Jesse James' oath; or, Tracked to death


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Jesse James' oath; or, Tracked to death

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Jesse James' oath; or, Tracked to death
Series Title:
Jesse James Stories
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Lawson, W. B.
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New York
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Street & Smith
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English
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32 p. ; 26 cm.

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Dime novels ( lcsh )
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serial ( sobekcm )

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University of South Florida
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University of South Florida
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The University of South Florida Libraries believes that the Item is in the Public Domain under the laws of the United States, but a determination was not made as to its copyright status under the copyright laws of other countries. The Item may not be in the Public Domain under the laws of other countries.
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028809655 ( ALEPH )
07355654 ( OCLC )
J14-00005 ( USF DOI )
j14.5 ( USF Handle )

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Issued Weekly. By Subscription $2.so per year. Entered as Second Class Matter at New York Post Office by STREET & SMITH, 218 William St., N. Y. No. 5. . ; Price, Five Cents. WHIPPING OUT A REVOLVER, JESSE JAMES MAKES A BREAK FOR THE WINDOW, SWEEPING A PATH THROUGH THE TERROR-STRICKE:S-MEXICANS.

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OF THE ./Ssued iveekly. By Subscription $2.so per year. Entered as Second Class Matter at the N. Y. Post Office, hy STREET & SMITH, 238 Willia m St., N Y. Entered accordin.lf to Act of Congress in the year IQOI, in tlze Office of tlie Librarian of Congress, Washington, D. C. No. 5. N E W YORK, June 8, 1901. Price Five Cents. Jesse Ja01es' Oath; OR TR1\
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THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. The knight o f the revolver starts at the calm reply to his question. The man must be mad to stand there and thus deliberately sea l his fate. You are a fool to tell me that to my face. Do you kn o w who l am?" "'Jesse James, the border robber," guilty of the worst crim e s on the calendar." This time the other w histles; he cannot but admire the daring that braves him thus. "'You know this, but take your life in your hands by declaring it. I am no outlaw in Mexico-you have fol l o wed m e here as you say, to muider me. It is money that has done this-the price set on my head." "Yon are wrong." 'What then?" "It is revenge the other hisses. "Revenge-well, what's the difference? You took your life. in your hands when you started upon the trail of Jesse Jam es, and it will end here. Such is a detective's fate." "I am not a detective!" The bord e r terror again shows s igns of wonder. Up to thi s moment he has never doubted but that the p a rty who pursued him across the Rio Grande, into the land of the Montezumas, could be oth e r than some daring de tec tive whose eyes have been dazzl e d by the large sums offe red for the arrest or death of the notorious James b ovs. B efore settling in the valley of the Pecos on a ranch, t l :cy were concerned in a foray upon a bank in Northfield, ::\1 innesota, where a terrible shooting affair took place, outlaws being shot down, and the Younger broth e r s c a ptured. Since then they have been wait in g for some unusually 'mart detective to trace them to their ranch-the location o f which may be betrayed by some false friend. J e ss e J a rnes has believed the mysterious party known to be d ogging his footsteps to be this lon g -looked for officer c f justice, and decides he might as well s ettle the business o n c e for all just outside the Mexican town. ''?\ot a detective? then why in thunder do you follow 111c t o take my life?" he demands. "[told you." "Yes, you said revenge. Have I done you any wrong in the past?" "I have a memory; in it, J esse James, you are asso ciated with a cowardly crime, the p e nalty of which is death." "Yes ,., returned the other, with a laugh; "death is the p e nalty, but your death not mine. I hold the drop, and .f css e James was never known to let an enemy get away to sting him in the heel. Prepare to pass over the dark ri\'er." His manner is cold and heartless: human life has no c laims upon this man who has been at war with the law s ince hi s boyhood . You would not shoot me?" cries the other "li\Thy not, fool?" "Because I am-a woman!" Shaking the sombrero from its hold, a s hO\ver of curls fa lls upon the should e rs of the party whom Jesse James h o lds under his revolver. The sight startles him. It is unexpected. --, His past shows many deeds of violence, even of crue toward man, but never once has his hand been rais against a woman. Scenes witnessed when wit h Quantrell, the guerril during war times, have never left his mind-they ma him hate and distrust his fellow-man, but respect the g tier sex "A woman-after my life!" he e jaculates. "\i\Thy not, Jesse James? You have killed more t one woman's husband, father, or brother. If the pray of the women you have widowed could be heard ab o long before now death must have ended your bold reer." "Your sex saves you I do not war on women. tell me, what have I done; why do you follow where brav es t detective fears to come? Revenge you saywhat?" "That is my secret." "Is it fair to hound me to death and not tell me reason? Perhaps I am i nn ocent." At this she laughs derisively. "]'.\ o clanger of that. You are guilty of every crime the calendar. One could hardly think of a deed you h not committed." "That is what m y enemies sa y I know of many g could n o t force me into. The fact that I have restored evo lver to my b elt proves that I am not villain enm : to shoot a woman "You speak truly, and yet I know I am not mistak It was your hand that brought ruin and death, tho a mask hid your face. I recognized you, apd I have lowed you over the border to avenge his fou l murder. "'What you speak of i s a mystery to me. I beg of i woman, give me the facts. Who are you?" "Have you not recognized me? But I forget; garb ill b e comes one used to feminine attire. C closer, Jesse James, come closer still." He takes out a match and strikes it upon the ad wall; as the light fl.ares up he bends eagerly forward fastens his eyes on that face. "VVhat you?" "You recognize me, then?" "Jack Dutton's w ife!" ''Yes; and you know where Jack Dutton is." "I swear I do not. VVhat has happened ove r at y ranch ? Is Jack dead ?" "Ay, stabbed through the heart by a masked vill and his words as he fell made me believe it was you murdered him." ' Tell me -what did he say?" "Breathed your name." nd from this you instantly co11clucled I was the sa ssin of my frie nd. I b e liev e he meant that you to se e k our aid, that we would right your wrongs. "That was not all-one of the m e n called out i unguarded moment to t h e lead e r and mentioned name. I caught it-Jesse James." "This is some accursed plot to fasten another d e e darknes s on me Heaven knows I have enough of own to answer for without others helping me out. i\ Dutton, I swear to you, in my mother's name, I hac hand in the outrage y ou men ti on. More than this, James makes an oath to discover the truth, to aveng death of his friend Jack."

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THE JESSE Jf\MES STORIES. 3 The r e i s so m ething ab out the man's manner that g oes far tO\Yar d c onvincing hi s would-be murderess that he s peaks t ruly. '"If I cou l d on l Y beli ev e i t, s he murmurs. ''You can y o u m ust. I w ill p r o v e it-at the point of the r evo l ver the d astar d shall a c knowledge his crime. If I fail. there is t im e enough for you to finish your work h ere ''.Jess e J ames. c an I b elieve you?" T e ll me w h a t has h appened-the story?" he demands, i n his i m peri o u s 1rn y, for the man is accustomed to giving orders and b e in g o b e v e d. "You s h all have it bri efly told It is just seven days ago t h is ni ght s in c e y o u and Frank James left your ranch for a raid in M exic o On tihe succeeding ni g ht, when all we r e a sleep we were rudely arous ed by fie ndish yells. The very heaven s were aglow w i th the light of our burning b u il dings. and we kn e w the ranch had been attacked b y a gan g of o u t l a ws "Ja ck brave to th e last, snat ched up his gun, bubt was im med i ately kn oc k ed out of his h and. H e trie d t o close wi t h the masked man, but I saw and h eard a bl o w, and r e c e iv e d poor Jack' s dying form in m y arms ; vVords fail to desc r ib e the scene Even now I can hear the roaring of the flames, the wild shouts of men as they stamped e d our cattle, and the s hots t!hat sent more than one c owboy t o hi s dreadful doom." She hi d e s her fa ce in her hands, and shudders as these memories surg e up. In a minute sh e becomes wonderfully calm again and resumes h e r r ec ital. "The n all was ov e r, and I "found m y self a widow; my murdere d Jack Jay b e fore me, women were weeping a rou nd m e, and several of our cowboys stood about sul len and fu rio u s. 'One of the women lifted her black hair and showed me ehat her ears had b e en cut off. "Anothe r declared tha t a man ha .cl whispered in his presenc e that it w a s the work o f J es se James. "Do you wonder I declared m y purpose to follow you into Mex i c o and aven g e all this? I would have tracked you across a continent to have wiped out that ni ght's w ork; and now y ou deny it. Where can I turn for vengeance?" "Mary Dutto n, leave this to me Jess e James was your husband' s friend. He will avenge that foul night's work." "Oh! if I could but b e li e ve it." "Trust in m y word. Y o u speak of one woman having her ears cut o ff. you ever hear of an American d oing suc h a t hin g ?" "Never before." "That is proof there were Mexicans in the party. Already I have my suspicions "Look! hereis t'he knife b'.)' which Jack fell.'' "You were ke eping it--" "To end your life with; just as the brave Wallace of Id used the s w o rd, crimsoned with tihe blood of his weet Mario n, to send her cowardly murderer before the ar of heav en." "Let me 'have it. I swear to you that fue good right rm of Jesse James wiH bury it in the heart of the man :ho killed your His voice and manner con-vince her She relinquishes the weapon. Ta:ke it then, and may the chase be short," she bre athes, for the time being no longer a weak woman, but filled with the spirit of fi're. Besides, continued the other, refleotively, "the blade itself may give us some clew; it is customary for m e n to mark their weapons.'' Agai11J he strikes a match and holds it close to the knife with which Jack Dutton was slain "Look! do you see that cross-I know it well. The man who did you that foul wrong is no other than the terro r of t'he border-Juan Cortina." "The woman utters a fi'erce cry. "T'he Firebrand of t'he Rio Grande?" "No other. This knife is his. Ee knows who I amhence his mask to deceive you. A thousand curse s on hi s 'head It is the blackest night's work he will ever do ." Thos e who ever saw Jesse James fully arous ed know what a demon t he could be. Just now, as he grits hi s teeth he shows the face of a fiend It will go hard with the man who next cros s e s his path. The slow-burning match dies ou t. CHAPTER II. THE SIGNAL FOR HOSTILITIES. Presently hi s mood changed. He i s once more the cool, c olle cted man his enemies have always found him. "W1hat di d you find out, were the cattle driven?" he asks. "One o f my cowbo y s followed; he declared _...they crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico." "Just so. The fiend believes himself safe on t hi s side of the river. H e little knows J e ss e James. I w ou}cl l oo k for a foe in the heart ofN ew Y o rk, and laugh all Pinkerto n s men to sc o rn. It is a trifle to cross a river for a lif e." "I am glad you 1have declared your innocence ; it was terrible for me to believe that Jack's friend had brought ab o ut his d eath." "Return to your home; do what y o u can to bind up th e wounds caused by this raid. Before another moon wanes I swear to bring to you the scalp of th e man who kill e d Jack, i f I have to t ear it from his head on the streets of Monterey. You believe me, Mary Dutton?" "You have done many things in the past that may make you shudder to remember, but t11is act q\ retribution will w a s h out more than one. Keep your oath, Jes i se James ." I will; again I swear it." "The n I will go; n o t t o my ruine d ranch, but to watch from a distance how you carry out your word. \i\Then least you expect it I may appear." The disguised woman turns and vanishes in the dark ness fhat swallows her up a1s though she were not of t'he flesh, but the spirit. Jess e James stands for a moment looking after her, as though Jost in reflection. Then, recovering himself, he ihastily hides the murderous knife on his person, turns on 'his heel, and ente rs the Mexican town.

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THE JESSE Jf\MES Presently he is at tbe tavern or posada where the two hers had put up. Frank James sits upon fue porch in front with a cigar bet ween his teeth, his feet elevated to a level with his head ove r the railing. He seems to be interested in what is taking place upon the nlaza before the inn. rivals have faced a pair of cocks, and in the light of the many lamps, the game birds are fiercely assailing one another. 1 / There is no c:rowd around-only a few idlers. An 0ccu rrence of this sort is so common in San Blas that it is hardly noticed Jesse stands beside the railing, and watches t he con flict for a few minutes, until the red cock, by a sudden powe rful movement, buries his gaff in the eye of his black rival, thus effectually disposing of 'him. The owner hands over the stake, picks up his dead fowl, and the little crowd disperses, to find more amuse ment, and no one has to go far to discover that when 1:ight falls on San Bla:s. The Mexican town during the hot, dry day is dull and! sleepy, but as soon as darkness comes it awakens to a roaring life. :\lusic sounds on t he ear from mandolin and castanets; rnc!e voices of men are heard; money jingles in the gambling dens as peseta's, pesos, and reals are staked in the games of monte. Yes, San Blas is fully awake now. The gayest mining camp in Colorado could not show more life than is found here. As Jesse James swings around the post to take a seat beside his brother, his face is for the instant brought ttnder the broad glare of light from the open door of the tavern. Frank's eyes see something there. For years 1he has fought at the side of his brother; they h a ve been comrades on many a wild foray, and, when danger pressed, stood together facing grim death. Such a life brings men clo se r together. Desperadoes as they are, these men have never yet forgotten that they are brotl 1ers. "What's up?" asked Frank. "Jack Dutton's dead." The other whistles his surprise. "Where did you hear t11at ?'' "From the widow just now; she has been tracking us, believing we did the deed." "Confusion! What killed him?" The other took out the fatal knife. "That is weapon; examine it, and see if you know its owner, Frank." One glance as he held the blade in the light, and Frank James utters a curse. "Tuan Cortina !" "Yes, the Mexican Firebrand." "Tell me the story." It is soon done, and the murderer af Jack Dutton has made another enemy. Thus an hour has passed by. "Come and let us wander into the den over yonder, and see what's going on. I feel very strange to-night, as though there was wolf blood in me." feels uneasy at this; he ha:s known his brother to do terrible t'hings in the past, when this strange m came upon him. TI1ere will be trouble in the Mexican town this ni if that wolf blood breaks out. Soon they enter the gambling den", where the mad taries of fortune endeavor to woo the fickle goddess. It is no uncommon thing to see Americans in the M ican towns near the border; sometimes hundreds w in the mines; cowboys drive cattle with the Texan wh and even rangers, armed with rifle and revolver, c from the cold North in winter to enjoy the life and ga of these Southern cities. San Blas just now is in a festival mood. Strangers fill her one fonda, and numerous posa to overflowing; during' the day they indulge in feat horsemanship and daring; on the morrow a grand b fight occurs, while each night is given up to gambl on a large scale and dancing at the fandango. In the room which the Americans enter, probably scores of men are found. Most of them sit at tables; smoke fills the atmosph and voices constantly Desperate games are in progress. Now and then a dispute arises; excitement grows .fever heat; the lie is given, blows exchanged, and sibly one of the gamesters staggers out into the ni air, hleeding from a wound. It is a shocking scene. The worst passions of men are aroused here, and despite all this, there is a strange fascination about spectacle. Looking upon the scene, by no means new to th the Americans soon had their attention drawn to a tain table. Here a young man-a cowboy by his dress-is gaged in a game with a Mexican. It takes Jesse Jam es only a few minutes to decide the Texan is being cheated. Behind him stands a who appears to have little or no interest in the g and yet whom the Mexican watches from time to t like a lynx. This third party is making signals-not openly, but the movement of his hand. A few word_s suffice to acquaint Frank of the fact, t the two saunter near. The cowboy has staked his all. He endeavors to pear nonchalant, but it can be seen that he only repre his excitement with an effort. The cards are thrown. With a grin the Mexican c lays down his winning card, and at the same mo it is pinned to the table by the point of a knife. "You miserable yellow fraud-to sit here, and your companion give you points! I'm surprised at) Yell ow Top, for falling in to such a game." The c-owboy, turning his head, sees Frank Ja grasping the ear of the other man, and at the s time holding a revolver to his head. Taking in the situation, with a whoop he leans and sweeps the Mexican's winnings into his poc feeling that they belong there. As for the baffled gambler, he rises to his feet, b .with rage, and reaches for a weapon.

