Diamond Dick, Jr.'s run of luck, or, The twist-up at Terrible

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Diamond Dick, Jr.'s run of luck, or, The twist-up at Terrible

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Title:
Diamond Dick, Jr.'s run of luck, or, The twist-up at Terrible
Series Title:
Diamond Dick, Jr.
Creator:
Lawson, W. B.
Place of Publication:
New York
Publisher:
Street & Smith
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Language:
English
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1 online resource (31 p.) 26 cm.: ;

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Subjects / Keywords:
Adventure stories. ( lcsh )
Dime novels. ( lcsh )
Western stories. ( lcsh )
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serial ( sobekcm )

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Source Institution:
University of South Florida
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
030819264 ( ALEPH )
17750538 ( OCLC )
D21-00016 ( USFLDC DOI )
d21.16 ( USFLDC Handle )

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issued Weekly. By Subscription $2.so j>er year. R1'fl'red as Secp71d CYass Matter at New York Post Office by SrRl!:ET & SMITH, a38 William St . N. Y. No.296. Price, Five Cents. ONE OF THE MEN THREW A SERAPA OVER DIAMOND DICK, JR. 1S, HEAD, AND DRAGGED HIM BACKWARD,

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Ismed Weekly. By St
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2 Dl(\MOND DICK. THE BEST 1-\aton flashed a peculiar look into the eyes above the silk handkerchief. \iVhat of her?" "Do yon know her?'' "Yes.,, The Un known 's eyes grew small and crafty as he lea 'ned back in his chair and bent them on the face of the man before him. "She. is an important wi .tness for the Government in the Peralta-Reavis land suit." "vVell ?" '"rhe Government will send its agents after her.,, "What of it?" "Mercedes must not be found by those agents. Within a day or two she must suddenly disappear ,, "If this is a killin' job, I wash my hands o( it.,, "It is not a killing job. I am not in that business. It is not necessary for a person to die in order to dis appear. Mercedes can be adbucted.,, "And you want me to do it?" "That's my purpose in coming here." "How much is there in it?" "Five thousand dollars.,, Raton reflected for a few moments. "1'11 take the job,,, he finally said. "By thunder, I'll move the gal over to Terrible, an' neither man 'r devil 'II be able to find hei." "I can depend 11pon you, then?" said the Unknown, rising. "Pervidin' you give me a part of the JI oney down.,, The little man's hand disappeared within his pocket, and then reappeared again, this time containing a roll of bills. "There are one thousand dollars. I will be here every for four months at this place, at this hour, on the first day of each month, and give you a like amount each time. "That's satisfactory.,, "'l'lien onr business is done for the present, and there is i10thing fo keep me here. Good-night t.o you." "Good-night, pardner.,, 'l'he little man in the black nrnsk went away. Raton listened at the door until his footsteps died ont in the distance, then he put hi s fingers to his lips and blew n wl1istle sig1rnl. An answer was iu1medialely relllrned. Shortly afterward a man with the face of a ruffian and the swagger of a braggodocio came into the room. "Howdy, Raton." ''Howdy, Buford. Sit down.'' Buford dropped into the chair had recently been vacated by the Unknown. ''Seen yer man?'' ''Yes.'' "What's up?" "Never mind; you '11 get a share in the dicl\cr, of course, but leave the handling of it to me. Got anythin' on yer mind.'' "Yo11 bet, a ht111 Jot." "WelJ, spit it out." "A feller by the name of .Diamond Dick, Jr., is in town.'' "I've heard of that young whippersnapper. He's gittin' too big fer his clothes. If I had time I'd paralyze him." "You'll have ter take time." "What's that?'' "I say you'll have to take time." "vVhy?" 'Kase he's come yere ter look up yer record." Raton 's face grew black. "He'd better look out how he monkeys with me at tltis pertickler time. I won't take any foolishness from him. Whar did ye find ont 'bout this?"' -"Over at Pulsiver's joint. Diamond Dick, Jr., was there sizin' up the faro an' ron 1ette layouts. I had a scrap with a cowboy that calls himself "Sam Lerue Dash that chap!" "I knew ye didn't like him, an' when he caught me shiftin' t ,he cut in a poker game an' told me of it, I called him a har, an' we went at it, hammer au' tongs. He knocked me through a winder.'' "I don't wonder at it. He's as strong as a horse. This Diamond Dick, Jr., like as not, will get onto the job I'm about to do fer that Unknown and will do his best to break it wide open. There's only one thing to be clone-he's got to be disposed of." "You mean to put out his light?" "Yes-it means five thousand, cold.,, "It's one thing to say you're going ter do it an' ;rnother thing ter do it. He's a wiry young whelp, that Diamond Dick, Jr.,, "We can fix him up at the Moqni pueblo." "How?"

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DIAMOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKL Vo 3 "During the snake dance. Leave that part of it to rue." A re you goiu' ter leave any of it to me?" ''Yes. You've got to get Diamond Dick, Jr., to the pueblo. '' "That's ther hardest part of the whole deal." ''Dou 't ye b'lieve it. Is he stopping at the hotel?'' "Yes.'' "rrhen you and s ome of the other boys can lay for him to-morrow night. Tf he leaves the hotel-as he surely will-slip np behind him and throw a serape over bis head. Yon can it all right. Afte r you get him, take him north to the Moqui pueblo." "I' ll try it on, bnt I want ter tell ye it's a dern risky business. Diamond Dick, Jr., is handy with his guns if all I hear about him is true." "Ye can gamble that all ye bear about him ain t true. He's human like the rest of us If you unde rstand what you're to do, you might mosey 011 aml see the boys who're to help you." "Keno, pard," returned Buford, getting up and stretching his lank form. "Ye'll from me purty pronto." With these words he l e ft the house. CHAPTER II. A COUNTER-PLO'!'. Diamond Dick, Jr., was smoking a cigar in the little six-by-ten office of the hotel in Winslow He had not come to that section of the country particularly to look into El Raton 's past record, gory and full of crime though it might have been. Buford's information had been obtained second hand, and was not correct. While Bertie sat in the office, smoking and thinking, a tall, broad-shouldered cowboy advauced toward him and dropped a hand on his arm. "What can I do for you?" asked our hero. I( You 're Diamond Dick, Jr. ?" "Yes.', "Wall, my name's Sam Lerue. I'm purty well known hereabouts. Got a few cattle 01 my own, an' I go out with the boys an' do a little cow-punchin', now an' then. I'm tol'able swift with a gun an' rather handy with blacksnake whip an' a riata." "Glad to make your acquaintance, Mr. Lente. "Then it's boss an' hoss, 'kase I'm glad ter make yours, too.'' Lerue looked around the little office. It was full of miners and cattlemen, all smoking and talking. "Kin ye take me some place,. what I kin talk to ye without bein' overheard by this raft of fellers?" "Certainly," answered Bertie; "come up to my room." Asceudiug the stairs, ushered his new-found friend into the little, box-like apartment where he slept. "'fhe partitions are pretty tliin, Lerue," he said. "If you keep your voice tolerably low, however, I guess yon won't be overheard. Now, what is it you want to tell rue?'' "I'm uot goiu' to waste any time conJiu> to the p o int, Diamond Dick, Jr. '!'bar's a gal called l\Jer cedes a s lives up at the Moqui settlements. She' s part Injun an' part Mexican, but she likes me an' I like her. She's promised ter marry me." "Allow me to congratulate yon!" "That's all right, parcl, but you'd better save yer congratulations till after the weddi11'. We ain' t mar ri e d yet, an' it looks as though mebbe we wouldn t be.'' "Wbat's the matter?" "'rhis here chap what goes by the name of Raton is m ixin' himself up in the deal, an' I reckon he's goin' ter try ter knock me out." "He's your rival, is he?" "Well I wouldn't call him exactl y a rival. Ye see, 2\Iercedes is in a position to help th e Gov'ment out in this Peralta-Reavis land suit that people a r e talkin' so much about." Ah, I see!" A nd the Peralta-Reavis folks want to get her of the way so the Gov'ment can't find her. Sabe?" "And they have hired Raton to do the joh ?" "That's the idee. But I might as well begin at the front end of my story an' tell it clean throtigh. Do you remember seein' me at that drinkiu' j'int last night?" "Yes." "I remember seein' you there. had a scrap with a feller that I with the poker deck." If you recollect I ca11ght monkeying "Yes; if I remember right! y, you threw him through a window.'> "Ye see, the winder happened ter be handier than the door. Tliat fellow's name is Nick Buford. He b'longs, body an' soul, to Raton. I've got an idee

