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Title: Motor Matt's "Century" Run - or, The Governor's Courier
Author: Matthews, Stanley R.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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courtesy of the Digital Library@Villanova University
(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



  MOTOR STORIES

  THRILLING
  ADVENTURE

  MOTOR
  FICTION

  NO. 3
  MAR. 13, 1909

  FIVE
  CENTS

  MOTOR MATT'S
  CENTURY RUN

  OR THE GOVERNOR'S
  COURIER

[Illustration: "Take him, Bolivar!" yelled the man, and Motor Matt was
brought suddenly face to face with unexpected peril.]

  BY
  STANLEY R. MATTHEWS

  STREET & SMITH,
  PUBLISHERS,
  NEW YORK.



MOTOR STORIES

THRILLING ADVENTURE MOTOR FICTION


_Issued Weekly. By subscription $2.50 per year. Entered according to
Act of Congress in the year 1909, in the Office of the Librarian of
Congress, Washington, D. C., by_ STREET & SMITH, _79-89 Seventh Avenue,
New York, N. Y._

  No. 3.      NEW YORK, March 13, 1909.      Price Five Cents.

  Motor Matt's "Century" Run;

  OR,

  THE GOVERNOR'S COURIER.

  By the author of "MOTOR MATT."



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I. WELCOME TAKES A SUDDEN DROP.
  CHAPTER II. A QUEER SITUATION.
  CHAPTER III. "RAGS."
  CHAPTER IV. A DANGEROUS MISSION.
  CHAPTER V. THE RED ROADSTER.
  CHAPTER VI. SURMOUNTING THE DIFFICULTY.
  CHAPTER VII. SMOKE-SIGNALS.
  CHAPTER VIII. ON THE DIVIDE.
  CHAPTER IX. A RUSE THAT WON.
  CHAPTER X. AT POTTER'S GAP.
  CHAPTER XI. JOE BASCOMB.
  CHAPTER XII. BOLIVAR TURNS UP.
  CHAPTER XIII. THE RED ROADSTER AGAIN.
  CHAPTER XIV. ON TO PHOENIX!
  CHAPTER XV. THE END OF THE MYSTERY.
  CHAPTER XVI. MATT REPORTS TO THE GOVERNOR.
  ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD.



CHARACTERS THAT APPEAR IN THIS STORY.


  =Matt King=, concerning whom there has always been a mystery--a lad
  of splendid athletic abilities, and never-failing nerve, who has won
  for himself, among the boys of the Western town, the popular name of
  "Mile-a-minute Matt."

  =Chub McReady=, sometimes called plain "Reddy," for short, on account
  of his fiery "thatch"--a chum of Matt, with a streak of genius for
  inventing things that often land the bold experimenter in trouble.

  =Welcome Perkins=, a one-legged wanderer who lives with Chub and his
  sister while their father prospects for gold--Welcome is really a
  man of peace, yet he delights to imagine himself a "terror," and is
  forever boasting about being a "reformed road-agent."

  =McKibben=, the sheriff who has both nerve and intelligence.

  =Juan Morisco=, a Mexican of low degree, and a rascal as well.

  =Tom Clipperton=, known generally as "Clip," a quarter-blood, who is
  very sensitive about his Indian ancestry.

  =The Governor=, head of the State, and a friend of Matt.

  =Gregory=, a rancher.

  =Dangerfield=, the leader of the smugglers; who has another name.

  =Burke=, another sheriff, who lands his man.

  "=Rags=," a little girl waif whom Matt befriends, to his profit later.



CHAPTER I.

WELCOME TAKES A SUDDEN DROP.


"Ready, Perk?"

"Hold up there, Chub! Don't ye git in sich a tarnal hurry. What am I
goin' to do with this here rope?"

"Why, cast it off, of course. How can you expect to fly with the rope
holdin' you back?"

"Waal, now, wait; le's understand this thing. It's my idee, ain't it?"

"Sure. You drew the plans an' I put the machine together."

"If any picters is published in the papers, mine goes in bigger'n
yours, don't it?"

"That's all to the good, Perk. When the reporters write this up, you'll
be the king-pin. The invention is yours, and all I did was to put it
together. But you're a pretty old man to try it out, Perk. You'd better
let me take the first spin."

"Bein' the inventor, I reckon I got a right to show off a little. Purty
nigh all my life I been a hootin', tootin' disturber o' the peace,
committin' depperdations as makes me blush to think of; but right
here is where I do somethin' fer civilization an' progress, which'll
go a good ways to'rds makin' up fer the past. I'm plumb hungry, Chub,
to hear folks say: 'That there flyin' machine is the biggest thing
o' the twentieth century, an' Welcome Perkins done it. He used to
be a howlin', cut-an'-slash desperado in his younger days, but now
he's turned over a new leaf, an' is devotin' his shinin' abilities to
forwardin' the cause o' progress as much as he used to be fer holdin'
it back.' That's what I wants to hear folks say as they're p'intin' me
out, an'----"

"Oh, slush! If you stand up there chinning much longer, Perk,
somebody'll come. You want this to be a private flight, don't you?"

"Jest at the beginnin', till I see if everythin' works all right. If
there ain't any hitch. I want to make it as public as possible. I'd
be tickled to have the hull town come out an' see me cuttin' figger
eight's in the clouds. 'It can't be that one-legged feller up there is
Welcome Perkins, the ole ex-pirate o' the plains as has been living
right here among us, can it?' the people will say, awed-like, turnin'
to each other. Then I'll fly low, so'st to let 'em make sure, an' laugh
exultin'-like----"

"Back to the woods for you, Perk; go ahead an' fly. Don't stand there
talkin' about it."

"Sure Susie ain't got back yit, an' nobody else ain't lookin'?"

"Don't fret about that, Perk. We're all alone out here, but there's no
tellin' how long we'll be by ourselves if you lose much more time."

There was a very peculiar situation in the McReady back yard. A stout
pole, some thirty feet high, stood firmly planted in the ground. Half
way up the pole a platform had been constructed, and on this platform
stood an old, one-legged gentleman surrounded by a lot of canvas wings.
There was a canvas tail behind to be depressed or lifted, according as
the old gentleman wanted to fly up or down; and there was a propeller
just in front of the tail, which was to be worked by foot-power and
keep the machine going. The aeroplane had been hoisted to its elevated
position by means of a stout rope passing through a pulley at the top
of the pole.

The one-legged man was Welcome Perkins, and the red-headed boy on the
ground was Chub McReady--who was something of an inventor himself,
although this flying machine had been designed wholly by Welcome.

Slowly Welcome untied the rope from the flying machine, and Chub
pulled it through the pulley and then coiled it up on the ground at
the foot of the pole. Thereupon Welcome pushed into the manhole of the
flying machine and began hoisting himself up and down, preparatory to
springing off. He stopped suddenly, however, and pulled out of the
machine to look down at Chub.

"I reckon, Chub," he observed, as by an afterthought, "I'll fly around
the dome o' the capitol half a dozen times an' then light on the
weather-vane so'st the governor kin have a chanst to look out o' the
cupola winder an' thank me fer this boon to the human race. Mebby I'll
perch on top o' the court-house, too, fer a spell, an' take a leetle
fly out by the Injun school. If I don't git back airly, don't be in a
takin' about me, er----"

"Oh, shucks!" roared Chub. "If you're afraid to start, Perk, come down
an' let me try it."

"Afraid!" snorted Welcome. "You know blame' well I ain't afraid o'
nothin' on the airth 'r over it. I wisht you'd stuck the 'Merican flag
on the machine, some'rs, but I won't stop fer that now. So-long, Chub,
I'm goin' to take wing. Git out yer spy-glass if ye want ter watch me."

While Chub held his breath, old Welcome made a few more up and down
movements and then leaped from the platform.

But something must have been wrong. It couldn't have been the machine,
of course, for Chub had O. K.'d the plans, so it must have been in the
way Welcome manipulated the tail or the wings.

Twenty feet from the foot of the pole flowed the town canal. By actual
measurement, Welcome flew twenty-five feet; then the canvas fabric
turned itself inside out, and, with a wild yell, the old man dropped
into the water. There was a tremendous splash, and a small-sized geyser
shot upward.

Loud shouts came from around the corner of the house, and Matt King
and Tom Clipperton rushed into sight and darted for the canal to give
Welcome a helping hand. Matt grabbed up the rope at the foot of the
pole as he ran past.

"Great Scott!" cried Chub, joining in the race for the canal, "where'd
you fellers come from?"

"Rode up on our motor-cycles," replied Matt, "and hung around the
corner to see the show. Foolish business, Chub. Welcome might have
broken his neck--or that other leg."

"It was his own notion, that machine. I was sure it would fly, but I
headed him for the canal, so if anything went wrong he'd have a soft
place to drop."

By that time the boys were at the canal, and Matt threw the rope.
Welcome, sputtering and floundering, was tangled in the wreckage. He
had sense enough left to catch the rope, and Matt dragged him out of
the torn canvas, and all three of the boys lifted him up on the bank.

"That's the last time," fumed Welcome, dancing around and holding his
head on one side to get the water out of his ear, "the very last time,
Chub McReady, I'm goin' to try any more o' your fool contraptions. I
might a' been kilt! 'Tain't your fault I wasn't."

"It wasn't my contraption, Perk," answered Chub, smothering a laugh,
now that he was certain Welcome hadn't suffered any particular damage.
"It was yours."

"Dad-bing!" yelled Welcome, more worked up over the fun the boys were
getting out of the situation than he was over the accident itself.
"Ye goaded me on, ye know ye did! I ain't a-goin' to stand no more.
Lawlessness is b'ilin' around inside o' me, an' I'm goin' to git right
out! Instid o' helpin' progress, like I was intendin', I'm goin' to cut
loose, out there in the hills, an' give it a back-set. You hear me?
Wow! Laff! laff all ye want! When they git out the U. S. Army to chase
me, an' run me down, I reckon ye'll laugh on t'other side yer face. An'
it was you done it, Chub McReady! That's somethin' fer you to think
about!"

The old man whirled and galloped for the house, growling to himself,
jabbing his wooden pin viciously into the ground with every step, and
leaving a watery trail as he went. Chub keeled over on the ground,
kicked his feet in the air, and roared.

"It's a cinch," he guffawed, "that that's the last flyin' machine
Perk'll try to invent. We thought we was havin' this experiment
entirely private, an' I guess Perk thought I'd given you fellers the
tip, so you could be hangin' around. That didn't help his temper any."

"We got here just before Welcome jumped off," said Matt. "I couldn't
figure out what he was trying to do, at first, or I'd have rushed out
and tried to stop him."

"You couldn't have stopped him!" snickered Chub. "The old boy had the
bit in his teeth."

"Ducking was all right," grinned Clip. "May have been a good thing.
Cooled his spirit, anyhow."

"Punk! His pesky spirit will break out somewhere else, you see. Perk is
a human volcano, an' he's got to have an eruption just about so often
or he can't be happy. But why are you fellers showin' up here so early
in the morning?"

"Clip and I are going to Denver on our motor-cycles," answered Matt.
"We just came around to say good-by."

Chub's face fell.

"On the level?" he asked. "Hang it all, Matt it can't be you're goin'
to-day?"

"We are, if nothing bobs up to keep us back. I've been trying to
start for two or three weeks, but at the last moment I generally run
into something that interferes with my plans. Clip has bought Penny's
motor-cycle, we've laid out our route, and we want to get away early
this afternoon."

"Say," exploded Chub, "if I had a motor-cycle I'm hanged if I wouldn't
go with you."

"I've got a picture of you leaving Phoenix now," returned Matt, "while
your father is getting to work developing his mine. You'll have to help
him, Chub. Where's Susie? I want to say good-by to her before I----"

Matt broke off his words. Fate had already interfered two or three
times with his start for Denver, and just then Fate was getting ready
to repeat the old performance.

A far-away rattle, growing steadily in volume, broke on the ears of the
boys. Whirling around, they stared across the canal and toward the road
on the other side of the bridge.

What they saw sent the blood racing through their veins.

Four scrubby cayuses, hitched to a wood-hauler's wagon, were running
away. The wagon was nothing more than two pairs of wheels connected by
a "reach." As the vehicle leaped and swayed from one side of the road
to the other, the startled eyes of the boys made out a small figure
clinging to the "reach" for dear life.

"There's a girl on that wagon!" cried Chub breathlessly.

The girl could not have been more than five or six years old, and her
dangerous situation appealed to Matt and aroused a swift determination
to save her if it could possibly be done.

Without a word, he picked up the rope with which he had dragged Welcome
out of the canal and darted for the gate in front of the house. As he
ran, his fingers were busy knotting a noose in the rope's end.



CHAPTER II.

A QUEER SITUATION.


Motor Matt was never long about making up his mind as to what he was
going to do. In the present instance an expedient flashed through his
brain which might, or might not, succeed.

The rope which had been used to hoist the aeroplane to the staging on
the pole was a long one. As Matt ran through the gate, he flung the
noose which he had tied in the rope over a hitching-post, and then
leaped across the road.

By that time the four horses had crossed the bridge and were thundering
on toward the front of the house. Matt, holding the rope firmly,
stretched it so as to bring it across directly in front of the leaders.

Clipperton, instantly divining Matt's plan, started toward him, with
the intention of helping him hang onto the end of the rope. But Matt
had other plans for him and Chub.

"Keep back, Clip!" he yelled. "When I make 'em slow down, you and Chub
grab the bits."

Just then the front wheels of the wagon separated from those in the
rear. The "reach" went on with the forward axle, and the back wheels
spun around, dashed across the road, and smashed into the fence. The
end of the "reach" had struck the ground with terrific force, and the
girl was dragged along with it.

Why didn't she let go? was the thought that plunged through Matt's
mind. The next moment he had no time to think or to do anything else
but give his attention to the work in hand.

There was a shock like an earthquake as the front horses of the team
hit the rope. Matt, clinging like grim death to the stout hemp, was
jerked into the air and hurled forward and inward. The pace of the
leaders was checked, and the wheel-horses tried to play leap-frog with
them, the result being that the whole team became entangled in the
harness.

Clip and Chub, throwing themselves at the heads of the leaders, grabbed
the bits. Before the rope was pulled from Matt's hands, the horses were
at a standstill.

As soon as Clip and Chub had the team in hand, Matt ran to the girl.
She was lying on the ground close to the end of the "reach" and an
exclamation escaped Matt's lips when he saw that she was tied to the
piece of timber that had connected the front wheels with those behind.

"Is she hurt?" called Clip.

"She must be," answered Matt. "I don't see how she could go through
what she has without being hurt--and badly hurt at that. She's
unconscious. Some one tied her to the wagon."

He went down on his knees, and, with his pocket-knife, severed the rope
that secured the girl to the "reach."

He was about to pick her up in his arms when a panting voice called out
to him:

"Leaf her alone! I will be taking care of her."

Matt straightened on his knees and looked at the speaker. The man
was a Mexican, and had a surly, ill-omened face. He was covered with
dust, and had evidently been racing after the team on foot. Behind him
another Mexican was coming.

The little girl was American--Matt could tell that by her looks. That
being the case, why was she with the two Mexicans? And why had she been
tied to the wagon?

"Does the team belong to you?" demanded Matt.

"Yas, he b'long to me. I left him by de store, an' he git scare' an'
make a run off. _Carramba_! He bust my wagon all up. I take care of de
girl, señor. She hurt, huh?"

The other Mexican, scarcely giving a look at the girl, passed on to the
horses and began to pound them with a stick that he was carrying. His
attack was so brutal that Clip grabbed the stick out of his hand, and
would have laid it over his back if Chub had not interfered.

"Cut it out, Clip," said Chub. "The greaser don't know any better.
About half o' these wood-haulers ain't any more'n half-baked."

"He'll have the team running again," scowled Clipperton. "He ought to
have some sense pounded into him."

Meanwhile, Matt, paying no heed to the other Mexican, had picked up
the little girl and was carrying her toward the gate. The Mexican ran
after him and grabbed his arm.

"You gif her to me!" he shouted.

"This is the most ungrateful outfit of greasers I ever met up with,"
cried Clip, hurrying toward the second man. "That'll do for you!" he
said angrily, catching the fellow by the collar and throwing him back.

The Mexican whirled, his little eyes glittering like a snake's. One
hand darted toward the breast of his coat.

"Look out Clip!" warned Chub. "He's going to pull a knife on you."

Clip still had the club he had taken from the Mexican's companion, and
he squared away threateningly. There was a scar in the shape of a cross
on the man's swarthy cheek, and it glowed redly with the anger that
filled him.

Before the clash could proceed any farther, a man came galloping up
on horseback. The boys recognized him at once as Mr. McKibben, the
sheriff. The Mexicans also seemed to recognize him, for the one by the
horses slunk in between the animals' heads, and the other at once lost
his truculent manner.

"What's going on here?" demanded McKibben, peering sharply at the
Mexican, and then swerving his gaze to Matt and the unconscious form in
his arms.

"The team ran away, Mr. McKibben," explained Matt, "and this girl was
tied to the 'reach.' It looks as though she was badly hurt. I want to
carry her into the house and this fellow was trying to take her away
from me."

"H'm!" muttered the sheriff, getting down from his horse, "it's a cinch
the girl don't belong to them." He stepped closer to the Mexican, his
eyes on the scar. "Where'd you get the girl?" he demanded, one hand
groping in his pocket.

"The _niño_?" returned the Mexican shiftily. "She b'long to a friend of
mine, señor. I take her to him. I no like to leave her here."

The sheriff's hand came out of his pocket with a rush, bringing a pair
of handcuffs along with it. In less time than it takes to tell it, one
of the cuffs was about the Mexican's right wrist, while the other was
snapped about McKibben's left.

The Mexican gave a backward jump, but the sheriff, with a pull of
the arm, drew him back with a jerk that almost lifted him off his
feet. Once more the Mexican's hand was plunged into the breast of his
coat. It was the left hand this time, however, and he was awkward in
using it. McKibben's fingers gripped the wrist of the hand as it was
withdrawn and shook a knife out of it.

"None of that, Juan Morisco!" growled McKibben. "You see, I know you.
I've had you watched ever since you reached town, so you'll just walk
along with me and not make any trouble about it."

There was a rattle of hoofs up the road.

"The other one's making a getaway, Mr. McKibben," sang out Chub
excitedly. "He took one of the horses and---- Holy smoke, watch him go!"

The sheriff turned and flashed a look after the retreating horseman.

"I can follow him," said Clip. "I'll use your horse."

"Let him go," answered McKibben. "He's only the wood-hauler. This is
the man I want. Take the girl into the house, King," he added. "You
might ride my horse to the corral, Clipperton, and get a doctor."

"Do you know anything about this girl?" asked Matt, looking down at
the head that was lying limply over his arm.

"Not a thing; but I'll bet money there's crooked work of some kind
going on. The girl didn't belong with these Mexicans."

"If they hadn't tied her to the wagon," said Matt, "she would have got
clear of that accident without being so badly hurt."

"We'll get Juan in the sweat-box and find out about it."

"What have you pinched the greaser for, Mr. McKibben?" asked Chub.

"Don't get so curious, McReady," parried the sheriff. "Hitch those
three horses to the fence, and I'll send some one after them and the
wreck of the wagon. Do what you can for the girl, King."

Clip got on the sheriff's animal and started for the bridge; Chub went
to the horses which, by that time, had quieted down, and started toward
the fence with them; McKibben took his prisoner toward town; and Matt
pushed on through the gate and into the house.

This was a mysterious affair from start to finish, and he was wondering
what would come of it.



CHAPTER III.

"RAGS."


Susie McReady, who had been visiting with a friend over in town, came
home a little while after Matt had laid the girl down on a couch. Chub
entered the house with his sister, and was excitedly telling her what
had happened.

Susie went at once to the girl and began doing what she could for her.

"It's too bad," murmured Susie sympathetically, as she passed a wet
cloth back and forth over the girl's face. "Poor little thing! She
hardly seems to have any breath left in her."

"An' she don't seem to be hurt anywhere," said Chub, standing close to
the couch with Matt, "that's the queerest part of it."

"She may be hurt internally," spoke up Matt, feeling a pang of pity as
he looked at the pale little face.

