Jesse James at the throttle; or, The hold-up at Dead Man's Ditch


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Jesse James at the throttle; or, The hold-up at Dead Man's Ditch

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Title:
Jesse James at the throttle; or, The hold-up at Dead Man's Ditch
Series Title:
Jesse James Stories
Creator:
Lawson, W. B.
Place of Publication:
New York
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Street & Smith
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Language:
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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028816499 ( ALEPH )
739930024 ( OCLC )
J14-00009 ( USF DOI )
j14.9 ( USF Handle )

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Issued Weekly. By Subscription $2.50 per year. Entered as Second Class Matter at Nt!W York Post Office by STREET & SMITH, 278 William St., JV. Y. No. 9. Price, Fb? e Cents. ''A MOVE, AND YOU ARE DEAD MEN!'' ROARED JESSE JAMES, COVERING THE ENG_INEER AND FIREMAN WITH_ A BRACE OF REVOLVERS.

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' hsued Weekly. By Subscription la.so f>er year. Entered as Second Cla r Matter at tile N. Y. Post by STREET & SMITH 238 Wt71iam St. Y. Entered according to Act ,of Congress in tlze year IQOI, in Office of the Librarian of Congress, D C. No. 9. NEW YORK, July 6, 1901. Price Five Cents. JESSE JAMES AT _THE TIIROTTLE; OR, The flold=Up at Dead Man's Ditcl1. By W. B. LAWSON. "Halt!" "Wha t for?" CHAPTER I. A STRANGE MEETING. "The se are private ground's and you are trespassing!" "The deuce you say!" "\Vho the d e vil are you anyway?" The speaker, a Pinkerton detective by the name of R o bert Venner, stared curiously at the figure before him, and then turned and glared at his companion. "That' s the question, stranger! \i\Tho are you?" re peated the second detective. The dwarfed and uncouth-looking creature w : ho had halted them in the very wilds of Southern Wyoming, shifted his gun to his other shoulder and planted him self a littl e more firmly in their path before he answered the questioner. "That's a fair question gentlemen," he said finally, with a shrewd twist of hi s u g l y featur es, "and I'll just return the compliment by asking y o u the same, Who the devil are you and what do you want in this section of the country?" "We are not looking for you if you are an honest man," said Venner, "so get out of the way or it will be the worse for you !" His hand dropped to his pistol as h e spoke, but the dwarf was too quick for him. Jerking an ugly-looking bull d o g from h is b e lt he snapped the trigger. Crack! A bullet whistled past the fir st det e ctiy e s ea; 5 till the weapon was not lowered and the ugly fcll v\Y ,._horn they had encountered so unexpectedly see m e d a n xi oli s L > again pull the trigger. "Drop that or y o u ai e a dead man!" ro a red th e -

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THE JESSE JAMES 5 TORIES. ond detective, at the same time drawing a bead on the fellow's heart. Snap! Crack! Bang! The three explosions came almost simultaneously; then the uncouth creature took to his heels and disappeared in the, bushes with a yell of pain,,'""' "We winged him, Higgins! Can you make him out? IIc may be a hermit or something on that order." "Better walk backwards for a while and see that he isn't up to any tricks." "He's too scared for that! Still, I'll take your advice, old man." "\i\There are we, anyway? I think we re on the wrong trail." "Hold on a minute The Big Horn to the west, the Platte behind us-that water we saw an hour ago was the Powder River. We' re just over the border of Crook Cou nty. What I should like to know is where this trail leads to." "Exactly what I was beginning to wonder \\ hen we met thi s little cuss. If the fellow hadn "t been so quick wit h his shooting irons we might have asked him." "I would not have taken his word if he had told us. He"s probably an outlaw who is hiding in the mo.._mtains, and I could see that he was suspicious the minute be saw us.,, "Hark v'vhat was that?" The two detectives stopped The w hinn ying of horses could b e heard distinctly at. a distance. "Curse him I believ e the fellow is a horse thief!"' said Venner, softly. "Perhaps he s rnnning a little s'tock farm out here in the wilderness!" "There he goes! He's riding one horse and leading another!" exclaimed Higgins, pointing t o the east. The dvvarf, sea ted on a magnificent h orse, could be seel1 climbing a gentle knoll, and another fine specimen of hor se flesh was ambling along beb!ncl him. Passing over the kn,oll, he spurred his horses into a gallop and disappeared on the other side. "We'd have done bet:ter if we had stuck to the stage coach ancl gone on to Littl e City," saiJ Venner, after a pause, as he again took his bearings "\Ve"d have missed our game if we had, old man. Jesse Jam es is in Crook County, according to all repot"ts, if he is the one who robbed the bank at Little City night before last, h e'll be trying to get out of the county to-clay. VI/ e ought to be on his track b y this time to morrow." "You think he'll make a break for Custer County at once?"' "Yes. The p eop l e here are after him reel hoit. The sher.ffs o f Crook County and Pease are on the look day and night." The two hurried on in spite of lhe fact that they w footsore and weary, and the pangs of hunger were pr ing decidedly uncordortable. The sun was setting and the sky was dyed a rich v milion. Night was coming on, and unless they fou the right trail at once they were doomed to a chill y ni of it under the shadow of the mountains. "Hello! What is that?" asked Higgins, suddenly. heard somebody shout. Didn t you hear it, Venn It came from behind that knoll," and he pointed in t direction. Venner dropped to one knee and put his ear to ground. "Horsemen, by Jove! And half a dozen of th e Quick!''. The two sprang into the bushes as they spoke, and, that moment, a group of five horsemen turned the be a few rods distant. "They're desperadoes, all right! them before, .. whispered V cnnet, as the bushes. I've seen two he peered throu "Lie low, Higgins! The ruffians are almost u us ." "Don't forget the signals," were the last warni words; then, as the little party came nearer, the det tives sank s till lower in the bushes. Boisterous laughter and rude jests now greeted th ears, and both were int e rlar
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THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. s the horses behind the bushes and let them rest until dark, at any rate." The companions of the famous outlaw had all dismounted from their horses and were nothing loth to carry oll't his orders. J:ive minutes later their horses were tied within fo.rty tfeet of the two detectives, and then the outlaws began a vigorous attack upon the underbrush with their knives. A hali hour later they had made quite a clearing, and as th ey threw themselves upon the ground they expressed tl:eir satisfaction. Drawing a dry sandwich from lhis pocket, Jesse Jam es began to eat it, while the others contented themselves with a pull at their pocket flasks and a fresh chew of tobacco. ''\Vhere do vou reckon we've left them, Jess?" asked a red- headed : member of the gang, whose name was Jake Turner .. \Ve gav. e 'em the slip at the Cross Road Tavern," was the answer. "Tlhey think we are making straigh t for Miles City, curse them, but the fools don't know me! I'm over the border now, so. their papers can't touch me, and, as for their bullets, they'll never do any damage!" The others laughed, and the outlaw continued: "This trail runs in the same direction as the Powder River trail, as far as Red \i\T ater Creek. If the s h eriff and his men come this way, they've got to pass this spot, but ifs my op nion they're on the other trail now, which me.an s that in two hours we'll be behind 'cm." ''But s'pose them two fellows that left ther stage wuz Pinkerto n chaps. Jess! They"re sure t o be on yer tr::i.il somewheres!" s aid Jake, cautiously. "Bah! Suppose they are! Frank a nd I can attend to lt:he sheriff and his pack \vhile you and Bill look after the detectives That leaves Hawk free to put in a s hot wherever it is needed, but th e re's no need to be:ither about the s l e uthhounds. They are probabiy lost in the woods by this time." "It's queer they l eft the stage as t he y did, though, Jess! I wonder if they suspected that we were going to attack it." "I don't know, and I don't ca re! The fellow we were after was there. A fine sort of a chap to be a bank rnes ser.g er VVhy, the fellow whimp ered like a woman when we made him s hell out his lreasc ire !" .. A coo l ten thousand, wasn't it, Jess?" "Yes, two thousand apiece, if I haven't lost it.., H e dove down into a capacious pocket as he spoke, and drew 011 t a flat package. A moment later, he dragged four others from various parts of his clothing. 'Tl! put it ail in one package and tie i t to my :;addle." he b!::gan, as lie fingered the parcel s "then I'll divide the stuff evenly when we get to Durfi.e's to-night-"We wont get ter Durfie:s, Jes s Your h oss is, too lame fer that!" called Bill Prentiss, the other member of the gang who had gone to look at the horses while Jesse James was talking. With another oath the outla:w slipped the parcels back into his pocket and then he walked over to his horse to discover the extent of tl;ie lameness. The detectives strained :their ears to hear the result of the examination, for, if the outlaws were forced to re main there, they were not in the most enviabl e position that could be imagined. Jesse James broke th e silence that lasted while he was examining the hor se "There's no use b oys We cq.n't go on! She' s strained her leg somehow or othe r. I wouldn't ride her again to -night for ten thousand dollars!" "That's about the size of it!" "Then we've got .to ca.mp out! "If it wasn't so cursed chilly I wouldn't object, as I'm almighty tired, and it won't do to build a fire," said Frank James. They all moved back toward the clearing, and, in th e general commotion-;' Higgins slipped cautiously through the bushes to the side of his companion. A whispered consultation followed, but it was quickl y interrupted. "Helio What was that? I heard a rustle ih the bushes!" sa id Frank James, softly. "Go easy,. : J essl The hounds may be nearer than we fancy!" Jesse James sprang to his feet and bent h is head to listen. "It must hev been a wildcat or somethin', tho' it's a ieetl e too light fer them critters ter be on ther ram page," remarked Jal{e, with a glance toward the sky. ''It must have been one of the horses, for the s heriff was off he scent an hour ago, and, as for the d e tectives--" "Sh! Get behind a tree, Jess! I tell you those bushes are moving!" whispered Frank James again with his eagle eyes fixed upon the very clump behinr which the det ec ltves were hidin g. T esse Tames muttered a curse. and mov e d fo.rward, rather tl;an backward, and at the same time his hand {ell heavily upon the butt of his revolver. Crack! Bang! Thud! A b11Jlet pa::.t his ear and buried itself in a tree trunk h ehinc! him. In a seco nd five weapons were emptied into the buohes, then the heard the ir horses with fear. Quick! See to t!-:em Hawk! It's th ose cursed ckdectins!'' roared JeEse Ja:11es.