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DIJ\MOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY that Raton an' Buford murdered a pardner of mine an' I'vebeen watch in 1 'em fer a long time ter find out sornethin' 'that would convince me beyond all doubt that they did the deed. When Buford pulled himself together, after his knock-out, I follered him. He went out to the edge of town among the Mexican '
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DIAMOND DICK,, JR.-THE BOYS9 BEST WEEKLY. 5 In a few moments he returned with another whip almost identical with the first. "Good!" exclaimed Bertie; "I'll carry these with me to the Moqtti pueblo.'' "Not much! Raton's men will take them away from you. '' "'We'll see about that." Hastily stripping himself to the waist, Bertie wrapped the whips about him, next to the skin; he then resumed his clothing. "Do you think that will fool Ratou's men, Lerue ?" "By thunder, you're a daisy! When Mercedes an1 I git hitched, )Oll've got ter be thar!" "I will." "If thar's nothiu' more to be said, reckon I'll pull out an' begin' paintin' m yse lf up. Quite a job ter change inter a :;\tloqui an' do it scientific." "I should think it would be." "Sure you're ekal to the emergency? I don't want to deceive ye, Diamond Dick, Jr. You're takin' the gravest kind o' chances.'' ':1'm used to taking chances." "I b'leeve ye. You kin depe11c1 on my bein' up tbar. Good-by, ole man." "Good-by, _Lerue." Their next meeting was at the l\foqui pueblo. CHAPTER III. BLACKSNAKE VERSUS RAT1'LESNAKE. Diamond Dick, Jr., carried out his plans exactly as he had laid them. In the evening he walked out of the hotel in a careless manner, and made his way across the railroad tracks. He was pleased to note that Sam Lerue was evidently right regarding Raton's intentions toward himself, for two rough-looking men who were hanging about the front door of the hotel followed him stealthily. Bertie decided to 2ivc them every advantage in his power, and wended his way toward a portion of the town where the houses were few and scattered. .\pparently he did not look back, yet he, neverthe less, kept himself well informed of the actions of the two men behind him. The two men drew closer and closer. The youth finally stopped with the evident intention of lighting a cigar. This was an opportunity purposely given to his enemies, and they were not slow in taking advantage of it. Springing up behind him, one of them threw a serape over his head and dragged him backward. Diamond Dick, Jr., of course, could not give up without a struggle, and he floundered about in an apparently earnest endeavor to free himself. The second man appeared very shortly with a rope, and our hero was bound tightly aud gagged "to the king's taste." The man who had so successfully used the s erape then whistled and, from out the darkness, appeared a companion riding 011e horse and leading three others. "What luck?" he hailed, hoarsely. "Handled him as though he had been an infant," was the reply. "From what I had heard of Diamond Dick, Jr., I thought he was about nine feet high and had horns. Quick! Load him onto that boss an' tie him into the saddle.'' This was accomplished very expeditiously, and the journey commenced. It was a long ride, and, as the serape still covered Diamond Dick, Jr. 1s head, he could not tell where he was being taken, but knew it must be in the direction of the Moqui pueblos, to the north of Win-. slow. After a long journey, the horses were brought to a standstill and a of people surrounded the little party, all talking together and in a strange tongue. They were undoubtedly at the Iudian settlements. At a word from one of Bertie's captors, the voices were hushed. An interval of silence passed, and then the youth was lifted out of the saddle, conveyed along a crooked and, finally, the bonds were jerked from his hands and he was cast violently to the floor. As he fell he heard a door slammed shut and a bar .. dropped across it on the outside. Leapi11g up, he tore the serape from his head and the gag from his mouth. He found himself in profoundest darkness. In a few moments he a faint llght falling across the gloom. The light was that of a moonlight night admitted through a window-a narrow window, heavily barred.

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6 DIAMOND DICK, JR .....:THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. Groping about him, he at last made out that he was in a small, square room with adobe walls, evi dently a part of the Indian pueblo. He had barely finished his examination and seated himself on a low, wooden stool, when a voice hailed him from without. "Diamond Dick, Jr." It was a whisper, but Bertie recognized the voice as belonging to Sam Lerue. "What do you want, Lerue ?" "They didn't hurt ye, did they?" "No, and you?" "I've got on my visiting paint, and they think I'm a buck from another pueblo, come to witness the snake dance to-morrow." "How about Mercedes?" "Raton is watching her himself. He will have to leave her to-morrow, however, to do the snake dance." "What do you intend to do?" ''Raton has two of the best horses that he can get bold of. Right after the dance he's going to skip with the girl. I intend to skip with the girl, instead, and have secured another horse, so that you can go with us." "Good!" muttered Bertie; "I'll fix Raton so he won't be able to follow." "If you can do that, you 're a dandy." "Ts somebody going to help you?" "Yes-Mercedes' mother. She's the woman of the tribe, and is a power among these heathen, I can tell you. There are only three people who know what the dope is composed of that the chief gives the dancers to ward off the effects of the snake poison. Raton will get hide full of this before he tackles those rattlers, you may gamble on that. '' "How will the tribe look upon this high-handed act of Raton 's-stealing away the daughter of the head woman of the tribe?'' "The tribe '11 take it kinder hard, I reckon, an' jest 'kase Mercedes' mother is high priestess among them. But Raton won't care a rap. He's going to Terrible, the town he's started on the other side of Of course, Mercedes' mother, being on our side, sbe won't them to hunt us very hard. Say, I can lift this bar and let ye out o' thar, if ye want to come." "Not on your life! ThJt would spoil the whole thing. You had better go away, now. If s ome prowl ing buck were to overhear you, the game would be up.,, "All right. Look out for yourself, to-morrow, though. Don't l e t one of those rattlers bite you." 1 It will be rattlesnake against blacksnake, and you may gamble that blacksnake will come out ahead.'' "I hope so. By, by," and Sam Lerue left the door. Lying down on the hard floor, Bertie, despite his exciting situation, slept like a log. He was awakened with a rough kick, and opened his eyes to find that it was broad daylight and that he was surrounded by six Moqui Indians. Stamping with his foot, the leader of the bucks pointed toward the door. Bertie got up and started out, the bucks forming a circle about him and moving along with him. It was, indeed, a pueblo of the Maquis where our hero had been confined. Outside were a number of the renegade whites, all formed in a l arge circle, the In
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DJJ\MOND DICK. JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. and then leaped back again, with two of the furiously a11gry reptiles writhing about his and wrists. Thrice around Diamond Dick, Jr, did he dance i11 a slow, halting manner. Bertie never took his eyes off him, but thrust his hands in his pockets and clutched the handlei; of his whips. Raton suddenly paused. Then, throwing himself abruptly forward on his right foot, he hurled one of the hissing serpents directly at Diamond Dick, Jr. Crack! With. a report like that of a pistol, Bertie snapped his whip at the writhing object, the keen leather cutting the r eptile i11 twain as a knife might have done. For an instant Rato n was dumfounded; and then, with an oath of anger, he hurled the remaining rep tile. It met the same fate as the first. Rato11 started for the corral at a run, but Bertie was not thr.ough. His two whips operated simultaneously with both hands, snapped together, their lashes striking t11e renegade's eyes. With a howl of anger, Raton leaped into the air and then rushed wildly about, seeki11g to lay hands on Diamond Dick, Jr. At this moment a shrill whistle cut the air, and Bertie saw Lerue and Mercedes ride into sight lead ing a horse for him. He dashed toward them, throwing open the gate of the snake corral as he passed it. This had all b een accomplished very quickly .\t first the white renegades did not seem able to t111dersta11d the situation. It suddenly dawned upon them, however, and one, who appeared to be the leader, fired his revolver a't the fleeing form of Diamond Dick, Jr., shouting as he did so: "Don't let the young whelp escape! After him, e\iery mother's son of ye!" Away dashed, whites and Indians, in a wild pursuit. But they had uot proceeded a dozen yards when a woman upstarted in tlieir path. It was Mercedes' mother. She .,vas immensely tall, was dressed in the softest buckskin, ornamented with beads and dyed porcupine quills. Her 1011g black hair floated out behind her. Over her shoulders and down under her a1:ms writhed an immense serpent, its head reared high above her own, its e yes glowing like twin coals of fire, and jts forked tongue darting from its mouth. "Stop!" The pursuers came to an abrupt pause. "Don't stop for that she-devil!" shouted the leader of the renegades ; "push on!" Suiting his action to the word, the white leader attempted to pass the high priestess of the Maquis. With a toss of her arm the serpent dropped across the man's path, a liviug barrier. Uttering an o atl1, he drew his knife and would have slas h e d it across the brilliant coils of the snake hadnot the Indians with a cry of horror, leaped for ward and caught his arm. "Make a dash for it, b ays," yelled the white leader; "never mind me-it's Diamond Dick, Jr., we're after!" It was imposs ible, however, for the white rene gades to follow this command, for, at a word from the priestess the Indians threw themselves upon the followers of Raton and prevented pursuit. This w a s easily accomplished, as the red skins out numbered the whites three to one. The r e sult was that Diamond Dick, Jr., Lerue a!ld Mercede s made goo d their escape. CHAPTER IV. SMOKE RINGS. After a dozen miles, swiftly sped over, the little party of three fleeing from the Moqt'i pueblos came to a h alt at a small stream known as Pony Creek. "Let' s breathe our critters," said Sam Lerue, "an' take a little air ourselves. This bas been the busiest mornin' I've seen for a month of Sundays. Diamond Dick, Jr., yer hand. You've befriended me in a man ner I'll never forgit. '' "The least said about that the better I will like it," replied our hero. "I expect so-that's the way with fellers of your caliber, bnt I'm goin' ter speak my sentiments whether ye will have it or no, I'd give somethin' purty if I could handle a blacksnake as slick as you kin. Mercedes, shake hands with a man who has done a tarnation big thing fer us both!" The half-caste was a beautiful girl.

