum, and you can lounge and smoke, and play
your guitar to your heart's content. Yes, this is a fine drawing-room,
but it is a deal too large for two of us; though in summer, with the
windows all open, I daresay it is pleasant enough." Having made a
tour of the rooms that had been shown Lola, they came down to the hall
again.

"Now let us stroll out into the garden," he said. "You will like
that." He lit a cigar, and Lola a cigarette. The latter was unfeignedly
delighted with the masses of flowers and the beautifully kept lawns,
and the views from the terrace, with a stretch of fair country, and the
sea sparkling in the sunshine two miles away.

"Here comes the head-gardener, Lola, my old friend. This is Sam, Lola,"
he said, as the gardener came up and touched his hat. "You know you
have heard me speak of him. My wife is delighted with the garden, Sam.
She has never seen an English garden before."

"It is past its best now, sir. You should have seen it two months ago."

"I don't think it could be more beautiful," Lola said; "there is
nothing like this in my country. We have gardens with many flowers, but
not grass like this, so smooth and so level. Does it grow no higher?"

"Oh, it grows fast enough, and a good deal too fast to please us, and
has to be cut twice a week."

"I see you are looking surprised at my wife smoking," William Tunstall
said with a smile. "In her country all ladies smoke. Show her the
green-houses; I think they will surprise her even more than the
garden."

The long ranges of green-houses were visited, and Sam was gratified
at his new mistress's delight at the flowers, many of which she
recognized, and still more at the fruit--the grapes covering the roofs
with black and yellow bunches; the peaches and nectarines nestling
against the walls.

"The early sorts are all over," Sam said; "but I made a shift to keep
these back, though I did not think there was much chance of any but the
grapes being here when you got back, as we heard that you would not be
home much before Christmas."

"We changed our mind, you see, Sam, and I am glad we did, for if
we had come then, Mrs. Tunstall would have been frightened at the
cold and bleakness. I'll tell you what I want done, Sam. I want this
conservatory next the house filled as much as possible with Mexican
and South American plants. Of course, you can put palms and other
things that will stand heat along with them. I want the stages cleared
away, and the place made to look as much like a room as possible. Mrs.
Tunstall will use it as a sitting-room."

"I think we shall have to put another row of pipes in, Mr. William.
Those plants will want more heat than we have got here."

"Then we must put them in. My wife will not care how hot it is, but of
course we don't want tropical heat. I should put some rockery down the
side here to hide the pipes, and in the centre we will have a fountain
with water plants, a foot or two below the level of the floor, and a
low bank of ferns round. That is the only change, as far as I can see,
that we shall want in the house. I shall be going over to Carlisle
in a day or two, and I'll arrange with somebody there to make the
alterations."

"Very well, Mr. William, if you will get some masons to do the rockery
and fountain, I can answer for the rest; but I think I shall need a
good many fresh plants. We are not very strong in hot subjects. Mr.
Edgar never cared for them much."

"If you will make out a list of what you want, and tell me who is the
best man to send to, Sam, I will order them as soon as you are ready to
put them in."

And so, when Hugh returned at Christmas for the holidays, he was
astonished at finding his aunt swinging in a hammock, smoking a
cigarette, slung near a sparkling little fountain, and surrounded by
semi-tropical plants. The smoking did not surprise him, for he had
often seen her with a cigarette during their trip together; but the
transformation of the conservatory astonished him.

"Well, Hugh, what do you think of it?" she asked, smiling at his
surprise.

"It is beautiful!" he said; "it isn't like a green-house. It is just
like a bit out of a foreign country."

"That is what we tried to make it, Hugh. You see, on the side next to
the house where there is a wall, we have had a Mexican view painted
with a blue sky, such as we have there, and mountains, and a village
at the foot of the hills. As I lie here I can fancy myself back again,
if I don't look up at the sashes overhead. Oh, how I wish one could
do without them, and that it could be covered with one great sheet of
glass!"

"It would be better," Hugh admitted, "but it is stunning as it is.
Uncle told me, as he drove me over from Carlisle, that he had been
altering the conservatory, and making it a sort of sitting-room for
you, but I never thought that it would be like this. What are those
plants growing on the rocks?"

"Those are American aloes, they are one of our most useful plants,
Hugh. They have strong fibres which we use for string, and they make
a drink out of the juice fermented; it is called pulque, and is our
national drink, though of late years people drink spirits too, which
are bad for them, and make them quarrelsome."

During the holidays Hugh got over his former dislike for his aunt,
and came to like her more than his uncle. She was always kind and
pleasant with him, while he found that, although his uncle at times
was very friendly, his temper was uncertain. The want of some regular
occupation, and the absence of anything like excitement, told heavily
upon a man accustomed to both. At first there was the interest in
playing his part: of meeting people who had known him in his boyhood,
of receiving and returning the visits of the few resident gentry within
a circuit of ten miles, of avoiding mistakes and evading dangers; but
all this was so easy that he soon tired of it. He had tried to make
Lola contented, and yet her lazy contentment with her surroundings
irritated him.

She had created a good impression upon the ladies who had called.
The expression of her face had softened since her first visit to
Carlisle, and the nervous expression that had struck Mr. Randolph
then had disappeared. Her slight accent, and the foreign style of her
dress, were interesting novelties to her visitors, and after the first
dinner-party given in their honour, at which she appeared in a dress
of dull gold with a profusion of rich black lace, she was pronounced
charming. Her husband, too, was considered to be an acquisition to the
county. Everyone had expected that he would have returned, after so
long an absence, rough and unpolished, whereas his manners were quiet
and courteous.

He was perhaps less popular among the sturdy Cumberland squires than
with their wives. He did not hunt; he did not shoot. "I should have
thought," one of his neighbours said to him, "that everyone who had
been living a rough life in the States would have been a good shot."

"A good many of us are good shots, perhaps most of us, but it is with
the pistol and rifle. Shot-guns are not of much use when you have a
party of Red-skins yelling and shooting round you, and it is not a
handy weapon to go and fetch when a man draws a revolver on you. As to
shooting little birds, it may be done by men who live on their farms
and like an occasional change from the bacon and tinned meat that they
live on from year's end to year's end. Out there a hunter is a man who
shoots game--I mean deer and buffalo and bear and other animals--for
the sake of their skins, although, of course, he does use the meat
of such as are eatable. With us a good shot means a man who can put
a ball into a Red-skin's body at five hundred yards certain, and who
with a pistol can knock a pipe out of a man's mouth ten yards away,
twenty times following; and it isn't only straightness of shooting, but
quickness of handling, that is necessary. A man has to draw, and cock,
and fire, in an instant. The twinkling of an eye makes the difference
of life or death.

"Oh, yes! I am a good shot, but not in your way. I went away from here
too young to get to care about tramping over the country all day to
shoot a dozen or two of birds, and I have never been in the way of
learning to like it since. I wish I had, for it seems an important
part of country life here, and I know I shall never be considered as a
credit to the county unless I spend half my time in winter riding after
foxes or tramping after birds; but I am afraid I am too old now ever
to take to those sports. I heartily wish I could, for I find it dull
having no pursuit. When a man has been earning his living by hunting,
or gold digging, or prospecting for mines all his life, he finds it
hard to get up in the morning and know that there is nothing for him
to do but just to look round the garden or to go out for a drive merely
for the sake of driving."

When summer came Mr. Tunstall found some amusements to his taste. If
there was a wrestling match anywhere in the county or in Westmoreland
he would be present, and he became a regular attendant at all the
race-courses in the north of England. He did not bet. As he said to a
sporting neighbour, who always had a ten-pound note on the principal
races, "I like to bet when the chances are even, or when I can match my
skill against another man's; but in this horse-racing you are risking
your money against those who know more than you do. Unless you are
up to all the tricks and dodges, you have no more chance of winning
than a man has who gambles with a cheat who plays with marked cards. I
like to go because it is an excitement; besides, at most of the large
meetings there is a little gambling in the evening. In Mexico and
California everyone gambles more or less. It is one of the few ways of
spending money, and I like a game occasionally." The result was that
Mr. Tunstall was seldom at home during the summer.

When Hugh came home his aunt said: "I have been talking to your uncle
about you, and he does not care about going away this year. He has
taken to have an interest in horse-racing. Of course it is a dull life
for him here after leading an active one for so many years, and I am
very glad he has found something to interest him."

"I should think that it is very dull for you, aunt."

"I am accustomed to be alone, Hugh. In countries where every man has
to earn his living, women cannot expect to have their husbands always
with them. They may be away a month at a time up in the mountains, or
at the mines, or hunting in the plains. I am quite accustomed to that.
But I was going to talk about you. I should like a change, and you and
I will go away where we like. Not, of course, to travel about as we did
last year, but to any seaside place you would like to go to. We need
not stop all the time at one, but can go to three or four of them. I
have been getting some books about them lately, and I think it would be
most pleasant to go down to Devonshire. There seem to be lots of pretty
watering-places there, and the climate is warmer than in the towns on
the east coast."

"I should like it very much, aunt; but I should like a fortnight here
first, if you don't mind. My pony wants exercise terribly, Jim says.
He has been out at grass for months now; besides, I shall forget how to
ride if I don't have some practice."

So for the next fortnight Hugh was out from morning until night either
riding or sailing with Gowan, and then he went south with his aunt
and spent the rest of his holidays in Devonshire and Cornwall. He had
a delightful time of it, his aunt allowing him to do just as he liked
in the way of sailing and going out excursions. She always took rooms
overlooking the sea, and was well content to sit all day at the open
window; seldom moving until towards evening, when she would go out
for a stroll with Hugh. Occasionally she would take long drives with
him in a pony-carriage; but she seldom proposed these expeditions. As
Hugh several times met with schoolfellows, and always struck up an
acquaintance a few hours after arriving at a place with some of the
boatmen and fishermen, he never found it dull. At first he was disposed
to pity his aunt and to urge her to go out with him; but she assured
him that she was quite contented to be alone, and to enjoy the sight of
the sea and to breathe the balmy air.

"I have not enjoyed myself so much, Hugh," she said when the holidays
were drawing to a close, "since I was a girl."

"I am awfully glad of that, aunt. I have enjoyed myself tremendously;
but it always seems to me that it must be dull for you."

"You English never seem to be happy unless you are exerting yourselves,
Hugh; but that is not our idea of happiness. People in warm climates
find their pleasure in sitting still, in going out after the heat of
the day is over for a promenade, and in listening to the music, just
as we have been doing here. Besides it has been a pleasure to me to see
that you have been happy."

When the summer holidays had passed away, Hugh returned to Rugby, and
Lola went back to Cumberland.



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER IV.

AN EXPLOSION.


At Christmas Hugh found that things were not so pleasant at home. There
was nothing now to take his uncle away from Byrneside, and the dullness
of the place told upon him. His outbursts of ill-temper were therefore
more frequent than they had been the last holidays Hugh had spent at
home. He sat much longer in the dining-room over his wine, after his
wife and Hugh had left him, than he did before, and was sometimes
moody, sometimes bad-tempered when he joined them. Hugh's own temper
occasionally broke out at this, and there were several quarrels between
him and his uncle; but there was a savage fierceness in the latter's
manner that cowed the boy, and whatever he felt he learned to hold his
tongue; but he came more and more to dislike his uncle, especially as
he saw that when angry he would turn upon his aunt and speak violently
to her in her own language. Sometimes she would blaze out in return,
but generally she continued to smoke her cigarette tranquilly as if
utterly unconscious that she was spoken to.

So for the next two years matters went on. During the summer holidays
Hugh seldom saw his uncle, who was more and more away from home, being
now a constant attendant at all the principal race-courses in the
country. Even in winter he was often away in London, to Hugh's great
satisfaction, for when he was at home there were frequent quarrels
between them, and Hugh could see that his uncle habitually drank a
great deal more wine than was good for him. Indeed it was always in the
evening that these scenes occurred. At other times his uncle seemed to
make an effort to be pleasant with him.

In summer Hugh went away with his aunt for a time, but he spent a
part of his holidays at Byrneside, for of all exercises he best loved
riding. His pony had been given up, but there were plenty of horses in
the stables, for although William Tunstall did not care for hunting, he
rode a good deal, and was an excellent horseman.

"What have you got in the stable, James?" Hugh asked one day on his
return from the school.

"I have got a set of the worst-tempered devils in the country, Master
Hugh. Except them two ponies that I drives your aunt out with, there
isn't a horse in the stables fit for a Christian to ride. They are all
good horses, first-rate horses, putting aside their tempers; but your
uncle seems to delight in buying creatures that no one else will ride.
Of course he gets them cheap. He doesn't care how wicked they are, and
he seems to enjoy it when they begin their pranks with him. I thought
at first he would get his brains dashed out to a certainty, but I never
saw a man keep his seat as he does. He told me once, that when a man
had been breaking bronchos--that is what he called them, which means,
he said, wild horses that had never been backed--he could sit anything,
and that English horses were like sheep in comparison.

"Of course, it is no use saying no to you, Master Hugh; but if you want
to go out, you must stick to that big meadow. You must mount there, and
you must promise me not to go beyond it. I have been letting the hedges
grow there on purpose for the last two years, and no horse will try
to take them. The ground is pretty soft and you will fall light. You
have been getting on with your riding the last three years, and have
had some pretty rough mounts, but none as bad as what we have got in
the stables now. I shall always go out with you myself with one of the
men in case of accident, and I can put you up to some of their tricks
before you mount."

Hugh was more than fifteen now, and was very tall and strong for his
age. He had ridden a great deal when he had been at home during the
summer, and in the winter when the weather was open, and had learned
to sit on nasty-tempered animals, for these had gradually taken the
place of his father's steady hunters; but this year he found that
the coachman's opinion of those now under his charge was by no means
exaggerated. In spite of doing his best to keep his seat, he had many
heavy falls, being once or twice stunned; but he stuck to it, and
by the end of the holidays flattered himself that he could ride the
worst-tempered animal in the stable. He did not go away this year,
begging his aunt to remain at home.

"It is a splendid chance of learning to ride well, aunt," he said.
"If I stick at it right through these two months every day I shall
really have got a good seat, and you know it is a lot better my getting
chucked off now than if I was older. You see boys' bones ain't set, and
they hardly ever break them, and if they do they mend up in no time."

His aunt had at first very strongly opposed his riding any of the
animals in the stable, and he had been obliged to bring in James to
assure her that some of them were not much worse than those he had
ridden before, and that a fall on the soft ground of the meadow was not
likely to be very serious, but it was only on his giving her his solemn
promise that he would not on any account go beyond the meadow that she
finally consented. On his return at Christmas he found his uncle at
home, and apparently in an unusually pleasant humour. A frost had set
in that seemed likely to be a long one, and the ground was as hard as
iron.

"I hear, Hugh," his uncle said the second morning at breakfast, "that
you are becoming a first-rate rider. I am glad to hear it. Out in
the Western States every man is a good rider. You may say that he
lives on horseback, and it comes natural even to boys to be able to
sit bare-backed on the first horse that comes to hand. Of course it
is not so important here, still a man who is a really good rider has
many advantages. In the first place, all gentlemen here hunt, and a
man who can go across any country, and can keep his place in the front
rank, has much honour among his neighbours; in the second place, he is
enabled to get his horses cheap. A horse that will fetch two hundred if
he is free from vice can be often picked up for twenty if he gets the
reputation of being bad-tempered. There is another accomplishment we
all have in the west, and that is to be good pistol-shots. As we cannot
ride, and there is nothing else to do, I will teach you, if you like."

Hugh accepted the offer with lively satisfaction, heedless of an
exclamation of dissent from his aunt. When he had left the room William
Tunstall turned savagely upon his wife.

"What did you want to interfere for? Just attend to your own business
or it will be the worse for you."

"It is my own business," she said fearlessly. "I like that boy, and
I am not going to see him hurt. Ever since you told me, soon after we
first came here, that by his father's will the whole property came to
you if Hugh died before he came of age, I have been anxious for him.
I don't want to interfere with your way of going on. Lead your own
life, squander your share of the property if you like, it is nothing
to me; when it is spent I am ready to go back to our old life, but I
won't have the boy hurt. I have always accepted your story as to how
you became possessed of the papers without question. I know you have
killed a score of men in what you call fair fight, but I did not know
that you were a murderer in cold blood. Anyhow the boy sha'n't be
hurt. I believe you bought those horses knowing that he would try them,
and believing they would break his neck. They haven't, but no thanks
to you. Now you have offered to teach him pistol-shooting. It is so
easy for an accident to take place, isn't it? But I warn you that if
anything happens to him, I will go straight to the nearest magistrate
and tell him who you really are, and that I am certain there was no
accident, but a murder."

The man was white with fury, and advanced a step towards her.

"Have you gone mad?" he asked between his teeth. "By heavens!--"

"No, you won't," she interrupted. "Don't make the threat, because I
might not forgive you if you did. Do you think I am afraid of you? You
are not in California or Mexico now. People cannot be shot here without
inquiry. I know what you are thinking of; an accident might happen to
me too. I know that any love you ever had for me has died out long ago,
but I hold to my life. I have placed in safe hands--never mind where I
have placed it--a paper telling all the truth. It is to be opened if I
die suddenly and without sending for it. In it I say that if my death
is said to have been caused by an accident, it would be no accident,
but murder; and that if I die suddenly, without visible cause, that
I shall have been poisoned. Do you think I don't know you, and that
knowing you I would trust my life altogether in your hands? There, that
is enough, we need not threaten each other. I know you, and now you
know me. We will both go our own way."

And she walked out of the room leaving her husband speechless with fury
at this open and unexpected revolt. Half an hour later his dog-cart was
at the door and he left for London. Hugh was astonished when, on his
return from a walk down to Gowan's cottage, he found that his uncle had
gone up to town.

"Why, I thought, aunt, he was going to be at home all the holidays, and
he said that he was going to teach me pistol-shooting."

"Your uncle often changes his mind suddenly. I will teach you
pistol-shooting, Hugh. Most Mexican women can use a pistol in case of
need. I cannot shoot as he does, but I can teach you to shoot fairly,
and after that it is merely a matter of incessant practice. If you
ever travel I daresay you will find it very useful to be able to use a
pistol cleverly. There are two or three revolvers upstairs and plenty
of ammunition, so if you like we will practise in the conservatory; it
is too cold to go out. You had better go and ask James to give you some
thick planks, five or six of them, to set up as targets. If he has got
such a thing as an iron plate it will be better still. I don't want to
spoil my picture. The place is forty feet long, which will be a long
enough range to begin with."

Half an hour later the sharp cracks of a revolver rang out in the
conservatory, and from that time to the end of the holidays Hugh
practised for two or three hours a day, the carrier bringing over fresh
supplies of ammunition twice a week. He found at first that the sharp
recoil of the revolver rendered it very difficult for him to shoot
straight, but in time he became accustomed to this, and at the end of a
fortnight could put every shot in or close to the spot he had marked as
a bull's-eye. After the first day his aunt laid aside her pistol, and
betook herself to her favourite hammock, where, sometimes touching her
guitar, sometimes glancing at a book, she watched his progress.

At the end of the fortnight she said: "You begin to shoot fairly
straight. Keep on, Hugh, and with constant practice, you will be able
to hit a half-crown every time. In the West it is a common thing for
a man to hold a copper coin between his finger and thumb for another
to shoot at. I have seen it done scores of times, but it will take you
some time to get to that. You must remember that there is very seldom
time to take a steady deliberate aim as you do. When a man shoots he
has got to shoot quickly. Now, practise standing with your face the
other way, and then turn and fire the instant your eye catches the
mark. After that you must practise firing from your hip. Sometimes
there is no time to raise the arm. Out in the West a man has got to do
one of two things, either not to carry a revolver at all, or else he
must be able to shoot as quickly as a flash of lightning."

"I don't suppose I am ever going to the West, aunt; still I should like
to be able to shoot like that, for if one does a thing at all one likes
to do it well."

  [Illustration: HUGH PRACTICES SHOOTING WITH HIS REVOLVER.]

And so to the end of the holidays the revolver practice went on
steadily every morning, Hugh generally firing seventy or eighty
cartridges. He could not do this at first, for the wrench of the recoil
strained his wrist, but this gained strength as he went on. Before he
went back to school he himself thought that he was becoming a very fair
shot, although his aunt assured him that he had hardly begun to shoot
according to western notions.

Mrs. Tunstall had one day, a year before this, driven over to Carlisle,
and, somewhat to the surprise of Mr. Randolph, had called upon him at
his office.

"Mr. Randolph," she began, "I do not know anything about English law.
I want to ask you a question."

"Certainly, my dear madam."

"If a married woman was to leave a sealed letter in the hands of a
lawyer, could he retain possession of it for her, even if her husband
called upon him to give it up?"

"It is a nice question, Mrs. Tunstall. If the lawyer was acting as
the fiduciary agent of a lady he would at any rate see that her wishes
were complied with; whether he could absolutely hold the paper against
the husband's claim is a point upon which I am not prepared at present
to give an answer. But anyhow there are ways of evading the law; for
instance, he could pass it on to a third party, and then, unless the
husband had been absolutely informed by his wife that she had handed
over this document to him, the husband would be powerless, the lawyer
would simply declare that he had no such document. Are you asking for
your own sake, Mrs. Tunstall, or in the interest of a friend?"

"In my own interest, Mr. Randolph. I have a written paper here. I have
not signed it yet, because I believe it is necessary to sign papers in
the presence of witnesses."

"It depends upon the nature of the paper, Mrs. Tunstall; but in all
cases it is a prudent step, for then no question as to the authenticity
can arise."

"And it is not necessary for the witnesses of the signature to read the
contents of the document?"

"By no means; they simply witness the signature."

"Well, Mr. Randolph, this is the document I want to leave in safe
hands, so that it can be opened after my death, unless I previously
request, not by letter, but by word of mouth, that it should be
returned to me. I know of no one else to whom I could commit the paper,
which is, in my opinion, a very important one; the only question is
whether, as you are Mr. Tunstall's solicitor, you would like to take
it."

"Frankly, without knowing the nature of the contents, Mrs. Tunstall,
I should certainly prefer not to undertake such a charge. Should
it remain in my hands, or rather in the hands of our firm--for we
may sincerely trust that there would be no occasion for opening it
until very many years after my death--it might be found to contain
instructions which could hardly be carried out by a firm situated as we
are with regard to Mr. Tunstall."

"I see that, Mr. Randolph."

There was a pause, and then the lawyer said: "Will you be going up to
town shortly, Mrs. Tunstall?"

"Yes, in the course of a month or so I shall be passing through London
with Hugh."

"Will the matter keep until then?"

"Certainly, there is no great hurry about it; but I wish the packet
placed in safe hands, where it would be opened in the event of my
death, unless I recall it before that."

"In that case, Mrs. Tunstall, I will give you the address of the
firm who do my London business. They are an old established firm of
the highest respectability, and the document will be perfectly safe
in their hands until you demand it back, or until they hear of your
demise. I will give you a letter of introduction to them."

Accordingly when Mrs. Tunstall went up to town the next time with Hugh
she called upon the firm of solicitors, whose place of business was
in Essex Street, and upon reading Mr. Randolph's letter, which stated
that she was the wife of one of his clients, a gentleman of means, she
was courteously received, and they at once agreed to take charge of any
document she might place in their hands, upon the understanding that if
she did not write or call for it, it should be opened when they heard
of her death, and its contents, whatever they might be, acted upon.

"You will stand in the position of our client, Mrs. Tunstall, and we
will do all in our power to carry out your wishes as expressed in this
document, whatever it may be. It is no unusual matter for a will to be
left with us under precisely similar circumstances."

"If the packet should be opened under the conditions I name," Mrs.
Tunstall said, "you will probably not regret having undertaken its
charge, for I can assure you that it may put a considerable amount of
business in your hands. But how will you know of my death?"

"Mr. Randolph or his successor would inform us. Of course we shall
request him to do so."

"And as soon as he knows of the event," Mrs. Tunstall added, "it is
of the utmost importance that the paper should be opened as soon as
possible after my death."

"We will request Mr. Randolph to inform us by telegraph immediately he
receives the news. But, pardon me, you look well and healthy, and are
young to be making such careful provisions for an event that may be far
distant."

"That may or may not be far distant," she said, "but for certain
important reasons I wish to be prepared for it at all points. I will
now sign it in your presence, Mr. Curtice. I have not yet put my
signature to it."

"Very well, Mrs. Tunstall. Two of my clerks shall witness your
signature. It may be many years before any question as to the
authenticity of the signature may arise; so I shall be a witness also."

The document was a lengthy one, written on sixteen pages of foolscap.
Two of the clerks were called in.

"Now if you will turn that last page down, Mrs. Tunstall, so that its
contents cannot be seen, you can sign your name and we will witness
it." This was done. "Now, Mrs. Tunstall, if you will put a sheet of
brown paper over the other sheets, and place your initials on the
margin at the bottom, we will put ours, so that no question can arise
as to the whole of them forming part of the document signed by you.
Now, madam, if you will fold it up and place it in this envelope I will
attach my seal. I presume you do not carry a seal?"

"No, sir."

"I think it would be more satisfactory that you should affix a seal of
some sort, no matter how common a thing it may be. Mr. Carter, will
you go up into the Strand with this lady, and take her to some shop
where she can purchase a seal? It does not matter what it is, Mrs.
Tunstall; any common thing, with a bird or a motto or anything else
upon it. These things are not cut in duplicate, therefore if you seal
the envelope in two or three places with it and take the seal away with
you, it will be a guarantee to you, should you ever require it to be
returned, that it has not been opened. In the meantime I will get a
small strong-box similar to those you see round the room, and have your
name painted on it. When it is completed I shall put the envelope in
it, lock it up, and place it in our strong-room downstairs."

The seal was purchased and fixed, and Mrs. Tunstall took her departure,
satisfied that she had left the document in safe hands. Mr. Curtice
talked the matter over with his partner. The latter laughed.

"Women love a little mystery, Curtice. I suppose she has got a little
property in her own right, and does not mean to leave it to her
husband, and is afraid he may get hold of her will and find out how she
has left it."

"I don't think it is that," Mr. Curtice said, "although, of course, it
may be. I should say she was a foreigner--a Spaniard or Italian; she
spoke with a slight accent. Besides, the thing extends over sixteen
pages of foolscap."

"That is likely enough if she made the will herself, Curtice. She may
have gone into a whole history as to why she has not left her money to
her husband."

"Possibly, but I don't think so. You mark my words, Harris, if that
packet ever comes to be opened there will be some rum disclosures
in it. That woman was no fool, and there is no doubt about her being
thoroughly in earnest. She said it was likely to give us some work when
it was opened, and I believe her. I will write a letter to Randolph
and ask him to give us a few particulars about this client he has
introduced to us."

When he received Mr. Randolph's reply, stating briefly the history
of Mr. William Tunstall, the husband of the lady he had introduced to
them, Mr. Curtice was more convinced than before that the delivery of
this packet into his charge was not a mere freak, and offered to bet
his partner a new hat that the document was not merely a will, but that
it would turn out something altogether unusual.

Mr. Randolph congratulated himself on his forethought, when, a year
after Mrs. Tunstall's visit, Mr. Tunstall came into the office.

"I am just on my way up to town," he said. "I wish you would let me
have a couple of hundred in advance on the next rents."

"Certainly, Mr. Tunstall. You have already had £200 on them, you know."

"Yes, I know; but I have been a little unlucky lately, and have got an
account I want to settle. By the way," he said carelessly, as he placed
the bank-notes in his pocket-book, "Mrs. Tunstall asked me to get from
you the letter or packet she left in your charge."

"A letter, Mr. Tunstall? I think there must be some mistake. Mrs.
Tunstall has certainly left nothing whatever in my charge."

"Oh! I suppose I misunderstood her. I only made up my mind to start a
short time before I came off, and did not pay much attention to what
she was saying; but it was something about a letter, and she mentioned
your name; there were half a dozen commissions she wanted me to execute
for her in London, and I suppose they all got mixed up together. I
daresay it is of no consequence one way or the other. Well, thanks for
the money--now I am off."

"I am very much afraid that William Tunstall is a liar," Mr. Randolph
said to himself thoughtfully after his client had left. "He has found
out that his wife has intrusted some document or other to someone,
and he guessed naturally enough that she had most likely come to me
with it, and he played a bold stroke to get it. I do not like the way
he has fallen into of spending all his time going about the country
to race-courses. I don't believe he has been at home two months this
year. Besides, he sounded me last time he was here about raising a few
thousands on a mortgage. He is not turning out well. I thought when he
first came back that his wanderings had done him no harm. No doubt I
had been prepossessed in his favour by his refusal to accept Edgar's
offers to divide the rents with him, but I was too hasty. I am afraid
there will be trouble at Byrneside. It is very fortunate Edgar put
my name in as trustee for his son, so that his share of the property
is safe whatever happens to the other; but I hate to see a man of a
good old family like the Tunstalls going wrong. I wonder what this
mysterious document his wife wanted to leave with me is? It must be
something of great importance, or he would never have come to me and
lied in order to get it into his hands. It is a queer business."

Hugh did not see his uncle when he was at home for the summer holidays.
His aunt seemed to take his absence as a matter of course.

"Don't you expect uncle home soon?" he asked her one day.

"I never expect him," she said quietly.

"I think it a shame he stays away so, leaving you all by yourself,
aunt!" Hugh said indignantly.

"I am accustomed to it by this time, Hugh; and, upon the whole, I think
perhaps he is better away than here while you are at home. You see you
do not get on very well together."

"Well, aunt, I am sure I don't want any rows."

"I don't say you do, Hugh; but still there are rows. You see he is
passionate, and you are passionate, and it is very much better you
should be apart. As for me, I have always been accustomed to his being
away from me a good deal ever since we married, and it does not trouble
me at all. I would much rather have you all to myself. Your being here
makes it a very pleasant time for me; we ride together, drive together,
and practise shooting together. It is all a change to me, for except
when you are here I seldom stir beyond the gardens."

Hugh had indeed no doubt that his aunt was more comfortable when his
uncle was away, for he heard from Wilson that when Mr. Tunstall was at
home there were constant quarrels between him and his wife.

"He ain't like your father, Mr. Hugh. Ah! he was a gentleman of
the right sort! Not that your uncle is a bad master. He is hasty if
everything is not quite right, but in general he is pleasant spoken
and easy to get on with. He is popular with the gentry, though of late
they have held off a bit. I hear it said they don't hold to a gentleman
spending all his life on the race-courses and leaving his wife by
herself. Your aunt is well liked, and would be better liked if she
would only go abroad and visit; but she never drives out unless when
you are here, and people have given up calling. It is a bad job; but I
hope when you come of age, Mr. Hugh, we shall have the old times back
again, when the Tunstalls were one of the first families in the county,
and took the lead of pretty nigh everything."

"Well, they have five years to wait for that, Wilson. I am just sixteen
now, and I mean when I do come of age and am my own master to travel
about for a bit before I settle down into a country squire."

"Well, I suppose that is natural enough, Mr. Hugh, though why people
want to be running off to foreign parts is more than I can make out.
Anyhow, sir, I hope you won't be bringing a foreign wife back with
you."

"There is no fear of that"--Hugh laughed--"at least according to my
present ideas. But I suppose that is a thing no one can settle about
until their time comes. At any rate aunt is a foreigner, and I am sure
no one could be kinder or nicer than she is."

"That she is, Mr. Hugh. I am sure everyone says that. Still, you see,
there is drawbacks. Her ways are different from the ways of the ladies
about here, and that keeps her apart from them. She don't drive about,
and call, and make herself sociable like, nor see to the charities down
in the village. It ain't as she doesn't give money, because I know that
whenever the rector says there is a case wants help she is ready enough
with her purse; but she don't go among them or know anything about them
herself. No, Mr. Hugh; your aunt is a wonderful nice lady, but you take
my advice and bring home an English wife as mistress of the Hall."

When he came home for the Christmas holidays Hugh found his uncle
again at home. For a time matters went on smoothly. Mr. Tunstall made
an evident endeavour to be friendly with him, talked to him about his
life at school, asked whether he wished to go to the university when he
left; and when Hugh said that he didn't see any use in spending three
years of his life there when he did not intend entering any of the
professions, and that he would much rather travel and see something of
foreign countries, he warmly encouraged the idea.

"Quite right, Hugh! There is nothing opens a man's mind like foreign
travel. But don't stick in the great towns. Of course you will want
a year to do Europe; after that strike out a line of your own. If I
had my time over again I would go into Central Asia or Africa, or some
place where there was credit to be gained and some spice of adventure
and danger."

"That is just what I should like, uncle," Hugh said eagerly; and
looking at his aunt for confirmation, he was surprised to see her
watching her husband intently beneath her half-closed eyelids. "Don't
you think so, aunt?"

  [Illustration: HUGH, SEIZING A POKER, SPRANG AT HIS UNCLE.]

"I don't know, Hugh," she said quietly. "There is a good deal to be
said both ways. But I don't think we need settle it now; you have
another year and a half at school yet, you know."

Hugh went out skating that afternoon, for it was a sharp frost. As
he was passing through the hall on his return he heard his uncle's
voice raised in anger in the drawing-room. He paused for a moment. He
could not catch the words, for they were spoken in Mexican. There was
silence for a moment, and he imagined that his aunt was answering. Then
he heard a loud exclamation in Mexican, then a slight cry and a heavy
fall. He rushed into the room. His aunt lay upon the hearthrug, his
uncle was standing over her with clenched hand.

"You coward, you brutal coward!" Hugh exclaimed, rushing forward,
and, throwing himself upon his uncle, he tried to force him back from
the hearth-rug. For a moment the fury of his assault forced his uncle
back, but the latter's greatly superior strength then enabled him to
shake off his grasp, and the moment he was free he struck the lad a
savage blow across the face, that sent him reeling backwards. Mad with
passion, Hugh rushed to the fender, and seizing a poker, sprang at his
uncle. William Tunstall's hand went behind him, and as Hugh struck, he
levelled a pistol. But he was too late. The blow came down heavily, and
the pistol exploded in the air; as the man fell back his head came with
terrible force against the edge of a cabinet, and he lay immovable.
Hugh's passion was stilled in an instant. He dropped the poker, and
leaned over his uncle. The blood was flowing down his forehead from the
blow he had given him, but it was the injury to the back of the head
that most alarmed the lad. He lifted an arm, and it fell heavily again.
He knelt down and listened, but could hear no sound of breathing. He
rose to his feet, and looked down, white and trembling, at the body.

"I have killed him," he said. "Well, he brought it on himself, and
I didn't mean it. It was the cabinet that did it. Perhaps he is only
stunned. If he is, he will charge me with trying to murder him. Well,
it is no use my staying here; they will be here in a moment," and he
glanced at the door. But the servants at Byrneside were so accustomed
to the sound of pistol shots that they paid no attention to it. Hugh
picked up the weapon that had dropped from his uncle's hand and put it
in his pocket; then glanced at his aunt and hesitated. "She will come
round in time," he muttered, "and I can do nothing for her." Then he
walked out of the room, turned the key in the door, and took it with
him. He went out to the stable, and ordered his horse to be saddled,
keeping in the stable while it was being done, so that his white face
should not attract notice. As soon as the horse was brought out he
leapt into the saddle and galloped off.

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER V.

ACROSS THE SEA.


Mr. Randolph was at dinner when the servant came in and said that young
Mr. Tunstall wished to speak to him; he was in the library, and begged
the lawyer to give him two minutes' conversation. Hugh was walking up
and down the little room when he entered. The old lawyer saw at once
that something was wrong.

"What is it, Hugh, what is the matter, lad?"

"A good deal is the matter, Mr. Randolph; but I don't want you to ask
me. I am sure you will be glad afterwards that you didn't know. You
were a friend of my father's, sir. You have been always very kind to
me. Will you give me fifty pounds without asking why I want it?"

"Certainly I will, lad; but in heaven's name don't do anything rash."

"Anything that was to be done is done, Mr. Randolph; please let me have
the money at once. You don't know how important it is. You will know
soon enough."

Mr. Randolph unlocked his desk without a word, and handed him ten
five-pound notes. Then he said: "By the way, I have gold, if you would
rather have it. There were some rents paid in this afternoon."

"I would much rather have gold."

Mr. Randolph put the notes in the desk, and then unlocked the safe.
"Would you rather have a hundred?"

"Yes, sir, if you will let me have them."

The lawyer handed him a small canvas bag.

"God bless you, sir!" the lad said; "remember, please, whatever you
hear, it was done in self-defence."

Then without another word he opened the door and was gone.

"Why, what is the matter, my dear?" Mrs. Randolph exclaimed, as her
husband returned to the dining-room. "Why, you are as pale as death."

"I don't know what is the matter exactly," he said. "Hugh has borrowed
a hundred pounds of me, and has gone."

"Gone! Where has he gone to?"

"I don't know, my dear. I hope, I sincerely hope he is going out of the
country, and can get away before they lay hands on him."

"Why, what has happened?"

"I don't know what has happened. I know things haven't been going on
well for some time at Byrneside. I am afraid there has been a terrible
quarrel. He begged me to ask him no questions, and I was glad not to
do so. The less one knows, the better; but I am afraid there has been
a scuffle. All he said was, just as he went out: 'Whatever you hear,
remember I did it in self-defence.'"

"But, goodness gracious, Thomas, you don't mean to say that he has
killed his uncle?"

"I don't mean anything," the lawyer said. "Those were his words. I
am afraid it won't be long before we hear what he meant. If they come
to ask me questions, fortunately I know nothing. I shall say no word
except before a magistrate, and then my story is simple enough. He came
and asked me to let me have £100, and as I was his trustee, and have
the rents of his estate for the past five years in my hands, I let him
have it as a matter of course. I did not ask him why he wanted it. I
saw that he was agitated, and from his manner, and from my knowledge
that he and his uncle did not get on very well together, I judged
there had been a quarrel, and that he intended to leave home for a
while. It was only when he was leaving the room that I gathered there
had been any personal fracas, and then from his words, 'It was done
in self-defence,' I judged that his uncle had struck him, and that he
had probably struck him in return. I hope that is all, my dear. I pray
heaven that it may be all."

Hugh had dismounted just outside the town, opened a gate leading
into a field, taken off his horse's bridle, and turned the horse in
and closed the gate behind it. Then he had turned up the collar of
his coat, pulled his hat down over his eyes, and made his way to the
lawyer's. He had cooled down now, but still felt no regret for what had
passed. "He would have killed me," he said to himself, "and I had no
thought of killing him when I knocked him down; anyhow, he brought it
on himself. If he is dead, and I am pretty sure he is, I have no one to
prove that it was done in self-defence; but if he is not dead, he will
give his own version of it when he recovers. I know he is a liar, and
in his quiet manner he would be able to make everyone believe that I
had attacked him without the least provocation. He might even say that
I fired the pistol, that he knocked it out of my hand, and that then I
sprang on him and struck him down with his head against that cabinet.
Either way I shall get years of imprisonment if I am caught; but I
don't mean to be caught if I can help it."

On leaving Mr. Randolph's he proceeded to the railway-station,
consulted the time-tables, and then took a third-class ticket to
Glasgow. He bought a Bradshaw, and sitting down on a bench under a
light, turned to the advertisements of the sailing of steamers. By the
time he had done that the train came in. It was a slow one, stopping at
every station. He got out at the first station and paid the fare from
Carlisle, then walked back to the town, and took a second-class ticket
by the night mail for London. Arriving at Euston, he walked across to
the docks, whence he had found that a steamer started for Hamburg at
eight o'clock, and he would catch a trans-Atlantic steamer that started
the next day. On his arrival at Hamburg he went to the steam-boat
office and took a second-class ticket to New York. Having done this, he
bought at a shop near the wharves a supply of clothes for the voyage,
placed them in a cheap German trunk, and walked on board the steamer.

He was now, he thought, fairly safe from pursuit. The hour at which
he would arrive at the station at Carlisle would be known, and as the
northern train was nearly due, and someone answering to his description
had taken a ticket to Glasgow, it would be at once suspected that
he intended to sail by a steamer from that port. No pursuit could be
set on foot before the morning. Indeed, it was probable that before
the police took the matter fairly in hand it would be late in the
afternoon. It might then be another day before they picked up the clue
that he had gone to Glasgow, and followed him there.

If a steamer had happened to start that morning or the day before,
it would be supposed that he had gone by it, and they might telegraph
across, and search the ship for him when it arrived at New York. If no
steamer had started, and they could obtain no clue to him in Glasgow,
they would think that he had gone back to Liverpool, and would make
search there, watching all the steamers sailing. They would in any case
hardly suspect that he could have gone up to London, across to Hamburg,
and caught the steamer sailing from there. Indeed, it would not have
been possible for him to do so had he first gone up to Glasgow as they
would believe he had done.

As soon as the vessel was fairly under way Hugh looked round. On
deck there was no distinction made between second-class emigrants
and steerage, but it was easy to distinguish the two classes. The
second-class kept somewhat together near the companion leading to their
portion of the ship, while the steerage passengers were well forward.
The number of the latter was not very large, for the emigrant traffic
across the Atlantic was still carried principally in sailing ships.
The second-class were composed chiefly of substantial-looking Germans,
for the most part farmers going out with a small amount of capital to
settle in the West.

There were two or three other young Englishmen, and with one of these,
named Luscombe, Hugh struck up an acquaintance before he had been
many hours on board. He was a young man of about twenty, and Hugh soon
learned from him that he was the son of a large landed proprietor in
Norfolk. He had for a few months been in a crack regiment of Hussars,
but had gone, as he expressed it, a fearful mucker. His father had
paid the greater portion of his debts, but had refused to settle some
that he considered debts of honour. Luscombe, therefore, sold out, and
was now, as he expressed it, going over to knock about for a bit in
the States, till his father took a "sensible view of things." "It was
rough on him," he said, "for I had run him up a pretty heavy bill twice
before. However, I think it is all for the best. I should never have
got out of that line if I had stopped in the regiment. Two or three
years knocking about, and hard work, won't do me any harm; and by that
time the governor will be prepared to receive the prodigal son with
open arms."

Hugh was slower in giving his confidence. But before the voyage was
over he had told Luscombe why he had left England.

"Well, you did quite right, of course," Luscombe said, "in knocking
that brute of a fellow down, and if you did split his skull and make
your aunt a widow you have nothing to reproach yourself with. Still,
I agree with you that it will be more pleasant for you if he gets
round, as I daresay he will, or else it will be a long while before
you can show up at home. Well, you will know by the time we have been
in New York a few days. If the papers the next mail brings out don't
say anything about it you may be sure he has got over it. 'A gentleman
killed by his nephew' would be a startling heading, and if it is not
there, you may go about your work with a light heart."

The voyage was marked by no incident whatever. On arriving at New York
Luscombe and Hugh put up at a good hotel for a few days before making
a start west. They had agreed to keep together, at any rate for a time.
Luscombe was several years older than Hugh, but he saw that the lad had
plenty of good sense and a fund of resolution, and knew that he himself
was more likely to stick to work in such companionship than he should
be by himself. Luscombe's light-hearted carelessness amused Hugh, and
though he did not think that his companion was likely to stick very
long to anything he took up, he was very glad to have his companionship
for a time. Hugh was thankful indeed when the next mail brought a batch
of papers of a date a week later than that of his leaving Cumberland,
and when a careful examination of the file disclosed no allusion
whatever to the event at Byrneside.

"Well, I congratulate you, Hugh," Luscombe said when he told him.
"I expected it would be all right. If he had been a good old man you
would have killed him, no doubt, but bad men have always wonderfully
thick skulls. Well, now you are ready, I suppose, to make our start
to-morrow."

"Quite ready, Luscombe. We are only throwing away our money here."

They had already made many inquiries, and had settled that they would
in the first place go down to Texas, and would there take the first
job of any kind that offered itself, keeping it until they had time to
look round and see what would suit them best. Luscombe, however, said
frankly that he thought it probable that sooner or later he should
enlist in the cavalry out west.

"I know I shall never stick to hard work very long, Hugh. I have not
got my fortune to make, and I only want to pass away the time for a
year or two until the old lady and the girls get the governor into a
charitable state of mind again. He is a first-rate fellow, and I am
not surprised that he cut up rough at last. I expect a few months will
bring him round, but I should not know what to do if I went back. I
will give myself three years anyhow."

"I am very much in the same position, Luscombe. I sha'n't go back until
I come of age. Then I can snap my fingers at my uncle. I have got a
very good trustee, who will look after the estate. I will write to him
to-night and let him know that I am all right and very glad to find
that uncle has not been killed, and that he may expect me when I come
of age, but not before."

On the following morning they took their places in the train, and
travelled west, and proceeded to what was then the nearest terminus
to their destination--Northern Texas. Travelling sometimes by
stage-waggons, sometimes on foot, they arrived at M'Kinney, which they
had been told was a young place, but growing fast.

"Well, here we are at last," Luscombe said as they alighted at a
one-storied building, on which was a board roughly painted, "The Empire
Hotel." "At any rate the scenery is better than it has been for the
last two or three hundred miles. There are some good-sized hills. Some
of those across the country ahead might almost claim to be mountains,
and that is a relief to the eyes after those dreary flats. Well, let
us go in and have a meal first, then we will look round. The place has
certainly not an imposing aspect."

The meals here, as at the other places where they had stopped,
consisted of fried steak, which, although tough, was eatable, and
abundance of potatoes and cabbages, followed by stewed fruit. They
had arrived just at the dinner-hour, and seven or eight men in their
shirt-sleeves came in and sat down with them. The tea was somewhat
better than that they had hitherto obtained, and there was, in
addition, the luxury of milk. Scarcely a word was spoken during the
meal. It was evidently considered a serious business, and the chief
duty of each man was to eat as much as possible in the shortest
possible time. After the meal was over, and the other diners had gone
out, the landlord, who had taken his seat at the top of the table,
opened the conversation.

"Are you thinking of making a stay here, gentlemen?"

"Yes, if we can get any work to suit us," Luscombe said.

"It is a rising place," the landlord said as he lit his pipe. "There
are two stores and eight houses being built now. This town has a great
future before it." Luscombe and Hugh had some difficulty in preserving
their gravity.

"It is the chief town of the county," the landlord went on. "They
are going to set about the court-house in a month or two. Our sheriff
is a pretty spry man, and doesn't stand nonsense. We have an orderly
population, sir. We had only two men shot here last week."

"That is satisfactory," Luscombe said dryly. "We are peaceable
characters ourselves. And is two about your average?"

"Well, I can't say that," the landlord said; "that would be too much to
expect. The week before last Buck Harris with three of his gang came in
and set up the town."

"What do you mean by set up?" Luscombe asked. The landlord looked
surprised at the question.

"Oh, to set up a town is to ride into it, and to clear out the saloons,
and to shoot at anyone seen outside their doors, and to ride about and
fire through the windows. They had done it three or four times before,
and as four or five men had been killed the citizens became annoyed."

"I am not surprised at that," Hugh put in.

"The sheriff got a few men together, and the citizens began to shoot
out of their windows. Buck Harris and two of his gang were killed and
four of the citizens. Since then we have had quiet. And what sort of
work do you want, gentlemen? Perhaps I could put you in the way of
getting it."

"Well, we wanted to get work among horses," Luscombe said.

The landlord shook his head. "You want to go further south among the
big ranches for that. This is not much of a horse country. If you had
been carpenters now there would have been no difficulty. A good workman
can get his four dollars a-day. Then there is James Pawson's woodyard.
I reckon you might get a job there. One of his hands got shot in that
affair with Buck Harris, and another broke his leg last week. I should
say there was room for you there. Madden, that's the man who was shot,
used to board here."

"What is your charge for boarding, landlord?"

"Seventy-five cents a-day for three square meals; a dollar a-day if
you lodge as well. But I could not lodge you at present. I must keep a
couple of rooms for travellers, and the others are full. But you will
have no difficulty in getting lodgings in the town. You can get a room
for about a dollar a-week."

"Well, let us try the woodyard, Luscombe."

"All right!" Luscombe said. "There is a certain sense of novelty about
a woodyard. Well, landlord, if we agree with this Mr. Pawson, we will
arrange to board with you, at any rate for the present."

They went down the straggling street until they came to a lot on which
was piled a quantity of sawn timber of various dimensions. The name
Pawson was painted in large letters on the fence. A man and a boy were
moving planks.

"Here goes!" Luscombe said, and entered the gate.

"Want a job?" the man asked, looking up as they approached him.

"Yes. We are on the look-out for a job, and heard there might be a
chance here."

"I am James Pawson," the man said, "and I want hands. What wages do you
want?"

"As much as we can get," Luscombe replied.

Pawson looked them up and down. "Not much accustomed to hard work, I
reckon?"

"Not much," Luscombe said. "But we are both pretty strong, and ready to
do our best."

"Well, I tell you what," the man said. "I will give you a dollar and a
half a-day for a week, and at the end of that time, if you get through
your work well, I will raise it to two dollars."

Luscombe looked at Hugh, who nodded. "All right!" he said; "we will
try."

Pawson gave a sigh of relief, for hands were scarce. "Take off your
coats then," he said, "and set to work right here. There is a lot to be
done."

Luscombe and Hugh took off their coats, and were soon hard at work
moving and piling planks. Before they had been half an hour at it
there was a shout, and a waggon heavily laden with planks entered the
yard. James Pawson himself jumped up on to the wagon, and assisted the
teamster to throw down the planks, while the other two carried them
away and stacked them. Both of them had rolled up their sleeves to
have a freer use of their arms. The sun blazed hotly down, and they
were soon bathed in perspiration. They stuck to their work until six
o'clock, but by that time their backs were so stiff with stooping that
they could scarcely stand upright, and their hands were blistered with
the rough wood. Pawson was well satisfied with their work.

"Well," he said, "you move about pretty spry, you two do, and handle
the wood quicker'n most. I see you will suit me if I shall suit you;
so I will make it two dollars a-day at once. I ain't a man that stints
half a dollar when I see hands work willing."

"Well, that is not a bad beginning, Luscombe," Hugh said as they went
to put on their coats.

"We have earned a dollar, Hugh," Luscombe said, "and we have broken our
backs and blistered our hands, to say nothing of losing three or four
pounds of solid flesh."

"We did wrong to turn up our sleeves," Hugh said. "I had no idea that
the sun was so strong. Why, my arms are a mass of blisters."

"So are mine," Luscombe said ruefully, "and they are beginning to smart
furiously. They will be in a nice state to-morrow."

"Let us stay at the hotel tonight, Hugh. I feel so tired that I am sure
I could never set out to look for lodgings after supper."

The next morning their arms were literally raw. Before starting to
work they got some oil from the landlord and rubbed them. "It will be
some time before I turn up my sleeves to work again," Luscombe said. "I
have had my arms pretty bad sometimes after the first long day's row in
summer, but I have never had them like this."

They worked until dinner-time, and then Luscombe went up to Pawson
and pulled up his sleeve. "I think," he said, "you must let us both
knock off for the day. We are really not fit to work. We daren't turn
up our sleeves, and yet the flannel rubbing on them makes them smart
so that we can hardly work. Besides, as you said yesterday, we are
not accustomed to work. We are so stiff that we are not doing justice
either to ourselves or you. If you have any particular job you want
done, of course we will come after dinner and do it, but if not we
would rather be off altogether."

"Your arms are bad," Pawson said. "I thought yesterday when you were
working that, being new-comers, you would feel it a bit. Certainly you
can knock off. You ain't fit for it as you are. Take it easy, boys, for
a few days till you get accustomed to it. We ain't slave-drivers out
here, and I don't expect nothing beyond what is reasonable. I should
get my arms well rubbed with oil at once; then to-night wash the oil
off and give them a chance to harden, and in the morning powder them
well with flour."

As soon as they had had their dinner they went out and found a room
with two beds in it, and moved their small kits across there. Then
they took a stroll round the town, of which they had seen little, and
then lay down in the shade of a thick cactus hedge and dozed all the
afternoon. The next morning they felt all the better for their rest.
The inflammation of their arms had greatly abated, and they were able
to work briskly.

"What do you want with that revolver of an evening, Hugh, when you do
not wear it during the day?" Luscombe asked as he saw Hugh put his
revolver in his pocket when they went to their lodgings for a wash,
after work was over for the day.

"I take off my coat during the day, Luscombe, and whatever may be the
custom here I think it ridiculous to see a man at work in a woodyard
with a revolver stuck into his pocket at the back of his trousers. At
night it is different; the pistol is not noticed under the coat, and I
don't suppose there is a man here without one."

"I think one is just as safe without a pistol," Luscombe said. "Even
these rowdies would hardly shoot down an unarmed man."

"They might not if they were sober," Hugh agreed; "but most of this
shooting is done when men are pretty nearly if not quite tipsy. I heard
my uncle say once 'A man may not often want to have a revolver on him;
when he does want a revolver he wants it pretty badly.'"

A few days later they heard at supper that three notorious ruffians had
just ridden into the place. "I believe one of them is a mate of Buck
Harris, who was shot here three weeks ago. I hear he has been in the
bar swaggering about, and swearing that he means to wipe out every man
in the place who had a hand in that business. The sheriff is away. He
went out yesterday with two men to search for a fellow who murdered a
man and his wife somewhere down south, and who has been seen down in
the swamps of the East Fork. He may be away two or three days, worse
luck. There is the under-sheriff, but he isn't much good by himself. He
can fight, Gilbert can, but he never likes going into a row on his own
account. He will back up the sheriff in anything he does, but he has
got no head to take a thing up by himself."

"But surely," Hugh said, "people are not going to let three men
terrorize the whole place and shoot and carry on just as they like."

"Well, mate, I don't suppose we like these things more than anyone
else; but I can tell you that when one of the three men is Dutch Sam,
and another is Wild Harvey, and the third is Black Jake, it is not the
sort of business as anyone takes to kindly, seeing that if there is one
thing more tarnal sartin than another, it is that each of them is good
to lay out five or six men before he goes under. When things are like
that one puts up with a goodish lot before one kicks. They are three
as ugly men as there are anywhere along this part of Texas. Any one of
them is game to set up a town by himself, and when it comes to three
of them together I tell you it would be a game in which I certainly
should not like to take a hand. You are new to these parts, mate, or
you wouldn't talk about it so lightly. When you have been out here for
a few months you will see that it is small blame to men if they get out
of the way when two or three fellows like this are on the war-path."

At this moment there was a sound of shouting and yelling with a clatter
of horses' hoofs outside. Then came the rapid discharge of firearms,
and the three upper panes of glass in the window were pierced almost
simultaneously with small round holes in the very centres. Every one
bent down over their plates. The next shot might come through the
second line of window panes, in which case they would have taken effect
among those sitting at the table. Then there was a yell of laughter,
and the horses were heard to gallop furiously away.

"That is only their fun at present," one of the men said. "It will be
more serious later on when they have drunk enough to be savage."

"I don't see much fun in firing through the windows of a house,"
Luscombe said.

"Oh, that is nothing!" another put in. "I have seen a score of
cow-boys come into a place, and half an hour afterwards there wasn't a
window-pane that hadn't a round hole in its middle. They will shoot the
hats off a score of men; that is one of their favourite amusements. In
the first place it shows their skill with the pistol, and in the next
it scares people pretty nigh to death, and I have seen the cow-boys
laugh until they have nearly tumbled off their horses to see a fellow
jump and make a straight line into a house. Nobody minds the cow-boys;
they are a good sort. They are reckless enough when they are on a
spree, but they don't really mean to do harm. They spend their money
freely, and they hate ruffians like those three fellows outside. If
it wasn't for cow-boys, the bad men, as we call them, would be pretty
well masters of Texas. But the cow-boys hunt them down like vermin, and
I have known them hang or shoot over a dozen murderers and gamblers
in one afternoon. They fight among themselves sometimes pretty hard.
Perhaps the men on two ranches will quarrel, and then if it happens
that a party from one ranch meets a party from the other down in a
town, there is sure to be trouble. I remember one battle in which there
were over twenty cow-boys killed, besides six or eight citizens who
happened to get in the way of their bullets."

Just as they had finished the meal a man ran in. "Have you heard
the news? Dutch Sam and his party have broken open the door of the
under-sheriff's house, pulled him out, and put a dozen bullets into
him."

There was an exclamation of indignation. "There," Hugh said, "if the
under-sheriff had done his duty and called upon every one to help him
to capture or shoot these fellows as soon as they came into the town
he wouldn't have lost his life, and I suppose it will have to be done
after all."

"The best thing we can do," one of the men said, "is to go round
from house to house and agree that every man shall take his rifle and
pistol, and take his stand at a window, then we will shoot them down as
they ride past."

"But that wouldn't be giving them a fair show," another objected.

"A fair show!" the other repeated scornfully. "Did they give the
under-sheriff a fair show? Do you think they give notice to a man
before they shoot him, and ask him to draw and be fairly 'heeled'
before they draw a trigger? Not a bit of it; and I say we ought to
clear them out."

There was a general expression of approval, and after one of the party
had opened the door and looked out cautiously to see if the coast was
clear, and reported that none of the desperadoes were in sight, the
party at once scattered. Luscombe and Hugh stopped for half an hour
chatting with the landlord. The latter did not believe that the people
would attack the ruffians.

"If the sheriff had been here to take the lead," he said, "they might
have acted; but as he is away, I don't think it likely that anyone will
draw a bead upon them. You see, no one is sure of anyone else, and he
knows that if he were to kill or wound one of them the others would
both be upon him. If we had a regular street here with a row of houses
running along each side, so that a volley could be poured into them, it
would be a different thing; but you see the houses are separated, some
stand back from the road, some stand forward; they are all scattered
like, and I don't expect anyone will begin. They will be in here
presently," he said, "and they will drink my bar pretty well dry, and
I don't expect I shall get a dime for the liquor they drink; and that
is not the worst of it, they are like enough to begin popping at the
bottles, and smashing more than they drink."

"Well, it seems to me a disgraceful thing," Hugh said, "that a place
with something like a hundred men in it should be kept down by three."

"It sounds bad if you put it that way," the landlord agreed; "but you
must remember that each of these three men could hit every pip on a
card twenty yards away; they each carry two revolvers, that is to say,
they have got twelve men's lives in their belt, and they are so quick
with their weapons that they could fire the twelve shots before an
ordinary man could get out his revolver and cock it."

"Why not shut up your place for the night?" Luscombe asked. "Then they
couldn't come in and drink your spirits and wreck your bar."

"They couldn't, eh? Why, they would blow the door open with their
pistols, and if it was so barred they couldn't get in that way, they
would like enough burn the house about my ears. I have known such
things done many a time."

"Well, let us get home, Hugh," Luscombe said. "It seems to me the
sooner we are quietly in bed the better. As our room is at the back of
the house they may fire away as much as they like without a chance of
our being hit."

Hugh put on his hat, and the two started down the street. They had gone
but a short distance when the sound of a horse's hoofs was heard.

"Here is one of them!" a voice shouted from an upper window. "Run round
to the back of the house, the door is open there. I have heard two or
three pistol shots, and he will shoot you down to a certainty."

"Come on, Hugh," Luscombe said.

"You go round, Luscombe, you are unarmed. I am not going to run away
from anyone," Hugh said doggedly. "Go on, man, it is no use your
staying here, you have no pistol."

"I sha'n't leave you by yourself," Luscombe said quietly; "besides,
here he comes."

Hugh's hand had already slipped round to his back, and he now had his
pistol in his hand in the pocket of his coat. The horseman threw up his
arm as he came along, and Hugh saw the glitter of the moonlight on a
pistol barrel. Another instant the pistol cracked; but Hugh, the moment
he saw it bear on him, dropped on to one knee, and the ball struck the
wall just above his head. He lifted his arm and fired, while two other
shots rang out from the window. The man threw up his hands and fell
back over the crupper of his horse to the ground, and the well-trained
animal stopped instantaneously in his gallop, and turning stood still
by his side.

"Come on, Luscombe," Hugh said; "the sooner we are out of this the
better."

Before, however, they had gone twenty yards they heard the sound of two
horses coming up behind them.

"Let us get round the corner of that house, Luscombe. I don't suppose
they will pass those men at the windows; if they do, they will be
thinking of their own safety as they gallop past and won't notice us."

  [Illustration: "WHEN THE COWBOY FIRED, HUGH DROPPED ON ONE KNEE."]

They had scarcely got round the corner when there was a discharge of
firearms, and the reports of the rifles were followed by the quick
sharp cracks of revolvers. Then a man dashed past them at a gallop. One
of his arms hung by his side, and the reins were loose on the horse's
neck.

"I suppose they have killed the other," Hugh said, "and this fellow is
evidently hit. Well, let us go on to bed."

Luscombe did not speak until they reached their room. Hugh struck a
match and lighted a candle.

"Well, you are a nice lad, Hugh," Luscombe said. "I thought you were
always against quarrels, and wanted nothing but to go on with your work
peaceably, and here you are throwing yourself into this and standing
the chance of being shot, as if you had been fighting ruffians all your
life."

"It was he attacked me," Hugh said. "I didn't fire first. I gave him
no provocation, and was not going to run away when I was armed. It is
you ought to be blamed, stopping there to be shot at when you had no
weapon. I call it the act of a madman. Well, there is nothing more to
say about it, so let us get into bed."

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER VI.

A HORSE DEAL.


After having been at work for a week Hugh and Luscombe found it come
comparatively easy to them. Their hands had hardened, and their back
and legs no longer ached with the exertion of stooping and lifting
planks and beams. They had now got the yard into order: the various
lengths and thicknesses of planks piled together, and also the various
sized timber for the framework of the houses. Their work was now more
varied. The dray had, of course, to be unloaded on its arrival from
the mills and its contents stowed away, and as soon as James Pawson
found that his new hands could be trusted to see after things he
left them pretty much to themselves, going up himself to the mill, of
which he was part owner. It now fell to them to keep an account of the
out-goings, to see that the planks they handed over to purchasers were
of the right lengths and thicknesses, and also to saw the wood-work of
the frames for the houses into their required lengths.

All this afforded a change, and gave them an interest in their work,
and they came to know a good many, not only of those living in the
town, but men who were taking up ground in the neighbourhood, and who
came in with their teams for planks and shingles to construct the rough
houses which were to shelter them until, at any rate, they got their
land under cultivation and things began to prosper. Three months after
their arrival Luscombe began to show signs of getting wearied of the
work. Hugh was quick to notice it.

"I can see you are getting tired of it," he said one Sunday as they
started for a walk to a small ranche three miles away, whose owner had
been buying wood for a cow-house, and had asked them to come over for
dinner. "You didn't mean me to see it, but I know that it is so."

"I don't know that I am tired, Hugh; but I feel a restless sort of
feeling."

"Well, my dear Luscombe, I don't want you to feel that you are in any
way bound here on my account. We agreed that from the first, you know.
It was a great thing our being together at first; but now the ice is
broken we have fallen into the groove, and can either of us shoulder
our kits and go where we like in search of a job. We are no longer
fresh from the other side of the Atlantic."

"I shall carry out my idea of enlisting," Luscombe said. "There is a
military post at Fort M'Kayett. I can strike down by road to Meridian.
I can get waggons as far as that, pick up a horse for a few dollars
there, and then make my way down until I strike the Colorado River,
and, crossing that, bear west, stopping at cattle ranches until I get
to the fort. I shall be happier as a trooper than at any other work. Of
course the pay is not high, but that does not matter a rap to me; it
goes further here than it does at home, and there is not much use for
money out on the plains. They say the Indians are very troublesome, and
there will be some excitement in the life, while here there is none. I
don't like leaving you, Hugh. That is the only drawback."

"Don't let that stop you," Hugh said. "Of course I shall be very sorry
when you go; but as you have your plans and I have none, it would come
at any rate before long; and, as I have said, now that I have got over
the feeling of strangeness, I don't suppose that I shall stay here long
after you have left."

The following day Luscombe told his employer that he should leave at
the end of the week.

"I am sorry you are going," he said; "but I expected that you would
be on the move before long. That is the worst of it out here--nobody
sticks to a job. However, I cannot blame you; you have stopped a good
bit longer than they generally do. And are you going too?" he asked,
turning to Hugh.

"Not just yet," Hugh replied; "but I do think of going in another week
or two. You see, boss, one is not learning anything here."

"That's so. Say, would you like to go up to the mill for a bit? That
is different sort of work, and, as you say, you would be learning
something. One of the men jammed his hand on Saturday, and won't be fit
for that kind of work for some time, so as your mate is going off at
the end of the week you can go up there if you like."

Hugh gladly accepted the offer. He would have felt it very dull without
Luscombe, but by going to a different sort of work he would feel his
companion's departure less hardly. He would have much to learn, and be
among new companions, and have much to attend to. So at the end of the
week Luscombe set out upon his long journey to Fort M'Kayett, and on
Monday morning Hugh started for the saw-mill at daybreak in a waggon
that had come in on Saturday afternoon with timber. James Pawson had
told him that he had spoken to the foreman about him, and the latter
would know what to do with him. The team consisted of two fine mules in
the shafts and two horses ahead.

"Climb up," the driver said. "We shall go a goodish pace till we get to
the hills. That is right--hold on!"

As he cracked his whip the animals started at a trot, and presently
broke into a gallop. The road was nothing but a track across the
country, and Hugh held on to the seat, expecting every moment to be
jerked off. The track was as hard as iron, but the passages of the
waggons in wet weather had worn deep holes and ruts in it, and Hugh
thought it was a miracle that the waggon did not upset and smash to
pieces, as the wheels went down first on one side and then on the
other, and the whole framework creaked and quivered with the shock.
At the end of about three miles the animals slackened their pace, to
Hugh's intense relief.

"That's just their little play," the driver said. "They know they won't
get a chance again to-day, and they generally lay themselves down for
a gallop where it is good going."

"Do you call that good going?" Hugh asked in astonishment.

"Sartin. Why, it is level ground, and not a water-course to go over!
You don't expect a railway track, graded and levelled, do yer?"

Hugh hastened to say that he entertained no such extravagant ideas.

"This road ain't nowhere, so to speak, real bad," the driver went on;
"that is, not for a hill road. I don't say as there ain't some baddish
places, but nothing to what I have driven teams over."

The animals had now dropped down into a walk, although, so far as
Hugh could see, the track was no worse than that which they had been
hitherto following.

"The critters are just getting their breath," the driver said as he
proceeded to light his pipe. "They have had their fling, and now they
are settling down to the day's work. They know as well as I do what
they have got before them. Don't you, Pete?"

The mule addressed lifted one of its long ears and partly turned his
head round.

"They are fine mules," Hugh remarked.

"You will see bigger than them. Them's Mexicans, and they have
wonderful big mules in Northern Mexico. I have seen them standing a
hand higher than these. But Pete and Bob are good mules. They would
be better if they were a bit heavier when it comes to a dead pull, but
except for that I would as lief have them as the biggest."

"Are they better than horses?"

"Better'n horses? You bet! Why, I would rather have a pair of mules
than three pair of horses. Why, for steady work and for stay and for
strength there ain't no comparison between a mule and a horse. Why,
that pair of mules is worth twice as much as the best pair of horses
you could find in Texas, except, of course, picked horses for riding.
If you pay a hundred dollars for a horse you have paid a long price
in this country, but that pair of mules wouldn't be dear at eight
hundred for the two of them. There is no trouble with mules: they won't
stray far when you turn them out; they won't stampede--not if they are
properly trained. Why, there is as much sense in a mule as there is
in a score of horses, and the horses know it themselves. If there is
a mule turned out among a troop of horses he takes the lead natural,
and they will follow him wherever he goes, knowing right well that he
has got more sense than they have. Besides, mules seem to get fond of
each other, and you don't see horses do that. In a round-up the team
horses will just mix up with the others. You don't see two of them keep
together or have any sort of friendship; but if there are a pair of
mules among the lot you will see them keep together."

"I had an idea that mules were obstinate beasts."

"I won't deny as they have their tempers sometimes, but in most cases
it comes from their getting into bad hands. But treat a mule well and
he will, in general, do his best. When they once find they have got a
job beyond them they ain't going to break their hearts by trying to do
it; and if they are treated bad when there is no call for it then they
puts up their backs and won't stir another foot, and when they makes up
their minds to that you may kill them and they won't do it then; but
treat a mule fair and kind and there is no better beast in the world.
You know all about it, Pete, don't you?" and he gave the animal a
slight flick on the neck with his whip, to which it replied by throwing
up its hind-quarters and giving a playful kick, which caused Hugh,
whose legs were hanging down over the front of the waggon, to withdraw
them hastily. "You are a rascal, Pete," the driver said. "Come, now,
you have all got your winds. Just sharpen up a bit till you get among
the hills."

As if they understood what he said, the mules threw their weight on
the traces, broke into a slow trot, and the crack of the driver's whip
woke the leaders into activity. This pace was not kept up long, for the
ground had now begun to rise. They presently entered a valley between
two spurs of the hills, and soon began to mount by a rough road. This
became steeper and steeper, and Hugh was glad to get off and walk in
front. At times the track they had to cross was bare rock, so smooth
and slippery that the animals could scarcely keep their feet and drag
up the waggon. Then they wound along on the side of a hill, the ground
on one side being so much higher than on the other that it seemed to
Hugh that a loaded waggon would infallibly topple over and go rolling
down into the valley below. Sometimes they descended sharply into some
lateral ravine cut by a stream, and climbed up the other side. The
hills now were covered with a growth of small trees and brushwood--the
larger timber had already been felled. At last the waggon turned up the
bed of a stream running through a rocky gorge.

"Here we are," the driver said; and fifty yards further they came
upon the saw-mill--a roughly-built structure, with a water-wheel. A
low log-hut stood beside it. Beyond, the valley opened out. At the
upper end its sides far up the hills were covered with trees, but the
woodman's axe had already stripped the lower part of the valley of all
its timber trees. A dam had been built across the stream and a leat cut
to the water-wheel, which was sunk five or six feet below the level of
the ground around it, and the tail-race continued nearly down to the
mouth of the gorge, where the water fell again into the old bed of the
stream. The wheel was revolving, and the sound of the machinery inside
the mill deadened that of the mules and waggon, but a shrill whistle
from the driver brought a man to the door. He nodded to Hugh. "You are
the new hand the boss spoke of, I suppose? Well, Clarkson, have you
brought the things we wanted?"