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4 THE JESSE JAMES STORrES. "Shoot them down like dogs!" A mar of derisive laughter followed his remark, and a great crashing and stamping in the bushes followed. Th e n th e tw o d e tectives da s hed out into the trail upon th e b ac ks of the two freshest horses. 1 \ v olky o f l e aden hail followed them, but they were off lik e the wind. Jesse Jam es had been tricked for once in his life, and for the next ten minutes his rage was terrible to behold. CHAPTER II. THE PIRE ON THE MOUN'tAIN. "We take the first trick, but that doesn't mean that we win," l a 1ughed Higgins, when they were out of reach of the bullets. "We've left them three lame horse .s, so there's not much danger of their following u s but now the question is, where is Durfie's tavern?" Venner p e ered around into the de epening twi)ight, but he had onl y Jesse Jam es' own statement to guide him. "He said this trail ran parallef with the Powder River trail until it came to Red Water Creek. Now, if we could only have the good luck to overhaul the sheriff's posse!" "It' s a pity my bullet missed Jess," said Higgins. "I only g ot a bead on him once, an
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THE JESSE JAMES .. 5 "Go easy, sheriff! Don't let ther two chaps fool ye!" warned one of the dark-browed men. "There's purty slick fellers in Jesse James' gang! It ain't eir goin' ter do ter take no chances!" ... Where's yer badges?" asked the sheriff, s udd en ly, in a businesslike Venner took off his slo'llch hat and pulled out the lining. A detective's badge was carefully hidden in the tattered head covering. Higgins displayed his, also, and the posse was satisfied . The two detectives were given back t heir weapons and a fresh supply of ammunition, and then they whe e led their ho rs es around and led the way, with t'he s h e riff clos e upon their he els, and hi s m e n following him Darkness had fallen n ow, and the riding was done carefully, each man sca nnin g the pa.th bef o r e him and keeping on e hand upon hi s weapon. ucldenly Venner, who was ahead, gave a low sharp order. ''Halt! The rasca l s have seen us! They have fired th e bushes, and, by thunder the wind is bringing the ffomes toward us!" As he spoke. every man of them turned their eyes t owa r d the
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6 THE JESSE JJ\MES STORIES .. flames reached them; then, with a final shout of derision, the outlaw abandoned the contes t and spurred his horse on, bidding those who dared to follow him He had lost another man, but, as his fi:.;ure disappeared in the weird glare of the firelight, not a member of the sheriff's posse was able to follow him. Higgins, with two others who were unharmed, had all they could do to keep the horses quiet and examine their fallen companions to see who were dead and who living with the bushes burning all around them, they suc ceeded in raising the living men to their saddles; then, mounting behind them, they began once more the race with death. Five minutes later, the wind veered suddenly and the fire swept like a cloud away to .the east, leaving the ex hausted men safe from further danger in that directi o n "How is it, old man ? Are you badly hurt?" asked Higgins, as Venner leaned heavily upon his shoulder The plu.cky detective gritted his teeth as he replied: "l guess it is only a flesh wound in my shoulder. BilJd it up, old man, as quickly as possible, for I must have another chance at that devil' Once let me wing ithe scoundrel and I believe I could die happy!" They halted and the woupds of the three injured men were attended to as carefully as was possibie under the circumstances: t hen tegan a slow march to Red 'i\Tater C re ek, on th e bank of which was located a house knovyn as Durfie's tavern. A short distance from the house the posse halted. lt was possible that Jesse Jam es had stopped at the ta \ern. and might be waiting for them, but the injured men \\ere in need of care. so there was no other alterna tive but to advance to the inn. 'ith loaded weapons in their hands, the desperate rneu approac hed the house. it \Yas a low, ramh!ing old structure, almost hidden among the trees, and now not a sign of lif e was visible about it. Suddenly the ho arse growl of a bloodhound burst upon their ears. This wa s followed by another a-nd another until it was plain that a \\hoie pack of the brutes were near them. but, as the creattres were not in sight, th e men ad vanced to t he door o f the tavern. ''\1Vhat. is the place, anyway?" asked Higgins, as one of the rneu kicked vigorously 011 the panels. "A roadhouse, run by an ex-horse thief," answered one of the sheriffs 111cn, promptly, "so Jesse James is welcom e here. while we are strangers, but Durfie will not dare to defy the )a,,.! He must g ive us his protec, tion!" "Aye! That h e must!" growle d an ugly voice as the h eavy door swung open. \Valk in, gentlemen, and make yourselves at home, while I go myself and sta your horses!" The voice was gutteral and hoarse, but die fell seemed civil, and Higgins leaned forward in his s dle to get a good look at him. "Any other guests, Dur fie?" asked the sheriff 's m sharply. "Don't lie abont it, man! Is Jesse Jam es a his gang at the tavern?" "He was here, but he's gone on as if the devil w after him! One of the niggers took them over the ere that's why I'm playing 'ostler!" "I'm glad they didn't tarry," said the sheriff's 111 with a breath o.f relief. "'i\Tith three wounded men our hands, we are in no condition for fighting." Durfie had moved away, so he did not hear the 1 an<'.l, as the men helped their companions to the g rnun he took the aqimals by the bridles and stro
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THE JESSE Jf\MES 7 "He's anything, Durfie is!" was the ugly answer. "He ] ;in nse any old language that suits him best. There ain't no gangin' him by his speech nor nothin' else, I reckon!" "HO\Y did he get this place?'' ''Sh! H e rc he comes!" was the answer. Durfie stamped into the room with a bottle and some bandage;; in his hands. "Haul off, there. an' let me clap an eye on yer wounded men!" he said, grimly. ''So ye've been i n a scrimmage, l:e v ye?" H igg: ns starte d to speak and then changed his mind, busying himself over Yenner and letting t h e sheriffs man do the talking. "Yes, \\'e\e been in er scrimmage. an' \\'e 'll soon be i n you don't loo k out fer it, \i'/e sot out ter ketch thet thar robber, Jes se James, and the villain hez outnumbcrccl us and killed the sheriff." "Ye don t say! vV all, I can t say I'm sorr y fer th et thar I \Varn 't in l ove with tber sheriff, no r h e w i t h me. Is th et all be killed? If it i s it's a poor record fer Jess! I'm only ,, cndcrin' how he come ter leave so many of y e!" "The grass 1n1z on fire and he hed ter rnn fer it iTo\\', th e n land lord, give us er lift ter put these three ter bed. and yer promi s e thet, so long as they need it, they shall hev y e r protection 1 ":.\1.y hand 0;1 it, stranger! Sick men an' ministers arc safe at Durfie' s but. as fer ther rest of ye, wall, ye'll hev ter take yer chances!" He shot an evil glance from his eyes in the detective s C:ire ct! o n as he spoke. An hour later, Perkins, Higgins. Pete Cole, the other member of the posse and t h eir host met in the mai n room of the shanty, which was the d i ning-room, smokingroom ar:d barroom combined, as well as a storeroom for o!J junk of every description. The landiord stamped around. dragging out brokenbackccl chairs and lighting half-a-dozen tallow candles, which he p l aced upon a tabie. So far not another human being had been see n about the place. "hich served to back up the story that J esse Jame and his crew were being fer ried over the c r eek. Probc:biy the slaves of Durfie had not hurried about r eturning. Higgins, w h o was secretly worried, tried to be tmcon cnned, but his glance roved around t h e room and, at last, he discovered a pile of oa r s and rowlocks in one cor ner. This did not look as if many of t h e boa1ts wer e i n u se, an d it was another i tem to inc r e a se s u sp i cion. "How many horses h ev yer got now, Durfie ?'' a sked P e r k i ns, who ha d seated h imself a t the t able. ''Nine, and good ones, too! \ Vant to buy one?" was the answer. ''No, but I'd like to stea l one deuced well," was the answer. \iVe'll need three more as soon as them fel le r s upstairs get better. The landlord c h uckled and began rattl ing his bottles, and Perkins went on, in an indifferent mann e r. "Come and set down, Durfic Vie kin wait till some one comes to sarve us! I want yer opinion on which way J ess was goi n' and w har you think he's likely te r be by daylight." D 1rfie stamped across the floor and threw himself into a chair. It occurred to H i;; gins at that minute that he should be taking a more active part in the conversation. so, after another sharp glance around. he sat dow n at the g r ea s y tab le, wh ile Cole dropped into a chair beside him. "I ain't got any opinio n of Jess James' rloin' s He's beyond me, stranger! All I know erbout Jess is thet he's er holy te rror thet o ught ter b e strung us as high as ther highest peak of the Big Horn yonder! But we w o n t wait no longer, gents. I'll do ther honors my sc'.f Hang them laz y niggers! I'll cowhide the whole lot o [ them! ' "Some whisky and a bite to eat, my go od man," said H-iggins, qui c kly ''I've had a hard to-clay a e d c o uld eat a fried mule if you had one." Durfie started to rise and then changed his mind, and, in a it flashed throngh the detective's mind that he d i d not wish 1o give his guests a chance to his appearance. At that minut e a shufAing step could be heard out sid::: of the door and Durfie drew a revolver from his b?lt and po u nded upon the table with the butt of it, at th:: time roaring an order in a voice like thutid er. "Hi, thar, Bruce, you rascal So you've got back ::.t last, hev ye Pity ye had n't gone to th er bottom, y e lazy vagabond Here, take th er gentleman's o r de r fei whisky and a bite! Kow, stir your stumps or I'll CO\\' hicle the life out of ye!" As he spoke, a l a r ge, muscu l a r looking negrn entered the room and gave a sharp look at the occupants He s h uffled across the floor as if his shoe s were s e \' e r al s izes too la rge for h i m, and, after stumbling ov e r the pi l e of oars, came to a ha l t beside the detective Higgins t r ied to avoid looking at hi1n too closely for fea r of arousing s u spic i on He gave his order again after a word with the men, then as the negro shufAed away, he rose from the table. "I'll see what my fri end wants in the way of grub, h e said, care l essly. An oath from the lips of his host made him abrnptly.

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8 \fHE JESSE Jf\MES STORYES. "Sit down! We don't allow good fellows to leave us, eh, boys! Your friend is all right, and, by the eternal, hyar's yer whisky! Ther coon hez been spry fer once!" He took a glass and bottl e from the negro's hand as he spoke, and Higgins was obliged to sit down for fear of offending h im. Bruce deposited half-a-dozen glasses and : a co uple more bottles upon the table and l eft th e room again with surprising alacrity. Now, gents, hyar's ther health of yer friends ups t airs, and to yer success in com in' up with Jes s James and hi s gang! Yer'll all drink ter that thar with er good will, I'm thinkin' !" He rai sed a glass to his lips with hi s eyes upon Hig gms. 1l1e sheriff's men drained their liquor at a gulp, but the detective hesit ated. T h ere was something in the eye of his host that made him uneasy. .\ drop of w ater there, you black rascal! The stuff is rank!'' he grumbled, as he set down the tumbler. nsnntly the hand of his host clutched the butt of hi s pistol tighter. "Ther st uff is all right! D-n yer airs, yer dandy! Vd10 ther devil be ye r not ter know good licker?" B i gg-ins looked him calmly in the eye, but his own hand crept to it;s belt as he r eplied: ''I'm glad you like the stuff if it is the b es t you've got, but I come from a country whe re they make gen uin e hisky This stuff looks lik e blood and sme lls like the devil!'' '' :\ ncl yo u won't drink it!" ' I'; o I'll pay for it though, if that's what's the matter!" "Hang your money! The treat is on me! Now do you refu se to drink, yo u upstart!,. ''Yes, I refuse and all the bullying yo u can do won't change me," said Higgins, coolly. "Give me something that's fit to drink and I'll drink till daylight!" The fellow kid rise n in his rage and was leaning over the table. and, at that minute, Perkins reached over and 1:ook the detective's tumbler. "Do you hear that, gentlemen!" roared their host. ''The fellow insults me by refu sing my licker! For two cents I'd p i tch him int o the creek out yonder! He's a sr;eak and a spy, if he can't drink good whisky!" "\Vliat the d euce is the ma1:ter with the stuff! You've drugged it, Durfie '' roared Perkins at that minute. as h e sniffed at the glass "You re in league with Jesse Jam es and h is gang of s n eaks! Is that the way that yo u give strangers your protection?" Every man at the table rose at the que s tion and four pistols were drawn in a determined manner. "It's a lie Ther stuff is all right! Come her Bru. ce!" ba w l ed the l andlord. The negro shuffled i n and approached the table. "Drink that, yo u black devi l! I'll see whether yo u been tamperin' with the st uff! ordered the fel\o ''Drain it to the dregs! I 'll see if I am to be insnltecl a white-livered te n derfoot Higgins held his breath as he watched the outcome. The negro h ad shrank back as th e order. sounded i his e ars. and was already drawing him self up to re se 1 the outrage. "Drink it, curse you! What are yo u waiting for?" th fellow roared again. The negro fairly pal ed, but he h e ld out hjs hand f the tumbler. "Now .then, men, he mi xe d it so he knows what i contains! Down with it. you knave, and then I'll sett] with this fell ow! No man s hall refu se my licker withou a taste of my bullets!" Higgins still leaned upon the table with his eyes fixe upon the faces of the two men. If he had never see hatred before, he saw it at that minute. The sheriff's men were beginning to understand an their eyes wandered stea lthily over the face and figur of their supposed landlord. "111er 's dogs in t her kennel. Mars'r Durfie! Tain nowis e squar' ter try ther stuff on me," said the negro finally ''Drink and yer jaw! man, raising his weapon and fell ow. Drink, I say roared th lev eling it sq uarely at th "H'Ol d on there, burfie D on t let yer t:cmper git ther best of yer !" sipoke P erkins. sternly. "If tber coon is s u spicio us, it sp::aks bad fer ther licker! 'Tain' t fair ter kill o ne man when yer la y in fer an:othe r !" "You h okl yer tongue, Sam Perkins! I'm dain' this hyar He poured ther stuff an' i 1t's fer thim ter te'St it! Now then. will yer drink '.t or you black devil!'' T11e muzzle of the weapon was aimed squarely at his beart now an1d one fing e r was al-read y pre&S:ing the .trigger. The negrto rais e d t h e glass to his lips and a smile spread over t!Jie ugly face of the host. "Ha! Ha! I thought you 'cl think b est not ter def}T me!" he growled. ''A w ord fro m me. a nd yo u d be in ther hangman's Ye'll find ther pis o n easier, if yer did poison ther licker!., The weapon was lowered a trifl e as the negro seemed to taste the content s of the glass, then, for just one fatal s econd t h e eyes of it:he infuriated man wandered away from the face of his victim. Crash went t1he tumlbler foU of liquid squarely in his