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THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. 5 "Drop you r 11anCls, fool, or yo u 're a dead man!" comes in deliberate tones. When he finds himself covered by a revolver, he obeys the order quickly. Som e how, upon the border, a leveled weapon is a great persuader. For the first time, Jesse James looks keenly at the man he has thus untler hi s thumb. "Ah, it's you, Gypsy Pedro. Your master, Cortina, cannot be far off. then. since I see hi shadow here," for the man he has humbled is known far and wide as the lieutepant of the g reat border Firebrand. "Jesse James! Caramba! you shall yet feel the weight of his displeasur e !" growls the man. 1 He makes no effort at re sist2. nce, even when the other's back i s turned, knowing what lightning shots these brothers are. As for Yellow Top, the cowboy, he shakes the hand that has saved him his last dollar. ''Better get out of this. That man will hunt you down ye1:. boy," adv ise s the ex-guerilla. "And \\hat of you? See, he ha s bis h ead close to half a dozen otbers''-how bis eyes spit fire as they fall on the hated gringo. "Take care, Je se James; I am afraid you'll get into trouble through befriending me." The other laughs recklessly. There aie time s when, rendered furious by the thought that men are constantly hunting him. for money or re venge, so that be can never know what a minute's real peace is, the man grows desperate, and feels like a wild animal at bay. One of these moods is now on him. "I would like better. Let the wolves try to snap at me if they dare." TJiq: Kait some time, but. though scowling looks were bent upon them, no man dared to pick a quarrel with these desperadoes, whose notoriety had long since crossed the border. "Come,' cries Jesse. finally. "Let's get out of this hole. I h ear music over the \Yay. l\ifen are crossing the street, and I reckon the fanda11go i s on." The others follow in his wake; many have already left the gambling den, drifting across to where the sounds of merriment arc h eard, telling of the bolero dance. Frank James, castino a l ook over his sho ulder sees the gita110, Pedro, beckoning to others in the room. He feel that something is in the air, but when men liv e by the revolver, clang e r does not bring alarm in i ts train. They have no trouble in entering the hall where the fan dango is in progress. It is free to all. How gayly the music sounds The pulses quicken under its magic brc:ith. Even these grim men of war seem to feel the exhilara tion of the moment. and look around for partners. It will n ot be the first time the James boys have danced at a borcl(}r fandango. As the hour grow later, the fun waxes even more boisterous, but Frank James is wide awake, and he sees men here and there who eye his brother with no friendly loo k. They act as thopg-h waiting for a signal. Something is in the wind. nc:ir the othe h:> f;> .. "Look out-they mean mischief!" "I know it," comes the reply. Some men would have the caution to withdraw f,rom the scene. Jesse James does not. He sees they are determined to have a go a1: him, and knows he will be followed to the door of the posada, if necessary. Since they will have it, better let the affair come off in the dancing-hall. During a lull in the music, a shrill whistle suddenly thrills the air. I1: is undernto od. The women scream and fly to the door, t'hrou g;h which they are hurried as rapidly as possible. "Draw!" cries Jesse James, suiting the action to the word, and facing the Mexicans who have gathered in a cluster opposite. Frank follows his example instantly, and has hardly done so than, like a flash, -the lights are eJo..1:inguished in some mysterious way. Darkness falls upon the scene, so dense that it can almost be felt. CHAPTER III. "GUERRA A CU CHILLO !" The women have all passed out, and with a slam tJie door is closed. Then a silence lik e unto death falls upon the room. Men seem to hold their brea:th, as if afraid lest it should betray them. Knowing in what manner the silence is apt to be broken, the Americans have dropped to the floor as soon as darkness settles around them. Here they crouch like tigers at bay, with set teeth awaiting the opening of the ball. It comes. A loud voice shouts : "Muerta las gringos!" It is to be "death to the Yankees." Then bursts out a roar as firearms open. Flames flash up like phantom tongues; the room is no wrapped in darkness, for the fire of burning gunpowder illu minates it. ::'ll or are the American, idle. Their time comes as soon as the enemy open fire, and, with the wonderful accura<'y that has made their names a terror along the border, the James boys begin to scatter lead among the crO\Hl of grease rs opposed to them. It is a scene that mig-ht linger long in the memory l)f a participant-the spiteful jets of flame spring outwai d. the rattl e of firearms, and th e shrieks from those unlud::; enough to get in the way of the missiles. Great events may of ten be concentrated in a very small space of time. So it is here. The battle of the fandango onlv occupies a few min utes, but those are fraught with all the accompanim ents of a dreadful carnage. Bullets fly back and for-th, shouts, groans, curses fill t11P ::i j,: the smoke becomes something terrible. blinding tr0 P"('< 11 .. its very pungenc,.

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r 6 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. No one can see, nut the shouts of the terrified Me.)fi cans cause their friends to open the door, and the de moralized and bleeding host pou'l" out, beaten at their own g a me. Outside they form in a line, and, with extended weapons, await the coming of the men who have admin istered such a merited chastisement. Minutes pass. The gringos qo not appear. One man, more fertile in expedients than his fellows, comes running up with a hlazing torch Remaining himself in a place of security, he holds the torch in such a way that the interior of the dance hall is visible. Eager eyes search it from end to end. Several forms lie upon the floor; bullets have shattered lamps, and riddled the walls, but the three Yankees have disappeared. T.hanks to the quick wits of Frank James, they have found a way of leaving the room of death by means of a window in the rear. 'flhis fact is quickly discovered. Hoarse shouts announce it. San Blas is excited. There has always been bad blood between the two nations; for Mexico can never forget what a drubbing the Americans gave her patriotic sons away back in the forties. Vengeful cries make the night hideous. The dead call for vengeance. Gypsy Pedro is not slow to take advantage of this feel ing. He has vowed to have l1he life of the Americans before morning, and he fears now thqt he will not be alble to keep it. "To the posada!" he cries. The crowd echo the shout. It is known wl1ere the Americans are lodged. The horses must be their first car e, for they dare oot leave the Mexican town on foot. Wildly the excited mob takes up its swift rush toward the humble adobe tavern. Men dart out of houses, catch the enthusiasm without even knowing the cause, and join in. So the crowd swells. It numbers more than four score b y the time the posada is sighted. Weapons are flourished in the air, and the very welkin rings with the fierce imprecations of men. If the Mexicans could only fight with the same force they use to gesticulate and swear, who could stand up before their onslaught? Nearer they draw. What a wild scene San Blas looks upon this gala night. T:he morrow's bull fight cannot eclipse this tremendous spectacle of nearly a hundred men rushing like hungry wolves upon a devoted tavern, where three others are supposed to have taken refuge will t hey close the doors and fight to the death? Already those who lead the mad mob begin to feel a tremor of fear, lest the deadly revolvers of these remark able marksmen pick them out as the first victims. While all eyes are fastened upon the small windows of the posada where mine host can be seen looking with alarm on the coming mob, the howling of the clog at tracts attention to a point farther down the calle. Three horsemen s uddenly ride into view. They come from the stable connected w i t h t he inn their bearing proclaims them born riders and the Mexi cans recognize the fact that tho s e they seek to slay ar escaping Tue Americans wave aloft sombreros a s if in defiance their horses speed down the &treet at a gallop; a doze pistols and escopetas hunder out a farewell from th greasers. One of the three riders turns in his saddle. Is he ab out to fall? Instead, he levels his arm and sends shot after shot at the Cl'owd. It is amusing t o see the greasers scat:ter like a flock of sheep into the midst of which a wolf has suddenl y leaped from the ambush. Some fall clown, others seek refuge behind the corners of houses, while still more dart into convenient openings in the shape of doors. In a trice, as it were, the call e is cleared of all but a couple of wounded wretches, who roll about and groan dismally. Jes se James rides on. The wolf 1 blood seems quiet in his veins now Better that it should be thus appeased than in some mad foray against innocent men. Mexico must soon grow too hot for him. Only a few months previous, with four others he way laid a treasure train of mules from the silver mines of Chihua:hua, and wrested over fifty thou sand dollars in treasure from its rightful owners, taking it into Texas. They must soon know the name of Jesse James in this section, and, unless he becomes more careful, the des perado will meet his deserts, and leave his body dangling from a tree. The terrible life led since the war has had its effect upon them both. They can never expect to live like other men; and, rendered desperate by this constant thought, they have done more than one cruel, villainous act that under other circumstances they would have s corned. Though chased out of San Blas in this manner, Jesse James had no idea of crossing the line into Texas for some time to come. He had come into iVIexico on certain business. His oath mu s t keep him there for a while. Juan Cortina, the great scourge of t h e border, i s s o u t h of the Rio Grande, and it i? to meet this man that the American prolongs his stay in the land that is daily grow ing hotter for him. The young cowboy whom Jesse had called Yellow Top, on account of his curly hair being of a leonine hue, is a das hing-l o oking chap true as steel, and brave to a fault. He. is not of the same stamp as the James boys, but, for all that, they like him. A man does not have to be a thief or a rogue to win their admiration. The kind of human being they detest is the species that fawns and mak e s out to be servile, all the while plotting how to earn the heavy rewards out for their 'bodies. dead or alive. "Which way now?" ask s the cowboy, as they thunder over the open prairie. Frank waits for his brother to speak. In nearly all their affairs Jesse lea
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THE JES S E J/\MES STO RI ES 7 "'I don't mean to go very far away fro m the town. _If his man is there, like as not Cortina himself will show up soon. These greasers flock to a carnival like bees aroun. d a honey tree. "You intend going back there?" ask s Frank. ''That's my idea. a word is said in opposition, for it would be use J ess. This man always h ad hi s own way He often forc e d it with his revolver. ' \Ve mu s t make a camp some\ \ here." The CO\Yboy here breaks in. "Perhaps I can h elp yo u the re. You h ave b ee n my fri end to-night, J esse James. Come with me, both of you, to the hacie11da of the o ld Don Pablo Guzman. I am sure you will be \\'elco m e there. I was fortunate to do him a service he has not forgotten." "\l\lhat was that?" "vVell, the old don has a couple of nieces living with il1im-Inez, a '.\1exican, and I\ifolly Tay lor. ;i American girl, wh ose m ot her was a s ister of D o n Pablo's. "He thinks the wo rld of these g irls, and I can't blam e him for they' re l ovely creatures. "To make a long s t ory short. I was riding through the chaparral near h ere one clay, \\"hen 1 heard a scream, and, spurring to the spot, fo und a young girl and a ja guar face to face. "T' he ai;iimal w as about to spring T sent a rope about its neck in a hurry, an d dragged the b eas t at m y horse's heels until it was dead. ''Then I took the g i rl an d carried h er to the hacienda: not that she was too fri g ht e ned t o walk, but she want e d ther uncle to thank me." "Which o ne \\'as it ? ' break s in Frank. "Mo lly Tay l or. My arrival. st ill dragging th e d ea d beast at the end of the l as o, create d some little excite ment, I can tell yo u and W artcr D o dd \Yas an h o n ored guest in that house. o yo u see, friends of mine are ver y apt 1.o.find a ,,arm welcome there." "Head for the hacie nda, th en. com rade." \Ve chance t o be k eeping t ha t way now. I suppose it's only right for me to tell you the rest of th e story, since you know part." "Not much need of that grins Frank. "Of course you fell in love with Molly, and s'l1e vvith you." laughs the other. "All very true, gentlemen, hut tl1at doesn't cover the case. I was unfor tu nate enough to insp ir e a niad pas s ion in the heart of the Mexican beauty, In ez, though never at.t empting such a th i ng. "By the gods!" ejaculates Frank. "lt grows int eresting Be\\'are, Yellow Top; two strings may prove one too m a ny. "So I think m yself I 'm afraid that girl i s up to dev i ltry. She kn ows the man 1 wa s playing cards wit h t o-night. I have seen them o ut in the garden talking secretly, and b elieve the y were plotting mischief agains t M o lly Tay l or." "Gypsy Pedro?" "Yes He i s the man. V\Thc n I s a t clown \\ith him in that gambling place, it was my intention to b ea t him down, and wh e n he had lost his las t real, to stake heavily against his secret." "I see-hat is the man, and I believe there 's treacher y in th e air." U nd er those circumstances, I see but one thing to do,'' declares J esse. "Take the girl an d run away,'' cries Fran!:. "I've thought of that, but I'm only a cr.wboy, and I don't 11ardly kn ow what I'd do with a wife. even after I got her." The others laugh at this. "I'm trusting you for that, Walter. forget the neat littl e ranch you told us about. l'{o se n sible girl would r efuse that and you!" "No jokin g now, Jesse; but I'm going to asl'Molly if she cares enough for me to be the mistress 1f that little Texan r a nch. I've got a rich uncle in 1'\e1" Or l eans, and I imagine he will set me up when !it secs Molly." "If 1h e 's a bac h elor take care These rich o ld fellows are death on the women fol ks," laugh s J essc. Thus joking, th ey ride onward through the dark night -the i nfallible i n stinct of the cowboy leading them straight on to their goal. CHAPTER IV JESSE J A'.\lf.S A'f 'l'HF. IlULL-FIGH'I'. "Here \\' e a r e announces Walter. Lights h ave been seen ahead. The barking of clogs also announces that they are ap proaching same hacienda. Around them they see signs of cultivation. Buildings l oom up on e ithe r hand. show inrr that th ey are upo n a stock farm of some magn itude for Mexico. The cowb o y l eads and presently they dismount b efore the h o pi.tab l e doors of the house. Sfrvants come running t o take the horses, and D on Pablo himself appears. He is a white-haired man. whose age, however, i s not much o ver fifty. Somet hing bes ides the weight of years has caused his hair to turn fr o m raven blackn ess to this s ilver y h uc. The friends of the b r ave cowboy r eceive a wa r m welcon1e, and feel at home at once As the h o ur i s still early, they arc pressed to co m e into the par lor. :vloll v is there She \:ill entert ain them \\ith music. Inez h as gone to th e town \Yith a maid, to see something of th e carnival. Being a ::.Iexica n she cares more for thing: :Vfolh-, and can sto p at the house of a r elative. Yellow Top gives this one mome n t's thought, and wonders why h e did not see h er at the fandango: then h e is all taken up in Molly. They pass a pleasant evening. Before retiring, th e three friends smoke a cigar with the don upon the a zotea. or flat roof. These Mexican houses are all built so that the roof becomes a gardenspot. where one ma v enjoy the coo l breezes, or take a siesta when the s un does nO't shine too h otly. l lerc Jesse broaches the idea of returning to the t0\\'11 on the following day.