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Dlf\MOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. She bad retained enough of the Castilian in her tnake-up to soften the coarser features of the India11, and her eyes were simply superb. Riding up to Be r tie, she presented her hand with unaffected good feeling. "Gracias, amigo mio," she said, and her voi c e w as soft aud musical; "I t1auk you mucho." "I am glad to have been of service," returned the youth. "The way y o u put the lashes to R aton s e y e s," went on Lente, "was beautiful to see. Did y ou blind him?" "Only tempo r arily," w a s the answer. "You c ould have cut out his eyeba1ls as easy as a doctor with a lancet.' "That would have bee n barbarous." "Toby sure, pard; but the scoundrel w ould have killed ye. '' "Nevertheles s, I w o uld n o t sink m ys elf to h is level. Where would y on go now?" "vVe stay here," broke i n Mercedes. "Why here?" "I wait for s m o k e r ings, senor ; smok e rings that s ummon me to mi madre. A h, ay d e mi! l\Iy arm it bleed s. A kerchief, nov io The shot fired b y the l eader o f the wh ite renegades had w ounded Merce de s i n the arm. "Only a flesh wound," r e m a rked Ber t ie, critical l y examining the bleeding cut. Lerue tore the kerchief from a b out h i s neck a n d tenderly bound it over the w ound. "So, querida mia !" Then h e turned to Bertie. "She s a y s, Diamond Di c k, Jr., that s h e w ait.a 1 1 e re for s m oke rings that will summo n h e r to h et" m other. "So I unde r stood." "You kno w the S pa ni s h, then?" ''Good enough for a chingado A m e r ic a n o b u t not perfectly Why i s yon r mothe r to summon you, Mercedes?'' The girl straightened up proudl )1 in her s addle, drew a little, jewel e d dirk fro m h e r b oso m and kisse d the shimmering blade. ''We no fini s h e d with the M ou se!" "She means Raton," e xclaime d Lerne. ' I will follow him like a shadow,'' said Be r t ie "Leave that w ork to Lerue and me. It is not for you!" "For me, yesJ I have .sworn it!" A fhonsand stilettos leaped from her dark e y es as the words passed her l i ps. "She'll never forgive Raton fer what he this day attempted to do," put in Lerne. "Ner her mother, either. Ye can't persuade ,em a g "in it. It' s their natur>, Diamond Dick, Jr. -bred in the bone, filtered into the blood. Mark wha t I tell ye-either Mercedes or her mother'll have Ratou's life." Seeing the u se l essness of attempting to p e rsu ade the girl against the c ourse which she had evidently laid out for herself, Bertie merely bowed his head. "When are w e to look for the sm oke rings?" Lerue c ast a n inquiring l ook at his sweetheart. She raise d h erself in her s a ddle and looked e as t w a rd acros s the m es a. "At any time, senor,,, s h e sai d. "Tha t I n o t can tell. It will be yonder P erhaps madre ruia has the deed already d one? C arraca If so she i s so qnick like-like the lightning!'' "No u s e se ttin' in our s a ddles like st, all h e has l o d o i s ter h ead this w a y a c knowl edge Raton a s hi s boss a nd then a n thar he i s a cit11 e11 of T errib l e T hat felle r disappe a r s W h a r h e goes people lrnve bee n t ry in ter fin d out fe r tl1e past s i x m onths., "The n n o on e k no w s w he r e this to w n is?,, "Not a so ul. , "Perhaps the r e i s n o s u c h place?" "Then whar d o a ll thes e thieves hig.liwa y m e n a n murderers go?,, "Surely it can b e found if it h as a n exi ste1;ce.,, "Pve se e n sheriffs a s swore it was neither on the grounds ner above ner below it; an' yet they took an oath,.in the same. breath, that thar was sech a place.'' "That,s absurd. If there is such a town it can be found; if there i s no su c h tow n it c an be prove u.

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D!l\MOND DICKo BOYSP BEST WEEKLY. 9 I'll find the place or else prove it a myth before I leave the country." "S'pose ye'd run slam-bang inter the town. 'Twonldn't be healthy fer you or any other man." "I'm usually healthy wherever I am," was the smiling rejoinder. "The smoke rings!" cried Mercedes, springing up s ndd enly ancl pointing eastward. 'l'i1e other two s tarted to their feet. Off, over the plniu, could b e see u little puffs of black smoke, in the shape of circles, rising against the white sky. "That is m y signal,'' added the girl, leaping .into her saddle. "Jt is our signal, also,'' snpplemen ted Bertie. ''No, senor,'' said the girl. ''What!" excla1mecl Lerne; "are we not to go with ye?" "I am to go with none-alone myself." "Why?" "Porque?'' She shook her head with n soft smile "I know not. lt is the wish of madre mia. Look yon, uovio I return when the sha'dow o f this tree is there reaching." Leaning down from her saddle, she dropped the lns!J of her quirt upon tlie ground. '"hat means two hours," mused Lerne. With a light lau g h, she bounded away. "We ought to follow her," said Bertie. "Jes' wait till ye git iuter Jove at1' then ye'll find 011t who has the say!" Lerue shrugged his shoulders. "Let 'er go. 'rhar'd be a pretty row if we didn't." "But suppose--" "We won't suppose anythi11', pard, but that she' ll be back when tlrnt sliadder gits whar slie said," "If she's not back tl1en ?" Lerne frowned darkly. "In tliat c a se, somethin's goin' ter happen to somebody, kase Mercedes never yet broke her word .1 Bertie again dropped down on the ground and allowed his horse to crup he grass. Gradually tlie shadow of the tree swept arou11d toward the point where Mercedes' lash had fallen. As it drew nearer the point, Lerue evidenced considerable anxiety. His eyes were constantly fixed upon the east. 'T'he shadow reached the point-it passe d it! \Vith a muttered exclam.atiop, Lerne leaped into bis saddle. "Thar's deviltry afoot," he cried. "Are ye with me, Diamond Dick, Jr.?" "Heart and soul!" "Then let's make for the place whar them smoke rings started!" On at a wild gallop they pressed, the horses fresh and eager as the riders that mou11ted them. "Are your eyes asked Bertie. "Good enough; but i't 'u'd take the ole Nick him self ter locate that one point on the broad miles of this rolling mesa!" ''I can take you directly to the spot." "How ''If your,nostrilswereas good as your eyes, perhaps yo u could tell.'' "I kain't figger it." "In tl1is country, it took timber to make that smoke." "Grass 'u 'd do it." "No; the smoke was like India ink. l\lercedes' mothe r burned some pieces of green palo verdi. While burning green that wood gives off a peculiar odor--'' "Sure! Then Mercedes went to that little clump of trees on the wash yonder l" "Exactly!" A prac tical demonstration bore out Bertie's theory. At the base of a ta 11 cotton wood were some pieces of half-burned palo vr;rdi wood. "But where is 2\1ercedes?" "In Heaven's name, look thar !" A strip of bark had been peeled from the cotton wood. Turned over, it was faste ned, bark to bark, to the trunk of the tree with a dagger. On tlie smooth white surface, written in red, were the words: MESA ENCATADA. "My God!" cried Lerue, "Steady!" said Bertie. What is it?" reeling in his saddle. "Keep you1 nerve, Sam. "She tracd it with her finger in blood from her wounded arm.'' "She mus t have done so. And it is her dagg-:r that pins the scrap of bark to the shaft of the treeJ"

