Seared with iron, or, The band of Skeleton Bar

Seared with iron, or, The band of Skeleton Bar

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Seared with iron, or, The band of Skeleton Bar
Series Title:
Brave & Bold
Shea, Cornelius
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New York
Street & Smith
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1 online resource (29 p.) 29 cm.: ;


Subjects / Keywords:
Dime novels. ( rbgenr )
Detective and mystery fiction ( lcsh )
serial ( sobekcm )

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Source Institution:
University of South Florida
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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028877529 ( ALEPH )
07232156 ( OCLC )
B15-00049 ( USFLDC DOI )
b15.49 ( USFLDC Handle )

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Brave and Bold

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IRO E}and of sl(e\eton


B VE.BOLD A 'Different Complete Story Every Week /$IS'tled By S #&cri/>tion le.JO (>er year. E1t(er1 d 11ccordi" 8' to Act of O mg-re u i n tlu y111r i n th

2 BRAVE AND BOLD. held up by a gang of masked men about two weeks ago, an' they took ther mail bags with 'em, an' all ther wealth my passengers had, besides killin' one man." These words caused <} feeling of uneasiness to come over Daniel Mount and his two sons. The father felt in the inner pocket of his shirt to see if the two hundred and forty dollars he had been so long in saving was safe, and finding it was still there, drew his revolver to if it was in readiness to shoot at a mo r'nent' s notice. Dick did the same, and then placing the weapon back in his belt, kept his hand upon the butt of it. Meanwhile the rickety old vehicle kept lumbering along and darkness crept on apace. The horses did their level best, aod ten minutes later reached the brow of a steep ascent. It was now down hill for a quarter of a mile, and then, after ascending one more steep and dangerous place, half a mile down a slight grade would fetch them to Skeleton Bar. Night came upon them before they reached the foot of the incline, and the driver was forced to come to a halt in order to givl:! the tired horses a slight rest before up the hill. Th. e spot they came to a stop was a dangerous, not to say picturesque, one. The road at that point was not over fifteen feet in width, on one side of which was the wall of a cliff, and the other the tirfl:J.k of a precipice. The faint light made by the stars showed the inmates of the coach what sort of a place it was, and they one and all wished they were well away from it. After a couple of minutes' rest the driver plied the whip and started his horses. But the instant he did so there was a sharp <;latter of hoofs both ahead of the s tage-coach and behind it, and fully a score of masked riders appeared on the scene. "Throw up your hands, driver!" called out dne of the newcomers, in a tone. "The passengers will please step outside and ha.nd over what valuables they have about them. The easiest way is the best for you; so step 'lively, now!" If Daniel Mount and his two sons had obeyed this com mand it is. safe to say that this story yvould never have been written. But neither of the three agreed with the leader of the masked bandi.. "that the easiest way was the best for them;" the father did not want to p art with his savings without a struggle, and .his sons bore him out in his rn solve. Consequently, but half a minute elapsed after they were orde red out of the stage coach before Mount and his son, Dick opened fire upon the robbers. Walter was doing his part by urging the driver to go on, but that worthy knew what the consequences would be if he attempted to start the horses. Dick and his father fired two or three. shots apiece be fore the outlaws answered them, and when they did fire a volley two of the inmates of the stage-coach fell deaJ They were Daniel Mount and his son, Walter. Dick seemed to bear a charmed life, for though the bullets were flying all around him, he remained unscathed, and on firing until he had emptied the chambers of his revolver. But it was useless for the brave boy to fight against the demons that surrounded the vehicle. They were a desperate lot, and were determined upon accomplishing their foul purpose. The mqment Dick ceased firing a pair of them sprang into the coach, and seizing the boy dragged him out upon the ground. Since he had seen his father a.nd brother fall before his own eyes the boy had been imbtieq with the strength and determination of a lion. ' With a mighty wrench he tore himself from his captors, and drawing a hunting knife from his belt, began slashing with it right and left. "Ze the boy !" exclaimed captain of. the masked band. "By Jove! he fights like a -she-panther !" A number of tf1e villains rushed' upon Dick, and in order to avoid them he took a couple of steps bac).

BRA VE AND BOLD 3 CHAPTER II. THE GAMBLERS. "If I could only lay eyes on one of ther measly coyotes as did this, wouldn't I bore him full of holes!" he cried. Skeleton Bar was not much of a place, as far as its Meanwhile half a dozen of the men turned their attensize was concerned. It was merely a little mining settletion to the stage-c oach, and a minute later t4e bodies of ment containing about fifty roughly-built shanties, and ?aniel Mount and his son, Walter, were tenderly carried d e rived its name from the fact that the first one to commto the post office. mence working a claim there found the skeleton of a man Both were stone dead, and the flashing eyes of many lying in a clump of bushes. of those rough miners told that they would like to avenge True, it had a post office, but this was a necessity, and the deaths of the two passengers. though the man who held the position of postmaster did \ ."I.wonder they are?" observed Jim Bower. "Boys, not make over a hundred .and fifty dollars a year out of it, his is too bad! Then, turning to the driver he added: he was looked upon as being a trifle above the level of the Didn t you have any more passengers with' you, foe?" common run of the inhabitants of the "Bar." "Yes, there was another boy-a likely-lookin' feller, too. This man bore the name of Will Duvall; he was honest, He was pushed over ther cliff by ther 111asked gang that !ntelligent and courageous, and well liked by the majority killed his father an' brother." of the miners. "Too bad! too bad!" came from the crowd. A crowd was about the door of the post office "Boys, this here sort of business has got ter be stopped!" waiting for the mail to arrive on the same night the It was Balsam Bob who spoke. masked band held up the stage-coach as already described. "Yes," nodded the "if we don't clean out 'Pears ter me she is late, ain't she" Jim?" asked a big, masked band of robbers and cutthroats, the reputa rough-bearded man in a red shirt and corduroy trousers. tion of Skeleton Bar will be ruined." "I'm a leetle ter here from ther folks down in "I wonder who their leader kin be?" said Balsam Bob. Missoury, an' I expe_ct a letter sure on this mail." "It can't hardly be Monte Ike, ther'"gambler that we run "The stage-coach is' late as sure as your name is BCllsam outer town-he did not have enough saner 1;1 him ter turn Bob," eplied the postmaster. "I hope nothing hapoutlaw." :: pened." : "No, it ain't him," sp6ke up the driver. "Ther feller "I wouldn't be surpri if ther blamed old rattle-box that seemed ter be ther captain of the gang that held me has broken down," said tJie n/ian who sailed under the title !JP, told me ter tell his inquirin' friends that Capt. Steel of Balsam Bob: "It are 'bout time we had a new "c0'aoh' sent his compliments to them." ter fetch our mail to us." "He di-d, hey?" roared Balsam Bob; "well, I'd jist like "You worry about that wagon breakin' down," ter run foul of him, I would !" spoke up man. "Her runnin' gear is altogether A shout of approval went up from the miners, which too stiff for that. It are more likely that she has been sounded like a growl more than anything else. stopped an' robbed by ther same gang as did it two weeks "We will bury these bodies in the morninr;:, and after ago." I t Jat, hold a meeting to see what is to be done in the mat"That might be," returned the postmaster, "but I ter," said the postmaster. hope--" This being satisfactory to all hands, the crowd quickly "Here she comes!" yelled one of the crowd. "She ain't dispersed. on time, but it are better late than never !'' A minute or two later the rickety old vehicle drew up ,. Balsam Bob made his way to one of the liquor saloons in front of the door, and the driver descended from his of the place, and, after "wetting up," went into a room seat. adjoining the bar. By the light of the single oil lamp in front of the post The man was honest, rough and daring, but he had a office the crowd could see that the man's face was very weakness for gambling, and that was why he visited this pale. particular saloon. "What's the matter, Joe?" asked the postmaster. Two or three tables were in the room, and around one "I was held up by that masked crowd ag'in," was the of these four men were seated playing cards. reply. "Got two corpses in ther coach, an' ther mail bags They were all miners, and varied in age from twenty are g-one !" five to fifty years. "What!" roared Balsam Bob, "ther mail bags gone? Ba1sam Bob got permission to enter the game, and soon Why, I vvon't git my letter from home now." he was so m11ch in it that he all about Drawinga he::ivv revnlv<-'r from his belt, he began stalkth e "ri rl murder the masked band had committed ing 11p .an

