Project Gutenberg's Young Wild West at "Forbidden Pass", by An Old Scout This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: Young Wild West at "Forbidden Pass" and, How Arietta Paid the Toll Author: An Old Scout Release Date: February 18, 2007 [EBook #20617] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK YOUNG WILD WEST *** Produced by Richard Halsey
It was just about five o'clock in the afternoon of a cool day in autumn when Young Wild West and his friends rode into a little mining camp called Big Bonanza, which was situated in the heart of the range, known as the Silver Bend Mountains, Nevada.
It was the first signs of anything like civilization that the party had seen in two days, and though there were but half a dozen little shanties in it, the sight of it was a welcome one.
Young Wild West was beyond a doubt the greatest and best known of the heroes of the Wild West, and though but a boy in years, he had made a name for himself that many an elder person would have been proud to own.
He had earned the title of the Champion Deadshot of the West by his remarkable skill with the rifle and revolver, and he was ever ready to defend the title against all comers.
Many of his warmest friends called him the Prince of the Saddle, because he was without a peer at breaking and riding the wildest and most vicious horses of the West.
When upon the back of the beautiful sorrel stallion he always rode he made a picture that was dashing and handsome in the extreme. When on his trips through the wildest parts of the Great West he invariably was attired in a fancy buckskin hunting suit, and with his sombrero tipped well back upon his head, he surely showed up as a dashing young hero.
The flash in his eye told of his courage and persistence, while his athletic form betokened his strength and quickness.
But of all his qualifications to make up a dashing young Westerner his greatest was his coolness and fixed purpose to do right, no matter what the cost might be.
Few, indeed, are possessed of such sterling qualities, and it is only those who are that make real heroes.
But, as we have already stated, and the majority of our readers know, Young Wild West was a genuine boy hero of the Wild West, and that is only saying the truth.
Being the owner of several gold and silver mines, the young deadshot had an income that was more than sufficient to permit him to pursue his favorite hobby, which was riding about through the wildest parts of the states and territories in search of adventure.
At the time of which we write there was plenty of excitement and adventure to be found in that region, and Young Wild West was helping along the advance of civilization, which, by the way, has not reached all parts of the West yet, speaking in a true sense, and reckoning in law and order.
In company with our boy hero were his two partners, Cheyenne Charlie and Jim Dart, and two very pretty young girls and a young woman.
Cheyenne Charlie was a government scout and one of the best known Indian-fighters of his time. He was yet a young pan, and though he had been "through the mill," as the saying goes, he was better satisfied to be led than to lead, and thus it was that he had cast his lot with Wild.
The scout was a tall man, straight as an arrow, and his long black hair and mustache, together with his bronzed face, gave him the appearance of being just what he was—an out-and-out Westerner.
Jim Dart was a boy of about the same age as our hero, born and reared in the West, and though he seldom had much to say, he was full of grit, and always ready to do his share.
The two were known as the partners of Young Wild West, and they always dressed in the same style he did.
The two girls of the party were Arietta Murdock, the charming sweetheart of our hero, and Eloise Gardner, Jim Dart's sweetheart; the young woman was the wife of Cheyenne Charlie, and her name was Anna.
The girls, as they always called them, loved to travel around with our hero and his partners, and they had learned to look upon the dangers they were constantly coming in contact with rather lightly.
Arietta was the only one of the three who had been born and reared in the West, but Anna and Eloise had been there long enough to become accustomed to its ways, and they could ride horseback and shoot with great skill.
Two Chinamen, who were riding bronchos and leading pack-horses, were with our friends, and as they came to a halt in front of a saloon that had a sign across the front declaring it to be a hotel, one of them hastily dismounted, and before Young Wild West and the rest knew what he was up to he disappeared around the corner of the shanty.
There were three men, besides the man who ran the saloon, in front of the roughly-constructed building, and they seemed to be cowboys, by their general appearance.
All four of the men were regarding the new arrivals with no little interest, and when the Chinaman slid around the corner of the shanty one of them called out:
"One of your heathens is dry, I reckon, strangers. I'll bet he's headin' fur ther back door."
"Yer kin bet your life on that!" Cheyenne Charlie answered. "Hop likes his tanglefoot once in a while, an' he never loses a chance ter git it."
"Well, if that's ther case I'd better go in an' wait on ther galoot, then," spoke up the proprietor of the place. "We ain't used ter seein' gals around here, an' I sorter hate ter leave, too. But business is business."
The man spoke in a way that was not meant to be disrespectful, for what he had said was undoubtedly the truth. The few inhabitants of Big Bonanza were not in the habit of seeing female visitors.
"Well, gentlemen," said Young Wild West, "we have just dropped in here by accident, and I reckon if there's no objection we'll camp around here somewhere until morning. We are making a trip across the state, and we are going in a straight line as much as possible. What we happen to strike makes little difference to us; whether it is a mining camp or a desert. We are used to all kinds of traveling, and generally go prepared for anything."
"Talks like he was someone what sorter knows all about things, eh, boys?" remarked the cowboy who had called out that the Chinaman was heading for the back door to get into the saloon.
"Yes," answered one of his companions, while the other gave a nod.
"Looks as neat as a pin, too, don't he?" went on the man, who evidently took it that our hero was a boy fond of showing off in an expensive costume, and that he did not amount to a great deal.
"They all look neat," one of the others observed. "Them gals is sartinly worth lookin' at, ain't they? They've struck it rich somewhere, an' ther first big town they come ter they've bought new clothes. I reckon I kin judge things all right."
"So you think you can judge pretty well, eh?" said Young Wild West, as he dismounted. "Well, what do you take me to be?"
"A putty smart boy, who thinks it looks nice ter have his hair long, an' who likes ter put on lugs 'cause he's got some putty gals with him," answered the cowboy, after a slight pause.
"So that is your opinion, is it?"
"I reckon it is, young feller."
"Well, don't you think a person has a right to wear good clothes if he can well afford it?"
"Oh, yes. I ain't sayin' nothin' about that. But clothes don't make ther man—or boy, either. How long have you been West, Sonny?"
"How long have you been West?"
"About fifteen years, I reckon."
"Well, I can beat you by three or four years, then. Anything more you would like to know?"
"Oh, tell him ter dry up, Luke!" said the first speaker. "What's ther use of talkin' ter ther young dandy? Him an' ther other boy has hired ther man they've got with 'em ter take 'em around an' show 'em ther sights; an' they've, got ther man rigged out in buckskin an' fancy trimmin's, jest ter make 'em all attract attention. I'll bet I'm right on that!"
He turned to our hero as he said this and acted as though he was sure he was right.
"How much will you bet, you windy galoot?"
As Young Wild West said this he drew a roll of bills from his pocket and showed it to the three cowboys.
It was just then that the saloon-keeper appeared in the door, and behind him was the Chinaman who had sneaked in at the rear door of the shanty.
"What's all this talk about, gents?" he asked. "I hear some putty loud talk, so there must be somethin' goin' on."
"Oh, there isn't anything going on yet; but there might be, if the fellows don't get a little more civil," our hero answered, coolly. "It seems that they are trying to pick a row just because we have on better clothes than they have. If they are looking for anything like that I reckon they can get it mighty quick."