The girl's clothing was so ragged it was a wonder that it held
together. Her shoes were broken and scuffed out, and there were holes
in her stockings.

The cold water revived her, and when her big eyes flickered open, they
passed in a troubled daze from Susie to Chub, and then to Matt. When
they rested on Matt, a faint smile came to her lips.

"Yous is de one dat was runnin' acrost de road wid a rope," said she.
"Dat was bully, w'at yous done. Put 'er dere, cull," and she lifted
herself on one elbow and reached out her hand.

"You're feeling a whole lot better, eh?" asked Matt, taking the dirty
little paw.

"Well, mebby," was the hesitating answer, "only I can't move me pins.
What's de matter wid 'em?"

She looked down at her feet as Matt released her hand. Susie cast a
frightened glance at Matt.

"Are you trying to move your feet?" Matt asked, hiding as best he could
the sudden consternation that swept through him.

"Sure I'm tryin'. Funny, ain't it? Dey feel like dey wasn't mine."

"Well, don't fret about it," said Matt softly. "When the doctor comes
he'll fix you up all right. What's your name?"

"Rags," was the answer.

"You've got another name besides that, haven't you?"

"Sure; but yous don't hear me sayin' it, I guess." Her face hardened a
little as she added: "Yous has done a lot fer me"--here she fixed her
large eyes steadily on Matt--"an' I'd do a lot fer yous, on'y don't ask
me name or anyt'ing about meself; see? Dat goes. Come around here an'
grab holt o' me mitt. Dere ain't nobody treated me white fer quite a
spell. De rest is all right, but yous is de one dat's made a hit wid
Rags."

Susie drew back a little and Chub pushed up a chair. Matt humored the
child and sat down beside her.

"W'at d'yous call yerself?" she asked, snuggling Matt's hand against
her cheek.

"Matt," he answered.

"Gee, but yous is fine! Say, ain't yous de Motor Matt de push has been
talkin' about?"

"They call me that sometimes."

She laughed, and her eyes danced as they looked into his.

"Ain't it great t' have a feller like yous stop a runaway team an'
pull yous out o' de smash! Why, yous saved me jest like yous did Dirk
Hawley's goil, only she was ridin' a horse while I was hangin' to a
busted wagon."

"Who were those men with you, Rags?" queried Matt.

"Cut it out, Matt. Dat's somet'ing I can't tell yous."

"Have you lived long in Phoenix?

"Dere yous go ag'in! Say, I hope dem pins git so's I kin use 'em before
long. I ain't got no money an' I can't be spongin' on folks dat mebby
don't want me around."

"You can stay right here, Rags, as long as you want to," put in Susie,
"and it won't cost you a cent."

"Not a red!" added Chub heartily.

"Dat's mighty kind," answered Rags, "but I got t' fly my kite jest as
soon's I kin git on me uppers."

"Is Juan Morisco a friend of yours, Rags?" asked Matt, still trying to
get some information from the girl.

"What's dat?" demanded Rags, starting up and looking hard at Matt.
"How'd yous know w'at his name was?"

"The sheriff arrested him----"

"Jugged! Are yous givin' it to me straight?"

"Yes."

Rags lay back and closed her eyes in a tired way.

"Well," she muttered, "dey won't git nuttin' out o' me."

The doctor came, just then, and for several minutes he gave his
undivided attention to Rags. When he had got through, and had left some
medicine, he beckoned Matt to follow him out on the porch. The moment
they were clear of the house the doctor's face became very grave.

"Not much hope for her," said he.

"What!" exclaimed Matt, taken aback. "Do you mean she can't get well?"

"Chances don't favor it. There's an injury to her spine and she's
paralyzed from the hips down. What do you know about her, King?"

"Not a thing, doctor, and she won't say a word about herself. But maybe
the man the sheriff arrested can be made to tell something."

The doctor, apparently, had been told all about the runaway and the
arrest of the Mexican, by Clip.

"There's something here that's mighty mysterious," said he, shaking his
head. "This Juan Morisco must be a hard citizen or McKibben wouldn't
have nabbed him. And what was the girl doing with Morisco, tied to the
wagon like she was? Got to make her talk, King. You seem to have more
influence over her than any one else. She's too young to have much
strength of will, and I think she'll tell you everything if you keep
trying to make her."

"That's where you're wrong, doctor," said Matt. "From what I've seen of
her I'll bet she won't say a word. Rags has got a reason for keeping
back what she knows, and she'd let you kill her before she'd breathe a
whisper."

"Well, I hear McKibben is giving Juan Morisco the third degree. If
Morisco can stand that, he's a better man than I think he is. One way
or another, the truth about that girl is bound to come out."

The doctor got into his buggy and drove off. Matt stood at the gate for
a few moments, looking for Clip; but, as he could see nothing of him,
he went back into the house.

Rags was asleep. Susie, who sat beside the couch, looked at Matt and
laid a finger on her lips. Matt tiptoed out through the kitchen to the
back of the house. Chub was sitting in a chair, tilted back against the
wall.

"What's old Sawbones got to say, pard?" he asked.

"Not much hope for Rags, Chub," said Matt gravely.

"Too bloomin' bad!" muttered Chub, "but mebby old pills-an'-physic has
made a wrong guess."

"Of course, there's a chance that he's off his reckoning. Wish I knew
why Rags won't tell us anything about herself, or about those two
greasers who had her tied to the wagon."

"She's a nervy little piece! Mebby she'll tell you, though, if you give
her time. You seem to make a hit with all the girls, Matt, little an'
big, an' Rags has taken to you like a Piute squaw to a string of glass
beads."

"Where's Welcome?" asked Matt.

A slow grin worked its way over Chub's freckled face.

"He's out in his study, soothin' his turbulent soul with hair-raisin'
literature."

"Didn't know he had a study," said Matt.

Chub jerked a thumb over his shoulder at a neighboring barn.

"It's over there," said he. "Perk's got a box stall all to himself,
an' his library contains everything about Dick Turpin that was ever
written. Come on over an' we'll take a look at him."

Matt was glad of something that would take his mind off Rags for a
time, and he followed Chub toward the barn. Approaching softly, Chub
placed an empty box under a square opening that ventilated one of the
stalls and motioned for Matt to get up beside him.

Some shelves had been put up along one side of the stall, and they were
piled with a lot of grimy-looking books. One of the books lay open on a
board placed over the manger, and Welcome stood in front of it with an
old butcher-knife in his hand. The old man had twisted up the ends of
his mustache to make it look bristling and fierce, and he was mumbling
to himself and flashing the butcher-knife around him savagely.

"Le'me see," the boys heard him mutter, as he bent over the book, "how
does that there go? Dad-bing! I wisht I had my glasses. The print's
purty fine an' the light ain't none too good."

Then he read, tracing the words with the point of the knife.

"'Gallopin' Dick pulled up his hoss clost by the coach an' drew a bead
on the passengers with his trusty pistol. "Stand!" he cried; "stand an'
deliver!"'"

Welcome jerked himself away from the book, whirled around on his wooden
pin and pointed his knife at the book-shelves.

"Stop where ye be!" he said fiercely. "It's Eagle-eye Perkins, Pirate
o' the Plains, that's stoppin' this here stage-coach. Stand an'
deliver!"

Just then Chub let off a whoop. Welcome, startled by the unexpected
sound, dropped the knife, jumped for the side of the stall, and tried
to climb up the book-shelves.

Crash went the collection of literature, and Welcome fell back on the
floor of the stall, half-covered by a deluge of books.

Laughing to themselves, the boys dropped off the box and started back
toward the house.

"What do you think of that!" chuckled Chub. "The old joke is a nice
kind of reformed road-agent, ain't he? Instead of tryin' to fight down
his lawlessness, he's keepin' it alive with that stuff. I'll bet if sis
ever finds out about his doin's there'll be a ruction, and---- Hello!
here comes Clip, an' he's tearin' along as though he was goin' over the
course for a record."

The boys had reached a place where they could see the road. Clipperton,
on foot, was racing up from the canal bridge. Clip was the best "miler"
anywhere in that part of the country, and he was certainly hitting
nothing but the high places as he rushed for the McReady front gate.

"Let's hike for the road and find out what he's got on his mind,"
suggested Matt.

He and Chub reached the gate just as Clipperton came up with it.

"Get the _Comet_, Matt," jerked out Clipperton. "You're wanted on the
jump. Hustle."

"Who wants me?" demanded Matt.

"The governor. It's a hurry-up call. McKibben said for you not to lose
a minute."

"What does the governor want me for?"

As Matt put the question he was running for his motor-cycle.

"That's too many for me," answered Clip. "All I know's what I'm telling
you. Something in the wind. No getaway for Denver for us to-day."

"Where'll I find Governor Gaynor?" asked Matt.

He was pushing his machine through the gate, and Clip was getting his
own wheel and making ready to follow.

"In his office," answered Clip. "He's waiting for you there."

Matt got into the saddle and began pedaling. The next moment the
pistons took the push and the motor began to snap. By the time he
reached the bridge the cylinders were purring softly and the _Comet_
was going like a limited express.



CHAPTER IV.

A DANGEROUS MISSION.


"I don't think the boy can make it, McKibben; I don't know whether it's
right to ask him to try to make it."

The governor was pacing back and forth in his private office, talking
with the sheriff who sat near-by. Something of importance was in the
wind, as could plainly be told from the faces of the two men and from
the nervous actions of the governor.

"There's nothing that lad can't do when he sets his mind to it,"
declared McKibben. "If Joe Dangerfield and his gang are kept from
reaching Mexico, it's Motor Matt that does it. Take my word for that,
governor."

"Do you think you can believe what Juan Morisco told you?" queried the
governor.

"I'll take my oath it was the truth."

"If word reaches the Dangerfield gang about what we're doing, King will
never be allowed to reach his destination."

"How can word reach the gang? When the boy starts he'll go like a
streak of greased lightning. He'll beat the news, even if there was a
leak somewhere and the information that he was acting as your courier
got started toward the hills."

"I sha'n't let him start until I have told him all about the danger----"

McKibben laughed.

"That youngster don't know what fear is, governor. He won't gigg back
on the job because of any trouble that may be staring him in the face.
Anyhow, he's our only hope. There's not a machine in town that can
cover the ground like it's got to be covered, except the _Comet_; and
there's no one else to use the _Comet_ except Motor Matt."

"He's slow getting here, seems to me," muttered the governor, starting
for a window to look out.

Before he reached the window a rap fell on the door. In answer to his
call, the governor's secretary entered.

"Here's young King, sir," announced the secretary.

"Have him come right in," said the governor, a look of relief crossing
his face.

The secretary withdrew, and the next moment Matt entered and stood
before the two men, cap in hand.

"You sent for me, sir?" he asked.

This was not the first time Governor Gaynor had seen Motor Matt, but
never before had he marked the sturdy bearing and resourceful air of
the lad as he did then. Somehow, his feeling of relief increased, and
he sat down in the big chair before his desk.

"Yes, King," said he; "I sent for you. How would you like to do
a little brisk, and perhaps exciting, work for Uncle Sam and the
Territory of Arizona?"

"I'll be glad to do anything I can," answered Matt, not a little
curious because of the governor's words and manner.

"There may be danger in it, King," went on the governor, eying the
lad's face keenly, "a great deal of danger."

"That ought to keep me gingered up," smiled Matt easily.

McKibben chuckled and swerved his eyes to the governor.

"There'll also be one hundred dollars in it for you."

"That's all right, too, sir," said Matt. "I could use the hundred."

"Briefly, then," proceeded the governor briskly, "the work is this:
A man named Joe Dangerfield, with several other ruffians, is camped
at Tinaja Wells, near Painted Rocks. They're a lawless set, those
fellows, and have been engaged in smuggling Chinamen into the United
States by way of Mexico and the Arizona border. The Federal Government
has offered a reward of one thousand dollars each for the capture of
Dangerfield or any of his gang.

"Jasper Burke, the sheriff from Prescott, is camped with a posse at
Potter's Gap, just over the divide, at the head of Castle Creek Cañon.
Dangerfield and his gang are known to be making for the Mexican border,
to get away from the authorities and so effect their escape. The trail
south from Tinaja Wells passes through Potter's Gap, and Burke and his
posse are waiting there to catch the Dangerfield outfit as it comes
along.

"It appears now, however, that Dangerfield has got wind of the
sheriff's move, and that he is going to leave Tinaja Wells some time
to-night and start south by another route. Now, Potter's Gap is a
hundred miles from Phoenix, and unless I can find a courier who will
get a letter into Burke's hands by five o'clock this afternoon, the
Dangerfield gang will escape into Mexico."

The governor's eyes sought a clock on the wall.

"It lacks fifteen minutes of noon," said he. "If you can get started
by twelve o'clock, you will have just five hours to make a 'century'
run--and a rough run it will be for a part of the way. Can you make it?"

A large map of Arizona hung near the clock. Matt stepped toward it.

"Can you show me, Mr. McKibben," he asked, "how I'll have to go to
reach Potter's Gap?"

"Sure, Matt," answered the sheriff, getting out of his chair and
drawing his finger over the map as he talked. "This here's the Black
Cañon road out of Phoenix--you know that pretty well by this time, I
reckon. The road forks this side of the Bluebell Mine, and you take the
fork. That leads you to Frog Tanks and Castle Creek Cañon. You go up
the cañon to a point five miles north of Hot Springs; there you'll find
a trail leading up the right-hand wall of the cañon and over the divide
to Potter's Gap. The hard part of your trip will come getting over the
divide."

"Any place on the trail where I can get gasoline?" asked Matt. "The
_Comet's_ tank will only hold enough for about seventy-five miles. If
I can't get any on the way, I'll have to take some with me. Won't have
to bother with oil. The oil-tank holds a quart, and that will keep me
going for two hundred miles."

"Better take some gasoline along and make sure," said McKibben. "You
might be able to get some at Hot Springs, or at Frog Tanks; but there's
a doubt, and you can't be in doubt of anything on this trip."

"Very well, sir."

"Think you can find your way all right?"

"It looks easy on the map, but I might take Clipperton along. He knows
the country like a book, and he's got a motor-cycle of his own now. His
machine is a one-cylinder, and not as fast as the _Comet_, but if I see
Clip can't keep the pace, I can leave him behind."

"It's all right to take one of your chums with you, King," put in the
governor; "in fact, it may be a mighty good thing for you to have some
one else along. If Dangerfield and his men are captured, it means that
they will spend a good long time in the penitentiary; and if they find
out you are carrying word to Burke that will keep them from reaching
Mexico, they'll do everything in their power to stop you."

"How'll they find out, sir? I'll keep ahead of the news all the way."

"That's what I'm hoping you'll do; but this Dangerfield gang is well
organized, and the fact that they've discovered Burke and his posse are
laying for them at Potter's Gap proves they're keeping track of things."

The governor whirled around to his desk and picked up an envelope.

"I'll not keep you any longer," said he, "for you have little enough
time for your 'century' run as it is. Here are the instructions which
you are to deliver to Burke. Put the letter away safely."

Matt opened his leather jacket and tucked the letter into the inside
pocket.

"Did you find out all this from Juan Morisco, Mr. McKibben?" he asked.

The sheriff nodded.

"That scar on Juan's face gave him away," said he. "How's the girl?"

The sheriff's eyes widened when he heard the report.

"She won't say a word about herself, or about Juan Morisco," went on
Matt.

"Can't blame her for that," said the sheriff.

It was plain that Morisco had told the sheriff something about Rags,
and Matt would have liked to hear what it was. Time was pressing just
then, however, and he had no wish to talk any longer.

As he was about to leave the room, the governor caught his hand, shook
it heartily, and wished him luck.

"I have confidence in your ability to take care of yourself, King,"
said he; "if I hadn't, I shouldn't allow you to make this venture under
any consideration. Keep a sharp look-out for trouble, that's all, and
put the _Comet_ through for all she's worth."

"I'll get your letter into Burke's hands, Governor Gaynor," declared
Matt, "by five o'clock. Good-by, sir."

As he left the office the clock was striking twelve.

"He'll do it, too," declared McKibben.

A few moments after the door closed behind Matt, the secretary
presented himself. He wore a troubled air.

"What's the matter, Jenkins?" queried the governor.

"Perhaps nothing, sir," answered Jenkins; "but when young King came
in to see you, there was a rough-looking man loafing around the hall.
After I had sent King into your office, I saw the man through the
window. He was hurrying down the walk in front, and I watched until he
got into a motor-car--a high-powered roadster. There was another man in
the car, and I'm sure they exceeded the speed-limit as they broke away
from the curb."

The governor, with a trace of consternation, turned on the sheriff.

"What do you think of that, McKibben?" he asked.

McKibben laughed easily.

"You're letting this Dangerfield business get on your nerves,
governor," said he. "What could that chap who was loafing in the hall
discover just by seeing King come in here?"

"He might have been friendly toward the Dangerfield gang, and he may
have made a guess as to why King had come here----"

"Nothing to it, governor, take it from me. Motor Matt will pull down
that hundred just too easy for any use. A dollar a mile for that
'century' run looks pretty good to him, I'll bet. Don't lose any sleep
about _him_. He'll be back here some time to-morrow, chipper as usual
and a hundred to the good. He's the bank that gets my gilt, no discount
on that."



CHAPTER V.

THE RED ROADSTER.


As Matt hurried out of the capitol building he found Clip at the curb,
waiting for him. Clip's motor-cycle was leaning against a hitching
post, and there was an ominous look on Clip's swarthy face--a look that
somehow reminded one of his grim Indian ancestors, for Clip was proud
of the fact that one of his grandparents had been a full-blood native
of the soil.

"What's on?" he asked, as Matt rolled the _Comet_ off the walk and into
the street.

"I've got to do a hard 'century' in five hours," answered Matt, "and
you're to go with me as long as you can keep up."

A gleam of satisfaction darted through Clip's eyes.

"I was looking for your machine," said he. "Where'd you leave it, Matt?"

"Left it at the steps, in charge of the janitor. Didn't intend to give
any one a chance to tamper with it. How's your gasoline-tank, Clip?"

"Full."

"Plenty of oil?"

Clip nodded.

"Same here," went on Matt. "We've got to carry two quarts more of
gasoline with us, and we'll pick it up at Brigham's."

Brigham's was a general store in the "Five Points," and on the boys'
direct course to the Black Cañon road. The machines were soon hustling
through Washington Street as fast as the speed regulations would allow.

"Going up Castle Creek Cañon?" asked Clip, while he and Matt were
gliding along side by side.

"How'd you know that, Clip?" returned Matt.

"Then it's true," muttered Clip darkly. "By thunder!"

The quarter-blood's manner was full of mysterious foreboding.

"What's true?" came from Matt sharply.

"A red automobile stood in front of the capitol. Was there when I
came up. A rough-looking fellow was in the driver's seat. Another
tough-looking man ran out of the building and jumped into the red car.
'Motor Matt's carrying a message,' I heard the second man say to the
driver. 'Castle Creek Cañon, Jem, on the high speed.' Trouble ahead,
Matt," Clip added.

Matt was astounded.

"Was that all you heard, Clip?" he asked.

"That was all."

"Ever see the two men before?"

"No."

"What kind of a car was it?"

"Roadster. Looked like it could go."

Matt puzzled over this disquieting information all the way to
Brigham's. They were held up about five minutes at the general store,
buying a couple of two-quart canteens and having them filled with
gasoline. When they left the Five Points and shot along Grand Avenue,
each had a receptacle securely lashed to the head of his machine.

Thirty miles an hour was about the limit of Clip's motor-cycle. Clip
had recently bought the machine of Ed Penny, and had equipped it with
new tires, so that it was in a perfectly serviceable condition.

Twenty miles an hour for five hours would turn the trick. But that was
too close figuring. The boys were a quarter of an hour late getting
away. This time would have to be made up, and, besides that, Matt
wanted to gain on the schedule so as to have a little leeway for
possible accidents.

"How's the going between the Arizona Canal and Castle Creek Cañon,
Clip?" queried Matt, as they whirled into the Black Cañon road.

"Fine to Frog Tanks," answered Clip. "From there to the cañon not so
good. In the cañon it's mighty poor."

"Then we'll have to make all the time we can at this end of the route.
Open 'er up, Clip!"