"Yes, I think the list is complete. I gave it to the old man, and
he had all the things on board the first thing this morning. Here
they are: six pounds of tea, a barrel of pork, sack of flour, keg of
molasses, twenty pounds of sugar. Here is a box of dried apples, and
the two cross-cut saws. He will see about a grindstone. He thinks you
might make that one last a bit longer."

"It was pretty well worn out when it was put up," the foreman grumbled.
"It ain't fit to grind axes on. I told the boss the other day that it
had cost him ten times its vally already, because the men couldn't keep
a sharp edge on their tools with it."

"Well, you know, Ben, grindstones don't grow down in M'Kinney, and he
has got to get them sent out from Missouri."

"If he had to get them from China he might have had one here by this
time," the foreman grumbled. "Have you got that bag of iron dogs I
wanted?"

"No. There warn't one to be had in M'Kinney. The old man told me to
tell you he wrote off on Saturday to Little Rock and told them to
express them on."

A negro now came out from the hut and began to carry the provisions
in, and Hugh followed the foreman into the mill. There was another man
there. One side of the mill was open to a yard behind, in which lay the
logs as brought down by the team. These were placed on rollers, and so
run into the mill. One end of the log was then lifted by a screw-jack
until level with the saw-bench. Here it was packed up, and the jack
then taken to the other end. The machinery consisted solely of one
large circular saw and of another of smaller size. The water-power
would not have been sufficient to drive frame-saws, and the whole work
had to be done with the circular saws. The mill was not large, but
it sufficed for the wants of M'Kinney and the neighbourhood, and two
waggon-loads of planks were sent down daily. Three axemen, who felled
and squared the trees, and a teamster with four horses to drag the
balks down to the mill completed the establishment.

Hugh soon found that the work was far more interesting than it had been
in the woodyard. It needed a good deal of skill to handle the heavy
pieces of timber and get them upon the saw-bench, although they were
cross-cut by the woodmen into lengths suitable for planks. Then the
great saw cut the balks into planks three inches wide. These were taken
to the smaller saw, which ran them down into half, three-quarter, or
inch planks, as required. The benches were of a primitive description,
the balks being laid on fixed rollers, and the necessary movement given
to them by a rope passed through blocks and taken round a shaft, which,
as it revolved, wound up the rope and brought the logs forward against
the saw.

The noise at first of the saws and of the water-wheel and its machinery
almost deafened Hugh, but he soon ceased to notice it. He found that
his duties were of a general kind. He assisted in raising the logs to
their place and in getting them properly placed on the rollers, and
then he helped to fix the blocks and pulleys, to remove the planks as
they were cut off, and to work the log back to its place in readiness
for another plank to be cut from it. The small saw required one man's
constant attention, as the three-inch planks were simply pushed forward
by hand against it, being kept in their true position by guides.

"You have got to be careful when you get near the end," the foreman
said to him, "or you will find yourself without a finger or two in no
time. When you get to within a foot of the end you must not push the
plank any further, but go to the other end of the saw and pull it to
you. It is a pretty rough business altogether, but it will only last
another few months. There are not enough trees to supply it longer than
that. Pawson has bought up another place a bit further among the hills,
and he has ordered a better plant than this, and reckons it will be up
and ready to run by the time we are done here. This place ain't fit for
carrying on much trade. When it was put up two years ago there were but
few people about on the plain, and a waggon-load a week was about the
outside Pawson could get rid of. I have been here from the first. In
those days we used to work with our rifles handy, for there was always
a chance of an attack by Indians, but the country has grown so much
since then that the Indians moved further north, and don't bother us.
Ah! there is Joe's dinner-bell."

Hugh, following the example of the others, went down to the mill-stream
and gave his hands a rinse, dried them on a towel hanging from a nail
on the door of a hut, and then went in. In five minutes the whole party
were assembled, and took their seats on benches beside a long narrow
table. The negro cook brought in bowls of pea-soup. This was followed
by boiled pork and potatoes, and then came a great dish of dried
apples, boiled, with molasses poured over them.

"We get our board up here," the foreman, who had placed Hugh beside
him, said. "I suppose the boss told you?"

"Yes, he said I should get forty dollars a month, and my grub."

"That's it. It is better pay than you can get on a farm below, but it
is harder work, and lonesome; besides, unless you are careful, you run
a pretty good risk of an accident. There have been eight or ten fellows
hurt here since we began. It is healthy among the hills, and we don't
get fevers, and it is cool enough to sleep comfortably at night even in
summer, but in winter it is cold, I can tell you. The old man feeds us
pretty well, I must say that for him, and he is as good a boss as there
is about here."

Hugh liked the life, the keen mountain air braced him up, and every day
he found it more and more easy to do his share of the work of moving
the heavy balks. The men as a whole were pleasant fellows, and of an
evening Hugh listened with great interest to the stories they told as
they smoked their pipes. It was wonderful how many occupations most
of them had followed. Two of them had been mining in California before
they came down to Texas; one of them had been working with teams across
the Santa Fé route; another, named Bill Royce, had been a sailor, had
deserted his ship at Galveston, had enlisted and served for three years
at a cavalry post west, had deserted again, had worked for two years
as a cow-boy on one of the Texan ranches, had gone down into Mexico and
worked at a ranche there, had come up by sea to Galveston, working his
passage, had served as a farm hand for a few months, and then, after
various experiences, had come to M'Kinney when there were only three or
four houses there.

Another of the men had also worked as a cow-boy, but his experience had
been but a short one.

"I stopped just a week at it," he said, "and what with being thrown
off a horse twenty times a day, and what with the work, and what with
the goings-on of the boys, I had enough of it by that time. I had been
in one or two Indian fights, and I didn't feel scared then, but those
cow-boys scared me pretty nigh to death. The way they let off their
pistols was a caution. Four or five times, when I was sitting quiet,
smoking, bang! and a revolver bullet would knock my pipe into chips,
and then they laughed fit to kill themselves when I got up and swore.
Then without the least reason, someone, as we were all sitting round
the fire, would take it into his head to hit a little bit of flaming
wood, then half a dozen others would go at it, and the bits of fire
would be sent flying in all directions, and how it was that none of
them got killed was more than I could make out. I stood it for the
week, and then I weakened. I had got that nervous that I would jump if
a fellow moved suddenly, and I concluded that I was not made the same
way as the cow-boys, and had better quit and take to some other job."

"I reckon you were about right there," Bill Royce said. "Anyone as
is thinking of going for a cow-boy, had best know how to ride, how to
throw a rope, and how to draw his pistol as quick as lightning, before
he begins."

The next day Hugh asked the teamster to bring him up from the town a
rope, such as the cow-herders used.

"This will do," Bill Royce said, as he examined it. "The cow-boys
and Mexicans both use ropes sometimes, but they chiefly make them
themselves from strips of raw hide, which they work and grease until
they run almost as easy as if they were made of silk. Yes, this is the
right length, forty feet. Some men will use fifty, and I have known
Mexicans who would throw a sixty-foot length with certainty; but that
is quite out of the way; forty feet is the right length. I will splice
one end into an eye for you, the other goes through it, and makes
a running noose. When you throw it, the loop is three or four feet
across. Of course, the better you can throw, the smaller you can have
the loop, and the smaller it is the better, for the jerk comes all
the quicker before the horse or steer is prepared for it. Now, you see
that stump of a young tree sticking up two feet above the ground. Well,
you form your loop, and you gather the rest in coils in your hand like
this, and you stand, to begin with, twenty feet away, and you cast the
loop over the stump--so."

Of an evening, when supper was over, Hugh went out and practised with
the rope, and at the end of a month found that he could throw it at
a distance of thirty feet with a fair certainty of dropping the loop
over the stump. He also took Royce's advice as to the pistol. He had
laid it by since arriving at M'Kinney; but he now got a belt similar
to those worn by the cow-boys, and took to carrying the pistol in it,
but unloaded, and at odd moments practised drawing from the belt,
levelling it, and pulling the trigger with the greatest possible
speed. The action seemed simple enough, but he was surprised to find
how, with practice, the time taken in doing it diminished, and his
fingers came to close upon the handle in exactly the right position
almost instantaneously, and as his hand shot out, his thumb drew back
the hammer, and his forefinger closed on the trigger. All this he had
practised before, more or less, when he had learned to use the weapon
in the conservatory at Byrneside, but at that time it had not appeared
probable the accomplishment would be of any use. Now he knew that his
life might depend upon it, and he came in time to be able to perform
it, with, as Royce had said, something of the sleight of hand of a
conjurer.

He devoted the whole of his spare time to practising with the pistol
and rope, and by the time that summer had gone Hugh was able to throw
the rope with certainty over any fixed object within reach, and to draw
his revolver with a quickness that astounded Bill Royce.

"I have seen a lot of pistol shooting," the latter said, "since I came
out west--cow-boys and Mexicans, and horse-thieves and such like, but
I have never seen one draw as quick as you do, and there are many as
draws quick. You shoot fair, but nothing out of the way. There's many
a cow-boy kin shoot a sight straighter, but for quick drawing you are
wonderful, and that is the great thing. When one fellow gets his pistol
out, the other has got to cave in."

The valley was now pretty well cleared of its trees, and the party
prepared to go down to M'Kinney for the winter. The wood-cutters were
to move at once to the new location, and to begin to fell trees, and as
soon as the snow fell deep the teams would go up and drag them down to
the new saw-mill, for the timber is hauled down much more easily over
the snow than over the rough ground in summer. Thus there would be a
big stock in readiness when the thaw came, and the mill began to work
in the spring.

Hugh was not sorry when the work of the mill came to an end. He had
determined to remain until the season closed, and he was glad he had
done so. The time had been by no means lost. He had learned a good
deal as to the ways and character of the men with whom he should have
to associate. He had from one or other of them picked up a great deal
of knowledge about the country, and knew the best places for making
a start, the towns from which most of the teams started, and the
localities that were best to make for in order to gain the heart of the
cattle country. He had learned to throw a rope with enough dexterity
to aid him materially in any work he might undertake among cattle
or horses, and his constant practice with his revolver gave him a
confidence in himself, and in his ability to hold his own in the wild
life of the plains and mountains.

In the nine months which had elapsed since he left England he had
gained strength, had become manly and self-reliant, and felt that his
apprenticeship had been of great value to him. The first thing to do
after he came down to M'Kinney, was to look out for a horse. He had
been put up to a useful wrinkle in this respect by Bill Royce. "You
be careful about any horse trade you make. Bet your boots that any
horse that is offered to you here is stolen, and you would get into
one of the awkwardest of scrapes if you chanced to go into a district
where that horse is known. They don't trouble themselves to ask many
questions over a stolen horse. If you buy a horse, the best thing to
do is to go before a justice, or the sheriff will do: pay your money
before him, and get him to sign his name as a witness to the bargain.
His fee will be one or two dollars, and you could not lay out the
money better. Men ain't altogether unreasonable even where a horse is
concerned, and a paper issued from a sheriff's office certifying that
you had bought the horse, and paid a fair price for it, might save your
neck from a noose. You may ride a stolen horse all your life, and never
happen to light on the place he was taken from; but if you do happen to
light on it, you may find yourself in a tight corner."

Hugh put up at the hotel, and having told the landlord that he was
on the look-out for a horse, the latter told him one evening, when he
returned from a visit to some friends at a farm, that two men had come
in an hour before, and had said they had a good horse to dispose of.
Bill Royce was sitting in the saloon when Hugh went in.

"I dropped in to see you, Hugh. I saw two fellows come in an hour ago
on two likely-looking horses and they were leading two others, one of
which seemed to me as good a bit of horse flesh as I have seen fur a
long time. I expect they are on for a trade. The horse is a mustang; I
don't expect they come by it honest, but that ain't your business, and
you will get it cheaper than if they had. Go slow in bargaining; don't
you let out you really want him."

Presently two men came in. They were dressed in broad hats, red shirts,
over which they wore jackets with silver buttons, breeches made of a
soft leather, and high boots. They wore bright-coloured sashes round
the waist.

"They look pretty hard," Bill Royce said quietly; "they may be
anything. They are not regular cow-boys, but they may have been working
on a ranche; they may have been prospecting; they may be horse-thieves;
they may be regular border ruffians; anyhow, they have got a horse to
sell. Maybe they have stole it from a ranche; maybe they have got it
from the Indians; maybe they have wiped out its owner. You will be able
to tell pretty well by the price they want for it. He would be cheap at
two hundred dollars if he is anything like as good as he looks. If they
will take anything under that it is because they daren't keep him."

After standing at the bar and talking for some time to the landlord,
one of the men came across to Hugh.

"I hear you are looking for a horse."

"Yes, I am wanting to buy one if I find one to suit me at my price."

"I have a horse to trade that would suit anyone, and as to its price,
I am ready to let him go a bargain."

"I should like to have a look at him," Hugh said.

"Well, he is in the stable now."

"Yes; but I should want to see him by daylight, get on his back, and
try him."

"Look here," the man said. "Me and my mate are pressed for time.
Perhaps we have got an appointment with the president, perhaps we
haven't; anyhow, we want to go on. We have got two spare horses, and we
don't wish to bother with them no further."

"Well, I will look at the horse now," Hugh said, and, accompanied
by Bill Royce, he followed the man to the stables. Two horses were
standing, ready saddled and bridled, hitched to hooks outside the shed.
Inside were two others. One was an ordinary-looking horse, bony and
angular. A pack-saddle hung on a beam close by. He had evidently been
used for carrying baggage. The other was a handsome roan, which snorted
angrily as they approached with lanterns.

"That is something like a horse," the man said. "Five years old,
strong, and up to anything, clean-limbed, full of courage, and fast."

"He has got a temper," Hugh said as the horse laid back his ears and
made a sudden and vicious snap at the man's hand.

"He is a bit playful," the man said.

"Well, I don't like buying him without trying him," Hugh said. "He may
be up to all sorts of tricks, and may kick his saddle over his head.
What do you want for him?"

"I tell you what," the man said. "That horse would be dirt cheap at two
hundred and fifty dollars, but as I have told you we want to be moving
on, and I will sell him for a hundred and fifty. I would rather put a
bullet through his head than let him go for less than that."

"Well, let us go back into the saloon and talk it over," Hugh said. "It
is a rum way to buy a horse, but I like his looks."

The other man was still standing at the bar when they entered. Hugh,
knowing that it would be an unheard-of thing to buy a horse without the
ceremony of taking drinks being performed, went to the bar and ordered
them for the four. "If I buy that horse," he said, "it will be on one
condition. You see I don't know where he has come from. The man you
got him from may have stolen him, and I might happen to come across
the former owner, and I haven't any fancy for being strung up as a
horse-thief."

"You don't mean, stranger, to say as we have stolen him?" one of the
men said angrily.

"Not at all. It may have gone through half a dozen hands before it came
into yours, and yet it may have been stolen. Of course, if you know
anyone here who can guarantee that you raised the horse, or have owned
him for a couple of years, I shall be quite content; but if you don't,
you can hardly expect me to take your word any more than I should
expect them to take my word if a party were to ride up to me and accuse
me of stealing it. That is right enough, isn't it, landlord?"

"I don't see as there is anything to be said against that," the
landlord said. "It is a mighty unpleasant thing in this country to be
found riding on the back of a horse that has mayhap been stolen."

"What I propose is this," Hugh went on. "Seeing that these gentlemen
are strangers here, I propose that I should call in the sheriff and
James Pawson, who is a justice, and that they should witness the sale
and give me a signed paper saying that they know me as a resident here,
and that I have in their presence bought this horse. I don't think
there is anything unreasonable in that. If at any time I am held up for
stealing it I can show this paper, and if they doubt it they can write
to the sheriff here, and find that it is genuine."

The two men exchanged a few words together in a low voice, and then the
one who had shown the horse said, "Well, I reckon that is a fair enough
offer. We know we came by the horse honestly, but as we are strangers
it is right enough you should be cautious. Bring your sheriff along,
and let's be done with it."

"I will fetch the sheriff across," Royce said, "if you go over to
Pawson's, Hugh."

In five minutes they returned with the two men. The sheriff looked
sharply at the two horse-dealers. They were unknown to him.

"Will you give me my belt, landlord?" Hugh said.

The landlord went out, and returned with Hugh's belt, which had been
locked up in his chest since Hugh arrived in the town. The latter
counted out 150 dollars in gold.

"Wait a moment," the sheriff said. "I must see the horse first, and see
what brand is on him. I cannot describe the horse unless I see him."

Again taking lanterns the party went out to the stable. The horse had
been branded with a circle in which was the letter E. There was no
other mark on him. The sheriff brought across with him some official
paper, and returning to the bar wrote: "I bear witness to the purchase
by"--and he paused--"Hugh Tunstall," Hugh put in,--"who is well known
to me as having been working for six months in and near the town, of a
roan horse branded [brand E] of"--"of Jake Wittingham," the man
said--"and to the passing of payment for the same." The sheriff then
added his name, writing under it, "Sheriff of M'Kinney County," and
James Pawson added his signature with the word "Judge."

"That is right and square," the sheriff said. "Now, hand over the money
and the trade is done."

"I will throw in the other horse for twenty dollars."

"I will take it," Hugh said; and adding this sum to that he had counted
out, handed it over to the men.

"If you will just step over with me, Hugh," the sheriff said, "I will
put my official seal to that paper. I have not a doubt," he went on
as they left the saloon, "that those two fellows have stolen that
horse. They would never have sold him for that money had they come by
him honestly. I should have been glad to buy him myself for anything
like that price. I don't know the men, and I reckon I know most of the
rogues for a hundred miles round here; so that, if it has been stolen,
it has probably been brought a good distance. I shouldn't be surprised
if there has been murder as well as robbery. If I knew the men I
would seize them and have them searched; but as I have never seen them
before, and know nothing against them, I cannot do that. I think it is
a very good idea of yours getting me in to witness the sale. That horse
might get you into serious trouble if you could not prove that you came
by it honestly."

He had now reached his house, and proceeded to stamp the document with
the official seal. "You may as well put your signature to this," he
said, "and I will witness it. Then if there is any question about your
being Hugh Tunstall you would only have to sign your name and they
would see that you are the man mentioned. That is right; my fee is two
dollars."

Hugh gladly paid the money, and putting the document in his pocket
returned to the hotel.

"Those fellows have just ridden off," Royce said when he entered.
"Pretty hard couple that. I wonder where they got that horse. Nowhere
about here, or the sheriff would have known it; a horse like that would
be sure to catch the eye."

The next morning Hugh got up early to inspect his purchase. The horse
again made hostile demonstrations when he approached it; but, talking
to it quietly, Hugh went into the stall, patted and soothed it. When it
had quieted down he took the head-rope and led it out into the yard.

"You are a beauty," he said; "there is no mistake about that," and,
tying it up to a post, he walked round it. "Well put together, plenty
of muscle, fine bone, and splendid quarters. What a hunter you would
make if I had you at home!" The landlord came out as he was admiring
the animal.

"A mustang," he said; "bigger than they usually run a good bit, and
a beauty all over; he is worth double what you gave for him. This is
not much of a horse country; if you had him down south you could get
three hundred for him any day. I expect those fellows were afraid to
take him down there; too well known, I reckon. Look here, I will give
you a paper too; and if I were you I would get another from Pawson,
saying that you have been working for him at his sawmill, and that he
recommends you as a good hand at that work. You can't have too many
certificates as to who you are when you are riding on an animal like
that in this country. If you want a saddle and bridle, Jim Hoskings has
got one to sell; he was speaking to me about it a fortnight ago."

Half an hour later Hugh became the owner of a saddle and bridle. The
former was made in the Texan fashion, which closely resembles the
Mexican, being very heavy, and with high peak and cantle.

"I hardly see how a man can be thrown off a horse with such a saddle as
this," Hugh said as he examined it; "one would be boxed in before and
behind."

"Wait till you get on a bad bucking horse," the man said with a smile.
"You won't wonder about it then."

Carrying it back to the hotel Hugh saddled his horse and mounted.
He felt strange and uncomfortable at first, for the stirrup-leathers
were placed much further back than those to which he was accustomed.
The stirrups were very large and broad, and the position of the
stirrup-leathers rendered it necessary for him to ride almost with
a straight leg, so that his grip was with his thighs instead of his
knees.

"I shall get accustomed to him in time," he said to himself, "but at
present I feel as if I was riding barebacked. Well, I had plenty of
practice at that, so I ought to be able to stick on." He rode at a
quiet pace down the street, and then shook the reins, and the horse
at once started at a hand-gallop. Hugh was delighted with his pace,
which was wonderfully smooth and easy, and returned in an hour fully
satisfied with his purchase.

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER VII.

AMONG THE COW-BOYS.


"Well, now you have got your horses and outfit, Hugh, what air you
going to do next?" Bill Royce said, after the rest of the party had got
up from breakfast and gone out.

"I don't quite know, Bill," Hugh laughed; "I thought of going teaming,
but I am afraid my horse has spoilt me for that."

"Well, so I should say."

"I should like to be my own master for a bit," Hugh went on, "and do
some shooting and hunting on the plains, work across to Sante Fé, and
then take anything that turns up. I have got three hundred dollars in
cash; that will last me for a long time. But I don't like striking out
for myself, I know nothing of the country or the life. What do you say
to going with me, Bill?"

"That is just what I have been turning over in my mind," Bill said.
"I know the plains powerful well, and have been hunting and shooting
there for months. I was saying to myself, as like enough you would
be thinking of striking out for a bit afore you settled down again to
anything, and you would be wanting some one with you as could put you
up to the ropes. I have got pretty sick of working here, but I have
spent my money as fast as I have got it, and cannot afford to get an
outfit; so I said to myself, if Hugh likes to start me with an outfit
I think it would be about square, seeing as he knows nothing of the
country, and I could put him straight there. We have worked together
for a bit, and I reckon we would get on first-rate. So if that would
suit you it would just suit me."

"It suits me capitally, Bill; nothing could be better; it is just what
I wanted. I don't suppose I should ever have gone by myself, but with
you it would be the very thing to suit me. There's my hand on it."

In another three days their preparations were made. Bill knew of
a horse that could be picked up for forty dollars; two rifles were
bought, a saddle and bridle for Bill, and saddle-bags for the spare
horse. A large stock of ammunition was laid in; fifty pounds of flour,
a few pounds of tea and sugar, four blankets, and a few odds and ends,
completed the outfit. Royce had already a revolver, and on the morning
of the fourth day they started from M'Kinney, striking nearly due
south, so as to work round the range of hills. For the first few days
they passed occasional settlements, and then struck out across an open
country.

"Now we may begin to look out for game," Royce said. "You can shoot, I
suppose, Hugh?"

"I have had no practice whatever with the rifle, but I am a pretty good
shot with a shot-gun."

"You will soon pick it up, anyhow," Royce said; "anyone who can shoot
as you do with a Colt, is sure to shoot pretty straight with a rifle."

For the next four months Hugh and his companion wandered over the
plains, and Hugh enjoyed the life immensely. They had directed their
course toward the south-west, for winter was setting in when they
started, and as the cold is sometimes severe in Northern Texas, they
made down towards the Mexican frontier, and there enjoyed delightful
weather. They found an abundance of game, and could have shot any
number of deer, but they were useless to them, except for food.
Herds of wild horses were sometimes seen, and occasionally, in quiet
valleys, they came across half-wild cattle, which had strayed away
from far-distant ranches. It was strange to Hugh to travel thus at
will, to wander freely in whichever direction fancy led them; sometimes
passing a week or two without seeing any other human being; sometimes
stopping for a night at the camp-fire of a party of cow-boys; sometimes
bivouacking with a wandering hunter like themselves, or with a ranchman
in search of stray animals. During this time their expenses had been
next to nothing, their sole outlay being for flour, tea, and sugar,
and even these they generally obtained in exchange for venison or other
game.

Hugh had learned to use his rope with considerable skill on horseback,
for as soon as he got fairly away on the plains he had begun to
practise. The first time he tried it upon his companion he would have
given him a very heavy fall, had not Bill reined in his horse on to its
haunches as soon as the rope fell over his shoulders; for Prince, as
Hugh called his horse, was thoroughly up in his work. The instant the
rope had been thrown he stopped and braced himself, with his fore-legs
extended, to meet the shock, and had it not been for Bill's quickness
he would in an instant have been torn from the saddle.

"Thunder!" the latter exclaimed. "Do you want to break my neck, Hugh?"

"I had nothing to do with it!" Hugh protested. "Prince nearly sent
me over his head. I had not the least idea of pulling him in, and was
perfectly taken aback by his playing me that trick."

"We ought to have thought of it," Bill said. "It was dead sure he would
be trained to the work. The idea flashed across me just as the rope
came down, and lucky it was so. Well, you will find plenty of other
things to practise on as we go along. There are cattle enough running
about here without owners, and if you come across a bunch of wild
horses you can give chase and rope some of the young ones; and there
are coyotes, they will give you plenty of sport that way."

Hugh had used all these opportunities, and had come to throw the noose
over the head of a flying animal as well as Bill Royce himself could
do, but as yet he was unable to throw the rope round their legs with
any certainty. As the spring approached Hugh proposed that instead of
carrying out their plan of going to Santa Fé they should for a time
take service on a ranche.

"I enjoy this life immensely, Bill, and I should like to become
thoroughly up to all the work. At present I am what you call a
tender-foot, and I should certainly like to have a few months among the
cow-boys."

"Just as well do that as anything else," Bill said. "It is always handy
to know that you can hold your own in a round-up and know the ways of
cattle, and I tell you that there is plenty to learn. But, mind you, it
ain't going to be like this time we've been having. There's no fooling
about a cow-boy's life: it is just about the hardest life there is.
However, it won't be as hard for you as it is for most fellows. You can
ride, though there ain't much merit in sitting on that horse of yours.
Still I see you know your way among horses, and you have taught him to
come to you when you whistle, and to do pretty nigh everything you want
him to; but you will find it a mighty different thing when you get on
the back of a broncho. However, it is worth learning to ride a horse
that has never been backed. Anyhow, I am with you. I have had a spell
at it, and don't mind having another; and there is one thing--you can
quit when you like."

"But how about this horse? I should not like to give up Prince."

"Well, you could do as you like about that. Each cow-boy has six or
eight horses--sometimes he has as many as a dozen--and he just ropes
one out of the crowd and rides him as he has a fancy; so you could let
Prince run with the rest and use him when you liked, or you could leave
him at the headquarters station."

"What do they want such a lot of horses for?" Hugh asked.

"They want them to do the work," Bill said. "A man can go on pretty
nigh for ever, but a horse can't. You will find that you can use up six
horses in the twenty-four hours, and they want a day to rest before
they are fit for work again. Well, they will be starting on their
round-up soon, so we may as well head in their direction so as to get
taken on before they are full. I was working in the O triangle ranche
two years ago; their station ain't above a hundred and fifty miles from
where we are. The boss wasn't a bad sort. We may as well go there as to
another."

"What do you mean by the O triangle, Bill?"

"That is their brand--a circle in a triangle. We call them always by
their brands. They have all sorts of names of their own, but they are
never known by them. There is the O triangle, and the double A, and
the cross T's, and the diamond square, and the half-circles, and a
dozen others. Well, we will head that way to-morrow morning. I don't
know that I shall be sorry to be in a crowd again for a bit. It gets
lonesome when there are only two of you after a while."

Hugh was beginning to feel this also. Their subjects of conversation
had long been exhausted, and after the events of the day's hunting had
been discussed there was little for them to talk about as they sat by
their fire.

On the evening of the third day they arrived at the headquarters
station of the ranche. It consisted of a long, low building, which
formed the storehouse and general room. Near it was the manager's
house, and behind the barracks for the men. A short distance away
was a fence which inclosed fifty or sixty acres of ground. Here were
some of the more valuable of the animals: some handsome bulls and a
couple of dozen good horses. Three or four waggons stood near the huts,
and a number of horses were grazing about over the country. The huts
themselves lay in a hollow, down which a small belt of trees extended.
A score of men were standing or sitting near the huts, and as many more
came out as the new-comers rode up. One or two of these recognized Bill
Royce.

"Hello, Bill!" one of them said; "back again! I thought you had got
rubbed out. Where have you been all this time?"

"Been down in Mexico, and then back among the settlements, got tired of
it, and here I am. Been hunting last. This is my mate, gentlemen. He is
a good sort, a Britisher, and his name is Hugh. Now, you are properly
introduced!"

"Glad to see you!" the man said, holding out his hand to Hugh. "Come to
pay us a visit?"

"No. I have come to work, if I can get work," Hugh said.

"Oh, there's plenty of work. Well, get off your horse. He is a good
un, he is!" Such was evidently the opinion of the rest of the cow-boys,
for they gathered round and made remarks on Prince's points. "He is too
good for this sort of work altogether, leastways for most of it, though
he would do well enough for scouting round and hunting for cattle among
the foot-hills. Where did you get him?"

"I bought him at M'Kinney," Hugh said. "Two fellows came along with him
and wanted to sell bad, so I got him a bargain."

"I expect he didn't cost them much," the man said. "Well, it is all
right as long as you don't fall across the chap he was stolen from. If
you do, there will be a good many questions asked, I can tell you. I
guess he came from some Mexican ranche down south. You don't often see
such a bit of horseflesh about here."

"Here is the boss, Hugh," Bill said; "we may as well speak to him at
once;" and they walked together to a man who had just come out from the
manager's house.

"Have you got room for two hands?" Bill asked. "I was here a couple of
years back; my mate is new at this work, but he can ride and shoot and
throw a rope."

"Oh, it's you, Bill, is it? Yes, I can put you both on; I am not quite
full yet. Forty dollars a month for you; thirty for your mate till he
learns his business."

"That will suit," Bill said. "He won't be long before he gets up to the
forty."

"He will find it hard work at first," the manager said; "but he doesn't
look as if that would hurt him."

Bill and his companion now rejoined the group of cow-boys, while the
manager went into the store. Hugh looked with interest at the men who
were to be his associates for some time. Their dress was similar to
that of all the cow-boys he had met while hunting. They wore hats with
a very wide, straight brim, and made of a stiff felt almost as hard as
a board. Most of them wore a cord of gold or silver mixed with colour
round it. All wore flannel shirts, with a handkerchief--which in the
majority of cases was of silk--round their throats. Round the waist
they wore a Mexican sash of bright colour. Their trousers were either
of thick material, or of very soft tanned leather, and over these were
chaperajos or Mexican overalls, with a coloured fringe down the outside
seam. A few had jackets on, and these had also tufts of coloured fringe
on the seams of the arms. They were most of them spare, active men,
without an ounce of superfluous flesh. They were quiet in manner, with
little of the reckless jollity of the ordinary frontiersman. Hugh was
particularly struck with the keen, watchful expression of their eyes,
the result of long nights of watching and of days spent on horseback
in search of stray animals, and of danger from Indians. All carried
a revolver on the hip or hind pocket, had a long knife stuck in their
sash, and wore high boots cut away behind at the bend of the knee, but
coming several inches higher in front.

Following Bill's example, Hugh unsaddled his horse. "Go off, old boy!"
he said, giving him a pat; and Prince walked leisurely away accompanied
by his two companions, who always kept near to him.

"We cannot offer you a drink," one of the cow-boys said to Hugh. "No
liquor is allowed on the ranche. It comes rather hard at first, but it
is best for us all."

"I have touched nothing for the last four months but tea," Hugh said,
"and don't care for spirits anyway."

"It would be a good thing if none of us did," the other said; "but one
must do something when one goes down to a town." Just at this moment a
bell began to ring. "There is supper," the man said.

There was a general movement into the large hut. Here long tables
were laid out, and dishes piled up with meat, and great platters of
potatoes, were ranged along at short intervals. Hugh was gifted with an
excellent appetite, but he was astonished at the way in which the food
disappeared. The meal was accompanied by a supply of very fair bread
fresh from the oven, and tea with milk.

"Ewart keeps a few cows down here," the man next to Hugh said in answer
to his remark about his not having seen milk for three months. "Of
course we don't get it at the out-stations."

"Who is Ewart?" Hugh asked.

"Oh, he is boss; we don't have any misters out here--one man is as
good as another. You have just arrived here at the right time. We have
been driving in the horses from the ranche for the last three days, and
to-morrow we are going to begin breaking them. Of course a good many of
them were ridden last year, but there are a lot of bronchos among them.
We have got a broncho-breaker out here."

A broncho, Hugh knew, was a horse that had never been ridden. "How do
you do about horses?" he said.

"Well, three or four of those that have been ridden before are told
off to each man. Then, if anyone fancies a broncho, he can take him and
break him for himself. Then men can swop with each other. You see some
men ride better than others. Some men like quiet mounts; others don't
mind what they sit on; and you see the best horses are very often the
most full of tricks. You ride your horses as you like, but everyone
keeps his quietest for night watches. You must have a quiet horse for
that, for if your horse was to begin to play tricks he would stampede
the cattle, sure."

"I suppose after they have been ridden one season they are quiet
enough?" Hugh said.

"Not a bit of it," the man replied. "Some of them seem to get wickeder
and wickeder. They get a bit better towards the end of the season, but
six months' running wild does away with all that. I would just as soon
take my chance with a fresh broken broncho as with one that has been
ridden before. They are wilder, you know, but not so cunning. An old
horse seems to spend most of his time in thinking what game he shall be
up to next, and when you see one walking along as if he had never done
anything but walk along all his time, just look out, or you will find
yourself six feet up in the air."

Supper over, pipes were lighted, and Hugh listened with great interest
to the talk going on around him. Some of the men had been on the ranche
all the winter; others had been away, some back in the settlements,
others in New Mexico, where they had been either loitering away their
time in the towns or working on Mexican ranches. Hugh was struck with
the quiet way in which they talked, the absence of argument, and the
air of attention with which each speaker was listened to. He thought
he had never been among a more quiet set of men, and wondered if these
could be really the cow-boys of whose wild doings he had heard such
tales.

Gradually one by one they lounged off to the hut behind, and he and
Bill soon went off also. It consisted of one room about sixty feet
long. A stove with a huge fire burned in the middle, for the nights
were cold. Down both sides and along the ends extended a double row of
bunks. In the great majority of these lay blankets, showing that they
were occupied. Choosing two empty ones, they placed the blankets and
other articles they had taken from their saddles in them, put their
belongings under their heads, rolled themselves in their blankets, and
were soon sound asleep. The first thing next morning they handed over
to the storekeeper the remainder of their flour, tea, and sugar. The
value of these was credited to them, and they took out the amount in a
couple of pairs of chaperajos, two cow-boy hats and two pairs of high
boots, paying the balance in cash; they then joined the cow-boys. These
were gathered in an inclosure with a very strong fence adjoining the
fenced-in ground.

Several cow-boys rode off as they entered, and in a quarter of an hour
a mob of horses was seen approaching, the men riding behind cracking
their whips and yelling at the top of their voices. The gates were
opened, and a couple of minutes later the horses rushed in. There
were some forty or fifty of them, and of these about two-thirds were
branded. In the first place the others were speedily roped both by the
head and hind legs. Four cow-boys hung on to the ropes while another
approached with a heated brand and applied it to the animals' hind
quarters, the horses kicking and struggling wildly. As soon as the
operation, which lasted but a second or two, was completed the ropes
were loosed, and the frightened animals rejoined their companions, who
were huddled in a corner of the inclosure.

"Now, each man of No. 1 and No. 2 outfit take one of the horses," the
manager said.

Hugh and Bill had the night before been told that they were to form
part of No. 2 outfit. Like the others they had their ropes in their
hands, and had brought their saddles inside the inclosure. Hugh picked
out a horse that struck him as being a good one, and threw his lasso
round its neck. One of the cow-boys belonging to the other outfit, who
was standing by, said: "That is a pretty bad horse, mate. I would take
a quieter one if I were you."

"I have got to learn to sit them," Hugh replied; "so I may as well
begin with a bad one as a good one."

"All right," the other said, taking hold of the rope, and helping Hugh
haul upon it. The animal resisted violently, but the pressure of the
rope half-choked him, and he was forced to leave the group and come up
to them. "I will hold him," Hugh's assistant said. "Get your saddle and
bridle."

There was some difficulty in putting these on, for the animal kicked,
plunged, and reared furiously, and it was only when another cow-boy
threw a rope, and, catching one of its hind legs, pulled it out stiffly
behind, that Hugh succeeded in saddling it. "Now, up you go!" the
man said. Gathering up the reins Hugh sprang into the saddle, and the
two men, as soon as they saw him seated, slipped off the ropes. For a
moment the horse stood perfectly still. "Keep his head up," one of the
men shouted; but before Hugh could draw in the reins the horse dropped
its head to its knees. Then it seemed to Hugh that it doubled itself
up, and before he knew what had happened he felt himself flying through
the air, and came down to the ground with a crash. There was a shout of
laughter from the cow-boys, but two or three of them helped Hugh, who
for a moment was almost stunned, to his feet.

"That is bucking, I suppose," he said as soon as he could get breath.

"That's bucking, sure enough," one of those who had helped him said.

"Well, I will try again in a minute," Hugh said.

"Take it quietly," the man said good-naturedly. "You fell pretty heavy,
and you are shaken up a bit. You'd better hitch him on to the fence,
and look about you for a few minutes before you try again."

Hugh thought the advice good, and after fastening up the horse stood
watching the man they called the broncho-breaker, who was fighting
one of the most vicious of the last year's horses. Had he not seen it,
Hugh would not have believed it possible that a horse could go through
such performances. He had ridden many vicious brutes at home, and had
thought that he knew something of horses, but this was a new experience
for him. In the rearing, kicking, and plunging there was nothing novel,
and as the horses were much smaller than the English hunters to which
he had been accustomed he felt that if this had been all he should have
no difficulty in keeping his seat, but the bucking was new to him. To
perform it, it was necessary that the horse should be able to get its
head down. The moment this was done it sprang straight into the air, at
the same moment rounding its back, and this with such a sharp, sudden
jerk that it fairly threw the rider into the air.

On coming down the animal kept its legs stiff, so that the jerk to
the rider was scarcely less than that of the upward spring, and before
he had time to settle himself in the slightest the horse repeated the
performance, varying it occasionally by springing sideways, backwards,
or forwards. The breaker, or as they were generally called the
broncho-buster, kept his figure perfectly upright, with a tremendous
grip upon the saddle with his thighs, but depending, as Hugh could
see, rather upon balance than upon his hold. The exertion was evidently
great. The man's hat had been jerked off, the perspiration stood upon
his bronzed forehead. From time to time he dug his spurs into the
animal's flanks, and excited it to continue its desperate efforts,
until at last the horse was utterly exhausted and stood with its head
drooping unable to make another effort. There was a shout of applause
from the cow-boys looking on.

"Bully for you, Jake! He is a brute, that is, and no mistake."

"I will give him a turn every day for a week," Jake said. "He is worth
taking trouble with. I will take him for a gallop to-morrow."

"Do they buck when they are galloping?" Hugh asked the cow-boy next to
him.

The latter nodded. "Not when they are going at their best pace. They
haven't time to do it then, but when they are going at hand-gallop they
will do it. They wait until you are off your guard, and then up they go
in the air and come down perhaps three yards sideways, and it's fifty
to one against your being on their back when they do come down."

"I see how it is done now, though I don't see how I can do it," Hugh
said. "But I will try again."

  [Illustration: "THE NEXT JUMP THREW HIM FAIRLY OVER THE HORSE'S HEAD."]

The horse was led out, and Hugh again mounted. This time he was
prepared for what was to come, but in spite of the grip with his legs
the blow lifted him far above the saddle. It seemed to him that the
next buck came before he had fairly descended, for it struck him with
the force and suddenness of an electric shock. Again and again he was
thrown up, until he felt his balance going, and the next jump threw him
fairly over the horse's head, but as he was prepared for the fall it
was much less heavy than the first time.

"Well done! well done!" several of the cow-boys said as he rose to his
feet. "You will do, you will, and make a good rider before long. That
will do for to-day; I would not try any more."

"I am going to try it until I can sit him," Hugh said. "I have got to
do it, and I may as well go on now before I get stiff."

The broncho-breaker came up to him as, after waiting a minute or two to
get his breath, he again prepared to mount.

"Don't keep your back so stiff, young fellow. Just let your back go as
if there was no bones in it. I have known a man's spine broke before
now by a bucker. Sit easy and lissom. Keep your head, that is the
principal thing. It ain't easy when you are being pitched up and down
like a ball, but it all turns upon that. Let your legs close on him
tight each time you come down, if only for a moment, that saves you
from being thrown clean away from him."

Hugh sprang on to the horse, and the struggle again began. It ended
like the last, but Hugh had kept his seat somewhat longer than before.
Again and again he tried, each time with more success. The fifth time
he felt that the horse's action was less sudden and violent, and that
it was becoming fatigued with its tremendous exertions. "Now, you
brute," he muttered, "it is my turn;" and he dug his spurs into the
horse. A spring more violent than any he had yet felt followed the
application, and for a minute or two he was almost bewildered by the
force and rapidity of the animal's springs; but he was now confident
that he was gaining the mastery, and the moment he found that its
efforts were decreasing, he again applied the spurs. The response
was less vigorous than before, and in five minutes the animal stood
exhausted and subdued. A cheer broke from the cow-boys who were
standing round looking on at the struggle.

"Well done, young fellow! you are the toughest tender-foot I have ever
seen," one of them said, shaking him by the hand. "I don't believe
there are ten men in the camp who would have sat that horse as you
have, and you say that it is the very first time you have been on a
bucker."

"I have beaten him," Hugh said, "but he has pretty well beaten me. You
must help me off my saddle, for I feel as if my back was broken, and
that I could not lift my leg over the saddle if my life depended on
it."

Two cow-boys lifted him from his seat. "That is a hard tussle, mate,"
the broncho-breaker said, coming up to him, "and you have stuck to it
well. You are clear grit, you are. The best thing you can do is to walk
about for the next hour; just keep yourself moving, then go and wrap
yourself up in two or three blankets and lie down in your bunk for a
bit, have a thorough good sweat, and then strip and rub yourself down.
Get your mate to rub your back well, and then dress and move about.
The great thing is not to get stiff; but you will feel it for a day or
two."

Hugh followed the advice, but he found it hard work to do so. He was
bruised all over with his falls; he scarce seemed able to put one leg
before another, and at every movement a sharp pain shot through the
loins, and he felt as if his spine had been dislocated. Still, for
an hour he walked about, and at the end of that time felt that his
movements were more easy; then he went to the hut, wrapped himself in
Bill's blankets and his own, and presently dozed off to sleep. A couple
of hours later he woke and saw Bill standing beside him.

"Now, Hugh, you had better turn out and let me give you a rub. Just
take off that shirt. I have got a lump of hog's grease here."

Hugh got out of the bunk with some difficulty and took off his shirt.
"Now, you lean your hands on that bunk and arch your back; that's it.
Now here goes."

For a good half-hour Bill worked at his back, kneading it with his
knuckles down both sides of the spine and across the loins. "Now, you
will do," he said at last. "Put on a dry shirt and come out."

Hugh strolled down to the stock-yard. He felt wonderfully better after
the rubbing, and was able to walk with far greater ease than before.
The scene in the yard was unchanged. Fresh groups of horses had been
driven in as fast as the others had been saddled and mounted, and by
nightfall each of the cow-boys had been provided with three horses.
Hugh was greatly amused at the scene, for the spills were numerous,
and the shouting and laughter incessant. The next day the work of
breaking in the bronchos commenced. One after another they were roped
and dragged out of the drove. The bridle was slipped on, and they were
then blindfolded while the saddle was put on and fastened. Then Jake
mounted. The cloth was drawn off the animal's head, and the struggle
commenced. The horses tried every means to unseat their rider, but in
vain. Some submitted after comparatively short struggles. Others fought
long and desperately. As soon as the first victory was won bars were
let down, and the horse was taken for a long gallop across the country,
returning home subdued and trembling. Then the process was repeated
with a fresh animal.

"How long does he take to break them?" Hugh asked a cow-boy.

"Three days generally; sometimes he will ride them four or five times,
but three is generally enough. Then they are handed over to us to
finish."

"It must take a lot out of them," Hugh said. "It would be better to do
it more gradually. You see they are scared nearly to death before they
are begun with."

"He cannot afford the time," the man said. "He gets two dollars a horse
for breaking them. He will be here for a fortnight, and in that time he
will do pretty well a hundred. Then he will go off somewhere else."

"It must be tremendous work for him," Hugh said.

"It is that, you bet. A broncho-buster seldom lasts above two years.
They get shaken all to pieces and clean broke up by the end of that
time."

As fast as the horses were broken in they were handed over to the
cow-boys, and Hugh, who had been unable to do any work for two days,
then began to break in the lot that were to be his particular property.
But he was fond of horses, and could not bring himself to use such
violent measures as those which he saw adopted by his companions. The
first lesson they taught them was to stand still the moment a rope fell
over their necks. The animal was led up to the stump of a tree and then
loosed; it at once went off at full speed, but as it did so its owner
threw the noose of his rope over its head, and then gave the other
end a turn round the stump. The shock was tremendous, the horses being
frequently jerked right over on to their backs.

Two or three experiences of this sort was sufficient, and the animal
thenceforth learned to stand, not only when a rope was thrown round its
neck, but even when the reins were dropped upon it, so that when its
master dismounted it remained perfectly quiet until he again mounted
and took the reins in his hand, even if he was absent a considerable
time. As the teams were to start in a few days on the round-up, Hugh
felt that it would be useless for him to attempt to break the horses
in by English methods, and he was therefore obliged to adopt those in
use by his companions. He mollified them, however, to some extent by
getting another rope and tying it to his own. He then took only half
a turn round the stump, and let the rope run out, at first fast, but
checking it gradually until its pressure upon the neck brought the
animal half suffocated to a stop.

It took him longer to accomplish his object, but he found that by the
end of a week the seven horses had all learned their lessons; each
having been ridden for an hour every day. He had had several severe
battles with the animal he had first mounted, which was by far the most
vicious of them; but the struggle each day had become less severe, as
the horse recognized the futility of endeavouring to unseat its master.
Hugh had many falls during the schooling, but he was upon the whole
well satisfied with the result.

Several of the cow-boys had advised him to use the methods they adopted
for securing them in their seats upon specially vicious horses. One
of these methods was the fastening of a loop of leather to the high
pommel. Holding this in the hand, it was well-nigh impossible to be
bucked from the saddle, but there was the disadvantage that if the
strap broke, nothing could save a rider from a fall far more violent
and heavy than that which came from being pitched from the saddle in
the ordinary way. Another method was to fasten a strap passed under
the horse's belly tightly below each knee; but this, although it held
the riders in their saddles, had the serious disadvantage, that in the
event of the horse rearing and falling back, or of its falling headlong
from putting its foot in a hole, the rider could not free himself,
and was almost certain to be crushed under the horse. Others, again,
fastened themselves by bringing their feet together, and crossing their
spurs, under the horse's belly, a safer measure than the last, but
objectionable inasmuch as the spurs when the animal bucked struck him
in the belly, and so increased the violence of his action.

Of course the best riders refrained from using any of these methods,
trusting only to their leg grip and to balance; and Hugh determined
to ride in this way, even if it did cost him a few more falls. He was
on excellent terms with the rest of the cow-boys. The tender-foot,
as a new-comer is called, is always the subject of endless pranks and
annoyances if he evinces the least timidity or nervousness; but if, on
the other hand, he shows that he has pluck, determination to succeed,
and good temper, he is treated with kindness and cordiality. Hugh's
exhibition, therefore, of courage and horsemanship on the occasion of
his first attempt at once won their liking and admiration, and all
were ready to lend him a hand when necessary, and to give him hints
and advice, and he was free from any of the annoyances to which new
hands are often exposed. There were several other tender-feet among the
party. Two or three of these got on fairly and soon ceased to be butts;
but the rest, before a week was up, found the work altogether too
trying, and one after another went off in search of some less dangerous
occupation.



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER VIII.

A RATTLESNAKE DIET.


Everything was now ready, and one morning four waggons started. The
[brand circle triangle] was one of the most northern of the ranches,
and the four outfits would therefore travel south, searching the whole
width of country as they went along. Those from the other ranches
would come up from the south, or in from the east, all moving towards
a general meeting-place. The range of country which served as common
pasturage to some eight or ten ranches was about two hundred miles
from north to south, and nearly as much from east to west. The eastern
portion of this great tract consisted of plain, sometimes flat and
level, but more often undulating. The western portion was broken up
into valleys and gorges by the spurs of the great ranges included under
the name of the Rocky Mountains.

The cattle of each ranche were as far as possible kept in that portion
of the territory nearest their own stations, but during the winter
they scattered to great distances in search of better grazing ground
or shelter. In the more northern ranges, when snow-storms with violent
wind swept down from the north-west, the cattle would drift before
it, always keeping their heads from the wind, and feeding as they
travelled. Sometimes great herds would thus travel hundreds of miles,
until brought up by some obstacle. At this time such things as fences
were absolutely unknown on the plains, and when, years after, they
came to a certain extent into use, they were, in the regions exposed
to snow-storms, causes of terrible disaster; for when a herd drifting
before a snow-storm came to one of them, it would be checked, and many
thousands of cattle would, when the snow cleared, be found frozen or
starved to death in a mass.

Two of the outfits of the [brand circle triangle] ranche were to
proceed due west, and then to search the ranges among the hills, while
the other two were to work the plains. Nos. 1 and 2 were chosen for
the former work, and were to keep within twenty or thirty miles of each
other, so as to be able to draw together for support should the Indians
prove troublesome. It was not until the afternoon that the cow-boys
mounted, and the men of each outfit, collecting their own horses
into a bunch, started for the spot where their waggon was to halt for
the night. It had brought up near a stream, and the cook had already
lighted his fires and put on his cooking pots when they arrived.

Each outfit consisted of ten cow-boys and a man who acted as
waggon-driver and cook. The duties of the cook of an outfit were by
no means a sinecure, as he had to prepare two meals a day, breakfast
and supper, at all times, and dinner for the men whose work allowed
them to ride in to it. He had to bake bread, to wash up pots, pans,
and dishes, and to cut wood for the fire. In the latter task he was
always assisted by the first arrivals at the camping place. The bread
was baked in iron pans. The dough was made of flour and water with a
mixture of saleratus, which took the place of yeast, and caused the
dough to rise. The pans were placed in the wood embers, a quantity of
which were piled upon the flat iron lid, so that the bread was baked
equally on all sides. Meat was cut into steaks and fried, those of the
men who preferred it cutting off chunks of the meat and grilling or
roasting them on sticks over the fire.

Once or twice a week there was duff or plum-pudding. The cook was up
long before daybreak preparing breakfast, and the men started as soon
as it was light. Directly the meal was over, plates, pots, and pans
were washed and packed in the waggon, the horses or mules harnessed,
and he started for the spot named as the evening camping ground, where
he had his fires lighted and the meal well on its way by the time the
cow-boys arrived. A good deal more meat than was required was cooked at
breakfast, and each man before he started on his day's work, cut off a
chunk of bread and meat for his mid-day meal.

Hugh had ridden Prince, who had been having a very easy time of it
for the last three weeks. The horse had for the first few days kept
somewhat apart, and had resented any advances on the part of the
strangers. He had now, however, fallen into their ways, and as soon as
the saddle was taken off he, like those ridden by the other cow-boys,
went off at a trot to join the bunch of horses a short distance out on
the plain.

"Well, Hugh, how do you think you shall like cattle work?" one of the
men, known as Long Tom, asked him, as they sat round the fire after
supper was over.

"So far I like it immensely," Hugh replied; "but, of course, I have
only seen the smooth side of it. I have not been on night cattle-guard
yet."

"Yes, that is the worse part of the work," the man said, "especially
when you are short-handed, for then there is only one relief. Of course
on a fine night, if the cattle are quiet, there is no hardship about
it; but on a dark night, when you cannot see your horse's ears, and the
wind is blowing and the rain coming down, and the cattle are restless,
it is no joke. I have been a sailor in my time, and I tell you that
keeping watch on a wild night at sea isn't a circumstance to it. You
know that if the cattle break, you have got to ride and head them off
somehow; and I tell you, when you cannot see your horse's ears, and are
going at a wild gallop, and know that if he puts his foot in a hole
there is no saying how far you may be chucked, and you have got the
herd thundering along beside you, you begin to feel that a cow-boy's
life is not all meat and molasses. There is one comfort, when you do
have to ride like that, you have no time to funk. Your blood just boils
up with excitement, and the one thing that you think of is to head the
herd."

"Shall we place a horse-guard to-night?"

"Yes, there is always a horse-guard when we are away from the
station. The horses are more inclined to wander at first than they
are afterwards, and ours are a pretty wild lot at present; but I don't
think we shall have trouble with them, for we have brought that white
jackass along, and the horses are sure to keep round him. There is
nothing like a jack for keeping horses quiet. They seem to know that he
has more sense than they have. As long as he takes things quietly there
is not much fear of their moving."

"Do you think a donkey has more sense than a horse?" Hugh asked in
surprise.

"Ever so much," the man replied; "and so have mules, haven't they,
mates?"

There was a general chorus of assent. "I had no idea of that," Hugh
said. "I should have thought that horses would look down upon a
donkey."

"That is where you are wrong," a cow-boy called Broncho Harry said.
"Trust to a jack to find out the best forage and the nearest water. He
would manage to pick up a living where a horse would starve. He doesn't
get scared and lose his head about nothing as a horse does. If there is
a noise, he just cocks one ear forward and makes up his mind what it is
about, and then goes on eating, while a horse fidgets and sweats, and
is ready to bolt from his own shadow; besides, the horses know that the
jack is their master."

"Why, you don't mean to say that a donkey can kick harder than a horse?"

"I don't say he can kick harder, though a mule can, and twice as quick;
but a jack does not fight that way, he fights with his teeth. I have
seen several fights between stallions and jacks, and the jack has
always got the best of it. I remember down at the Red Springs there
was a big black stallion with a bunch of mares came down the valley
where we camped, and he went at the horses and stampeded them all down
the valley. Well, we had a jack with us; he did not seem to pay much
attention to what was going on until the stallion came rushing at him,
thinking no doubt that he was going to knock his brains straight out
with a blow of his fore-foot, but the jack went at him with open mouth,
dodged a blow of his hoofs, and made a spring and caught him by the
neck. He held on like a bull-dog. The stallion reared and plunged, and
lifted the jack off his feet time after time, but each time he came
down with his legs stiff and well apart.

"The stallion struck at him with his fore-legs, and cut the skin off
his shoulders. Once or twice they fell, but the jack never let go his
hold, and he would have killed the stallion, sure, if it had not torn
itself away, leaving a big bit of skin and flesh in the jack's mouth.
The stallion went up the valley again like a flash, and the jack turned
off and went on grazing as if nothing had happened. Jacks don't have
a chance in towns; but give them a free hand out on the plains, and I
tell you they are just choke-full of sense. But it is getting dark, and
I am first on guard, so I must be off."

The other three men who had been told off for guard had each brought in
a horse and fastened the ends of their ropes to picket pins driven into
the ground, so that they could graze a little and yet be near at hand
when the time came to relieve the guard.

"How do you know when to wake?"

"It is habit," Broncho Harry said. "One gets to wake up just at the
right time, and if you ain't there within a quarter of an hour of the
time you ought to be, you are likely to hear of it. One of the guards
will ride in, and talk pretty straight to you, or like enough he will
drop his rope round your foot or arm, and give you a jerk that will
send you ten yards. When you have been woke up once or twice like that,
there ain't much fear of your over-sleeping yourself. Ah! there is
black Sam's accordion."

Black Sam was the cook, a merry good-tempered negro, and the outfit
which secured Sam with the waggon considered itself in luck. Cow-boys
are very fond of music, and Sam's accordion helped to while away the
evening. For the next two hours there was singing and choruses, and
then the men rolled themselves in their blankets with their feet to the
fire, and the camp was soon asleep.

The next morning at daybreak the cow-boys started in pairs; two of them
accompanied the waggon in charge of the spare horses, the rest went in
various directions to hunt up cattle.

Before nightfall they had collected fifty or sixty cattle, mostly in
bunches of threes and fours. At least a third of the number were calves
by their mother's side. Some of them were only captured after a long
chase, as they ran with a swiftness far beyond anything of which Hugh
could have supposed cattle to be capable.

The cows and steers were for the most part branded, but a few were
found without marks. These were, Hugh learned, called mavericks. They
were animals that had escaped search at the previous round-up, and it
was consequently impossible to tell to what herd they belonged. When
the day's work was done these were roped, thrown down, and branded
with the [brand circle triangle], and became the property of the ranche
whose cow-boys discovered them.

"There is many a man has become rich by branding mavericks," one of
the cow-boys said. "It was a regular business at one time. Of course no
one could tell whose cattle they were, and when a man had put his brand
on them he became the owner; but it was carried on so that the ranche
owners all came to an agreement, and any man caught branding cattle
with his own brand, except at the regular round-up, got shot. Of course
the calves belonged to one or other of the ranches round, and as each
ranche sends out a number of outfits to the round-up in proportion to
the numbers of its cattle, the present rule is fair enough."

When night fell the cattle were bunched down by the stream by which
the party had camped. Six of them were told off on night guard, while
three others, of whom Hugh was one, were to look after the horses. Hugh
was to take the first watch, and as soon as he had eaten his supper he
received his instructions from John Colley, the overseer of the outfit.

"You will have little enough to do," he said. "You have merely got
to keep near them, and you needn't even keep on your horse unless you
like. As long as they graze quietly leave them alone. If you see two or
three wandering away from the rest ride quickly and head them in."

Hugh mounted one of the quietest of his horses and rode out to the
bunch a few hundred yards from camp. At his whistle Prince at once
trotted out from the rest and came up to him and took from his hand the
piece of bread Hugh had put in his pocket for him.

"Go back to the others, Prince," he said with a wave of his hand; "your
business is to eat at present."

The horses were all quiet, and Hugh, when darkness had fairly fallen,
was struck with the quiet of the plain. Above, the stars shone through
the clear, dry air. Near him were the dark bunch of horses, and he was
surprised at the loudness of the sound of their cropping the grass,
broken only by that of an occasional stamp of a hoof. He could easily
hear the accordion and the singing away back at the camp. When this
ceased there came occasionally the crack of a breaking twig as the herd
of cattle forced their way through the bushes by the stream on his
left, and the songs of the cow-boys on watch as they rode in circles
around them. The time did not seem long, and he was quite surprised
when Bill Royce cantered up and told him his watch was over.

The next day's work was similar to the first, except that, soon after
starting, on ascending a slope they saw a small herd of deer some
eighty yards away. Before Hugh had time to think, Broncho Harry, who
was his companion, had drawn his revolver, and, as the deer bounded
off, fired. One of them leaped high in the air, ran fifty yards, and
then dropped, while the others made off at the top of their speed.

"That was a good shot," Hugh said. "I should hardly have thought of
firing at an object so far distant."

"Oh, these Colts carry a long way," the cow-boy said carelessly. "They
will carry four hundred yards, though you can't depend upon their
shooting much over a hundred. I have seen a man killed, though, at over
three hundred; but I look upon that as a chance shot. Up to a hundred a
man ain't much of a shot who cannot bring down a deer four times out of
five. I don't mean hitting. Of course you ought to hit him every time,
but hit him so as to stop him. I don't mean to say as the shot would
be sure if you were galloping over rough ground, but in a steady saddle
you ought not to miss."

On riding up to the deer Broncho Harry dismounted, lifted it on the
horse, and lashed it to the back of the saddle. "I am not particularly
partial to deer-meat," he said, "but it makes a change to beef."

"I own I prefer beef," Hugh said, "especially after living on venison,
as I have been doing, for the last three months."

"I consider bear-meat to be about as good as anything you get in these
parts," the cow-boy said. "I don't say as it isn't tough, but it has
got flavour. I don't want to put my teeth into anything better than
a good bear ham. If we have any luck we shall get some up among the
hills. Most things are eatable. I lived on rattlers once for a month at
a time. I tell you a rattler ain't bad eating."

"Are there many of them out on the plains?"

"A good many," the cow-boy said; "but you get them most among the
foot-hills. They like to lie on the rocks in the sun, and I have seen
them by dozens on a sunny ledge."

"Do many people get killed by them?"

"Bless you, no. The natives are afraid of them, 'cause, you see, they
often go barefoot; but they cannot bite through our thick boots. The
only danger is when you lie down, or something of that sort. They are
fond of warmth, and if you camp near where they are thick they will
crawl down to the fire, and sometimes get into your blanket."

"I suppose their bite is fatal if they do bite."

"Not once in fifty times if you take them right. I have known Mexicans
killed by them, but, then, a Mexican gives himself away directly and
makes no fight for it. Now if we are bitten we just whip out a knife
and cut the part out straight, clap a poultice of fresh dung on it, and
tie a string round tight above it. Of course, if you have got spirits
handy, you pour some in directly you cut it out, and drink as much as
you can; but then, you see, we don't often have spirits out here. I was
bit once. There." And he pointed to a scar on his right hand, between
the little finger and the wrist. "A rattler bit me just on the fleshy
part there. I blew his head off with my revolver, and then whipped out
my knife and cut the bit out. There wasn't any dung handy, and I had
no spirits, so I broke up a revolver cartridge and poured the powder
in, and clapped a match to it. It hurt a bit, of course, because it
was bleeding and the powder didn't all flash off at once; but I was all
right afterwards. My arm felt numbed for an hour or two, and there was
an end of it. Cattle and horses get bit sometimes on the head when they
are grazing, and it swells up to pretty well twice its proper size,
but they generally get over it in a day or two. No, there is no great
danger about rattlers, but if you are in the neighbourhood where they
are thick it is just as well to look round before you sit down."

"But how was it you came to live on rattle-snakes for a month?"

"Well, I was up north a bit. I had been looking after a bunch of cattle
that had gone up a cañon when I saw a party of Indians coming my way.
Lucky I saw them before they saw me, and you guess I was off the horse
pretty sharp. I turned his head up the cañon, and sent him galloping
on, and then I sheltered among the rocks. The Indians came up, no
doubt, to look for cattle. I heard them pass by and then come galloping
down again, and I knew they had happened upon my horse. They hunted
about that place for two days, but the soft rocks had fallen, and they
were piled thick along the foot of the cliffs on both sides, and you
may guess I had worked myself down pretty deep in among them.

"I was in too much of a hurry to think of the rattlers as I got in,
but I had noticed as I went up what a lot of them there were lying on
the rocks, and I thought a good deal about them as I was lying there.
Of course I had my knife and pistol with me, but the pistol was no
good, for a shot would have cost me my scalp, sure, and a knife ain't
the sort of weapon you would choose to use in a tussle with a rattler.
When night came I could have shifted, but I guessed I had got as good a
place as another, and I might have put my foot into a nest of rattlers
in the dark, so I lay there all night and all next day. I slept a
bit at night, but all day I kept awake and listened. I could hear the
Injuns going about and shoving their lances all about down the holes
among the rocks.

"Luckily, the place I had got into was just at the foot of the cliffs,
and you could not see that there was a hole unless you climbed up
there. Well, when night came again I guessed they would give up
searching, and take to watching. I got out and went a good bit higher
up the gorge. I was pretty nigh mad with thirst, and there weren't
no water, as I knew of, within well-nigh a hundred miles. I felt sure
the Injuns wouldn't come up the valley again, but would keep watch at
the mouth, for the hills went up both sides and there was no getting
out anywhere 'cept there. Soon as it got light I cut a stoutish stick,
tore off a strip of my sash, and tied my bowie to the end. Then I hid
up agin there, but so that I could see out a bit. About ten o'clock,
as there wur no signs of the Injuns, and the sun wur blazing down fit
to frizzle up one's brain, I guessed rattlers would be out. I had got
so bad with thirst by that time that I b'lieve, even if I had seen the
Injuns, I should have gone out. I had not long to search. I had not
gone five yards when I saw a rattler lying on a rock.

"There are two sorts of rattlers; there is the plain rattler and the
rock rattler. The rock ain't so big as the other, but he bites just
as bad. He saw me coming, but he did not trouble to move. He just
sounded his rattles, and lifted up his head as much as to say you
had best leave me alone. When I got near him he lifted his head a bit
higher, and swish went my stick, and his head flew off him. I picked
up the body and went back among the bushes, skinned it, cut it up into
chunks, and ate it just as it was. That was the first of them, and I
had three or four more before the day was over. That night and next
day I remained quiet, except to fill up my larder, and the next night
crawled down to the mouth of the valley; and just where it narrowed I
could hear Injuns talking. They hadn't lighted a fire; they knew better
than that. It would have been just throwing away their lives. So back
I went again, for I could not tell how many of the skunks were there.
I guessed, perhaps, they would come up the valley again the next day,
so I hid again in my old place; and it was lucky I did, for in the
afternoon I heard their horses' feet and knew there must have been a
dozen of them.

"That night I went down again. I could hear no voices, and I crawled
out and out until I was well on the plain, but they was gone. That wur
just what I had expected. They had got my water-skin with my horse,
and knew well enough that no one could have stood that four days'
heat in that valley without dying or going off his head, and as they
could see nothing of me they must have thought that I had got into
some hole and stuck there till I died. Their own water, too, must have
been running short, and they couldn't stay any longer; so off they had
gone. I wasn't much better off than I was before. They had driven the
cattle away, and as to starting to walk a hundred miles without water
the thing wur not to be thought of. I had found there was juice enough
in the rattlers to do me; besides, there wur plants growing about that
would help me a bit if I chewed the leaves, so I made up my mind that
there was nothing else to do but to stop.

"Some of my mates would be sure to get up a hunt for me when they found
that I didn't come back. I didn't care so much now that I could light
a fire, for I was getting pretty sick of raw rattler. I lit one next
morning right up at the head of the valley, choosing a place among the
rocks where I could pitch a stone over it and hide the ashes if the
Injuns should take it into their heads to pay me another visit. Every
morning I cooked enough rattlers for the day, and then took them down
and sat among some bushes high up at the mouth of the valley, so that
I could see if anyone was coming two or three miles away, for I hoped
that a deer, or a bear, or perhaps a head or two of cattle might come
up, but nary one did I see, though I stayed there a month.

"At the end of that time I saw four mounted figures far out on the
plain, and pretty soon made out as they was cow-boys. They was riding
towards the hills, and you bet I tracked out to meet them pretty slick.
They was four men of my own outfit. They had halted for three or four
days after I wur lost, and scoured the plains pretty considerable for
me. Then they wur obliged to go with the rest to drive the cattle into
the station, and as soon as they got there they started out again,
making up their minds that they wouldn't go back till they found
my body. They reckoned for sure that I had been scalped, and never
expected to do more for me than to bury me. They had been four days
riding along at the bottom of the foot-hills searching every valley.
They had a spare horse or two with them with water and grub. Yes, that
is how I came to live on rattlers for a month, and though I don't say
anything against them as food, and allow as they make a change to cow's
flesh, I have never been able to touch them since."

"That was a close shave," Hugh said. "I suppose people do get lost and
die on the plains sometimes."

"Lots of them; but not old hands, you know. A cow-boy gets to know
which way he is going without looking at a mark. At night he has
got the stars to guide him. But tender-feet often get lost; and when
they once lose their bearings there ain't much chance for them unless
someone happens to come along. They most all go out of their mind the
same day. They run a bit and then drop down, and then run another way
and drop again. I tell you there ain't a more awful sight than a man
who has been lost for a day or two, and you have got to look out sharp
if you come upon one of them, for he is as like as not to shoot you,
being altogether off his head, and taking you for an enemy.

"I once came across a chap who was off his head, but who hadn't got
weak. He drew his six-shooter when he saw me. It was a long way from
a station, and I had no time to fool about, and I didn't want to get
shot. He fired once, and the ball went pretty close, so I knew I might
chuck away my life by going near enough to rope him. So I fetched out
my pistol and took a shot at his ankle, and, of course, down he went.
As I expected, he let drop his pistol as he tumbled, and before he
could get it again I had ridden up and roped him. Then, of course, it
wur easy enough. I tied him tight first, poured a few drops of water
into his mouth, fastened him across the horse behind the saddle, and
rode with him into the camp. He wur laid up for nigh six weeks with his
ankle, but it saved his life.

"Hello!" he broke off, reining back his horse suddenly; "there is a
good bunch of cattle right up that dip ahead of us. We are on the wrong
side of them now, and if they was to catch sight of us we should have a
long ride before we came up to them. We must work round and come down
on them from the other side and head them this way, then we shall be
travelling in the right direction."

Hugh's eye, less accustomed to search the plains, had not caught the
cattle. "How far are they off?" he said.

"About a mile. You go round to the right and I'll go round to the left.
When you get to where you think you are behind them stop until you see
me; or, look here, you are new at this sort of thing, so we may as well
ride together until we get to your station, else we might miss each
other and lose a lot of time."

So saying he rode off at full speed, Hugh, who was on Prince,
following him. As they went Hugh congratulated himself that he had
not started by himself, for riding up and down the undulations, and
making a half-circle as they were doing, he very soon lost all idea of
direction. After ten minutes' riding the cow-boy reined in his horse.

"Now," he said, "they are in the next dip, just about over the line
of that bush. I will go a bit further round and come down on the
other side of them. You move on to that bush and wait until you see me
coming, and then ride forward. Keep on their flank. That dip lies just
about in the line of the camp, so keep them going that way."

Hugh rode until he approached the bush Harry had pointed out, and
then sat quiet until he saw the cow-boy approaching from the opposite
direction. The latter threw up his arm and Hugh moved forward. A few
strides of the horse took him to the brow, and there, below him, some
forty or fifty cattle were grazing. Broncho Harry was already dashing
down the opposite slope. For a moment the cattle stood with heads up
and snorts of alarm, and then, as the cow-boy uttered a wild yell,
dashed off down the hollow. A little behind them, one on each side,
rode the two cow-boys, and for three miles there was no change in their
relative position. Then the speed of the cattle began to abate, but
they kept on at a run for another two miles, and then settled gradually
into a walk. An hour later the camp was reached.