"Wow!" exclaimed the most talkative of the three cowboys. "Did you hear that, boys? Well, well! Who would have thought it?"
Cheyenne Charlie acted as though he would like to take a hand in the controversy, but he managed to keep quiet.
Jim Dart and the girls were looking on with smiles on their faces, while the Chinaman, looking out of the doorway, over the shoulder of the keeper of the saloon, actually grinned with delight.
They all knew that Young Wild West was quite able to take care of all three of the men if it became necessary and they also knew that something was likely to happen very soon.
The two companions of the talkative cowboy laughed uproariously.
They evidently agreed with him that the boy was away off in his remarks.
Cheyenne Charlie could keep still no longer.
"Jest show ther galoots that yer ain't foolin', Wild," he said. "Shake 'em up it little."
"Lat light, Misler Wild!" called out the Chinaman, from the door. "Makee allee samee be polite, so be."
"Shet up, you heathen!" roared the nearest cowboy, and with that he caught the Celestial by the pig-tail and pulled him out.
A kick followed this and the Son of the Flowery Kingdom let out a yell of pain.
Young Wild West darted forward and struck the cowboy a blow on the breast that sent him reeling.
"If you insist on it I'll give it to you good and straight," he said, calmly. "How do you like that?"
This time he landed one on the man's ribs, and down he went in a heap.
The other two started to interfere, but out went the boy's left and one of them landed on all fours in a jiffy.
Our hero's right caught the other on the chin and he went, too.
As was to be expected, all three of the cowboys made moves to pull their guns.
But Young Wild West got ahead of them.
"Let go of those playthings—quick!" he shouted. "I will show you galoots that you have got to be more civil with us. Get up and say you are sorry for interfering with us."
There was something about the manner of the boy that told them that they really had made a mistake. The revolver was held by a hand that was steady as a rock, and there was no doubt in their minds but that lead would fly from it if they disobeyed.
They let go their revolvers and scrambled to their feet.
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed Cheyenne Charlie. "A fine lot of galoots you are! Young Wild West is only a boy, all right, but I reckon he kin lick a stagecoach load of sich fellers as you are! Make 'em do ther tenderfoot dance, Wild. Go on—jest fur fun!"
"All right, Charlie," was the reply, and the young deadshot fired a shot that hit the ground near the feet of the spokesman of the trio.
"Hold on!" the cowboy shouted. "It's all right, Young Wild West. I know who yer are now. I'll 'pologize. Don't shoot no more!"
Again the boy fired, and then all three, knowing what was wanted of them, began to dance for all they were worth.
Cheyenne Charlie now took a hand in the game, and, while the girls and Jim Dart laughed merrily, the three cowboys did the "tenderfoot dance" in fine shape.
Both Wild and the scout fired three or four shots apiece, and some of them took chips off the high heels of the boots the cowboys wore.
"I reckon that will be about all," said our hero, as he ejected the shells from his revolver and then coolly proceeded to reload the chambers. "You galoots will know better the next time. I don't much like the looks of you, but I want to tell you that if you happen to take a notion to get square with us for what has happened you'll get the worst of it. I hope you understand what I say."
The rascals—for they were undoubtedly such—did not stop to make a reply, but darted into the saloon.
The Chinaman gave a parting laugh, and then, turning to the other Celestial, observed:
"Me havee velly nallow escapee, my blother."
"You allee samee velly muchee fool!" was the retort. "You allee timee lookee for um tanglefoot, so be."
"Me havee two velly nicee lillee dlinks, my blother; you no havee."
"Me no wantee," was the scornful rejoinder.
It was Wing, the cook, who claimed he did not want any whisky.
He was just a common, everyday Chinee, who did his work well and slept whenever he had nothing else to do, providing no one disturbed him.
Hop, on the other hand, was one of the very shrewd and cunning ones of his race.
Gifted with the art of sleight-of-hand, a lover of gambling and a fondness for playing jokes on people had made him a great character, indeed.
But he was a real fixture to the party that Young Wild West led, and as he had on more than one occasion been the means of saving the lives of different members of it through his cleverness, he was thought a great deal of by them all, and many of his shortcomings were overlooked.
Having disposed of the cowboys, Young Wild West now asked the keeper of the saloon if he thought there would be any objections to their pitching a camp somewhere around in the vicinity.
"I reckon not," was the reply. "There ain't no one as lives here in Big Bonanza, what would 'ject ter anything like that. They've all heard tell about Young Wild West, I reckon, an' some of 'em says as how they've seen yer. Yer kin bet that yer will be welcome here! Jest help yourselves ter any spot yer want."
"Thank you. I thought perhaps some one might raise objections—the three cowboys, for instance."
"Oh, they're strangers here. I never seen them until this afternoon. They must have come a putty long ways, fur there ain't a ranch in a hundred miles of here, as I knows of. Go ahead an' pick out a place ter camp. Ther boys will be here in a few minutes, fur it's about quittin' time now. I'll tell 'em that Young Wild West, ther champion deadshot, is here, an' you kin bet that they'll give yer a royal welcome!"
Young Wild West was not long in picking out a spot to camp upon.
It was right near a little, running brook that came tumbling down the steep rocks and wound its way through the gentle slope upon which was located the cluster of shanties.
It was easy to tell that the mining camp had not been in existence very long, for the shanties were new.
As soon as the pack horses were unloaded our friends allowed the two Chinamen to go ahead with the work of getting the camp in shape, while they took a look around.
Almost opposite to the point they had rounded in order to ride into the mining camp was a high ridge, which was easily a hundred feet above the level. It extended around on both sides and joined the sloping, irregular side of the mountain over which the trail ran.
Almost in the centre of this was a cut that was about thirty feet in width, and it was so regular in shape that one would almost have taken it to be the work of man.
But it was nothing more than one of the passes that are to be found in the mountains, and which are so handy for travelers to proceed to a given point in a more direct line.
Young Wild West noticed that a trail ran through the camp direct to the pass. But it did not appear as though it was used a great deal, since the wagon-ruts and hoof-prints had become obliterated in some parts.
"I wonder where that trail leads to?" our hero observed, as he tamed to his two partners. "Wherever it goes, there are not many using it now, it seems."
"It leads on up in the wilds of the mountains, by the looks of things," Jim Dart answered. "It may be that prospectors have gone that way and, not finding anything worth while, have come back through the pass again."
"Sorter looks that way, I reckon," said Cheyenne Charlie. "But, hello! Ther miners is quittin' work. Now we'll soon see how many of 'em knows us, as ther saloon man said they did."
Sure enough, the miners were seen heading for the saloon. They came from different directions, for it was just six o'clock now, and they had quit work for the day.
The claims that were being worked were all within sight of the shanties, the nearest one being but a couple of hundred yards away from the saloon, which appeared to be the leading place in the camp.
But as the store was very near to it, it might be that some of the men were bound there.
Having satisfied themselves that it was a very nice, little mining camp, our friends turned to and assisted the Chinamen to get things in shape.