4 BRA VE AND BOLD. For three hours the big miner sat at the table, with varying success. One by one the men dropped out, until only one was left, and he refused to play unless they could get some one to come in and make it three-handed. The other tables were occupied, but there were half a dozen loiterers about the room, and fixing his eyes upon these, Balsam Bob roared out : "Who wants ter take a piece of this? I've got a couple of hundred I don't mind losin' ; speak out lively now !" take a hand," spoke up a medium-sized, well formed man of thirty. "I am a stranger here, but I like an honest game of cards any time." "You're welcome, my huckleberry! Sail in!" exclaimed the big miner, kicking out a chair for him to sit on. The stranger promptly sat down, and the game com menced. It seemed that Balsam Bob was in an extraordinary run of luck that night, for he kept winning until at length he was over five hundred dollars ahead. It was pretty late by this time, and nearly all the gamblers had left for their shanties. "You have won quite a pile, friend," observed the stranger, who had lost heavily. "I wish I was as lucky as you. Suppose we play for a little higher ?" "I'm your huckleberry!" replied Balsam Bob, and the other playe;agreeing, the stakes were doubled. But Balsam Bob kept on winning as before, and half an hour later he had won a thousand instead of five hun dred. "I never saw such luck in my life," S! the stranger. "I don't care to play cards any more; suppose we throw dice for a hundred dollars a side." "Trot out the dice!" roared the miner. "I'm ready for anything. I a1Ius want ter give a man a show ter git his money back." The dice box was produced, and the pair began throw ing, the other player having dropped out. The stranger won the first time, and then Balsam Bob won three times in succession. Then the stranger won again, and t?e miner captured the stakes twice. His luck had not deserted him, and he die some wonder fol throwing. At last the stranger got up in a disgusted manner "I have enough for to-night," said he. "I will try you again when you haven't so much luck with you." "I'm over two thousand ahead !" exclaim e d Balsam Bob, "an' I'd give every cent of It if I could meet a certain f e ller jist now." "Who would you like to meet?" asked the stranger, cor'1v. "Capt. Steel, ther leader of the gang of cutthroats that held up ther stage-coach to-night an scooped up ther mail bags, in which there oughter been a letter for me." With the quickness of a cat the stranger whipped out a brace of revolvers and, backing against the wall, exclaimed: "Hand over the two tHousand I am Capt. Steel !" CHAPTER III. DICK FALLS IN THE HANDS OF FRIENDS. When Dick Mount felt himself going over the cliff he gave himself up for lost. He had been so engrossed in trying to avenge the deaths of his father and brother that he did not fo think of the narrow, dangerous place the stage-coach had halted upon. Down he went for many feet, and then his body crashed into a tree top with such force as to render him uncon scious. But he did not stop here, for the limbs giving way from the effect of the sudden shock, allowed him to go on down for a distance of about ten feet, when he landed on a narrow ledge of rock. It was several minutes before he opened his eyes, and when he did so it took him some time to remember what had happened. When he did realize the position he was in he arose to a sitting posture and soon found that no bones were broken, though he was badly shaken up and considerabl y bruised. "The fiends!" he exclaimed. "If I live to get away from this place it shall be my duty to never cease until I bring that masked band to justice! They shot my father and poor sick brother down before my eyes, and their cruel death must be avenged The bo y burst into tears after he made this declaration but he soon wiped them away and arose to his feet upon the ledge. "The tree saved me from a certain death," he muttered as he looked about him, for he could see fairly well by aid of the stars A glance below showed him that the bottom of the ravine was not over twenty feet distant, and he promptly looked foi; som e means of ge tting there. To his right he dimly observed a cluster of vines which were rooted in the ground at the base of the cliff and he promptly seiz e d them and tested their strength. "They w ill hold my w e i g ht, I guess ," he thought "Now to go down and find my way to Skeleton Bar Swinging lightly from the ledge, he began descending by means of the vines. He reached the ground in safety, and then, with a sigh


I BRA VE AND BOLD. 5 of relief, he arranged his clothing and prepared to leave the ravine. Unfortunately he had lost his revolver, which must have fallen somewhere in the ravine, and as he did not think it advisable to light a match to search for it, he set out on a brisk walk in the same direction in which the stage-coach had been going before the attack. "I have a few dollars in my pockets," he muttered; "and will be able to buy what weapons I need, if nothing more." For ten minutes he walked along, and then, coming to a place where he could ascend from the ravine, he concluded to do so. Dick was now confident that he would get to Skeleton Bar in a short time. The first thing he intended to do on arriving there was to report the attack on the stage-coach, and get some men to go back to the spot with him, for he thought it quite probable that the driver had been killed, and that the vehicle was still there. It was tedious work climbing the steep ascent, and the boy was compelled to pause for breath before he reached the level above. At length he arrived at a little plateau that was thickly covered with a growth of trees and shrubs, and though he could not see much of the surroundings on account of the darkness, it struck him that it was a pretty wild sort of a spot. Coming to a halt, Dick peered about him, undecided which way to turn. Suddenly he caught sight of a light shining through the trees a few yards ahead of him. "That must come from a house," he thought. "Well, I will go and investigate. Perhaps I have reached the outskirts of Skeleton Bar." Quickly, but silently, the boy made his way in the direction of the light. The next minute he beheld a rude log cabin built upon the very center of the plateau. Something told Dick that it was safe for him to apply for admission, so he walked boldly to the door and gave a knock. It was opened a moment later by a middle-aged man, who, after scrutinizing the boy carefully, said: "Good-evening, young nian. Do you want ter see me?" "I am looking for a friend," returned Dick. "I am alone and unarmed and know no one in this vicinity. If y ou will kindly let me in and listen to my story you will no doubt sympathize with me, if you can do no more." "Come in, boy!" and as the man spoke he threw the I door wide open. Dick stepped in s id e and s aw two women seated ;it a rough table, engaged in patching .some garments. The scene was so homelike that felt drawn to the humble inmates of the lone cabin on )he mountain side, and almost before he was aware of it he sunk wearily upon a stool and burst into a flood of tears. "What is the matter, father?" asked the younger of the two girls, rising to her feet. She was a girl of sixteen, as beautiful as a picture, and of the form of a goddess-at least that is what Dick thought as he surveyed her through his tears. "A stranger has applied for admission, and I let him in, Ida," replied the man. "He seems to be in trouble, alld will no doubt tell us all about it soon. In tl:ie meantime you can prepare something for him to eat, for the clta'nces are hungry." / At this the girl immediately began to bustle abou1, qnd the other, who was probably five or six years senjor, promptly arose and assisted her. ' "I am Peter Benham, and these are my daugh,ters, Jane and Ida," said the man to Dick. The boy arose and bowed politely to the girls "I am Dick Mount," he quickly replied. "And now, with your permission, I will tell you how I came to reach your home." "Go ahead, young man, while the girls are gettin' you somethin' to eat." In as few words as possible Dick r e lated what had oc surred on the mountain side. "Too bad!" exclaimed Peter Benham, in a tone of genuine sympathy. "I have suffered, my boy, and I know what your feelings are." "I shall never rest until the murderers of my father and brother have paid the penalty of their crimes!" crie

6 BRA VE AND BOLD. rigb't here till morning," observed Benham as Dick got up from the table. "But I should like to go to the spot where the stage-coach was held up," said Dick. "You'll find nothing there. As soon as they got what they wanted, the masked band most likely ordered the driver to go on, and the whole outfit is in Skeleton Bar long before this." "If you think such is the case, I will do as you say, and stay with you till morning. I have enough money to pay you for the trouble I am putting you and the young ladi es to." "You will pay nothing!" exclaimed Benham. "I never charge an honest person anything for doing them a good turn." The log cabin was not a very pretentious building. It contained but two small rooms and a loft, which was oc cupied by the girls. Benham had a quantity of skins from the wild animals he had slain, and with some of these he made a couch for Dick in his own room. An hour or so later the door was securely barred, and all turned in for the night. Early the next morning the bo y was ready to go to Skeleton Bar, wJ1ich was but half a mile below, by a near cut. Benham had a good supply of weapons and ammunition on hand, and he soon fitted Dick out with a rifle and re volver, for which he would not take a cent. "I'll go down with you," he said; "I've got to get a few things from the store. The girls can take care of the shanty enough." Dick bade the girls good-by, and then started down the mountain path with Benham. A few r:iinutes later they came in sight of the little mining town, which looked very picturesque, nestling in the valley. 1 "There is Skeleton Bar," observed the old man; "it ain't much of a place; but it is a lively one, I can tell you!" As they reached the valley they came upon a number of miners who were digging -a grave. Close by two bodies lay, and, rushing forward, Dick saw that they were his murdered father and brother! CHAPTER IV. THE BRANDED BOY. "Hand over the two thousand dollars, I said!" cried the stranger. "Be quick about it, too, or it will begin to rain lead!" The inmates of the room were knocked speechless with astonishment, and no one was more so than Balsam Bob. Could it be p9 ss ible that this ma1nvas really Capt. Steel, the leader of the masked band ? The big miner no sooner asked himself this question than he was satisfied that such was the case. One of the stranger's revolvers was l eveled directly at his heart, and being a 'sensible, as well as a brave man, Balsam Bob hurriedly produced the money and handed it over. "That shows your good sense, my friend," observed the outlaw captain; "put it in my pocket for me." The miner obeyed in a sullen manner. The next instant the audacious stranger fired three shots in succession, and the lights in the room were extinguished in double-quick time. Then Balsam Bob received a blow in the face that caused him to fall to the floor, and with a leap that cleared his _; prostrate body Capt. Steel made for the door. The few men in the place were afraid to shoot for fear of hitting each other, and before a light had been struck the outlaw bad disappeared! "Hook me f?r a sucker !" exclaimed Balsam Bob, staggering to his feet as one of the men lighted a match. "That is the worst I was ever t aken in-by dad if it ain't!" "That feller was a putty soon one," retorted one of the mmers. J "Let's git arter him!" yelled Balsam Bob, who was now as mad as a hornet. "He can't be far away yet." Out of the saloon he rushed, with the men at his heels, but, look any way he chose, not a glimpse could he catch of the outlaw captain. "This beats pizen !" he ejaculated. "Who would ever have thought that coyote was Capt. Steel?" "No one," echoed his companions. "Ther next time we meet I reckon things will be a leetle different," and, consoling himself with this thought, the big miner made his way in the direction of his shanty. The population of Skeleton Bar was astii: very early the next morning. Instead of going to their work, the miners stood about in knots, talking over the startling events of the night before. The robbery of the mail-coach was enough to create lots of excitement among them, but the nerve and cool ness of the captain of the masked band, who dared to in troduce himself in a saloon, was a little too much for them. After a while they formed into procession and made their way to the post office, where the two bodies lay Will Duvall, who was a sort of lead e r among them selected six men to go and dig a grave for the victims of the masked band to lie in. Balsam Bob was one of these, and, getting out a stretcher, he with the assistance of the others, placed the bodies upon it.


