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

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


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

Title: Our Fellows - Skirmishes with the Swamp Dragoons
Author: Castlemon, Harry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Our Fellows - Skirmishes with the Swamp Dragoons" ***

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



------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_.

Footnotes have been moved to follow the paragraphs in which they are
referenced.

Minor errors, attributable to the printer, have been corrected. Please
see the transcriber’s note at the end of this text for details regarding
the handling of any textual issues encountered during its preparation.

[Illustration: CAPTURE OF LUKE REDMAN]



                              OUR FELLOWS;
                   Skirmishes with the Swamp Dragoons

                                   BY
                            HARRY CASTLEMON,

              AUTHOR OF “GUNBOAT SERIES,” “ROCKY MOUNTAIN
                  SERIES,” “BOY TRAPPER SERIES.” ETC.



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

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                  ------------------------------------

                            COPYRIGHT, 1872
                                  BY,
                         J. W. DAUGHADAY & CO.

                            COPYRIGHT, 1886,
                                   BY
                            JAMES ELVERSON.

                            COPYRIGHT, 1887,
                                   BY
                            PORTER & COATES.

                  ------------------------------------



                               CONTENTS.

                                -------

  CHAPTER                                                          PAGE

       I. —WHO OUR FELLOWS ARE,                                       9
      II. —AN UNINVITED GUEST,                                       17
     III. —MARK’S ADVENTURE,                                         29
      IV. —A FRIEND IN NEED,                                         44
       V. —WE TALK THE MATTER OVER,                                  54
      VI. —MARK MAKES A DISCOVERY,                                   74
     VII. —OUR CHRISTMAS TURKEYS,                                    81
    VIII. —A RIDE AFTER THE INDIANS,                                106
      IX. —CAUGHT AT LAST,                                          123
       X. —I STAND PICKET,                                          146
      XI. —THE TABLES TURNED,                                       168
     XII. —TOM IS ASTONISHED,                                       180
    XIII. —TOM TELLS HIS STORY,                                     204
     XIV. —TOM’S PLAN,                                              217
      XV. —DANGEROUS WORK,                                          231
     XVI. —OUR STRATAGEM,                                           241
    XVII. —TAKING THE BACK TRACK,                                   249
   XVIII. —AN UNEXPECTED DELIVERANCE,                               265
     XIX. —“MARK TWO TIMES,”                                        278
      XX. —CONCLUSION,                                              293

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              OUR FELLOWS

                                  OR,

                  Skirmishes with, the Swamp Dragoons.

                                -------



                               CHAPTER I.
                          WHO OUR FELLOWS ARE.


My name is Joseph Coleman, and at the time my story begins I was sixteen
years of age. Mark was my twin brother; and he looked and acted so much
like me, or else I looked and acted so much like him, that only our very
intimate friends could tell us apart. We always dressed alike, and that,
no doubt, had something to do with the remarkable resemblance we bore to
each other.

Many were the mistakes that were made in regard to our identity—some of
them laughable, others proving exactly the reverse, especially when I
was called upon to stand punishment for his misdeeds. On one occasion
Mark got into a difficulty with a half-breed. About a week afterward,
while I was riding along the road, I met this same half-breed with a big
switch in his hand, and all that saved me from a severe whipping was the
speed of my horse.

Then there was our old enemy, Tom Mason, who had been badly worsted in
an attempt to whip Mark, and ever since that time he had been robbing my
traps, shooting at my dog and killing my doves, thinking all the while
that he was revenging himself upon Mark, when he was in reality
punishing me.

At the time of which I write we lived in Warren County, ten miles below
Vicksburg, where our father owned an extensive plantation. He cultivated
one thousand acres of cotton and six hundred acres of corn. He owned one
hundred and fifty working mules and horses, twice as many young cattle,
which ran loose in the swamp, and about twenty-five hundred hogs. It
required from sixty to seventy-five cows to supply the plantation with
milk and butter, and almost as many dogs to protect the stock from the
wild beasts.

Just think of that! Think what music this pack must have made when in
pursuit of a bear or deer, and imagine, if you can, the delightful
concerts to which we listened on bright moonlight nights!

Perhaps you will wonder if we needed all these dogs. We should have been
sorry to part with them, for they were as necessary to our existence as
our horses, cows or mules.

Warren County at that time was almost a wilderness. Wolves, foxes and
minks were numerous, and our henroosts would have been cleared in a
single night, if the dogs had not been there to protect them. Wild-cats
were abundant, and panthers were so often met with, that traveling after
dark was seldom undertaken for pleasure. Bears, however, were the
principal pests. They were, to quote from the settlers, “as plenty as
blackberries,” and employed their leisure time during the night in
roaming about the plantations, picking up every luckless hog and calf
that happened to fall in their way.

I must not forget to say that our fellows had nothing to do with all
these plantation dogs. The most of them belonged to father, a few to the
overseer, and the rest to the servants.

Our pack numbered only five dogs. Mark was the happy possessor of Rock
and Dash, two splendid deer-hounds, which, for size, speed, endurance
and courage, were unequaled in all that country except by Sandy’s Sharp
and Music. These four hounds were animals worth having. They could run
all day, and when they once started on a trail, they never left it until
the game, whatever it was, had been killed, or they were called away.

I laid claim to Zip. He was what we boys called a “bench-legged
catch-dog”—that is, his fore legs stood wide apart and curved outward,
like those of a bulldog, and he was used for catching and holding game.

He was yellow all over except his head, which was as black as jet. His
nose and ears were as sharp as those of a wolf, and he was bobtailed.

Zip was unlike any other dog I ever saw. There were a good many queer
things about him, and he had at least one peculiarity that every body
noticed. He never wagged his tail sideways, as other dogs do, but up and
down, and he never wagged it at all except when following a warm trail.

There were five of us boys—Duke Hampton, his cousin, Herbert Dickson,
Sandy, Mark and myself. We were near neighbors—that is, we lived about a
mile and a half apart—and we were together almost all the time. We
always spoke of one another as “our fellows,” and we had finally come to
be known by that name all over the country. Sandy merits a short
description.

His name was Gabriel Lucien Todd—an odd name, perhaps, but it suited
him, for he was an odd boy. No one ever thought the race of giants
extinct after seeing him. When he was thirteen years old he was as tall
and heavy as his father, and much stronger. Indeed Sandy often boasted
that he could pull as many bales of cotton on a wagon as any yoke of
oxen in Warren County.

That, of course, was saying a great deal too much; but his strength was
really something wonderful. He could outlift any two of our fellows,
without puffing out his cheeks, but we could all take his measure on the
ground as fast as he could get up.

There were other noticeable things about Sandy, such as his utter
disregard for all the proprieties of language, his bright-red hair, and
his extreme good nature, which I seldom saw ruffled. The first was by no
means the result of ignorance, for Sandy, besides being a capital
scholar in other respects, was looked upon by our fellows as a walking
repository of grammatical knowledge.

He wrote splendid letters—and that is an accomplishment that every boy,
or man either, does not possess—and he would correctly analyze and parse
any sentence you could give him, no matter how complex; but when it came
to talking he was all afloat. He twisted his sentences into all sorts of
awkward shapes, and sometimes used words that had but little connection
with the idea he wished to communicate. It was not the result of
carelessness either, for he made some desperate attempts to “talk
proper,” as he expressed it, especially in the presence of strangers;
but the harder he tried the more he blundered.

After saying this much, it is scarcely necessary to add that Sandy was
as slow as an elephant in all his movements, and that he never got
surprised at any thing that happened.

Mark’s room and mine was regarded as the headquarters of our fellows. On
one side two windows looked out upon a wide porch, and on the other was
a fire-place, backed up by an immense brick chimney.

An unpainted board over the fireplace formed the mantel, on which were a
collection of books, a couple of lamps, an ornamental clock, and a few
articles of curiosity, such as alligators’ teeth, bears’ claws, stone
arrow-heads and hatchets.

Two pairs of deer’s antlers were fastened to the wall over the head of
the bed, and on them hung our guns, game-bags, shot-pouches,
riding-whips, gloves and hunting-horns. These last were of great use to
us. They were simply cows’ horns scraped thin and supplied with carved
mouth-pieces. They were used principally for calling the hounds during a
bear or deer-hunt (it may astonish you to learn that every dog knew the
sound of his master’s horn and would obey no other), and with them we
could talk to a friend on a calm day a mile distant.

I have lately learned that when boys in a city want a companion, they
will station themselves in front of his gate and whistle. We did not go
to all that trouble. If Mark and I had any thing exciting on hand, and
wanted our fellows to join in, one of us would go out on the porch and
blow three long blasts on his horn.

We were always sure of an answer, and in a few minutes here would come
Sandy Todd from one direction, and Duke and Herbert from the other. We
had written out a regular code of signals, and each of us kept a copy at
hand for reference, so that there could be no mistake.

We could tell our friends that we wanted them to go hunting, fishing or
blackberrying with us; we could ask them to come over and pay us a
visit; and we could tell them when to expect us. We had signals of
distress, too, and we were all bound to give heed to them when we heard
them.

I ought to say that this idea did not originate with us; we learned it
from the settlers, who also had a code of signals which had been in use
as long as I could remember.

If a planter some evening took it into his head that he would like to go
bear-hunting on the following day he would go out with his horn and blow
five long blasts and three short ones; and, like us when we called our
fellows, he was certain of a reply.

The neighbor who heard him first would respond, then another and another
would follow, until all the men in the settlement for two or three miles
around, had agreed to go bear-hunting, and that, too, without having
seen one another.

Perhaps, now that you have heard so much about our fellows, you would
like to have them personally presented. Step into headquarters, and I
will introduce you. After that, if you think you would enjoy a four-mile
gallop before supper, we will find you a good horse to ride. We are
going down the bayou to visit an Indian camp: and if you have never seen
one, now is your chance.

The boy who sits in that big arm-chair, thrumming on his guitar and
tickling the dog’s ears with the toe of his boot, is my brother Mark. If
you don’t find him in some mischief every time you meet him, you mustn’t
think it is his fault.

Do you see that broad-shouldered, long-legged, awkward-looking fellow
sitting on the floor at the opposite side of the fire-place, with a
hammer in his hand and a pan of hickory nuts by his side? That is Sandy
Todd, the strongest boy and the best shot in our party.

That curly-headed, blue-eyed fellow, who smiles so good-naturedly every
time he speaks, and who sits at the table devouring the hickory-nuts as
fast as Sandy cracks them, is Herbert Dickson. He is blessed with a good
deal of flesh, is Herbert, and sometimes answers to the name of “Chub”;
at others, “Ducklegs.”

I have known plenty of boys at school to be badly deceived in that same
Herbert Dickson. As clumsy as he looks, he can run faster and jump
higher and further than any other fellow of his age in the settlement.
There is nothing in the world that Herbert more enjoys than the
astonishment and chagrin of some lithe young fellow who may have
challenged him, “just for the fun of the thing,” to run a race; for I
don’t remember that I ever saw him beaten.

On the table at Herbert’s elbow is a chessboard with men scattered over
it. I am sitting at one end of it, and the tall, dark, dignified-looking
youth, in blue jeans roundabout and heavy horseman’s boots, who is
sitting opposite me, is Duke Hampton, than whom a better fellow never
lived. He is an acknowledged leader. He settles all our disputes, when
we have any—which, by the way, does not often happen—and is the
projector and manager of most of our plans for amusement. He is handsome
and polite, and, of course, a great favorite with the girls. He is a boy
of high moral principle, strictly truthful, and honorable even in the
smallest matters, and these qualities render him a favorite with the
men. He is the most daring and graceful rider among our fellows, and,
next to Mark, the best wrestler. He is a good chess-player, too; but by
some unaccountable fortune I have driven him into a tight corner.

I do not suppose there is any necessity that I should again introduce
myself. If it will help to place me in your good books, however, I will
tell you that I own the swiftest horse and the best dog in the
settlement. Black Bess has never been beaten in a fair race, and Zip has
yet to find his equal as a fighter and bear dog. I am not so modest but
that I can tell you, also, that I am the champion hunter among our
fellows. I killed a bear alone and unaided, and his skin now hangs on
that nail at the foot of the bed; but my companions, one and all, are
determined to equal me in this respect, and consequently I do not expect
to hold the honors much longer. But here comes our little negro, Bob, to
announce that the horses are waiting, and we must off for the camp if we
intend to be back in time for supper.



                              CHAPTER II.
                          AN UNINVITED GUEST.


We found our horses at the door, saddled and bridled, and held by two
negro boys, who, judging by the tugging, pulling and scolding which they
kept up, found it something of a task to restrain the fiery steeds,
which were impatient to be off. As I have told you about our dogs, I
will say a word about these horses. One of them has considerable to do
with my story.

The most prominent animal in the group was Herbert’s horse, a
magnificent iron-gray, large and good-natured like his master, very
fleet, and able to carry his heavy rider like a bird over any fence in
the country. He went by the name of Romeo.

The handsomest horse belonged to Duke Hampton. He was a chestnut-sorrel,
with white mane and tail, and four white feet. He was a good one to go,
and was as well trained as any horse I ever saw in a circus.

He would lie down or stand on his hind feet at the command of his
master, and pick up his gloves or riding-whip for him. His name was
Moro.

The homeliest horse was called Beauty. He was a Mexican pony, and
belonged to Mark. He was a famous traveler—he would go on a gallop all
day, and be as fresh and eager at night as when he started out in the
morning; but he was so handy with his heels, and had such an easy way of
slipping out from under a fellow when he tried to mount him, that, with
the exception of his master, who thought him the very best horse in the
world, there was not a boy among us who would have accepted him as a
gift. But bad as Beauty’s disposition was, it was much better than that
of Sandy’s mare, which answered to the name of Gretchen.

She was named after Rip Van Winkle’s wife. She was a large, raw-boned,
cream-colored animal, and had an ugly habit of laying back her ears and
opening her mouth, when any one approached her, that would have made a
stranger think twice before attempting to mount her.

The fleetest, as well as the gentlest horse, was my little Black Bess.
She was a Christmas present from an uncle who lived in Kentucky; and I
thought so much of her that I would have given up every thing I
possessed, rather than part with her.

I said that Bess was the swiftest horse in the group. She had
demonstrated the fact in many a race, but somehow I never could induce
the others to acknowledge it. Sandy stubbornly refused to give up
beaten, and so did Herbert; and even Mark, with his miserable little
pony, made big pretensions.

We never went anywhere without a race; and on this particular morning
Herbert, who was the first to swing himself into the saddle, leaped his
horse over the bars, and tore down the road as if all the wolves in
Warren County were close at his heels.

I was the last one out of the yard, but I passed every one of our
fellows before I had gone half a mile, and when I reached the outskirts
of the Indian camp, they were a long way behind.

The camp, as I saw it that afternoon, did not look much like the
illustrations of Indian villages which you have seen in your
geographies. Instead of the clean skin-lodges, and the neatly-dressed,
imposing savages which you will find in pictures, I saw before me a
score of wretched brush shanties, which could afford their inmates but
poor protection in stormy weather, and a hundred or more half-starved
men and women, some of whom were jumping around in the mud and yelling
as if they were greatly excited about something.

There were plenty of these people in Warren County at the time of which
I write. They were Choctaws—the remnant of a once powerful tribe, who
gained a precarious living by hunting, fishing, stealing and
cotton-picking. This band had been encamped on our plantation during the
last two weeks. The women had been employed by father to pick cotton,
and their lords and masters were now having a glorious time over the
money they had earned.

The warriors—lazy dogs, who thought it a disgrace to perform any manual
labor—had remained in their wigwams, passing the days very pleasantly
with their pipes, while their wives were at work in the cotton-field;
but now that the crop had been gathered and the money paid, they had
thrown away their pipes and picked up their bottles. In plainer
language, we rode into the camp just in time to witness the beginning of
a drunken Indian jubilee.

The men were dancing, shouting, fighting, wrestling, going half-hammond
(a Northern boy would have called it a “hop, skip and a jump”), and
trying to run races; while the women stood around in little groups,
chattering like so many blackbirds, and watching all that was going on
with apparently a great deal of interest.

I do not suppose that the Indian boys drank any thing stronger than the
muddy water that flowed in the bayou, on the banks of which the camp was
located; but, at any rate, they seemed to be animated by the same spirit
that possessed their fathers, for we saw them engage in no end of
fights, foot-races and wrestling matches.

Presently a smart, lively young savage, the son of the principal chief
of the band, who had easily thrown every one of his companions whom he
could induce to wrestle with him, stepped up to us, and fastening his
eyes upon Mark, asked him if he would like to come out and try his
strength. Now, if Mark had been in good health, the challenge would have
been promptly accepted; and if I am any judge of boys, that young Indian
would have found himself flat on the ground before he could have winked
twice; but he was just recovering from an attack of his old enemy, the
chills and fever, and for that reason was obliged, much to his regret,
to turn a deaf ear to the Indian’s entreaties.

“Oh, yes, you come,” said the young wrestler, after Mark had told him,
perhaps for the twentieth time, that he was out of condition; “I show
you what Indian boy can do. I put you down as quick as lightning. Eh!
You come?”

As he spoke he stepped back and spread out his sinewy arms, as if
waiting for Mark to jump into them.

“Go off about your business, Jim,” said Duke. “Haven’t you sense enough
to see that the boy has had the ague? If he was well, he would throw you
or any other young Indian in the camp. Go away now, I tell you, or
_I’ll_ take hold of you; and if I do, I will put you down a little
quicker than lightning.”

“Isn’t he a splendid-looking fellow?” said Mark, gazing admiringly at
the young savage’s supple form, which, cold as the day was, was stripped
to the waist. “Look at the muscles on his arms! I believe I’ll try him
just one round.”

“Don’t do it, Mark,” I interposed.

“Well, if you say so, Joe, I won’t; but I should really like to take a
little of that conceit out of him. I’ll soon be up to my regular
wrestling weight,” he added, addressing himself to the Indian, “and then
I will see what you are made of.”

“Ugh!” grunted Jim. “I wait for you.”

We spent an hour walking about the camp, and then returned to the house.
The jubilee was kept up all night, and we went to sleep with those wild
Indian whoops ringing in our ears. To me there was something almost
unearthly in the sound, and I thought I could imagine how our early
settlers felt when they were aroused from their sleep at dead of night
by just such yells uttered by hostile red men.

The next day our fellows accompanied some of the settlers on a
deer-hunt—all except Mark, who, being too weak to ride all day on
horse-back, remained at home with his hounds for company; and, for want
of something better to do, assisted the plantation blacksmith at his
work by blowing the bellows for him.

The Indians were quiet all the morning, no doubt making up for the sleep
they had lost the night before, but about eleven o’clock they began
their dancing and shouting again. After that, Mark did not perform his
part of the work very well, for his attention was fully occupied by the
sounds that came from the camp.

Finally the horn was blown for dinner, and Mark started toward the
house. Just as he was passing through the gate that led into the garden,
he was startled by a loud yell, which was followed by a great commotion
in the kitchen, and the next moment out came mother and half a dozen
young lady visitors.

A very fat negro woman brought up the rear, carrying in her hand a
platter of roast beef, which she was too badly frightened to put down,
and the screams that saluted Mark’s ears were almost as loud and
unearthly as those which came from the Indian camp. He did not like the
look of things, but, being a resolute fellow, he determined to find out
what was going on in the house. He had two friends upon whom he could
rely in any emergency, and, with a word to them, he was off like a shot.

“Oh, don’t go in there!” cried mother, when she saw him running toward
the kitchen, followed by his hounds. “He will kill you! He’s got a big
knife!”

Mark, who was too highly excited to hear any thing short of a terrific
peal of thunder, kept on, and when he reached the door discovered the
cause of the disturbance in the person of a tall, dignified-looking
Indian, who was acting in a very undignified manner.

As Mark afterward learned, the savage had walked into the parlor, where
all the ladies were sitting; thence into the kitchen, where active
preparations for dinner were going on, attracting the attention of the
cook by flourishing a knife, and uttering an appalling yell; after which
he made known the object of his visit by exclaiming:

“Ugh! Me big Injun, an’ me hungry.”

The yell and the sight of the knife occasioned a hurried stampede among
the women, and the savage, being left alone, proceeded to help himself
to what he liked best.

The table was loaded with good things, but there was not so very much
left upon it by the time this uninvited guest had got all he wanted. He
filled his mouth, and his arms, too, and when Mark discovered him he was
walking through the sitting-room toward the porch, demolishing a
custard-pie as he went.

Mark was impulsive, and, without stopping to consider what might be the
consequences of the act, he started in hot pursuit of the Indian,
resolved to punish him for what he had done, and to teach him better
than to take such liberties with what did not belong to him.

He came up with the robber just as he was about to descend the steps
that led down from the porch. The latter, wholly intent upon his meal,
never thought of looking for an enemy in the rear, until Mark dashed
against him like a battering-ram—an action which caused the Indian to
flourish his heels in the air, and fall headlong to the ground,
scattering the bread, meat, pies and cakes, with which his arms were
loaded, about in all directions. Mark followed him down the steps, not
to attack him, of course, but to keep off the hounds, which would have
torn the savage in pieces if they had not been restrained.

“Don’t let those dogs hurt him,” said mother, who had mustered up
courage enough to come back to the house.

“No, ma’am,” replied Mark. “Now, old fellow,” he added, as the robber
rose slowly to his feet, “you had better take yourself off. Your room
suits us better than your company.”

But the savage had no intention of taking himself off. He glared
fiercely around him for a moment, and finding that he was opposed by
nothing more formidable than a few frightened women, a boy of sixteen
and a couple of dogs, he caught up his knife, and gave a war-whoop.



                              CHAPTER III.
                           MARK’S ADVENTURE.


Mark was badly frightened, but he did not show it.

“Look here, old gentleman,” said he, with a pretty show of courage, “you
had better not try to hurt any body with that knife. Put it away, and go
back to camp where you belong.”

The savage paid no more attention to his words than if he had not spoken
at all. He wanted to be revenged upon something for the fall he had
received, and not daring to molest either the ladies or Mark, he charged
furiously upon the hounds, which nimbly eluded all his attacks, and
easily kept out of reach of the knife.

“Do you see what he is doing, mother?” shouted Mark, astonished and
enraged at the Indian’s attempts to injure his favorites. “Say the word,
and I’ll make the dogs stretch him as if he were a ’coon.”

“No! no!” answered mother, hastily. “Don’t make him angry, and perhaps
he will go away after a while.”

“He is as angry as he can be already,” replied Mark.

The boy curbed his indignation as well as he was able, and watched the
savage as he followed up the hounds, which barked at him, but kept out
of his way. They ran under the house, but the robber crawled after them
and drove them out. They were too well trained to take hold of him
without the word from their master; but they grew angrier every minute,
and finally, as if they feared that their rage might get the better of
them if they remained longer in sight of their enemy, they sullenly
retreated up the steps that led to the porch.

“Hold on, there!” shouted Mark, as the Indian, yelling furiously,
prepared to follow the dogs into the house. “Keep away from there, I
tell you.”

But the noble warrior did not stop. Striking right and left with his
knife, he sprang up the steps into the midst of the women; and Mark,
believing that it was his intention to attack them, yelled quite as
loudly as the Indian.

“Hi! hi! Pull him down, fellows!” he shouted.

The hounds understood that yell; they had been waiting for it. As quick
as thought one of them turned and sprang at his throat; the other seized
him by the shoulder from behind, and the savage was thrown flat on his
back—stretched as if he had been a “’coon.”

It was astonishing how quickly all the fight was shaken out of that
ferocious Choctaw. He made one or two wild cuts at his assailants, then
the knife dropped from his grasp and he lay like a log upon the porch.
He was so still, and the blood flowed so freely from the numerous wounds
he had received, that Mark became frightened and spoke to the hounds,
which released their enemy very reluctantly. He never would have robbed
any more dinner-tables if they had been allowed to have their own way
with him.

“Ugh!” roared the Indian, when he found himself free from the teeth of
the hounds. “Wh-o-o-p!”

He was not seriously injured; he had been “playing ’possum.” He raised
himself to a sitting position and gazed about for a moment with a
bewildered air, and then jumped to his feet, bounded down the steps and
drew a beeline for camp at a rate of speed that made Mark open his eyes.

He did not stop to look for gates, or to let down bars. Whatever may
have been that Indian’s claims to courage, he could certainly boast of
being a swift runner and a most remarkable jumper.

“Oh, you awful boy! What have you done?” chorused all the visitors, as
Mark entered the house.

“I’ve saved somebody from being hurt—that’s what I’ve done,” was the
cool reply. “I am the only man about the house, and of course it was my
duty to protect you.”

“But don’t you know that an Indian never forgives an injury? He will
have revenge for that. He will come back here with his friends and kill
and scalp us all.”

“Well, he had better bring a good many friends if he intends to try
that,” said Mark, shaking his head in a very threatening manner. “I’ll
take Rock and Dash and whip his whole tribe. How long before dinner will
be ready, mother?”

For an answer to this question he was referred to the cook. Now, Aunt
Martha was an old and favorite servant, who had somehow got it into her
head that she had a perfect right to grumble at any one, from her master
down to the smallest pickaninny on the plantation. Having recovered from
her fright, she was scolding at an alarming rate over the loss of her
fine dinner, and for want of some better object upon which to vent her
spite she opened upon Mark the moment he entered the kitchen.

Being unable to obtain any satisfactory replies to his questions, he
walked off whistling to drown the clatter of the cook’s tongue, and as
he went down the steps he heard her say to herself:

“Dat ar is a monstrous bad boy. He’s boun’ to be de def of all us white
folks.”

At the end of an hour Mark was again summoned to dinner, which this time
passed off without interruption. Aunt Martha had recovered her good
nature, and sought to restore herself to favor by stepping down from her
high position as head cook, and condescending to wait upon “young
mass’r,” whose plate she kept bountifully supplied.

When Mark returned to the shop after eating his dinner, he noticed that
an unusual silence reigned in the Indian camp. Not a yell, or a song, or
even the bark of a dog came from the woods, which were so still that
Mark almost believed them to be deserted.

As he could not help feeling somewhat uneasy over what had been said in
regard to the savage coming back with re-enforcements, he kept his eye
turned in the direction of the camp, and presently discovered a gray
streak moving through the cotton-field.

As it approached he saw that it was an Indian; and when he reached the
fence Mark recognized the young wrestler, who appeared to be intensely
excited about something. He breathed hard after his rapid run, his eyes
had a wild look in them, and he was in so great a hurry to communicate
the object of his visit that he began shouting to Mark as soon as he
came within speaking distance.

He might as well have kept silent, however, for he talked principally in
his native tongue, and Mark could not understand that. Reaching the
fence, he cleared it at a bound, and running up to Mark, who stood
looking at him in astonishment, exclaimed:

“Mil-la-la, you white boy! mil-la-la you, quick!”

And as he spoke he seized Mark by the arm, and tried to pull him toward
the house.

“Now, see here,” said the latter, pulling off his jacket; “do you want
to wrestle? If you do, you’re just the fellow I am looking for.”

“No, no! no, no!” cried the young savage, jumping back, and vehemently
shaking his head. “Mil-la-la, you!”

“Talk English, why don’t you?” said Mark impatiently. “I can’t
understand that jargon. What do you want me to do? If you haven’t come
over here to wrestle, you had better keep your hands to yourself.”

“Well, I mean you run,” urged Jim. “You run away, quick. See! Indian
coming to kill!”

He pointed toward the cotton-field, and the sight that met Mark’s gaze
made the cold chills creep all over him. A party of half a dozen braves
were approaching the shop in single file at a rapid trot. They were all
stripped to the waist, daubed with paint, wore feathers in their hair,
carried knives and hatchets in their hands, and altogether their
appearance was enough to frighten any boy who had never seen Indians in
war costume before. The foremost warrior was the one who had been pulled
down by the dogs. When he discovered Mark, he placed his hand to his
mouth and gave the war-whoop.

“Jeemes’ River!” was Mark’s mental ejaculation (that was what he always
said when he was astonished or alarmed). “Don’t I wish I was somewhere?”

“See, you white boy!” exclaimed Jim, who was so excited and terrified
that he could scarcely stand still. “You run, or Indian kill.”

“Keep your hands off,” said Mark, as the young wrestler once more tried
to push him toward the house. “This is my father’s plantation. I’ve more
right here than they have. I haven’t done any thing to be ashamed of,
and I shan’t run a step.”

The savages had by this time reached the fence that inclosed the
cotton-field, and there they stopped to listen to a speech from their
leader, who emphasized his remarks by flourishing his knife and hatchet
above his head and yelling furiously.

“Look here, Jim!” said Mark suddenly. “Go and tell those fellows that if
they know when they are well off they won’t come over that fence.”

“Oh, no! You run!” entreated Jim, who seemed to be greatly distressed on
Mark’s account. “Indian kill, sure!”

“I shan’t budge an inch. Now, that’s flat. Jim, I shan’t tell you more
than a dozen times that if you don’t want to wrestle you had better keep
your hands away from me. Go and tell those painted gentlemen that I say
they have come close enough.”

The young wrestler, seeing that Mark was firmly resolved to stand his
ground, darted off like a flask, and, perching himself upon the fence,
began a speech. He threw his arms wildly about his head, twisted himself
into all sorts of shapes, and shouted at the top of his voice.

Mark could not understand a word he said, but the Indians could, and
they seemed very much interested. They listened respectfully, no doubt,
because the speaker was the son of their chief, only interrupting him
now and then with a long-drawn “O-o m-i!” which was probably intended
for applause.

If Jim was trying to induce the warriors to return peaceably to camp, he
did not succeed in his object. The leader looked toward Mark, who stood
in the door of the shop, keeping his eye on the savages, and stooping
down occasionally to caress his hounds, and becoming enraged at his
coolness, again raised the war-whoop, whereupon Jim brought his speech
to a sudden close, and, jumping down from the fence, hurried up to Mark,
and begged him to run for his life.

“I shan’t stir a peg,” was the angry response. “Go back and say to those
men that I am tired of waiting. Tell them that if they come inside this
lot I’ll make my hounds eat them up.”

Jim ran back to the fence, and for the second time occupied the
attention of the warriors with a speech. They listened attentively for
awhile, as before, but his eloquence seemed to make but very little
impression upon them, for the leader again raised the war-whoop, and
placed his hands upon the fence, as if about to spring over.

“Come on!” shouted Mark, who was every moment growing more angry and
impatient. “Come inside this lot if you dare! Hands off, Jim!” he added,
pushing back the young Indian, who once more tried to pull him toward
the house. “I am just in the right humor for a wrestle now, and when I
get through with your friends there I will show you what a white boy can
do. Jeemes’ River! why don’t you come on?”

But the Indians, if they had any intention of crossing the fence at all,
were not ready to do it just then. They listened to another long speech
from their leader, and then, to Mark’s great amazement, started back
through the cotton-field toward the camp. When they disappeared in the
woods, Mark drew a long breath of relief, and turned to Jim, who stood
looking at him with every expression of wonder and curiosity. The young
wrestler was hardly prepared to believe that any one, especially a boy
sixteen years old, could see the famous Choctaw braves in war-paint
without being very badly frightened.

“You no afraid?” he inquired.

“Afraid!” repeated Mark. “Scarcely. What’s the use of being afraid until
you see something to be afraid of? I feel grateful to you, Jim, for the
interest you seem to take in my welfare, and I assure you that I shall
always remember it. But you know you challenged me to wrestle with you
last night. Come on now; I am ready for you.”

But Jim was not ready for Mark. The latter had given evidence that he
was blessed with a goodly share of courage; and the Indian, believing,
no doubt, that he possessed strength and activity in the same
proportion, thought it best to keep out of his reach. He retreated
toward the fence, crying out, “No, no; no, no, white boy!” at the same
time waving Mark back with his open hands.

“Well, then, if you don’t want to wrestle, perhaps you will be good
enough to carry a message from me to your friends,” said Mark. “Tell
them that if they will take my advice they will leave this plantation
with as little delay as possible. I shall ride through those woods with
my hounds about sundown, and—pay strict attention to what I say now,
Jim—if I catch a redskin in that camp, I’ll—I’ll—”

Mark finished the sentence by drawing his head down between his
shoulders, opening his eyes to their widest extent, spreading out his
fingers like the claws of some wild animal, and assuming a most
ferocious expression of countenance, which made Jim retreat a step or
two as if afraid that Mark was about to jump at him.

I am not certain that Mark could have told exactly what he meant by this
pantomime, and neither am I prepared to say how Jim interpreted it; but
I do know that he started for the camp with all possible speed, while
Mark, highly excited, went back to the house to relate his adventure to
mother.

That evening, about an hour before sunset, we returned from our deer
hunt, and were not a little surprised to find the camp deserted. Not an
Indian was to be seen. The warriors, squaws, pappooses, dogs and all had
left for parts unknown. Father laughed when mother told him what had
happened during our absence; but I could see by the expression in his
eye that one Indian, at least, did a very wise thing when he took Mark’s
advice and left the plantation.

I have since learned enough about these people to know that Mark showed
himself a hero on that day. If he had taken to his heels the Indians
would have pursued him, and there was no knowing what they might have
done in their blind rage. His bold front cooled their ardor, and perhaps
saved somebody’s life.

Although the savages had left the plantation, we were not yet done with
them. A few nights afterward our cotton gin was set on fire, and the
moccasin tracks in the mud showed who did it. We had a lively time
hunting up the incendiaries, and I came in for some adventures, the like
of which I had never known before.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                           A FRIEND IN NEED.


Our fellows all ate supper at our house that night, and a happier party
than that which sat at our table was never seen anywhere.

Mark was the hero of the evening, and after he had entertained us with a
glowing description of his adventure with the Indians, we related to him
the exciting and amusing incidents that had happened during our deer
hunt.

Duke, Herbert and Sandy started for home shortly after dark, and Mark
and I went up to headquarters and prepared to pass the evening with our
books. We intended to go back to school in the spring, and as we were
too ambitious to fall behind our classes, we made it a point to devote a
portion of each day to good hard study. I picked up my philosophy; while
Mark settled into a comfortable position in his easy-chair, thrust his
slippered feet out toward the fire, and soon became deeply interested in
a problem in quadratic equations.