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THE JESS E JAMES STO R I E S. 9 face an
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r I 10 THE JESSE JAMES STOR I ES. Higgins did some rapid th1inking and then extended his hand. ''Tell me first of aJil, is m y friend Venner safe? I lef.t him upstairs with a bullet wound in his shoulder." "He's all right. They're all right! The outlaw king keeps his word when he takes a notion to, and you can bet he don't l et a detective or a s heriff die easy, if he can hel p it." "You mean he has other reas o ns for offering us pro tection! A re we prisoners?" asked Higgins, quickly. A leer that was intended for a smile distorted the fol low 's features ais he answered: 'The thing's right here in a nutshell ," he said, still in a giuarded voice, "Jess an cl I were on the same lay tonight and I've got t 1 he best of him. seit the woods on fire myself as soon as I l ocate d him, then I foll.owed t;he fir e and got here behind him." 'I thought he

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    JESSE JAMES STORIES. 11 corner and unbolt rhe doors when some one put a k e y in the lock and shook the door vigorou'S'ly. Higgins dropped into a chair and leaned his injured arm upon the table when the door f!el\v open and the d1warf stumlbled in, cursing like a pirate. "Ha! ha! So that's their game, is it!" he roared, as he drew tlie bolt "Theyve le ft the bloodhounds to wat c h t>he tavern, and, curse the brutes, they al 1 l of them know me!" "Then you have nothing to fe a r -from them," said Higg-ins, quietly. The dwarf fell into a chair and Leered aJt: him. "Yes, they know me, but they hate me," h e repeated, sa vagdy. "Jess knows t'hey' d tear me limb from limb if I a ttempted to leave the tavern!" "So you are a prisoner, too!" The dwarf mbb.ed his hands togeth e r and an angry lig'ht shot from his eyes. "The game i s in J ess James' hands s o far," h e said, angrily, ''but he H have a sweet time find1ng the horse flesh h e 's after! I've hid them in a place wl1ere the devil couldn t find them! "You are sure that's what he's aiter ?" ''Sure, my h o rses and his own. horses that ain't wort: h their feed. He's got a lot of He's got to have fresh ones to get out of Wyoming." "How many dogs are there?" "Eight, and they are demons, my friend It would ta ke eight men and eight buHe>ts to se ttl e the creatures." ''How many weapons have you?" jailer had bee n tricked, too, in thinking Durfie was not there, and he began at once to work upon the fel!ows feelings. "Then our escape i s easy! he said, promptly. ''What are yo u getting out
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    ........ 12. THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. me?" ::..sk e d Higgins, as he c a lmly t he we a pon into his p oc k et. A kn G c k o n th e inn e r door so und ed just at tha t minute and, w ith a c urs e the dwarf turne d and attempted to bolt i t. 'Srop Draw that bolt and I'i'l sh o ot you!" roared Higgins, prmnptly, at t he same time drawing a bead on the fel 1 l o w with 1 his o wn w e ap o n The d warf s tamped \\ ith rage. H e saiw that the de t e ctiv e had turne d t h e tabl e s on h im. "Hello, Higgins! Let m e in!'' ye lled Venner, from the oth e r s ide of t he d oo r "What the deuce is the matte r o l d man? \i\!h o fired that pi stol?" Ki c k the doo r in, if you haven't any key!" shouted H iggins to t he dwarf. "That is m y friend Mr. Venner. H e 's g o t a bull e t h ole in his shoulder, so he can't possibly hurt y on!" T he d\ varf did not move and Venner continued pounding, and Higgins pu t his finger on t he trigger in a de cidedly bu s ine ss like manner. "Now, then, your choice! Ope n th a t d oo r o r out you go to the d10gs I'm the jailer now, you knave s o speak quick! Which is it?" Another growl outside of the door showed that a second blo odhound had sought the spot, then came a series of ye ips and a ch orus of howls and snarling:> "Th ey v e found their mate and got a smell of fres h iblciocl, s o they'll make short work of you if I chuck you out now l One, two !-will you open that door? At t hree your fate is settled!" all hi s fury against the outlaw, for Jesse James had no only r ecovered his own horse, Fleetwincl, but he had th two-y e ar-old Alberta. In a s econd t h e man's nature had changed like magic. ''Curse the s coundrel. I'll have his blood!" he mut tere
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    THE JESSE JAMES STORI ES 13 then the ha.If-breed whom Jesse James had addressed glaaced sharply toward the window. '"There he is, Jess! The critter is l yin' yonder near the winderi! He's as dead as a log! No wonder he diaws. I tell you tlhere's somethi ng wrong, Jess s aid Frank James, again. "As like as not, Humpy and Durfie haYe got their h eads together and planned some tread1ery." "Then why did they answe r my signal?" asked J esse James, furiously. "That was Humpy's whisHe a n d he"s in charge 'Of one of those detectives. There 1wer e only two men in t'he place with a weapon on t 1 heir pers'Ons, the others were unarmed and injured. A nice crew for treachery "Th en why don't they l et us in?" ''I'll find out befor e long! Hello! Open this door or I'll smash it off the hinges! I'll give you till I count ten! If it isn't opened by that time n1 open it m yself, and I prnmise y'Ou tiwo traitors I'll s how no quarter!'" T1lrn dwarf chuckled audibly as 'he heard the threat, and, at that minute, Higgins caught sight of a
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    14 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. of pist:o1's apiece and, their b elts, he helped himself to ammunition "ks st range t hey don't come back," said Venner, going close to the window. As he spoke, there was a clatter of hoofbeats and three hor:semen das hed around the corner of the tavern and disappeared in an instant ''Th ey've abandoned the fight for the present! Now what is t h eir game? Can they reinforce their number in this sectio n of the country?" asked Higgins. 'f'h e s heriff's man S'hook his head, as he fastened on one of the lbel.tis. ''These woods are fu.11 of ilorse and outlaws of all kinds, and y ou can bet Jess knows them all! Our play' is to cross the creek and be quick about i t There's no us e to stay here! Jess may set fire t o the building!" "By thunder! I oelieve he's done it already! yelled Venner, as a great burst of smoke suddenly filled the room. "Quick! Grab t he oars and bolt! There's fire in the eel.Jar! Yes, r b y the eternal, men, ;t11ere' s fire all around us!" He opened the doors leading upstairs as he spoke and anothe r cloud of smoke poured into the roo m, then a flash of fire s u ddenly siwept across t he cei Jing. The men grabbed an oar apiece and a pa ir of row lock s and, leaving the dead m en to :their cremation, made a rus'h for th e turbulent water of t he creek which was a few rods dis tant. Hank Davi 1s, one of the s heriff's men, led the way to the ford and the whole party arrived upon the bank just in time to see three horsemen emerging from the water upon 't:he other side. 'By Jove; They've swam over wit'h their horses! Where are it.he 1 boats ?" cried .Higgins. A shout from Jesse James was followed by a peal of mocking laughter, and the four men could see the outlaiw pointing to a couple of dark objects some distance down the stream. "There go your boats! You'll have to swim as we did !" s'hou.ted the outlaw. water will do your ibullet-.woundis good, and you'll be in better shape to fight when we meet a little laiter !" 'We haven't done so badly for cripples as it is!" an sw ered Higgins, boldly, a.t the same time taking carefol aim at the figure on the opposite bank. "Don't waste your bullets, old man! They are theirs!" warned Venner. "The creek is wider t :1an it l ooks Wait, you heard him say we would meet later!" Higgins dropped his arm without discharging his weapon and, with another sho ut Jesse James and his three remaining followers disappeared in the shadows. Higgins looked at the sky. It was almost morning. The was blazing merril y now, and they 11ad she lter. To ithe best of his knowledge there not anotl house of any kind for twenty mi l es that side of t creek and ther e seemed no 'w.ay at present of crossing t angry water. Sudenly a yell that sounded almos.t human came ea r s and showed them that there was still soi horses left in the stable. ''Quick! The s'tables are on fire and there are ho:-s in i t If we can save them, we are safe ours e l ve Hurry, men! It's our only hope in thi s d i lemma." The buildings were near the house and the r_oof w blazing, but the brave fellows rn shed in and led out horses. There was one apiece and one to spare, and Higgir fastened the odd or{e firmly to his s-addle and led it a w with .the others. ''Now, then, we 'J.1 foll0
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    THE JESSE Jf\MES STORIES. 15 The only clanger is they 'll storm L:s like rats in a trap, if they ever tra ce us." we've got to ri sk it! Come on!" said Higgins, de cidedly. Hank took another look at. the road leading to tihe right. 'There's no mistake, they've gone that way ," h e mut te red Tow, I H bet I know what the ra soals are up to. There's a stoc k farm two miles farther on that's owned by a woman. Ten to one ithe robb e rs are afte r some of h er 1 hoi;ses !" "\Vill they harm the woman?" asked Venner, quickly. The gallopi1:g hoofbeats of a horse coming from that d1 irection seemed to a 1Bwer him and, as t h e men turned thei-r heads, t1hey gasped w i th aSJtoni shment A beaut iful girl of seventee n was coming down the road like the wind. Her hGrse, a n oble, coaJ..;bJack ani mal, seemed to be fairly flying. "Help! Help!" she cried, the minu i te s h e caught sight of the group. "Qu ick! There are robbers at t 1 he ranch Corne and save us, gentlemen! Do not hesitate a min u te! My mother will reward you handsomely!" Before she had ha! f finished, 1both Higgins and Venner were at her side "ls Jesse James among them?" asked Venner, quickly. The girl threw up bobh arms and gave a shriek "Oh! I had not thong.ht of that. I believe it wias Jesse Jam es. He is a big, stmng-looking ma:n, eyes like an eagle's, and t hepe is another fellow among them that l ooks like him a little "It's the James gang! We' re ater iliem, but we are all wound e d ," b ega n Venner. Still we go on \Vh at do you say, men?" "Go on!" cried the men, promptly. "But if yo u are really injuored and suffering--" be gan the girl. "I have forgotten m y wound since you burnt upon u s," said Higgins, promptly. L ead the way, miss, pl ease, and w-e will do our best, whatever that may be! I only wis 'h, for your ooke, rhat we were all in b etter condi tion He gave her a glance of admiration as he spoke that made 11er white lids fal.J 'before his gaze, then she wheeled her horse around .ro cover her confusion. "N'Ow, then, ride for your Eves!" yelled Venner, look ing 1 badc over his shoulder at >the two men, "and may our lucky star be witih us, boys !" The five 'horses swept like the along the level stretch of woodland untH they neared the boundary line of one of \ l\Tyoming's l o neliest stock farms. CHAPTER VI. A NEW ENEMY. "By_ thunder! We.re too late! There they go, \.Yith Jesse Jam es in the lead!" yelle d Venner, as t he party galloped around the co rner of a l o n g, low ibuilding whic>h accommodated a fair-sized drove of horses. They had come in sight of .the ranchhouse and sbables which were l ocated in a lev e l sp ace between two knoll.s, and were just in time to see th e outlaws galloping up tihe oppo site hill, leadi n g four horses and a mcig nificent tallion oh, the robber He has taken Silver Heels \i\lhe re in the world are all the stable men?" cried the youn g g irl as -she spurred her horse toward .the fro n t of t.he main building. The detectives kept close at 1her side, but t hey could not outride her, and, before they reached the' door, the band of ontlaw s had diisappearecl entirely. The girl was scanning t he buildings eagerly and her panions did tihe sam but. although it w;is broad cby light, ther e was not a soul to be seen anywhere on tbc premises. '"That is strange! he said, anxionsly. murdered m0ther !" Jack was .here, and Tom and Pelc "Oh, what shall I d.o i f the: lnvc She pulled np h e r horse as she and Venner sprang to ,ehe ground to h e lp J1er aEght. but sJ1e slid gracefully fr.o m the s addle before he co uld r ea ch h e r, and darted into the house. "Hello There's the first vict im!" cried Higgins, as h e caught sight of a man s body lying across the w iclc hall. "It's Burt Bangs! mounting Beppo at 1 the ste.pped over the body. TJ1ey shot him just as I \l"aS rear door,'" said the girl, as she "Burt was the first t o see tJ1e r obibers, an cl he tolJ ir:c t o go for hel p. You see, our men are out on the moun rains just now, rounding up the cattle, a nd the ranch i s s hort-handed She threw open a door of one of th e living -room s as s he spoke, and the next in sbant a shriek of alarm burst from : her rosy lips. "Oh, mother! mother! Have they hurt you?" she cried, a:nd the ne:xit instant -s he was kneeling l>y the s i de of a fine-looking w o man, who was out u pon a wooden "settle." There was a gag in the woman's mouth a nd
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    16 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. the horse s It was J e sse James and gang! These gentk'1nen are after t'hem, and t'hey would have gone right on, only they are an badly wounded !" "\i\'ounded! How?" aisked the lady, rising quickly ;to lier -feet. H i'ggins s.tepped forward and explained the situaition. L et the horses go, then! We can do without them! And now, gentlemen, if you wiH look over the ranch anne to ther front door jest in time to git ln::let in his he ad, and then the whole gang was in ther when I heard Miss Isabel tearin' out of ther yard: on Beppo. There was such a racket in ther stable that no one noticed it but me, or, if they did, they didn't pa)'j no attention." "So they are all dead but you! Poor fellows !" sighed the owner of the ranch, whose name was Mrs. Archer. "And I have heard enough to know that they all died bravely." ''Yo u was allfired brave yerse lf Mrs. Archer," said the man. "Great snakes, but I was scart when I see yer comin' toward ther stable a-flourish-in' yer r evolver l And yer winged one pn 'em, tool He rode away groan in' !" "Did you shoot at them, mother? Oh, I wish I had stayed! I might have killed one of the robbers!" cried the daughter. "I'm glad you didn't, dear! It was too frightful!" was the answer. "But I will say that the leader of the gang was merciful. He did not let them hurt me!" "That was Jesse James himself. He never harms a woman, they say, but it was bad enough for him to gag and bind you, madam. I shall remember that deed if I ever meet him again," said Venner. "I shall pray that you may never meet him again I The man is a monster !" was the anxious answer. "But I want to meet him l" laughed the detective. "I've come all the way from St. Louis for that very purpose." "I know where they are bound for," said Dan Purdy. "They're goin' ter hold up a train on ther Nor thern Pa cific at Dead Man's Ditch It's ther worst spot on earth! I reckon they'll rob hundreds, and murder 'em, too, most likely." While this conversation was going on, Isabel had brought in the breakfast, and the men, who were suffer ing terribly from their wounds, in spite of their courage were glad to partake of something hot and refreshing "Ther hold-up is ter be on Friday night, and this hyar is Tuesday," went on Dan, after a little thought. "I'v e heard that Mexican hintin' at it fer a week and now I kin put two an two tergether. The dago has j'ined th e outlaw gang and is goin' ter help them." "Hyar comes ther boys!" yelled Dan Purdy at that minute. The others listened intently, and soon his words wer e verified. A sound was being wafted to their ears, and for a minute the two detectives, who were unused to the country, were inclined to think that an earthquake was approaching. TI1e ground trembled and the ram::hho use shook as if it was in a fit of ague, and the cloud of dust that swept by the small windows served to intensify th e delusion. "It's the cattle! The cowboys are coming! Oh, what a pity they didn't get in last night!" cried Isabel. They all hurried to the door except Dan, who was too lame to walk. Herd after herd of cattle, horses and sheep surrounded the ranch. There seemed to be armies of them, coming from all directions. Then the voices of the cowboys could be heard as they s houted to each ot11er or yelled like demons at some re fractory creature. The ere b e ex1 "Oh ng a s s h e Hig ftly "Y( o ge1 A oun: t riI Y lion,' feel a itse l f tl B on an w trn o f w c o r a