BRAVE AND BOLD. 7 Then the postmaster spoke a few words in lieu of a funeral service, while the crowd listened with bared heads. when this was over, the six miners picked up their grewsome burden and started for the outskirts of the t own, where a little cemetery had been started at about the same time Skeleton Bar came into existence. There were few men lying th ere who had not met with a violent death, for brawls and shooting scrapes had been frequent occurrences in the history of the Bar. When a spot was selected the gravediggers began their work, and in a short time they were ready to make the in t ermen t. It was just at this time that Dick Mount and Peter Ben ham arrived on the scene, and when the boy knelt by his dead relatives and gave vent to his grief, more than one brawny miner brushed away a tear. Dick did not attempt to interfere with what the men \\"ere doing, and when the last shovelfu l of dirt had been heaped upon the two mounds, he faced the men and said: "Gentlemen I thank you for your kindness in burying my dead. This has been a sad blow to me, but I am young and may recover from it. I promise you, though, that it s hall be my duty not to leave Skeleton Bar until I have liunted the murderous band down and br@ugbt them to justice!" "You're a noble lad!" exclaimed Balsam Bob, seizing the boy by the band and shaking it warmly, "an' I promise you that I will do all in my power ter help you; an' so will all of us; won't we, lads?" "We will!" cried th e m iners in unison. Back to the shanty post office th ey went, Dick and Ben ham going with them. Two hours l ate r a vigilance committee of fifty was organized, with Balsam Bob as leader. "What are yo u goin' ter do ter make a livin' while you stop in Skeleton Bar?" asked the big miner, addressing Dick, a short time after. "I hardly know," was the reply "I must look for work somewhere." "I'll give you a job t e r work on my claim, which are one of the best in these here diggin's, an' if you show your self ter be good an' willin' I'll sell you a third share in it." "Thank you!" exchimed Dick, warmly. "I will accept your offer without looking any further." A week passed-by. Dick got along immensely at his work, and his employer was more than pleased with him. Not a trace had been seen or beard from the masked band since the eventful night when the coach was held up though the vigilance committee had used every effort to find them even sending out twelve men in the stage-coach lying in its bottom to act as a decoy on three different oc casions. Dick had visited the Benham cabin several times during this period, always receiving a warm welcome when he did so. On the evening of the tenth day after his arrival at the Bar he concluded to make a tour of investigation on his own hook, and see if he could not find where the hidden headquarters of the outlaw band were located. "These men here are honest -and well-meaning enough, but I think they go at it in the wrong way," he muttered; "the masked band's hiding place can be found only by cun ning and strategy, in my opinion, and if I can find it I will be able to lead them there and make quick work of the business." He did not desire Balsam Bob to know what he was up to, so, watching his chance, shortly after darkness set in he started in the direction of the place where the stage coach had been held up. The distance was not great, so he soon reached it. The moon was just rising as he made his way up the mountain, and its mellow light made the clefts of rock and the steep cliffs look weird and ghostly. Just beyond the dangerous place where the road ran along the brink of the chasm he came to a narrow defile that appeared to lead to the very heart of the mountain. This place had been thoroughly scoured by members of the vigilance committee with unsatisfactory results, but the boy had an idea that it was a fit for the outlaws to seclude themselves. lfe carried a brace of revolvers in his belt, and examin ing them to see if they were ready for instant use, he stepped softly into the defile and made his way cautiously along. He had not walked a dozen steps when he heard a slight noise behind him. He turned as quick as a flash, and saw two men who wore black masks almost upon him. The brave boy endeavored to raise his r e volver, but be fore he could do so the men sprang upon him. He gave one call for help, but that was all, for, being big, burly fellows, the men soon overpowered him and smothered his cries. "It are about time we put a stop ter people sneakin' around here," one of them said. "Here, Jack, blindfold him, an' we'll take him ter headqusirters an' see what ther captain says we had better do him." "Good enough," retorted his companion ; and, though Dick struggled bravely to get away from them, the pro position was carried out to the very letter. With his hands tied behind him and blindfolded and gagged, Dick Mount was conducted down the defile for a couple of hundred yards, and then his captors came to a halt. After listening to make sure that no one bad followed


s BRA VE BOLD. them, one of them struck a sharp blow upon the ground with the heel of his boot. A sharp, metallic ring was heard, and then the ground gave way beneath the feet of the three, and they went downward like a flash They came to a stop abotJt twelve feet beneath the sur face, and then, stepping aside, the piece of earth, or what seemed to be such, went up to the above like a flash Dick Mount had found the hidd e n retreat of th e l\1asked Band of Skeleton Bar, but the prospects before him were not very bright. Along a short passage the two outlaws conducted him, and a minute later a door swung open, disclosing a well lighted, roomy apartment, in which a score or more of men were lounging. "What have we here?" cried a man, who was no other than Capt Steel. "A boy! Who is it, men?" "We found him sneakin' about in ther defile, as though he was lookin' for somethin', so we thought we'd better bring him in an let you tak e a look at him," replied one of the men who had made the capture. "You did well. Take the bandage from his eyes and let us see what he looks like ." The next minute the command was obeyed, and Dick stood blinking like an owl under the strong ligllt of the lamps that illumined the scene. "What is your name, boy?" demanded the outlaw cap tain. "Dick Mount," returned the boy, f ea rle ss ly. "I am the boy who fell over the precipice the other night when you villains murdered my father and brother." At these words Capt. Steel gave a start. "Mount, did you say? Where is your birthplace?" "Topeka, Kan." Again the villain started. After a silence of fully a minute he fixed his eyes on those of the captive and said: "Boy I was going to kill you at first but I have changed my mind I am going to brand you with the trade mark of your country and send you back to Kansas!" Dick could not tell what the man was driving at, but he had been told he was not to be killed, and that caused him to keep up his courage. "Bring out that brandin g iron and heat it red-h e t !" exclaim e d the captain to one of his men. The next moment an iron that had once been used by the United States troops to brand cavalr y ponies was pro duced and placed in the glowing emhers of a fire that was burning on a rudely constructed hearth i,: a corner of the place. "Strip the boy to the waist!" At this command. Dick turned pale, and his heart began to beat like a trip hammer. He tried vainly to resist the men, and two minutes later his body was bared to the waist. Then his hands were drawn above his head and securely tied to a ring in the rocky wall. "Is the iron hot?" asked Capt. Steel. "It is," replied one of the men. "Bring it here!" With quivering lips the y boy looked over his shoulder and saw one of the men approaching with a brandin g iron, upon which, in glowing letters of fire, were the char acters: "U. S." Without a word Capt. Steel seized the red-hot iron and thrust it between the shoulder blades of Dick-against the bare, quivering flesh For fully half a minute he kept it there, while the living flesh hissed and smoked, and then, as he drew it awayDick fainted CHAPTER V. THE LITTLE LA WYER FROM TENNESSEE. A deathly silence followed the branding of Dick Mount. Even the rough, lawless men, who were used to all sorts of cruelties, seemed appalled for a moment at the horrible action. "Cut him down!" commanded Capt. Steel, breaking th e sil ence Half a dozen willing hands flew to do his bidding and the next minute the boy was lying stretched upon the floor. One of outlaws, who had a spark of pity in his brea s t, allowed a few drops of brand y to tri c kle down the unconsciou s lad 's throat, and he opened his eyes. "You are the Branded Boy!" exclaimed the of the masked band. "Get upon your feet and put on your clothes." Dick obe yed almost instantl y As h e arose, the outlaws crowded behind him to see how his back looked. As plain as the alphabet in a child's primer were the letters, "U. S." The reader no doubt knows how painful a burn even a slight one, for that matter; but to have a reclhnt iron thrust against th e bare skin until it burned into th e d ept h of nearly a quarter of an inch-that was more th a n painful! No wonder, then, that Dick Mount fainted. But he did not make the least complaint after the orcl('al was over. He put on his garments in silence, and th,..n fixed his eyes upon the captain, waiting for the next command. "Rlindfolcl him ancl l ea d him to the spot where vou captured him," said that worthy. "He understands what


BRAVE AND BOLD. 9 is required of him, and will no doubt go back to Kansas as fast as he can travel." "That I will not do,"' returned Dick, quietly. "I will at Skel e ton Bar until I have hunted down the murderers of 111 y father and brother, or until I meet the same fate they did!" .. Ha! ha! ha!" laughed Capt. Steel. '"Doy, I like your spirit, but you will take my advice and leave this wild section of country forever. 1 promise you faithfully, if you are again brought before me, you will die! Remem ber that. Away with him, men! There is no danger of his leading the miners to our snug retreat. Satan and all his imps could not find the secret entrance if they searched about the defile from now until eternity!" A bandage was securely tied about the boy's eyes, and the same two men who had brought him there started away with him. Contrary to his expectations, they did not take him out by the way they came in. There was a quick walk of five minutes, and then, with out ascending or going down, they came into the open air. Three minutes later the hoodwink was removed, and Dick saw, as near as he could judge, that he was in almost the exact spot he had been when the outlaws sprang upon him. "Good-night!" exclaimed one of the men. "Be sure an do what ther captain said." Without a word Dick walked in the direction of the mouth of the defile. As he had been divested of his weapons, it was policy to keep still, and he was wise enough to do so. When he reached the mouth of the narrow place he turned and saw that the two outlaws had disappeared in the darkness. "I must mark this spot," he muttered. "I will come here again, if I die for it!" Searching about, he found a loose piece of rock that lay in.a crack of the perpendicular wall. It was but the work of a moment to remove this, and then tearing off one of the buttons from his coat, the branded boy placed it in the crack and put the piece of rock back in its place. Satisfied with what he had done, he turned his foot steps in the direction of the Bar. It was not very late when he arrived at the shanty of his boss, and finding that Balsam Bob was not in, he pro ceeded to dress his smarting back as best he could, after which he turned in. In spite of the pain he suffered the branded boy man aged to sleep fairly well, and it was not until the next morning that he informed the big miner of what he had passed through in outlaws' den. "Great snakes!" cried Balsm11 Bob, as he surveyed the letters on the boy's back. "How you ever stood it, lad, I don't know. Ther measly band of coyotes'll suffer for this-see if they don"t Kin ther way to ther hangout?" "I can take you to within a few feet of the spot where it is located," replied Dick. "Come on clown to ther post office, then. We'll see what Bill Duvall thinks about this business." The two quickly made their way to the post office, and Dick bared his back for inspection and related his adven ture of the night before. The miners glared at the b;anded boy in mute astonish ment. They had never heard of such a thing before, and they made up their minds that the captain of the masked band must be a fiend incarnate. While they were talking over the matter a stranger elbowed his way through the crowd and asked permission to look at the brand on Dick's back. He was a shrew-looking, wiry little man of fifty years, apparently, and had arrived at Skeleton Bar the night be fore. "I am a stranger here, gentlemen," he said; "but as I have come here to locate, I would like to know something about this gang of outlaws that have been causing so much trouble around here of late. Gentlemen, I am Ned Rank, a broken-down lawyer from Kentucky." "Sart'inly, stranger," returned Balsam Bob. "This boy are Dick Mount, who was in ther den of coyotes last night, an' was branded with a red-hot iron by ther captain; he'll tell yer all about it." Ned Rank put out his hand to Dick who shook it in a friendly manner. "Young man, I like your make-up," said he. "If I can be of any help in getting square on these outlaws I'll do it for nothing. I am a lawyer, you know." "Thank you," retorted the boy. "I beUeve you are sin cere in what you say, Mr. Rank." The little man bowed and lifted his hat at this compli .ment, which action caused the majority of the miners to laugh. l'Rank, if yer come out to Skeleton Bar to practice law, I'm afraid yer will git left. A lawyer chap is not the sort of a huckleberry for these here diggin's, unless he knows how ter handle a pickax an' kin shoot ther buttons off a fellers coat without spoilin' ther garment." "Oh, that's all right," observed Rank, with a twinkle in his gray eyes. "I am pretty well up in the things you mention." "You don't look like as though you could do much of anything," spoke up a one-eyed miner, who had a bad reputation at the Bar . "Strikes that you're ther worst lookin' specimen of a tenderfoot I've seen in a dog's age."