The hours flew rapidly by, and it was nine o’clock almost before we knew
it. By that time Mark had found a problem that brought him to a
standstill, and resorting to his usual method of stimulating his ideas,
he picked up his guitar and cleared his throat preparatory to treating
me to his favorite song, “The Hunter’s Chorus,” which I had heard so
often that I was heartily tired of it.

Just then the hounds in the yard set up a loud baying. We heard the bars
rattle, and then came the clatter of horses’ hoofs and loud voices at
the door. Heavy steps sounded in the hall and ascended the stairs. A
moment afterward the door opened and Sandy Todd came in, his clothes all
splashed with mud, and his usually red face pale with excitement or
anger, we could not tell which.

“What’s up?” we asked, in concert.

“I reckon I might as well tell you to onct,” answered Sandy, “’cause you
never could guess it. Jerry Lamar is in jail.”

“In jail!” we echoed. “What for?”

“He is charged with stealin’ eight thousand dollars from General Mason,”
was the reply.

I must stop here long enough to tell you something about Jerry Lamar,
because he had considerable to do with the adventures that befell us
during the winter. He lived about six miles from our house, on the banks
of Black Bayou. His parents were poor, and Jerry and his father were
lumbermen. They cut logs in the swamp, made them into rafts, and when
the freshets came, floated them out to the river and down to New
Orleans, where they sold them.

The timber they cut was all on our plantation, and father had so much
confidence in their honesty that he never measured the rafts when they
came out, but accepted the money Mr. Lamar offered him without asking
any questions.

Jerry was one of the best boys I ever knew. Honest, good-natured and
accommodating, he was beloved by every body (except old General Mason,
who cared for no one but himself and his graceless nephew), and he would
have been one of our fellows if he could have found time to accompany us
on our expeditions; but he was too poor to own a horse or gun, and was
obliged to work steadily from one year’s end to another. He was
ambitious and tried hard to better his condition, but somehow he always
had bad luck.

General Mason (I do not know why people called him “General,” unless it
was because he had plenty of money, for he never held a military
commission in his life) was continually getting himself or somebody else
into trouble.

He had long shown a disposition to persecute Mr. Lamar, because the
latter refused to buy his timber in the swamps at double its value, and
Mark and I had no hesitation in affirming that he had brought this
charge against Jerry to be revenged on his father.

“I don’t believe a word of it,” said I.

“Any one who knows Jerry Lamar would never suspect him of such a thing,”
chimed in Mark.

“I am sorry to say, fellers, that thar’s no mistake about it—that is, as
fur as his bein’ in jail is consarned, ’cause my father seed him when he
was goin’ in. He’s down stairs now, pap is, talkin’ to your folks about
goin’ Jerry’s bail.”

“Is there nothing we can do for him?” I asked.

“We can at least go down and see him, and assure him of our sympathy,”
said Mark.

“That’s jest what I thought,” replied Sandy. “I will ride over arter
Duke and Herbert, and by the time I get back you can be ready.”

Sandy lumbered off down stairs, and Mark and I pulled on our boots and
hurried after him. We stopped in the sitting-room for a few minutes to
hear what Mr. Todd had to say about it, and when we saw father preparing
to accompany him to town, we ran out to the barn to saddle our horses.

In about a quarter of an hour Sandy came back with Duke and Herbert, and
we all set out for Burton (that was the name of the village in which the
jail was situated), galloping along the road at break-neck speed, and
spattering the mud in every direction.

When he had gone about a mile and a half, we suddenly discovered a
horseman in the road in advance of us, whose actions we thought
indicated a desire to avoid us, for he turned off the road into the
bushes.

“That fellow, whoever he is, has been doing something mean,” said Duke,
jumping his horse across the ditch beside the road and riding toward the
place where the stranger was concealed. “An honest man wouldn’t sneak
off into the woods and hide that way. Hallo, there! Come out and show
yourself!”

“Is that you, boys?” asked a trembling voice in the bushes.

“Oh, it’s that Tom Mason!” said Mark, contemptuously. “What trick are
you up to now? You have been about some under-handed business, or you
wouldn’t be afraid of us.”

“I haven’t been up to any trick; I haven’t, honor bright,” declared Tom,
with more earnestness than we thought the occasion demanded. “I didn’t
know who it was coming down the road at that reckless pace. Where are
you going in such a hurry?”

“To town, to see Jerry,” replied Duke.

“You are! I wouldn’t go near him if I were you. He’s a thief!”

As Tom said this he came out into the road, and we saw that his face was
deathly pale, and that he was trembling all over, as if he had been
seized with an attack of the ague.

If we had known what Tom had passed through during the last few hours,
perhaps we should not have been so surprised at the sight. Had we been
in his situation, it is probable that we would have been frightened,
too.

Tom Mason was the nephew and ward of the richest man in that part of
Mississippi, and the most unpopular boy in the settlement. He was so
overbearing, and so dishonest and untruthful, that no one who had the
least respect for himself could associate with him.

He cordially hated our fellows, because we would not invite him to
accompany us on our hunting and fishing excursions, and never allowed an
opportunity to do us an injury to pass unimproved. I shall have more to
say about him presently.

“You fellows act as though you thought yourselves something grand,”
continued Tom, “and I supposed you were above associating with a thief.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what’s the truth,” said Sandy, shutting one eye and
wrinkling up his nose, as he always did when he was very much in
earnest, “Jerry ain’t no more of a thief than I be.”

“He is in jail, isn’t he?” demanded Tom. “That is enough to disgrace him
forever. Those who visit him and sympathize with him are no better than
he is.”

“Thar ain’t no disgrace whar thar ain’t no guilt,” replied Sandy, half
inclined to get angry. “An’ another thing, what’s the use of a fellow’s
havin’ friends if they go back on him the minute he gets into trouble?
Jerry will find that we’ll stick to him now same as we did afore. Now
I’ll tell you what’s the truth, Tom Mason: He don’t know no more about
them thar eight thousand dollars than you do.”

“Nor half as much,” said Mark, decidedly. “Fellows,” he added, as we
left Tom and went clattering down the road again, “if the general has
really lost any money, that boy knows where it is.”

We reached the village in a few minutes, and without any delay were
conducted to the cell in which Jerry was confined.

I shall never forget the thrill of horror that ran through me as the
heavy iron door clanged behind us, or the despairing, woe-begone
expression on the face of the prisoner. A few hours had made a great
change in that jolly, wide-awake boy. He sat on his narrow bed with his
face hidden in his hands, and when he looked up, I saw that his eyes
were red and swollen with weeping.

“I little thought I should ever come to this,” said Jerry, in a husky
voice; “and I never expected to see you here, either.”

“When a fellow is in trouble he wants friends, doesn’t he?” asked Duke.
“Have you had any examination yet?”

“I have been before the squire, if that is what you mean, and have been
sent here in default of bail—sixteen thousand dollars. The squire might
as well have said a million.”

“No, I reckon not,” said Sandy. “Mr. Coleman an’ Mr. Dickson an’ my
father can raise sixteen thousand dollars, I think, but it might bother
’em some to find a million. Now, I’ll tell you what’s the truth,
Jeremiah Lamar, did you steal them thar eight thousand from General
Mason?”

“No, I never saw the money.”

“How in the world did you manage to get into this miserable scrape?”
asked Duke.

Jerry wiped his eyes and settled back on his elbow, while we disposed of
ourselves in various attitudes about the cell and waited for him to
begin the story.



                               CHAPTER V.
                        WE TALK THE MATTER OVER.


As Jerry’s utterance was often interrupted by sobs, it took him a long
time to tell us how this unpleasant state of affairs had been brought
about.

During the progress of his story we learned that General Mason,
according to the evidence he had given before the squire, had that
morning returned from New Orleans, where he had been to draw some money
to make the first payment on a plantation he had recently purchased.

The boat on which he was a passenger stopped at the mouth of the bayou
to take on a supply of wood; and the general, learning that Mr. Lamar
was about to come down with another raft, suddenly took it into his head
that it would be a good plan to go up and examine it. He had lost a good
deal of valuable timber of late, he said, and he believed that Jerry and
his father had stolen it. He would look at the raft, and if there were
any of his logs in it he would know them, for they were all marked.

So he jumped into a skiff and pulled up the bayou, taking with him a
valise containing eight thousand dollars in gold.

He found Mr. Lamar engaged in making up the raft, a portion of which was
moored to the bank in front of his house. The general got out of his
skiff, and after examining that part of the raft, walked up the bayou to
the place where Mr. Lamar was at work.

The latter, knowing why he had come there, good-naturedly took his
pike-staff and turned the logs over in the water, so that the general
could see all sides of them.

But none of them bore his mark; and without even apologizing to the
lumberman for the trouble he had given him, the general returned to the
skiff. He got out the oars and was about to shove off from the bank,
when he discovered that the valise containing the eight thousand
dollars, which he had carelessly left in the boat, was gone.

Jerry was busy chopping wood in front of the house, and without an
instant’s hesitation the general sprang ashore, seized him by the
collar, and walking him into the skiff, started off to take him before
the magistrate.

“You can’t imagine how astonished I was,” said Jerry. "When the general
first came there I was not at home; I was up the bayou after a load of
wood. You know that when the water comes up it makes an island of the
hill on which our house stands, and we are obliged to bring all our
firewood from the mainland in a canoe. I noticed the skiff when I came
back, but I did not know who had brought it there until I saw General
Mason up the bank with father, looking at the logs. When he came down I
wished him good-morning; but he did not speak or even look at me, and I
went on with my work. The next thing I knew I was lying flat on the
bottom of the skiff, and he was shoving off into the stream.

"‘You see I am prepared for any tricks,’ said he, flourishing a revolver
before my face. ‘You have stolen eight thousand dollars out of this
boat. Now will you tell me where it is, or go to jail?"

"If the Mississippi had suddenly overflowed its banks and come pouring
into the bayou, carrying every thing before it, I could not have been
more astounded and alarmed. How could I tell him where his money was
when I had never seen it?

“I said every thing I could to convince him that I was innocent of the
crime with which he charged me; but it was of no use. I might as well
have kept silent. In obedience to his orders I picked up the oars and
pulled down the bayou; and here I am.”

“Well,” said I, when Jerry paused, “I don’t see that you are in such a
terrible scrape. How is General Mason going to prove that you stole his
money?”

“Humph!” exclaimed Duke, "you had better ask ‘How is Jerry going to
prove that he didn’t steal it?’ I have read somewhere," he continued,
"that a trial at law is a lie direct. One says ‘You did,’ and the other
says ‘I didn’t.’ In this case General Mason affirms that Jerry stole his
money, and Jerry declares that he never saw it. We know that the general
is mistaken, but how are we going to convince him of that fact while he
has the evidence all on his side?"

“I know how,” exclaimed Herbert, excitedly. “We’ll find the real
culprit, that’s the way we’ll do it; and I can put my hands on him in
less than half an hour. That Tom Mason is the very fellow.”

“Where is your proof?” inquired the practical Duke.

“Who knows that the money was stolen at all?” asked Mark. “Perhaps it
fell overboard.”

“Well, suppose it did. That doesn’t help the matter any, for how are we
going to show that it fell overboard?”

“Oh, I am ruined, boys!” groaned Jerry, who had listened attentively to
what Duke had to say. “I can’t prove that I did not steal the money, for
there was no one near me. Mother was in the house, and I was alone with
the skiff for at least ten minutes. My word will go for nothing against
that of a man like General Mason. But, fellows, if that money was stolen
at all, it was taken before I got back with my load of wood.”

“Did you see any one prowling around your house?” asked Duke. “Perhaps
some of the Swamp Dragoons were up there hunting.”

“If they were, I did not see them. I was alone.”

Duke had shown us just how the matter stood, and our friend’s prospects
began to look very dark indeed. No one could blame General Mason, for
the evidence was strong against Jerry. We knew he was innocent, but we
could not prove it, and he would spend the best years of his life in
prison, and the real culprit would never be discovered.

While we were thinking the matter over, and wondering what we could do
to assist Jerry, we heard a heavy tramping in the hall, and presently
Mr. Todd, Mr. Dickson and father came in, accompanied by the constable
and jailer. They had found bail for Jerry, and he was once more at
liberty to go where he pleased until the following month, when his case
would come up for trial before the Circuit Court. He did not seem very
much elated over his liberation, for he shrank from encountering the
curious eyes which he knew would be turned upon him when he reached the
street. But we did not give him time to think about that. Herbert and I
caught him by the arms, Sandy put his hat on his head (he was so
completely wrapped up in his troubles that he seemed to have forgotten
that he had a hat to wear, or a pair of feet to stand upon), and we
hurried him out of the jail and across the road to the place where we
had left our horses.

We sprang into our saddles, I took Jerry up behind me, and in a few
minutes carried him out of sight of the village. In accordance with his
request, I put him down at the head of the lane that led to the swamp,
and there we all separated and set out for home.

It was late when Mark and I awoke the next morning. After breakfast, I
shouldered an ax, and, mounting my horse, started for the woods, where I
had agreed to meet the rest of our fellows and spend an hour or two with
them in building turkey-traps, while Mark, who said he didn’t feel like
tramping around in the mud all day, remained at home.

No one could have told from the way the day began, that it was destined
to wind up with an adventure, and that Mark’s “laziness,” as I called
it, was to bring about a series of events that ultimately proved to be
of the greatest benefit to Jerry Lamar; but yet it was so.

Before Mark went to bed again he got into a scrape that well nigh cost
him his life, and enabled him to prove Jerry’s innocence to every body’s
satisfaction. In order that you may understand how it came about, I must
follow his movements.

After I left, Mark studied awhile, read a little, and thrummed on his
guitar a good deal. He passed an hour in this way, and at the end of
that time was aroused from a reverie into which he had fallen by a sound
which never failed to throw him into a state of intense excitement—the
“honk, honk!” uttered by a flock of wild geese as they flew over the
house.

Mark was all life and activity in an instant. Dropping his guitar as if
it had been a coal of fire, he caught up his gun, which he always kept
loaded and ready for such an emergency, and, in less time than it takes
to tell it, was standing bareheaded in the yard, gazing up into the air,
which was fairly darkened by wild geese.

Bang! bang! spoke the double-barrel, in quick, decided tones, and down
came two of the flock, one stone dead and the other with a broken wing.

After securing his game, Mark stood watching the birds, which flew
slowly onward, gradually settling down as they neared the swamp, and
finally disappearing behind the bushes that lined the banks of the
bayou.

“They have taken to the water,” said Mark, gleefully, “and if I don’t
bag a dozen of them before I am an hour older, it will be because I have
forgotten how to shoot on the wing.”

Mark ran up to headquarters, and presently reappeared in his big boots
and shooting-jacket, his powder-flask and shot-bag slung over his
shoulder, and his trusty double-barrel under his arm.

He ran into the kitchen to ask Aunt Martha to put up a lunch for him,
and in half an hour more he had embarked in the canoe which we kept
moored in the bayou, and was paddling for dear life toward the place
where he had seen the geese alight in the water.

If you have never seen a freshet I can not convey to you even a slight
idea of the appearance the swamp presented to Mark’s gaze that morning.

In summer it was perfectly dry, and the bayou which ran through it was
not more than ten feet wide, and so shallow that the little trading
boats, which are said to be able to run after a heavy dew, could not
possibly ascend it.

Now the swamp was covered to the depth of fifteen feet, and the bayou
was booming along at the rate of ten miles an hour, carrying with it
huge trees and logs, which were whirled about in every direction,
threatening instant destruction to any thing that came within their
reach.

Of course navigation was dangerous in the extreme; but Mark never
thought of that. His mind was wholly occupied with the wild geese.

The canoe, propelled by the current and the rapid strokes of the paddle,
quickly reached the bend in which the geese had alighted, and as Mark
rounded the point above it, he saw the flock before him, and within easy
range.

I need not stop to relate to you the incidents of the hunt, which
continued nearly all day; for, although interesting in themselves, they
have no bearing upon the adventure which followed. It will be enough to
say that the geese took wing as often as Mark approached them; that they
always left two, and sometimes four and five, of their number dead or
wounded behind them; that at last they became alarmed at the havoc made
in their ranks, and rising high in the air, flew over the tops of the
trees, toward the river; and that when they disappeared, Mark, with some
difficulty, landed on a little island in the bayou to rest after his
long-continued exertions, and to eat the lunch which Aunt Martha had put
up for him.

As soon as his excitement had somewhat abated, he proceeded to make an
examination of his spoils, and found that he had been successful beyond
his most sanguine expectations—thirty-two fine, fat geese bearing
evidence to the skill with which he had handled his double-barrel.

He also became conscious of another fact after he had looked about him,
and that was that he had not the least idea how far he was from home, or
in what part of the swamp he had brought up. He could not discover a
single familiar landmark. With the exception of the island on which he
was standing, and which was not more than twenty feet square, there was
not a spot of dry land within the range of his vision—nothing but a
wilderness of giant trees, standing half submerged in the dark, muddy
water, which rushed by the island with the speed of a mill-sluice.

To add to the unpleasantness of his situation, the leafless branches
above his head were tossing about in violent commotion, and the surface
of the water was whirled into eddies by a fierce wind, which increased
in fury every moment, betokening the approach of a tempest.

Some boys would have been frightened, but Mark was not. He ate his lunch
with great deliberation, glancing up at the clouds occasionally,
thinking over the incidents of the day, and trying to determine upon
some plan of action.

There were two ways for him to return home. One was to pull back up the
bayou in the direction from which he had come, and the other to float
down the stream until he reached the river.

There was one insurmountable obstacle in the way of carrying out the
first plan, and that was, that alone and unaided he could not possibly
propel his canoe against the current.

To the second plan there was also an objection—quite a formidable one,
too—which, in order that you may understand what followed, I must
explain at some length.

I have told you that the bayou emptied into the Mississippi River. About
a mile above its mouth was a succession of falls, perhaps fifteen feet
high, and at this point the bayou, which ran between two rocky bluffs,
made a very abrupt bend. The foot of the bluff on the lower side had
been worn away by the constant action of the water, causing the top to
hang threateningly over the bed of the stream.

Against this bluff, and along the whole length of it, was piled a dense
mass of logs and trees, thus forming a sort of cavern, open at both
ends.

This cave went by the name of “Dead Man’s Elbow,” from the fact that
more than one lumberman had lost his life there.

When the water was low it could be easily explored, and many a hot
summer’s day had our fellows spent there fishing and shooting
alligators; but during a freshet it was a dangerous place.

The space between the bluffs was so narrow that only a small portion of
the water could pass over the falls, and the most of it found its way
into this cavern, through which it rushed and roared with the speed of a
small Niagara; and any thing that came within its reach was hurried
along with almost incredible fury, and dashed upon the logs and rocks
below.

This was the obstacle that Mark would be obliged to pass on his way to
the river. Of course there was a possibility that he would accomplish
the descent in safety, for he was a skillful boatman, and he knew that
more than one canoe and dozens of heavy rafts had passed over the falls
when the water was at its highest; but if any accident befell him—if he
once allowed himself to be brought within the influence of the powerful
current that set toward the cavern—if his paddle broke or he became
exhausted, it would be “all day” with him.

Mark thought of these things while he was munching his sandwiches, and
when the last one had been disposed of he stepped into his canoe and
began to make preparations for his perilous voyage.

His first move was to pack the geese carefully away under the thwarts,
so that they would not be thrown overboard in case of any sudden
lurching of his little vessel, and the second to fasten a strap to his
shotgun and sling it over his shoulder.

Mark was greatly attached to that little double-barrel, and he was
determined that if he passed Dead Man’s Elbow in safety, the gun should
go through safely, also.

Perhaps his hands trembled a little while he was making these
preparations, perhaps too, he wished that some other boy had been
standing in his boots just then; but there was no alternative between
attempting the passage of the falls and camping all night in the swamp
without a fire, and of the two evils he thought he had chosen the least.

All things being ready, Mark cast off the painter, and with one sweep of
the paddle turned the canoe about and sent it flying down the bayou. He
went at almost railroad speed, but kept his craft completely under
control, and when at last he came suddenly around a sharp bend and found
himself between two high bluffs, with Dead Man’s Elbow in plain sight,
he had screwed his courage up to the sticking point, and was ready to
face the danger.

He placed his hat more firmly on his head, tightened his grasp on his
paddle, and fastening his eyes on the falls before him, was nerving
himself for the plunge, when his attention was suddenly attracted by
loud shouts, which sounded from the cliffs above. He looked up, and the
sight that met his gaze filled him with amazement and consternation.

Near the middle of the bayou, and but a short distance above the falls,
was a dead tree which must have possessed enormous roots, for it had
stood there ever since I could remember, holding its upright position in
defiance of the logs and rafts that had been dashed against it.

It was not the tree itself that fixed Mark’s gaze and excited his
surprise, but something that was crouching among its branches. It was
not a bear or panther, but a man, dressed in a tattered brown jeans
suit, who seemed to be very badly frightened, for that portion of his
face which was visible over his bushy, uncombed whiskers was as pale as
death.

Stranded on the very brink of the falls was the skiff in which the man
had doubtless descended the bayou. It was lying on its side, half filled
with water, and all that kept it from going over the falls was the log
against which it had lodged.

On the cliff above the falls stood the persons whose shouts had
attracted Mark’s attention. There were half a dozen of them—boys about
his own age—and they were the redoubtable Swamp Dragoons who have
already been mentioned in this story, and who are destined from this
time forth to play a prominent part in it.

One of them held a long rope in his hand, with which he had been trying
to rescue the man in the tree. They were all in a high state of
excitement and alarm, which seemed to be greatly increased by Mark’s
sudden appearance among them.

As soon as he came in sight, one of the Dragoons, who, like a good many
others in the settlement, had not yet learned to tell Mark and me apart,
called out:

“Now, then, what do you want here, Joe Coleman? Jest turn right around
and go back up the bayou. You’ve got no sort of business here.”

“Yes,” shouted the man in the tree, shaking his fist at Mark, “go back
whar you come from. What are you spyin’ about here fur?”

At first Mark did not know what to make of this greeting. Why should the
man in the tree accuse him of acting as a spy upon his movements, and
what reason had the Dragoons for ordering him away when he had as much
right there as they had? There could be but one answer to these
questions, and that was that there was something in the vicinity which
they did not want him to see.

“Do you hear what I say!” shouted the man in the tree. “Get away—go back
whar you come from. We don’t want you about here.”

“Get away yourself,” replied Mark. “Haven’t you sense enough to know
that I couldn’t go back if I wanted to? There isn’t a man living who can
paddle a canoe against this current.”

These words had scarcely left Mark’s lips before he became aware that he
had got himself into trouble. While his attention was drawn to the man
in the tree, his canoe had escaped from his control, and was now
shooting with the speed of an arrow toward the cavern. It was not more
than twenty feet distant, and if he once entered it no power on earth
could save him.

When he saw and fully realized his danger, his face grew deathly pale,
and for an instant the light paddle in his hand felt as heavy as lead.
But it was only for an instant. His power of action returned almost as
quickly as it had deserted him, and, jumping to his feet, he fought hard
for his life.

For a few seconds it seemed as if his puny arm could combat successfully
with the roaring, foaming waters which leaped so wildly around him; but
just at the moment when the canoe appeared to be perfectly motionless,
and it seemed as if a feather’s weight might turn it either way—toward
the falls, where it would be comparatively safe, or toward the cavern
where its destruction was certain—there was a loud snap, and Mark found
himself standing with a broken paddle in his hand, and saw the bow of
the canoe swinging rapidly toward the waves which filled the mouth of
Dead Man’s Elbow.



                              CHAPTER VI.
                        MARK MAKES A DISCOVERY.


If there was any thing for which Mark was noted, besides his skill as a
wrestler, it was the coolness and deliberation with which he acted in
times of danger.

In this, he was a good deal like Sandy, who could scarcely be induced to
move one step faster than his ordinary gait even under the most exciting
circumstances.

Mark often grew pale in trying situations, and sometimes seemed utterly
powerless to lift hand or foot, but when the decisive moment came, and
action could be no longer delayed, he moved with a promptness and
celerity that was astonishing.

On this occasion it did not seem that there was the smallest chance of
escape. The Swamp Dragoons and the man in the tree thought so, and
looked down at him with blanched cheeks.

Mark thought so, and stood erect in his boat, gazing in a stupid,
benumbed sort of way into the dark opening where more than one strong
man had given up his life, and toward which he was being hurried with
lightning speed. But all this time he knew what he was about, and, when
the canoe was on the very point of taking the fatal plunge, he sprang
into the air with the agility of a squirrel.

The instant he touched the water he gave one swift stroke and reached a
place of refuge—a huge sawyer, one end of which was imbedded in the mud
at the bottom of the bayou, and the other projecting two or three feet
above the surface of the water.

Clinging with a death-grip to this friendly support, he turned to look
at his canoe; but it had already disappeared, and was being smashed into
kindling-wood as the mad waters hurried it through the cavern.

“Whew!” gasped Mark, drawing himself out of the water and seating
himself on the sawyer; “did any body ever hear of a closer shave than
that?”

“Well, you done come safe off, didn’t you?” growled the man in the tree,
and Mark judged by the tones of his voice that he would have been much
better pleased if he had gone into the cavern with the canoe. “The next
time you come so nigh to goin’ out o’ the world, you’ll go; you kin bet
on that.”

Mark did not reply. He sat on the log, panting loudly, and looking first
at the place where his canoe had disappeared, then at the angry waters
about him, and finally he fastened his gaze upon the man in the tree,
who seemed to be in no amiable frame of mind.

He was no stranger to the persons into whose company he had been thus
unexpectedly thrown.

About ten miles from our settlement, in an almost inaccessible part of
the swamp, lived a colony of people who gained a livelihood in some
mysterious manner, that had more than once excited the suspicions of the
planters.

The head man among them was Luke Redman, and he it was who was now
crouching in the branches of the tree, glaring down at Mark like some
wild animal which had been brought to bay by the hounds.

The boys on the cliff were the younger members of the colony of which I
have spoken, who seemed in a fair way to follow in the footsteps of
their fathers, for a harder set of fellows could not be found anywhere.

They boasted a sort of military organization, and their officers were a
captain and a lieutenant.

The captain was Barney Redman, the oldest son of the man in the tree,
and his distinguishing badge was a squirrel’s tail, which he wore in
front of his hat for a plume.

His brother Luke, the lieutenant, sported a coonskin cap and a couple of
turkey feathers.

The Dragoons were gathered in a group on the edge of the cliff, holding
a whispered consultation, and now and then looking down at Mark, as if
he were the subject of their conversation.

“What’s the matter with you, Barney?” said Mark, at length, addressing
himself to the captain of the Dragoons; “you seem to be mad about
something.”

“What business have you got here? That’s what I want to know,” replied
Barney, angrily. “The best thing you can do is to leave here sudden.”

“I am well satisfied of that. It is pretty cold, and I am not at all
comfortable sitting here in my wet clothes. If you will tell me how to
reach dry land, I shall be greatly obliged to you. But, I say, Barney!”

“Well, what do you want?”

“What’s been going on here?”

“Who said any thing had been goin’ on?” demanded Luke Redman, in a tone
of voice which indicated considerable alarm.

And as he spoke, he cast a sidelong glance over his shoulder toward his
skiff, which was stranded on the edge of the falls.

There was something so stealthy in the action that Mark’s suspicions
were aroused in an instant. He followed the man’s glance, and one look
was enough to clear up every thing which, but a moment before, had
appeared so mysterious.

“Thar hain’t been nothin’ goin’ on here that I knows on,” repeated Mr.
Redman. “I come down the bayou, same as you did, an’ got ketched in the
current an’ upsot; an’ if it hadn’t been for this yere tree, I’d ’a gone
over the falls, I reckon.”

“What’s that hanging to the row-lock of your skiff?” asked Mark,
suddenly.

“Whar? I don’t see nothin’.”

“Don’t you? Well, I do. It is a valise, and has General Mason’s name on
it. I can see it as plainly as I can see you. There hasn’t been any
thing going on here, eh? I know better. There are eight thousand dollars
in gold in that valise, Luke Redman, and you were making off with it.
That’s what’s been going on.”

Mark had hit the nail squarely on the head. Luke Redman certainly had
General Mason’s valise in his skiff, and he had come down the bayou,
intending to escape to the river with his booty, and cross into
Louisiana; and it is probable that he would have succeeded in carrying
out his plans, had it not been for the accident that compelled him to
take refuge in the tree.

When the skiff was overturned, one of the handles of the valise had, by
the merest accident, caught in the row-lock, and that was all that saved
it from going to the bottom of the bayou.

There it hung, in plain sight, bobbing up and down in the water, as the
skiff rose and fell with the waves.

A dead silence succeeded Mark’s bold announcement of the discovery he
had made.

The Dragoons brought their consultation to a sudden close, and looked at
Luke Redman, whose face turned pale with alarm, and then almost purple
with rage.

“I call this a lucky hunt, after all,” said Mark, who, knowing that he
was out of reach of his enemies, was disposed to be impudent. “When I
get back to the settlement, my first hard work shall be to clear Jerry
Lamar, and put the authorities on your track.”

“But you hain’t got back to the settlement yet,” shouted Luke Redman,
“an’, what’s more, you shan’t go. You’ll never see your home ag’in, mind
that.”

“Why not?” inquired Mark, who knew very well what the man meant by this
threat. “Who’s going to hinder me?”

“I am. Don’t you think it would be a mighty smart thing for me to let
you go back to your folks, an’ tell ’em what you’ve done seed here
to-night? I hain’t quite so green as that. Halloo, there! Stop him,
Barney. Jump on your hoss an’ foller him up, an’ ketch him. If he gets
away, we are done fur.”

The sudden change in Luke Redman’s tone was brought about by an action
on Mark’s part that astonished every body who witnessed it. While the
man was speaking he had risen to his feet, and, balancing himself on the
sawyer, took a survey of the situation, and calculated his chances for
carrying out a desperate resolve he had formed.

As I have told you, there were two currents in the bayou at this
particular point—one setting toward the falls and the other toward the
cavern. The sawyer was situated near the edge of the latter current, and
Mark was sure that a good jump and a few swift strokes would carry him
beyond its influence into the comparatively smooth current that ran
toward the falls.

He determined to try it, and he did; and to his infinite delight, and
the intense amazement of Luke Redman, he reached the smooth current in
safety, and struck out for the skiff, intending to catch the valise as
he went by and take it away with him.

But the current was much too strong for him. It carried him far out of
reach of the skiff, and whirled him over the falls as if he had been a
feather. He heard loud ejaculations of rage and alarm behind him, and
caught just one glimpse of the Dragoons, who were mounting their horses
to pursue him, and then he was swept rapidly around the bend, and they
were left out of sight.

How long Mark remained in the water, and how far his enemies pursued
him, he did not know. He kept in the bayou until he passed the bluffs
and reached a spot where the water once more spread out over the swamp,
and there he turned and made the best of his way toward the chain of
hills which ran along the bank of the river.

He had ridden over the ground on horseback more than once, but he had
never swum over it before, and the distance seemed to have lengthened
out wonderfully; but it was safely accomplished at last, and when he
crawled out upon the dry ground and turned his face homeward, he told
himself that he had done something to be proud of: He had swum over the
falls—and that was a feat that no one in the settlement had ever
attempted before—and although he had lost his canoe and every one of the
wild geese for which he had worked so hard, he had saved his
double-barrel, and made a discovery that was worth a great deal to Jerry
Lamar.

And his exploits were not yet ended. He was twenty miles from home, and
for five long hours he trudged along the road in his wet clothes, facing
a blinding storm and splashing through mud more than ankle deep.

I never saw a worse-looking boy than he was when he burst in upon us
about ten o’clock, and I do not suppose he ever saw a more astonished
family than we were, while we sat listening to the story of his
adventures.

In spite of his remonstrances, he was put to bed immediately; while
father and I donned our rubber coats and boots, and rode out into the
storm to arouse the settlement.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                         OUR CHRISTMAS TURKEYS.


In less than two hours after Mark reached home, three large canoes
loaded with settlers swept down the bayou and landed at the bluffs above
Dead Man’s Elbow.

The place was found to be deserted. There were plenty of footprints in
the mud on the top of the cliff, and that was all that remained to tell
of the thrilling incidents that had happened there but a short time
before.

The skiff and the valise had disappeared, and the tree in which Luke
Redman had taken refuge was empty. How he managed to escape from his
perilous situation—whether he imitated Mark’s example, and swam over the
falls, or the Swamp Dragoons succeeded in pulling him up the bluff—we
had no means of judging. He was gone, and the next thing was to find
him.

During the next few days the settlement was in great commotion. In
company with the planters, our fellows explored the county from one end
to the other, but without finding the slightest trace of Luke Redman and
the Swamp Dragoons. They had disappeared as completely as though they
had never existed at all.

At the end of a week, however, the excitement began to abate, and our
attention was called to other matters. Christmas was near at hand, and
that was a great day with us. From the time we were old enough to be
trusted with horses and guns, we had made it a point to spend the day
hunting in the woods, winding up our sports about four o’clock in the
afternoon by eating a wild turkey which had been roasted over our
camp-fire.

We had begun as early as the first of the month to make preparations for
this all-important occasion, but our chances for securing the necessary
game grew less promising as the day drew near. Wild turkeys were not
only exceedingly scarce that year, but the few we saw during our rambles
were so shy that it was next to an impossibility to shoot one; and as we
were resolved that we would not miss our accustomed dinner, we were
obliged to resort to something that every true sportsman holds in
supreme contempt—namely, traps.

We built several among the beech ridges in the swamp, but scarcely had
we completed them before we became aware that somebody was interfering
with our arrangements. He visited the traps as regularly as we visited
them ourselves, and took all the game out of them.

We knew as well as though we had seen him in the act that Tom Mason was
the culprit, but for a long time our efforts to fasten the guilt upon
him were unsuccessful. We came up with the gentleman at last, however,
and took a little satisfaction out of him for the disappointment and
vexation he had occasioned us, although before the day was over he paid
me for it in a way I did not like.

On the morning of the day before Christmas, Mark burst into
headquarters, where I was sitting in company with the rest of our
fellows, his clothes all covered with mud that had been splashed over
them by his horse’s feet, and his face red with anger. He had started
out at daylight to visit the traps, and his looks showed plainly that he
had met with no better success than usual.