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    THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. 11 The animals belonged to various ranches, and, as they we re being smgled out and separated from each other, the excited creatures swept nearer and nearer. "Oh, dear! If they had only run across that outlaw gang and brought Silver Heels back!" cried Miss Arcl1er, as she watched them Higgins was standing at her side, gaz ing at her ad mir ing l y, and he made haste to m?ve nearer and murmur softl y in her ear: "You shall have him back, if it is in the power of man to get him, Miss Archer." A rush of rosy color mounted to her cheeks, and the young girl gave him a look that made his heart beat like a trip hammer. "You must not risk your life though, to save the stal lion, she said, sweetly, "for if you were killed, I should feel that I was your murderer!" One of the wildest of the army of steers now separated itself from the drove, and cliarged straight for the door of the ranchh0use, where the group was standing. Higgins threw his uninjured arm around Isabel to draw her b ac k, and as he did so a yell from one of the cowboys made him hesitate a minute. "Hi, thar Whoop I Hurray I Git back thar, you renegade l" A magnificent specimen of true Western type, mounted on a fiery bronco, had suddenly galloped after the steer, and, as he yelled his warning, there was a swish and whirr of a lariat and a rope circled and fell over the crea ture's horns, and he was brought to the dust in the space o f a second. Higgins had forgotten to remove hi s arm from Iscvbel's waist, and, as he joined in the cheer that followed, the c owboy coiled his lariat carefully and galloped up to the r anchhouse. He had turned the steer back toward the drove, and was now glaring at Higgins, and there was a look in his eyes that would have alarmed a less nervy man than the detective. "Break away, th ere old man! That fe!low don't like it!" whisp ered Venner, cauti ously. Higgins understood at once, but he did not move, and at that minute Mrs. Archer called to the angry cowb oy a nd told him what had happened. Isabel moved discreetly from the detective's arm and went out in the yard and stood beside her mothef. She had seen the look that Buck Franklin, the co wboy, had bestowed upon the strange young man and, in spite of her admiration for the detective's courage, she could not help feeling a little nervou s Buck had been her lover for nea rly a year, and, as he pos sessed a reven gefu l disposi tion, she had good reason for her nervousness. The cowboy now went on with the drove and for the n ext few hours all was excitement on the ranch, for the cowl>0ys were busy branding and looking over the live stock. The next clay the poor fellows who had met death at tie hands of Jesse James and bis gang wer e buried. Isabel and her mother took good care of the wounded men and, while far from well, on Friday they again took up the interrupted chase afte r the outlaws. The attempt was now an organized attack, and each detail was looked into and understood by all of th em Buck Franklin, the cowboy, was to act as guide, as he knew every inch of the country, and two other cowboys joined forces with the detectives and their companions. This made a party of seven, all mounted upon fresh horses and splendidly equipped with weapons and am munition. They were de1termined to fru.strate the train-robbing scheme, if possible, and to capture the outlaws, but b ot h Buck and Higgins had another motive. They we re each determined to bring back the stallion, and so win the affection of the beautiful Isabel. CHAPTER VH. A DASTARDLY DEED. It was nearly eleven o'clock when the little party of horsemen, with Buck Franklin in the lead, arrived at one of the loneliest spots on the line of the Northern Pacific Railroad. There was no moon, and the sky was overcast with clouds, making the shadows of the rocks and trees look even blacker a nd more threate ning. One of the cowboys, armed with a red lantern, separated himself from the group, and, with a last word of in s truction from Buck, made his way along the track, hoping to stop the train at a good d ista nce above the spot designated by Purdy as the locality of the coming hold up. ''Move keerfully, Sam, and remember th.at Jesse James has eyes like a hawk," warned Buck. "If he so much as sees yer shadder, there'll be a bullet in yer heart." ''But if you outwit him, there'll be a hundred to bless you," put in Venner, quickly. "Everything depends on you, my man !" "I'll do it, or die a-tryin' !" muttered the brave fellow, as he rode off, leaving the rest of the band to their part in th e proceeding "Halt! vVe're near enough! We'd best reconnoitre a bit! ioaid Buck, after a few minutes more of riding. "You go ahead up the track a litt l e way, Ben, and see if any of the rails are loose, while I take a look down nearer the ditch .'