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.. i() DIAM OND D I CK, J R .-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. CIIA P'ER V. A B.\ND OF MAN HUNTERS. For several minutes there was deep silenc(. '\le a Encatada,' read Bertie, from the slip of bark; then he translated the words into English: 'The Haunted Mesa.' \\'hat is it?" ".\ lone rock, its sides almost unsealable, lrnndreds of feet in height. On its top, over its whole extent, is a mesa. It was inhabited hundreds of years ago, the Indians say, by a tribe .called the But one trail of horrible difficulty led to the top. ()ne day, centuries ago, an inundation undermined this trail, and scores of people died helplessly on the plateau, kase they conldn't come down. Since then they say it is haunted." "Is it far from here?" "Twenty-five miles, I sh'd say." "Let me tell you something, Lerue." "What?" ''The town of Terrible is located on the Haunted l\Iesa !" Lente gave a start. 1'Ye think then Raton himself has worked this deviltry?" "Didn't he sa) he would carry :.\[e1ccdes away to the town?'' "But no one kin climb that rock." "That is supposition. people may do anything." "What has become of !\lercedes' mother'" The youth shook his head. 11 \Ve can only answer that question by delving into the mystery. Perhaps it was Raton, and not her, who sent up the smoke rings. It is possible Raton dis covered her plan and decoyed .Mercedes into his power by means of the smoke signal." ''If he did," cried the cowboy, "by I will have his life!" 'ro emphasize his words, Lente brought his fist down 011 the saddle bow in front of him. "It was foolish of us to let Mercedes come alone. I felt that it was at the time." "Women women. \Vhen they want to do a thing, I reckon they're goin' ter do it in spite of fate. '!'hat's my experience." Bertie smiled iu spite of the serious of the affair "After all, while we concede that Mercedes has heeu abducted in s,pite of our efforts to save herJ I believe there is something about this matter which we don't exactly understand." "Well, we will nuderstand it, if it's possible. You're still with me?" "Certainly." "What would yon advise?" "First, au examination of the here. From where I sit I can see the marks of two moccasiued feet." "An' thar's the prints of two more." .I\ closer examination convinced the two friends that two different persons macle the marks. and her mother," said Bertie, astutely. "I see nothing to lead us to believe that Raton wns here,>) put in Lerne, gloomily. "The trails lead off to that rocky shale," returned the youth, "and there we lose it entirely. ,.rhe next thing for us to do is to foll9w the finger of that hark signboard-on to the Mesa Encatada !" Little time was lost in starting for their destination. They had covered less thau a mile when the, Lroke suddenly around spur of a mountain ancl found themselves in the center of a gron p of men congregated about a "water hole," as the tanks in the desert are called. "Halt!" cried a gray-whiskered man, springing to his fed and grabbing up a \Vinche.-;ter as he did so. '!'he rest of the men also threw themselves on the alert, and prepared to make use of their weapons in case it should prove necessary. Bertie and his eomp.miou instantly pulled np their horses in response to this emphatic summons. "\Vho are you?" asked the vonth, castinO' a curious -"' glance into the faces of the men about him. "We're man-hnnters and it strikes me that you may be the men we're hunting for. Hands up!" But Bertie did uot throw up his hands. He knew very well that tliere was some mistake, as these meu had uot the appearance of hei11g rnAians and cu tt ltroats, y they cou Id not belong to Raton 's gang. "Don't be foolish,'' said our hero, deliberalely. "It strikes me that \'Ott're the one who is foolish ) stranger," returned the grav-hearded nrnu. "\Vho are yon hunting?" "We're lrnnling for the popnlatiou of the town of Terrible.'' "I thought so. Have you a\1y idea where Terri bl!! i:. ?"

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DIJ\MOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS9 BEST WEEKLY. 11 "No.", "Do we look as though we lived in the town?" "Well, I can't say as you do.>> ''I assure you that we do not, but that we want to find l{aton as badly as you do." "What's your name, friend?" "My name's Bertie Wade.,, "Sometimes called Diamond Dick, Jr. ?" "Exactly." "Then give me yonr fin," cried the gray-bearded man, reaching forward and catching Bertie>s hand. "l>ve been for fifty years on the frontier; and I can appreciate the work you've been doing. I'm Chris Conover, of Albuquerque, and deuced glad to meet you.'> "My friend, Sam Lerue," said Bertie, highly grati .fied at the ease with which he and his friend had slipped out of what might have been a serious diffi culty. Con cver and Lerue shook hands. "What the blazes are all you fellers ant yere ?'' asked Lerue. "We're all detectives, every man of us. We>ve been congregating at Winslow for the past ten days. Yon see, every one of us is after some criminal or other whom we have traced this far. I'm after a murderer; Lukens, there, is on the trail of a forger, and Raymond, here at my elbow, is a secret-service man and tracking a counterfeiter. And that's the way with all of us. Coming to gether at Wiuslow, we joined forces, and we>re going to find this town of Terrible and depopulate it." "If we can," supplemented Lukens. "\.V e>ve been looking for it for a week,>' said Ray m ond "and haven't found a trace of it." "'l'hen it's a lucky thing all around," returned Bertie, "that Lerue and I happened to stumble upon yon.>' "Do yon know where Terrible is? "We can lead you directly to it." "Glory!>' shouted Conover. "Can yon start for the place at once?'> '' ;, "Mount your horses, boys," commanded Conover, tnrning to the detectives. "We>re having a great run qf lnck, a1:d if we don't make Rome howl in mighty short order I'll miss my guess.,, Ten minutes later the detectives, some ten in num ber, were cantering off across the plain under the leadership of Diamond Dick, Jr., and Lerue. I The two latter rode side by side. "Thar'd be a purty how-d'-ye-do if it so happe11ed that 'ar town wasn't on top o' that mesa, pard," re marked Lerue. "Don't worrx, said Bertie. "I'll stake my pile that we find the town without any ,trouble." "I hope so," replied the cowboy, with a doubtful shake of his head. -Just then Chris rode up alongside. "Have ye any idea, Diamond Dick, Jr., how much that town of Terrible is worth to this band of man hunters ?,, he asked. "No." "Just one hundred and twe:_nty-eight thousand, cold." "Iu what way?'> "That's what the rewards figure up." "Rather a wealthy town," laughed Bertie. For a couple of hours they rode on, chatting to gether, a nd at last, just as it began to grow dusk, they came within sight of the "Haunted Mesa.,, It was as though an acre or so of ground had been lifted evenly for several hundred feet above the level of the surrounding plain. The walls were precipitous and rocky, and seemed practically unsealable ''And you say that the town of Terrible is located on top of that rock, do yo u, Diamond Dick, Jr.? "I'll gamble on it." "Then those outlaws must have wings in order to !}et up to it, for I can see 110 possible way of ri' "There is a way,,, returned Bertie, quietly. ,1 "Then let's hunt for it." "Not now; we will do our hunting after dark." The band of man-hunters came to camp in a small arroyo, where it was possible to secure enough water and feed for their horses. Haversacks had been heavily loaded at Winslow, and Lerue and Bertie were supplied with a hearty meal through the hospitality of C onover Nfter the meal they waited for the night to grow dark enough so that they could begin their investi gations. "Look thar J>' whispered Lerue, clutching Bertie by the shoulder and pointing up at the top of the M'esa Encatacla. Bertie's eyes were sharp, and be was able to see a ring of fire waving at the edge of the elevated plateau. --

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' 12 DIAMOND DICK JR. -THE BOYS .BEST WEEKL't.1 The attention of Conover and the rest of the detectives was called to the fact. "What is it?" asked Conover. ''I can tell ye dnrn quick, said Lerne; "it's that's what it is. The mesa is haunted!" "Nonsense! broke in Bertie; ''there's human agenc y behind that ring of fire. It proves to me that the Mesa Encatada is inhabited. If there are people up there, o f course there rnust1 be a way to get up, ancl i'. there is a track to the summit w e ought to be able to follow it." "I agree with you," said Con o ver. "Who d'ye think makes that signal?" queried Lerue answer was quick and to the point. ''Me r ce des '' ''Mercedes?'' "Certainly; w h o else? That ring of fire is for our g uidance. If I am not very much mistaken, a trail to the top will be found at about the place where we see that light.'' "The y wouldn't let her sigpal us in that fashion." "She's sharp enough to elude them." "Look thar By thunder, that ring of fire is rollin' down: the side of th cliff .'' "Exactly!" returned Bertie; i t is rolling down the path we are to follow. Watch it! watch it with all your eyes!'' hoop rolled down the precipitous side of the cliff, increasing in speed until it seemed like a fla s h of lightning. Then, suddenly, i t vanished. The a n t i cs of this circle of fire had been watched with breathl ess interest by ail o f the detectives. "What's to be done now?" queried Conover. "Let's make for the particular point on the side of the cliff where we last saw that hoop of flame." "Shall we take our horses?" "No; leave t hem h ere. They would be useless." Silently, one by one, the little band of man-hunters started across the plain toward the Mesa Encatada. They we1e about to begin their attack on the town of Terrible. CHAPTER VI. THE HOOP OF FIRF.. After Mercedes left i1er lover and Diamond D ick, Jr., she made her way directly in the direction of the Between lier aud the p,1int for which she was making lay a small arroyo. As she p lunged into this arroyo her mother stepped out from among t h e greasewood bushes and soapweed "Stop, Mercedes!" She spoke in Spanish, and, simultaneously with the words, she raised her hand. "What is it, mother?" asked the girl, making nse. of the snme language, which might be called her Iiati've tongue, since she had use d it ever since she was a child: "Our plot for vengeance w orks well," went on the priestess. "The M ouse' is yonder, where the smoke rings are.'' A fierce exultation leaped from the girl's eyes "You arranged it, then, so that-he would overhear your design to s end up the smoke rings and so bring i:ne to yonr side?" she askecl. "Yes; I told it over to one o f the men in such a way that the 'Mouse' could overhear without being seen." The priestess laughed. !(He gave me a sleeping potion and beli e ves that I am now unconscious o f .all he is doing.'' ''His revolvers--'' "They will not harm you.'' ''He i s there alone?'' "Yes. He thinks himself equal to the task of carrying y o u a way. Have courage, novia, and you will win. "Never but I shall have courage. But Lerne and Diamond Dick, Jr. -I promised that I would return to them in two hours." "I will go to them and set their minds at 'rest." "You have a horse?" "Carrarnba You do not think I c o uld come this clista-nce without one? I am getting old, Mercedes and 111 y aged Jim bs could not bring me the distance. Yet, although I am old, my heart i s foll of fire, and if we ca11 but secure vengeance against this des. peraclo, I shuuld die happy!" "vVe sha11 have ven eance," said the girl. ''Thell. ride on, mujerci ta the hound nrny tire of waiting." "Adios !" The girl continued on across the arroyo, mounted the mesa and made for the cluster of palo verdi. As she drew near and halted her horse at the bas e of the cottonwood, Raton rode out of the brush. I