"There is no occasion to watch them," Broncho Harry said as they
arrived within a quarter of a mile of the waggon. "They will go on
to the stream and have a drink, and then lie down in the shade of the
bushes, or else mix up with the other cattle down somewhere there. They
have done enough running for to-day."

"Back early, Harry?" the cow-boy who had remained behind to look after
the horses said.

"Yes, we have been in luck--got a goodish bunch. Hello, Sam!"

"Hello, Broncho Harry!" the negro replied, putting his head out of the
waggon.

"Got any hot water, because we want tea?"

"Not got now, but make him quick. Plenty of fire in the ashes. Not
expect anyone back to dinner, only just twelve o'clock."

"Well, here we are, Sam, anyhow. Hand me out a frying-pan; a hot dinner
is better than a cold lunch any day. I have brought you in a stag,
Sam."

"Dat's good, Broncho, deer's meat better than cow meat."

"Not a bit of it, Sam. It does for a change; but you cannot go on
eating it every day as you can beef, unless you have got to, and then
one can eat anything."

"Are we going out again after dinner, Harry?" Hugh asked, as they
watched the beef frying over the embers of the great fire.

"No, sirree, we have done our day's work. We have brought in our bunch,
and a good bunch it is. It is just luck that we came on them early,
and are back early. If it had been the other way we might not have got
back until after dark; maybe we mightn't have got back until to-morrow.
After we have done our meal we will go and see if the cattle have
settled down quiet, and if they have joined the rest. If they have, we
will have a bathe in the stream and then wash our shirts. It will be a
good opportunity. One don't get many chances of washing on a round-up."

The cattle were found to have joined those brought in the day before,
and the cow-boys' programme was carried out.

"You ought to practise with that six-shooter of yours, Hugh; a cow-boy
ain't thought much of if he can't shoot straight. Look at that tin on
the low bough there. That has been there ever since we were here a year
ago. I mind that someone stuck it up for a tender-foot to shoot at;
now, you see me knock it off. Jehoshaphat!" he exclaimed, when, as he
put his hand on the butt of his pistol, a sharp crack sounded beside
him, and the tin fell to the ground. A laugh from Hugh accompanied the
shot.

"How in thunder did you do that?"

"The usual way, I suppose," Hugh said. "I drew my pistol, and pulled
the trigger."

The cow-boy looked him over from head to foot. "I tell you what, Hugh,
you are a fraud. You come here as a tender-foot, and you can sit on a
bucking broncho, you've a good notion of throwing a rope, and you can
shoot like lightning. Where did you get it all?"

"I have simply practised," Hugh said, smiling at the other's gravity
of manner. "I made up my mind to take to ranching some months ago, and
I practised with the pistol and rope before I started, and, as I told
you, I have been three months hunting."

"It don't seem nateral," the cow-boy said doubtfully. "I don't say
the shot was out of the way, for it wur an easy mark enough at twenty
yards, but it wur the spryness of the shooting that fetched me."

"That is what I have been specially practising, Broncho. I was told
that the great thing was to be able to draw quick."

"Well, let us see a little more of your shooting." He walked to the
tree and picked up the tin. Hugh put in a fresh cartridge in place of
that he had just fired. "Now I will throw this up, and you fire at
it in the air." Bill Royce had told Hugh that this was a favourite
mark of the cow-boys, and not having any tins out on the plains he
had thrown up sods or the head of a stag for Hugh to fire at. Harry
took his place about five yards from Hugh. "Now," he said. Hugh waited
until the tin reached the highest point and then fired. It flew upward
again; the other five shots were fired in quick succession, and then
the tin fell to the ground. It was a feat frequently accomplished
among the cow-boys, and Broncho Harry was himself perfectly capable
of accomplishing it, but he was not the less surprised at seeing it
performed by a new-comer to the plains.

"Well, you can shoot. Now let us see you draw; your pistol's empty,
so there ain't no fear of an accident. Just put it in your belt again.
Now stand facing me. We will draw together. Keep your hand down by your
side till I say, now; then draw, cock, and pull your trigger. Stop! I
will take my cartridges out, there ain't no use in taking risks, and in
a hurry my trigger might go off too. Now, I am ready--now!"

Broncho Harry rather prided himself on the quickness with which he
could draw, but his pistol was not out of his belt when the hammer of
Hugh's fell, the lad having fired from his hip.

"Waal, I swar!" he exclaimed. "Why, how in thunder did you do it? I
wur looking at your hand, and a'most before I saw it move there was
the thing pinting at me. Why, I am reckoned pretty slick, and I ain't a
spot upon you. Do it again, lad." Hugh repeated the action. "Waal, that
beats me; I can't see how you do it. Your hand goes up to your hip,
thar's a twinkle, and thar's the pistol cocked and the hammer falling
at once; it's like conjuring! Just do it slow." Hugh showed that as
his hand fell on the pistol his thumb rested on the hammer and his
forefinger on the trigger, while the others closed on the butt, drew
the pistol from the belt, and threw the barrel forward.

"It is just practice," he said. "I have been at it for the last six
months."

"Waal, young fellow," Broncho Harry said solemnly, "I have been out on
the plains for ten years, and I have seen pretty considerable shooting,
but I never saw anything that was a circumstance to that. You are all
right. You can get into a muss with the worst bad man in Texas just as
soon as you like, and you have got him, sure. I wouldn't have b'lieved
it if I hadn't seen it; it is a kind of lightning trick. It air useful
to be able to back an unbroken broncho, it air useful to throw a rope
sartin and sure at full gallop over rough ground, but it air fifty
times more useful to be able to draw a pistol like a flash as you do.
Waal, let us go back to camp. You don't mind my telling the boys. It
would be hardly fair as any of them should get into a muss with you,
thinking as they had got a soft thing; and it will keep you out of
trouble, for you may be sure as no one is like to be getting up a muss
with you when they know it would be sartin death."

"Do as you like, Broncho; but it seems to me that there is no fear of
quarrelling, everyone seems to be wonderfully good-tempered, and not to
mind a bit what jokes are played upon him."

"That is so, Hugh; people are apt to keep their temper when they know
that if they don't someone gets killed; but it won't be always like
this. You see we have all been going through the winter, and some of us
have been having pretty hard times, and anyhow we are all pleased to be
at work again and out on the plains. But you will see that this kind of
thing won't last long. When the work gets heavy and men don't get four
hours a night in their blankets, and the herds take to stampeding, and
one thing and another, men's tempers won't be as they is now; some of
them grow sulky, and won't open their lips all day; and others get that
crusty that they are ready to jump down the throat of the first man
that speaks to them. Then trouble begins, you bet. Besides, when we get
further south, we may come upon Mexican villages, and where there is
Mexicans there is spirits, and where there is spirits there is trouble.
I tell you, lad, you don't begin to know about a cow-puncher's life
yet."

That evening, after the rest of the outfit had returned and supper
was over, Broncho Harry said, "I have had about the biggest surprise
to-day, boys, that I have ever had. I looked upon Hugh here as a
tender-foot; a good un, but still new to it, and I found out that when
it comes to a six-shooter, there ain't a man in the camp, nor in the
ranche, and I doubt whether there is in all Texas, as can shoot as he
does."

No one expressed a doubt as to the cow-boy's assertion, for on the
plains to doubt a man's word is a grave insult; but there was a murmur
of surprise.

"I don't say as he is the straightest shot," Harry went on; "he is a
good shot, although maybe there are plenty who can beat him; but when
it comes to quickness of drawing, I never see a man who was a spot to
him."

"That's so," Bill Royce put in. "Hugh can shoot straight, wonderful
straight; but I have seen men shoot better, and he ain't quite sartin
in his shooting when he is going at a gallop, although he'll learn
that; but as for quickness--well, I don't know how he does it; his
pistol is out before I have time to get a grip of mine."

"Let us see you, Hugh," two or three of the cow-boys said
simultaneously.

"I have no objection," Hugh said, standing up; "what shall I fire at?"

"Oh, fire at anything. It ain't the aim, it's the quickness Broncho and
Bill are talking about."

"Here's a mark I have often seen him fire at when we were out on the
plains together." And taking a stick of about the thickness of his
wrist from the fire, Bill Royce walked ten or twelve paces away; then
he held out the stick, which was blazing at the end.

All eyes were fixed on Hugh, who drew and fired from his hip, and the
burning end of the brand flew in fragments. There was an exclamation of
astonishment from all present.

"Waal, I never!" Long Tom said. "In course the shot wur nothing from
the shoulder, but there ain't many as could do it from the hip; but
that ain't so much, it wur the quickness! How on arth did you do it?
I had my eyes on your hand, and I don't know how it wur done no more
nor a baby. Waal, Hugh, I have never felt like quarrelling with you,
and you may take your davie I shall never feel like it now. Waal, I am
jiggered!"

The rest all assented with much variety of strange oaths, and then the
cow-boys' favourite topic having been broached, there was a good deal
of talk about shooting, and several exhibitions of skill that surprised
Hugh. Long Tom picked a tiny gourd, about the diameter of a penny, from
a trailing vine common on the plains, and after giving a stir to the
fire to make it blaze up, went ten paces away and held it up between
his finger and thumb, and Broncho Harry shattered it with a bullet;
then Broncho went the same distance out, turned himself sideways, and
Long Tom smashed the bowl of his pipe.

"Would you like to have a try, Hugh?" he asked.

"No, thank you, Broncho! I daresay I might hit the pipe if it were
fixed at that distance, but I would not try when it was within three
inches of your nose for anything."

"It will come in time, Hugh; it is just nerve; but I wouldn't mind
holding it out to you now. I should not be a bit afeard."

Then they sat down to the fire again, and Hugh heard many anecdotes
of marvellous shooting. Hitherto he had borne no nickname, being
the only one in camp addressed by his simple name; but he found next
morning that he had been re-christened, and henceforward he was always
addressed as Lightning.

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER IX.

A ROUND-UP.


Day by day the herds swelled, and at the end of two months they began
to move in the direction of the general rendezvous. Hugh had soon
taken his share in the night-guarding of the cattle, and found it
fascinating work. He and Broncho Harry generally worked together. The
first watch was preferred, because this allowed a fair night's rest to
be taken afterwards; but at the same time the work was far harder and
more arduous than in the later watches. The cattle were still on their
feet when the watch began, and on reaching them the two guards began to
ride round and round them, going in opposite directions. For a time the
cattle would go on feeding, then gradually they would lie down, until
perhaps all but five or six were on the ground. At this time, however,
the slightest noise would bring them on to their feet again, and then
groups would try to leave the mass to begin to feed again, and the
cow-boys had to drive them in.

Upon a dark night they depended more upon their horses' sight than
their own, for these would of their own accord leave the close-packed
circle and strike out to turn back any animals that had wandered from
it. At last, after an hour or two, the herd would all subside, and the
cow-boys would flatter themselves that their work was done. Then one of
the cattle lying outside would leap to his feet with a snort, alarmed,
perhaps, by the sudden scamper of an inquisitive jack-rabbit, which,
having come up to examine what was going on, had fled at the approach
of one of the cow-boys. With a loud snort the whole herd would then
spring to their feet. Perhaps after a time the herd would lie down
again, reassured by the song of the cow-boys, who from the time they
came on duty always continued to sing, unless they played on a fife or
some other musical instrument, which answered as well as the voice.

At other times a sort of general agitation communicated itself to the
herd. Those on the outside finding themselves unable to leave the mass
owing to the vigilance of their guard, would begin to move along its
edge; the motion would spread, and in a short time the whole mass be
circling, or, as the cow-boys call it, weaving. As this action, unless
checked, always terminated in a general stampede, the duty of the
cow-boys was at once to check it. This could only be done by wedging
themselves into the mass, shouting and using their heavy whips to break
it up and put a stop to the motion. This was dangerous work, not only
from the pressure, but from the sea of horns and angry tossing heads.

Sometimes it would be successful, sometimes it would fail. Above the
lowing and bellowing there would be a thunder of hoofs on the side
opposite to that on which they were engaged. Then would rise a shout
of "They are off!" and the cow-boys would edge their horses out of the
mass, and, one on each flank, gallop at the top of their speed to head
the animals back. As soon as they came near the head of the herd they
would yell and shout at the top of their voices, sometimes discharging
their pistols in the air, pressing the animals on the flank gradually
inward, and so checking the speed of the whole until they at last met
in front of the herd. Sometimes they would succeed before two or three
miles of ground were passed over; sometimes the wild flight of the herd
could not be checked before morning, when they would be thirty or forty
miles away from their starting-place.

If unable to stop them, the great aim of the cow-boys was to keep them
in one body: in that case no great trouble resulted from the stampede.
The other men would be out in the morning and the herd would be driven
back to its starting-place. But if the herd broke up, as was sometimes
the case, and scattered over the country, it might take many days of
hard work before they could again be got together. If the night set
in wild, so as to render it probable that the cattle would stampede, a
third man was placed on the guard. He would aid in keeping them in as
long as possible; but if they broke the circle and went off, his duty
was to gallop back to camp. The cow-boys there would leap to their feet
in an instant, run to the horses picketed near, saddled and bridled
ready for instant use, throw themselves on their backs, and gallop off
at the top of their speed in the direction in which the herd had gone.

Thunder-storms were of not infrequent occurrence, and when the clouds
were seen banking up before sunset, and the lightning began to play,
the cattle-guard knew that they were in for a troubled night. Long
before the storm approached close enough to cause actual alarm among
the cattle they would evince signs of uneasiness, the electrical
condition of the air seeming to affect them. They might lie down, but
it was only to rise again, and the distant roll of the thunder seemed
to be answered by their restless bellowing. On such a night it needed
no message to the camp to bring up help. As the storm approached, and
it became evident by the brightness and rapidity of the flashes that it
was going to be an unusually severe one, one by one the men would leave
their fire or rise from their couches and go out to their horses, pull
up and coil their ropes, leap into the saddle, wrap a blanket round
them, and gallop off to the herd, beginning always to sing as they
approached it, as otherwise their arrival might stampede the animals.

When the storm came overhead the terror of the cattle rose to the
highest point, and the efforts of the whole of the cow-boys of the
outfit scarcely sufficed to restrain them. The almost incessant
flashes of lightning showed a sea of heads and horns, wild eyes, and
distended nostrils. The thunder was continuous, and so terrible were
some of these storms that Hugh felt grateful to the animals that the
trouble they gave, and the incessant efforts and activity required to
restrain them, diverted his attention from the terrible war of elements
overhead. On such a night it was almost certain that sooner or later
the herd would stampede, and once off, the efforts of their guard were
directed to keep them together rather than to head them. So long as
they remained in a bunch it mattered little whether they were one mile
or thirty from the camp.

If headed and held up they would probably start again, and it was less
anxious work to gallop by the side of the frightened mass than to hold
them in check when once their excitement reached its height. In some
respects the ride in such a storm as this was less dangerous than
upon a dark, still night, for the lightning flashes showed not only
the exact position of the herd, but greatly diminished the chance of
serious falls by lighting up the whole configuration of the country,
and showing any obstacles in the way. Even a fall, heavy though it
might be, would be a trifle in comparison to one occurring while
endeavouring to head the herd, for in that case it would entail certain
death, as life would be trampled out in an instant by the onward
torrent of cattle.

Hugh had by this time come to understand that even twelve horses
were by no means too much for the use of each man. Wiry and tough as
were the ponies, the men who rode them seemed to be iron. Hugh was
frequently in his saddle eighteen hours a day, occasionally twenty,
and four or even five horses would be thoroughly done up before his
work was over. Had they been fed with grain a smaller number might have
sufficed, for unless unusually pressed they could have been ridden
again on the following day; but fed entirely upon the dry grasses of
the plains they needed a day's rest before they were again fit for
work.

The herd increased by another thousand before it reached the general
rendezvous of the round-up, for each day six of the men scoured the
country lying within ten or fifteen miles of the line of march, and
drove in all the cattle met with on their way. At last they reached
the stream near whose banks the vast herds driven in from all quarters
were gathered. There had been an occasional day's halt on the way to
give a needed rest to cattle, horses, and men; but now that the outfit
had arrived at the spot indicated before they had left the headquarters
station, there was a rest for four days before operations commenced.

The time was employed by the men in washing, overhauling, and mending
their clothes, repairing their saddles, and in sleep. They knew nothing
of the position of the other outfits of their own and of the other
ranches, but were sure that they all lay within a radius of some twenty
or thirty miles--that is to say, all that had as yet arrived. Some had
probably come up days before, perhaps weeks; others would not be there
for some time; all depended upon the nature of the country to be worked
and the distance traversed. There were several other outfits scattered
along the banks of the stream above and below them at distances of
about half a mile apart, and the overseers of the different ranches
were busy making arrangements for the general campaign. Four days after
their arrival a cow-boy rode in with a letter to the overseer of the
outfit. A few minutes later Broncho Harry and four other hands, among
whom were Hugh and Bill Royce, were ordered to saddle up and to go down
to the central station.

The term order is scarcely a correct one, for cow-boys are not men to
be ordered. A cow-boy is asked to do a thing, and asked in civil terms.
The request has all the force of an order, but it is not so conveyed.
It is put in the form, "I want you to do so and so;" or, "Will you
saddle up and do so and so?" It is just as easy to put it in that form
as in any other, and though the cow-boy knows that if he does not
comply with the request he has got to ride back to the headquarters
station and get his money, he does not feel his dignity injured as
it would be by a direct order. There are no men more independent than
cow-boys. They know their value; and a really good man knows, and this
was more especially the case at that time, that he has but to ride to
the next ranche to get employment. The consequence is that although
willing to work to the utmost of his powers in the interest of his
employers he by no means regards that employer as a master, but treats
even the chief manager on terms of absolute equality, and insists upon
being so treated by him in return.

"Broncho Harry," the overseer said, "I want you, Jack Johnson, Bowie
Bob, Chunky Royce, and Lightning Hugh to saddle up and ride down to the
forks and help in the round-up. The waggon is going to stay here till
our herd is called up. There are men from the other outfits there; the
boss is there, and he will settle about things. Two of the waggons are
there, so you will be all right as to grub. I expect you will be there
about a fortnight, and then the others will come down and take your
place."

"Are we to take down our other horses?" the cow-boy asked.

"No. No. 1 outfit will take charge of the cattle as they are cut out
and branded. No. 3 will take the next mob. Anyhow, you won't want
horses except to take you down there."

"All right!" Harry said, and proceeded to call the other four together.

In a few minutes the horses were brought in and saddled, the blankets
rolled up and strapped to the saddles, and the five men chosen, after
eating a hasty meal, started for the point named, which was some
twenty-five miles distant.

"Now you are going to see some fun, Hugh," Bill Royce, who had got the
nickname of Chunky from his short, square figure, remarked as they rode
along.

"Yes," Broncho Harry put in, "you will have to look out sharp, Hugh. I
tell you it is pretty lively work when you get hold of a six months'
calf, and the old savage of a mother is trying her best to hook you.
Thar ain't a day that some fellow don't get hurt; but as long as you
don't let a cow jam you against the posts it don't much matter. That
is what you have got to look to special. A chuck in the air don't much
matter, nor being knocked a dozen yards or so, but if you get jammed by
one of those brutes against a fence, there ain't nothing to do but to
bury you."

Three hours' riding brought them to the forks. Two or three large
herds of cattle could be made out far on the plains: another mob could
be seen not far from the wooded hollow that marked the course of the
stream. Horsemen were hovering round them, and there was a confused
mass of animals in what looked to Hugh like a strong stockade near it.
A short distance away twelve waggons were drawn up in regular order
some fifty yards apart. Columns of light smoke rising near them showed
that cooking was going on at each waggon. Quickening the speed of their
horses the cow-boys rode on until they drew up at the waggon of the
[brand circle triangle] ranche.

"Howdy, Pete," Broncho Harry said as he leapt from his horse, to a
negro who, with a Mexican assistant, was engaged in cooking.

"Howdy, Broncho Harry."

"Where are the boys, and what's new?"

"Dey is out dar," the negro said, waving his hand in the direction of
the corral. "Some of dem is working in de herd; some of dem is inside.
Irish is in de waggon: him leg broken. New York John got killed three
days back."

"That's bad, Pete. How did he manage that?"

"Old cow hooked him--ran horn right through him body. Irish got tossed
against posts."

"I suppose there are boys down from the other outfits here, Pete?"

"Yes. Five No. 3, five No. 4. No. 4 came in dis mornin'. Now you come
dat make fifteen, and all our own outfit; dat too much for Pete to cook
for."

"Well, you have got someone to help you, Pete, so you ought not to
grumble."

Pete made a grimace as much as to signify that he did not consider the
assistance of the Mexican to be of much account. Between the men of
these two races there was a general feud, while the cow-boys looked
down upon both, and as a rule refused to allow them to work with them
except in the capacity of cook.

"Where are our horses, Pete?"

"No. 1 horses over dere," the negro said, pointing to a group of horses
out on the plain. "Young Nat looking arter dem."

"Well, we may as well take our horses out there, boys," Broncho Harry
said, turning to the others. "It is no use picketing them here; we
ain't likely to want them."

"I will ride them out," Hugh volunteered. The others removed their
saddles and bridles, and Hugh drove them out to the group on the plain.

"Well, Nat, how are you getting on?" he asked a boy of about fifteen
years old who was lying on the ground with his horse's rein over his
arm near them.

"Oh, I'm all right," the boy replied; "been here a week, and getting
pretty tired of this job, you bet, with nothing to do but just to lie
here. Blast all camps, I say!"

"You ought to be at school, you young imp," Hugh laughed.

"I would just as soon be doing that as lying here," the boy said. "It
will be all right when I get to be a cow-boy, but there ain't much fun
about this. Just come in?"

"Yes."

"Who is with you?"

Hugh gave the names.

"Broncho Harry ain't a bad sort," the boy said. "The others ain't of
much account."

"You had better tell them so," Hugh said with a smile.

"I would tell them if I thought fit," the boy said angrily. "You don't
suppose that I'm afraid of any of that mob?"

"I know you are a very bad man, Nat," Hugh said with assumed gravity,
"a very dangerous character in a camp; but I hope you won't do any of
them any harm."

"I sha'n't do them no harm if they don't do me any," the boy said, "but
I don't take no sauce from no one."

By this time Hugh had unsaddled Prince, and placing the saddle over
his head and carrying the bridle in his hand, nodded to the boy, and
started back to the camp, while Prince joined the four horses, which
began to graze at a little distance from the rest. Presently two or
three of the other horses came over to the new-comers, and after
a little snorting apparently recognized them as friends with whom
they had been acquainted at the head-station, and this fact being
established Prince and his companions were allowed to join them.

There were many boys like Nat out on the plains, for the most part
lads who had run away from home, and who were now training up to be
cow-boys, being engaged in day-herding the horses--work that demanded
but little skill or attention. They were generally regarded with favour
by the outfits to which they were attached, for the cow-boys as a rule
are silent men, and the liveliness of the boys amused them. These boys
generally grew up into the most reckless and dare-devil of cow-boys,
speedily picking up the worst language and imitating the wildest
follies of their companions, and they would have been an unmitigated
nuisance in the camps had they not been frequently sternly called to
order by men with whom they knew there was no trifling.

It was not until nightfall that the work ceased and the cow-boys
returned to their waggons. They had been working without a break since
daylight, contenting themselves with eating a piece of bread and cold
meat standing at their work in the middle of the day.

"Well, boys, come in for a spell?" one of them asked as they came up to
the fire where the new arrivals were seated. "We have had a week of it,
and it has been a pretty tough job. The cattle are wonderful wild. I
suppose the thunder has scared them, and we are pretty sure the Injuns
have been chasing them lately by the foot-hills. Did you see anything
of the Reds?"

"No; there were no signs of them in the part we searched."

"There were signs further south," the other went on. "We came on two
places where they had slaughtered a lot of cattle, and we hear they
have been making raids down into Mexico, and the troops have been out
after them down by the frontier line. Anyhow, the cattle are wilder
than usual. You have heard, I suppose, that New York John has been
rubbed out?"

"Yes, we heard that, and I have been talking to Irish. He seems getting
on all right."

"Irish is a blamed fool. I told him over and over again he would get
into trouble if he didn't mind; but nothing could persuade him that
there was any difference between the ways of a Kerry cow and a Texas
steer, and of course he came to grief. I should have thought that New
York John would have known better than to get himself hooked like that;
but it were not altogether his fault. He wur holding a calf, and he had
his eye on the old cow, who had got her dander up pretty considerable.
One of the men had roped her, and New York John naturally thought that
she was safe. So he downed the calf, and the brand was clapped to it,
and the young un bawls out, and of course the cow made a fresh rush to
get at it, and the rope breaks, and she was on New York John afore he
could look round."

"But how came the rope to break? A man must be a fool and worse to come
down to round-up with a rotten old rope."

"Well, the rope was a new un. You may guess there was a lot of talk
over it, and it put our backs up a bit that New York John should get
killed that way. The rope wur a new one, there warn't no doubt about
that, but it had been cut half through. Who had done it, in course,
no one knew. The men were mad over it, and ef they could have found
out who had done it he would have swung from the limb of a tree in a
squirrel's jump. There were two or three men who had had musses with
the chap as the rope belonged to, but no one could say as any of them
had cut his rope. Of course it might have been an accident, but no
one thought that very likely. However, there it wur. Somebody cut the
fellow's rope to spite him, and it cost New York John his life, which
was pretty rough on him."

"What is the work for to-morrow?"

"Well, your lot and the men of the other two outfits are to be in the
yard. We have got a spell off, except, of course, that we have got to
look after our own bunch of cattle."

"How many are there of them?"

"About 6000 I should say. I expect some of us will start driving them
up north day after to-morrow."

The next morning Hugh went down to the cattle-yard as soon as they
had finished breakfast. Day had just broken, and while they were
waiting for the herd to be brought up he looked round at the yard.
The paling was composed of very strong posts six feet high, placed
at intervals of two or three inches apart. It had been built three or
four years before, as this place was the most convenient and central
upon the plains. A few waggon loads of timber had been taken out there
a fortnight before the arrival of the teams, with a gang of men, who
took up any posts that showed signs of rottenness and replaced them
by others, the various ranches in the round-up performing this duty by
turns. The fence inclosed a space of upwards of an acre.

Beside the contingent from the [brand circle triangle] ranche some
forty or fifty cow-boys from the other ranches were gathered within it.
Several fires were lighted for heating the brands, and the overseer who
was in charge of the work for the day divided the men into parties,
each group consisting of representatives of four or five different
ranches. In a short time a great herd was seen approaching, driven in
by a number of mounted cow-boys. The cross-bars were removed from the
opening that served as a gate at the upper end of the yard, and the
reluctant animals, unable to withstand the pressure of those behind,
poured in. Several hundreds entered; the bars were dropped again, and
the animals inclosed stood in a dense group, stamping the ground, and
threatening an attack as the cow-boys approached them.

  [Illustration: BRANDING THE CALVES AT THE "ROUND UP."]

These all carried their ropes, some holding them in their hands ready
for throwing, while others had them coiled over their left shoulder,
while in their right hands they held their heavy whips. Those who
were to fetch out the calves first approached. Half a dozen ropes were
thrown, and the calves were dragged out, struggling and calling, or, as
the cow-boys called it, bawling, to their mothers for assistance. The
call was not in vain. The cows rushed out furiously to the assistance
of their calves. As each did so the cow-boy whose comrade was dragging
the calf towards one of the fires shouted out the brand on the cow, and
then, cracking their whips, and if necessary using them, they drove the
animal back into the mass and kept her there, while the calf was thrown
down and branded with the same mark as its mother.

Hugh was among those told off to fetch out the calves. He had had some
practice, as many of the mavericks found had calves by their side,
and these as well as the cows had been branded with the [brand circle
triangle]. Another cow-boy assisted him to haul the calf by main force
towards the fire, and held the rope while Hugh ran up to it. Placing
himself beside it he leaned over it, grasped it by the flank with both
hands, and then lifted it and flung it down on its side. His comrade
then ran up and pinned its head to the ground, while Hugh knelt on its
haunches, and the brander came up with a hot iron and marked it. The
iron was held on long enough only to burn off the hair and slightly
singe the hide, and the mark so made was almost indelible.

In addition to this the calf's ears were cut, each ranche having its
particular mark, such as two long slits and a short one, a square piece
cut out and a notch on either side of it, a semicircular piece and two
notches, a semicircle and a square, &c. These marks were very durable,
but even these often became confused owing to the ears getting torn
by a rush through thorns, or by the action of a neighbour's horn in a
close press or during a stampede. It required but small exercise of
strength to throw a calf of three months old; but many of them were
eight or nine months and nearly full grown, and it needed a great
exertion of strength and a good deal of knack to throw down animals
of this size. Once or twice Hugh had narrow escapes, for some of the
cows, in spite of the cow-boys' whips, burst through them and rushed to
the assistance of their calves; but each time the ropes descended over
their heads or caught them by their legs, and threw them to the ground
before they reached him.

After an hour of this work he was relieved by one of the other men,
and took his turn of the lighter work of keeping back the cows. When
every calf in the yard had been branded the gate at the lower end was
opened and the animals driven out, while a fresh mob was admitted from
the herd. So the work went on until the herd had all passed through
the yard, and the calves been branded. Then there was a quarter of an
hour's rest while another herd was driven up, and the work recommenced.
By nightfall some nine thousand animals had passed through the yard,
and nearly four thousand calves had been branded. Begrimed with sweat
and dust, the cow-boys went down to the stream, where most of them
bathed and all had a thorough wash, and then went up to their waggons
to supper.

"How do you feel now?" Broncho Harry asked Hugh when he threw himself
down by the fire.

"I feel broken up altogether, Harry. My back and loins feel as if I
had been beaten to a pulp. I believe I have strained every muscle of
my arms, and my hands and wrists are so stiff that I can't close my
fingers."

"Yes; calf-chucking is pretty hard work until you get accustomed to
it," the cow-boy said. "It is knack more than strength, though it needs
a lot of strength too when you have got a rampagious ten-months calf in
your hands."

"I have not got the knack yet," Hugh said; "and anything over six
months I had to have roped by the legs and thrown, but I suppose I
shall be able to tackle them in time."

In the case of the cows that had been branded only a year or two before
there was no difficulty in recognizing the brand, and so to decide upon
the ownership of the calf; but in the case of older cows the brand and
ear-marks had in some instances both become so far obliterated that
it was difficult to decide what they had originally been. Over these
brands there were sharp and sometimes angry disputes among the cow-boys
belonging to the different ranches. The case was generally settled
by the overseer in charge of the day's operations calling upon three
cow-boys belonging to ranches unconnected with the dispute to give
their opinion as to what the marks had originally been. Their decision
was accepted by all parties as final, and the cow rebranded as well as
the calf.

"What do you do when the brand is so far gone as to make it altogether
impossible to say what it was?" Hugh asked.

"It would not get here at all in that state," the cow-boy replied. "It
would have been rebranded at once by the outfit that first found it
just as if it had been a maverick. But in that case, of course, any
cow-boy could claim the cow as belonging to his ranche if he could
convince the others that the old brand was the one used by it. They
never brand over the old mark; that must be left as an evidence."

The next day happened to be Sunday, and Hugh felt glad indeed that he
had a day on which to recover from his stiffness. Sundays were always
kept, except in cases of great emergency, as a day of rest, cow-boys
taking the opportunity to wash and mend their clothes, to practise
shooting with their revolvers, or to run races with their horses. At
rounds-up these races afford one of the chief interests to the cow-boy,
for rivalry between the various ranches runs high, and the men are
ready to bet their "bottom dollar" upon the representative of their own
ranche.

"Have you ever tried that horse of yours against anything fast, Hugh?"
one of his comrades asked.

"No. I am sure he is very fast, but I have never really tried him."

"We were fools not to think of that before," Broncho Harry put in.
"We ought to have raced him against some of the others, and have found
out what he can do, and then we might have made a soft thing of it. I
suppose you wouldn't mind trying him, Hugh?"

"Not at all. But if he is to race you had better ride him instead of
me. I shouldn't say you were much above nine stone and a half."

"I don't know what you mean by your stone," Harry said. "We don't
reckon that way out here. I was a hundred and thirty-five pounds last
time I weighed at the head-station."

"That is two pounds more than I said. Well, I am certainly twenty
pounds heavier--I should say twenty-five, and that makes a lot of
difference."

"I should think so. Still we had best have a trial, Hugh, before we
try to make a match. That is a good horse of yours. I mean the one you
first mounted and who played such tricks with you. I should like some
day to try him against my best, and see how they go. I daresay you will
get him again before the round-up is over."

"What length do you run your races here, Broncho?"

"In general they are short dashes, not above half a mile at the
outside, but sometimes a match is made for some distance. Well, when
we have had dinner we will trot out into the plain. We must go off a
goodish bit, and make sure that none of the boys of the other ranches
are within sight."

Accordingly, when dinner was over, Broncho Harry and Hugh went out
to the horses. Prince come trotting out as soon as he heard Hugh's
whistle, and Broncho Harry soon dropped his noose over the neck of his
own horse. They then put on the saddles and bridles which they had
brought with them, and went off at a canter across the plains. They
ran three or four trials. The result showed that Broncho's horse was
quicker in getting off, and that in a quarter of a mile dash there was
little to choose between them, but at longer distances than this Prince
was, in spite of the greater weight he carried, much the faster.

"That horse can go," the cow-boy said admiringly. "I shouldn't mind if
there were a pack of Redskins coming behind me if I was on his back.
The worst of him is he is so good-looking. If he was ugly to look at we
might clean out all the camps, but he looks so good that I am afraid we
sha'n't be able to get much money out of him. Well, now, we won't race
him this evening. There are sure to be some matches on, and I will ride
my horse. That way I shall find what there is in the camp, and whether
there is anything that can beat him as much as your horse can do. Don't
you go cavorting about on him; just let him run with the rest of the
mob. Then he won't be noticed. There is too much to be got through in
this camp for men to take stock of the horses. Then if we keep him dark
we can get someone to set up his horse against the best of ours. We
will put the boys up to it when we get back, or someone may be blowing
about your horse."

There were, as the cow-boy anticipated, a number of races run that
evening. Broncho Harry beat two other horses, but lost his winnings and
more in the third race, when he was beaten somewhat easily by an animal
which in point of looks was greatly the inferior of his own.

"That is just what I told you, Hugh," he said, when, after unsaddling
his horse and sending it off to join its companions on the plains, he
returned to the waggon. "I am a blessed fool, for I ought to have known
that when that cross T's man offered to back that ugly-looking brute
against mine, he wur a sight better than he looked. He just shot off
like an arrow at starting. I didn't loose anything afterwards, but I
couldn't pick up them three lengths he got in the first forty yards. If
we make a match against him we must see that it ain't less than half a
mile."

The next morning the work in the stock-yards was resumed and continued
throughout the week.



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER X.

A RACE.


"I don't think, Broncho," Hugh said one evening, "that I should do
anything more about that race, if I were you, or if you do, don't lay
out any money on it. There is just as much interest in a race if it is
for a dollar or two as if all the boys in the outfit piled their money
upon it. That horse beat yours pretty easily, quite as easy, I should
say, as Prince could beat him for that distance, and I really don't
think that Prince would have any pull of him in races of the length
you have on here. In a twenty-mile gallop I feel sure he would leave
anything in camp behind easily, but I certainly would not race him any
long distance of that sort. If I had a troop of Indians after me Prince
would have to do his best whether it was twenty miles or fifty; but
I would not press him when it was merely a question of making money
on him. Your horse was beaten, and, of course, we none of us like to
own that the cross T's men have got a better horse than we have. I am
quite willing that Prince should run for the honour of the ranche, but
I don't feel at all sure about his winning, and should be sorry to see
the boys plank their dollars down heavily upon him."

"All right, Hugh! it is your horse, and I will do as you want; but I
should like to take that fellow down a bit. He is one of those fellows
as is always blowing. He rather likes to be thought a bad man, and is
said to be very handy with his six-shooter."

On Sunday morning after breakfast was over the cow-boy in question,
with two or three men of the same ranche, came across from their waggon
to that of the [brand circle triangle] men.

"Have you got anything else that can go in this crowd?" he said,
addressing Broncho Harry. "There don't seem any horses worth talking
about in the whole round-up. Some of our boys say as how they have seen
one of your lot on a likely-looking bay."

"Well, I don't deny he is a good-looking horse," Broncho Harry said,
"and can go a bit, but he is slow at starting, and that critter of
yours is too speedy for the bay to have a chance of catching him up
in a quarter of a mile. Make it a bit over, and I will ride him myself
against you if you like."

"I don't care about a half-mile," the man said, "but I will split
the difference, if you like; or if you fancy your critter for a long
journey, I am open to make a match ten miles out and back, each side to
put down two hundred dollars."

"What do you say to that, mate?" Broncho Harry said, turning to Hugh.

Hugh shook his head decidedly. "I wouldn't have him ridden at racing
speed twenty miles if there were a thousand dollars at stake," he said;
"but if you like to take up the other offer you can ride him."

"Oh! it is your horse, is it?" the cow-boy said; "why don't you ride
him yourself?"

"Because I ride something like two stone heavier than you do," Hugh
said; "and if the horse is going to race he may as well have a fair
chance."

"Well, how much shall it be for?" the cow-boy said, turning again to
Broncho Harry. "I suppose we may as well say the same stake. A hundred
dollars a side, I suppose. That won't hurt you if you fancy the horse."

Two or three of the [brand circle triangle] men broke in together,
"Take him up, Broncho, we will all chip in."

"Very well, then, that is settled," Broncho Harry said. "Shall we say
five o'clock? I suppose we shall ride the same course as last time. I
will go out now and step the distance if you will go on with me."

"All right!" the man said; and they at once proceeded to mark out a
distance of seven hundred paces, which they both agreed was somewhere
about half-way between a quarter and half a mile. A wand, to which
Broncho attached his neckerchief, was stuck up as the winning-post,
while a low bush marked the point from which they had started to
measure. The news soon spread through the camp, and many of the
cow-boys of the other ranches strolled in to find out what the [brand
circle triangle] men thought of their chances, and to see whether they
were disposed to back their horse. Hugh, however, persuaded them not to
risk their money.

"You see," he said, "my horse didn't beat Broncho's by much."

"No more did the other chap, Hugh; he just jumped two lengths ahead,
and after that Broncho held him."

"Yes, I know that," Hugh replied, "but we don't know that he was doing
his best."

"That is so," Broncho agreed. "He knew he had got me, and there was
no use in giving his horse away. I expect he had got a bit in hand.
I don't think it is good enough to bet on. Now let us get this money
together."

Twenty of the men put down their five dollars at once; and as the
others wished also to have a share, Broncho Harry said, "Well, you
three put in your five dollars each, and Hugh and I will make it up to
fifty. Like enough they will be laying odds on their horse, especially
when they find we won't bet, so that at the last moment I will take
them up for this fifty, and if we win we will put it to the stakes and
divide up all round."

The proposal was at once agreed to.

Towards the afternoon they found that the [brand X] men were offering
three and four to one upon their horse, for the odds had run up
rapidly, as none of the other cow-boys were disposed to back the
[brand circle triangle], seeing that the men of that ranche would
not bet on their horse. At the appointed hour the two competitors
went to the post. There had been several minor races, but these had
attracted comparatively little interest; every man in camp, however,
had assembled for the purpose of seeing this contest, and they were now
gathered near the winning-post. A cow-boy belonging to a neutral ranche
was to act as starter. The two riders had divested themselves of their
heavy boots.

"You must shake him up to begin with, Broncho," Hugh had said to him
before he mounted. "He will do his best afterwards. He hates being
passed, and when he sees the other ahead of him he will go all he
knows."

"Now," the starter said, when the two horses stood side by side in a
line with him, "I shall walk on twenty or thirty yards ahead so that
you can both see me, then I shall hold up my six-shooter and fire.
Don't either of you start till I do. I may fire straight off. I may
wait a minute after I have got my hand up. You have got to keep your
eyes on me, and when you see the flash then you let them go."

Both men fastened their spurs on to their stockinged feet, and as the
pistol went off struck their heels into their mounts, while, at the
same moment, Broncho Harry brought down his whip smartly on Prince's
quarter. Astonished at this treatment, the animal gave a bound forward
and started at full gallop.

There was no occasion for the other man to use his whip; his horse
knew what was expected of it, and with its hind legs gathered under
it, had been expecting the signal, and was even more quickly away than
Prince. It did not, however, gain more than a length. For the first
three hundred yards the horses maintained their relative position, but
Prince was tugging at his bridle; and his rider, though shouting and
yelling as if to urge him to his fullest speed, was yet holding him in.
Then the leading horseman, thinking that Prince was doing his best, and
feeling certain that he had the race in hand, dug his spurs into his
horse, and the animal in a few bounds had added another length to his
lead; but Broncho Harry loosened his pull at the reins and let Prince
go, and before another hundred yards had been passed his head was level
with the other's stirrup.

The [brand X] man whipped and spurred, while Broncho Harry sat quiet on
his horse, and contented himself by maintaining his present position.
When a hundred yards from home he shook his horse up, and slightly
touched him with his spur. Almost instantaneously Prince was level
with his opponent, and then dashing on ahead passed the flag-post three
lengths in advance amidst a loud cheer from the [brand circle triangle]
men, and from most of the other cow-boys; for although few had ventured
to back the horse, there was a general feeling of satisfaction at
seeing the [brand X] man beaten. The latter without a word circled
round and rode straight back to his waggon, and the stakeholder handed
over the stake and bets, which had both been deposited with him, to
Broncho Harry.

"Two hundred and fifty dollars," he said, as he put the roll of notes
in his pocket, for the bets had been made at three to one. "I call that
an easier way of making money than cow-punching. I can't stand treat,
boys, because there is no liquor in camp, but remember I owe you one
all round the first time we meet in a saloon."

Returning to camp the division was made, and each of the twenty-five
men received his share of ten dollars, together with the money he had
staked.

"I shouldn't be surprised, Hugh," Broncho Harry said as they sat round
the fire, "if we have trouble with that skunk. He is a bad-tempered
lot at best, and he dropped his money heavy, for I hear he put in all
the stake himself, and he bet some besides. He took twenty off me last
week, but he has dropped pretty well half his season's money. You see
if he don't try and get up trouble."

"If he does, leave him to me, Harry."

"I don't want to leave him to you, Hugh. I rode the race, and if he
wants fighting, he will get it here; but I am afraid it is likely
enough he will try and make trouble with you. He knows that I am a
pretty tough hand, but he thinks you nothing but a tender-foot, and
that sort of fellow always fixes a quarrel on a soft if he gets the
chance."

"Well, as you know, Harry, I can take care of myself, and I would much
rather it was me than you. I know that you are a good deal better shot
than I am, but you know you are not nearly so quick with your weapon.
There would be no occasion to shoot, I fancy."

"You are right there, lad; if you get the drop on him, you will see he
will weaken directly."

The evening, however, passed off without the defeated cow-boy making
his appearance.

"He reckons it wouldn't do," Long Tom said. "You see the hull crowd
would be agin him if he were to come and get up a muss because he
has been beat in a race. A fellow who runs his horse is bound to
look pleasant whether he wins or whether he loses, and a good many
of the boys was saying as they never see a worse thing than the way
he galloped off after Broncho came in ahead of him. If he was to come
down here and make a muss, he knows that for sure the crowd wouldn't
stand it, and that if everything wasn't perfectly square, they would
come Judge Lynch on him in no time. Now a man may take the chance of
being shot in a quarrel; but when, if he ain't shot by one man he is
likely to get hung by a crowd, it takes a pretty hard man to run the
chances; only, look out for him, Broncho. I believe he has got a touch
of Mexican blood in him, although, I dare say, he would shoot the man
who ventured to say so, only it is there for all that, and you know a
Mexican don't mind waiting months so that he gets even at last."

"That's so," Broncho Harry agreed; "a greaser is about the worst sort
of white; that is, if you can call them white. I don't know but I hate
them more than Injuns."

On the following morning half No. 1 outfit started north, with a
herd of 5000 cattle that had been picked out from those driven in and
branded; and Hugh, with his four mates, now took their turn at driving
in the herds to the yard. This was much more to Hugh's taste than
the previous work had been. He did not mind the work of hauling out
and throwing the calves, nor of keeping back the cows, but he hated
seeing the calves branded, and still more, the operation of cutting
their ears. It was, of course, necessary work, but it was painful
to him to share in, and indeed he had generally managed to get Bill
Royce to exchange work with him when he was told off to perform these
operations.

The herding, on the other hand, was good fun. The animals seemed to
have an instinctive repulsion for the stock-yard; many of them had been
branded there the previous year, and probably recognized the spot. At
any rate, there were constant attempts to break away, and it needed all
the energy and vigilance of their guard to drive them down to the yard,
and still more to keep them there while awaiting their turn to enter
it. But more exciting still, and much more dangerous, was the work
of those who kept guard at the lower end of the yard. As the animals
came out, the calves were half mad with terror and pain, and the cows
furious at the defeat of their efforts to succour their offspring, so
that it was dangerous work for the men of the various ranches to pick
out the animals bearing their brand and to drive them off to the knot
of animals gathered at some little distance away under the guard of two
of their comrades.

Sometimes the cows made furious charges, which it needed all the
agility of horse and rider to avoid; then, as the animal rushed past,
a rope would be thrown over its head or under its leg, and an instant
later it would come to the ground with a crash. This generally proved
sufficient. The cow, when the rope was slackened, rose to its feet in
a half dazed way and walked heavily off, with the evident impression
upon its mind that an earthquake had taken place. Hugh was glad when he
heard in the middle of the day that the rest of the outfit had arrived
with the waggon and all the horses--for he felt that Prince had had
enough of it--and he at once galloped off, roped one of his own horses,
shifted the saddle on to him, and went back to work.

One or two of the bulls gave a great deal of trouble, charging hither
and thither furiously as they came out from the yard. In these cases
three or four of the cow-boys united, and while one attracted his
attention, the others threw their ropes. Some of the bulls had to be
thrown half a dozen times before they were subdued.

A few days later the [brand X] man, who went by the name of Flash Bill,
walked up to the fire round which the cow-boys of No. 2 outfit were
sitting.

"I have just come across to say I am sorry I rode off that day you beat
me, Broncho. I allow it was a mean trick of me, but I was riled pretty
considerable; still I oughtn't ter have done it; it wurn't the right
thing."

"It wurn't," Harry said; "but now you own up there is an end of it. Sit
right down and have a smoke."

For some time the conversation turned upon horses. Two or three other
men of the [brand X] ranche sauntered up and joined in. Presently Flash
Bill turned to Hugh, who had taken no part in the conversation, and
said, "Have you a mind to trade that horse?"

"No, I wouldn't sell it at any price," Hugh said. "It exactly suits me,
and I should find difficulty in getting another as good."

"Seems to me as I have seen that horse before," the man said. "Had him
long?"

"I have had him about eight months," Hugh replied.

"Curious; I seem to know him. Can't think where I have seen him;
somewhere out West."

"I bought him at M'Kinney," Hugh said.

"Oh! You bought him, did you?"

"How do you suppose I got him?" Hugh asked shortly.

"Oh! there are plenty of horses out on these plains as never was paid
for," Flash Bill said.

"I don't say there are not," Hugh replied. "At any rate, I expect you
are a better authority about that than I am."

"What do you mean by that?"

"I mean exactly what I say," Hugh said quietly.

"Do you mean to say as I have been a horse-thief!" the man exclaimed
furiously.

"I mean to say exactly what I did say," Hugh replied.

"Then you are a liar!" and the man's hand went to his hip. To his
astonishment, before his finger had closed on the butt of his pistol,
he was looking down the barrel of Hugh's revolver.

"Drop that," Hugh exclaimed, "or I fire!" Flash Bill threw up his hand.

"Now you will take that back," Hugh said.

"I take it back," Flash Bill said sullenly. "You've got the drop on
me, though how you did it I don't know. There ain't nothing more to be
said. I take it back."

"There is an end of it, then," Hugh said, replacing his pistol in his
belt. "You thought you had got a soft thing. You see you've made a
mistake."

"You had better git, Flash Bill," Broncho Harry said. "You ain't wanted
here. You came over to make a muss, and only I knowed as Hugh could
hold his own with you I would have put a bullet into you myself when
I saw your hand go to your pistol. You git, and if you will take my
advice, you will git altogether. You can't play the bad man in this
camp any longer, after weakening before a young chap as is little more
than a tender-foot."

With a muttered execration Flash Bill got up, and, followed by the men
of his own ranche, walked off.

"You did mighty well, considering that it is the first trouble you've
been in, Hugh; but you did wrong in not shooting. The rule on the
plains is, if one man calls another either a liar or a coward, that
fellow has a right to shoot him down if he can get his gun out first.
That's the rule, ain't it, boys?"

There was a chorus of assent.

"You may call a man pretty nigh everything else, and it don't go for
much. We ain't chice as to our words here; but them two words, liar and
coward, is death, and you would have done well to have shot him. You
bet, you'll have trouble with that fellow some day. You'll see he will
go now, but you'll hear of him again."

"I could no more have shot him than I could have flown," Hugh said,
"for he was really unarmed."

"He would have shot you if he had been heeled first," Long Tom said,
"and there ain't a man in the camp but would have said that you had
been perfectly right if you had shot him, for it is sartin he came over
here bound to kill you. I agree with Broncho. You have done a mighty
soft thing, and maybe you will be sorry for it some day. I have heard
say that Flash Bill has been a mighty hard man in his time, and I guess
as stealing horses ain't been the worse thing he has done, and I reckon
he has come back here to work for a bit, because he has made it too hot
for himself in the settlements. Well, it's a pity you didn't shoot."

The next morning, as they were saddling their horses, Flash Bill
rode past. He had his blankets and kit strapped behind his saddle. He
checked his horse as he came up to them. "I give you warning," he said
to Hugh, "that I'll shoot at sight when we meet again! You too, Broncho
Harry."

"All right!" Broncho Harry replied. "We shall both be ready for you."
Without another word Flash Bill put spurs to his horse and galloped
away.

This was the regular form of challenge among the cow-boys. Sometimes
after a quarrel, in which one had got the drop of the other, and the
latter had been obliged to "take back" what he had said, mutual friends
would interfere; and if the row had taken place when one or other of
the men had been drinking, or when there was no previous malice or
dislike between the men, the matter would be made up and things go
on as before. If, however, the quarrel had been a deliberate one,
and one or other considered himself still aggrieved, he would take
his discharge and leave the camp on the following morning, giving his
antagonist notice that he should shoot at sight when they next met,
and whether the meeting was alone on the plains, in a drinking saloon,
or in a street, both parties would draw and fire the moment their eyes
fell on each other.

That Flash Bill should have been forced to take back his words by
this young hand of the [brand circle triangle] ranch was a matter of
the deepest astonishment to the camp, and Hugh found himself quite a
popular character, for Flash Bill had made himself very obnoxious; and
with the exception of two or three men of his own stamp in the [brand
X] outfit, the men of that body were more pleased than anyone else that
the bully had had to leave. None were more astonished than the men of
the other outfits of the [brand circle triangle] ranche. They had heard
Hugh addressed as Lightning; but curiosity is not a cow-boy failing,
and few had given a thought as to how he had come by the appellation.
One or two had asked the question, but Broncho Harry had, the night
before his party started to the round-up, said to the others, "Look
here, boys. If anyone asks how Lightning Hugh came by his name, don't
you give him away. They will larn one of these days, and it will be as
good as a theyater when he does that gun trick of his. So keep it dark
from the other boys."

The few questions asked, therefore, had been met with a laugh.

"It is a sort of joke of ours," Broncho Harry had said to one of the
questioners. "You will see one of these days why it fits him."

Hugh was not sorry when the time came for his outfit to start. They
had charge of a herd of eight or nine thousand animals all belonging to
the [brand circle triangle]. It was customary for most of the ranches
to drive their own cattle, after a round-up, towards the neighbourhood
of their station for the convenience of cutting out the steers that
were to be sent down to market, or herds, principally of cows and
calves, for purchasers who intended to establish ranches in the still
unoccupied territory in New Mexico, Colorado, Dakota, and Montana. Some
of these herds would have thousands of miles to travel, and be many
months upon the journey. Many of the cow-boys looked forward to taking
service with these herds, and trying life under new conditions in the
northern territories.

When the beef herds, and such cow herds as the manager of the ranche
wished to sell, had been picked out and sent off, the rest of the
cattle would be free to wander anywhere they liked over the whole
country until they were again swept together for the round-up, unless
other sales were effected in the meantime, in which case parties of
cow-boys would go out to cut out and drive in the number required. The
number of cattle collected at the rounds-up was enormous, many of the
ranches owning from forty to eighty thousand cattle. A considerable
number were not driven in at the round-up, as the greater portion of
the beef-cattle, which had already been branded, were cut out and left
behind by the various outfits, and only the cows and calves, with a few
bulls to serve as leaders, were driven in. Nevertheless, at these great
rounds-up in Texas, the number of the animals collected mounted up to
between two and three hundred thousand.

Two-thirds of the work was over when No. 2 outfit of the [brand circle
triangle] ranche started.

"Well, I am glad that is over, Bill," Hugh said, as they halted at the
end of the first day's march.

"I am not sorry," Bill Royce replied; "it is desperate hard work. All
day at the stock-yard, and half one's time at night on guard with the
herds, is a little too much for anyone."

"Yes, it has been hard work," Hugh said; "but I don't think I meant
that so much as that it was not so pleasant in other ways as usual.
The men are too tired to talk or sing of an evening. One breakfasted,
or rather swallowed one's food half asleep before daylight, took
one's dinner standing while at work, and was too tired to enjoy one's
supper."

"I reckon it has been a good round-up," Broncho Harry said. "There have
been only four men killed by the cattle, and there haven't been more
than five or six shooting scrapes. Let me think! yes, only five men
have been shot."

"That is five too many, Broncho," Hugh said.

"Well, that is so in one way, Hugh; but you see we should never get on
out here without shooting."

"Why shouldn't we?"

"Because we are an all-fired rough lot out here. There ain't no law,
and no sheriffs, and no police, and no troops. How in thunder would you
keep order if it weren't for the six-shooter? Thar would be no peace,
and the men would be always quarrelling and wrangling. How would you
work it anyhow? It is just because a quarrel means a shooting scrape
that men don't quarrel, and that every one keeps a civil tongue in
his head. There ain't nowhere in the world where there is so little
quarrelling as out here on the plains. You see, if we didn't all carry
six-shooters, and were ready to use them, the bad-tempered men, and
the hard men, would have it their own way. Big fellows like you would
be able to bully little fellows like me. We should get all the bad
men from the towns whenever they found the settlements too hot for
them. We should have murderers, and gamblers, and horse-thieves coming
and mixing themselves up with us. I tell you, Hugh, that without the
revolver there would be no living out here. No, sirree, the six-shooter
puts us all on a level, and each man has got to respect another. I
don't say as there ain't a lot wiped out every year, because there is;
but I say that it is better so than it would be without it. When these
plains get settled up, and the grangers have their farms on them, and
the great cattle ranches go, and you get sheriffs, and judges, and
all that, the six-shooter will go too, but you can't do without it
till then. The revolver is our sheriff, and judge, and executioner all
rolled in one. No one who is quiet and peaceable has got much occasion
to use it."

"I nearly had to use it the other day, Broncho, and I reckon I am quiet
and peaceable."

"Waal, I don't altogether know about that, Hugh. I don't say as you
want to quarrel, quite the contrary, but you made up your mind before
you came here that if you got into trouble you were going to fight, and
you practised and practised until you got so quick that you are sure
you can get the drop on anyone you get into a muss with. So though you
don't want to get in a quarrel, if anyone wants to quarrel with you
you are ready to take him up. Now if it hadn't been so there wouldn't
have been any shooting-irons out the other night. Flash Bill came over
to get up a quarrel. He was pretty well bound to get up a quarrel with
some one, but if you had been a downright peaceable chap he could not
have got up a quarrel with you. If you had said quietly, when he kinder
said as how you hadn't come by that horse honest, that Bill here had
been with you when you bought him, and that you got a document in your
pocket, signed by a sheriff and a judge, to prove that you had paid for
it, there would have been no words with you. I don't say as Flash Bill,
who was just spoiling for a fight, wouldn't have gone at somebody else.
Likely enough he would have gone at me. Waal, if I had been a quiet and
peaceable chap I should have weakened too, and so it would have gone on
until he got hold of somebody as wasn't going to weaken to no one, and
then the trouble would have begun. I don't say as this is the place for
your downright peaceable man, but I say if such a one comes here he can
manage to go through without mixing himself up in shooting scrapes."

"But in that way a man like Flash Bill, let us say, who is known to be
ready to use his pistol, might bully a whole camp."

"Yas, if they wur all peaceable people; but then, you see, they ain't.
This sort of life ain't good for peaceable people. We take our chances
pretty well every day of getting our necks broke one way or another,
and when that is so one don't think much more of the chance of being
shot than of other chances. Besides, a man ain't allowed to carry on
too bad. If he forces a fight on another and shoots him, shoots him
fair, mind you, the boys get together and say this can't go on; and
that man is told to git, and when he is told that he has got to, if
he don't he knows what he has got to expect. No, sirree, I don't say
as everything out in the plains is just arranged as it might be in New
York; but I say that, take the life as it is, I don't see as it could
be arranged better. There was a chap out here for a bit as had read up
no end of books, and he said it was just the same sort of thing way
back in Europe, when every man carried his sword by his side and was
always fighting duels, till at last the kings got strong enough to make
laws to put it down and managed things without it; and that's the way
it will be in this country. Once the law is strong enough to punish
bad men, and make it so that there ain't no occasion for a fellow to
carry about a six-shooter to protect his life, then the six-shooter
will go. But that won't be for a long time yet. Why, if it wasn't for
us cow-boys, there wouldn't be no living in the border settlements. The
horse-thieves and the outlaws would just rampage about as they pleased,
and who would follow them out on the plains and into the mountains? But
they know we won't have them out here, and that there would be no more
marcy shown to them if they fell into our hands than there would be
to a rattler. Then, again, who is it keeps the Injuns in order? Do you
think it is Uncle Sam's troops? Why, the Red-skins just laugh at them.
It's the cow-boys."

"It ain't so long ago," Long Tom put in, "as a boss commissioner came
out to talk with the natives, and make them presents, and get them to
live peaceful. People out in the east, who don't know nothing about
Injuns, are always doing some foolish thing like that. The big chief
he listens to the commissioner, and when he has done talking to him,
and asks what presents he should like, the chief said as the thing
that would most tickle him would be half a dozen cannons with plenty of
ammunition."

"'But,' says the commissioner, 'we can't give you cannon to fight our
troops with.'

"'Troops!' says the chief; 'who cares about the troops? We can just
drive them whenever we like. We want the cannon to fight the cow-boys.'

"That chief knew what was what. It is the cow-boys as keep back the
Red-skins, it's the cow-boys as prevent these plains getting filled up
with outlaws and horse-thieves, and the cow-boys can do it 'cause each
man has got six lives pretty sartin at his belt, and as many more as he
has time to slip in fresh cartridges for; and because we don't place
much valley on our lives, seeing as we risk them every day. We know
they ain't likely to be long anyhow. What with death among the herds,
shooting scrapes, broken limbs, and one thing and another, and the
work which wears out the strongest in a few years, a cow-boy's life is
bound to be a short one. You won't meet one in ten who is over thirty.
It ain't like other jobs. We don't go away and take up with another
trade. What should we be fit for? A man that has lived on horseback,
and spent his life galloping over the plains, what is he going to do
when he ain't no longer fit for this work? He ain't going to hoe a
corn-patch or wear a biled shirt and work in a store. He ain't going to
turn lawyer, or set up to make boots or breeches. No, sirree. He knows
as ten years is about as much as he can reckon on if his chances are
good, and that being so, he don't hold nothing particular to his life.
We ain't got no wives and no children. We works hard for our money, and
when we gets it we spend it mostly in a spree. We are ready to share
it with any mate as comes along hard up. It might be better, and it
might be worse. Anyway, I don't see no chance of changing it as long
as there is room out west for cattle ranches. Another hundred years and
the grangers will have got the land and the cow-boys will be gone, but
it will last our time anyhow."

Hugh was much struck with this estimate of a cow-boy's life by one of
themselves, but on thinking it over he saw that it was a true one.
These men were the adventurous spirits of the United States. Had
they been born in England they would have probably either enlisted
or run away as boys and gone to sea. They were men to whom a life of
action was a necessity. Their life resembled rather that of the Arab
or the Red Indian than that of civilized men. Their senses had become
preternaturally acute; their eyesight was wonderful. They could hear
the slightest sound, and pronounce unhesitatingly how it was caused.
There was not an ounce of unnecessary flesh upon them. Their muscles
seemed to have hardened into whip-cord.

They were capable of standing the most prolonged fatigue and hardship,
and just as a wild stag will run for a considerable distance after
receiving a wound that would be instantly fatal to a domestic animal,
these men could, as he had seen for himself, and still more, as he
had heard many anecdotes to prove, sustain wounds and injuries of the
most terrible kind and yet survive, seeming, in many cases, almost
insensible to pain. They were, in fact, a race apart, and had very
many good qualities and comparatively few bad ones. They were, indeed,
as Long Tom had said, reckless of their lives, and they spent their
earnings in foolish dissipation. But they knew of no better way. The
little border-towns or Mexican villages they frequented offered no
other amusements, and except for clothes and ammunition for their
pistols they had literally no other need for their money.

Nothing could exceed the kindness with which they nursed each other in
illness or their generosity to men in distress. They were devoted to
the interests of their employers, undergoing, as a matter of course,
the most prolonged and most prodigious exertions. They were frank,
good-tempered, and kindly in their intercourse with each other, as
addicted to practical jokes as so many school-boys, and joining as
heartily in the laugh when they happened to be the victims as when they
were the perpetrators of the joke. Their code of honour was perhaps a
primitive one, but they lived up to it strictly, and in spite of its
hardships and its dangers there was an irresistible fascination in the
wild life that they led.



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XI.

A FIRE ON THE PLAINS.


After the hard work at the round-up the journey north seemed almost a
holiday. Of an evening the cook's accordion was again brought out, and
the men sang and, to Hugh's amusement, danced. He thought the proposal
was a joke when it was first made, but he soon saw that it was quite
serious. He had declined to take part in it, saying that he had never
danced since he was a little boy; but it was as much as he could do to
restrain his laughter, upon seeing the gravity with which eight of the
cow-boys went through a quadrille to the music of the accordion. Then
followed waltzes, and then some Mexican dances, the entertainment being
kept up for a couple of hours.

Dancing, indeed, is one of the favourite amusements of cow-boys, and
there being no females to dance with they dance with each other, and
are so accustomed to do so that it comes to them as naturally as if
dancing with women. When, however, they are camped within thirty or
forty miles of a Mexican village, it is no unusual thing for a party of
half a dozen to ride over to it. Perhaps one has preceded them to make
the arrangements. These are simple. The Mexicans are very musical, and
there is not a village where men capable of playing upon the mandoline,
and perhaps other instruments, cannot be found. An arrangement is made
with these and with the landlord of the little inn.

The preparations are not expensive--spirits for the men and a supply of
cakes and syrups for the women. The news spreads like lightning, and in
the evening Mexican villagers, male and female, in their best attire,
from miles round arrive, some in carts and some on horseback. The music
strikes up, and the dance is kept up until morning. Occasionally these
entertainments end with a fray, arising generally from the jealousy
of some young Mexican at the complacency with which his sweetheart
receives the attentions of a cow-boy admirer. But these are quite
the exceptions. The Mexicans know that their hosts will be off in the
morning, and that they shall probably never see them again, and they
therefore put up philosophically with the temporary inconstancy of the
damsels of their village.

To the Mexican girls, indeed, these cow-boys are veritable heroes.
They have heard endless tales of their courage. They know that the
Indians, who hold their countrymen in absolute contempt, fear to meet
these terrible herdsmen. The careless way in which they spend their
money, their readiness to bestow their gorgeous silk handkerchiefs,
their really handsome and valuable sashes, or the gold cord of their
hats, upon their favourite partner for the evening, fills them with
admiration. They know, too, that when, as occasionally happens, a
cow-boy does marry a Mexican girl, and settles down upon some little
ranche among them, the lot of his wife is greatly easier than that of
those who marry Mexicans, and that she will be treated with an amount
of consideration and courtesy undreamt of by the Mexican peasant,
who, although an humble adorer before marriage, is a despotic master
afterwards. It is not surprising, then, that upon occasions like these
the cow-boy hosts have a monopoly of the prettiest girls at the ball.

Round the camp fires in the evening Hugh heard many tales of such
evenings spent in the villages of New Mexico.

"I had a very narrow escape once," a cow-boy known as Straight Charley
said. "There were six of us went up together to a Mexican village,
and we gave a first-rate hop. There was a big crowd there, find things
went on well until there was a muss between one of our fellows and a
Mexican. Jake was rather a hard man, and we hadn't much fancied his
being of our party, for he was fonder of drink than of dancing, and
was quarrelsome when the drink was in him. I don't know how the muss
began, for I was dancing with as pretty a little Mexican girl as I ever
came across. However, I haven't any doubt as Jake was in the wrong. The
first I knowed about it was that the music stopped, and then I heard
loud voices. I saw a knife flash, and dropped my partner, and was going
to run in to stop it, but I hadn't more than thought about it when
there was the crack of a pistol. Then knives were out all round, and
there was a pretty lively fight.

"It seemed, as I heard afterwards, that when Jake shot the Mexican--and
I don't say he had no right to do so when the Mexican had drawn
his knife first, for if he had not shot he would have been killed
himself--two or three other Mexicans went for him, and, as a matter of
course, two of our fellows went for the Mexicans. If they hadn't been
all mixed up together the six of us could have cleared the hull lot
out, but mixed up like that, and with girls about, our fellows hadn't
much show. I was just breaking through to take a hand in the game,
when a fellow who had been looking pretty sour at me for some time,
jumped on my back like a wild cat, so down I went, and in half a minute
my legs and arms were tied tight with their sashes. I didn't try to
struggle after I had fallen, for I knew well enough that our fellows
had got the worst of it.

"When matters cleared up a bit I found that four Mexicans had been
killed, and five or six others pretty badly hurt. Jake and another of
our boys were dead; two others had broke out, run to their horses, and
ridden away. Another of the boys had been taken prisoner, but he had
got two or three knife-cuts before he was knocked down. There was a big
hubbub for some time, as you may guess, and then they told us we should
be taken to the town in the morning. Well, they took off the sashes,
and marched us away to a house at the end of the village. It was a
plank house, and built in the same fashion as their adobe huts, with
one room behind the other. Of course they had taken our six-shooters
and knives away from us, and they shoved us into the inner room, and
then a dozen of them sat down to play cards and keep watch in the
other.

"The place had been built as a sort of lock-up, and there were heavy
bars to the window, just as you see in a good many Mexican houses. They
had left our legs free, but had put some ropes round our arms; but we
knew that we could shift them easy enough. The Mexicans had shut the
door between the two rooms, but we could hear their talk through it,
and we heard that, though the thing had been brought on by Jake, there
would have been a muss anyhow sooner or later. Two white men had come
into the village a fortnight before; they were dressed like cow-boys,
but I reckon they were horse-stealers or outlaws, anyhow they had
kicked up a row and shot three men, and rode away, and the Mexicans had
seemed to make up their minds that they would take revenge on the next
party that came in, whoever they were.

"Well, things looked pretty bad for us. If we had once got inside one
of their prisons, the Mexican judges would have made short work of us.
The greasers would, of course, have sworn that we had begun the row,
and shot down four or five of their people without the least cause,
and it would have been a case of hanging, as sure as a gun; so Dave
and I agreed that we had got to git somehow. It wur no use talking of
fighting, for there was a dozen fellows in the next room, and they had
all got their guns along with them. We hadn't got our knives, and there
was no chance of cutting our way out. We were talking it over when
someone said, 'Are you there, Charley?' at the window. It was one of
the boys who had got away. You bet I was there pretty sharp.

"'Here I am, Ginger,' I said. 'How goes it?' 'Pretty bad,' he
said; 'Jeffries is cut pretty near to pieces, and I am wounded in
half-a-dozen places, and can scarce crawl. Jeffries is with the
horses a mile away. He is too bad to stand. I made a shift to crawl
back to see what had become of you. I have been creeping round, and
heard the two of you were shut up here, and that you was going to be
taken off to-morrow, and would be hung, sure, so I came round to see
what could be done; here is my six-shooter if it will be any good to
you.' 'No, that won't be any good,' I said; 'there are twelve of them,
and they have all got guns; but give me your knife; these planks are
pretty thick, but we can cut our way through.' 'I haven't got it,'
says Ginger; 'it was knocked out of my belt in the fight, and, worse
luck, Jeffries has lost his too. A fellow got hold of his wrist, so
he couldn't use his pistol, and he drew his knife, and he was fighting
with it, when he got a slice across his fingers which pretty nigh cut
them off, and he dropped his knife, and, as luck would have it, just
wrenched himself free and bolted.'

"'Well, we must do what we can,' I said; 'but it is hard luck on us.
Look here, Ginger, you bring the two horses up to that clump of trees
over there; Dave is pretty badly cut about, and cannot run far, but he
can make a shift to get over there. If we don't come by an hour before
daylight it ain't no use your waiting no longer; you go and pick up
Jeffries, and make tracks; but I reckon that somehow we shall manage
to come.' 'All right!' says he, and went. 'Now, Dave,' I said, 'you
turn over and let me get my teeth at your knots, it is hard if I don't
manage to undo them.'