IO BRA VE AND BOLD. "Do you mean that for an insult or a joke?" calmly asked the lawyer. "You kin take it anyway you like," was the retort, in a bullying tone. "Step outside the crowd, and I'll make you dance for the amusement of our friends!" exclaimed Ned Rank, push ing his way to a clear spot. With a snort of rage the insulting miner, who gloried in the name of Single-Eye Max, drew his revolver and fol lowed the little man. A brawl was an almost everyday occurence at Skeleton Bar, and if a man got killed in what they called a "square fight," they thought no more of it than if he had died of the delirium tremens. But if a murder or a robbery was committed it was dif ferent. They were just as anxious to bring the offender to a speedy justice as any inhabitant of the East. Dick was in a position where he could see the whole thing, and the thought came to him that Rank was either a fool or a very smart man. "Git a grave ready for another tenderfoot!" roared the one-eyed man. "I'm a roarer from Roarertown, an' when I shoot somethin' drops!" The next instant something did drop, but it was not the little lawyer from Kentucky. CHAPTER VI. AT THE HORN OF PLENTY. Ned Rank had no sooner faced Single-Eye Max than, with the quickness of a cat, he leaped forward like a human battering-ram, and knocked him flat upon his back. The little lawyer's head struck the bully's stomach with such terrific for ce that it caused him to dDuble up like a jackknife and dJPP his revolver. A roar of la ghter followed this unexpected incident, which served to make the one-eyed man madder than ever. Rank picked up the fallen man's revolver, and, hand1 ing it to him, said : "Get up at once. I am going to make you dance." As he spoke he drew his own revolver and covered the bully. Single-Eye Max's anger now turned to fear, and with a pale face he arose. "Now dance for the amusement of the crowd!" com manded Rank. "Hold on, stranger, I was only foolin' with you. You don't mean that you want me ter dance, do you?" whined the coward. "Dance!" almost shouted the little man; and to empha size his command he fired a shot and lodged a bullet into the heel of the bully's boot. That was enough! If Single-Eye Max had never danced in his life before he did it then. To help him along Rank kept firing until he had emptied the six chambers of his revolver. "Now you can stop," said he, calmly; and as the big bully sank upon the ground, almost exhausted, he added: "Look at the heels of your boots; you will find that three bullets hit each of them." Several of the miners hastened forward and made an examination. "You're right!" one of them cried. "You a tenderfoot! Oh, no! Wish I could shoot like that." "Mr. Rank, you are what I call a fust-class huckleberry that has never been picked," observed Balsam Bob. "We'll put you on ther list as legal adviser of the wigilance com mittee, if you'll allow us." "Certainly," responded the lawyer; "anything to be agreeable. I expect to stay in Skeleton Bar some little time, and I want to be friendly with all honest men." "Come on down to ther Horn of Plenty, an' we'll all liquor up!" shouted the big miner, enthusiastically. "Thank you," said Rank, "not just now. I think I have some ointment in my satchel that will relieve the pain from the boy's burned back, and heal it up quicker." The little man had such a way of speaking that when he once said a thing, his hearers took it for granted that he meant it. So Balsam Bob did not ask him. a second time, but led the procession to the nearest saloon, which its enterprising proprietor had named the Horn of Plenty. 'Single-Eye Max went along, and soon the front of the post office was deserted of all, save our hero, Will Duvall and Rank. "Come inside," said the postmaster, "and see what you can do for the boy's horrible burn." Dick and .Rank followed to his little office in the rear of the building, and once more the branded boy bared his back. The little lawyer made a careful examination, and then said: "Young man, you will carry that mark to your grave. The letters might be obliterated by an operation, but I should advise you to let them be as they are." "That's it exactly," spoke up Will Duvall. "No one need know he is branded unless he to tell them. Anyhow, U. S. stands for United States, and that isn't so bad." "When the masked band has been hunted down and its members brought to justice, I will have the brand to re mind me that I left no stone unturned to avenge the deaths of my father and my brother," observed Dick, quietly. Rank produced a tin box containing some ointment from his satchel, and carefully dressed the wound.


BRA V E AND BOLD. II The stuff had a soothing effect upon the burn, and Dick felt much relieved in consequence. "I feel as good as I ever did now," said he. "I am ready to lead the vigilance committee to the spot where I was captured at any time now." "As legal adviser of the commiftee,1 I would suggest that you should do nothing of the kind for a few days. If we keep quiet the outlaws will be led to believe that you do not intend to bother them," retmned the lawyer. "I guess you are right!" exclaimed Dick and the post master in a breath After a while Rank proposed that the branded boy should go with him to the Horn of Plenty saloon to see what the miners were doing, and though he had no liking for places of that kind, Dick went with him. Somehow he regarded Ned Rank as one of the best friends he had in the world, and he put the utmost confide nce in him. . '.fhat his confidence was not misplaced will be found out !JI on. As the pair neared the place the little lawyer whispered in Dick's ear: "Something tells me that the captain of the masked band is going to pay this shanty a visit before we come o u t. I think I will be able to recognize him when he comes in, and in case such a thing happens I'll give you the wink. Then you must look out." "Why do y ou think you would recognize him?" asked the branded boy "Have you ever seen him?" "Never in my life, but he has been described to me." "It strikes me that you have been sent out here to cap t u re Capt. Steel!" exclaimed Dick, with brightening eyes. "Never mind how it strikes you. Don't say anything more about what you think, either to me or anybody else. I am Ned Rank, a broken-down lawyer from Kentucky, and I came out here to make my fortune at the mines." "I won't say another word," return e d the boy. However, he could not help doing lots of thinking just then. Half a minute later the two walked into the saloon in an unconcerned manner. I It was the same place in which Balsam Bob had been s o neatly tricked by Capt. Steel and the big miner was s pe aking of the occurrence when Dick and his companion ent e red. "Here comes the branded boy !" yell e d Bals:it :i !:o b, cha nging the subject instantly. "Here is the only p u sson a live, outside of one of th eir members, as h a s ever been in the ther secret headquarters of t\1e masked band. Step up an' drink to his health bo ys!" The obliging bartender quickly suppli e d t h e drinks, and the crowd drank them with a cheer for Dick. "Now, have a round with me!" exclaimed a man, push-ing his way to the bar. "I just h eard a r e mark that this boy was the only one in the crowd who had been in the den of the masked band. That is wrong, gentlemen, for I have been there myself, and, I am happy to say, got out with a whole skin!" "Who in thunder are you?" asked Balsam Bob, stepping forward. "Gentlemen, I am a government detective," said the stranger, throwing open his coat and disclosing a badge. "I was sent here to run down this masked band that has been robbing the malls of late, and I am glad to say that I have already located the retreat of the outlaws, and been inside of it." The speaker was a well-formed man, attired in ordinary dress, and his manner showed that he was used to all sorts of compa ny. Dick "sized" him up carefully, and came to the conclu sion that he was pretty "fresh," even if he was in the employ of the government. The man's sudden appearance and his words astonished the crowd, and for a minute or two no one !laid anything. The bartender, however, had an eye for business, and he soon had the drinks on fhe bar. With a "Here's ter yer health!"' the miners drank, and then, waiting until the man had paid for the round, Ned Rank forward. In a tone that was as cool as a twilight breeze in au tumn, he exclaimed : "Stranger, I believe you are a fraud!'' CHAPTER VII. IDA BENHAM IS CAPTURED. At about the same hour the events described m the last chapter took place, six rough-looking men ere mak ing their way along the mountain side in the direction of the lonely cabin of Peter Benham All of them wore heavy beards, and by their general appearance they were villains. "I wonder why ther captain sent us to do this job in broad dayli ght?" obs e rved o n e of them, in a low tone, to his companions. "I don't know replied the fellow nearest him. "I suppose he knows his own business best." "Wha t in blazes does he want with ther gal, anyhow?" spoke up another "He's fell in love, most likely Each one of the party nodded, as though this was about the size of it, and then nothing was said until they came in sight of the lone cabin. They came to a halt behind a clump of rocks, and then