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    18 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. "} "Where the deuce does the track go to, anyhow? It looks as if it ran plump into the rocks up yonder!" said Higgins, as he peered carefully a:head and saw Ben dis appear as if the bowlders had swallowed him. "There's a cut through them rocks, an allfired narrer one, I admit," answered Buck. "The robbers must mean ter wait till ther train comes through there, I reckon, then they kin swing a lantern hyar in the open space, an', if she don't slow down, they kin ditch her in ther chasm below." "How deep is the ditch?" "Only about twenty feet at this end, but it runs down gradual till it's nigh on ter a hundred." "That would mean death to every man, woman and child on board," said Venner, soberly, "and the robbers could have a picnic plundering the dead and living." "Jess don't usually kill unless h e has to, and I reckon she'll slow down, all right," said Buck. Jess usually makes em all mind him. He'll swing a red lantern like all possessed, and tlher train slows down a bit, an y how, when she runs between ther bowlders. It's as dark as a pocket, and ther engineer has ter go keerful." ''"\V:hat time is the express due?" "Half-past on e kerzackly." "Are you sure this is the only place where such a deed could be executed?" "It' s Dead Man's Ditch, all right!" Buck rode down the track some distance, and came back softly. "There's nothin' wrong yet but, then, we're hyar early. Now, I reckon we'd best hide and k e ep still a while. If therI} fellers show up, we want ter remember ther sig nals. Wait till they git into a bunch, as they re dead sure to when thy find ther train s been stopped up yon der, then shoot them down without a word, every man his mark and no trespassin', gentlemen!" "That means that you are re.serving Jesse James for yourself, 1 suppose," laughed Biggins. "Shoot foer outlaw yerself, then, if yer want ter !" retorted the cowboy. Then he leaned from his saddle and glared savagely at Higgins. "Blaze away at ther outlaw all yer like, Mr. Detect ive! Riddle him with bullets, for all I care, but lay a hand on that horse and you're a dead man!" "You mean Silver Heels, I suppose." "That's ther stallion's name! We'll hev no words over it now, but, remember, if ye lay a hand on thet thar horse, ye do it at yer peril!" Higgins laughed good-naturedly, for he admired the man's courage, but there was a light in his eyes that showed his resentment. Just then a suspicious sound in the distance made them stop and listen. Ben had come back from his tour of inspe<;tion, anJ nl y reported nothing wrong, and, a mom e nt later, both horses A and men were safely concealed in the bushes on either ess side of the roadbed. out! Then the clatter of hoofs could be heard clistinctl.v th e i coming clown the track and the d e tectives strained their eyes and ears to see and hear distinctly. Sam could not possibly have advanced more thari u quarter of a mile up the track, and they were naturally anxious to know if the outlaws had discovered him. If they had, he was a dead man now. and the rest of them were in danger, ror, being sure o f the pr esem:t' of one man on the spot, the outlaws would be shnm-c.I enough to gue s that there were others. In a very few minutes this ne rve ten sion was relaxed, for the first words of the outlaws showed that Sam had eluded them. The voice of Jesse James was the first that greeted their ears. for, believing no one near, the bandit king was reckless. He was riding a little in advance of the others, and calling back to them over his shoulder. "Now, then, fiawk Spur up a little! There's a spot ahead where you can loosen a rail and tip her over easy!" "What's the use ditching the train anyhow, Jess? 'Ve"ll stop her all right!" called another voice, which both of the detectives recognized a s b e longing to Frank James. "I've said what I'll do and that's enough!" growled the outlaw. "Hawk and Three Fingers can wait at the ditch, and, if the train stops, all right; they can put back the spikes in a jiffy. All they ve got to do is to listen for my signal. I'll make it three whistles, good shrill ones, and, when the spikes are in, they CG\n give them back to me. I'll hold the train until I git the signal; that is, if that cussed idiot of an engineer decides to stop for me!" "He'll never dare to disobey a red light, Jess." "I ain't so sure! He's got an inkling that I'm in this part of the country, and his job is at stake. Hank is the stubbornest man in the employ of the railroad. He'd rather ditch the train himself than have me go through it." The outlaw chuckled as he spoke, and the others roared with laughter. It was too dark to see them distinctly, but tile men in hiding could judge by their voices that there were nearly a dozen altogether. "Where the deuce do they spring from?" whispeerd Higgins to Venner, as they stood holding their horses b y t h e to keep them quiet. wa1 I \ I thr so ca 1 yo an to e w

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    n y S JESSE JAML.S STOf'iES 19 "Hark! J ess is gT.'lllg more !'' was Ve;rnc:;-'s only ans>\ er. A light mist 1ras faili:1g now. which rend e red th e darkn ess more obscure, and the men could not Sl:;! even the outlines of the robbers, an d had to depend solely fo r their locat ion on the soun
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    , 20 THE JESSE Jf\MES' STORIES. but waited with every nerve strained to prevent the threatened catastrophe. The noise of the approaching train was deadened as it entered the cut between the gigantic rocks; then, with a rush and a roar, it came thundering throtigh the pass, with its headlight flaming like the fiery eye of a demon. In a second every man in ambush had vaulted to his saddle Would the train stop at the signal? This was the all-important question. CHAPTER VIII. JESSE JAMES AT THE THROTTLE. 'A shriek of the whistle was followed by the grinding of brakes, and, as the locomotive stopped with a jerk, a brace of pistols was forced into the faces of the engi neer and fireman. "A move and you are dead men!" roared Jesse James. "Now, men, do your work quickly, and do it well. Crack the safe, if it is necessary, and throw out the treaspre !" A dozen masked men sprang forward at his order. Crack! Crack! Crack! The pistols of the outlaws spoke merrily, and, at that very minute, the detectives and their companions sent a volley at the "At them, men! Down with Jesse J arnes and his cutthroats 1" yelled Higgins and a perfect fusillade of bul lets whistled around the heads of the robbers. Fired upon from the outsid e rather than from the in side, the bandits were tak e n by surprise, and, as they turned to get a look at their a s sail a nts, it gave the train men and passeng e rs a chance to draw the ir w eapo ns. Venner lost no time in giving three shrill whistles, as a signal for the two men at the ditch to put back the spikes; then he joined in the fray fi;om the q.the r side of the engine, just as the sheriff s men rode around the rear of the tra!u to surprise the bandits in that direction. Crack! Bang! Thud! The bullets flew like rain, but the headlight of the en gine confused their sight, and the leaden hail did little damage. The bandits, finding themselves between two fires, were fighting like demons, some of them from their horses' backs, while others had dismounted. The expresi s messengers poured deadly fire fmm the door of the express 'Compartment, while all along the line of cars brave men, and even women, leaned from fohe windows and snapped all sorts of weapons, while the cry, "It's Jesse James! Kill the robber!' rose from all shuft sides and seemed to increase the confusion. he f( After what seemed an age to Venner, his signal was elli answered by the men at the ditch, and, as the cab of the No locomotive was now empty, he began yelling at the engind.' neer and telling him to go forward. here Trainmen, outlaws and passengers darted here and ed i there between the cars and, in the excitement and dark-l e, ness, Venner singled out a man whom he thought was He' Jesse James, and fired point blank at him. ] The man went down, and Higgins called again for the engineer to go forward, at the same time emptying his revolver at a figure that had skulked behind one of the outlaws' horses. "Go ahead I We'll hold the outlaws! Take you r train out of harm's way!" yelled Higgins, at the top oi his lungs. Two men climbed into the cab, and one of them put his hand upon the throttle. The next instant the engine snorted, and, with a few puffs, was off into the darkness. Pistols still cracked, and, as the train sped on, there was a general scrambling of the contestants to cover, while the horses stampeded in every direction. Higgins had gained the protection of a clump of bushes and now lay fl.at upon the ground, and in five minutes after the last shot was fired all was as silent as the grave, except for the distant rumble of the train and a faint whinn ying of the horses. The minutes dragged slowly, but no one stirred. Nei t her the outlaws nor their e nemies dared to creep from cover. ) Finally Hig gins felt the bu s hes near him move, and a minute later a whisper reached his ears. It was Venner, unharmed, but destitute of weapons. "Sh! Softly, old man! Lord only knows who is near us!" warned Higgins. "Have you seen or heard anything of Buck?' "No, I haven't. But, hello! Look out on the track! There are four dead bodies, if I am not mistaken! Per haps one of them is Jesse James! I got a bead on him once!" "So did I, or, at least, I thought I did. But suppose they're not dead! I hate to leave them until I am sure." "Then let's go and see," said Venner, promptly. The two glided from the bushes and advanced boldly to the track, expecting every minute to feel the sting of a bull e t. 'Here's poor Ben! He's as dead as a door-nail!" said Higgins, as he reached the first body. "This is one of the outlaws. He's got on his mask. I'll just relieve him of that pistol, as I've lost mine in an J 'I'm p tht Hi SW et "1' e a1 e p c ( 11 p a e h r

    PAGE 22

    r THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. he shuffle," began Venner. Then he stopped and looked the track, and, just as the)'. reac11ed it, Venner stumbled t the fellow closer. over a lantern. "Hello! It's the Mexican! I'd be willing to bet on They lighted it and swung its rays on the fellow's t Now, where is Buck? He could identify him in a face, and it took but a glance to see that he was dying. econd." Higgins drew a flask from the fellow's pocket and There was no answer to his question, although he gave him a drink out of it, then they propped him up a sked it in a loud voice, and, after calling the cowboy little and waited for him to revive. wice, he took another look at the body. \ "Now, my friend, tell us where the rest of your gang "He's as black as a nigger and as greasy as an oil has disappeared to," said Venner, sternly. "And tell the an! It ain't the outlaw coon, for his hair is as straight truth, as I warn you it will be the worse for you." s an Injun's." The fellow, knowing that he was dying, was badly "I'm glad he's dead, but a bullet was too good for him I scared, and the detectives could see that he answered Tow, then, who is this? One of the trainmen, I guess." honestly. Higgins had reached the, fourth body, and was examl "They've made er break fer Rotten Gulley," he man ning it carefully, when he made a discovery that brought aged to sa.y, feebly, "and they've left me hyar ter die, whistle of amazement. ther ----cowards I" The man was dressed in a blouse and overalls, and an "Well, we won't leave you to die alone, if we can help badge was fastened to his suspenders. it, but answer me another question," said Higgins, ex1 "By thunder! It's the engineer, with a bullet in his citedly. "Where did Jesse James hide the widow Arch eart !" gasped Venner. "Now, who the deuce was the er's stallion?" hap that started her off? I didn't give him a thought I The fellow was too far gone to speak, but he made a t the time! I wonder if it was the fireman!" sign that the detectives could guess at. Higgins began searching over the ground before he nswered, and, in less than a moment, he found three ther dead bodies. "Is the stallion at the Gully, too?" A nod of the head answered him, then the outlaw closed his eyes, and, with a groan, he fell back, dead. "No, it wasn't the fireman! Here he is, as dead as a "That explains where Buck has gone! He's got the g Well, that's mighty strange! By George! I have start of me!" said Higgins, bitterly. "Now, how did he That was Jesse James himself who ran away wit,h know where the stallion was, and where in thunder is e engine! \IV ell, if that isn't nerve, I never saw it!" Rotten Gully?" Higgins could hardly believe it at first, but he soon "The first is a poser, but I can answer the second," gan to see the truth of the assertion. laughed Venner. "Here, help me move the rascal off of the track, so the next express won t crush him." "He found himself hemmed in on all sides, and took e surest way of bolting! Pretty rough on his men; "That's what they did to that brave chap from the at is, unless he took them with him." ranch. I'll never forget him," said Higgins, as he helped to remove the body of the outlaw. "Two of these are the fellows that came across the r eek with us, so Jess must have taken his men, or they ve skulked into the bushes." When they had protected the corpses as well as they could, the two young men started back toward the main road, both profoundly thankful that a great calamitY. had been averted. "'Probably Frank James is doing duty as fireman," said enner, after thinking a minute. "Now, if we could only rp a telegraph wire and tell them at the next station to m k out for them." "It can't be done without a key, and, anyway, they'll iOSt likely desert the train as !oon as possible. Ten to e the two of them will run her over some chasm for ite, or, perhaps, t1'ey'll play a lone hand in looting the to ssengers, when they think they are out of danger." a "Hark! \Vasn't that a groan?" asked Venner, sudid nly. The detectives listened until they heard it again, and sk. n, parting the bushes about forty feet from the track, y found anoth!ir outlaw. in i\'ithout much gentleness they dragged him out on to They were creeping carefully through a tangled under brush that border e d the road, when the sound of horses' hoofs came to them from the distance. "Hello! Is that one of the runaways?" asked Higgins, quickly. "No; the sound is too even. Those horses have rid ers. Lie low, old man, until we get a squint at them." They shrank back into the bushes, and, in another mo ment, two masked men, mounted on powerful horses, swept by them. Crack! Higgins had pulled the trigger of his weapon. The outlaw nearest th e detective pitched headlong from his saddle, while his horse, after running a few steps, came

    PAGE 23

    22 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. back and stood by him. Instead of pulling up, the other ri
    PAGE 24

    THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. 2 3 s wered Venner, promptly. "You've been e ying m e for the la st hour as though you thought I was a bandit or somet hing." "Well, mebbe yo u are! How do we know?" "Why don't you chance it and be civil. You might be the devil himself, but that ain't making me leer at you squint-eyed!" 1 ' \Vho 'd yer say ye r was? Ye'r a nervy cuss f e r a hoss t doctor!" said Jesse James, admiringly. Venner dove down into his pocket and dragged out a s oiled card that he had picked up somewhere on his t ravels. On it was the name of "Dennis O'Riley, Horse Doc or," in big letters, and, as there was nothing more on t the card, he handed it to the outlaw. "Hem! Dennis O'Riley Why the deuce don't you alk' Irish?" asked Frank James, as he glanced at it. "Faith, I'm too eddicated fer the loik es av that!" ans wered Venner, promptly Jesse James burst into a roar and slipped the card his pocket. Then he drew it out again, and, after e ighting a match and letting it burn out slowly, he turned a t o the detective, with a curi o us expression. "Where erbouts did yer say yer came from? in ity, was it? What's ther street and number, in' t no objections ter my knowin' ?" Miles ef yer >n Venner drew himself up proudly and stack out his hest. He knew his wits must save him now, regardless f what might come in the future. "No. 43 Laramie street, gentlemen, and as good an all n r ound vet as is to be found in the country. I'm new to et iiles City, though, being straight from the East, but, as tou see, I'm getting into favor already. If I wasn't some o ccount, the widow Archer wouldn't want me." ui "Yer right thar I Ther widder is partic'lar," said esse Jame&, with another wink. "By ther way, do yer l appen to hev seen thet thar stallion, Silver Heels?" !e' Venne r's mouth was full of venison, so he contented 1ly1imself with shaking his head, and, in truth, it was a rratleeting glimpse that he had had of the stallion -"W-ell she's lost it, ther widder Archer, I mean," went ;ai the outlaw, coolly. "Jesse James and his gang r apped in on her Tuesday morning and relieved her of er, .. e stallion and four thoroughbred bosses !" "The robber! You don't say so! He ought to have pe. s neck stretched for it! exclaimed Venner; then he il 1 ded: "Who the devil knew that ruffian was in this ne\rt of the country?" "Ther widder knew it, fer one," laughed Frank James, o n d ther engineer of the express knew it, too Jess up t h e train at Dead Man's Ditch last night! Ef a r hev er hankerin' fer fairy tales, stranger, I'll tell yer it "Hanged if I t hink I have at lea s t not for tales of that sort," said Venner, with an expression of disgust. ''Still, if it amu ses you any, yo u can tell me about it." "vVo uldn 't bore ye r fer ther world, seein' as how ye'r so chicken-hearted," was the sarcastic answer. Venner shrugged hi s sho ulder s and went on with his supper, but, after a minute, h e had reconsidered the matter. "I told you I was from the East, and these yarns about Jesse James don't just set on my stomach, but, of course, I'd like to know what the ruffian has done now. The last I heard of him h e \\as robbing banks down in Mis souri." "Waal he's cloin' better than that now ," went on Frank, with a grin. "He's robbin' express companies, hand over fist, and stealin' trains, engine and all, from the Northern Pacific!" ''What in thunder do you mean?" asked Venner, star ing innocently. The outlaws both roared, and it was not until that minute that the detective noticed h ow hea v ily they had been drinking. He was in reality very anxiou s to hear the outlaw's side of the story, particularly a s Frank James had hinted that their efforts had been successful, in spite of all that h::i.d been done to prevent the robbery. Frank gorged himself with the meat before he b egan his tale, and even preluded his narrative b y cursing the lack of liquor in the party. Jess held up the r express at ther ditch yesterday morning, and th ere was a sc rimm age for fair!" he said, with boisterous l a ughter. It seems th et two Pinkerton men hed got wind of ther affair, and they didn't do er thing but git some cowboys ter help 'em, and, when Jess held up ther train th ey fired on Jess, and then the train hands let loose, an' things were Ii vely, I kin tell yer !" "Well, how did it come out?" asked Venner, w ith un feigned interest. The outlaws roared as though this was the best of the joke, and, as Frank could not seem to rec ove r his sobri ety, Jesse James continued: "How d'ye s'pose it came out, stranger? How do Jesse James' deals u s uall y come out? When he found he was cornered, he je st shot down ther engineer and then he and his brother jumped inter th er cab and started up ther engine, and ther last they see of thet fra cas ther weapons was still er poppin' !" He chuckl ed as if he was highly amused at the tale. Having now eaten as much as they wanted the James boys prepared to take their leave of the detective. "Sorry ter leave yer, stranger," said Jesse, rising. "Hope yer enjoyed yer supQ_er as much as we did yer company!"

    PAGE 25

    24 THE JESS:: JAMES Venner half rose from the ground, and then sat d own again undecidedly. It was not exac tl y what he wante d; to be left alone, and he could not ask them to direct him, for fear of their becoming suspicious. As a resident of the country, he ought to be able to navigate it, and any statement a s to hi s inability t o d o s o would only precipitate trouble. Just then Jesse James drew a tightlycoil e d horsehair lariat from his pocket. Venner looked a little startled as the outlaw examined it, and then he made an effort to force his compall.;' upon them. "Which way are you two chaps going, anyway?" he as ked, politeqy. "We'll go tog,ether, if y o u say so. I don't mind doing a mile or two more with good com paruy ." "You stay right where you be, saw-bones," remarked Jesse James, grimly. "We wouldn't think of taxin' yer strength ter go with us, an', besides, we think too much of ther wimmin folks ter keep em waitin'. "Yes, you'd better set a while and rest yer conscience," said Frank James, laughingly. "lt's er strain ter keep up sech er string of !yin' 1 We'll jest sa y 'Good-night, Dr. Dennis O'Riley, of Miles City.'" As he spoke the last words, Venner saw Jesse James move his right arm suddenly; then came a swish of the lariat, as the noose circled above h is head. He tried to jump to one side, but the coil was too quick for him, and, in a second, there came a jerk cl1at hauled the horsehair tight around his arms, just above the elbows. The n with out a w ord, the two outlaws began dragg in g him through the bushe s and as his head struck heavil y upon the ground, he heard Jesse James roar with lau ghter. They had kno w n that he was a de tective from the very first, and his last thought was to wonder if they murdered his friend Higgins. CHAPTER X. THE CABIN IN ROTTEN GULLY. A few rods from the spot where they had eaten their suppe r th e r e w a s a n arrow strea m, and it was to this that th e outl a ws drag g e d the body of the detective. "Ha! ha! Thought he was f ooling us all the time! He' s nerv y, a l l right. Too n e rvy to leave with a breath in his body, i f we e x pect to s ta y long i n Wyoming," l aughed J esse James He b e n t ove r th e d etec ti v e as he s p o k e, and s aw that he w as un co n sc i o us, a fter w hich h e c alml y unwound the luiat, coiled it, an d retnrned it to hi s pock et. t he n Frank, t i c hi s a nkl es with your bandalla a n d I'll tie hi s with m ine : t h en we'll dump him in e t\' the b roo k a n d h e 'II drown h :foi'e lie ca n get his !..:-v v abov e water." 'd ,1 "Why not l e a ve him a s J;e is, a n d let him have 111"T c:han ce ?" as ke d Frank James. s l owly Y "What! L e t a P ink e r to n ma n liv e Not if I Imo rea it! Why what i s the fe!IO\v here for but to send yo di< an d m e t o th e gal l ows, and t o win th e g o v e rnment' s te th o n sa nd d o l lars He rai se d t h e de t ect i ve in his arms a s h e s p oke an droppe d h i m into th e broo k The r e was a spla s h and a gurg l e then the y turne is their ba c k s and walke d away rapidl y '' \!\'h e r e to Jess?" ask e d Frank, after a minute, a nd they \Vere scrambling through the bush es m < "Rotte n G ull y l 'rn g oing t o the shanty fir s t." er, Daylight \Vas da w nin g b efore the o ut l aw brother finally reached Rott en G ull y and made th e ir way slow! o< clown a n:trro w trai l t hat seemed hemmed in b y chasm f o n one sid e an d rugge d bo.wlders on th e o ther. 01 It was a spot unfre qu ente d by any but those b ent dark de e ds and mi s chief, but the bandits trod the treach)i0 erous ro a d as though it were a broad highway, their famil iarity with ev ery step of th e location. I "Hark! What wa s that?" whispered Frank James,rt:ii coming to a sudde n halt. 'it The sound of a h orse's neigh could be heard on on 0 1 side of them, coming, apparently, from behind a gigantic el bowlder. "The devil take Hawk! He's tethered the horses int the Gully! I g ave him strict orders to l e ad them into the shanty! T h e re's room enough inside and they'd be a t a hanged s i g h t s a fer!" "Listen! I s tl;at a horse or not? It's a queer sound," said Frank a g a in. "What do you say, Jess? Shall I creep over there and do a bit of reconnoitering?" "Hold on a bit! We're within a hundred yards of the shanty. It's just around that bend, if I'm not mistaken It's been some time since we were here, but the place hasn't changed. Jim said we'd have no trouble finding it, and it's all right up to the present. Wait a minute and see if w e hea r t ha t n o i s e again. It don t s eem as if Hawk \vould be s u c h a fool a s to take chances with th e horses. They listened a minute, but there was not a sound; then Jesse James put his finger to his lips and gave a shrill whistle. An answer came bac k, but the outlaws were not satis fied. The re was som ething as strange about the whistl e as there > v as in the neigh i ng. ''I smell treachery!" growled Jesse James. "It max b e the fell o w Higgins. A re you sure he s alive?" 'Sure! Y o u heard what Powde r Horn said when we found him in the bush es al ongside of th e trac k. He said