"Sure enough, in five minutes I had loosed a knot, and then the rest
was easy. Dave untied me, and we were free so far. 'What next?' says
Dave. 'We will have a look round,' says I. Luckily there was a moon,
and there was plenty of light to see what was in the room. There was
some bits of furniture and bedding, just as they had been left by the
people they had turned out to make room for us, but nothing that I
could find as would help us to cut our way out. 'Now, Dave,' says I,
'you get to that corner and I will get to this, and just shove against
the planks, and see if we can't push the hull side of this shanty out.'
Well, it wur too strong for us. It was made of rough boards, pretty
strongly nailed. I thought it gave a little, but nothing as would be
any good. 'If we could throw ourselves against it both together it
might go,' I said; 'but it mightn't, and if it didn't we should have
them inside in a moment, and there would be an end to it. What do you
say to our burning ourselves out, Dave?'

"'How are we to do that, Charley?' he said. 'Well, I have got my box
of matches in my boot, and I suppose you have yours too. Let us pile up
some of these wooden things against the two corners; there is plenty of
straw in this bed. Before we begin we will hang one of these blankets
over the doorway so as to keep the smoke from going through the cracks.
I reckon they are all smoking in there, and they won't smell it very
quick.' So we made a pile, moving as quiet as we could, standing still
when they were not talking much in the next room, and moving whenever
they made a row, which was pretty often. 'These things are as dry as
chips,' I said, 'and what smoke there is will mostly go out through
the window, but I expect there will be more than we shall like. Here is
a big pitcher of water, we will soak these two blankets, and then lie
down close to the floor; you cover your head over with one, and I will
do it with the other. Now, then!'

"We lit a couple of matches and touched off the straw, and in half a
minute there was a blaze up to the roof. Then we lay down by the other
wall one on each side of the door, and waited. In about two minutes
there was a shout in the next room and a rush, then the door was flung
open and the blanket torn down, and such a yelling and cussing as you
never heard. The smoke was pretty bad where we was lying, and I reckon
that up higher it was as thick as a wall. 'The cursed Americans have
lighted the house and smothered themselves,' one of them shouted. Then
they rushed out, coughing and choking, and we heard them shouting for
water, and there wur as much row as if the village had been attacked by
Injuns.

  [Illustration: "A COUPLE OF KICKS SENT OUT THE PLANKS, AND THEN WE
   BOLTED."]

"We waited another three or four minutes, and then Dave shouted, 'I
can't stand this no longer.' I had hoped they would have left the outer
door open, and that we could have got out that way, but we had heard it
shut. I expect someone more cute than the rest suspected we wur inside
biding our time. 'Take a long breath, Dave,' says I, 'and don't breathe
again until you are out; now jump up and join me.' We joined hands and
made a run, and threw ourselves against one corner of the end of the
hut. Several of the planks fell, and a couple of kicks sent the rest
out, then off we bolted.

"There wur a yell outside, for by this time half the village were
there. Luckily the men with guns was mostly round by the door, and
when the yells fetched them there was too many women and children about
for them to shoot. We went straight on, as you may guess, and we were
half-way to the woods before the shooting began, and it wur pretty wild
at that. Dave gave out afore he got to the trees, and I had to carry
him.

"'This way,' Ginger shouted. I lifted Dave on to a horse, and jumped
up behind him, and we wur off just as the Mexicans came running up.
After that it wur easy enough. We rode to where Jeffries had been left,
got him on to Ginger's horse, and made tracks for the camp. Jeffries
died next day, but Dave got over it. That wur a pretty near touch, I
reckon."

"It was indeed," Hugh said. "That was a very lucky idea of yours of
burning out the corners of the house."

"Some of them Mexicans is cusses," another cow-boy put in. "I had a
smart affair with them in one of their villages last year. I had rid
in with Baltimore Rube. We had been searching some of the gullies
for cows, and had run short of sugar and tea. Waal, I was on a young
broncho I had only roped two days before, and the critter wur as wild
as could be. When we rode in, a lot of them brutes of dogs that swarms
almost as thick as their fleas in all these Mexican villages, came
barking round, while one big brute in particular made as if he would
pin my broncho by the nose, and the pony plunged and kicked till I
thought he would have me off. There was a lot of their men standing at
their doors smoking, for it wur late in the afternoon, and they wur all
back from what they called work. I shouted to them to call their dogs
off, but they just laughed and jeered, so I did the only thing as there
was to do, just pulled out my six-shooter and shot the dog. Waal, if
it had been a man there could not have been a worse sort of row. The
Mexicans ran into their houses just as quick as a lot of prairie-dogs
when they scent danger, and in a moment were back with their guns, and
began to blaze away. Waal, naturally, our dander riz, a bullet chipped
the bark off my cheek, and by the way my broncho jumped I knew one had
hit him, so Baltimore and I blazed away in return, and neither of us
didn't shoot to miss, you bet. We just emptied our six-shooters, and
then rode for it.

"Baltimore got a shot in his shoulder. I had one in the leg, and there
was two in the saddle. We talked it over and agreed it wur best to say
nothing about it. Them Mexicans will swear black is white, and when
there is a whole village swearing one way, and only two men swearing
the other way, them two has got but a poor show of being believed. So
we concluded to leave those parts altogether, and we rode a hundred and
fifty miles in the next two days, and then camped for a week till our
wounds healed up a bit.

"A fortnight after that we went into the station, and there I
happened to light upon one of them rags the Mexicans calls papers, and
there sure enough was the account of that business. 'Two cow-boys,
unknown, rode last week into the quiet village of Puserey, and
without the slightest provocation commenced a murderous attack upon
its inhabitants, and after killing four and wounding eight men, they
galloped off before the inhabitants had time to betake themselves to
their arms to defend themselves. A reward of five hundred dollars is
offered for their apprehension.' Now, that wur a pretty tall piece
of lying; but Baltimore and I agreed it wur best to keep dark about
it altogether, for if it wur talked about, it might get to the ears
of some of the half-caste Mexicans about the station, and some day or
other, when we went into a village, we might find ourselves roped in."

"That is the way," Broncho Harry said indignantly, "us cow-boys get
a bad name. Now, I dare say that air article wur copied in half the
newspapers in the States, and folks as know nothing about it would
say, 'Them cow-boys is a cuss; they ought to be wiped off the arth
right away.' It is always so whenever there is a row between any of us
and the Mexicans. They give thar account of it, and we goes away and
thinks no more about it one way or the other, and there is no one to
show it up as a lie from beginning to end; and I know there's people
think we are as bad as the Injuns, if not worse, and that we ride about
shooting down people just for amusement. Then all these outlaws and
horse-thieves and bad men near the settlements dress as much as they
can like us, and every murder as they commits, every horse that gits
stolen, every man that gits held up and robbed, it is just put down
to the cow-boys. While if the truth wur known, for every one of these
fellows caught or wiped out by the sheriff and their posse, there is
twenty gets wiped out by us."

There was a cordial "That is so, Broncho," all round the fire, for the
injustice connected with their reputation was a very sore point among
the cow-boys.

"Well, some day, Broncho," Hugh said, "when I get away from here, for,
as you know, I haven't come here to stay, I will take pen in hand and
try to give a true account of you and your doings, so that people may
see that there are two sides to the question."

"Bully for you, Hugh!" Long Tom said; "just you put it in hot and
strong. I tell you it ain't nice if one does go down to the settlements
in the winter, when work is slack, to see people look at you as if
you wur a wild beast, who is only waiting his chance to hold up the
hull town. Why, I have seen women pull their children indoors as I
came along, as if I wur a mountain lion, and was meaning to draw my
six-shooter on them just for amusement."

"Well," Hugh said, "I must say I heard stories at M'Kinney of cow-boys
coming down to a town and riding about shooting off the hats of
the inhabitants, making targets of the bottles in the saloons, and
generally turning the place topsy-turvy. Of course I didn't believe it
all."

There was silence round the fire, and then Straight Charley said:

"Well, Lightning, I won't say as you have been altogether deceived as
to that, and I won't deny as I have taken part in sprees myself, but
you see it don't hurt no one. It is just fun. If we do shoot the heads
off the bottles, we pays for them, and it makes one laugh till one can
scarcely sit in a saddle to see an old cuss jump when you put a bullet
through his stove-pipe hat. It is his fault for wearing such a thing,
which is an unnatural invention altogether and should be discouraged."

"We do carry on," Broncho Harry agreed, "thar ain't no denying it. When
a man has been out in these plains for six months working worse than a
nigger, and that without a drop of liquor, it is natural as he should
go in for a high old time when he gits down to a town with money in his
pockets; but thar ain't no real harm in it. We know how we can shoot,
and that if we fire at a hat there ain't no chance of our hitting the
head inside. It just makes things lively for them for a bit, and there
is never no trouble, unless anyone is fool enough to take the matter up
and make a muss about it."

"I am not saying you do any real harm, Broncho, only you see the people
in the towns don't know how well you shoot. If you knock a pipe out of
my mouth, as you have done once or twice, I only laugh, because I know
there was no chance in the world of your hitting me; but you see they
don't all know that. And so when a man finds there are two holes in his
hat an inch above his head, he thinks he has had a marvellous escape of
being murdered."

"I don't deny as there is something in that," Broncho Harry said
reflectively; "but you see it is in their ignorance that the mistake
comes in, not in our shooting. Anyhow, you see we have got to do
something to amuse ourselves, and we might do worse than just skeer a
few store-men, who take it out of us by charging us about double the
price they charge anyone else."

Hugh was not convinced by the argument, but he felt that it was of no
use to pursue the subject further.

"How do the cows know their calves?" he asked one day, as at the end of
a march some of the cows were loudly lowing for their offspring to come
to them.

"By smell," Broncho Harry replied promptly.

"You don't see much of their ways here, for the calves are pretty well
grown up; but when you are driving a herd, as I have done many a time,
made up altogether of cows and young calves, you see a lot of it. Ten
or twelve miles a day is as much as you can do with a herd of that
sort. What steers there are always go ahead, grazing as they go. The
cows will come straggling along next, and then the calves strung out
all over the place, and the rear-guard have pretty hard work to hurry
them up. You see calves have got no sense, and run anywhere--under your
horse's legs or anywhere else; while the cows don't pay much attention
to them till they get to the end of the march. Then they begin to bawl
for their calves to come to them, and the calves begin to bawl for
their mothers, and I tell you that for a bit there is such a row going
on that you would think the end of the world had come. Two thousand
cows and as many calves can kick up a row, you bet, that will well-nigh
scare you."

"But don't the calves know their mothers' voices?"

"Not a bit of it; it is just smell and nothing else that brings them
together. You would think the cows would know something about the
colour of their young uns, but they don't. I have seen a cow that I
knew had a white calf run up to a black calf and smell it, then to a
brown one, and then to a spotted one, while her own white calf stood
bawling fit to kill herself a dozen yards away. It is wonderful how
they do find each other at all, and the job often takes them two or
three hours. Some of the cows concludes at last that their calves have
been left behind, and then off they set, and would go all the way back
to the place they had started from in the morning if you didn't stop
them. Sometimes they don't find them at all that night."

"But what happens to the calves then?"

"The calves shift for themselves. They run up to other cows which have
got their own calves sucking. Each cow will generally let them have a
suck or two, and then drive them off, and in that way they get enough
to last them on till they find their mothers in the morning.

"There is a good deal of trouble in keeping night-watch over a herd
like that. It isn't that there is any risk of a stampede. A cow herd
will never stampede if there are a lot of young calves in it; but they
don't settle themselves comfortable to sleep. The calves want to wander
about, and the cows who haven't found their young ones keep trying to
slip off to take the back track, and you have got to be always on the
watch for them. Take it altogether, I would rather drive a beef herd
than a cow herd."

After a week's travel they reached the spot that had been fixed upon
for the herd to graze. The cow-boys' work was now much lighter. Parties
of twos and threes could often be spared for a day's excursion up to
some Mexican village among the hills, or they would go off for three or
four days' hunt among the valleys to pick up any cattle that had evaded
search during the round-up. One day, when there were but four of them
in camp, two of the party who had been absent a couple of days rode
in at full speed, and reported to the head of the outfit that they had
seen the light of a fire up north.

"Then there is no time to be lost," Colley said. "Will you two men stop
here and look after things? I will ride off with the other four and
fight the fire. When the others come back do you start out after us.
The last two who come in must stop here. Give us what food you have
got, darkey; we may be away four or five days. Directly we have gone
set to and cook something for the others."

Hugh and Bill Royce had returned the day before from an expedition
among the foot-hills. Broncho Harry and another cow-boy were also in
camp. In five minutes the horses were saddled, and they dashed off at
full speed.

"It is lucky that the wind is not blowing strong," Colley said, "or we
should have the fire down here before we got news of it, and there is
no place handy where we could drive the herd. I expects those blessed
Injuns lit the fire."

Hugh was very pleased that he was in camp when the news came. He had
heard many stories from the cow-boys of these terrible fires, and knew
that at times they had wrought havoc among the herds, whose only hope
of escape lay in reaching a stream wide enough to check the progress of
the flames.

After riding twenty miles they could distinguish a faint odour of smoke
in the air, and as they gained a crest soon after sunset could see a
long line of light in the distance.

"It is a big un," Broncho Harry said, "and no mistake."

They lost no time in getting to work, for the wind was rising, and
there was but little time to spare. They had on their way picked out a
steer from a bunch they came upon, and had driven it before them, and
had also stopped and cut faggots of wood from a clump of bushes in a
hollow. A shot from Broncho Harry's revolver brought the bullock dead
to the ground, and while Royce lit a fire the others with their long
knives proceeded to split the bullock into two portions, dividing it
from its head down to its tail.

"Now, Broncho, will you go east with Lightning while Royce and Jake go
west? Keep on until you meet some fellows from the other outfits. They
are sure to be at work all along the line. If you don't meet any by
the time you get to the end of the flames, then work back and fight the
fire as you come. I expect the other four man will be up in an hour or
two."

Broncho Harry and Royce at once lit two of the long faggots, and
fastened the others to their saddles. They then tied the ends of
their ropes to the blazing faggots and started. Hugh having been
already instructed in his part, fastened his rope to a leg of the half
bullock, and mounted his horse--he had not brought Prince this time,
as he feared that he might get burned. He waited until Broncho Harry
was a quarter of a mile ahead. Already a line of fire was rising in
his track, the dried grass catching like tinder as the blazing faggot
passed over it. It had already run along a width of twenty feet or so,
burning fiercely on the leeward side, and making its way in a thin red
line to windward. It was the leeward side that Hugh had to attend to,
and galloping his horse along the ground over which the flame had just
passed, he dragged the half carcass of the bullock behind him, so that
in its course it passed over the line of flame, which its weight and
the raw under-surface instantly crushed out. For ten miles he rode on,
and then found that Harry had stopped.

"We are beyond the edge of the fire," the latter said. "It is the other
side where there is most danger, unless Smith's outfit have got news in
time. Waal, we have done our part of the job so far."

Looking back Hugh saw a sea of fire approaching across the plains. The
wind was blowing stronger now, and the air was full of smoke and ashes.
Far along the track they had come a thin line of fire was advancing
against the wind to meet the great wave that was sweeping down towards
it.

"We passed some bushes half a mile back," Harry said. "We will ride
back to them, and then let the horses go. We sha'n't want them any
more, and they are pretty well mad with fright now."

As soon as they reached the bushes they leapt off, and letting the
horses go cut as many boughs as they could carry. Then retiring from
the strip of burnt ground, already forty or fifty yards wide, they
awaited the flames. Their approach was heralded by burning fragments,
and they were both soon at work beating out the flames as fast as they
were kindled to leeward of the burnt strip. Single-handed they would
not have succeeded, but other cow-boys speedily arrived, and along the
whole line parties were at work fighting the fire. At times it got such
hold that it was only checked by lighting fresh fires to leeward, and
crushing them out as had been done at first, and it was thirty hours
before the fire was extinguished along that part of the line.

Then the news came that further west it had burst through, and the
cow-boys, mounting fresh horses that had been brought up, rode off
and joined in the fight there, and it was not until after three days'
unremitting effort that the danger was finally subdued. During all this
time the men had not a moment's rest. Their food and water had been
sent up from the waggons, and a hasty meal was snatched occasionally.
When all was done they were blackened with smoke and ashes. Their hair
and clothes were singed, and they were utterly exhausted with their
efforts. However, they had saved the herds, and were well content with
their work; but, as soon as it was over, each man threw himself down
where he stood and slept for many hours, watch being kept by some of
the last arrivals, for it was by no means improbable that the Indians
would swoop down to take advantage of the confusion and drive off
cattle.

As soon as the cow-boys were roused next morning they rode off to
their respective outfits, and Hugh's party on their arrival enjoyed the
luxury of a bathe in the stream, near which the waggon of No. 2 outfit
was placed. Then, after their change of clothes, they gathered for a
comfortable meal.

"Waal, Lightning, that has been a fresh experience for you," Broncho
Harry said.

"I am glad I have seen it," Hugh replied; "but I don't want to repeat
it."

"This was nothing, Hugh. Four years ago there was a fire here that
swept right across the plains; there was a strong wind and no stopping
it, and there were over 100,000 cattle burned. I suppose some day or
other they will be passing laws for putting up fences. If they do, I
tell you it will be something like ruin to a good many ranches, for
it will prevent cattle from running before the flames. As it is now,
their instinct takes them either to a stream or to some high bluff.
But if there was fences they would never get away. In the north they
lose whole herds in the same way from snow-storms. A herd will drift
before snow and wind for hundreds of miles, but if there is anything
that stops them they just get snowed up and die. Ranchmen have troubles
enough, but if they was obliged to fence it would go far to break up
the business.

"Look out, lads, here comes someone galloping into camp. I expect he
has got news of the Red-skins. I reckoned they would be out on the
track of the fire.

"Oh, it's Tom Newport," he said, as the man approached. "Waal, what he
says you may take for gospel. He is not one of them fellows who gets
hold of the tail-end of a story and then scares the whole country.
Waal, Tom, what is it?"

"Just mount up, Broncho, and get all your crowd together. There ain't
no time for talking now; I will tell you all about it when we get on
the track."

In an incredibly short time the men had all saddled, and were ready
for a start, filling their water-skins, and getting from the cook what
bread and cold meat remained over from breakfast. "Now, which way,
Tom?"

"North-east. I will tell you about it. The Injuns have come down and
attacked Gainsford. They have killed five or six men and most of the
women and children. They have carried off five or six girls, and old
man Rutherford's Rose is among them."

An exclamation of fury broke from several of the cow-boys.

"Where is Gainsford? and who is Rutherford's Rose?" Hugh asked.

"Gainsford is a small place just among the foot-hills south of the
Injun country. There are about twenty houses. Rutherford, he wur the
first to settle there. We told him over and over agin that it wur too
close to the Injuns, and that there would, sure, be trouble sooner or
later; but Steve, that is Rutherford, is one of those pesky obstinate
cusses who just go their own way, and won't listen to reason from
no one. He got a little herd of cattle up in the valley there, and
a patch of cultivated land, and he reckoned he wouldn't be solitary
long. He was right enough there, for, as I told you, the place grew,
and there are pretty nigh twenty houses there now, that is, there wur
twenty houses; I don't suppose one is standing now. Rutherford, he war
a cow-boy once, and married and settled down there, and Rose is his
daughter, and as good a lass as there is west of Missouri. Rutherford's
house is free quarters for those of us who likes to drop in. In course
we makes it up to him by taking in a deer or a bear's ham, or maybe a
few bottles of whisky, if we have been down to the settlement and laid
hands on them, and if we come across any mavericks when we are alone,
we just brand them R.R., and I reckon Rosie has got 200 cattle out
here, and they will come in mighty handy for her when she chooses a
husband."

"Is that often done?" Hugh asked.

"You bet. There are a score and more girls, whose fathers' shanties
lie up in the foot-hills, and who are friends of ours, have got a nice
little clump of cattle out on these plains. Of course any man, living
near the plains, can turn his cattle out, and there are dozens of
private marks. Waal, you see, if a girl only gets twenty branded for
her it increases every year, because the calves running with the cows
get the same brand put on them; and I have known many a girl when she
was married have a little herd of three or four hundred. So, I tell
you, it hits us all that Rose Rutherford has been carried away, and we
are bound to get her back if it air to be done. When was it, Tom, that
it happened?"

"Yesterday evening, 'bout ten o'clock, I wur riding that way and
intended to sleep at Steve's, when I saw a light burst up, and then
two or three others. I galloped pretty hard, you may guess, but before
I got thar it wur over and the Injuns had gone; but I larned from a
boy who had been hiding among the bushes, but who came out when he saw
me, how it wur. He said he had seen Rose and five or six other girls
carried off. Whether old Steve wur rubbed out I don't know. I didn't
stop to ask no questions. I knew whereabout your outfit was, and rode
straight for it."

"Then the skunks have got sixteen or seventeen hours' start," Broncho
said. "There is no chance of our catching them till they are right back
into their own country. I reckon we shall have a pretty sharp fight of
it before we get them gals back."



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XII.

AN INDIAN RAID.


The cow-boys were all mounted on horses that had not been worked for
some days. Hugh was on Prince, and they got over the ground at great
speed, arriving before sunset at the ruined village. There were three
or four men, seven or eight women, and as many children gathered when
they rode in. The men had been absent when the attack took place, the
women had escaped by seizing their children and rushing out at the
backs of the houses and hiding among the rocks and bushes, as soon as
the yells of the Indians and the explosion of the firearms burst upon
their ears.

"We heard you was coming," one of the men said; "but I fear it is too
late; they have got too far a start altogether."

"We didn't waste a minute," Broncho Harry said; "we wur in the saddle
three minutes after Tom brought us the news, and we have rode seventy
miles since. Tom has done a hundred and forty since last night. Where
is Steve Rutherford? has he been wiped out?"

"No; he wur away after a bunch of horses that had strayed. He wur
camping out twenty mile away when he saw the light and guessed what it
wur; he drove the horses in before him, feeling sure as he would be too
late to do any good, but reckoning that they might be useful."

"Good man," Broncho said; "but where is he?"

"He went on alone after them," the man said. "Some of us would have
gone with him, but he reckoned he had best go alone; thar wurn't enough
of us to fight; he allowed that you boys would be here presently, for
the young un here told us as Tom had ridden off with the news. Rube
Garston and Jim Gattling rid off an hour later, and I reckon they will
bring a few more up before morning; may be sooner."

"How many horses are there?"

"Fifteen of the old man's, I reckon. They are in that corral behind his
house, and I guess we have got as many more between us."

"Then there are enough to mount us ten and as many more," Broncho Harry
said. "Ours ain't good for no more travel to-night. Waal, we will just
eat a bit, and then we shall be ready to go on. How many air there of
you?"

"Six here."

"Waal, that makes sixteen. I see three of you have got rifles, and four
of us have brought rifles along with us. The only question is, which
way have the red devils ridden? It air no use our following them if we
haven't a clue of some sort. I reckon Steve will be here before long;
that is what he has gone for. He would know he couldn't do any good
himself, and he would be pretty well sure as we couldn't gather here in
any such force as could enter the Injun country afore this evening."

"He took a lantern with him," one of the boys said.

"Yes, that is it. I guess he followed on foot till daylight, then he
mounted and went on their trail until he could give a pretty good guess
as to where they was heading; then I allow he will come back to tell
us; that is how I read it."

"I expect you are right, Broncho. He didn't say much when he started;
but when we talked of going with him he said, 'Just you stop where you
are, there ain't anything you can do; we can't fight them till we get
help. You just wait right here, boys.' It wur rather rough on us, when
our gals are being carried off and our wives have been killed, and the
hull place ruined; but we knew as Steve knew a sight more about Injuns
than we did, and had been many a time into the heart of the Injun
country afore they broke out, so we waited. But I tell you, Harry, it
wur hard work to sit quiet and know that them murdering villains was
getting further away every hour."

"We will have them yet!" Harry said confidently. "If the old man don't
ride up in another half-hour we will start. We will follow the trail
as far as we can with lanterns. If we get to any place where the trail
branches, then there will be nothing to do but to wait for Steve. Have
yer eaten? because if not, yer had best fill up. It air no use starting
on such a job as this fasting. We shall have need of all our strength
afore we have done, you can bet your boots!"

None of the men had, in fact, eaten anything since the preceding night,
but they saw the justice of the advice.

"There is some sheep up behind my place," one of them said. "Like
enough they was up on the hills when the Injuns came, but I saw some
of them go in there this morning. There ain't no time for cooking now,
so we will share your grub, and I will shoot three or four of the sheep
and cut them up. They will last us for two or three days."

"That is a good idee; and if there is any flour as hasn't been carried
off, you had best make up a few lots of five or six pounds each and tie
them up in cloths. They will come in mighty handy. Hello! here are some
more of the boys!" A minute later eight more cow-boys rode up.

"Hello, Broncho! I thought we should find your crowd here. We have
ridden all we knew to be here in time to go on with you--that is, if
you are going on."

"We are going on as far as we can, Ike; we are just changing horses. I
think there are about enough left to give you one each."

"Have you any news which way the Red-skins have gone?"

"Not yet. Old man Rutherford followed 'em up. I expect he will be
here soon; if not, we shall meet him. They have got twenty hours'
start--that is the worst of it. No, there ain't no chance of overtaking
them, that is sartin. What we have got to do is to wipe some of them
out, and to give them a lesson, and get the girls back again if we
can; and we have got to do it quick, else we shall have the hull Injun
country up agin us."

"I did not think that they would have done it," another man said. "The
old man wur always good friends with the Injuns, and made them welcome
when they came along."

"It ain't no good being kind to Injuns," another put in. "There ain't
no gratitude in them."

"Injuns air pison!" Broncho said; and a general murmur of agreement
expressed that in the opinion of the cow-boys this summed up the
characteristics of the Red-skins.

In a few minutes the new-comers were provided with fresh horses.
A spare horse was taken on for Rutherford, and then, headed by the
survivors of the raid, the party started three-and-twenty strong. They
travelled fast; not that there was any occasion for speed, but because
every man was burning with the desire to get at the enemy. After riding
about twenty miles they checked their horses, for a fire was seen a
short distance ahead.

"That's all right," one of the settlers said. "That will be Rutherford,
sure enough. It is just there where the valley forks. He is waiting
there for us. He would know we shouldn't want a guide as far as this."

As they came up a tall figure rose from beside the fire.

"Well, Steve, have you tracked them?" Jim Gattling, the youngest of the
party from the village, asked eagerly.

"They have gone over the divide into the Springer Valley, have followed
that some way, and then through the little cañon, and up towards the
head-waters of the Pequinah Creek. I only went through the cañon to see
which way they turned, and then made back here. I guessed some of you
would be coming along about this time."

"Was they riding fast?"

"No. They halted here for some hours. I reckon they had ridden a long
way afore they attacked our place. I saw their fires some time afore I
got to them, or I might have walked into them, for I didn't think they
would have halted so soon. I tied the hoss up and scouted round 'em and
when they started this morning before daylight took up the trail after
them. They weren't travelling very fast. You see they had got about
a hundred head of cattle with them, and I reckon they have three or
four days' journey before them. As far as I could make out, from what
I seed of them, they don't belong to this part at all. Sartin they was
going easy, and didn't reckon on being followed. It ain't often they
get chased when they are once in the hills. Waal, boys, I am glad to
see you, and I thank ye all. It is what I expected from yer, for I felt
sure that when you got the news you would muster up."

"We have brought a fresh horse for you, Steve," Jim Gattling said. "We
druv in a herd this afternoon, and they all changed back there, so we
are ready to ride at once."

"That's good, Jim! I was wondering over that, and thinking that if
yours had come in from the plains they wouldn't be fit for any more
travel to-night, for I knew they was a long way out. Where wur you,
Broncho?"

"We wur on Little Creek."

"Ah! that's about sixty miles away from our place. Waal, boys, we may
as well go on over the divide and down into the valley; there we had
best camp. You will have done a hundred miles by then, and will want
sleep. Besides, we mustn't knock the hosses up; they have got their
work before them, and maybe we shall have to ride on our way back."

"How many of the skunks are there?"

"Over forty."

"We sha'n't have much trouble with that lot," Broncho Harry said.

"Not if we catch them before they git to their village, Broncho. But I
doubt whether we shall do that."

"Waal, we will fight them, Steve, if there was four hundred of them!"
Harry said. "We have come to get your Rosie and the others back, and we
are going to do it, you bet."

Rutherford held out his hand and gripped that of the cow-boy; then,
mounting the horse that had been brought for him, he took his place at
the head of the party and led the way.

It was a toilsome journey over the shoulder that divided the two
valleys. The pace was necessarily confined to a walk, and it was five
hours before they reached the stream upon which they were to camp. Here
the horses were turned loose to graze, and the men threw themselves
down upon the ground and were soon asleep, for it was now past
midnight. With the dawn of day they were on their feet again, a great
fire lighted, and some of the mutton cut up and cooked, and some cakes
baked. As soon as the meal was eaten they again started.

Hugh had not changed his horse at the village. Broncho Harry told him
that it was not likely they would travel for many hours that evening,
and he knew that Prince, who had had an easy time of it lately, could
easily do this, and he greatly preferred keeping him, for he felt that
upon such an expedition as this his speed might be of the greatest
utility.

A rapid ride of ten miles up the valley took them to the mouth of
the cañon, which came into the main valley at a sharp angle. It was
wide at the entrance, but soon narrowed down into a gorge from ten to
twenty feet wide, with rocks rising precipitously on both sides. It was
evident by the smoothly-worn face that in the wet season a tremendous
torrent rushed down, filling it thirty or forty feet deep; but it was
perfectly dry now, and for the most part they were able to ride at a
fair pace. Here and there, however, masses of rock had fallen down from
above since the last rains, and here they had to dismount and allow the
horses to clamber over by themselves as best they could. At such spots
scratches upon the face of the stones showed where the party they were
pursuing had passed on the previous day.

The cañon was upwards of a mile in length, and the valley into which it
led was some hundreds of feet higher than that which they had left. As
soon as they emerged from the pass they put their horses into a gallop,
the track of the party before them being plainly visible. As they
got deeper among the mountains the scenery became very wild. Forests
clothed the hills. Great masses of rock towered above the valley, and
huge blocks of stone encumbered the route they had to pursue. Sometimes
the track left the bottom and wound up the hillside, passing at times
along the ledges, with precipices above and below. Anxious as they
were to press forward, much of the journey had to be performed at a
foot-pace, for many of the horses having been brought up on the plains
all their lives were fidgety and nervous on such unaccustomed ground,
and required coaxing and care to get them along the passes.

They travelled until late in the afternoon and then halted. The next
day's work was of the same character. They were now high up among the
hills, and Steve told them that they were near the crest of the range.

"We had better stop here," Rutherford said about three o'clock in the
afternoon, as they arrived at a little stream. "We mustn't knock the
critters up; they have done a good day's work already."

"We have gained upon them, Steve," Broncho Harry said. "The traces have
been getting fresher."

"Yes, we have gained a bit, but not very much. Their horses would go
faster than ours, because they are accustomed to the mountains; but the
cattle will have kept them back. Why I stop here is because there is a
sort of wall of rock with a passage up through it a mile or two ahead,
and though I don't expect they have any idea they are followed, they
are like enough to have left a sentry on the top of that wall. It 'ud
never do for them to attack us here; we should have no show at all. I
want to get my girl back, but throwing away our lives ain't the way to
do it. Be careful how you pick the wood for the fires, boys: we mustn't
let any smoke go curling up. You have got to see that every bit you put
on is as dry as a chip."

"How on earth do the Indians manage to live among these hills?" Hugh
asked, after the meal had been cooked and eaten.

"The country is different on the other side," Jim Gattling said. "We
are pretty nearly up to the top of the divide now, and on the other
side the slopes are much more gradual. They have plenty of ranges where
they have got cattle and sheep. But I don't know nothing about the
country here. Steve has been over, but there ain't many as has."

"Yes," Rutherford said, "it is as Jim says. There is a wide sort of
plateau, with big valleys down to the Canadian. We ain't very far now
from the frontier of New Mexico, and from the top of the hills here you
can see the Spanish peaks a hundred and fifty miles away. I reckon we
may have to go down that side. There are a heap of Injun villages up
here, and though we may thrash the lot ahead of us they would gather
pretty thick in a short time, and like enough cut us off going back,
for they know the tracks better than we do, and their horses would go
at a gallop along places where we should have to drag ours. Going down
the other way we can ride as fast as they can, and when we once get
down in the valley of the Canadian we shall get help at the ranches
there."

"That will certainly be the best way, Steve," Broncho Harry said.
"We are all ready to fight any number of them on the plains, but it
wouldn't be good to be hemmed up among these hills with no chance of
help. We could keep them off, I reckon, till we had eaten our boots,
but they would make an end of us at last, sure. Have you often been
along this line before, Steve?"

"Once. I came across here with a party of Red-skins just after the last
peace wur made with them, when it was sure that they wouldn't break out
again until they had got their presents. I had got a stock of beads,
and looking-glasses and cottons, and such like, and went up with a
couple of mules and traded among them for skins, and worked robes and
moccasins and Indian trumpery. I sent them back east, and did a pretty
good trade with them. But I know the other side well. I was ranching
two years down on the Canadian, and we had two or three fights with the
Red-skins, who was pretty troublesome about that time. There weren't
many ranches down there then, and we had to look pretty spry to keep
the har on our heads."

"And how do you propose to work it now, Steve?"

"Well, I reckon that if they have got a sentry on them rocks I spoke
of he won't stay there after dark, and that the danger will be at the
other end of the pass. Like enough, there will be one or two of them
there. I reckon the best plan will be for me and Jim Gattling and a
kipple of others to go on ahead quiet. If we find any of the skunks
there, in course we shall wipe them out. When we have done that the
rest can come up the pass. It ain't no place for anyone as doesn't
know every foot of the way to come up in the dark; and you must make
torches, ready to light up, when one of us goes back with the news that
the pass is clear. As soon as we have done with the Red-skins, Jim and
I will go off scouting. You see we don't know yet what band this is,
or how far their village is away. We will follow on the trail, and when
the rest get up through the pass they must just wait till we bring them
word. I reckon, from their coming by this road, as their place is about
fifteen mile from the top of the pass. There is a big village there,
and I expect they belong to it. I reckon they are just getting there
now, and they will be feasting pretty considerable to-night. It air a
pity we ain't handy. However, it cannot be helped. We should risk it
all if we was to try to push on afore it got dark."

"Your plan seems to pan out all right, Steve. Who will you take with
you?"

"Waal, you and Long Tom may as well come, Broncho, though, I reckon, it
don't make much difference, for you all means fighting."

As soon as it became dusk the party again moved forward.

"That's the rock," Rutherford said, pointing to a long dark line that
rose up before them. "They can't see us here, and I reckon if there wur
a scout there he has moved off before this. Now, do you other fellows
take our critters and just move on slowly. You see that point sticking
up above the line. Waal, that is on one side of the pass; so you just
make for that, and stop when you get there till one of us comes back."

The torches had been prepared during the halt, two or three young
pitch-pines having been cut down and split up for the purpose. The
four scouts moved off at a quick walk, and the rest of the party
picked their way along slowly and cautiously towards the point Steve
had indicated. They had some little trouble in finding the entrance to
the pass, but when they discovered it they threw the bridles on their
horses' necks and dismounted. The time went slowly, but it was not
more than two hours before they heard a slight noise up the pass, and
a minute or two later a footfall.

"Is that you, Broncho?" Hugh asked.

"No, it air me; but it is all the same thing, I reckon. Jehoshaphat!
but I have knocked myself pretty nigh to pieces among them blessed
rocks. It air just as dark as a cave; there ain't no seeing your hand."

"Well, is it all right, Tom?"

"No, it ain't gone off right. When we got to the top of the pass
there wur two Red-skins sitting at a fire. We come along as quiet as
we could, but just as we got in sight of them I suppose they heard
something, for they both jumped on to their feet and wur out of sight
like a streak of lightning. We waited without moving for half an hour,
and then they came back again. We could have shot, but Steve reckoned
it was too great a risk; so he and Jim undertook to crawl forward while
Broncho and me wur to keep ready to shoot if the Redskins made a bolt.
It wur a long time, or at least seemed so. The Red-skins was restless,
and we could see they was on the listen. Waal, at last up they both
jumped; but it wur too late. Steve and Jim fired and down they both
went, and we came on. The wust of the business wur, that one of their
hosses broke loose and bolted. Steve fired after him. He may have hit
him, or he may not; anyhow he went off. So now you have got to hurry up
all you know."

The torches were at once lit, and leading their horses the party made
their way up the gorge. It was steep and narrow, and encumbered with
boulders; but in half an hour they reached the other end. Broncho Harry
was awaiting them.

"We have got to move away to the right for about half a mile and stop
there. There is a clump of trees, and that is where we are to wait. It
air a 'tarnal bad business that air hoss getting away. He is pretty
sure to bring the Injuns down on us. Steve ain't going very far. He
sez there is another village about three miles from the one he thinks
most likely; and when he gets about four miles away from here he will
be able to see which way the tracks go, and then he will come straight
back to the trees."

"Do you think you hit the horse, Harry?" Hugh asked as they made their
way to the clump of trees.

"You don't suppose I could miss a horse if I tried, Hugh. I hit him
sure enough, worse luck. If I had missed him it wouldn't have mattered
so much. If he came galloping in by himself they might have thought
he had got scared at something--by a bar, perhaps--and had just made
tracks for the camp. Like enough they would have sent off four men to
see if it wur all right; but when the blessed thing turns up with a
bullet in his hide, they will know there has been a fight."

"What do you think they will do then, Harry? Are they likely to ride
out in force to the gap?"

"They may, and they may not. I should say they won't. I should guess
they'll just throw out scouts all round their village and wait till
morning. They won't know how strong our party is, and wouldn't take the
risk of being ambushed in the dark."

"Perhaps when the horse goes in they won't notice it, especially as
they will be feasting and dancing."

"I don't reckon that worth a cent, Hugh. There are safe to be one
or two of their boys out looking after the horses; besides, those
varmints' ears are always open. They would hear a horse coming at a
gallop across the plain half a mile away, aye, and more than that.
Directly the boy sees the horse is saddled he will run in and tell
them, then they will take it in by the fire and look at it. When they
see the mark I have made on it there will be a nice rumpus, you bet.
They will know what it means just as if it wur all writ down for them."

Two hours passed, and then the sound of an approaching horse was heard.

"Well, Steve, what news?"

"The horse has gone on straight for the village--the one we
thought--and all the other tracks go in that direction. There ain't no
chance of taking them by surprise now."

"What do you think they will do, Steve?"

"They will just watch all night, that is sartin, and in the morning two
or three will be sent out to scout. There ain't many trees about here,
and they will reckon that they can see us as soon as we see them; and
those they send out are safe to be on the best horses they have got. In
course we could lie down there by the gap and shoot them when they come
up; but I don't see as that would do us any good. When they didn't get
back it would only put the others more on their guard than ever. If we
don't shoot them they will find our tracks here, and take back news how
many we are. I tell you, lads, look at it as I will, I don't see no way
out of it; and what makes it wuss is, when they take back news that the
scouts they left here have both been shot, it will go mighty hard with
the captives in the village. I can't see no way out of the kink anyhow.
I am ready to give my life cheerful for Rosie, but I ain't going to
ask you to give your lives when I don't see as there is any chance of
getting her. Do you see any way out of the job, Broncho?"

"I don't, Steve. As you say, there was about forty or fifty of these
varmint in the expedition, and we may reckon there will be as many more
able to draw a trigger in the village. That makes eighty. Four to one
is pretty long odds. If they was out in the plain we might be a match
for them, but to attack an Injun camp that's waiting and ready ain't
the same thing as fighting in the plains. Half of us would go down
before we got in, and there would not be no more chance of the rest of
us getting the captives away than there would if they was in the moon.
If it hadn't been for this affair of the hoss we might have carried
out your plans, and you might have made your way into the village; and
there wur just the chance that yer might have got them out and brought
them along to some likely place where we was handy; but there ain't no
need to talk about that now. They will be guarded that strict that a
bird couldn't get to them with a message. That ain't to be thought of.
Can any of you boys think of anything?"

No one spoke. Then Hugh said: "I am only a young hand yet, and I don't
know that my ideas are worth anything, but I will tell you what they
are, and then you can improve upon them perhaps. It seems to me that,
in the first place, we ought to leave say four men at the gap. If four
Indian scouts come out they ought to shoot or rope three of them, and
let the fourth escape. If there were only two of them I would let one
get away."

"What should they do that for, Hugh?" Broncho Harry asked in surprise.

"I will tell you directly, Broncho. All the rest of us except the four
who are left on watch should start at once and make a big circuit, and
come round to the other side of the village, and stop a mile or so away
in hiding; at any rate, as near as we can get. Why I propose letting
one go is this. Suppose three or four scouts go out and none return,
the Indians will be sure that they have fallen in a trap somewhere.
They won't know how strong we are, or whether we think of making an
attack on their village, and they will stop there expecting us for days
perhaps, and then send out scouts again. Now, if one gets back with
the news that they saw no signs of us until they got close to the gap,
and then three or four shots were fired and his comrades were killed,
but he got off without being pursued, it seems to me that they would
naturally imagine that there was only a small party at the gap--perhaps
three or four men from the village they attacked, who had come out to
revenge themselves--and would send out a strong party of their braves
at once to attack them. Of course the four men left at the gap would,
directly they had done their work, and the Indian was out of sight,
mount their horses and make the same circuit as we had done, and join
us as quickly as they could. We should be keeping watch, and after
seeing the war party ride off we could dash straight down into the
village. Half, and perhaps more than half, of their fighting men will
have gone, and the others, making sure that we were still at the gap,
and that there was no fear of attack, will be careless, and we should
be pretty well into the village before a shot was fired."

"Shake, young fellow!" Steve Rutherford said, holding out his hand to
Hugh. "That air a judgematical plan, and if it don't succeed it ought
ter."

There was a general chorus of assent.

"It beats me altogether," Steve went on, "how yer should have hit on
a plan like that when I, who have been fighting Injuns off and on for
the last twenty years, couldn't see my way no more than if I had been
a mole. You may be young on the plains, Lightning, fur so I have heard
them call yer, but yer couldn't have reasoned it out better if yer had
been at it fifty years. I tell you, young fellow, if I get my Rosie
back agin it will be thanks to you, and if the time comes as yer want
a man to stand by yer to the death yer can count Steve Rutherford in."

"And Jim Gattling," the young settler said. "Rosie and me wur going to
get hitched next month, and it don't need no talk to tell yer what I
feels about it."

"Which of us shall stay, and which of us shall go?" Broncho Harry
said. "You are the only man as knows the country, Steve; so you must
go sartin. Long Tom and me will stay here if you like. You can give me
the general direction of the village, and I expect I can make shift to
come round and join you. Besides, there will be your trail to follow.
I don't reckon they will send out those scouts till daylight. Anyhow,
we won't start before that, and we are safe to be able to follow your
trail then. Who will stop with us? Will you stay, Hugh?"

"No!" Hugh said decidedly; "I will go with Steve. I am not a very sure
shot with the rifle."

"You can shoot straight enough," Broncho Harry said.

"Well, perhaps it isn't that, Harry; but so far I have had no Indian
fighting, and though I am quite ready to go in and do my share in
a fight, I tell you fairly that I couldn't shoot men down, however
hostile, in cold blood."

"All right, Hugh. You sha'n't stay with us. When you know the Injuns as
well as we do, and know that mercy ain't a thing as ever enters their
minds, and that they murders women and children in cold blood, and that
if they do take a prisoner it is just to torture him until he dies, you
won't feel that way."

"I will stay with you, Broncho," Jim Gattling said. "I have just seen
my house burnt and the best part of my stock carried away, and a dozen
or more of my friends killed or scalped, and you bet I would kill a
Red-skin at sight just as I would put my heel on a rattlesnake."

Another of the party also volunteered to stay at the gap.

No further words were necessary. The party mounted.

"That is where the village lies, Broncho; just about under that star.
It is about fifteen mile, as I told you, on a straight line. We shall
keep over there to the right, and in a couple of miles we shall get to
where the ground falls, and will travel along there. You can't be wrong
if you keep down on the slope. There air no chance then of your being
seen. I don't know just where we shall turn off. There are several dips
run down from above, and we shall follow one of them up when I reckon
we have got a mile or two beyond the village. So keep a sharp look-out
for our trail there. You needn't bother much about it before, because
you can't miss the way; but look sharp at the turnings. I would drop
something to show you where we turn off, but if any Injun happened
to come along he would be safe to notice it. When you guess you have
ridden far enough keep a sharp look-out for the place when we turn off,
and then follow the trail careful. It is rolling ground, that side of
the village, and I reckon we kin get within half a mile of it. There
ain't much fear of their wandering about, and any scouts they have out
won't be on that side. So long!"

Steve Rutherford led the way. "There ain't no need to hurry," he
said. "We have got plenty of time, and I reckon that when we get a bit
further we will dismount and lead the horses. They have had pretty hard
work coming up the hills, and I tell you they are likely to want all
their speed to-morrow, and some of them will have to carry double if we
can't manage to get hold of a few of the Injun ponies."

Accordingly, after riding for half an hour, the party dismounted, and
led their horses for a long distance. This was a novel exercise to the
cow-boys, for it is rare for one of them to walk a hundred yards. A
horse stands ever ready at hand, and if it be only to go down to the
stream hard by to fetch a bucket of water the cow-boy will always throw
his leg over his horse. But all felt the justice of Steve's remarks.
They knew that they had at least a hundred-mile ride before they
could hope to meet friends, and that the pursuit would be hot. It was
therefore of vital importance that the horses should start as fresh as
possible. After three hours' walking they mounted again, and continued
their way until Steve Rutherford said that he thought they had gone
far enough now. The moon had risen at two o'clock, and its light had
enabled them to travel fast since they had remounted. Turning up a
hollow they followed it for about two miles, and then found they were
entering a hilly and rugged country.

"Here we are," Steve said. "The village lies at the foot of these
rocks. I don't know how far along it may be, but I am right sure that
we have got beyond it. Now, boys, you can sleep till daylight. I will
keep watch, and see that none of the horses stray."

In a very few minutes all was quiet in the little valley, save for the
sound of the horses cropping the short grass. At the first gleam of
daylight Rutherford stirred up one of the sleepers.

"I am going to scout," he said. "When the others wake tell them to be
sure not to stir out of this dip, and to mind that the horses don't
show on the sky-line. The Injuns will be keeping their eyes open this
morning, and if they caught sight of one of them critters it would just
spoil the hull plan."

Rutherford was gone two hours. Long before his return all the men were
up and about. Bill Royce had gone a little farther up the valley, which
narrowed to a ravine, and, climbing the rocks cautiously, had taken a
survey of the country.

"No signs of the village," he said when he returned, "and no signs
of Injuns as far as I can see. So I think, if we go up to the head of
this gulch, it'll be safe to make a fire and cook the rest of our meat.
There ain't more than enough for one more feed. After that I reckon we
shall have to take to horse-flesh. Now, half of us will go up and cook,
and the other half keep watch here. We may have Steve coming back with
twenty Red-skins on his track."

Just as they had fried their meat Steve returned.

"We are about three miles from the village," he said, "but keeping
along at the foot of the hills we can get to within half a mile of it
safe. Beyond that it is a chance. What are you doing?"

"Cooking."

"Well, one must eat, but the sooner we get on the better. We want to
watch how things go."

As soon as the meal was finished the party mounted, and, keeping close
to the foot of the hill, rode on till Steve said, "We cannot go beyond
that next bluff; so turn up this gulch. I looked in, and there is good
feed for the horses there. You had better look round when you get in to
see as there ain't no bar or nothing to scare the horses, and two of
yer had best stay on guard here at the mouth. Ef one of them critters
wur to get loose and to scoot out below there our lives wouldn't be
worth a red cent. Now, Stumpy, you and Owen and me will go up over
there. From among them bushes just at the foot of the rock we can see
the camp, and we will take it by turns to keep watch. If you others
will take my advice you will all get as much sleep as you can till we
come for you, but mind, keep two on guard here."

"Can I come with you, Steve?" Hugh asked. "I don't feel like sleep at
all."

"You can take my place, Lightning," Royce said. "I ain't in no hurry to
look at the Injuns. I expect I shall see plenty of them afore we have
done."

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XIII.

RESCUED.


Steve Rutherford, the settler Owen, and Hugh made their way along
at the foot of the steep rocks, keeping among the fallen boulders,
stopping at times, and making a close survey of the plains to be sure
that no Indians were in sight, before moving further.

"That is the point," Steve said presently; "from among those rocks we
can get a view of the village. You must keep your head low, Lightning,
and not show it above the rocks. They will be keeping a sharp look-out,
and like enough they would make out a lizard moving at this distance."

When they reached the point they made their way with extreme care
to the highest boulders, and then, lying down, looked through the
interstices between them. Hugh started as he did so, for although the
Indian village was nearly half a mile away, the mountain air was so
clear that it did not seem a quarter of that distance. Its position was
well chosen; the hill rose almost perpendicularly behind it, defending
it from an attack on that side, while in front and on both sides the
ground sloped away and was clear of brushwood or inequalities that
would afford shelter to assailants. Trees stood in and around it,
affording shade during the heat of the day. A number of horses were
grazing close to the village, with half a dozen Indian boys round them,
in readiness to drive them in at the shortest notice. Smoke was curling
up from the top of the wigwams, and through the trees many figures of
men and women could be seen moving about.

"How long do you think it will be, Steve, before their scouts get back
again?"

"Another hour, I should guess; I expect they started at daybreak.
Anyhow, they had gone before I got here. I reckon they wouldn't travel
fast going there; in the first place they would scout about and look
for signs of an enemy, and in the second they wouldn't want to blow
their horses, for they might have to ride for their lives any moment.
I should give them four hours, a good two and a half to get there,
and something over an hour for one of them to get back again. He may
be here in half an hour, he may not be here for an hour; it will be
somewhere between one and the other."

Twenty minutes passed, and then Steve exclaimed, "Here he comes!" The
other two caught sight of the Indian at the same moment, as first his
head and shoulders, then the whole rider and horse, appeared on the
crest of a rise some four miles away. He was as yet invisible from the
village, but in a few minutes they could perceive a stir there, and
three or four warriors ran out from the village, leaped on to their
horses, and galloped out to meet the returning scout. They saw them
join him, and, sweeping round without a check, accompany him, and in
ten minutes they reached the village. A minute later a mournful wail
sounded in the air.

"They know it now," Steve said; "they are just about beginning to feel
as we do. It is all very well as long as they go out, and murder and
burn, and come back with scalps, but they don't like it when the game
is played on them."

"When will they start out again, do you think, Steve?"

"Not yet awhile, they are going to talk; Indians never do anything
without that. There, do you see, there ain't a man among the trees;
there are some women and children, but nary a warrior. You may be sure
that they are gathering for a great council; first of all the scout
will tell his story, then the chiefs will talk. It will be another hour
at least before there is a move made."

"Oh, I do hope our plan won't fail!" Hugh said.

"I don't think that there is much chance of it," Owen put in. "They are
bound to do something. Their scout can only report that, so far as he
saw, there was not more than four men, and as they did not chase him
he expects they have no horses. They never can leave it like that. They
are bound to go out and see about it, otherwise they know they couldn't
go in twos or threes without the risk of being ambushed, just as the
scouts were; besides, they lost the two men they left behind, and maybe
one, maybe three, this morning, and they are bound to have vengeance.
Oh, they air safe to go!"

An hour later a sudden succession of wild yells were heard.

"Thar's their war-cry," Steve said; "the thing is settled, and they
air going." A few minutes later the Indian boys were seen driving the
horses in towards the village, and then a number of warriors ran out.

"There air a good lot of them," Steve said, in a tone of satisfaction.
"They was sure to go, the question wur how many of them. It will be a
strong party anyhow."

The Indians were soon seen to be mounting. "Now we can count them,"
Steve said. "Five-and-thirty."

"I couldn't tell within four or five," Hugh said; "they keep moving
about so, but I should say that was about it."

"Yes, five-and-thirty," Owen agreed. "You have the youngest legs,
Lightning, you scoot across as hard as you can run and tell them to
get ready; Steve and I will see them fairly off, and then we will come
in. Don't let them move out of the hollow till we join you; there ain't
no special hurry, for we mustn't attack till the band have got four or
five miles away. If they heard the guns they would be back agin like a
torrent."

Hugh did as he was told. As he ran down over the crest into the dip he
gave a shout of satisfaction at seeing Broncho Harry and the three men
who had remained with him; they had arrived a few minutes before.

"Well, Harry, we saw all had gone right, as only one of their scouts
came back."

"Has it drawn them?" Harry asked.

"Yes; a band of five-and-thirty started five minutes ago."

"Bully for us!" Harry said. "Then we have got them all right now. I
expect there ain't above thirty fighting men left in the village, and,
catching them as we shall, they won't have a show against us."

"How did you get on, Harry?"

"It wur just as you reckoned, lad; three of 'em came out. They were
very scarey about coming close; they yelled to their mates, and in
course got no answer; then they galloped round, one at a time, getting
nearer and nearer, but at last they concluded that the place was
deserted, and rode up. We let them get so close that there wur no fear
of our missing, and then we shot two of them; the other rode for it.
We fired after him, but took good care not to hit him, and as soon as
he had gone we ran to the wood where we had left our ponies, and came
on here pretty slick. There wur no difficulty in following your trail;
we reckoned that we should have to come pretty fast to be here in time,
as it wur three or four miles further for us to go than the Injun would
have, and he wouldn't spare his horse-flesh. Still we was sure it would
be an hour at least before they was ready to start, more likely two.
Jim Gattling wur flurried a bit; natural he wouldn't like not to be
with the others when they went in to rescue Rosie. So it seems we air
just in time with nothing to spare. But here comes Steve."

By this time all had been got ready for a start. Horses had been
brought up, saddles looked to, girths tightened, and blankets strapped
on. A hearty greeting was exchanged between Steve and the party just
arrived.

"We will give them another ten minutes afore we start," Steve said.
"Now, we had better settle, Broncho, as to what we should each do
when we get in, else there may be confusion, and they may tomahawk the
prisoners before we find them."

"Yes, that is best," Broncho agreed. "Now, look here; our crowd will do
the fighting, and you and your fellows jump off as soon as you get in,
and search the wigwams. You will know just where to go; the prisoners
are safe to be in a wigwam close by that of the principal chief; he
will keep them close under his eye, you may bet your life. And mind,
boys, let us have no shooting at squaws or kids. We have come out to
rescue the women they have carried off, and to pay out the men for the
work they did, but don't let us be as bad as they are."

There was a general assent from the cow-boys, but two or three of the
men who had come with them grumbled, "They have killed our wives and
children, why shouldn't we pay them back in the same coin?"

"Because we are whites and not Red-skins," Broncho Harry said. "Look
here, Steve; we have come here to help you, and we are risking our
lives pretty considerable in this business, but afore we ride into that
village we are going to have your word that there ain't going to be a
shot fired at squaw or child. Those are our terms, and I don't think
they are onreasonable."

As a chorus of approval went up from the rest of the cow-boys, and
as the others were well aware that what they said they meant, they
unwillingly assented.

"That is right and square," Broncho Harry said. "You have all given
your promise, and if anyone breaks it, I begin shooting, that is all.
Now it's about time to be moving, Steve."

The men swung themselves up into their saddles. "Now, boys, quietly
until we get in sight of the village, and then as fast as we can go."

But all were eager for the fight, and the pace gradually quickened till
they came within sight of the village. Then they charged down upon it
at full gallop. They had gone but a short distance when they heard the
cry of alarm, the yells of the Indians, shouts and orders, screams of
women and children, and the barking of the village dogs. Shots were
fired, but to Hugh's surprise these ceased before the cow-boys reached
the village.

"The skunks are bolting," Broncho Harry exclaimed. "Keep round the
trees, No. 2 outfit, and straight across the plain after them. They may
have got some of the girls."

It was, however, less than two minutes from the moment the assailants
had been seen to that when they burst into the village. The Indians,
taken altogether by surprise at the appearance of a foe from a quarter
from which no danger had been apprehended, and seeing a band of the
dreaded cow-boys dashing down at a gallop, caught up their arms, and
then, in obedience to the orders of the chief left behind in charge
of the village, dashed out to their horses, mounted, and rode off.
Their leader had seen at once that there was no hope of resistance.
The assailants were nearly equal in number to the fighting men left in
the village, they would be armed with those terrible pistols that were
the dread of the Indians, and they had all the advantage of a surprise.
There was nothing to do but to ride off to the main body.

For a moment the thought of killing the prisoners before starting had
crossed his mind, but there was no time to run to the wigwam in which
they had been placed, and he saw too that their death would entail
that of the Indian women and children. These had been no less speedy in
their movements than the men, and at the first cry of danger the women
had seized their infants and, followed by the boys and girls of the
village, had fled along the foot of the cliff till they reached a spot
where, although steep, it was accessible. Here a path, winding among
boulders and hidden by bushes, led up to the top of the cliff. This had
been constructed by the boys of the village at the time the Indians
first established themselves there, for the purpose of enabling its
occupants to make their escape in case of a sudden attack by superior
forces.

Steve and his party were astonished when, as they dashed into the
village, they found the place almost deserted. A few old men stood
at the entrances of their wigwams, and four or five aged women were
assembled in front of one standing near the centre of the place; and
as the cow-boys and settlers galloped up, five white women ran out from
the wigwam to meet them, with cries of joy.

"All safe, Rosie?" Steve Rutherford shouted as he rode up.

"All safe, father;" and a cheer burst from the rescuers as they leapt
from their horses and crowded round the girls. These had all friends or
relations among the party.

"Three of you let off your rifles one after the other," Steve said,
the instant he had embraced his daughter. "I told Broncho as he rode
off that should be the signal that we had got them all. Then some of
you had better ride as hard as you can after them. You may be wanted,
though I don't expect the Indians will stop. Tell Broncho he had best
come back again, there ain't no time to lose. The rest of you scatter
and put a light to these wigwams. There is all the things they stole
from us scattered among them, and all their skins and things, not worth
much, perhaps, but a lot to them. Look into the huts and see there
ain't no babies left in them. Where are all the women and children,
Rosie?" But Rosie was at that moment much too occupied with Jim
Gattling to hear him.

"Never mind that now, gal," Steve said, striding up to them; "there
will be time enough for fooling when we get out of this. Whar are the
women and children?"

"I don't know, father. We know nothing about it. We were in the
wigwam and suddenly heard shouts and screams, and then almost directly
everything became quiet, and then these old women opened the door and
made signs to us to come out, and as we did we saw you charging in
among the trees."

  [Illustration: "ALL SAFE, FATHER," CRIED ROSIE.]

"Where are the squaws and children?" Steve asked one of the old women
in her own language. She looked vacantly at him as if she did not
understand. "Bah! that's no use," he said; "I might have known that.
Scatter about, boys; see if you can't find some of them. They can't
have gone out on to the plain, that is sartin. They can't have got up
this cliff--not here. Perhaps thar's a cave somewhere. Scatter along
and sarch. Go right along some distance each way, thar may be some path
up somewhere."

"What does it matter about them, Steve?" one of the settlers asked. "We
agreed there wurn't to be no killing of squaws or kids."

"I don't want to kill them," Steve said. "I am just so pleased at
getting my girl and the others back that I don't feel like hurting
anything; what Broncho and me reckoned on was to take some of the
chiefs' wives and children along with us as hostages. If we had them
with us we reckoned they would not attack us on our way back. I tell
you, boys, it may just make the difference of our scalps to us."

Not another word was needed, and all, with the exception of a few of
the friends of the rescued women, scattered on the search. It was ten
minutes before they found the concealed path. The man who discovered
it ran back to Rutherford. "I have found the place, Steve; it is away
three or four hundred yards to the left there. Just at the end of the
clump of trees there are some bushes against the face of the hill.
It didn't look as if there could be any way up, but I pushed through
them, and, sure enough, there was some steps cut in the rock. I went up
them, and round a sharp angle there was a sort of gap in the cliff. You
couldn't see it from the plain, and a path went straight up there."

"That air bad news, Owen. They have got a quarter of an hour's start,
and it ain't no sort of use our going after them. Waal, there is
nothing to do but to ride for it. I wish Broncho's party was back."

"They air just coming back," a man said. "I have been to the edge of
the wood to look after them. They are galloping back, and will be here
in a few minutes."

By the time Broncho Harry and his party rode into the village the
wigwams were all in flames. The men who had set fire to them had
brought out the meat they had found inside. There were several quarters
of deer, and a quantity of beef, doubtless the produce of animals
belonging to the herd they had driven off. They were satisfied that the
burning of the wigwams would be a heavy loss to the Indians, for they
had found many piles of skins and robes stored up to be used in barter
for guns and horses. Indeed, the whole belongings of the tribe, except
their cattle, were destroyed, together with, what perhaps would be even
more severely felt, the scalps taken from their enemies in many a fight
and massacre. A few words acquainted the new-comers with what had taken
place, and they were delighted to find that they had arrived in time to
save the women from the fate that awaited them.

"Did you hear the rifle-shots, Broncho?"

"Nary one. We was having a skirmish with the Red-skins. They showed
fight at first till they saw the rest of the boys coming out. We chased
them two miles, and killed six of them. Then we thought it best to come
back, for we could see that a couple of the best mounted had been sent
straight off as hard as they could go after the first lot. We should
not have chased them as far as we did, but we wanted to rope five of
their horses for the women. As soon as we had done that we took the
back track. Have you caught some of the squaws, Steve?"

"No, worse luck, they had all cleared out afore we got here. There was
nary a soul in the village except these old men and women."

"But where on earth did they get to?"

"It took us a quarter of an hour to find out, and then one of the
men lit on it pretty nigh by accident. Right along the cliff thar is
some steps cut in the rock. They are hidden by bushes, and up above
them is a sort of gap in the rock with a path up it. You can't see it
from the plain at all. No doubt that is the principal reason why they
fixed their village here. It gave them a means of escape if they were
attacked."

"Waal, if you haven't got no hostages, Steve, there ain't another
minute to waste here. You see we had figured on them hostages. I see
you have got some meat; that is good. Waal, are you all ready? because
if so, let's git."

Three minutes later the party rode away from the burning village, the
women mounted on the Indian horses.

"Thar's our cattle," Steve said, pointing to a herd out on the plain,
"but it ain't any use thinking of them now."

"You bet," Broncho Harry replied. "There ain't no thinking about horns
or hides at present. It is our own har we have got to think of."

"You think they will catch us up, Broncho?" said Steve.

"I don't think nothing at all about it. They are just as sure to catch
us up as the sun is to rise. We have got every foot of a hundred miles
to go, and the horses have been travelling hard for the last three
days. By this time those fellows as have galloped on ahead are pretty
nigh their main party, if they haven't overtook them before this. They
had no call for speed, and would be taking it easy. You can't reckon
much more than ten miles start. Still, when they catch us they won't be
more than three to one.

"There was thirty-five went out, you said, Steve, and another
twenty-five in the second lot. That brings them up to sixty, which is
pretty nigh three to one.

"Well, three to one ain't such great odds even if they wur to come down
and fight us in a body; but I reckon they would not do that. They are
more likely to make a surround of it. They would know that we should
have to leave pretty near half our number to guard the women, and the
rest wouldn't be strong enough to charge them. Besides, it ain't only
sixty we have got to reckon with. Like enough half a dozen of them
started, as soon as we turned back, to the other villages of the tribe.
You may reckon we shall have two or three hundred of them coming along
in our track in an hour or two. Don't you make any mistake about it,
Steve; we sha'n't get away, and we have got to fight. Now, you know the
country, and what you have got to reckon up is, where shall we fight?
You can't calkilate on above fifty miles, and if you say forty it will
be safer. A few of the horses might get a bit further than that, but
taking them all round, and reckoning they have been going hard for the
last few days, forty is the longest we can calkilate on afore we hear
the Red-skin yells behind us."

"The Two Brothers are about forty miles from here," Steve Rutherford
said.

"Ah! I have heard of them. They are two buttes close together, ain't
they?"

"Yes. We should be safe enough there if all the Red-skins in creation
was attacking us. They might starve us out, but they could never climb
up. One of the Brothers there ain't no climbing up at all. It stands
straight up all round, but the other has got a track up. I have seen
cattle on the top."

"Do you know the way up, Steve?"

"Yes. I was with a party that came out from the Canadian looking
up cattle that had strayed. We didn't find many of the cattle. The
Injuns had got them, you may be sure; but we stopped at the foot of
the buttes, and did some hunting for a day or two. Three or four of us
climbed up. It ain't a road you would choose to drive a team down, and
I should not have thought that cattle would have climbed it if I hadn't
been told they did so. Still it is good enough for us."

There was no attempt to gallop at full speed, the horses being kept at
a canter, the pace to which they are most accustomed.

"There," Steve said, pointing to the lower country ahead of them,
for they had since starting been gradually descending, "there are the
Brothers."

"They don't look far away," Hugh, who was riding beside him, remarked.

"I guess they are near fifteen miles, Lightning."

"I should have said five if I had been asked," Hugh said.

"I wish they was only five. I expect before we get half way to them we
shall hear the Injuns behind us."

"Yes, Broncho has been telling me what you think of it. Well, there is
one thing, if we get to those buttes first we can keep the whole tribe
at bay."

"Yes, lad, as far as fighting goes; but there is one thing agin us."

"Water?" Hugh asked.

"You have hit it. I don't say as there mayn't be some water up there.
I reckon there is, for they told me the cattle would stay up there
for some time without coming down. There weren't no cattle when I was
there, and I didn't see no water, but it may be at times there is some.
The top of the place seemed to me lowest in the centre--not a great
deal, perhaps maybe not more than three or four feet--and if there
is any hole in the middle there may be water there. I wurn't thinking
of it at the time, and didn't look for it. Maybe in the rains it gets
filled up, and there is enough to last the cattle some time. Everything
depends on that."

"I have been thinking," Hugh said, "that if I were to ride straight on
I might get through to the next ranche. My horse is a first-rate one,
and I am sure he could do the distance."

"If he had started after a couple of days' rest he could carry you a
hundred miles, I don't doubt. There ain't nothing out of the way in
that. I have ridden as much a score of times; but you see, lad, he has
not had much rest and not much time to eat since we started. You rode
him out from your camp and then on to the first halting place; that
made eighty or ninety mile. Next day we made sixty, I reckon. Then he
was going all yesterday till we halted before we went up through the
pass, and he kept on going till a good bit past midnight. We may not
have done more than fifty or sixty mile, but he got no feeding till we
got into that dip about two o'clock this morning.

"If you only had the horses after you that the Indians rode down to
Gainsford I should say your horse would carry you as well as theirs
would; but it won't be so. You bet your life, that mob we saw outside
the village was a fresh one. The fust thing they would do when they
got to camp in the afternoon would be to send some of the lads off to
the grazing grounds with the horses they had ridden, and to fetch in
a fresh lot. Besides that, as I told you, there will be others of the
tribe coming up and jining in the chase. Scores of them. They will all
be on fresh mounts, and they will be just on the best ponies they have
got, for they will guess that we are heading for the Canadian. No, no,
lad; it'll never do. They would ride you down sartin.

"Another thing is, whoever goes has got to know every foot of the
country, to travel at night, and to be able to find his way to the
nearest ranche. That job will be mine, I reckon. I know more of the
Injun ways than anyone here, and if anyone can do the job I can.
Besides, it is my place. You have all gone into this affair to get my
Rosie out of the hands of the Red-skins, and it is my duty to get you
out of the scrape. Listen!"

The whole party checked their horses simultaneously as the air brought
to their ears a long, quavering yell, and looking back they saw against
the distant sky-line a confused body of horsemen.

"Two miles good, ain't it, Broncho?"

"About that, I should say, Steve; and we have got twelve to ride. Now,
then, let the ponies know they have got to do some work."

The shouts of the riders, the tightening of the reins, and a touch of
the spur told the horses what was required of them, and they sped along
at a very different pace to that at which they had hitherto travelled.

"We are all right, I think," Long Tom said to Hugh. "They have been
riding a good deal faster than we have, and I don't think they will
gain on us now--not anything to speak of. We shall be at the buttes
long before they catch us, though you see when one party is chasing
another they have got a great advantage."

"How do you mean, Tom? I don't see what advantage they have."

"They have this advantage, Lightning. All horses ain't the same. Some
can go a lot faster than others. Some can keep on ever so much longer
than others. There are some good and some bad."

"Of course there are, Tom, but that is the same with both parties."

"Sartin it is, lad, but you see the party that is chasing go at the
speed of their fastest horses; waal, not of their fastest, but the
speed that the most of them can keep up. Those who are badly mounted
drop in the rear and are left behind; the others don't consarn
themselves about them. Now, it is just the contrairy with the party
that is chased. They have got to go at the pace of the slowest horse
among them. They can't leave one or two of their mates to the marcy of
the Red-skins: they have got to keep together and to fight together,
and, if must be, to die together. There is a lot of difference among
the horses in this crowd. We just took what we could git when we
started; thar wurn't no picking and choosing. Thar wur one apiece for
us good or bad. The pace we are going ain't nothing to that horse of
yours, but you'll soon see that some of the others can't keep it up,
and then we shall have to slow down to their pace."

"I didn't think of that, Tom. Yes, I see, a party that pursues has an
immense advantage over one that flies, providing, of course, they are
greatly superior in numbers. If not, there will be a time when the best
mounted men could no longer ride at full speed, because if they did
they would be inferior in numbers to those they chased when they came
up to them."

"That is reasonable, lad, and if those Red-skins behind us are only the
lot from the village, that will bring them up a bit. They know well
enough they can't lick us, if they ain't pretty nigh three to one,
and so they will want their whole crowd up, and they won't be able to
travel at the speed of their best horses. That is why I said that we
shall beat them easy. It ain't really them, it is the bands from the
other villages that we have got to fear. I don't know this kintry, and
I don't know where the other villages are; but I shouldn't be surprised
any moment to see bands cutting in from the right or left. Some of the
Injuns would ride straight off there, and they will have heard the news
as soon or sooner than the band that went after us to the rocks. They
will guess the line we should take, and will all be on fresh horses.
That is what I am thinking of all the time."