BRA VE AND BOLD. each man drew a black mask from his pocket and adjusted it over his face. A moment later they began sneaking in single file toward the little house. When th e foremost was within twenty-five yards of it a rather startling thing occurred. The door of the cabin opened, and Ida Benham stepped upon the threshold wiili a rifle in her hands. As coolly as though she were shooting at a mark she drew bead upon the leading man and pulled the trigger. As the report rang out the villain threw up his hands and dropped dead Then, in a ringing tone that was full of earnestness, the girl exclaimed : "Go back where you ca me from, you sneaking cowards, or I'll shoot you all dead in your tracks !" The villains were so astonished and dismayed at what had happened that they remained speechless. They had come there to capture the girl, but she had capt ured them instead! "I don't know what you are sneaking around here for," went on the spirited mountain girl, "but I do know that you are here for no good. I promised that I would shoot the first one I saw of the masked band, and I have kept my word. Go away now, or some of the rest of you will go clown!" "You made a mistake in us, miss," returned one of the men. "We meant no harm to you." "What would six men be sneaking round with masks on their faces for if they didn't mean to rob or murder somebody?" "See here," observed the man who had spoken, turning to his companions, "we've got ter spread out an' git that gal, even if we all go under but one. You know what it would be if we went back to headquarters without her." "You're t," was the response of the villains. "Ar ou going to move?" demanded Ida Benham, im patiently. "Yes," was the outlaw's reply. Then he told his companions to draw back out of sight, and spread out until they surrounded the cabin. Pickin g up the body of their slain comrade, they started away, and the girl was deceived into thinking her victory was complete. Old man Benham had gone down to the Bar on some errand, leaving his two daughters in charge of the cabin, as he had often done before. While her sister did th e work about the house Ida kept a watch on their outside surroundings, for since the masked band had become such a terror in that section she had been wcrried not a little. Somehow she could not help connecting the villainous gang with a good-looking hunter who had annoyed her considerably a month or two previous, and who had, on her refusal to marry him, disappeared with the promise that he would return and win her for his bride in spite of herself. The girl detested this man, who was known as Le Grand Meyster, and her opinion of him was that he was a consummate scoundrel. No wonder, that she thought of him when the masked band came to locate in th a t vicinity. The brave girl saw th e out laws sneaking toward the cabin, and the instant she became aware that they were masked she got her rifle ready. Her beautiful eyes flashed fire, and she resolved that they would never enter the cabin. Having been brought up in a wild country, she did not think it any harm to shoot clown a man who wore a mask to conceal his features. When the others went away she entered the cabin with an air of triumph. "It is all right now, Jane," said she "I drove them away easily enough." "What can they be doing around here?" asked her sis ter, anxiously. "Can it be that they want to our little home?" "They had better not try anything of the kind-not while I can see them." "I am afraid we shall have no end of trouble now, and shall advise father to move down to the Ba r ." "Probably he will," answered Ida. "He seems to take more interest in things down there than he used to." Both girls were looking out of the open door as they conversed. Ida had placedd1er rifle in a comer, and was now unarmed. Suddenly they beheld one of the masked men running toward the cabin as fast as his l egs could carry him. Ida gave a cry of alarm, and ran for her rifle, and her sister followed her example by taking down another that hung upon the wall. The younger ;f the tvvo stepped to the door, determined to shoot the approaching man as she had done one of his companions a few minutes before. The moment the brave girl appeared in the doorway the advancing outla w dropped to the ground behind a bow Ider. Bent upon getting a shot at the audacious scoundrel, Ida stepped from the cabin. She would have doqe much better if she had gone inside and barred the door. The instant she emerged from the door there was a quick pattering of footsteps, and a man sprang around each corner bf the cabin.


BRA VE AND BOLD. r3 Before she could raise her rifle to defend herself they were upon her. She uttered one scream to her sister for help, and then a brawny hand was thrust over her mouth. Her captors uttered a hoarse laugh, and darted away with her. Jane Benham, in the doorway of the cabin, with a rifle in her hands, dared not fire upon the masked villains for fear of hitting her sister. On hurried the two outlaws until they reached a clunip of rocks, behind which two of their companions awaited them. "We' ve done mighty well," exclaimed the man who had conceived the scheme effect the girl's capture. ''Now we'll light out for headquarters!" At that moment the fellow who had acted as a decoy joined them, and then the five started off, leaving the body of the outlaw Ida had shot in a hole, where they had hastily covered it over with dirt and stones. They made a short cut over the wild mountain side, and in less than half an hour reached the defile that led to the secret hiding place of the masked band. As luck would have ;t, not a soul saw them, and, mak ing doubly sure that there was no one about the defile, they reached the spot where the elevator was located and came to a halt upon it. One of them gave the necessary signal, and almost instantly they sank from sight. A moment later they stepped into the u11derground passage, and the block of stone, which was so neatly cov ered with dirt and moss, assumed its former position. The whole thing was worked by means of a powerful lever that could easily be manipulated by one man. ow, my putty lass, you kin yell all you want ter," said one of the outlaws, with a mocking laugh. "You are in ther home of Capt. Steel." Ida made no reply, but that she was really frightened almost out of her senses there was no doubt. CHAPTER VIII. LE GRAND MEYSTER. "You are a fraud!"' repeated Ned Rank. "What do you mean?" asked the stranger, advancing a step nearer. "vVhat I say." returned the little lawyer, calmly. "You claim to have been inside the den of the masked band. I will go a little further! If you have been there, you were there as one of their number!" The accused man's eyes flashed and his face paled slightly, but he did not make a move to spring upon Rank, or even draw a revolver. After a few seconds silence he calmly turned to the crowd, and said : "Gentlemen, if it were not for: the fact of this fellow being so little and insignificant in appearance, I would have dropped him in his tracks for insulting me. I did not think I was going to make anybody mad when I said I had been in the outlaws' secret quarters. I was a prisoner there, like this boy, only I did not suffer the misfortune of being branded. I am a gentleman, and I can figure in any society, from a high-toned ballroom to a poker game!" Some of the miners took sides with the man, and one of them asked him his name. "Some of you ought to know me," was his reply. "I have been at Skeleton Bar before. I am Le Grand Mey ster, the young man who was enjoying himself hunting and prospecting in this vicinity a month or six weeks ago." "You are right!" exclaimed one of the miners; "but you have grown an awful beard since that time." "I have, indeed. All my family are noted for the luxuriant whiskers they sport, so I thought I would let mine grow. Come and have another drink, gentlemen!" The lawyer had not uttered a word since Le Grand Meyster had called him little and in .significant-in he did not appear to take what was said of him as an insult at all, and walked up to the bar and took his drink along the rest of them. Dick took a cigar, which cost twenty-five cents, each time a round was served. He was not much of a smoker, but he did not care to drink the fiery liquor sold in Skeleton Bar. He had been an interested listener to all that had been said, and he could not imagine what the little lawyer was driving at. "He must suspect that man to be one of the outlaws," he thought. As soon as the glasses had been emptied and the round paid for, Le Grand Meyster spoke again. "Gentlemen, what is the matter with having a little game of cards?" "I'm your huckleberry!" promptly exclaimed Balsam Bob. "And I'll take a hand," added Rank, much to the sur prise of our hero. No one else spoke, so the three made their way into the cardroom. Dick and a number of the miners followed. The game had not been in progress ten minutes when the lawyer suddenly sprang to his feet and accused Mey ster of cheating. Both accuser and accused drew their revolyers, and it looked as though there was going to be a lively time.


...,BRA VE AND BOLD. "He has the ace of diamonds in his sleeve!" exclaimed Rank. "Mr. Balsam Bob, look, and see if I am right." The big miner quickly. gave Meyster's arm a rap, and, sure enough, the card dropped out. A howl went up from the crowd and those who were in line of the weapons in the hands o f the two men stepped aside. Meyster made a move to raise his revolver, but before he could do so Rank made a dive under the table, )and seizing him by the ankles, jerked him off his feet as quick as a flash. Then, before the lookers-on were aware of it, he had knocked the revolver from the fallen man's grasp, and placed a pair of handcuffs about his wrists! "Le Grand Meyster," exclaimed the lawyer, "I arrest you as one of the members of Capt. Steel's masked band!" As he spoke he threw back the lapel of his coat, and disclosed the badge of a government detective. A deathly silence followed, during which the miners exchanged glances. Finally Balsam Bob broke it. "Ther lawyer is a detective," said he, in a puzzled tone. "Who'd have thought he was that kind of a huckleberry? Gentleman, he's made an arrest, an' we'll stick to him an' see that he gets his prisoner under lock an' key. Any man that is caught cheatin' at cards ought ter be lynched, whether he belongs to ther masked band or not A cry of approval went up at this, and almost every body asked Rank if they could be of any assistance. "If you will lead to the lockup, so I can pla!;e my prison e r in safe quarte rs, I'll be obliged to you," replied the little lawyer. "\Ve never tise for such a thing in these dig gings," observed Balsam Bob. "But I guess ther post master might let us have a room in ther upper story of his buildin' that would ans\\er. Come on with your prisoner; we'll see about it." Le Grand Me\stcr arose to his feet at a command from his captor, and then the entire crowd started for the post office. They had just reached it, and Ned Rank was about to conduct his prisoner inside, when the clatter of horses' hoofs was heard. Almost at the same instant Le Grand Meyster gave a shrill whistle, and with a sudden wrench broke away from 'the crowd. So sudden did all this happen that the miners stood stock-still in their tracks and gazed in amazement at the approaching horsemen. There weresix of them, and all wore masks overttheir faces. "The masked band!" cried Dick. "Open fire on them, men I" The next instant the riders swooped down upon Le Grand Meyster, and. seizing him, threw him across the neck of one of the horses. This bro11ght the 1r.iners to their senses, and with a ydi they charged up011 the daring outlaws, firing their weapons as they did so. CHAPTER IX. THE DETECTIVE. A\vay galloped the six masked outlaws, taking Le Grand Meyster with them. A v o lley of revolver shots came after them, but with no effect, as they were too far off. "Fooled, by jingo!'" exclaimed Ned Rank. "It seems that Mr. Meyster held the winning hand, after all. Gen tlemen, there is no need of following them; we will have to let it go until some other I want to tell you, though, that I did not come out to Skeleton Bar for nothing!" "That man must certainly belong to the masked band," observed Dick, as he refilled the chambers of his revolver. "That's sartin, now," said Balsam Bob. "Mr. Rank, I calculate that you have got no end of good sense, an' I'll believe everything you say after this." "Hooray for Rank!" somebody yelled, and then the entire crowd joined in. After a while the miners dispersed and went to attend to their work. Dick went with Balsam Bob to the shanty of the latter,' leaving Rank alone with the postmaster. The two went inside and held a rather lengthy con versation, and finally it was arranged that Rank would stop with Will Duvall during his sojourry. at the Bar. The lawyer-or detective, as vve shall now call himremained pretty close for the balance of the day, and even when night came, and things began to grow lively at the Bar, he failed to show up at any of the saloons. The fact of i t was tha t he retired very early, and slept sound until about an hour before midnight. Then he arose and attired himself in a suit of clothes similar to those worn by the miners. He also made some wonderful changes about his face and general appearance, and when he left the post office building a few minutes later, he looked like anything but a lawyer from Kentucky, or any other place, for that matter. Rank was now disguised as a man who had seen very rough times. He wore a scraggy beard of a sandy hue, and had a slight hump between his shoulders. After looking about the vicinity of the post office for a few minutes he slowly started for the outskirts of the mining village. Once upon the stag-e-coach road he set up a brisk walk. "I must pay a visit to the den of the masked band to night, even if I have to allow myself to be captured in order to do it," he muttered. "I would have brought the boy along to locate the place for me if it were not for the fact that it would be certain death for both of 11s if wf' were caught. If I am caught by any of the band and taken before their captain I'll run the risk of losing my life." The detective kept on walking until he came to a defile that might pass for the one Dick Mount had told him the outlaws' den was located in, and then, in an apparently wearied manner, he entered the narrow place and began feeling along the sides as though in search of something-. For fully ten minutes he kept this thing up, going back and forth several times. At length man's quick ear caught the sound of softly approaching footsteps.