“It is no use, fellows,” said he, pitching his hat spitefully into one
corner, “we might as well give it up. I don’t see what such boys as Tom
Mason are made for, anyhow.”

“Oh, no! we can’t give up the dinner,” said Duke, quickly. “If we don’t
succeed in capturing a turkey, we will shoot a wild goose. We can find
plenty of them, you know.”

“Well,” replied Mark, “if you want to hunt wild geese on a raft, you can
do it. I’ll stay at home.”

“On a raft!” repeated Duke. “Where’s the canoe?”

“You tell; or, if you want to be certain about it, go and ask Tom Mason.
He knows. It is gone, and I had to build a raft to go over to the island
where we made our last trap.”

We were all very much provoked when we heard this. It was irritating
enough to have our sports interrupted and our plans broken in upon by
such a fellow as Tom Mason, but we did not mind that so much as the loss
of our canoe. The Spitfire—that was the name we had given her—was a
swift, handy little craft, and as it was the first one our fellows ever
built, and we had owned it for years, we thought a great deal of it.
Even easy-going Sandy, who seldom spoke harshly of any body, declared
that it was high time we were taking that Tom Mason in hand.

“I don’t think we can be expected to stand this thing any longer,”
continued Mark. “I know that there are as many as fifty turkeys that
roost on that island at night, and that some of them must get in that
trap every morning. I propose that we camp out on the bank of the bayou
to-night and watch the island.”

“That’s a good idea,” said I. “I will go down at once, and send a couple
of darkeys into the swamp to build a shanty for us.”

While I was hunting up the negroes, and giving them some instructions in
regard to the location of the shanty, the manner in which it was to be
built, and the quantity of provisions we should need during the two days
we expected to remain in the swamp, I heard a great rumpus in the house,
such as might have been occasioned by a squad of cavalry driving rapidly
through the hall. I knew, however, that the noise was made by the heavy
boots worn by our fellows, who were rushing pell-mell down the stairs.

Wondering what was in the wind now, I ran around the house, and saw a
group of excited boys gathered in the lane.

Conspicuous among them was Tom Mason, who sat on his horse, flourishing
his riding-whip in the air and talking at the top of his voice.

Mark held his nag by the bridle, and was trying his best to induce Tom
to dismount, threatening to pull him from his saddle if he did not
immediately comply.

Believing that there was a fight in prospect, and that Tom would be
severely punished, I jumped over the bars and joined the group,
intending to do all I could to prevent a difficulty.

“I don’t know any thing about your old boat, Mark Coleman,” said Tom, as
I came up; “and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. I think you have
good cheek to come to me for favors after treating me as you have done.
But I will tell you one thing—you had better look out for me now. I’ll
sink that canoe if I can find it, and I’ll pull down every turkey trap
you set in these woods.”

“Well, now, if you will come out of that saddle for about two minutes, I
will convince you that you had better steer clear of us and every thing
belonging to us,” said Mark.

“If you know when you are well off, you will stay where you are,” I
exclaimed. “Let go his horse, Mark. Now, friend Mason,” I added, as Mark
released his hold of the bridle and fell back, “the way is open, and you
had better clear yourself.”

Tom rode a short distance up the lane, and then stopped and looked back.

“Where did you get that boat you were talking about?” he demanded.

“We made it,” replied Duke.

“That’s a likely story. I’d as soon think you stole it. As I told you
once before, those who sympathize with thieves are no better than they
are. You won’t go hunting or fishing with me; but you will ride six
miles through the mud to visit the beggar Jerry Lamar when he is in
jail.”

“Yes,” replied Herbert, “we are particular in regard to the company we
keep. We’re rather shy of boys who steal and tell falsehoods.”

“I know what you mean by that,” said Tom, angrily, “and I’ll pay you for
it, too. I am going to make things exceedingly lively for all of you
this winter, if you only knew it. I’ll settle up all the little accounts
between us in a way you don’t think of; mind that!”

As Tom gave utterance to this warning, he put spurs to his horse and
galloped away, while our fellows returned to headquarters.

We spent an hour or two in talking over the events of the morning, and
about eleven o’clock mounted our horses and started for the swamp.

We passed the time until three in the afternoon in riding about among
the hills, visiting our traps, and you can imagine what our feelings
were when we found that Tom Mason had already begun to carry out the
threats he had made that morning.

Two of our traps had been robbed since Mark visited them at daylight,
and as many more completely demolished.

How did we know that any of them had been robbed? By the feathers that
were scattered about over the ground.

We found, too, that the thief had come into the woods by way of the
bayou, for we tracked him to the bank, and found the place where he had
landed from his canoe.

When we had visited all our traps in that part of the woods, we turned
our horses’ heads toward the camp; and if you are one with the soul to
appreciate such things, you will know how we enjoyed the pleasant sight
that greeted our eyes as we entered a little valley among the hills, and
found a commodious pole shanty and a roaring fire waiting for us.

We dismounted, and, while we stood warming our benumbed hands over the
cheerful blaze, looked around on the preparations that had been made for
our comfort.

The negroes must have thought it was our intention to remain in the
woods all the rest of our lives, judging by the care they had taken in
fitting up the camp.

The shanty was tight, and would have kept us dry if it had rained
buckets. It was built with its back to the wind and the front open to
the fire; and looking inside, we saw five beds neatly made up on the
floor, which was thickly covered with leaves.

On one side of the shanty was a supply of wood for the fire, and on the
other was the wagon, beside which stood a span of mules, contentedly
munching their corn.

Sam, one of the negroes, was exploring a huge mess-chest in the wagon,
and bringing to light the good things mother had put up for us, now and
then turning his head to look at the brace of wild ducks and the half a
dozen squirrels that were broiling on the coals.

I shall never forget that camp. It served us as our “headquarters in the
field” for many a year, and one memorable night was the scene of one of
the most exciting adventures that ever befell our fellows.

“Not a single turkey have we seen yet,” said Mark, as we drew up around
the fire. “Have you boys been on the island to look at that trap?”

“Yes, sah,” replied Sam, “an’ it’s done tore down. But I built it up
ag’in, an’ throwed corn all around it. I reckon we’ll get some turkeys
outen dar afo’ night, ’kase Cuff is hid in the bushes watchin’ de
island, an’ if dat dar Mason boy comes pokin’ round ag’in, he’ll get
cotched.”

We felt better then, and told one another that that Mason boy’s tricks
were at an end, for that day at least. We talked the matter over while
we were waiting for our dinner, and decided upon a plan of operations.

The island on which our trap was built was a noted place for turkeys. If
there were any in the woods, they were always to be found there, and the
secret lay in the fact that the island produced an immense quantity of
beechnuts, of which turkeys are very fond.

We had made our camp about half a mile from the bayou, and our object in
doing so was that the turkeys might not be frightened away by the smoke
from our fire.

The plan we decided upon was that, as soon as we had eaten our dinner,
two of our fellows should conceal themselves in the bushes on the bank
of the bayou, and hold themselves in readiness to alarm the camp if they
saw Tom Mason prowling about, or heard any thing suspicious going on on
the island.

We did not carry this plan into execution, however, for just as the
ducks and squirrels were done to a turn and Sam had finished laying the
table, Cuff came dashing into camp, breathless and excited, and
announced that a large flock of turkeys had just flown from the mainland
over to the island.

That was enough for us. We did not think any more about dinner just
then, but seized our guns and started post-haste toward the bayou.

Herbert Dickson was the first to reach the bank, but no sooner had he
emerged from the bushes than he drew back again, and motioned for us to
approach with more caution.

“Fellows,” he whispered, as we gathered about him, “we are not the only
ones who are watching the island. Tom Mason is over there.”

Following in Herbert’s wake, we crept carefully toward the bank and
looked toward the island. Our evil genius was not in sight, but his
canoe was, and it was almost filled with turkeys—the proceeds of his
morning’s raid upon our traps.

“We’ve got him cornered at last,” said Duke; “and if we move quickly and
quietly, we can catch him in the act of stealing our game. I suggest
that we teach him manners by ducking him in the bayou.”

“And let us keep on ducking him until he tells us what he has done with
our boat,” said Mark. “I know he has stolen it.”

The raft Mark had made that morning was lying alongside of the bank, and
it was but the work of a moment to jump on board and shove out into the
stream.

Just as we moved from the shore, we heard a loud flapping of wings in
the bushes on the island, and a moment afterward a flock of turkeys
arose above the trees, and sailed off into the woods.

“There!” exclaimed Herbert. “Tom has frightened them away before they
had time to get into the trap.”

“It doesn’t matter,” said I. “There are more turkeys in that boat than
we can eat at one Christmas dinner.”

Duke, who was managing the raft, used his paddle with all his strength;
but, before we were half-way across the bayou, the robber came in sight,
carrying a turkey slung over each shoulder. He stopped when he
discovered us, and his face turned red with shame and then pale with
alarm.

“Now, I’ll jest tell you what’s the matter, Tom Mason,” exclaimed Sandy.
“We ain’t a-goin’ to put up with this yere kind of business no longer.
We’ll wash some of that ar meanness outen you by dumping you in the
bayou.”

Tom stood for a moment as if he had been rooted to the ground, and then,
dropping the turkeys, ran toward his boat.

Duke, comprehending his design, exerted himself to the utmost to defeat
it; but our clumsy raft moved very slowly through the water, and when we
arrived within twenty feet of the bank, Tom reached his boat and shoved
off. He could manage a canoe as well as any Indian, and he would
certainly have succeeded in effecting his escape, had it not been for
Sandy Todd. He saw that there was but one way to prevent the robber from
making off with his booty, and he had the nerve to adopt that way. He
hastily threw off his powder-flask and shot-pouch, and before we knew
what he was going to do, he was in the water striking out for Tom’s
boat.

For a moment he puffed and blew like a porpoise (you can imagine how
cold the water is in December, even in a warm climate like ours), but he
kept on, and, after a few swift strokes, was near enough to Tom to seize
the stern of his canoe.

“Let go!” shouted Tom, flourishing his paddle in the air. “Let go, I
say, or I’ll rap you over the head!”

“Hold fast to him, Sandy!” I yelled. “Those turkeys are ours, and we’re
bound to have them.”

“If he attempts to strike you, capsize the canoe and spill him out,”
exclaimed Herbert.

“I’d like to see him do it,” said Tom, savagely. “Once more, and for the
last time, Sandy Todd, I tell you that if you don’t take your hands off
my boat, I’ll—”

He did not finish the sentence. While he was speaking, he raised his
paddle to strike Sandy, and our fellow, acting upon Herbert’s
suggestion, placed his hands upon the side of the canoe, and overturned
it in an instant, emptying Tom and the turkeys into the cold waters of
the bayou.

“Boo-hoo!” sputtered the robber, as he arose to the surface, his face
blue with the cold, and his teeth chattering. “I’ll—fix—you for
that—Sandy Todd!”

“We are not done with you yet,” exclaimed Mark. “You shan’t touch dry
land again until you tell us what you have done with our boat.”

These words seemed to bring Tom to his senses again. He struck out
manfully—I never saw a boy who could swim like that Tom Mason—and in
spite of all Duke’s efforts to cut him off, he reached the island, and
scrambling up the bank, disappeared in the bushes.

Then we were sure that he was caught. He could not escape to the
mainland without swimming the bayou, and we did not think he would be
likely to attempt that after the experience he had already had with cold
water.

Sandy crawled out upon the raft as we moved past him, and the instant
our clumsy vessel touched the shore, we all jumped off and dashed
through the bushes in hot pursuit of the robber; but we did not come
within sight of him until we reached the foot of the island, and then,
to our surprise, we discovered him in a canoe and about half-way across
the bayou. He was paddling for dear life; but when he saw us standing on
the bank, he stopped to say a parting word to us.

“You said that you are not done with me, didn’t you?” he asked. “You
will find, before the winter is over, that _I_ am not done with _you_. I
have a plan in my head that will astonish you when you find out what it
is. Keep your eyes open, and good-by till I see you again.”

“Say, Tom,” I shouted, “you told us this morning that you didn’t know
any thing about our boat. You are in it now.”

“I know it,” he replied, coolly. “She was hidden in the bushes not ten
feet from where you are now standing.”

“Well, we want her, and we’re bound to have her.”

“If you get her before I am done with her, just let me know it, will
you?”

Tom dropped his paddle into the water and pulled leisurely toward the
shore, while we ran back to the head of the island, intending to jump
into his boat and pursue him. But he knew better than to try a fair race
with us down the bayou.

Knowing that he could not escape with the canoe while we possessed the
means to follow him, he held straight for the nearest shore, and when he
reached it, jumped out and took to the woods.

We found our canoe where he had left it, and when we took it in tow and
paddled back to the head of the island, we told one another that Tom
Mason should never get his hands upon it again. We would put it into the
wagon and take it home with us.

“This fellow has done a big business in stealing this morning,”
exclaimed Mark, who had been counting the turkeys we found in Tom’s
canoe. “How many do you suppose there are? Twenty-three; enough to
furnish a Christmas dinner for half the planters in the settlement.
We’ve done enough for one day, and I move that we break up camp and
spend the rest of the afternoon in distributing some of these turkeys
among our friends. We can’t use them all.”

We landed opposite the island, and knowing that we had a cunning enemy
to deal with, left Duke and Herbert to watch our game, while the rest of
us went to the camp to harness the mules.

I don’t know why it was, but the moment we arrived within sight of the
shanty, a suspicion flashed through my mind that something had been
going on there during our absence. My first thought was of my mare. She
was gone. There was the sapling to which she had been tied, with a piece
of the halter still fastened to it, but the mare was nowhere to be seen.

“Where is she, Joe?” asked Mark.

“That is just what I should like to find out,” I replied. “I never knew
Bess to break loose before.”

“An’ she didn’t break loose this time,” said Sandy, confidently. “That
thar halter has been cut with a knife.”

“I shouldn’t wonder if this was a part of the plan Tom Mason told us
about,” said Mark. “After he landed from his canoe, he slipped around
here and stole the horse.”

Something told me that this was the true explanation of the matter; but
I would not allow myself to believe it until I had questioned the
negroes who just then came running up. The answers they gave to my
hurried inquiries destroyed my last hope. They had not seen the mare,
and were greatly astonished to learn that she had disappeared.

Being very much interested in the result of our chase after Tom Mason,
they had followed us to the bayou, leaving the camp to take care of
itself. Our evil genius, or any other prowler, could have walked off
with all we had, for there was nobody to prevent it.

I need not stop to tell you all that was said and done when we at last
made up our minds that Black Bess had been stolen. It will be enough to
say that Sandy rode back to the bayou after Duke and Herbert, and that
they all set out in pursuit of Tom Mason, leaving me to superintend the
operation of breaking up the camp.

I placed our canoe and the turkeys in the wagon, and, after tying Tom’s
boat to a tree on the bank, so that he could find it again when he
wanted it (I tell you it cost me a struggle to do that; I had half a
mind to turn it adrift, and let it float out to the river and down to
the Gulf of Mexico), I rode home with the negroes utterly disconsolate.

If you ever lost any thing you prized as highly as I prized Black Bess,
you will know just how I felt.

Our fellows came in at dark, but without any thing encouraging to say to
me, and father and I rode over to see General Mason, Tom’s uncle.

We found the young rascal in the library, poring over a book, and
looking none the worse for his cold bath in the creek.

He seemed greatly amazed when father told him that the object of our
visit was to ascertain what he had done with the horse he had stolen,
and so earnestly protested his innocence that I was almost willing to
believe he was not the guilty one after all.

We had a few minutes’ conversation with the general, during which he
promised to do all in his power to assist us in recovering the lost
horse, and then returned home no wiser than we left.



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                       A RIDE AFTER THE INDIANS.


When father and I reached home we found our fellows there, and also Mr.
Todd and Mr. Dickson, who had come over to spend the evening.

The events of the afternoon had already been thoroughly discussed, but
the matter was taken up again when we arrived, and after that the mare’s
mysterious disappearance was the chief subject of conversation.

One thing that not a little surprised us, was the coolness, not to say
indifference, with which father and his two gentleman friends spoke of
the loss I had sustained.

Our fellows went in strong for raising a hue and cry, and making the
swamp too hot to hold the thief; but the men shook their heads and said
they thought that wouldn’t do. They had tried that in the case of Luke
Redman, and what had it amounted to?

The best thing we could do would be to keep our eyes open and our mouths
closed, and perhaps in a few days something would turn up in our favor.

At ten o’clock the two gentlemen took their leave, and our fellows went
up to bed.

“Now, I’ll jest tell you what’s the matter with me,” said Sandy, when he
had settled himself snugly between the sheets. "My name hain’t Micawber,
and that’s the reason I don’t believe in waitin’ fur things to ‘turn
up.’ I’ll tell you what we’ll do, fellers. If the men won’t help us,
we’ll help ourselves. We’ll let our dinner go this once, take to the
woods at daybreak, and spend Christmas in lookin’ fur that thar hoss,
eh?"

Sandy could not have made a proposition that would have suited me
better, or the rest of the fellows either, judging by the readiness with
which they agreed to it.

The matter was settled without much debate, and then we arranged our
pillows, and prepared to go to sleep. We did sleep, but not long. There
was more excitement in store for us. About two o’clock our cotton-gin
was set on fire.

I need not stop to tell you how frightened I was when my brother dragged
me out of bed and shouted in my ear that the plantation was burning up;
how I looked out of the window as I pulled on my clothes, and saw the
gin wrapped in flames; how our fellows rushed out of the house, and,
after bustling about for a while in a state of intense excitement,
getting in every body’s way, and accomplishing nothing, stood quietly by
my father’s side, and saw twelve thousand dollars’ worth of cotton
consumed; how we wondered and made wild guesses as to who the incendiary
could be; and finally went back to bed, and lay for a long time talking
the matter over. You can imagine all that, and will know just how we
felt.

Excited as I was, I fell asleep again, but was awakened about daylight
by the sound of horses’ hoofs in the yard. I ran to the window, and saw
several mounted men waiting before the door. They were all booted and
spurred, and some carried guns slung over their shoulders, while others
had revolvers strapped about their waists.

A negro stood by, holding a splendid coal-black horse which belonged to
father, and presently he came out of the house, armed like the others,
sprang into the saddle, and the whole cavalcade started down the road at
a rapid gallop.

I caught my sleeping companions by the shoulders, and, after a good deal
of shaking and pulling, succeeded in getting them out of bed and to the
window, just in time to catch one glimpse of the horsemen before they
disappeared down a lane that led to the woods.

“Now I’ll jest tell you what’s the matter,” exclaimed Sandy. “What’s up,
do you reckon?”

“They’ve gone out to look for the men who set fire to that cotton-gin,”
replied Duke, fairly jumping into his trowsers. “That’s what’s up, and
here we are in bed and sound asleep, like so many wooden boys.”

“Hurrah!” yelled Mark. “Here’s fun! I’d give something to know what else
is going to happen this winter.”

As he said this, he jerked on his boots, thrust one arm into his coat,
and started down stairs to talk to mother, and find out what it was that
had taken father and his companions off in so great a hurry, while the
rest of us brought out the guns, and began loading them with hands that
trembled violently. We could not have been more impatient to get the
weapons ready for use if a band of hostile Indians had at that very
moment been approaching the house.

“I am going to put twelve buckshot in my gun,” said Herbert, “and if I
meet the fellow who set fire to that gin, won’t I—won’t I wake him, eh?”

“How will you know him if you do meet him?” asked Duke, spilling a
charge of powder on the floor in his haste.

“Why, he will look guilty, won’t he? Well, what’s the matter?”

This last question was addressed to Mark, who just then came up stairs
in two jumps.

“Mother says there are moccasin-tracks all around that gin,” said he, so
excited that he could scarcely speak plainly, “and that shows that it
was set on fire by the Indians. It was done by some of those worthless
half-breeds—probably by the same one with whom I had that fuss the other
day.”

All our fellows thought that Mark’s idea of the matter was the correct
one.

This half-breed—Pete, he called himself—and a half dozen others, who
were as bad as he was, had held a grudge against father for more than a
year, and we had been expecting something of this kind. More than that,
our gin was not the only one that had been burned during the last six
months.

The guilty parties, whoever they were, had always escaped detection, but
as Pete and his crowd had had some trouble with nearly every one in the
settlement, the planters had suddenly taken it into their heads that
they were the ones who had been doing all the mischief, and were
resolved that they should no longer go unpunished.

“Mother says that before noon there will be a hundred men in the
cane-brakes,” panted Mark. “Hurry up, fellows, or we shall miss all the
sport. We don’t want any breakfast, do we?”

“No!” we all shouted.

“I couldn’t eat a mouthful if I should try,” said Herbert, seizing his
gloves and riding-whip. “Say, boys, wouldn’t it be a glorious thing for
us if we could capture the incendiaries all by ourselves without any
help from the planters?”

Oh, wouldn’t that be an exploit worth boasting of? Only let us have the
opportunity, and see how quick we would attempt it!

We thought we knew right where to go to find the Indians. Most likely
they were encamped on Deer Lake, about fifteen miles from the
plantation.

We would go down there, dash into their camp like a squad of cavalry on
the charge, and if we found that rascally Pete there, four of us would
cover him with our guns; Sandy, being the largest and strongest in the
party, would dismount and tie his hands behind his back; and we would
bring him home with us, whether he was willing to come or not.

It would all be done before the Indians knew what was going on, and if
they pursued us, or attempted to rescue Pete, we would keep them
straight by pointing our guns at them.

Wasn’t that a glorious plan? and wouldn’t father and all the rest of the
planters be astonished when they saw us and our captive?

We talked the matter over while we were dressing, and as soon as we were
ready for the start, slung our guns over our shoulders, and dashed down
the stairs like a lot of wild boys.

In the kitchen we met mother.

Now, according to my way of thinking, my mother was a model woman. She
understood the nature of boys perfectly. She gave Mark and me all the
privileges we deserved, and could not have sympathized with us more
fully, or taken a deeper interest in our sports and pastimes, if she had
been a boy herself.

She knew that we could not possibly stop to eat any breakfast while
there was any thing exciting in prospect, and when we entered the
kitchen, she handed us each a sandwich and a glass of milk.

“Now, boys,” said she, “don’t run any risks.”

“No, ma’am,” we replied.

“Don’t try to accomplish any thing by yourselves,” she continued—and
when she said that we looked at one another and frowned fiercely. “What
could five boys like you do with a lot of savage half-breeds? Find the
men as soon as possible, and remain with them; and if you don’t succeed
in finding them, come home.”

Now, how do you suppose mother knew that we had made up our minds to
hunt those Indians on our own hook? We hadn’t lisped a word of it to
her; but then she knew all about boys, and perhaps she saw it in our
faces.

We were greatly disappointed, but we promised obedience and hurried to
the door. We found our negro waiting for us (the hostler had brought out
mother’s horse for me to ride), and in less time than it takes to tell
it we were in our saddles and galloping furiously down the road,
devouring our sandwiches as we went.

I do not believe those five horses ever traveled so rapidly before. They
went along at a rattling pace, tossing their heads and snorting as if
they enjoyed the rapid motion as much as we did, while we strained our
eyes down the road in front of us, and looked into all the lanes we
passed, in the hope of discovering father and his party.

But the fleet horses on which they were mounted had carried them a long
distance ahead of us, and finally, after a ride of an hour and a half,
we drew rein on the shore of Deer Lake, covered with mud from head to
foot, and much disappointed.

The Indians were not there, and neither was father. We ran our eyes all
around the lake, and the only living things we could see were flocks of
ducks and geese swimming about near the opposite shore.

We rode along the beach a short distance and then Duke led us down a
bridle-path that ran back toward the plantation.

About two o’clock in the afternoon, having visited all the places at
which we thought we should be likely to find father and his party, we
stopped on the banks of a bayou to allow our horses a few minutes’ rest,
and to decide what we should do next.

“Now, I’ll jest tell you what’s the matter with me,” said Sandy,
suddenly. “It’s hard work ridin’ or talkin’ on an empty stomach, an’ I
suggest that we have a bite to eat.”

“That’s the idea,” said Herbert, “and I wonder we did not think of it
before. If we were at the lake now, it wouldn’t take us long to bag
ducks enough for a good dinner.”

“Oh, squirrels will do just as well,” replied Duke. “There are plenty of
them about here, and, Joe, if you and Sandy will go out and shoot some,
the rest of us will build a fire and get every thing ready. If you
fellows are as hungry as I am, we shall want about ten. I can dispose of
two, I know.”

So could I, and more, for that matter. I was as hungry as a wolf, and if
there was any thing I enjoyed in my boyhood’s days, it was a dinner in
the woods as Mark used to serve it up. He could not cook at all in a
house over a stove; but take him out in the cane-brakes, and give him a
good fire, a forked stick and a wild duck or some squirrels, and in a
few minutes he would have ready a dinner that would tempt an epicure.

To get up a “hotel dinner,” as he called it, he needed a few crackers or
biscuit, and a little pepper and salt for seasoning. An ear of green
corn, fresh pulled from the field, and roasted in the shuck under his
supervision, and served up on a piece of beech bark, answered all the
purposes of a dessert, and tasted much better than any pie or pudding I
ever ate at a table.

On this occasion, however, he had neither crackers, pepper nor salt, and
it was too late in the season for roasting-ears; but, as Duke had said,
the squirrels were plenty, and I grew hungrier than ever when I thought
what a feast Mark would have ready for us in about half an hour.

It having been decided that we should stop there and eat our dinner, we
all dismounted, and after relieving our horses of the saddles and tying
the animals to the trees near the place where we intended to make our
camp, Sandy and I shouldered our guns and set out in different
directions to hunt up the squirrels.

I walked down the bank of the bayou, and, before I had gone a hundred
yards from the camp, brought a squirrel out of the top of a hickory.

Shortly afterward, I heard the report of Sandy’s gun, and as he never
missed his mark, I knew we had two of the ten squirrels we wanted.

A little further on another was added to my bunch, and while I was
hurrying forward to secure it, an incident happened that brought the
hunt to a speedy termination.

The squirrel had fallen at the foot of a huge oak, but, being only
wounded, started to climb the tree. I ran around after him, and just
then something stirred the bushes close in front of me.

Before I could stop to see what it was, a pair of strong arms were
thrown around me, my feet were tripped up, and in an instant more I was
lying flat on my back, with a heavy weight on top of me holding me down.

As soon as I had in some measure recovered myself, I looked up into the
dark, scowling face that was bending over me, and recognized Pete, the
half-breed.

Things were not working exactly as our fellows had anticipated. While we
were looking for Pete, he had all the while been looking for us; and he
had found one of us, too, before we knew that he was about.

Almost involuntarily my hand moved toward the hunting-horn that hung at
my side. One short, quick blast on that, had I been permitted to give
it, would have put things right again in a hurry. Our fellows would have
appeared as quickly as their horses could have brought them, and one
glance at the double-barrels pointed straight at his head, would, I am
confident, have driven away the fierce scowl and brought an altogether
different expression to Pete’s copper-colored face. But Pete knew
something about hunting-horns, and was too wise to allow me time to make
any signals.

With a quick movement he tore the horn from my grasp, and in a second
more he had removed the belt which contained my hunting-knife and
secured possession of my gun.

I struggled fruitlessly in his strong grasp, and, as soon as I could
find my tongue, exclaimed:

“You have already done more mischief than you will care to stand
punishment for; and if you know when you are well off, you will release
me at once. What do you mean, anyhow?”

“You put dogs on Injun the other day,” replied Pete, in his broken
English, which I could not imitate on paper if I should try. “I pay you
for that now!”

These words afforded me a perfectly satisfactory explanation of the
situation. I was to be punished for something Mark had done; for, as you
know, it was he and not I who put the hounds on the Indian.

I knew it would be of no use for me to deny the charge, for Pete had
been acquainted with me for more than a year, and if he had not learned
in that time to tell Mark and me apart, it was not at all likely that he
would place any dependence on my word.

There was but one thing I could do, and that was to submit to whatever
was in store for me, trusting to my friends to get me out of this
disagreeable scrape. My only hope was that they would become alarmed at
my absence, and rescue me in time to save me from the vengeance which I
knew Pete intended to wreak upon me.

Having disarmed me, Pete seized me by the collar, pulled me to my feet,
and then I found that he was not alone. Another villainous looking
half-breed, whose name was Jake, glided up at this moment, and, without
saying a word, seized me by one arm, while Pete took hold of the other,
and between them I was dragged rather than led to the bayou, where I
found a canoe partly drawn out upon the bank.

In obedience to Pete’s command, I was about to step into the boat, when
suddenly the blast of a hunting-horn—Duke’s horn, I could have told it
among a thousand—echoed through the swamp, followed shortly afterward by
the roar of a gun.

“Ugh!” grunted Pete and his companion, in concert.

They stopped on the bank, and stood perfectly motionless with surprise,
while I clambered into the canoe, and looked up the bayou in the
direction from which the report sounded, to discover what was going on;
but there was a bend just above me, and I could see nothing.

A moment’s silence followed the roar of the gun, and then came the
clatter of a horse’s hoofs, a splashing in the water, a violent
commotion among the cane on the opposite bank of the bayou, and
presently, to my utter amazement, I saw—what do you suppose? It was
something that caused me to forget the Indians and every thing else
about me, and to make me determine to escape, or die in the attempt.

Without an instant’s hesitation, I clasped my hands above my head, and
dived out of sight in the bayou.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                            CAUGHT AT LAST.


After Sandy and I left the camp, our fellows busied themselves in
various ways—Duke kindling a fire, Herbert gathering a supply of wood,
and Mark whittling out some spits on which to cook the squirrels. When
this had been done, they seated themselves on the ground about the fire,
and passed the time in discussing the exciting events that had happened
during the last two weeks.

While they were thus engaged they heard some one coming down the bank of
the bayou. The bushes were so thick that they could not see who it was,
but they could tell by the sound of his horse’s hoofs that he was
approaching the camp, and that he was in something of a hurry.

The question “Who is it?” which our fellows all asked at once, did not
remain long unanswered. The sound of the hoofs grew louder and louder,
and presently a horseman emerged from the bushes, and came toward them
at a rapid gallop.

He was gazing earnestly toward the opposite bank of the bayou, and the
first intimation he had of the presence of our fellows was the chorus of
ejaculations they uttered the instant their eyes rested on him. Then he
pulled up his horse with a jerk, and gazed at them with a countenance
indicative of intense surprise and alarm.

One glance showed our fellows three things—that the man was Luke Redman,
that he was mounted on Black Bess, and that he carried General Mason’s
valise strapped on behind his saddle.

The meeting was so unexpected to both parties, that for a moment no one
moved or spoke. The robber sat on his horse—_my_ horse, rather—gazing at
our fellows in stupid bewilderment, and our fellows looked at him as if
they could not quite make up their minds whether their eyes were
deceiving them or not.

Duke was the first to recover the use of his tongue.

“Well,” said he, “this is the luckiest thing that has happened to us for
many a day. We are glad to see you, Luke Redman. We’ll trouble you to
dismount, and give up that horse and valise.”

These words seemed to bring the robber to his senses. He raised a short,
heavy gun, which he carried across the horn of his saddle, and cocking
both barrels, growled out:

“I’ll trouble you to mind your own business. If ary one on you moves a
hand or foot until I am acrost this yere bayou, I’ll send a charge of
buckshot among you.”

This warning was uttered in a very savage tone of voice, and there was a
wicked gleam in the robber’s eyes which was enough to convince our
fellows that he meant all he said.

Duke slowly lowered the horn, which he had been on the point of raising
to his lips; and Herbert’s hand, which was stretched out toward his gun,
that stood leaning against a tree close by, fell to his side.

Luke Redman saw the sudden pallor that overspread their faces, and
believing that he had thoroughly frightened them, turned his horse, and
rode down the bank of the bayou.

But the sequel proved that he did not know much about boys, especially
such boys as those who were confronting him at that moment.

They had traveled through every nook and corner of the country,
searching for this very man, and now that he was fairly before them,
should they permit him to escape, and carry off General Mason’s money,
and Black Bess, besides? It was not to be thought of.

“Hold on!” shouted Mark, excitedly. “That horse shan’t carry you a step
further. Your game is up now, Luke Redman!”

The robber, who had never once removed his eyes from the boys, seeing
that Mark was reaching for his gun, quickly raised his own weapon; but
by the time it touched his shoulder there was not one of our fellows in
sight.

They had dodged behind the trees, like so many squirrels, and each one
was blowing his horn with all the power of his lungs, sending up signals
of distress that awoke the echoes far and near.

“Stop that noise, or I’ll shoot some on you!” roared Luke.

“Blow away, boys,” said Mark. “Perhaps some of the settlers are close
by.”

This was just what Luke Redman was afraid of. He knew that the
cane-brakes were full of men, for he had been dodging them all day. The
blasts of the hunting-horns would call up every one of them who might
happen to be within hearing, and thus his chances for escape would be
greatly diminished.

Seeing that he was in a dangerous neighborhood, and knowing that if he
remained there he would certainly get himself into trouble, he dashed
his spurs into his horse, which sprang into the bayou and made the best
of her way toward the opposite bank.

In his rage, he discharged one barrel of his gun, sending the buckshot
in a perfect shower about the trees behind which our fellows were
concealed; but, instead of frightening them, it seemed to add strength
to their lungs, for the signals of distress arose louder and faster than
ever.

The moment Luke emerged from the water, he put his horse into a gallop,
and went flying through the swamp.

I caught sight of him as he came out of the cane-brake, and if I had had
my gun in my hands, I believe I should have lifted him out of that
saddle with as little hesitation as I ever brought down a squirrel.

To see my little Black Bess bounding along with that man on her
back—going, too, with a free step, and arching her glossy neck and
tossing her head as if she enjoyed the rapid motion—I tell you, the
sight made me well-nigh desperate.

It drove all thoughts of the Indians out of my mind, and almost before I
knew it, I was swimming rapidly toward the opposite bank of the bayou.

This was something my captors had not calculated upon, and they were
greatly amazed. I was half way across the stream before they had
realized what I had done.

“Hey, you!” shouted Pete, as soon as he could speak. “Stop! You no stop
and come back, Indian shoot!”

It was in Pete’s power to carry out this threat if he had felt so
inclined, for he held his own rifle and my shot-gun under his arm; but I
had no fear that he would attempt it.