"I suppose Steve knows?" Hugh said.

"He knows. He ain't said much, but he dropt behind an hour ago, and
said to me, 'Keep a sharp look-out on both sides, Tom; that is where
the danger comes in.'"

For the next five miles the pursuers did not appear to gain.

"Can't we take it easy, Steve?" Jim Gattling asked. "Some of the horses
are beginning to blow a bit. There ain't more than seven miles now
between us and the buttes. We might let them walk for five minutes now
to get their wind again."

Steve turned in his saddle and looked round at the horses. Wiry little
animals as they were, many of them were showing signs of distress.

"We will go a little bit easier," he said, "just a little. When we get
to that brow a mile ahead we shall get a better view. Then we will see
about it."

The horses were pulled in a little, but still kept at a gallop until
they got to the top of the ascent. From this point there was a smooth
and regular fall right down to the valley from which rose the buttes
six miles away.

"Now you have got to ride for it, and no mistake," Steve said sharply.
"There they come both ways. That is just what I was afeard of."

An exclamation of something like dismay broke from many of the men,
for two bands of Indians were seen, one on each hand, riding, like
themselves, for the buttes. The one to the left was perhaps a mile
away, but considerably in advance of them. That on the right was
perhaps twice as far, and was, like themselves, just beginning to
descend the long incline.

"We shall pass the crowd to the right," Broncho Harry said, "but the
others will cut us off, sure."

"That is so, Harry," Steve said quietly. "But there is one thing, there
ain't above forty or fifty of them, while that crowd to the right are
twice as strong. If they had been first, it would have been all over
with us. Well, don't travel too fast, lads. We can't pass ahead of that
lot to the left, but there is no fear of the crowd to the right. Just
go at the pace we are going now. Look here, what has got to be done is
this: we have got to keep together with the women in the middle of us.
We have got to go right through them. Now nine of you have got rifles,
you keep next to the gals. The moment we have got through the Injuns,
you ride with them straight on to the foot of the butte. I must go with
you, because I know just where the path starts, and no one else does.
The moment you get there you jump off the ponies, take post among the
rocks, and open fire on the Injuns. You, Broncho, with the rest of
them, directly we are through, you turn again and charge them. Just
check them for about a minute, that will be enough; then you ride in
and we will cover you with our rifles."

"That is about it," Harry replied. "Now, boys, you all hear. You with
the rifles go straight on. And look here, empty your six-shooters into
them as you charge--the more you wipe out the better. Then the rest of
you with me just give a yell to scare them, and then close with them
again. Don't you empty your six-shooters at first, but keep your fire
till we are through them; it is mighty hard if the others, with six
shots apiece, don't clear the way for us. You must bear in mind that
you will want every shot after we are through, so don't throw away one.
Don't you bother about the advance crowd with the women. I will keep my
eye on them, and when I see they are ready I will give a yell, and then
we will ride for it together."

The Indians saw that they had it in their power to cut off the whites
from the buttes, and they no longer rode at the headlong speed at
which they were going when first perceived, but slackened down their
pace. They could, if they had chosen, have brought on the fight at some
distance from the buttes, but they had no motive for doing so. They saw
the large party coming from the other side, and preferred to delay the
contest till the last moment in order that their friends should be near
at hand. Steve remarked with satisfaction that they did not attempt to
outride his party.

"The fools," he said to Broncho Harry, "they won't be there above a
hundred yards before us, and won't get above one shot each before we
are on them. If they had known their business they would have ridden
fit to kill their horses till they got there, and then jumped off and
run up that path and held it. We should have lost half our number at
least fighting our way up. In fact, with the women with us, we couldn't
have done it."

Scarce another word was spoken as the party galloped on. Mile after
mile had been passed, and the buttes were now towering up in front of
them. When within half a mile of the foot the riders gradually fell
in to the places assigned to them. Those with rifles went in front,
then the women, then the men with revolvers only. The small party of
Indians kept on until within a hundred and fifty yards of the foot of
the buttes, then they halted and turned. The whites were at the moment
some two hundred yards behind them. The great party of Indians on the
right were about half a mile away. The Indians in front did not await
the shock of the whites, knowing that the impetus of the latter would
give them an advantage, but raising their war-cry dashed forward to
meet them, discharging their rifles as they came.

Not a shot was fired by the whites until the two lines were within
twenty paces of each other, then the revolvers of the ten men in front
cracked out sharply. Several of the Indians fell. Then there was a
crash as the lines met, and then for a moment a confused medley--the
Indians fighting with tomahawk and spear, the whites with their deadly
revolvers. The conditions were too unequal. There was not one among
the band of whites who could not rely with certainty upon his aim, and
as in a close line, boot touching boot, they pressed on, the Indians
melted like snow before them. It seemed to Hugh but a moment from the
time the fight began till the path before them to the buttes was open.

"Forward!" shouted Steve. "We are through them, boys."

As Hugh dashed on he heard Broncho Harry's shout, the cracking of the
revolvers, and the yell of the Indians. The women were riding abreast
with them now.

"Never mind the gals," Steve shouted. "All tumble off together."

It was but a few seconds before the first band threw themselves from
their horses and took up their post behind boulders and bushes. As they
dismounted Steve gave a loud shout, and almost at the same moment the
party that had fought under the leadership of Broncho Harry wheeled
round and rode towards them. Had there been only the Indians that had
tried to bar their way to reckon with, there would have been no need
for them to seek refuge at the buttes. Half their number had fallen
under the bullets of the front line of the whites as they fell upon
them. The charge of Broncho Harry's detachment had completed the effect
of the blow. The whole conflict had only lasted half a minute, but in
that time the deadly six-shooters had wrought terrible havoc with the
band of Indians. Less than half of them went galloping back to meet
their advancing friends, and several of these were leaning over their
saddles evidently badly wounded. Over twenty lay together at the spot
where the two parties had met. A few of the horses stood quietly beside
their dead owners, the rest were careering wildly over the plain. A
loud cheer broke from both parties of the whites as Broncho Harry's
band rode in and dismounted.

"That has been a pretty tight race," Long Tom said, "but we beat them
handsome."

"Tom, do you all stow away your horses and ours as snug as you can
among the rocks and trees, then take your places down here. We will
get a bit higher up so as to get a wider range for our rifles, but we
haven't time for that now, we must just give this other crowd a hint
that we have got rifles and can use them. Now, boys, take steady aim at
that clump of Red-skins. Don't throw away a shot. There is nothing like
straight shooting for skeering a Red. Here goes;" and Steve, taking a
steady aim, fired, while his companions followed his example.



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XIV.

SURROUNDED BY RED-SKINS.


The large band of Indians had checked their horses some five hundred
yards from the foot of the buttes as they saw the survivors of the
party in front galloping back to them, and realized that the whites
had gained shelter. Some of the more impetuous spirits had, however,
ridden on, and were some distance in advance when the rifles of the
defenders cracked out. Four of the Indians fell from their horses,
three others were wounded, and these, with their companions, wheeled
round and rejoined the main body, who now, at the order of their chief,
fell back, and were, a few minutes later, reinforced by the band that
had followed on the footsteps of the fugitives.

"Now, boys, we can go up to the top, but first let us see how we stand.
Has any gone down?"

"Yes, there are two missing," Long Tom said. "I saw two of the first
line go down as we charged them."

"John Spencer wur killed," Jim Gattling said. "He wur riding next to
me."

"Boston wur the other," Broncho Harry said. "I wur riding in a line
with him behind, and saw him go back ker-plumb. I knew he wur hit
through the head by the way he fell."

Four other men were, it was now found, wounded, and one of the women
had been hit in the shoulder with a rifle ball.

"The Red-skins ain't no account with their rifles on horseback," Long
Tom said. "Let them lie down and get their piece on a log and they
can shoot pretty straight, but it's just throwing away lead to try to
shoot with a rifle from a horse. I never knew more than two or three
whites who was anyway sartin with their pieces when their horses was
on the move. A six-shooter's worth ten rifles on horseback. A fellow
kin gallop and keep his arm straight, but when it comes to holding
out a long tube with both arms, and your pony going on the jump, it
stands to reason there ain't no keeping the thing straight. If those
Red-skins had hurried up and dismounted, and steadied their rifles on
their saddles, I reckon they might have wiped out half of us before
we reached them. Waal, Steve, you and the women, and best part of
the others, may as well get up to the top; but Broncho and me, and
two or three of the boys, will stop down here and look after the
horses. Lightning, you may as well stop down here with a kipple of
other fellows with rifles, so as just to give them a hint to keep at a
distance, otherwise they will be sending their lead up while the others
are getting to the top."

But the Indians showed no signs of any intention of harassing them for
the present. They knew that the rifles in the hands of the defenders
carried farther and straighter than their own. They had suffered heavy
losses already, and were in no way disposed to do anything rash. They
knew that there was no occasion for haste, and no fear of the fugitives
attempting to make their escape. After some consultation they drew
further off into the plain, and in a short time smoke could be seen
ascending at several points.

"There ain't no occasion to wait down here no longer," Long Tom said.
"The Injuns know well enough that they can't take this place, not at
least without losing a hundred men; and it ain't Red-skin fashion to
throw away lives, special when they know they have only got to wait to
do the job without any fighting at all. So let us go up."

The path was comparatively easy for three-quarters of the way to the
summit of the buttes. It seemed that on this side either the rock had
crumbled away in past ages so as to make a gradual slope, or else water
or wind had thrown up a bank against it. The height of the butte above
the broad valley would be about three hundred feet, and the slope was
covered with trees and undergrowth, until it terminated abruptly at the
face of a wall of rock fifty feet from the summit. At one point only
this wall was broken by a sort of gap or cleft some three feet wide at
the bottom, and slanting as steeply as the roof of a house. The bottom
was worn almost smooth by the rains of centuries and by the feet of
cattle, and Hugh had to sling his gun behind him and use both hands
to grasp the irregularities of the rock on either side to get up. On
reaching the top he found that the summit was almost flat, a couple of
hundred yards in length, and as many feet in width. It was covered with
grass, and several trees, some of considerable size, were scattered
about over the surface.

"Well, Bill," he said as Royce came up to him, "have you found any
water?"

"Yes, there is a rock pool in the centre there by that big tree. There
is water enough for us and the horses for maybe a week. Enough for us
without the horses for a month or more."

"What are you going to do? Bring the horses up here?"

"We haven't settled that yet. I reckon we shall bring the best of them
up anyhow."

"I suppose there is no possible place the Indians can get up except by
that gap?"

"Nary one, everywhere else the rock goes straight down to the plain.
There ain't no way, except by flying, to get up here if you don't come
by this gap. Anyhow we shall bring the horses a good long way up the
slope; it is a long line along the bottom there, and the Red-skins
might crawl up in the night, and we should pretty nigh all have to keep
guard. Steve says that though where we came up the ground wur smooth
enough, it ain't so over the rest of the slope, but that, what with the
boulders and the undergrowth and thorns, it is pretty nigh impossible
to get up through the trees anywhere else. He expects that it's been
water washing down the earth and sand through that gap that has filled
up between the boulders, and made it smooth going where we came up. So
we will bring up the horses, and get the best of them up here, and tie
the others just below the gap. We can take them down water in our hats
if we decide to keep them, or get them up to-morrow if we like. Anyhow
all we shall want will be to keep four men at watch down below them."

"I should have thought it best to bring them all up at once, Bill; what
is the use of leaving them below?"

"Waal, Hugh, there ain't grass enough to bring them all up here, and
every morning we can take them down and let them graze below. There air
no fear of the Injuns coming close to drive them off, and if they tried
it, the critturs would come up the path again of their own accord,
except those we took from the Indians. They can get a good lot of sweet
grass under the trees down thar, and as long as they get that they can
do pretty well without water. Thar, do you see thar are two or three
more lots of Indians coming down to join the others. They'll have three
hundred of them down thar before long."

"It don't make much difference how many of them there are, if they dare
not attack us," Hugh said.

"That's where you are wrong, Hugh," Broncho Harry, who had now joined
them, said. "The more thar are of them the closer watch they can keep
to see that none of us gets away, and the more thar are of them the
bigger the party must be that comes to rescue us. You may be sure that
they have scouts for miles and miles off, and if they get news that
there is a party coming up, they will just leave a guard to keep us
here, and go down and fall on them."

"I didn't think of that, Harry. Yes, it will need a very strong party
to bring us off. But perhaps they will get tired and go."

"Don't you bet on that, Hugh. Ef thar air one thing an Injun never gets
tired of, it's waiting. Time ain't nothing to them. Them chaps can send
out parties to hunt just as if they wur in their own villages. The boys
will bring them down corn, and gather their firewood for them, and as
long as we are up here, they will stop down thar, if it was six months.
They know how many of us thar are here. Lots of them must have been
up here at one time or another, and knowing the time of year, and how
much rain has fallen lately, there ain't no doubt they can calkilate
pretty well how much water there is in this pool. They will know that
we shall keep our horses as long as we can, and they will reckon that
three weeks at the outside will see the end of the water. As for food,
of course, we are all right. We have got the horses to eat, and horse
is pretty nigh as good as cow-beef. I would just as soon have one as
the other. A young broncho's a sight tenderer than an old cow any day."

Hugh now took a turn round the edge of the butte. It was, as Royce
had said, a mass of rock rising perpendicularly from the plain. It was
separated from the other butte by a gap a hundred and fifty feet wide.
It was clear that they had once formed one mass, for between them was
a rocky shoulder connecting them. This was very steep on both sides,
narrowing almost to a razor edge at the top, where it joined the butte
on which they were standing. This edge was fifty feet below the top,
but it rose as it retreated from it, and on the opposite side reached
up to a level with the plateau.

A fire had already been lighted on the top of the butte, and over this
the women were cooking some of the meat they had brought from the
Indian village, and in a short time the whole party except two, who
were placed on sentry to watch the movements of the Indians, gathered
round it.

"Waal, boys," Steve said when the meal was finished, "I reckon that
thar ain't no time to lose, and that I had best start to-night. There
ain't no denying that we air in a pretty tight fix here, and it won't
be easy to get a force as can fight their way through that crowd.
I reckon I shall not be able to gather over fifty cow-boys on the
Canadian, and so I'll have to ride to the nearest fort and get the
troops to help. That air about two hundred miles from the Canadian.
It ull take me three days to get there after I leave the ranches. It
ull take four at the very least before the troops will get down there.
You can't reckon less than a week. I shall be two days getting down to
the ranches, as there won't be any travelling by day. So you see if I
start to-night, you can't reckon on seeing us back afore ten days at
the earliest."

"That will be about it, Steve. I don't see as you can do without the
troops noway. Waal, we can hold out a fortnight easy. We must put the
horses on mighty short allowance of water, so as to make it last a
fortnight. If we find it running out quicker'n we expect, we must kill
off half the animals. It don't matter about them a bit, ef you come up
strong enough to thrash the Red-skins without our help. Yes, I think
you had better go to-night. You are as likely to get out to-night as
any night, but you'll have to look mighty sharp, Steve, for you may bet
your life them Injuns will be as thick as bees round the butte."

"How do you mean to go, Steve?" Hugh asked.

"Tie the ropes together, Lightning, and get lowered down over the edge."

"I have been looking at the ridge that runs from this butte to the
other," Hugh said, "and it struck me that if you were lowered down on
to it you might get along on to the other butte. Of course two others
would be lowered with you, and then you could be let down from the
farthest side of the other butte. You said nobody had ever been on it,
and anyhow the Indians are not likely to be as thick over there as they
would be round this one."

"Thunder! You are right again, Lightning. I will go and have a look at
it at once. It will soon be getting dark; Broncho, do you and Long Tom
go along with me. We will lie down afore we get to the edge. You may
be sure that there are plenty of sharp eyes watching all round, and if
they was to see us standing there, and looking at that ledge of rock,
they might guess what we had in our minds. While we are away, the rest
of you might go down and get up the ponies."

It took some time to lead all the horses up the slope. Prince and four
others were brought up to the plateau, but it was necessary to tie
strips of blanket under their feet to enable them to get sufficient
footing to climb up through the gap.

"I shouldn't have thought that cattle could have come where horses
can't," Hugh said.

"Cattle can climb pretty nigh anywhere," the cow-boy he addressed
replied. "I have seen cattle climb places where you would have thought
that nothing but a goat could get to. You see their hoofs are softer
than horses, and get a better hold on rocks. But horses could get up
here easy enough if they weren't shod. They don't have a fair show with
shoes on."

By the time the horses had been brought up, night had fallen. Four men
were told off as a guard; two of them took up their post half-way down
the slope; two went down to its foot. No attack was anticipated, for
the Indians would be sure that a sharp watch would be kept, and there
would be no chance whatever of their making their way up to the summit
unobserved. Hugh was not with the first party on watch, and joined the
crowd round the fire.

"What time are you going to start, Steve?"

"As soon as it gets quite dark. Thar ain't no good in waiting. They
air on watch now, and they will be on watch all night, so thar is no
difference that way, and the sooner I goes, the farther I will git
afore morning. It is settled that if I am caught to-night, Jim Gattling
will try next; ef he goes down too, Broncho Harry will try. After that
you can settle among yourselves."

"I will volunteer to be next," Hugh said. "Another couple of days and
Prince will be ready to do anything. If I was to try I should start
on his back and take my chance. The Indians cannot have many horses
as fast as he is, and if I can get through safely, they may ride as
hard as they like. There won't be many who can catch me anyhow, and
if they came up one at a time, I have my revolver and can hold my own.
I shouldn't like to try to-night, for many of their horses are fresh,
and Prince wants at least twenty-four hours before he is fit for work
again; but if you like to give up your attempt to-night, Steve, I will
try to-morrow night."

"No, no, lad, we will do as we have planned. You might do it, and you
might not. More likely you would not, for like enough you would run
agin a dozen of them going out, and would get a lasso dropped over your
shoulders afore you saw or heard them. Besides, you are young, lad. You
have got your life afore you. I am getting on, and Rosie will have Jim
to look after her, so it don't make much matter along of me."

An hour later it was perfectly dark. Steve had left his hat lying on
the edge of the rock exactly above the ridge, when he had visited it
with Harry and Long Tom. Several of the ropes were knotted together;
while this was being done, Steve withdrew with his daughter and Jim
Gattling from the fire, and was absent five or six minutes. He came
back by himself.

"I am ready," he said. "Good-bye to you all! I hope as I'll see you all
agin afore long." He shook hands with them all round, and then, taking
up his rifle, walked away without looking round, followed by Broncho
Harry and Long Tom, the latter saying to Hugh and two others, "You come
too. We shall want you to lower the last of us down, and to hoist us up
again."

The hat was soon found. All three men took off their boots. Broncho
Harry tied those of Steve together by a short piece of rope and slung
them over his shoulder, and he and Tom left their revolvers and belts
behind them.

"Now we are ready," Harry said; "mind, Steve, as you go down you keep
your face to the rock, so that that gun of yours sha'n't strike it;
you can't be too keerful, you know." A loop was placed round Steve's
shoulder under the arm. "You lie down, Hugh, with your face over the
edge, then Steve can tell you if we are one side or other of the ledge.
It looked plumb down from here, but it mayn't be."

Harry had, rather to Hugh's surprise, taken up his blanket as he left
the fire, but he now saw the object; it was partly folded and laid over
the edge so as to prevent any chance of the rope touching a rock and
being cut by it.

"Now, Tom and I will hold it out a bit beyond the face," Harry said;
"and you two do the lowering away. Now, Steve."

Steve knelt down at the edge and lowered himself until the strain came
on the rope. This Broncho and Tom held out as far as they could, and
the other two steadily lowered it. It was so dark that Hugh could not
see the ridge and presently lost sight of Steve. Soon, however, he
heard his voice, "About a foot more to the right." A few seconds later
the strain on the rope ceased.

"Are you all right, Steve?" Hugh asked.

"Yes, I am astride of it; it is wider than I thought it was. Now I will
move on; you can let Broncho down as soon as you like."

The other two men were lowered, and then there was a long silence. It
was no easy matter, Hugh knew, to crawl along the ridge, for it was by
no means even. The great danger was that there might be loose pieces
which would be dislodged and go clattering down below. When, however,
ten minutes had passed without any sound being heard, the watchers felt
sure that the three men must have gained the opposite summit. There was
nothing now to do but to sit down and wait. At the end of an hour and
a half, Hugh, who was again leaning over listening intently, heard a
voice below him, "Lower down that other rope, Hugh, we are both here."

The short rope was lowered, for the long one had been taken by them to
lower Steve from the other butte, and in a short time Broncho and Long
Tom stood beside them.

"I think the old man has got safe off," Broncho Harry said. "We have
stood over there listening all this time and ain't heard a sound. There
are plenty of the varmint about. You hear that barking of prairie-dogs
and hooting of owls? That's them letting each other know where they
are; they are thick everywhere, I guess, round the foot of this butte,
but we didn't hear them on the other side, and I reckon there ain't
many of them there anyhow. Steve must have got beyond them by this
time. That wur a first-rate idea of yours, Hugh; he never would have
got through if we had lowered him off here; but it wasn't no joke
getting along that ridge in the dark, I can tell you. We air all
accustomed to balance ourselves in the saddle, and so made a shift to
get across; but in some places the rock wur pretty nigh as sharp as a
knife."

"Do you think that there is any chance of a night attack, Broncho?"

"One never can answer for the varmint, but I don't reckon as they are
like to try it; they know they couldn't get up to the top, and all they
could hope for would be to kill some of the horses and cut off the men
on watch. It wouldn't be worth risking many lives to do that; besides,
it ain't a nice place to climb in the dark. They can crawl along out on
the plain without making more noise than a snake would do, but that is
a different thing to climbing up among bush and rock in the dark. They
couldn't reckon on doing it without being heard. No, Hugh, it may be
that one or two of the young bucks wanting to distinguish themselves
and thirsting for scalps, may crawl up and see if they can catch any
one napping down below there, but I reckon that is all, and that ain't
likely to be tried to-night. They are all out there trying to make
sure that no one gets away. That is their first consarn; besides, like
enough the chiefs will try in the morning to get us to surrender,
and it wouldn't do for any young brave to make a venture on his own
account, until it is sartin that they ain't going to get us without
fighting; still, I wouldn't say that when it comes to your turn to be
on guard, Lightning, it would be altogether safe for you to put your
rifle down and take an hour's sleep."

"Well, I am not likely to try that experiment anyhow, Broncho."

"No; I didn't guess as you was. I only said as it wouldn't be safe. I
don't think Steve put enough men on guard. I am going to talk to the
others about it. I reckon we ought to divide into two guards, say ten
on each watch: four down below, four up with the horses, two up here at
the top of the path. We sha'n't have much to do all day, and can sleep
as much as we like. Steve is an old Injun fighter, and he knows better
than we do what the chances air, still there ain't no good taking
risks."

"I quite agree with you, Broncho. Now that Steve has got safe away we
know we shall get help before very long; and it would be foolish to
run any risk merely from want of care. I would go even farther and let
fifteen men be on watch at night, and let five sleep and keep look-out
during the day."

"That would be no better, lad, that would be worse, for it is difficult
to keep awake the whole night, especially if night after night passes
without an alarm."

By this time they had reached the others, and there was much rejoicing
when it was heard that Steve Rutherford had got safe away.

"Do you feel sure, Harry, that they might not have caught him and
killed him without any noise?" Rosie asked anxiously.

"Sartin. Steve's last words was: 'I shall keep my six-shooter in my
hand, and if they riddle me with arrows, Broncho, I will fire a shot
or two before I drop, don't you fear about that.' And he would do it.
Besides, it ain't in Injun nature to kill an enemy without setting up
a yell over it. A Red-skin's like a hen laying an egg; he has got to
boast of it loud enough for all the world to hear. No; you needn't be
a bit afeard, gal. Your father has got off safe, and by this time I
reckon he is ten miles away."

Harry then made the proposal that half the men should be always on
guard, to which they at once agreed, and six of them, taking up their
arms, left the fire without further words, and started to take up their
post on the slope.

"Now, Rosie, you shall give us a pan of tea and a bit of meat, and then
the sooner we are all asleep the better. We shall want to use our eyes
when it is our turn on watch."

At twelve o'clock they were on their feet again, and went down the
hill. "Now, Harry," said Long Tom, "Lightning and you and me will go
along to the bottom; three others keep about fifty yards behind us, two
up below the horses, and two on the top here."

As they took their places, and the men they relieved returned to the
summit, Long Tom said: "Listen to the calls, Lightning; the Red-skins
have heard us moving and are warning each other to look sharp. I reckon
they are as thick as peas all round here, for they know that if one
of us tries to make a bolt on horseback it is here he must start; but
they can hardly suppose that we are such fools as that comes to. Now
you move away five or six yards to the right and post yourself behind a
rock. You have got to keep your eyes in front of you to see if you can
see anything moving in the grass; and you have got to listen for any
sound over there to the right, in case any of the Red-skins should try
to crawl up through the bushes to circumvent us. I'll go to the left,
and Broncho kin take the middle of the path."

Hugh took up his post and maintained a vigilant watch; he was much
more afraid of an attempt on the part of the Indians to crawl up
on the right than of an attack in front, and listened intently for
the slightest sound of moving leaves on that side, for he knew that
the Indians would not be likely to break the smallest twig in their
progress. In front of him he could discern the expanse of the plain
stretching out; there were a few low bushes here and there, and at
times, to his straining eyes, it seemed that some of the dark masses
moved, but he knew that this might be only fancy. Hour after hour
passed. Presently Harry stole up to his side. "Day will be breaking in
an hour, Hugh, keep a sharp look-out now; they will try it, if they try
it at all, just as the sky begins to lighten."

All, however, remained quiet, and Hugh felt in no slight degree
relieved as the light stole gradually up the eastern sky, and he felt
that Harry's anticipations were incorrect, and that no attack would be
made. As soon as the sun rose the sentries were relieved, and the party
on watch retired to the crest, for from there a view over the whole
of the plain was obtainable, and it was impossible for the Indians to
crawl up towards the buttes without being seen. Two hours later a party
were seen approaching from the main Indian camp; they stopped five
hundred yards away; then two Indians advanced and held up their arms to
show they had left their rifles behind them.

"I thought they would be wanting to have a talk this morning," Broncho
Harry said. "I suppose two of us had better go down to meet them."

"You and Jim Gattling had better go, Broncho."

"No," Jim said; "Rason had better go with you, Broncho: he speaks a
little of their language, and I don't; it is not likely either of the
chiefs speak English."

"All right!" Broncho said; "it is as well to understand what they
say, though we know well enough that nothing will come of it. Put your
six-shooter in your pocket, Rason, they will have their tomahawks and
knives hidden about them somewhere; half a dozen of the rest had better
come down the slope. It ain't likely they will make a rush, but when
they find we won't agree to their terms they may turn nasty."

Hugh watched the meeting from the top of the butte. It lasted about ten
minutes, and then the envoys separated and returned to their respective
parties. The result was clear enough, for when the Indian chiefs
reached their followers they raised a defiant war-cry, which was taken
up all over the plain.

"Just as I expected," Harry said. "The Red-skins always like to have a
talk before they begin to fight, even when they know well enough that
nothing can come of it."

"What were their proposals?"

"They said that they knew we could hold out for a time, but that the
water would soon be finished, and we must give in then. We had stolen
the white women out of their camp, and had killed their young men; but
if we would give up the women and surrender our arms and ammunition,
they would let us depart free."

"What did you say, Broncho in return?"

"I said that we was very comfortable up here, and that if we had
taken the women, they had stolen them away from us. As to our arms, we
thought they was more useful in our hands than they would be in theirs;
but that if they would go back to their villages we would promise to do
them no farther harm until they troubled us again."

"Who were the chiefs, Harry?"

"One was the Eagle; he is a big chief. I have often heard of him. The
other was the Owl. I fancy the Eagle is the fighting chief, and the Owl
the counsellor. He is a crafty-looking beggar. The Eagle is a fine tall
Red-skin, a sort of chap I shouldn't care about having a hand-to-hand
fight with, with knives and tomahawks. He told us it wur no use our
hoping for assistance, for that none could come to us, and unless we
could fly we could not get through his young men; and that even if we
could, our scalps would be hanging in their lodges long before we could
get down to the ranches. I said he might have our scalps if he could
take them; but that if he did it would be off dead bodies, for as long
as one of us had strength to draw trigger he would not get up on to
the butte. That was all. He knew well enough what the answer would be.
He wanted to see, I fancy, how we took it, and whether we were in good
heart. It wur just a game of bluff, and neither of us wur going to show
our hands."

That night Broncho Harry's party went first on watch, and were relieved
at twelve o'clock. The Indians had remained quiet all the day, and
Harry said to Hugh as they returned up the hill after being relieved,
"I shouldn't be surprised if they try and attack before morning. In the
first place, they have been wonderful quiet all day; and in the next
place, I reckon that when the chief said he acknowledged that we could
hold the place, he just meant to give us the idee that he didn't mean
to attack, and wur only going to starve us out. In course they will do
that afterwards, but I think they will try one rush first. I tell you
what, Hugh, we will set to work now and get the rest of the horses to
the top. They can't pick up much where they are now, and they may as
well be out of the way if there is a fight."

The ten men soon got the horses up on to the plateau and then lay
down to sleep. The morning was just breaking when the crack of a rifle
was heard, and it was followed instantly by a score of others and an
outburst of fierce yelling; every man sprang to his feet and ran to
the top of the path. "Hugh, do you and two others take your place on
the edge of the rock on the right of the gap. Tom, you and Stumpy and
Rason, take your places on the left and kiver us as we fall back, if we
have to, as is like enough. Come on with me the rest of you."

Standing on the edge of the cliff, Hugh saw the flashes bursting out
rapidly among the rocks and trees at the foot of the slope, and soon
perceived that they were mounting upwards. A crowd of Indians must have
thrown themselves suddenly forward and established themselves in cover,
and they were now fighting their way up. The defenders had fallen back,
for the answering flashes were half-way up the slope. The rattle of
musketry was incessant, but far above it rose the yells of the Indians.
The whites fought silently.

It was still too dark to make out the figures, and Hugh and his
companions remained inactive.

"Our men are falling back, Bill," he said presently to Royce, who was
standing a few yards away on the other side of the gap.

"They are sure to do that," Royce replied. "I guess there are two
hundred Injuns down there, and though it is difficult for them to make
their way through the bushes, they will do it. You will see our fellows
will soon be up here."

Five minutes later, indeed, three or four figures were seen coming up
the path. "Who are you?" Hugh shouted.

"It is all right," one of them called out. "There air too many for us,
and Broncho has ordered us to fall back, and help you cover the rest."

Gradually the flashes of the defenders' rifles ceased to spurt out from
among the rocks, and died away altogether. Then at full speed the men
dashed up the pathway, followed closely by a number of leaping figures.
Then the rifles of those along the edge of the rock cracked out. There
was a chorus of cries and yells, and the pursuers bounded in among the
rocks and bushes again, and their rifles flashed out angrily. Rason
fell backwards, shot through the head, and a cry on the other side of
the gap showed that at least one was hit there.

"Lie down," Hugh shouted, "and fire over the edge."

In a minute the whole party were gathered on the crest. The daylight
was now broadening rapidly; but not one of the assailants could be
seen, though the puffs of smoke from behind rock and bush showed how
thickly they were gathered.

"Will they try a rush, do you think?" Hugh asked Broncho, who had taken
his post beside him.

"I don't think so," Harry said. "I expect they didn't reckon on finding
so many men on guard on the slope, and thought they might carry it
with a rush and get here afore we was ready for them, and before it wur
light enough for us to shoot straight. They can't gather thick enough
among the rocks down thar to give them a chance of making a big rush."

Apparently this was also the opinion of the Indians, who soon learned
that it was dangerous to show their position by firing, for every shot
was answered instantly, and several were killed as they raised their
heads to fire from behind the rocks. The firing, therefore, gradually
ceased.

"Now we are just as we was before," Harry said. "It wur sartin we
couldn't hold the slope if they made an attack. The only thing is, they
are nearer for a rush in the dark than they was afore. There ain't no
fear of their trying it as long as it is light. Six will be enough to
keep guard at present. We will talk over what is best to be done."

Six men were picked out as a guard, the rest assembled in council. "We
have got to block up that gap somehow," Harry said. "If they make a
rush in the dark we may kill a lot of them; but the chances are, they
will get up. It seems to me that we had best kill half the horses and
pile them up down near the mouth. That will make a breast-work, and
will stop their bullets."

There was a general chorus of assent. Then Hugh said, "That seems
a very good idea, Harry, but I should think that it would be better
if we were to make that breast-work half-way up the gap, and to cut
off some big arms of these trees and pile them in front of it. If
we were to pretty well fill up the gap with boughs it would be very
difficult to get through, and a couple of us behind the breast-work
with six-shooters would prevent them from clearing it away, especially
as the others could fire down from above on them."

"That's it," Broncho Harry said. "That will make us as safe as if there
wur no gap at all. Bully for you again, young un! Let us set to work
about it at once."

There was not a hatchet among them, and it took them the whole day
to cut off five or six stout boughs of trees with their bowie-knives.
However, it was done at last. The boughs were dragged along until near
the mouth of the gap and then dropped into it, the butt-ends inwards,
Broncho Harry and two or three of the others going down into the gap
and arranging them so that a dense screen was formed outwards with the
boughs and leaves. One or two shots came up from the bottom of the
slope, but these were harmless, and the guard took care that no one
was able to fire from a direct line with the gap from anywhere near
the summit. At last the boughs were all in position, and a dense hedge
filled the gap twelve feet high.

"We can spare the horses," Harry said. "They can't get through that
hedge with us above them. They will never even try it. They see as we
are up to something by their firing, but I don't suppose they can make
out what it is. Like enough one of them will crawl up after it gets
dark to see, and when he reports what we have done they will know that
the game is up as far as taking the place by storm is concarned."

From this time forward no attempt was made to renew the attack.
The Indians still held the slope, for shots were occasionally fired
whenever one of the defenders came near enough to the edge to allow his
head to be seen, otherwise all was quiet. As soon as the meat brought
up was finished, one of the Indian horses was killed, and Hugh found
that its flesh was by no means bad eating. The water was carefully
husbanded, horses as well as men being placed on the smallest possible
allowance. The horses too were picketed so as to prevent them from
grazing at will, and the grass was cut and supplied to them in small
bundles, mixed with leaves from the trees. With good management it
was agreed that they would be able to hold out for a fortnight without
difficulty.

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XV.

WITH THE WAGGON TEAMS.


Soon after daybreak on the twelfth day the watch, which had now
been carefully kept up for some days, reported that two Indians were
galloping at full speed up the valley. A cheer broke from the defenders
of the butte, for they doubted not that these brought news of the
approach of a relieving party. When the horsemen arrived at the main
encampment out on the plain a stir was immediately visible, and in
two or three minutes the Indians were seen running out to the horses
grazing on the plain beyond, while loud yells rang through the air.

"Those who have got rifles had better come to the edge," Long Tom
shouted. "All these fellows who are here will be scooting out on the
plain in a minute. We must stop a few of them anyhow."

A minute or two later scores of Indians dashed out from the trees at
the foot of the buttes, and ran towards their encampment. The whites at
once opened fire, but a running man far below is a difficult mark, and
not a single shot took effect.

"You don't call that shooting," Broncho Harry said indignantly.

"It is all very well, Harry," Hugh said, "but a brown spot three
hundred feet below you, and as many yards away, isn't an easy mark."

"Waal," Harry said, "it can't be helped. Now we will get ready to go
out to lend a hand to our friends. Let us have a couple of ropes; we
will tie them to the branches one by one and haul them up. There is no
fear of an attack. Now look here, Jim, you and your lot had best stop
here to guard the women, and we will sally out. There are five of you;
that will be plenty."

The man on watch now gave a shout. "I can see them," he said.

"How many of them?"

"I guess there is about eighty. There is a thick clump in the middle,
I reckon that they are the soldiers, and thirty or forty riding loose;
I allow they are cow-boys."

"That is just about the right number," Harry said; "if there was more
of them the Indians wouldn't fight. I don't know as they will now, but
seeing as there must be three hundred of them, I expect they will try
it. Now, then, up with these branches."

In a quarter of an hour the branches were all hauled out of the gap.
While this had been going on the women had given a feed and a good
drink of water to the horses, for there was no occasion any longer
to husband their resources. The animals were now saddled and led down
through the gap. By this time the Indians were all mounted, and were
moving in a close body across the plain to meet the advancing foe.

"Now, Jim," Broncho Harry said, "you stand on the edge, and when you
see the fight begin you wave your hand. We can't make a start until
they are at it, and we sha'n't be able to see down below there."

The cow-boys made their way down to the plain and then mounted. They
sat for ten minutes with their eyes fixed upon Jim Gattling. Presently
he waved his arm, and with a shout they started at a gallop. As soon as
they were fairly out on the plain they heard the sound of fire-arms,
and after galloping half a mile came suddenly in view of the combat.
The Indians had boldly closed with the troops and cow-boys, who were
now driven together. A desperate hand-to-hand conflict was raging.
Swords flashing in the sun, waving tomahawks, and spears could be seen
above the mass. The cracking of revolvers was incessant, and a light
smoke hung over the conflict.

"They are hard at it, boys," Long Tom exclaimed; "now don't shout until
we are on them. They are too busy to notice us. Keep well together, and
we shall go through them like a knife."

Not a word was spoken as they galloped down upon the scene of conflict.
When they were within a hundred yards a cry of warning was raised,
and some of the Indians faced round; but in a moment, with a loud
shout, the band of cow-boys charged down upon them and cleft their way
into the mass, horse and rider rolling over under the impetus of the
onslaught. The deadly six-shooters spoke out, while the Indians fell
thickly around them; and in a minute they had joined the whites in the
centre of the mass. There was a shout of welcome, and then the officer
commanding the troops cried:

"Now is your time, lads; press them hard, give it them hot!" and the
united party attacked the Indians with fresh vigour.

Up to this time there had been little advantage on either side.
Many more of the Indians had fallen than of the whites, owing to the
superiority of the latter's weapons, especially the revolvers of the
cow-boy section. Still their great superiority in numbers was telling,
and when the six-shooters were emptied the cow-boys had no weapons to
oppose to the spears and tomahawks of the Indians. The sudden attack
from the rear, however, had shaken the Red-skins. In the momentary
pause that had ensued many of the cow-boys slipped fresh cartridges
into their pistols, and in a short time the Indians began to give
ground, while the less courageous of them wheeled about their horses'
heads.

  [Illustration: THE COW-BOYS CHARGED DOWN UPON THE INDIANS.]

War Eagle and some of the chiefs fought desperately; but when the
former fell, cut down by one of the troopers, a panic spread among
his followers, and as if by a sudden impulse they turned and fled.
The pursuit was a short one, for the horses of the rescuing force
were jaded with the long journey they had performed; those of the
party from the butte were weakened by hunger, while the ponies of the
Indians had been doing nothing for days, and speedily left them behind.
After hearty congratulations by the rescuers, and sincere thanks by
those whom they had relieved from their peril, the party returned to
the scene of conflict. Four troopers and two cow-boys had fallen, and
a score had received wounds more or less serious; while on the part
of the Indians over thirty lay dead. Graves were dug for the fallen
whites, the wounds of the others were bandaged up, and they then
proceeded to the butte, at whose foot the women, and the settlers who
had been left to guard them, had already gathered, they having hurried
down as soon as they saw the plain covered with flying Indians.

Steve had returned with the rescuing party, and had been severely
wounded in the fight, a blow from a tomahawk having cut off one of his
ears, wounded his cheek, and inflicted a terrible gash on his shoulder.
He was, however, in the highest spirits.

"I sha'n't look so purty, my dear," he said to his daughter, who burst
into tears at the sight of his injury, "but then I was not anything
uncommon afore, and I haven't any thought of going courting again.
Waal, we have given the Injuns a smart lesson."

When the handshaking and congratulations ceased, the captain commanding
the cavalry held a consultation with Steve and some of the cow-boys
as to the advisability of following up the victory and attacking the
Indians in their own villages.

"I should not feel justified in doing it unless I was pretty certain
of success. The commandant of the fort gave me orders to rescue this
party, and I have done so; but he said nothing about engaging in a
regular campaign with the Indians."

"I shouldn't try, captain," Steve said. "I reckon they haven't half
their force here to-day--no, nor a quarter--for they reckon to put
a thousand fighting men in the field. They didn't guess as any of us
had got off to get help, and knew that they had plenty here to keep us
caged upon the butte. Another thing is, the cow-boys with us air all
employed on the ranches, and although they came off willing to rescue
the women, and pay the Injuns off for that murdering business at our
settlement, I reckon they will want to be off again to their work.
But even with them we ain't no match for the forces the Red-skins can
collect, so if you will take my advice, captain, you won't waste a
minute, for thar is no saying how soon they will be down on us again,
and if they did come the fight to-day wouldn't be a sarcumstance to the
next."

"You are right," the officer said; "it would be folly to risk anything
by waiting here. I suppose you are all ready to start."

"I reckon so," Steve said; "the horses have all been brought down from
the hill."

The officer at once gave orders to mount.

While this conversation had been going on, Hugh, who was occupied in
giving Prince a good feed from the grain the soldiers had brought for
their horses, saw one of the troopers staring at him.

"Hullo, Luscombe!" he exclaimed, "who would have thought of seeing you
here!"

"I thought I couldn't be mistaken, Hugh," the other exclaimed as they
grasped each other's hands; "but you have changed so much, and widened
out so tremendously in the eighteen months since I left you, that for a
moment I wasn't sure it was you. Well, this is luck, and it is quite a
fluke too. I was getting heartily sick of doing duty at that wretched
fort, where one day was just like another, and there was nothing in
the world to do except cleaning one's traps, when a letter arrived
from the governor. I told you the old boy was sure to give in sooner
or later, and he sent me money to get my discharge and take me home.
I was just going to the commanding officer to make my application when
Rutherford rode into camp. It was evidently something very important,
for his horse fell dead as he drew rein. So I waited to hear the news,
and found that our troop was ordered to mount instantly to ride to the
rescue of a party of settlers and cow-boys who were besieged by the
Indians.

"You may guess I dropped my letter into my pocket and said nothing
about it. We have done a good deal of scouting, and had two or three
paltry skirmishes with the Indians, but nothing worth talking about;
and this seemed, from what Rutherford said, to be likely to be a
regular battle, and so, you see, here I am. It has been a jolly wind-up
for my soldiering. And to think that you should be one of the party we
have ridden something like three hundred miles to rescue! Now tell me
all about yourself."

At this moment the trumpet to saddle sounded.

"I will tell you as we ride along," Hugh said. "I don't suppose there
will be any particular order kept on our way back."

Five minutes later the whole party were cantering down the valley.
They did not draw rein until late in the afternoon, and then halted on
the banks of the Canadian. A strong cordon of sentries was posted that
night, but there were no signs of Indians, and the next day the party
reached one of the ranche stations.

During the two days' march and at the camp Hugh and Luscombe had kept
together, the latter having obtained permission from his officer to
fall out of the ranks, upon his telling him that one of the cow-boys
was an old friend who had come with him from Europe.

"I shall be off in a month or two," Luscombe said when they parted that
evening. "I expect there are formalities to be gone through here just
as there are in England. You are quite sure there is no chance of your
going home with me?"

"Quite sure. I have another three years to stop out here yet, and then
I can go back and claim my own. I wrote to Randolph, my trustee you
know, to tell him I am alive and well, and very glad that I did not
kill that uncle of mine, and saying that I shall return when I am of
age, but not before. What do you mean to do, Luscombe?"

"I am going to settle down," Luscombe said. "I can tell you a year's
work as trooper in one of these Yankee forts is about enough to make
a man sick of soldiering. I have eaten the bread of adversity, and
very hard bread it is too, and there is mighty little butter on it. I
am going in for fatted calf when I go back, and am quite prepared to
settle down into a traditional squire, to look after fat beeves, become
interested in turnips, and to be a father to my people. Well, anyhow,
Hugh, you will let me know when you come back to England. You know my
address; and as soon as you have kicked that uncle of yours out, and
have squared matters generally, you must come straight to me. You will
be sure of the heartiest welcome. The governor is a capital old boy,
and if he did cut up rusty, the wonder is he didn't do it long before.
My mother is a dear old lady, and the girls--there are two of them--are
first-rate girls; and the youngest, by the way, is just about the right
age for you. She was fourteen when I came away."

Hugh laughed.

"I shall very likely bring home an Indian squaw or a Mexican, so we
won't build on that, Luscombe; but when I go back to England you shall
hear of me, and I accept the invitation beforehand."

On the following morning the party broke up. The troops started
back for the fort. Steve Rutherford and the cow-boys rode for a time
south-west, and then worked their way over the foot-hills and came down
into the plains of Texas, and after a week's travel returned to the
village from which they had started. It had already begun to rise from
its ruins. Waggon-loads of lumber had been brought up from below, and
there was no lack of willing hands from other scattered settlements to
aid in the work of rebuilding the houses. Little attention was paid to
the party as they rode up from the plains, for it was not on that side
that a watch had been kept up for their return, and indeed the eyes of
the survivors had almost ceased to turn towards the mountains, for hope
had well-nigh died out, and it had been regarded as certain that the
whole party had been cut off and massacred by the Indians.

As soon, however, as the news spread that there were women among the
approaching troop, axes, saws, and hammers were thrown down, and there
was a rush to meet them. The scene was an affecting one, as mothers
clasped daughters and women embraced their husbands, whom they had
never thought to see again. The cow-boys were pressed to stay there
for the night, but they refused as they were anxious to return to
the ranche, from which they had been absent more than three weeks.
Fortunately, the busy season was almost over when they left, and they
knew that there were enough hands on the ranche to look after the
cattle during their absence. On the way back Broncho Harry said to
Hugh:

"I expect, Hugh, a good many of us will be getting our tickets before
long. They don't keep on more than half their strength through the
winter. What are you thinking of doing? If you would like to stop on I
will speak to the boss. I reckon I shall have charge of an outfit this
winter, and can manage for you and Stumpy."

"Thank you very much, Broncho, but, as I have told you often, I don't
want to stop. I have had a season's life as a cow-boy, but I have no
idea of sticking to it, and mean to have a try at something else. I
intend to go back to England when I am twenty-one. I have some property
there, and have no need to work. I got into a scrape at home with the
man who is my guardian, and don't care about turning up until he has no
longer any authority over me."

"Waal, you know your own business, Lightning. It is a pity, for in
another year you would make one of the best hands on the plains."

"If I were to stay for another year I expect I should stay for good,
Harry. It is a hard life, a terribly hard life; but it is a grand one
for all that. There is nothing like it in the way of excitement, and
I don't wonder that men who once take to it find it very difficult to
settle down to anything else afterwards. Therefore, you see, it is just
as well to stop before one gets too fond of it. I know I shall always
look back upon this as the jolliest time of my life, and I am lucky to
have gone through it without having been damaged by a cow, or having
my neck broken by a broncho, or being shot by an Indian. Royce has
made up his mind to go with me, and as soon as we get our discharge we
shall make our way to New Mexico, and perhaps down into Arizona; but of
course that must depend upon other things."

Upon reaching the station they found that, as Harry had predicted,
hands were already being discharged. The manager said, when they went
to him and told him that they wished to leave, "Well, I had intended to
keep you both on for the winter; but of course if you wish to go, there
is an end of it, and there are so many anxious to be kept on that a man
in my position feels almost grateful to those who voluntarily afford
vacancies."

There were very hearty adieus between Hugh and Royce and Broncho
Harry, Long Tom, and the others who had been their close companions
for months. Then they mounted and rode off from the station. They had
heard from a man who had just arrived that a large waggon-train was
on the point of starting from Decatur for Santa Fé. It was composed
of several parties who had been waiting until a sufficient force was
collected to venture across the Indian country. There were several
waggon-trains going with supplies for the troops stationed at the chain
of forts along the line. Others had goods for Santa Fé; while a third
was freighted with machinery and stores for mining enterprises farther
south in New Mexico.

It took Royce and Hugh a week to traverse the country to Decatur,
and on arriving there they heard that the teams had started two days
before. They waited a day at Decatur to buy a pack-horse and the
necessary stores for their journey, and then set out. In two days they
overtook the train, which consisted of forty waggons. Learning which
man had been selected as the leader of the party they rode up to him.

"We are going to Santa Fé," Royce said. "We are both good shots and
hunters, and we propose to travel with you. We are ready to scout and
bring in game, if you will supply us with other food."

"That's a bargain," the man said briefly, by no means sorry at the
addition of strength to the fighting force. "I reckon you will earn
your grub. They say the Injuns air on the war-path."

"They are right enough there," Royce said. "We have been engaged in
a fight with a band of the Comanches who made a raid down on a little
settlement named Gainsford, killed a score of settlers, and carried off
five women. We got together a band from the ranche we were working on
and went after them, and we had some pretty tough fighting before we
got through."

"Waal, you will just suit us," the man said. "I hear pretty near all
the tribes are up, but I doubt whether they will venture to attack a
party like this."

"I don't think they will if we keep together and are cautious," Royce
said. "You have forty waggons; that, at two men to a waggon, makes
eighty."

"That's so," the other agreed; "and what with cooks and bosses and one
thing and another, we mount up to pretty nigh a hundred, and of course
every man has got a rifle along with him."

"That makes a strong party," Royce said, "and with the advantage you
will have of fighting from the cover of the waggons, I don't think the
Red-skins would dare to attack you. We have got a pack animal along
with us, as you see, with our blankets and things. We will hitch him to
the tail of one of the waggons."

The man nodded.

"I have got four teams here of my own," he said, "and a spare man who
cooks and so on for my outfit, so you may as well jine in with that.
They air the last four waggons in the line."

The journey occupied six weeks. They kept at first up the west fork of
the Trinity River, crossing a patch of heavily timbered country. Then
they struck the main fork of Brazos River and followed it for some
distance; then took the track across to the Rio Pecos. It led them by
a toilsome journey across an elevated and arid country without wood or
water, save that which they obtained at the head-waters of the Double
Mountain River and from four small streams which united lower down to
form the north fork of the Colorado River.

From this point until they reached the Pecos, a distance of over a
hundred miles, there was no water. At ordinary times caravans would
not have followed this route, but would have kept far to the north. But
they would have been exposed to attacks by the Comanches and Utes, so
in spite of their strength they thought it prudent to follow the longer
and safer route. With a view to this journey across the desert each
waggon carried an empty hogshead slung behind it. These were filled
at the last springs, and the water, doled out sparingly, sufficed to
enable the men and animals to subsist for the five days the journey
occupied, although the allowance was so small that the sufferings of
the cattle were severe. Up to this time Hugh and Royce had succeeded
almost daily in bringing a couple of stags into camp, but game was
scarce in this parched and arid region, where not only water was
wanting, but grass was scanty in the extreme, and the only sustenance
for deer was the herbage of the scattered bushes.

They therefore rode with the caravan, and aided it as far as they
could. The waggons, which were of great size, were generally drawn by
twelve oxen or mules, and in crossing the deep sand it was sometimes
necessary to use the teams of two waggons to drag one over the
sand-hills. Sometimes even this failed to move them, and the mounted
men fastened their ropes to the spokes of the wheels, and so helped to
get the waggons out of the holes into which they had sunk.

"I would rather run the risks of a fight with the Indians," Hugh said
to Royce on the last day of their journey across the plain, "than have
to perform this frightful journey. The heat is simply awful, and I feel
as if I could drink a bucket of water."

"You will get plenty of water to-night, Hugh. The Pecos is a good big
river. I believe the animals smell it already. Look how hard they are
pulling. The drivers crack their whips and shout as usual, but the
beasts are doing their best without that. We have been very lucky that
we have had no sand-storms or anything to delay us and confuse us as to
the track. Waal, we are over the worst of the journey now; except the
Guadalupe Pass there ain't much trouble between the Pecos and El Paso.
Once there we are on the Rio Grande all the way up to Santa Fé."

Towards the afternoon the ground became harder, and the animals
quickened their pace almost to a trot, straining at the ropes with
heaving flanks, while their tongues hanging out and their blood-shot
eyes showed how they were suffering. An hour before sunset a shout
broke from the men as, on ascending a slight rise, the river lay before
them. The instant they reached its bank and the animals were loosed,
they rushed in a body into the stream and plunged their nostrils deeply
into the water, while the men, ascending the banks a short distance,
lay down at the edge of the stream and satisfied their thirst. Five
minutes later all had stripped and were enjoying a bath.

Hugh had been much struck with the difference between the teamsters
and the cow-boys; the former did not wear the chaperajos or leather
overalls with fringed seams, or the bright silk neck handkerchiefs or
flat-brimmed hats of the cow-boys. Their attire was sober rather than
bright. They wore soft hats, with slouched brims, and great cow-hide
boots. There was none of that dashing, reckless air that characterized
the cow-boys, or the quick alertness that showed the readiness to
cope with any emergency that might occur. Nor in the camp at night
was there any trace of the light-hearted gaiety which showed itself
in song, laughter, and dance in the gatherings round the cow-boys'
fires. They were for the most part silent and moody men, as if the
dull and monotonous labour in which they were engaged, and the months
of solitary journeying, with nothing to break the silence save the
cracking of the whips and the shouts of encouragement to the animals,
had left their mark upon them. Hugh and Royce agreed cordially that,
with all its dangers and its unmeasured toil, they would infinitely
prefer the life of a cow-boy, short as it might be, to that of a
teamster, even with the prospect of acquiring a competence upon which
to settle down in old age.

Two days' halt was made on the banks of the Pecos to rest the foot-sore
animals. Then the journey was recommenced, the river crossed at a
shallow ford, and its banks followed until, after three days' journey,
a small stream running in from the west was reached. Hence the route
lay due west to El Paso. The country was flat until they reached the
Guadalupe range of hills, which they crossed by a winding and difficult
pass, each waggon being taken up by three teams. Then skirting the
Alimos Hills they crossed the Sierra Hueco by the pass of the same
name, which was far easier than that of Guadalupe, and then one long
day's march took them down to Fort Bliss, which stands on the Rio
Grande, facing the town of El Paso. They had now arrived at the borders
of civilization. Mexican villages and towns, and United States posts
were scattered thickly along the course of the river all the way from
El Paso up to Santa Fé.

"What air you thinking of doing, young fellow?" the head of the party
asked Hugh as they sat by the fire of the encampment a short distance
out of El Paso. "You see we shall kinder break up here. I go with my
teams to the forts along the river, and then strike out east to the
outlying posts. About half my freight is ammunition and such like.
Waal, then, pretty nigh half the waggons go up to the mines. They have
powder, tools, and machinery. One or two stay here. They bring hardware
and store goods of all sorts for this town; the rest go up to Santa
Fé. Now what air you thinking of doing? You can make up your mind to
stay here, or you kin go up to Santa Fé. You told me you had a fancy
for jinin' some prospecting party and going out west into Arizona. I
doubt whether you will find anyone much bent on that job at present,
seeing as how the Injuns is stirring, though I don't know that makes
much difference, seeing they is always agin anyone going into what they
calls their country.

"Anyhow, the miners will all have to work with a pick in one hand and
a rifle in the other. You have got the Apaches here, and they air wuss
than the Comanches. The Comanches have had to deal with western hunters
and pioneers, and know that there ain't much to be got out of them
but lead, so beyond stealing cattle they've got into the way of being
mostly quiet, though now and agin they break out, just as they have at
present. Now the Apache has had to deal all along with Mexicans, and he
has pretty good reason for thinking that he is a much better fighter
than the white man. He has been raiding on the Mexican villages for
hundreds of years, burning and killing and carrying off their women and
gals, and I guess thar is a pretty good sprinkling of Mexican blood in
his veins, though that don't make him better or wuss, as far as I know.
Still, take them altogether, they air the savagest and hardest tribe of
Red-skins on this continent.

"However, if you like to go prospecting among thar hills and to run
the risk of losing your scalp, that is your business; but if you do,
this is the place to start from, and not Santa Fé. There is gold pretty
nigh everywhere in the valley of the Gila, and that lies a bit to the
north-west from here. At any rate, it seems to me that this is the
place that you are most likely to fall in with parties starting out.
But let me give you a warning, lad. You will find this town is pretty
nigh full of gold-miners, and you won't find one of them who won't tell
you that he knows of some place that's a sartin fortune up among the
hills. Now, don't you believe them. Don't you go and put your money
into any job like that. If you find a party being got up, and others
think it good enough to jine, of course you can chip in, but don't you
go and find the money for the whole show."

"There is no fear of that," Hugh laughed. "I had about five-and-twenty
pounds when I went on to the ranche, and I have got that and six
months' pay in my belt. That won't go far towards fitting out an
expedition."

"No, it won't," the teamster agreed. "It will be enough for you to
be able to chip in with the others, but, as you say, not to stand the
whole racket. Waal, what do you think?"

"I am very much obliged to you for your advice," Hugh said, "and I
think we can't do better than stay about here for a bit at any rate.
What do you say, Royce?"

"It is all one to me," Royce replied; "but there is no doubt that El
Paso is as good a place as any, if not better, for looking round."

"Then that is settled, Bill; and to tell you the truth, I have had
pretty nigh enough riding for the present, and sha'n't be sorry for a
fortnight's rest."

"Same here," Bill said. "I feel as if I was getting part of the horse,
and should like to get about on foot for a bit so as to feel that I
hadn't quite lost the use of my legs."

Accordingly the next morning they bade good-bye to their comrades of
the last two months, and mounting, rode into El Paso.

It was a town of some size, and purely Mexican in its features and
appearance. The inhabitants almost all belonged to that nationality,
but in the street were a considerable number of red-shirted miners
and teamsters. Hugh and his companions rode to one of the principal
haciendas, and handed over the three horses to a lounging Mexican.

"They have been fed this morning," Royce said. "We will come in and
give them some corn in two hours."

"I will see after Prince," Hugh said, patting his horse's neck. "Don't
you be afraid that I am going to leave you to the care of strangers. We
have been together too long for that, old boy."

They then went into the hotel, and ordered a room and breakfast.

"I don't care much for this Mexican stuff with its oil and garlic,"
Royce said as they had finished the meal.

"Don't you? I call it first-rate. After living on fried beef
and broiled beef for over a year, it is a comfort to get hold of
vegetables. These beans were delicious, and the coffee is a treat."

"It isn't bad for one meal," Royce admitted reluctantly, "but you'll
get pretty sick of Mexican cookery after a bit, and long for a chunk of
plain beef hot from the fire."

"Perhaps I shall," Hugh laughed, "but I think it will be some little
time first. Now let us take a stroll round the town."

It was all new to Hugh. He had seen the Mexican women in their native
dress in the villages among the hills, but here they indulged in much
more finery than the peasant girls. The poblanas were all dressed
in gay colours, with a scarf or rebozo over their heads, with gold
pins and ornaments in their glossy black hair, and with earrings,
necklaces, and generally bracelets of the same metal. No small share
of a peasant's wealth is exhibited on the persons of his womankind.
They wore short skirts, generally of red or green, trimmed with rows of
black braid, while a snow-white petticoat below and a white chemisette
partly hidden by a gay handkerchief over the shoulders completed the
costume. They were almost all barefooted, but Hugh observed that their
feet and ankles were exceedingly small and well formed, as were their
hands and plump brown arms.

Here and there were a good many of the upper class half shrouded in
black mantles, wearing the Spanish mantilla, worn so as partly to
conceal the face, though it needed but the slightest movement to draw
it aside when they wished to recognize anyone they met. Most of these
were on their way to a church, whose bell was pealing out a summons,
and carried their mass-book in one hand and a fan in the other. Many a
look of admiration was bestowed by the merry peasant girls upon Hugh
as he walked along. He was now eighteen and had attained his full
height, and his life on horseback gave an easy and lissom appearance
to his tall, powerful figure. His work among the cattle had given to
his face something of the keen, watchful expression that characterizes
the cow-boys, but not to a sufficient extent to materially affect the
frank, pleasant look that was his chief characteristic.

His gray eyes, and the light-brown hair with the slight tinge of gold
in it, typical of the hardy north-country race, were very attractive
to the dark-skinned Mexicans. He and his companions had both donned
their best attire before leaving camp, and this differed but slightly
from that of the Mexican vaqueros, and though sufficiently gay to
attract general attention elsewhere, passed unnoticed at El Paso. The
western cow-boy was not an unusual figure there, for many of those
discharged during the winter were in the habit of working down upon the
New Mexican ranches and taking temporary employment with the native
cattle-raisers, by whom their services were much valued, especially
where the ranches were in the neighbourhood of those worked by white
cow-boys. These in any disputes as to cattle with the Mexican vaqueros
were accustomed to carry matters with a high hand. But the white
cow-boys in Mexican service were just as ready to fight for their
employers' rights as were those on the American ranches, and the herds
were safe from depredation when under their charge.

There were many priests in the streets, and, numerous as they were,
they were always saluted with the deepest respect by the peasant women.

"It is wonderful how much women think of their priests," Royce observed
philosophically. "Back east it used to make me pretty well sick, when I
was a young chap, to hear them go on about their ministers; but these
Mexican women go a lot farther. There is nothing they wouldn't do for
these fat padres."

"No. But they are not all fat, Royce," Hugh said. "I acknowledge
they look for the most part plump and well-fed, and upon the best of
terms with themselves, as well they may be, seeing how much they are
respected."

"They have got a pretty easy life, I reckon," Royce said
contemptuously. "They have to say mass two or three times a day, sit in
a box listening to the women's confessions, and fatten upon their gifts
and offerings."

"At any rate, Royce, the people here are religious. See, there are as
many peasants as peasant women going into that church. Whatever may be
said about it, religion goes for a good deal more in a Catholic country
than in a Protestant. It is a pity there is not more religion among the
cow-boys."

"How are we to get it?" Royce protested. "Once or twice a year a
minister may arrive at a camp and preach, but that is about all. We
always give him a fair show, and if any fellow wur to make a muss it
would be worse for him. I don't say as cow-boys don't use pretty hard
language among themselves, but I will say this, that if a minister or
a woman comes to camp they will never hear a swear word if they stop
there a week. No, sir. Cow-boys know how to behave when they like, and
a woman might go through the ranches from end to end in Texas without
being insulted."

"I know that, Royce. The point is, if they can go without using what
you call swear words when a woman is among them, why can't they always
do so?"

"It is all very fine to talk, Hugh; but when you get on a bucking
broncho that sends you flying about ten yards through the air, and you
come down kerplump, I never seed a man yet as would pick himself up and
speak as if he wur in a church. No, sir; it's not in human nature."

When they got back to the hotel Hugh observed that questioning glances
were cast at them by several men who were lounging about the steps.
Royce observed it also.

"What have those fellows got in their heads, I wonder?" he said.
"Do they reckon we are two bad, bold men who have been holding up
some Mexican village, or do they take us for horse-thieves? There is
something wrong, Hugh, you bet."

"They certainly didn't look friendly, Royce, though I am sure I don't
know what it is about. You haven't been winking at any of their women,
have you?"

"G'ar long with yer!" Royce laughed. "As if any of them would look at a
little chap like me while I am walking along of you. If there has been
any winking it's you as has done it."

"I am quite innocent, Royce, I assure you. Still there is something
wrong. Well, let us go and see that the horses are fed."

There were five or six men in the yard. They were talking excitedly
together when Hugh and his companion came out of the hotel, but they
were at once silent, and stood looking at them as they crossed the yard
and went into the stable.

"Thar's something wrong," Royce repeated. "If my horse wur as good as
yours, Hugh, I should say let's settle up quietly and ride out and make
a bolt; but they would overtake me in no time."

"That would never do, Royce. I don't know what their suspicions
are, but they would be confirmed if we were to try to escape, and if
they overtook us the chances are they wouldn't give us much time for
explanations."

"You are right there, Hugh. The Mexicans hates the whites. They know
that one of us can lick any three of them, and it riles them pretty
considerable. They don't give a white man much show if they get their
hands on him."

"Well, it is no use worrying about it, Royce. I suppose we shall hear
sooner or later what it is all about."

Passing through the hotel they took their seats at some tables placed
in the shade in front of the house, and there sat smoking and talking
for some time.

"If those fellows round the door keep on looking at us much longer,"
Royce said, "I shall get up and ask them what they mean."

"Don't do that, Royce. It would only bring on a fight; that is no use
here."

"Waal," Royce said doggedly, "I haven't got to sit here to be stared
at, and some of them fellows is going to get wiped out if they go on at
it."

"We are sure to hear before long, Royce. See, there is a knot of four
or five fellows in uniform at the other end of the square. I suppose
that they are a sort of policemen. I have seen them looking this
way. You will see they are going to arrest us presently, and then, I
suppose, we shall hear all about it."

"I wish we had Broncho Harry and the rest of our outfit here," Royce
said. "We would clear out the whole town."

Half an hour later there was a clatter of horses' hoofs, and two
gentlemen, followed by half a dozen Mexican vaqueros, rode into the
square and made straight for the hotel. Simultaneously the guardians
of the peace moved across the square, and there was a stir among the
loungers at the entrance to the hotel.

"The affair is coming to a crisis, Royce!"

One of the Mexicans was an elderly man, the other a lad seventeen or
eighteen years old. The latter dismounted and entered the hotel. In
two minutes he reappeared and spoke to the other, who also dismounted,
and after a word or two with one of the men belonging to the hotel,
and a short conversation with the leader of the party of civil guards,
advanced to the table at which Hugh and Royce were sitting. He saluted
them as they rose to their feet. Hugh returned the salutation.

"Señors," he said courteously, in very fair English, "you have, I
understand, just arrived here, having accompanied a waggon-train across
the deserts from Texas."

"It is perfectly true, señor," Hugh replied. "Is there anything unusual
in our doing so?"

"By no means," the Mexican said. "The matter that concerns me is that
one of you is riding a horse which belonged to my son, Don Estafan
Perales."

"You mean the bay?"

The Mexican made a gesture of assent.

"I purchased that horse at M'Kinney, a small town in the north-east of
Texas."

"May I ask who you purchased it from?"

"Certainly, señor. It must have passed from the hands of your son
before it was offered for sale to me. I bought it from two men whom I
had never seen before."

A little crowd had gathered behind the Mexican, and at this answer
there were exclamations of "A likely story that!" and "Death to
the horse-thieves!" Two men in mining costume, the one a tall,
powerfully-built man some fifty years old, the other small and
of slight figure, with snow-white hair, who had just strolled up,
separated themselves from the rest and ranged themselves by Hugh's
side, the big man saying in Mexican:

"Softly, señores, softly. You ain't neither judges nor jury on this
case, and me and my mate is going to see fair-play."

"There is no intention, señor, of doing anything unfair," the Mexican
said. "The matter is a simple one. These strangers have just ridden
in here with a horse belonging to my son. He started from here
with three servants and a party going to Texas. This was upwards of
eighteen months ago. He had business at New York. His intention was
to spend a few weeks in Texas hunting, then to proceed to the nearest
railway-station and take train to New York. From the time he started
we have never heard from him. Some members of the party he accompanied
have long since returned. It seems that he accompanied them until they
had passed the Bad Lands, and then left them to carry out his intention
of hunting. We have never heard of him since. He certainly has never
arrived at New York. And now that these strangers arrive here with his
horse, which was recognized as soon as it entered the stables, I have
a right to inquire how they obtained it."

"Surely, señor," Hugh said. "The men from whom I bought it were, as
I said, strangers. They were two very doubtful-looking characters,
and as they appeared very anxious to sell the horse, and were willing
to part with it considerably under its value, my opinion was that
undoubtedly they had not become possessed of it honestly. My friend
here was with me at the time, and the only terms upon which I would
purchase it and a pack-horse they had also to sell, were that they
should give me a formal receipt signed in the presence of the sheriff
and judge, in order that, should I at any time come across the owner
of the animal, I should be in a position to prove that I at least had
come by it honestly. That receipt I have here;" and taking a small
leather letter-case from his pocket he produced the receipt. "There are
the signatures, señor, and the official stamps of the writers, and you
will see that they testify also to their personal knowledge of me as a
resident of the town. I may add that it is certain that had I been an
accomplice of the thieves I should have taken good care not to bring
the horse to a locality where he would be at once recognized."

The Mexican glanced through the paper. "That is perfectly satisfactory,
señor, and I must apologize for having for a moment entertained
suspicions of you. Explain this, Carlos," he said to his son. "I would
have further talk with these gentlemen."

The young Mexican translated in his own language the effect of what had
passed, and the little crowd speedily dispersed, several having walked
away as soon as the two miners sided with the accused, as a fray with
four determined men armed with revolvers was not to be lightly entered
upon. The miners were also turning away when Hugh said to the Mexican,
"Excuse me a moment, señor."

"Thank you greatly," he went on, turning to the miners, "for siding
with us. We are strangers here. Will you let us see you again, and have
a talk with you? At present, as you see, this gentleman, who has lost
his son, who has most probably been murdered by these horse-thieves,
wants to question me. Do me the favour to come in this evening and
drink a bottle of wine with us, when we can again thank you for your
aid."

"There are no thanks due," the bigger of the two men said. "Me and
my mate know nothing of the affair, but seeing two of our own colour
facing a lot of these Mexikins we naturally ranged up alongside of
you to see fair-play. But as you are strangers, and we have nothing
particular to do, I don't mind if we come in and have a talk this
evening. Eh, mate?"

The little man nodded, and the two walked off together. Hugh then
turned to the Mexican.

"Now, señor, we are at your service."

"Señors," he said courteously, "my name is Don Ramon Perales. My
hacienda lies three miles away; this is scarcely a place for quiet
conversation. I am anxious to learn all particulars that you can give
me as to the men from whom you bought the horse. May I ask if you would
mount your horses and ride back with me?"

"With pleasure, señor," Hugh said. "Our time is entirely our own, and
I can readily understand your anxiety to hear all you can about this
matter."

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XVI.

A MINING EXPEDITION.