Both boys opened the throttles and let the reserve power shoot through
the machinery. The needle of Matt's speedometer indicated thirty-two
miles an hour.

"Great!" cried Matt, after giving Clip the figures. "That little
one-cylinder is just naturally humping herself, Clip. We've got five
hours for the trip, but at this pace we could almost do it in three."

"Hard trail in the cañon, Matt. There'll be plenty of lost time there.
What's the game, anyway?"

Matt explained as they dashed along. The excitement of the work ahead
brought a glow to Clip's eyes.

"Fine!" he exclaimed. "Motor Matt, the Governor's Courier! You'll get
through on time even if I can't."

"Whether you're in at the finish or not, Clip, we split that hundred
dollars right in two in the middle. If we ever get started for Denver,
old chap, the money will help."

"But that red roadster!" scowled Clip. "How did those roughs get next
to this work of yours?"

"That's too many for me," answered Matt.

"They must have suspected something. They were there, in front of the
capitol, waiting. Mighty queer!"

Matt's lips compressed into a thin line and his eyes flashed.

"We'll have to keep a keen look-out for trouble," said he, "and dodge
it, if any comes our way."

A few minutes later they were crossing the bridge over the Arizona
Canal. Matt pulled out his old silver watch.

"Only sixteen minutes to one," he announced, with a note of exultation,
"and we're fifteen miles on our way."

"Thirty miles to Frog Tanks and twenty to the next water," said Clip.
"We ought to have brought a water-canteen, too. The heat is something
fierce."

"We'll drink at the well, Clip, and pick up something to eat at the
same place. We ought to be there in forty minutes, at the outside."

After they left the Black Cañon road, just beyond the bridge, Matt was
in a country entirely new to him. The road was a bit cut up and sandy
in places, but Clip whaled his machine along and they did a trifle
better than thirty miles.

Two or three roads entered the one they were following, and they were
all as well traveled. Here Matt's wisdom in bringing Clip along, even
at the loss of some speed on the _Comet's_ part, was made manifest. But
for Clip, Matt might have gone astray on the wrong trail.

The boys were now in the region of big sahuara cacti, and the great
trunks flashed past them as telephone-poles recede behind a rushing
train.

In the dusty places of the road the broad tracks left by the tires of
an automobile could be plainly seen. The red roadster was ahead of
them. Matt studied the skyline in advance, wondering how far away the
two ruffians were and what their designs could be. He saw nothing of
the red car, and presently the square walls and flat roof of an adobe
house broke on his vision.

Behind the house was a primitive stable, thatched with grass, and a
small corral constructed of ocotilla poles braided together with wire.
Between the house and stable was an iron pump and a watering-trough.

"That's the ranch where we get our water," remarked Clip. "Two bits
apiece for a drink. There's Gregory, the rancher, out in front."

Gregory, the rancher, got up in surprise as the boys came to a stop at
the pump. He stared at the machines.

"Waal, I'll be hanged!" he muttered. "They've got them hossless wagons
on four wheels an' two wheels. Reckon they'll be havin' 'em on one
wheel next. Dry? Help yerself. Two bits apiece fer all ye kin swaller.
Water costs money in the desert."

Leaning their machines against the water-trough, the boys began working
the pump.

"Did you see a horseless wagon on four wheels go past here, Mr.
Gregory?" asked Matt.

"Sure. Two fellers was on the seat. They stopped fer water an' then
hiked right on, jest as though they was in a hurry ter git some'r's.
Friends o' your'n?"

"No, we don't know them," answered Matt. "How long since they passed?"

"Less'n five minutes."

"Got anything to eat in your place?" went on Matt. "We can't stop more
than a minute or two."

"Sho!" exclaimed the man. "Ever'body 'pears ter be in a hurry this
arternoon. I got jerked beef, crackers, an' all kinds o' canned goods,
say nothin' erbout----"


"'Jerked' and crackers'll do," interrupted Clip. "We'll go in, Gregory.
Get us a hand-out we can tote in our pockets."

"Sartain," answered Gregory.

The boys were not in the adobe house to exceed five minutes, and they
wouldn't have been there to exceed three if Gregory had been a little
more spry in his movements. Stuffing their crackers and dried beef
into their pockets, they ran out of the house and to their machines.
Scarcely taking time to look the motor-cycles over, they pulled them
upright and got into the saddles.

Matt pedaled away, twisting on the gasoline and the spark. But the
motor did not work--he was still pushing the machine ahead with the
pedals. He halted to investigate and find out what was wrong, and at
that moment a startled cry came from Clip.

Matt looked around. Clip was having the same trouble getting his
motor-cycle started. But Clip had made another discovery which sent a
shock of consternation through both him and Matt.

"Our gasoline-cans!" cried Clip. "Where are they?"

Then, for the first time, Matt saw that his reserve supply of gasoline
had been removed from the head of the _Comet_. Clip's can had
disappeared in the same mysterious manner. With a sudden, paralyzing
thought, Matt examined the tank back of his saddle.

_The tank was empty!_

Doubling up his fists, Clip jumped for Gregory. The latter sprang back
and stared at Clip in astonishment.

"You know who did it!" shouted Clip menacingly. "The men on that red
roadster hired you to stop us! You had some one hiding here. While we
were in the house the gasoline was taken away. We'll give you a minute
to get it back. Sixty seconds, Gregory!"

The rancher continued to stare.

"I don't know nothin' about what you're gittin' at," he muttered
blankly. "I ain't makin' trouble fer no one, an' them other fellers
didn't hire me ter do a thing. Keep away, I tell ye! Thar's two o' you,
but I'll give ye a hot time if ye git too hostile!"

Gregory picked up an ax as he stepped back, and then stood confronting
the boys threateningly.



CHAPTER VI.

SURMOUNTING THE DIFFICULTY.


While this clash was going forward between the rancher and Clip, Matt's
mind had been busy. The result of his thinking forced the conclusion
that Gregory was innocent of any underhand work.

First, the rancher seemed to be alone at the ranch. If that was
really the case, then there had been no one belonging to the place
to interfere with the machines. Furthermore, some knowledge of the
mechanism of the motor-cycles had been necessary in order to strip the
machines of their gasoline in the short space of time in which the
work had been done. It was not to be supposed that any confederate of
Gregory's could have had this knowledge.

"Hold up, Clip," said Matt, dropping a hand on his chum's arm. "You're
on the wrong track. I'm sure Gregory didn't do this, or have any one do
it."

"There wasn't any one else," flared Clip. "If Gregory didn't do it, he
knows who did."

"The red roadster may have stopped farther along the trail, and one
of the men may have come back. Have you got any gasoline, Gregory?"
inquired Matt.

"Nary, I ain't," answered the rancher. "That's what them other two
fellers wanted ter know."

Clip cast a quick look at Matt.

"Mebby they're running short themselves," said Clip. "They found
Gregory didn't have any. Then they made a dead set at ours."

"Or," went on Matt, "those fellows may have asked Gregory just to make
sure we couldn't get a fresh supply from him when they had taken what
we had. We'll go on for a while and use the pedals."

"We've lost out," cried Clip angrily. "Just at the start, too. Nice
thing for you to tell the governor."

Matt looked gloomily at his watch, then started off with all the speed
he could throw into the pedals. But the weight of the machinery, now
suddenly useless, pulled him back.

His hopes were down, way down. His mysterious enemies had scored a
telling stroke at the very start-off.

"What time is it, Matt?" asked Clip, in a discouraged tone, toiling
along beside his chum.

"Twenty-five minutes of two," was the answer.

"We've got three hours and twenty-five minutes to go sixty-five miles!"
Clip laughed gruesomely. "We couldn't do it in two days, at this rate."

While the boys were talking they came to a long slope that ran downward
through a thick chaparral of greasewood, palo-verde, and ironwood. The
road twisted serpentlike to avoid rough ground. From somewhere in the
thicket below a muffled _thump_, _thump_, _thump_ came up to them, as
though some one was wielding an ax.

"What's that?" queried Matt, looking at Clip.

"Mexican wood-cutters, I reckon," was the response.

The boys went on down the slope, coasting at a rapid gait. Half-way
down the descent, a turn brought them into the proximity of an
automobile, and so suddenly that they had to clap on the brakes in
order to avoid a collision.

The car was a red roadster. It was at a standstill in the middle of the
trail, and neither of the two men was near it.

Astounded at this stroke of luck, Matt and Clip, for a moment, could
do no more than stare at each other. The blows of the ax, off in the
chaparral, were louder in their ears now, and they could hear a mumble
of voices.

"Wow!" gasped Clip. "Am I dreaming? Can I believe what I see? Say,
Matt, this is too blamed good to be true!"

Matt, getting quick control of his wits, had been running his eyes over
the roadster. One of the rear tires was flat. On the ground near the
flattened tire lay a new one, just taken out of the brackets that had
supported it.

"Well, well, this _is_ luck!" breathed Matt, getting off his machine
and hurrying to the automobile. "A tire blew up on them. They haven't a
jack along, and they've gone into the brush to cut a couple of pieces
of ironwood, in order to lift the axle and get on a new tire."

"They may be back----"

"Sure, and we've got to hustle." Matt was already on the running-board.
"Here are our canteens," he went on excitedly, picking both of the
gasoline-cans out of the rumble. "And they're full, too," he added.
"Take one, Clip, and empty it into your gasoline-tank."

It was a time for action rather than words. The chopping had ceased in
the chaparral, but the talking was still going on, and, from the sound
of it, the two men were not as yet coming any nearer.

"We're using up our reserve supply," said Clip, while they were
emptying the canteens into the tanks.

"We'll fill the canteens again out of the car-tank," returned Matt, "if
we have time."

"Bully!" chuckled Clip. "Then let the rest of the gasoline out into the
road. Give 'em a dose of their own medicine. It'll serve 'em right."

Clip was a lad of quick temper. The Indian blood in his veins
undoubtedly lay at the root of this, but the resentment he felt at
being looked down upon by some of the Phoenix boys who regarded the
mixed blood as a taint had had a good deal to do with it.

Had Matt not interfered at the well, Clip would certainly have set upon
Gregory, for rarely did Clip's temper allow him time to reason a matter
out. This reprisal against the two men who had the roadster, however,
had already taken form in Matt's mind before Clip had suggested
it. By stranding the car in the desert, thirty-five miles from a
gasoline-filling station, Matt could clip the claws of his enemies and
render them harmless.

The moment the _Comet's_ tank had been filled and capped, Matt carried
the canteen to the motor-car and proceeded to replenish it out of the
supply belonging to his two enemies.

Then, while he was filling Clip's canteen, Clip was busy making Matt's
fast to the head of the _Comet_. Both boys were so hard at work that
they did not notice the sound of voices had died out in the chaparral.
As Matt stepped back from the motor-car and finished screwing the cap
on the canteen, a man jumped out into the road. The man was carrying a
six-foot length of ironwood. With a yell of anger, he hurled the heavy
stick straight at Matt.

Matt dodged, and the timber just grazed his head.

"Jem!" whooped the man; "this way--on the jump!"

Running around the front of the automobile, Matt made a rush for his
machine, at the same time yelling to Clip to get into the saddle and
make off with a rush.

The man, darting around the rear of the roadster, started to plant
himself in Matt's way. Matt feinted as though he would pass on the
right side. When the man had thrown himself in that direction, Matt
plunged by on the left, whirling the canteen by the strap and striking
his enemy a fierce crack on the side of the head.

The man toppled over against the automobile. By then Matt had reached
the _Comet_. Still hanging to Clip's canteen, he jerked the motor-cycle
away from the bushes, got into the saddle, and started the pedals. Clip
had already started, but was going slow and looking back to see if his
help would be needed.

Jem, the driver of the roadster, crashed through the bushes just as the
_Comet_ was getting under its own headway. He carried an ax and another
piece of freshly cut ironwood.

"That's King!" whooped Jem's companion. "Stop him! You've got to stop
him!"

Clip flung back a taunt. Matt, as the _Comet_ gathered speed like a
mettlesome racer, wondered how Jem was going to cover the fast-widening
gap and do anything to stop either of the motor-cycles.

The next moment he understood what the last resource was the two men
were going to fall back upon.

There came a "pop" like an exploding fire-cracker, and a bullet
whistled past Matt's ear. Bending lower over the handlebars, he opened
the throttle with a twist of his left hand. The road was down-hill and
the _Comet_ was going like a thunderbolt.

In about two seconds Matt had caught up with Clip; then, in an instant
more, both boys were screened from their enemies by a turn in the road.



CHAPTER VII.

SMOKE-SIGNALS.


"Thunder!" muttered Clip, as the breakneck pace was slackened a little.
"Just made it, Matt. By the skin of our teeth. And we didn't dump their
gasoline into the road, either. They'll be after us just a-smoking when
they get that new tire on."

"We're playing in great luck, Clip, to get off as well as we did,"
answered Matt. "Here, take your two quarts of gasoline."

Clip took the canteen and hung the strap over his handlebars.

"We're ahead now, anyway," said he, with grim satisfaction. "That's a
heap better than being behind."

Matt listened to the steady hum of the _Comet's_ twin cylinders with an
exultation he could not conceal. What had happened had been almost like
snatching victory from certain defeat.

"How much time did we lose?" asked Clip.

"It's two o'clock," answered Matt, juggling his watch with one hand.

"And we're in the lead. That makes a heap of difference. There'll be no
underhand work ahead of us, after this. We'll beat the news to Potter's
Gap."

The trail slid away into the flat desert at the foot of the slope. As
the boys wheeled across the sandy level, they cast a look backward at
the brush-covered slope, to see if they could discover any traces of
the red roadster and of their enemies.

The car was not in sight, but rising straight upward in the still air
was a thin column of smoke. Suddenly the column was broken, and one,
two, three balls of vapor floated aloft; then the straight, grayish
plume was in evidence again; after a moment the smoke-balls reappeared
and wound up the spectacle.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Matt. "What sort of a performance do you call
that, Clip?"

Clipperton's face was ominous as he answered:

"Smoke-signals. Those two back there must belong to Dangerfield's gang.
They were telling some of the rest of the gang that we're coming." A
look of savage pride crossed Clipperton's face. "You know why I know,"
he added. "It was born in me."

Motor Matt had been the first true white friend Clipperton had ever
had. Perhaps that was because he had looked for the worth and manliness
in the depths of Clip's nature, and had found more than any one else
had ever taken the trouble to hunt for. Clip's ancestry was a raw
wound, principally because there were some who took malignant pride in
never allowing it to heal; and yet he was defiantly proud of it.

"I wish I had had a little of the same kind of knowledge born in me,
Clip," said Matt generously, and Clip threw him a grateful look, and
his surliness vanished.

"See there!" cried Clip abruptly, pointing toward a range of dim blue
hills to the north. "The signals were read. They're being answered."

A long way off, but perfectly plain in the clear air, arose a column of
smoke. It was broken into little clouds, just as the other had been,
and when it disappeared it vanished as quickly.

"How do they do it, Clip?" asked Matt.

"A fire of green wood and a wet blanket. That's all. There's Frog
Tanks," and Clip indicated a cluster of adobe walls and thatched roofs,
midway between them and the point where the answering signals had shown
themselves.

It was twenty minutes after two when the boys wheeled through the
little Mexican settlement. There was no sign of the red roadster behind
them, but, for all that, they were expecting trouble on account of the
smoke-signals.

"Two hours and five minutes on the road," cried Matt, "and we're
forty-five miles from Phoenix. We're still ahead of the schedule, Clip."

"The worst part of the road's ahead," said Clip briefly. "Here's where
we begin to strike it."

Just at that moment the trail dipped into a rocky ravine and climbed a
steep bank on the opposite side. There was no water in the ravine, but
the rocks were jagged and sharp, and they had to use much care to save
their tires. With all the reserve power thrown into the machinery, the
_Comet_ made hard work of the hill. Clip had to get off and drag his
motor-cycle up by hand.

For a mile beyond the ravine the trail was heavy with sand. Matt began
to appreciate the difficulties ahead of him and to worry a little about
the outcome. Clip noticed the serious look that crossed his chum's face.

"Don't fret," said he. "The cañon won't be as bad as this. The bed of
the cañon is hard enough. What makes it a tough trail is the boulders
brought down in the freshets. That automobile couldn't get up the cañon
at all. You and I can go around the rocks. There's the opening into the
gulch. Just ahead."

At the edge of the flat Matt saw a high, rocky ridge. The ridge was
broken by a notch, and the road crawled through the opening and into
the defile.

The sides of the notch were steep, and the boys rode through it in
single file, Matt taking the lead. When they were about half-way
through, a crash broke on their ears, followed by a rumbling sound that
grew swiftly in volume.

A yell of warning came from Clip.

Matt had just time to catch a glimpse of a rock rushing down the side
of the notch. In a trice he speeded up the _Comet_ and leaped forward
toward the cañon, sand and loosened pebbles dropping all around him.

From behind him came a ringing shock. With his heart in his throat he
shut off the power and clamped on the brake, stopping so suddenly that
he was nearly thrown over the front wheel.

When he turned to look around, the rumbling had ceased. Clip's machine
lay on its side, with a twisted and bent rear wheel, and Clip himself
was just rising from the ground.

"Are you hurt, Clip?" Matt asked, bracing the _Comet_ against a boulder
and running back.

Clip was frantic with rage and disappointment. One look at his machine
was enough to tell him that he was out of the race.

"Those smoke-signals did it!" he snorted angrily, lifting his eyes to
the slope of the notch wall. "Some one loosened a rock. The skulking
coyote! It's a wonder we weren't killed."

Matt saw the stone. It was round, water-worn, and as big as a barrel.
Evidently it had caught Clip's machine just as it was all but out of
the way. The impact had whirled it around and bent and twisted the
wheel.

"Nothing but a repair-shop can ever fix that," said Matt, almost as
much disappointed as his chum was. "What'll you do, Clip?"

Clip did not answer. He had seen something up the steep slope that
brought a snarl of anger to his lips and sent him clawing and
scrambling up the rocks.

Matt ran after him. If there was to be a fight with any of the
Dangerfield gang, Matt was determined not to let Clip go into it alone.

The climb was a hard one, but the hard, well-trained muscles of the two
boys made record work of it.

Twenty feet up the wall was a shelf. Clip was over the edge of the
shelf first, having had the lead of Matt in the start. As Matt crawled
over, he saw a roughly dressed man scurrying to get up the wall at the
back of the shelf.

Clip jumped for the man, clutched his feet, and pulled him down. A
torrent of imprecations, in some unknown tongue, burst from the man's
lips. Throwing up his hands, he caught Clip about the throat, and the
two rolled over and over, struggling desperately.

They would have gone over the edge of the shelf and rolled and bounded
down the wall, had not Matt, quick to note his chum's danger, darted
for the fighters to grab and hold them back.

Catching the man by the shoulders, Matt flung him sideways, on his
back. The fellow had a knife in his hand, and made a vicious stab at
Matt's breast. Clip, by a quick movement of his lithe body, caught the
man's wrist and held the weapon back. Then, while all three were on
their knees on the rocky shelf, a strange scene was enacted. Clip and
the man stared at each other with startled eyes. The fight went out of
each of them in a flash. An expression of amazement crept into their
faces, and along with Clip's astonishment came a tinge of bitterness.

"What's the matter?" queried Matt, getting to his feet.

Neither Clip nor the man spoke a word. There was a clatter as the knife
dropped on the shelf.

The man was tall and wiry. His face was even more swarthy than Clip's,
his eyes were small and piercing, his hair was straight and black, and
there were rings in his ears. He wore moccasins and buckskin leggings,
and a dingy-blue flannel shirt, open at the throat.

Both the man and Clip got up slowly.

"_Tio! Tio mio!_" said Clip, in a hoarse whisper.

A slow grin worked its way into the man's face. From the edge of the
shelf he looked down to where the disabled motor-cycle was lying.

Then he said something in a language Matt could not understand, and
took a step toward Clip, with hand outstretched. Clip muttered and
struck the hand aside. The man did not appear very much cast down by
this lack of courtesy, but bent over coolly and picked up his knife.
Returning it to his belt, he folded his arms, leaned back against the
wall at the other side of the shelf, and studied the two boys curiously.