I kept straight ahead, and Pete and his companion, seeing that I could
not be frightened into surrendering myself into their hands, hastily
launched the canoe and started in pursuit.

I was quite at home in the water, and prided myself on being a fast
swimmer; but of course I stood no chance with a canoe propelled by two
athletic Indians.

A few swift strokes with the paddles brought them close upon me; but I
was on the alert, and just as Pete bent down to seize me by the collar,
I sank out of sight.

When I arose to the surface again, I was twenty yards further down the
stream. As I shook the water from my face and looked around for my
enemies, I was surprised to see them paddling with all possible haste
toward the bank they had just left; and the moment they reached it, they
jumped out of the canoe and dived into the bushes like a couple of
frightened deer.

I was not long in finding out what had caused them to abandon their
pursuit of me so suddenly, for scarcely had they disappeared when Duke,
Herbert and Mark galloped up.

When they discovered me crawling out upon the bank, they drew rein and
broke out into a loud chorus of questions and exclamations—one demanding
what I was doing in the water, another asking if that wasn’t Pete who
had just jumped into the bushes on the opposite shore, and the third
shouting out something that I knew very well already, namely, that Luke
Redman had just gone by, mounted on my horse.

I did not attempt to answer their questions, for I could not forget that
Black Bess was very fleet, and that while we were wasting time in
talking, she was fast increasing the distance between us, and lessening
our chances for capturing her and her rascally rider.

“I can’t stop to explain now, fellows,” said I. “Come back, and stand by
me until I get my horse, and then we’ll start in pursuit of that
robber!”

The reason I asked our fellows to “stand by” me was because I knew that
Pete and his companion were not a great way off, and I was afraid that
if I went back to camp alone, they would pounce down upon me and make a
prisoner of me again.

I could see by the expression on my friends’ faces that they did not
exactly understand why I stood in need of protection; but they were too
considerate to waste any more time in asking questions.

I led the way up the bank at a rapid run, and in a few minutes we
arrived opposite to the camp.

Duke was on the point of riding across the bayou to bring my horse, when
Sandy Todd came in sight, carrying four squirrels in his hand, and
moving along with a slow and deliberate step that was exceedingly
aggravating to us just then.

His stolid face bore not the least sign of excitement or surprise,
although the first words he uttered showed that he had heard the signals
of distress, and that he had returned to camp in answer to them.

“Now,” said he, “I’d like to know what you fellows were blowin’ them
horns fur?”

“Sandy,” exclaimed Duke, “if you have any get up at all about you, show
it now. Don’t ask any questions, but bring those horses over here at
once.”

Sandy stopped, laid his squirrels carefully at the root of a tree, and
pulling off his hat, ran his fingers through his fiery locks. He looked
all about the camp, then across the bayou at us, surveying us from head
to foot as though he had never seen us before, and when his gaze rested
on me, he drawled out:

“Joe, ain’t this a mighty cold day to go in a-swimmin’?”

“Sandy,” shouted Duke—and he could not help throwing a little impatience
into his tones—“Luke Redman has just gone by here, mounted on Black
Bess, and carrying General Mason’s valise tied fast to his saddle. We
want to follow him up and catch him. Now will you bring those horses
over here?”

Sandy did not exhibit the least astonishment at hearing this piece of
news. He dropped the butt of his gun to the ground, and leaning on the
muzzle of the weapon, said:

“Now I’ll just tell you what’s the matter. Whar’s he bin hid all the
time that we’ve been lookin’ fur him?”

“How do you suppose we know? Bring those horses over here.”

Sandy slung his gun over his shoulder, moved slowly toward the tree to
which his horse was tied, and with his usual deliberation, prepared to
mount. He placed his foot in the stirrup, but immediately took it out
again.

“Fellows,” he shouted, “whar do you reckon Redman got thar mar’? You
know—”

“Yes, I know,” interrupted Duke. “We thought Tom Mason stole her, but it
seems he didn’t. If we don’t see her again, it will be your fault.”

Our fellow began to stir about in earnest now, and I thought it was high
time, for my teeth were chattering, and I was so cold I could scarcely
speak.

When you remember that it was midwinter, that I was as wet as a drowned
rat, and that a fierce north wind was blowing, you will readily perceive
that my situation was far from being a pleasant one.

I would have been glad of the privilege of standing before a roaring
fire for a few minutes, and would thankfully have accepted a suit of dry
clothes; but if I went home I would lose the opportunity of taking part
in the pursuit of Luke Redman, and that was something I could not think
of.

When we had all become so impatient that it did not seem possible we
could wait an instant longer, Sandy came across the bayou with the
horses, and in a few seconds more we were all in the saddle and flying
through the swamp on Luke Redman’s trail.

Sandy saw by our looks that the delay of which he was the cause had
tried our patience severely, and he hastened to apologize for it.

“Fellers,” said he, “I may be slow a-talkin’ an’ a-walkin’, but I am not
slow a-ridin’.”

And so we found it. He took the lead at once, and conducted the pursuit
with a degree of energy that was surprising. For five miles his horse
never broke a gallop; and when at last he drew rein on the bluffs above
Dead Man’s Elbow, we were willing to vote him the most reckless rider we
had ever followed.

Perhaps you will wonder what plan Sandy adopted in conducting the
pursuit, and how he knew whether or not he was following Luke Redman’s
trail. I can explain it in a few words.

I have told you that about a week previous to this time the swamp was
covered with water to the depth of fifteen feet, but it was not so now.
The flood was gradually subsiding, and patches of dry land were making
their appearance all over the swamp.

The ridges were high and dry, and by following them, one could enjoy a
pleasant ride, avoiding the water altogether. It was dangerous, however,
to attempt to pass from one ridge to another, for the lowland, or
“bottom,” as we called it, was covered with a bed of mud, in which a
horse would sink almost out of sight.

Luke Redman, in his flight, had followed one of these ridges, and we
knew that he must follow it to the end, simply because he could not
leave it. We knew, too, that the ridge led directly to Dead Man’s Elbow,
and that when the robber arrived at that point he would be obliged to
abandon Black Bess, for the bluffs were steep, and there was no possible
way of getting her across the bayou.

Another thing we knew was that the ridge ended very abruptly about a
hundred yards from the opposite bank, and beyond that the swamp, with
its impassable bed of mud, extended for miles and miles; so that, even
if the fugitive succeeded in crossing the stream, he could not escape
us.

The only question was, how we should capture him when we found him. He
was armed, and we knew he would not surrender without a fight.

“Here we are,” cried Sandy, reining in his horse on the very brink of
the cliff, “an’ now comes the hardest part of the hul business. The fust
thing is to hunt up that mar’. She’s hid somewhar in these yere bushes.”

We were not long in finding Black Bess, for even as Sandy spoke, a
familiar neigh, which came from a thicket close by, led us to her place
of concealment.

I tell you I was glad to see her, and if one might judge by the way she
pranced about and rubbed her head against my shoulder, she was glad to
see me, too.

She was just as handsome as ever, only her glossy breast was flecked
with foam, showing that she had been driven long and rapidly, and her
usually sleek coat looked as though it had not seen a brush or
curry-comb for a fortnight.

While I was congratulating myself on my good fortune, the rest of our
fellows were looking for General Mason’s valise; but that, of course,
had disappeared.

“We must have pushed him pretty hard,” said Duke, “for he did not have
time to unbuckle the straps with which the valise was fastened to the
saddle, but cut them with his knife. He isn’t far off. Spread out now,
and let us see if we can find any signs of his having crossed the
bayou.”

As we were all expert hunters, and good at following a trail, it did not
take us many minutes to find out what had become of Luke Redman. After a
short search, we discovered the prints of his feet in the soft earth,
and followed them from the thicket in which he had left the horse to the
edge of the bluff, where they ceased.

When we saw that, we were pretty certain that we knew where to find Luke
Redman. He was hidden under the cliff.

My companions unslung their guns with a common impulse—how I wished for
the double-barrel that Pete had carried away with him!—and waited for
somebody to suggest a plan of operations.

“He is under our very feet, and almost within reach of us,” said
Herbert. “Don’t you see that those bushes are bent down and look as
though they had been tramped upon? He did that when he lowered himself
over the side of the cliff.”

“Yes, we’ve treed him easy enough,” said Mark; “but how are we going to
secure him? Luke Redman isn’t the man to allow himself to be captured
and sent to state prison if he can help it, and perhaps he is standing
below there, ready to put a charge of buckshot into the first one who
shows his head over the bluff. I am afraid to try it.”

If Mark was afraid, it was plain that Sandy was not, for he threw
himself flat upon the ground, and, at the imminent risk of losing his
balance and falling into the bayou, thrust his head over the brink of
the cliff and looked under it. He held this position a moment, and then
called out:

“Now, I’ll just tell you what’s the matter with you; you’re ketched!”

“No, I hain’t,” said a gruff voice, in reply. “Better keep close up
thar, or I’ll plug some on you.”

“Ho! ho!” laughed Sandy. “You can’t skeer us none. You’re in a pretty
situation to plug any body, hain’t you now? Fellers, if you want to see
something, just look down here!”

We did look, and, although we expected to see something exciting, we
were little prepared for the sight that was presented to our gaze. We
saw at a glance that we had nothing to fear from our enemy.

A thicket of bushes grew on the side of the bluff directly in front of
the mouth of Dead Man’s Elbow, and there, hanging at arms’ length from
this frail support, his feet almost touching the water, and his dark
features convulsed with terror, was Luke Redman.

The valise hung under one of his arms, supported by a strap which passed
over his opposite shoulder; but his gun was nowhere to be seen. He had
evidently made some desperate attempts to climb up the steep bluff, for
we could see the prints of his knees and feet in the soft earth.

When we had made these observations, we drew back on the cliff to hold a
consultation.

“Hasn’t he got himself into a pretty scrape?” asked Duke, gleefully. “I
understand what has happened as well as if I had been here on the bank
and witnessed it.”

So did the rest of us, for the robber’s situation was a sufficient
explanation of the accident that had befallen him. It had been his
intention to lower himself over the side of the bluff, and find
concealment on the top of the drift-wood which formed one side of the
cavern; but his feet had slipped, or his hold had given way, and he had
fallen down the steep bank almost into the water.

In order to save himself, he dropped his gun, which of course fell into
the bayou, and now he was unarmed. His situation was dangerous in the
extreme, and it was no wonder that he was frightened.

He could not climb up the bluff without assistance, for it was as
slippery as ice; and if he released his hold on the bushes, he would
fall into the water, and be whirled into the cavern before he could have
time to think twice. Dead Man’s Elbow seemed to be an unlucky place for
Luke Redman.

“Now, fellows,” continued Duke, in a hurried whisper, “I’ll tell you
what we will do. We’ll take our halters off our bridles, make them into
a rope, and when Mr. Redman gets tired of hanging to those bushes, we’ll
pass one end of it down to him, and pull him up the bluff.”

“But perhaps he won’t take hold of the rope,” said I. “Then what?”

“Then he can fall into the water and welcome. But there’s no danger of
that. Bad as he is, he isn’t tired of life.”

“What shall we do with him when we get him up here?”

“We’ll jump on him, and tie him hand and foot—that’s what we’ll do with
him. I guess we five fellows are a match for him.”

Duke’s plan was the best that could have been adopted under the
circumstances, and we agreed to it without a word of comment.

In a few moments we had removed our halters from our bridles, and tied
them together, thus forming a rope about thirty feet in length. When
this had been done, we once more stretched ourselves out on the ground,
and looked over the cliff to watch the movements of the robber.

He was struggling desperately to gain a foothold on the bluff; but the
soft earth always gave way beneath him, and when at last he became
exhausted with his efforts, he hung down at arms’ length to recover his
breath, glaring up into our faces with an expression as savage as that
of a caged hyena.

We saw with no little excitement and horror that a few more attempts of
this kind would seal his fate, for the bushes had been loosened by his
frantic struggles, and their roots were slowly but surely giving way.

“Now I’ll jest tell you what’s the matter with you,” shouted Sandy. “The
fust thing you know, you won’t know nothing. If you want any help, sing
out.”

Luke Redman looked up at the bushes, then down at the angry waves which
were dashing wildly against the base of the cliff, and being fully
convinced that there was no other way of escape for him, said, in a
hoarse whisper:

“Lend a hand here!”

“All right! Here you are!” said Duke. And in a moment more, one end of
the rope was dangling over the cliff, and our fellows were holding fast
to the other, ready to hoist away when Duke gave the word. “In order to
guard against accident, you had better pass the rope under your arms,”
continued the latter. “Take it easy. There’s time enough, and the more
you thrash about, the more you exhaust yourself.”

Luke Redman thought it best to act upon Duke’s suggestion; but he had
grown so weak and was so nearly overcome with terror, that it was with
the greatest difficulty that he could make the rope fast under his arms.

He accomplished it at last, however, and then Duke told us to haul away,
adding, in an excited whisper:

“Be ready to grab him the instant his head appears above the cliff.
Don’t flinch now, but be careful to keep out of the way of his fists,
for they are as heavy as sledge-hammers.”

Luke, being utterly unable to help himself, hung like a lump of lead at
the end of the rope, and it was any thing but an easy operation to raise
him to the top of the cliff. He came up slowly, inch by inch, and at
last his head appeared in sight, then his shoulders, and finally the
valise, which Mark instantly pounced upon, while Sandy seized the rascal
by the collar and pulled him upon the bluff.

“Now stand out o’ the way, or I’ll kick some on you into the bayou,”
shouted Luke Redman, whose terror vanished the moment he found himself
on solid ground. “I’ve got a pistol in my pocket.”

“An’ that’s all the good it’ll do you,” replied Sandy, catching the
robber’s hands and pinning them to the ground. “We are a few too many
for you. Show what you’re made of, fellers!”

Tired and weak as Luke Redman was, he had plenty of determination left
in him. He struggled furiously, and scratched and bit like some wild
animal; but he did not kick any of us into the bayou, and neither did he
draw his pistol, simply because we did not give him an opportunity. We
jumped upon him in a body, and while two of us confined his legs, which
he kept flying about like the shafts of a windmill, the others pulled
his arms behind his back and tied them fast. It was all over in five
minutes, and the robber lay panting and foaming on the ground, while we
stood with our hands in our pockets, looking at him.



                               CHAPTER X.
                            I STAND PICKET.


I do not believe that any five boys in the world ever felt more
astonished or elated over a stroke of good fortune than we did at the
unexpected success that had attended our chase after Luke Redman.

The men in the settlement had spent a week in searching for this same
robber and trying to recover General Mason’s money, and their efforts
had amounted to nothing; but we had accomplished the work, and we had
not been more than three hours in doing it, either.

The eight thousand dollars were safe, the thief was bound and helpless
before us, and Black Bess was once more in my undisputed possession. I
thought we had good reason to rejoice.

“I say, Mr. Redman!” exclaimed Herbert, who was the first to recover his
breath, “you wouldn’t mind telling us how you managed to steal this
money, and to get away with it without being discovered, would you?”

“I didn’t steal it!” growled Luke, in reply. “Mebbe you won’t b’lieve
it,” he added, seeing that we smiled derisively, “but I can prove it.”

“Well, you stole Black Bess, didn’t you?”

“If I did, you’ve got her ag’in, an’ had oughter be satisfied.”

“Perhaps you know who set fire to our cotton-gin?” I observed.

“P’raps I do, an’ p’raps I don’t. But I’ll tell you one thing: You had
better turn me loose, or it’ll be wuss for you!”

“Tell us another thing while you are about it,” said Mark. “How did you
get out of that tree the other day? Did you jump into the water and swim
over the falls, as I did?”

“I reckon that’s my own business, ain’t it?”

It was plain that Luke was not in a communicative mood. Some rogues,
when they find themselves brought up with a round turn, become penitent,
and are willing to relate all the circumstances attending the commission
of their crime, but our prisoner did not belong to that class. He was
sullen and morose, and had no doubt made up his mind that he would say
nothing that could be used as evidence against him.

We were a great deal disappointed at this; for there were one or two
incidents connected with the loss of the money and the disappearance of
Black Bess that we should like to have had explained, but as Mr. Redman
was not in the humor to gratify our curiosity, we were obliged to leave
the unraveling of the mysteries to time and future events.

At this moment it seemed to strike the robber that he had been a
prisoner long enough, and, having in some measure recovered from his
fatigue, he began to test the strength of the straps with which he was
confined.

He was a powerful man, and his struggles to free himself were furious
and determined indeed. He rolled about on the ground, gnashing his teeth
with rage, his face reddening with his exertions, and the muscles on his
arms standing out like cords of steel.

He threatened to take a most terrible vengeance on us when he succeeded
in liberating himself; and as we stood watching his contortions, we
trembled with the fear that some of the straps would slip or prove too
weak to hold him. But, although we had done our work in great haste, we
had done it well, and Luke was finally obliged to submit to his fate.

“Now, I’ll just tell you what’s the matter!” exclaimed Sandy, who had
stood with his hat off and his sleeves pushed up, ready to pounce upon
the prisoner the instant he saw the least probability of his freeing
himself from his bonds; “give it up, don’t you? Them straps are purty
strong, I reckon—hain’t they? You’re fast, an’ thar’s no use of wastin’
time in fussin’ about it.”

“What are you goin’ to do with me?” asked Luke Redman, in savage tones.

“We’re going to take you to the settlement, and put you where you’ll
never have another chance to steal money and horses,” I answered.

“I’ll bet you somethin’ big that you don’t take me to the settlement.
I’ve got friends clost by who won’t let harm come to me. If you expect
to see daylight ag’in, you had better turn me loose. I’ll pay the hul
lot on you fur this, mind that.”

We began to prick up our ears when we heard this, and to see the
necessity of taking our prisoner to a place of safety with as little
delay as possible. We did not really believe that he had companions in
the neighborhood who would attempt to rescue him, but we did not like to
run any risks.

The Swamp Dragoons were always prowling about in the woods, and turning
up most unexpectedly, and how did we know but that some of them had
witnessed all that had taken place at Dead Man’s Elbow? If that was the
case, they would never permit Luke to be taken to the settlement if they
could help it; and as they were a desperate lot of fellows, we did not
care to come in contact with them.

I had another reason for wishing to start for home immediately. The
cold, which had been intense in the morning, was increasing in severity,
and some portions of my wet clothing were frozen stiff; and now that the
excitement attending the chase and capture of the robber had somewhat
abated, I found that I was chilled through, and so benumbed that I could
scarcely stand.

More than that, the storm which had been threatening us for the last
three days had set in, and the rain and sleet began to rattle through
the leafless branches above our heads. It promised to be a dismal night,
and we were twenty miles from home.

These same thoughts, or others very nearly akin to them, must have been
passing through the minds of the rest of our fellows, for they looked
anxiously at one another and at the lowering sky, and Herbert said:

“We’ve wasted too much time already. The sooner we start for home the
better. Friend Redman, we are not playing with you, and if you want to
save yourself some rough handling, you will be careful what you do.
Let’s untie his feet, fellows, and put him on Joe’s extra horse.”

Our prisoner evidently thought it best to heed Herbert’s advice, for
when the horse which I had ridden during the pursuit was brought up, and
we lifted him from the ground, and placed him on the animal’s back, he
did not offer the least resistance. He uttered terrible threats,
however, but we paid no more attention to them than we did to the
whistling of the wind.

As soon as we had gone through all his pockets, in search of the pistol
with which he had threatened us (by the way, he didn’t have any thing
about him more dangerous than a pocket-knife), we sprang into our
saddles and set out for home; Duke heading the cavalcade, Mark following
at his heels, leading the horse on which our captive was mounted,
Herbert coming next with the valise, and Sandy and I bringing up the
rear, keeping a close watch over Luke Redman, and holding ourselves in
readiness to resist his first attempt at escape.

In this way we passed the five miles that lay between Dead Man’s Elbow
and the bayou on the banks of which we had stopped to eat our dinner.

As we rode through the camp, Sandy dismounted long enough to secure
possession of the squirrels he had shot a few hours before, and which
still lay at the root of the tree where he had left them.

“Mebbe we won’t see home to-night,” said he, “so I’ll take these along;
’cause I know by experience that it is monstrous lonesome campin’ in the
woods without nothing to eat.”

Luke Redman started when he heard this remark, and an expression of
great satisfaction settled on his scowling face. I noticed, too, that
after we left the bayou he began to cast stealthy glances around him, as
if he were looking for some one; and once I saw his gaze fastened
earnestly upon a cluster of bushes which grew on a neighboring ridge,
running parallel with the one we were following.

I scrutinized the thicket closely, and would have been willing to
declare that I saw a coonskin cap, under which were a pair of eyes
regarding us intently. But the cap vanished at the very moment I caught
sight of it, and believing that I had been mistaken, I said nothing
about it to my companions.

In less than half an hour after we left our old camp, night began to
settle down upon us, and before we had accomplished another mile, it was
so dark that we could scarcely distinguish one another’s features.

The storm had all the while been increasing in fury, and now the rain
and sleet came down in torrents, and it was not many minutes before we
were all drenched to the skin. The cold and darkness grew more intense,
and, to add to the unpleasantness of our situation, we reached the end
of the ridge at last, and from that point our way lay across a bottom
ten miles wide, which was covered with mud and ice, thickets of cane and
blackberry briers, and studded with cypress knees, which rendered our
progress slow and laborious.

“Duke,” said Sandy, at length—and I could tell by the tones of his voice
that he was shaking with the cold—“strike up a whistle. It is so dark we
can’t see to foller you.”

“I am too nearly frozen to whistle,” replied Duke. “It is all I can do
to talk. That isn’t the worst of it, either. I am afraid we are lost.”

Now, getting lost was something that did not trouble us in the least,
for a surer guide than Duke Hampton was not to be found in the country.
His “bump of locality” was largely developed, and any place he had once
visited he could find again on the darkest of nights. He sometimes
laughingly said that he possessed owl’s eyes, and I have thought it was
so, for it made not the slightest difference, as far as his traveling
was concerned, whether it was high noon or midnight.

He once more urged his unwilling horse forward, and for two long, dreary
hours we stumbled about in the darkness, the rain and sleet beating
furiously in our faces, and every bone in our bodies aching with the
cold.

During all this time no one spoke except Luke Redman, who abused and
threatened us steadily for an hour, scarcely stopping to take breath;
then, suddenly changing his tone, he entreated us to untie his hands,
and, finding that we paid no attention to him, he solemnly declared that
he was freezing to death, and relapsed into silence.

I began to think I was freezing also, and when I could no longer endure
the cold, I proposed to our fellows to abandon the idea of riding to the
settlement that night, and strike for our camp on Black Bayou—the one
our negroes had built on the day we went into the woods to watch our
turkey-trap.

There we would find warm, dry quarters, and materials with which to
kindle a fire; and as Sandy had been thoughtful enough to bring the
squirrels he had shot, we need not go supperless to bed.

This plan was hailed with delight by the others, and Duke at once turned
his horse, and started off in a direction exactly at right angles with
the one he had been pursuing.

If we had known all that was to happen to us before we saw the sun rise
again, our camp on Black Bayou would have been the very last place in
the world we should have thought of visiting.

How Duke knew what course to follow, was a mystery to all of us. I do
not suppose he could have explained it himself, for the night was so
dark that he could not see five feet in advance of him, and consequently
he could not have had the assistance of any familiar landmarks.

He seemed to know the direction by instinct, and we, never doubting his
ability to lead us to the place of refuge we had selected, followed him
blindly.

I shall never forget that ride. How far it was to the bayou, and how
many hours we traveled before reaching it, I do not know. All I remember
is that, when I became so cold that I could scarcely sit in my saddle,
and with the greatest difficulty resisted the inclination to dismount
from my horse and give myself up to the drowsiness that almost
overpowered me, Duke suddenly drew rein, and in a cheery voice
announced: “Here we are at last, fellows.”

I aroused myself with an effort, and looked about me; but all I could
see was a dense black wall of trees, which surrounded us on all sides. I
was as completely lost now as I had been at any time during the night,
and so was Herbert, if one might judge by the question he asked:

“What place do you call this?” said he.

“Why, this is our old camp,” replied Duke, “and right glad am I to see
it; for I do not believe I could ride a hundred yards further to save my
life.”

“You must have owl’s eyes indeed, if you can see any signs of a shanty
here,” observed Mark.

“Well, I can’t exactly _see_ any thing, but I know it is the camp. Jump
off, fellows, and let’s get to work.”

It was all very well for Duke to tell us to _jump_ off, but, as far as I
was concerned, that was quite out of the question. I do not know whether
I rolled out of my saddle or fell out; but I got out somehow, and did
what I could to assist the others in gathering a supply of wood for the
fire.

The exercise was beneficial in more ways than one. It stirred up our
sluggish blood, banished all the gloomy thoughts that had so long
depressed us, and when at last the fire was well under way, and the
flames were leaping high in the air, and lighting up the interior of our
comfortable quarters, we began to feel more like ourselves.

We forgot that we were cold, wet, hungry, and almost ready to drop with
fatigue, and thought only of the glorious success we had achieved, and
of the sensation we should create when we took our prisoner and General
Mason’s money into the settlement, on the following morning.

“I know this is comfortable, fellows,” said Duke, as we crowded about
the cheerful blaze, “but let’s do our work first, and get warm
afterward. Joe, suppose you and Sandy rub down the horses, and hitch
them in some sheltered place where they will be protected from the
storm. They have served us faithfully to-day, and it would be cruel to
neglect them. While you are doing that, Herbert and I will get in some
wood, and Mark can clean and cook the squirrels.”

We did not raise any objections to this arrangement, but hurried off at
once to attend to the duties our leader had assigned us.

In half an hour more, the horses had been rubbed dry, and their legs
relieved of the mud and ice that adhered to them; a supply of wood
sufficient to keep the fire burning all night was piled in one corner of
the shanty, and we lay stretched out on the leaves, enveloped in a cloud
of steam which arose from our wet clothing, watching with hungry eyes
the movements of our cook.

We were all in the best of spirits now, even including Luke Redman, who
seemed for the moment to forget that his hands were bound behind his
back, and that he stood a splendid chance of passing a portion of his
life within the walls of a penitentiary.

“Now, then,” exclaimed Mark, “supper’s ready. I can’t say that it will
go very far toward satisfying our appetites,” he continued, glancing at
the six pieces of beech bark on which he had placed each one’s share of
the squirrels; “but it’s better than nothing. Who is going to feed our
friend here?”

“Untie my hands, and I’ll feed myself,” the prisoner replied. “I won’t
trouble none on you.”

“Now, I’ll tell you what’s the matter,” said Sandy; “’tain’t the least
trouble in the world. If we should untie your hands, you might jump up
an’ run out in the rain, an’ get wet ag’in; an’ that would be redikilis.
I’ll tend to him, fellers.”

Sandy seated himself beside the prisoner, and our cook, having passed
around the pieces of bark, we fell to work in earnest.

In a very few minutes the last bone had been picked clean, and we sat
looking wistfully at our empty “plates,” as if half expecting to see
them filled up again in some mysterious manner; but as nothing of the
kind happened, we threw them into the fire, and once more stretching
ourselves out on the leaves, listened in a dreamy sort of way to the
rain and sleet pattering on the roof.

“Don’t go to sleep yet, boys,” said Duke, seeing that some of us began
to blink and nod at the fire, as if recognizing in it an old
acquaintance. “I have something to say to you.”

As he said this, he crawled into the furthest corner of the shanty, and
we followed and gathered about him.

I believed that what he was about to say had some reference to Luke
Redman, and the latter must have thought so, too, for he watched us with
a great deal of interest.

“I reckon I know what you’re goin’ to talk about,” said he, with a
laugh, “an’ I tell you now, as I told you afore, that you’ll never take
me to the settlement. I’ll bet a hoss that things’ll be changed here
afore long.”

“What do you think of that, fellows?” asked Duke, in a low whisper.

“I think he wants to hear himself talk, and that we have no cause for
alarm,” said I.

“That’s my opinion,” observed Herbert. “If he is depending on the Swamp
Dragoons to rescue him, he’ll be disappointed, for they never could
follow our trail through the woods on a night like this.”

“An’ s’pose they did? I don’t reckon they’d make much,” declared Sandy.
“Thar’s six of them, an’ only five of us, but we’re the best men.”

“Well, shall we go on to the settlement, or stay here?” asked Duke.

“Oh, stay here, by all means,” we answered, with one accord; adding,
with a shiver, as we looked out into the darkness, and thought of that
dreary ride through the swamp, that under no ordinary circumstances
could we be induced to get into our saddles again that night.

There was no necessity for it. We were as comfortable in our camp as we
would have been at headquarters, and as safe, too; for, as far as an
attack from the Swamp Dragoons was concerned, that was all in Luke
Redman’s eye. Barney and his followers were not courageous enough to
attempt such a thing; but, in order to make “assurance doubly sure,” it
might be well to put out pickets.

“That’s a good idea,” said Duke, glancing at his watch, the hands of
which pointed to midnight. “If there are no objections, I’ll stand guard
first, and at the end of an hour I’ll call—whom?”

“Call me,” said I.

“All right. It shall be the duty of the pickets to keep the fire
burning, to watch the prisoner closely, and to see that he does not find
means to effect his escape, and to make the round of the camp at least
three times during the hour. It is a wet job,” said Duke, looking out at
the rain and sleet, which were coming down as fiercely as ever; “but we
shall all feel safer for it. It wouldn’t look well for us to go back to
the settlement without our prisoner, after working so hard to secure
him.”

“Wal,” said Luke Redman, seeing that the consultation was ended, “what
are you goin’ to do?”

“We think some of staying here until morning. Any objections?”

“Nary one. I’m monstrous glad on’t, ’cause my boys will be along this
way directly. If some on you gets your heads broke, you mustn’t blame me
fur it. I told you to turn me loose, an’ you wouldn’t do it.”

We made no reply to Luke Redman’s threats, but showed him by our looks
that we were not at all concerned. We examined his bonds, to satisfy
ourselves that they were secure, and then crawled back to our places by
the fire—all except Duke, who pulled his collar up around his ears,
turned down the brim of his hat, and walked out into the storm.

A few minutes afterward, I heard him talking to his horse, and that was
the last I remembered until a hand was laid on my shoulder and a voice
whispered in my ear that it was one o’ clock and time for me to go on
guard.

I raised myself on my elbow, and, looking about me, saw that the aspect
of things had changed considerably during the hour I had been asleep.

The rain and sleet had turned to snow, the trees and bushes were loaded
with it, and the air was filled with the rapidly-falling flakes. If you
have ever had any experience in this line, you know there is no fun in
turning out of a warm bed to stand picket in a snow-storm.

“Is every thing all right?” I asked, glancing toward the prisoner, who
was as wide awake as he had been an hour ago.

“Yes, so far, all’s well. But there’s one thing I don’t exactly like,
and that is the way Luke Redman conducts himself. He has been seen
sitting up ever since I have been on guard listening with all the ears
he’s got, and acting as though he was expecting some one. Keep your eyes
open, Joe, and give the signals of distress the instant you see the
least sign of danger.”

As Duke stretched himself out on the leaves I picked up his hunting-horn
and walked out of the shanty. I threw an armful of wood on the fire and
turned to look at the prisoner.

“Oh, I am safe enough yet,” said he, as I examined the straps with which
his arms were confined, “but I won’t be so long. Thar’s somethin’ goin’
to happen, if you only knowed it.”

“Let it happen,” I replied. “If the Swamp Dragoons show their faces
about here, they’ll get the best dressing down they ever heard of.” I
walked off without waiting to hear what Luke Redman had to say in reply,
and started to make the circuit of the camp, keeping a good lookout on
all sides and stopping now and then to listen.

I neither saw nor heard any thing suspicious; and after stumbling about
among the bushes for ten minutes, I reached the spot from which I had
started on my round.

Taking up a position a short distance from the fire, where I could
distinctly see every move made by our prisoner, I leaned against the
trunk of a giant oak, which effectually protected me from the storm, and
went off into a reverie, from which I was suddenly aroused by a sound
that alarmed me not a little.

It was the angry growl of a dog, which ended very abruptly, and with a
hoarse, gurgling sound, as if the animal’s throat had been grasped by a
strong hand. I turned quickly, and looking in the direction from which
the sound came, saw a head disappear behind a log, not more than twenty
feet distant.

I was sure I could not be mistaken; and in order to satisfy myself on
that point, I sprang to the log and looked over it. One glance was
enough. I gave the signals of distress with all the power of my lungs,
and then faced about and ran toward the camp at the top of my speed.



                              CHAPTER XI.
                           THE TABLES TURNED.


What had I seen behind that log that frightened me so badly?

It was Barney Redman, the leader of the Swamp Dragoons. He had thrown
himself flat on his back to escape observation, and was holding in the
leash a gaunt, fierce-looking hound, which sprang forward and growled
savagely at me as I approached his master’s hiding-place.

Now, although the captain of the Dragoons had the reputation of being a
young desperado, I was not afraid of him or his dog either, and under
almost any other circumstances I would have been the last one to run
from him; but on this occasion, discretion was the better part of valor.

His presence there was enough to convince me that there was trouble
ahead; and I knew that the sooner my companions were aroused and the
camp put in a state of defense, the better it would be for us.

I can not begin to tell you how astonished I was to see him there. No
one except an Indian could have followed our trail through the swamp
that night; not even a bloodhound, for a good portion of our way lay
over a bottom covered with water to the depth of a foot, and every one
knows that scent will not lie on the water.

I could not understand it at all, and neither was I allowed time to
think the matter over, for Barney, finding that he was discovered,
raised a yell, and followed after me with all the speed he could
command.

“Stop thar, Mark Coleman,” he shouted. “We owe you a good lickin’, and
we’ve follered you too fur to let you get away now. Stop thar, I say, or
I’ll let this yere dog at you, an’ he’s a varmint.”

The captain of the Dragoons had got things mixed again. You will
remember that when Mark first made his appearance at Dead Man’s Elbow,
and discovered Luke Redman in the tree and General Mason’s valise
hanging to the rowlock of the skiff, Barney, who was standing on the
bluff, had called him _Joe_ Coleman, and threatened to have a settlement
with him at some future day, if he did not immediately go back up the
bayou, where he came from.