    PAGE 26

    THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. 25 the two detectives came out of the bushes a-ner we weffi J on with the train, and he heard every word that they said. but could not move a muscle." 5 ''Those were his dying words'" "Yes, and the fellow wasn't lying. He said they v thr eatened to tell the sheriff and have him go after the u bodies, but I reckon we've queered that deal. They'll be n ground to powder by that time." "Hello! There's that nois e again!" exclaimed Jesse. d "Wha t the d evil is it?" The whinnying of a horse could be heard again, and
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    26 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. "Humph! What's his name got lo do with it? He's a detective, Jess says," snapped a woman's voice, and a beautiful, black-eyed girl of seventeen rose suddenly from a corner. "It makes a great deal of difference!" cried Isabel, sharply, then she turned upon Jess e James 1with the fury of a oanther. "Don't you dare to harm him J esse James! He is a brave man! They are doing lhe public good in trying to hunt you clown, for you are a lot of cutthroats!" Jesse James laughed good-naturedly at her rage, but his eyes were fixed upon her with admiration until happening to glance at the other girl, he cat1ght a glance of fire in the black eves. "Ha! ha! Unitah is jealous, I do believe," he said, merrily. "Curse me! But you are a pretty pair! If I was a single man, now, I would marry the two of you!" "Indeed you wouldn't, for I would kill her before she shou l d be your wife!" hissed Unitah, while Isabel only drew herself up haughtily and glared at the outlaw. While they were talking, a third man had come from an inner room in the cabin, and now, with cocked pis tols in their hands, they approached the door cautiously. Jesse James looked back over his shoulder and nodded to Unitah. "Remember, she's your guest. Keep an eye on her," he said, meaningly. Isabel shrank back against the logs, still clasping her hands painfully, and, after a brief parley, the f e llow called Jim opened the door of the cabin. Crack! Thud! A bullet sped over his head and flattened itself upon the ledge of stone over the chimney-piece, and, as the outlaws dodged back, lsabel breathed more freely. "He'll kill Jess! He's got the door in range," mut tered the girl with th e black eyes, savagely. "Do you love that-that wretch?" whispered Isabel, quickly. "If you do, I pity you!" Unitah gasped and clinched her hands together. "He's married and-and h e loves his wife, they say she an swe r ed, in a low voice, as the men opened the door again, "but I don'.t miud telling it to any one. Yes I do love him, madly!'' "And what would you do if he were in danger of be ing killed ?" asked Label, sharply. Unitah's dark face paled, and h e r eyeballs gave out red flashes as she answered : "I'd figh t for him! l'd kill-murder, anything! But why do you ask such a question; can't you see it?" Isabel l eaned fonrnrd quickly, a nd caught the girl by the wrists. "Then you know how I feel now-this minute," she whispered. "They are going out to kill Mr. Higgins, and, oh, I l ove him!" She covered h er face with h er hands as she made the admission, and then peeped throngh her fingers to see what had happened. Anotber bullet sent as true as a dart, had struck the foremost of the four men squarel y in the heart, and he had fallen back stone dead up o n the floor of the cabin. "After them! ::\ever mind the bull ets Curse the bloodh ounds! After them, men, and no quarteJ\ yelled the outlaw. I cot Hawk and : Mike clashed from the cabin, and Je tie tb James would have followed them, but Lnitah caug"l'\o \ him b y the arm and fairly hung h e r weight upon it. well "A minute, J esse James! You must not kill the c.\ the11 tective Remember! Bring him here alive, if you ha "Oh any love for Unitah !" s ha1 'Aye I will!" ro::i.rcd the outlaw. "I will bring h' rr to here alive! Do you think for a minute l'll let him l Jess without tortttre ?'' et fr Isabel utte-red a shriek as the three men left t cabin, but Unitah dragged the dead man inside then bolted th e door, calmly. "Oh, they will torture Do you hear! Oh, t i "D wretch! the inhuman monster! They will bring hi oun here and torture him before my eyes! Oh, Goel! ast, endure it!" I "B Isabel wailed out the words as she paced back and for y li in the cabin, and, as she continue'cl to weep and moa "S Unitah vyent up and touched her arm lightly. rom "You love him and he loves you," she whispered, wit on a strange light in her eyes. T ] Isab e l nodded her head-she was too excited for wordl:los -and the girl went on, slowly: fra11 "I was a good girl once. and had a mother and father I lived at a place called 'The ett lement,' right here ilfloq Wyoming. My father was jealous of my mother, arnlJes l one night he murdered her. Jesse Jam es heard of it, an
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    THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. ; 21 if I could! Hold your hands up a little so that I can untie the cords that bind them r she cried, sharply. '"i -o You must not touch them, Miss Isabel! I will Clo well enough as I am! Be brave, my dear girl! Don't Jet them see that they are paining you!" "Oh, I cannot bear it! I will not bear it! Release his hands at once, you monster!" she cried, as, springing to her feet, she faced the bandit king bravely. Jesse James had seated himself upon a stone about ten ieet from the detective and was giving instructions to his m en regarding the condition of his brother, and, until I sabel's voice called him to account, he had paid no at tention to them. "Do you hear! R e l eas e his hands and attend to his rwounds at once! He is at your mercy and you can, ai least show humanity!" "Bah! T11e fellow is a human bloodhound, who seeks m y life! "Spare him for my sake, then! Because I am a wom an wai l ed Isabel. "Let him go, Jesse James! Don't you see that he is dying?" The detective had grown suddenly more pallid and cl osed his eyes, and, for a second, the terrified girl was frantic. Not waiting for the outlaw to reply, she knelt on the floor again and took the young man's head in her arms. l esse James l ooked on with a cruel gleam in his ey es; then once more, he ignored them and tU'rned toward his brother. "He' s coming to himself Jess! Hand me the flask again, Ha:wk '!here! He's opened his eyes, now you can speak to him ," said Unitah, who was bending over the wounded outlaw. She moved backward as she spoke, still holding the i flask, and, as Jesse James knelt by his brother, she passed the flask slyly to Isabel. A grateful look sprang into the young girl's eyes as a sme pressed the bottle to the lips of the fainting detective. "Carry him inside and make him comfortable," ordered esse James, as he rose from his knees. "The bullet s h as gone clean through, so there's no use of probing. a H e'll pull through all right. if we can 'stop the bleeding. Plug the hol e with oakum, Hawk, and bandage it tightly, i1 hen one of you stay her e as long a s he needs you. As soon as I'm done with the detective whelp, I'll go for a i octor." 'Tl! stay and nurse Frank. The men ca n go,'' said Unitah, quickly Just leave me two pistols and plenty of ammunition and I'll be safe !" Jesse James s h ook his head, although he looked at the admiringly then h e was obliged to lend a hand in carrying his br ot her. r "Now then quick! Off with his coat!" whispered [ :Unitah and, in a second. she was examining a slight a v ound in th e detective's shoulder. As d eftly as possible, she put a tampon over it and ( then bound it with a strip that she tore from her pettin oat. The action 'ras completed and the coat back in place n d U11i1.ah had time to pass a loaded pistol to Isabel efore the men returned for the dead bod,-. "Remember, I love him," whispered tl;e strange girl, ith a nod of her head toward Jesse Jam es. "You are ot to shoot him. no matter \\'hat happens." Isabel gritted her teeth, but there was no time to r e ply, for the three men were raising the deatl bo dy and carrying it out of the cabin to bury it. "Naw's ou.r time! Give him more whi s ky ,., whis pered Unitah, as she saw Higgins open his ey es. "Now listen you must promise Jess e James that y o t 1 will leave Wyoming at once and that you will never seek him ag;ain if yo u >vant me to help you. Isabel fixed her eyes upon the detective's face and whispered an entreaty, but Higgins on ly shook his head and set his teeth firmly. "Curse him! No! I'll never promise that, he mut tered. "He can kill me if he likes, but l'll never give up my work! I swore to hunt him to his death or mine. and, by the eternal, I'll do it!" Isabel's face was like ashes and she forgot her posi ttion for once, for the detective's words, if carried out, meant his speedy murder by the outlaw. Grasping his hands bet:ween her O wn she looked beseechingly into his face, while the tears sprang to her eyes and trembled upon her lashes. "You must promse Oh, you must! It is your only chance!" she whispered, eagerly. "Oh, Mr. Higgins, fo r my sake do, do promise what she asks you!" Higgins raised his head from her shoulder and stared fixedly into her face, then, forgetting the presence of a third party, he whispered, happily: "Isabel darling! Is it true that you love me, dear! If it is, I will do what you i;ay Whisper it dearest, flor t'he brutes are coming baick Ts it only sym pathy that you feel, or do you really love me?" He was looking at her so searching ly that the young girl colored with emotion, but she was able 'to smile faintly as she replied t:o his question: "Yes, yes! I do! Oh, I should die, I am sure of it, if they were to kill you!" Higgins leaned quickly toward her and their lips met in a kiss; then, as Jam es strode back into the cabin, he rose and stood before him. "Ho! ho! so you're on your feet again, are you!" thun dered the outlaw .. "Well, it won't take me long to set tle my score with you! I have a notion to serve you as I did your chtim, fhe horse doctor! You don't know who I mean do you? Ha! ha! He was Dennis O'Riley, of Mile s City!'' The outlaw chuckled as he spoke, and he watched the detective's face like a hawk for, most naturally, as Hig gins was in ignorance of his friend's ruse, his countenance betrayed only wonder. 1 ev e r h eard of him before, hey? Well, that's about what I thought! Perhaps you'd recall him quicker if I named him Venner! We bandits have a way of re membering names, even it it happens that one man is bl essed with a dozen." Higgins was growing pale again, but this time it was with apprehension, but he nerved himself to hear the fate of his friend. ''What of him? Has he crossed your path, Jesse James?" he asked, sternly. "Ha! ha! No, we crossed him, Frank and I, last night, in the mountains." He roared with laughter as though the thought pleased him. and Higgins set his teeth hard to keep from flinch ing at what he could feel was coming.

    PAGE 29

    ' / 1' 28 Q'HE JESSE JAMES STO R IES. "Yes, we haa a rare bit of venison together, and, to make a long story short, we got tired of his company, so we left him back there lying face up in a shallow brook! Ha! ha! lit was a sigiht that would warm the blood 01f the most revengeful bandit! 'I'he fellow was drowned in less than two feet ef water I" "You mean that you bound him hand and foot, I suppose," said Higgins, trying to speak calmly "Well, i1t is like y>0u, J esse Jam es! It is only one mme of youir evil deeds! Surely, the devil helps you!" "'Aye! He does! The old fellow hates detectives as bad as I do!" roared the outlaw; "but that's not here nior there I I hope you relished my story!" Higgins diQ, not answer and Isabel took a step forward, at the same time Unitah disappeared into the inner room where Frank James was lying. "Jesse. James! I demand that you let us go!" said Isabel, sternly. "There are laws in Wyoming, and you must respect them! How dare you abduct a young girl and imprison her in this cabin! I have harmed' neither you nor yours! You must release me this minute! If you kill him, you kill me, for he i s my love!" "Sol You are lovers, eh! A truly pretty picture! I am sorry for you, miss, but there is no sentiment in my nature! This fellow is my enemy and I am going to kill h I" 1m. "No! no! .You shall not!" shrieked Isabel, throw ing herself upon her knees between them. "Quick, Jess! Frank is dying!" called Unitah, at that moment. With a curse, the outlaw bounded toward the inner room, .with his two men at his heels. At that second something glided along the stone floor of the cabin and landed at Isabel's feet. She glanced down quickly and saw that it was a small knife, and in an instant she knew that Unitah had speeded it. As quick as a flash, she picked it up and cut the cords that bound her lover's wrists: then, without a sound, the two glided out of the cabin together. Unitah kept Jesse James bending over his brother for !fully ten minutes, and, at th e end of that time, the outlaw had rn.rlied a little Then a ;;bout from one of the men brought the bandit king back to the outer r oom, and, at th e first glance, he d i scove red that his prisoners had escaped him. Unita!J stood at hi s s ide with anger depicted clearly upon her features. and. after a s hrewd glance at the girl, Jesse James i ssued his orders. "After th em, Hawk! On foot, yon fool! Quick! You can catch them in the gully! If it takes over ten minutes. i throttle yo u. you mongrel!" The halfbreed glided out of the cabin tightening his belt as he went, and Jesse James, still cursing, went back tu his bro1lh er Frank's condition was so alarming that he hated to leave him hut his impatience was so great that he could hanlly control it. "Hang the lnjun Why doesn't he come back!" he !='rowlccl. "After them, Ji m. and see here, yo u knave, ten minutes i the limit Scour the gully from end to e:-:d and bring back t heir carcatses Dead or alive, it n:akes no c!iffer e ncc !"' Jim stole out of the door and followed Hawk, buteneath 1 ten minutes passed without a glimpse of the runawayne poor It had been found iri1, possible to stable the stal. "I tole with the other animals, so the outlaws had hidden h e moa in a cave some distance from the gully to await the mQ>ne 0 ments of their captive's master. "It 111 To this cave the outlaws hurried, thinking the detec\hing tl and the young girl would at once seek Silver Heels. o "Halt! Thar's some one ahead of us whisp atch1r Hawk, as they neared the cave. "Do you see tlibough tracks, pardner !" le tha The two crept on until the mouth of th e cave was v r w01 ble, and then they crouched low in the bushes and wai emov1 The cave was really a fissure between two giga The rocks its entrance being only wide enough to admi a s the horse, but inside there was space for a dozen horsso su The cavern had no roof but the sky, yet the openidoser tapered gradually so that except in the most inclem Tw weather the interior was well protected. canva A rustle in the bushes suddenly startled the two o figurJ laws, and Buck F ranklin 's head came up over a bun of alders. touc1 "Sh! Lie low!" whispered Hawk, and the two o he f laws skulked still lower in the bushes. moved through the han lawi' ly stirring a twig, and, as he pa sed close beside the ou tak laws without even guessing th eir presence, they coul rob hear him talking to himself in an excited manner. tho "It's hyar! Ther stallion is hyar! I've followed th critter's tracks, an' I'm sure he' s in ther cavern! I'JJ w bel her yet, by thunder! 1 will! The detective shan't h her, curse him! I ll kill him afore he shall hey her!" P He started toward the cavern. lit Hawk and Jim put their hands on their pistols and ha rose to their feet. while Buck Franklin stood directly it o th e path as motionless as a graven image. \ Then a volley of curses behind them made them a turn qnickly. J esse James, mounted upon a thoroughbred. had cre1 almost upon the1i1 and was now si ttingerect ho!cling I s revolver in both hands and pouring forth a volley o h curses. The stamping and pawing in the cavern ceased as sml denly as it began, while outside the crash of revolver became almost deafening. CIL\PTER XII. 0 U 'l' 0 F D _\ N C B R "Hush! Not a worcl yet! Keep the creature still a minute longer, if you can, darling! I'll go out and look around before we attempt to get away! ::'.\o one knows how many of our enemies are s till lurlting in the bushes." It was Higgin who spoke. and h e giidecl out of the l entrance to the cave and took a sharp look around. T h e last shot had been fired ten minutes before, and, as yet, 110 one had attem1)tecl to enter the cav ern. Isab e l waited. with her hand up o n the stal!ions neck, \ and, when her lover came back unharmed, she breathed a sigh of r e lief. "\Vhat do you think. dearest? Burck Franklin's dead bo dv lies within ten feet of the cave! The fellow mu s t have been here trying to capture the stallion!'' Isabc!"s cheeks turned pale and her limbs trembled \j f