BRA.VE AND BOLD. 15 The instant he became aware that somebody was ,com ing toward him he sank upon -the ground, exclaiming aloud, as he did so : "It's Tough, but I've got to sleep in the open air again to-night. I thought by the looks of this place that I might find a cave to put up in, but I guess it is no go. I wonder how much farther it is to a place where somebody lives?" "What are you doin' here, stranger?" demanded a rough voice, so near him that Rank gave a start that was quite natural. "Hello!" he cried, rising to his feet with an effort that seemed really painful; 'Tm glad I have met some one. You are the first human being I've come across in the last twenty-four hours." "Who are you, and where'd you come from?" ques tioned another voice; and as the disguised man looked up he saw two masked men standing in front of him. "My name is Burton, and I've come from Sandy Forks, tryin' to get to a place called Skeleton Bar, where a friend of mine has struck it rich," replied Rank. "I've been in the hardest kind of luck for the last month, and I'm tryin' to better my condition." "Got any money about yer ?" asked one of the men. "Not a red! Do I look as though I was a millionaire?" "No, you don't, for a fact," and both the outlaws-for they were the outside watchers of th e masked bandchuckled as though they thought it a good joke. "Do you people live around here?" asked Rank, after a pause. "We don't stop over a hundred miles from here," was the retort of one of the viliains. "You kin see by what is on our faces what kind of business we are in." "I don't care what sort you are, you can't take anything from me 'cause I ain't gtlt ii: to take. If I'd had any money I wouldn't have walkeCI all the way from Sandy Forks." "\Vhat are you goin' ter do when yer git ter Skeleton Bar?" "Run a faro bank, if my friend will back me." "Is that the way you made yer Jivin' in Sandy Forks?" "No, that ain't the way I my livin' there; it's the way I came near starvin' to death. Why, there ain t enough business there to run a ten-cent-ante game of draw poker." At this juncture the two outlaws held a whispered con versation, and Rank sat clown upon the ground again, to keep up the deception that he had walked a long distance, -At length one of the men addressed him. "Get up, stranger; we've concluded ter take you to a place where yer kin strike a decent sort of a bed ter sleep on." "Have you, though?" cried Rank. "If you do I'll never forget you as long as I live !" "I guess it is safe to run the risk," he heard the other one whisper. "We'll take him through. If ther captain thinks he's no good he kin easily be fixed." Placing our daring friend between them, t11_e outlaws walked in the direction of the neatly-contrived secret en trance of the den. When they reached the proper place and gave the signal, they held fast tightly to Rank, who. when he felt the ground giving way beneath his feet, uttered a stifled cry of fear. "It is all right,'' chuckled one of them, as they stepped into the passage and allowed the elevator to go up. "Don't get scared, 'cause we live underground." The detective's heart was beating with expectation, though he felt not the Jeast particle of fear. "I shall soon be before the dreaded Capt. Steel," he thought. "I must size him up carefully so I will know him when I meet him in disguise." Contrary to his expectations, when he got into the den he was not taken before the captain The lights were turned down very low, and no one save the guard was stirring. The two men who had conducted him there showed him empty bunk, and told him he might turn in until mornmg. "I am good for a few hours in the headquarters of masked band," muttered Rank; "so I'll make the best of it." Thanking the outlaws for their kindness, he crept into the btink, and apparently dropped to sleep almost imme diately. CHAPTER X. DICK ON HIS METTLE. Dick quit work rather early that day, as he intended to pay a visit to the Benham cabin b efor e sunset He had fallen in love with Ida, though he was scarcely aware of it as yet. He only knew that he was fond of her society, and that he liked her father and sister very much. He rigged himself out as neatly as his limited wardrobe would allow, and, with his rifle over his shoulder, set out. It did not take him long to arrive at the cabin, because he took a short cut up the mountain. Before he reached the door it was op e ned by Jane Ben ham, the elder of the girls, who ran to meet him in an almost frenzied manner. "Oh Dick!" she exclaimed, "I am so glad you have come Something awful has happened !" "Why, wha:t is the matter?" questioned the branded boy, with a pale face. "Ida has been captured by the masked band, and father has not been home since this morning! I have been afraid to leave the house, and have been worrying myself almost to death. Come in and I will try and tell you all about it." Rendered spechless by the startling news, Dick followed her into the cabin. Jane told him in a trembling voice how the six masked men had paid them a visit that morning, and how Ida had been kidnaped. "And father went away early this morning, saying he would surely return before midday," added Jane. "Something must be done at once!" ejaculated Pick. "I--" He did not finish that which he was going to s for at that instant there was a gentle tap upon the door "Who is there?" demanded our hero, drawing his re volver as he spoke. "It is I, Le Grand Meyster," came the response. "Open the door. It is an acquaintance of ours," spoke up Jane. "Perhaps he can do something toward assist ing us."


l () B R A V E BOLD. Tho u g h Di c k did not think much of Meyster he took dmy n the bar and swung the door open. The gambler immediately stepped in and took u seat. "Mr. Mount, this is Mr. Meyster," said the "I think we have met before," returned the .r anded boy, bowing coldl y to the gambler. "Yes you were present when the little unple \a.ntness occurred at the Horn of Plenty," observed Me._., . r "It was a mistake all aro u nd, I assure you, :rnd I l1ave s t rong reasons to beli e ve that the f e llow who called i ; ; self a lawyer is in lea g ue with the masked band. It was a v e r y neat trick of his to make me a prisoner, and then turn m e over to the care of the masked men on horseback Did you hear him whi s tle Mr. 1fount, when the hor s emen appeared on the s cene?" "I thought it \\as you who did the whi s tling" i cto. rted Dick, eying the 111311 keenly. "I? Why, no! How could you be so badly mistaken as that?" And the expre ssion on Meyster's face was so genuine that the boy began to wonder if it was possible for him to be mistai<:en in his opinion of the man "What did th e outlaws do with you after th ey carried you away?" he as k ed, after a pause. "They took me to a lonely place on the mountain, and then took all the money I had-which was no small sum, either-together with my watch and chain. After doing this they turned m e lose w1th the handcuffs on my wrists, and being afraid to g o back to Skeleton Bar, I have been hiding ever since.' "But where are the handcuffs?" asked Dick. "I to slip them off after a while. See my wrists?" He held up his hands and disclosed a pair of bruised and swollen wrists to verify his statement. Dick said n o mor e but listened in silence while Jane Benham told Le Grand Meyster what had happened. She had jus t firtished the story of Ida's capture when her father's voice was heard outside the door. With a cry of j oy s h e to open it, and the next minute Peter Benh a m \Vas inside. When he heard what had happened his face turned ashy pale, and he began walking the floor 'after the man ner of a madman. "Calm yourself. Mr. Benham," interposed Meyster "I am quit e sure I will be able to effect your daughter's rescue. As you may know, I am a rejected suitor to her hand, and if I should succeed in securing her liberty she might think better of me and change the answer she gave me when we last m':'t. When Dick heard these words he was satisfied that Le Grand Meyster was just what he took him to be at first -a villain. "He is one of the masked band, as sure as fate," he thought, "and he has put up this job of kidnaping Ida in order to rescue her and then gain her consent to marry him. But he shan't be the one to rescue her-I'll do it mys ." 'i\'.it this resolve in his mind the branded boy sprang to his feet. I'll go and see what can be done toward getting Ida safely back Mr. Benham," said he. quietly. "T know the to the den of the mask e d band. and I promis e you I w ill b r ing her back or die in trving." ''Ha!" exclaimed Meyster in' a sneering manner; "it seems that I have a rival for the hand of your fair daugh ter, Mr. Benham. Well, may the best man win.'' ''This is no time to talk of such things," said the old man, wildly, wringing his hands. "Ida must be brought back, and I care not who is her rescuer. I will go down to the Bar at once and notify Balsam Bob what has hap pened. You will go with me, Jane!" Dick waited to hear no more, but promptly left the cabin. Le Grand Meyster followed a moment later, and then Benham and his daughter started down the mountain side. Our hero made it bee line for the place where the retreat of the outlaws was located, keeping a sharp watch behind him to see if Meyster was following But he saw not a sign of him all the way to the spot where he had placed the button in the crevice. After finding that it was still there. Dick felt sure he had arrived at the right place, so he cautiously entered the narrow defile. He had not walked two steps when the figure of I man appeared before him. It was quite dark by this but in spite of this t boy recognized the man as Le Grand Meyster "I got here as quickly as you did, you see," observed the villain . "Now, I want to tell you that unless you go back to Skeleton Bar, and mind your own business, one o f us will die before we l e ave this spot!" "Be it so, then," returned the branded boy, angrily, 'for I do not intend to go away from her e until I take Ida Benham with me Both had drawn th e ir revolvers, and they stood glaring at each other like a pair of lions. "If we are going to fight spoke up Meyster, "we had b e tter step out up o h the trail, and have it out with knives. T t might be dangerous fo us both if we discharged a t irearm here." "Anything to suit you !" exclaimed Dick, who had now about lost his temper. Lead the way outside\ then. You are only a boy, but makes no difference, since you are bringing it all upon Ourself." Placing their revolvers back in their belts, the two : t epped from the defile and faced each oth e r. The next moment a pair of hunting knives flashed in the starlight, and the unequal contest began! CHAPTER XI. IN THE OUTLAvv's RETREAT. A duel to the death, with hunting knives for weapons! That is what the branded boy thought as he faced Le Grand Meyster in the starlight. Though Meyster was a man. and several years Dick's senior, he was not many pounds heavier. But he certainly had the advantage of the boy in ex perience, if nothing else. He was satisfied that he could easily best the lad, and believing him to be a rival for the hand of pretty Ida Ben ham, he determined to kill him. Dick did not feel satisfied that he could get the best of Meyster. but he made up his mind that he would, or die in the attempt.