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r 8 q"HE JESSE JJ\M ES STORIES. He asks Don Pablo if he oan rig him out as a native, to which the other laughingly_ replies in the affirmative, believing it to be a joke. During carnival week many disguises are worn, and quite a good deal of innocent fun is indulged in by these Southern people. \!\Tith the morning comes the work of transforming Jesse James into a Mexican. It is ea s ily ac c omplished. A native sadd!c a nd bridle are put on his noble horse, huge spurs upon his own heels, and when these finishing tot:ches have been made the whole thing is done. ''A rem a rkably dashing-looking Mexican officer," says the cmvboy, nodding approvingly. "\i\ 'hat name do you swear by?" asks Frank. "Captain R o blado." "\Vell, good luck to you, el capitan." \i\T ith a laugh, the American wheels his horse, and is away, heading toward San Blas. Jtis the day of the bull-fight, and he will find the little M e xican town crowded. Among those gathered to take part in the festivities of the day h e hop e s to find the man against whom he has sworn an oath-the wretch who murdered Jack Dutton. \Vill C o rtina be present? He is known as an outlaw, but has a gr eat following, and is of so much importance in a political way that he comes and goe s at will. These daring rascal's are wise enough to make friends of the poor e r people. Thus, when a dark day comes and a hot pursuit is made for them, it is pleasant to feel that to the right and left. they have friends ready to help the fugitive escape. Jesse James rides leisurely toward the town. So many strangers have flocked thither thait he will not attract attention. Mexican officers are seen here, there, and everywhere, just as though they had no particular staition, but were allowed to roam at will. Reaching the environs of the place, he notices the peo ple already mDving in a certain direction. One group passing him, he asks the course, having mastered the Mexican tongue full well. Thus he learns that iJ is to the bull-figiht all the good people oi San Blas me wending their way on this bright and beau t iful morning. He decides to attend. There will probably be no better chance during the day for him to discover whether the man he seeks is in San Blas or not; for no Mexican wi r h a h eart in his body can remain quiet while a bull-fight is taking place within ten miles of his abod e. A large inclosure has been erected, seats formed, and all the accessories arranged. True, the whole affair is rudely done, for San Blas cannot pt11t on any style in these things, but it fills the bill just as well as the great amphitheatre in Seville, Spain, where tihous ands watch the bloody scene. The American finds one par. t devoted to the use o f horses; he secures his steed, and sits near by, where be can keep an eye on the animal, for there are often miser able present not above stealing a valuable anim al, and the steed that J esise Jam es rides will attract atte ntfo anywhere. Then he looks around. Most of those present are strangers, but here and ther he sees a familiar face. Near by is the gitauo Pedro, stamping up and dqw trying to get bets on the chances on the first bull, for h is a born gaanbler. \/\/ hen he comes opposite 1.he disguised American, h seems to be attracted toward him. Perhaps he thinks that soldiers must always hav money to stake. It may be some inward motive impels him to a belie that there is enmity between himself and the unknow officer. At any ra.te, he endeavors to get a bet from him. Finding that it will not work, he lets several hints dro 1.haJt: are bordering on insults. If his game is to draw the soldier into a brawl, it fails Jesse James sinks all else in the one motive that bring !1im here-be means to save himself for the man Cor tina. The fun begins ; at least, it is fun for the spectators who roar and clap their hands, and the bull seems to b having a good time at first, chasing his tormentors about and even tossing one of them over the fence; but he i tired at length, and the final stroke given by the execu tioner rtihat lays him out upon
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THE J E S SE JAME S STORIES. 9 Hence, he eagerly scmtinizes every one with whom the Spanish gypsy holds converse. Once or twice he t'hinks he has made a discovery, but on each occasion confesses that is very uncertain. Finally he gives it up. As far as he can j udge, Cortina has not yet put in an. appearance. The second bull-fight comes off. As before, old taro has a good time ait first, but his a dve rsari es are too numerous for him, and the end in ev itable-he dies. 'Dhis ends that part of the show. There are other amusements to deligh t the audienceraces with horse s, feats of horsemanship, such as pi cking up coins at full speed, and finally an exhibition of shoot ing. Each time the gypsy comes around, he keeps nagging the Mexican officer, toward whom he seems to have taken such a dislike. The shooting has begun. A turkey is fastened in such a way that only his head and ne c k are in sight. Stationed art: a certain distance, the marksman is ex pected to fire at this constantaly moving object, with the hope of decapita ting tlhe bird. As a general rule, the Mexicans ar e poor shots, although in these days they possess many elegant weapons made in our country. Hence the turkey's head remains on its shoulders-if one can use such a term-even though a dozen braggarts try their best to cause a divor<.:e between the parts. The management makes a stirring appeal. Is there no one prese111t who can shoot? He begs some o ne, for the honor of San Blas to de capitate that royal bird; or will they have to wring its neck before that assemblage? To say that the hand of Jesse James itches to have a try, would be putting it mildly. His wonderful marksmanship has gained him much repown in the past, and saved his life on more than one occasion. Whv not h a v e a little sport? Cortina is not present, and his other business is of a nature that ca n keep. Reck l ess devil that he is, the man makes up his mind that if Pedro dares him once m o re he will accept his off er. There is danger in it. Should the fact b e publicly proclaimed that the man who broke up the fandango o n the previous night, and washed the floor with the blood of their friends, is present, this vast assemblage would be like a pack of howling wolves, clamoring for his blood. Hunte d wretch that Jesse James was, he had never been called a coward, and he proves this now by bis ac tions. Pedro co m es His glittering black eyes are on his victim, and with a suave smile, he addresses him. Et Capita11, it.en golden onzas to one that you cannot accomplish that feat. \Vhat say you; will you make a t ry?" He does not expect an answer, anhe audi e nce smile. They imagine Pedro has the game in hand.

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10 lfHE JESSE JAMES STORIES. It chances, however, that the man who stands there toying with his revolver knows something about turkeys. He has probably shot more of them in the Missouri bottoms, when hiding from Union soldiers, and, later on, detectives, than most of the people present ever saw. Their habits are familiar to him. A dead silence has fallen on the scene. Jesse James raises tihe revolver that has in times past taken more than one man's life. A peculiar sound is heard, i t comes from between his teeth. and is s'omething between a \11r histle and the chick ing of a hen. Instantly the turkey's head becomes rigid. A s'11arp repo1-.t, a puff of smoke, and the supposed l\Iexican captain walking up to the alcalde, holds out his hand for 1 the money. He has not even deigned to cast a second glance in the direction of the fowl. W hy should he? \Vith the report of the revolver the turkey's head had left its body, and flown into the air at least a foot. Every one has seen the feat, and for the moment surprise causes them to be dumb. Then some one shouts : "Bravo, el capitan!" The cro\11cl takes it up, and a salvo of cheers rings t'hrougih the place. The man for whom fhese honors are intended pays lit tle heed to them. He knows full well that were he to announce his true identity, this same would turn and rend him like so many mad wolves. Although Pedro blusters around as though he would like to dispute that the money was fairly won, on account' of the trick whereby the turkey's head remained station ary, he does not dare to openly charge the officer with being a fraud. A man who can shoot like that is not to be insulted with impunity. It is now high noon. The sun he track of this treasure. As he rides leisurely along the street, he sees a figure ahead which is easily recognized as that of the gypsy. Pedro rides a roan of great size, and, with an eye to horseflesh, Jesse Jam es sees in it an animal of endurance and bottom, though 1 hc would not change his own steed for any other he had ever set eyes on. Seeing him enter a tavern of the lowest class, and let a servant take his horse, the Arperican forms a plan of action. ear by he finds a place to keep his horse. An honest shoemaker has a shed, \Yhere the animal can be cared for, and yet remain saddled and bridled for immediate use. The man has .not forgotten tJ1e incidents of the preced ing night, and remembers hovv valuable a second is at times w'hcn pursuers are on one's heels. This clone, he saunters to the posada, and takes up quarters there. Finding it possible to keep out of Pedro's sight, he determines to do so. He has a room above. Its little window looks out upon the street. \i\fhile concealed himself by the vines, he can look out and see what is passing. 1'he cobbler's little shop is also in view, and it gives him satisfaction to know that just back of that his fait>h ful steed is standing, ready for l'he road in case of neces-sity. Murmured voices reach his ear. He looks clown through the vines, and his eyes with the rare good luck that has fa!J.en to him. There is a bench in the shed. A man reclines upon it. Within reach is a table. A bottle and glasses can be, seen upon the board. Evidently the man is bent on taking life easy. That is nothing new, for these Mexicans do very little work as a rule. The American is interested in fact that this partYJ is Pedro. It looks as though fate were working to please him in his duty as a Nemesis. He bends his ear and listens. Another man stands near Pedro, and seems to have brought him a message. He chuckles over it. "Por Dios Sanchez, all goes well. We will pluck this flower when it comes. Meanwhile, I shall await the turn of events here." ''Has tJhe senor any message in return?" "I will write it. He will find me here. Diel you sa)j si:xty thousand onzas, Sanchez?" "Si, senor, so I was told." "A glorious treasure-it shall be ours!" The unseen listener makes a wry face. He realizes that this gang of Cortina is after the same treasure that he and Frank seek. Jesse James still listens. He forgets that he 'has had no dinner. No sooner has this man departed than a second seeks an audience with Pedro.