Clip clenched his hands as some strong emotion swept through him. Then
abruptly he stepped toward the man and began speaking. What he said
Matt could not understand. The words came swiftly, fairly tripping over
each other. That Clipperton was upbraiding the man there was no doubt;
but why he should do that, or why either of them should act in the
queer manner they were doing was a puzzle.

Clip's fierce words seemed to make an impression on the man. The grin
faded from his lips and a more serious expression took its place. As
soon as he could break into the torrent of Clip's talk, the man spoke.
He spoke for a full minute, and Matt pricked up his ears as he heard
the name of Dangerfield mentioned.

When the man had finished, Clip said something in a sharp tone and
started down the slope, beckoning Matt to follow. The man came to the
edge of the shelf and watched them as they slipped and scrambled to the
trail, but he made no move to follow.

"Smoke-signals," said Clip, in his usual terse fashion. "They got us
into this fix. And brought me a big surprise. But it may be a help to
you, Matt, in the long run."

Clip's face was moody, although his words were spirited enough.

"What in the wide world is that fellow?" queried Matt. "What sort of a
hold have you got over him, Clip?"

"There's a chain of men watching Castle Creek Cañon," said Clip, not
seeming to hear Matt's question. "The smoke-signals are passed on. From
the other side of Frog Tanks, they reach Dangerfield, at Tinaja Wells.
Some of the gang are laying for you above here. You'll have to go on
alone. Think you can find the way?"

"It's right up the cañon, isn't it, until I get to the trail that leads
over the right-hand wall?"

"Yes. Take the first trail that leads over the wall. You can't go
wrong. While daylight lasts," and a cunning look rose in Clip's eyes,
"there'll be more smoke-signals coming from here. I'll be back of them.
_And they'll help you through._"

Clip turned and led the way to the boulder where Matt had left the
_Comet_.

"You'd better hike, Matt," said he. "You can't lose any more time."

"But who's that ruffian, Clip?" asked Matt again, as he got into the
saddle.

"That ruffian"--there was mocking bitterness in Clip's voice, as he
spoke--"is my uncle. He's a half-breed. His name is Pima Pete. He's one
of the gang. He didn't recognize me when he rolled that stone down the
hill. We haven't seen each other for two years."

Clip whirled around, as though he would make off without another word.
Matt was dumfounded. He recovered himself, however, in time to call
sharply:

"Clip!"

Clipperton turned and saw Matt holding out his hand. "Can't you say
good-by, pard, and wish me luck?" asked Matt.

Clipperton hesitated a moment, then rushed forward, caught Matt's hand,
and wrung it fervently. But he could not trust himself to speak.

Another minute and Motor Matt was in Castle Creek Cañon, headed north.



CHAPTER VIII.

ON THE DIVIDE.


It was five minutes to three, and there were fifty miles of cañon and
up-and-down trail over the divide to be covered. This meant that Motor
Matt must average twenty-five miles an hour for the next two hours. In
favorable parts of the trail he must do better than that, to off-set
losses of time where the going was most difficult.

The bed of the cañon was strewn with boulders, ranging in size from a
bucket to a hogshead. The road was plainly marked, but the last freshet
had sprinkled it with stones, large and small.

Mountain-wagons, constructed for service in such sections of the
country, were hauled over the smallest of the boulders, and where the
largest were met, and could not be avoided by a detour, the driver of
the wagon got out and rolled them away.

As Clip had said, however, the trail was impassable for automobiles.
A high-wheel wagon could bump and jerk its way over the stones, but a
low-wheel car with pneumatic tires would not have lasted half an hour
in the cañon, nor have traversed a mile of it.

On the other hand, the narrow tread of a motor-cycle enabled it to
dodge the rocks, leaving the trail only at points where the rocks were
so close together the machine could not get between them.

But sharp eyes, a firm hand, and unerring judgment were needed for
every foot of the way. This, of course, made anything like the best
speed impossible.

For several miles Matt weaved his way in and out, speeding up on the
comparatively clear stretches, and slowing down for places where the
most obstacles were encountered. The avoiding of sharp stones and
boulders at last became almost mechanical. With his gaze on the road
immediately in advance, his hands instinctively turned the _Comet_
right or left, as the exigencies of the case demanded.

When he could spare a little of his attention from the running of the
machine, his thoughts reverted to Clipperton and his heart saddened
with the hurt pride smoldering in Clip's eyes when they had parted in
the notch.

Clip's uncle--his mother's brother, most probably--was a half-breed and
a member of Dangerfield's gang. How Clip's sensitive soul must have
recoiled from confessing the truth to Matt! And yet Clip had been manly
enough to face the issue, and Matt liked him all the better for it.

"What a fellow's people are," thought Matt, "don't amount to a
picayune; it's what the fellow is himself that counts. But it was tough
on Clip to run into a relative and find him passing smoke-signals along
for that prince of rascals, Dangerfield. And then, it was pretty near
the last straw to have that relative roll a stone down the bank and put
Clip out of the running. I don't blame him for getting worked up."

A study of the speedometer showed Matt that he was not averaging more
than twenty miles an hour. This worried him. The necessity for doing
better than that was vital to the success of his mission, and yet,
without great risk to his machine, he did not see how he was going to
accomplish it. Hoping constantly for a better piece of road, he pushed
doggedly on.

The walls of the cañon were wide apart and high. They formed themselves
into pinnacles, and turrets, and parapets, and a fanciful mind could
easily liken them to the walls of a castle. From these features of the
cañon it had, no doubt, derived its name of "Castle Creek."

A stream flowed through the defile, but a stranger would not have
discovered this from a casual survey of the cañon's bed. The stream was
like most water-courses in Arizona, and flowed _under the sand_ and
next to the bed-rock. Here and there, at irregular intervals, the water
appeared in pools, pushed to the surface by a lifting of the underlying
rock.

Once Matt halted to snatch a drink from one of the diminutive ponds,
but in less than a minute he was astride the _Comet_ again and pushing
resolutely onward.

Here and there he passed a "flat," or level stretch of earth, brought
down by the waters from above and lodged in some bend of the gulch.
These flats were free from stones and covered with a scant growth of
cottonwoods and piñons.

Some time was gained by riding across these level, unobstructed
stretches.

A little more than half an hour after leaving the notch, Matt passed
a flat that lay at the foot of a gully running into the ravine. There
was an adobe house on the flat, a corral, and other evidences of a
rather extensive ranch. A man was standing in front of the house as
Matt hurried past. He was staring at the motor-cycle like a person in a
trance.

"What place is this?" called Matt, as he went by.

"Hot Springs," the rancher called back. "What sort of a contraption y'u
got thar, anyways?"

Matt told him, but probably the backwoodsman was not very much
enlightened.

North of Hot Springs the road was tolerably clear for several miles,
and the _Comet_ leaped along it at top speed. When near the end of the
good going, the road forked, a branch entering a gap in the right-hand
wall and climbing steeply toward the top.

Matt's heart gave a bound.

"Here's where I take the divide!" he muttered, swerving the _Comet_
into the opening and giving it every ounce of power for the climb. "Now
for Potter's Gap and Sheriff Burke."

Up and up went the trail, twisting back and forth in long horseshoe
curves. But for those curves, no wagon could ever have scaled that
frightful ascent. In places the road had seemingly been blasted out
of a sheer wall, and it was so narrow that a wagon would have had to
rub against the cliff-face in order to keep the opposite wheels from
slipping over the dizzy brink.

Matt's view of the cañon and of the surrounding hills opened as he
ascended. He had not much time for the view, however, for when he was
not peering at the trail, or catching a look at the face of his watch,
he was studying the speedometer. It was after four o'clock, and he was
making barely four miles an hour!

Higher and higher he climbed, coming steadily nearer to the top of the
divide. A light breeze fanned his face, and all around him he could
see mountain peaks pushing upward into the clear blue sky. Only the
_chug-chug_ of his laboring motor-cycle broke the stillness. Probably
never before, since time began, had those hills echoed with the puffing
of a steel horse.

At last the climbing trail dipped into a level tangent just below the
top of the mountain. After a straight-away run of a hundred yards, it
coiled serpentlike around the mountain's crest.

On Matt's left was a broken granite wall running vertically to the top
of the peak; on his right was a chasm, falling hundreds of feet into a
gloomy gulch. Between the chasm and the wall ran the ribbon of road,
eroded in places by wind and weather until it had a perceptible slant
outward.

A skidding of the wheels, the relaxation for an instant of a cool,
steady grip on the handlebars, or a sudden attack of dizziness would
have hurled the young courier into eternity.

In that hazardous place speed was not to be thought of. "Slow and sure"
had to be Matt's motto. He finished the tangent and began rounding the
curve. In no place on that fearsome bend was the road visible for more
than a dozen feet ahead.

While he was avoiding the fissures, and carefully picking his way
around the curve, a savage growl broke suddenly on his ears. With
racing pulses, he lifted his eyes and saw a huge dog crouching in the
path before him.

The dog was a Great Dane, big enough and seemingly savage enough for
a bear. While Matt stared, and wondered how and why the dog happened
to be there, a man in a blue shirt, sombrero, and with trousers tucked
in his boot-tops, emerged suddenly from behind a shoulder of rock. He
carried a club, and a look of intense satisfaction crossed his face as
he came in sight of Matt.

"Take him, Bolivar!" yelled the man, and Motor Matt was brought
suddenly face to face with unexpected peril.

With a vicious snarl, the dog lifted his great body into the air and
plunged toward the _Comet_. Matt had come to a quick stop, disengaging
his right foot from the toe-clip and bracing the motor-cycle upright.
He had time for no more than to throw his left arm over his face, when
the dog struck him.

The impact of the brute's body was terrific. Matt went down, with the
motor-cycle on top of him, head and shoulders over the brink of the
precipice.



CHAPTER IX.

A RUSE THAT WON.


Of course, the smoke-signals, passed along by Dangerfield's chain of
guards, were responsible for Matt's predicament. The man and the dog
were at that difficult place in the trail to capture the governor's
courier, and just at that moment it looked as though they had succeeded.

Unarmed as he was, what could Motor Matt accomplish against the ruffian
and the dog? This problem rushed through the boy's brain as he lay at
the edge of the trail.

The Great Dane, crouching close and snarling, watched him as a cat
watches a mouse. Matt stared into the brute's fiendish little eyes, and
reason told him that the bared white fangs would instantly fasten upon
his throat if he moved.

He was not injured, although somewhat bruised, and his mind was as keen
and alert as ever. Why not, he asked himself, "play possum" with the
man and the dog, and pretend to be badly hurt and unconscious? The ruse
might not help him any, but there was a chance that it would.

Closing his eyes until he could just see through them and keep track of
what was going on, he held his breath, lay silent, and watched.

The man drew close, leaned on his club, and stood looking down.

"Hello, thar, young feller!" he called.

Matt did not answer.

"Hello, I say!" repeated the man, nudging Matt with the end of the
club. "I reckon you're the one Bolivar an' me's been waitin' here fer,
an'--what's the matter with ye, anyhow?"

Still no answer from Matt.

"Must hev hit his head a crack when he went down," muttered the man.
"You're some sizeable, Bolivar, an' when ye fall on anythin', ye come
down like a thousand o' brick. Git away from him! I reckon ye've done
yore part. I'll get a rope on him now. Clear out!"

The dog slunk away along the road to a distance of two or three yards.
Then the man pulled the _Comet_ away and leaned it against the rocks.

"Fust time I ever seen one o' them steel bronks," he remarked, talking
to himself. "Pussonly, I ain't got no use fer a hoss that drinks
gasoline. They'd be hard ter ride, an' I don't reckon they'd be
reliable."

Before picking up the machine, the man had dropped his club. He now
laid hold of Matt and drew him away from the brink of the precipice.
When he finally let loose of Matt, Matt's hand was close to the small
end of the club--one arm, in fact, was lying upon it.

"If Bolivar had knocked ye a couple o' feet farther, young feller,"
pursued the man, still talking to himself more than to Matt, "ye'd
hev tumbled inter the gulch, iron hoss an' all. Now, we'll see what
ails ye, an' then I'll make a stagger ter git ye ter Tinaja Wells, so
Dangerfield an' the rest kin size ye up an' find out what yer bizness
is."

Bolivar, who did not seem to relish taking a back seat just as his prey
had come under his paws, began growling and dragging himself forward.

The man turned and, with a savage oath, ordered the animal to keep
away. While his back was toward him, Matt knew that then, if ever, was
his time to bolt.

Like lightning the boy gained his feet, lifting the club with him. In
two leaps he was beside the _Comet_.

Hearing his quick movements, the man faced around with a frantic yell.

"No, ye don't!" he roared, and flung at Matt with his bare hands.

The club whirled and Matt brought it down on the man's shoulder with
all his strength. It was a glancing blow, but it was enough to daze the
man and send him reeling backward.

Matt lost not an instant in dropping the club, getting astride the
_Comet_, and starting. Just as the motor got busy, the dog dropped
beside Matt, gripping his right sleeve and tearing a piece out of the
stout leather.

The boy reeled under the shock, but he was not again overturned. To get
away from the man and the dog he must have speed, and he must set the
_Comet_ to going its best in spite of the perils of the trail.

As he tore around the curved course, his resolute eyes following the
path in front of the machine, he heard the snarling of the dog and the
patter of his cushioned feet on the rocks.

The loss for an instant of the control of the machine would have
spelled death for Motor Matt. To keep the _Comet_ away from the edge
of the cliff, and away from the loose stones fringing the wall on the
other side of the road, was the problem with which Matt had to contend.
It was a hair-raising problem, too, and called for every ounce of nerve
and every particle of skill the boy possessed.

He dared not look behind to note the situation in that quarter. The
man, he knew, he could easily distance, and it was the bounding Great
Dane he feared.

His ears told him that the dog was holding his own--exerting all his
power and neither gaining nor losing. But he was too close for comfort.
Should he snap at the rear wheel and puncture the tire--Matt's thoughts
could not carry the danger further. A good many things, just then,
swung in the scales of chance, and what the dog might do was only one
of them.

A minute passed, a minute so full of peril that it seemed like an hour,
and the darting _Comet_ reached the other side of the peak and passed
from level ground to a steep descent.

Below him, Motor Matt could see the trail, winding in steep horseshoes
just as on the other side of the mountain. But there was no precipice
at its edge to threaten destruction.

By its own weight the machine would have coasted down the mountain at
a clip never before equaled. Matt diminished the power that fed the
racing pistons, but still he continued to drop like a thunderbolt down
the steep slope.

The wind sang in his ears, and rock, bush, and stunted tree flashed by
like so many missiles hurled at him by a giant hand. The speedometer
could register up to sixty-five miles an hour, but the needle had gone
out of business. If Motor Matt was not doing a good seventy an hour, on
that hurricane drop toward the mountain's foot, he was far afield in
his reckoning.

It could hardly be called a ride. It was more like a fall through space.

Naturally, such a fierce gait could not last long. Matt was at the
base of the mountain before he fairly realised it, and the _Comet_ was
plunging away on a mesa toward a V-shaped cut in a ridge.

He had time now for a quick look rearward. The Great Dane was not in
sight. All Motor Matt had to show for the perilous encounter on the
cliffside was his torn sleeve, a few bruises, and an uncomfortable
remembrance.

As if to make up for the worrisome struggle through the cañon and the
snail's pace toward the top of the divide, Matt had now a fine, hard
road under him and plenty of room.

How much time he had lost he did not know, but that down-grade had put
his schedule many minutes to the good. He was going a mile a minute
now, and he was still gaining on the miles lost in the cañon.

As he closed in on the V-shaped opening in the ridge, he slowed down,
to make a preliminary survey of the country ahead. The road led on
through the bottom of the "V," and Matt suddenly took note of a man
on horseback, directly in front of the charging _Comet_. The horse,
frightened by the motor-cycle, was bucking and leaping sideways at the
roadside.

"What place is this?" shouted Matt, as he swung past.

"Potter's Gap!" answered the man.

The boy's heart gave a bound, and he shut off and stopped the _Comet_
within a dozen yards. Facing about, he waited for the horseman to spur
his prancing mount closer.

"That's another o' them darned new-fangled machines that folks keep
inventin'," remarked the man. "Where'd ye come from, kid, an' what's
yer bloomin' hurry? The way ye was shootin' along, it looked as though
ye'd git to where ye was goin' purty nigh before ye started. Whoa,
blast ye!" he added to his horse. "If I had time, I'd make ye eat oats
off'n that two-wheeled thing-um-bob."

"My name's King," said Matt. "Can you tell me where I'll find Sheriff
Burke, of Prescott?"

"You bet I can! Go right around that projectin' rock an' ye'll be in
our camp. What ye lookin' up Burke fer?"

Matt did not stop to answer. Turning his machine the other way, he sped
on around a projecting spur of the ridge, and found himself among a
dozen men and horses.

The men were all armed, booted, and spurred. The camp had been pitched
beside a spring, and some were watering their horses, and others were
rolling up their blankets. Matt's sudden appearance drew the attention
of all, and there was a chorus of wondering exclamations as he brought
his machine to a halt.

"Blamed if here ain't one o' them new kind o' bicycles!" cried one of
the men. "Slid right in on us afore we suspected a thing! It kain't be
this kid's one o' the Dangerfield gang?"

A tall, broad-shouldered, red-whiskered man pushed through the crowd
that was gathering about Matt.

"Who are you?" the man asked sharply.

"I'm looking for Sheriff Burke," replied Matt.

"Then you've made a bull's-eye, first crack out of the box. I'm Burke."

"What time is it, Mr. Burke?" asked Matt, getting out of the saddle and
standing beside the machine.

"What's that got to do with it?" demanded the Prescott man, staring.

"Why, I was told to get here at five o'clock----"

"Ye was, hey?" asked one of the posse, looking at a watch. "Then ye're
ahead of time, my boy. It lacks five minutes of five."

Matt's delight must have been reflected in his face, for Burke's
interest in him manifestly deepened.

"Who told you to get here by five o'clock?" he asked.

"Governor Gaynor."

"Gaynor?" repeated the sheriff.

"Yes. I left Phoenix at quarter-past twelve----"

"Last night?"

"No--at noon to-day."

"An' you've come a hundred miles in five hours on _that_ thing?"

"Yes."

The bystanders were astonished. Not only that, but their respect for
the _Comet_ visibly increased.

"What's the governor got to say?" proceeded Burke.

Matt took the letter out of his pocket.

"Read that, Mr. Burke," replied Matt, "and it will tell you. Don't
throw away the envelope. Just write on the back of it, 'Received at
five minutes of five, Thursday afternoon and sign your name. I want to
take it back and show it to the governor."



CHAPTER X.

AT POTTER'S GAP.


All those rough and ready men were amazed at Motor Matt's performance.
Their interest in the boy and his machine, however, was pushed to the
background by their curiosity to learn what sort of a message the
governor had sent to Burke.

The sheriff read the message through, then slapped the letter excitedly
with the back of his hand.

"Here's a go and no mistake, boys!" he cried. "The governor and
McKibben have picked up a hot clue about that Dangerfield outfit. If
Motor Matt, here, hadn't got this message through in the time he did,
the smugglers would have got away from us."

"How's that, Burke?" asked the man Matt had met in the gap, riding
forward and joining the rest of the posse.

"First off," Burke explained, "Juan Morisco has been nabbed in Phoenix.
He was getting out of town with a wood-hauler, but he had been acting
queer, and McKibben was having him watched. While in Phoenix, Morisco
wore a piece of courtplaster on one side of his face. The wood-hauler's
team ran away, just as he and Morisco were leaving Phoenix, and, in
the excitement of catching it, the courtplaster must have got knocked
off Morisco's face. Anyhow, when McKibben saw him after the team was
stopped, there was that cross-shaped scar, plain as anything. That was
all McKibben needed to see. Morisco was taken to jail, and it was what
McKibben got out of him that concerns _us_."

"What in thunder was Juan Morisco doin' in Phoenix?" queried one of the
men. "I thought he was with Dangerfield, an' movin' this way, on the
road to Mexico."

"Morisco told McKibben," went on Burke, "that Dangerfield sent him on
an important piece of work. He also told McKibben that the smugglers
are rounded up at Tinaja Wells, and that they have heard we're waiting
for them at Potter's Gap, and that they're going to leave the Wells
to-night, give us the slip, and go south by way of the Rio Verde."