Since then he had found out that he had made a mistake in the boy, and
that it was Mark, and not Joe, who had put the authorities on his
father’s track.

When he saw me looking over the log at him, he supposed that I was my
brother, and the very one he wanted to be revenged upon.

“Stop thar, I tell you,” repeated Barney. “We’re goin’ to squar’
accounts with you now fur findin’ out about that money.”

As I could not see the use of allowing myself to be punished for what
Mark had done, if I could help it, I did not stop. I ran faster than
ever, and fear lending me wings, I made my way through the bushes at a
rate of speed that the fleet-footed Herbert Dickson himself would not
have been ashamed of; but before I had taken a dozen steps, a figure,
which seemed to rise out of the ground, suddenly appeared before me, and
clasped me in its arms.

“Ugh!” exclaimed a familiar voice, “you wouldn’t wrestle the other day;
you wrestle now.”

Here was another fellow who took me for my brother. It was Jim, the
young savage whom we heard boasting so loudly on the day we visited the
Indian camp.

How he happened to be there with the Swamp Dragoons I did not stop to
inquire, for he had caught me with a fair back-hold, and was trying to
throw me down.

“I am not the boy you challenged to a trial of strength the other day,”
said I; “but if you are determined to have a wrestle, and nothing but a
wrestle will satisfy you, I think I can accommodate you.”

And I did; for in less time than it takes to tell it, that young
Indian’s heels flew up and his head came in violent contact with the
ground.

Having disposed of Jim, I raised my horn to my lips, and, after
repeating the signals of distress, was about to take to my heels again,
when Barney and his dog came up, both fierce for a fight.

I did not wait for them to begin, but took the initiative myself by
lifting my heavy boot and hitting Barney’s four-footed friend a kick
under the chin that fairly lifted him from the ground.

It was plain that he had got all he wanted, for he ran yelping into the
bushes, and Barney and I were left to finish the battle alone.

The leader of the Dragoons paused for a moment when he witnessed the
discomfiture of his ally, and then came on more fiercely than ever.

“Oh, ain’t I goin’ to give it to you now?” he shouted, and I knew by the
way the words came out that he was almost beside himself with fury. “A
fellow who hits my dog, hits me.”

About this time I became aware that there was a great uproar in the
camp. I heard a crashing in the bushes, which was followed, first by
Indian yells, hoarse shouts of triumph and the baying of hounds; then by
a rapid shuffling of feet and the sound of fierce blows, all of which,
told me that there was a desperate battle going on.

This continued for a moment, and then—you can imagine how the cold
chills crept over me when I heard it—the report of a gun, fired twice in
quick succession, rang through the swamp, accompanied by something that
sounded very much like the voice of a human being in distress.

What was it? Had any of our fellows been shot by the attacking party, or
had they, in their desire to prevent the rescue of Luke Redman and to
save the eight thousand dollars, so far forgot their prudence as to fire
upon the Swamp Dragoons?

As this thought passed through my mind, I turned my eyes for one instant
toward the camp, and to my amazement and alarm, discovered that the
Swamp Dragoons were not alone. I saw a mass of struggling men and boys
swaying to and fro in front of the camp, and conspicuous among them were
Pete and his half-breed companions.

I was not so much astonished at this, however, as I was to see Tom Mason
flitting about here and there, swinging a riding-whip, and apparently
one of the most fierce and determined of the attacking party.

I saw, too, that our fellows were getting the worst of the fight; but,
although they were greatly outnumbered, and were being pummeled
unmercifully by the heavy whips with which their assailants were armed,
they were doing their best to retain possession of the prisoner and of
General Mason’s money. Mark held the valise in his hand, Sandy was
carrying Luke Redman in his arms as if he had been an infant, and both
were making the best of their way toward their horses, while Duke and
Herbert were trying to cover their retreat.

I saw and heard all this during the single instant of time that I kept
my head turned toward the camp. I was not allowed opportunity to make
any further observations, for Barney had clutched me by the throat, and
was making desperate efforts to put me on the ground.

He speedily became aware, however, that he had got his hands full, and
began shouting loudly for help.

“Jake! Jim!” he yelled, “lend a hand! Here he is!”

Jim, who was seated on the ground rubbing his aching head, had already
received convincing proof that I was there, and a moment afterward Jake
must have been pretty well aware of the fact also; for, as he came
rushing up in response to the calls of his brother, I met him with a
back-hander over the eye that must have made him see stars.

But I could not long hold out against three antagonists, each of whom
was nearly, if not quite, as strong and active as myself.

Jake quickly recovered from the effects of the back-hander; Jim managed
to get upon his legs at last, and, being attacked on all sides, I was
thrown to the ground, and held there by two of my assailants while the
other pulled some pieces of rope from his pocket and proceeded to
confine my hands and feet.

If you have never been in such a situation, you can have no idea how it
makes one feel to find himself wrapped up in strong cords, and to know
that he is wholly in the power of his enemies, who can take vengeance on
him at their leisure, and without the least fear of suffering in return.

So long as he is able to resist, be it ever so feebly, he can keep up
some show of courage; but when he finds himself powerless to move even a
finger, then it is that his nerve is tested.

This was my first experience in this line, and my feeling, as I looked
into the scowling faces of my captors after I had been jerked to my
feet, were any thing but pleasant, I assure you.

I did not let them see how badly I was frightened, but looked them
squarely in the eye, and nerved myself for the punishment which I
expected would be inflicted upon me without an instant’s delay.

In this, however, I was most agreeably disappointed. Barney was either
in no hurry to consummate his vengeance, or else he did not have time to
do it then; for, as soon as he had helped me to my feet, he ran toward
the camp, followed by his companions.

All these events, which I have been so long in describing, happened in a
short space of time. From the discovery of Barney behind the log until
the end of the fight between our fellows and the Swamp Dragoons and
their allies, probably not more than five minutes had elapsed.

During that time our triumph had been turned into utter defeat, and our
hard day’s work completely undone. We had been overpowered and whipped
out.

My companions had escaped by throwing themselves upon their horses, and
our enemies, after following them a short distance, returned to the
camp, and were now gathered about the fire, talking loudly and laughing
uproariously.

Remembering the reports of the gun and the cries of distress I had
heard, I ran my eye over the group to see if any of them were wounded;
but my fears on this score were set at rest when I discovered the bodies
of a couple of blood-hounds lying in front of the cabin.

These animals, as I afterward learned, had attacked our fellows with the
utmost ferocity, and had been promptly shot by Duke Hampton.

Almost the first man my eyes rested on was Luke Redman, no longer bound
and helpless, but standing erect among his companions, carrying General
Mason’s valise in one hand and holding Black Bess with the other.

He was looking down at the hounds, and I knew by the fierce frown on his
face that somebody would have to suffer for their death. Would he vent
all his spite upon me, now that my companions were out of his reach?

I am older now than I was that night, and during the course of a long
and eventful life have had more than my share of excitement and
adventure; but I do not believe that I was ever more nearly overcome
with fear than I was while I stood there looking at the crowd of men and
boys who were gathered about our camp-fire.

I had good cause for alarm. In the first place, I was mistaken for my
brother, and I knew that nearly every person before me held a grudge
against him for something he had done. Tom Mason would want revenge for
the thrashing Mark had given him a long time ago; Pete, the head man
among the half-breeds, had been pulled down and thoroughly shaken by the
dogs, and that was something he did not intend to overlook, as I knew by
the experience I had already had with him that day. Barney and the rest
of the Swamp Dragoons imagined that our fellows had heaped a great many
indignities upon them, and they would certainly settle their accounts
now; Jim would probably have something to say concerning the hard fall I
had given him a few minutes before, and lastly, there was Luke Redman! I
expected to suffer severely at his hands.

Barney, who was highly elated at the result of the encounter that had
made me his prisoner, lost no time in hunting up his companions and
revealing to them his good fortune.

They all yelled exultantly when their chief directed their attention to
me, and after a short consultation with him and Tom Mason, they came
forward in a body. Barney and Tom led the way, each of them carrying a
riding whip in his hand.

I saw by the expression on their faces that something was going to
happen.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                           TOM IS ASTONISHED.


When the Swamp Dragoons reached the place where I was standing, they
gathered about me, and looked inquiringly at Tom Mason, as if waiting
for him to say something. The latter advanced with a grin on his
countenance, peered sharply into my face, and then looked at me from
head to foot, as if taking my exact measure.

When he had completed his examination, he stepped back, and striking his
boots with his riding-whip, said:

“Do you remember what I told you the last time I saw you, Mark Coleman?
I said I was going to make things exceedingly lively for you this
winter, didn’t I? Well, I think I have done it. You can thank me for
every thing that has happened to you.”

“It’s him, then, is it?” exclaimed Barney. “Them fellers look as near
alike as two peas, an’ I was a’most afeared we had gobbled up the wrong
chap.”

“And so you have,” I replied. “I am not Mark Coleman, and Tom Mason
knows it very well. My name is Joe.”

“No, I reckon not,” returned Barney, with a most provoking laugh. “Tommy
has knowed you fur years an’ years, an’ so have we; an’ you can’t pull
the wool over our eyes in no sich way as that ar’!”

“You don’t know me any better than I know myself, do you? If Mark had
been in my place, you never would have captured him.”

“Wouldn’t? Why not?”

“Because he would have been too smart for you. He would have whipped you
and Jake and Jim so badly that your mothers wouldn’t know you.”

“Wal, now, we’d ’a kept the skeeters off’n him while he was a-doin’ it,”
said Jake, who was angry in an instant at the imputation I had cast upon
his prowess. “But you can jest hush up that sass, ’cause we ain’t
a-goin’ to stand it from you.”

“No, we hain’t,” chimed in Barney. “We’re a-goin’ to pay you fur it now,
an’ while we are about it, we’ll settle with you fur all the other mean
things you have done.”

“How are you going to do it?”

“Every one of us is goin’ to give you ten good licks with this yere,”
replied Barney, flourishing his riding-whip in the air. “Untie his hands
an’ pull off his jacket!”

Seventy blows with a rawhide! Wasn’t that a pleasing prospect? How would
you have felt if you had been in my place? Would you have taken the
whipping quietly?

I was fully determined that I would not. I knew that I had never done
any of the Swamp Dragoons an injury, and even if I had, they had no
right to deal out such punishment as this to me.

“That’s the idee!” said Barney, as Jake and one of his confederates
pulled off my coat after untying my hands. “Now loosen up on his feet.
That b’iled shirt o’ yourn’ll have marks on it afore we are done with
you, won’t it, Tommy?”

“That’s just what’s the matter!” replied Tom, hitting his boots another
cut with his whip. “You don’t associate with boys who steal and tell
falsehoods, do you? Ten good blows with this rawhide will pay you for
saying that!”

Why the Swamp Dragoons were so stupid as to untie my feet, when there
was no necessity for it, I do not know; but they did, and it gave me an
opportunity to fight for my liberty.

I improved it on the instant. Jake must have been astonished at the
weight of the blow that was planted squarely in his face, and so was I;
for it drove him against Tom Mason with such force that the latter was
knocked fairly off his feet.

This opened a way through the ranks of my enemies, and, before they
could lift a finger, to detain me, I had leaped over the prostrate
forms, and was running through the bushes at the top of my speed.

I was quite as much astonished at what I had done as the Swamp Dragoons
must have been.

I made the attempt at escape, not because I thought it would be
successful, but for the reason that I wished to postpone the moment of
my punishment as long as possible.

I had fully expected to be knocked down or tripped up immediately; but,
having accomplished this much, I began to hope that, aided by the
darkness, I might elude my enemies altogether.

This hope, however, was short-lived. There were Indians and bloodhounds
behind me, and in less than a minute both were on my trail.

As soon as the Swamp Dragoons found their tongues, they uttered loud
yells of surprise and alarm, and called upon the men about the fire for
assistance.

“What’s the matter over thar?” demanded the gruff voice of Luke Redman.

“Mark Coleman!” gasped the leader of the Dragoons. “We ketched him, but
he has got away. Thar he is, runnin’ through the cane like a skeered
turkey!”

“Turn your dogs loose on him!” shouted Luke. “Come, Injuns, do something
fur us!”

There was no need that Luke Redman should call upon Pete and his
companions for help. The former, at least, had reasons for wishing to
prevent my escape, and as soon as he found out what was going on, he set
up a whoop and started in pursuit.

I did not waste time in looking back at him, but my ears told me that he
was coming, and that he was gaining on me at every step.

I heard the fierce yelps the hounds gave when they found my trail, and
knew they would overtake me if the Indians did not. They might even tear
me in pieces before their masters could come up to rescue me; but
fearing the rawhide more than the teeth of the dogs, I kept straight
ahead, doing some of the best running I ever did in my life, until a
heavy hand was laid upon my collar, and I was jerked backward and thrown
upon the ground.

“Ugh!” grunted Pete. “White boy good runner—_very_ good runner; but no
match for Injun. S’pose I put dogs on him!”

The Swamp Dragoons and the bloodhounds came up at this moment, and I
feared that between them both I should be severely dealt with.

The dogs seemed determined to bite me, Jake and Tom were bent on taking
revenge on me for knocking them down, while Pete, although he at first
made some show of protecting me, was more than half inclined to allow
them to act their pleasure.

There is no telling what might have happened had it not been for Luke
Redman, whose stern voice sent the hounds cowering into the bushes, and
arrested the hands that were uplifted to strike me.

“Get out, you whelps!” he roared. “Quit your foolin’, boys. We’ve no
time to waste in settlin’ with him now. Fetch up the hosses, an’ let’s
start fur hum.”

In obedience to these commands, my captors ceased their hostile
demonstrations, and began preparations for instant departure. Barney and
Jake busied themselves in tying my hands; the rest of the Dragoons
brought up the horses belonging to the attacking party, which were
hidden in the swamp a short distance from the camp, while Pete and the
rest of the half-breeds ransacked the shanty, and took possession of the
guns, saddles and hunting-horns which our fellows had left behind them.

When every thing was ready for the start, Luke Redman, mounting Black
Bess, rode at the head of the cavalcade, and I followed at his heels, in
precisely the same situation in which the robber had been placed a few
hours before—mounted on mother’s horse, with my hands bound behind my
back.

“I told you somethin’ was a-goin’ to happen, an’ you laughed at me,”
chuckled Luke Redman. “Now you’ll see how much fun thar is in ridin’
through a thick woods with your hands tied hard an’ fast.”

I had not gone a hundred yards from the camp before I found that there
was no fun at all in it. The briers and cane were thick, and, as I could
not raise my hands to protect my face, I received more than one blow and
scratch that brought the tears to my eyes. But I made no complaint. Luke
Redman had endured it during a journey of fifteen miles, and I thought I
could endure it also.

That was my second dreary ride that night, and it was one I never wanted
to take again.

What my captors were going to do with me, and in what direction they
were traveling, I had no way of finding out, for they would not answer
my questions. All I could tell was that Luke Redman took especial pains
to avoid the clear ground, seeming to prefer the muddy and almost
impassable bottom to the high and dry ridges; and that when day dawned,
and it became light enough for me to distinguish objects about me, I
found myself in a part of the swamp I had never visited before.

“Thar!” exclaimed Luke, reining in his horse on the banks of a deep
bayou, and glancing back at the labyrinth of trees and bushes from which
we had just emerged, “I’d like to see the man who can foller our trail.
Now, Barney, you an’ Pete come here a minute.”

The persons addressed followed the robber a short distance up the bayou,
and held a long consultation with him. When it was ended, Tom Mason,
Luke Redman and the Swamp Dragoons dismounted, I was dragged out of my
saddle, and the horses we had ridden were taken in charge by Pete and
his half-breed companions, who crossed the bayou and disappeared in the
woods on the opposite bank.

Barney and his followers, in the meantime, were hunting about among the
bushes which grew along the edge of the stream, and presently a large
canoe was brought to light.

My face must have betrayed the interest with which I watched these
proceedings, for Luke Redman said:

“I’m an old fox, an’ I think I have managed this thing jest about right.
I know the men in the settlement will be arter us—I shouldn’t wonder if
they was on our trail this very minute—an’ they may succeed in follerin’
us arter all the trouble I’ve tuk to throw ’em off the scent. When they
reach this yere bayou, they’ll see that the hosses have crossed to the
other side, an’ they’ll think, in course, that we are still on their
backs; but we won’t be, ’cause we’re goin’ down stream in this yere
dug-out. They’ll foller the trail of the hosses, but they won’t make
nothin’ by it, ’cause Pete’s an Injun, an’ knows how to fool ’em.”

“Well,” said I, “since you have seen fit to explain your movements to
me, perhaps you won’t mind telling me why you are keeping me a
prisoner.”

Luke Redman rubbed his chin, and looked down at the ground in a brown
study.

“I reckon I might as well tell you now as any other time,” said he,
after a moment’s reflection. “I want to use you; that’s the reason I am
keepin’ you here. I want to use Tommy, too, an’ that’s the reason I’m
keepin’ him.”

This was the first intimation I had had of the fact that Tom Mason was
held as a prisoner, and the sudden start that young gentleman gave, and
the expression of surprise and alarm that settled on his face, told me
as plainly as words that it was news to him also. He looked earnestly at
Luke Redman, then at Barney and his companions, and said in a faltering
voice:

“I came here of my own free will, and you surely do not mean to say that
I can not go home again when I feel so disposed?”

“Yes, I do mean to say that very thing,” replied Luke, coolly. “You’re a
prisoner, same as this other feller.”

Tom staggered back as if some one had aimed a blow at him, his face grew
deathly pale, and he looked the very picture of terror. In spite of all
the trouble he had brought upon me, I pitied him from the bottom of my
heart.

For several minutes no one spoke. Tom stood staring at Luke Redman in a
sort of stupid bewilderment, as if he found it impossible to grasp the
full import of the words he had just heard, and the man leaned on the
muzzle of Sandy Todd’s shot-gun, which he had appropriated for his own
use, and stared at him in return.

“You don’t quite see through it, do you?” said the latter, at length.

“No, I don’t,” Tom almost gasped. “I can’t understand what object you
have in view in keeping me here, for I shall never reveal any of your
secrets.”

“Oh, I ain’t at all afraid of that,” laughed Luke Redman, “’cause, if
you should tell any of my secrets, I might tell some o’ yourn, which
would be bad for you. Listen, an’ I’ll tell you all about it. The money
in that carpet-sack belongs to your uncle. He don’t need it, ’cause he’s
got more than he knows what to do with; but I do need it, an’, what’s
more, I’m bound to have it. You don’t see that young Injun Jim anywhar,
do you? Wal, jest afore we left the camp whar my boys rescooed me, he
went to the settlement with a note which Barney writ to your uncle. That
note told him that if he don’t quit makin’ so much fuss about the loss
of his money, an’ give me a chance to get across the river with it,
he’ll never see you ag’in. I know he thinks a heap on you, an’ sooner
than lose you, he’ll call in the settlers, an’ give up huntin’ fur me.
Ain’t that one way to slip outen the hands of the law?”

“It will never work,” said I, indignantly. “My father is one of the
settlers, and he’ll not allow you to escape, even if General Mason does
desire it.”

“Hold on a bit!” interrupted Luke Redman. “I ain’t done talkin’ yet.
Your father will be one of the very fust to give up lookin’ fur me,
’cause I sent him a note, too, sayin’ that if he wanted to see you
ag’in, he had best go home an’ mind his own business fur one week. If he
does that, I’ll send you back to him safe an’ sound. If he don’t, I’ll
sink you so deep in the bayou that none of your fellers will ever find
you ag’in. Do you know now why I’m so sot on keepin’ you a prisoner?”

I certainly did, for Luke Redman’s scheme was perfectly clear to me. He
knew he could not show himself outside the swamp as long as the
authorities and settlers were on the watch, and he had detained Tom and
me, hoping through us to work on the fears of our friends and relatives.

If they would let him alone for one week—or, to put it in plain English,
if they would draw in the patrols who were guarding the river, and allow
him to cross into Louisiana with the eight thousand dollars—he would
return Tom and me to our homes, right side up with care; but if they
persisted in searching for him, he would put us where no one would ever
see us again.

I had never heard of so desperate a scheme before, and to say that I was
amazed would but feebly express my feelings.

While I was thinking it over, and wondering if it would succeed, Tom
recovered from his bewilderment, and showed that he could be plucky and
determined, as well as mean and cunning.

“Well, this gets ahead of me completely,” said he, in great disgust.
“This is the second trick you have played on me, Luke Redman, and I want
you to understand that I won’t put up with it—that’s all about it. If
you expect to keep me here, you are deceived for once in your life, if
you have never been before. Whenever I get ready to go home, I shall go;
and all the boys and bloodhounds and Indians in your whole gang can’t
prevent me.”

“Can’t! Wal, I’ll mighty soon show you. If you’re going to get your back
up an’ act onreasonable, we’ll have to tie you, too. Barney, take that
shootin’-iron away from him.”

The dark scowl on Tom’s face and the determined manner in which he spoke
satisfied me that he was very much in earnest, and I thought it might
prove a dangerous piece of business for Luke Redman or any of his boys
to lay violent hands on him; but to my surprise he gave up his gun
without the least show of resistance, and permitted the Dragoons to tie
his hands behind his back.

He shook his head threateningly, and kept up a rapid talking during the
whole proceeding; and I knew that if ever the opportunity was offered,
Luke Redman would suffer for his treachery.

“Thar,” said the robber, “that job’s done, and now we will start on
ag’in. But you must be blindfolded first, ’cause we’re goin’ to take you
to a place that no man, ’cept them b’longin’ to our crowd, ever looked
at.”

As he said this, he took from his pocket a dirty red handkerchief, and
tied it over my eyes so tightly that not a ray of light could reach
them.

After a few seconds’ delay, during which he was doubtless performing the
same operation for Tom, I was lifted from my feet and laid away in the
boat, as if I had been a sack of corn, and in a minute or two more I
heard the measured dip of paddles and felt the gentle motion of the
little vessel as it sped rapidly down the bayou. During the journey,
which occupied the better part of the forenoon, no one spoke, and Tom
and I were left to the companionship of our own thoughts.

That those of my fellow-prisoner were not of the most agreeable nature
was evident from the continuous muttering he kept up and the uneasy
manner in which he rolled about on the bottom of the canoe.

My own reflections were far from pleasant, for, aside from the pain
occasioned by the cramped position I was compelled to occupy, my mind
was kept in a state of anxiety and suspense that was little short of
positive torture.

I tried to think as little as possible about myself, and kept my brain
busy with other matters.

What had induced Tom Mason to become connected with this band of
outlaws? How did it come that Pete and his half-breed companions were
associated with them? Where was Luke Redman taking me? and would he
really drown me in the bayou if he were not left in quiet possession of
the eight thousand dollars?

Such questions as these, I say, occupied my mind during the journey down
the bayou; but I could not find a satisfactory answer to a single one of
them.

About noon my reflections were interrupted by the sudden stopping of the
canoe, and a movement among my captors which told me that our voyage was
ended.

I was lifted out and placed upon the bank, my feet were unbound, and,
supported by Luke Redman on one side and Barney on the other, I was led
along what appeared to be a bridle-path running through the woods.

In about ten minutes we reached a house; a door was pushed open, and I
was conducted across a floor and up a flight of creaking stairs, at the
top of which my captors stopped long enough to unlock a second door,
which led into a room that I soon found was to serve as my prison.

“Here you are!” said Luke Redman, pulling out his knife and cutting the
ropes with which my hands were confined; “an’ here you’ll stay till I
get ready to leave the country. Don’t go to raisin’ any fuss, now;
’cause if you do, I’ll send my boys up here with their rawhides.”

The door closed as the outlaw’s voice ceased, and a key grated harshly
in the lock. I listened a moment to the retreating footsteps, and then
tore the handkerchief from my eyes.

I might as well have kept them covered, however, for they were not of
the slightest use in the intense darkness which filled my prison. I
could not see my hand before me; and not daring to move about the
apartments for fear of running against something, I seated myself on the
floor, to think over my situation and wonder what was going to happen
next.

Just then I heard a slight grating noise, close at my elbow, such as
might have been made by pushing a heavy board across the floor.

This continued for a few seconds, and then little rays of light began to
stream into the room from an opening which suddenly appeared in the
wall.

I was now enabled to make an examination of my prison. I swept one hasty
glance around it, and saw that it was about ten feet square, that there
was not a single article of furniture in it, and that the walls, floor
and ceiling were formed of heavy oak planks.

When I had noted these things, I looked toward the opening again, and
found that it had increased in size sufficiently to admit the head and
shoulders of Tom Mason, who gazed all about the room, then rubbed his
eyes and looked again.

I was not glad to see him, and wondered what he might want there. If he
intended to revenge himself on me for knocking him down, he would have a
lively time of it, for I was not bound now.

“Joe,” said he, in a scarcely audible whisper.

“Why do you call me that?” I asked. “Didn’t you tell Barney that my name
was Mark?”

“I did; but I knew better all the time.”

“Well, that is as much as I care to hear from you. Don’t you dare come
in here.”

“I know you despise me, Joe, and I don’t wonder at it; but if you will
trust me this once, you will never be sorry for it. I am going to leave
these fellows this very afternoon; and if you will go with me, and stick
to me, we can take my uncle’s money with us, and Black Bess, too.”

I began to listen more attentively when I heard this. As Tom had got me
into this scrape, I saw no reason why he should not get me out of it, if
he could. The only question in my mind was whether or not I could place
any dependence on him.

He must have been able to read my thoughts, for he hastened to say:

“I don’t blame you for doubting me, Joe, but as sure as I am a prisoner
here, like yourself, I have no intention of trying to deceive you. I am
going to get you out of the hands of these outlaws, whether you are
willing or not. If you won’t go with me, I will go alone; and when I
find the settlers, I will guide them straight to this place.”

“How can you do it?” I asked. “You came here blindfolded, didn’t you?”

“Yes; but it was like locking the stable-door after the horse is stolen,
I have been here many a time, and I know this house like a book.”

“But these people are your friends, are they not? Why do you turn
against them?”

“Do you ask me that after what you heard to-day? Luke Redman went back
on me completely, and I should be something more or less than human if I
didn’t want to get even with him for that. I’d like to see him keep me
here an hour longer than I want to stay. Who do you suppose stole my
uncle’s money?” asked Tom, suddenly.

“Mr. Redman, of course.”

“Well, he didn’t. _I_ stole it.”

“Tom Mason!” I exclaimed.

“Don’t talk so loud, or you’ll bring Barney up here. It is a fact, I am
sorry to say, and the reason I took it was because I wanted to get Jerry
Lamar into trouble. In the first place, I intended to keep you and all
your friends in hot water, if I could. I found plenty of ways in which
to bother you, such as stealing your boat, robbing your traps and
shooting at your dogs, but I did not know what to do to Jerry, for he
never went hunting and owned nothing worth stealing. I happened to be up
the bayou, duck-shooting, on the morning on which uncle visited Mr.
Lamar’s house. I saw the valise in the skiff, and knowing what it
contained, I thought it would be a good plan to take it out and hide it.
I did so. I paddled across the bayou, took the money, and paddled back
again, without being seen, either by my uncle or Mr. Lamar. Jerry was
suspected of the theft, as I knew he would be, and would have been sent
to prison, if it had not been for your brother Mark.”

Tom paused, and I sat looking at him without speaking. Bad as I knew him
to be, I had never dreamed that he could descend low enough to
perpetrate an act like this.

His confession revealed a depth of depravity that Luke Redman himself
would have been ashamed of; and when I thought how narrowly Jerry had
escaped being the victim of his cowardly vindictiveness, I had half a
mind to pull him through the window into my prison, and give him the
worst drubbing he ever had in his life.

I believe I should have done something to him, had I not at that moment
heard a step on the stairs.

“Somebody’s coming,” whispered Tom. “I have more to tell you, if you
have the patience to listen to it, and will see you again directly.”

As he said this, he drew back from the window and pushed the board to
its place, leaving me in total darkness.



                             CHAPTER XIII.
                          TOM TELLS HIS STORY.


When Tom had disappeared, I settled back on my elbow, and listened to
the approaching footsteps, which slowly mounted the creaking stairs and
stopped at my door. A key turned in the lock, the light of a lantern
streamed into the room, and Barney and Jake Redman entered, one carrying
a plate filled with corn-bread and bacon, and the other holding a bundle
of blankets under his arm.

“Wal, my young feller,” said Barney, with an awkward attempt to appear
good-natured and patronizing, “how do you feel about this time? Tired,
hungry an’ sleepy, I reckon. We’ve brought you a bite of somethin’, an’
a blanket to lay down on. You’d best do some good eatin’ an’ sleepin’
while you are about it, ’cause we’ve got a long ways to ride to-night.”

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“That’s somethin’ fur you to find out. You’ll know soon enough.”

With this assurance, the Dragoons deposited the lantern, blankets and
plate on the floor, and went out, locking the door after them.

In a few minutes the sound of voices coming from the adjoining room told
me that they had gone in to pay Tom a visit.

I had been very sleepy previous to my interview with my fellow-prisoner,
but that had worn off now, although I was as hungry as ever. I did ample
justice to the bountiful dinner with which Barney had provided me, and
when he came in after the lantern, I had emptied the plate, and lay
stretched out on the blankets, which I had spread upon the floor.

The leader of the Dragoons showed a disposition to linger and enter into
conversation—a proceeding to which I was strongly opposed. I was
impatient to be rid of his presence, in order that I might see Tom Mason
again, and, as I gave only short, crusty answers to his questions, and
pretended to be very sleepy, Barney finally gave it up in disgust, and
took his leave.

The sound of his footsteps had scarcely died away on the stairs, when
the board which concealed the opening in the wall was cautiously pushed
aside, and Tom once more appeared, his jaws working rapidly, and his
hands filled with corn-bread and bacon.

I looked at him closely, and could easily see that something had made a
great change in him. The impudent, defiant expression his face usually
wore had disappeared, and he looked melancholy and down-hearted, as
though he had lost the last friend he had in the world.

He did not wait for me to speak, but began the conversation himself.

“When Barney came up I was relating how I obtained possession of the
money, wasn’t I?” said he. "I told you that I crossed the bayou with it
without being seen by either my uncle or Mr. Lamar. I was seen by
somebody else, however, and by the very one, of all others, I had the
most reason to fear; for as I sat looking at the valise, after I had
pushed my canoe out of sight among the bushes, and wondering what I
should do with it now that I had got it, I happened to raise my eyes,
and, to my utter amazement, discovered a skiff not more than ten feet
from me. In the skiff was Luke Redman, who stood leaning on his gun, and
looking at me with an exultant smile on his face.

"I was certain that he had been watching me, that he had seen me take
the money, and the very first words he uttered confirmed the suspicion.

"‘Wal, my young chap, I’ve ketched you,’ said he—‘ketched you in the
very act, too. This will be a nice story for me to tell in the
settlement, won’t it?’

"When I heard this last remark, I for the first time began to realize
what I had done. It flashed upon me in an instant that my plan for
ruining Jerry Lamar was likely to ruin me, also.

"In order to satisfy a senseless grudge against a boy who never did me
the least harm in his life, I had broken the law, and rendered myself
liable to the severest punishment.

"I did not speak—I could not, so great was my bewilderment and
alarm—neither did Luke Redman. He sat down on one of the thwarts, and
looked earnestly into the water, while I stared blankly at him,
wondering what was to be the end of the matter.

"At length a bright idea struck the man. He brought his clinched hand
heavily down upon his knee, and looking up, said, with a chuckle:

"‘Yes, sir; I’ve ketched you in the very act of stealin’ your uncle’s
money. Do you know what they do with fellers who commit robbery?’

"‘I have committed no robbery,’ I replied. ‘I am going to take the money
back. I only wanted to scare him.’

"‘That story won’t go down—not by no means,’ said Luke Redman, with
another laugh. ‘It’s a mighty nice way you have got of doin’ business,
hain’t it, now? You steal a carpet-sack full of yellow-boys, an’ when
you are ketched at it, say you are goin’ to take it back, an’ that you
only wanted to scare your uncle! Who’s fool enough to b’lieve such a
tale as that ar’? Thar’s only one way you can get out of this scrape,
an’ that is—Halloo! what’s a-goin’ on over thar?’

“I heard loud voices at this moment, and looking through the bushes
toward the opposite bank of the bayou, found that my plan for being
revenged on Jerry was beginning to work much sooner than I had
anticipated. I saw my uncle take him by the collar and walk him into the
skiff, heard Jerry beg to know what he had done, and saw the despairing
expression his face wore as he picked up the oars in obedience to my
uncle’s command, and pulled down the bayou.”

“That’s the time you ought to have bestirred yourself,” said I, worked
up to the highest pitch of indignation by Tom’s recital. “Why didn’t you
have the moral courage to undo the wrong you had done? Could you sit
there and see an innocent boy punished? Why did you not pull out into
the bayou and tell your uncle that you had the valise?”

“Oh, yes! It is all very well for those who have never been guilty of
any serious offense to prate about moral courage,” sneered Tom. “There
isn’t a boy in the world who knows my uncle who would dare face him
after doing a deed like that. Would you? I’ll bet you wouldn’t. He would
have turned me out of house and home. I don’t know that I should be in
any worse situation than I am now,” added Tom, reflectively, "for of
course I can’t go back to the settlement after what I have done.

"As I was saying, I sat there in my canoe, and saw Jerry and my uncle go
down the bayou toward the village. When they had passed out of sight,
Luke Redman said:

"‘It’s too late to give the money back now, even if you meant to do
it—which I know you didn’t—an’ the best thing for you will be to turn it
over to me.’

"‘Turn it over to you!’ I echoed, amazed at the proposition.

"‘Sartin. I’ll take care on it for you. That’s the only way you can get
out of this trouble.’

"‘Well, I’ll see you in Guinea first,’ I replied. ‘I can take care of it
myself.’

"‘No, you can’t, an’ you shan’t, nuther!’ exclaimed Luke Redman, with as
much authority as though the money had been his own private property.
‘I’ve ketched you in a scrape that’ll send you to State’s prison fur the
best years of your life, an’ if you want me to keep my mouth shet, you
mustn’t put on no flourishes, ’cause I won’t stand it! I’ll take the
money, an’ when things have quieted down a little, me an’ my family’ll
emigrate. We’ll go to Texas, an’ stay thar. We’ll say nothing to nobody
about this yer business, an’ no one need know that you had a hand in it.
If you won’t agree to that, I’ll go straight to the settlement, an’ tell
your uncle that he has got the wrong buck by the horn, an’ that you are
the guilty chap, an’ not Jerry. What do you say to that, my lad?’