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THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. c11 "Oh! Carlo, my good man, you are back?" drawls the fellow on the bench, puffing a cigar. "Si, senor." "You followed those men by their trail?" "Si, senQr." "To the Rio Grande?" "No, excellency." "Why not?" "They did not go there." Pedro evinces more interest in the chase. His eyes fl.ash fire, and t:he party above can see 110. w he grinds his teeth. "\\T here, then, did they go? You do not mean to tell me they returned here." ''They went to the hacienda of Don Pablo de Guzman. The cowboy saved his niece from a jaguar in the woods, and he witJh his friends are honored guests at house." At this Pedro sits up. He is no longer sleepy. "What you tell me is royal news, Carlo. You shall be well paid for it. They have not gone beyond our reach. I shall yet have my revenge." How he rolls that ward over his tongue. J.t is as though he finds meat and drink in it. To a Spaniard w l ho believes himself injured revenge is sweeter than the nectar of the gods They seldom forgive, and take offense easily. Carlo, at a motion fmm the other, lifts the bottle, and. disdaining the use of a glass, allows a goodly portion of its contents to gurgle down his copper-lined throat, after which he heaves a tremendous sigh-whether of satisfac tion at the amount imbibed, or despair at having to stop s hort-remains an open question, not to be decided. "And they are there yet, Carlo?" pursued the other, rolling a cigarette with dexterous fingers. "Two are, senor." "Ah! which two?" "The cowboy and the one called Frank" "But the other-man alive, he is the one I hate! C arajo W here has he gone?" "He rode away this morning." "\Vhere to? Maled-ic-tion on you, if he has after all escaped over the river!" "Senor, he went not that wav." "Tell me. which route did he take?" "The trail to San Blas." 1At this Pedro laughs. "Ah! he comes back into the lion's mouth. The lion will close it. But, Carlo, that was this morning. Has he been in San Blas thei;e hours, and none of my men re ported him ? Strange !" Carlo evidently does not think so. "Listen. I talked with your brother-he who is the con's ma .jar donzo. He told me a strange thing-that three Americans came last night; this morning two re main, and one Mexican captain galloped off toward San Blas." A bomb explodes. At any rate, the gypsy leaps erect, with a cry of mingled iwonder and rage. "A captain, you '1:ell me, Carlo, and riding in this direc tion? ,Yes, he was at the bull-fight. !VI alediction, what a fool I was! But wait. If ne is :here still, I will find him-I will crush the snake!" While hissing these hot words, tlhe Mexican does not dream that the man he curses is within five feet of }um as he stands there, hidden by the vines. CHAPTER VI. TH:E RIVAL D:ESP:ERADO:ES. Upon hearing these boastful words of the gypsy, Jesse James is strongly tempted to brush aside the vines and cover him with his revolver, but wiser counsel prevails within his breast, and he refrains. Already he has learned much that is of value to him by listening, and it will spoil all to disclose his presence. So he grits his teeth hard, and listens. But Pedro has heard news. He no longer cares to lounge there in the shade. "Who has seen the Mexican captain? Which way did he go? Five reals to the man who can find where he is at present staying." The man in the window hears this, and smiles as he thinks what great detectives these Mexicans would make up his way. He has been wise. To take time by the forelock has always been a settled principle with this desperate man. On the way from the scene of the bull-fight to the town, he has managed to dispose of certain portions of his garb that stamped him a captain. Thus, when he sought refuge at the tavern he was but a soldier; and there are plenty of this sort in San Blas, as a barrack may be found at one end of the town. The troops that guard the border have a sort of rendezvous here, though, truth to tell, their time is better taken up making love to all the pretty girls than in searching for filibusters or outlaws. Hence, he is safe. Pedro will not discover him, hunt he ever so closely through the town. The only chance he can see of his whereabouts being made known is in the accidental discovery of his noble horse under the shed in the yard adjoining the cobbler's. His master can see the animal's head from his win do w-it may even be seen from the street below if attention is drawn thither. While Pedro is giving fierce orders to his man, telling him to have every public house in the town searched, and describing the noble horse minutely-showing that he had admired the pretended captain's mount-he is looking straight across to where that self-same steed is busily engaged munching hay. Fortunately for the plans of Jesse James, the gypsy does not suspect this facl:. When they are gone he makes a few more changes in his looks, at which he is something of an adept. Then he descends and has dinner. Through the afternoon he lounges about. Once he sees Pedro and another man enter the low stable belonging to the tavern. He knows what they seek, and smiles at the forethought which has defeated them. The day drags on, and once more night comes.

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) q'HE JESSE JJ\.MES STORIES. After his ovening meal, the American saunters out, and his first care is his horse, since upon that animal all depends in case he has to make a rapid Higl;it from the town. Again San BJ.as wakes up from a siesta. Lights spavkle like gl01W-worms; the streets are no longer dark, since each building is so arranged as to share its inward illumination with the public Crowds gather and press in to the national vice. Gambling is a mania in Mexico. There are no real laws restraining it, and tricky game sters flouri8U everywhere, exhibiting their devices openly on the street. The American knows where to look for his man, and sure enough the gitano Pedro is found just where he appeared on the preceding night, trying to find some game. By keeping track of him, Jesse Jam es expects to dis co ver Cortina when he arrives. He loiters about the gambling den two hours. During that time he has seen the adroit Pedro clean out three gulls by his trickery. The last one of the trio seems to have an idea that he has been humbugged, though perhap s unconscious of the methods empl0yed. Filled with anger, the unhappy wretch leans forward and hisses. "Caramba! you are a senor!" Hardly had his lips framed these words than the arm of Pedro flashes forward; there is a scream, and the poor devil who has thus incurred the hostility of Cortina's lieutenant falls back, badly wounded He is hurried from the place by some of his friends, who know the devil Pedro better, and consider his vic tim lucky 'to escape with his life. Finally no one will play against the man who handles his knife so easily; they do not care to run up against a nwchete after trick ery has cleaned out their pockets. Pedro keeps a watch on the door. So does the American. He understands some one is 6Xpected, and can guess that person's identity. Believing thus, he is not surprised when his eyes fall upon Cortina himself, standing in the doorway, looking upon the scene. How the eyes of the American glitter. The assassin at sight of his prey must fe.el the same awful sensations; s0 does the jaguar as, crouching on a limb he p repares to launch himself upon the hideous alligator bel(.')w, hi-s old-time enemy, hated and feated. These two men are alike in many respee<'.ts; crafty bold, unscrupukms, and, at times, merciless in dealing with others. Self has always been their mGtto. When it is expedient to make friends they stop at nothing to do so; but as soon as those friends are needed no longer, the first oc casion that arises may seal their death warrant. Then again, both are outlaws, though in this respect the title is more appropriate in the American's case, for has has been virtually hunted out of the country he calls home. They have met before. Cortina hates the James boys because they have invaded his stamping ground. He does not forget how cleverly they capture d the silver train; nor has the Government forgotten how brutall y men were murdered in this affair. It pleases the American to think that he is once more offered a chance to take the quarry from between the paws of the Mexican tiger. is even debating the question whether it might not be good policy to let Cortina live to learn that he has again be e n beaten by the enemy and rival he hates, and then accomplishing his deMruction in good season. The man advances He is well known in San Blas. Had the town garrison so desir ed, they could have put a hand on the great robber of the Rio Grande at almost any time, but that worthy 'vielcled too great a political influence, and tHe soldiers had orders to let him alone. Though accounted an outlaw, Cortina is shrewd enough to confine his operations almost wholly to the other side of the line A raid is made through some valley where the herds of the stockmen graze in peace, some hundreds, perhaps thousands of cattle stampeded, a few herdsmen or cow boys murdered, and the terror of the border is on the other side of the Rio Grande, secure in his mountain retreat. The daring assault of the Americans upon the silver train has aroused Cortina. He opens his eyes to the fact that a new and profitable field is open to him. These treasure tra in s are coming at long periods; there is one on the way now, and it is with the idea of securing this that the Mexican outlaw comes to San Blas. It i s not the festival that draws him. He b e lieves in business every time. If he attends a fandango, it is with some scheme in view for profit. As he advances now, nods greet him on all sides, which are cheerily answered Cortina is p ro ud. It pleases him to see th e homage men pay to a scoun drel of his stamp. If he were a general in the army, he would not excite half th e inter es t he does now. He has sighte d the gitano P e dro has at l ength found another dupe, and is deeply engaged cleaning his pocket of the last peseta, when some one s laos him on the back. "Vaya hom.brd"' says a voice. The man looks up. "Cortina!" he exc la i ms. The small game is forgotten, it is overpowered in the shadow of the greater. Jumping to hi s feet, he wrings the hand of his master in an effusive wav. "What news?", asks the outlaw. "Much of int e re st," comes the reply. "Then let ns find a corner where we may have a nice little talk, without a dozen impertinent dogs picking up th e crumbs. Lead off, Pedro." The gypsy glances around. As the room is pretty well crow d ed, it seems like a

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THE JESSE J AMES STORnES. 13 task to find a place where they will not have neighbors too close for comfort. To go outside in the darkness is a bad idea, for no one can tell whether an eavesdropper be near or not-they. must remain here. Ah! his eyes light on an unoccupied corner. Here they may converse. Better still, a couple of chairs stand on either side of a small table. "Come thither, colonel," he cries, leading off. The American calculates truly when he sees the corner they aim for. His idea is to find a means of overhearing what may pass between these vvorthies. Can it be clone? He has sharp eyes, and they instantly note a certain fact that m ay be of benefit to him. The comer to whi.ch the men are retiring is separate from the gamblers in the room, and the scowl of Cortina will prevent any man intruding his presence closer than is nece ssary. In the partit:on Jesse James notices an opening-it has been used in the past, when the room was an eating place, to hand dishes throngh, much after the style of a third-class restaurant in Chicago o r New York. He jumps at the idea. If he can only find a means o f getting beyond that light dividing wall, fortune must favor his plans, and give h im a chance to ove rh ear what these two men con verse about. There must be an entrance. Eagerly his eye runs along the whole length of the partition, in search of the opening. He is nearing the extreme end, and becoming disap pointed at his non-success, when, with a thrill of satis faction, he discovers the door. In another momt>nt he is heading for it. Men are too much in terested in their own games to n otice any movement of his. It is an object of the American to r each the door before the two comrades become seated, for should he pass through afterward, s u spicions might be aroused-it do es not take much to start them. In this fortune favors him. His way to the door is clear, wh ile they have to pick a passage among the most earnest of gamesters, and Cortina moves slowly, nod ding to this one, and speaking to another. As the American draws open the door and passes through. he sees Cortina and Gypsy Pedro just about to take their seats at the table in the comer. CHAPTER VII. A CLOSE CALL. After passing through the door, the American finds himself in vvhat at first appears to be utter darkness, for he has just come from a glare of light. In a minute or two his eyes will become accustomed to the situation, and he will then discover that enough light p ermeates through vari o us crevices to take awa y th e full force of the g loom. Besides, he knows in which direction the opening lies; even if he did not, he could soon discover it for quite a flood' of light creeps through at that particular spot. So he crawls along in that quarter, eager to catch the sound of their voices. He is within five feet of the opening, and chuckling at the prospect of soon realizing his most extravagant ex pectations, when suddenly a hand is thrust through the opening, and the stick holding the shutter up torn away. As a consequence, no sooner is the hand withdrawn than the piec e of board drops. Jesse James' heart drops with it. Is he to be foiled thus when s o near the game? Another change comes over the spirit of his dream; he notices that, although the shutter has fallen, it has rebounded an inch or two. Thus it serves in lieu of a sounding board. Crouching below it, one can h ear what is going on in the large gambling room better than if the situation had remained as before. He quietly e nsconces himself there to listen. The general noise somewhat destroys hi s pow::.r to catch all that is said, but the two men talk loud enough for him to hear much that is of great interest to him. Pedro narrates bis aclve'nture of the previous night, and Cortina expresses astonishment at the daring of th e Americans in thus braving a whole town. At the same time he curses them roundly for daring to enter upon his ground, and delights to knovv they have mac\e enemies o f the citizens. Perhaps they will yet find Northern Mexico tOo hot for comfort, between the fury of the people, the watcbful soldiers, and the jealous outlaws. He questions further. Pedro reluctantly narrates the incident of the bull-fight, and his master is aston ish ed at the audacity of ti Ameri cans while at the same time he cannot but admire his daring, and do e s s o in words that cause a smi le to ap, pear upon the grim face of th e man hiding so n ear. Then Cortina speaks his plans He gives full particulars regarding the movements of the expected pack-train bearing the treas iire from the si lver mines. It i s ev i de nt that he has had a good opportunity to learn all thes e things; his spies are everywhere, and eager to se rv e him. The man on the other side of the partition hears it all, and chuckles from time to time. He r eaiizes how nicely the game is being played into his hands, and what a great scheme it will be to let Cortina do the work, secure the treasure, and then lose it again. One thing about the other's plans makes him grit his te eth in a sudden spasm of rage. Corti na has hit upon a brilliant idea; he does not want the Mexican Government to know that he has come clown to robbing the trains, and murdering the soldiers that guard them. Hence himself and a number of his followers will, for th e occasion, play the American. They have clone it before, and recently, too, when they cleaned out the Dutton ranch, and made Jack's widow believe it was the work of Jesse Jam es and his frienclsfor although the two brother;; had at first been known as

PAGE 15

14 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. Howards, their identity llas gradually crept out, until al mo s t every one is acquainted with the fact thaf the Howard ranch is run by the notorious Missouri outlaws, the James boys. Some of the train's defenders will prove cowards, and escape the slaughter by surrendering. These men can be easily made to firmly believe that the leaders of the masked gang are Jesse Jam es and his brother. Thus the blame will never fall upon the head of Cor tina. It is a new idea, this shifting the responsibility of awful deeds to the shoulders of a man he hates, and the Mexican glories in the brilliant prospect, never dreaming that the party most interested is even then within arm's length of where he sits, drinking it all in. Having heard all he wants, the American thinks of retiring. The two men have left the table, and are among the gamblers, talking earnestly. Jesse Jam es awaits his chance, and then once more makes use of the door. last half-hour has been fraught with great luck to him. and he cannot regret having come to the gaming hall after information. He is in no hurry. Later on he realizes that it would have been much better for a man answering his description if he had thought it best to make for the hacienda after securing what he sought. While lounging about, and just ready to quit the gilded den of vice, the American's attention is ,attracted to a man hurriedly entering. He seemed excited. EvideJ&tly he carries news for some one. f is eyes rove around the room, until they settle upon a certain individual. It is the gitano. Straight up to Pedro he pushes his way. The latter shows by his manner that he anticipates news of some kind. Why not? The man has the expression of one who has much to tell, and Pedro involuntarily glances toward his master, as though he would have him hear what is said. Jesse Jam es stands near by. He has a curiosity to know what is up. Already he has learned that these fellows are ac qua!nted with the fact of his temporary residence in the Jw.ciend a of the don. TI1at the coming of the man has some connection with them he feels in his bones. The fellow, breathing hard, speaks as rapidly as his exhausted state will permit. Pedro catches the enthusiasm. His eyes roll, he clutches the man's arm as he hur riedly questions him, and then he seems to sweep the whole room with his glance. What does it mean? Important news alone can tnus excite the man. Jesse James has a sudden idea that it may be well for him to quit this place. He scents acute danger in the air. Before he can take action, however, tl:ie gypsy has al ready made a move. .._,. .::--..... He leaps upon a table. The gamblers start back in amazement to see their silver rolling right and left, and then make a frantic effort to recover the money. As usual, a noisy buzz rings through the place-the murmur of conversation, the clink of money, the shuf fling of feet on the floor, or loud laughter-in all a con glomeration that can only be designated as the hum of a hive of bees . Pedro commands quiet. He does so with authority. Stamping his foot upon the table he calls out with the roar of a lion: "Silenzio !" Every one hears. Every one obeys. They know not the meaning of this order, but recognize the authority from whence it comes. Gypsy Pedro is the lieutenant of a great man, and Cor tina himself is present; hence it is probable that the gitano desires to promulgate some expressed wish of the no torious contraba ndista. Silence comes. 1 One could hear a tack drop, so quiet it is. Jesse James moves a little nearer to a window; he be lieves that in times of peace it is best to prepare for war, and hence bothers himself with wondering where that window opens. "Fellow-citizens of San Blas," cries the new-comer, "n:ost of you were present last night when .the accursed gringos broke up the fa. ndango. Four of our friends were buried this morning; three still lay groaning with their wounds, all coming from these devils. "Not content with this, one of them returned to-day; he was at the bullfight in the disguise of a Mexican captain." Many exclamations arise. The Mexicans have not forgotten the unknown of ficer who shot the turkey's head off. "Yes, the man who used his revolver was no other than Jesse James, the outlaw. He is in the town stillmore than that, I have just received information that leads me to believe the man is in this room at this very second." A great commotion ensues. Each man looks into his neighbor's face as thougn sus;;icions are immediately aroused. Listen again, comrades; this man is here in the dress of a soldier." The cat is out of the bag. Jesse Jam es has again been cornered, and can only escape through rare good luck and a brilliant use of those powers that have never yet failed him. "Guard the door!" lt is Cortina who bellows this out. TI1e outlaw knows his identity is no longer hidden; if he hesitates even a dozen seconds it may be to receive a bullet through the brain. Whipping out a revolver, and holding it in hand he makes a break for the window. Men are in his way. That is a bad thing for them. One goes over with a broken jaw, the revolver having come in contact :with it; a second meets the American's