This revelation caused a tremendous amount of excitement, all the men
talking back and forth.

"How'd Dangerfield ever find out we was layin' fer him here?" asked one.

"The governor don't say anything about that; but Dangerfield must know
it, or Morisco wouldn't have been able to tell McKibben. The governor
says," proceeded Burke, glancing at the letter which he still held in
his hand, "that Morisco tells McKibben Dangerfield is going to leave
Tinaja Wells to-night, but that he--the governor, mind you--hopes to
get this letter into my hands by five o'clock this afternoon, so we'll
have a chance to rush the smugglers at the Wells by daylight." He
folded up the letter and shoved it into his pocket. "It's twenty miles
to the Wells, my lads, and if we start at once we can make it. Saddle
up in a hurry. One of you make my horse ready."

Instantly the camp became a scene of bustle and excitement. While the
men were making ready, Burke turned to Matt.

"I don't know how you ever got through in the time you did, King," he
observed. "That machine of yours must be a jim-dandy."

"It's the best ever," answered Matt.

"Tell me about your trip--just the main points."

Matt began with the red roadster and the trouble he had had with the
two men who were traveling in it.

"Dangerfield has a heap of friends through this part of the country,"
commented Burke. "There's a whole lot of people, you know, who don't
think smuggling Chinks into the United States is very much of a crime.
Dangerfield must have been expecting something to go crossways in
Phoenix and had some of his misguided friends watching McKibben. But go
ahead."

Matt told about the smoke-signals, and how they were passed on along
the rim of Castle Creek Cañon. The stern lines deepened in the
sheriff's face.

"Dangerfield was sure doing everything he could to make a safe getaway
into Mexico," said he. "They say he has fifteen men, whites and
half-breeds, working his underground railroad. I'm willing enough to
believe about those smoke-signals. The two in the red automobile sent
word ahead that you and your chum were coming. Well, did that make any
trouble for you, King?"

Matt told about the boulder which had been rolled down the side of the
notch, and which had crippled Clipperton's machine and put him out of
the running; but he did not say a word about the half-breed.

The sheriff was deeply interested in Matt's recital. By that time the
rest of the men had finished getting ready, and were pushing around
Matt and listening to his experiences. As he went on with the incident
on the divide, and the way he had escaped from the man and the dog,
several rough hands reached over to give him an admiring tap on the
shoulder.

"You're the stuff, son!" cried one of the men.

"You're a fair daisy, an' no mistake!" added another.

"If we clean up on the Dangerfield gang, it will be you as helped
more'n anybody else," dropped in a third.

"Some o' us, Burke," suggested a fourth, "mout lope acrost the divide
an' down the cañon, gatherin' in all them outposts. Each one means a
thousand apiece."

"By the time you got there, Meagher," returned the sheriff, "you
wouldn't find any of the men, so it would be a bad play. Besides, we're
liable to need our whole force over at Tinaja Wells. What are you going
to do, my boy?" he asked, turning to Matt.

"I'm going back to Phoenix," replied Matt.

"Take my advice, and don't try it to-night. It will be dark on the
divide before you could get over it, and it's a ticklish enough place
in broad day, say nothing of trying to cover the trail when you can't
see where you're going. I'll leave a blanket here for you to sleep on,
and a bottle of cold coffee, some crackers, and a hunk of 'jerked.' You
can get an early start in the morning, and probably poke this envelope
into the governor's hands at noon."

Fishing the stump of a lead-pencil out of his pocket, Burke wrote a few
words on the back of the envelope that had contained the governor's
message, and gave it to Matt.

"Before I leave, son," went on the sheriff, taking Matt's hand, "let
me say that I think you're the clear quill. You've done a big thing
to-day, and if you hadn't had more pluck and ginger than common, it's a
cinch you'd have lost out. Now it's up to us, and if we can make good,
as you did, everything will be all serene."

Burke turned away and jumped into his saddle. The rest of the men also
shook Motor Matt's hand, and then got on their horses.

"There's the blanket," called Burke, tossing a roll in front of Matt.
"_Adios_, my lad, and always remember that Burke, of Prescott, is your
friend. Spurs and quirts, boys!"

Away dashed the posse, Burke in the lead. They vanished in the
direction of the Gap, although their road to Painted Rocks and Tinaja
Wells was not to take them over the divide.

Matt was tired, and the prospect of a rest appealed to him mightily.
With a cloth taken from his toolkit, he proceeded to dust off the
_Comet_, and to look it over and make sure it had suffered no damage.
He attended to this before he looked after his own comfort.

After finishing with the machine, he spread out the sheriff's blanket
under some bushes near the spring, and ate a supper of jerked beef and
crackers and drank the bottle of coffee.

A feeling of relief and satisfaction ran through him. He had finished
his "century" run and had delivered the governor's message to Burke on
time. Now, if only Clip had been with him, his enjoyment would have
been complete.

He fell to wondering what Clip was about, and how he had expected to
help with his smoke-signals. It would have been easy for Clip, aided
by the half-breed, to send signals along the line carrying information
that the trouble was over with. But Clip had not been able to do that,
or the encounter would not have occurred on the divide.

While Matt's mind circled about his chum, darkness fell suddenly, as
it always does in Arizona, and coyotes began to yelp shrilly among the
hills. Feeling perfectly secure, Matt lay back, pulled the side of the
blanket over him, and fell asleep.

He must have slept several hours, when he was aroused by a rustling in
the bushes near him, and a sound as of some animal sniffing about his
camp. Reaching for the bottle that had contained the coffee, he threw
it into the brush. There followed a yelp, and the animal--coyote or
wolf--could be heard scurrying away.

Getting up, Matt walked down to the spring and took a drink. As he
lifted himself erect, far off across the hills toward the north and
west he saw a fiery line rise in the air and burst into a dozen flaming
balls. Perhaps a minute later the rocket was answered by another, off
to the south.

"There's a whole lot going on in these hills to-night," thought Matt,
returning to his blanket. "By this time, I guess, Burke and his men
must have reached Tinaja Wells and done their work there. The smuggling
of Chinks across the Mexican border is getting a black eye in this part
of the country, all right."

Once more Matt fell asleep. When he was aroused again it was by a sound
of voices close at hand. He started up quickly, rubbing the sleep out
of his eyes.

Morning had come, and in the gathering light he looked through the
bushes and off toward the spring. Two men were standing by the pool,
one an American and the other a Mexican. They were both travel-stained
and looked as though they had been doing some hard riding.

The American was dressed after the fashion prevailing in the hills, and
had a couple of revolvers dangling at his hips. Each man had a horse,
and the animals looked worn and tired.

Matt wondered who the two travelers could be, for he could not remember
having seen either of them among the sheriff's men. As he gave the
Mexican more critical attention he was amazed to discover that he was
the wood-hauler who had fled from Phoenix at the time McKibben had
arrested Juan Morisco.

_This_ was a disquieting discovery, and Matt thought that if he could
levant without being seen it would be well for him to do so. The
_Comet_ was not far away, and Matt got on his knees and began crawling
toward it.

A bit of brush snapped under him, however, and startled exclamations
escaped the two men. Matt sprang up, with the intention of making
a run for the motor-cycle, but before he had taken two steps, an
authoritative voice shouted: "Halt!"

Over his shoulder he could see that the American was pointing a
revolver at him. Matt halted, of course. There was no reason in the
world why the two men should interfere with him, and now that he had
been unable to slip away unnoticed he faced them boldly.



CHAPTER XI.

JOE BASCOMB.


As Motor Matt walked toward the man with the leveled revolver, the
wood-hauler cried out a startled "_Madre mia!_" and gave a jump for the
other man's arm.

"What's the matter with you, José?" demanded the American, keeping his
eyes on Matt as he talked.

José launched into a torrent of Spanish. Matt could not understand a
word of what he was saying, any more than he could understand the talk
which Clip had had with his uncle, the half-breed, but the change that
came over the face of the American was remarkable.

In the American's eyes there was a look like that in the orbs of a
cornered panther. He had fine features--features that told of an iron
will and a fearless spirit; nevertheless, they had a gloomy cast. While
José spoke, something akin to kindness crept through the hard, somber
lines, the lips twitched and the eyes softened. The man lowered his
revolver, tucked it away in the swinging holster, and turned to José.

Then, in the same language José had used, he spoke rapidly and at
considerable length. Matt stood and waited, trying to guess what the
wood-hauler had said to cause such a change in the man's bearing.

"Who are you, my lad?" inquired the man civilly enough.

"That's a fair question, all right," returned Matt; "but you might have
asked it before you went through all those motions with the gun. And
then, too, I don't know why I should talk about myself until I learn a
little about you."

"That's straight, anyhow," said the man. "I like a fellow that comes
out flat footed and says what he thinks. My name's Joe Bascomb, and I
belong with Burke's crowd."

"You wasn't with Burke's crowd when I saw them here yesterday
afternoon."

"No more I wasn't. Yesterday afternoon, you see, I was on detached
duty. But I was in at the skirmish at the Wells!"

Bascomb frowned, as though the memory was not pleasant.

"There was a fight?" Matt asked eagerly. "Were Dangerfield and his gang
captured?"

"There wasn't much of a fight. You see, the smugglers weren't expecting
trouble, and Burke took them by surprise. A few shots were fired,
mainly by Burke and his men, but they went wild. The smugglers were
making for their horses. Six of their number were captured, but a few
more got away. Among those who escaped was Dangerfield. I'm trying to
get to Phoenix on business, and I wonder if five hundred dollars would
tempt you to let me have that wheel?"

Bascomb pulled a roll of bills from his pocket as he spoke, and held it
up for Matt to look at.

"Can you ride a wheel?" asked Matt.

"Never rode one in my life!"

"Then you couldn't use the motor-cycle. You'd go off the trail on the
divide as sure as fate."

"Bring the machine down here and let me look at it."

Matt rolled the _Comet_ down. After Bascomb had studied it a while he
shook his head disappointedly.

"I reckon you're right," he muttered. "What did you say your name was?"

"Matt King."

"Then you're the chap who covered the trail between Phoenix and
Potter's Gap yesterday afternoon?"

"Yes."

"Well, Matt, I've got to get to Phoenix as soon as I can, and if you're
not in very much of a hurry, I'll climb into my saddle and we'll go
together. If----" Bascomb hesitated. "If any of Dangerfield's scattered
gang happened to waylay me, there's something I'd like to have you do
for me in Phoenix. That's why I'd like to have you along."

"If you're waylaid, Mr. Bascomb," said Matt, "they'd be liable to get
me, too. Dangerfield and his men aren't feeling any too friendly toward
me after what I did yesterday afternoon."

"No, they wouldn't get you," insisted Bascomb. "You could run away from
'em like a streak on that motor-cycle. If I ask you to do anything for
me," he added significantly, "I'll pay you well for it."

"All right," said Matt, "we'll travel together."

Bascomb turned to José, and again spoke to him in Spanish. The Mexican
immediately pulled off his ragged slouch-hat and his tattered coat.
Removing his own hat and coat, Bascomb put on the Mexican's; then,
after transferring his personal belongings from one garment to the
other, he turned to Matt.

"Not much of a disguise, is it?" he remarked. "But maybe it's enough to
keep the gang from spotting me."

"What's that Mexican doing here?" demanded Matt. "He was with Juan
Morisco in Phoenix yesterday, when Morisco was arrested. This fellow
cut out a horse from the runaway team and got away."

"Sure he did; and he rode all day and most of the night to find me. We
came across each other by chance, not more than two miles from here."

"If he's a friend of yours," said Matt suspiciously, "and a friend of
Morisco's, why----"

"You don't know Mexicans, King. José doesn't know any more than the law
allows, but I rendered him a service once, and he's never forgotten it."

José, apparently paying no attention to the talk, was putting on
Bascomb's expensive Stetson, and a coat which was infinitely better
than the one he had exchanged for it.

"Here's where our trails divide, José," said Bascomb, in English,
taking the roll of bills from his pocket and stripping a bank-note
from it and handing it to the Mexican. "You've made some mighty bad
mistakes, but I give you credit for doing your best. _Adios._"

"_Adios!_" answered José.

Both men mounted their horses; and when Bascomb and Matt made off,
José, on his jaded beast, sat watching them until they got around the
spur on their way to the Gap.

Bascomb led the way, spurring his animal into a slow gallop. Matt
followed, accommodating the speed of the _Comet_ to the gait of
the horse. The long flat was crossed and the mountain climbed and
descended--all without mishap, and without a word of talk between the
two travelers.

Matt's mind was busy. To pull the wool over his eyes was not an easy
matter, and the story told by Bascomb was figuratively speaking, too
full of holes to hold water.

José had been with Juan Morisco. Juan was one of the Dangerfield gang.
José would not have run from the sheriff unless he had had a guilty
conscience. Yet, when he had run away, he had taken the trouble to ride
a hundred miles and hunt for Bascomb. Bascomb had explained that José
was indebted to him, and had hunted him up for that reason. But that,
as Matt looked at it, was no reason at all.

Then what did that exchange of coats and hats mean? Why was it
necessary for an officer of the law to disguise himself? Here, again,
Bascomb's explanation did not explain.

Although these reflections shattered Matt's confidence in his
companion, the boy did not allow it, for the present, to make any
difference in his treatment of the man.

Bascomb grew talkative when they reached Castle Creek Cañon and started
over the clear stretch of road toward Hot Springs.

"What became of the little girl that figured in that runaway?" he
asked. There was an eagerness in his voice which Matt did not fail to
notice. "José said you stopped the horses, picked up the little girl,
and was going to carry her into the house when Juan Morisco interfered.
José didn't see any more, as the sheriff came up just then."

"I took her into the house," answered Matt, "and we sent for a doctor."

The man started in his saddle and bent his piercing eyes on the boy.

"Was she as badly hurt as that?" he demanded.

"The doctor said he didn't think she could live."

"What!" Bascomb's eyes were glaring like an animal's as they met
Matt's. "No, no," he added, dropping back in the saddle and brushing a
hand across his forehead, "it can't be. I won't believe it. You stopped
the horses, and I don't see how she could have been so badly hurt as
all that."

"She was tied to the 'reach' of the wagon," explained Matt, "and the
front wheels broke away from those behind just before we got the horses
stopped. The girl was dragged for a ways. If she hadn't been tied, she
wouldn't have been hurt so bad."

"She's been living at José's for a month," muttered Bascomb to himself,
but in a voice loud enough for Matt to hear, "and she could stand him,
but José said she couldn't bear Juan Morisco. It was bad business
sending Juan after her. José had to tie her to the wagon to keep her
from running off when Morisco came. But that doctor was wrong!" and
Bascomb raised his voice and once more turned to Matt.

This soliloquy of Bascomb's gave Matt fresh food for thought. Bascomb
spurred his tired horse cruelly, and they got past Hot Springs at a
fairly good gait.

"What did the girl say?" asked Bascomb, when they were well to the
south of Hot Springs, and picking their way among the litter of stones.
"Did she say anything about herself, or about her folks?"

"She wouldn't say anything about herself or her people," replied Matt.

"True-blue!" muttered Bascomb huskily. "She'll pull through--she always
had grit; but I wish I was sure!"

A mile north of the notch Bascomb's horse fell under him. He had been
forcing the animal ahead impatiently, and as he fell floundering to the
ground over the horse's head, he swore a fierce oath.

One of the revolvers had dropped out of Bascomb's belt. Unseen by its
owner, Matt picked it up.

Bascomb, in spite of his temper over the giving out of the horse,
knelt beside the animal and unrove the cinches. Pulling the saddle
loose, he cast it aside; then he removed the bridle and threw it after
the saddle.

"You served me well, you poor brute," said he, "but not well enough."

He whirled away. Matt was looking at him along the barrel of the
revolver. He started back with another oath.

"What do you mean by that?" he cried. "Haven't I got enough to torture
me without----" He bit the words short, and glared.

"Take that other gun from your belt," commanded Matt, "and throw it
away. You can't fool me, Bascomb! You're one of the Dangerfield gang.
I don't think you intended going to Phoenix, but you're going now,
whether you want to or not!"

Matt's voice was steady, and his gray eyes snapped in a way that meant
business.



CHAPTER XII.

BOLIVAR TURNS UP.


"You're the last person in the world, King," said Bascomb, with more
injury than hostility in his voice, "who ought to butt in on me like
this. If you knew _all_----"

He stopped short and pursed up his lips. His gloomy face and haunted
eyes were touched with sadness.

"I know enough to figure out that you're trying to fool me," said
Matt. "The yarn you told me back there in the gap won't wash. It's my
opinion, Bascomb, that you're no more of a deputy sheriff than I am.
Anyhow, I'm going to take you to McKibben, in Phoenix, and give him a
chance to pass judgment on you. That other gun, if you please."

Bascomb thought the matter over for a moment, then drew the revolver.

"Do you want it?" he asked quietly.

"Throw it over there in the brush," ordered Matt. Bascomb obediently
flung the weapon into the thicket. "You're right," said he, "I'm one of
the gang. I ought to have known better than to try to fool you--you're
too keen; but I wanted to go to Phoenix, and I wanted you to be with
me on the way, so if any of Burke's men laid me by the heels I could
get you to transact a little honest business for me. I'm going to town,
King, and I want to get there in a rush. I'm willing to go as your
prisoner and I'll make you no trouble, providing you take me to see
that little girl before you take me to McKibben. Is it a bargain?"

There was something about the man that Matt liked, in spite of the
deceit he had practised at the start-off of their acquaintance.

"When a fellow has lied to you once, Bascomb," returned Matt, "you
never feel as though you could trust him. But I'll go you this time.
I'm going to keep this gun, though, and watch you every minute."

"That's not necessary, but I'm willing to have it that way if it will
make you feel any easier in your mind."

"What was it you were going to have me do?" went on Matt. "I don't know
as I want to mix up in any of your lawless operations."

"I wouldn't ask you to do that," said Bascomb sharply. "I can't tell
whether I want you to do anything or not until after we get to the
notch. We're losing time here," he finished, "and I've told you I'm
in a hurry to reach town. You ought to know it's important when I'm
willing to lose my liberty in order to get there."

"Well," returned Matt, "start on, Bascomb. You'll have to travel on
foot, and I'll keep close behind you."

Without further loss of time, Bascomb swung off down the cañon.

"I can pick up a horse at the Tanks," he called back, over his
shoulder, "and when we leave there we'll make better time. We'll have
to stop at the notch, but I hope we won't have to be there long."

"If you're figuring on having some of the gang meet you in the notch,
and side-track me," said Matt, "I don't think we'll stop there at all."

"I give you my word," protested Bascomb, "that I'm not going to make
you any trouble."

"Your word's not worth very much."

Bascomb made no answer to this, but gave his undivided attention to
the road and swung into a dog-trot. In less than a quarter of an hour
afterward he reached the notch, Matt wheeling into it close at his
heels.

Bascomb halted and looked around expectantly. Apparently he did not see
what he wanted to find, and he placed his fingers on his lips and gave
a shrill whistle.

Matt had the revolver in his hand, and as he waited and watched his
fingers closed resolutely on the stock.

Following the whistle, there was a sound of quick movements up the
steep wall. A form bounded off the shelf and came tearing down the
slope in the direction of Bascomb.

A startled exclamation escaped Matt's lips. The newcomer was a dog, and
the dog was the Great Dane!

It was plain that the dog recognized Matt. As the animal crouched at
Bascomb's feet, his baleful eyes turned in the boy's direction, and he
growled menacingly.

"I'll shoot the brute if he comes near me!" shouted Matt.

"I'll not let him touch you," answered Bascomb, stooping to pat the
dog's neck. "His recollections of you aren't of the pleasantest, I
reckon. Quiet, Bolivar!" he added.

The next moment Bascomb had untied a cord from the dog's collar and
removed a note. He read the note quickly, then tore it in fragments
and threw the pieces away. Taking a note-book from his pocket, he
proceeded to pencil some words on a leaf. Tearing out the leaf he
folded it compactly and carefully secured it to the leather band.

"Clear out, Bolivar!" he cried, when he had finished. "Off with you,
old boy!" he added, and waved his hand toward the hills.

The dog got up, gave a final snarl at Matt, then leaped away. In a few
moments he had whisked out of sight.