"I did not say any thing; for I was so utterly confounded that I could
not speak. Luke Redman must have taken my silence for consent; for he
lifted the valise out of my canoe, and, after stowing it away in the
stern of his skiff, pulled off through the swamp, and I never made an
effort to detain him. I must have sat there for hours, gazing fixedly at
the spot where I had last seen his boat among the trees, hoping and half
believing that the events of the afternoon were a terrible dream, from
which I would awake to find myself as I was before—an honest boy, if not
a good one.

"It was only by a strong effort that I aroused myself. I returned by a
circuitous route to the place where I had left my horse, and throwing
myself into the saddle, rode about until nearly midnight, starting at
every sound, and almost certain that every tree I passed concealed some
one who would spring out and arrest me.

“When I first discovered you and your friends coming down the road, on
your way to the village to visit Jerry, I nearly fell off my horse with
fright. I knew it looked suspicious for me to sneak off into the bushes,
but I could not help it—I could not face you.”

“You showed your guilt as plainly as daylight,” I observed. “There was
not one among our fellows who was not willing to declare that you knew
more about that money than any one else.”

“I can not begin to tell you what a miserable night I passed,” continued
Tom. "My uncle repeatedly declared in my hearing that he knew Jerry to
be the guilty one, but that did not allay my fears in the least. The
real facts of the case might leak out somewhere before morning—there
were a thousand ways in which they might become known—and then what
would he think of me? Above all, what would he _do_?

"I never once closed my eyes in sleep, and early the next morning I set
out for the swamp, to visit my evil genius. He and his boys were the
only friends I had now, and, somehow, I felt easier in their company
than any where else. I believed that I must keep close to them, to
prevent them from telling some one of my secrets.

"I was glad to learn that Luke Redman intended to start for Louisiana
immediately, and was sorry he had not gone hours before. I was angry,
too, when I found that he was going alone, and urged him to take his
whole family and clear out, bag and baggage, and never return; but he
said it would look suspicious if they all went together, and I was
obliged to submit to the arrangements he had made.

"It was Luke Redman’s intention to go down the bayou to the river in his
skiff, and the Swamp Dragoons and I were so anxious to see him off that
we accompanied him on horseback.

"He would have succeeded in making his escape, had it not been for that
accident at Dead Man’s Elbow. Although he had two oars, and was a good
boatman, he allowed himself to be brought within the influence of the
current that ran toward the cavern. His skiff was overturned, and the
only thing that saved him from destruction was the tree that stood on
the edge of the falls.

"When your brother came down, I concealed myself in the bushes, and kept
out of his sight. I saw all that happened there that afternoon, and when
Mark swam over the falls, I jumped on my horse with the others, and did
my best to overtake him; but he gave us the slip somehow, and we went
back and worked for six long hours to get Luke Redman out of that tree,
and to obtain possession of the valise.

"We accomplished both undertakings at last, and fearing that the
settlement had been aroused, and that the river would be closely
guarded, we came back to this place; and while the settlers were
searching all over the country for Luke Redman, he was concealed in this
very house, I visiting him regularly, and keeping him posted in all that
was going on.

"Two days ago, Barney took a skiff down the bayou to the river, and hid
it where his father could find it; and yesterday Luke Redman made
another attempt to leave the state. This time he rode your horse,
trusting to her speed to bring him out of any scrape he might get into.

"He had a lively time dodging the men in the cane-brakes, and finally
you fellows discovered and captured him.

"Barney and I saw you while you were taking him through the swamp, and
we hurried home, got the rest of the fellows, and Pete and his crowd,
and rescued him.

“You see, I knew it would prove a serious thing for me if he were taken
to the settlement. He would be brought before the squire, and, of
course, during his examination he would tell how he came by the money,
which would be a bad thing for me.”

“But, Tom,” said I, “didn’t you know all the while that the part you
have taken in this miserable business would become known sooner or
later?”

“Yes, I did; I couldn’t help knowing it, but I wanted to keep it hidden
as long as I could. I stuck to Luke Redman, and helped him by every
means in my power, until he told me that I was a prisoner, and at that
moment he made an enemy of me. He must look out for his own bacon now. I
know what his plans are, and I’ll ruin them if I can, no matter what
happens to myself. I’ll teach him a thing or two before I am done with
him.”

Tom shook his head threateningly as he said this, and brought his fist
down into the palm of his hand with a report like that of a pistol.



                              CHAPTER XIV.
                              TOM’S PLAN.


“There are one or two other things I should like to have you explain,
Tom,” said I, after a little pause. “Who stole Black Bess?”

“That is another act which you can lay to my charge,” replied my fellow
prisoner. “I knew by the way you fellows looked and acted that day that
it would be well for me to keep as far as possible out of your reach, so
after I landed from the canoe, fearing that you might jump on your
horses and follow me, I slipped around to your camp and stole the mare.
I brought her to this house and left her here, and Luke Redman has been
riding her ever since. He says she is the swiftest thing in the shape of
a horse he ever saw, and he is going to take her to Texas with him.”

“He shan’t do it,” said I. “I’ll follow him wherever he goes, and take
her away from him. She is my own private property, and I’ll not give her
up to any body. Do you know who burned our cotton gin?”

“Yes, Pete is the man. He did it to be revenged on your brother for
setting his dogs on him. By the way, don’t let him put his hands on you
if you can help it. He thinks you are Mark, and if he gets half a
chance, he’ll thrash you within an inch of your life. Among us all we
have kept the settlement in an uproar for the last few weeks, haven’t
we? Barney and I have been at the bottom of almost every thing that has
happened, and I am sorry enough for it now. If any one had told me two
months ago that I should ever come to this, I would not have believed
him. I have made an outlaw of myself. I can’t call any living person my
friend—not even my uncle, for he will never forgive me for what I have
done. If I could live over the last year of my life, I’ll bet you I
would have a very different record to show. My first care would be to
keep out of bad company. That is what has brought me where I am.”

For along time after this neither of us spoke. Tom looked down at the
floor, and I looked at him. He was thinking over his past life, and I
was wondering what the future had in store for him. I had at first been
utterly amazed when I found how low he had fallen, but I was not so now.
Knowing the life he had led for a long time past, it was unreasonable to
expect any thing else. One can not handle coals without getting his
hands black, and the longer the coals are handled the blacker the hands
become.

When Tom first began to associate with the Swamp Dragoons, one year ago,
he would have been greatly alarmed at the bare thought that he would
ever become so depraved as to commit a robbery. This state of things had
not been brought about in a moment—it was the work of months. One mean
act led to a second a little worse, another and another followed, and
now he was an outcast from home, and utterly friendless, for even Luke
Redman and the Swamp Dragoons had deserted him. He was learning by
experience that the way of the transgressor is always hard, and I did
not wonder that the future looked dark to him.

“You can’t imagine how heartily I always despised Duke Hampton,” said
Tom, suddenly. “I hated the very sight of him, and now I would give all
I ever hope to possess if I could be in his place. Every one thinks so
much of him. There is not a man, woman or child in the settlement who
does not put the most implicit faith in his word, or one who would
believe any thing mean of him.”

“And Duke deserves every particle of the confidence that is placed in
him,” said I.

“I know it. He never tries to build himself up by pulling others down,
and he is much too honorable and manly to say any thing behind your back
that he wouldn’t care to say to your face. If you should tell him a
secret, he wouldn’t lisp it to the best friend he has in the world. And
he is honest, too. Whenever you find a boy like that, you find one that
every body likes—except, perhaps, some fool like me whom no one on earth
cares for. Now then, I am going to get away from here. I’ll first make
amends for my misdeeds, as far as lies in my power, and then I’ll go off
where no one knows me and begin again. If there is any good in me, it
must come out. I’ll make a man of myself yet, and, in order to do it,
I’ll follow Duke Hampton’s example as nearly as I can.”

"‘A wrong confessed is half redressed,’ you know," said I. “Why don’t
you go home and tell your uncle just what you have told me? I would, if
I were in your place.”

“Don’t ask me to do that, Joe,” said Tom, decidedly. “I may come back
here one of these days, but I can’t think of staying now. Could I look
any body in the face after what I have done? Could you? But let’s talk
about something else. Our enemies must be asleep by this time, and if we
are going to get away from here, we must be about it.”

“Why, we are not going to make an attempt to escape in broad daylight,
are we?”

“Certainly we are; and the sooner we get to work, the better it will be
for us. Luke Redman intends to start for the river as soon as it grows
dark, and, what is more, he is going to take us with him. If we once
begin that journey, we’ll have no chance to get away, for he will tie us
hard and fast. It’s now or never. Come in here, Joe, and let us take a
look at things.”

In accordance with this request, I crawled through the opening into
Tom’s prison, and found that, in size and appearance, it was like my
own, with this simple difference: There was a window on one side of it,
and I was surprised to see that it was not secured with either bars or a
shutter.

“I don’t call this much of a jail,” said I. “What is there to hinder you
from climbing out of that window whenever you choose? I can’t imagine
why Luke Redman confined you here.”

“He didn’t intend to confine me,” replied Tom. “He only wanted to punish
me for talking back to him. When Barney came up with my dinner, he told
me that the reason his father had put me in this apartment was, that I
might keep a watch over you. If you began rummaging about, and
discovered the opening between the two rooms, I was to grab you and
alarm the house. You see, Luke Redman knew that you and I were not on
the best of terms, and thought I would do all in my power to prevent
your escape. He imagines, too, that I will stay just where he has a mind
to put me, and obey any orders he sees fit to issue; but I will show him
that he has reckoned without his host.”

As Tom ceased speaking, I thrust my head out of the window to take a
survey of the situation.

I found that the house stood in the center of a dense cane-brake, and
that it was built close against the side of a perpendicular bluff. There
was something peculiar in its construction that attracted my attention
at once. It was an ordinary log cabin, containing probably not more than
one room below, but the roof, instead of rising to a peak, sloped back
from the front of the building, the after end of the rafters resting
against the side of the cliff.

I noticed, too, that, although the rafters extended as high as the top
of our prison, they did not cover it; consequently, the rooms could not
have been in the house, but in the bluff. I wondered at this, and looked
toward Tom for an explanation.

“It was a freak of Luke Redman’s,” said he. “It is no uncommon thing for
him to be obliged to conceal himself for a month or two; and in order
that he might have a safe harboring-place, he built this house, which is
situated on an island in a part of the swamp that no one ever visits,
not even hunters. Not satisfied with this, he dug a hole in the hill,
and walled it up with planks to keep it from caving in. It is an
excellent place of concealment, for even if any of his enemies should
find the house, they might ransack it from top to bottom without
discovering these two rooms.”

“But they could see this window,” I suggested.

“Not from the ground,” replied Tom. “This grape-vine covers it
completely. We can see out, but no one can see in.”

I looked out again to complete the examination I had begun, and to
calculate our chances for escape. The first things I noticed were
several horses, my own and mother’s among the number, hitched to trees a
short distance from the house. They were all saddled, and the bridles
were slipped over their heads, showing that although Luke Redman and his
followers fancied themselves perfectly secure in their hidden fortress,
they had not neglected to make preparations for a hasty flight. A little
further on, Pete and his companions, who had brought the horses to the
island by some roundabout way, lay stretched out on their blankets
around a smoldering camp-fire, sleeping soundly after their hard ride of
the previous night. A pack of bloodhounds, probably eighteen or twenty
of them in all, lay curled up in the sun directly in front of the open
door of the cabin, from which there issued a chorus of terrific snores,
telling me that the robber and his young confederates were also
slumbering heavily.

I took in all these things at a glance, and my hopes fell to zero. If it
were dark, we might possibly succeed in making our escape; but how could
we lower ourselves from that window in broad daylight, walk past the
hounds, and go into the house among those sleeping desperadoes—for that
we would certainly be obliged to do if we expected to take the money
with us—and, lastly, secure possession of our horses and make off with
them, without arousing somebody?

“Tom,” said I, “your plan won’t work at all. It is positively foolhardy.
I believe I would rather stay here than run the risk of being torn in
pieces by those hounds.”

“I haven’t yet told you what my plan is,” replied Tom. “Those dogs will
not trouble you. They all know me, and I can go where I please about the
house, and they will not even look at me.”

“But they would follow your trail if they were put on it,” said I.

“Of course they would, and eat me up when they caught me. That’s their
nature. But I do not intend to give them the chance. I don’t ask you to
run any risks. We will lower ourselves out of the window by the
grape-vine, and you can stand at the foot of the bluff while I do the
work. I’ll go into the cabin and pass out the money to you, and also a
couple of guns; for I’ll tell you what’s a fact, Joe,” added Tom, with
emphasis, “if I once get that valise in my hands, I’ll never surrender
it. I’ll send it back to my uncle, where it belongs. When we have
secured the gold and weapons, we will start for our horses. We need not
stop to put the bridles on them, you know; we can ride them without.
Once fairly in the saddle, we can laugh at any thing in the shape of
horseflesh they can bring against us.”

“And at the hounds, too,” said I.

Tom’s enthusiasm must have been contagious, for almost before I knew it,
I found myself entering heartily into the spirit of his plans. They were
desperate, I knew, and the chances for carrying them out were small
indeed; but even that had a charm for me. If we failed, we could not be
in a much worse situation than we were now; and if we succeeded, Black
Bess and the eight thousand dollars were the prizes we would carry away
with us.

“If the dogs follow us, we can shoot them, you know,” I added.

“Certainly we can; and what’s more, we will. Will you stick to me and
never flinch?”

“You may depend upon it.”

Tom seemed satisfied with this assurance, for without saying another
word he crawled into the window, grasped the grape-vine, and quickly
disappeared from my view. While he was lowering himself to the ground, I
kept a good lookout, dividing my attention between the hounds and the
Indians at the camp-fire, and listening for any unusual sounds in the
cabin; but Tom accomplished the descent without disturbing any one, and
I crept out of the window and followed him.

In a few seconds I was standing by his side at the foot of the bluff,
and he was pulling off his boots, preparatory to entering the house.

“I stand in more fear of the Indians than any thing else,” he whispered,
with a hasty glance toward the camp-fire. “Their ears are sharper than a
hound’s, and, asleep or awake, they always keep them open. Have an eye
on them, and if you see one of them move, give one short, quick
whistle.”

I was really amazed at the calmness with which Tom spoke, and the
coolness and deliberation with which he acted. If I had been going into
that cabin among Luke Redman and his boys, I should have felt a good
deal of excitement and uneasiness; and, what is more, I should have
shown it; but my companion did not.

With the exception of a reckless glitter in his eye, and a resolute
scowl on his forehead, he was to all appearances the everyday Tom Mason.
What a pity it was, I thought, that he had not devoted himself to his
books, and spent less time in studying up plans for mischief. Such an
undaunted spirit, such a determination to overcome obstacles, if
exhibited in the line of study, or in any other laudable direction,
would have raised him to a high place among his fellows.

While I was moralizing, Tom nodded his head at me as if bidding me
good-by, and with a step that would not have awakened a cricket, moved
toward the house. One of the hounds must have scented him—he certainly
did not hear him—for he raised his head, gazed at Tom a moment with a
pair of sleepy-looking eyes, and was about to lie down again when he
discovered me.

His brute’s instinct must have told him that there was something wrong,
for he straightened up and uttered an angry growl, which aroused all the
other dogs at once. I thought it was all over with us, and that our
discovery was inevitable; but Tom was equal to the emergency.

“Keep still, you rascals!” he exclaimed, in a savage whisper. “Be off
with you! Clear out!”

The hounds had seen Tom so often that they had probably learned to look
upon him as one of their masters, for when he stooped suddenly as if to
pick up something with which to enforce his commands, they all scrambled
to their feet and slunk away into the cane-brake.



                              CHAPTER XV.
                            DANGEROUS WORK.


Having disposed of the dogs, Tom stepped cautiously into the house, and
I moved up as near the door as I dared, to take the guns as he passed
them out, not forgetting meanwhile to keep my eye on the Indians, as he
had directed.

Once I ventured to look in at the door, and when I saw the sight the
inside of the cabin presented, I wondered that Tom’s heart did not fail
him. There were no beds in the room, and the forms of Luke Redman and
his boys were scattered over the floor in such positions that Tom was
obliged to step over one or two of them in order to reach the guns,
which I saw were stacked in the furthest corner of the cabin, with the
powder-flasks and shot-pouches belonging to them hanging from their
muzzles. Luke, looking like a giant among pigmies, lay stretched out on
his blanket in the middle of the floor, one powerful arm thrown over his
head, and the other passed through the handles of the valise, which he
had hugged close to his side.

This was a most discouraging sight. I thought the money might as well
have been locked up in some iron safe.

Tom, who had not failed to make the best use of his eyes, quickly
discovered that he had something of a task before him, but I could see
that he was not disheartened by it. The frown on his face deepened, and
a determined expression settled about his mouth. He placed his hand on
one of the guns, and then turned to look at Luke, as if thinking up some
plan to secure the valise, when a powder-flask, loosened from its
fastening, fell with a loud noise on the floor.

“What’s that ar?” growled Barney, raising himself on his elbow so
suddenly that I was almost ready to believe that he had been merely
feigning sleep on purpose to be ready to catch Tom.

He rubbed his eyes as he gazed stupidly about the room, and I, knowing
that I could not stir without attracting his attention, remained
perfectly motionless. Tom dropped on the instant, and, with a quickness
that was astonishing, stretched himself at full length on the floor. If
Barney saw him at all, he probably thought he was one of his companions.

The leader of the Dragoons was too sleepy to spend much time or energy
in investigating the cause of the disturbance. He yawned once or twice,
and, reaching out his hand, took a gourd from a nail over his head,
dipped it into a bucket of water that stood close by, and while he was
drinking, I could have vowed that his eyes were fastened squarely on my
face.

I stood just outside the door, in plain sight, and how it happened that
he did not discover me, I can not tell; but it was very evident that he
did not, for when he had satisfied his thirst, he returned the gourd to
its nail, rolled over on his blanket, and, with one arm under his head
for a pillow, speedily went off into the land of dreams again.

For full five minutes my companion in the corner remained so motionless
that he scarcely seemed to breathe. At the end of that time a faint
snore coming from Barney’s direction mingled with the others, and that
must have satisfied Tom that the danger was passed, for in a second he
was on his feet again.

He at once turned his attention to the guns, and to my surprise, instead
of selecting two of the weapons, he began to load himself down with
them. When he had collected all he could carry, he stepped cautiously
over the prostrate forms and came out of the cabin.

“Joe,” he whispered excitedly, as I accompanied him toward the
grape-vine at the foot of the bluff, “I have just thought of something
grand. Those fellows may wake up and pursue us before we can reach a
place of safety; and wouldn’t it be a good plan to take all their guns
away from them?”

“It would, indeed,” I replied; “but you will have to make two or three
trips to bring them.”

“Oh, I can carry them all at one more load, and then I’ll go back for
that money.”

“Tom, you had better give that up,” said I. “You will only put yourself
in danger for nothing, for you can’t get that valise without waking Luke
Redman.”

“Can’t I? Well, I’ll show you that I can. I know just how to do it. Now,
Joe, while I am gone you had better pick out two guns—be sure and get
the best—and hide the others under this grape-vine. They’ll never think
of looking for them there.”

Tom went into the house again, and I hastened to carry out his
suggestions. As the Indians had left their guns in the cabin with the
others, I found my own double-barrel among those Tom had brought out,
and also Sandy’s, of both of which I took possession.

After slinging the powder-flasks and shot-pouches which belonged to them
over my shoulder, I dropped the ramrods into the weapons, and found that
they contained more than five fingers of a load. They were heavily
charged with buckshot, which would be just the thing for knocking over
those fierce bloodhounds, if they were put on our trail.

I then proceeded to conceal the other guns among the leaves and bushes
about the root of the grape-vine; and while thus engaged, it struck me
that it would be a good plan to put it out of the power of our enemies
to use the weapons, even if they found them. This I conceived to be a
bright idea, and I carried it out by emptying the contents of the
shot-bags and powder-flasks upon the ground, those I carried over my
shoulder of course excepted.

By the time this had been done, Tom appeared with another armful of
guns.

“Those fellows are the soundest sleepers I ever saw,” he whispered. “I’d
like to be introduced to the man or boy who could fool about my bed that
way without arousing me, even if I had been in the saddle all night.
Now, put those shooting-irons out of sight somewhere, and watch me get
that valise. Keep the guns you have selected in your hands, and also my
boots, so that we can be ready to start for the horses the instant I
come out.”

Tom moved off again, and I remained behind to hide the guns he had last
brought out. This done I glanced toward the camp-fire, to make sure that
the Indians were still asleep, and then crept to the door of the cabin
and looked in. Tom was kneeling on the floor beside Luke Redman, and
when I caught sight of him, he was in the act of drawing from his pocket
a huge clasp-knife, which he opened with his teeth. He made two quick
passes with the keen blade, and the handles of the valise fell apart.

That much was done, and now came the most difficult part of the whole
operation. Tom had no doubt thought over all the details of his plan;
for after shutting up the knife and putting it into his pocket, he
seized the valise with both hands, and slowly and cautiously raised it
from the floor. The sinewy arm that clasped it slipped easily over its
glossy leathern surface, and presently rested at full length on the
blanket, while Tom lifted his prize above his head in triumph.

Our luck, which had thus far been all that we could have desired, now
began to change. The robber suddenly stirred in his sleep, and probably
from the force of habit, threw out his arm as if to embrace some object.
He expected, no doubt, to feel the weight of the valise, but his arm
passed through the empty air and fell upon the floor again. This aroused
him at once. Opening his eyes and discovering Tom kneeling at his side,
he comprehended the situation in an instant.

“Hallo, here!” he shouted, in his stentorian voice; “drop that ar’
carpet-sack.”

As quick as thought, Tom started to his feet, and made an effort to leap
over the robber; but it so happened that the latter arose to a sitting
posture at the same moment, and this brought his head and Tom’s feet in
violent contact. The result was that one fell heavily back upon his
blanket, while the other flew headlong through the air and out at the
door as if he had been thrown from a catapult. It was plain that Luke
Redman had the worst of it, for he lay motionless where he had fallen,
while Tom, who had clung manfully to the valise, was on his feet again
almost as soon as he touched the ground.

“Now, Joe, we’ve got work before us,” said he, hurriedly. “We can’t get
our horses, and consequently we must trust to our heels.”

While Tom was putting on his boots—I never saw a boy get into a pair in
less time than he did on that occasion—I looked toward the camp-fire and
saw that he was right when he said that we must abandon the idea of
escaping by the aid of our horses. The Indians had been awakened by Luke
Redman’s voice, and were hurrying toward us. In order to reach our nags,
we would be obliged to pass directly through their ranks, and that was
something we were not foolish enough to attempt.

“Give me one of the guns, Joe, and keep close behind me,” said Tom, who
seemed to know just what ought to be done. “Watch the dogs, and don’t
let them come too close.”

The Swamp Dragoons, who had been aroused by this time, were not long in
finding out what was going on. Some of them hurried to the corner where
they had left their guns, while Barney thrust his head out of the door
and shouted for his hounds.

“Hi! hi!” he yelled. “Take ’em, you rascals! Here, Nero! here, Growler!”

Tom and I were not standing idle all this while. The instant he was
fairly into his boots we commenced our flight; but although we made the
very best use of our legs, we did not reach the cane in time to escape
discovery by the hounds. They were quick to respond to the calls of
their master. A hoarse yelp sounded behind us, and looking over my
shoulder, I saw the dogs advancing in a body, Growler and Nero leading
the way.



                              CHAPTER XVI.
                             OUR STRATAGEM.


I have always thought that, next to a hunting-horn, there is no music in
the world equal to that of a pack of staunch hounds in full cry, nor a
prettier sight to be seen than they present while flying over the
ground, almost with the rapidity of thought.

How the deep-toned bays echo and re-echo through the woods, until it
seems as if the bushes were fairly alive with the excited animal! How
easily they bound along, and how your heart swells within you, as you
sit on your good horse, with your trusty double-barrel in your hands,
waiting for the game to break cover!

This is grand and inspiring under certain circumstances; but if you are
the hunted instead of the hunter, and those hounds are on your track,
and you have nothing but a couple of loads of buckshot and your own
lightness of foot to depend upon, the case is very different. There is
not so much music in their baying then, by any means, and you do not see
any thing about them to admire.

I trembled with alarm as I gazed back at the savage brutes. Their long
bounds were rapidly lessening the distance between us, and I saw that it
was high time I was doing something. Raising my gun to my shoulder, I
fired with both barrels in quick succession, and when the smoke cleared
away, I saw that there were four hounds less in that pack.

Growler and Nero, the ones at which I had aimed, were lying on the
ground, stone dead, and two others were badly wounded.

Luke Redman and his boys yelled with rage when they witnessed the effect
of my shots, and shouted after us threats that made my blood run cold.

“Never mind them!” exclaimed Tom, snatching the empty gun and handing me
the other. “Keep it up. Show them that we are in earnest.”

The hounds were thrown into great confusion by the havoc the buckshot
made in their ranks, and I knew that they would not again take up their
trail until urged on by their masters.

I leveled my gun a second time, but now the muzzle was turned toward
Pete and his companions, who were rushing recklessly forward, expecting,
no doubt, to capture us very easily. They stopped when they found
themselves confronted by the double-barrel, and Pete began shouting some
orders in his native tongue to his followers, who turned and ran back to
their horses.

We did not wait to see what they were going to do, for, having by this
time reached the cane-brake, we dashed into it, and quickly left our
enemies out of sight.

Have you ever seen a cane-brake? If you have not, I am afraid I can give
you but a poor idea of one. Imagine, if you can, a tract of country
covered with ordinary fishing-rods, such as you city boys buy in the
variety stores, at a shilling apiece, standing as closely together as
the hair on a dog’s back, and growing to the height of twelve and
fourteen feet.

If you can imagine this, you will know pretty nearly how a cane-brake
looks; but you can not understand what an excellent hiding-place it is.
One might walk by within two feet without discovering you; and more than
that, he could not follow the trail you made in going in, for, as fast
as you pass the cane, it closes up behind you.

The one in which we had taken refuge, did not cover more than a dozen
acres; and yet, had it not been for the hounds, Luke Redman and his
whole gang might have searched for us during the rest of the week, and
they would never have found us.

“Now, Joe,” whispered Tom, as he began to load the gun I had fired at
the hounds, “I have another foolhardy plan to propose. We’ll watch our
chance to get back to the house, and climb up the grape-vine to our
prison again. What do you think of it?”

“I think I won’t do it,” I replied, completely astounded at the
proposition. “We might as well have stayed there in the first place.”

“Oh, no!” replied my companion. “We are much better off now than we were
before, because we’ve got the money, and a couple of guns with which to
defend ourselves if we are crowded to the wall.”

“Well, I am safe out of there now, and I’ll never go back if I can help
it. That’s the most stupid plan I ever heard of.”

“I can convince you in less than a minute that it will be the very best
thing we can do,” said Tom, confidently. “We are not going to stay here
in the cane, to be hunted down like a couple of wolves that have been
robbing a sheep-pen; and if we attempt to leave the island, we shall
give the dogs a fair chance at us. The woods on the other side of the
bayou are open, and there’s no cane to hide in. Listen! Those fellows
have just found out that their guns are gone.”

If that was the case, they must have been very angry over the discovery,
for such an uproar I never heard before. Luke Redman was shouting out
some orders, to which no one seemed to pay the least attention; the
Indians were talking loudly with one another; the uninjured hounds kept
up a furious barking, and the wounded ones joined in the chorus with
continuous yelps and growls.

Although we could not see our enemies, our ears told us just what was
going on.

“Silence!” roared Luke Redman, at length. “If you don’t hush up that
noise—the hull on you—I’ll knock some o’ you down. Barney, kick half a
dozen of them dogs. Jump into your saddles, an’ ride fur the bayou as
fast as your horses can carry you. If they have crossed to the mainland,
it’s all right; we’ll ketch ’em easy. If they haven’t, they are still in
this cane-brake, an’ it won’t take us long to hunt ’em out. If Tommy
thinks he is goin’ to slip off with that ar’ carpet-sack, he’ll be the
wust-fooled boy you ever seed.”

Before Luke had ceased speaking, the sound of horses’ hoofs came to our
ears, telling us that some of his followers were starting out to obey
his commands.

The whole gang rode rapidly down the path by which Tom and I had been
conducted to the house, and which ran through the cane not more than
twenty feet from our hiding-place. In a few minutes more they were
galloping up and down the bayou, searching for our trail.

“We had better be moving now,” said Tom, shouldering his gun, and
picking up the valise. “They’ll soon find out that we have not crossed
the bayou, and then they’ll be back. The house is the safest place for
us.”

Since Tom first proposed this plan I had been thinking it over, and was
now ready to agree to it.

As things stood there was but one way to leave the island, and that was
to cross to the opposite side, and swim the bayou. We might thus succeed
in getting the start of our enemies by half a mile or more; but what
would that amount to while they were on horse-back and we on foot? As
Tom had said, the woods on the main land were open; there was no cane to
hide in, and the dogs could see us a long distance. There were still a
dozen or more of these savage brutes in the pack, and although we might
dispose of half of them by a volley from our double-barrels, the others
would be upon us before we could load again.

If we returned to our prison, we could barricade the doors, and bid
defiance to Luke Redman and his gang. Our friends would certainly reach
the island before dark—we had no fears but that they could follow our
trail, in spite of the robber’s efforts to throw them off the scent, and
we could hold our enemies at bay until they arrived.

I thought that a much better plan than running a race through the woods
with a pack of hounds, and when Tom started for the house, I followed
him.



                             CHAPTER XVII.
                         TAKING THE BACK TRACK.


We reached the edge of the cane-brake in a few minutes, and there we
stopped to reconnoiter.

There was not a man, dog, or even a horse in sight; and having satisfied
ourselves on this point, we sprang out of our concealment, and ran
toward the cabin.

Tom led the way up the grape-vine, carrying the valise in his teeth. I
followed close behind him, with both guns slung over my shoulder, and
presently we found ourselves safe in our prison again.

“I call this a masterly piece of strategy,” panted Tom, drawing his
coat-sleeve across his forehead. “It will take them a long time to find
out where we are, and delay will serve us as well as any thing else. All
we want is to keep out of their clutches until the settlers arrive.”

The first business in hand was to fasten the doors, which was easily
done. There happened to be several short pieces of plank in Tom’s
prison, and from these we selected two which answered our purpose
admirably. By putting one end under the locks and bracing the other end
against the floor, we secured both doors so effectually that, as long as
the locks remained in their places, no power that could be applied on
the outside could force them open.

There was but one way in which our enemies could effect an entrance, and
that was by cutting down the doors; but we did not think they would be
reckless enough to attempt that in the face of our double-barrels.

After we had fastened the doors, Tom sat down on the floor to rest after
his exertions, and I stood at the window, awaiting the return of Luke
Redman and his friends.

The sound of voices, which came faintly to my ears, told me that they
were still searching for our trail along the bank of the bayou, and
during the next ten minutes they passed all around the island.

By that time they must have been satisfied that we were still in the
cane-brake, for they came back to the house in a body, the dogs leading
the way.

Luke Redman, whose face was white with rage and excitement, rode
directly to the door of the cabin and dismounted to put the hounds on
our trail.

“Hunt ’em up!” he shouted, running his hand along the ground and waving
it in the direction of our supposed hiding-place. “Hunt ’em up! Be off
with you!”

The dogs were willing enough to follow our trail, now that they were
encouraged by the voice and presence of their masters. They quickly took
up the scent, and ran yelping toward the cane-brake, with the horsemen
close at their heels.

For a few moments their music grew fainter and fainter, and then began
to increase in volume. Presently they reappeared, still followed by the
horsemen, and ran straight to the foot of the grape-vine.

I began to tremble now, but Tom was as cool as a cucumber.

“Wal, I never did see sich fools of dogs in all my born days,” exclaimed
Barney, as the hounds looked up at the window, and began barking
furiously. “They’ve follered the back track.”

“That’s jest what they’ve done,” said Luke Redman, in great disgust. “If
I had my gun in my hands, I would shoot the last blessed one on ’em. Any
body with half sense could tell that them boys wouldn’t come back here
an’ go up into them rooms arter they were onct safe out of ’em. Call ’em
away, an’ put ’em on the trail ag’in.”

This was easier said than done. The hounds understood their business
much better than Barney, and they positively refused to yield obedience
to his commands.

They knew they had treed their game, and, if they were capable of
thinking at all, were doubtless wondering why their master did not make
an effort to secure it. Even Luke Redman’s voice had no effect upon
them; and, becoming highly enraged at last, he threw himself from his
horse, and falling upon them with his rawhide, sent them yelping right
and left.

“Thar, dog-gone you!” he shouted, “cl’ar yourselves! I’ll never trust
none on you ag’in. Barney,” he added, suddenly, a bright idea striking
him, “s’pose you an’ Jake run up stairs an’ look into them rooms. ’Twont
do no harm, although I know the boys hain’t thar.”

Barney and his brother disappeared in the house, and presently we heard
them coming up the stairs. They went to the door of my prison first, and
were plainly very much surprised when it refused to open for them. They
turned the key several times, to make sure that they had unlocked it,
and pushed with all their might, but with no better success than before.
Then they tried the other door, but found it equally well secured.

They kept up a chorus of questions and ejaculations all the while, and
Tom and I stood leaning on our guns, smiling complacently at one
another, and wondering how the matter would end.

The two Dragoons must have become suspicious at last, for they sunk
their voices to a whisper, and after holding a short consultation,
Barney cried out, in an excited tone: “Pap! I say, pap! Dog-gone my
buttons, here they be!”

Our faces lengthened out very suddenly when we heard this.

Things began to get exciting now. Barney’s announcement must have
occasioned great surprise among the outlaw crew below.

The loud conversation they had kept up ceased instantly, and after a
moment’s pause, Luke Redman said:

“I reckon you’re barkin’ up the wrong tree, Barney.”