PAGE 16

THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. fist, and thinks the floor must have jumped from its place; while a third receives a bullet that doubles him up like a hinge. 'llms the desperado sweeps a path. They drop out of his way like dry leaves before the cyclone. One _or two shoot at him, but aim high, for f ear of striking their friends. A knife is thrust out; the man is wounded, but that does not amount to anything. So the m er ry war goes on. Only for a few seconds, though much is concentrated within that soace of time. Then he fi;1ds the window close by. Turning, he looks for Pedro, to present his last com pliments, but that worthy wisely dodges behii1d another man, thus saving his life. Then, without. a moment's hesitation, the desperate American raises his foot, shivers the whole sash, glass, !frame, and all, and while the broken pieces are still jingling on the ground, coolly plunges through the opening thus made. CHAPTER VIII. GOOD-BY The window is close to the ground, which proves fortunate for the man who jumps. for his foot has ca1:ght on the s ill of the opening, and be spraw l s upon hands and knees. Pieces of the bioken glass c u f him in a dozen places, but none so serious as to disable him. Scrambling to his feet, h e carries away lots of "jewelry," as h e terms the glass that clings to him wherever it stuck. The utmost confusion ensues within the room h e has so hastily quitted. Soon men begin to pour out. By this time, h owe ver, the American has gained something of a good start. If.e does not nm so fast as might be expected, for the glass is painful, ' ld he knows the blood is dripping into his boots. A hunted man is alvvays much the same as a hunted animal-desperate, excited, panting with the heat of the chase. His pursuers see him. With wild shouts they follow. To look at the chase, and hear the clamor raised by those who come after, one would the fugitive's chances slim indeed. Truth to tell, however the J\1 Iexicans are not all as anxious to come up with him as t h eir wonderfully fierce cries \YOuld ind i ca te They know him of old. The knight of the r evolve r, in the short time he has be e n among them, has already mad e hims elf a name to frighte n children with. Some bolder spirits there are. These, led by Pedro and Cortina, keep up the chase, with the intention of overcoming the lead possessed by the fugitive. It is of short duration. The cobbler's shop is near by, but Jesse James dares not enter now. Before he could mount hi s horse and throw op.en tl:e gate, the whole h owling mob would be in front; to rit! ? among them would be to court death, as a doz en we:tp ons must be aimed at the man on horseback, toweri11g above them. He is too wise for that. Passing on he keeps his eyes open. The door of a house is open. Without ceremo n y he darts in and closes it. Then he gropes his way along, tumble s at the foot of the stairs, and mounts them. It is not hi s purpose to hide. All he wants is to keep the enemy at bay for a time, m1til he can escape. He strikes a match. This shows him what he seeks-the narrow stair so common in all Mexican houses, that l eads up to the a:::otea above. Instantly the ex-guerrilla mounts. He forgets that he is wounded in a dozen places, and losing blood constantly, so that his boots are even n ow wet inside. Upon the door of the house thunders a blow. It is dir ect evidence of two things-the mob knows that he en ter ed this stuccoed building, and its advance runners have reached the spot. The sound causes him to l iste n. Reaching the roof h e lower s the trap. Is there no way to fasten it? Perhaps it wou'ld be as well not to do this, as it must immedia t e l y assure his pursuers of the route he has taken, when they come 1:0 find the trap held d own from above. He hurries over to the front. It is a l ow, two-stor y house. Seldom is o n e seen in Mexico highe r than this, for the presence of the vol canoes in the interior proclaim that this has been a country where earthquakes were not infrequent, and the people from ages back have dreaded lest their dwelling come rattlin g down about their heads As he bends dovvn and looks over, the sight that greets his eyes is far from reassuring. 1l1e narrow street is filled bv a crowd. Constant ac ces sions are made to it. Men bearing torches have darted out of other h ouses; the street is no.longer in darkness. Jesse James looks upon the sight; it thrills the man of blood to think that all this furor and excitemen t is on his account. Then he remembers that he must escape. Some one of those many eyes may be turned upward, and behold him pee rin g over the parapet. Seconds are too pre cious to be wasted; already he hears crushing blows being delivered upon the door that must soon break in the weak bar he found and placed in position ere groping for the stairs leading to the region ab ove. Stopping only long enough to draw a vicious-looking splint er of g lass from his hand, he makes for the back end of the flat roof. There may be some way by means of which he can de scend in safety. \Vater pipe s ar hardly to be looked for upon a building of this so r t in Mexico

PAGE 17

16 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. A friendly free will answer. In vain he looks for a limb overhanging the house; the trees are further off. Can he jump? The distance is not so terribie, and in the daytime a man of his daring would not hesitate c; minute about attempting this, but all is dark below; he cannot see what may iJe there, and nothing is more terrifying than a le ap int o unknown space. It i s not th is alone that holds him. He knows that should he make the leap and have his leg broken, he is a doomed man. Only as a last resort, then, will he make this mad jump into black space. He looks further. What is that object? He believes it to be the limb of a tree only a few feet away. Can he spring upon it, and hold fast? There is no time for debating the question. Action must be speedy. He resolves to trust to his eyesight. If it has deceived him, he must go down. Climbing over the parapet, he finds a lodgment for his rfeet upon a ledge below. At this moment a tremendous crash announces that the door has given way. His hated pursuers are in the house. Stretching out his hand, he endeavors to reach the supposed limb, but fails. However, he has become more than ever convinced that there is no fallacy about it. Holding his breath, and preparing for a shock, he throws himself forward. # He must speedily know whether it is a limb or not; his extended arms close about it, the support yields, he is lowered several feet, but does not give way. His feet touch a stouter limb below, one he can fully put his trust in, so he suddenly releases his hold above, and drops quickly, in order to prevent himself from fall ing. All is well. His daring venture has proved a success. To reach the ground is the work of a minute. As he gains terra firma he realizes that his enemies are upon the roof. They cannot see him; that is one comfort. A few minutes b efore he was furious at the darkness b ec ause it kept hini from discovering the position of the friendly limb; now he blesses it, for the reason that he h imself is concealed from his foes. To make his way out of this garden is the next thing that engages his attention. He gropes along, hoping to strike the wall. Plants of tropical luxuriance surround him and impede his progress. He pushes on, trying to keep in a straight line, but failing lamentably. About the house the mob rages. Such is their fury, that they threaten to tear the adobe structure down unless some satisfaction is given for the mysterious disappearance of the hated American seen to entC'He does not believe in hiding his light under a bushel and accordingly vents it. "The Search the garden!" J esse James hears the shout. He has not yet found the wall. Who would have be lieved such an unpretentious building would have such a great garden? They will soon be after him now, like wolves in 1.he chase; he can stand at bay, if the worst comes, and with the thought he grasps his revolvers more tightly in his bleeding hand. Wha t is this? Two wolfish eyes glare at him in front, and a deep growl sounds; it is enough to send a cold shudcleT 1.he bravest heart, and even this bold recoils Then it flashes upon him that this is a dog of some sort, no doubt used to guard the garden against tres pas sers in the night. He does not hesitate an instant. It is life or death. Besides, since discovery must shortly come, what dif ference does it make? The weapon that has hung in his cut hand since reaching the base of the tree_ is brought to a level; he cannot take aim, but to a master of the weapon this is not needed. A sudden report, one savage yelp, and the glaring eyes no longer fascinate him; his path is not blocked by the dog demon. Without further delay he presses on. His enemies are no dolts; they have heard the shot, and know what it means. He must soon have them hot after him. Fortune thus far has favored the fugitive; it may continue to do so. One cannot help feeling some interest in his desperate effort to escape. True, he is an outlaw, a man unscrupulous as to the means he employs to gai n his end, more than once a murderer, since he has shot down men in cold blood; but those who hunt him are little b etter in their way, and the general sympathy is with the minority. All at once he bangs up against some obstacle to his progress, and realizes that it is the wall at last which he has found. To climb it causes him a little trouble, for his cuts hurt, but he is still strong and agile. To his surprise, when he lands on the other side he finds himself in the small incl osure of the cobbler-there is the shed on one side. His heart almost comes into his throat. Have they found his horse? The fact that his prese nce in the gaming den was known causes him to fear lest this may have become known also. N in all his life has the man known the fear that comes upon him now. Beset by savage foes on every hand, wounded and sorely pressed, if he is deprived of his horse the game is certainly up. Ah! a wh i nny. It brings him good news; he knows the faithful steed 1 i s s till under the shed. I

PAGE 18

THE 1:.JESSE JAMES STORIES. 17 Eagerly rushes forward. Another moment and his arms are around the neck of his steed; he is human enough to love the animal in spite of his crimes. To unfasten the ho rse and jump into the saddle is bnt the work of a minute. He hears loi1d cr;es along the wall; the enemy have reached that line. Their cries seem to arouse others to a sense of their 'duty; men spring up as he opens the gate; the presence of the horse was known and these men have been left here to watch for him. There is an exchange of shots, a lively rattle which is speedily over. Several of the guards have been laid out, for the re volver of Jesse Jam es seldom speaks without terrible results. As for that unconquered desperado, he is galloping
PAGE 19

' 18 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. Will Molly be ontent to live with him upon the small ranch he owns on 1the Pecos? To himself the very thought is bliss. He determines tb find out. So, ere the moniing is gone he finds the opportunity he craves. Molly is in the gardens with him, he has already told her his love, and now h e speaks of the little ranch-will she be content there? Her eyes, filled with love, answer, even before her lips frame the vrnrds. She loves him so well that in the utmost corner of the earth, with 'him there, it will be home. Walter is supremely happy. He begs her to make the delay as brief as possible, for there is no reason why they should remain separated months, or even weeks. Why not take a ride, call upon the old Pedro, who live s in his little cave-home like a monk, at the foot of the mountains, and have him make them man and wife? T11ere is nothing to hinder, she is of age and her own mistress, his business in Mexico has been completed, and :t is necessary that he return to his ranch, but he is d e termined not to go alone. It i s a great temptation to her, she love s him so dearly, and the future looks.so dark if she lets1him ride away alone. "To-iJ110rrow-let it be to-morrow, clear WaHer," she falters. He might insist and carry his point, but this is enough of a victory-he cannot be harsh. "You promise to be mine then, tb-morrow ?" he breath es-he has his arms about and looks into the sweet blushing face, so near his own. "Yes-I promise." "Then, that is settled. I will wait over." CHAPTER X. SHOT IN THE BACK. Jesse and Frank James have not gone far from San Blas, whil e the citizens of that borough are thinking of the recent events, and trying to put this thing and that together, so that they may understand the meaning of this invasion. They realize that besides the se American desperadoes those of their own country cannot hold a candle for dar ing and shrewdness. \Vhat can be their game? At the rendezvous they find three men. 1 All are of the same stripe as th emselves, ready for any daredevil scheme, and reckless of the consequences, so long as there is a chance for plunder and excitement. These five have determined that the treasure pack shall fall into their hands. Their plans were made before, but circumstances have since arisen that necessitat e a decided change, since there is another band of desperate men wooing the same fair goddess : Jesse James tells his plan. He believes in diplomacy. Let the others do the work, and when the cat has pulled the chestnuts out of the fire, the monkey will eat them It is the old fable of the bear and the lion fighting over the booty, and when both lie down, utterly e..xhausted; the sly fox steals up and makes away with the spoils. The five desperadoes plan for this. They know when the train is due, and when Cortina and his men mean to gobble it up. It is their intention then to be on hand and recover the spoils from the victors. All are superbly mounted. vV ea pons are looked over, and everything made ready for hot work, as it is certain that the Mexican and his bullies will not give up their prize without a desperate struggle. Jesse James has his wounds dre ssed None of them are serious, although painful, as cuts from broken glass always are. Thus time passes on. \i\Then 'the shades of night gather they mount and leave the mountain gully that has secreted them for some time. Before another morning breaks there will be stranP-e deeds enacted in the Mexican country, not many from San Blas. The full particulars of the train are in th e possession of the leader. A file of twenty soldiers, under the charge of a fighting lieutenant, guards the treasure. Besides, there are twelve muleteers and some six other men hired by the owners, or filling that office thems e lves. In all, they count thirty-seven And the American bravos are five. Rather heavy odds these, and yet such devils as the James boys seldom stop to count. They know the terror their name inspires, and also the value of the first rush. It was their full intention to make an ambush and as sault the thirty-seven men, dropping and scattering th e m like a flock of birds Now, the plans of Cortina will save them that trouble, though th ey must look elsewhere for the engagement they anticipate. The desperate attack on the soldiers who were acting as convoy to the other train, and its capture by the James boys have given the alarm to the authorities, so that a larger fovce and better men attend each treasure train. It matters not. These worthies would find some way of getting at the nut insid e the shell-they do not acknowledge defeat easily. Nor has Jesse James forgotten his oath in the midst of othe r duties. More than once he takes out the blade that was the cause of poor Jack Dutton's death, and grasping it by the handle, makes use of it upon an imaginary form in front. He does not mean to l eave Mexico until he has tracked Cortina to his death. Riding leisurely along, these five men head for a cer tain spot where it is positive the treasure caravan will camp for the night. In two hours they see lights ahead. The sight is invigorating to them, as it declares that no mistake has been made. Slowly and cautiously theyadvance:

PAGE 20

THE JESSE 19 If the m e n of C o rtina are around, they are apt to run across them, unless very careful. The horses are to be left a.t a certa i n point, and the n a sp o t gained where they can watch the battle about to open. In this they have no concern. Their object is to pounce upon the victors and take the prize from their grasp. Meanwhile, they believe they might as well enjoy the stirring scene as not. Crawling stealthily along, the four follow the lead of their captain. He how the land lies, and can take them to an elevation where they may have a view of the scene spread out before them. Once or twice they find themse!Yes near some of the enemy. Cortina and his men are on the ground early. They see that the camp is a strong one, and that it will require desperate work to carry it. When, by the low muttering of voices, or the smell of a burning cigarette, James knows that he is ap proaching a picket post of the Mexicans, he changes his own course, and thus avoids them. Presently they have reached a point where none of the enemy are to be found, and their progress now is not de layed. Straight as an arrow from the bow he leads them on, and the point is gained. It juts out from the face of the hill. Standing on it, one can toss a biscuit three hundred 'feet down into the camp. It is the only accessible point above commanding the position taken up by the soldiers, and Jesse James is surprised that Cortina has neglected to avail himself of its advantages. There is not a sign of a living thing about. They creep out-one, two, three, four, five of the shadowy figures-and gaze fixedly below. What they see is a sight worth looking at, even through the eyes of one not interested in a pecuniary way. Far down below, some hundreds of feet, gleam the of the soldiers. Their horses are packed in a natural corral, and guards are stationed above and below, so that a surprise seems impossible. The position is well taken. It offers advantages of de fense that makes it well-nigh impregnable, with men of the right stamp to defend it. Here the fires gleam through the d arkness ; men sit around, or walk about. Some wear the uniform of sol diers, others the rough but picturesque dress of muleteers. Sounds of laughter arise; then make merry with song and yarn, secure in the fact that the guards are wakeful, and their position safe. Little do they dream of the danger that hovers over them-of the many dark. shadowy forms that hide in the chaparral, like jaguars ready to spring upon their prey. Nothing can be seen of Cortina and his men, even from the elevation at which the five Americans look down upon the treasure camp. They mean to keep close until the signal is given, and this will not be until every man is in the positiort assigned to him by his leader. Soon, however, the volcano will burst ;orth, and vomit out thunder and lightning. Patiently the audience await the be .nning of the per formance; careless alike how it end.; hey would be just as willing to set upon a remnant of t soldiers, as upon the Mexican bandits. Just now they are quite indifferent a s to how go. Some of the soldiers, weary with the d usty ride of the day. thro w themselves beside the fires sleep, as the hour grows late. Others look to the horses and mules, which must be put in good condition, for they are the main dependence of the journey. The five men above have eyes but for one fact-at the foot of a tree lie the many strong sacks containing the silver they covet, and which they hope to take over the river as they did that of the former train. One tent has been erected; this is for the commander of the expedition, the fighting lieutenant, especially se lected because he has made a name for himself against the Apaches. This officer is seen making the rounds er, e retiring for the night. He goes from one man to another in the manner of a careful officer, warning them what the penalty of negli gence may be. The men above see and smile. They understand that Cortina has tackled a big jol:> when he ventures to carry this military camp by storm, not that they doubt his ability, for he has himself served as a colonel in the regular Mexican army; is crafty, bold and fertile in expedients, and, last of all, his word is law among the unscrupulous fire-eaters who fight under the banner of the Border Firebrand. Yes, it is a foregone conclusion in the mind of Jesse James that Cortina will come out ahead in the race, but before that climax is reached, he is morally certain there will be the biggest kind of a circus in this treasure camp. Having done his duty, the lieutenant retires to h1s solitary tent. He believes the camp secure. Half an hour passes. All this time the wolves of Cortina have been crawling stealthily along, each man for himself, and yet obeying his instructions to the letter. Surely they must be in position by this time. Around the fires few are seen awake, and these sit and smoke, or gamble with cards. It is a national vice-Mexicans would gamble if con demned to die in an hour. The men above have grown somewhat weary with waiting, and change their positions. Patie nce! The encl is near. Once Cortina gives the signal, and this sleepy hollow will awaken from its lethargy-yells and sh(}ts, the sounds of d e sperate warfare, must arouse the sleepy echoes of the hills. There will be no more slumber this night for all who lie there so peacefully, except it be the last sleep, from which there is no awakening. It is the keen eye of Jesse James that detects the form

PAGE 21

20 THE JESSE Jl\MES STORIES. of Cortina ; he sta"lds for a minute at a point where the light of the fires falls upon him. The guard near\ by walks to and fr o in the regular routine of his beat ; 1 his head is bent low on his breast, so that he sees nothing \ Perhaps his thoughts, too are far away; it may be with the happy holne which he, alas, shall never look upon more, for the eye of the assassin has marked him for his prey. "Watch closely; the ball is about to open." At these words from their leader, the other four des peradoes peer down at the siumbering camp. The Border Wolf stands in full view. He no longer surveys the camp to see that everything is in readiness. In his hands he carries a gun, and this is now raised to his shoulder, aimed at the unconscious sentry, who stands at the end of his beat a moment, looking across the camp. Suddenly a puff of white smoke shoots out. The report echoes among the beetling crags like a crash of thunder-heaven's artillery. All can see that the shot counts. The wretched sentry drops his gun, utters a shriek, staggers forward, and falls. He has be en shot m the back by the robber chief. Now the signal has been given. Pandemonium breaks loose. A rattle of firearms, accompanied by loud shouts, cause a deafening roar, for the walls of the cafion double each sound. Those perched far above can see the spiteful flashes of flame that cut the darkness. Here, there and everxwhere these spurt forth, and each mimic lightning means a leaden bolt hurled into the camp, perhaps to mow down a human being. It is war with a vengeance-war, where the savage passions of men are fanned to fever heat by the presence of thos e silver sacks under the tree. CHAPTER XI. THE BATTLE OF THE CANON. Cortina knows what he is doing. He has planned the game well, and there is not the least chance in the world that his intended victims will escape him. One by one they must fall, until the remnant panic stricken, throw their guns away and fly. Already his men have made havoc in the ranks of the train 's defenders. The sentry Cortina himself shot is but one of a number who have fallen. The worst of it is the fight is so one-sided that not a singl e number of the bandits has ye t fallen; indeed, the soldiers have seen no one. They seek cover. Those above keep watch and ward, ready to praise any act of boldness. It is entirely immaterial on which side the thing is done; the Kilkenny cats would suit th em nicely in thi s case, fqr if the foes below kept up the bitter warfare un til there was only a remnant of each party left, the Jame s boys and their friends must have an easy time. This i s not likely to be the case. Already they can guess the winner. At the first alarm the fighting lieutenant bounds out of his tent. He is no coward. Well does he know that many a gun will be aimed at him-that his death is already a foregone conclusion. Does he shrink? A brave man never does. He is wise enough to keep away from the smoldering fires, for at his first appearance several bullets have sung like mad hornets about his ears, telling him how eagerly the e nemy seeks his death. Such a catastrophe means much. Not only does it concern himself, but the safety of the expedition as well. Once their leader is gone, these Mexicans will not fight with any great ambition. They are more apt to give in. Hence, the lieutenant is wise to keep close and not rashly expose him self. His voice is heard, calling upon his men to stand firm and keep close together, for well he knows the real shock of war is yet to come. When the enemy get tired of this guerrilla warfare, they will make a rush. 1 This must come soon, for they can no longer see any of the soldie rs or muleteers to pick them off at long range. Signa l s are heard. These come from Cortina. He orders his men to close in. Since they have done all the damage possible at long range, it is time so me other plan is put in operat ion One thing is certain-the guerrillas will not allow the hours to slip by that will bring them toward daylight; that would be fatal. Being in this thing for keeps, they must push it throu gh to a speedy termination. Already they close in. Those above catch an occasional glimpse of one of the bandits now, as he springs from one place of concealment t o another; the fires have been resuscitated by some fresh vvood tossed from a safe distance, and the immediate surroundings are lighted up almost as by day. It will not do for the defenders of the treasure caravan t o allow the lights to go out; in the darkness their foe:-. could slip in and steal the silver sacks, or else cut them down. So, at any risk, they must keep them up. l ow and then a gun sounds. It is the besieged who fire. Some glimpse is had of a guerrilla dodging from tree to tree as he endeavors to keep under cover. Once or twice a yell announces that such shots have not been thrown away .. As a general thing, however, they are wasted. The fact which causes alarm in the mind of the lieu tenant i s this: On every occasion when a guerrilla is seen, he ha s been making his way from a point more re mote to one nearer the camp. It is easv to infer what that m ea ns They are slow ly but surely advan c ing. Ere l ong the death grapple must come .

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THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. 21 Cortina knows his orders are being obeyed, and that his nen by this time must be close upon the border of the amp. He has arranged a cunning trick. The idea is to make the enemy expose themselves and hen mow them down. All the wnile he has kept track of the lieutenant and nows where he is hiding. Then the mock attack must be made at the other side f the camp. A signal sounds. The clump of men under Pedro break out into a shout, re their arms, and are seen leaping into the lower end t the camp. Doubting not that the long-expected attack has come, e lieutenant shouts his orders, and with the men who e around him, starts for the scene of the threatened It is a fatal move. In so doing they uncover themselves to the crouching who wait near by with guns ready for murderous usmes s Too late the lieutenant realizes this. It is when the weapons begin to sound in his rear, and e finds hi.s men going down all around him that he sees is error. The trap has been sprung. It is too late now to think of remedying the error; all is to push forward and endeavor to die gal-His men, ho wever, are panic-stricken by the fearful fire om the rear. It happens that they are not made of the same stern uff as the lieut ena nt. f A dozen or more manage to reach the place where their mrades battle hand to hand with Pedro and his desrate gang. The coming of this reinforcement, headed by the gal officer, inspires new courage in the hearts of his men, rd their assault upon the bandits i s so fierce, that for the ime being it looks as though victory is within their -rasp. Alas! those with Pedro constitute but a small fraction f the enemy opposed te them. From all quarters the guerrillas are running to the ort of their comrades. Cortina, at the head of quite a band, dashes through e camp, to fall up on the soldiers from the rear with terible effect. Those above watch this awful scene complacently. The more the merrier, they think. It suits their bloodthirsty humor, and will make their ask the easier. The collision occurs. All is now a bewildering whirl of mad conflict, where oldiers and muleteers engage hand to hand with the ager bandits. It is such a scene as the wild Southwest has many a i me witnessed. when the passion& of men gain the mas ry, and they meet in warfare. A pack of tigers fighting in the arena cannot exceed eir ferocitv. The lieutenant still lives. So long as his towering figure is seen, and his clarion voice rings out, his followers will keep I) the unequal combat, but as soon as they are no longe nerved by his inspiring presence, the game wiil be thrown up. Cortina knows this. Hence, he redoubles his efforts to do the officer. Several of his men have the same laudable ambition in view; they recognize the fact that this p r ve fellow is the keystone to the arch, and, once he is g e the structure must surely fall. The lieutenant is doomed. He knows it. Everywhere he turns he meets savage blows aimed at his life; he could save himself by flight, but scgrns ta do so. Like a brave officer, he goes dewn with his Happy Mexico, to have such a son! All honor to the man who thus serves his country. He goes down. It is inevitable with such tigers around him. Even the men above, watching this engagement with such interest, respect bravery, and they cannot but give a groan when they see the man suddenly totter and fall heavily. He has been shot by a coward unawares, but his last effort in life is to run his sword through the wretch who murders him. No longer his towering form is seen; they can hear his inspiring voice no more. A ,panic seizes his men. They think of flight. The treasure has been defended at a terrible cost, as bravely as the most exacting could expect. Now they think of self. Is there any chance of escape? Each man is for himself. The guerrillas have orders to let them go when the break comes, and hence an opening occurs, where the de feat ed s0ldiers, casting away guns and other weapons, rush down the valley. On the succeeding day they will bring up in San Blas, with terrible accounts of the engagement, of course making it appear that they were attack ed by a regular army of guerrillas. Such i s the Mexican character. On this night, however, the se men have proved that they can fight as "'.ell as boa st. The border baltle i s over Those above arc disappointed in one thing. It had been too uneqnal to suit them. Had the forces engage d been more clos e ly di s tributed, there would be fc\\cr left in the camp now to give them trnuble. As the first scene i11 the drama i s over, they vvill now arrange rhe' The out l a w5 arc min. To attack them woulJ be madness ; there must be strat egy usecl to meet the emergency. All this lia s been arranged, aud Jesse James intends to carry the scheme through. Down in the camp there is much bustle going 0n; some of the out laws have been wounded, others killed in th e conflict. The former are looked after, while the bodies of the latter they thro\\' into a black ab yss near by for a double