They did not intend to remain there any longer to get a rest than for a day or two, but they were always interested when they struck a spot where gold dust was being taken out.
No end of good luck had followed them in their search for gold, and Arietta, the charming sweetheart of the dashing young deadshot, had the lead over them all, as far as making discoveries that were profitable to them were concerned.
But it was nothing more than chance that had brought them to Big Bonanza, and, as was usually the case, a little excitement had started immediately upon their arrival.
But none of our friends minded what had happened.
They were so used to meeting "bad men," as many of the miners and cowboys were proud to style themselves, that there was absolutely nothing new to it.
Meanwhile the miners were not long in reaching the saloon, and the store adjacent to it.
Then it was only a few minutes before half a dozen were seen approaching the spot where the two Chinamen had finished putting up the tents that belonged to the camping outfit.
"Hello, Young Wild West!" called out a big man, with a short, gray beard on his face. "How are yer? An' how's everybody with yer?"
"First rate," answered Wild, as he shook hands with the miner, but failed to recognize him. "How are you?"
"Me? Oh, I'm fine! I've struck it rich here in ther wilds of Nevady, my boy! I'm ther prospector what started ther camp. I named her Big Bonanza, an' it sartinly has been a big bonanza fur me. Beats minin' up in Weston, all right."
Then our hero remembered of having seen the man before.
The short, gray beard had changed his appearance wonderfully.
The miner was John Sedgwick, a former bartender at a hotel in the little town in the Black Hills that had been named for our hero.
"Sedgwick, I didn't know you," he said, smiling at him. "What in the world are you doing with that gray beard? It makes you look twenty years older."
"Well, we ain't got no barber shop here yet, an' I never was much good at shavin' myself, so I jest let ther beard grow. But what's ther odds? I'll shave up an' spruce up jest as soon as I've made my pile. Then I'll light out fur home, an' me an' my wife will live on ther fat of ther land. I've got nigh to a hundred thousand now, an' jest as soon as I git it I'm goin' ter strike out fur ther East. Hello, Charlie! Hello, Jim!"
He now shook hands with our hero's partners, for they had recognized him as an old acquaintance the moment Wild spoke to him.
The girls had seen Sedgwick, too, and they greeted him warmly.
"Well," said the miner, "I reckon there ain't many here in Big Bonanza what ain't heard tell of Young Wild West an' his pards. I've kept ther boys interested in tellin' 'em about ther wonderful things you've done. Come up an' shake hands with ther whitest boy what ever stuck his toe in a stirrup, boys!"
The last was addressed to the men who had come over with him, and they now pressed forward eagerly.
Young Wild West sized them up quickly and made up his mind that they were an honest lot, indeed.
He had come in contact with so many rough characters that he had made it a point to read faces and study character that way.
It was seldom that he made a mistake in his estimation of a man, either.
The miners seemed very glad to know the dashing young deadshot and his friends, and after they had talked awhile they, turned to make their way to their shanties, so they might get their suppers.
As our hero followed Sedgwick a little way from the camp his glance happened to turn toward the mouth of the narrow pass at the other side of the valley.
"Where does that trail lend to, John?" he asked, pointing it out.
"That?" the miner queried, as he shook his head. "That trail leads ter Silver Bend, which is another minin' camp a good deal bigger than this here one. It's only ten miles from here by goin' through that pass. But few as know about ther pass goes that way. They would rather go around about twenty-five miles, so they don't have ter go through it. They calls it 'Forbidden Pass,' yer know."
"Forbidden Pass, eh?"
Young Wild West looked interested.
"Yes, that's it."
"But what do they call it that for?"
"Well, there's a certain gang what belongs ter Silver Bend what runs things their own way, an' they say that they've organized inter a gang of outlaws ter clean out them what travels through ther pass. They put up a sign at either end of ther pass, which is only about a mile an' a half long, ter let any one what kin read know that they're forbid ter go through. If they do go through they have ter git robbed; that's all. Ter save trouble an' money ther most of folks would rather go around ther other way, or else keep away from Silver Bend, that's all."
"Well, that sounds pretty good, I think, Sedgwick. I reckon I'll have to go through that pass, just to see what will happen."
"I knowed you would say that, Wild. But if I was you I wouldn't bother about it. They're a bad lot, an' no mistake—ther men what runs things in that pass. They say there's about twenty of 'em, an' that ther most of 'em is tough cowboys what have been forced ter light out fur stealin' cattle an' sich like. Though there ain't any doubt that some of 'em lives right in Silver Bend, no one knows who they are. They're a mighty bad lot, an' since there ain't no chance of catchin' 'em, on account of ther many caves what's along on either side of ther pass, they've been doin' business there ever since we opened up ther camp, here, an' a mighty good business they've done, too."
"That seems a little strange," and our hero shook his head. "What sort of people are they over in Silver Bend?"
"Oh, about ther same as anywheres else, I s'pose. But I've heard say that it's ther fault of them what's in charge of affairs over there. It might be that some of 'em is in with ther outlaws of ther Forbidden Pass."
"It might be, that's true. Well, Sedgwick, you can bet that I am going through that pass! I want to meet this gang of robbers, just to see if they are any different from any other robbers I've come across. How about it, boys?"
Wild turned and looked at Cheyenne Charlie and Jim Dart as he said the last.
"Yer kin bet your life we'll go through ther blamed old pass!" the scout answered, while Dart nodded, as though it was a matter of course.
"I knowed it!" exclaimed Sedgwick. "Ther minute I heard you was here I know'd that you'd be fur goin' through ther Forbidden Pass. It struck me, first off that you'd come here jest fur that very, purpose."
"No," answered our hero, shaking his head. "We never heard of Forbidden Pass. But we are mighty glad to hear of it now, I reckon. Sedgwick, you know pretty well what we think of gangs of outlaws, and the like."
"I do," was the reply. "If you start after 'em once, you always land 'em too."
"Well, we'll start after this gang, then. You can bet that we'll come mighty near landing them, too!"
"I'm sure of that, Wild."
"Say!" said our hero, as the miners started again to go. "Didn't you say that the outlaws consist of cowboys who have been forced to light out from the ranches they worked upon?"
"Yes, that's what I heard over in Silver Bend."
"Well, there are three cowboys over at the saloon now. I've sized them up pretty well, and it strikes me now that they might belong to that gang. Anyhow, I am sure that they are no good."
"I saw them galoots, Wild. I don't know who they are. But they seemed to be mighty respectful. Hoker, ther saloon keeper, was tryin' ter tell me how you had some fun with 'em an' made 'em understand that they couldn't do as they pleased. But I was so anxious ter git over here an' see yer that I didn't pay much attention. I s'pose I'll have a chance ter talk to yer after supper?"
"Oh, yes. We'll take a walk over to the saloon. I'll ask the cowboys about the outlaws of Forbidden Pass, too."
The miners now left and returned to their respective homes.
"Well, Wild, I suppose you are very glad to learn all this," said Arietta, as our hero walked back to where the girls were standing.
She, as well as the rest, had heard all that was said, and her face now wore a smile as she looked at her dashing young lover.