BRA VE AND BOLD He was quite sure the man was one of the masked band. and it was that lawless crowd he had sworn to hunt down. Clash! The two knives came together with a ring. Then the man and boy began swaying backward and forward, each on his guard and looking for an oppor tunity to lunge with his knife. A minute passed. Dick had received a cut on the arm that' made a slit in the sleeve of his shirt. but did not draw blood. Meyster' had not been touche9 at all as yet, and Dick began to realize that he would not be able to do his opponent any harm. But an instant later something happened which caused the battle to become very much one-sided. In springing about Meyster stepped upon a round stone, which rolled from under him and threw him heavily to the ground. "Now I have you!" cried the branded boy, springing upon his prostrate foe with uplifted knife. Meyster lay perfectly still, and Dick hesitated. The villain's sudden fall had rendered him unconscious, his head coming in violent contact with the very stone that had rolled from beneath his foot. The instant Dick comprehended the condition of his prostrate opponent he lowered his knife. "I can t kill him !" he muttered, half aloud. "Even if I were certain that' he was the slayer of my father and brother, I could not, while he is unconscious a'11d unable to help himself !" The branded boy was just about to rise to his feet when he felt a hand upon his shoulder. Turning quickly, he beheld a masked man standing over him with a drawn revolver. But that was not all! Another stood close by, and he, too, had a pistol leveled at the brave boy's breast. "Don't move an inch, or you are ?i dead kid!" ex claimed one of the men. Thinking it the strictly proper thing to do under the circumstances, Dick obeyed. The ma_n nearest him then quickly seized him, and throwing the boy's hands behind his back, proceeded to bind them together with a thick cord. As soon as this was accomplished the outlaws turned their attention to Le Grand Mevster. The villain was just coming to when one of them bent over him, and in an excited voice, he exclaimed: "Where. is the boy I was fighting a duel with?" "He is here, all safe enough," replied the outlaw. "Vve've got him a prisoner. an' I guess we'll make you one, too." Meyster's hands were quickly tied behind him, and then the two masked men lifted him to his feet. Then, with drawn revolvers, they marched their cap tives into the narrow defile. Dick saw that he had not the least show to escape, so he did not make the effort. He felt certain if he did he would receive a bullet in his brain, so he concluded to trust to luck to get out of the scrape he was in. In a very short time the four stood upon the wonderful hidden elevator. The branded boy knew perfectly well what was coming, so he was not surprised in the least when he felt himself shooting downward. Once inside the underground place Dick and Meyster were hurried to the main chamber of the retreat. That the majority of the outlaws were present the boy saw at a glance. He looked around for Capt. Steel, but cotild not recognize him among the men. / Leaving their prisoners standing in the center of the apartment, with their arms still bound behind them, the two villains who had captured them turned to the fellow who seemed to be in charge of the place and conversed with him in whispers. The result was that Dick was immediately marched off to a small dungeon-like apartment, and the door locked securely upon him. What they did with Le Grand Meyster he could not tell, but judged that he had been placed in a similar apartment. An hour flitted by. In the dark room, bound as he was, Dick felt anything but comfortable. He was just wondering if he would have an opportunity of seeing Ida Benham before his fate was decided qpon, when a key grated in the lock, and the door swung open. A man with a lighted lantern in his hand stood before hlm. "Come out, young feller," said he; "ther captain wants ter see yer." Without making a reply, Dick arose to his feet He followed the man through a short, narrow passage into the main chamber, and saw that some sort of meeting was in progress. Capt. Steel stood before a table, and the members of his band were scattered all around him in attitudes of attention. The eyes o the outlaw captain turned upon Dick as he entered the place, and a deep hush came over the men. "The branded boy !" observed Capt. Steel, his eyes glit tering like those of a snake. "So you dared to come back here again, did you?" The question was addressed to Dick. "I was brought here," returned the boy. "I was cap tured and brought here, the same as before." "Do you mean to say you did not start for this place when you set out?" "I did not say so," retorted Dick, not flinching from the penetrating gaze. There was a silence of half a minute, and then the leader of the masked band cast a sweeping glance at those as sembled, and exclaimed: "Men, this is the second time this boy has been before us. The last time I decided upon what was to be done with him; this time you may." At these words tbe heart of the branded boy sank within him. He knew full well that he could expect little mer from that lawless crowd. "I move that he an' ther other feller we brought in are made ter finish the fight they started on ther t ail!" ex claimed one of the men.' Half a dozen seconded the motion, and it was unani mouslv carried. "Very well," observed the captain. "It shall be as you decide. I am sorry I can't remain and see how the duel ends; but vou know I have important business elsewhere. \ -


I8 BRA VE AND BOLD. You may bring out the girl and let her witness the combat. The sight of her might spur them on somewhat. .Start them at it right away." Glancing at his watch, the captain hurriedly left the place. Two minutes later Le Grand Meyster, stripped to the waist, was led into the chamber, and a moment later two men brought Ida Benham out and tied her in a chair. "Strip!" ordered one of the masked men, addressing Dick, at the same time cutting the rope that bound his wrists. The boy quickly obeyed. "Now, then, here are your knives Get in, a11' ther quicker you make mincemeat of each other ther better it will be !" Le Grand Meyster promptly took the knife handed him and advanced to the center of the room. Nothing daunted, Dick did the same, though he was satisfied that Meyster knew more about fighting with knives than he did. His brief bout with him a short time before told him this, and he was pretty sure, if his adversary had not stepped upon a stone, things would have been much different. Still, he meant to win As the pair walked to the center of the room, in plain view of her, Ida Benham uttered a scream "Oh, Dick !" she cried, "if you must fight that man, kill him, for I detest him as I do .Jl. snake!" Mevster scowled fiercely at this, and advanced upon Dick with uplifted weapon. Then the branded boy brought all his skill into play, and the battle began. CHAPTER XII. "vou CAN NEVER LEAVE THIS PLACE ALIVE!" As Dick Mount braced himself to receive the onslaught of his foe, it suddenly occurred to him to ask the out laws what would be the fate of the winner after the con was over. "Wait!" he cried, jumping nimbly out of Meyster's way, ."I want to ask a question before I fight." "What is it?" said Meyster, coming to a stand be fore him. "I want to know what will become of the winner. I don't propose to assist in giving an exhibitiort to these men, and then be killed by them whether I win or not." "That is right," spoke up Meyster, turning to the as sembled outlaws. "\tVhat say you, men? Shall the win ner be allowed to depart in peace and conduct the young lady safely home?" "Yes, yes !" chorused the men. 'You talk more like the leader of these men than a p oner among them," observed Dick. "But it makes no difference who you are-I am satisfied to fight you on the terms '\you just named." "I. too, am satisfied with that proposition!" exclaimed Ida Benham. "Dick Mount, you must win the fight! Kill that man as one of the slayers of your father and brother, for I am sure he is in league with these men!" These words nerved the branded boy to do something desperate, and with his teeth clinched in a determined manner, he faced his opponent, whose face was no:w livid with rage. ' Clash clash! The steel blades came together with a ring that sounded loud and clear in the underground place Dick seemed to have become possessed with the strength of a demon, for he was on the aggressive from the start, and forced his antagonist about the room with apparent ease. Almost spellbound, the outlaws gazed upon the scene. The skill the boy displayed was something remarkable to them. "Keep it up, Dick!" shouted the captive girl. "Though he is a man, be is but, a toy in your bands." It seemed to Dick that he was urged on by some in visible force, and the manner in which he wielded the knife was astonishing to himself. He knew that in his present condition he was more than a match for though why it was he could not imagine Several times he had an opportunity to split the man's heart in twain, but he contented himself with merely pricking his skin, and when two minutes had passed the blood was gushing from Meyster's body in several tiny streams. But Le Grand Meyster was as courageous as a lion, and showed that he meant to die game. Not a sound could be heard save the heavy breathing of the contestants. Several of the men looked as though they felt like interfering, but the majority of them stood as though they had become rooted to the floor of the ca\ern. For five minutes the fight waged, and then by a light ning-like movement Dick severed Meyster's thumb from his hand, causing him to drop his knife to the ground. At this a yell of dismay went up from the outlaws, and, rushing forward, balf a dozen seized the disarmed man and bore him from the spot "Hold!" exclaimed the branded boy; "if that man is not a member of your band, why do you wish to save his life?" As there was no answer to his question, Dick walked over to Ida Benham, and severed the cords that bound her to the chair. "'According to the agreement, we will be allowed to depart," said he. "You will be allowed to depart to ther other country," said a rough voice, and, turning, the brave boy beheld half a dozen revolvers leveled at him. The manner in which he was treated upon his first visit to the outlaws' den had led him to believe that the villains meant to keep their I WQ(d, and allow the winner of the fight to depart as the escort of Ida Benham. "Is this the way you keep your word?" he asked, with flashing eyes. "Can't help it, young feller." returned one of the men. "We'll have to hold you till ther captain COJ11es. Put on your clothes now, an' let us lock you up." As he ceased speaking a couple of his companions seized Ida and led her back to the place she had been confined in. Dick saw it would be extreme fo.olhardiness for him to make any resistance, so he reluctantly donned his cloth ing and allowed the outlaws to place him back in the dark, cell-like apartment. One thing about his prison was that it was perfectly