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22 'fHE JESSE JAMES STORIES. puqiose-it saves Ui'em tli'e trouble of making graves, and at the same prevents future recognition, for all through this affair the Me-xican brigand has endeavored to make out that he is the notorious Jesse James, leading a band of cut-throats upon a new expedition. The glory that came to the Yankee outlaw from his former escapad es shall come to him again without any of the spoils. There are s01ne w0tmded soldiers. These tl;iey care of. Two Ameri c ans, whose fortunes have been thrown in with the Mexicans, are made to attend to them, and these worthies impress upon the minds of the soldiers the fact that this valiant deed has been the work of the great Jesse Jam es. After such an affair, the whole north of Mexico would ring with the story. It would be impossible for the Americans to prove it false in any particular. They must take the blame. ,This is the third time of late that the artful Cortina has played this game. He seems to think it fine fun. Perhaps, could he but know whose eyes are fastened upon him at the moment when, flush e d with victory, he stands near the glowing fires, he would not feel so easy. The silver bags are not touched. 'As he has men in his gang whom he does not trust out of sight, a guard is placed around the tree, at the foot of which the treasure lies. Thus it may be deemed secure. A strange metamorphosis has taken place here within .the last hour. No longer do the s6ld'iers sleep around the fire; in their stead lie the brigands of Cortina. That worthy himself retires to the tent erected for the brave lieutenant, whose body lies where it fell, the bloody 5word still grasped in a hand that has formed fingers of ice about the weapon AJl is still, &ave the groans of the wounded. From up the mountain cafion come the howl of wolves and coyotes, scenting from afar the blood of battle, and eager for the feast. It is getting near time for the next act in the border traged y to take place. The actor s are all there and await the signal. New scenes are preparing. 'CHAPTER XII. 'A SPY IN CAMP, Je se James has made a discovery. The brigands have prisoners. Who they are he cannot tell, as they are kept from the fires Frank decl:ares that one is a female, and even asserts his belief .that the man is no other than their cowboy friend, Walter Dodid. At any rate, they are kept under guard. When the camp is given over to :slumber, the leader of the nve men declares the time has come for them to descend. They have seen aH that is possible from their elevated position,. and now ai chance offers to take a part in the affair. Their hour i s at hand. So t'hey creep down the height in t'he same manner which they ascended. As the outlaws have guards posted it will not do to careless; they neither wish to invit e an attack, nor do the care to even disclose their presence to the enemy. Finally they find themselves down. The camp lies close by. Here Jesse James leaves the others, befit upon a da gerous mi ss i o n that suits his fierce and reckless mood. He goes to ascertain who the captives are, and rescu them if they prove to be t'he friends Frank has declare Besides he r e members his oath. This night it shall be fulfilled. A man of his experience co uld find little difficulty i passing a sentry, especially when that sentry is dead, he certainly is after Jesse James gets through with him. It is an old trick-a dark form creeping up, a pebbl tossed beyond to attract attention_, the fingens of iro compr essinga trach ea, and a keen blade finding his hear One more life for Jesse James to account for. What does it matter? He cares not. The way is now clear for his advance, and he is soo within the camp. As the fires have burned low, he can move about with certain degree of security. First of all he turns to the spot where he remember having seen the prisoners. It is as Frank said; the two captives are no other tha Walter and Molly. They have been unfortunate enough to fall into th power of the guarrillas late in the day, while in the vicin iay of the old padre s cave Walter defended his wife valiantly, but the guerrill were too many for bin), and fi'nally the Texan was over powered and secured While he lies there, looking up at the bright stars, se between the walls of the cafion, he hears a low voice, mere whisper. "vValter !" Who calls his name? Js it a dream? He looks toward :Molly; poor girl, ner face is wreathe in a smile: it parts her lips; perhaps she has spoken hi name while she sleeps. "vValter-Y ell ow Top !" Ha I this time there can be no mistake, the voice com from beyond, and he strains hi ; s neck to look in that di rection. Some one is crouching near him. 'An electrical gives the Texan hope. He utters a sibilant sound. "Are you awake?" comes a whisper. "Yes-who are vou ?" The unknown up to him. "It is Jesse James!" is his sed in his ear. "Thank Heaven!'' breathes Walter. A hand gropes about his person. The bonds are foun and severed. He is free. "vV1ho is this?" ask!s t:'he desperado. ''Molly Turner, my wife." !Jesse James expresses no surprise; lie :tias too mu

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THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. 23 siness on his hands to make more trouble than he can lp. "She must be saved, too. Do you awaken her," he ys, in the Texan s ea;. \Valter is stiff and sore, but he knows there is no time r foo lishne ss. so he takes the blade thrust into his hand, d immediately bends over the beloved form near by. Only :violly's hand s are tied. They know she will ver think of leaving him, even were the guards less vignt than they are. Bending down, \Valter presses a kiss upon her lips. e beautiful eyes open with a start. "Be silent, dear Molly; we have a chance to escape. iends are here to aid us, but all depends upon ourselves. not speak, I beg." He knows she understands, for as he shows her the ife she raises her bound hands, which in a moment e free from their cruel cords. As yet they are not noticed. The two men who act as guards for t'he bags of silver e not far away, but their backs are turned to this arter. Jesse James again whispers to the cowboy. "You will find Frank and his friends at the clump of squites just beyond that big bowlder up the cafion. He ks for you." A pressure of the hand-it is enough. W or ds are not necessary under circumstances like these tell the feeling of the heart-a look and the pressure of gers speak more eloquently. Jesse James has done at least one good deed in his life; has need of many such to help balance his crimes bere the bar of heaven. v.ralter and Molly creep away. The outlaw waits until they are gone before he makes single move. Does he aim for the treasure? 1 Not S<>---'he hardly deigns to glance that way, save t@ ake sure that the guards are not observing 'him-time ough for that. If his plans carry out the treas.r e will fall into their nds before six hours have passed away. Just now he is thinking of his oath. He creeps toward the tent. So silently does he advance that the sleepy eyes of the ntinels do not heed them. 1 If '
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I 24 THE JESSE JJ\MES STORIES. The bandits '.in camp are partially demoralized. They will be even more so if Cortina has really been slain by the knife. Perhaps an attack might pay. Jesse Jam es decides not. T i hose men are ought to know, for he has been irnong th.cm-and will s'11ed their last hlood ere giv ing up the tr e ?sure secured through such difficulty. He has a better plan. Sometimes it pays to be a dipiomat. During his checkered career this man has more than once given evidence that he possesses a mind of no mean calibre. Had it been trained in the proper channel, Jesse James had not lived as a border ruffian. The camp has once more become quiet. None of the bandits can be seen. Sleep is to visit t:liieir eyes no more this night. Since they have learned of the presence of their e'ne mies near by, every man is ready and anxious to d(l guard duty. It may mean life or death. :Again Jesse James leaves the rest. :It is nearly morning. Already the first streaks of dawn have appeared over the tops of the distant mountains in the east. Walter Dodd and his wife are with the rest, having found no difficulty in discovering the mesquite bushes. They look upon the outlaw as a friend; he has saved them fr o m a terrible fate, and whatever his past may have been, to them he is close indeed. vVho can blame them for feeling thus toward the man who risked much to rescue them? Jesse Jam es s teals through the undergrowth that fills the gorge, until he is close to the camp. Then he sits down in a hiding-place to watch. He is close enough to hear some of the men convers ing. One is taunting another about being afraid; the other retor ts by daring the first to leave t:he camp with a bucket and flll it at the spring. This the man swears to do. Picking up a bucket he passes within five feet of the !hidden bushwhacker who, leaving his place of conceal ment, follows him. Does he mean murder? No; other thoughts are in the heart of Jesse James. He seeks the spring from which the camp gets its I supply of sparkling water. It is soon found. There the Mexican, in the faint light of early morning, is seen dipping some of the pellucid liquid up with the bucket. Although he has taken up the gauntlet thrown down by his companion, it is evident tliat he is not fully at in his mind. \Vhile he labors to fon;e the bucket beneath the s of the )ittle pool, he glances suspiciously ar.ound, a sc 'look upon his face, as if in every bush he sees an e ready to pounce upon him. Jes.se James remains hidden The Mexican, having half filled toward the camp. He follows the path. This brings him so close to the hidden man latter could put out his hand and touch him, did h desire. He makes no such move; the man passes on in saf and, did he but know how close he has been to the t ble American, he would bless his lucky stars that hour did not see him a corpse. When the man has qt{ite pas sed out of sight, J James issues from his place of hiding. He stands upon the border of the spring. This seems to be a pool lying in the rock. It is about three feet in diameter by half that in d So far as one can see, it does not appear to have any i or outlet, and yet the water is clear and cold. As the desperado looks down upon the pool, a dia cal smile appears on his face. It will answer his purpose well. Quickly he takes from his pocket a small packa done up in stout paper. He has carried this a long time, but its hour has c tainly come at last. Tearing off a corner, he scatters the powder it conta over the water. Then catching up a stick, he stirs the pool with it un every ve s tige of the powder is gone. As if not fully satisfied, the man bends down and Ii some of the water to his month, using his hand as a c Then he shakes his bead, ejects the water from mouth, and grins again. "I defy them to tell anything is wrong with that," mutters. What has he done? Poisoned the pool? The near future vvill tell; but, villain though he is, hardly seems possible Jes s e James would sink to su whol es ale rn u rder. He once more hides in a spot where he can observe t camp. The Mexicans are waking to the fact that it is time t get breakfast. One man, in stepping ba c k, clumsily upsets the buck of water. }esse James chuckles at the catastrophe. H

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THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. 25 ver before how much he l o ved a stumbling, umsy fool. Another gives utterance to s01ue Spanish oaths, and ds the culprit go for more to the pool, which he hastens do without a word. Thus some of the water which received the benefit of e gray powder is brought into camp. In turn all will imbib e Some take jt straight. Others get it in their coffee Every man will probably feel the effects of it before 1g, and, watching each one drink, the plotter among the shes rubs his hands with delight, and noels bis h e ad provingly. Let the work go on. Ere another hour has passed he believes the game will in his hand. Furtive glances are cast toward the pile of silver sacks, aped under the tree; the mules to carry them are in the rral and, with expert men 1o handle the treasure, all n be quickly done. He watches the camp more closely now. When the man who took the first drink at the bucket of arkling water, raises his arms above his head and wns, Jesse James grins. The gray powder is getting in its work. In five minutes t'he fellow sits down. His 'head seems too heavy for his neck; it rolls from e by side, and finally the man curls himself down upon ground. "Number one," mutters the desperado, his eyes fastened o-er!y upon his victim. And presently others also show signs. Their 'limbs feel like lead. A strange buzzing attacks their brains, as if a hive of rnets 'had found lodging there. Others drop down. In various positions they lie there, seemingly hewn out the solid rock for all the life they show. e few who are still left become panic-stricken by this ful sight. Their turn may come next. In vain they try to arouse the still forms scattered about camp; it is usdess. Then as they feel the black pall desc:ending upon their n bodies and brains, they act like demons broken loo se n the confines of Hades. ome fall down and grovel in the dirt. thers tear their hair out by the handfuls. 11 shriek and curse by turns. An inexorable fate has them in its grip. owl as they may they cannot escape. One by one they succumb. It is certainly the most terrible picture upon which the eyes of mortal man have ever rested, and yet the one who is re sponsi ble for it all stands near by That proves the devil to he in h_is heart. The shouts gradually die down to groans; these in turn become murmurs; lhen a deathly silence fall s u p o n t he caiion. Overhead the eagle screams as h e l ooks d o\\ ; ; : hnz zards an
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26 THE J E SSE JAME S -STORIES As the outlaw thus exclaims, his words, and the men of that already well-known name, causes the Mexican to start and instantly turn his head around to see his other foe. Like a flash the desperado's hand seeks a weapon, the :revolver is discharged from the hip, apparently without any aim, and t he unlucky Mexican falls over with a crash, shot through the heart. "That's what fools get," mutters the Missouri outlaw, spurning the still vvrithing body with his boot, as he turns l1,nd walks toward the clump of mesquites. CHAPTER XIV. TI.fE TRAP. He finds the others awaiting him. They wait anxiously for his report, as none of them thoroughly understood what his latest scheme fully was. "Ate you ready, boys?" he asks. The men declare in the affirmative. Of course this means if they can lay hands on that treasure. They do not mean to quit this region without that first. "Then follow me.'' He leads them away from the camp. They wonder at this until the spot is reached where they left their horses. "Mount!" He gives up his own horse to Molly. "It is only for a short time: you will soon have a good nag--1he pick of the corral," he says, in answer to her expostulations. This tells the story They are not to leav e the treasure camp y.et. The party soon enter the camp where such strange changes have taken place. First it is the peaceful cam p of the co nvoy of the mule train bearing the silver treasure. Then comes the wild midnight attack,'the awful scenes of carnage, the s hock of battle, and the defeat of the sol diers. After Lhat the mountain bandits take p ossess ion and in turn they are to meet the assault of Jesse James and his gang, at the time the prisoners are released. Last of all comes the \\'hich t he American outlaw has witnessed from the bushes. \i\/hen the party enter the camp, they loo k around with wonder in their eyes. Never did such a scene greet the vision of human be ings since the world began. It is the enchanted kingdom over again, where all the subjects are bound in sleep, only there is no charming princess, or bold prince to awaken her with the magic kiss. A ,,ave of horror sweeps over Walter. "A re they dead?'' he asks. Jesse Jam es laughs. With his boot he punches one of the wretc.hes it ribs; the man utters a dismal grunt, but does not off open his eyes. "This is wonderful. How did you manage to ac plish it?" he asks "Drugged 'em," is lhe laconic repiy. Business demands their attention. In this \i\Talter has no concern. He would not take an ounce of the silver in those stained as it is by the blood of brave men, for the w and yet under such circumstances one would thin might do so, seeing that it is now wrested from the h of thieves. His business is to pick out a couple of fine horses, going to the corral. his well-trained eye soon finds animals he wants. His own steed and that of Molly with the horses of the Mexican outlaws, left some n away. Meamd1ile Jesse James and his gang are busily gaged fastening the silver hags to the backs of hd found in the corral. These are the animals formerly belonging to the diers, and are selected now in preference to the mt because they may make faster time, and that is an ob to these men. They may be pursued. In two hours all is done. They are ready to move. Jesse James gives the word to mount. "\i\/ait one minute, says Walter. Molly has asked for a drink, and stepping over t water bucket, he picks up the .gourd it contains, fills and walks toward her. As he passes Jesse James. now mounted, the la stretches out his foot, and, with one kick, sends gourd contents flying through space. looks at him in amazement. "Rather a queer way of saying so, but I don't want to drink that ,,ater, old man, says the desperado, wit chuckle ..\l\ hy not?" Jesse James waves his hand around. "D"ye see these fools? They drank it; behold the suit, Walter."' "Ah! the water is drugged?'' "Yes.'' "You did it?" The man on horseback nods. "I dosed the pool close by. The e are more "ays th one to circunn-ent grease1s,., he ans,,e rs laconical