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DICK, JR.-THE BOYS9 BEST WEEKLY. 13 An evil smile burned on his face and he spnrred to the girl's side and caught her bridle bits. ye little spit-fire," said he, with a hoarse laugh, "I've fooled ye, have I? Thought ye was comin' ter see yer ma, an' she ain't here. Didn't expect to see llle, I'll gamble." ''Relea se that bridle,'' commanded Mercedes, sharply. "Don't ye go fer ter git riled, my little gum drop, kase it won't be purty Think I'm goin' ter -let ye gi' me the slip arter I've caught ye?" "Take your hand away!" There was 110 mistaking the girl's meaning. In some way, a little, silvet-mounted revolver had found its way into her hands a nd she drew a bead on Raton 's heart. The desperado looked into her flashing e y es. Would she dare shoo t ? F o r a momellt he h e sitated, and then-his hand dropped and the bits were released. "Cuss me," he growled, with something like admiration in his voice. "if you ain't about the g amies t little s quaw in the hull M o qui la yout. It's kase I like ye that I'm lettin' go of that bridle, an' n b t fer an y fear of that little popgun." The girl's lip curled in a sarcastic smile. "You speak," said she, "as though y ou thought I did not e xpect to find you here?" Again Raton gave vent to his hoarse, chnckling laugh. "An' no more ye did, ye minx! I was too cunniu' for yer ma!'' 'Where do you think my is?'' "Fast a sleep in the pueblo. I was the 011e who made the smoke rings.'' "My mother i s not a sleep in the pueblo. I have not been fooled ancl n either has she. You are the dupe." "Me? Ye're crazy.!" "I brought you here t o m ee t me for a purpose." "What purpos e is that?" "I want to have a talk with you." "Say Mercedes, are ye goin' ter tell me that ye like m e a little bit, an' that y e want me fer--" "Stop!" cried the girl, angrily. "I hate yon! Always remember that." A b lack frown overspread the outlaw's face. "It's.that cussed Sam Lerue--" "Not a wor d about him, or I will put a bullet through your black heart. You know me. You know that my heart has the courage and my hand the skill." "What d'ye want ter see me fer?" was .the st1lky query. "I want to tell you that I know what your base designs are.'' "Designs? I haven't got any base designs." "Raton, you lie!" The words came quick and sharp. For an instant there was silence, and then Raton J smiled grimly. "It's eas y enough ter call a man a li a r, gal, but I consider whar it comes from." "1'hen you don't want to abduct me so that I can not be a witness in the Peralta-Reavis case?" Mercedes spoke rapidly, for she was still speaking in the Spanish tongue, and not in the halting Englis h : R a ton understood this language well. It had been bred into him from his very youth. "The devil!" cried the outl aw, evidencing a sur-pri se that was far from feigned; "how did you find that out?" "You are to secure five thousand dollars for yom work. Is it not so?" "Yes ; but how the blazes did yon find it ont? That's what bothers me." "It is immaterial how I found it out. Suffice to say I know all about it. Where were you going to take me?" "To the Haunted Mesa--Dash it all! I mean to the t o wn of Terrible I ll take ye thar ; ; et, if ye'd like to g o with me.' ''I will go with you-on one consideration.,' A triumphant light leaped from the outlaw's eyes. "What's the consideration?" he asked. '"rhat you give me half of the five thousand.'' In his surprise, Raton nearly foll out of saddle. "Then ye're willin' ter go if I divide with ye ? "Yes "An ye won't go if I don't?" "No." "Looky yere, ye minx! I want all that five thou sand-every cent of it, kase it don't all come to me, d 'ye see? Some of it goes to some of the other boys. I can't give ye any of it." "Then I go b ack to the pueblo." A s she spoke she started to turn her horse.

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14 DIAMOND DICK. JR.-THE BOYS' BEST Wf:EKLY. ''Wait, Mercedes['' She looked back aud saw that Raton had drawn a large, wicked-looking revolver. "I don't want to shoot ye, gal, but I'll be durned if I'm goin' ter Jet ye git away from me now." "You would kill me, would you?" she asked, calmly. "No, I don't want ter shoot; I jest want ter skeer ye, that's all." "Well, you can't scare me. I shall not accompany you to the town of Terrible unless you pay me half tliat money." She struck her horse with tlie quirt and he bounded away. "Are ye gain' ter stop?" shouted Raton. "No!" He spurred his horse into a gallop and took after her. Her horse, however, was swifter than his, and at last, in sheer desperation, the outlaw sighted his revolver upon the girl's fleeing form and pulled the trigger. There was no report. The hammer clicked down upon an empty cylinder. Again he pulled the trigger, with a like resnlt. Muttering an imprecation, he pulled the trigger rapidly until every chamber in the cylinder had been tried. All the ch am be rs were erupty. Dropping the revolver into his belt, he drew another. 'I' his proved equally useless. "The guns have been tampered with," he gritted, "but I've got somethin' else here that will do at close range, an' I'll keep on that gal's track till 1 rnn her down. Her has got the speed, but mine has the bottom !'' Drawing a knife and holdiug it in his band ready for use in case it should be needed, Raton settled down in his saddle to what he tho11ght was destined to be a long, hard chase. But he was mistaken. Pulling up her horse abruptly, Mercedes turned the animal squarely about. She held her glittering little six-shooter in her hand. "Come within ten feet of me," she cried, in ringing tones, "and I fire!" Raton was going to take uo chances and heeded her command. "You called this a pea-shooter a moment ago," went on Mercedes, "but I warn you to beware lest you force me to use it. You have found out by this time that your revolvers have been tampered with. You are at my mercy.'' The outlaw realized the force of the girl's last remark very fully. He had tried to play a brace game had failed. His usual tactics had proven of no avail. "Come, come, Mercedes," he said, laughingly, "I was only josh in' with ye: Is it possible that you think I could raise a hand ag'in ye?" "Yes," said she, "it's possible. I know you would, if I were not too sharp for you." "Ye won't go to the town Qf Terrible onless I promise to give ye half the stuff I git?" "That's what I want." "Well, I'll give it to ye. So come along, uow, an' quit yer tantrums." "Ride on," said the girl, "I'll join you inside of fifteen minutes.'' "Ride on? While I do that ye'll gi' me the slip. "You could do uothing to prevent me from doing that, if I wished to. Will you ride on or shall I continue my course toward the pueblo?" "I'll ride on, o' course," replied the outlaw. Suiting his action to the word, be wheeled his horse and started off at a gallop. Mercedes followed more leisurely. At the cottonwood, safe from the sight of Raton, s h e took her dirk, peeled off the piece of bark, wrote the two words-"Mesa Encatada"-pinned it to the stem of the tree, and then rode off to join the outlaw. He was waiting for her. "Ride ahead!" she commanded. "Remember this -I am not your prisoner and refuse to be treated as suc!1. '' He demnrred somewhat, but as she held the whiphand he was compelled to follow out her wishes in the matter. It was in this way that they made the journey to the Haunted Mesa, neither speaking, but each watching the other with the eyes of a hawk. .As they drew near the precipitonssides of the hill, Raton made his way to a certain spot, placed his fingers to his lips and gave vent to a shrill whistle. Almost instantaneously a heavy rock rolled away from the base of the cliff, disclosing a cavernous hole in the side of the hill.