Matt was somewhat in doubt as to whether or not he ought to stop this
proceeding. It was dear that Bascomb had received a communication from
some of the scattered gang, and had sent one in return. Was he planning
to help them evade Burke and his posse?

Bascomb must have divined what was going on in Matt's mind, for he
turned to him as soon as Bolivar was out of sight.

"There was nothing lawless about that note, or the one I sent back,
King," said he. "It was private business, entirely. Now I'm going to
scribble a few lines for you, and you can read them in a few days, or
any time after we get to Phoenix."

More pencil work followed in the memorandum-book. Another leaf was torn
out, folded, and handed to Matt. He put it into his pocket along with
the envelope returned to him by Burke.

The winding up of this incident seemed to give Bascomb a good deal of
relief.

"Now," he observed, "I'm ready for a quick trip to Phoenix, and for
whatever happens there."

He whirled and started through the notch at a brisk pace.

"It's not often," he continued, talking as he strode along, "that a boy
makes the hit with me that you have, Matt. You'll find out why as soon
as we get to where we're going. How long have you been in this part of
the country?"

"A year," replied Matt.

"Where did you come from?"

"Albany, New York."

"I'd have gambled something handsome you were from the East. I'm from
New York City, myself, but I've been knocking around these hills for
two years. You see," he added, "I'm a close friend of Dangerfield's,
and his ideas and mine, about that Chinese Exclusion Act, are
identically the same. If this is a free country, how can we keep the
Chinks out, any more than the Eskimos, or the Dutch, or any one else
that wants to come here? There's a hundred in cold cash for every Chink
that's run across the border, and Dangerfield has been smuggling them
in in droves. He has the system worked out fine, and there are good,
reliable men at every station on his underground line. Juan Morisco is
the first of the outfit that ever went wrong."

For a while, Bascomb hurried along in silence; then he commenced
talking again.

"I reckon you understand, by now, how well Dangerfield had organized
his gang. There wasn't a loop-hole he didn't have watched. Men in
Phoenix were looking after McKibben, and the minute Morisco was jugged
they knew it; and when Morisco turned traitor and told what he knew,
they found that out, too. For more than a year Dangerfield has been
doing his work and laughing at the authorities. But things were getting
too hot for him, and he was planning to go over into Mexico and go to
mining in Sonora. He was ready for the dash across the border when
Burke got wind of it and went into camp at Potter's Gap, hoping to head
the gang off. Up at Tinaja Wells we knew what he was doing, and if
Dangerfield hadn't sent Juan Morisco on a special mission to Phoenix
the lot of us would have got away from Burke and he'd never have caught
us."

Bascomb fell silent again, and for a mile or more he kept up his
steady, swinging gait.

"It was you, King," he went on, but with no malice in his voice, "who
put a spoke in Dangerfield's wheel. If it hadn't been for you and the
_Comet_, the governor couldn't have got word to Burke before we had all
slipped past him and gotten well off toward the border. That's the way
luck will take a turn sometimes."

All this was information that might be used against those of the gang
who had been captured, and Matt wondered at Bascomb's recklessness in
telling it.

"If José had used persuasion with Ollie instead of tying her to the
wagon," Bascomb continued, with a tinge of bitterness, "there wouldn't
have been any trouble, and Juan and José would have gotten clear. But
a greaser never does a thing like a white man. It was while José was
tying Ollie to the wagon, telling her he was doing it just to keep her
from falling off, that the team got scared and began to run."

Bascomb muttered something to himself, his shoulders heaved and his
hands clenched spasmodically. Some terrible emotion ran through him, as
it had done before, and Matt was puzzled to account for it.

By that time they had drawn near the descent that led into the ravine.
Before they started down, some one sprang out into the road in front of
them.

"Matt!" yelled a familiar voice.

"Great Scott!" cried Matt, astounded. "What are you doing here, Clip?"

"Waiting for you," answered Clip, peering at Bascomb. "Think I was
going back to Phoenix without finding out something about how you'd
come out? Who's this?"

"One of Dangerfield's gang," said Matt. "I'm taking him in."

"Fine!" exclaimed Clip. "But don't go on just yet. The red roadster is
at Frog Tanks. Those two roughs are in the _tienda_. If this is one of
the gang, those two will make us trouble."

"An automobile?" cried Bascomb; "at the Tanks?"

Clip nodded. With a leap Bascomb sprang away down the slope.

"Bascomb!" shouted Matt. "Come back here!"

The revolver was in Matt's left hand. Before he could do anything with
it, Clip grabbed it out of his hand, leveled it after the receding
form, and pulled the trigger. A futile _snap_ followed. Again and again
Clip tried to shoot, but always with the same result.

"I'll get him!" said Matt resolutely.

But before he could start the _Comet_, Clip had caught him and tried to
hold him back.

"They'd kill you!" growled Clip. "Your life's worth more'n a thousand
dollars. Let him go."

"I'll catch him before he reaches the Tanks," answered Matt.

The motor started, and Matt was dragged out of his chum's hands.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE RED ROADSTER AGAIN.


Bascomb was ascending the farther slope of the ravine as the _Comet_
reached the bottom. He looked over his shoulder at Matt, then promptly
jumped into the rocks and started for Frog Tanks cross-lots. Bascomb
could scramble and make headway up the scarred bank, but there was no
chance for the motor-cycle to follow.

Nonplussed, Matt came to a halt and waited for Clip to come up with
him, wheeling his crippled one-cylinder.

"Tough luck!" said Clip commiseratingly, "But it's a good thing, too.
It wouldn't do for you to go to the settlement while those two men are
there. They're armed. And there's something in their guns that will go
off. How long were you driving the fellow in with that useless piece of
hardware?"

"Something funny about that," muttered Matt.

"Did you know the revolver wasn't loaded?"

"No."

"Well, the other fellow didn't." Clip chuckled. "You're the boy to do
things. Too bad you couldn't win out on this."

"Wait a minute, Clip," said Matt, "and you'll be as much at sea as I
am. Bascomb knew that gun wasn't loaded."

"He did and you didn't?" Clip's eyes widened. "Then why did he let you
drive him ahead with it?"

"That's where the queer part comes in. He must have been willing to be
a prisoner."

"Then he changed his mind. Bolted as soon as he heard about the red
roadster."

"That makes it all the more mysterious. Bascomb is a mighty hard fellow
to understand."

"Let's forget it. He's gone, Matt, and that's the last of him. Where
were you at five o'clock yesterday afternoon?"

"Potter's Gap!"

"Bully!" Clip jerked off his cap and waved it. "The governor knew what
he was doing when he got Motor Matt to make that 'century' run. Did our
smoke-signals help?"

"Did you send up any?" queried Matt.

"Did we! Why, we started just as soon as you bolted up the cañon.
'False alarm; everything O. K.' That's the kind of smoke we sent up."

"Maybe they did help, old chap. I wasn't interfered with until I got to
the divide."

"Then I was of some use, after all. There were two or three men between
the notch and the divide. Tell me all about it."

Matt sketched his experiences briefly. Clip's black eyes glistened as
he heard of the clash on the cliffside. Matt followed on down and told
of meeting Bascomb and José at the gap, and of his travel Phoenixward
with Bascomb.

Clip was vastly puzzled over Bascomb, just as Matt knew he would be.

"If he's one of the gang," said Clip, "why is he in such a hurry to get
to Phoenix? Why does he want to go to Phoenix at all? It's putting his
head in the lion's mouth."

"That little girl has something to do with it," declared Matt.

Clip was thoughtful for a minute.

"Here's how I size it up," said he. "That fellow, Bascomb, is what he
said he was, at first. He's one of Burke's men. But he didn't want to
argue the case with you. So he let you have your way. All he wanted was
to get to Phoenix as quick as he could. He thinks Rags can tell him
something about Dangerfield and his gang. Part of the gang's captured
and part's on the run. If Bascomb can find out quick enough, maybe some
more of 'em can be nabbed."

Matt shook his head.

"I don't think you've hit it off, Clip," said he.

"I'll bet money or marbles I have. That red roadster'll get Bascomb to
Phoenix in short order."

"If he's one of Burke's men," argued Matt, "what will he do with the
two roughs who have the machine, and are working for Bascomb?"

"He'll get the best of 'em," persisted Clip. "Anyhow, Bascomb gets the
roadster. See if he don't."

"He's not armed, and the other two men are."

"Never you mind, Matt. Watch how it comes out."

Matt got off the _Comet_ and sat down on the rocks.

"How long are we going to be hung up here, Clip?" he asked.

"Till it's safe for us to pass the Tanks. It won't be long, now, if
Bascomb gets in his work."

Clip braced his crippled machine up alongside the _Comet_ and dropped
down beside his chum.

"What became of--of your uncle, Clip?" queried Matt, after a moment.

It was a delicate subject, and he hated to approach it. Still it
covered a point that he felt he ought to know about.

The look of hurt pride flashed into Clipperton's face.

"He left me last night, Matt," said he. "I couldn't forget he was of
my blood, low as he's dropped. I told him the gang was about done for;
warned him to clear out. That's what he did. But he helped send up the
smoke-signals."

"You did right, exactly right," approved Matt.

"Fine come-down for me, though," said Clip, through his teeth. "Nice
family I've got! What's the use of trying to be somebody? Sometimes,
I--I----"


A lawless light rose in Clip's eyes. Matt laid a friendly hand on his
knee.

"You've got it in you to be whatever you want to make of yourself,
pard," said he. "At least you know who your folks are, but I don't. I
know that my name's not King, but if I'm square with myself and play
the game fair, what's the odds? I hate a chap who thinks he's somebody
just because his people amount to something; and I'd hate a fellow just
as hard who thought he didn't amount to anything because his relatives
weren't all he'd like to have them. The thing to do is to stand on your
own feet, and that's the _only_ thing!"

"It takes you to put heart into a fellow," returned Clip. "You've been
a mighty good friend to Tom Clipperton. And in spite of his Indian
blood. If it was known in Phoenix that my uncle----" Clip gulped on the
words and did not finish.

"It will never be known there," said Matt.

"I know you'd keep still about it. If it got out in any other way,
though, I'd never set foot in the town again."

"It won't get out, Clip, so let's forget it. You stayed in the ravine
to wait for me?"

"Sure. I wasn't going back to Phoenix without you."

"You slept on the rocks?"

"Didn't you sleep in the gap?"

"What have you had to eat?"

"The stuff we took away from Gregory's place."

"There wasn't half a square meal in all of it!"

"I started for the Tanks, an hour ago, to get something. Saw the red
roadster in front of the _tienda_ and changed my mind."

Matt fished his last piece of jerked beef out of his pocket and put it
in Clip's hand.

"Now, regale yourself," he laughed.

Clip began on the meat, and while he was eating the pounding of a motor
reached their ears.

"The automobile!" he gasped.

"And coming this way," added Matt, swerving his eyes up the slope.

"The three of them are coming back," went on Clip. "They're after us,
Matt!"

"How do you make that out, Clip? If Bascomb is one of Burke's men,
he couldn't be coming back with two of the Dangerfield gang. If he's
coming back alone he's unarmed, and we'll be more than a match for him."

"Maybe Bascomb failed to get the roadster! Maybe the two roughs are
heading this way! If----"

The words faded on Clip's lips. Just then the red roadster showed
itself at the top of the rise. Bascomb was on the driver's seat and the
other two men were not in evidence.

Bascomb came down the slope slowly and halted the roadster in front of
the boys.

"All aboard for Phoenix!" said he calmly. "One of you get in the rumble
with the machines; the other climb up here beside me. Hurry! You know
I'm in a rush, Matt."



CHAPTER XIV.

ON TO PHOENIX!


This was the biggest surprise the mysterious Bascomb had yet sprung.
Clip stared at him for a moment, with jaws agape, then trundled his
motor-cycle forward and lifted it into the rumble. He fixed himself on
the seat, and leaned down to help Matt lift up the _Comet_. Neither of
the boys spoke--they were too bewildered.

"What you got in that canteen?" asked Bascomb.

"Gasoline," said Clip.

"Good enough! Hand it over here."

Clip unlashed the canteen and gave it to Bascomb. He at once began
emptying it into the roadster's tank.

"I was afraid the fuel would play out on us," remarked Bascomb, when he
had emptied the canteen, "but now we're safe for the run to town. Are
you as handy with an automobile as you are with a motor-cycle, Matt?"
he asked.

"I guess yes," Matt answered.

"Then get in behind the steering-wheel. I'm not much good at it, and
we've got to go over the line for a record. See how quick you can get
us to Phoenix."

Matt went down to the foot of the hill to turn around. When they had
toiled up the bank to a level stretch, he let the roadster out, and
they went through Frog Tanks like a red streak.

Jem, who had driven the car, and the other man who had left Phoenix
with him, were sitting on the steps of the _tienda_. They made no move
to stop the car, but watched moodily as it passed them.

Matt could not see Clip's face, but he knew his chum must have been
thunderstruck. Matt himself had begun to take all these surprises as a
matter of course.

"You thought I was running away from you, I reckon?" said Bascomb.

Matt nodded.

"Well," went on Bascomb, "I didn't have time to explain. I was afraid
the roadster would get away before I could reach the _tienda_."

"Did you have any trouble getting it?" Matt asked.

There was a bitter undernote in the laugh Bascomb flung back.

"Why should I have any trouble?" he returned. "Those two men are not
in the gang, but they're friendly toward Dangerfield. When I told them
it was Dangerfield's business that was taking me to Phoenix, they were
willing I should have the machine. Who's your friend, Matt?"

"My name's Tom Clipperton," said Clip, answering for himself.

Bascomb started.

"A relative of Pima Pete?" he inquired, turning around.

"What's that to you?"

"Nothing; but it may mean a lot, one of these days, to you and to Motor
Matt."

There was a veiled meaning in the words, but Bascomb was full of veiled
meanings. Neither Matt nor Clip pressed him for an explanation.

The power of sixty horses was tucked away under the long hood of the
roadster. All this energy was under Matt's control. As always, whenever
he had anything to do with motors, his delight grew as their headlong
rush increased.

Up the slope they dashed, and past the place where Matt and Clip had
had their encounter with Jem and the other ruffian. The little adobe at
the desert well leaped at them and fell away behind with the swiftness
of thought.

Three men and two horses were standing in front of the adobe. One of
the men was Gregory. The other two were put to it to keep their horses
from getting away. Matt recognized both the horsemen as belonging to
Sheriff Burke's posse.

"Do you know those two with the horses?" shouted Bascomb, in Matt's ear.

Matt ducked his head.

"And you didn't stop! A good thing for you, Motor Matt. You're
beginning to trust me a little, and you'll not lose by it."

The afternoon sun was half-way down the sky. The gray desert sparkled
and gleamed in front of the roadster, but behind it was blotted out by
the dust of that mad flight.

And _why_ they were racing, Matt did not know. "Hit 'er up! Hit 'er
up!" was the constant cry of Bascomb.

In the narrow seat behind, Clip lurched, and swayed, and rattled the
motor-cycles.

"Hang on, Clip!" yelled Matt. "We don't want to drop you off."

"Never mind me," roared Clip. "I'm in the seat about half the time. On
the motor-cycles the other half. But you can't loose me."

They reached the Black Cañon road and went spinning into it, some of
the wheels in the air. Down the old familiar Black Cañon road they
shot, and fairly jumped the bridge at the canal.

"You're a wonder, Motor Matt!" cried Bascomb huskily. "I've seen
driving, in my time, but never any like this!"

"If it's speed you want----"

"You're giving it to me! It may be a race with Death who--who knows?"

Matt pondered those words as well as he could with every faculty
centered in the running of the car.

"You're mighty anxious to get yourself behind the bars, Bascomb," said
he.

"Bars!" burst out the man. "What do I care for bars and stone walls
at a time like this? Take me to the house where you left Ollie--the
shortest way."

"Ollie?"

"The little girl. Didn't she tell you her name?"

"She said it was 'Rags.'"

A groan came from Bascomb's lips.

"That's what it's been for the two years I've been in Arizona. Now that
everything was going to be different, _this_ had to happen. Hit 'er up,
King! Can't you do better?"

Every pound of power was purring in the cylinders. No motor ever made
had run as sweetly, nor hurled a car over a road so surely and easily.
The machinery responded instantly to the slightest touch.

Matt's blood tingled with the joy of it all. He ceased to bother his
brain with Bascomb and his affairs, wrapping himself completely in the
noble work of the roadster.

It was not necessary to go through Phoenix to reach the McReady
home. A cross-road from the Black Cañon road would place them in the
thoroughfare that ran past the house.

Matt took the cross-road on two wheels, and, half a minute later,
lurched into the main thoroughfare in the same way.

A horse and buggy were standing in front of the McReady gate. Matt
slowed down so as not to frighten the horse.

"Why are you doing that?" asked Bascomb hoarsely.

Matt nodded toward the rig.

"We don't want to have a runaway," he answered.

"How much farther have we got to go?"

"That horse and buggy are in front of the house. They belong to the
doctor."

"That means," faltered Bascomb, "that--that----"

"That the doctor's making a call."

Matt brought up the roadster beside the walk, a little way from the
horse. Bascomb was over the side of the car before it had fairly
stopped. He ran to the gate, threw it open, and hurried along the front
walk to the porch.

Matt followed him as quickly as he could. He got to the gate in time to
see Welcome Perkins and Chub confronting Bascomb at the steps.

"What's the matter with ye?" Welcome was demanding. "Don't ye know we
got sick folks in this house? Ye're slammin' around like ye didn't care
how much noise ye made."

"Is the little girl here?" queried Bascomb, lowering his voice.

"She's here, all right, but she can't be disturbed. The doctor's in
there----"

"Matt!" exclaimed Chub, catching sight of his chum for the first time.
"Well, I wasn't expectin' to see you. Who is this feller? Put me wise.
What's the matter with him?"

"He wants to see Rags," said Matt. "Let him into the house."

"But she can't last long, Matt, and the doctor said she wasn't to be
disturbed."

Bascomb leaped up the steps, pushed Welcome and Chub right and left
with his strong arms, opened the door, and disappeared inside the house.

"Shade o' Gallopin' Dick!" scowled Welcome. "That feller acts like he
owned the place. What in tarnation ails him?"

Matt did not take time to answer. Stepping to the open door, he looked
in.

Bascomb, just over the threshold, was confronted by the doctor and
Susie.

"What's the meaning of this?" asked the doctor, in a low tone.

"I want to see the girl," panted Bascomb. "This is no time to say no to
me."

"Who are you?"

"That's nothing to you. I've got as good a right here as anybody."

Bascomb hurried on to the couch. Rags, her tangled hair lying all
about her on the pillow, was lying quietly, with closed eyes. Bascomb
stumbled to his knees beside the couch.

"Ollie!" he murmured. "Ollie?"

Matt saw the eyes open and stare upward into the face bowed over the
couch. Then, as he, and the doctor, and Susie breathlessly watched and
listened, the little girl's arms went up and twined about the man's
neck.

"Dad!" she murmured. "Am I dreamin', 'r w'at? Is it yous, dad?"

The doctor started, then, seizing his hat, he vanished from the room,
got into his buggy, and whipped away as fast as his horse could travel.



CHAPTER XV.

THE END OF THE MYSTERY.


Matt and Susie withdrew to the porch and softly closed the door behind
them. The minds of both of them were in a daze. There were tears in
Susie's eyes.

"Fellers useter act that way when I was rampin' around in the hills,"
growled Welcome, with a fierce look at the closed door; "but they was
mostly lawless, an' didn't keer fer no one. I got a mind to go right in
there an' drive the feller out!"

"Sh-h-h!" admonished Susie; "not so loud, Welcome. It's Rags' father."

"Father!" echoed Welcome, Chub, and Clip.

"Yes," said Matt. "Don't it beat anything you ever heard of, Clip?
Bascomb is Rags' father! No wonder he was in a hurry to get here. José,
the Mexican that was with Juan Morisco when the team ran away, found
Bascomb in the hills and told him of the accident. After I fell in with
Bascomb he started to asking me about Rags. I'd no sooner told how
badly hurt she was, when he got in the biggest kind of a hurry to reach
Phoenix."

"We certainly got here on the jump," said Clip. "If you want to get
speed out of a motor, put Motor Matt in charge."