"Yes, Et, I am glad to know that there is a place here that is forbidden to travelers. You know very well that it would only make me more anxious to do a thing if I was told that I must not do it. I am certainly going through Forbidden Pass!"
"Well, I don't blame you, Wild."
The girl possessed a spirit of fearlessness, and she was not the one to advise Wild to show himself afraid of any gang of outlaws.
"I reckon we've struck a blamed funny sort of camp, all right," remarked the scout, as he pulled the ends of his long mustache. "It couldn't have been better if we'd been lookin' up somethin' that was ter be good an' excitin', could it?"
"Hardly," answered Jim.
"Well, never mind about it now, boys. I reckon we'll think about the supper. Hurry up, Wing. Just get a little move on you."
"Allee light, Misler Wild," answered the cook, smilingly. "Me havee, um supper leady allee samee pletty quickee, so be."
"Me helpee my blother," spoke up Hop, grinning. "He allee samee velly muchee slow."
"Me no slow," retorted Wing; "me allee light."
"There!" interposed Wild. "Don't get in a wrangle over it. Hurry the supper along, that's all."
The two Celestials said no more, but both worked away as fast as they could.
It was not long before the supper was cooked, and then all hands did fall justice to it.
"Now, boys," said Wild, as he finished eating, "I reckon a good cigar wouldn't go bad, so we will go over to the saloon and buy some. The girls will be all right here, since we won't hardly be out of sight of them. Come on!"
The three soon took their departure, and they had scarcely done so when Hop, the clever Chinaman, sneaked around a clump of trees and took a course that would fetch him around to the rear of the saloon.
It was hard to keep him away from such places, for he loved gambling and practical joking, not to speak of "tanglefoot," to such a degree that he could not be held back.
The three cowboys were just getting ready to leave when Young Wild West and his two partners reached the saloon.
They had loaded up pretty well with "tanglefoot," and they were doing some very loud talking.
But when they saw the young deadshot they became suddenly silent.
"Hello!" called out Wild, speaking in his cool and easy way. "So you are going back to the ranch, eh?"
"Yes," answered the one he had handled so roughly. "I reckon we've about had our spree, so we'll go back now."
"How far is your ranch from here?" queried Wild, as he stepped up closer to them.
"About thirty miles, I reckon," was the reply.
"Why, I heard there were no ranches within a hundred miles of here. That's mighty queer."
"Whoever told yer that don't know nothin' about this part of ther country, I reckon."
"Well, it was the boss of the saloon who told us. Perhaps he isn't much acquainted around here."
Neither of them said anything to this, but went on buckling up their saddle-girths.
"Which way are you going?" Wild asked, as they were ready to mount their horses.
"Right out that way," was the reply, and the speaker pointed toward the pass.
"What! You are not afraid of being held up in Forbidden Pass, then?"
"No. I reckon that's all rot what's said about that. Some galoots named it Forbidden Pass, jest fur fun, an' since then there's them what's afraid of their own shadders what's added enough to it ter make folks think it's dangerous ter go through there. We come that way, an' I reckon we'll go back that way. I don't believe there's any gang of outlaws hangin' around there than there is right in this camp."
"Well, I am sorry to hear that. I had an idea that we could have a little excitement hunting out the gang. If there is no gang there we will be disappointed."
All three of the cowboys looked at him sharply.
It was evident that they did not know just what to make of the boy.
They swung themselves on their horses, however, and started to ride off.
"Say!" said Wild, calling out loudly to them. "If you happen to run across any outlaws in Forbidden Pass just tell them that Young Wild West is looking for them. Don't forget that, will you?"
One of the cowboys gave a reply that was not quite intelligible, but as there was an oath attached to it, our hero knew that it was not complimentary to him.
He did not stop them, however, and they rode away straight for the narrow pass at the other side of the pleasant little valley the camp was located in.
Not until they saw the three men disappear in the pass did our friends go into the saloon.
But let us follow the cowboys and find out something more about them.
When our hero had said that they might belong to the outlaws of Forbidden Pass he had hit the nail right on the head.
The fact was that there was a gang of eighteen villains located in the pass, and these three had been picked by the leader to ride to Big Bonanza for the sole purpose of leading the miners to believe that there was no longer any danger for travelers to go through that way when they wanted to go to Silver Bend.
During the time the trio was in the saloon they had been talking in this way, and they had partly made Hoker, the proprietor, believe that there was something in what they said.
The man Wild had treated so roughly bore the name of Chuck Snivel, and he was a sort of lieutenant of the band.
The leader of the outlaws was a scheming man of a fair education, who was called Cap Roche.
This villain owned a store in Silver Bend and was also the postmaster there.
He divided his time with his lawless band and the store, and, being well thought of in the mining camp, he had all the chance in the world to pursue his villainy and profit greatly from it.
As Chuck Snivel and his two companions entered the pass they turned and took one last look at Young Wild West and his partners.
"I reckon there's trouble ahead, fellers," the lieutenant of the outlaw band observed. "That boy is about ther worst one I ever had tackle me; an' ther others is putty nigh as bad, no doubt. It sorter strikes me that they're here fur ther purpose of findin' us out. Yer all heard what ther boy said as we come away, I reckon?"
"I sartinly did, fur one," answered the man nearest him.
"He said if we happened ter run across any outlaws in Furbidden Pass we should tell 'em that Young Wild West is lookin' fur 'um," the other added, quickly.
"That's jest what he said!" exclaimed Snivel. "Now, then, what does that mean?"
"It means that he's after us," said the second, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders.
"It looks that way," the third villain admitted.
"Well, yer kin bet your life we'll tell ther outlaws, won't we?"
"We sartinly will."
"Come on, then! Let's git to ther cave."
They set their bronchos at a gallop and moved rapidly through the pass.
"I wonder if ther sign was all right?" said one, as they rode along. "I was thinkin' so much about what that boy said that I never thought ter look."
"It was all right," replied Snivel; "I looked at it. Ther sign that Cap Roche made on a barrel-head is there. Yer kin bet that it'll stay there, too. Young Wild West might take a notion ter knock it down; but if he does we'll see to it that it's put up ag'in, or another jest like it."
When they had covered about a mile they slowed down a little and began to look behind them very often.
The fact was that they were nearing the hidden headquarters of the outlaw band of Forbidden Pass.
The pass itself was just about two miles in length, the entrance being less than a quarter of a mile from the cluster of shanties that made up the mining camp of Big Bonanza.
At the other end the regular trail to Silver Bend would be reached, and by taking the cut through the short pass just about fifteen miles could be saved on a journey to Silver Bend.
But, as John Sedgwick had told Young Wild West, the miners no longer took the short cut, since so many holdups had occurred in the pass.
The clever man who captained and ran the gang of villains was now trying to make the traffic be resumed through the pass, and, as has been said, Chuck Snivel and two others were sent over to the little mining camp to make the miners believe that there was no longer any danger to travel that way.
There was no doubt but that they had succeeded pretty well, too, since they were now certain that Young Wild West was coming through that way.
The boy had said enough to convince them of that.