“Not if I know myself, I hain’t,” answered the leader of the Swamp
Dragoons. “Something’s the matter with these yere doors, ’cause they
won’t open.”

Luke Redman, greatly astonished at this piece of news, rushed into the
house and came up the stairs half a dozen steps at a time. He seized the
key, turned it in the lock, and threw all his ponderous weight against
the door, but it did not give an inch. The other was equally obstinate;
and after a few ineffectual attempts to force an entrance, the robber
stooped down and looked through the key-hole. He did not see any thing,
however, for Tom and I were wise enough to keep out of sight.

“Thar ain’t nobody in thar,” said he, “but I reckon I know how the
matter stands. They fastened the door afore they left. Barney, you go
down an’ climb up that grape-vine, an’ look in an’ see if they didn’t.”

“Wal, now, jest hold your breath till I go, will you?” replied Barney.
“When you see me foolin’ with them two fellers, you’ll see a weasel
asleep. They’ve got guns. I hain’t a-goin’ to stir a step.”

“You’re a coward!” exclaimed his father, angrily. “If the grape-vine
would b’ar my weight, I would go myself; but it won’t. Jake, are you a
coward, too?”

“No, I hain’t,” replied that worthy. “I’ll go, ’cause I know they ain’t
thar.”

Luke Redman and his boys descended the stairs, and, looking out of the
window again, we saw Jake pull off his coat and begin the ascent of the
grape-vine.

“What is to be done now?” I asked, with some uneasiness. “It won’t be
safe to allow him to come up here.”

“Oh, yes, let him come on,” replied Tom. “We’ll go into the other room,
and if he comes in there, we’ll see that he don’t get out again in a
hurry. You know we are working for time now, and it makes little
difference what we do.”

Tom, as usual, carried his point. We watched Jake until he had ascended
almost within reach of us, and then retreating into my prison, crouched
one on each side of the opening, and waited for him to make his
appearance.

We heard the grape-vine rustling against the side of the cliff, and
presently Jake’s head and shoulders darkened the window.

He panted loudly with the violence of his exertions, and after a little
delay, during which he was doubtless looking all about the room, he sang
out: “Wal, consarn it all!”

“What’s to do?” asked Luke Redman from below.

“Why, they’ve got a plank fast agin’ the door, an’ that’s why we
couldn’t open it,” answered Jake. “But thar ain’t nobody here.”

“Go through into the other room,” said his father.

This command was followed by a long pause on Jake’s part, during which
he was probably trying to make up his mind whether or not it would be
quite safe for him to push his investigations any further, and then we
heard him climb slowly down from the window and walk across the creaking
floor. He stopped every few feet, and was so long in coming that we
began to believe he had concluded to turn back; but presently he placed
his hands against the partition and thrust his head slowly and
cautiously, inch by inch, into the opening.

It was much darker in this room than in the other, and for a moment his
eyes were of but little use to him; but they gradually became accustomed
to the gloom, and Jake, whose face was turned away from me and toward
Tom, began to think he saw something.

“What’s this yere?” he muttered, thrusting out his hand to examine the
object which had attracted his attention, and which was nothing more nor
less than Tom Mason’s head. “Looks like somebody!”

He was not long in finding out that it was somebody; for Tom seized his
wrists in a vise-like grasp, and at the same instant I caught him by the
collar.

“Human natur’!” yelled Jake, terrified almost beyond measure by the
suddenness of our assault. “Help! help! Here they be, pap! Turn loose,
consarn it all!”

Did you ever try to hold an eel? I have, and know that it is an
exceedingly difficult thing to do, but not more difficult than to hold
Jake Redman. Whether he was stronger than both of us, or fear lent him
additional power of muscle, I do not know, but, at any rate, in less
time than it takes to tell it, he slipped out of Tom’s hold, tore away
from me, leaving a portion of his collar in my grasp, and with two jumps
reached the window.

We dived through the openings, one after the other, and followed him
with all possible speed, but he was much too nimble for us.

He threw himself from the window, and must have dropped to the ground,
for when we looked out he was standing among his companions, holding
both hands to his head, which he had bumped pretty severely during his
descent, and looking up at the window as if he could not quite
understand what had happened. His pale face showed that he had sustained
something of a fright.

“What’s the matter of you?” demanded Luke Redman, as soon as he had
recovered from his astonishment. “Seed a ghost?”

“No; but I’ve seed them fellers. They’re up thar, as sure as you’re a
foot high.”

“I don’t b’lieve it,” cried Barney.

“No odds to me whether you do or not,” replied Jake. “I know it’s so,
’cause I seed ’em and felt ’em grab me. Pap, if you’ll take an ax an’
chop down one of them doors, you’ll find ’em an’ your money, too.”

Luke Redman thought this a suggestion worth acting upon. He disappeared
in the house, followed by the boys, who could scarcely find words with
which to express their amazement. They understood now why their hounds
had followed the back track, and wondered at the stupidity we had
exhibited in returning to our prison after once escaping from it.

This much we gathered from their conversation, every word of which we
heard distinctly.

Do you believe you can tell by the way a man walks whether or not he is
angry? I have thought I could; and any one who had heard Luke Redman
coming up those stairs would have known that he was almost boiling over
with fury.

He came thundering along as though he were shod with iron. Arriving at
our door, he pounded upon it with some heavy implement—the ax,
probably—and called out:

“Hay, Tommy, and you, Mark, open this door to onct. Hear me, don’t you?”

Of course we heard him—we could have distinctly heard every word he
uttered if we had been standing on the other side of the island—but it
was no part of our plan to reply to him. Our object was to delay his
operations by every means in our power.

“You needn’t try to pull the wool over my eyes by keepin’ so still,” he
continued, in a very savage tone, “’cause I know you are thar, an’ I
jest ain’t a-goin’ to stand no foolin’. This is the last time I shall
speak to you. If you don’t open this door, I’ll cut it down, snake you
both out by the neck, an’ give you the wust whoppin’ you ever heern tell
on. Hear me, don’t you?”

Still no response.

Tom stood with his hands clasped over the muzzle of his gun and his eyes
fixed upon the plank which secured the door, while I was watching the
hinges, and waiting to see them driven from their fastenings by blows
from the ax.

For fully a minute the robber crew stood listening for an answer. At the
end of that time Luke Redman’s patience was all exhausted, and, without
more ado, he lifted the ax, and the door began to shake and bend under
the heavy blows that were showered upon it.

It was time to speak now, and Tom was wide awake.

“Hold on out there!” he shouted.

“Ah ha!” exclaimed Luke, “you’ve found your tongue at last, have you?
You heern what I said, I reckon. What do you think about it?”

“I don’t think any thing,” replied Tom, coolly, “but I know something.
If you strike that door again with that ax, I’ll send a charge of
buckshot among you. What do you think of _that_?”

These words were spoken in a most determined tone, and we knew by the
sudden silence which followed them that they had not been without their
effect upon the outlaw and his gang.

Tom held himself in readiness to carry out his threat, and I am sure he
would have done it, had it been necessary; but fortunately it was not.
Luke Redman stood as much in fear of buckshot as we did of his hounds.
He said a few words in a whisper to his boys, and then walked slowly
down the stairs and out of the house, where he stood foaming with rage,
and swinging his ax about in a way that made all his companions keep at
a respectful distance.

Tom thrust his gun out of the window, and pushed the branches of the
grape-vine aside, so that Luke could see him.

“I wish I had my shootin’-iron in my hands,” said Luke Redman, glaring
up at us with a most fiendish expression of countenance. “I’d put a load
into you as soon as I’d look at you.”

“Oh, you’re joking!” replied Tom.

“Come down from thar!” shouted the man, shaking his ax at us, “If I get
my hands on you, I’ll—I’ll—”

He finished the sentence with an oath.

“If angry, count fifty before you speak; if very angry, count a
hundred,” said my companion, in a tone of voice that must have
aggravated Luke to the very last degree. “That’s good advice, and I
suggest that you act upon it; but whatever you do, skip those hard
words. Don’t swear. Take breath, and begin again. Didn’t I tell you that
I would be even with you for the little tricks you have played upon me?
You see I have the money,” he added, holding the valise up to the view
of the outlaw crew. “It has been in your possession for the last time. I
am going to send it back to my uncle.”

“I’ll bet a hoss you don’t!” retorted Luke, his face brightening as if
he had discovered a way out of the difficulty. “I’ll give you jest one
more chance. If you will give up the money, you can go off about your
business, an’ nobody shan’t trouble you; if you won’t do that, I’ll
fetch you down from thar in a way you don’t think of. Let’s hear from
you.”

“Now, friend Redman, do you see any thing so very green in our eyes?”
asked Tom, in reply. “You surely do not imagine that we will put
ourselves in your clutches again, do you? We are a trifle too sharp for
that. If it’s all the same to you, we’ll stay here.”

“Wal, you shan’t stay thar, nuther,” roared Luke. “Do you know how I’ll
get you outen thar? I’ll burn you out, that’s what I’ll do. It won’t be
no trouble in the world to set fire to this cabin. The wind blows your
way, an’ it’ll soon get so hot up thar that you’ll be glad to come out.
What do you say now?”



                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                       AN UNEXPECTED DELIVERANCE.


“Yes, sir,” said Luke Redman, who seemed to grow more and more elated
the longer he thought of his new idea, “that’s the way I’ll bring you
down from thar. Now, will you give up the money? I promise that you can
go whar you please, an’ nobody shan’t bother you.”

“What’s the promise of a man like you worth?” I inquired. “I wouldn’t
trust you as far as I could throw a church-house.”

“Take your time, an’ think it over,” said Luke; “but b’ar one thing in
mind while you are about it, an’ that is, that I mean all I say.”

There was no doubt about that. Luke Redman was a desperate character,
and money would tempt him to any deed of atrocity.

We stepped back from the window and looked at one another in blank
amazement. I knew my face was pale, for the blood went rushing back upon
my heart, and set it to beating like a trip-hammer. Tom was as white as
a sheet, and that added to my terror. He had shown himself to be
possessed of a remarkable degree of courage, and I knew that when he
became frightened, there was good reason for it.

We were in a terrible predicament. If we remained in our prison, we
would certainly lose our lives, and if we surrendered ourselves into the
hands of our enemies, we would fare but little better, for they were
almost beside themselves with fury, and we could expect nothing but the
severest treatment. Seventy blows with a rawhide would be a light
punishment, compared with the vengeance they would wreak upon us.

“Well, Tom,” said I, “this is the end of your plan.”

“It looks like it,” he answered, “and of us too. We have our choice
between burning up and allowing ourselves to be pounded to death. This
is infinitely worse than running a race with the hounds. Which horn of
the dilemma shall we take, Joe?”

“Let’s stay where we are, and trust to luck,” I replied, desperately.
“Something may turn up in our favor. The logs in the house may prove too
green to burn, or the settlers may arrive before the fire gets fairly
started.”

“That’s a fact. We’ll risk it, anyhow.”

“Hear me up thar, don’t you?” shouted Luke Redman, who had grown tired
of waiting for an answer to his question. “What are you goin’ to do
about it?”

“Bring on your kindling-wood,” was Tom’s reply. “We’ll stay here.”

“Wal!” shouted Luke, who seemed utterly confounded at the decision we
had made. “Do you want to stay thar an’ be burned up?”

“Go and find the shavings, Barney,” shouted Tom. “Hunt up the matches,
Jake. Set the old thing a-going, and let’s have a bonfire. Hurrah for
the Fourth of July! You’ll find us the pluckiest cubs you ever tried to
smoke out.”

“I’ll see how much pluck you have got,” retorted Luke, “an’ if I don’t
make you sick of your bargain afore you are many minutes older, I’m a
Dutchman! I’ll bet you’ll be glad enough to come out o’ thar.”

Luke had no doubt imagined that we could be easily frightened into
compliance with his wishes, and, as a sailor would say, he was “taken
all aback” by our answer.

It was some time before he recovered himself; but rage got the better of
his astonishment at last, and, without saying a word, he beckoned to his
boys, and went into the house.

They were gone about ten minutes, and when they came out again, they
carried their blankets and a few other articles of value under their
arms, and the expression on their faces told us what they had done.

“The kindlin’ wood is found, an’ so be the matches,” said Luke Redman,
with a fiendish grin. “The bonfire will be goin’ directly, ’cause them
logs is dry, an’ will burn like tinder. Better come out o’ thar.”

Tom and I looked down at the cabin, and saw a thin wreath of smoke come
curling out. It increased in volume every moment, and was finally
followed by a sheet of flame. Then we heard a great roaring and
crackling below us, and the planks in the door began to feel hot to the
touch. The house was really on fire.

“You see that I am not foolin’ with you, I reckon,” said Luke. “You may
know that I am bound to have that money, if I am willing to burn my
house to get it. Do you guess you’ll have pluck enough to stand it?”

“Do you guess you have pluck enough to stand before the buckshot in
these guns?” asked Tom. “We have seen enough of you, and you had better
dig out. We’ll give you just a minute to clear the ground, and if
there’s one of you in sight at the end of that time, he’ll get hurt.
Hear me, don’t you?”

Tom cocked his gun as he said this, and rested the weapon on the
window-sill, the muzzle pointed down at Luke Redman’s breast.

That worthy stepped out of range very quickly, and gazed after his boys,
who, taking Tom at his word, whistled to the dogs, and made the best of
their way into the cane.

“You had better go, too, Luke,” said my companion. “Time’s almost up.”

He turned the muzzle toward the outlaw again, and the latter, beginning
to see very plainly he was in a dangerous neighborhood, followed after
the boys, and quickly disappeared from our view.

“I had an object in sending them away,” exclaimed Tom. “Don’t you see
that the smoke from the fire is settling toward the ground? When it gets
thick enough to conceal our movements, we’ll drop down from this window,
and take to our heels. I know it is a desperate plan, but we are not
going to stay here and be roasted.”

During all this time the fire had been gathering rapid headway, and now
great sheets of flame began to shoot toward the sky, and dense volumes
of smoke rolled past the window. It gradually filled our prison, too,
and before many minutes passed, we could see the flames shining through
the cracks in the door.

And this was not the worst of it. Luke Redman and his boys must have
suspected the plan we had determined upon, for as soon as the smoke
concealed the window, they came out of their hiding-places, and the
sound of their voices told us that they had stationed themselves at the
foot of the cliff, to cut off our escape.

Our situation was becoming really alarming. The smoke filled our prison
until we could scarcely breathe; the air was hot and almost stifling;
the perspiration rolled down our faces in streams; and thin tongues of
flame began to appear under the door.

It required the exercise of all the courage I possessed to stand there
inactive, but my companion had shown so much generalship that I knew it
was best to be governed by his movements.

At last even he could endure it no longer, for when the roof of the
cabin fell in with a crash, and the sparks arose in thick clouds, and
the door of our prison, which had been smoking for the last five
minutes, suddenly burst into a mass of flame, Tom began to bestir
himself.

“Our last hope is gone,” said he. “Here it is almost dark, and the
settlers have not yet arrived. We can’t stay here any longer,” he added,
as a portion of the door fell down, giving us a view of the roaring mass
of flames below. “Climb out of the window, Joe, and the instant you
touch the ground, run for your life. We can do no good now by sticking
together, and each one must look out for himself.”

At this moment a noise at the opposite end of the room attracted my
attention—a grating noise, as if a board was being pushed along the
wall. We both heard it, and our first thought was that Luke Redman was
attempting a flank movement on us through some entrance to our prison,
the existence of which we had never suspected. We knew that there was
some one near us, but the smoke was so thick we could not see who it
was.

“Keep perfectly quiet,” said Tom, in a suppressed whisper. “There’s a
chance for us yet. The minute he gets in here, we’ll make a rush for
that secret passage-way.”

“Merciful heavens!” exclaimed a familiar voice, in low and cautious
tones, as if fearful of being overheard, “he is not here.”

I stood like a boy petrified. It was certainly my brother who spoke; but
it seemed so impossible that he should be there, and that he should
enter our place of retreat in that unexpected manner, that for a moment
I was unwilling to believe the evidence of my ears.

“We’re too late,” said the voice. “What in the world is to be done now?”

“Mark!” I cried, so overjoyed that I could scarcely speak plainly.

There was no response in words; but I heard a step on the floor, and
some one came bounding through the smoke and clasped me in an
affectionate embrace.

It was really my brother Mark; and in order that you may understand by
what means he effected an entrance into our prison, and how he happened
to arrive just in time to be of service to us, I must interrupt the
thread of my story for a few minutes.

I have told you that after the battle at the camp on Black Bayou our
fellows frustrated the attempts of Luke Redman and his gang to capture
them, by throwing themselves on their horses. They had suffered severely
at the hands of the attacking party, for they had been resolved to
prevent the rescue of the outlaw, and to save the eight thousand
dollars, if within the bounds of possibility. As long as they saw the
least chance for success, they did not think of retreat. They stood
their ground bravely, fighting with reckless determination, and it was
only when they saw that the Swamp Dragoons were assisted by Pete and his
followers, that they lost heart and saved themselves by flight.

Sandy and Mark had been most unmercifully pummeled by the heavy switches
with which every one of the attacking party was armed, especially the
former. He held fast to Luke until the last moment, and even succeeded
in placing him upon a horse, but was obliged to abandon him at last in
order to save himself.

That they were not all captured was probably owing to the fact that my
brother carried his double-barrel in his hands. The sight of the weapon
restrained the ardor of the robber crew, who, after they had rescued
Luke Redman, allowed Mark and his companions to mount their horses and
ride off without making any very determined effort to seize them.

When our fellows had placed a safe distance between themselves and the
enemy, the foremost ones waited for those behind to come up, and then
they found for the first time that I was missing. That occasioned them
but little uneasiness, however; for, knowing that I had been standing
guard at the time the attack was made, they supposed that I had been
allowed an opportunity to escape, and that I had improved it. I would
certainly turn up all right before morning, and there was no need that
they should stop to look for me.

Their first hard work must be to alarm the settlers, and the sooner this
was done the more certainty there was of capturing Luke and recovering
the eight thousand dollars.

They kept their horses in a rapid gallop, and the five miles that lay
between them and the settlement were quickly accomplished. When they
reached the end of the lane that led from the swamp, Sandy turned toward
his own home, Duke and Herbert kept on to theirs, and Mark, leaping his
horse over the bars, dismounted at the porch and rushed into the house
to arouse father.

During the next hour and a half the country for two or three miles
around was in great commotion. Mounted messengers galloped in all
directions, stopping at every house to alarm the inmates, hunting horns
sounded, guns were fired, all the hounds in the settlement kept up
continuous baying, and now and then squads of armed men dashed along the
road and turned down the lane that led to the swamp.

Mark, who had thrown himself upon the kitchen floor in front of a
blazing fire, snored through it all, and about daylight awoke to find
that father had gone off with the rest of the settlers, without thinking
to awaken him.

“Now, this is a nice way to treat a fellow, isn’t it?” growled Mark,
greatly disappointed. “They will find and capture those villains, and
I’ll never have a hand in it at all. I think some one might have called
me.”

“Here is a warm breakfast waiting for you, and you will find a fresh
horse, saddled and bridled, standing at the door,” said mother. “There
are three inches of snow on the ground, and you will have no difficulty
in following the settlers’ trail.”

Mark, somewhat mollified by this, walked out on the porch to take a look
at the horse that had been provided for him.

As he came out the door, he discovered some one standing near the bars;
but the instant he caught sight of him, he sprang behind a thicket of
bushes as if anxious to escape observation.

Mark’s suspicions were aroused in an instant. He jumped off the porch,
and running around the bushes, found himself standing face to face with
Jim, the young wrestler.



                              CHAPTER XIX.
                           “MARK TWO TIMES.”


“Hello, Jim,” exclaimed Mark, “you are just the chap I have been looking
for! Now I will show you what a white boy can do in the way of giving a
rascally Indian a good beating.”

Expecting to meet with a most stubborn resistance, Mark’s attack was
furious and determined, indeed; but to his great surprise, the young
savage raised his arms above his head, and suffered himself to be thrown
to the ground without even a show of opposition.

“No hurt! no hurt, white boy!” he exclaimed, excitedly. “Me no Jim—me
Mark; me Mark Two Times.”

Mark, who grew more and more astonished, and who was above striking an
unresisting foe, released his hold on the Indian’s throat, and the
latter began a long speech, talking very rapidly and sometimes in his
eagerness forgetting the little English he knew, and jabbering away in
his native tongue.

But Mark understood the most of what he said, and after listening to him
a short time, he helped him to his feet, brushed off the mud that
adhered to his hunting shirt, and drawing the Indian’s arm through his
own, led him toward the house, talking to him all the while in the most
friendly manner.

What had brought about this sudden change in Mark’s feelings toward the
young savage? I will explain it in my own way, without inflicting Jim’s
broken English upon you.

I do not know that the custom exists among other Indians, but the
Choctaws had a habit of naming themselves. If they met a white man whom
they greatly liked, they adopted his name, discarding the one by which
they had formerly been known. This was a sure sign of friendship, and
the man thus honored could trust his namesake to any extent.

Jim admired the courage Mark exhibited on the day he stood his ground
against Pete and his friends, and out of compliment to him, he had
dropped his own name and assumed the title of “Mark the Second,” or, as
he expressed it, “Mark Two Times.”

Of course, Mark was highly flattered by this show of respect, but
believing, with a good many others in the settlement, that there was
nothing good in an Indian, he did not know how much dependence to place
upon his new ally.

“You’re a grand rascal, Jim,” he began.

“Me no Jim; me Mark Two Times,” insisted the wrestler.

“Well then, Mark Two Times, I am afraid you are a slippery customer. If
you are really a friend to our fellows, as you profess to be, how does
it come that you assisted Luke Redman and his band during the fight at
the camp? Explain that, if you can.”

The Indian could and did. He accounted for that act of seeming
unfriendliness by saying that he had joined the attacking party for no
other purpose than to learn their plans, and that as long as he remained
in their company he was obliged to act with them, in order to avoid
exciting their suspicions. While the Swamp Dragoons and their allies
were taking up their positions preparatory to making the assault, he had
watched and waited in vain for an opportunity to slip away from them,
and warn us of our danger.

He then went on to say that after the fight Luke Redman had given him
two letters—one to be left on General Mason’s doorstep, and the other on
our own. He had delivered the first, but he had given it into the
general’s own hands, and told him just where to go to find the robbers.

After that, he had come to our house and waited for an opportunity to
speak to Mark; and the reason he had dodged behind the bushes was
because his courage failed him at the last moment, and he feared that he
might meet with a warmer reception than he had bargained for.

He wound up his story by telling Mark that I was a prisoner, and that if
he would trust to his guidance, he would lead him by a short route to my
place of confinement.

“Of course I will go with you,” said Mark, highly excited over this last
piece of news; “but bear one thing in mind, and that is, if you attempt
to come any of your Indian tricks over me, it will be worse for you.”

While Mark was conversing with the young savage, mother had twice
appeared at the door and called him to breakfast—a summons that he could
not now think of answering.

In the first place, he did not want to waste an instant of time, and
another thing, he was afraid mother might ask him if Jim had brought any
news concerning me; and as he did not care to alarm her by revealing the
real facts of the case, he thought it best to keep out of her sight.

He crept carefully to the porch, unhitched his horse, and succeeded in
leading the animal out of the yard without attracting the attention of
any one in the house.

The young Indian was already in the saddle, and as soon as Mark came
out, he led the way at a rapid gallop toward the swamp.

They passed the camp which had been the scene of the conflict, crossed
the bayou at the ford about a mile above Dead Man’s Elbow, and at three
o’clock in the afternoon drew rein within sight of the cane-brake in
which Luke Redman’s hiding-place was situated, without having once been
out of the saddle, or even stopping to rest.

During all this time Mark had kept a bright lookout for the settlers,
but had not seen one of them.

“Now, white boy,” said the Indian, after carefully reconnoitering the
ground before him, “no time for foolin’. Do just like me.”

Mark followed his guide’s instructions to the very letter. He dismounted
when the Indian did, and after hitching his horse, followed close at his
heels as he wormed his way through the cane, stepping exactly in his
tracks, and imitating as nearly as possible his cautious, stealthy
movements.

Presently they came to a halt on the bank of the bayou. The Indian
looked up and down the stream several times, carefully scrutinizing
every thicket within the range of his vision, to make sure that there
was no one in sight, and then stepped into the water and struck out for
the island, still closely followed by Mark, who held his gun and
powder-flask above his head with one hand and swam with the other. When
they reached the bank they plunged into the cane again, and in a few
minutes more were crouching in a thicket of bushes at the foot of the
bluff against which Luke Redman’s house was built.

“Now, white boy,” said Jim, “you stay here, and me go and look.”

The Indian glided out of sight as he spoke, and for the next half-hour
Mark sat there in the bushes with his back against a tree and his
double-barrel resting across his knees, awaiting his return.

As he had never been on the island before, he knew nothing of Luke
Redman’s stronghold; but he did know that the outlaw and his gang were
not a great way off, for he could hear the sound of their voices.

The angry tones which reached his ears told him that a heated discussion
was going on—it was about this time that Luke Redman announced his
determination to burn us out if we did not give up the money—and Mark
listened intently, hoping to obtain some clew that would guide him in
his search for me.

Where was I? What sort of a situation was I in? and what could he do to
help me? were the questions he was constantly asking himself, and which
were answered in a way he had not dreamed of.

At length there was a lull in the conversation, which continued about
fifteen minutes, and then Mark saw dense volumes of smoke rising above
the cane. At the same moment he heard voices and a crashing in the
bushes close by, and, looking in the direction from which the sound
proceeded, he discovered Barney and his brother Jake coming up the bank
of the bayou. They seemed to be very much interested in the conversation
they were carrying on, and little dreaming that there was an enemy so
near them, they walked straight to the foot of the bluff, and stopped in
front of a cluster of bushes not more than ten feet from Mark’s
hiding-place.

“Here we are,” said Barney, pushing aside the bushes and disclosing to
view a dark opening which seemed to lead up into the cliff. “Now you
stay here an’ watch, an’ if they come out, holler.”

“What trick do you reckon them fellers is up to, anyhow?” asked Jake.
“They ain’t a-goin’ to stay in them rooms and be burned up, be they?”

“In course not. They’ll be glad to come outen that winder when the fire
gets too hot fur ’em, an’ then we’ll grab ’em.”

“Mebbe they know the way out by this hole,” said Jake, doubtfully. “I
reckon you’d best stay, too, Barney.”

“One’s enough to watch here,” replied the leader of the Swamp Dragoons.
“The rest of us will have to stand by that winder, ’cause they’ve got
guns, you know. You needn’t be afeard, for they won’t come nigh you.”

Barney walked off, leaving his brother to watch the opening, while Mark
crouched lower in his concealment, and thought over the conversation to
which he had just listened.

He had heard enough to suggest to him a plan of action. He knew that I
was in a house, that there was some one with me, that Luke Redman was
going to drive us out by fire, and that there were two ways of escape
for us—one by the window, which was guarded by all the robber gang, and
the other by this secret passage-way, over which Jake alone stood
sentry.

Mark inferred, from what Barney said, that I and my companion were
ignorant of the existence of this last avenue of escape; but he knew of
it, and couldn’t he put his knowledge to some use? Could he not secure
Jake, or knock him over, and go into the passage-way and release us?

The idea was no sooner conceived than he proceeded to put it into
practice. He arose slowly and cautiously to his feet, hoping to creep
upon Jake unobserved; but a twig which snapped under his feet betrayed
him.

The sentry turned on the instant, only to find himself covered by Mark’s
double-barrel, which was aimed straight at his heart.

“Consarn it all, don’t!” cried Jake, turning as pale as death, and
trembling in every limb. “Turn that we’pon t’other way, can’t you?”

“Silence!” commanded Mark. “If you speak above your breath again, you
are a gone Dragoon.”

Just at this moment, when Mark was about to lay down his gun to secure
his prisoner, help arrived.

A lithe, active figure, clad in buckskin, glided through the cane as
easily and noiselessly as a serpent, and before the sentry knew that
there was an enemy in his rear, the strong arms of “Mark Two Times” were
clasped about him, and he was thrown to the ground.

It was an operation of no difficulty to bind him, for Jake, fearing the
double-barrel, submitted without a word of remonstrance.

As soon as the prisoner was secured, the young Indian turned to Mark in
great excitement. He had heard strange things and seen strange sights
while he was skulking about the house.

He had seen Tom and me looking out of our prison and heard Luke Redman
tell us that if we did not come down he would burn the house. He had
seen him carry his threat into execution, and he knew that unless
something turned up in our favor very speedily, our chances for life
were small indeed.

It took him a long time to tell this, for, as was always the case with
him when he became excited, he forgot his English and rattled away in
Indian.

“I understand what you mean,” interrupted Mark. “I know that my brother
is in great danger, and I think, too, that I know where to look for him.
Jake, how long is this passage-way, and where does it lead to?”

“Now hold your grip till I tell you, won’t you?” growled Jake.

“You will tell me now—this very instant,” said Mark.

“Don’t!” exclaimed the frightened Dragoon, seeing that the double-barrel
was once more pointed his way. “It’s about twenty yards long, an’ leads
to the rooms whar them fellers is. Turn that shootin’-iron t’other way,
can’t you?”

Mark did not stop to ask any more questions, because he believed he had
heard all that it was necessary for him to know; and, besides, the light
that now began to shine through the cane warned him that the fire was
gaining headway, and that there was no time to be lost.

At a sign from him, the young Indian seized Jake by the shoulders while
Mark raised his feet, and between them he was carried into the
passage-way, where he was laid upon the floor, and left with the
assurance that his safety depended upon his observing the strictest
silence.

The passage-way was about three feet wide, and quite high enough to
allow Mark and his companion to stand upright.

Luke Redman had doubtless built it in order that he might have a way of
escape in case his hiding-place was discovered and surrounded by the
settlers.

It was as dark as midnight, but perfectly straight, and as there were no
others branching off from it, there was no danger that Mark would lose
his way.

He hurried along with all possible speed, keeping his hands stretched
out before him, and presently they came in contact with some
obstruction, which blocked up the whole end of the passage-way.

Mark ran his fingers over it, and found that it was a wide oak plank,
with a strap nailed to it. This he seized with both hands, and, after
pulling it about in various ways, succeeded in forcing back the plank,
disclosing to view the interior of our prison.

He was astonished and alarmed at the reception he met with. A thick
cloud of smoke, through which the flames were shining brightly, rushed
into his face, almost suffocating him and driving him back from the
door.

He thought the room was on fire, and when he heard my voice, he bounded
through the smoke, expecting to find me badly burned and almost
smothered.

“Can you walk, Joe?” he asked, speaking with the greatest difficulty.
“If you can, follow me. You here, Tom Mason?”

Mark’s clinched hand was drawn back, and in a moment more Tom would have
measured his length on the floor, had I not interposed.

“No violence,” said I. “Tom has stuck to me like a brother, and you owe
him thanks instead of blows.”

I knew by the expression on Mark’s face that he could not understand the
matter at all. He did not stop to ask questions, however, but led us at
once to the entrance to the passage-way.

When we reached it, it was my turn to be astonished, for there stood the
young wrestler. He did not draw back as we approached, and neither did
my brother seize him, as I expected he would.

On the contrary, the Indian extended his hand, and Mark took it to
assist him in leaping through the opening. When we were all in the
passage-way, and I had closed the door to shut out the smoke, we stopped
to hold a consultation.

In order that Mark might understand how Tom happened to be my companion,
I hurriedly recounted the various exciting incidents that had taken
place during the afternoon, and Mark told us of his meeting with the
Indian, and the manner in which he had secured the sentry.

We concluded that our best plan was to trust ourselves entirely to the
guidance of the young wrestler; and this being communicated to him in a
whisper, he conducted us toward the entrance to the passage-way. When we
came within sight of it, we stopped, not a little amazed at the scene
presented to our view.



                              CHAPTER XX.
                              CONCLUSION.


THE prisoner, whom Mark had left securely bound, was standing in front
of the mouth of the passage-way, trying to peer through the darkness
that obscured it, and over his shoulder we could see the faces of the
rest of the Dragoons, and also the scowling visages of Luke Redman and
Pete, the half-breed. The robber was angrier than ever, and was swearing
loudly.

“It’s lucky I thought to send Barney around here, ain’t it?” we heard
him say. “Them boys would have been out an’ gone in five minutes more.
They’re smarter than the hull lot on us put together. What’s to be
done?”

“Let’s hide in these yere bushes an’ ketch ’em when they come out,”
suggested Barney. “Jake, s’pose you go in thar an’ lay down ag’in like
you was tied, so they won’t know thar’s any thing wrong.”

“Wal, now, s’pose you go yourself,” retorted Jake. “You’re mighty
willin’ to send other fellows into danger, hain’t you? None on us ain’t
a-goin’ in thar to face the buckshot in them guns. Send the dogs in,
pap; that’s the way to bring ’em out.”

Luke Redman was prompt to act upon this suggestion. He set up a shout,
and in a few seconds the hounds appeared and crowded into the mouth of
the passage-way; while Mark, Tom and I stationed ourselves side by side
and cocked both barrels of our guns in readiness to give them a warm
reception.

But we soon found that we had nothing to fear from them. They made the
passage echo with their baying, and acted fiercely enough to tear a
regiment of men in pieces, but not one of them could be induced to
advance a single step beyond the opening.

Luke scolded, urged and threatened in vain. Becoming highly enraged at
last, he jumped among them, and kicking right and left with his heavy
boots, cleared the mouth of the passage as quickly as a volley from our
double-barrels would have done.

Having disposed of the dogs, Luke stormed about at a great rate, shaking
his fists in the air and stamping the ground with fury.

“We had oughter been on our way to the river long ago,” said he. “The
hull settlement will be gallopin’ through these woods in less’n an hour,
an’ if we’re here then, we’re booked for the lock-up, sure. But I ain’t
a-goin’ to stir one step till I get that money. Call the dogs ag’in,
Barney, an’ I’ll go in with ’em. I reckon they’ll foller me. What’s that
ar’?”

As Luke Redman asked this question, the savage scowl vanished and his
face grew white with terror. For a moment he and his companions stood as
if they had been rooted to the ground, casting frightened glances
through the cane on all sides of them, and then with a common impulse
they scattered right and left, and were out of sight in a twinkling.