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DIJ\MOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEE"KLY. A shaft of daylight penetrated this cavern from above, making the interior easily discernible. M erc edes saw that there at least a dozen horses in the place, all tied in stalls and munching hay or grain. Saddles and riding paraphernalia were strewn about the place. :How are ye, Raton?" spoke the one mau to be seen in the cavern. enough," replied the outla w. "How i s everythin' ?" ''Quiet.'' "Has Bnford got back?" "Naw." "Well, he \.Vill be here soon. Watch for him." Raton turned to Mercedes. "Vere's whar we dismoun. t, gal. Our bosses kain't go .. no ''. They both got off their animals and the man who had opened the to them took the horses in charge. "TJiis way," said Raton. He led the way the .side o f the chamber, and then began a precipitous ascent which 110 one but an could have accomplished successfully. Mercede s wonnded arm both ered her very little, and, $IS she was strong of limb and quick of eye, she had not the slightes t difficult y in following the outlaw. At last .the upward climb was finished, and they stood on the very top of the Haumted Mesa. 'f he plateau was as flat as a table top. Several adobe houses were visible, and from one of them came the tinkling strains of a guitar, accom p;:mied by loud voices. Before reaching this particular house, which was large, Raton stopped at the door of a smaller adobe. Vere's wrrar y e kin hang out," he said, with a cunning l eer. "Ye said, a while ago, that ye wasn't m y prisoner. Ye are, 11ow. I'd like ter see ye leave this Mesa without my consent. Au' as fer gitting hundred of that five thousand, I'll fool ye. Ye won't see a red of that money . He.gave vent to anothe r of hi s disagreeable laughs and w ent aw ;iy The handsome half-c a s t e lo oked nfter him, and a smile of di:sdain curled her Ji p, pri soner! .slw -saicl, under lier breath, in the la uguage of the "He is still the dupe." Raton had not bound h e r hands-it would have been a livelier occupation for him than h i s recent rattlesnake experience, had he tried it. Neithei: had he secured the door of the adobe-in truth, it had no door. \ Mercecle;:; was free to remain there or go out, a H s he chose, and she chose the latter. After tak.ing a swift snryey of the interjor of the adobe and finding that it contained nothing bnt a s tool and a bed on the floor, she passed out. The houses mentioned were clustered on the mesa top its center, anc;I, of course, could not he seen froni the. surrounding plain, owing to the_, height of the place. The moment Mercedes ernerged from the adobe she saw a man approaching tha t house. She stopped. "You want see me?" she asked, in Spa11ish. By the of _the fellow, site to ok him to be a Me x ican. She was not mistaken. He had uot seen her before she spok e and he stopped shor t with a look of admiration tliat he could not disguise. "Angelico!" the fellow ejaculate d. "You must, be an angel, since the only way you could get here w a s my coming down What man would n o t want to s ee you?" She smiled at his flattery. That he was no common ruffian, like the rest, she knew at 011ce. "Your answer proves that I was mistaken," she rejoined. "And 11ow that you have. seen me, I will pass .cin. n "Now that I have seen you," he repeated, "l must warn you. I know not who you are, .or how you came here, but you must not go nearer to the edge of the mesa than yonder line.'' "Why not?" "It is the rJ.lle; you might be seen from the plain.'' "Ah! tha t i s it, eh? I s ee. And now who are you, that you thus warn me?" For the moment I am the camp guard. It i s my duty to see that no oue breaks any of the rules. We have no fear of here." ''Yet here am I.'' 'An angel.'' know. better; and,. I hate :flattery. 1' had rather talk business, if you do not object.". I

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f 6 DIAMOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. "I will talk anything, so long as I may talk with vou. )) "All right. Iu the first place, what are you doing here? You are not one of El Raton's men?" "For the time bei11g, yes.'' "And for the other part of the time?" "Before answering that I must know who you are." "I t old you your words were flattery-tha t it was merely a compliment when yon called me an angel. I am l\lercedes of the Moquis. '' "Ah-ha! I have heard of you. 'l'hen El Raton is here. He has captured you and y ou are his prisoner. He swore he would have you, and that he would kill your lover. '' "I am his pri.;;oner, yes I came here for a purpose and would now escape.)) "And I don't see how yott are g oing to do that, pretty on e.'' "To do so I mnst have help. :\t whal time will yon be gnard of the camp again?" "Two hours after dark, for two hours." "Then listen: I hate El Raton; I must escape from his power; the man who rescues me out of his hands shall have my love. When you get off duty, by some means smuggle into my house the materials for a fire signal-I would make a hoop of fire." At that moment louder voices were heard, and the Mexican gjlve a hurried salute and walked away. CHAPTER VII. THE BIRD IN 'l'HE CAGE. l\leantime, when El Raton entered the largest of the adobe houses the playing and singing had stopped instantly. About a score of men, of all types of villainy, greeted his coming with a shout. "El Raton!" "And where have you been so long?" "Looks as if he had been spending a week in the suburbs of Hades!" This c o arse remark raised a laugh, and El Raton 's sinister face grew darker than ever. "I have been there, or as near to it as I ever want to g o again," he growled. "But I have come off hest, and that makes it all right." "But what's the matter?" one fellow asked. ''What's that scar on your neck? What' s the matter with your eyes?" "That scar is a rattlesnake bite, that is all. Got any likker handy? Ha! that will jnst fix me out. As fer my eyes, wait a minute." For some moments he gave all his attention to a bottle that had been handed him. "There, that will do for all the rattlesnake juice I happe n to have in me," he said, w1ping bis mouth on the back of his hand. "And now you want to know that is the matter with my eyes?' "Yes, yes." His eyes were both slightly discolored, and lo0ked as if they had been burned. "Well, Diamond Dick, Jr., is the matter with them.'' "What P' "That infernal young detective?" "The same." '' \Vhere is he?'' "Not a thousand miles away from here, I'm glad to say.'' "Glad to say--" "Yes, for I mean to see his heart before another forty-eight honrs go over my head!" 'l'he threat was a terrible one, and it was made in a manner that was calculated to strike terror to a timid hearer. "Tell us about it." "I hold the winning haud, and he is the only trump that is out against me. I will trick him with a joker before the hand is out, see if I don't." "But, tell us about it, Raton." "Yes, for I need your help, or some of yott, at any rate.'' J "And yon shall have it!" they vociferated, loudly. "We have all got an iron in the fire for that cuss!" "Well, hyer is what's happened: Ye see, Nick and me put up a job to do him, but he hain 't done yet. The fact of the business is we got done ourse1ves, cuss him!" "Oh! he is a cyclone, is that chap." "We made him a prisoner and took him to the l\1oqni pueblo. The snake dance was on, and I took part in that infernal proceeding in order to get in a lick at him. I filled my skin with the antidote, of course and then I went into the corral and got out two of the biggest rattlers of the lot-that mark on my neck shows for their size, and I can show half a dozen more. "Well, I danced a little while, till I had got the reptiles well in hand, and then I got near to Diamond Dick, Jr., and let them fly straight at him." "And you say he is alive!" "As much alive as yon are. iVhy, he jest snapped out a couple of blacksnake whips-though where he got them from I don't know, and each of them big rattlers "las caught on the fly, and cut in two as if yon had done it with a knife!" Exclamations of snrprise were heard on every hand. "That chap bears a charmed life," declared one ] im Keegan. "And it is onr business to break the charm," de clared the boss of the town of Terrible. "But, how?" "Like ye cook a rabbit," said another.

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DIAMOND DIGK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. 17 "First catch the rabbit, eh?" "That's right." And we'll get him, you bet we will!" cried El Raton. ''That is the business of this town at present. And then we'll attend to the cooking part of the game." "We'll make it a jubilee." "You bet." "But you said you came out on top, El Ratou. It don't look much like it." "Don't it?" "No.'' "Well, I tlid a ll t h e s ame." "How?" "You have hea rd me sp eak about Mercedes, the l\!oqtiis quee n ? / 'That g a l yo u are dead gone on, and have b een swearing y ou would b ring h ere and marry?'' "The same. "But where d o e s Nick Buford com e in?" "V/e'll have to settle that between tts, and I gue ss be will yield his claim all right." "But what about the gal?" "I have got her here, and I want y ou to drink to her health." "Hooray Good fer y ou, El Raton! You are 011 top of the pile yet. you bet you are!" There was an uproar for a few minutes, and the bottle went the round of the band of cutthroats to celebrate the occasion. "Yes, I have got her, and not only that, but I am makin' a fine thing out of it besides,'' Raton went on "I get fiv e thousand dollars for the job to boot." "Whew!" "Say y on ain't strict! y in it?" They pass ed the bottle again, to do foll justice to the e vent. "Where i s she?" demanded Kee g a n. "In m y adobe," answered El Raton. "Come on, a n d I will introduce ye to her, bo ys." With a shout they were on their feet instantly, and this wa s wha t startled Me rced es and the M exican with whom she w as talking at the moment. 'I'he Mexican had gone but a few steps when EI Raton and his gang of rnffi ans appeared. The ha1f-caste had withdrawn into the hut. "Right this wa y my cherubs," she heard EI Raton sa ying, "and see if you don't sa y I have got g ood ta s te. I tell you she is the pink of these hyer plains c eptin' 11one!" In another moment his form darkened the door of the adobe in w hich Mercedes had be e n left. "\IV here are ye, beaut?" Raton c a lled out. "You mean me?" a s ked the girl. "Most 'suredly I do. Come out h yer and show ve rself, and let me introduce ye to the boy s." He stepped b ack a11d M e rcede s ap?eared in the doorwa y. Ejaculations of admiration were instantly heard, and Jim Keegan, for one, envied the boss of the town of Terrible. In her hand the girl held her little defender, and she ran her eyes over the motley crew as if she might be debating in mind which one she would pepper first. "Boys," said El Raton, with a wave of the hand, 'low me to in'troduce to you the queen of the town of Terrible. She has come to stay and purty soon we will have a weddin' that will do ye all proud." The girl's dark face slightly paled as she heard this. "It will take two to make that kind of a bargain, El Raton," she declared, fearlessly. "Not in this hyer case," declared Raton, with a light laugh. "I am speakin' for you as well as myself.'' "Yon had better go slow." "Oh! thar' s plenty of time; a day or two more or les s won t matter, seein' that ye have got to stay here five m onths anyho\v, even ef that was all of the scheme. ' "What do yon mean?" "I am talkin' about that five thousand." "Wha t about it?" "It is to be paid at the rate of a thousand a month, for your detention hyer. '' "Then you deceived me." "I guess not.' "I thought yon were to have the money in hand at once." "No, I never said so. And then let you go next clay? That would be a big plan, now would.n 't it? Ha, ha, ha!" "Aud you do not mean to keep your word with m e?" ''\Nhat word?'' "That I am to have half of that money?'' "I never made any such promise as that. But, bl e ss ye, what is mine is y ours, for you are to be mine." "Never!" The weapon in her hand came up a little. "Look out, boys!" said El Raton, warningly. "The little spitfire might let drive. '!'here is a fang that has got to be pulled before she will be perfectly harmless.'' "Let me see you undertake to pu 11 i .. t said girl, defiantl y "You will, later." They were about turning away when the Mexican on guard came along again, slowly pacing his beat. "Here, Rivero," said El Raton, "yon are the man I want to see. You have an honored prisoner here to give a little attention to. She is soon to be the queen of 11errible. '' "Si. senor," said the Mexican, with a bow. "You must see .that she does not go over the line, that no smoke is allowed to be made by her, and that