It was a little more than half way through the pass that time three villains, who had posed as cowboys at Big Bonanza, came to a halt.
They looked cautiously in both directions, and, not seeing a sign of a human being, Chuck Snivel nodded his head and exclaimed:
"I reckon everything's all right, boys. Come ahead!"
Then he turned and rode sharply to the left, to what seemed to be a solid wall of rock.
Reaching out his hand, he grasped a rope that was hidden beneath some hanging vines.
A sharp pull on this and up rolled a curtain, leaving an opening that was large enough for a horse and rider to pass through.
The curtain was made of some flexible material and was painted to imitate the rock that was on either side and above it.
Snivel rode in the opening and his companions followed him.
Once inside they all dismounted, and then Snivel walked over to the edge of the entrance and lifted a log that was lying there to an almost upright position, leaning it against a rock.
As he did this the curtain rolled down.
It was a rather simple affair, since the rope that was attached to the top of the curtain was tied to the log, and when the log was made to drop the curtain went up.
It would drop just as quickly when released, as there was a weight at the bottom.
The part of the cave the three men were now in was hardly any wider than the entrance itself, but it extended back a short distance and then took a sharp turn to the left.
As they led their horses to this point they came upon a natural underground apartment that was fully fifty feet long and thirty in width.
Though irregular in shape, it was surely an ideal place for a band of robbers to hold forth.
The natural ceiling was high, and through the face of the cliff light was admitted through several zig-zag cracks.
Fully a dozen men were sitting in the cave on boxes and stools or lying in bunks that were built along two sides of it, and none of them appeared to be much disturbed by the entrance of the trio.
"Where's Cap?" asked Chuck Snivel, when he had led his horse to a dark part of the cave and tied it to the long strip of wood that was there for the purpose.
"He's over to ther store, I reckon," answered one of them. "How did yer make out in Big Bonanza, Chuck?"
"Putty good, I reckon," was the retort. "Everything would have been all right if we hadn't met Young Wild West an' his pards there."
"Young Wild West an' his pards!" exclaimed one of the robbers, jumping to his feet, excitedly.
"Yes, that's what I said. Why, do you know anything about them galoots, Bob?"
"Do I? Well, I reckon I do! I had ther chance ter see 'em a couple of times down in Prescott, Arizona. I belonged ter a gang near there, which got cleaned out by them same three galoots yer jest spoke of. I got away jest by ther skin of my teeth, an' I was mighty thankful fur it, yer kin bet! Young Wild West ain't nothin' but a boy, an' neither is one of his pards. But ther three of 'em makes ther toughest proposition I ever seen. So they're here, are they? Well, I wish they wasn't, fur it means bad fur us. I'll bet they'll be lookin' fur us afore many hours!"
"Oh, yes. There ain't no mistake about that part of it. They'll be lookin' fur us. What do yer s'pose Young Wild West told me as we left Big Bonanza?"
"I don't know. What was it?"
"He said if we seen any outlaws in Furbidden Pass ter tell 'em that he was lookin' fur 'em."
Bob shook his head and showed that he felt very uneasy.
"I know how it'll be," he said, half to himself, "We're in fur it now. That boy has got more lives than a cat, an' when he shoots he kills every time. He's ther luckiest galoot what ever tried ter do a thing, an' if he has made up his mind ter clean us out yer kin bet he'll do it!"
"Pshaw!" spoke up one of the others. "That's all foolishness. Jest because these galoots you're talkin' about happened ter clean out ther gang you belonged to in Arizony, don't say that they're goin' ter do anything like that with us. What did I hear yer say—that Young Wild West is only a boy?"
"That's all he is," Bob answered. "But he kin do more than any man I ever seen."
"An' there's only three of 'em?"
"An' there's another boy?"
"Well, what is ther third galoot?"
"He's a man—a big, powerful one, with no mercy when he gits after a crook."
"Oh, he's man, eh?' I thought maybe he might be a woman," and the outlaw chuckled.
Nearly all of them laughed at this.
But it was plain that the villain called Bob was very uneasy over what he had heard.
And Chuck Snivel and the two who had accompanied him to Big Bonanza were not in a jolly mood, either.
Their experience with the Champion Deadshot and his partners had been quite enough to make them understand that they had struck a proposition that was a little different from what they were in the habit of facing.
While they were talking over it a horseman rode into the cave.
It was Cap Roche, the leader of the outlaw band.
"Now, then, we'll see what Cap says about it," said Bob, his face brightening a little.
"He'll soon fix it so Young Wild West won't amount ter much, I reckon," spoke up one of the men, confidently.
The villainous leader was soon among them and listening to the news Chuck Snivel had brought from Big Bonanza.
When Wild and his partners entered the barroom of the shanty saloon they saw that quite a crowd had gathered there.
Nearly all the miners working the claims that had been staked out in the camp made the saloon their headquarters evenings.
There were but two or three of the thirty miners who did not drink and gamble, and they usually spent their idle time with the storekeeper, smoking and talking until it was time to retire for the night.
Our hero cast a swift glance around the room and saw Hop standing almost in the centre of the room, the miners gathered around him, and their faces wearing grins.
The clever Chinaman had come in by the back way while our three friends were watching the cowboys as they rode into Forbidden Pass.
The first thing he did was to try and make himself solid with the miners.
Though Nevada had plenty of Chinese at the time of which we write, it so happened that there were none in Big Bonanza until Young Wild West arrived with his two servants.
The men all knew what Chinamen were pretty well, and there was a sort of feeling against them that they were something not to be exactly classed with human beings, so to speak.
Hop knew this as well as any of them, and hence his desire to make himself in good standing with them.
The first thing he did on entering, then, was to pull a chunky piece of bamboo from under his coat and hold it up.
It was not more than eight inches in length and looked to be a very common-looking thing.
But while the miners were wondering what the "heathen Chinee" was up to, Hop suddenly gave the piece of bamboo a twist, and the next minute a small, bright-colored parasol was in his hand.
This was raised in a jiffy, and then he went parading around the room with it over his head.
Only a minute did this continue, however, and then the parasol vanished as quickly as it had appeared.
The Chinaman roiled the piece of bamboo in his hands and that, too, disappeared.
Then he stood still in the middle of the room and bowed right and left.
"Me allee samee velly smartee Chinee, so be," he observed, blandly. "Me likee Melican mans velly muchee."
The next thing he did was to toss a silver coin to the ceiling and as it came down he caught it in his mouth and went through the motions of swallowing it.
"Me allee samee eatee money, so be," he went on to say, smiling and bowing again.
It was just then that our hero and his partners came into the room.
"Hello, Wild!" called out Sedgwick, who was one of those present. "Your funny Chinaman has been doing some stunts fur us."
"Oh, he is liable to do almost anything," was the reply. "What is the matter, Hop? Who told you that you could come over here?"
"Allee samee nothing the mattee, Misler Wild," answered Hop, shaking his head and looking serious. "Nobody say me comee over here; me comee allee samee, so be."
There was a laugh at this, and then Hop had succeeded in doing what he had tried for. He had got the good will of the miners.