    PAGE 30

    THE JESSE JAMES STORIES. 29 beneath her, for, from the bottom of her heart, she pitied the poor fellow. ''I told him not to do it! Oh, why was he so foolish!" 1 she moaned. "\i\Tho do you suppose shot him, dearest? One of the outlaws wasn't it?" "It must have been, as there is no one else. The only thing that surprises me is that I was allowed to return to you. Why didn't they shoot me down if they are watching the cavern? Isabel s brow was drawn with thought for it was a perilous situation. Was it possible that the outlaws meant to starve them in the cavern, or would they come and murder her and her lover and remove the stall ion? They were standing near what looked like a seat, and, as the detective 's glance rested on it, there was something so suspicious in its appearance that he examined it clo er. Two pieces of board had been laid over a number of canvas baggs, upon the sides of which were painted figures that were unmistakable. Higgins caught his breath sharply as he bent and touched the bags, for, in the uncertain light of the cave, he feared his eyes had deceived him. "Gold! as true as I live! We have found the out law's plunder, Isabel!" he whispered. "No doubt it was taken from the express train night before last by the robbers! See, the figures indicate that there are fifty thousand dollars!" "It must be gold! It is as heavy as stone!" said Isabel as she tried to raise one of the bags Oh, I wish we could remove it where those rascals could not find it! Perhaps we could restore it to the express company a little later!" "I am afraid we can't manage it," said Higgins, dubi ously. "It needs two men to move it, and I am only half a man at present." A snort of fear from the stalllion suddenly arrested their attention. Some one was entering the mouth of the cavern, and Isabel drew the pistol that Unitah had given her from her belt. Higgins made a movement to take it awa y from her, but she shook her head decidedly and took a few steps forward. "Hello, inside thar !" called a hoarse voice, softly. Higgins recogniz ed the voice as belonging to the half breed, Hawk, and, as he whispered the name in Isabel's ear, the young girl nodded. "Hello! What do you want hyer ?" asketl Higgins, changing his voice completely. "Yer arter ther stallion, ain't yer? Waal, yer'd better take my advice an' git back while yer able!" "Thet thar's good advice, but I don't want it, Mr. Sleuthhound !" retorted the voice. "I've come for ther .stallion an' I'm goin' ter hev it! Ther won't no harm come ter you so Jong's yer offer no resistance, but raise er finger ter keep ther beast an' I'll send ther two on yer ter perdition!" "Advance at your peril, you robber! That beast don't leave this place unless I go with it!" replied Higgins, sternly. "Go back and tell your master to get the beast if he can! I'll blow the head off of the first cur that blocks up that entrance!" "Haw Haw! Thet thar sounds good, but how'll yer do it, Mr. Sleuth? I reckon now yer or ther gal ain't overloaded with weapons! Ef yer was, why didn't yer come out er while ergo an' take er hand in ther scrim mage?" "Do you think I'm a fool? I fight my own battles, not other people's! I tell you again, you can't have the stallion; no, nor this stolen gold either, if I can prevent it!" "Th er devil yer say! W aal, I'll jest show yer thet yer can't prevent it!" growled the half-breed, striding into the cavern. Crack went the pistol in Isabel's hands, and the robber went down directly under the heels of the stallion. Isabel closed her eyes so that she would not witness what happened, but, in a second, the mangled body of the fellow was kicked into a corner of the cavern. "That settles our first enemy/ whispered Higgins. "Be brave, my darling! So long as the bullets hold out, we are safe from the ruffians." "But it is so dreadful to kill them," moaned Isabel, who, novv that the deed was one, was shaking like an aspen. "You shall not do it again! It is too great a strain, dearest! I can shoot with my left hand and you need not even see it." "Oh, you cannot! You cannot! Look, dearest!" cried Isabel, turning her face suddenly towards the sky; thm, with a shriek, she grabbed her lover by the shoulder and pushed him before her. Crash came an enormaus stone down from the bowl ders above them. It struck within ten feet of the spot where they were standing. Looking up, they saw the evil face of Jesse James peering down at them from a crevice in the bowlders. He was looking to see what his evil deed had accom plish e d. Higgins knelt in a corner of the cavern where he would be out of sight of th e outlaw, and then, grasping the pistol in his left hand, he tried to draw a ste ady bead on the fellow. Crash came another stone, this time a little nearer, and Isabel, forgetting herself ran quickly to the stallion. Untying him nervily, she led him close to the door of the cave, where, only by heroic effort, she kept him from l forcing her down and trampling upon her. Higgins pressed the trigge r over and over, but each time the outlaw mo ved. He was as slippery as an eel, and kept constantly changing his position. A second later his weapon rang out, and at the same time he followed Isabel in m ounting to the back of the stallion. Like a mad thing, the horse cleared the door of the cavern and dashed like the wind through the dense growth of bushes. A yell of rage from the baffled outlaw sounded in their ears as they dashed along, and both Isabel and her lover caught a glimpse of two dead bodies. There was no time to think, for bullets were following hot on their trail; but the stallion sped like a comet, regardles of direction. It was fully a half-hour before Isabel could check its speed; but, by that time, they had left Rotten Gully far behind them Halting at last up o n a knoll, Isabel looked around, and a doz e n familiar landmarks gave the brave girl her bear ings.

    PAGE 31

    THE JESSE JAMES STOfUES .. 'Yaas, Instead of heading directly for the ranch, they decided to visit the sheriff's office, which was in a small town only ten miles away, for they both realized they mustact hastily if they expected to capture the robbers, or aid the express company in recapturing the bags of gold that had been stolen. Consterna tion raged in Lead City, the little settlement where the sheriff lived, when the stallio n carrying its double load, raced down the publi c thoroughfare. There were instantaneous cries of "Halt!" "Whoa, there!" and similar warnings; then a man with a very red face, who was standing in front of a saloon, bawled out like a trumpet: "W. hoop Hi thar It's Jesse James, the bandit! Put a bullet inter him, men ; he's runnin' off with a boy, as sure's my name is Bilkins !" A group of loafers down the street took up the cry, and Isabel was to check the stallion, so that Higgins could make explanations. "I'm not Jesse James! I'm running away from the robber!" he cried, at the top of his lungs, at the same time letting go his hold on Isabel and slipping from the saddle. The men gathered around and the stallion began rearing, but Isabel held him with a firm hand that won their instant admiration. "Great snakes! ther kid is nervy!" excla imed one of the men. "Why, he ain't more n fourteen, an' he looks like a fly on th er critter's back! G ive em leeway, men! Thar's hossmanship wuth seein' !" The men fell back, and Higgins and Isabel exchanged glances; then the detective made haste to tell his story. Isabel drew the stallion down to all fours at last, and then sliding from her high pe rch, took the creature firmly by the bridle. When Higgins had finished his story of the "hold-up," he had thirty listeners. and every man in the crowd had hi s hand on his pistol ; but, as the detective told how his friend Venner had been rn urdered in cold blood by the bandits, there was a silence that was far more ominous than any language. "Now, then, where's your sheriff?" Higgins, as he finished the tale. The men looked from one to the other and shook their heacis solemnly. "He left hyar last Monday, an' it' s the last 1\e've seee n of him." said one of them. "He had six of our with him, but the Lo rd only knows where they be now. P'r'aps, no \v, you've run erfoul of er sheriffs posse som'ers !" Higgins caught his breath. He had forgotten that he was still in Pease County. and t'hat Jesse James himself had shot down their s heriff. ''J'il have to go back in my story, men," he began, so berly, and then followed an account of the fire on the "" mountains and the and descriptions of the posse. "Ther "l'\ow, then, men as I'm the next man in this town te:'Naw ther sheriff, I m ove I'm ther man ter lead yer," said th t tha r ed-face d man, vYhen a dozen stalwart men lined up b The fore the a little later, mounted on sturdy mus)ung tangs. ard r "I reckon yer be, an' I second ther rnotion Ef it' as co ergre ed, all right, an' if 'tain't. n obo dy hed better Sa) It \\ nothin', fer ther'll be jest one man le ss eve ry time 11 b . d d d I k gai any o 3ect1on, rem an
    PAGE 32

    THE JESSE Jl\MES STORIES. 8i "Yaas, I reck n it was! Now, who is the kid, I won s er?" "Ther widder ain't got no boy." r she's got er gal, 'tho', an', come ter think of it, e thet t har boy looks oncommon like her." The 'von1au took a sharp glance at Isabel, but the ; oung girl was peering out of the window. She had eard hoofbeats in the street, and was trying to see who as commg It was a relief to Higgins, when the woman spoke gain, to hear that she had seen fit to change the subject. "Boss Flani:ty felt some punkins when he led t
    PAGE 33

    32 THE JESSE JAMES STORIES he dashed door and sent a leaden missile hiss ing after outraw. The bullet cut its way across the widie brim of the outlaw's hat, a flash, the fellow rose in his stirrups and retu. rned the onslaught. "Ha! lia !' That was done for a left-hander!'' he shouted. "We'll meet again, you bloodhound, and then, perhaps, you can do better!" Higgins put up his weapon, for the outlaw was out of range, and, as he turned with a sigh of disappointment, he found Isabel close behind him. The brave girl had taken part in the whole proceeding, and the men were already crowding around and patting her on the shoulder. "fih.et thar kid is er brick! He's grit clean through!" said one. "Snakes! but he's as handy as any on us with er trigger!" "Have the scoundrels taken anything?" asked Higgins, trying to distract their attention from Isabel. "Ther money is gone, box and all," was the answer. Then some one yelled that the box was there, but it was open and empty. "After him, men!" cried Higgins. "The rascal must be "Jess bears a charmed life, an' no mistake! Snakes! Tiber oourtihouse lo o ks as if er cyclone had struck it!" The speaker was a six-footer who had done good work in the scrimmage, for it was a bullet from his pistol thait had killed one of the outlaws. He turned the bodies of the two men over as he spoke, and the others busied themselves in getting their own dead and together. "Do y
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