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I 18 Dl/\MOND DICK. JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. she does not go down to the entrance. Do you under stand?" "Si, senor. "All right. Mercedes, this is Don Manuel Rivero, 'YhO enjoys the distinction of being one of the great est forgers Mexico ever produced. He is--" "Car-r-r--" the Mexican 's tongue began to trill. "Hold on, don't swear in the presence of a lady," checked El Raton. "You might as well have all the honor due you, and it is perfectly safe to mention it to her, seeing that she is here to stay.'' "Cascaras! She will never leave here when I am on d 'uty," declared Rivero. "Ha, ha, ha!" laughed El Raton. "I thought I could insure that by just mentioning who and what you are. I'll give the other guardsmen the same distinction, when each in his turn goes on duty. Ha, ha, ha! I am boss of this t.ow11 of Terrible!" Whh that he walked away. T he Mexican muttered something under h1s breath, but he gave Mercedes a glance that she understood. Jim Keegau had a dark look on his face, and s cowled upon El Raton as he, with the orhers, fol lowed him in the direction of the adobe house from which they had come. CHAPTER VIII. MATTERS GETTIN G TWIS'l'ED. That El Raton was indeed ''boss of the town of Terrible" seemed positive. A t the moment they were about to enter the larges t of the adobe houses, a sharp, shrill whistle was heard. El Raton stopped and turned. "It mus t be Nick Buford," he s:;iid. "His is the only party out," reminded Keegan. ''Ya's that's so." They "'4ai ted. It1 a Jew minutes Nick Buford appeared on top of m esa. him came two more of El Rato11 's band of cutthroats, who had been out with Buford. One glance at Buford's fa c e told El Raton that s omethi11g was amiss, and he started to meet him, eagerly demanding: "What' s in the wind, Nick?" "Et ain't in the wind, ,boss," was the respon se. ''Et is out thar in one of the m 'ar arroyos." "What is it, I demand." "'Nothi11' but Chris Conover and Diamond Dick, Jr., with a full hand o f detectives to back 'em." "Vindicta l You speak the truth?" "Do ye think l would lie about et?" "Well, no; but how did they "I ain' t yin' that they have discovered anything, but thar they be as big as life." "They have made a discovery, if they are thar," grated El Raton. "It is the doings of that accursed Diamond Dick, Jr.,, "Then he must have trailed you hyer." "Impossible. , ''Nothin' impossible fer that cuss." "There is one thing that will be impossible, though." "What is that?,, "It will be impossible for him to get out of our hands, once we get him here." "You mean to tackle him again?" "You bet!" "Hadn>t w e better c11t loose and get over into Me x as soon as possible?,, "Not by a hatful! This is the safest retreat we ever had, and there ,is one way of keepin' the si:cret, even yet.,, "How is et to be done?" "By extarminatin' thar hull sbootin' match., "That>s all right, but how are y e goin> about et?" "Why, we ,11 lure >em into this stronghold, of course, and that will end the game." "Eureka ,, Zorro! you h a ve brought u s a good piece of news," cried El Raton, in a burst of enthusiasm. ''There is only one thing to be s ure of.,, "What's that?,, ''Did they see you?,, "Nit.,, "Then we have got the hull thing in our haild s and if we don' t make somebody sick and sorry it will not be our fault.,' "Yo11 bet. But what about Mercedes? "Oh! I have got her all right," s aid Raton. "Where is sh e?" "Thar in m y coop." "In your coop!'' Yes, I have moved ont fer the time bein'. Ye see, I didn't know whether you had yours ready fer a bride or not,'' he cunningly turned it off. "Oli1 ,"said Buford, greatly mollified. "I didn >t know but you meant to deal crooked." "No, she is thar, waitin' fer ye. Go and se e her, if you like. But come with me fir st." H e led the way into the biggest of the adobe s 'We have got to make doubly sure of this game, Nick,''. he went ou, w he11 they had taken seat s "I want you to play a big role in et." "What is et to. be?" "Whar is your rival, Lerue ?" "Out thar with the rest. "I thought so. I am goin' to give you a chance to settle with him." "Ha! that will suit roe to dea t h. I will settle fer him, too, you kin bet your hat. ' Yes, I was sure that would plea s e you. Now, here is my plan: We rnust lure them i11to the trap, and you mus t see that they are all in." "How?"-

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DIAMOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. 19 "By bein' outside when they come in.", "All right, I understand. I'll see that thar don't none git away." "That is the idea, pat. Then when we get the signal from you that we have got 'em all, the ruction will commence.'' ''I see." ''And it will be one of the biggest mysteries this country ever had in all its history to accoun t for those missin' men." "You bet!" "That's all fer the time bein', then." "All right, then I'll go and buzz the ear of that little gal fer a while." '' Y cs, go," sa id El Raton, under his breath, as the fellow left him, ''for it is likely to be your sole opportunity. I'll see that you are picked off in the melee." And he meant it. Buford went to the adobe where the girl was, and as El Raton after him he muttered further: "Yes, make much of your time, my pretty fellow. I trust the gal to take care of herself with her gun. I will let you remove Sam Lerue, and then when I have done the sam e thing for you I'll have it all to 111 v self. Buford found Mercedes there, and she was on her feet to greet him, her gun in hand. She had heard him coming. "Ah-ha!" he cried, joyously, at the sight of her. "Give us a kiss, my dear!" "I '11 give you this!" she cried, leveling her wea pon at his head. "You wouldn't shoot meP' ''I give you just ten seconds to get out oi that doorway. One, two, three, four--" She was counting them off rapidly, and Buford saw hy the way she squinted over the tube of the little gun that she meant "shoot." He jumped back and out of sight. "That's durn rough, that is," he complained. "I didn't know you had that thing. Can't ye treat yer lover no better than that?" "If you do not get away from here at once I will la y you out." -"All right, I'll see you later." She heard him move away. Yet it struck her as strange that he would give up so easilv. Going quietly to the door, she looked ont, and as she did so she felt something cold touch her neck. ''Dpn't ye move!" cried Buford's voice. "Ef ye do, I'll have to do ye damage, mnch as I like ye. Now I'll come in fer that chat with ye, whether ye like et or not." He had merely gone around the lrnt and wa s ready for her when she appeared. She had fallen into his u et. While speaking, behad grabbed h e r pistol hand, and that a one he put his own weapon back iuto his belt and forced her into the adobe. "Now, my pretty," he eried, taking her on his lap, and sitting down on the only seat the hut afforded, "I'll take et out in kisses. Thar is one to begin with, an' how d'ye like ther flavor--Thunder!'' He dropped the girl, and was on his feet instantly. The doorway had darkened, and there stood Manuel Rivero, with his Winchester leveled at him. And in almost the same moment a big five-shooter also came into the range of his vision, in a bigger fist, and its tube was pressed under the ear of the Mexican who held the rifle. What did it mean? The thought flashed through Buford's mind quickly. More than that, he had neglected to take the pistol away from the girl-had merely held her hand, and now he felt the tube of that weapon in his ear. It all took place in a space of two seconds. Instantly following the appearance of lhe hand with the big revolver, came the face of El Raton. And in the same second, almost, came the of Jim Keegan, to darken the doorway further. He, too, had a gun in his hand ready for business. "Don't anybody shoot," the half-caste was quick to caution. "I have got this chap right, and there is no need of it.'' And verily she had, with that toy in his ear. "What does this mean?" demanded Raton. He addressed Rivero. "I saw him seize the lady and ran to her aid," was the answer. "You did?" "Yes.'' "What was it to you, if he had seized her?" "Milagro! was it nothing to you? What would you have me do, being on guard?'' With a shrug, the Mexican wheeled and walked away, for the time being having eluded the suspicion of the boss of Terrible. ''And yon?'' El Raton turned furiously upon Jim Keegan. "Wby, durn et, I followed you," was the respo11se. "Say, what is bitin' you, anyhow?" "That's all right, ef it is so," growled El Raton. "And now fer you, Nick Buford, what did you mean?' "What did I mean?" repeated the fellow in the three-cornered fix-he being the apex where three weapons were at the moment centering. 'That's what I said," cried Raton. "Why, I meant to git that gun, that's what, and played a trick to do et. Et seems to me you arc takin' a mighty interest in property that don't be1ong to ye, boss.'' "l t does, eh?"