Having satisfied himself on this point, he stepped up to the bar, and, nodding pleasantly to Hoker, the boss, he observed:
"Me likee chuckee dicee for um dlinks, so be."
"You would, eh? Well, I never yet chucked dice with a Chinee; but blamed if I don't do it jest this once. What's it goin' ter be, fur all hands?"
"Lat light; allee samee all hands gittee lillee dlink. If me lose me pay; if you lose you allee samee givee um dlinks."
The saloon keeper brought out the dice, and, shaking them in the leather box, rolled them out.
"There yer are!" he said, exultantly. "There's fourteen fur yer ter beat. If yer do it you're a mighty good one."
"Allee light," was the reply; "me velly muchee lucky Chinee, so be."
Then Hop picked up the little cubes and appeared to be examining them closely.
But he was doing something else, too.
He had three dice of his own, and when he rattled the box preparatory to making his throw they were the ones in it.
Hop's dice were not straight dice.
They had only fives and sixes stamped on them, so no matter how they were rolled less than fifteen could not come up.
Though the dice were not exactly the size of those furnished by Hoker, it would be hard to tell the difference, unless one made a close examination of them.
Hop rolled out the dice and two sixes and a five showed up.
"Lat velly goodee thlow, so be," he observed, and then he picked up the dice and dropped the regular ones in the box.
"I reckon it is," answered the saloon keeper. "Come on, boys. It's on me. I lost, but I made him throw big to beat me."
Young Wild West and his partners knew that Hop had all sorts of trick dice, and they could easily guess that he had played a trick on the man in order to beat him.
But since there was no money involved, our hero would not say anything.
He did not like Hop to fleece any one honest, though, and as the clever Celestial was always bent on cheating some one, it often became necessary to make him give back his winnings.
Our hero thought he had better let the boss of the place and his patrons know that the Chinaman was a sharp and trick gambler, so just as Hoker proposed that they throw again, and for five dollars on the side, he spoke out:
"Gentlemen, I advise you not to gamble with Hop Wah. He is a very smart one at the business, and he will relieve you of all the money you have, if you play with him. Being a sleight-of-hand performer, he can do things that you could not see. Just go it light on that point. I don't want to have him get into trouble, and that is what he generally does when he wins a whole lot of money. There is always some one to accuse him of cheating, whether they catch him or not, and then there is trouble. Now don't play cards or throw dice with him for money, if you don't feel like losing your money."
"All right, Young Wild West; I'll take your advice," said the boss of the saloon. "I reckon that you know what you're talkin' about."
Hop put on an injured air and went and sat down at a table.
It was now getting dark and the lamps were lighted in the saloon.
Wild called Sedgwick to him and they got to talking about the cowboys who had left a short time before.
The miner related what he had heard them say about Forbidden Pass, and the young deadshot nodded in a pleased way.
"I reckon that means something," he said. "Business has been pretty bad, I suppose, and the outlaws are anxious to have travel through the pass resumed. Well, I reckon I'll take a walk over and see how it looks at this end of the pass, anyhow. Come on, boys!"
Charlie and Jim promptly responded to the call, and Sedgwick hastened to declare that he would go with them, if there were no objections.
"Certainly not," our hero assured him. "Come on!"
The four left the saloon and walked over to the pass.
Though it was now quite dark, they had no trouble in seeing the sign that was posted at the entrance.
It consisted of a barrel-head nailed together, and the words upon it were as follows:
"Travelers must pay toll, or go some other way."
Jim Dart struck a match so the inscription could be read, and when they had made it out our three friends looked at each other and nodded, while the miner waited to hear what would be said.
"I reckon that's what I call putty good," said the scout, a smile creeping over his bronzed face. "'Private Road,' eh? Well, I wonder who is ther owner of it!"
"We'll find out all about it, Charlie," said Wild, assuringly. "Just wait till to-morrow morning. We'll take a ride through the pass, and don't you forget it!"
"Well, it might be that yer won't be bothered now, fur it's jest likely that ther outlaws has quit ther pass an' gone somewhere else," Sedgwick remarked. "If them cowboys is all right, an' they kin go through without bein' bothered, it are most likely that you fellers kin."
"But I don't believe they are all right," our hero answered. "I think that they belong to the outlaw gang, and that they came over here and talked that way just on purpose to get the people here to use the pass, instead of going by the roundabout way to Silver Bend."
"It looks that way, I'll admit, Wild."
"Well, no matter how it is, we'll go through the pass to-morrow, I reckon. And we'll come back, too, if it takes a whole day to do it."
It was just then that the sounds made by a approaching horse came to their ears.
"Somebody is coming through now," said the scout, as he listened.
"Get behind the rocks here," Wild whispered. "We will watch him as he goes past, and see what he does, if anything."
A few seconds later a horseman came in view.
Our friends could distinguish the outlines of both horse and rider, and when they saw the man halt right at the end of the pass they were not a little interested.
The rider turned and looked at the sign, and, nodding when he found that the sign was there all right, he started on for the little collection of shanties.
"That's Cap Roche, ther storekeeper over in Silver Bend," Sedgwick whispered, as he went on.
"Is that so?" Wild queried. "Well, I reckon we'll go back to the saloon and find out what kind of a fellow Cap Roche is."
Chuck Snivel was not long in telling Cap Roche all that had taken place over in Big Bonanza.
The face of the leader of the outlaws wore a troubled look as he listened, and when the man was through he shook his head and said:
"I reckon I'll have to go over and have a look at this dangerous boy, boys. I have heard of him, and I have reason to believe that he is a hard one to beat. Though he is mighty young, he has spent his time looking for trouble ever since he was big enough to shoot a gun, and he has had so much luck that I suppose now he thinks that he is invincible."
"He's a regular terror, Cap," spoke up Bob. "I know what I'm talkin' about. I've seen him, an' I've seen what he could do. He's jest as cool as a chunk of ice, an' yer can't no more scare him than yer kin a mad grizzly. If he's after us you kin bet that he'll git us, unless he's catched afore he gits a good start on."
"Well, I reckon he'll have the hardest time of his life getting us, though," the leader answered. "But I'll ride over, anyhow and try and find out something. Told you to tell any outlaws you met that he was after them, eh, Chuck?"
"Yes; that's right, Cap."
"Well, we'll see about that. I won't be long in findin' out what he's up to. If he gets through Forbidden Pass without paying toll he's got to be a good one, that's all. His life will probably be the price demanded for toll, too. I reckon that's what I'll make it."
After a few minutes further conversation on the subject the leader of the gang, who was posing as an honest business man in Silver Bend, left the cave, leading his horse out under the curtain that was rolled up by one of the men for him.
He rode along in the direction of the little mining camp at an easy gait, and in a short time he reached the end of the pass.
He paused long enough to see that the sign he had himself painted was in place, and then he made for the saloon, never once thinking that there was any one so close by watching his movements.
Cap Roche was well known in Big Bonanza, and he was satisfied that no one dreamed that he was anything else but an honest man.
He made up his mind to tell the miners that he had decided to ride through the pass just for the purpose of finding out if the outlaws were still there.
"I'll have no trouble in making them think that it is safe to go through now," he muttered, as he rode up to the saloon.