In a few minutes Hugh and Royce remounted and joined the two two
Mexican gentlemen, and set out, with the party of vaqueros riding
behind them.

"You came in with quite a strong force, Don Ramon," Hugh said smiling.

"It might have been necessary," the Mexican replied. "I could not tell
with whom I had to deal. Our guard do not care very much about risking
their skins, especially when it is a question of Texan cow-boys, who
have, if you will excuse my saying so, a terrible reputation, and can
use their pistols with a skill that is extraordinary. I could not guess
that I had to do with gentlemen."

"There is nothing that way about me, señor!" Royce said abruptly. "I am
a cow-boy, or a teamster, or a miner, or anything that comes to hand,
but nary a claim to be a gentleman."

"My friend is a good fellow, señor, in every way," Hugh said, "and is
my staunch and true friend. I myself am an Englishman who has come out
to enjoy the hunting and the rough life of the plains of the West for
a few years before settling down at home."

"And now, señor," the Mexican said with a bow, "will you let me begin
to question you, for I am full of anxiety as to my unfortunate son? I
feared before that he was lost to us; I fear now even more than before,
for I am sure that he would never have parted with his horse, which he
had reared from a colt and was much attached to. These men from whom
you bought it, were they known in that locality?"

"No," Hugh replied. "Wherever they came from they did not belong to
that corner of Texas, for neither the judge nor the sheriff had ever
seen them before. Had they known that they were bad characters they
would have arrested them and held them until an owner was found for
the horse; but as they knew nothing against them they did not feel
justified in doing so."

"Will you describe them to me?" the Mexican said.

"They were men of between thirty and forty. From their attire they
might have been hunters. They were dressed a good deal like your
vaqueros: they wore chaperajos with red sashes around their waist, and
flannel shirts. They had jackets with silver buttons, which you don't
see much among our cow-boys on the plains, and broad, soft, felt hats.
I should say that one was a half-breed--that is to say, half Mexican,
half American. Both had black moustaches, and what I should call
hang-dog faces."

"I have no doubt, from your description," Don Ramon said, "they were
two men who joined the caravan a day or two before my son left it.
These men said they were hunters, and I was told that my son engaged
them to accompany him while he was hunting, to act as guides, and show
him the best places for game. They were described to me by some of the
party that returned here, and I feared at the time that if evil had
befallen him it was through them. Now that you tell me they sold you
his horse, I feel but too certain this was so."

"They seemed to have ridden fast and far. Their own horses and the
bay were in fair condition, señor, but the pack-horse was very poor.
The men were evidently in great haste to get away, and I should judge
from this that if, as you fear, they murdered your son and his three
servants, they probably did it at the last camping place before they
arrived at M'Kinney. Had they done it when far out on the plains there
would have been no good reason why they should have been in so much
haste; but if it had been but a short distance away they might have
feared that someone might find the bodies and organize a pursuit at
once."

"Why should they have delayed so long if their intention was murder?"
the younger Mexican asked.

"That I cannot say, Don Carlos. They may have fallen in with other
hunters after leaving the caravan, and these may have kept with them
all the time they were out on the plains, and they may have had no
opportunity of carrying out their designs till the party separated;
or again, your brother's attendants might have been suspicious of
them, and may have kept up too vigilant a watch for them to venture
on an attack before. But this watch may have been relaxed when the
journey was just at an end, and it seemed to them that their fears were
unfounded."

"That is the most likely explanation," Don Ramon said. "They were three
picked men; two of them were hunters, the other my son's body-servant.
It is likely enough that the hunters would have kept alternate watch at
night had they suspected these fellows. Those two were to have remained
in charge of the horses at the town where my son took rail, and to
await his return there; the other man was to accompany him to New York.
My son had an ample supply of gold for his expenses, and I fear it was
that rather than the horse that attracted the scoundrels."

They were by this time approaching a large and handsome building,
standing in extensive grounds. As they halted before it a number of
_peóns_ ran out and took the horses. Prince had quickened his pace as
he neared the house, and had given a joyful neigh as of recognition.
When Hugh alighted, the horse, as usual, laid his muzzle on his
shoulder to receive a caress before turning away, and then, without
waiting for one of the _peóns_ to take his rein, walked away towards
the stables.

"I see he is fond of you, señor. You have been a kind master to him."

"I love horses," Hugh said, "and Prince, as I have called him, has
been my companion night and day for eighteen months. We have hunted
together, and roped-in cattle, and fought Indians, and divided out last
crust together."

Don Ramon led the way into the house, and then into a room where an
elderly lady and two young ones were sitting. They rose as he entered.

"What news, Ramon?" the elderly lady asked.

"Such news as there is is bad, Maria. These caballeros, Don Hugh
Tunstall and--" (he hesitated and looked at Royce, with whose name he
was not acquainted). "Bill Royce, without any Don!" the cow-boy put
in. The Mexican repeated the name--"have been good enough to ride over
here with me, in order that you, as well as I, might question them as
to what they know of our son. Unhappily they know little. We were not
misinformed. Don Hugh has indeed our son's horse, but he bought it, as
he has proved to me, from two strangers, who tally exactly with the
description we have received of the two hunters who left the caravan
with our son. I feared all along that these men were at the bottom of
whatever might have befallen Estafan. I fear now that there is no doubt
whatever about it. Caballeros, this is my wife, Donna Maria Perales.
These are my two daughters, Dolores and Nina."

For an hour Hugh and his companion remained answering the questions of
Donna Perales; then Hugh rose, feeling that the ladies would be glad to
be alone in their grief, for the confirmation of their fears respecting
Don Estafan had brought their loss back to them freshly. Don Ramon and
his son accompanied them to the door.

"I pray you," the former said, "that if at any time you come upon the
villains you give them in custody. I and my son will make the journey
to appear against them, however far it may be."

"You need not trouble on that score," Royce said. "If we meet them, I
warrant you we can manage their business without any bother of judge
or jury. They will have a cow-boy trial, and after the evidence Hugh
and I can give, you may be sure that a rope will very soon settle their
affair."

"I must ask you, Don Ramon," Hugh said, "to lend me a horse back to the
town, and to send a vaquero with me to bring it back."

"But why, sir?" the Mexican asked in surprise. "You have your own
horse."

"No, señor, Prince is not mine. He was your son's, and is yours. A man
who buys stolen property is liable to lose it if he meets the proper
owner, and when I bought Prince for half his value I knew that I was
running that risk."

"No, señor Englishman. I do not say that a man who has lost his horse
has not the right to reclaim it wherever he may find it. That is, if
he happens to be in a place where the law is respected, or if not if
he happens to be with the strongest party; but in the present case I
could not think of depriving you of the horse. It is evident that he
has found a good master, and that you stand in his affections just as
my son did; besides, if you will pardon my saying so, the horse is more
to you than it is to me. There are many thousands of horses running
wild on my estates, and although my son used to assert that there was
not one which was equal to his horse, there are numbers that are but
little inferior, for our horses are famous. They are mustangs crossed
with pure Arab blood, which my grandfather had selected and sent over
to him, regardless of cost. Pray, therefore, keep the bay. May it
carry you long and safely! It will be a real pleasure to my wife and
myself to know that poor Estafan's favourite horse is in such good
hands. I have also," he said courteously to Royce, "taken the liberty
of ordering my _peóns_ to change the saddle of the horse you rode to
one more worthy of being a companion to the bay. It is of no use for
one man to be well mounted if his comrade does not bestride a steed of
similar swiftness."

Hugh and Royce warmly thanked Don Ramon for his kindness. The horses
were brought round, and that of Royce fully bore out the commendation
of the Mexican.

"We hope to see you again to-morrow," Don Ramon said as they mounted.
"You will always be welcome guests here."

"And you will not forget," Don Carlos said in a low tone, "if you ever
meet those men."

"That has been a fortunate adventure," Royce said as they rode off. "I
have often wondered whether we should ever fall upon the original owner
of your horse, and pictured to myself that we might have a bad time of
it if we did. It isn't everyone who would have accepted that receipt of
yours as proof."

"No; I always felt that myself, Royce. Well, that sorrel of yours is
a splendid animal, and really worthy to go with Prince. I often wished
you had a mount as good as mine, for my sake as well as your own, for
there is no doubt of the truth of what he said. When two friends are
riding together their pace is only that of the slowest horse."

"That is so," Royce agreed. "So there is some Arab blood in them. I
have often talked over the bay in the camps. We all agreed we had never
seen so good a mustang. There are good mustangs, but they are never a
match for a really first-rate States horse, and yet we could not see
any signs of such a cross in Prince. He wur mustang, but there seemed
more whip-cord and wire about him than a mustang has. I have heard say
that the mustangs are the descendants of Spanish barbs, and that the
barbs were Moorish horses."

"Yes, that is so, Royce. The barb is related to the Arab, but is not, I
believe, of such pure blood; it is a coarser animal; and if Don Ramon's
grandfather brought over some pure Arabs of first-rate strain they
would, no doubt, greatly improve the mustangs."

"Waal, Hugh, if we ever do meet those two murdering villains, I reckon
their chances of getting away from us ain't worth mentioning."

The reception on their return to the hotel was very different to that
they had before experienced. They had been visitors at Don Ramon's
hacienda, and Don Ramon was the richest proprietor in the district of
El Paso. After they had finished supper that evening, and were enjoying
coffee and cigars at a table placed with others in a garden behind the
hotel, the two miners who had stood by them in the morning came up and
took seats beside them. "You had a pretty rough welcome this morning
at El Paso," the big man said. "But, by the way, I do not know what
to call you. My own name is Sim. I am generally known as Surly Sim. My
friend's name is Frank; I generally call him the doctor."

"My name is Bill," Royce said; "and out on the plain the boys call me
Stumpy, which don't need any explanation. My mate's name is Hugh, and
he has got the name of Lightning."

"Ah! and why is that, may I ask?" the white-haired little man said.

"Well, it is because of one of his accomplishments, doctor. He has got
the knack of drawing a pistol that sharp, that almost before you see
his hand move you are looking down the tube of a pistol."

"A very useful accomplishment," the little man remarked, "always
supposing that it is not used too often, and that it is only used in
self-defence. I am a peaceful man myself," he went on, "and have a
horror of the use of fire-arms."

His companion laughed.

"Now you know that that is so, Sim," the little man said earnestly.

"Waal, doctor, I don't go for to say that you are quarrelsome, and ef
anyone said so in my hearing I should tell him he wur a liar. But for a
peaceable man, doctor, and I don't deny as you are peaceable, I don't
know as thar is a man in the mining regions who has used his weapon
oftener than you have."

"But always on the side of peace, Sim," the little man said earnestly.
"Please to remember always on the side of peace."

"Yes, in the same way that a New York policeman uses his club, doctor."

"Well, I can assure you I don't often use what you call my
accomplishment," Hugh said. "I practise it so that I may be able to
defend my life if I am attacked, but except in a fight with a band of
Comanches, I have only once had occasion to draw my pistol."

"And he weakened?" Sim asked.

"Yes, I had the drop of him. There was nothing else for him to do."

"And what are you doing at El Paso?"

"You are too abrupt, Sim, much too abrupt," the little man said
deprecatingly.

"Not at all, doctor. If it is anything they don't want to tell they
won't tell it. If it isn't, we may be useful to them."

"We have no particular object in view," Hugh said. "I am an Englishman;
but not a rich Englishman, who comes out to buy ranches, or to
speculate in mines. But I have come rather to pass three or four years
in seeing life on the Western plains than to make money. I worked for
six months in M'Kinney, had three or four months' hunting, and then
worked six months as a cow-boy; and I thought that, for a change, I
should like to come this way and see something of mining adventure in
New Mexico or Arizona. My mate here has been with me for nearly two
years, and has thrown in his fortune with mine."

"There is adventure enough, and more than enough, in mining down thar
in Arizona. The doctor and I have been at it for some years. We haven't
made a penny, but we have saved our scalps, so we may be considered
lucky."

"I was told," Hugh went on, "that El Paso was the most central place
to come to. My idea was that I might find some party setting out on a
prospecting expedition, and that I might be able to join it."

"It ain't a good time for prospecting expeditions," Sim said. "Even
on the Upper Gila the mining camps is all on guard, knowing that any
day the Apaches may be down on them, and it would want a man to be
wonderful fond of gold for him to go out prospecting down in Arizona."

"I don't care much for gold," Hugh laughed, "though I don't say I
should object to take my share if we hit on a rich lode. I should go
for the sake of the excitement, and to see the life."

"Well, at other times you might find any number of people here in El
Paso who would be glad enough to take you out on such an expedition,"
the doctor said. "You ask the first man you meet, Mexican or white, and
he will tell you that he knows of a mine, and will take you to it if
you will fit out an expedition."

"You are exceptions to the rule, doctor."

"No, I don't say that," the doctor replied, though his companion gave
a growling protest.

"Oh, yes, we know of a mine!" he went on, not heeding the growl. "At
least we believe we do, which is, I suppose, as much as anybody can
say; but we are like the rest, we say that it is better to stay at El
Paso and keep our scalps on, even if we are poor, than to go and throw
away our lives in looking for a mine. We have been out working for the
last six months on a mine in the Gila Valley on shares with six others.
We weren't doing so badly; but the Mexicans who were working for us got
scared and wouldn't stay, so we have given it up and come down here.
Some day or other when things settle down again, I suppose the mine
will be worked, but it won't be by us. We are looking out for someone
who will buy our shares, but I don't suppose anyone will give five
dollars for them, and they would be right. The thing paid in our hands,
but it wouldn't pay in Mexicans'. They are poor shiftless creatures,
and have no idea of hard work. We should have given it up anyhow, even
without these Indian troubles, which don't make much difference, for
the Apaches are always ready to come down when they see a chance. It is
always war between them and the whites. But we were there six months,
and six months are about the outside Sim and I ever stop anywhere."

"When you go prospecting, do you often get any hints from the Indians
as to where gold is to be found?"

"Never," Sim Howlett said. "The Injuns are too lazy to work
theirselves, and they know that when the whites get hold of gold they
pour down in numbers. I believe they do know often where there are
lodes. I don't see how they can be off knowing it, for a Red-skin is
always keeping his eyes on the move. Nothing escapes him, and it would
be strange if, wandering about as they do, and knowing every foot
of their country, they didn't notice gold when it is there to see.
Besides, they have got tales handed down from father to son. In old
times they had gold ornaments and such like, but you never see them
now. They know well enough that such things would draw the whites.
Sometimes a Red-skin will tell a white who has done him some great
service where there is a lode, gold or silver or copper, but it don't
happen often. Besides, most times the place lies right in the heart of
their country, and for all the good it is, it might as well be in the
middle of the sea. Of course, if it was gold, and the metal was found
in nuggets, and a horse-load or two could be got in a month, it might
be done; but not when it comes to settling there and sinking shafts and
mining; that can't be done until the Apaches are wiped out."

"But are there such places as that, Sim?"

"Waal, there may be, but I have never seen them. The doctor and me have
struck it rich many a time, but not as rich as that. Still, I reckon
there are places where the first comer might gather a big pile if the
Red-skins would but let him alone for a month."

"I suppose you are absent some time on one of these expeditions? Do
prospectors generally go on foot or horseback?"

"They in general takes a critter a piece, and two others to carry grub
and a pick and shovel; sometimes they go two together, but more often
one goes by hisself. In course where two men knows each other and can
trust each other, two is kind of handier than one. We shouldn't like
to work alone, should we, doc? But then, you see, we have been twelve
years together. Sometimes a man finds his own outfit. Sometimes he
goes to a trader in a town; and if he is known to be a good miner and
a straight man, the storekeeper will give him a sack of flour and a
side of bacon, and such other things as are required, and then they go
partners in what is found. Sometimes this goes on for months, sometimes
for years; sometimes the trader loses his money, sometimes he makes a
fortune. You see there are plenty of places as ain't in what you may
call the Indian country, but somehow or other it do seem as if the
Red-skins had just been put down where the best places is, so as to
prevent the gold being dug. In Arizona some big finds have been made,
but nobody's any the richer for them. The Red-skins is always on the
look-out. Often an exploring party never comes back. Sometimes one
or two come back with the news that the others have all been wiped
out; but what with the awful country and the want of water, and the
sartainty of having to fight, and of sooner or later being surprised
and scalped, there ain't many men as cares about following the thing
up."

"I suppose you know of such places, Sim?"

"Waal, maybe we do," the miner said cautiously. "Maybe we do; eh,
doctor?"

The little man did not reply, but sat looking searchingly at Hugh. When
he did speak it was not in direct answer to the question.

"I like your face, young fellow," he said. "It reminds me of one I have
seen somewhere, though I can't say where. You look to me as if you were
downright honest."

"I hope I am," Hugh said with a laugh.

"You may bet your boots on that," Bill Royce said. "He is as straight
a man as you will find in Texas."

"And you are out here," the other went on, "part for pleasure, part
just to see life, and part, I suppose, to make money if you see a
chance?"

"I have never thought much of making money," Hugh replied, "although I
should certainly have no objection if I saw a chance; but I have never
thought of doing more than keeping myself."

"And he has been with you, you say, nigh two years?" and he nodded at
Royce. "And you can speak for him as he does for you?"

"That I can," Hugh said warmly. "We have worked together and hunted
together, we have been mates in the same outfit, and we have fought the
Comanches together, and I can answer for him as for myself. He gave up
his work and went with me, not because there was any chance of making
more money that way than any other, but because we liked each other."

"Well, Sim," the little man said, "it seems to me that these two would
make good mates for that job of ours."

"Waal, doctor, you know I leave these things to you. I kinder feels
that way myself towards them, and anyhow I don't see as there can't be
no harm in setting it afore them, seeing as there ain't no need to give
them the indications. But I reckon there is too many about here to talk
on a matter like that. Waal, it comes to this," he went on, turning to
Hugh, "if you air disposed to make a jint expedition with us, and ain't
afeard neither of roughing it nor of Red-skins, you meet us to-morrow
three miles outside the town on the South Road, and we will talk to you
straight."

"That is just what would suit me," Hugh said; "and you, Royce?"

"It is all the same to me, Lightning. If you are for an expedition you
know you can count me in."

"Good night, then," Sim Howlett said, rising. "We have sat here quite
long enough talking together if we mean to do anything. I reckon there
is a score of these Mexikins have been saying to themselves afore
now, What can those two miners and them cow-boys be a-talking together
about? and when a Mexikin begins to wonder, he begins to try and find
out; so we are off. Three miles out on the South Road at nine o'clock
to-morrow morning. About half a mile past a village you will see a
stone cross by the road. There is a path turns off by it, you follow
that, and you will come across us afore you have gone two hundred
yards."

"What do you think of it, Royce?" Hugh asked when they were alone.

"Don't think nothing of it one way or the other. Most of them miners
have got some tale or other. However they seem to me straight men."

"I feel sure they are," Hugh said. "The big one looks an honest fellow.
I don't so much understand the little one, but evidently he is the head
of the party. He is a curious little fellow with his white hair and
gentle voice. He doesn't look strong enough for such a life as they
lead, but I suppose he is able to do his share or they would never
have been working twelve years together. At any rate I came here to see
something of life among the mines, and this seems as good a chance as
we are likely to have."

The next morning they breakfasted at seven, and at half-past eight
saddled their horses and rode out. They found their two companions
of the previous night at the appointed place. As the miners saw them
approaching they turned off the path and preceded them to a Mexican
hut, and there waited for them to come up.

"Good morning!" the doctor said as they dismounted; "there is no fear
of our being overheard here. The Mexican who lives here has often been
up with us among the hills, and started for the town a quarter of an
hour ago, when we told him we had a rendezvous here. Now, if you will
hitch your horses up and sit down on these maize stalks we can talk
comfortably. A year ago, when Sim and I were working in a gulch among
the mountains, we heard a call in the distance. We went to see what it
was, and found a man who had dropped down, just worn out and famished,
after he had given the cry that fetched us. He had been shot in four or
five places, and we saw at once that his journey was nearly over.

"We carried him to our fire and brought him round, and did all we could
for him for three weeks; then he died. He told us he had been one of a
party of six who had been prospecting in the hills west of the Lower
Gila. One of them had learned, from an Indian he had helped in some
way, of a place where the bed of a stream was full of gold. They found
it; but the next morning they were attacked by the Apaches, who had,
I expect, been following them all the time. Two of them were killed at
once, the others got upon their horses and rode for it. Three of them
were shot down, but this man was well mounted and got off, though they
chased him for three days. He lost his way; his horse fell dead, but he
struggled on until he saw the smoke of our fire and made us out to be
whites.

"Before he died he told us how the place could be found. He said there
was no doubt about the gold, and he had three or four nuggets in his
pockets, weighing two or three pounds each. He said he had had lots
of bigger ones, but had chucked them all away to lighten his horse.
Well, it is a long journey. It will take us all a month, I reckon,
to get there. We cannot go straight--the Apaches would have us to a
certainty--but must go north into the Moquis country, and then down
again from that side. We have been minded to try it ever since, but
luck has been bad with us, and, besides, two men wouldn't be enough for
such a journey.

"It ain't every one Sim and I would care about going with, but we have
both taken a fancy to you. We saw you stand up straight before that
crowd of Mexicans; besides, we know it wants good grit for that cow-boy
life. Now this is the offer we make. We have got two horses, and we
can buy two pack-horses, but we can't go further than that. You have
got two out-and-out horses; we saw you ride in yesterday afternoon. You
will want another pack-horse, and you will have to provide the outfit:
say two bags of flour, two sides of bacon, ten pounds of tea, and a
couple of gallons of spirits; then there will be sugar and some other
things.

"We shall also want a small tent. Now if you like to join us on these
terms you can. There is plenty of gold for us all. But mind you, it
will be no child's play. The journey from the Moquis country there will
be terrible; and there is the chance, and a pretty big chance it is, I
tell you, of a fight with the Red-skins. We may never find the place.
We have got pretty good indications, but it is not an easy matter to
find a place among those mountains. Still, there it is. If you get
there and back you will each have a horse-load of gold; if you don't
you will leave your bones there. What do you say to it?"

Hugh looked at Royce. "I reckon we kin take our chances if you kin,"
the latter said. "At any rate, mates, you will find as we can take our
share in whatever comes."

"Then that is agreed," the doctor said. "Now about preparations. It
will never do for you to be buying the things here; for if we were
seen to start off together we should be followed, sure enough; it
would be guessed at once we had told you of something good. We must
not be seen together again. We will get our pack-horses and load up,
and go as if we were undertaking a job on our own account, and camp up
somewhere twenty miles away, and stop there a week. After we have gone
you can get your outfit and move off and join us. Sim and I have been
talking over whether it will be a good thing to take José--that is the
man here--with us, instead of buying baggage horses. He has got four
beasts. He could ride one himself, and the other three, with the one
you have, would make up the number. José can be trusted; besides, we
should not tell him where we were going, but we should have to say it
would be a long journey and a dangerous one. He is a widower, with one
child, and these horses are his only possession, and I think he would
want their value put down before he started, say seventy-five dollars
a-piece for them and their saddles, that is three hundred dollars.
You wouldn't buy them for less. So as far as money goes it would come
to the same thing. You will get it back again if José and the animals
come back; but if we all do come back, three hundred dollars would be
nothing one way or the other. Then comes the point, would it be worth
while to take him? There would be one more mouth to feed, but that does
not go for much; there would be one more rifle in case we had to fight,
and José has plenty of courage. I have seen him in a fix before now. He
would look after the beasts and leave our hands free; and his pay would
cost us nothing, for if we got there he would help us gather and wash
the gold."

"What is the drawback then?" Hugh asked.

"The drawback is, that if we have to ride for it he might hinder us."

"There ain't much in that, doc.," Sim Howlett put in. "Our horses are
pretty good though they ain't much to look at, but the horses our mates
here have got would leave them standing, and I don't know that José's
best is much slower than ours; besides, when you are working among
those mountains speed goes for nothing. A horse accustomed to them
would pick his way among the rocks faster'n a race-horse. Ef we are
attacked there running won't be much good to us. Ef we get fairly out
from the hills with the gold and the 'Paches are on our trail, why, we
then must trust to cunning, and our mates here can ride clear away."

"We sha'n't do that, Sim," Hugh said. "If we throw in our lot with you
we shall share it to the end, whatever it is."

"Waal, that is all right, lad; but there are times when stopping to
fight is just throwing away your life without doing no good. The doctor
here and me ain't men to desart mates; but when a time comes where it
ain't no sort of good in the world to fight, and when those mates must
get rubbed out whether you stick by them or not, then it is downright
onreasonable for anyone as can get clear off to throw away his life
foolish."

"Well, anyhow, Sim," Hugh said, "it seems to me that it will be best to
take José and his horses with us. It will, as you say, leave our hands
free, and it will make the journey much more pleasant, and will add one
to our strength. Well, that would cost, you say, three hundred dollars;
how much will the rest of the outfit cost?"

"Three hundred at the outside," the doctor said. "We have been
reckoning it up. Of course we have all got kits, and it's only grub
and ammunition we have got to buy, and two or three more shovels, and
some pans for washing the sand, and another pick or two, and a couple
of crowbars. Three hundred dollars will get as much grub as the four
pack-horses will carry, and make a good proper outfit for us. Will your
money run to that?"

"Hardly," Hugh said, "that's just about what we have got between us.
We had each six months' pay to draw when we left the ranche, and I
had some before. I think we are about twenty dollars short of the six
hundred."

"That is plenty," the doctor said. "If you put in four hundred, Sim
and I can chip in another two hundred, as we sha'n't have to buy
pack-horses; so we have plenty between us. We shall see José to-night
and talk it over with him, and if he agrees he will come to you and
bring a document for you to sign, saying that if he does not return in
six months, the three hundred dollars are to be paid over for the use
of his child; then he will go with you to a priest and put the paper
and the money in his hands; then you can hand him over your pack-horse,
he will take charge of it; then, if you will give us a hundred dollars,
we engage to get the outfit all provided. When it is all done we will
let you know what day you are to meet us, and where. You see we are
asking you to trust us right through."

"That is all right," Hugh said. "We are trusting you with our lives,
and the dollars don't go for much in comparison."

"That is so," Sim Howlett said. "Waal, there is nothing more to say
now. You had best ride back to the town and give yourself no more
trouble about it. You will hear from us in a few days, or it maybe a
week. We shall buy half the things and send them on by José, and then
get the others and follow ourselves. It would set them talking here
if we was to start with four loads. There is some pretty bad men about
this place, you bet."

"Well, we sha'n't have much for them to plunder us of," Hugh said.

"Four laden horses wouldn't be a bad haul, but it ain't that I am
afraid of. If there wur a suspicion as we was going out to work a rich
thing, there is plenty of men here would get up a party to track us,
and fall on us either there or on our way back. There are two or three
bands of brigands upon the mountains, and they are getting worse. There
have been several haciendas burned and their people killed not many
miles from El Paso. Parties have been got up several times to hunt them
down, but they never find them; and there is people here as believe
that the officers of the _guárda_ are in their pay. They have come
across us more than once when we have been prospecting. But they don't
interfere with men like us, because, firstly, we haven't got anything
worth taking, anyway nothing worth risking half a dozen lives to get;
and in the next place, ef it got known they had touched any of our
lot, the miners would all join and hunt them down, and they know right
enough that would be a different thing altogether to having to deal
with the Mexikins."

Five minutes later Hugh and Royce were on their way back to El Paso.

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XVII.

CARRIED OFF.


The next morning, in accordance with the promise they had given Don
Ramon, Hugh rode out to the hacienda, Royce saying that they were
too great swells for him, and he would rather stop quietly at El
Paso; "besides," he said, "most likely José will come this morning,
and I will stop and fix up that business with him." Hugh did not try
to dissuade him, for he had seen that Royce was ill at ease on the
occasion of his first visit.

On reaching the hacienda he received a hearty welcome from Don Ramon
and his family, and Don Carlos rode with him over a part of the estate,
where a large number of _peóns_ were engaged in the cultivation of
tobacco, maize, and other grain.

"If you have time, Señor Hugh, you must go with me to see our other
estates; our principal one lies twenty leagues to the south. We have
five hundred square miles of land there, and big herds of cattle and
droves of horses, but I suppose you have seen enough cattle."

"Yes; there is no novelty about that," Hugh replied. "How many have
you?"

"There and in other places we have somewhere about 150,000 head; as to
the horses, we don't know; they are quite wild, and we drive them in
and catch them as they are wanted. We have about a score of our best
here, but these are the only animals we keep here except bullocks for
the plough and the teams to take the crops down to market."

"I hear you have been rather troubled with brigands lately; have you
any fear of them?"

"The scoundrels!" the young man exclaimed passionately; "it is a
disgrace that they are not hunted down. Yes, they have been very daring
lately, and my father and several of the other hacienderos have written
lately to the authorities of Santa Fé complaining of the inactivity
of the police here. I have tried to persuade my father to move down
to our house at El Paso until the bands have been destroyed; but he
laughs at the idea of danger. We have twenty armed _peóns_ sleeping
in the outhouses, and twelve male servants in the house, and indeed
there is little chance of their attacking us; still one cannot but feel
uncomfortable with ladies here.

"There are a hundred troops or so stationed in the fort on the
other side of the river, and they have joined two or three times
in the search for the brigands, but of course they are too far off
to be any protection to us here; besides they are not of much use
among the mountains. The officer in command is fonder of good wine
than he is of the saddle. It is a difficult thing to rout out these
brigands; half the peasantry are in alliance with them, and they
get information of everything that is going on, and even if we knew
of their hiding-places, there would be little chance of our taking
them by surprise. However, sooner or later, I suppose, we shall have
them. There is a large reward offered for their capture; someone is
sure to prove traitor at last. It is always the way with these bands,
someone thinks himself ill-used in the division of the booty, or takes
offence with the leaders, or something of that sort, or is tempted by
the reward, and then we get them all; if it wasn't for treachery, the
country would soon become uninhabitable."

His host would not hear of Hugh returning that evening to El Paso,
but sent a _peón_ in to tell Royce that he would not return until
next day. Hugh spent a delightful evening; the young ladies played
on the mandoline, and sang with their brother. The soft light, the
luxurious appointments, and the ripple of female talk, were strange and
delightful after so long a time among rough surroundings; and it was
with great reluctance that he mounted his horse and rode back on the
following morning. He found on arrival that his comrade had arranged
the matter with José, and had deposited the money with the priest.
As he was standing chatting to him at the door of the hotel, a ragged
Mexican boy ran up, placed a scrap of paper in Hugh's hand, and at once
darted away.

"It is from the doctor," Hugh said, opening it, and then read as
follows: "I have something particular to say to you; it must be
private; when you have received this stroll quietly through the town as
if you were only looking at the shops; go down to the river and follow
it up till you hear three whistles, then come to them; you had better
come alone. The doctor."

"I wonder what the little man has got to say, Royce?"

"Dunno," the other said. "I suppose you had better go and see. You have
got your six-shooter anyhow?"

Hugh obeyed his instructions and walked along the river bank till he
heard the whistles; they came from a small clump of bushes standing
apart from any others. As he approached it he heard the doctor's voice,
"Look round and see if there is anyone in sight."

"No one that I can see," Hugh replied.

"Then come in."

Hugh pushed his way through the bushes.

"Why, what is the matter, doctor?" he asked, surprised at all these
precautions.

"I will tell you. Sit down there. It is just as we fancied it might
be. I told you that we might be watched. These confounded Mexicans have
nothing to do but watch, and they have found out what we are after."

"How did you learn that, doctor?"

"Well," the doctor said reluctantly, "my mate has but one fault,
he will sometimes go in for a drink. It's not often, but just
occasionally, once perhaps every few months. It has always been so
ever since I have known him. Well, last night it came over him. He
thought it would be a long while before he would have a chance again,
I suppose; he is not quarrelsome when he drinks, but you may be sure
I always go with him so as to take care of him. So yesterday evening,
seeing that he had made up his mind for it and was not to be turned,
I went with him to a little wine-shop near where we lodge. There were
half-a-dozen Mexicans in there drinking and talking, and as they stopt
talking directly we went in, I saw we were not wanted. But I noticed
more than that. I saw two of them glance at each other, and though I
could not recollect I had ever set eyes on them before, I saw they knew
us.

"We hadn't any money on us beyond what was wanted to pay for the
liquor, so though I didn't like the look of them I was not uneasy.
We sat down and called for some liquor, and I managed to say to Sim,
'These chaps know us, Sim; don't you go drinking.' He nodded. We drank
for a bit, at least he did, I don't touch spirits. Then, talking
carelessly out loud, we, in whispered asides, made out a plan. We
agreed that we should quarrel, and I should go out, and that he should
seem to go on drinking until he got drunk and stupid, and then like
enough he might hear something. So we carried that out.

"As soon as he had drunk his glass he called for another, and then
another. I got up a row with him, and told him he was always making a
beast of himself. He said he would drink if he chose, and wouldn't be
interfered with by any one. Then I got nasty, and we had a big row,
and I went out. Then Sim went on drinking; he can stand a lot more
than would floor most Mexicans. They got into talk with him, and he
could see they were trying to pump him as to what we were going to do,
but you bet he didn't let much out. Then he got gradually stupid, and
at last rolled off the seat on to the ground. For a bit the Mexicans
went on talking together, and then one of them crept over and felt his
pockets, and took the few dollars he had in them out. That convinced
them he was dead off to sleep, and they went on talking.

"What he gathered was this: the fellows were the spies of one of these
bands. They had noticed you particularly when you came in, because it
seems their captain was in the town and recognized your horse, and told
them he didn't like your being here, and they were to watch you sharp.
They were in the crowd when there was the row about the horse, and they
saw us having our talk with you. They followed you out to the Don's and
back again, and when you rode out in the morning to meet us they sent
a boy after you, and he kept you in sight and tracked you up to the
hut, and then crawled up close and overheard what we were saying. They
sent off word at once to their chief, and we are to be followed by two
men; when they have traced us to the place, one is to ride back to some
place where a dozen of them will be waiting to attack us on our way
back."

"That is bad," Hugh said; "what is to be done?"

"This has got to be put a stop to," the doctor said calmly, "though
I don't see how yet. At any rate Sim and I think we had better not
hurry, a few days won't make any difference, and something may occur.
He picked up from their talk that the villains had something else in
hand just at present; some stroke from which they expect to make a lot
of money, but they talked low, and he couldn't catch much of what they
said. Maybe it will go wrong, and the country may be roused and hunt
them down, and if so you bet we will be in it; we have got chances
enough to take in this job as it is, and we don't want to reckon on
brigands; not that there is much fear of them now that we know their
plans, we have only got to ambush the men they send after us. Still,
we ain't going to take any chances. The fellows may follow direct; they
are sure to choose some one who knows the mountains well, and they may
judge by our direction the course we are taking and go by other paths;
they would know pretty well we are not the sort of people to fool
with. Still it is better to wait a little while and see if there is a
chance of putting a stop to it here. It is not that we are feared of
the skunks; if we could not throw them off our trail, we could fight
them anyway, but one don't want to have them on one's mind; we have got
plenty of things to think about without them."

"O yes! I think it much better to stay here for a bit, doctor. There
is no hurry about a start on our expedition, and I should certainly
like to take a share in routing out these bandits, especially as, from
what you say, it seems that the men at their head are the fellows who
murdered Don Ramon Perales' son, and sold me his horse. I wonder which
hacienda it is that they are meaning to attack!"

"Yes, it is a pity Sim didn't manage to find that out; we would have
caught them then."

"Have you any idea how strong the band is?"

"They are not often over twenty," the doctor replied. "Twenty is enough
for their work, and if there were more the shares of the plunder would
be too small; but, as I said, they have got friends everywhere, and
could probably gather thirty or forty more if they knew the troops were
going to attack them. A Mexican is always ready on principle to join in
if there is a chance of getting a shot at an American soldier."

"I suppose you have not the least idea in what direction these fellows
have their headquarters?"

"Well, I have some sort of an idea, at any rate I know of one place
where there is a party who don't care about being interfered with by
strangers. Two or three months ago when Sim and I were away about forty
miles over to the north-west, we were in a village just at the mouth
of a bit of a valley, and the girl who waited on us at the little
wine-shop whispered in my ear when the landlord's back was turned,
'Don't go up the valley.' Well, we were not thinking of going up the
valley, which was only a sort of gulch leading nowhere, but after that
we thought that we would have a look at it. We took a goodish round
so as to get above it, and looked down, and we saw a house lying among
some trees, and lower down, near the mouth of the valley, made out two
men sitting among some rocks on the shoulder.

"The sun shone on their gun barrels, but that didn't go for much, for
the Mexicans out in the country pretty well always go armed. We watched
them for a couple of hours, and as they didn't stir we concluded they
were sentries. The girl wouldn't have given us that warning unless
there had been something wrong, and I expect that house was the
headquarters of one of these gangs."

"What made her do it, I wonder, doctor?"

"That I can't say, Lightning. It is never easy to say why a woman does
a thing. She may have thought it a pity that Sim and I should get our
throats cut, though I own that wouldn't be a thing likely to trouble
a Mexican girl. Then she may have had a grudge against them; perhaps
they had shot some lover of hers, or one of them may have jilted
her. Anyhow, there it was, and if we hear of any attack of brigands
upon a hacienda, we will try that place before going any further. And
now, lad, you had better be going back. I shall lie here quiet for an
hour or two in case there should be anyone watching you, as is likely
enough."

Hugh returned to the hotel and told Royce what he had heard.

"That will suit me," Bill said. "I am death on border ruffians, and
if ever I see two of them it wur them fellows as sold you the horse
at M'Kinney. And so it's their intention to follow us and wipe us out,
and get our swag? Waal, maybe it will be the other way. If I was you,
Lightning, I would ride over to Don Ramon's this evening, and give him
a hint to be on his guard. There is no reason why it should be his
place they have got in their mind more than any other. But the fact
that they stole the son's horse, to say nothing of killing him, might
turn their thoughts that way. If you do a fellow one injury, I reckon
that like as not you will do him another. I don't know why it is so,
but I reckons it's human nature."

"I will ride over at once," Hugh said.

"I wouldn't do that, Hugh. You don't know who may have been watching
you, and if it is known that you had been meeting the doctor quiet,
and the doctor is a mate of Sim's, and Sim was in that wine-shop, they
will be putting things together, and if you ride straight over to Don
Ramon now, they will think it is because of something the doctor has
been saying to you. Then if it should chance as that is the place they
are thinking of, it air long odds that Sim and the doctor get a knife
atween their shoulders afore bed-time. You go quietly off in the cool
of the evening, just jogging along as if you was going to pay a visit
of no particular account. They ain't got no interest in us, except as
to this expedition to find gold, and they won't concarn themselves in
your movements as long as I am here at the hotel and the others ain't
getting ready to make a start. They have learned all they want to learn
about our going."

Just as the sun was setting, Hugh set out. It was dark when he reached
Don Ramon's hacienda. After chatting awhile with Don Ramon, his wife
and son--the two girls, their father said, being somewhere out in the
garden--Hugh said quietly to the Mexican that he wanted to speak to him
for a moment in private. Don Ramon lighted a fresh cigarette, and then
said carelessly, "It is a lovely evening, we may as well stroll outside
and find the girls. I don't suppose they know that you are here?" Don
Carlos followed them into the broad verandah outside the house.

"Your son can hear what I have to say," Hugh said in reply to an
inquiring look from Don Ramon, and then reported the conversation
that Sim had overheard. Father and son were both much excited at the
statement that the horse had been recognized.

"Then poor Estafan's murderers are somewhere in this neighbourhood!"
the don exclaimed. "That is the part of the story that interests me
most, señor. As to attacking my hacienda, I don't believe they would
venture upon it. They must know that they would meet with a stout
resistance, and El Paso is but three miles away. Daring as they are,
they would scarcely venture on such an undertaking; but I will, of
course, take every precaution. I will order four men to be on guard
at night, bid the others sleep with their arms ready at hand, and see
that the shutters and doors are barred at night. But the other matter
touches us nearly. If Estafan's murderers are in the province we will
hunt them down if I have to arm all the vaqueros and _peóns_, and have
a regular campaign against them.

"You were quite right not to mention this before my wife; she and my
daughters had better know nothing about it. By the way, I wonder where
the girls are; they are not generally as late as this. I suppose the
evening has tempted them; it is full moon to-morrow." He raised his
voice and called the girls. There was no reply. "Carlos, do you go and
look for them, and tell them from me to come up to the house; and now,
señor, we will have a cup of coffee."

In a quarter of an hour Carlos returned. "I cannot find them, father.
I have been all round the garden calling them."

Don Ramon rose from his seat and struck a bell on the table. "They must
have gone up to their rooms," he said, "without coming in here." When
the servant appeared, he said, "Rosita, go up to the señoritas' room,
and tell them that Don Hugh Tunstall is here."

"They are not there, señor. I have just come down from their rooms."

"What can have become of them, Carlos?" Don Ramon said.

"I have no idea, father; they had Lion with them. He was asleep here
when they called him from outside, and I saw him get up and dash
through the open window."

"I can't understand it," the don said anxiously, "for the evening
is cold; besides, they would scarcely go outside the garden after
nightfall."

"They might be down at Chaquita's cottage, father."

"Oh, yes! I didn't think of that, Carlos," Don Ramon said. "Yes, they
are often down at their old nurse's. Rosita, tell Juan to go down to
Chaquita's cottage and beg the young ladies to return, as I want them."

In ten minutes the servant came back.

"They are not there, señor; they left there just as it was getting
dark."

"Surely there is nothing to be uneasy about, Ramon!" his wife said.
"The girls are often out as late as this on a moonlight evening. They
are sure to be about the garden, somewhere."

"But Carlos has been round," Don Ramon said. "Well, we will go and have
another look for them." Followed by the two young men he stepped out
on to the verandah. "Carlos," he said, "go round to the men's quarters
and tell them your sisters are missing, and that they are all to turn
out and search. I don't like this," he said to Hugh, after his son had
left. "I should have thought nothing of it at any other time, but after
what you have just been telling me, I feel nervous. Now, let us go
round the garden."

  [Illustration: DISCOVERING THE BODY OF THE BLOODHOUND.]

They traversed all the walks, Don Ramon repeatedly calling the girls'
names. They were joined in their search by Don Carlos and a number
of the men. "They are certainly not in the garden," Don Ramon said at
last. "Now, let us go down towards Chaquita's cottage; they may either
have followed the road on their way back, or have come along a by-path
to the garden. We will go by the path, and return the other way."

The path lay through a shrubbery. Just as they entered it, a man met
them running.

"Well, what is it, Juan?" Don Ramon asked as he came up and he could
see his face by the light of the torches some of the men were carrying.

"I don't know, señor, but we have just come upon some fresh blood on
the path."

With a cry of alarm Don Ramon ran forward with his son and Hugh. Fifty
yards farther they saw two of the men standing with torches in the
middle of the path.

"Here is blood, señor," one of them said. "We passed it without
noticing it on our way to the cottage; we were not examining the
ground; but on our way back the light of the torches fell upon it."

Don Ramon stood staring in speechless horror at a large patch of blood
on the path. "There has been a struggle here," Hugh said, examining the
ground. "See! there are marks of large feet. Some of them have trod in
the blood. See, Don Carlos!" and he pointed to a line of blood drops
leading to one of the bushes.

"Search, Hugh," the young man groaned, "I dare not."

Hugh motioned one of the men with a torch to follow him. The father and
son stood gazing after them as they entered the bushes. A moment later
Hugh called out:

"It is the dog, señors, there is nothing else."

An exclamation of joy broke from the two Mexicans. They were at least
relieved of the overpowering dread that had seized them at the sight of
the blood, and at once joined Hugh. The dog, a fine Cuban blood-hound,
was lying dead, stabbed in a dozen places.

"What can it mean, father?" Don Carlos said in a low voice.

"I can hardly think," the Mexican said, passing his hand across his
forehead.

"I am afraid, señor, it is too evident," Hugh put in. "This is the
explanation of what my friend heard. The brigands did not intend to
attack the hacienda. They have carried off your daughters, and the
hound has died in their defence."

"That must be it," Don Ramon exclaimed in the deepest anguish. "Oh, my
poor girls, how can it have happened!"

"I expect they were in hiding here," Hugh said, "and sprang up suddenly
and seized and gagged the señoritas before they had time to scream. The
hound doubtless sprang upon them, and, as you see, they killed it with
their knives."

"What is to be done?" Don Ramon asked hopelessly.

"The first thing is to follow the path down to the road," Hugh said;
"probably they had horses somewhere. Will you tell the men to go along
cautiously with their torches near the ground."

Don Carlos gave the order in Mexican. One of the party, who was the
chief hunter at the hacienda, went a little ahead of the others with
a torch. He stopped a short distance before he reached the junction
of the path with the road, which they could see ahead of them in the
moonlight.

"Here are fresh marks of horses' hoofs," he said. "See," and he held
the torch above his head and pointed to the bushes, "twigs have been
broken, and there are fresh leaves upon the ground. The horses must
have been hidden here. Do not move until I examine down to the road."
He went forward alone, and returned in two or three minutes. "There are
faint tracks from the road to this point; they came along at a walk.
There are deep ones down to the road, and along it; they went off at a
gallop. There were six of them."

"What is to be done, señor?" Don Ramon said to Hugh. "My brain seems on
fire, and I cannot think."

"I should imagine your daughters can be in no immediate danger, señor,"
Hugh said quietly. "The brigands have doubtless carried them off in
order to wring a heavy ransom from you. They must have got two hours'
start, and I fear pursuit would be useless to-night, though I would
send three of the men accustomed to tracking on at once to follow
their traces, and to learn the direction they have taken after leaving
here. Of course it will be for you to decide whether you will go down
to the town and see the alcalde, and obtain a posse of men to join
your vaqueros in a search for them, and then to cross the river to the
fort and get the help of the troops, and scour the whole country; or
whether you will wait until you hear, as you doubtless will, from the
brigands."

"Let us go back to the house," Don Ramon replied; "we must think
it over. We must not do anything rash, or we might endanger their
lives." The news had reached the house before they arrived there.
Donna Maria was completely prostrated with grief, the women were
crying and wringing their hands, and the wildest confusion prevailed.
Don Ramon had by this time recovered himself, and sternly ordered
silence. He then proceeded to the room where his wife had been carried,
and endeavoured to assure her that there was little fear for their
daughters' lives, for the brigands could have no purpose in injuring
them, and had only carried them off for the purpose of exacting a
ransom.

"What do you really think had best be done, my friend?" Don Carlos
asked Hugh when they were alone together. "Of course, whatever ransom
these villains ask must be paid, although I have no doubt it will be
something enormous. But it is terrible to think of the girls being even
for an hour in their hands, especially when we feel sure that these men
are the murderers of my brother."

"I should say," Hugh replied, "that whatever they demand must be paid.
It will not do to risk the señoritas' lives by doing anything as long
as they are in their hands. But I should advise that the moment they
are free we should fall upon these scoundrels and exterminate them, and
recover the ransom. I think that I have a clue to the place where they
are likely to be taken. One of my miner friends was speaking to me of a
place that would be likely to be used for such a purpose. He could lead
a party there. But it would never do to attempt it while the ladies
are in their hands. You may be sure that a careful watch will be kept,
and at the first alarm the villains might murder them. We will hear
what your father says when he returns, and if he thinks, as I do, that
we can attempt nothing until he receives some communication from the
brigands, I will ride back to El Paso and consult my friends there."

Don Ramon on his return said that he was strongly of opinion that it
would risk the girls' lives were any movement made until he heard of
them. As he could be of no utility Hugh rode over to El Paso, Don
Carlos saying that he would let him know the instant they received
any communication from the brigands, but that he should anyhow see him
in the morning, as he should ride over with his father to report the
matter to the authorities. It was past ten o'clock when Hugh reached
the hotel. It happened to be a festa, and the square was full of
people, and the cafés and wine-shops open. Royce was in the bar-room of
the hotel.

"Royce, do you know where Sim and the doctor are likely to be found?"

"I saw them sitting in front of the wine-shop in the corner of the
square, not more than ten minutes ago."

"Come along with me, then, Bill."

"But I thought we weren't to be seen with them?" Royce said.

"There can be no reason against it now," Hugh replied. "They have
learned all they wanted to learn about it, and know that we are going
together. At any rate our meeting would seem to be accidental."

"Is anything up, Hugh?" Royce asked as they made their way through the
crowd in the square. "You look troubled."

"I will tell you directly, Bill."

"There they are. They are still at the same table, Hugh."

There were two empty chairs at the table. Hugh nodded carelessly to the
doctor and Sim, and sat down beside them.

"After what you told me this morning, doctor, there can be no harm in
our being seen together. I want to talk to you badly. There are too
many people about here. Do you mind both coming down to the river. We
can talk as we go."

Directly they were out of the square he told the three men what had
happened.

"Carried off those two young ladies!" Royce exclaimed. "By thunder,
that is too bad. What is to be done, boys?"

"Let us wait until we know all about it," Sim replied; while the doctor
said, in his quiet way, "This has really got to be put a stop to. Let
us wait until we are down by the river. We must hear all this quietly,
Lightning. Four men can't talk as they walk."

They soon gained a quiet spot away from the houses.

"Now tell us how it came about," the doctor said, "and while we are
talking each of you keep his eyes and ears open. We have behaved like
fools once, and let ourselves be overheard. We won't do it again."

Hugh told the whole story of the girls' abduction, and stated the
determination arrived at by Don Ramon, not to attempt a pursuit, but to
pay whatever ransom was demanded, and then to hunt the brigands down.

"That is all very well," the doctor said; "but when they have once
got the money, and you may be sure that it will be a very big sum,
they will divide it and scatter; and there won't be one of them in the
district twelve hours after the girls are given up."

"But what is he to do, doctor?" Sim Howlett said. "He daren't move till
he gets the gals. They would cut their throats sure if he did."

"My idea was, Sim," Hugh said, "that if this is the work of the band
in that house the doctor was telling me about this morning, we could
be in hiding near it; and directly the men who take the girls back to
their father return with the ransom, we could fall upon them, destroy
the whole band, and get back the money."

"We should want a big force to surround the place," Sim replied; "and
there would be no getting it there without being seen. You bet there
are a score of them on the look-out, and their friends would bring
them word, long before we got there, of such a force being on the way.
Besides, there is no surety that it is the place where the gals are,
and, even if it is, the hull band may leave when they send the gals
away. They may scatter all over the country, and meet again at night
fifty miles off. Another thing is, you may bet your boots there will
be a lot of trouble about handing over that ransom, and they won't give
'em up until after they have got the money."

"I see that there are all sorts of difficulties before us, Sim, but
I am sure you and the doctor will see some way out of it. I am deeply
interested in rescuing these poor girls, and we are all interested in
this band being wiped out before we start."

"Have you any plan at all?" the doctor asked. "You have had longer time
to think this over than we have."

"Well, doctor, my idea was that we could start to-night and get to some
place among the hills, where we could hide our horses a mile or two
from this house where we suppose they are. We should lie quiet there
to-morrow. The next evening we should make our way down, and try and
ascertain for certain whether they are there, and see whether it is
possible to carry them off.

"Of course that couldn't be attempted unless we are absolutely certain
of being able to protect them. If we could get them out without being
seen, we might try to do it. If it is not certain we could do that,
and get off without being seen, I should say one of us should ride back
next morning to Don Ramon and get him to bring up twenty or thirty of
his men, or if not, a body of troops from the fort. We should guide
them at night to a point as near the house as it would be safe for them
to get. Then we four could crawl down to the house. The moment we are
in a position to protect the girls, that is to say if we can get into
the room where they are kept, we will fire a pistol-shot out of the
window as a signal. Then we shall have to make as good a fight of it as
we can till the others come up to help us.

"You may be sure that the brigands will be all pretty well occupied
with us, and the other party will be able to surround the house, and
then rush in to our assistance."

"That looks a good plan, by thunder!" Sim Howlett said. "What do you
say, doctor?"

"Well, I think it might be worked somehow on those lines," the doctor
agreed. "I don't think there is much danger for the ladies, because,
if the brigands did come upon us when we were scouting, some of them
would attack us, and the rest would carry the ladies off to some other
hiding-place. I don't say if they were surrounded and saw no chance of
escape they mightn't kill them out of revenge, but they would never
do that until the last thing, because they would reckon, and truly
enough, that as long as they are in their hands they have got the means
of making terms for themselves. But to one thing I agree anyhow. Let
us get our horses and start at once. Don't let us go together. We will
meet at the first cross-road a mile to the west of the town. No one is
likely to notice us going out. There are plenty of people who have come
in from the country to this festa; besides, just at present they won't
be watching us. They know what our plans are, and that we don't intend
to start for another week, and they won't be giving a thought to us
until this affair of the girls is settled. What do you say, Sim?"

"That is right enough," Sim said; "but we must be careful about the
roads, doctor. Like enough they will have a man on every road going
anywhere near the place, and perhaps miles away."

"Yes, we must make a big circuit," the doctor agreed. "Strike the hills
fifteen or twenty miles away from their place, and then work up through
them so as to come down right from the other side."

"Shall I get some provisions at the hotel?" Hugh asked.

"No; we will attend to that. There are plenty of places open, and we
will get what is wanted. Now, do you and Bill go back by yourselves; we
will follow in a minute or two."

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE BRIGANDS' HAUNT.


By daybreak on the following morning Hugh and his three companions were
far among the hills. They had halted an hour before, and intended to
wait until noon before pursuing their journey. They had already been
eight hours in the saddle, and had travelled over sixty miles. They
had halted in a little valley where there was plenty of grass for the
horses, and after cooking some food lay down and slept until the sun
was nearly overhead. Fortunately, the two miners had traversed the
country several times, and were able to lead them across the mountains,
where otherwise it would have been impossible to find a way.

After four hours' riding, on emerging from a valley the doctor said:

"There, do you see that village three miles away? That is the
village where we stopped. The gorge in which the house lies runs
from the village in this direction. You cannot see it here: it is
a sort of cañon cut out ages ago by the water. The sides are nearly
perpendicular; but at the upper end the bottom rises rapidly, and, as
far as we could see from the spot from which we looked at it, there is
no difficulty in getting down there. As you see, there are woods lying
back to the left. We have got to come down at the back of them, and
there is no chance of our being seen even if they have got men on the
lookout on the high ground above the house. They will be looking the
other way; they can see miles across the plain there. Of course they
have no reason to believe that anyone knows of their haunt; still, they
are always on the look-out against treachery."

"Well, let's go on at a trot now, doctor. We shall be in the wood
before sunset."

When they reached the trees they dismounted, and led their horses until
they perceived daylight through the trunks on the opposite side.

"Now we will finish the remainder of our dinner," the doctor said, "and
talk matters over. We are about half a mile now from the end of the
valley, and it is another half-mile down to the house. Now, what are we
going to do? Are we all going, or only one?"

Hugh was silent. These men understood matters better than he did.

"Only one, of course," Sim Howlett said. "The others can come on to the
top of the valley so as to lend a hand if he is chased; but it would
be just chucking away lives for more than one to go. Well, it is either
you or me, doc."

"Why?" Hugh asked. "I am quite ready to go, and I am sure Bill is
too. Besides, this question of the young ladies is more my affair than
yours, since you do not know them, and I certainly think I ought to be
the one to go."

"There is one reason agin it, Lightning," Sim said. "What you say is
true, and if it came to running you could leg it a good bit faster
than the doc. or me; but that don't count for much in the dark. It is
creeping and crawling that is wanted more than running. The reason why
the doc. or I must go is, you don't speak Mexican, and we do. It ain't
likely that the young ladies will be seen out in the verandah, and one
can't go and look into each of the windows till we find the right one.
We have got to listen, and that way we may find whether they are there,
and if we are lucky, which room they are in. So you see it is for one
of us to go."

"I shall go, Sim," the doctor said quietly. "I can walk as lightly as
a cat. I haven't above half as much bulk to hide as you have, and I am
cunning while you are strong, and this is a case where cunning is of
more use than strength. So it is settled that I go; but you may as well
give me your six-shooter. I may want twelve barrels."

"I shall be sorry for the Mexicans if you use them all, doc.," Sim
Howlett said, handing over his pistol to the doctor. "I would rather go
myself; but I know when you have once made up your mind to anything it
ain't no sort of use argying."

"That's right," the doctor said, putting the weapon into his belt.
"Well, there is just time for a pipe before I start. The sun has been
down nearly half an hour, and the moon won't be up over those hills
there for another hour, so we shall have it dark till I get well down
into the valley, and the moon won't be high enough to throw its light
down there afore I am back again."

"A wonderful man is the doctor!" Sim Howlett said when, with noiseless
step, he had made his way down into the upper end of the ravine. "You
wouldn't think much of him to look at him. But, you bet, he has got as
much grit as if he was ten times as big. See him going about, and you
would say he might be one of them missionaries, or a scientific chap
such as those as comes round looking after birds and snakes and such
like. He sorter seems most like a woman with his low talk and gentle
way, and yet I suppose he has killed more downright bad men than any
five men on this side of Missouri."

"You don't say so!" Hugh said in surprise.

"Yes, sir, he is a hull team and a little dog under the waggon, he
is. He ain't a chap to quarrel; he don't drink, and he don't gamble,
and he speaks everyone fair and civil. It ain't that; but he has got
somethin' in him that seems to swell up when he hears of bad goings-on.
When there is a real bad man comes to the camp where he is, and takes
to bossing the show, and to shooting free, after a time you can see
the doctor gets oncomfortable in his mind; but he goes on till that
bad man does something out of the way--shoots a fellow just out of pure
cussedness, or something of that kind--then he just says this must be
put down, and off he goes and faces that bad man and gives him a fair
show and lays him out."

"You mean he doesn't fire until the other man is heeled, Sim?"

"Yes, I mean that."

"Then how is it he hasn't got killed himself?"

"That is what we have said a hundred times, Lightning. He has been
shot all over, but never mortally. One thing, his looks are enough to
scare a man. Somehow he don't look altogether arthly with that white
hair of his--and it has been the same colour ever since I have known
him--floating back from his face. He goes in general bareheaded when he
sets out to shoot, and the hair somehow seems to stand out; not a bit
like it does other times. I heard a chap who had been a doctor afore he
took to gold-digging say his hair looked as if it had been electrified.
Then he gets as white as snow, and his eyes just blaze out. I tell you,
sirree, it is something frightful to see him; and when he comes right
into a crowded saloon and says to the man, as he always does say in
a sort of tone that seems somehow to frizz up the blood of every man
that hears it, 'It is time for you to die!' you bet it makes the very
hardest man weaken. I tell you I would rather face Judge Lynch and a
hundred regulators than stand up agin the doctor when his fit is on;
and I have seen men who never missed their mark afore shoot wide of him
altogether."

"And he never misses?" Royce asked.

"Miss!" Sim repeated; "the doctor couldn't miss if he tried. I've never
known his bullet go a hair's-breadth off the mark. It always hits plumb
in the centre of the forehead. If there is more than one of them, the
doc. turns on the others and warns them: 'Git out of the camp afore
night!' and you bet they git. He gives me a lot of trouble, the doc.
does, in the way of nursing. I have put it to him over and over again
if it is fair on me that he should be on his back three months every
year, 'cause that is about what it's been since I have known him. He
allows as it ain't fair, but, as he says, 'It ain't me, Sim, I have got
to do it; I am like a Malay running a-muck--them's chaps out somewhere
near China, he tells me, as gets mad and goes for a hull crowd--and I
can't help it;' and I don't think he can. And yet you know at other
times he is just about the kindest chap that breathes. He is always
a-nussing the sick and sitting up nights with them, and such like. That
is why he got the name of doctor."

"He isn't a doctor really then?" Hugh asked.

"Waal, Lightning, all that's his secret, and ef he thinks to tell you,
he can do it. I know he is the best mate a man ever had, and one of
the best critters in God's universe, and that is good enough for me. I
reckon he must be somewhere down among them Mexikins by this time," he
went on, changing the subject abruptly.

"I almost wish one of us had gone with him," Royce said, "so that if he
should get found out we might make a better fight of it."

"He ain't likely to get found out," Sim said quietly, "and ef he does
he kin fight his way out. I don't know what way the doctor will die,
but I allowed years ago that it weren't going to be by a bullet. I
ain't skeery about him. Ef I had thought there wur any kind of risk, I
would have gone with him, you bet."

It was two hours before the doctor suddenly stood in the moonlight
before them. They had been listening attentively for some time, but had
not heard the slightest sound until he emerged from the shadow of the
ravine.

"Well, doctor, are we on the right scent?"

"The girls are there, Sim, sure enough. Now let us go back to the wood
before we talk. We have been caught asleep once on this expedition,
when we thought we were so safe that we needn't be on the watch, and
I don't propose to throw away a chance again." They went back without
another word to the wood. As soon as they reached it the doctor sat
down at the foot of a tree, and lighted his pipe; the others followed
his example.

"Well, there was no danger about that job," he began. "It seems not
to have struck the fools that anyone was likely to come down from this
end of the gulch. Down at the other end they have got two sentries on
each side upon the heights. I could see them in the moonlight. I reckon
they have some more at the mouth of the valley, down near the village;
but you may guess I asked no questions about it. I saw no one in the
gulch until I got down close to the house. It is as strong a place as
if it had been built for the purpose. It stands on a sort of table of
rock that juts out from the hill-side; so that on three sides it goes
straight down. There is a space round the house forty or fifty feet
wide.

"On the side where the rock stands out from the hill they have got a
wall twelve feet high, with a strong gate in it. On that side of the
house they have bricked all the windows up, so as to prevent their
being commanded by a force on the hill-side above them, and all the
windows on the ground-floor all round are bricked up too. I expect
the rooms are lighted from a courtyard inside. So you see it is a
pretty difficult sort of place to take all of a sudden. I could hear
the voices of five or six men sitting smoking and talking outside the
door, which is not on the side facing the hill, but on the other side.
I guessed that when the house was built there must have been steps up
from that side, for there is a road that runs along the bottom of the
valley; so I crawled up and found that it was so. There had been a
broad flight of steps there; they had been broken away and pulled down,
still they were good enough for me. There were one or two blocks still
sticking out from the rock, and there were holes where other blocks
had been let in, and I made a shift to climb up without much difficulty
till I got my eyes level with the top.

"The moon hadn't risen over the brow, still it was lighter than I
liked; but one had to risk something; so I first of all pulled myself
up, crawled along the edge till I got round the corner, and then went
up to the house and examined the windows on the other side, and then
got back to the top of the steps and began to listen. I soon heard
the girls were there. They had brought them straight there after they
had carried them off. A man had started early the next morning with a
letter to Don Ramon demanding ransom. He was expected back some time
to-night. They had had news that so far the don was taking no steps to
raise the country, though the news of the girls being carried off was
generally known. I didn't hear what the sum named for the ransom was;
but the men were talking over what they should each do with their share
of it, and they reckoned that each would have seven or eight thousand
dollars.

"Well, there wasn't anything new about this. The matter of interest to
us was which was the room where the girls were. As the journey would
have been of no sort of use if I could not find that out, there was
nothing to do but to get up again and crawl along to the house. I had
reckoned that I should most likely want my rope, and had wound it round
my waist. There was a guard at the gate, so it was one of the sides I
had to try.

"I had learned from what the men said that most of the gang were away
scattered all over the country down to El Paso, so as to bring news
at once if there was any search for the girls going on. The chief and
his lieutenant were down in the village, and would ride in with the
messenger who brought down Ramon's answer. There was a guard inside the
house, because the men at the fire said it was time for two of them to
go and relieve them; but I guessed that otherwise the house was empty.
I threw my rope over a balcony and climbed up, opened the fastening of
the window with my knife, and went in. Everything was quiet. I felt
my way across the room to a window on the other side. I opened that
and looked down into the courtyard. Two or three lanterns were burning
there, and I saw two men sitting on a bench that was placed across a
door. They were smoking cigarettes, and had their guns leaning against
the wall beside them. There was no doubt that was the room where the
girls were.

"It was on the opposite side of the courtyard to that where I
was standing--that is, on the side of the house facing down the
valley,--and was the corner room.

"I had learned everything I wanted now, so I had nothing to do but to
shut the window, slide down the rope, shake it off the balcony, and
come back again; and here I am."

"Well done, doctor! You have succeeded splendidly. But what a pity we
didn't all go with you. We could have cleared out that lot and rescued
the girls at once."

"You might not have gone as quietly as I did," the doctor said. "Four
men make a lot more noise than one, and at the slightest noise the
seven men at the door would have been inside, the door bolted, and the
first pistol shot would have brought in the guard at the gate, the four
sentries on the height, and I expect as many more from the mouth of the
valley. It would have been mighty difficult to break into the house
with nine men inside and as many out; besides, it would never do to
run risks; and even if we had done it, and hadn't found the girls with
their throats cut, we should have had to fight our way up the valley
to the horses, and a bullet might have hit one of them. No, no; this
is a case where we have no right to risk anything. It's for the don
to decide what is to be done. Now we know all about it, and can lay it
before him. Lightning, you had better saddle up and ride with me. You
must go, because he knows you, and will believe what you tell him. I
must go, because he will want me to guide the force back here, so as
to avoid any chance of their being seen on the way. The horses have
done eighty miles since this time yesterday, so it's no use thinking
of starting to-night. Besides, there is no hurry. We will be off in the
morning."

After breakfast Sim was about to saddle the doctor's horse, when Royce
said:

"The doctor had better take my horse. He is miles faster than his own."

The girths were tightened. The doctor, as he mounted, said to Sim, "You
will keep a sharp look-out over the house, and reckon up how many go in
and come out. I expect if the don writes to say he will pay the money,
a good many of those outside will come here."

"We will keep our eyes open, doctor."

"It may be two or three days before you hear of us, Sim."

"There is no hurry, doctor. There will be a lot of talk about how the
ransom is to be paid afore anything is done."

"Do you mean to go back the same way we came?" Hugh asked the doctor as
they rode off.

"No, there is no occasion for that. We will ride thirty miles or so
along the foot of the hills, east, and then strike straight by road
for El Paso. It is about nine o'clock now. We shall be there by five
o'clock. We won't go in together. I will wait on the road and come
in by some other way after dark, or, what would be better, put up at
José's. You had better not go up to the don's until to-morrow morning.
Were you to go up directly you returned, the scoundrels who are
watching both you and the don might suspect that your journey has had
a connection with his business."

Next morning Hugh arrived at Don Ramon's, having obtained another
horse at the hotel. "Why, where have you been, Señor Hugh?" Don Carlos
exclaimed as the servant showed him into the room where they were
at breakfast. "When I rode with my father into the town to give the
alcalde notice, I went to the hotel and found that you were out. We
sent over there three times yesterday and the day before, but they knew
nothing of you. You had taken your horse and gone out the evening you
returned, and had left no word when you would come back. We have been
quite anxious about you, and feared that some harm had befallen you
also. We were quite sure that you would not have left without telling
us of your intentions."

"No, indeed," Hugh said. "I should have been ungrateful indeed for your
kindness if I had left you in such terrible trouble; but before I tell
you what I have been doing, please let me know what has happened here."

"About mid-day, the day after my daughters had been stolen," Don Ramon
said, "a horseman rode up. I saw him coming, and guessed he was the man
we were expecting. He was shown in here, and Carlos and myself received
him. He handed me a letter. Here it is. I will translate it:

"'Señor Don Ramon Perales,--If you wish to see your daughters alive,
you will, as speedily as possible, collect 200,000 dollars in gold
and hand them over to the messenger I will send for them. When I
receive the money your daughters shall be returned to you. I give you
warning, that if any effort is made to discover their whereabouts, or
if any armed body is collected by you for the purpose of rescue, your
daughters will at once be put to death. Signed Ignatius Guttiero.'"

"And what did you reply, Don Ramon?"

"I wrote that it would take some time to collect so great a sum in
gold, but that I would send up to Santa Fé at once, and use every
effort to get it together in the shortest possible time. I demanded,
however, what assurance I could have that after the money was paid my
daughters would be returned to me. To that I have received no answer."


"No, you could hardly get one before this morning," Hugh said. "You
look surprised, señor; but we have found out where they are hidden."

"You have found that out!" the others cried in astonishment.

"My companions and I," Hugh said; "indeed, beyond riding a good many
miles, I have had but little to do with the matter. The credit lies
entirely with the two miners I spoke to you of, with whom I was going
shortly to start on an expedition to a placer they know of."

He then related the reason why the miners had suspected where the gang
of brigands had their headquarters, and the steps by which they had
ascertained that the girls were really there; and then explained the
scheme that he and the doctor had, on their ride down, arranged for
their rescue.

Don Ramon, his wife, and son were greatly moved at the narrative. "You
have, indeed, rendered us a service that we can never repay," Don Ramon
said; "but the risk is terrible. Should you fail it would cost you your
lives, and would ensure the fate of my daughters."

"We are in no way afraid about our own lives, Don Ramon; there are
not likely to be more than twenty of these scoundrels there, and if we
were discovered before we could get to your daughters we could fight
our way off, I think. In that case, seeing that there were only four
of us, they certainly would not throw away their prospect of a ransom
by injuring their captives. They would suppose that we had undertaken
it on our own account as a sort of speculation, and though, no doubt,
they would remove your daughters at once to some other place, they
would not injure them. You see, our plan is that the force we propose
shall be at hand, shall not advance unless they hear three shots fired
at regular intervals. That will be the signal that we have succeeded in
entering your daughters' apartment, and that they are safe with us; in
that case you will push forward at once to assist us. If, on the other
hand, you hear an outbreak of firing, you will know that we have been
discovered before we reached your daughters, and will retreat with your
force silently, and return to El Paso by the same route by which you
went out, and you would then, of course, continue your negotiations for
a ransom."

"At any rate," Don Carlos said, "I claim the right of accompanying you.
It is my sisters who are in peril, and I will not permit strangers to
risk their lives for them when I remain safe at a distance. You must
agree to that, señor."

"I agree to that at once," Hugh said. "I thought that it was probable
that you would insist upon going with us; it is clearly your right to
do so."