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20 Dll\MOND DICK. JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKCY. "Yes, et does; and not only you, but Rivero and Keegan by. er. '' The boss of Terrible saw that he would have to say something that would smooth out Buford's suspicions, if he expected to get any service out of him in the pending crisis. "Well, et ought to be as plain as the nose on your face where my interest is,,, .he said. "I have got five thousand dollars interest in her, and I must see to et that no harm comes to her before I git my clutch on the goods. See?'' "Wull, who was goin' to harm her." "I meant to see that nobod y did, that was all. Come, Nick, no need our quarreling over et.'' "No, I opine not, but I be durn ef I like to leave l1er with this hyer popper in her possessiop. No tellin' what harm she rnay do somebody with et ef we do." "And you will all see what harm will be done, you do not get out of here in a hurry," now cried the half-caste, taking the plug out of Buford's ear and stepping back and covering them a ll. "I have got a dose of pi1ls here for som ebody." She spoke in a way that showed that she meant it, and they tumbled out of her presence with haste. CHA P'rER IX. SURPRISE OF SURPRISES. There was no further incident worthy of mention on the mesa the remainder of the afternoon. Mercedes remained in her hut most of the time, where she was supplied with water and some coars e bread and smoke-dried me :H. Just as it was growing dark something came into the adobe house with a slight thud 011 the ground, and she made haste to see what it was, finding it was what she had waited for. It was the material for her signal fire, or fire wheel. An Indian maid, or at any rate, h aving Indian blood in her veins, a nd having lived all her life in an Indian pueblo, she was versed in all their arts, if arts will apply. She set abont her task immediately. By the time it was thoroughly dark it was done. S e had worked in darkness, but her finger s wer e thoroughly familiar with the work. Jnst as she finished, there was presence in the doorway. "Are you here?" was whispered in Spanish. "Yes, I am here," was the respon se. "Then now is your chance. Whom would you signal?" "My people." "For what purpose?" "That they may rescue me." "Is that all?" "And that they may punish my captors.'' "Is that all?" "Yes.'' "What of me?" "You can escape with me." "You mean it?" "Certainly I mean it." "Very well, it is a bargain." "Is the coast all clear that way?" "Yes, and now is your chance. Wait one minute till I get away." "All right." "Theu I will give you about a minute to wave your signal before I will discover you." "That will be sufficient." ''Then act now, while the gang are at their mess.'' "Si, senor. The Mexican passed on, and the girl slipped out of the hut. She hastened to the edge of the mesa, or as near it as she dared to approach for fear of losing her footing. There she lighted a match and applied it to her hoop, and in two or three seconcis it was a hoop of living fire, and she twirled it rapidly around and around. "Now, mi madre," she said, in a half whisper, "you know where I am. I know your eyes never tire when yon watch for a sign. Here it is; you know where I am; you know that all is well or the signal would not be thns. Now, then, do you your part!" Of a sudden came a shout. lt was from the dire ction of the cl nster of adobe hou s e s With a c r y, the half-caste dropped the hoop of fire, and it went on a spin down the side of the mesa. "Zamacuco l vVhat do you there ?11 It was the voice of the g11ard. Instantly the girl left the spot, making a detour in the direction of her hnl. ".What i s the matter?" called the voice of El Raton. "A fire! A signal ".Where?" "It wa s there, at the edg e of the mesa.'' "Fool! Why did y ou not shoot?" "I thought to capture the idiot who wa s making it.,, "Spread out, men, and we will have him," cried Rato11. "We have a traitor in camp!" The whole e ; il crew of them was ont now, aud they ran this way and that, excitedly. But no one was to be seen. It was dark, s ave for the stars and the faint light that came from some of the
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DIJ\MOND DICI<, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEElllow gasped. "Where is "How the deuce do I kuow ?" "You do know." "I swear that I do not!" "You are the one who took her from this adobe." "Yun have 110 proof of that; how do you know what You assert?" you deny-it?" ''Yes, flatly." ''Where is that accnrsecl '.\lexican ?" "I don't know." "A1e you and he 11ot in.this thing together against me?" '"rlrnnder 110 Do you suppose we would work against you, with such prices on our own heads? Don't be a fool, El Raton. .. .

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; 22 DIAMOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. E l Raton shoved his gun into his belt vengefully ''There is one way you can prove your words, and that is by standing shoulder to shoulder with me in this fig}1t." "Wliat fight?" "With Chris Conover aud his men." "And that fight will begin.right here, El Raton!" There was a flash of light-electric light could hardly have dazzled them more-and between the two men, with one of his handsome guns pointed a t each, stood Diamond Dick, Jr. And not only he, but high prieste s s of the l\loquis stood there with him, and the light was furnished by two urn-light cups she held in her hands, one near the face of one of the men and the other near the face of his comrade, while a huge rattlesnake swayed forward from her head, its eyes glowing ,like twin sparks. CHAPTER X. THE MESSAGE OF 'l'HE HOOP. When the little band of man-hunters s tarted a c ro s s the plain toward the Mesa Encatada, Diamond Dick, ] r., led the way. They were, as said, about to lay siege to the town of Terrible, now well a s sured in their own minds where that mysterious place was Like shadows they moved, with never a sound that would betray th eir presence In a little while they were under the deeper shadow o f the me sa. 11 Here the y halted. "Now, youngster, what is to b e done?" a s k e d Chri s Conover. "That is a question to be dec i d ed," answe r e d B e r tie. "The first thing is to find that hoop of fire." "What do you want that for? It has playe d its part.'' "Has it?" "Has it not?" "We must see. Mercedes, daughter of the hi g h pries t es s of the ::.\foquis, can write remember.'' "Ha! I see. Yon look for a mess age." "It will surprise me if she di cl not attach a word or two to that hoop, old man.'' "Well, you have led us straight to the spot. Loo k around, boys, and see if you can find it." "Don't see how we'll find it without a light," said Detective Lukens. "Make no light, on your life," warned Conover. "Then how will you read it?" demanded Ramons "Let's find it first," said Bertie. "Here, I will show you how. We will join hands, and move up and down here, feeling with our feet, and buttons to bullion we find it in less than two minutes." This was done. They had gone but a little way in this manner, when one of the men gav e a signal agreed upon. "What did I tell you?" Bertie demanded. "You have got something in that thinker of yours, my boy," said Conover. They let go of hands a nd pressed around the fellow who had give n the s ign al, who had s toop e d and picke d up a hoop out of the g rnss G o t it?" a s k e d Bertie. Yon bet," was the reply. A nd what g o od will i t do us?" demand ed Luke ns. "Can' t see it w ithout a l ight, and I don' t s e e how it c a n cont::iin a messa g e anyhow, since it was all on fire.'' "Thunder! that's so," a greed Conover. "Kee p your shirts on, you fellows," s aid Bertie with a light laugh. "If it is written, we'll find it in a piece of wet hide, no doubt.'' A nd if it ain't writ, it is in Maquis," spoke up S a m L e rne. B ertie h a d now taken the hoop, and was feeling o f it with c a r e to find some sign or token attached. "Nothing here in the shape of a packet," he said. 'Then Jet me h a ve it," Sam r eques ted. It wa s hande d to him. Jus t as he took it, however, a sharp hissing was heard clo s e a t hand, and immediately the peculiar noise of a rattles nake. "Look out!" warned one of the men. "A rattler, b y tarn el!" Chi to!" a voice whispered, with. a liis sing not tha t of the ratt)esnake A dark, b ent figur e was creeping toward the m outh o f the gl oc m. Eve r y man had a gun in hand. "Make no sound," wa s fu rther spoken. ''I be a rd th e voi c e of a friend, hence I know vou are frien ds.'' "It is Hechicera, the high priestess of the Maquis," whi s p e red Sam L e rue. 'Yes it is I," was <'lcknowledg ed, in Spanish, of course. "Aud it was your voice I heard." "Wha t are y ou doing here, old woman?" asked C o n over. Mv child ha s call e d m e." "TI1en y o u sa w the signal?" as k e d Bertie Ye s Hanel me the hoop; I know you have found it." "Here it is," said Sam. "There is l\1oquis on it, and yo u can rea d it better'n I can." The high pries tess took it e a gerl y Ye s yes, the m es sage is he re," she quickly an -11ou11ced. ''Seventeen men there are o n the mes a, twenty h or s e s in the corral, pl enty of water, plenty of provisions.'' "How the d e vil d oes she rea d ail that in the dark?" d emande
PAGE 24

DIAMOND DICK, JR.-THE BOYS' BEST WEEKLY. 23 "'rhe mischief!" "You trust Hechicera to read Moquis signs," said Sam Lerue. "Entrance by means of a great bowlder that rolls away from the openiug," the old sorceress read on. ''The signal is one long, sharp whistle from a little hollow a distance from the bowlder. Senors, the way is open!" "By Heaven! she lies!" It was Lukens made the a ssertion. 'Have a care!'' c autioned Diamond Dick, Jr. "Do you mean to tell me she can read such things as that here in the dark?'' "Why not?" "It can't be done." "Say, how do the.blind read?" I know, but this don't sta11
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