Dismounting, he entered the shanty and found the biggest part of the population gathered there.
"Hello, boys!" he called out, familiarly. "How are you all? I took a notion to ride over to-night through Forbidden Pass. I did not let the notion get out of my head, and came right away. How is business, anyway?"
Several of the men hastened to shake hands with him, and soon a lively conversation was taking place.
"So yer come through ther pass, eh?" observed Hoker, after there came a lull. "A putty risky thing ter do, I reckon."
"Well, I don't know. You see, I have had the place watched pretty closely the last few days, and not the least sign of any one has been discovered there. I feel that the outlaws, if there were any there, have left for some other parts."
Just then Cap Roche happened to set eyes on Hop Wah, who was sitting at a table, showing half a dozen miners some tricks with a pack of cards.
"Hello! You've got a heathen here, eh?" he exclaimed. "When did he strike here!"
"Late this afternoon, Cap," answered Hoker. "He's a great Chinee, too. He's a sleight-of-hand feller, an' he kin handle dice an' cards any way he wants ter. A man don't stand no more show winnin' from him than he does walkin' on air."
"Ah! He must be a curious sort of a heathen, then. Did he come here alone?"
"Oh, no. He come here with Young Wild West. You've heard of him, I reckon?"
"Yes, I believe I have. A sort of dashing young fellow, who can shoot well, isn't he?"
"Well, I should say so! You oughter been here a couple of hours ago an' seen what he done ter three cowboys! He sartinly did take ther starch out of 'em in no time."
"Yes?" and the two-faced man arched his eyebrows and looked surprised. "I should like to get acquainted with the young fellow. Where is he stopping?"
"Right down below here. He carries a campin' outfit with him, an' he's got two young gals an' a young woman along, as well as his two pards an' this Chinee an' another one. Oh, Young Wild West is used ter goin' about, an' it don't 'pear ter make any difference ter him an' his friends whether there's a hotel ter put up at or not. They didn't even ask me if I could accommodate 'em."
Hoker shook his head, as though he felt that he had been slighted somewhat.
But Cap Roche only smiled.
"I reckon they could tell by the size of your shanty that there wasn't much chance of getting accommodated here," he said. "I don't wonder that they didn't ask you. Why don't you put up a bigger shanty, like we've got over at the Bend? This place is growing all the time, and the time will soon be here when you'll have the chance to fill a good-sized building with boarders. I reckon there's plenty of dust here that hasn't been dug out yet."
"There ain't no doubt about that, Cap," spoke up one of the miners. "This is goin' ter be one of ther best minin' camps in ther middle part of Nevada, an' there ain't no mistake on that. It's most placer minin' that we've been doin' here, 'cause we ain't got no machinery ter go down deep in ther ground. But that there's big deposits down under us there ain't no doubt. I've cleaned up a cool, thousand so fur this week, an' I've got two more days ter make almost another one. I'm goin' ter send my stuff over to ther Bend Saturday afternoon."
"By the long route, I suppose?" and Cap Roche smiled in a peculiar way.
"Yes; that's ther way ther wagons goes nowadays."
"Well, I'll guarantee that it will be safe to go through the pass, just the same."
"How is it that you are able to give such a guarantee as that, stranger?"
The voice came from the doorway, and, turning, Cap Roche saw a dashing-looking boy, with a wealth of chestnut hair hanging over his shoulders, standing there, looking at him.
The villain knew who it was without being told.
"Young Wild West, I reckon?" he said, coolly. "Come on in; don't stand there. I don't know just what kind of a guarantee I can give that this man's gold will go safely through the pass, but it is my opinion that there are no robbers there. That's why I spoke that way."
Our hero walked in followed by his partners and John Sedgwick.
As the reader may judge, Wild had suspected the man the moment he saw him looking at the sign at the mouth of the pass.
When he heard Sedgwick say he was the storekeeper over in Silver Bend he did not alter his opinion, either.
Determined to find out more about the man, he had walked over to the saloon.
Cap Roche was talking when our friends got there, and as his back happened to be toward the door he did not see them until after the young deadshot spoke.
Wild knew that the only way to get anything out of the man would be first to anger him.
He had tried to do this, but apparently he had not succeeded.
The face of Roche wore, a smile as he came in, and, giving a nod, he said:
"I never saw you before, but I knew you right away. I am glad to meet you, Young Wild West."
"All right, Cap Roche. I am glad to meet you, too."
"Ah! You know me, then?"
"Well, Sedgwick told me who you were. We saw you looking at the sign over at the pass. Quite a sign, isn't it?"
"You saw me looking at it?" queried the man, showing just the least bit of uneasiness.
"Yes, we were over there when you came out. The man who painted the letters on the barrel-head is quite an artist, and he knows how to spell, all right. They say there is another sign at the other end of the pass."
"Yes, there's one just like it there," replied Roche. "I can't help looking at them every time I come through Forbidden Pass. To-night is the first time I have been through in a week or two, so I could not help looking to see if the signs were still in place. As you heard me say before you came in here, I am satisfied that there are no longer any outlaws hanging about the pass. I reckon they must have got disgusted with the lack of business and moved away."
"Maybe they did. But if they haven't moved away they will move before many hours, and you can bet all you're worth on that!"
"You are going after them, then?"
"Well, such work just suits me, and whenever we think we can do a community a good turn we always go ahead and do it. Outlaws don't like me, and I don't like outlaws. It is the same with my partners. Some might call us a little meddlesome sometimes, but it is a way we have got, and we simply can't help it. Are you going back through the pass to-night, Mr. Roche?"
"Why, yes. It is only ten miles from here to my store over in Silver Bend. That is no distance to make, you know."
"That's right. Well, if you happen to meet any of the outlaws while going through just tell them that we will be looking for them to-morrow."
A peculiar smile flitted across the features of Roche, but he quickly changed it and laughed lightly.
"All right, Young Wild West," he said. "If I happen to meet any of them I'll surely tell them what you say."
Cap Roche now turned his attention to the table at which Hop was sitting.
"So the heathen is showing you something with the cards, eh, boys?" he said, smilingly.
"That's right, Cap," answered one of them. "An' he's mighty slick, too."
"He is, eh? Well, I'd like to see what he can do."
"Me showee velly nicee lillee tlick," spoke up Hop, nodding pleasantly.
The Chinaman was quite sure that Young Wild West suspected that the man was not altogether right, for he was a keen observer and an attentive listener.
That made him decide to make a victim of him, if he could.
Hop had thought out a brand new trick with a deck of cards, and he was all fixed to work it on somebody.
He was pleased to find that he had a victim.
Shuffling the pack well, he spread them out like a fan and held the cards so that some of the faces could be seen by Roche.
"You see um jack of hearts?" he asked.
"Yes," was the reply.
"Allee light; you allee samee lemember um jack of hearts."
Then he gave the cards another shuffle, and in doing it one of them slipped up his sleeve unobserved by any one.
There was really nothing wonderful about this, since there was a thin piece of elastic attached to the card, and the moment it was released it left the pack.
As might be supposed, it was the jack of hearts.