"Didn't Rags tell you anything about herself?" asked Matt.

"Not a word," said Chub.

"And she can't get well?"

Susie shook her head.

"Who's her father, anyhow?" spoke up Welcome.

"Joe Bascomb," answered Matt. "He's one of the Dangerfield gang."

"You been mixin' up with that gang, Matt King?" went on Welcome.

"You bet he has," said Clip. "Matt's done a lot of mixing. Pretty hot,
some of it."

"Where'd you go so sudden, pard?" came from Chub. "What was it the
governor wanted of you?"

"He wanted me to turn a 'century' in five hours," answered Matt.

"Up Castle Creek Cañon and over the divide, at that," interpolated
Clip. "He did it in less than five hours. And fought smugglers all the
way."

"But where'd he pick up this Bascomb?" persisted Welcome. "That's
what's worryin' me a hull lot."

"It's too long a yarn to spin now, Welcome," replied Matt. "You'll get
it all some time. What came over the doctor all at once? Does anybody
know?"

"Not me," said Chub. "He dug out o' here like he had a hurry-up call
over in town somewhere. Never said a word, but just rolled into his
buggy and began kicking up the dust."

"He's coming back," reported Clip, his eyes up the road. "Seems to be
in as big a rush to get back as he was to get away."

"That isn't the doctor," said Susie, as the rig drew nearer. "There are
two men in the buggy and neither of them is the doctor."

"One's McKibben," said Chub, "and the other is Sparks, his deputy. I'm
next now. The doctor found out Bascomb was one of the Dangerfield gang,
and hot-footed it for the sheriff's office."

The rig drew up with a rush in front of the gate, and the two officers
dropped out. Leaving Sparks to tie the horse, McKibben hurried into the
yard. Matt went down the porch steps to meet him.

"Ah, King!" exclaimed the sheriff, a sparkle in his eyes. "I thought
you'd be back to-day. Made good, as usual, eh? The doctor says one of
the gang is here."

"He's in the house," said Matt. "He's the father of the little girl,
and----"

"The doctor told me that. Ever since Morisco told me what he knew, I've
been half-expecting this would happen. The only thing in the way was
having the girl's father find out how badly she was hurt. Who told him?"

"The Mexican that rode off on the horse when you arrested Morisco."

"He couldn't have told him all--he didn't know it."

"Well, I told Bascomb what I knew."

"Bascomb?" queried the sheriff.

"That's the man's name."

"Oh!"

"I'd leave him alone in there for a while, Mr. McKibben," went on Matt.
"He's having a hard time of it."

"I'll not bother him yet." McKibben turned to his deputy who was just
coming through the gate. "Go around to the rear of the house, Sparks,"
said he, "and see that he don't get out that way."

Sparks disappeared around the corner of the building.

"Did Morisco tell you anything about the girl, Mr. McKibben?" queried
Matt.

"He told me all about her," replied the sheriff. "Morisco was sent
on here to get the girl and take her out to the Rio Verde. When the
gang came along her father was to pick her up and take her with him to
Mexico. This here Bascomb came from the East, and left the girl behind
him. From what I got from Morisco, I figure that the little one had a
hard time of it. Bascomb, knowing the gang was soon going to change its
location, sent East and had the girl come to Phoenix. José is a brother
of Juan's, and Bascomb had the wood-hauler take charge of his daughter
until he could get hold of her himself. When a man's a criminal, his
operations are a bit hampered. That's the way it was with Bascomb. He
had to watch his chance, send Juan in to town, and have him bring the
girl to the Rio Verde. Only Juan didn't. Matters went a little wrong
for him. Trust a couple of greasers to botch things up! Why, one of my
men had spotted Juan Morisco the minute he hit the Mexican quarter.
We couldn't just identify him, that was all. A piece of courtplaster
covered the scar on his face. The governor will be mighty tickled,
Matt, when he hears how you've made good."

"Have you heard how Burke came out?"

"Got a wire from Prescott an hour ago. Six of the gang were captured
at Tinaja Wells; the rest, including Dangerfield, made a run of it and
got clear. But I reckon the smuggling of Chinks into this section has
been pretty well discouraged. You did a cracking good piece of work for
Uncle Sam yesterday, my boy."

"I wish it had turned out a little different," said Matt, looking away.

"Different?" asked the sheriff. "How do you mean?"

"If poor little Rags could only have pulled through----"

"We've got to take those things as we find 'em," said McKibben gruffly.
"It's hard lines, of course, and I'm sorry for Bascomb. But he brought
it all on himself. If he'd have led an honest life, Rags wouldn't have
been left to shift for herself. Every man that goes wrong pays the
penalty--and sometimes makes others pay part of it. How long has he
been in there?" The sheriff nodded toward the house.

"About half an hour," answered Matt.

"I reckon that's long enough."

McKibben walked to the steps and ascended to the front door. Just as
he was about to lay his hand on the knob, the door opened and Bascomb
shambled out.

He hardly looked like the same man. His shoulders were drooping
forward, his head was bowed, and his face was heavy with grief.
McKibben stepped up beside him and laid a hand on his shoulder. Bascomb
started at the touch and lifted his head passively.

"Well?" said he, in a low tone.

"You're under arrest, Dangerfield," said McKibben.

Matt and Clip hardly believed their ears. Dangerfield! Had McKibben
made a mistake?

"Nothing much matters now, McKibben," returned the prisoner wearily.
He held out his hands, wrists together. "I'm not armed, and I wouldn't
make you any trouble if I was."

A pair of handcuffs were snapped into place, and the sheriff tucked a
hand under his prisoner's arm and led him down from the porch.

"All right, Sparks!" called the sheriff.

While the deputy was coming around the house, the prisoner turned to
Matt.

"Joe Bascomb Dangerfield, King, is my full name," said he. "I only gave
you part of it. Some things you didn't understand before I suppose are
perfectly clear to you now."

He faced the sheriff.

"Understand this, McKibben," he went on, "it was Matt King who brought
me in. He took charge of me in Castle Creek Cañon. The reward goes to
him."

"He'll be taken care of," said McKibben briefly.

Once more Dangerfield turned to Matt.

"You did your best for Ollie, King," he continued, a shake in his
voice. "Give me your hand."

The handcuffs rattled as Matt shook the prisoner's hand; then, between
McKibben and Sparks, Dangerfield was led away.

Criminal though Dangerfield was, Matt pitied him from the bottom of his
heart. Instead of using the doctor's rig for the return to town, the
officers appropriated the red roadster. Sparks got in behind, with the
prisoner, and McKibben took the driver's seat. They were soon across
the bridge and lost to sight.

"Waal, snakes alive!" muttered Welcome Perkins. "Blamed if Matt didn't
ketch the leader o' the gang without never knowin' it."

Matt whirled and went into the house. Susie was already in the front
room. She motioned toward the couch.

Rags was lying still and silent, her hands crossed on her breast.



CHAPTER XVI.

MATT REPORTS TO THE GOVERNOR.


It was half-past five that afternoon when the _Comet_ came to a halt
at the steps of the capitol building. Motor Matt, in no very cheerful
frame of mind, got off the machine and made his way to the governor's
office.

"Why, it's King!" smiled the secretary, meeting him in the outer room.

"Is the governor here yet?" asked Matt.

"Yes, and expecting you. Mr. McKibben is with him. The governor usually
goes home at half-past four, but he stayed later to-day, expressly to
get your report. Just a minute."

The secretary went to the door of the private office, knocked, and
vanished inside.

"Go right in," said he, when he had reappeared.

Cap in hand, Motor Matt passed into the other room. Governor Gaynor met
him at the door with a warm handclasp.

"Motor Matt, King of the Motor Boys!" exclaimed the governor, leading
Matt to a chair. "Sit down, my lad," said he. "I'm not going to let you
get away from here for quite a while."

Matt pulled the envelope from his pocket.

"There, governor," said he, handing it over, "that will tell you what
time I made on that 'century' run."

Governor Gaynor read the penciled words on the back of the envelope,
and laughed. Then he passed the writing on to McKibben. The sheriff
chuckled.

"What's the matter with it?" asked Matt, puzzled.

"Didn't you read it?" asked McKibben.

"Haven't had much time to read it, Mr. McKibben, since the sheriff gave
it to me."

"Listen," and the sheriff read the following:

  "'GOVERNOR: This will certify that Motor Matt delivered your message
  to me at five minutes of five, of the same day he carried it out of
  Phoenix. It will also certify that he made the pluckiest and most
  successful hundred-mile run ever pulled off in the Southwest. You
  ought to make him your official courier, at ten thousand a year.

                                                             BURKE.'"

Matt flushed.

"Oh, I don't know that the trip was anything to brag about," said he.
"Luck was with me--and the _Comet_ can go."

"Luck and pluck have a way of moving along together," said the
governor, taking a roll of bills from the desk and handing them to
Matt. "There's your hundred. But for your work, Matt, Burke would have
been helpless. I am pleased to say that there'll be a thousand more
coming to you just as soon as a few formalities can be attended to. You
won't leave for Denver until after that?"

"Had I ought to take that reward-money, governor? I don't feel right
about it, somehow."

"Well, bless my soul!" exclaimed the governor. "It's good money, and
well-earned."

"What's more, Dangerfield himself wants you to have it," put in
McKibben. "It's the queerest situation I ever went up against,
governor," he added, turning to Gaynor. "In spite of the fact that Matt
captured Dangerfield and brought him in, the boy seems to have made a
bigger hit with Dangerfield than with any one else."

"I didn't really capture him, Mr. McKibben," protested Matt.
"Dangerfield was coming to Phoenix, anyway."

"Well, he's trying to help you to the tune of a thousand dollars, and
you'd better let him. Of course," went on McKibben whimsically, "Sparks
and I can use the money if you can't."

"There--there'll be some expenses on Rags' account," said Matt, "and I
want those to come out of the money."

The governor leaned back in his chair and studied Matt thoughtfully.

"You're a queer one, Matt," said he, "and your sentiments are an honor
to you. Let it go that way, McKibben," he added to the sheriff.

"Sure!" said the sheriff heartily.

"And now," went on the governor, handing McKibben a cigar and lighting
one for himself, "tell us the whole thing, Matt, from start to finish.
Don't leave anything out. I don't care if I never get supper."

Matt plunged into the recital. There were parts of it he tried to glide
over, but neither McKibben nor Gaynor would let him. One or the other
was always ready with an adroit question which brought out the whole
story.

"Why," said the governor, when Matt had finished, "that 'century' run
alone was enough to make you famous, but the finest part of your work
was the way you came in with Dangerfield."

"You can't beat it!" declared McKibben. "I need a deputy sheriff, Matt.
How'd you like the job?"

Matt shook his head. The sheriff was joking, and Matt knew it. Anyhow,
one job like that he had just finished was enough for Matt.

"I'm going to need a secretary pretty soon," remarked the governor; and
he was in earnest, even if the sheriff had not been. "How would you
like _that_ job?"

"I'd like it fine," answered Matt, "if there was a gasoline motor mixed
up in it."

"I wish there were," murmured the governor, "for I can see where your
work is cut out for you." He got up and took his hat. "I'll see you
again before you start for Denver. It will probably be a few days
before that thousand will be turned over."

They left the office together, and the governor got into his automobile
at the curb.

"What will they do with Dangerfield, Mr. McKibben?" inquired Matt, as
he got ready to ride home on the _Comet_.

"He'll stand trial, along with the six men captured by Burke," replied
the sheriff. "All of them will get good, long terms in a government
prison. Also," added the sheriff, "the two rascals who got out of
town ahead of you in that red roadster will have a chance to explain
matters. I'm holding the car, and they'll have to come to me after it."

       *       *       *       *       *

The red roadster was never claimed. Probably this is not to be wondered
at, considering the difficulties the two men would have gotten
themselves into had they shown up at the sheriff's office.

Who the men were was never discovered. They had been boarding in an
obscure hotel, and had kept the machine in a private garage. It was
supposed that they were criminals of some sort, and, if not actually
allied with the Dangerfield gang, had been commissioned by the leader
to keep watch of the sheriff.

Yet, be that as it might, both men vanished from Frog Tanks and were
never afterward located.

Two days later Ollie Dangerfield was laid away under the palms and
umbrella-trees in the Phoenix cemetery.

Susie, Chub, Welcome, Matt, Clip, and many others of the townspeople
attended the funeral. The little girl's story had become known through
the town, and had excited much interest and a good deal of sympathy for
Dangerfield.

During the days that followed, and while Matt was waiting for the
reward, a great plan had formed itself in Clipperton's brain. He called
on Matt at Mrs. Spooner's, and placed it before him in all its dazzling
grandeur.

"That red roadster is a fine car, Matt," said Clip. "You ought to know.
What do you say?"

"It's a fast car," answered Matt guardedly. "Why, Clip? What of it?"

"Suppose nobody claims it? What will be done with it?"

"Give it up."

"Couldn't it be bought? Ought to be a bargain."

"Look here!" cried Matt, starting up in his chair. "What are you trying
to get through your head, anyhow?"

"Why, it would be a heap easier for us. On that Denver trip, I mean. If
we could get hold of that----"

"That's a dream, old chap," laughed Matt. "Where's the money to come
from?"

"You'll have some. I can raise as much, I reckon."

A motor-car!

Matt's enthusiasm must have shown in his face. He knew Clip's project
was impracticable, for, even if they could raise money enough between
them to get the red roadster, it would have been madness to put all
their funds into such a venture.

"We can do it, Matt!" cried Clip excitedly.

"No, Clip," returned Matt, coming down to earth again, "we can't do it.
We'd look nice with all our money tied up in an automobile, wouldn't
we? Get your machine fixed----"

"I've had it fixed."

"Well, the motor-cycles ought to be good enough for us."

"Don't you ever want an automobile? Wouldn't you rather have it than a
motor-cycle?"

"Sure; but we can't afford to own one. By the way, just to change the
subject a little, I've got something here that'll interest you."

Matt took a folded paper out of his pocket.

"What is it?" inquired Clip, stepping to Matt's side.

"Just a minute, Clip," said Matt. "Did I tell you that Dangerfield gave
me a note, there in the notch, on our way to Phoenix, and told me to
read it any time after we reached town?"

Clip nodded.

"Well, I just read that note an hour ago. Most of the things we
couldn't understand about Dangerfield have been cleared up, but here's
a new mystery."

"You say it concerns me?" asked Clip, surprised.

"In a way, yes. Read it, and you'll see how."

Clip opened the note. It ran as follows:

  "MOTOR MATT: In a few days one of my men, named Pima Pete, will
  try to get your help in a certain undertaking. It's an honest
  undertaking, too, and I advise you to do what you can. _You will find
  it profitable to yourself._

                                                            BASCOMB."

The name of Pima Pete brought a flush to Clipperton's face.

"If Pete shows himself," said he, "he'll be arrested."

"I guess he knows that, all right," answered Matt. "Whatever the work
is, he may find a way of asking my help without doing it in person."

"Will you help him?"

"That depends, Clip. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."

"As you say," said Clipperton, "it's a thing that interests me. Promise
me one thing: That you'll give me a chance to help Pima Pete myself, in
case you hear from him."

"I had already made up my mind to that, Clip," replied Motor Matt. "It
may be a false alarm, though, and nothing come of it."

Clip shook his head.

"I don't think Dangerfield is in the habit of giving false alarms.
Something is going to happen. And soon."

Whether Clip would prove a true prophet or not, only the future could
tell, but Matt, having won out, did not mean to borrow trouble, and so,
boylike, let the morrow take care of itself.


THE END.



  THE NEXT NUMBER (4) WILL CONTAIN

  MOTOR MATT'S RACE

  OR,

  The Last Flight of the _Comet_.

  Trouble On the Road--The Stampede--Clip's Note--McKibben's Tip--A
  Victim of Circumstances--The Pride of Tom Clipperton--Laying
  Plans--The Rifled Cache--The Break in the Road--Prescott--Matt
  Makes a New Move--The Old Hopewell Tunnel--Quick Work--Steam vs.
  Gasoline--In Court--Conclusion.



MOTOR STORIES

THRILLING ADVENTURE MOTOR FICTION

NEW YORK, March 13, 1909.


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One Thousand Dollars Reward.


"I really think it was just the neatest thing that I ever did in that
line," said the grizzled old Captain Gapsill.

"To what do you allude?" I inquired, knowing that I was about to hear
something interesting.

"That little affair I had with Black Ben."

"Black Ben? Who is he?"

"Hain't you ever heard tell of him?" demanded the captain, in
amazement; and then, recollecting himself, he added: "I forgot; that
was before your time--at least, you must have been quite a younker
then. Black Ben, next to Mike Fink, was one of the greatest pirates
that ever infested the Mississippi."

"What became of him?"

"I was going to tell you. In the first place, you mustn't imagine he
was a negro because he was called Black Ben. He had a skin as dark as a
mulatto's, and a fearful lot of great, black, bushy hair, which stood
up like bristles; and, as he always went without a hat, I can tell you
he was just about the most villainous-looking creature you ever saw.
Besides that, he had jet-black whiskers, short and sticking out like
needles, and growing up almost to his eyes; so when you looked at him
you saw about a bushel of black, bristling hair, and in the midst his
great eyes glowing like coals of fire. He wasn't more than five feet
in height; he had short legs, very long arms, and immense muscular
power. He generally went dressed as a backwoodsman, and had two
comrades--ordinary-looking men, but as bloody and merciless cutthroats
as he.

"Black Ben had been seen as far up as Cairo, and as low down as
Natchez. He was such a queer-looking creature that it was impossible
for him to disguise himself enough to go among the towns or where he
would have run any danger. His principal hunting-ground was from the
mouth of the Arkansas north to the Tennessee line. Here he had all the
opportunity he wished for hiding himself, and I don't believe a party
of red Indians ever could have hunted him to his hole. If he hadn't
met his fate in the queer manner he did he might have hunted there
until he died of old age.

"In those days a great many flatboats used to pass down the Mississippi
on their way to New Orleans, and these were the favorite prey of Black
Ben and his men. As the river navigation, with its snags and sawyers,
is always so dangerous, these boats often lay to under the bank during
the night, when the chances are ten to one that the sharp eyes of these
pirates detected them, and, at the dead hour of midnight, they stole
out as silently as shadows, crept over the boat, cut the throats of
the unsuspicious sleepers, gutted the craft, then scuttled it and set
it afloat. Out in deep water it would sink, and that would be the last
ever seen or heard of that flatboat.

"Black Ben was a horrid dog, and it was no wonder that there was such
terror of him all along the river. Captain Hallongton, an old friend
of mine, had his boat served in this manner, but the night was so dark
that he managed to swim off, although his three men were every one of
them murdered. The captain had a hard story to tell, and he offered
five hundred dollars to any one who would shoot this bloody cutthroat.

"I had been from Cincinnati down to New Orleans fully a dozen times
without once encountering this redoubtable Blue Beard. I had lain to
at a place where, it was said, he would be sure to find us; but never
once did we catch sight or sound of him, and I would have doubted his
existence but for the testimony of Captain Hallongton and his friends,
whom I could not refuse to believe.

"'It is strange that I never meet him.' I once said, when he and I were
conversing together regarding this river outlaw. 'It must be that he is
either afraid of me, or else has a feeling of friendship toward me.'

"'Don't congratulate yourself too soon,' replied my friend. 'Depend
upon it, Black Ben will yet pay you a visit.'

"'I have heard so much of him that I must say my curiosity is really
greater than my terror.'

"'See here!' interrupted the captain, starting up in sudden excitement;
'you're going to start down the river next week?'

"'A week from to-morrow.'

"'Good! You take Dick and Tom, your usual help?'

"'Of course.'

"'I ship with you as a common hand, just on purpose to help you to a
sight of Black Ben. What do you say?'

"The proposition struck me very favorably, and I urged the captain to
it. As he was ten times as rich as I was, I didn't exactly like the
idea of his going as a common hand, although on my flatboat there was
no other position for him. It was finally agreed that he should pass
himself as one of my assistants; but as there was no need of his work,
he was to do little more than dress himself as such, to deceive any
one whom we might encounter, while he might accommodate the labor to
himself.