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THE JESSE J A M E S STORIES. 27 : ome, mount Walter. We will find w.ater inside of an mr." h,They leave the camp is still silent as death there. A stranger happening on the scene, would fain believe iese men must have lain down in the poisonous shade of me American upas tree An hour later they draw up at a spring, to refresh 1emselves and theiir animals, for it is a long journey to 1e ford at which '!hey mean to cross the Rio Grande s HHow long will those men sleep?" asks \i\'alter, who cbds himself near tlhe leader. h "Probably six holl rs or so, according to th e amount of drater the y drank." "Do you think they will pursue us?" d "I don't know; it may be possible, but we have a good htart, and they have to go after their horses so that, taken r\ all, it's hardly likely they'll catch up this side of the elver. Once on American soil, we'll make it h ot for 'e m.'' "One or two escaped the drug." 11 "What?" e "While you were working, I wandered around the amp looking for my lasso, and, coming across the tent, \eeped in." "I guess you saw how I kept my oath then. I put this 1nife through Cortina, when all that row was raised in :amp," holding up the blade and looking at its sanguinary 1 ue. "Then you didn't put it in the right place," eclares Nalter, quietly. "What do you mean?" growls the other. "Cortina lives!" l Jesse James utters a fierce cry. "How do you know that?" "I saw him in that tent. A woman was there, too ::ortina had his left am1 bandaged uo. They both glared L t me like tigers, but said nothing." "His left arm; I put the knife there instead of his neart. A curse on the luck. I've a notion to turn back." 1 "Why?'' "To keep my oath-to kill Cortina." "Perhaps you may get the chance yet; they may pursue us." "If he lives, I am sure they will. The sleep will not 1 ast so long; they will arouse the men. The whole thing was a beastly job Jesse James is enraged, but at himself. Had any other man been to blame he must feel the weight of his displeasure at once. They ride on. He looks \xlck now and then to see whether pursuit is y et made. Their journe y northward lies throug@t1ie mountainous region to the Rio Grande. If not overtaken by the next morning they will ha v e reached the river, and in all probability the pursuit will cease. As the day begins to decline they are d e scending tl i d mountains. In the distance glimpses are to be seen of the river; that serves as a boundary between two count ries. Their animals are tired. Hence it will be utterly out oi the question for th e m t o reach the ford to-night, even if theyi co ul d travel i n t he d arkness. As yet there ha s been no signs of purs u i t Jesse James ha:d expected none un ti! h e ttia t Cor"' tina still lived; then his ideas on the su bj ect twerd changed. Night draws near. Where shall they camp? The outlaw has become more and mo r e C'o nv! nced tliati they will be attacked before morning, an d la ys h is plans accord ingly. ; A spot is selected down in the valley From this point they can see where the trail co m eg. down f.rom the ridge above. Under the orders of Jesse James, they set to :work'. Many t i hings have to be done e re fhey are ready fo r thl night's work . First of all, he hunts for a place to stow away the treas ure so that in case they have to fly it will remain se creted, that at some future time they mar, come and re claim it. Accident favors them. whil e walking about, Frank James stumbles over some object, and falls into a clump of bushes. He calls for his brother. "See here what I have found; a hole 111 the. ground; who would suspect it? Sure enough. Many yea rs before it has doubtless been the den of some wild animal, but the bushes have utterlJ'. concealed it. Here i s just the place to hi de the treasure. They are careful not to trample clown the bushes or to make any 1:ra11 to the place, so that it ma y be discovered. When they have accomplished this they believe one good work has been done. Much more remains. Their own riding horses are taken quite a dist a nce away, where they are left in such a condition that they will be ready in case immediate flight is necessary. Then they once more return. The main camp is prepared ; the pack horses placed in a rude corral, where their numbers cannot be counted.

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2 8 THE JESS E JA MES STORIES. A fire is made and supper cooked. After this, Jesse James explains his plan to the others; and it receives their approval. If this night passes quietly they can make the ford by noon the next day All depends then upon the hours of darkness With this idea in view they plan. Molly signifies her willingness to remain at the lower camp where the riding horses are. Walter has secured a revolver for her while in the bandit's and she has no fear. Under the circumstances, all agree that this is the best thing to do. Walter sees her comfortable. Then, acting under the orders of Jesse James, he returns again to the upper camp Against such foes as Cortina and his followers, the Texan is willing to fight shoulder to shoul der with the James boys and their crowd. It is a question of life and death; yes, even more than that should they fall into the power of these cruel follow ers of the contrabaudista. vVhen he once more reaches the camp, he finds that all the others have not been idle. By the light of the fire they have partially disrobed, wl'apping ea c h a blanket around their persons in place of outer garments. Then the cast-off clothes are filled with dead grass, and made to look as though they contained human forms. vValter looks on in amazement. At first he thinks his comrades must have lost their minds. Then the trulh breaks upon him. He sees in this thing a charming plan to hoodwink their enemies. "Do likewise, Yellow Top, ii sings 'out Frank James. The Texan is not slow to follow. It does not take him long to fill his outer garments with the withered grass that grows in bunches around the camp. These mock figures are placed in position. One lies on his side: A second being on his back, has his sombrero pulled over his face, apparently. Taken aN in all, l the whole six look wonderfully nat ural in the bright firelight, and, when the blaze goes clown, this deceptive appearance will increase. Jesse James steps back to view them critically. "Splendid, boys. If those greasers ain't fooled to a man, I'll eat my hat!" he cries T h e others agree with him. They have nothing more to do but arrange the fire so that it will burn steadily, but not too brightly, and t retire to the hiding-place near by, which Jesse James already selected for them. The trap is set. CHAPTER XV. THE PHANTOM HORSEMEN. The time passes slowly. As there is no necessity for all to keep awake, s sleep while others watch. It seems as though hours bave gone since night set and yet there have been no signs seen or heard of ti enemies. Walter, in a sitting position, sleeps with his back r ing against a tree. Once he has seen Jesse J arnes go into the camp. The latter seems to be arranging something in the t above the fire. \Vhen he comes back, He 1has a string in his ha which he secures. \Valter Dodd is dreaming of some far-away la when he feels a hand ciutch his arm. He awakens. ''Look!" comes in a chuckle from his side. He sees the arm of Jesse James raised, and. followi the range of the pointed finger, finds himself gazing t ward at the hill. Over the bare top of this runs the trail which they h passed along not many hours before. There, outlined against the bright sky beyond, he s the figure of a man on It is impossible to tell whether he may be Mexic Yankee, or Apache; all that they can see is that it i horse and rider. There is no reason for doubt. This must be the foremost of their pursuers-the b dits whom Jesse James drugged. Both men gaze eagerly at the dark figure. Neither says a worci. They see the man turn in his saddle, as though he w passing the word along. Then he moves forward and vanishes below the er of the incline. His place is immediately taken by a second, and t same manreuvre gone through with. The fire is seen; they know they have discovered t camp of those they seek, and farther down the side the hill they will leave their animals, and creep up their prey. After this man comes a third. Jesse Jam es counts. He reaches twenty-four, and then the plianfom proce sion comes to a stop.

PAGE 30

THE JESSE JJ\MES STORIES. 29 Four to one! The odds are apparently in favor of the Mexicans, but genuity can sometimes do greater wonders than mere orce or numbers. "Wake up the rest!" T11ese words were us eless, for every man of them has een awake for some time, and has watched the pas sag e f the spectre riders. They know that the engagement about to take place ill be to the death. Each man has grimly determined to make it exceed ngly hot for the Mexicans. The assault will not be long in coming, and Jesse ames proceeds to post his men. Several mount trees, among the limbs of which they ay have a good view of the camp, and get their work in o deadly advantage when the leader gives the arranged ignal. Others h ide behind the trunks of trees, or lie upon the round. All know what the signal is to be that must call for a eadly fire. The cord which Jesse James holds is the instrument or giving this. He has saturated a bundle of rags with oil from a lan ern; this ball is held up in the tree, directly over the fire, y means of the taut cord. When the time comes his knife will cut the cord, the ii-ball falls among the red embers of the fire, and in tantly a blaze flashes up, illuminating the camp like day or several minutes. This is only another of those cum1ing little schemes or which thi s man has always been noted. They have more than once served him a good turn hen beset by difficulties. Some peopl e say it is better to be born lucky than rich; in the wilds of the West it is certainly profitable to be an ingenious man, ready to meet every corning emergency. 'Walter Is one of those in the trees. Crouching among the gnarled forks, with a gun in his and, secured, with obher weapons, from the camp of the sleepin g bandits, he watches for signs of their coming. It is a time of grave suspense. The next hour will tell the story. Either the Mexicans will be so badly defeated that they will give the retreating Americans no more trouble, or else something not down on the bills will take place ere long. An owl hoots near by. Is that an omen of bad luck to the little party? Father off the sound Gf wolves and coyotes can be heard, as if the sagacious scavengers scent the c0ming battle in the air. Once Walter hears a sound that gives him some uneasi ness, and his th oughts go out to brave Molly, sleeping near the hor ses, half a mile further down the valley. It is the distant cry of a wild animal that has caused the disquiet within him. He know1> the sound well. Down in Central Mexico he has many a time tracked and shot jaguars. One of the fierce brutes is abroad now, searching the forest for its prey. Please Heaven that it does not discover the sleeping girl down in the valley. Again his thoughts go back. He can see all the events that connect their lives and make them one. A singular time and place to think of such things, but thought knows no bounds, and often plays the oddest of pranks. \ At lengith Walter has his mind brought to bear upon the scene before him. He thinks he has seen a movement along the bushy border of the little glade. Almost holdinghis breath, he watches the spot, clutching his gun fiercely, as he remembers what a debt he bwes these men; what would have been his fate and Molly's had not rescue come at the hands of friends. The thought arouses a demon within; he no longer feels merciful. When the time comes for action, the Texan will be found on deck, doing his duty. He watches the bushes. Perhaps it was a false alarm. At any rate the Mexicans cannot be far away, for the owl has stopped hooting, and he hears it flap its wings in flying away, as though the creeping figures below have caused alarm. A dead silence rests over the camp. It is a deceptive sti llness. A suspicious old ranger might deem it worth investiga tion. The chances are, how e ver, that the Mexicans, with anticipated victory, and filled with blind rage at their recent defeat, will see only the recumbent forms lying there as though sleep had overcome them. Ah! this time Wa lter makes no mistake. The bushes are noiselessly parted. A white face is t!1rust out, and its owner hastily surveys the camp. He seems to be counting the motionless forms by the deceptive light of the fire. Tten once more the bushes ck>se; the spy has gone again to make his report.

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3-0 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES .. Another period elapses-perhaps five minutes-when the bushes again separate. There can be no mistaking the face that is now thrust forth; the black mustache drooping down, gives it the fierce aspect for which Cortina has long been noted. It is indeed the Border Terror. Jesse James, in the hurry of his escape from the tent, instead of driving his knife into the man's heart as he intended, simply gave him a painful wound in the left arm. So much for haste. As he looks upon him now. he swears that the Mexican leader will not get away again. This night Jesse James keeps his oath. Walter watches the scene with a sort of fascination words cannot describe. He sees the man step out until his whole figure comes under his observation. Then Cortina turns and makes a motion with his one well arm; it is a signal to his men. They appear. The bushes silently separate hither and .yon as men emerge and crouch in the open. Like so many human tigers they lie there, silent and eager for blood. Not a word has been uttered; everything is done by motions from the chief The fire burns, but only in a half-way style, so that the giade is illuminated only to a certain extent. This is just as Jesse James intended. The Mexicans can see their intended victims stretched out on the ground, but they are not able to notice the fraud practiced upon them. All is well-for the men lying in wait in the neighoor ing tree11. Cortina seems to glance around as if to make sure that all his men are present. Then he gives another s ignal. Rising to his feet he waves his arms. This means advance! a lot of wolves creeping upon their slumbering quarry, the Mexicans go on. Some creep upon hands knees, others walk, but bend far over. All are very careful to make no noise, for they have a great dread for te;rible Americans, and expect rough treatment unless they can slaug;hter .them in their No doubt more than one man among them chuckles to himself at the soft snap fortune has kindly thrown in their way. They do not know that dame yet. She is capricious. One cannot always depend on her moods Things not alwa ys as they seen To look upon those two dozen men sneal-:ing across ti glade in the dim light of the dying camp fire, one woul be astoni s hed to think that some sense of coming dange does not arouse the slumbering forms. They move not. Nearer the assassins creep: Every man holds some sort of weapon in his hands it may be gun, pistol or knife, but always a tool wit which terrible damage m ay be inflicted up on bis foes. Already they have half crossed the glade The distance separating them from the recumben forms is n ot over twenty feet. As if acting under orders, the men have advanced spreading out in something the shape of an open fan. Thus none w ill get in the way of comrades while dis charging their firearms. Cortina arises to his full height. His m en do likewise. It is as though th ey are now sure of their game, and intend to send a volley into the sleepers. The time has come. Jesse James lets his keen-edged knife drop on the cord; the oil-ball falls into the fire! ..... .. :. CHAPTER XVI. , .. CONCLUSION. It is done none too soon. In another moment Cortin a would be calling upon his men to fire, and the poor, inoffensive garments of the six men be rid
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