BRA VE AND BOLD. 19 dry, and as there was a pil e of straw in one of the cor ners, he threw himself upon it in a dejected manner. The exciting events he had passed throu g h since he out to pay a visit to the Benham cabin that evening we re enough to set his brain in a whirl, and after vainly endeavo rin g t o arrive at some conclusion, h e dropped into a doze. Why it was that he slep t so sound Dick could not tell, b u t, anyhow, it was some hours later when h e awoke. ''Grea t Scott!" h e gasped; it must be morning." He felt re sted, but very hung ry, and, rising to his feet, he began pacing th e narrow confines of the apartment. For nearly half an hour h e kept this up, and then he was r elieved by hearing footsteps in the passage outside. A moment lat er the doo r opened and a man with a lantern appeared in the doorway. "Come out, yo un g feller," said he "Ther captain wants te r see yer." G lad enoug h to get out of his pent-up quarters Dick him outside. As he emerged from the passage into the main apartment the boy was astonished to see that it was lig hted by the sun, which streamed through a long, narrow crev ice on the east side. Some of the outlaws were eating at a rough table and two or three were peering out through the crack through which the light came. The branded boy l ooked over the assemblage, but could see nothing of the captain. "Come here, boy, an' take a lo_ ok out of our window," said one of the men. Out of curi os ity, mor than anything e lse Dick obeyed. As he peered through th e crack in the rocky w all of the cavern he gave a c r y o f astonishment. The crack was in the face of a cliff, and far below he could see th e littl e mining t own of Skeleton Bar! TI1e sun was about an h ou r hig h, and the collection of rough s h anties l ooked like so ma n y palaces to Dick just then "What w ou ld you give ter b e down there? asked the man who ha d spoken, grinning lik e a monkey as he put the question. I am satisfied to be where I am," r eplied Dick. "If the captain's word is good for anything, I will soon b e down there." A silence followed th e boy's words, w hich was sud den l y broken by the voice of Capt. Steel. "Attention!" The branded boy turned with the rest and beheld tl:e outlaw cap tain standing before his table. "Bring the boy here!" As the villain spoke. he turned his gaze upon Dick who n oticed that the part of his face not hidden b y the mask was very pale. Without waiting t o be l ed Dick walked boldly to the captain "I suppose I am a t libert y to go now and take the young lad y with me?" observed he. "You can ne ve r leave this place alive!" was the stern rejoinder. CHAPTER XIII. DICK IS HANGED. As these words left the lips of Capt. Steel, a deep hush came over the assembled crowd. Dick turned pale but o th e rwise did not show any signs o f fear. The masked captain was enveloped in a huge cloak, and he looked as though he had just recovered from a fit of sickness. He appeared to be very irritable, too, which was not his usual manner. ''Where is Burton, the man who desires to join our band?" he asked, sinking upon a chair as he spoke "Here I am, captain exclaimed a voice, and the next instant the disguised detectiv e stepped forward. As he had not been admitted t o the secret quarters of the band until after the duel b e twe e n Dick and Le Grand Meyster, he, of course, knew nothin g of it. He had just crept out of the bunk the outlaws gave him when th e branded bo y was brought upon the scene. Though very much surprised at seein g Dick a prisoner there he did not show any more intere st in the boy than any of the band. He had asked the men t o l e t him join their band, and they agreed that, with th e captaii;i's permission, he should. When Rank heard Capt. Steel tell Dick that he should neve r l eave the place alive, he f e lt a trifl e uneasy. If they resolved to kill their prisoner, how was he to prevent it? When he was called by the masked leader he grew more uneas y. It struck him that Capt. Steel would command him t0 s la y Dick. A nd he was right, too for a minute lat e r the captain said : "Burton vou want to become a member of the masked band of Skeleton Bar?'' ''I do." was th e quick r ep ly. "Are you willing t o prove yo urself worthy of becoming a mernber ?" "Yes, sir." "Then take this bo y and kill him !" "How will I do it sir?" gas ped the detective. "Any way yo u like. The more original the method, the better I will like it. The detective 's dis g uis e was so perfect that Dick did not know him and when h e h ea rd that his life was to be sac rific ed t o prove the fitness of a man to join the mur derous gang, his h eart sank within him "After you finish him you ca1i to ss hi s body out through the crack over there. It will fall into the deep canyon be l ow and no one will ever know what has become of the branded boy!" went on the masked villain. ''I've got an idea, captain." It was Rank w h o spoke. "What is it?" "Suppose I put a noo se around his n eck, throw out eno u gh s l ack rope to r eac h pretty near to the bottom of the canvo n, and then chuck th e b oy out? \iVh e n he fetches up at the e nd of the r ope his h ead is pretty s ure to fly off." ''That is an original idea. Go ahead and car r y it out." 1 As though he was much pleased with that he


20 BRA VE AND BOLD. to do, Rank proceeded to bind Dick's hands behind his back. "Now, where's your long rope?" he asked. "There is plenty in the storeroom over there. Take the boy in there with you and get him ready for his journey. When everything is in readiness bring him out and give him the drop to death." With a genuine. smile of satisfaction, the detective led his victim to the storeroom. Ten minutes later he came out, dragging the helpless boy with a rope that was noosed. about his neck. "I am all ready!" cried the supposed Burton. "If some one will give me a lift, now, I'll soon finish the job. I think no more of killing a man than I do of playing a game of draw poker.'' "You are a good one, I guess," returned Capt. Steel. "Go ahead and do your job as it suits you, and pick out j what help you want." The detective darted across the apartment, and the branded boy, to save himself from being choked, was forced to follow him. "Hold on !" cried Dick, as a couple of men seized him to lift him to the level of the opening ; "if I must die, shoot me! Don't let me die with a noose about my neck!" Rank chuck1ed gleefully. "That is just what I will do-come to think of it. If I drop you down, so that your head will be yanked off, you'll die too sudden. Guess I'll lower you down and let you strangle to death, and by and by one of us can cut the rope and let you drop below in your last resting place." Capt. Steel nodded approvingly to this amendment to the original plan, so without any further Dick was lifted up and deposited upon the top of the narrow wall which the crack divided. The boy's struggles were in vain. His hands were tied, and he was as helpless as an infant. With a gleeful chuckle that sounded fiendish. even to the hard-hearted outlaws, Rank gave the boy a push _and caused him to roll through the opening. Then he lowering upon the rope, singing a boat ing song as he did so. Foot after foot of the rope went out, until finally there was not over ten feet of it left. "Hold on !" exclaimed one of the men, "you are pretty near the bottom. That rope will just reach. Hold him where he is until he dies!" "Good !" nodded the detective. "Why didn't you say so before? I wouldn't have lowered him so far." "He'll die there as quick as he would if he was closer up here," observed Capt. Steel. "Make the rope fast, Burton, and give him a chance to stretch out his full length." Rank obeyed, and then, calmly seating himself on a bench, asked one of the men for a chew of tobacco. Not one of the lawless band clambered to the opening and looked down to view the foy in his death struggles. They did not mind shooting people down when they made a raid on a stage-coach, but to see a fellow-being dying with a noose about his neck was not to their fancy. Perhaps the thoughts of such a thing reminded of what fate would be if they got their just deserts. Capt Steel waited until ten minutes had passed, and then exclaimed : "Let the rope go !" Rank obeyed the command instantly, and like a flash the end disappeared through the crack in the face of the cliff. A sigh of relief went up from the outlaws. "That is the end of one of our worst enemies," observed the captain. "He was so persistent that he caused me to order him to be put to death, when I would rather he would go back to the home he came from and live." "He was equal to any man I ever saw in handling a knife," spoke up one of the outlaws. The leader of the masked band smiled grimly. "He will never handle a knife again," said he. "Am I to consider myself a member of the band?" asked the detective, after a pause. "You are, as soon as you take the oath," was the re joinder. "Step up, and I will administer it to you now." did so, and a few minutes later he was pro nounced a full-fledged member of the masked band. One of the men conducted him about the underground retreat and showed him the means of ingress and egress. Besides the remarkably constructed elevator there was a long passage at the other end of the cavernous place, which led to the stable where the outlaws kept their horses. This opened at the extreme end of the defile, and was the way Dick was taken from the place after being branded. As a perfect hiding place for the lawless band the cavern could not be beat CHAPTER XIV. CAPT. STEEL IS SURPRISED. A short time after Dick Mount had been hanged, Capt. Steel retired to his private room. He seemed to be suffering great pain, and with an oath he threw off his cloak and showed that his right arm was in a sling. The hand was bandaged heavily, and it was that from which came the pain. The villain's room was not furnished very handsomely, but it was quite comfortable. Dropping wearily upon a chair that was covered with the softest of skins, he seized a bell cord, and gave a pull upon it. A minute later there came a gentle knock upon the door. / "Come in !" said the captain. With noiseless tread an old Indian brave entered. "My hand pains me, Nekos," said he. "Me fix," was the quick rejoinder. With the skill of a practiced surgeon the Indian re moved the bandages. Had Dick Mount been there at that moment he would have been surprised. The hand of Capt Steel was thumbless Le Grand Meyster and the leader of the masked band were one and the same person! This was fully proven a nioment later when the man removed his mask


BRA VE AND 'BOLD. 21 He was a ventriloquist, and thus had the power of changing his voice. The Indian had dressed the wound immediately after Dick had cut the thumb off and had stopped the flow of blood by searing the veins with a red-hot iron. Then he applied an ointment that was soothing, and gave his patient a mixture to make him sleep. But in spite of this the outlaw captain had awakened rather early, and his hand had pained him ever since. Now he wanted the pain allayed. The Indian produced a horn vial, which was filled with a curious dark paste, and taking some out on his finger, he lightly smeared it over the wound. So deftly did he work that the outlaw could not feel his touch. Again and again did he apply the paste, until at length he had several layers of the stuff on. c;apt. Steel began to feel easier. "It don't hurt so much now, Nekos," said he. "No hurt no more; i

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