"We made all our arrangements as if certain of encountering this
fellow. We went more fully armed than we ever did before, and it was
agreed that when we reached that part of the river where we had reason
to expect the appearance of Black Ben, or where there was the least
likelihood of his seeing us, that nobody should show themselves above
deck except Captain Hallongton and myself. This was for the purpose of
making the pirate believe there were only two of us on board, and thus
luring him on to what we hoped would be his destruction.

"Well, we swung loose from Cincinnati one fine morning, and in due time
reached the Mississippi, and lay to at Memphis, Tennessee, one stormy
night, where we fixed everything to our satisfaction. When we started
next morning, Tom and Dick were sent down below in the cabin, with the
understanding that they were not to show themselves until they had
permission to do so.

"It was late in the autumn of 1838, and I remember that the weather was
quite chilly, so much so that both Hallongton and myself kept on our
overcoats all the time. We passed to and fro, plainly showing ourselves
to any one who might be along the bank. Tom and Dick were allowed to
come up only when the night was dark, and then they exchanged places
with us, so that under no circumstances were more than two of us
visible at the same time.

"Down below Helena, on the Arkansas side, we had fixed as the place
where we might reasonably look for the appearance. There was a long
stretch of wood country, where the wretch's most inhuman deeds had been
located.

"It was a cold, blustering night that we worked our boat under the
wooded shore and made fast to the identical spot, where my friend had
had his memorable adventure with Black Ben. He recognized it by several
landmarks, and assured me that we would hear from the gentleman before
many hours had passed over our heads.

"For the last few miles, before tying up, we had kept up a sharp
scrutiny of the shores, in the hope of detecting some signs of the
outlaw. I saw nothing; but Hallongton was positive he caught several
glimpses of a man flitting along the Arkansas bank, and maintaining a
sharp watch upon our movements.

"After we had securely tied up our boat, we went below, after our
supper, and then made our final arrangements. I should state here that
my flatboat was one made after a fashion of my own. It was long and
quite narrow, the cabin being, as usual, in the rear. This was made of
double thick planking, immediately adjoining the cargo, which stretched
away to the bow. A small orifice had been bored through this planking,
so that one in the cabin could talk in a whisper to one who was in the
main body of the boat among our cargo of pork. This was done at the
suggestion of Captain Hallongton, in accordance with a plan which we
had formed between us.

"When it was fully dark, Tom and Dick crept carefully over the cabin,
in among the pork, and took their position near the hole which I have
just mentioned. When we had chatted together a while, Hallongton did
the same, while I maintained my place near the cabin.

"We were so close under the bank that a long limb hung directly over
the cabin.

"As it looked quite thick and strong, I grasped it with my hands and
swung myself upon it. The next moment I had climbed to the top of the
tree, and seated myself near the trunk astride of a large limb, where I
patiently awaited whatever was to come.

"Our plans were fully agreed upon, and I knew that I might have sat
there until morning without hearing a word from them, or detecting an
impatient movement upon their part.

"The night, for a time, was pitchy dark, but the moon soon came up over
the river, shedding a light which made the opposite shore visible,
and gave me a little uneasiness as to whether I would not be detected
from the ground below. However, as our line of action had been agreed
upon, it was now too late for us to make any change in our part of the
program.

"I was speculating on these matters, when a slight noise below
attracted my attention, and, looking down, I could discern a dark body,
moving cautiously toward the boat. In the shadow of the wood, the gloom
was too great to make out its identity; but, while I was looking, it
leaped as lightly and dexterously as a monkey upon the gunwale, and the
next minute I saw that Black Ben was on the flatboat.

"In the bright moonlight he was plainly visible, and answered perfectly
the description which I have given. He circled around the boat with the
silence of a phantom, and finally halted near the cabin and listened
as if to hear the breathing of those within. Having finished his
reconnoisance, he sprang lightly ashore and disappeared.

"I had seen no one but Black Ben, but a slight noise heard when he was
on the boat satisfied me that he had one companion at least with him,
and I was sure that he would speedily return.

"I was now anxious to hear whether Captain Hallongton had seen the
pirate and whether he was 'posted.'

"To satisfy myself, I gave a low whistle. It was immediately replied
to--a fact which convinced me that my friends were 'all right.'

"It was plain that Black Ben had no suspicion of the little plan which
we had concocted for his benefit; but whether that same little plan of
ours would miscarry or not was another question, for we knew that the
outlaw was a desperate character, who would play the mischief if he
should ever get into close quarters.

"Now came a period of watching and waiting, continued so long that I
had great fear that Black Ben had scented danger and concluded to give
us a wide berth. Fully two hours passed away, with me shivering and
cramped in the tree; but I had resolved to stay there until morning if
the outlaw did not make his appearance before that time.

"It could not have been far from midnight when I caught the rustling of
bushes beneath me, and I felt sure that Black Ben was there; but, as I
peered down, I was disappointed in discerning not a man, but a large
black bear that was lumbering along the shore and awkwardly approaching
the flatboat. Reaching it, he waded into the water, snuffed around the
boat, poked his nose against it, struck his paws against it, and made a
racket which struck me as singular upon the part of a bear.

"'I would soon stop your sport,' I reflected, 'if I were not watching
for bigger game.'

"I was watching the brute, when something in his manner of moving about
attracted my suspicion, and I scanned him more narrowly than I had
yet done. My heart gave a great leap as I penetrated the ruse, and
discovered that instead of the object under me being a bear, it was
only a man disguised as such. His object in making such a tumult around
the boat was evidently to learn whether the men on board were asleep.

"Occasionally the creature paused and was perfectly still, as if
listening; but nothing but the sullen surging of the muddy Mississippi,
or the dipping of some overhanging branch was heard, and, becoming
satisfied that everything was in the shape desired, the bear withdrew
from the water, and tumbled away into the wood, in a style which he
hardly would have dared to use had he been aware that a pair of eyes
were intently scrutinizing his every movement.

"A half-hour later, a form sprang from the dark line of wood which
lined the shore, landing on the gunwale of the boat at a single bound.
One glance was sufficient for me to see that Black Ben had boarded the
_General Jackson_, and that the critical moment was at hand.

"The hideous-looking creature glided as swiftly and silently as a
shadow from one part of the boat to the other, in order to assure
himself that no one was watching in any of the out-of-the-way places.
He then glided back to the cabin and made a single motion with his arm.
The response was in the shape of another dark form, which leaped beside
him with all the agility of a monkey.

"From where I sat I had both of these precious scamps in range, and I
could have sent a bullet crashing through both of them; but, as that
was not the plan agreed upon, I concluded to wait.

"As I had always understood that Black Ben was accompanied by two men,
I looked for the appearance of his companion; but, as the bushy-headed
chief turned his head upon the shore the instant he was joined by his
friend, I supposed that he was absent, and would not appear in this
matter, which pleased me greatly, as it could not but make the matter
all the more easy for us.

"The two villains put their heads together and seemed to converse a
while in the same manner that you frequently see horses or cows do.
Agreeing upon their course of action, Black Ben quietly drew back
the slide which covered the door which communicated with the cabin.
Flashing a sort of bull's-eye lantern down into the gloom, he leaned
his head forward and scanned every part of the cabin.

"And I know what he saw. What were apparently two human forms wrapped
up in their blankets and sound asleep. The next instant the sharp
report of two pistols in immediate succession broke the stillness, and
Black Ben and his comrade sprang down into the cabin.

"Just what we wanted. Hardly a second had elapsed when I was on deck,
and had slid the door back to its place at the same moment that Captain
Hallongton and Tom and Dick hurriedly clambered up beside me.

"'We've got 'em!' exclaimed the captain delightedly. 'Be quick and
fasten that down.'

"Everything had been prepared for such a dénouement as this, and
not ten seconds passed ere we had Black Ben and his friend firmly
imprisoned.

"The next proceeding of Captain Hallongton was to dance a double
shuffle upon the deck and exclaim: 'We've got him! we've got him!'

"'Keep still,' I said; 'you act like a crazy man.'

"'Do you know there is a thousand dollars offered for his head in New
Orleans?' said he.

"I didn't know that, and I felt somewhat like making as big a fool of
myself over it, but I did not.

"The next thing we heard was a terrible rumpus below--swearing and
yelling enough to raise the hair on your head. But what cared we? We
had the mighty river-pirate, Black Ben, and one of his comrades in our
power.

"Not knowing but what some of his friends might be in the neighborhood,
we untied the fastenings of the boat and swung out into the stream. We
ran considerable risk in so doing, as this was a dangerous part of the
river, but Captain Hallongton understood the current better than I did,
and we decided that this was the safest and best thing that we could do
under the circumstances.

"The tempest and tumult continued below until we were in the middle of
the Mississippi and gliding rapidly down the stream. Then a silence
came, and Black Ben called up to us and asked us what this all meant.
We told him that we had caught him trespassing on our boat and intended
to take him down to New Orleans and sell him. The answer to this was
a couple of pistol-shots fired at the spot where he supposed I was
standing. It struck beneath my feet, and no doubt he imagined it would
pass through the planking and kill me; but it was bullet-proof and
there was no danger. Finding he could do no harm he took a different
course of action. He tried to bribe us to let him go, and made us
repeated offers until he reached a figure as high as ten thousand
dollars. We told him we would take time to think about it, but we were
not quite fools enough to accept any offer which he could make. We knew
that all he wanted was to get out on deck, and then there would be the
tallest kind of a rumpus. Our only safety was in keeping him just where
he was and not give him the slightest advantage.

"Finding his efforts in this direction useless, he fell upon his first
plan, of swearing. I have heard some terrible profanity in my time, but
I don't think I ever heard anything to equal that of Black Ben. He kept
it up until morning, and then all was still again.

"I suppose you understand the way in which we trapped our bird? Captain
Hallongton had taken the trouble of finding out Black Ben's manner of
doing business and had laid his plans accordingly. It was his custom to
wait until the crew of the boats he intended to rob went asleep, and
he then stole aboard and quietly despatched them either with the knife
or pistol. Knowing this, we had arranged a couple of dummies, which,
as we intended, were mistaken by the river-pirate for the entire crew
of the _General Jackson_. The small orifice which I first spoke of as
connecting the cabin with the main body of the boat had been made by
Captain Hallongton, so that in case there was parley between him and
Black Ben before surrendering the boat, the latter personage could thus
be made to believe that it came from one of the forms inside, but his
course of action rendered this precaution unnecessary.

"We ran a great deal more danger in capturing this renowned outlaw than
any of us imagined. We had carefully removed everything in the shape of
a knife or hatchet or any kind of a weapon from the cabin, and yet we
had every reason to believe that both of these dogs would have their
knives with them; but by a purely providential circumstance neither
of them carried anything with them except their pistols. How it came
about, I cannot say, for it certainly was odd. Had either of them their
weapons, it would have taken them but a few hours to cut their way
through the planking, thick as it was, and we would have been compelled
to shoot them to save ourselves from being shot.

"If they had become satisfied that there was no hope for them, the next
thing in order would have been the bottom of the boat. They would have
made a leak which would have carried themselves and the flatboat to the
bottom, and likely enough ourselves, too, for you must know it is no
easy matter to make your way through the Mississippi at high water.

"We did not feel easy when we heard them thumping and rubbing the
side of the boat, for we were well aware what wonderful things these
desperate characters do when they find themselves in such desperate
straits.

"Captain Hallongton stood with his loaded rifle, expecting almost
every moment to see Black Ben burst out to view like a raging fury. By
placing our ears against the cabin we could hear a peculiar grinding
noise, which told us that the gentlemen in there were doing something,
although what it was we could only guess. We could hear them muttering
and talking to each other, but I could not catch any of the words
uttered.

"Toward the close of the second day, just as we came within sight of
the Crescent City, two pistol-shots broke the stillness. We could
only conjecture what it meant. My supposition was that they had shot
themselves, but Captain Hallongton suspected it was only a stratagem to
get us to open the cabin door to give them a final chance to escape, or
an opportunity to put a bullet through some of us who might look down.
So we paid no heed, but kept on floating down the river.

"When we had tied up at the wharf, we brought a number of police
officers, acquainted them with our prize, surrounded the boat, and
then removed the door of the cabin. We waited a long time, but no one
came forth, nor did any sound betray the presence of the men within.
At last, one of the officers, more venturesome than the rest, ventured
to steal up to the cabin and look down. The next instant he uttered a
shout and sprang down, while we rushed toward the cabin.

"One glance showed all. Black Ben and his comrade had both shot
themselves, and were stone dead. They had no knives, as I said, but
with their simple pistol-barrels they had almost cut their way through
the planking. I do believe that if New Orleans had been a hundred miles
farther off these two precious scamps would have got out of the cabin
and, perhaps, effected their escape.

"However, we had the satisfaction of receiving one thousand dollars
reward, and of knowing that we had cleared the Mississippi of one of
the most desperate outlaws that ever infested its banks."



_ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT!!_

MOTOR STORIES

_A New Idea in the Way of Five-Cent Weeklies._


Boys everywhere will be delighted to hear that Street & Smith are now
issuing this new five-cent weekly which will be known by the name of
MOTOR STORIES.

This weekly is entirely different from anything now being published.
It details the astonishing adventures of a young mechanic who owned a
motor cycle. Is there a boy who has not longed to possess one of these
swift little machines that scud about the roads everywhere throughout
the United States? Is there a boy, therefore, who will not be intensely
interested in the adventures of "Motor Matt," as he is familiarly
called by his comrades?

Boys, you have never read anything half so exciting, half so humorous
and entertaining as the first story listed for publication in this
line, called "=Motor Matt; or, The King of the Wheel=." Its fame is
bound to spread like wildfire, causing the biggest demand for the other
numbers in this line, that was ever heard of in the history of this
class of literature.

Here are the titles to be issued during the next few weeks. Do not fail
to place an order for them with your newsdealer.

  No. 1. Motor Matt; or, The King of the Wheel.
  No. 2. Motor Matt's Daring; or, True to His Friends.
  No. 3. Motor Matt's "Century" Run; or, The Governor's Courier.
  No. 4. Motor Matt's Race; or, The Last Flight of the _Comet_.

  32 LARGE SIZE PAGES      SPLENDID COLORED COVERS

PRICE, FIVE CENTS PER COPY


AT ALL NEWSDEALERS, OR SENT POSTPAID BY THE PUBLISHERS UPON RECEIPT OF
THE PRICE.

_STREET & SMITH, Publishers, NEW YORK_



NUMBERS 1 TO 396

TIP TOP WEEKLY

ARE CONTAINED IN THE MEDAL LIBRARY


We know that there are thousands of boys who are very much interested
in the early adventures of Frank and Dick Merriwell and who want to
read everything that was written about them.

We desire to inform these boys that numbers 1 to 396 are pretty well
out of print in the TIP TOP WEEKLY, but all of them can be secured in
the numbers of the NEW MEDAL LIBRARY given below.



  _The_ NEW
  MEDAL
  LIBRARY

  AT

  FIFTEEN CENTS

[Illustration]

  150--Frank Merriwell's School-days.
  167--Frank Merriwell's Chums.
  178--Frank Merriwell's Foes.
  184--Frank Merriwell's Trip West.
  189--Frank Merriwell Down South.
  193--Frank Merriwell's Bravery.
  197--Frank Merriwell's Hunting Tour.
  201--Frank Merriwell in Europe.
  205--Frank Merriwell at Yale.
  209--Frank Merriwell's Sports Afield.
  213--Frank Merriwell's Races.
  217--Frank Merriwell's Bicycle Tour.
  225--Frank Merriwell's Courage.
  229--Frank Merriwell's Daring.
  233--Frank Merriwell's Athletes.
  237--Frank Merriwell's Skill.
  240--Frank Merriwell's Champions.
  244--Frank Merriwell's Return to Yale.
  247--Frank Merriwell's Secret.
  251--Frank Merriwell's Danger.
  254--Frank Merriwell's Loyalty.
  258--Frank Merriwell in Camp.
  262--Frank Merriwell's Vacation.
  267--Frank Merriwell's Cruise.
  271--Frank Merriwell's Chase.
  276--Frank Merriwell in Maine.
  280--Frank Merriwell's Struggle.
  284--Frank Merriwell's First Job.
  288--Frank Merriwell's Opportunity.
  292--Frank Merriwell's Hard Luck.
  296--Frank Merriwell's Protégé.
  300--Frank Merriwell on the Road.
  304--Frank Merriwell's Own Company.
  308--Frank Merriwell's Fame.
  312--Frank Merriwell's College Chums.
  316--Frank Merriwell's Problem.
  320--Frank Merriwell's Fortune.
  324--Frank Merriwell's New Comedian.
  328--Frank Merriwell's Prosperity.
  332--Frank Merriwell's Stage Hit.
  336--Frank Merriwell's Great Scheme.
  340--Frank Merriwell in England.
  344--Frank Merriwell on the Boulevards.
  348--Frank Merriwell's Duel.
  352--Frank Merriwell's Double Shot.
  356--Frank Merriwell's Baseball Victories.
  359--Frank Merriwell's Confidence.
  362--Frank Merriwell's Auto.
  365--Frank Merriwell's Fun.
  368--Frank Merriwell's Generosity.
  371--Frank Merriwell's Tricks.
  374--Frank Merriwell's Temptation.
  377--Frank Merriwell on Top.
  380--Frank Merriwell's Luck.
  383--Frank Merriwell's Mascot.
  386--Frank Merriwell's Reward.
  389--Frank Merriwell's Phantom.
  392--Frank Merriwell's Faith.
  395--Frank Merriwell's Victories.
  398--Frank Merriwell's Iron Nerve.
  401--Frank Merriwell in Kentucky.
  404--Frank Merriwell's Power.
  407--Frank Merriwell's Shrewdness.
  410--Frank Merriwell's Set-back.
  413--Frank Merriwell's Search.
  416--Frank Merriwell's Club.
  419--Frank Merriwell's Trust.
  422--Frank Merriwell's False Friend.
  425--Frank Merriwell's Strong Arm.
  428--Frank Merriwell as Coach.
  431--Frank Merriwell's Brother.
  434--Frank Merriwell's Marvel.
  437--Frank Merriwell's Support.
  440--Dick Merriwell at Fardale.
  443--Dick Merriwell's Glory.
  446--Dick Merriwell's Promise.
  449--Dick Merriwell's Rescue.
  452--Dick Merriwell's Narrow Escape.
  455--Dick Merriwell's Racket.
  458--Dick Merriwell's Revenge.
  461--Dick Merriwell's Ruse.
  464--Dick Merriwell's Delivery.
  467--Dick Merriwell's Wonders.
  470--Frank Merriwell's Honor.
  473--Dick Merriwell's Diamond.
  476--Frank Merriwell's Winners.
  479--Dick Merriwell's Dash.
  482--Dick Merriwell's Ability.
  485--Dick Merriwell's Trap.
  488--Dick Merriwell's Defense.
  491--Dick Merriwell's Model.
  494--Dick Merriwell's Mystery.

=Published About January 5th=

  497--Frank Merriwell's Backers.

=Published About January 26th=

  500--Dick Merriwell's Backstop.

=Published About February 16th=

  503--Dick Merriwell's Western Mission.

=Published About March 9th=

  506--Frank Merriwell's Rescue.

=Published About March 30th=

  509--Frank Merriwell's Encounter.

=Published About April 20th=

  512--Dick Merriwell's Marked Money.

=Published About May 11th=

  515--Frank Merriwell's Nomads.

=Published About June 1st=

  518--Dick Merriwell on the Gridiron.

=Published About June 22nd=

  521--Dick Merriwell's Disguise.

STREET & SMITH, _Publishers_, NEW YORK CITY



Transcriber's Notes:


Added table of contents.

Replaced oe ligatures with oe for text edition; HTML edition retains
ligatures.

Bold is represented with =equal signs=, italics with _underscores_.

Page 1, changed "cast is off" to "cast it off."

Page 4, changed "animal's heads" to "animals' heads."

Page 7, normalized "Potters' Gap" to "Potter's Gap."

Page 13, changed "derived it's name" to "derived its name."

Page 16, changed "give up the slip" to "give us the slip."

Page 28, changed "Chubb" to "Chub" in "Susie, Chub, Welcome, Matt,
Clip, and many others...."

Page 30, added missing quote before "Occasionally the creature...."





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