"It must not be attempted," Don Ramon said gravely, "if in any way
I can recover my daughters by paying the ransom. The risk would be
terrible, and although two hundred thousand dollars is a large sum,
I would pay it four times over rather than that risk should be run.
The question is, what guarantee the brigands will give that they will
return their captives after they have received the money. I shall know
that soon; we will decide nothing until I receive the answer."

"Would it not be well, señor, for you to go over to arrange with the
officer in command of the fort for twenty or thirty men to start with
you at a moment's notice. If you decide to make this attempt to rescue
your daughters the sooner we set about it the better, that is, if you
intend to take troops instead of a party of your own men."

"I have already seen the commandant," Don Ramon said; "he is a personal
friend, and rode over here directly he heard the news, and offered to
place the whole of his force at my disposal should I think fit to use
it."

At this moment a servant entered, and said that a man wished to see
Don Ramon. The Mexican left the room, and returned in a minute with a
letter. It was brief: "Señor, if you want your daughters back again you
must trust us; we give no guarantees beyond our solemn pledge. You will
tell my messenger on what day you will have the money ready, and do not
delay more than a week; he will come again to fetch it. See that he is
not followed, for it will cost your daughters their lives if an attempt
is made to find out where he goes. Your daughters will be returned
within twenty-four hours of your sending out the money."

"We will try your plan, señor," Don Ramon said firmly. "I would not
trust the word of these cut-throats, or their oaths even, in the
smallest matter, and assuredly not in one such as this. What shall I
say in reply to this letter?"

"I should write and say that, although their conditions are hard, you
must accept them, but that you doubt whether you can raise so large a
sum of gold in the course of a week, and you beg them to give ten days
before the messenger returns for it, and you pledge your honour that no
attempt whatever shall be made to follow or to ascertain the course he
takes."

Don Ramon wrote the letter, and took it down to the hall, where the
messenger was waiting, surrounded by servants, who were regarding him
with no friendly aspect.

"There is my answer," Don Ramon said as he handed the letter to the
man. "Tell your leader I shall keep my word, and that I trust him to
keep his.

"Now, Señor Hugh, will you give me the details of your plan. How do you
propose that the troops are to be close at hand when required without
their presence being suspected?"

"The doctor's idea was this, señor. That you should this morning send
a letter by a servant to the commandant. Will you tell him that you
believe you have a clue to your daughters' hiding-place, but that
everything depends upon the troops getting near the spot without
suspicion being excited. Will you beg him to maintain an absolute
silence as to any movements of the troops until to-night, and to issue
no orders until the gates are shut and all communication closed. Will
he then order an officer and twenty men to be ready at four o'clock in
the morning to start under the guidance of a miner who will to-night
arrive at the fort bearing your card.

"This will, of course, be the doctor. Request the officer to place
himself absolutely in his hands. Our plan is that they shall keep
the other side of the river, travel some thirty miles up, and then
halt until nightfall. At that point they would be as far off from
the brigands' hiding-place as they are here, and if the fact that a
detachment has started becomes known to the friends of the brigands,
it will not be suspected that there is any connection between their
journey and the affair with your daughters. After nightfall they will
start again, cross the river, and meet you and myself at one o'clock,
near the village of Ajanco. Thence we shall go up into the hills, rest
there all day, and come down upon the gulch where the brigands' haunt
lies."

"That sounds an excellent plan, señor; but how do you propose that we
shall get away without being noticed to-morrow evening?"

"The doctor and I agreed that the best plan you could adopt would be to
ride over and see your banker the first thing in the morning. That will
seem perfectly natural. Then in the evening, after dark, you and Don
Carlos should again ride down to him. You will naturally take at least
four of your men down with you as a guard. You will leave your horses
with them when you enter the banker's. You will then pass through his
house, and at once leave by the back entrance, wrapped in your cloaks.
You will then proceed to a spot half a mile out of the town, where
Juan, who you say knows the country, will be waiting with your horses,
and I also will be there.

"The people who are watching you--and you will certainly be
watched--will naturally suppose that you are at the banker's. At ten
o'clock he will come to the door and tell your men to return home with
your horses and to bring them back at ten in the morning, as you and
your son will sleep there. Even should anything be suspected--which
is hardly likely--the scoundrels would have no clue whatever as to the
direction you will have taken, as, at any rate, you will have had two
hours' start before they can begin to think that anything is wrong."

"That is a capital plan, señor. You keep on adding to our already deep
obligations to you."

Everything was carried out in accordance with the arrangements. Hugh
returned at once to El Paso, and in the evening the doctor mounted his
horse and rode to the fort. The next day passed quietly, and as soon as
it became dark Hugh went out to the stable, saddled his horse without
seeing any of the men about the yard, and rode off in the direction
of Don Ramon's, and then, making a circuit of the town, arrived at the
spot where Juan was waiting with the horses. They had been placed in a
thicket a short distance from the road so as to be unobserved by anyone
who might happen to pass. Hugh took his post close to the road, and
an hour later Don Ramon and his son came up. The horses were at once
brought out, and they mounted and rode off, Juan riding ahead to show
the way.

They maintained a fast pace, for at one o'clock they were to meet the
troops at the appointed place. They arrived a quarter of an hour before
the time, and ten minutes after the hour heard the tramping of horses.
The doctor was riding ahead, and halted when he came up to the group.

"Has all gone well, Lightning?" he asked.

"Excellently, as far as we know."

"This is Lieutenant Mason, who is in command of the troops," the doctor
said as a figure rode forward. "Lieutenant Mason, this is Don Ramon
Perales."

"You are punctual, señor," the officer said. "I have orders to place
myself and my men entirely at your disposal. I think we had better have
half an hour's halt before we go further. We have ridden fast, and you
must have ridden faster, as your guide told me you were not to leave El
Paso until eight o'clock, and I presume we have a good deal farther to
go to-night."

"Another twenty miles," the doctor said. "The moon will be getting
higher, and we shall want all her light. It will do no harm if we halt
an hour, lieutenant, and eat our supper while the horses are eating
theirs."

During the halt the doctor had a long talk with Juan, who came from
this part of the country, and knew it well. When they mounted, instead
of riding through the town, they struck off by a by-path before they
reached it.

Three hours later they were deep among the hills, and then again
halted, after turning off from the track they had been following,
into a ravine. The girths were loosened, and the horses allowed to
graze, and the men, wrapping themselves in cloaks or blankets, were
soon asleep, a sentry being placed at the entrance to the ravine. At
ten o'clock all were on their feet. Fires were lighted and breakfast
cooked, and then, following mountain paths, they rode until two in the
afternoon, at which time they reached the valley from which the party
had before made their way down to the wood near the ravine. At dusk
they again mounted and rode on to the wood. They were met at the edge
of the trees by Sim Howlett and Royce.

"I was expecting you to-night, boys," Sim said. "We looked out for you
last night, but didn't reckon as you could possibly do it."

"Have you any news of my daughters?" Don Ramon asked eagerly.

"Nary a word," Sim replied. "Bill and me have never had our eyes off
the house from sunup to sundown. Lots of fellows have come and gone
on horseback. Of course we cannot answer for what has been done after
nightfall, but we reckon there is about thirty men there now, not
counting those they may have in the village and the sentries down by
the mouth of the valley. I calkilate the best part of the gang is there
now. The chiefs would like to keep them under their eye. They will
think the only thing they have got to be afraid of is treachery. I
suppose matters stand as they did when you left, doc.?"

"Just the same. We four and Don Carlos are to go on and get at the
ladies. When we are in there safe three pistol shots are to be the
signal. Then Don Ramon and the soldiers are to come down and surround
them."

Don Ramon had been very anxious to accompany the party, but the doctor
had positively refused to take him with them. "It would add greatly to
our risks," he said, "and do no good. If we can get to your daughters,
Don Ramon, we five can keep the fellows at bay until you come up,
easily enough. I believe we could thrash the lot, but it is no good
taking chances; but anyhow, we can keep them off. I would rather have
gone without your son, but as Lightning has passed his word, there is
nothing more to be said. On a job like this the fewer there are the
better. Each man after the first pretty nearly doubles the risk."

By this time the troopers had dismounted and fastened their horses
to the trees. Meat that had been cooked in the morning, and biscuits
were produced from their haversacks. When the meal had been eaten the
soldiers lit their pipes, while their officer proceeded with Hugh and
the others to the lower end of the wood and walked on to the head of
the ravine.

"There are the lights!" Hugh said. "Ah! I see they have lighted a fire
on the terrace, Bill."

"I expect they are pretty crowded in the house," Bill said; "but they
go in to sleep. Sim and I have been down near the house twice, and
though we were not quite close we were able to make pretty sure that
except one sentry there and another at the gate, the rest all go in."

"How far are we to go down?" the officer asked.

"Well, I would rather you did not go down at all," Sim Howlett said.
"You can get down there from here in ten minutes after you start if you
look spry, and I am desperately afraid some of your men might make a
noise, which they would hear certain if everything was quiet. There is
no fear of their being heard when the firing once begins down there;
but if one of them fell over a rock and his gun went off before we
had done our part of the affair, there would be an end of the whole
business."

"That is what I think, Sim," the doctor agreed. "We have said all along
we might get the ladies out by ourselves, but again we mayn't be able
to get them off at all. But we can defend them easy enough if we can
get into their room. Five minutes won't make any difference about that,
and it is everything to avoid the risk of noise until we get at them.
If they discover us before we get there we just fall back fighting.
They will think that we are only a small party, and the ladies will be
none the worse."

"If you think that is the best way we must agree to it," Don Ramon
said; "but we shall have a terrible time until we get to you."

"Don't you be afeard," Sim Howlett said. "The doctor, me, Lightning,
and Bill could pretty well wipe them out by ourselves, and we reckon on
our six-shooters a sight more than we do on the soldiers."

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XIX.

A FIGHT AND A RESCUE.


Soon after sunset the five men started. The doctor was of opinion that
it was better not to wait until the brigands had retired to rest.

"Of course we cannot begin operations," he said, "until all is quiet;
but as long as the men are sitting round the fires smoking and singing
they will keep a very careless guard, and any noise we make will pass
unobserved. When they once get quiet the sentries will begin to listen,
but until then we might almost walk up to their fires without being
observed."

It was necessary to move slowly and cautiously, lest they should
fall over a rock or stump; but the doctor led the way and the others
followed close behind him. Twenty minutes' stealthy walking took them
to the spot whence the doctor had before reconnoitred the house. A
fire blazed on the terrace, and some fifteen men were sitting or lying
round it. The light fell upon bottles and glasses. One of the party
was playing upon a mandoline and singing, but few of the others were
attending to him, a noisy conversation plentifully sprinkled with
Spanish oaths being kept up.

"The room where your sisters are confined," the doctor said to Don
Carlos, "is round the other side of the house. I did not mean to begin
until all were asleep, but they are making such a noise down there that
I do think it will be best to move at once, and if possible to let your
sisters know that we are here. So we will work quietly round to that
side; they had no sentry there last time, but they may have to-night."

After twenty minutes of cautious movement, they reached the foot of the
rock on which the house stood. The doctor had brought out from El Paso
a small grapnel and rope. The former had been carefully wrapped round
with strips of cloth so as to deaden any sound. It was now thrown up,
and at the second attempt became firmly fixed above.

"Do you mount first, Lightning," he said to Hugh. "When you get up lie
quiet for a minute or two. When you have quite assured yourself that
all is clear give the rope a shake. We others will come up one by one.
Let each man when he gets to the top lie down."

Don Carlos followed Hugh, and the others soon joined them.

"You see that light there," the doctor said to Don Carlos. "That is
your sisters' room. As I told you, the windows on the ground floor are
all blocked up, but three or four bricks have been left out just at the
top of each, for the sake of light and air. Now, Sim and you had better
go together; he will stand against the wall, and if you climb on to his
shoulders I think you can just about reach that hole, pull yourself up,
and look in. I need not tell you to be as silent as possible, for there
may be someone in with them. If they are alone tell them what we are
going to do. See whether there are any bars inside the brickwork. I am
afraid there are sure to be, the Spanish houses most always have bars
to the lower windows. Royce, you and I will go to the right-hand corner
of the house; you go to the left, Lightning. If you hear anyone coming
give a low hiss as a warning, then we must all lie down close to the
wall. It is so dark now that unless a man kicks against us he won't see
us. If he does touch one of you, he is likely to think that it is one
of his own party lying down there for a sleep; but if he stoops over
to see who it is, you have got either to stab him or to grip him by the
throat, so that he can't shout. Now, I think we all understand."

The five men crawled cautiously to their respective stations.

"Now, young fellow," Sim said to Don Carlos, "if, when you are mounted
on my shoulders, you find you cannot reach the hole, put your foot on
my head. You won't hurt me with them moccasins on. Directly you have
got your fingers on the edge give a little pat with your foot to let
me know, and I will put my hands under your feet and help hoist you
up. You can put a biggish slice of your weight on me; when I am tired
I will let you know. I will lean right forward against the wall--that
will help you to climb up. Now!"

When he stood up on Sim's shoulders the young Mexican found that he
could reach the opening. Getting his fingers firmly upon it, he gave
the signal, and with Sim's aid had no difficulty in raising himself so
that he could look into the room. Two candles burned upon the table,
and by their light he could see the girls stretched on couches.

"Hush, girls, hush!" he said in a low voice. "It is I, Carlos! Silence,
for your lives!"

The two girls sprang to their feet. "Did you hear it, Nina?" the elder
exclaimed in a low voice.

"Yes; it was the voice of Carlos. We could not both have been dreaming,
surely!"

"I am up here at the opening," Carlos said. "We are here, girls,
a party to rescue you; but we must get in beside you before we are
discovered, or else harm might come to you. Wait a moment," he broke
in, as the girls in their delight were about to throw themselves upon
their knees to return thanks to the Virgin, "I am being held up here,
and must get down in an instant. I can see that there is a grating to
the window. Is it a strong one?"

"Yes, a very strong one."

"Very well; we will saw through it presently. Do you keep on talking
loudly to each other to drown any noise that we may make. That will do,
Sim; you can let me down now."

"Now, young fellow," Sim said as soon as Don Carlos reached the ground,
"you go along and tell Bill Royce to come here and help. The doctor
will go on keeping watch. Then go to the other end and send Lightning
here, and you take his place. He is better for work than you are."

Sim was soon joined by Royce and Hugh. He had already set to work.

"These bricks are only adobe," he said. "My knife will soon cut through
them."

In a very few minutes he had made a hole through the unbaked bricks.
"Señoritas," he said in Mexican, "place a chair against this hole
and throw something over it, so that if any one comes it won't be
observed."

The men worked in turns with their keen bowies, and in half an hour the
hole was large enough for a head and shoulders to pass through.

"Now for the files, Lightning. You may as well take the first spell, as
you have got them and the oil."

It took two hours' work to file through the bars. Just as the work was
finished Sim said, "You had better fetch the lad, Lightning. Send him
through first."

"Don't you think, doctor," Hugh said when they were gathered round the
hole, "that we might get the girls off without a fight at all?"

"I doubt it," the doctor said. "The men have just gone in except two
who are left as sentries, and the night is very still. They would be
almost sure to hear some of us, and if they did the girls might get
shot in the fight. Still, it might be worth trying. As soon as you get
in, Don Carlos, begin to move the furniture quietly against the door."

All this time the girls had been singing hymns, but their prudence left
them as their brother entered the room. They stopt singing abruptly
and threw themselves into his arms with a little cry of joy. Almost
instantly there was a loud knock at the door.

"What are you doing there? I am coming in," and the door was heard to
unlock. Carlos threw himself against it.

"Fire the signal, doctor!" Sim exclaimed, as he thrust Hugh, who was in
the act of getting through the hole, into the room, as he did so three
shots were fired outside. The instant Hugh was through he leaped to his
feet and ran forward. The pressure against the door had ceased, the man
having, in his surprise at the sound of the shots, sprung back. Hugh
seized the handle of the door so that it could not be turned.

"Pile up the furniture," he said to Don Carlos. "Get into the corner of
the room, señoritas; they will be firing through the door in a moment."

By this time a tremendous din was heard in the house. As yet none of
the brigands knew what had happened, and their general impulse was to
rush out on the terrace to hear the cause of the shots. The doctor had
followed Hugh closely into the room, the hole being large enough to
admit of his getting through without any difficulty. Royce followed
immediately, and, as he got through, Sim Howlett's pistol cracked out
twice, as the sentries ran round the corner of the house, their figures
being visible to him by the light from the fire. Then he thrust himself
through the opening. The instant he was through he seized one of the
cushions of the couches and placed it across the hole by which he had
entered. Several attempts had been made to turn the handle of the door,
but Hugh held it firmly, while the doctor and Carlos moved the couches
and chairs against it.

"Here, doctor, you watch this hole; I will do that work," Sim said.

They worked as silently as possible, and could hear through the opening
at the top of the window the sound of shouts and oaths as a number
of men ran past on the terrace. Then one voice shouted angrily for
silence.

"There is no one here," he said. "Martinez, go in and fetch torches.
What has happened? What have you seen, Lopez?"

"I have seen nothing," the voice replied. "I was lying close to the
door when Domingo, who was on guard at the señoritas' door, said
something, then almost directly three shots were fired outside. I
jumped up and unfastened the door and ran out. Martos and Juan, who
were on guard outside, were just running across. I heard two more shots
fired, and down they both fell. I waited a moment until all the others
came out, and then we ran round the corner together. As far as I see
there is nobody here."

"Mille demonios!" the first speaker exclaimed; "it must be some plot
to get the girls away. Perez, run in and ask Domingo if he heard any
sounds within. Open the door and see that the captives are safe."

There was a pause for a minute, and then Perez ran out.

"Domingo cannot open the door," he said. "They are moving the furniture
against it, and the handle won't turn; he says there must be something
wrong there."

"Fool! What occasion is there to say that, as if anyone could not see
there was something wrong. Ah! here come the torches. Search all round
the terrace, and ask whoever is on guard at the gate whether he has
heard anything. We will see about breaking down the door afterwards."

There was a pause, and then the men came back again.

"There is no one on the terrace. Nobody has been through the gate."

Then there was a sudden, sharp exclamation. "See here, Vargas, there is
a hole here. The bricks have been cut through." A fresh volley of oaths
burst out, and then the man in authority gave his orders.

"Perez, do you and Martinez take your post here. Whether there is one
or half a dozen inside they can only crawl out one at a time. You have
only got to fire at the first head you see. The rest come inside and
break open the door. We will soon settle with them."

"That is much better than I expected," the doctor said. "We have gained
nearly five minutes. Now let them come as soon as they like. Bill, will
you stop at this end and guard this cushion. When the fight begins they
may try to push it aside and fire through at us. Let the upper end lean
back a little against this chair. Yes, like that. Now, you see, you can
look down, and if you see a hand trying to push the cushion aside, put
a bullet through it; don't attend to us unless we are badly pressed and
call for you."

There was now a furious onslaught made on the door from the outside,
heavy blows being struck upon it with axes and crowbars.

"Now, Sim, you may as well speak to them a little," the doctor said.
"When you have emptied your Colt, I will have a turn while you are
loading."

The noise of the blows was a sufficient indication to Sim where the men
wielding the weapons were standing. He had already recharged the two
chambers he had emptied, and now, steadily and deliberately, he fired
six shots through the panels of the door, and the yells and oaths told
him that some of them had taken effect. There was a pause for a moment,
and then the assault recommenced. The wood gave way beneath the axes
and the door began to splinter, while a number of shots were fired
from the outside. The doctor, however, was stooping low, and the others
stood outside the line of fire, while Bill at his end was kneeling by
the cushion. The doctor's revolver answered the shots, and when he had
emptied his pistol Hugh took his place. By the furious shouts and cries
without there was no doubt the fire was doing execution.

But the door was nearly yielding, and, just as Hugh began to fire, one
of the panels was burst in. The lock, too, had now given, the piece of
wood he had jammed into it having fallen out. The Mexicans, however,
were unable to force their way in owing to the steady fire of the
besieged, who had extinguished their candles, and had the advantage of
catching sight of their opponents through the open door, by the light
of the torches without. The besieged shifted their places after each
shot, so that the Mexicans fired almost at random.

For ten minutes the fight had raged, when there was a sudden shout,
followed by a discharge of firearms without. A cheer broke from the
defenders of the room, and a cry of despair and fury from the Mexicans.
The attack on the door ceased instantly, but a desperate struggle
raged in the courtyard. This went on for three or four minutes, when
the Mexicans shouted for mercy and the firing ceased. Then Don Ramon's
voice was heard to call, "Where are you? Are you all safe?" There was
a shout in reply. Then the furniture was pulled away and the splintered
door removed, and as Don Ramon entered, his daughters, who had remained
quietly in the corner while the fight went on, rushed into his arms.

The success of the surprise had been complete. The man on guard at the
gate had left his post to take part in the struggle going on in the
house, and the officer in command of the troops had gained the terrace
unobserved. He at once surrounded the house, and the two men outside
the opening had been shot down at the same moment that he, with a dozen
of his men, rushed into the courtyard and attacked the Mexicans. None
of these had escaped. Eighteen had fallen in the house, four had been
killed outside, and twelve had thrown down their arms, and were now
lying bound hand and foot in charge of the troops.

  [Illustration: BESIEGED BY BRIGANDS.]

No sooner had Don Ramon assured himself that his daughters were safe
and uninjured, than he turned to their rescuers and poured out his
hearty thanks. They were not quite uninjured. Bill had escaped without
a wound: Don Carlos was bleeding from a pistol ball which had grazed
his cheek: Sim Howlett's right hand was disabled by a ball which had
taken off his middle finger, and ploughed its way through the flesh
of the forearm; Hugh had a bullet in the shoulder: the doctor's wound
was the only serious one, he having been hit just above the hip. One
of the soldiers had been killed, and five wounded while fighting in
the court-yard. Leaving Don Ramon and his son to question the girls as
to what had befallen them, and to tell them how their rescue had been
brought about, the others went outside.

"Let's have a blaze, lieutenant." Sim said. "Most of us want dressing
a bit, and the doctor is hit very hard. Let us make a good big fire out
here on the terrace, then we shall see what we are doing. We were in a
smother of gunpowder smoke inside."

The officer gave an order, and the soldiers fetched out billets of wood
from the store and piled them on the fire on the terrace, and soon a
broad sheet of flame leaped up.

"Now, then, let us look at the wounds." Sim went on. "Let us lift you
up and make you a little comfortable, doctor. I am afraid that there
is no doing anything with you till we get you down to the town. All you
have got to do is to lie quiet."

"And drink, Sim."

"Ay, and drink. I am as thirsty myself as if I had been lost on an
alkali plain. Bill, will you get us some drink, plenty of water, with
just a drop of spirit in it; there is sure to be plenty in the house
somewhere."

Royce soon returned with a large jar of cold water and a bottle of
spirits.

"Only a few drops of spirits. Sim, if you don't want to get
inflammation in that hand of yours."

"What had I better do for it, doctor?"

"Well, it will be better to have that stump of the middle finger taken
out altogether. I could do it for you if I could stand and had a knife
of the right shape here. As it is, you can't do better than wrap your
hand up in plenty of cloths, and keep them wet, and then put your arm
in a sling. What's yours, Lightning?"

"I am hit in the shoulder, doctor. I don't think that it is bleeding
now."

"Well, you had better get Bill to bathe it in hot water, then lay a
plug of cotton over the hole, and bandage it up; the doctor at the fort
will get the ball out for you as soon as you get down there. He is a
good man, they say, and, anyhow, he gets plenty of practice with pistol
wounds at El Paso."

Royce did his best for his two friends. Then they all sat quietly
talking until the young officer came out from the house.

"We have been searching it from top to bottom," he said. "There is a
lot of booty stored away. I want you to have a look at the two leaders
of these scoundrels; they have both been shot. Don Ramon said that he
believed they were the murderers of his son, and that two of you might
recognize them if they were, as you did a horse trade with them."

Hugh and Royce followed him to the other side of the house, where the
bodies of the brigands who had fallen had been brought out and laid
down. Two soldiers brought torches.

"I have no doubt whatever that these are the men," Hugh said after
examining the bodies of the two leaders, who were placed at a short
distance from the rest.

"Them's the fellows," Royce said positively, "I could swear to them
anywhere."

"They are notorious scoundrels," the officer said, "and have for years
been the scourge of New Mexico. They were away, for a time, two years
ago. We had made the place so hot for them that they had to quit. We
learned that from some of their gang whom we caught. They were away
nearly a year; at least they were quiet. I suppose they carried on
their games down in Texas, till they had to leave there too; and then
thinking the affair had blown over they returned here. There has been a
reward of ten thousand dollars for their capture anytime for the last
five years. Properly that ought to be divided between you, as it is
entirely your doing that they have been caught; but as the reward says
death or capture, I suppose my men will have to share it with you."

"That is right enough," Sim Howlett said. "It will give us three or
four hundred dollars apiece, and that don't make a bad week's work
anyhow. When are you thinking of starting back, lieutenant, and what
are you going to do with this house here?"

"I shall set fire to the house after we have got everything out of
it. I guess it has been a den of brigands for the last ten years. I
have sent four men down to keep guard at the mouth of the valley, and
I expect we shall get all their horses in the morning. They must be
somewhere about here. The prisoners will ride their own, and that will
leave us twenty or more for carrying down the best part of the plunder.
There is a lot of wine and other things that they have carried off from
the haciendas that they plundered. I will send those down in carts with
an escort of four of my men."

"Then I think we had better get a bed in one of the carts, and send my
mate here down upon it. He has got a bullet somewhere in the hip, and
won't be able to sit a horse."

"We will send him off the first thing in the morning," the officer
said. "There is one of my own wounded to send down that way too."

"I will go with them as nurse," Sim said. "Get the cart to go straight
through without a halt, lieutenant. The sooner my mate is in the hands
of your doctor the better."

"I will see about it now," the lieutenant said; "no time shall be lost.
I will send a sergeant and four men down to the village at once to
requisition a cart and bring it here. It will be much better for them
travelling at night. I will tell the men I send as escort to get hold
of another cart in the morning and send them straight on."

"Thank you, lieutenant. That will be the best plan by far."

Don Ramon now came out from the house, and joined the group.

"In the name of my children, their mother, and myself, I thank you most
deeply, señors, for the noble way in which you have risked your lives
for their rescue. Had it not been for you, God knows whether I should
have seen my daughters again, for I know that no oaths would have
bound those villains, and that when they had obtained the ransom they
would never have let my daughters free to give information that would
have led to their capture. I shall always be your debtor, and the only
drawback to my pleasure is that three of you have been wounded."

"The doctor here is the only one wounded seriously," Sim Howlett said.
"My hand and arm will soon heal up, and the loss of a finger is no
great odds anyway. I don't suppose Lightning's shoulder will turn out
worse than my arm. As for the doctor, he is hit hard, but he has been
hit hard so many times, and has pulled through it, that I hope for the
best."

"Señor Hugh," Don Ramon said, "it was indeed a fortunate day for me
when I questioned you concerning my son's horse, for it was to your
advice and to your enlisting your friends on my behalf that I owe it
chiefly that my daughters are with me this evening. I must leave it to
their mother to thank you as you deserve."

Two hours later the doctor and one of the wounded soldiers were placed
on a bed laid at the bottom of a cart, and started under the escort of
two soldiers, Sim Howlett accompanying them. As the girls had expressed
the greatest disinclination to remain in the house where they had been
prisoners and where so much blood had just been shed, they with the
rest of the party returned with a sergeant and six soldiers carrying
torches up the valley to the wood, where the horses had been left.
Here two fires were soon blazing, and the girls were not long before
they were asleep, wrapped in blankets that had been brought up from the
house.

The following morning Hugh and Royce handed over their horses for the
use of the girls, who were both accomplished horsewomen, and, mounting
the horses of Sim and the doctor, they started with Don Ramon, his son,
and daughters. Fifteen miles before they got to El Paso they passed
the cart with the wounded men, and Hugh said he would ride into the
fort to ensure the doctor being there when they arrived. Royce and he
accompanied Don Ramon and his party to the gate of the hacienda, which
they reached just at sunset. The Mexican was warm in his entreaties to
Hugh to become his guest until his wound was healed, but he declined
this on the ground that he should be well cared for at the fort, and
should have the surgeon always at hand.

"I shall be over the first thing in the morning to see you," Don Carlos
said. "I shall want my own face strapped up, and I warn you if the
doctor says you can be moved I shall bring you back with me."

Royce accompanied Hugh to the fort. The commandant was highly gratified
when he heard of the complete success of the expedition, and still
more so when he learned that the two notorious brigands for whom he and
his troopers had so often searched in vain were among the killed. Hugh
was at once accommodated in the hospital, and the surgeon proceeded to
examine his wound. It was so inflamed and swollen with the long ride,
he said, that no attempt could be made at present to extract the ball,
and rest and quiet were absolutely necessary. Two hours later the cart
arrived. The doctor was laid in a bed near that of Hugh, the third
bed in the ward being allotted to Sim Howlett. The doctor's wound was
pronounced by the surgeon to be a very serious one.

It was some days before, under the influence of poultices and
embrocations, the inflammation subsided sufficiently for a search
to be made for the bullet in Hugh's shoulder. The surgeon, however,
was then successful in finding it imbedded in the flesh behind the
shoulder-bone, and, having found its position, he cut it out from
behind. After this Hugh's progress was rapid, and in a week he was out
of bed with his arm in a sling. The doctor, contrary to the surgeon's
expectations, also made fair progress. The bullet could not be found,
and the surgeon, after one or two ineffectual attempts, decided that
it would be better to allow it to remain where it was. The stump of
Sim's finger was removed the morning after he came in, and the wound
had almost completely healed by the time that Hugh was enabled to leave
the hospital, a month after entering it.

Don Ramon and his son had ridden over every day to inquire after the
invalids, and had seen that they were provided with every possible
luxury, and he carried off Hugh to the hacienda as soon as the surgeon
gave his consent to his making a short journey in the carriage. Donna
Maria received him as warmly as if he had been a son of her own,
and he had the greatest difficulty in persuading her that he did not
require to be treated as an invalid, and was perfectly capable of doing
everything for himself.

For a fortnight he lived a life of luxurious idleness, doing absolutely
nothing beyond going over in the carriage every day to see how the
doctor was going on. Hugh saw that he was not maintaining the progress
that he had at first made. He had but little fever or pain, but he lay
quiet and silent, and seemed incapable of making any effort whatever.
Sim Howlett was very anxious about his comrade.

"He don't seem to me to try to get well," he said to Hugh. "It looks to
me like as if he thought he had done about enough, and was ready to go.
If one could rouse him up a bit I believe he would pull round. He has
gone through a lot has the doctor, and I expect he thinks there ain't
much worth living for. He just smiles when I speak to him, but he don't
take no interest in things. Do you get talking with me when you go in,
Lightning, and asking about what we have been doing, and I will tell
you some of the things he and I have gone through together. Maybe that
may stir him up a bit."

"How long have you known him, Sim?"

"I came across him in '49. I came round by Panama, being one of the
first lot to leave New York when the news of gold came. I had been away
logging for some months, and had come down at the end of the season
with six months' money in my pocket. I had been saving up for a year or
two, and was going to put it all in partnership with a cousin of mine,
who undertook the building of piers and wharves and such like on the
Hudson. Well, the first news that met me when I came down to New York
was that Jim had busted up, and had gone out west some said, others
that he had drowned hisself. I was sorry for Jim, but I was mighty glad
that I hadn't put my pile in.

"Waal, I was wondering what to start on next when the talk about gold
began, and as soon as I larned there were no mistake about it I went
down to the wharf and took my passage down to the isthmus. I had been
working about three months on the Yuba when I came across the doctor. I
had seen him often afore we came to speak. If you wur to see the doctor
now for the first time when he is just sitting quiet and talking in
that woman sort of voice of his and with those big blue eyes, you would
think maybe that he was a kind of softy, wouldn't you?"

"I dare say I might, Sim. I saw him for the first time when he came up
with you to take my part against that crowd of Mexicans. There didn't
look anything soft about him then, and though I was struck with his
gentle way of talking when I met him afterwards I knew so well there
was lots of fight in him that it didn't strike me he was anything of a
softy, as you say."

"No? Waal, the doctor has changed since I met him, but at that time
he did look a softy, and most people put him down as being short of
wits. He used just to go about the camp as if he paid no attention to
what wur going on. Sometimes he would go down to a bit of a claim he
had taken up and wash out the gravel, just singing to himself, not as
though it wur to amuse him, but as though he did not know as he wur
singing, in a sort of curious far-off sort of voice; but mostly he
went about doing odd sorts of jobs. If there wur a man down with the
fever the doctor would just walk into his tent and take him in hand and
look after him, and when he got better would just drift away, and like
enough not seem to know the man the next time he met him.

"Waal, he got to be called Softy, but men allowed as he wur a good
fellow, and was just as choke-full of kindness as his brain would hold,
and, as he walked about, any chap who was taking his grub would ask
him to share it, for it was sartin that what gold he got wouldn't buy
enough to keep a cat alive, much less a man. Waal, it was this way. I
got down with fever from working in the water under a hot sun. I hadn't
any particular mates that time, and wur living in a bit of a tent made
of a couple of blankets, and though the boys looked in and did any job
that wur wanted I wur mighty bad and went off my head for a bit, and
the first thing I seen when I came round was Softy in the tent tending
me. Ef he had been a woman and I had been his son he couldn't have
looked after me tenderer.

"I found when I began to get round he had been getting meat for me
from the boys and making soups, but as soon as I got round enough to
know what was going on I pointed out to him the place where I had hid
my dust, and he took charge of it and got me what was wanted, till I
picked up and got middling strong again. As soon as I did Softy went
off to look after someone else who was bad, but I think he took to me
more than he had to anyone else, for he would come in and sit with me
sometimes in the evening, and I found that he wurn't really short of
wits as people thought, but would talk on most things just as straight
as anyone. He didn't seem to have much interest in the digging, which
wur about the only thing we thought of; but when I asked him what he
had come to the mining camps for, if it wasn't to get gold, he just
smiled gently and said he had a mission.

"What the mission wur he never said, and I concluded that though he
was all there in other things his brain had somehow got mixed on that
point, onless it wur that his mission was to look after the sick. Waal,
we were a rough lot in '49, you bet. Lynch-law hadn't begun, and there
wuz rows and fights of the wust kind. Our camp had been pretty quiet
ontil someone set up a saloon and gambling shop, and some pretty tough
characters came. That was just as I wur getting about agin, though
not able to work regular. It wurn't long before two fellows became the
terror of the camp, and they went on so bad that the boys began to talk
among themselves that they must be put down; but no one cared about
taking the lead. They had shot four fellows in the first week after
they came.

"I hadn't seen Softy for ten days. He had been away nussing a woodman
as had his leg broke by the fall of a tree. I was sitting outside my
tent with a chap they called Red Sam. We had a bottle of brandy between
us, when them two fellows came along, and one of them just stooped and
took up the bottle and put it to his lips and drank half of it off, and
then passed it to the other without saying by your leave or anything.
Red Sam said, 'Well, I'm blowed!' when the fellow who had drunk whipped
out his bowie--six-shooters had hardly come in then--and afore Red
Sam could get fairly to his feet he struck him under the ribs. Waal,
I jumped up and drew my bowie, for it wur my quarrel, you see. He made
at me. I caught his wrist as the knife was coming down, and he caught
mine; but I wur like a child in his arms. I thought it wur all over
with me, when I heard a shout, and Softy sprang on the man like a wild
cat and drove his knife right into him, and he went down like a log.

"The other shouted out an oath and drew. Softy faced him. It wur the
strangest sight I ever seen. His hat had fallen off, and his hair,
which wur just as white then as it is now, fell back from his face, and
his eyes, that looked so soft and gentle, wur just blazing. It came
across me then, as it have come across me many a time since, that he
looked like a lion going to spring; and I think Buckskin, as the man
called himself, who had often boasted as he didn't fear a living thing,
was frighted. They stood facing each other for a moment, and then
Softy sprang at him. He was so quick that instead of Buckskin's knife
catching him, as he intended, just in front of the shoulder and going
straight down to the heart, it caught him behind the shoulder, and laid
open his back pretty near down to the waist.

"But there wur no mistake about Softy's stroke. It went fair between
the ribs, and Buckskin fell back dead, with Softy on the top of him.
Waal, after that it wur my turn to nuss the doctor, for no one called
him Softy after that. He wur laid up for over a month, and I think
that letting out of blood did him good and cleared his brain like.
When he got well he wur just as you see him now, just as clear and as
sensible a chap as you would see. Why, he has got as much sense as you
would find in any man west of Missouri, and he's the truest mate and
the kindest heart. I have never seen the doctor out of temper, for you
can't call it being out of temper when he rises up and goes for a man;
that is his mission. He has never got that out of his head, and never
will ontil he dies.

"He can put up with a deal, the doctor can; but when a man gits just
too bad for anything, then it seems to him as he has got a call to wipe
him out, and he wipes him out, you bet. You don't want lynch-law where
the doctor is: he is a judge and a posse all to himself, and for years
he was the terror of hard characters down in California. They was just
skeered of him, and if a downright bad man came to a camp and heard the
doctor wur there, he would in general clear straight out agin. He has
been shot and cut all over, has the doctor, and half a dozen times it
seemed to me I should never bring him round agin.

"It ain't no use talking to him and asking him why he should take on
hisself to be a jedge and jury. When it's all over he always says in
his gentle way that he is sorry about it, and I do think he is, and he
says he will attend to his own business in future; but the next time
it is just the same thing again. There ain't no holding him. You might
just as well try to stop a mountain lion when he smells blood. At such
times he ain't hisself. If you had once seen him you would never forget
it. There wur a British painting fellow who wur travelling about taking
pictures for a book. He wur in camp once when the doctor's dander rose,
and he went for a man; and the Britisher said arterwards to me as it
were like the bersek rage. I never heard tell of the berseks; but from
what the chap said I guessed they lived in the old time. Waal, if they
wur like the doctor I tell you that I shouldn't like to get into a muss
with them. No, sir."

"Do you know what the doctor's history is, Sim?"

"Yes, I do know," he said, "but I don't suppose anyone else does. Maybe
he will tell you some day if he gets over this."

"Oh! I don't want to know if it is a secret, Sim."

"Waal, there ain't no secret in it, Lightning; but he don't talk about
it, and in course I don't. It is a sort of thing that has happened to
other men, and maybe after a bit they have got over it; but the doctor
ain't. You see he ain't a common man: he has got the heart of a woman,
and for a time it pretty nigh crazed him."

  [Illustration]



  [Illustration]

CHAPTER XX.

THE AVENGER.


Hugh told the coachman to go back to the hacienda, and to return for
him late in the afternoon, and then went in with Sim. The doctor smiled
faintly as Hugh sat down beside him and asked how he was getting on.

"I am getting on, lad," he said. "I reckon I shall be there before
long."

Hugh affected to misunderstand him.

"You must pick up strength," he said, "or we shall never carry out that
expedition among the Apaches, you know."

"If you wait for that you will wait a long time," the doctor said
quietly.

"I hope not," Hugh said cheerily. "By the way, Sim, you told me you
would tell me some of your adventures in the early days of California.
I am interested in that, because I had an uncle there. He was ten years
or so out there."

"What was his name, Lightning?" Sim asked.

"His name was Will Tunstall."

An exclamation burst from both his hearers.

"Your uncle!" Sim exclaimed. "Waal, that beats all, and to think that
we should have been all this time together and never known that. Is
your name Tunstall too?"

"Yes, Hugh Tunstall."

"To think now, doctor!" Sim said; "and we never knowed him except
as Hugh or Lightning, and he is Will Tunstall's nephew. Why, lad,
Bill--English Bill we called him--was a mate of ours, and a better mate
men never worked with."

"You are like him, lad," the doctor said in a voice so different from
that in which he had before spoken that Hugh quite started. "I thought
you reminded me of someone, and now I know. It was English Bill. He was
just as tall and as straight as you are, and laughed and talked just as
you do. I wonder, Sim, we didn't notice it at once. Well, well, that is
strange!"

Hugh was greatly surprised. It was indeed strange that he should have
met these two mates of his uncle. Stranger still that they should
have entertained such evident affection for a man who seemed to him to
differ in character so widely from them. He was surprised, too, at the
doctor's remarks about his resemblance to his uncle, for he could see
no likeness whatever.

"Well," he said, "I should have had no idea that I was like my uncle.
I think you must have forgotten his figure. He is tall and muscular
certainly, but he is much darker than I am, and, I think, altogether
different."

The doctor and Sim looked at each other with astonishment.

"There must be some mistake," Sim said. "Do you say your uncle is alive
now?"

"Certainly I do," Hugh replied, in turn surprised.

"Ah! then, it isn't the same man," Sim said. "Our Bill Tunstall was
killed ten years ago. It is odd, too; Tunstall ain't a common name, at
least not in these parts. If you had ever said your own name before I
should have noticed it, and asked you about it; but Royce always called
you Lightning, or Hugh, and one may know men here for years by the name
they have got without ever thinking what name they might be born with."

"Is Tunstall a common name in England, Lightning?" the doctor asked.

"No, I don't think so, doctor. I never met any others. We came from the
north of England, from Cumberland."

"So did English Bill," Sim said. "Never heard tell of a chap that came
out from there of that name, a tall, straight, strong fellow like you?
He must have come out before you wur born, though, of course, we didn't
know him for years afterwards."

"My uncle came out here before I was born," Hugh said; "but I never
heard of anyone else of the same name doing so; still, if your friend
is dead, of course it isn't the same, for my uncle is alive. At least
he was two years ago. He is strong, and active, and well knit; but he
is not as tall as I am by two inches, I should say."

"Lift me up in bed, Sim," the doctor said excitedly. "How long ago did
your uncle return?"

"Over six years ago," Hugh replied, surprised at this strange
excitement upon the part of a man who, ten minutes before, had seemed
to have no further interest in anything.

"Six years ago, Sim? You hear that; six years ago!"

"Gently, doctor, gently; what are you driving at?" Sim asked, really
alarmed at his mate's excitement.

The doctor paid no attention to him. "And he had been a great many
years away? Went away as a boy, and when he came back was so changed
they wouldn't have known him?"

"Yes, that was so," Hugh said, more and more surprised.

"You hear that, Sim? you hear that?" the doctor exclaimed sharply.

"I hear it, mate, but do you lie down. You are not strong enough to be
exciting yourself like this, though I am blamed if I can see what it is
about."

"What did he go home for?" the doctor asked, still unheeding Sim.

"He went home because my father had died, and he came in for a
considerable property, and he was one of my guardians."

"Do you hear that, Sim?" the doctor cried in a loud shrill voice that
was almost a scream; "do you see it all now?"

"Just you run and call the surgeon, Lightning; the doc's going clear
off his head."

"Stop!" the doctor said, as Hugh was about to hurry off. "If Sim wasn't
that thick-headed he would see what I see. Give me a drink."

Hugh handed him a glass of lemonade, which he tossed off.

"Now, then, Sim, haven't I told you this young fellow was like someone,
though I couldn't mind who. Don't you see it is our mate, English
Bill?"

"Yes, he is like him," Sim said, "now you name it. He is a bit taller,
and his figure is loose yet, but he will widen out ontil he is just
what Bill wur."

"Like what his uncle was," the doctor broke in; "don't you see, Sim,
his uncle was our mate."

"But how can that be, doctor? Don't you hear him say as his uncle is
alive in England, and didn't we bury poor Bill?"

"You've heard Hugh say what his uncle came home for. What was Bill
going home for, Sim?"

"Ah!" Sim exclaimed suddenly, as a light flashed across him, "it was
just what Lightning has been saying. His brother was dead, and he was
going home to be guardian to his nephew; and because he had come into
an estate."

"Quite so, only he never went, Sim; did he?"

"No, certainly he never went, doc. There is no doubt about that."

"But somebody did go," the doctor said, "and we know who it was. The
man who killed him and stole his papers."

An exclamation of astonishment broke from Hugh, while Sim exclaimed
earnestly:

"By thunder, doctor, but you may be right! I reckon it may be as you
say, though how you came to figure it out beats me. That must be it.
We never could make out why he should have been killed. He had money on
him, but not enough to tempt the man as we suspected."

"Suspected? No! the man we knew did it," the doctor broke in. "You see
now, Lightning, how it is. It was known in camp that our mate had come
into an estate in England. He said good-bye to us all and started, and
his body was found a few miles away. We felt pretty sure of the man who
had done it, for he was missing. He was a gambler. Bill had been pretty
thick with him for some time, and I allow the fellow had got the whole
story out of him, and knew the place he was going to, and knew where it
was, and had wormed a whole lot out of him that might be useful to him.
Then he killed him, and wasn't seen any more in these parts. I searched
for him for a year up and down California, and Nevada, and New Mexico,
and down into Northern Mexico, but I never came across his track. If
I had got as much as a sign which way he had gone, I would have hunted
him down all over the world; but there was not a sign from the day he
had left the camp. Nobody ever heard of him again. I found out he had a
wife down in Southern California, a Mexican girl, and I went down there
to hunt her out, but she had gone too--had left a few days after he had
disappeared. Now we are on his track again, Sim. I guess in a week I
will be up, and you and I will go straight off with this young fellow
to England, and see this thing out. Lay me down now. I must be quiet
for a bit. Take Lightning out and talk it over with him, and tell the
cook to let me have some strong soup, for I have got to get out of this
as soon as possible."

"Can all this be true, Sim, do you think?" Hugh said; "or is the doctor
light-headed? Do you think it is possible that the man who murdered my
uncle is the one who has taken his place all these years."

"It is gospel truth, Lightning. At least it is gospel truth that your
uncle was murdered here, for there can't be no doubt that your uncle
Bill Tunstall and our mate is the same man; but I can't say whether
the one as you thought was your uncle is the one that killed him. Your
description is like enough to him. Tell me a little more about him."

"He is rather dark, with a moustache but no whiskers; he has a quiet
manner; he is slight, but gives you the idea of being very strong. He
has very white well-made hands. He shows his teeth a little when he
smiles, but even when I first knew him I never liked his smile; there
was something about it that wasn't honest. And he brought over with him
a Mexican wife."

"That's him," Sim said in a tone of conviction; "you have just
described him. He has a light sort of walk like a cat, and a tigerish
way with him all over. There ain't a doubt that is the man. And what is
the woman like?"

"She has always been very kind and good to me," Hugh said. "No aunt
could have been kinder. I am awfully sorry for her, but I hated the
man. That was why I left England. I came into the room one day and
found that he had knocked his wife down, and I seized him. Then he
knocked me down, and I caught up the poker. I was no match for him then
in strength. Then he drew a pistol, but I hit him before he could aim;
and as he went down his head came against a sharp corner of a piece of
furniture, and I thought that I had killed him, so I bolted at once,
made my way to Hamburg, and crossed to New York. That is how I came to
be here."

"Has he got much of the property, lad?"

"He has got what was my uncle's share," Hugh replied. "Now that I know
who he is I can understand things. I could not understand before. If
I had died before I came of age he would have had the whole of the
property. He used to get the most vicious horses he could find for me
to ride, and I remember now when we were in Switzerland together he
wanted to take me up mountains with him, but my aunt wouldn't let me
go. Then he offered to teach me pistol-shooting, but somehow he dropped
that, and my aunt taught me herself. I think she must have stopped him.
Thinking it all over now, I feel sure that he must have intended to
kill me somehow, and that she managed to save my life. There were often
quarrels between them, but she didn't seem to be afraid of him. I think
that she must have had some sort of hold over him."

"Waal, there is one thing," Sim said after a pause; "I believe this
here discovery has saved the doctor's life. He had made up his mind
that he had done with it, and wasn't going to try to get better. Now,
you see, he is all eagerness to get on this fellow's scent. If he had
been a blood-hound he could not have hunted the country closer than he
did for that thar tarnal villain. He had an idee it wur his business
to wipe him out, and when the doctor gets set on an idee like that he
carries it out. It will pull him round now, you see if it don't."

"I do hope so, indeed, Sim," Hugh said warmly. "The doctor is a
wonderful fellow, and if it hadn't been for him we should never have
arrived at this discovery. Well, I am glad. Of course I am sorry to
hear that my uncle was murdered, but as I never saw him that does not
affect me so much; but I am glad to hear that this man whom I hated, a
man who ill-treated his wife and who spent all his time at horse-racing
and gambling, is not my uncle, and has no right to a share in the
property that has been in our family for so many years. I only hope
that this excitement will not do the doctor any harm."

"I am sure that it will do him good," Sim said confidently; "but it
wur strange to see a man who looked as if he wur just dying out wake up
like that; but that has always been his way; just as quiet as a woman
at most times, but blazing out when he felt thar wur a great wrong, and
that it wur his duty to set it right. I can tell you now what I know
about his story. Now he knows you are English Bill's nephew he won't
mind your knowing. Waal, his story ain't anything much out of the way.
There are scores who have suffered the like, but it didn't have the
effect on them like it did on the doctor.

"He is really a doctor trained and edicated. He married out east. He
wur a quiet little fellow, and not fit to hustle round in towns and
push hisself forward; so he and his wife came round and settled in
Californy somewhere about '36. Thar wurn't many Americans here then, as
you may guess. He settled down in the south somewhere a hundred miles
or so from Los Angeles. He had some money of his own, and he bought
a place and planted fruit trees and made a sort of little paradise of
it. That is what he told me he lived on, doctoring when it came in his
way. There wur some rich Mexicans about, and he looked after most of
them; but I guess he did more among the poor. He had four children, and
things went on peaceable till '48. Then you know gold was discovered,
and that turned Californy upside down.

"It brought pretty nigh all the roughs in creation there. They
quarrelled with the Mexikins, and they quarrelled with the Injuns, and
there was trouble of the wust kind.

"There was gangs of fellows as guessed they could make more money by
robbing the miners than they could by digging for gold, and I reckon
they was about right; and when they warn't robbing the miners they
was plundering the Mexikins. Waal, I never heard the rights of it,
the doctor never could bring hisself to talk about that, but one day
when he had been twenty miles away to visit a patient, he came back
and found his place burned down, and his wife and the four children
murdered. He went off his head, and some of the people as knew him took
him down to Los Angeles, and he wur a year in the madhouse thar. He wur
very quiet. I believe he used ter just sit and cry.

"After a time he changed. He never used to speak a word, but just sot
with those big eyes of his wide open; with his face working, as if
he seen an enemy. Waal, after a year he got better, and the Mexikins
let him out of that madhouse. Someone had bought his place, and the
money had been banked for him. He took it and went off. He never got
to hear who the gang wur as had been to his house. I think the idee
comes to him ever since when he comes across a really bad man, that he
wur one of that lot, and then he goes for him. It is either that, or
he believes he has got a sort of special call to wipe out bad men. As
I told you, he is always ready to do a kindness to anyone, and ef he
has killed over a score or more of the wust men in Californy, I guess
he has saved five times as many by nussing them when they are ill, only
he will never give them medicine. One of his idees is that if he hadn't
gone on doctoring, he wouldn't have been away when that gang came to
his house, and that is why he will never do anything as a doctor again.
He is just a nuss, he says, and nothing more.

"Now, don't you go for to think, Lightning, that the doctor is the
least bit mad, because he ain't, and never have been since I first knew
him, and I should like to see the man as would say that he wur. He is
just as sensible as I am; that ain't saying much; he is ten times as
sensible. He always knows the right thing to do, does the doctor, and
does it. He air just an ornary man, with heaps of good sense, and just
the kindest heart in the world, only when thar is a regular downright
bad man in the camp, the doctor takes him in hand all to hisself."

"But, Sim, I thought you were going about this gold business, this
placer, directly the doctor was able to move."

"That has got to wait," Sim said. "Maybe some day or other, when this
business of yours is over, I may come back and see about it; maybe I
won't. Ef the doctor is going to England with you, I am going; that
is sartin. Besides, even if I would let him go alone, which aren't
likely, maybe his word wouldn't be enough. One witness wouldn't do to
swear that this man who has stepped into your uncle's shoes ain't what
he pretends to be; but if thar is two of us can swear to him as being
Symonds the gambler, it'll go a long way. But you may have trouble even
then. Anyhow, don't you worry yourself about the gold-mine. Like enough
we should all have been wiped out by the Red-skins ef we had tried it.
Now I will just look in and see how the doctor is afore you go."

Sim returned in two minutes, saying that the doctor had drank a bowl
of soup, and had told the orderly who brought it that he was going to
sleep, as he wanted to get strong, being bound to start for a journey
in a week's time.

As the carriage was not to return until late, Hugh started to walk
over to Don Ramon's, as he wanted to think over the strange news he had
heard.

"Your friend is better, I hope," the señora said as he entered, "or you
would not have returned so soon."

"He is better, señora. We have made a strange discovery that has roused
him up, and given him new life, while it has closely affected me. With
your permission I will tell it to you all."

"Is it a story, Señor Hugh?" the younger girl said. "I love a story
above all things."

"It is a very curious story, señorita, as I am sure you will agree when
you hear it; but it is long, therefore, I pray you to make yourselves
comfortable before I begin."

As soon as they had seated themselves, Hugh told the story of the
flight of his uncle as a boy, of his long absence and return; of the
life at home, and the quarrel that had been the cause of his own flight
from home; and how he had that day discovered that his companions in
their late adventure had been his uncle's comrades and friends; and
how, comparing notes, he had found that his uncle had been murdered,
and that his assassin had gone over and occupied his place in England.
Many exclamations of surprise were uttered by his auditors.

"And what are you going to do now, señor?"

"I am going to start for home as soon as the doctor is well enough to
travel. I should have been willing to have first gone with them upon
the expedition upon which we were about to start when your daughters
were carried off, but Sim Howlett would not hear of it."

"I intended to have had my say in the matter," Don Ramon said, "and
have only been waiting to complete my arrangements. I have not hurried,
because I knew that until your companion died or recovered, you
would not be making a move. I am, as you know, señor, a very wealthy
man, wealthy even for a Mexican, and we have among us fortunes far
surpassing those of rich men among the Americans. In addition to my
broad lands, my flocks and herds, I have some rich silver mines in
Mexico which alone bring me in far more than we can spend. The ransom
that these brigands set upon my daughters was as nothing to me, and I
would have paid it five times over had I been sure of recovering them;
but, you see, this was what I was not sure of, and the fact that they
had not asked more when they knew how wealthy I was, in itself assured
me that they intended to play me false, and that it was their intention
to keep them and to continue to extort further sums.

"You and your friends restored my daughters to me. Now, Señor Hugh,
you are an English gentleman, and I know that you would feel the offer
of any reward for your inestimable services as an insult; but your
three companions are in a different position, two are miners and one
is a vaquero. I know well that in rendering me that service, there was
no thought of gain in their minds, and that they risked their lives
as freely as you did, and in the same spirit, that of a simple desire
to rescue women from the hands of scoundrels. That, however, makes no
difference whatever in my obligation towards them.

"My banker yesterday received the sum in gold that I directed him to
obtain to pay the ransom, and I have to-day given him orders to place
three sums of 25,000 dollars each at their disposal, so that they
need no longer lead their hard and perilous life, but can settle down
where they will. I know the independence of the Americans, señor, but
I rely upon you to convince these three men that they can take this
money without feeling that it is a payment for their services. They
have given me back my daughters at the risk of their lives, and they
must not refuse to allow me in turn to make them a gift, which is but a
small token of my gratitude, and will leave me still immeasurably their
debtor."

"I will indeed do my best to persuade them to accept your gift, Don
Ramon, and believe that I shall be able to do so. The doctor is a man
of nearly sixty, and Howlett is getting on in years, and it would be
well indeed for them now to give up the hard life they have led for so
long. As to Bill Royce, I have no doubt whatever. I have heard him say
many a time that his greatest ambition is to settle down in a big farm,
and this will enable him to do so in a manner surpassing anything he
can ever have dreamt of."

"And now, señor, about yourself. What you have just told us renders it
far more difficult than I had hitherto thought. We have talked it over,
I, my wife, Carlos, and my daughters. I knew that you were a gentleman,
but I did not know that you were the heir to property. I thought you
were, like others of your countrymen, who, seeing no opening at home,
had come out to make your way here. What we proposed was this. To ask
you whether your inclinations had turned most to cattle breeding or to
mining. In either case we could have helped you on the way. Had you
said ranching, I would have put you as manager on one of my largest
ranches on such terms that you would in a few years have been its
master. Had you said mining, I would have sent you down to my mine in
Mexico there to have first learned the nature of the work, then to have
become manager, and finally to have been my partner in the affair. But
now, what are we to do? You are going home. You have an estate awaiting
you, and our intentions have come to naught."

"I am just as much obliged to you, señor, as if you had carried them
out," Hugh said warmly, "and I thank you most deeply for having so
kindly proposed to advance my fortunes. Had I remained here I would
indeed have accepted gratefully one or other of your offers. As it is
I shall want for nothing, and I can assure you I feel that the small
share I took in the rescue of your daughters is more than repaid by the
great kindness that you have shown me."

The next day Hugh explained to two of his friends the gift that Don
Ramon had made them. Bill Royce, to whom he first spoke, was delighted.
"Jehosaphat!" he exclaimed, "that is something like. I thought when
the judge here paid us over our share of the reward for the capture of
those brigands, that it was about the biggest bit of luck that I had
ever heard of; but this beats all. That Don Ramon is a prince. Well,
no more ranching for me. I shall go back east and buy a farm there.
There was a girl promised to wait for me, but as that is eight years
ago, I don't suppose she has done it; still when I get back with 25,000
dollars in my pocket, I reckon I sha'n't be long before I find someone
ready to share it with me. And you say I can walk right into that bank
and draw it in gold?"

"Yes, you can, Bill, but I shouldn't advise you to do it."

"How am I to take the money, then, Lightning?"

"The bank will give you an order on some bank in New York, and when you
get there you can draw the money out as you like."

Sim Howlett received the news in silence. Then he said: "Waal, Hugh,
I don't see why we shouldn't take it; as Don Ramon says it isn't much
to him, and it is a big lump of money to us. I would have fought for
the gals just as willing if they had been _peóns_; but seeing as their
father's got more money than he knows what to do with, it is reasonable
and natural as he should want to get rid of the obligation to us, and
anyhow we saved him from having to pay 200,000 dollars as a beginning,
and perhaps as much as that over and over again, afore he got them
back. We had best say nothing to the doctor now his mind is set on one
thing, and he is going to get well so as to carry it out; when that job
is over it will be time enough to tell him about this. I am beginning
to feel too stiff for work, and the doc. was never any good that way,
and he is getting on now. I shall be able to persuade him when the time
comes, and shall tell him that if he won't keep his money, I shall have
to send back mine. But he is too sensible not to see, as I do, that it
is reasonable on the part of the don, and if he don't want it hisself,
he can give it to a hospital and share mine with me. I reckon we shall
hang together as long as we both live; so you can tell the don it is
settled, and that though we had no thought of money, we won't say no to
his offer."

Now that the doctor had made up his mind to live, he recovered with
wonderful rapidity, and in a fortnight was ready to travel.

Hugh took leave of Don Ramon and his family with great regret; they
were all much affected at parting with him, and he was obliged to
promise that if ever he crossed the Atlantic again he would come and
pay them a visit. Prince went back to his old stable, for the party
were going to travel down the Rio Grande by boat. At Matamoras, the
port at its mouth, they went by a coasting steamer to Galveston,
and thence by another steamer to New York. Here Royce left them,
and the other three crossed by a Cunarder to Liverpool. The quiet
and sea-voyage quite restored the doctor, who was by far the most
impatient of them to get to the journey's end. They had obtained a
compete rig-out of what Sim called store-clothes at New York, though
Hugh had some difficulty in persuading him to adopt the white shirt of
civilization.

On arriving Hugh wrote to Mr. Randolph saying that he had news of very
great importance to communicate to him, but that he did not wish to
appear at Carlisle until he had seen him, and therefore begged him to
write and make an appointment to meet him at Kendal on the third day
after he received the letter. The answer came in due time. It was short
and characteristic: "My dear Hugh, I am delighted to hear that you are
back in England again. You behaved like a fool in going away, and an
even greater one in staying away so long. However I will give you my
opinion more fully when I see you. I am very glad, for many reasons,
that you have returned. I can't think what you want to say to me,
but will arrive at Kendal by the train that gets in at 12 o'clock on
Thursday next."

When Mr. Randolph got out of the train at Kendal, Hugh was awaiting him
on the platform.

"Bless me! is this you?" he exclaimed, as the young fellow strode up to
him. "You were a big lad when you left, but you are a big man now, and
a Tunstall all over."

"Well, I have been gone nearly three years, you see, Mr. Randolph, and
that makes a difference at my age. I am past nineteen."

"Yes, I suppose you are, now I think of it. Well, well, where are we to
go?"

"I have got a private sitting-room at the hotel, and have two friends
there whom I want to introduce you to; when I tell you that they have
come all the way with me from Mexico to do me a service, they are, you
will acknowledge, friends worth having."

"Well, that looks as if there were really something in what you have
got to say to me, Hugh; men don't take such a journey as that unless
for some strong reason. What are your friends? for as I have no idea
what you have been doing these three years, I do not know whether you
have been consorting with princes or peasants."

"With a little of both, Mr. Randolph; one of my friends is a
Californian miner, and as good a specimen of one as you can meet with;
the other is a doctor, or rather, as I should say, has been a doctor,
for he has ceased for some years to practise, and has been exploring
and mining."

"And they have both come over purely for the sake of doing you a
service?" Mr. Randolph asked, elevating his eyebrows a little.

"Simply that, Mr. Randolph, strange as it may appear to your legal
mind. However, as this is the hotel where we are putting up, you won't
be kept much longer in a state of curiosity."

"Sim and Doctor, this is my oldest friend and trustee, Mr. Randolph.
Mr. Randolph, these are my two very good friends, Doctor Hunter and
Mr. Sim Howlett." In the States introductions are always performed
ceremoniously, and the two men shook hands gravely with the lawyer. "I
said, Mr. Randolph," Hugh went on, "that they were my good friends. I
may add that they were also the good friends of my late uncle, William
Tunstall."

"Of your late uncle, Hugh! What are you thinking about? Why, he is
alive and well; and more's the pity," he muttered to himself.

"I know what I am saying, Mr. Randolph. They were the dear friends of
my late uncle, William Tunstall, who was foully murdered in the town
of Sacramento, in California, on his way to San Francisco, in reply to
your summons to return to England."

Mr. Randolph looked in astonishment from one face to another as if to
assure himself that he heard correctly, but their gravity showed him
that he was not mistaken.

"Will Tunstall murdered in California!" he repeated; "then who is it
that--"

"The man who murdered him, and who, having possessed himself of his
letters and papers, came over here and took his place; a gambler of
the name of Symonds. My friend obtained a warrant from the sheriff at
Sacramento for his arrest on this charge of murder, and for upwards
of a year Dr. Hunter travelled over California and Mexico in search
of him. It never struck them that it was anything but a case of murder
for the money he had on him. The idea of the step Symonds really took,
of personating the man he had murdered, never occurred to them. We
met in New Mexico, and were a considerable time together before they
learned that my name was Tunstall, for out there men are known either
by their Christian names or by some nickname. Then at once they said
they had years before had a mate of the same name, and then gradually
on comparing notes the truth came out."

"Well--well--well--well!" Mr. Randolph murmured, seating himself
helplessly in a chair; "this is wonderful. You have taken away my
breath; this is amazing indeed; I can hardly take it in yet, lad. You
are sure of what you are saying? Quite sure that you are making no
mistake?"

"Quite certain. However, the doctor will tell you the story for
himself." This the doctor proceeded to do, narrating the events
at Cedar Gulch; how the murder had been discovered, and the body
identified; how a verdict of wilful murder against some person unknown
had been returned by a coroner's jury; how he and Sim Howlett had gone
down to Sacramento, and how they had traced the deed to the gambler
Symonds.

"There can be no doubt," Mr. Randolph said when he concluded, "that it
is as you say, and that this man is William Tunstall's murderer."

"And we shall be able to bring him to justice, shall we not?" Hugh
asked. "That was why I wanted you to meet me here, so that we could
arrange to arrest him before he had any suspicion of my return."

"Ah! that is a different thing altogether, Hugh. The evidence of your
two friends and the confirmation that can doubtless be obtained from
Sacramento as to the existence of the gravestone erected to William
Tunstall, and of the finding of the coroner's court, will no doubt
enable us to prove to the satisfaction of the courts here that this
scoundrel is an impostor. But the murder case is different.

"In the first place you would have to bring forward the charge, and
give your evidence in the United States, and obtain an application
for his extradition. British law has no jurisdiction as to a
murder committed in a foreign country. Having set the United States
authorities in action, you would return here and aid in obtaining an
order from a magistrate here for that extradition; the evidence of
your friends would doubtless be sufficient to induce a magistrate to
grant such an order, then he would be taken over to the States, and, I
suppose, sent down to California to be tried there. Your friends here
will be best able to judge whether any jury out there would convict
a man for a murder committed eight or ten years ago, unless the very
strongest evidence was forthcoming.

"It would be next to impossible to obtain the evidence of those people,
the waiters and others, from whom your friends gleaned the facts that
put them upon the trail of Symonds, and without that evidence there
is no legal proof that would hang a man. Morally, of course, there
would seem to be no doubt about it. He and you were in the mining camp
together, he knew the object for which Will Tunstall was leaving for
England, and that he was entitled to considerable property on arriving
here. He followed him down to Sacramento, or at any rate he went down
at that time. They were together drinking; there your uncle was found
murdered; this man appeared here with the letters that your uncle
carried, and obtained possession of the estate.

"It is a very strong chain of evidence, and were every link proved
might suffice to hang him here; but at present you have no actual
proof that Symonds ever was in Sacramento with him, or was the man he
was drinking with; and even could you find the waiters and others, it
is very unlikely that there would be any one to identify him after
all this time. Symonds' counsel would argue that there was no proof
whatever against his client, and he would, of course, claim that
Symonds knew nothing about the murder, but that he afterwards obtained
the papers from the man who really committed the murder, and that the
idea of coming over to England and personating Tunstall then for the
first time occurred to him. So I think you would find it extremely
difficult to get a verdict out in California merely on the evidence of
these two gentlemen, and of my own that he was possessed of a letter I
wrote to Tunstall. But in any case, if you decide to have him arrested
on the charge of murder, you will have to go back to California to set
the law in motion there, to get the State authorities to apply to the
supreme authorities of the United States to make an application to our
government for his arrest and extradition. You must do all this before
he has any idea that you have returned, or at any rate before he knows
that you have any idea of his crime; otherwise he will, of course, fly,
and we shall have no means of stopping him, and he might be in Fiji
before the application for his arrest was received here."

Hugh and his companions looked helplessly at each other. This was an
altogether unexpected blow. They had imagined they had but to give
their evidence to ensure the arrest, trial, and execution of William
Tunstall's murderer.

The doctor's fingers twitched, and the look that Sim Howlett knew so
well came into his eyes. He was about to spring to his feet when Sim
touched him.

"Wait, doctor," he said. "We will talk about that afterwards."

"Then what do you advise, Mr. Randolph?" Hugh asked after a long pause.

"I should say that for the present we should content ourselves
with arresting him on the charge of impersonation, and of obtaining
possession of your uncle's estate by fraud. I think the proof we now
have, in the evidence of these two gentlemen, and in this copy of the
finding of the coroner's jury, will be quite sufficient to ensure his
conviction, in which case he will get, I should say, seven years' penal
servitude--perhaps fourteen--for although he will not be charged with
that offence, the conviction that he murdered your uncle in order to
obtain possession of the estate cannot but be very strong in the mind
of the judge. Yes, I should think he would give him fourteen years
at least. We may, of course, want some other evidence that can be
obtained from Sacramento, such as an official copy of the record of the
proceedings at the coroner's inquest; but that would be a matter for
counsel to decide. My own opinion is, that the evidence of these two
gentlemen that the William Tunstall who corresponded with your father,
received my letter informing him of the will, and left the mining camp
on his way to England, and was murdered on his way to Sacramento, was
the real William Tunstall, will be quite sufficient.

"It is a very lucky thing for you, by the way, Hugh, that there were
provisions in your father's will, that if William Tunstall died without
issue his half of the property came back to you, for that clause has
effectually prevented him from selling his estate, which he would have
done long ago had it been possible to do so. To my knowledge he has
tried over and over again, and that clause has always prevented it.
He has raised a little money on his life interest, but that will of
course have no claim on the estate now. Now, what do you say? It is
for you to decide. In the one case you will have an enormous amount of
trouble, and you may finally fail in getting an American jury to find
this man guilty of the murder; and in any case, if they do find him so,
they will not execute him for a murder committed so long ago, and it
is probable that he will get off with imprisonment for life, and may
be acquitted altogether. On the other hand, if you have him arrested
at once here, on the charge of impersonation and fraud, he is morally
certain of getting a sentence which, at his age, will be pretty nearly
equivalent to imprisonment for life."

"I certainly think that is the best plan," Hugh agreed. "Don't you
think so?" he asked, turning to the others.

"I think so," Sim Howlett said at once; and even the doctor, though
less readily, agreed.

Since his last illness he had changed a good deal. He had no longer
fits of abstraction, and was brighter and more cheerful than Sim
Howlett had ever seen him before. The loss of blood and the low fever
that had brought him to death's door had apparently relieved his brain
of a load that had for years oppressed it.

"Let it be so," he said reluctantly. "Had we met out in the West it
would have been different; but as it is, perhaps it is best."

Late that evening the party proceeded to Carlisle, and early the
next morning Mr. Randolph went with the others to one of the county
magistrates, and, after laying all the facts before him, obtained a
warrant for the arrest of John Symonds alias William Tunstall.

"I must congratulate you, Mr. Tunstall," the magistrate said to Hugh
after he had signed the warrant, "upon your discovery. This scoundrel
has been a disgrace to your name. He has been for years a consorter
with betting men and blacklegs, and stands in the worst odour. It
is said that he has mortgaged his life interest in the estates and
completely ruined himself."