We were not long in finding out what had caused their alarm, for just
then the clear, ringing blast of a hunting-horn echoed through the
woods, followed by a chorus of the same kind of music, which, coming
from all directions, told us that the island was surrounded. Hounds
yelped, men shouted, the tramping of horses’ hoofs came faintly to our
ears, and then five dogs, my own faithful Zip among the number, dashed
past the mouth of the passage-way, closely followed by Sandy, Duke and
Herbert.

“Hurrah!” we all shouted at once. “We’re safe now. The settlers have
come at last.”

Mark and the young Indian sprang down the passage, and I was about to
follow them when Tom laid his hand on my arm.

“Joe,” said he, “I will give this valise and gun into your care, and
will thank you to see that they are restored to their owners. I know you
will do this much for me, for it is the last favor I shall ask of you.”

I took the articles in question as Tom handed them to me, and when I
raised my eyes to look at him, he was gone. He had jumped past me,
dashed out of the passage, and disappeared into the bushes before I
could say a word to him.

I was not long in following him. Holding the guns over my shoulder with
one hand, and grasping the valise with the other, I ran out into the
cane just in time to place myself in the way of some swiftly moving
body, which struck me with such force that I was whirled through the air
as if I had been thrown from the cow-catcher of a locomotive. The guns
flew out of my hand, but involuntarily I tightened my grasp on the
valise.

“Aha!” exclaimed a gruff voice; “things is comin’ out all right, arter
all. The money is mine an’ so is the mar’.”

Almost as soon as I touched the ground, I raised myself on my elbow, and
when I had taken a single glance at the horse standing before me, I
comprehended the situation.

It was Black Bess, and the man who was dismounting from her was Luke
Redman.

He had by some means succeeded in securing the horse and eluding the
settlers, and was riding at full speed through the cane, when I had run
directly in his path and been knocked down—a circumstance which the
outlaw regarded as favorable to himself, although it turned out exactly
the reverse.

He probably imagined that I was badly injured by the hard fall I had
received, and he must have been astonished at the determined resistance
he met with when he rushed up to me and attempted to take the valise out
of my hand.

I have no idea how long the struggle continued, for my brain was in a
great whirl, and I took no note of time. All I knew was that I must hold
fast to that money.

I was dragged about through the cane, beaten on the head by Luke
Redman’s hard fist, and when at last he tore the valise from my grasp, I
threw my arms about his legs and pitched him headlong on the ground.

Just as this happened, I heard a furious crashing in the cane, several
dark objects bounded over me and commenced a desperate battle with my
antagonist, cries of pain and ejaculations of surprise rang in my ears,
and then all was blank to me. Some of the settlers, with their dogs, had
arrived just in time.

It was dark when my consciousness returned. At first I did not know
where I was or what was the matter with me, but gradually the
remembrance of the scenes through which I had passed during the
afternoon came back to me, and I started up in alarm, expecting to find
myself once more a prisoner in the hands of the robber band.

A single look, however, was enough to satisfy me that I was among
friends, and that I had nothing to fear. I was lying on a blanket in
front of a blazing fire, and father and our fellows were stretched out
on the ground beside me.

Camp-fires were shining in every direction among the trees, and around
them reposed the stalwart forms of the settlers, all sleeping soundly
after the fatigues of the day. A short distance off lay General Mason,
with his valise under his head for a pillow, and a little further on
stood Black Bess.

Under a tree, on the opposite side of the fire, lay every one of those
who had belonged to the party which made the attack on our camp—Tom
Mason excepted—securely bound, and watched over by two armed sentinels.

There was no one stirring in the camp, and the silence was broken only
by the crackling of the fires, the sighing of the wind through the
leafless branches above our heads, and the low murmur of the
conversation kept up by the guards.

The feeling of comfort and safety I experienced was refreshing, indeed,
after my day of excitement. I lay for a long time thinking over my
adventures, and looking through the trees toward the spot whereon had
stood the robber’s stronghold, now reduced to a glowing bed of coals,
and at last sank into a deep slumber.

The next morning I awoke to find that all our fellows were looked upon
as heroes, and that the lion’s share of the honors had been accorded to
me. All the planters wanted to hear my story, and during the ride
homeward I had a crowd of eager listeners about me all the time.

Our prisoners were lodged in jail at three o’clock that afternoon, and
at the next term of the court they were dealt with according to their
deserts. Luke Redman’s plea, that he did not steal the money from
General Mason, did not avail him. He had twice been caught with it in
his possession, and that was enough for the jury who tried him; for he
was sentenced to state’s prison for a long term of years, and the Swamp
Dragoons, one and all, were sent to the Reform School.

There was evidence enough to convict Pete of setting fire to our cotton
gin, and so Luke Redman had company when he went to prison. The rest of
the half-breeds were ordered out of the country, and I think they went,
for I never saw them afterward.

Taken altogether, it was a grand thinning out of rascals, and if no one
else was glad of it, our fellows were.

“Mark Two Times” lost nothing by the services he rendered us. Father
gave him a splendid horse; I sent to New Orleans, and bought him a
silver-mounted rifle; Mark presented him with a gaudily-ornamented suit
of buckskin; Duke gave him a couple of hounds; and, in fact, there was
scarcely a person in the neighborhood who did not remember him in some
way.

And what became of Tom Mason? I gave the valise into the general’s
hands, accompanied by a hint that Tom had gone off to seek his fortune,
and that it would be a long time before any of us would see him again;
and I never saw a man so delighted and angry as he was—delighted to have
his money back, and angry to learn that Tom had repaid his kindness by
running away.

“The gold is all here,” said he, as he ran his hand over the shining
pieces, “but I see that some of them are wet. I don’t suppose you
fellows had opportunity to steal any of them. And so Tom has run away?
Dear me! but won’t he be sorry? If he comes to my house, I’ll shut the
door in his face. I won’t have such an ingrate about.”

Every one supposed that General Mason was very angry at his nephew, as,
indeed, he was, but in a week or two it became known that he had sent
his overseer up and down the river to learn something of Tom’s
whereabouts; but he came back and reported that he had followed him as
far as Memphis, and there all traces of him had been lost. I tell you, I
began to have some respect for Tom after that. He had only fifty dollars
in his pocket that I knew anything about, and a boy that would start off
with that amount of money and face the world had a good deal in him.

For a year nothing was heard of Tom Mason, and those who had business
with the general noticed that he had got over a good deal of his
“crankiness,” and that it was difficult to make him mad. Before that he
used to fly off the handle without any cause whatever. Jerry Lamar was
astonished at the general’s conduct, and well he might be. He and his
father wanted to get off the place, for they did not want to live near a
man who would accuse one of them of stealing five thousand dollars, but
the general wouldn’t hear to it. He bought all their logs at good
prices, and Jerry was in a fair way of making a man of himself. He began
to pay more attention to General Mason, and often told us that he wished
he had Tom where he could talk to him. He was certain that everything
would be forgiven if Tom would only come back.

Another year passed without bringing any word from the runaway, and it
finally got noised abroad in the settlement that he was dead. The old
gentleman heard it, and he bent over a little at the shoulders and
walked with a cane. It was plain that he loved Tom, and that nobody else
could take his place. Six months more passed—Tom had now been gone two
years and a half—when one morning I saw General Mason coming down the
road faster than I had ever seen him ride before. He held an open letter
in his hand, and beckoned me out to the bars. I had seldom seen a man so
excited. He was laughing and crying, all at once, so that I could hardly
understand him.

“That miserable Tom is alive and kicking,” said he. “Here’s a letter
from him that tells me everything he has been through—six pages of it.
You must answer it, for I won’t. Write to him that if I had him here
with a rawhide in my hand, I would make him shed tears to pay for all
the agony he caused me, I bet you. Tell him, too, that everything has
been forgotten and forgiven, and that if he will come back I will
receive him with open arms. I’ll teach the young scamp to run away from
me!”

I wrote to Tom that night, away in some little town in Texas, and in due
time he came home. I tell you, it would have bothered anybody in that
settlement to take the rawhide to him. He was immense; the climate of
Texas seemed to have agreed with him. He had been—but it is a long
story, and there isn’ place for it in this book. Besides, I must bid you
good-bye as a story-teller, for I am through writing about Tom. I will
turn my history of him over to a cowboy who was with him on the Plains
and who knows all about him. He promises me that he will soon begin the
narrative of his wanderings in a book to be called “ELAM STORM THE
WOLFER; or, THE LOST NUGGET.”


                                THE END.

                              ==‘SOCIAL==

                             ==‘SPIRITUAL==

             Studies in Human and Divine Inter-Relationship

                                   BY

                     RUFUS M. JONES, A.M., LITT. D.

          _Professor of Philosophy in Haverford College, Pa._

This is a fresh interpretation of the deepest problems of life. It
discusses the most interesting phases of recent psychological
investigation into spiritual subjects.

“Professor Jones offers here a series of studies on the nature and
meaning of Personality. He is at home in modern psychology and tells it
effectively for his purpose in freedom from technicalities.”—_The
Outlook._

“The author has written the twelve chapters of this book dealing with
such subjects as The Meaning of Personality, The Realization of Persons,
The Sub-Conscious Life, The Inner Light, etc., etc., with an aim to show
through Psychology, as Drummond showed through Biology, that life can be
unified from top to bottom.”—_Christian Work and the Evangelist._

“The author bears a unique equipment for the task, having studied
Philosophy at Harvard under Royce and Palmer, and acquired the art of
presenting it to untrained thinkers in his capacity of Professor of
Philosophy at Haverford College.”—_British Friend._

                 _12mo. 272 pages. Extra Vellum Cloth,
                   Gilt Top, Uncut Edges. Price $1.25
                        Net (Postage 10 Cents)._

                      THE JOHN C. WINSTON COMPANY
                           PHILADELPHIA, PA.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                BOOKS BY
                          JOHN TROTWOOD MOORE,

JACK BALLINGTON, FORESTER

 A novel, published 1911. Illustrated by George Gibbs          Net $1.20

UNCLE WASH: HIS STORIES

 Character stories, published 1910.  Illustrated by Lucas and      $1.50
 Sykes

THE OLD COTTON GIN

 A poem, published 1910. Illustrated  by Charles H. Sykes      Net $1.00

THE BISHOP OF COTTONTOWN

 A story of the Southern cotton mills, published 1906.             $1.50
 Illustrated by The Kinneys

OLE MISTIS

 and other Songs and Stories from Tennessee, published 1902.       $1.25
 Illustrated

A SUMMER HYMNAL

 A Tennessee Romance, published 1901. Illustrated                  $1.25

                      THE JOHN C. WINSTON COMPANY

     _PUBLISHERS_                                     PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         EVERY CHILD’S LIBRARY

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                      =Books “That Every Child Can
                        Read” for Four Reasons:=

1  Because the subjects have all proved their lasting popularity.

2  Because of the simple language in which they are written.

3  Because they have been carefully edited, and anything that might
  prove objectionable for children’s reading has been eliminated.

4  Because of their accuracy of statement.

=This Series of Books= comprises subjects that appeal to all young
people. Besides the historical subjects that are necessary to the
education of children, it also contains standard books written in
language that children can read and understand.

=Carefully Edited.= Each work is carefully edited by Rev. Jesse Lyman
Hurlbut, D.D., to make sure that the style is simple and suitable for
Young Readers, and to eliminate anything which might be objectionable.
Dr. Hurlbut’s large and varied experience in the instruction of young
people, and in the preparation of literature in language that is easily
understood, makes this series of books a welcome addition to libraries,
reading circles, schools and home.

Issued in uniform style of binding.

           Cloth, 12mo. Illustrated.         Price, 75 cents

                             --------------

                            =LIST OF TITLES=

DICKENS’ STORIES ABOUT CHILDREN. Every Child can read
LIVES OF OUR PRESIDENTS. Every Child can read
LEATHER STOCKING TALES. Every Child can read
PILGRIM’S PROGRESS. Every Child can read
STORIES ABOUT CHILDREN OF ALL NATIONS. Every Child can read
STORIES OF GREAT AMERICANS. Every Child can read
STORIES OF OUR NAVAL HEROES. Every Child can read
STORY OF JESUS, THE. Every Child can read
STORY OF OUR COUNTRY, THE. Every Child can read

                        (Others in preparation)
                    CATALOGUE MAILED ON APPLICATION

                             --------------

                  THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., _Publishers_
 WINSTON BUILDING                                           PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           ====WINSTON’S====
                            POPULAR FICTION

Comprising twenty-four books published at $1.25 and $1.50 per volume,
and until recently sold only in the original editions. Now offered for
the first time in popular priced editions. All are bound in extra cloth
with appropriate cover designs, and standard 12mo. in size.

 24 Titles                                  Price per volume, =75= cents

 =BABCOCK (WILLIAM HENRY)—Kent Fort Manor.= A romance in the
   nineteenth century on the Isle of Kent near Baltimore,
   where in the earlier days Puritans, Jesuits, Indians and
   Sea Rovers came and went. 12mo. Cloth                     =75= cents

 =BARTON (GEORGE)—Adventures of the World’s Greatest
   Detectives.= The most famous cases of the great Sleuths
   of England, America, France, Russia, realistically told,
   with biographical sketches of each detective. Fully
   illustrated. 12mo. Cloth                                  =75= cents

 =BLANKMAN (EDGAR G.)—Deacon Babbitt.= A story of Northern
   New York State, pronounced by some critics superior to
   "David Harum." 12mo. Cloth                                =75= cents

 =CLARK (CHARLES HEBER)—(Max Adeler)—The Quakeress.= A
   charming story which has had great success in the
   original edition, and listed among the six best selling
   novels. 12mo. Cloth                                       =75= cents

    =—Captain Bluitt, A Tale of Old Turley.= Humorous
    fiction in this well-known author’s happiest style.
    12mo. Cloth                                              =75= cents

    =—Out of the Hurly Burly, or Life in an Odd Corner.= A
    delightfully entertaining piece of humor, with numerous
    illustrations, including the original work by A. B.
    Frost, and other illustrations. 12mo. Cloth              =75= cents

    =—In Happy Hollow.= The amusing story of how A. J.
    Pelican boomed the little town of Happy Hollow, 12mo.
    Cloth                                                    =75= cents

 =EDWARDS (LOUISE BETTS)—The Tu Tze’s Tower.= One of the
   best novels of Chinese and Tibetan Life. 12mo. Cloth      =75= cents

 =GERARD (DOROTHEA)—Sawdust, A Polish Romance.= The scene of
   this readable tale the Carpathian Timberlands in Poland.
   The author is a favorite English writer. 12mo. Cloth      =75= cents

 =GIBBS (GEORGE)—In Search of Mademoiselle.= The struggle
   between the Spanish and French Colonists in Florida
   furnish an interesting historical background for this
   stirring story. 12mo. Cloth                               =75= cents

 =GOLDSMITH (MILTON)—A Victim of Conscience.= A mental
   struggle between Judaism and Christianity of a Jew who
   thinks he is guilty of a crime, makes a dramatic plot.
   12mo. Cloth                                               =75= cents

 =ILIOWIZI (HENRY)—The Archierey of Samara.= A semi-historic
   romance of Russian Life. 12mo. Cloth                      =75= cents

 =ILIOWIZI (HENRY)=

    =—In the Pale.= Stories and Legends of Jews in Russia.
    Containing “Czar Nicholas I and Sir Moses Montefiore,”
    "The Czar in Rothschild’s Castle," and “The Legend of
    the Ten Lost Tribes,” and other tales. 12mo. Cloth       =75= cents

 =MOORE (JOHN TROTWOOD)=—=The Bishop of Cottontown.= One of
   the best selling novels published in recent years and now
   for the first time sold at a popular price. An absorbing
   story of Southern life in a Cotton Mill town, intense
   with passion, pathos and humor. 12mo. Cloth               =75= cents

    —=A Summer Hymnal.= A Tennessee romance. One of the
    prettiest love stories ever written. 12mo. Cloth         =75= cents

    —=Ole Mistis=, and other Songs and Stories from
    Tennessee. 12mo. Cloth                                   =75= cents

 =NORRIS (W. E.)=—=An Embarrasing Orphan.= The orphaned
   daughter of a wealthy African mine owner, causes her
   staid English Guardian no end of anxiety. 12mo. Cloth     =75= cents

 =PEMBERTON (MAX)=—=The Show Girl.= A new novel, by the
   author of many popular stories, describing the adventures
   of a young art student in Paris and elsewhere. It is
   thought to be the most entertaining book written by this
   author. 12mo. Cloth, Illustrated                          =75= cents

 =PENDLETON (LOUIS)=—=A Forest Drama.= A Tale of the
   Canadian wilds of unusual strength. 12mo. Cloth           =75= cents

 =PETERSON (HENRY)=—=Dulcibel.= A Tale of Old Salem in the
   Witchcraft days, with a charming love story; historically
   an informing book. 12mo. Cloth                            =75= cents

    —=Pemberton, or One Hundred Years Ago.= Washington,
    Andre, Arnold and other prominent figures of the
    Revolution take part in the story, which is probably the
    best historical romance of Philadelphia. 12mo. Cloth     =75= cents

 =STODDARD (ELIZABETH)=—=(Mrs. Richard Henry Stoddard).=

    —=Two Men.= "Jason began life in Crest with ten dollars,
    two suits of cloths, several shirts, two books, a pin
    cushion and the temperance lecture." 12mo. Cloth         =75= cents

    —=Temple House.= A powerful story of life in a little
    seaport town—romantic and often impassioned. 12mo. Cloth =75= cents

    —=The Morgesons.= This was the first of Mrs. Stoddard’s
    Novels, and Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote to the author:—"As
    genuine and life-like as anything that pen and ink can
    do."   12mo. Cloth                                       =75= cents



                 THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., _Publishers_

 WINSTON BUILDING                                           PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                         =HURLBUT’S STORY OF=
                      =THE BIBLE ∴= =FROM GENESIS=
                                    =TO REVELATION=

                   BY REV. JESSE LYMAN HURLBUT, D.D.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------------------------

                        A BOOK FOR OLD AND YOUNG

Told in language that interests both Old and Young. “Supersedes all
other books of the kind.” Recommended by all Denominations for its
freshness and accuracy; for its freedom from doctrinal discussion; for
its simplicity of language; for its numerous and appropriate
illustrations; as the best work on the subject. The greatest aid to
Parents, Teachers and all who wish the Bible Story in a simplified form.
168 separate stories, each complete in itself, yet forming a continuous
narrative of the Bible. 762 pages, nearly 300 half-tone illustrations, 8
in colors. Octavo.

                      =THE FLEXIBLE MOROCCO STYLE=

“=HURLBUT’S STORY OF THE BIBLE=” can be obtained in =FLEXIBLE MOROCCO
BINDING= with red under gold edges. This new binding will give the work
a wider use, for in this convenient form the objection to carrying the
ordinary bound book is entirely overcome. This convenient style also
contains “=HURLBUT’S BIBLE LESSONS FOR BOYS AND GIRLS=,” a system of
questions and answers, based on the stories in the book, by which the
Old Testament story can be taught in a year, and the New Testament story
can be taught in a year. This edition also contains 17 Maps printed in
colors, covering the geography of the Old Testament and of the New
Testament.

These additional features are not included in the Cloth bound book, but
are only to be obtained in the new Flexible Morocco style.

     Cloth, extra                                     Price, $1.50

     FLEXIBLE MOROCCO STYLE. Bound in FRENCH SEAL, round corners,
       red under gold edges, extra grained lining, specially sewed
       to produce absolute flexibility and great durability. Each
       book packed in neat and substantial box

     Price                                                   $3.75

                 THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., _Publishers_

 WINSTON BUILDING                                           PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

              NEW EDITION OF ALGER’S GREATEST SET OF BOOKS

                                 —THE—
                       Famous Ragged Dick Series
                    NEW TYPE-SET PLATES MADE IN 1910

In response to a demand for a popular-priced edition of this series of
books—the most famous set ever written by =Horatio Alger, Jr.=—this
edition has been prepared.

Each volume is set in large, new type, printed on an excellent quality
of paper, and bound in uniform style, having an entirely new and
appropriate cover design, with heavy gold stamp.

As is well known, the books in this series are copyrighted, and
consequently none of them will be found in any other publisher’s list.

         RAGGED DICK SERIES.    By Horatio Alger, Jr. 6 vols.
     RAGGED DICK                    ROUGH AND READY
     FAME AND FORTUNE               BEN, THE LUGGAGE BOY
     MARK, THE MATCH BOY            RUFUS AND ROSE
                 Each set is packed in a handsome box
                          12 mo.       Cloth
      Sold only in sets      Price per set, $3.60.      Postpaid

------------------------------------------------------------------------

               RECOMMENDED BY REAR ADMIRAL MELVILLE, WHO
           COMMANDED THREE EXPEDITIONS TO THE ARCTIC REGIONS

                                 —THE—
                       New Popular Science Series
                       BY PROF. EDWIN J. HOUSTON

=THE NORTH POLE SERIES.= By Prof. Edwin J. Houston. This is an entirely
new series, which opens a new field in Juvenile Literature. Dr. Houston
has spent a lifetime in teaching boys the principles of physical and
scientific phenomena and knows how to talk and write for them in a way
that is most attractive. In the reading of these stories the most
accurate scientific information will be absorbed.

                    THE SEARCH FOR THE NORTH POLE
                    THE DISCOVERY OF THE NORTH POLE
                    CAST AWAY AT THE NORTH POLE

       Handsomely bound. The volumes, 12mo. in size, are bound in
    Extra English Cloth, and are attractively stamped in colors and
          full gold titles. Sold separately or in sets, boxed.

     Price                    $1.00 per volume.            Postpaid

                             --------------

                 THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., _Publishers_

 WINSTON BUILDING                                           PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             MISCELLANEOUS
                             JUVENILE BOOKS

 =BANGS (JOHN KENDRICK)—Andiron Tales.= The story of a            $1.25
   Little Boy’s Dream—his wonderful adventures in the
   Clouds—written in Mr. Bangs’ happiest vein, and
   handsomely illustrated with colored drawings by
   Dwiggins. Octavo. Cloth

 =—Molly and the Unwiseman.= A Humorous Story for                 $1.25
   Children. 12mo. Cloth

 =BUTTERWORTH (HEZEKIAH)—A Heroine of the Wilderness.=            $1.00
   A Girl’s Book telling the romance of the mother of
   Lincoln. 12mo. Cloth

 =DIMMICK (RUTH CROSBY)—The Bogie Man.= The story in              $0.65
   verse of a little boy who met the Bogie Man, and had
   many surprising adventures with him; and found him
   not such a bad fellow after all. 34 Drawings. 72
   pages. Octavo. Boards with colored cover

 =FILLEBROWN (R. H. M.)—Rhymes of Happy Childhood.= A             $2.00
   handsome holiday book of homely verses beautifully
   illustrated with color plates, and drawings in black
   and red. Colored inlay, gilt top. New Edition 1911.
   Flat 8vo. Cloth

 =HOFFMAN (DR. HENRY)—Slovenly Peter.= Original                   $1.00
   Edition. This celebrated work has amused children
   probably more than any other juvenile book. It
   contains the quaint hand colored pictures, and is
   printed on extra quality of paper and durably bound.
   Quarto. Cloth

 =HUGHES (THOMAS)—Tom Brown’s School-days at Rugby.=              $1.00
   New edition with 22 illustrations. 12mo. Cloth

 =LAMB (CHARLES AND MARY)—Tales from Shakespeare.=                $1.00
   Edited with an introduction by The Rev. Alfred
   Ainger, M.A. New Edition with 20 illustrations.
   12mo. Cloth

 =MOTHER’S PRIMER.= Printed from large clear type,      Per dozen $0.50
   contains alphabet and edifying and entertaining
   stories for children. 12mo. Paper covers

 =TANNENFORST (URSULA)—Heroines of a School-Room.= A              $1.25
   sequel to The Thistles or Mount Cedar. An
   interesting story of interesting girls. Illustrated.
   12mo. Cloth

    =—The Thistles of Mount Cedar.= A story of a Girls’           $1.25
    Fraternity. A well-told story for Girls.
    Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth

 =TAYLOR (JANE)—Original Poems for Infant Minds.= 16mo.           $1.00
   Cloth

 =WOOD (REV. J. G.)—Popular Natural History.= The most            $1.00
   popular book on Birds, Beasts and Reptiles ever
   written. Fully illustrated. 8vo. Cloth

                             --------------

                 THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., _Publishers_

 WINSTON BUILDING                                           PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          NOTABLE NOVELS _and_
                          GIFT BOOKS OF VERSE
                        _BY_ JOHN TROTWOOD MOORE

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                      =JACK BALLINGTON, FORESTER=

The story concerns the fortunes of Jack Ballington, who, on account of
his apparent lack of fighting qualities, seems to be in danger of losing
his material heritage and the girl he loves, but in the stirring crisis
he measures up to the traditions of his forefathers.

     “Will captivate by its humor, set all the heart strings to
     vibrating by its pathos, flood one’s being in the great surge
     of patriotism ... a story that vastly enriches American
     fiction.”—_Albany Times-Union._

                   =12mo.     Cloth.       341 pages=

 Price                                    $1.20 Net.    Postage 13 cents

                       =THE BISHOP OF COTTONTOWN=
                   =A STORY OF THE TENNESSEE VALLEY=

Love, pathos and real humor run through the book in delightful measure.
Over all is shed the light of the “Old Bishop,” endearing himself to
every reader by his gentleness, his strength and his uncynical knowledge
of the world which he finds so good to live in. 31 editions have already
been sold.

                    =12mo.     Cloth.     606 pages=

 Price                                                    $1.50 Postpaid

                       =UNCLE WASH: HIS STORIES=

A book of stories centering about the character of “Uncle Wash,” which
even in the brief time since its publication has achieved a large and
notable success among all classes of readers. Many editions have already
been sold.

    “One of the few great books.”—_Rochester Union and Advertiser._
    “A mine of humor and pathos.”—_Omaha World-Herald._

                   =12mo.     Cloth.      329 pages=

 Price                                                    $1.50 Postpaid

                           =A SUMMER HYMNAL=
                        =A ROMANCE OF TENNESSEE=

The story of Edward Ballington and his love affairs with two delightful
girls in charming contrast, forms the plot of this captivating love
story. On the threads of this narrative is woven the story of a blind
man who meets the catastrophe of sudden darkness in a spirit of bravery,
sweetness and resignation which commands the love and respect of every
reader.

                    =12mo.     Cloth.     332 pages=

 Price                                                    $1.25 Postpaid

                   =SONGS AND STORIES FROM TENNESSEE=

In truth Mr. Moore, in this collection of songs and stories of Dixie
Land, has created a work that will live long in the traditions of the
South and longer in the hearts of his readers. One has only to read “Ole
Mistis,” the first story in this collection, to feel the power of Mr.
Moore’s genius. It is at once the finest story of a horse race ever
written, a powerful love story and most touchingly pathetic narrative of
the faith and devotion of a little slave.

                    =12mo.     Cloth.     358 pages=

 Price                                                    $1.25 Postpaid

                          =THE OLD COTTON GIN=

The “Old Cotton Gin” breathes the passionate patriotism of the South,
her dearest sentiments, her pathos and regrets, her splendid progress
and her triumphant future. This poem is a popular favorite throughout
the South, and has been adopted officially in some states. The author is
one of her truest sons. All the pages of the book are decorated with
original drawings, including seven exceedingly fine full-page
illustrations.

       =Bound in imported Silk Cloth.       Size 6½ × 9½ inches=

              Price      $1.00 Net.      Postage 10 cents



                 ALL OF THE ABOVE BOOKS ARE HANDSOMELY
                   ILLUSTRATED BY WELL-KNOWN ARTISTS

                             --------------

                 THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., _Publishers_

 WINSTON BUILDING                                           PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                             GREAT PICTURES
                              —————AS—————
                             MORAL TEACHERS

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          By HENRY E. JACKSON

          _A Recognition of the Value of Pictures in Teaching_

The author has selected twenty of the world’s great pictures and
sculptures and interpreted the meaning which the artist intended to
convey.

People are awakening more and more to the value of works of art in
teaching. They are regaining a truer perspective and saner judgment in
regard to them. That pictures are of great value in teaching certain
forms of knowledge is not now questioned; on the contrary, it is
approved and practiced. In view of this, the need arises for careful
selection and education of the popular taste. The present work is
intended to meet this need. The author has chosen his subjects with
great care and adopted as his interpretation the consensus of opinion
among great critics.

The subject is treated in a manner to interest not only students of
religious history and movements, but those viewing it from a purely
artistic standpoint. The work contains twenty fine half-tone engravings
made from authorized photographs of the original paintings and
sculptures.

             =Price     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·    $1.50=

                  =The John C. Winston Co., Publishers

                           PHILADELPHIA, PA.=

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          BOOKS BY MAX ADELER
                         (CHARLES HEBER CLARK)

                               ----------

                         The Quakeress: A Tale

"In his ‘Quakeress,’ Mr. Clark has achieved instant—and in all
probability lasting—success as a writer of dignified fiction."—_The St.
Louis Star._

“He has made of pretty Abby Woolford’s heart-history a prose epic of
Quakerdom.”—_The North American, Philadelphia._

               _Illustrations in color by George Gibbs._

               Cloth. Popular Edition. 400 pages. $0.75.

                            IN HAPPY HOLLOW

One of the stories which established Max Adeler’s reputation as a
humorist.

_Cloth, extra, with 58 illustrations._ $1.25.

                        OUT OF THE HURLY-BURLY;
                       OR, LIFE IN AN ODD CORNER

                      _Cloth, extra, 12mo._ $1.25.

                  CAPTAIN BLUITT; A TALE OF OLD TURLEY

                      _Cloth, extra, 12mo._ $1.50.

            More than 1,000,000 copies of Max Adeler’s Books
                            Have Been Sold.

                 =THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., Publishers=

                             =PHILADELPHIA=

------------------------------------------------------------------------

           _THE JOHN C. WINSTON COMPANY’S POPULAR JUVENILES_

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           HORATIO ALGER, JR.

                                -------

The enormous sales of the books of Horatio Alger, Jr., show the
greatness of his popularity among the boys, and prove that he is one of
their most favored writers. I am told that more than half a million
copies altogether have been sold, and that all the large circulating
libraries in the country have several complete sets, of which only two
or three volumes are ever on the shelves at one time. If this is true,
what thousands and thousands of boys have read and are reading Mr.
Alger’s books! His peculiar style of stories, often imitated but never
equaled, have taken a hold upon the young people, and, despite their
similarity, are eagerly read as soon as they appear.

Mr. Alger became famous with the publication of that undying book,
“Ragged Dick, or Street Life in New York.” It was his first book for
young people, and its success was so great that he immediately devoted
himself to that kind of writing. It was a new and fertile field for a
writer then, and Mr. Alger’s treatment of it at once caught the fancy of
the boys. “Ragged Dick” first appeared in 1868, and ever since then it
has been selling steadily, until now it is estimated that about 200,000
copies of the series have been sold.—“_Pleasant Hours for Boys and
Girls._”

                                -------

A writer for boys should have an abundant sympathy with them. He should
be able to enter into their plans, hopes, and aspirations. He should
learn to look upon life as they do. Boys object to be written down to. A
boy’s heart opens to the man or writer who understands him.—From
“_Writing Stories for Boys_,” by Horatio Alger, Jr.

                          =RAGGED DICK SERIES=

   6 vol                    By HORATIO ALGER,                     $6.00

 Ragged Dick.                             Rough and Ready.
 Fame and Fortune.                        Ben, the Luggage Boy.
 Mark, the Match Boy.                     Rufus and Rose.

                   =TATTERED TOM SERIES—First Series=

  4 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $4.00

 Tattered Tom                             Phil, the Fiddler
 Paul, the Peddler                        Slow and Sure

                  =TATTERED TOM SERIES—Second Series=

  4 vols.                                                         $4.00

 Julius                                   Sam’s Chance
 The Young Outlaw                         The Telegraph Boy

                           =CAMPAIGN SERIES=

  3 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $3.00

 Frank’s Campaign                         Charlie Codman’s Cruise
                         Paul Prescott’s Charge

                  =LUCK AND PLUCK SERIES—First Series=

  4 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $4.00

 Luck and Pluck                           Strong and Steady
 Sink or Swim                             Strive and Succeed

                 =LUCK AND PLUCK SERIES—Second Series=

   4 vol                                                          $4.00

 Try and Trust                            Risen from the Ranks
 Bound to Rise                            Herbert Carter’s Legacy

                        =BRAVE AND BOLD SERIES=

  4 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $4.00

 Brave and Bold                           Shifting for Himself
 Jack’s Ward                              Wait and Hope

                           =NEW WORLD SERIES=

  3 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $3.00

 Digging for Gold                         Facing the World
                             In a New World

                            =VICTORY SERIES=

  3 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $3.00

 Only an Irish Boy                        Adrift in the City
                   Victor Vane, or the Young Secretary

                      =FRANK AND FEARLESS SERIES=

  3 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $3.00

 Frank Hunter’s Peril                     Frank and Fearless
                           The Young Salesman

                         =GOOD FORTUNE LIBRARY=

  3 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $3.00

 Walter Sherwood’s Probation              A Boy’s Fortune
                        The Young Bank Messenger

                         =HOW TO RISE LIBRARY=

  3 vols.                 By HORATIO ALGER, JR.                   $3.00

 Jed, the Poorhouse Boy                   Rupert’s Ambition
                              Lester’s Luck



                               ----------

                   SENT POSTPAID ON RECEIPT OF PRICE

                               ----------

                  THE JOHN C. WINSTON CO., _Publishers_
 WINSTON BUILDING                                           PHILADELPHIA

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           Transcriber’s Note

Errors deemed most likely to be the printer’s have been corrected, and
are noted here. The references are to the page and line in the original.

  184.17   the gruff voice of Luke [,/.]                  Replaced.

  226.25   I’ll send it back to my uncle, where it        Added.
           belongs[.]

  243.22   such as you city boys buy in the variety       Removed.
           stor[i]es,

  304.20   You must answer it, for I won[’]t.             Inserted.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Our Fellows - Skirmishes with the Swamp Dragoons" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home