Mr. Randolph nodded. "Yes, I believe he is pretty well at the end of
his tether, and at any moment he might be turned out of Byrneside."

"Well, there is an end to all that," the magistrate said, "and the
men who have proved themselves even sharper rogues than he is, will
be disappointed. I am sorry for the person who has passed as your
aunt, for I know that she is spoken well of by the people in the
neighbourhood, and I fancy she has had a very hard time of it with him;
but of course she must have been his accomplice in this impersonation
of your uncle."

"I am sorry for her, very sorry," Hugh said. "She was always most kind
to me, and I have reason to believe that she did all in her power to
protect me from him. You see at my death he would have inherited the
whole property, and we now know that he was not a man to stick at
anything. I am sure that she acted in fear of him."

"I have private reasons for believing so too," Mr. Randolph said; "for,
unless I am greatly mistaken, she has deposited a document that, in
case of her death, would have exposed the whole plot, in the hands of
some legal friends of mine. However, we will not occupy your time any
longer, but will start at once with a couple of constables to execute
this warrant."

Returning to Carlisle Mr. Randolph secured the services of two
constables, and hiring vehicles they started at once for Byrneside.
On arriving there Mr. Randolph said to the servant, "Announce me to
Mr. Tunstall. Do not say that I am not alone." Following him closely
they went across the hall, and as he opened the door and announced Mr.
Randolph the others entered. The man was standing on the hearth-rug.
The woman looked flushed and excited. They were evidently in the
midst of a quarrel. Symonds looked up in angry surprise when the party
entered.

"Do your duty," Mr. Randolph said to one of the constables.

"_John Symonds, I arrest you under a warrant on the charge of
impersonation and fraud._"

A deep Mexican oath burst from the lips of the man, then he stood quiet
again.

"Who dares bring such a charge against me?" he asked.

"I do," Hugh said, stepping forward; "and these are my witnesses, men
who knew you at Cedar Gulch, and who identified the body of my murdered
uncle."

"Traitress!" Symonds exclaimed in Mexican, and in an instant his arm
was stretched out and there was a report of a pistol. "And she sent you
out!" he exclaimed, turning to Hugh, but as he was in the act of again
raising his arm there was the report of another pistol, and he fell
shot through the brain.

The others stood stupefied at the sudden catastrophe, but the doctor
said quietly, "I saw his hand go behind him, and knew he was up to
mischief. I ought not to have waited, it is always a mistake to wait in
these cases."

Hugh sprang forward towards the woman who had been kind to him, but she
had fallen back in her chair. The gambler's bullet had done its work;
it had struck her on the temple, and death had been instantaneous.

The excitement in the county when the news spread of what had taken
place at Byrneside was great indeed, and the revelations made before
the coroner's jury greatly added to it. They returned a verdict that
"Lola Symonds had been wilfully murdered by John Symonds, and that
the latter had come by his death at the hands of Frank Hunter, who
had justifiably shot at and killed him while opposing by armed means
the officers of the law, and that no blame attaches to the said Frank
Hunter."

When all was over, Hugh was warmly congratulated by the gentlemen who
had come in to be present at the inquest, upon his recovery of the
whole of his father's estate, and upon his escape from the danger he
had certainly run at the hands of the murderer of his uncle. He was
much affected by the death of the woman he still thought of as his
aunt, and the document that she deposited at the lawyers' in London
showed how completely she had acted under fear of her husband, and that
she had knowingly risked her life to save his.

The doctor and Sim Howlett remained for a fortnight with him at
Byrneside. He had urged upon them to make it their home for a while and
to settle near him; but at the end of that time the doctor said to him
one evening: "Sim and I have talked matters over, Hugh, and we have
made up our minds. I have heard from him that we are each the owners
of 25,000 dollars. I should not have taken it had I known it at the
time, but I should not like to hurt the don's feelings by sending it
back now, and perhaps it will do more good in my hands than in his.
So Sim and I are going back to California. We shall buy a place near
the spot where I lived many years ago--Sim tells me he has told you
the story--and there we shall finish our days. When we die the money
will go to charities. That is our plan, lad. We shall find plenty to
help, and what with that and a little gardening our time will be well
occupied, and Sim and I will have plenty in the past to look back upon
and talk about."

And so a week later they sailed. Hugh went with them to Liverpool
and saw them off, and then travelled for a time on the Continent, for
Byrneside was repugnant to him after the tragedy that had been enacted
there.

On his return he went down to Norfolk and stayed for some time with
Luscombe, and the visit was so pleasant that it was repeated whenever
he happened to be in England.

Three years later he crossed the Atlantic again. He traversed the
States more easily now, for the railway across was almost completed.
After spending a month in California with the doctor and Sim Howlett,
whom he found well and happy, he visited Don Ramon at El Paso. There
had been changes here, for both Don Carlos and his two sisters were
married, and all insisted upon his being their guest for a time.

His first visit after his return to England was again to Norfolk. It
was a short but important one, and on its termination he went back to
Byrneside to give orders for many changes and alterations that were to
be made with all speed in view of the coming of a new mistress. It had
for some time past been apparent to Luscombe that the remark he had
laughingly made years before on the banks of the Canadian was likely to
bear fruit, and that his sister Phillis constituted no small portion
of the attraction that brought Hugh down to Norfolk. Indeed, before
leaving for the States Hugh had chatted the matter over with him.

"Of course, you have seen, Luscombe, how it has been. I shall be
three-and-twenty by the time I get back, which is quite young enough
for a man to talk about marriage. As soon as I do I shall ask Phillis."

"Just as well to wait, Hugh. It seems to me that you and Phillis pretty
well understand each other; but I don't see any use in engagements
till one can fix a date for the marriage, and as you have made up your
mind to go on this trip, it will save you both a lot of trouble in the
way of writing to leave it alone until you come back. It is a horrid
nuisance to keep on writing letters when you are travelling. Besides,
you know, the governor has strong ideas against early marriages, and
will think you quite young enough then, and so I should say leave it as
it stands."

And so Hugh had left it; but it is doubtful whether he had left Phillis
quite in ignorance of what would be said on his return. At any rate no
time was required by her before giving an answer to the question when
it was put, and two months later the marriage took place. Many as were
the presents that the bride received, they were thrown completely into
the shade by that which arrived as a joint gift from Don Ramon and
his family a few days before the wedding, being sent by their order
from Tiffany's, the great jeweller of New York. It consisted of a case
of jewellery of extraordinary value and magnificence and was, as Mr.
Luscombe, senior, remarked, suitable rather for a princess of royal
blood than for the wife of a Cumberland squire.

The return of Mr. and Mrs. Tunstall after the termination of their
honeymoon to Byrneside was hailed with great rejoicing by the tenantry,
who were happy to know that the old state of things had at last
returned, and that a resident landlord with an English wife would in
future be established in the family mansion.


THE END.


Typography by J. S. Cushing & Co., Boston.

Presswork by Berwick & Smith, Boston.



"Wherever English is spoken one imagines that Mr. Henty's name is
known. One cannot enter a schoolroom or look at a boy's bookshelf
without seeing half-a-dozen of his familiar volumes. Mr. Henty is no
doubt the most successful writer for boys, and the one to whose new
volumes they look forward every Christmas with most pleasure."--_Review
of Reviews._


A LIST OF BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

... By ...

  G. A. HENTY                         GORDON STABLES
  G. M. FENN                          ROBERT LEIGHTON
  S. BARING-GOULD                     HARRY COLLINGWOOD
  KIRK MUNROE                         ROSA MULHOLLAND
  F. FRANKFORT MOORE                  ALICE CORKRAN, ETC.

     Published by
     CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

     153 to 157 Fifth Avenue      New York


G. A. HENTY'S POPULAR STORIES FOR BOYS

NEW VOLUMES FOR 1897-98

Mr. Henty, the most popular writer of Books of Adventure in England,
adds three new volumes to his list this fall--books that will delight
thousands of boys on this side who have become his ardent admirers.


WITH FREDERICK THE GREAT

A Tale of the Seven Years' War. With 12 full-page illustrations. 12mo,
$1.50.

The hero of this story while still a youth entered the service of
Frederick the Great, and by a succession of fortunate circumstances and
perilous adventures, rose to the rank of colonel. Attached to the staff
of the king, he rendered distinguished services in many battles, in one
of which he saved the king's life. Twice captured and imprisoned, he
both times escaped from the Austrian fortresses.

The story follows closely the historic lines, and no more vivid
description of the memorable battles of Rossbach, Leuthen, Prague,
Zorndorf, Hochkirch, and Torgau can be found anywhere than is here
given. Woven in this there runs the record of the daring and hazardous
adventures of the hero, and the whole narrative has thus, with historic
accuracy, the utmost charm of romance.


A MARCH ON LONDON

A Story of Wat Tyler's Rising. With 8 full-page illustrations by W. H.
Margetson. 12mo, $1.50.

The story of Wat Tyler's Rebellion is but little known, but the hero
of this story passes through that perilous time and takes part in the
civil war in Flanders which followed soon after. Although young he is
thrown into many exciting and dangerous adventures, through which he
passes with great coolness and much credit. Brought into royal favor
he is knighted for bravery on the battlefield, and saving the lives of
some wealthy merchants, he realizes fortune with his advancement and
rank. New light is thrown on the history of this time and the whole
story is singularly interesting.


WITH MOORE AT CORUNNA.

A Story of the Peninsular War. With 12 full-page illustrations by Wal
Paget. 12mo, $1.50.

A bright Irish lad, Terence O'Connor, is living with his widowed
father, Captain O'Connor of the Mayo Fusiliers, with the regiment at
the time when the Peninsular war began. Upon the regiment being ordered
to Spain, Terence received a commission of ensign and accompanied it.
On the way out, by his quickness of wit he saved the ship from capture
and, instead, aided in capturing two French privateers. Arriving in
Portugal, he ultimately gets appointed as aid to one of the generals
of a division. By his bravery and great usefulness throughout the war,
he is rewarded by a commission as Colonel in the Portuguese army and
there rendered great service, being mentioned twice in the general
orders of the Duke of Wellington. The whole story is full of exciting
military experiences and gives a most careful and accurate account of
the various campaigns.

"No country nor epoch of history is there which Mr. Henty does not
know, and what is really remarkable is that he always writes well and
interestingly."--_New York Times._


AT AGINCOURT

A Tale of the White Hoods of Paris. With 12 full-page Illustrations by
Walter Paget. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The story begins in a grim feudal castle in Normandie, on the old
frontier between France and England, where the lad Guy Aylmer had gone
to join his father's old friend Sir Eustace de Villeroy. The times
were troublous and soon the French king compelled Lady Margaret de
Villeroy with her children to go to Paris as hostages for Sir Eustace's
loyalty. Guy Aylmer went with her as her page and body-guard. Paris was
turbulent and the populace riotous. Soon the guild of the butchers,
adopting white hoods as their uniform, seized the city, and besieged
the house where our hero and his charges lived. After desperate
fighting, the white hoods were beaten and our hero and his charges
escaped from the city, and from France. He came back to share in the
great battle of Agincourt, and when peace followed returned with honor
to England.


ON THE IRRAWADDY

A Story of the First Burmese War. With 8 full-page Illustrations by W.
H. Overend. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The hero having an uncle, a trader on the Indian and Burmese rivers,
goes out to join him. Soon after war is declared by Burmah against
England and he is drawn into it. His familiarity with the Burmese
customs and language make him of such use that he is put upon Sir
Archibald Campbell's staff. He has many experiences and narrow escapes
in battles and in scouting. With half-a-dozen men he rescues his cousin
who had been taken prisoner, and in the flight they are besieged in an
old ruined temple. His escape and ultimate successful return to England
show what a clear head with pluck can do.


WITH COCHRANE THE DAUNTLESS

A Tale of the Exploits of Lord Cochrane in South American Waters.
With 12 full-page Illustrations by W. H. Margetson. Crown 8vo, olivine
edges, $1.50.

The hero of this story, an orphaned lad, accompanies Cochrane as
midshipman, and serves in the war between Chili and Peru. He has many
exciting adventures in battles by sea and land, is taken prisoner
and condemned to death by the Inquisition, but escapes by a long and
thrilling flight across South America and down the Amazon, piloted by
two faithful Indians. His pluck and coolness prove him a fit companion
to Cochrane the Dauntless, and his final success is well deserved.

"Boys like stirring adventures, and Mr. Henty is a master of this
method of composition."--_New York Times._


A KNIGHT OF THE WHITE CROSS

A Tale of the Siege of Rhodes. With 12 full-page Illustrations by Ralph
Peacock, and a Plan. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

Gervaise Tresham, the hero of this story, joins the Order of the
Knights of St. John, and leaving England he proceeds to the stronghold
of Rhodes. Subsequently, Gervaise is made a Knight of the White Cross
for valor, while soon after he is appointed commander of a war-galley,
and in his first voyage destroys a fleet of Moorish corsairs. During
one of his cruises the young knight is attacked on shore, captured
after a desperate struggle, and sold into slavery in Tripoli. He
succeeds in escaping, however, and returns to Rhodes in time to take
part in the splendid defence of that fortress. Altogether a fine
chivalrous tale of varied interest and full of noble daring.


THE TIGER OF MYSORE

A Story of the War with Tippoo Saib. With 12 full-page Illustrations by
W. H. Margetson, and a Map. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

Dick Holland, whose father is supposed to be a captive of Tippoo Saib,
goes to India to help him to escape. He joins the army under Lord
Cornwallis, and takes part in the campaign against Tippoo. Afterwards,
he assumes a disguise, enters Seringapatam, the capital of Mysore,
rescues Tippoo's harem from a tiger, and is appointed to high office
by the tyrant. In this capacity Dick visits the hill fortresses, still
in search of his father, and at last he discovers him in the great
stronghold of Savandroog. The hazardous rescue through the enemy's
country is at length accomplished, and the young fellow's dangerous
mission is done.


THROUGH RUSSIAN SNOWS

A Story of Napoleon's Retreat from Moscow. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by W. H. Overend, and 3 Maps. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

The hero, Julian Wyatt, after several adventures with smugglers, by
whom he is handed over a prisoner to the French, regains his freedom
and joins Napoleon's army in the Russian campaign, and reaches Moscow
with the victorious Emperor. Then, when the terrible retreat begins,
Julian finds himself in the rear guard of the French army, fighting
desperately, league by league, against famine, snow-storms, wolves,
and Russians. Ultimately he escapes out of the general disaster,
after rescuing the daughter of a Russian Count; makes his way to St.
Petersburg, and then returns to England. A story with an excellent
plot, exciting adventures, and splendid historical interests.

"Here we have Mr. George Henty--the Boys' Own Author."--_Punch._


WULF THE SAXON

A Story of the Norman Conquest. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by Ralph Peacock. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The hero is a young thane who wins the favor of Earl Harold and becomes
one of his retinue. When Harold becomes King of England Wulf assists
in the Welsh wars, and takes part against the Norsemen at the Battle of
Stamford Bridge. When William of Normandy invades England, Wulf is with
the English host at Hastings, and stands by his king to the last in
the mighty struggle. Altogether this is a noble tale. Wulf himself is
a rare example of Saxon vigor, and the spacious background of stormful
history lends itself admirably to heroic romance.


BERIC THE BRITON

A Story of the Roman Invasion. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by W. Parkinson. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

This story deals with the invasion of Britain by the Roman legionaries.
Beric, who is a boy-chief of a British tribe, takes a prominent part in
the insurrection under Boadicea: and after the defeat of that heroic
queen (in A.D. 62) he continues the struggle in the fen-country.
Ultimately Beric is defeated and carried captive to Rome, where he is
trained in the exercise of arms in a school of gladiators. Such is the
skill which he there acquires that he succeeds in saving a Christian
maid by slaying a lion in the arena, and is rewarded by being made
librarian in the palace, and the personal protector of Nero. Finally
he escapes from this irksome service, organizes a band of outlaws in
Calabria, defies the power of Rome, and at length returns to Britain,
where he becomes a wise ruler of his own people.


WHEN LONDON BURNED

A Story of the Plague and the Fire. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by J. Finnemore. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The hero of this story was the son of a nobleman who had lost his
estates during the troublous times of the Commonwealth. Instead of
hanging idly about the court seeking favors, Cyril Shenstone determined
to maintain himself by honest work. During the Great Plague and the
Great Fire, which visited London with such terrible results, Sir Cyril
was prominent among those who brought help to the panic-stricken
inhabitants. This tale has rich variety of interest, both national
and personal, and in the hero you have an English lad of the noblest
type--wise, humane, and unselfish.

"Ask for Henty, and see that you get him."--_Punch._


THE DASH FOR KHARTOUM

A Tale of the Nile Expedition. By G. A. Henty. With 10 full-page
Illustrations by John Schönberg and J. Nash. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

In the record of recent British history there is no more captivating
page for boys than the story of the Nile campaign, and the attempt to
rescue General Gordon. For, in the difficulties which the expedition
encountered, in the perils which it overpassed, and in its final tragic
disappointments, are found all the excitements of romance, as well as
the fascination which belongs to real events.


BONNIE PRINCE CHARLIE

A Tale of Fontenoy and Culloden. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The adventures of the son of a Scotch officer in French service. The
boy, brought up by a Glasgow bailie, is arrested for aiding a Jacobite
agent, escapes, is wrecked on the French coast, reaches Paris, and
serves with the French army at Dettingen. He kills his father's foe
in a duel, and escaping to the coast, shares the adventures of Prince
Charlie, but finally settles happily in Scotland.


UNDER DRAKE'S FLAG

A Tale of the Spanish Main. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

A story of the days when England and Spain struggled for the supremacy
of the sea. The heroes sail as lads with Drake in the Pacific
expedition, and in his great voyage of circumnavigation. The historical
portion of the story is absolutely to be relied upon, but this will
perhaps be less attractive than the great variety of exciting adventure
through which the young heroes pass in the course of their voyages.


WITH WOLFE IN CANADA

Or, The Winning of a Continent. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

Mr. Henty here gives an account of the struggle between Britain and
France for supremacy in the North American continent. The fall of
Quebec decided that the Anglo-Saxon race should predominate in the New
World; and that English and American commerce, the English language,
and English literature, should spread right round the globe.

"Mr. Henty is one of the best of story-tellers for young
people."--_Spectator._


BY PIKE AND DYKE

A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic. By G. A. Henty. With 10
full-page Illustrations by Maynard Brown, and 4 Maps. Crown 8vo,
olivine edges, $1.50.

In this story Mr. Henty traces the adventures and brave deeds of an
English boy in the household of the ablest man of his age--William the
Silent. Edward Martin, the son of an English sea-captain, enters the
service of the Prince as a volunteer, and is employed by him in many
dangerous and responsible missions, in the discharge of which he passes
through the great sieges of the time.


BY ENGLAND'S AID

Or, The Freeing of the Netherlands (1585-1604). By G. A. Henty. With
10 full-page Illustrations by Alfred Pearse, and 4 Maps. Crown 8vo,
olivine edges, $1.50.

The story of two English lads who go to Holland as pages in the service
of one of "the fighting Veres." After many adventures by sea and land,
one of the lads finds himself on board a Spanish ship at the time of
the defeat of the Armada, and escapes only to fall into the hands of
the Corsairs. He is successful in getting back to Spain, and regains
his native country after the capture of Cadiz.


IN THE HEART OF THE ROCKIES

A Story of Adventure in Colorado. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by G. C. Hindley. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

From first to last this is a story of splendid hazard. The hero,
Tom Wade, goes to seek his uncle in Colorado, who is a hunter and
gold-digger, and he is discovered, after many dangers, out on the
plains with some comrades. Going in quest of a gold mine the little
band is spied by Indians, chased across the Bad Lands, and overwhelmed
by a snowstorm in the mountains.


BY RIGHT OF CONQUEST

Or, With Cortez in Mexico. By G. A. Henty. With 10 full-page
Illustrations by W. S. Stacey, and 2 Maps. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

With the Conquest of Mexico as the ground-work of his story, Mr. Henty
has interwoven the adventures of an English youth. He is beset by many
perils among the natives, but by a ruse he obtains the protection of
the Spaniards, and after the fall of Mexico he succeeds in regaining
his native shore, with a fortune and a charming Aztec bride.

"No living writer of books for boys writes to better purpose than Mr.
G. A. Henty."--_Philadelphia Press_.


TRUE TO THE OLD FLAG

A Tale of the American War of Independence. By G. A. Henty. With 12
full-page Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

A graphic and vigorous story of the American Revolution, which paints
the scenes with great power, and does full justice to the pluck and
determination of the soldiers during the unfortunate struggle.


THE LION OF ST. MARK

A Tale of Venice in the Fourteenth Century. By G. A. Henty. With 10
full-page Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

A story of Venice at a period when her strength and splendor were put
to the severest tests. The hero displays a fine sense and manliness
which carry him safely through an atmosphere of intrigue, crime, and
bloodshed. He contributes largely to the victories of the Venetians at
Porto d'Anzo and Chioggia, and finally wins the hand of the daughter of
one of the chief men of Venice.


THE LION OF THE NORTH

A Tale of Gustavus Adolphus and the Wars of Religion. By G. A. Henty.
With 12 full-page Illustrations by John Schönberg. Crown 8vo, olivine
edges, $1.50.

In this story Mr. Henty gives the history of the first part of the
Thirty Years' War. The issue had its importance, which has extended
to the present day, as it established religious freedom in Germany.
The army of the chivalrous King of Sweden was largely composed of
Scotchmen, and among these was the hero of the story.


IN GREEK WATERS

A Story of the Grecian War of Independence (1821-1827). By G. A. Henty.
With 12 full-page Illustrations by W. S. Stacey, and a Map. Crown 8vo,
olivine edges, $1.50.

Deals with the revolt of the Greeks in 1821 against Turkish oppression.
Mr. Beveridge and his son Horace fit out a privateer, load it with
military stores, and set sail for Greece. They rescue the Christians,
relieve the captive Greeks, and fight the Turkish war vessels.

"Mr. Henty's books never fail to interest boy readers."--_Academy._


WITH CLIVE IN INDIA

Or, The Beginnings of an Empire. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne, and a Map. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

The period between the landing of Clive in India and the close of his
career was eventful in the extreme. At its commencement the English
were traders existing on sufferance of the native princes; at its close
they were masters of Bengal and of the greater part of Southern India.
The author has given a full account of the events of that stirring
time, while he combines with his narrative a thrilling tale of daring
and adventure.


THE YOUNG CARTHAGINIAN

A Story of the Times of Hannibal. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by C. J. Staniland, R.I. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

There is no better field for romance-writers in the whole of history
than the momentous struggle between the Romans and Carthaginians for
the empire of the world. Mr. Henty has had the full advantage of much
unexhausted picturesque and impressive material, and has thus been
enabled to form a striking historic background to as exciting a story
of adventure as the keenest appetite could wish.


FOR THE TEMPLE

A Tale of the Fall of Jerusalem. By G. A. Henty. With 10 full-page
Illustrations by S. J. Solomon, and a colored Map. Crown 8vo, olivine
edges, $1.50.

Mr Henty here weaves into the record of Josephus an admirable and
attractive story. The troubles in the district of Tiberias, the march
of the legions, the sieges of Jotapata, of Gamala, and of Jerusalem,
form the impressive setting to the figure of the lad who becomes
the leader of a guerrilla band of patriots, fights bravely for the
Temple, and after a brief term of slavery at Alexandria, returns to his
Galilean home.


THROUGH THE FRAY

A Story of the Luddite Riots. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by H. M. Paget. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The story is laid in Yorkshire at the commencement of the present
century, when the high price of food induced by the war and the
introduction of machinery drove the working-classes to desperation,
and caused them to band themselves in that wide-spread organization
known as the Luddite Society. There is an abundance of adventure in
the tale, but its chief interest lies in the character of the hero, and
the manner in which he is put on trial for his life, but at last comes
victorious "through the fray."

"The brightest of all the living writers whose office it is to enchant
the boys."--_Christian Leader._


CAPTAIN BAYLEY'S HEIR

A Tale of the Gold Fields of California. By G. A. Henty. With 12
full-page Illustrations by H. M. Paget. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

A frank, manly lad and his cousin are rivals in the heirship of a
considerable property. The former falls into a trap laid by the latter,
and while under a false accusation of theft foolishly leaves England
for America. He works his passage before the mast, joins a small band
of hunters, crosses a tract of country infested with Indians to the
Californian gold diggings, and is successful both as digger and trader.


IN FREEDOM'S CAUSE

A Story of Wallace and Bruce. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

Relates the stirring tale of the Scottish War of Independence. The
hero of the tale fought under both Wallace and Bruce, and while the
strictest historical accuracy has been maintained with respect to
public events, the work is full of "hairbreadth 'scapes" and wild
adventure.


A JACOBITE EXILE

Being the Adventures of a Young Englishman in the Service of Charles
XII. of Sweden. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page Illustrations by Paul
Hardy, and a Map. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

Sir Marmaduke Carstairs, a Jacobite, is the victim of a conspiracy, and
he is denounced as a plotter against the life of King William. He flies
to Sweden, accompanied by his son Charlie. This youth joins the foreign
legion under Charles XII., and takes a distinguished part in several
famous campaigns against the Russians and Poles.


CONDEMNED AS A NIHILIST

A Story of Escape from Siberia. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The hero of this story is an English boy resident in St. Petersburg.
Through two student friends he becomes innocently involved in various
political plots, resulting in his seizure by the Russian police and
his exile to Siberia. He ultimately escapes, and, after many exciting
adventures, he reaches Norway, and thence home, after a perilous
journey which lasts nearly two years.

"Mr. Henty is one of our most successful writers of historical
tales."--_Scotsman._


IN THE REIGN OF TERROR

The Adventures of a Westminster Boy. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by J. Schönberg. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

Harry Sandwith, a Westminster boy, becomes a resident at the chateau of
a French marquis, and after various adventures accompanies the family
to Paris at the crisis of the Revolution. Imprisonment and death reduce
their number, and the hero finds himself beset by perils with the
three young daughters of the house in his charge. After hair-breadth
escapes they reach Nantes. There the girls are condemned to death
in the coffinships, but are saved by the unfailing courage of their
boy-protector.


ST. GEORGE FOR ENGLAND

A Tale of Cressy and Poitiers. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

No portion of English history is more crowded with great events than
that of the reign of Edward III. Cressy and Poitiers; the destruction
of the Spanish fleet; the plague of the Black Death; the Jacquerie
rising; these are treated by the author in "St. George for England."
The hero of the story, although of good family, begins life as a London
apprentice, but after countless adventures and perils becomes by valor
and good conduct the squire, and at last the trusted friend of the
Black Prince.


A CHAPTER OF ADVENTURES

Or, Through the Bombardment of Alexandria. By G. A. Henty. With 6
full-page Illustrations by W. H. Overend. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

A coast fishing lad, by an act of heroism, secures the interest of a
shipowner, who places him as an apprentice on board one of his ships.
In company with two of his fellow-apprentices he is left behind,
at Alexandria, in the hands of the revolted Egyptian troops, and is
present through the bombardment and the scenes of riot and blood-shed
which accompanied it.


HELD FAST FOR ENGLAND

A Tale of the Siege of Gibraltar. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

This story deals with one of the most memorable sieges in history--the
siege of Gibraltar in 1779-83 by the united forces of France and
Spain. With land forces, fleets, and floating batteries, the combined
resources of two great nations, this grim fortress was vainly besieged
and bombarded. The hero of the tale, an English lad resident in
Gibraltar, takes a brave and worthy part in the long defence, and it
is through his varied experiences that we learn with what bravery,
resource, and tenacity the Rock was held for England.

"Among writers of stories of adventures for boys Mr. Henty stands in
the very first rank."--_Academy._


FOR NAME AND FAME

Or, Through Afghan Passes. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

An interesting story of the last war in Afghanistan. The hero, after
being wrecked and going through many stirring adventures among the
Malays, finds his way to Calcutta and enlists in a regiment proceeding
to join the army at the Afghan passes. He accompanies the force under
General Roberts to the Peiwar Kotal, is wounded, taken prisoner,
carried to Cabul, whence he is transferred to Candahar, and takes part
in the final defeat of the army of Ayoub Khan.


ORANGE AND GREEN

A Tale of the Boyne and Limerick. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The record of two typical families--the Davenants, who, having come
over with Strongbow, had allied themselves in feeling to the original
inhabitants; and the Whitefoots, who had been placed by Cromwell
over certain domains of the Davenants. In the children the spirit of
contention has given place to friendship, and though they take opposite
sides in the struggle between James and William, their good-will and
mutual service are never interrupted, and in the end the Davenants come
happily to their own again.


MAORI AND SETTLER

A Story of the New Zealand War. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Alfred Pearse. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The Renshaws emigrate to New Zealand during the period of the war
with the natives. Wilfrid, a strong, self-reliant, courageous lad, is
the mainstay of the household. He has for his friend Mr. Atherton, a
botanist and naturalist of herculean strength and unfailing nerve and
humor. In the adventures among the Maoris, there are many breathless
moments in which the odds seem hopelessly against the party, but they
succeed in establishing themselves happily in one of the pleasant New
Zealand valleys.


A FINAL RECKONING

A Tale of Bush Life in Australia. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by W. B. Wollen. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The hero, a young English lad, after rather a stormy boyhood, emigrates
to Australia and gets employment as an officer in the mounted police.
A few years of active work on the frontier, where he has many a brush
with both natives and bush-rangers, gain him promotion to a captaincy,
and he eventually settles down to the peaceful life of a squatter.

"Mr. Henty's books are welcome visitors in the home circle."--_Daily
News._


THE BRAVEST OF THE BRAVE

Or, With Peterborough in Spain. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by H. M. Paget. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

There are few great leaders whose lives and actions have so completely
fallen into oblivion as those of the Earl of Peterborough. This is
largely due to the fact that they were overshadowed by the glory and
successes of Marlborough. His career as General extended over little
more than a year, and yet, in that time, he showed a genius for warfare
which has never been surpassed.


THE DRAGON AND THE RAVEN

Or, The Days of King Alfred. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by C. J. Staniland, R.I. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

In this story the author gives an account of the fierce struggle
between Saxon and Dane for supremacy in England, and presents a vivid
picture of the misery and ruin to which the country was reduced by the
ravages of the sea-wolves. The hero, a young Saxon thane, takes part
in all the battles fought by King Alfred. He is driven from his home,
takes to the sea, and resists the Danes on their own element, and being
pursued by them up the Seine, is present at the long and desperate
siege of Paris.


FACING DEATH

Or, The Hero of the Vaughan Pit. A Tale of the Coal Mines. By G. A.
Henty. With 8 full-page Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo,
olivine edges, $1.50.

"Facing Death" is a story with a purpose. It is intended to show that
a lad who makes up his mind firmly and resolutely that he will rise
in life, and who is prepared to face toil and ridicule and hardship
to carry out his determination, is sure to succeed. The hero of the
story is a typical British boy, dogged, earnest, generous, and though
"shamefaced" to a degree, is ready to face death in the discharge of
duty.


BY SHEER PLUCK

A Tale of the Ashanti War. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The author has woven, in a tale of thrilling interest, all the details
of the Ashanti campaign, of which he was himself a witness. His hero,
after many exciting adventures in the interior, is detained a prisoner
by the king just before the outbreak of the war, but escapes, and
accompanies the English expedition on their march to Coomassie.

"Mr. Henty might with entire propriety be called the boys' Sir Walter
Scott."--_Philadelphia Press._


THE CAT OF BUBASTES

A Story of Ancient Egypt. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

A story which will give young readers an unsurpassed insight into the
customs of the Egyptian people. Amuba, a prince of the Rebu nation, is
carried with his charioteer Jethro into slavery. They become inmates
of the house of Ameres, the Egyptian high-priest, and are happy in his
service until the priest's son accidentally kills the sacred cat of
Bubastes. In an outburst of popular fury Ameres is killed, and it rests
with Jethro and Amuba to secure the escape of the high-priest's son and
daughter.


ONE OF THE 28TH

A Tale of Waterloo. By G. A. Henty. With 8 full-page Illustrations by
W. H. Overend, and 2 Maps. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The hero of this story, Ralph Conway, has many varied and exciting
adventures. He enters the army, and after some rough service in Ireland
takes part in the Waterloo campaign, from which he returns with the
loss of an arm, but with a substantial fortune.


STURDY AND STRONG

Or, How George Andrews made his Way. By G. A. Henty. With 4 full-page
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

The history of a hero of everyday life, whose love of truth, clothing
of modesty, and innate pluck, carry him, naturally, from poverty to
affluence. George Andrews is an example of character with nothing to
cavil at, and stands as a good instance of chivalry in domestic life.


TALES OF DARING AND DANGER

By G. A. Henty. With 2 full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo, 75 cents.

Containing five stories, varied in scene and character, but all of
adventurous interest and telling of youthful heroism under dangerous
and trying circumstances on land and on sea.


YARNS ON THE BEACH

By G. A. Henty. With 2 full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo, 75 cents.

This book should find special favor among boys. The yarns are spun by
old sailors, and are admirably calculated to foster a manly spirit.

"Surely Mr. Henty should understand boys' tastes better than any man
living."--_The Times._


ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S EVE

A Tale of the Huguenot Wars. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by H. J. Draper, and a Map. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

The hero, Philip Fletcher, is a right true English lad, but he has a
French connection on his mother's side. This kinship induces him to
cross the Channel in order to take a share in that splendid struggle
for freedom known as the Huguenot wars. Naturally he sides with the
Protestants, distinguishes himself in various battles, and receives
rapid promotion for the zeal and daring with which he carries out
several secret missions. It is an enthralling narrative throughout.


REDSKIN AND COW-BOY

A Tale of the Western Plains. By G. A. Henty. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by Alfred Pearse. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The central interest of this story is found in the many adventures of
an English lad who seeks employment as a cow-boy on a cattle ranch.
His experiences during a "round-up" present in picturesque form the
toilsome, exciting, adventurous life of a cow-boy; while the perils
of a frontier settlement are vividly set forth in an Indian raid,
accompanied by pillage, capture, and recapture. The story is packed
full of breezy adventure.


WITH LEE IN VIRGINIA

A Story of the American Civil War. By G. A. Henty. With 10 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne, and 6 Maps. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

The story of a young Virginian planter, who, after bravely proving his
sympathy with the slaves of brutal masters, serves with no less courage
and enthusiasm under Lee and Jackson through the most exciting events
of the struggle. He has many hairbreadth escapes, is several times
wounded, and twice taken prisoner; but his courage and readiness and,
in two cases, the devotion of a black servant and of a runaway slave
whom he had assisted bring him safely through all difficulties.


THROUGH THE SIKH WAR

A Tale of the Conquest of the Punjaub. By G. A. Henty. With 12
full-page Illustrations by Hal Hurst, and a Map. Crown 8vo, olivine
edges, $1.50.

Percy Groves, a spirited English lad, joins his uncle in the Punjaub,
where the natives are in a state of revolt. When the authorities at
Lahore proclaim war Percy joins the British force as a volunteer, and
takes a distinguished share in the famous battles of the Punjaub.


BY ROBERT LEIGHTON

"Mr. Leighton's place is in the front rank of writers of boys'
books."--_Standard._


THE GOLDEN GALLEON

Illustrated, crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

This is a story of Queen Elizabeth's time, just after the defeat of
the Spanish Armada. Mr. Leighton introduces in his work the great
sea-fighters of Plymouth town--Hawkins, Drake, Raleigh, and Richard
Grenville.


OLAF THE GLORIOUS

By Robert Leighton. With 8 full-page Illustrations by Ralph Peacock.
Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

This story of Olaf, King of Norway, opens with his being found living
as a bond-slave in Esthonia, and follows him through his romantic youth
in Russia. Then come his adventures as a Viking, his raids upon the
coasts of Scotland and England, and his conversion to Christianity.
He returns to Norway as king, and converts his people to the Christian
faith.


WRECK OF "THE GOLDEN FLEECE"

The Story of a North Sea Fisher-boy. By Robert Leighton. With 8
full-page Illustrations by Frank Brangwyn. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

The hero is a parson's son who is apprenticed on board a Lowestoft
fishing lugger. The lad suffers many buffets from his shipmates, while
the storms and dangers which he braved are set forth with intense
power.


THE THIRSTY SWORD

A Story of the Norse Invasion of Scotland (1262-63). By Robert
Leighton. With 8 full-page Illustrations by Alfred Pearse, and a Map.
Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

This story tells how Roderic MacAlpin, the sea-rover, came to the Isle
of Bute; how he slew his brother in Rothesay Castle; how the earl's
eldest son was likewise slain; how young Kenric now became king of
Bute, and vowed vengeance against the slayer of his brother and father;
and finally, how this vow was kept, when Kenric and the murderous
sea-rover met at midnight and ended their feud in one last great fight.


THE PILOTS OF POMONA

A Story of the Orkney Islands. By Robert Leighton. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by John Leighton, and a Map. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

Halcro Ericson, the hero, happens upon many exciting adventures and
hardy experiences, through which he carries himself with quiet courage.
The story gives a vivid presentation of life in these far northern
islands.


BY KIRK MUNROE

THE "WHITE CONQUERORS" SERIES

WITH CROCKETT AND BOWIE

Or, Fighting for the Lone Star Flag. A Tale of Texas. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Victor Pérard. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

The story is of the Texas revolution in 1835, when American Texans
under Sam Houston, Bowie, Crockett, and Travis, fought for relief from
the intolerable tyranny of the Mexican Santa Aña. The hero, Rex Hardin,
son of a Texan ranchman and graduate of an American military school,
takes a prominent part in the heroic defense of the Alamo, the terrible
scenes at Golead, and the final triumph at San Jacinto. The historical
side of the story has been carefully studied and its localities
rendered familiar by a special trip to Texas, undertaken by the author
for that purpose within a year.


THROUGH SWAMP AND GLADE

A Tale of the Seminole War. By Kirk Munroe. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Victor Pérard. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

In this new story Mr. Munroe opens to view an exceedingly interesting
period of American history--the period of the Seminole War in Florida.
Coacoochee, the hero of the story, is a young Indian of noble birth,
the son of Philip the chieftain of the Seminoles. He is a boy at the
time of the beginning of the Seminole troubles and grows up to lead his
tribe in the long struggle which resulted in the Indians being driven
from the north of Florida down to the distant southern wilderness. It
is full of strange adventure, of stirring incident and rapid action.


AT WAR WITH PONTIAC

Or, The Totem of the Bear. A Tale of Redcoat and Redskin. By Kirk
Munroe. With 8 full-page Illustrations by J. Finnemore. Crown 8vo,
$1.25.

A story of old days in America, when Detroit was a frontier town and
the shores of Lake Erie were held by hostile Indians under Pontiac. The
hero, Donald Hester, goes in search of his sister Edith, who has been
captured by the Indians. Strange and terrible are his experiences; for
he is wounded, taken prisoner, condemned to be burned, and contrives to
escape. In the end there is peace between Pontiac and the English, and
all things terminate happily for the hero. One dares not skip a page of
this enthralling story.


THE WHITE CONQUERORS

A Tale of Toltec and Aztec. By Kirk Munroe. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by W. S. Stacey. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

This story deals with the Conquest of Mexico by Cortes and his
Spaniards, the "White Conquerors," who, after many deeds of valor,
pushed their way into the great Aztec kingdom and established their
power in the wondrous city where Montezuma reigned in barbaric
splendor. BY HARRY COLLINGWOOD

THE LOG OF A PRIVATEERSMAN

By Harry Collingwood. With 12 full-page Illustrations by W. Rainey,
R.I. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

In the war between Napoleon and the British, many privateers were sent
out from England to seize and destroy the French merchant vessels. On
one of these George Bowen went as second mate. Long distance duels at
sea, fights at close quarters, fierce boarding attacks, capture and
recapture, flight and pursuit, storm and wreck, fire at sea and days
without food or water in a small boat on the ocean, are some of the
many thrilling experiences our hero passed through.


THE LOG OF "THE FLYING FISH."

A Story of Aerial and Submarine Peril and Adventure. By Harry
Collingwood. With 12 full-page Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown
8vo, $1.00.

In this story the aim of the author has been, not only to interest and
amuse, but also to stimulate a taste for scientific study.


THE MISSING MERCHANTMAN

By Harry Collingwood. With 6 full-page Pictures by W. H. Overend. Crown
8vo, $1.00.

A fine Australian clipper is seized by the crew; the passengers are
landed on one deserted island, the captain and a junior officer on
another; and the young hero of the story is kept on board to navigate
the ship, which the mutineers refit as a private vessel. After many
adventures Ned succeeded in carrying off the ship, and in picking up
the captain and the passengers.


THE CONGO ROVERS

A Tale of the Slave Squadron. By Harry Collingwood. With 8 full page
Illustrations by J. Schönberg. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The scene of this thrilling tale is laid on the west coast of Africa
among the slavers.


THE ROVER'S SECRET

A Tale of the Pirate Cays and Lagoons of Cuba. By Harry Collingwood.
With 6 full-page Illustrations by W. C. Symons. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

The hero of "The Rover's Secret," a young officer of the British navy,
narrates his peculiar experiences in childhood and his subsequent
perils and achievements.


THE PIRATE ISLAND

A Story of the South Pacific. By Harry Collingwood. Illustrated by 8
full-page Pictures by C. J. Staniland and J. R. Wells. Olivine edges.
Crown 8vo, $1.50.

This story details the adventures of a lad who was found in his infancy
on board a wreck, and is adopted by a fisherman. Going to sea, he forms
one of a party who, after being burned out of their ship, are picked up
by a pirate brig and taken to the "Pirate Island," where they have many
thrilling adventures. BY PROFESSOR A. J. CHURCH


LORDS OF THE WORLD

A Story of the Fall of Carthage and Corinth. By Professor A. J. Church.
With 12 full-page Illustrations by Ralph Peacock. Crown 8vo, olivine
edges, $1.50.

The scene of this story centres in the destruction of Carthage by
the Romans. The young hero is captured by the Romans, but wearing
the dress of his twin sister, escapes death. Entering the army of
Carthage he is in the thick of the long conflict and passes through
many thrilling adventures. He is present at the final scene, and that
awful catastrophe is most vividly told. The story is full of valuable
historical details and the interest never flags.


TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO

Or, The Adventures of a Roman Boy. By Professor A. J. Church. With
12 full-page Illustrations by Adrien Marie. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

The hero is a young Roman who has a very chequered career, being now a
captive in the hands of Spartacus, again an officer on board a vessel
detailed for the suppression of the pirates, and anon a captive once
more, on a pirate ship.


BY S. BARING-GOULD


GRETTIR THE OUTLAW

A Story of Iceland. By S. Baring-Gould. With 10 full-page Illustrations
by M. Zeno Diemer, and a Colored Map. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

No boy will be able to withstand the magic of such scenes as the fight
of Grettir with twelve bearserks, and the wrestle with Karr the Old in
the chamber of the dead.


BY F. FRANKFORT MOORE


HIGHWAYS AND HIGH SEAS

Cyril Harley's Adventures on Both. By F. Frankfort Moore. With 8
full-page Illustrations by Alfred Pearse. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

The story belongs to a period when highways meant post-chaises,
coaches, and highwaymen, and when high seas meant privateers and
smugglers.


UNDER HATCHES

Or, Ned Woodthorpe's Adventures. By F. Frankfort Moore. With 8
full-page Illustrations by A. Forestier. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

In rescuing another lad from drowning, Ned Woodthorpe is taken on board
a convict ship. After a series of exciting events the convicts and crew
obtain the mastery. Ultimately the ship is recaptured and Ned and his
friends escape from their troubles.


BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN

"Mr. Fenn is in the front rank of writers for boys."--_Liverpool
Mercury._


DICK O' THE FENS

A Romance of the Great East Swamp. By George Manville Fenn. With 12
full-page Illustrations by Frank Dadd. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

Dick o' the Fens and Tom o' Grimsey are the sons of a squire and a
farmer living on the edge of one of the vast fen wastes, and their
adventures are of unusual interest. Shooting and fishing experiences
are introduced in a manner which should stimulate the faculty of
observation, and give a healthy love for country life; while the record
of the fen-men's stealthy resistance to the great draining scheme is
full of the keenest interest. The ambushes and shots in the mist and
dark, the incendiary fires, and the bursting of the sea-wall, are
described with Mr. Fenn's wonted skill in the management of mystery.


BROWNSMITH'S BOY

By George Manville Fenn. With 6 page Illustrations. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

The career of "Brownsmith's Boy" embraces the home adventures of
an orphan, who, having formed the acquaintance of an eccentric old
gardener, accepts his offer of a home and finds that there is plenty
of romance in a garden, and much excitement even in a journey now and
then to town. In a half-savage lad he finds a friend who shows his love
and fidelity principally by pretending to be an enemy. In "Brownsmith's
Boy" there is abundance of excitement and trouble within four walls.


YUSSUF THE GUIDE

Being the Strange Story of Travels in Asia Minor. By George Manville
Fenn. With 8 full-page Illustrations by John Schönberg. Crown 8vo,
$1.00.

Deals with the stirring incidents in the career of a lad who has been
almost given over by the doctors, but who rapidly recovers health and
strength in a journey through Asia Minor. The adventures are many,
and culminate in the travelers being snowed up for the winter in the
mountains, from which they escape while their captors are waiting for
the ransom that does not come.


THE GOLDEN MAGNET

A Tale of the Land of the Incas. By George Manville Fenn. With 12
full-page Pictures by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The tale of a romantic lad, who leaves home to seek his fortune
in South America by endeavoring to discover some of that treasure
which legends declare was ages ago hidden by the Peruvian rulers and
priests, to preserve it from the Spanish invaders. He is accompanied
by a faithful companion, who does true service, and shows the greatest
courage during the strange and exciting adventures which befall them.


BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN

"Mr Manville Fenn may be regarded as the successor in boyhood's
affections of Captain Mayne Reid."--_Academy._


NAT THE NATURALIST

A Boy's Adventures in the Eastern Seas. By George Manville Fenn.
Illustrated by 8 full-page Pictures by George Browne. Crown 8vo,
olivine edges, $1.50.

Nat and his uncle Dick go on a voyage to the remoter islands of the
Eastern seas, and their adventures there are told in a truthful and
vastly interesting fashion. The descriptions of Mr Ebony, their black
comrade, and of the scenes of savage life, are full of genuine humor.


QUICKSILVER

Or, A Boy with no Skid to his Wheel. By George Manville Fenn. With 10
full-page Illustrations by Frank Dadd. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

Dr. Grayson has a theory that any boy, if rightly trained, can be made
into a gentleman and a great man; and in order to confute a friendly
objector decides to select from the workhouse a boy to experiment with.
He chooses a boy with a bad reputation but with excellent instincts,
and adopts him, the story narrating the adventures of the mercurial
lad who thus finds himself suddenly lifted several degrees in the
social scale. The idea is novel and handled with Mr. Fenn's accustomed
cleverness.


DEVON BOYS

A Tale of the North Shore. By George Manville Fenn. With 12 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The adventures of Sep Duncan and his school friends take place in
the early part of the Georgian era, during the wars between England
and France. The scene is laid on the picturesque rocky coast of
North Devon. Fishermen, smugglers, naval officers, and a stern old
country surgeon play their parts in the story, which is one of honest
adventure, with the mastering of difficulties in a wholesome manly way,
mingled with sufficient excitement to satisfy the most exacting reader.


MOTHER CAREY'S CHICKEN

Her Voyage to the Unknown Isle. By George Manville Fenn. With 8
full-page Illustrations. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

A stirring story of adventure in the Eastern seas, where a lad shares
the perils of his father, the captain of the merchant ship _The
Petrel_.

"Jules Verne himself never constructed a more marvelous tale. It
contains the strongly marked features that are always conspicuous in
Mr. Fenn's stories--a racy humor, the manly vigor of his sentiment, and
wholesome moral lessons."--_Christian Leader._


BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN

"No one can find his way to the hearts of lads more readily than Mr.
Fenn."--_Nottingham Guardian._


BUNYIP LAND

The Story of a Wild Journey in New Guinea. By George Manville Fenn.
With 6 full-page Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"Bunyip Land" is the story of an eminent botanist, who ventures into
the interior of New Guinea in his search for new plants. Years pass
away, and he does not return; and though supposed to be dead, his young
wife and son refuse to believe it; and as soon as he is old enough
young Joe goes in search of his father, accompanied by Jimmy, a native
black. Their adventures are many and exciting, but after numerous
perils they discover the lost one, a prisoner among the blacks, and
bring him home in triumph.


IN THE KING'S NAME

Or, The Cruise of the _Kestrel_. By George Manville Fenn. Illustrated
by 12 full-page Pictures by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, olivine edges,
$1.50.

"In the King's Name" is a spirited story of the Jacobite times,
concerning the adventures of Hilary Leigh, a young naval officer in the
preventive service off the coast of Sussex, on board the _Kestrel_.
Leigh is taken prisoner by the adherents of the Pretender, amongst
whom is an early friend and patron who desires to spare the lad's life,
but will not release him. The narrative is full of exciting and often
humorous incident.


MENHARDOC

A Story of Cornish Nets and Mines. By George Manville Fenn. With 6
full-page Illustrations by C. J. Staniland, R.I. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

The scene of this story is laid among the granite piles and tors
of Cornwall. Adventures are pretty plentiful, but the story has for
its strong base the development of character of the three boys. The
sketches of Cornish life and local coloring are based upon experience
in the bay, whose fishing village is called here Menhardoc. This is a
thoroughly English story of phases of life but little touched upon in
boy's literature up to the present time.


PATIENCE WINS

Or, War in the Works. By George Manville Fenn. With 6 full-page
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

A graphic narrative of factory life in the Black Country. The hero
and his three uncles set up "a works," but find that the workmen are
determined to have no new-fangled machinery. After a series of narrow
escapes and stirring encounters, the workmen by degrees find that no
malice is borne against them, and eventually a great business is built
up, and its foundation laid on the good will of the men.


BY DR. GORDON STABLES


A NAVAL CADET

A Story of Adventure by Sea. By Gordon Stables, M.D., C.M. Illustrated,
crown 8vo, $1.25.


FOR LIFE AND LIBERTY

A Story of Battle by Land and Sea. By Gordon Stables, M.D., C.M. With
8 full-page Illustrations by Sidney Paget. 12mo, $1.50.

The story of an English boy who runs from home and joins the southern
army in the late Civil War. He is accompanied by his chum, who enters
the navy, and their various adventures in the great conflict are set
forth with great vigor and are unfailing in interest.


TO GREENLAND AND THE POLE

A Story of Adventure in the Arctic Regions. By Gordon Stables, M.D.,
C.M. With 8 full-page Illustrations by G. C. Hindley, and a Map. Crown
8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The unfailing fascination of Arctic venturing is presented in this
story with new vividness. The author is himself an old Arctic voyager,
and he deals with deer-hunting in Norway, sealing in the Arctic Seas,
bear-stalking on the ice-floes, the hardships of a journey across
Greenland, and a successful voyage to the back of the North Pole.


WESTWARD WITH COLUMBUS

By Gordon Stables, M.D., C.M. With 8 full-page Illustrations by Alfred
Pearse. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The hero of this story is Columbus himself. His career is traced from
boyhood onward through the many hazardous enterprises in which he was
at various times engaged. The narrative deals chiefly, however, with
the great naval venture which Columbus conducted across the Atlantic,
and which resulted in the discovery of the American continent.


'TWIXT SCHOOL AND COLLEGE

A Tale of Self-reliance. By Gordon Stables, M.D., C.M. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by W. Parkinson. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The hero is presented by his father with an outlying cottage and garden
on the farm, and the gift is turned to pleasant account as a place
of residence for a whole menagerie of pets dear to the heart of most
healthy-minded boys.


STORIES OF ADVENTURE BY SEA AND LAND


WULFRIC THE WEAPON THANE

The Story of the Danish Conquest of East Anglia. By Charles W.
Whistler. With 6 illustrations by W. H. Margetson. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

A tale in which is set forth:--How Wulfric saved the Danish warrior's
life; how he fought in the Viking ship; how he was accused falsely;
how he joined King Eadmund, as his weapon-thane; how he fought for the
king; and how he won the lady Osritha and brought her to his home.


TOMMY THE ADVENTUROUS

The Story of a Brother and Sister. By S. E. Cartwright. With 3
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, $1.00.


THORNDYKE MANOR

A Tale of Jacobite Times. By Mary C. Rowsell. With 6 full-page
Illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

Thorndyke Manor is an old house near the mouth of the Thames which
is convenient, on account of its secret vaults and situation, as the
basis of operation in a Jacobite conspiracy. Its owner finds himself
suddenly involved in the closest meshes of the plot. He is conveyed to
the Tower, but his innocence is triumphantly proved by his sister.


TRAITOR OR PATRIOT

A Tale of the Rye House Plot. By Mary C. Rowsell. With 6 full-page
Pictures. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"A romantic love episode, whose true characters are life-like beings,
not dry sticks, as in many historical tales."--_Graphic._


HAL HUNGERFORD

Or, The Strange Adventures of a Boy Emigrant. By J. R. Hutchinson. With
4 full-page Illustrations by Stanley Berkeley. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

"There is no question whatever as to the spirited manner in which the
story is told; the death of the mate of the smuggler by the teeth of
the dog is especially effective."--_London Spectator._


SIR WALTER'S WARD

A Tale of the Crusades. By William Everard. Illustrated by Walter
Paget. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"A highly fascinating work, dealing with a period which is always
suggestive of romance and deeds of daring."--_Schoolmaster._


COUSIN GEOFFREY AND I

By Caroline Austin. With 6 full-page Illustrations by W. Parkinson.
Crown 8vo, $1.25.

The only daughter of a country gentleman finds herself unprovided
for at her father's death, and for some time lives as a dependent.
She finally makes a brave attempt to earn her own livelihood, and she
succeeds in doing this.


HUGH HERBERT'S INHERITANCE

By Caroline Austin. With 6 full-page Illustrations by C. T. Garland.
Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"A story that teaches patience as well as courage in fighting the
battles of life."--_Daily Chronicle._


STORIES OF ADVENTURE BY SEA AND LAND


SOU'WESTER AND SWORD

By Hugh St. Leger. With 6 full-page Illustrations by Hal Hurst. Crown
8vo, $1.50.

"As racy a tale of life at sea and war adventure as we have met with
for some time."--_London Athenæum._


WITH THE SEA KINGS

A Story of the Days of Lord Nelson. By F. H. Winder. With 6 full-page
Illustrations by W. S. Stacey. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

An English lad thought to become a Lord High Admiral like his hero,
Nelson, so he ran away from home and joined a privateer. After taking
part in the capture of a French frigate, he was captured by Corsairs
and sold into slavery. He escaped, and his subsequent bravery in a sea
fight brought him an interview with Nelson, and promotion.


THE CAPTURED CRUISER

Or, Two Years from Land. By C. J. Hyne. With 6 full-page Illustrations
by F. Brangwyn. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

This realistic story of modern naval warfare deals with the capture,
during the recent war between Chili and Peru, of an armed cruiser.
The heroes and their companions break from prison in the harbor of
Valparaiso, board this warship in the night, overpower the watch,
escape to sea, and, after marvelous adventures, lose the cruiser near
Cape Horn.


THE LOSS OF JOHN HUMBLE

What Led to It, and what Came of It. By G. Norway. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by John Schönberg. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

John Humble, an orphan, is sent to sea with his uncle, the captain of
the _Erl King_, but in the course of certain adventures is left behind
at Portsmouth. He escapes to a Norwegian vessel, which is driven from
her course and wrecked. The survivors experience the miseries of a long
sojourn in the Arctic circle, but ultimately they succeed in making
their way home again.


HUSSEIN THE HOSTAGE

Or, A Boy's Adventures in Persia. By G. Norway. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by John Schönberg. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

A narrative of the adventures of the young Prince Hussein and his
faithful follower, Askar, in their endeavor to free their oppressed
tribe from the Persian yoke.


A PRISONER OF WAR

A Story of the Time of Napoleon Bonaparte. By G. Norway. With 6
full-page Illustrations by Robert Barnes, A.R.W.S. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"More hairbreadth escapes from death by starvation, by ice, by
fighting, etc., were never before surmounted."--_The Guardian._


A STOUT ENGLISH BOWMAN

Being a Story of Chivalry in the Days of Henry III. By Edgar Pickering.
With 6 Illustrations. Price, $1.25.


IN PRESS-GANG DAYS

By Edgar Pickering. With 6 full-page Illustrations by W. S. Stacey.
Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"It is of Marryat we think as we read this delightful story; for it
is not only a story of adventure with incidents well conceived and
arranged, but the characters are interesting."--_London Academy._


AN OLD-TIME YARN

Wherein is set forth Divers Desperate Mischances which Befell Anthony
Ingram and his shipmates in the West Indies and Mexico with Hawkins and
Drake. By Edgar Pickering. Illustrated with 6 full-page Pictures drawn
by Alfred Pearse. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"Excellent is the description of Mexico and of the dungeons of the
Inquisition, while Don Diego Polo is a delightful mixture of bravery
and humor, and his rescue of the unfortunate prisoners is told with
great spirit."--_London Guardian._


SILAS VERNEY

A Tale of the Time of Charles II. By Edgar Pickering. With 6 full-page
Illustrations by Alfred Pearse. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"Mr. Pickering reels off the narrative with spirit, rather reminding us
of Mr. Stevenson in such books as 'Kidnapped.'"--_London Times._


AN OCEAN OUTLAW

A Story of Adventure in the good ship Margaret. By Hugh St. Leger. With
6 page illustrations by Wm. Rainey, R.I. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

This is a breezy sea-yarn in which the reader is made acquainted with
Jimmy Ducks, cabin-boy aboard the good ship _Margaret_. For little
Jimmy is a tip-top sailor-man in the making merry in fair weather,
handy in a gale, and a hero at cutlass work, and all his cleverness was
needed when he and his messmates came to tackle the Ocean Outlaw and
his castaway crew.


GOLD, GOLD, IN CARIBOO

A Story of Adventure in British Columbia. By Clive Phillipps-Wolley.
With 6 full-page Illustrations by G. C. Hindley. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

Ned Corbett and his companion, Steve Chance, set out with a pack-train
in order to obtain gold on the upper reaches of the Frazer river. Many
difficulties lie in their path, but after innumerable adventures, and
a life-and-death struggle with the Arctic weather of that wild region,
they find the secret gold mines for which they have searched.


HIS FIRST KANGAROO

An Australian Story for Boys. By Arthur Ferres. With 6 Illustrations by
P. B. S. Spener. Crown 8vo, $1.25.


A CHAMPION OF THE FAITH

A Tale of Prince Hal and the Lollards. By J. M. Callwell. With 6
full-page Illustrations by Herbert J. Draper. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

This story deals with the merry escapades of Prince Hal and his
favorite. Sir John Oldcastle. Then the narrative deepens when the
Prince ascends the throne as Henry V., while his old comrade becomes
a Lollard and a champion of the new faith. As such, Sir John Oldcastle
endures many hardships, but finally is captured by treachery and burnt
at the stake.


THE WIGWAM AND THE WAR-PATH

Stories of the Red Indians. By Ascott R. Hope. Illustrated by Gordon
Browne. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

"Mr. Hope's 'Wigwam and War-path' is notably good; it gives a very
vivid picture of life among the Indians."--_Spectator._


THE SEVEN WISE SCHOLARS

By Ascott R. Hope. Illustrated by Gordon Browne. Square 8vo, $1.50.


YOUNG TRAVELLERS' TALES

By Ascott R. Hope. With 6 full-page Illustrations by H. J. Draper.
Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"Possess a high value for instruction as well as for entertainment. His
quiet, level humor bubbles up on every page."--_Daily Chronicle._


ROBINSON CRUSOE

New Edition. With 100 Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, $1.00.


GULLIVER'S TRAVELS

New Edition. With 100 Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, $1.00.


SOME STORIES OF ADVENTURE


"HALLOWE'EN" AHOY!

Or, Lost on the Crozet Islands. By Hugh St. Leger. With 6 page
Illustrations. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

An exciting story of shipwreck and adventure in the South Atlantic. The
_Hallowe'en_ is found a derelict with only a girl on board, and after
many experiences it is sailed to England.


REEFER AND RIFLEMAN

A Tale of the Two Services. By J. Percy Groves. Illustrated. Crown 8vo,
$1.25.


THE SEARCH FOR THE TALISMAN

A Tale of Labrador. By Henry Frith. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.25.


FAMOUS DISCOVERIES BY SEA AND LAND

Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.


STORIES OF THE SEA IN FORMER DAYS

Narratives of Wreck and Rescue. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.


FROM THE CLYDE TO THE JORDAN

By Hugh Callan. With 30 Illustrations and a Map. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

An interesting story of a bicycle trip through Europe and Palestine.


UNDER THE BLACK EAGLE

By Andrew Hilliard. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

The adventures of a young English lad who was imprisoned in Russia and
sent to Siberia, from which he escaped across Asia.


JACK O'LANTHORN

A Tale of Adventure. By Henry Frith. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.


THE WAR OF THE AXE

Or, Adventures in South Africa. By J. Percy Groves. Illustrated. Crown
8vo, $1.00.


TALES OF CAPTIVITY AND EXILE

By W. B. Fortescue. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.


HISTORICAL STORIES


A THANE OF WESSEX

Being a Story of the Great Viking Raids into Somerset. By Charles W.
Whistler. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.25.


BROTHERS IN ARMS

A Story of the Crusades. By F. Bayford Harrison. Illustrated. Crown
8vo, $1.00.


TWO GALLANT REBELS

A Story of the Great Struggle of La Vendee. By Edgar Pickering.
Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.25.


STORIES OF OLD RENOWN

Tales of Knights and Heroes. By Ascott R. Hope. Illustrated. Crown 8vo,
$1.25.


STIRRING EVENTS OF HISTORY

Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.


ADVENTURES IN TOYLAND

By Edith King Hall. With 8 Colored Plates and 72 other Illustrations by
Alice B. Woodward. Square 8vo, $2.00.

The story of what a little girl heard and saw in a toy shop.


TO TELL THE KING THE SKY IS FALLING

By Sheila E. Braine. With 85 Illustrations by Alice B. Woodward. Square
crown 8vo, $1.75.

A most original fairy tale, in which Henny Penny, Ducky Daddles, and
other old friends are met.


THE WHISPERING WINDS

And the Tales that they Told. By Mary H. Debenham. With 25
Illustrations by Paul Hardy. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

"We wish the winds would tell us stories like these."--_London Academy._


THINGS WILL TAKE A TURN

By Beatrice Harraden, author of "Ships that Pass in the Night."
Illustrated. 12mo, $1.00.

It is the story of a sunny-hearted child, Rosebud, who assists her
grandfather in his dusty, second-hand bookshop.


NAUGHTY MISS BUNNY

Her Tricks and Troubles. By Clara Mulholland. Illustrated. Crown 8vo,
75 cents.

"This naughty child is positively delightful."--_Land and Water._


UNLUCKY

A Fragment of a Girl's Life. By Caroline Austin. Illustrated. Crown
8vo, 75 cents.

A touching story of an unlucky girl at odds with her stepmother.


LAUGH AND LEARN

The Easiest Book of Nursery Lessons and Nursery Games. By Jennett
Humphreys. Charmingly Illustrated. Square 8vo, $1.25.

"One of the best books of the kind imaginable, full of practical
teaching in word and picture, and helping the little ones pleasantly
along a right royal road to learning."--_Graphic._



SOME BOOKS FOR GIRLS


=Nell's School Days.= A Story of Town and Country. By H. P. Gethen.
With 4 Illustrations. Price, $1.00.


=Violet Vereker's Vanity.= By Annie E. Armstrong. With 6 Illustrations
by G. D. Hammond. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

The story of a girl with one weakness, which she finally overcame.


=Three Bright Girls.= A Story of Chance and Mischance. By Annie E.
Armstrong. With 6 full-page Illustrations by W. Parkinson. Crown 8vo,
$1.25.

"Among many good stories for girls this is undoubtedly one of the very
best."--_Teachers' Aid._


=A Very Odd Girl.= Life at the Gabled Farm. By Annie E. Armstrong. With
6 full-page Illustrations by S. T. Dadd. Crown $1.25.

"We can heartily recommend the book, for it is not only bright and
interesting, but also pure and healthy in tone and teaching."--_The
Lady._


=White Lilac=: Or, The Queen of the May. By Amy Walton. Illustrated.
Crown 8vo, $1.00.


By MARGARET PARKER

=For the Sake of a Friend.= A Story of School Life. Illustrated. Crown
8vo, $1.00.

A bright story of two good girl friends.


=A Daughter of Erin.= By Violet G. Finny. With 4 Illustrations. Price,
$1.00.


=Under False Colors.= A Story from Two Girls' Lives. By Sarah Doudney.
With 6 full-page Illustrations by G. G. Kilburne. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

A story which has in it so strong a dramatic element that it will
attract readers of all ages and of either sex. The incidents of the
plot, arising from the thoughtless indulgence of a deceptive freak,
are exceedingly natural, and the keen interest of the narrative is
sustained from beginning to end.


=Miss Willowburn's Offer.= By Sarah Doudney. Illustrated. Crown 8vo,
$1.00.

"Sarah Doudney has no superior as a writer of high-toned stories;
pure in style, original in conception, and with skilfully wrought-out
plots."--_Christian Leader._


=The Secret of the Old House.= A Story for Children. By Evelyn Everett
Green. With 4 full-page Illustrations by L. Leslie Brooke. Crown 8vo,
$1.00.

"Tim, the little Jacobite, is a charming creation."--_Academy._


By M. CORBET-SEYMOUR

=A Girl's Kingdom.= Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

Olive and her story will receive welcome from all girls.


=Dulcie King=: A Story for Girls. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

"An extremely graceful, well-told tale."


A GIRL'S LOYALTY

By Frances Armstrong. With 8 Illustrations by John H. Bacon. Crown 8vo,
olivine edges, $1.50.

Helen Grant received from her grandfather on his death-bed a secret
message. This influenced her whole life, but she was loyal to her trust
and to her friends.


A FAIR CLAIMANT

Being a Story for Girls. By Frances Armstrong. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by Gertrude D. Hammond. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

An exciting story of a young girl, the rightful heir to a large
fortune, who has been kept out of it, but who most honorably regains
it, after much trial and difficulty.


THE CLEVER MISS FOLLETT

By J. K. H. Denny. With 12 full-page Illustrations by Gertrude D.
Hammond. Crown 8vo, olivine edges, $1.50.

The story of a great fortune and its attendant train of misfortunes.


THE HEIRESS OF COURTLEROY

By Anne Beale. With 8 page Illustrations by T. C. H. Castle. Crown 8vo,
cloth elegant, olivine edges, $1.50.

"Miss Anne Beale relates how the young 'Heiress of Courtleroy' had such
good influence over her uncle as to win him from his intensely selfish
ways in regard to his tenants and others."--_London Guardian._


A TRUE CORNISH MAID

By G. Norway. With 6 full-page Illustrations by J. Finnemore. Crown
8vo, $1.25.

A story of the Cornish coast when the press-gang brought terror into
all its seaports, and smuggling was an everyday practice. The heroine
of the tale is sister to a young fellow who gets into trouble in
landing a contraband cargo and shooting the officer in charge of the
press-gang.


GIRL NEIGHBORS

Or, The Old Fashion and the New. By Sarah Tytler. With 8 full-page
Illustrations by C. T. Garland. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

"'Girl Neighbors' is a pleasant comedy, not so much of errors as of
prejudices got rid of, very healthy, very agreeable, and very well
written."--_London Spectator_.


By ALICE CORKRAN

=Down the Snow Stairs.= Or, From Good-night to Good-morning. By Alice
Corkran. With 60 character Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Square crown
8vo, olivine edges, $1.25.

"A gem of the first water, bearing upon every one of its pages the
signet mark of genius.... All is told with such simplicity and perfect
naturalness that the dream appears to be a solid reality. It is indeed
a Little Pilgrim's Progress."--_Christian Leader._

=Margery Merton's Girlhood.= By Alice Corkran. With 6 full-page
Illustrations by Gordon Browne. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

The experience of an orphan girl who in infancy is left by her father,
an officer in India, to the care of an elderly aunt residing near
Paris.

=Meg's Friend.= By Alice Corkran. With 6 full-page Illustrations by
Robert Fowler. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

Meg has been brought up by a woman who abuses the trust. She is
removed to a lady's school and is ultimately taken into the house of
a mysterious benefactor who proves to be her grandfather. After a long
separation she once more meets the friend of her childhood.

=Adventures of Mrs. Wishing-to-Be.= By Alice Corkran. With 3 full-page
Pictures in colors. Crown 8vo, 75 cents.

A book of charming fairy tales in which Cinderella, Little Bo-Peep, and
other old friends appear.

=Joan's Adventures= at the North Pole and Elsewhere. By Alice Corkran.
Illustrated. Crown 8vo, 75 cents.

A beautiful dream-land story.


By ROSA MULHOLLAND

=Banshee Castle.= Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

The story of three bright and lively young girls who fall heir to an
old castle in the west of Ireland. Their struggles to live in it on
little money, and their strange experiences, are deeply interesting.

=Four Little Mischiefs.= Illustrated. Crown 8vo, 75 cents.

"A charming bright story about real children."--_Watchman._

=Giannetta.= A Girl's Story of Herself. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

"Extremely well told and full of interest."--_Academy._

=Hetty Gray=: Or, Nobody's Bairn. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.00.

"Hetty is a delightful creature, piquant, tender, and true."--_London
World._

=The Late Miss Hollingford.= Illustrated. Crown 8vo, 75 cents.

This story was a special favorite of Charles Dickens, and the title was
chosen by him.


By MRS. R. H. READ

=Dora=: Or, A Girl without a Home. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, $1.25.

"It is no slight thing to get a story so pure and healthy as
this."--_Academy._


CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

=153-157 Fifth Ave., New York.=



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have
been preserved (for example, both Redskin and Red-skin).

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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