But Hop had another jack of hearts, as he needed it to carry out the trick.
He kept this one concealed in his hand and passed the deck to Roche, saying:
"You pickee outee um jack of hearts and me allee samee showee how me makee fly away."
The man quickly looked over the cards and found that the jack of hearts was not among them.
"I reckon you took it when no one was looking," he said, with a smile. "That is not much of a trick; I could do that myself."
"Me no takee," declared the Celestial, putting on a look of surprise. "Maybe allee samee dlop on um floor."
He got up from his chair, and then, dropping upon his hands and knees, began looking around on the floor under the table.
While doing this he cleverly slipped the card he had in his hand into the boot-top of Roche.
Then, before he got up, he pulled the card that had the elastic attached to it from his sleeve and held it so the elastic was concealed.
"Here um card," he said, as he showed it to every one. "Me puttee in um pack, so be."
Roche was watching him closely, for he knew that the Chinaman was up to something, and he was certain that the card went into the pack.
But it did not.
It slipped up Hop sleeve the same as it had done the first time.
"Now you findee um jack of hearts," he said, smilingly.
Roche nodded and proceeded to look for it.
"It isn't here," he said, looking surprised.
"You wantee tly foolee poor Chinee," Hop declared, putting on an injured look. "You takee um card and puttee in your boot, so be."
"What's that?" cried Roche, half angrily. "Do you mean to say that I stole the card from the pack?"
"Me allee samee bettee ten dollee you gottee um card somewhere, so be!" was the quick retort.
"You will, eh? All right. I'm a betting man, I am. It don't make any difference who I bet with, either. I'll bet you ten dollars that I haven't got the card on me. If one has got it you're the one, for you are doing the trick."
Hop held up both hands and threw open his coat, to show that he did not have it.
Then he laid ten dollars on the table.
"Boys," said Roche, looking at those around him, "I don't know just what kind of a game I am up against; but I do know that I haven't got that card anywhere on my person. I feel so sure of it that I'll bet a hundred dollars instead of ten!"
As quick as a wink Hop's hand went into his pocket and out came a roll of bills.
He quickly counted out ninety dollars more and put it on the table.
Roche immediately covered it, and then, rising to his feet, he moved away from the table and called out:
"Hoker, come here and search me. If you find the jack of hearts anywhere on me the Chinaman wins. If you don't find it I win."
"Lat light," said Hop, nodding to the boss of the place.
Hoker came forward and proceeded to go through the man's pockets.
He did not find the card in any of the pockets, so he went on down and tried the boot-tops.
Then it was that he pulled out a card from one of them.
"Here she is, Cap!" he exclaimed, as he arose and held out the card so all could see it. "Here's ther jack of hearts!"
"Tricked, by thunder!" exclaimed Roche, as Hop smiled and put the money in his pocket.
"Mighty clever, I should say," ventured Sedgwick. "Cap, yer shouldn't have bet."
"I couldn't help it," was the reply. "But I know how it was done. He put the card in my bootleg when he was looking around under the table."
"No; that couldn't be," declared the saloon keeper. "He put ther card in ther pack after that. An' I'll swear that he wasn't near enough ter put it on you after that, even if he had it in his hand."
"Well, that is true, come to think of it. But he got it there, somehow."
Roche took the card and looked it over.
Then he picked up the pack and compared the backs of the cards with the one he held in his hand.
"I lose the hundred, that's all," he exclaimed. "But I'll bet another hundred he can't work that trick again!"
"You allee samee watchee too muchee," he said.
"You bet I would watch."
The cards were laid on the table by him, and Hop picked them up in an offhanded way.
"Here um nicee lillee tlick," he said, as he ran the cards up his arm in a long string. "Evelybody no do lat, so be."
Then he let them go back again, and in doing so two or three of them dropped to the floor.
Hop was on his knees gathering them up in a twinkling.
Then it was that he slipped a card in the bootleg of Roche again.
But he was not caught doing it, however.
He got the cards that had dropped and did the trick over again, this time not losing any of them when they ran back to his hand.
Then he suddenly showed the jack of hearts again.
"Do you want to try the other trick again?" the man front Silver Bend asked.
"You no givee poor Chinee um showee to play um tlick, so be," answered Hop.
"What kind of a show do you want? There you are with the jack of hearts in your hand. Now I'll bet you that you can't get it into my bootleg again!"
He moved back from the table, so he would be entirely clear from the Chinaman, as he said this.
Hop let all hands have a look at the jack of hearts, and then he allowed it to flip up his sleeve.
He shuffled the pack, laid it on the table and brought his fist down upon it with considerable force.
"Lere um go!" he exclaimed. "Me bettee you hundled dollee you gottee um jack of hearts in you bootleg, so be!"
"What!" cried Roche, as he looked down at his feet. "Do you mean that, you heathen?"
"Me allee samee meanee," was the reply. "Me wantee givee you chancee to gittee square, so be."
The villain had a hundred dollars out in a hurry.
"There you are!" he exclaimed. "Cover that!"
"Me covee allee samee pletty quickee, so be."
Hop did cover it, too; and then, folding his arms, he looked at Roche and remained silent for a moment.
"Search me, somebody," said the latter, looking around. "Here, Sam! He bet that the jack of hearts was in my bootleg again. You look and see."
"All right, Cap," answered the miner.
The leader of the outlaws stretched out his limbs and gave the man a good chance to make the search before the eyes of the lookers-on.
He found the card the first thing, and, with a look of amazement on his face, he held it up.
"There she is, Cap!" he exclaimed, with a shake of his head. "I didn't think it was there; I thought ther Chinee was jest goin' ter let yer git your money back. But there's ther jack of hearts, an' it sartinly was in your boot!"
"Well, by ginger!" cried Roche. "I reckon I'm done with this kind of a game. The heathen Chinee is altogether too much for me."
"Young Wild West told us he could beat anything there was goin'," spoke up John Sedgwick. "He's a sleight-of-hand Chinee, that's what he is."
"Well, I am not a squealer, as you all know," said Roche. "But I do think that some one should have told me that I was betting against a sleight-of-hand performer."
"That wasn't fur us ter do, Cap," replied Sedgwick, shaking his head. "You knowed that he was clever when yer seen him foolin' with ther cards, an' doin' them other tricks. You lost your money jest because you thought you was smarter than he was. I happen ter know that a man does a very foolish thing when he bets ag'in a man showin' a trick. That's what ther feller doin' it wants, an' he wins every time, too."
Cap Roche nodded his head at what Sedgwick said.
"All right," he said. "I reckon I'm satisfied. I am not broke, just because I lost a couple of hundred dollars."
After that he made himself very agreeable to all hands, and when he got ready to ride back to the cave in the pass he bade them good night and invited them to call at his store when in Silver Bend.
Young Wild West and his partners waited until the man rode off, and then they hurriedly left the shanty saloon.
Wild set out on a run for the camp.
He had made up his mind all at once to follow Cap Roche through Forbidden Pass.
He got his horse in a jiffy, and, hastily telling the girls where he was going rode off toward the pass.
So quickly had the young deadshot acted that Roche had not more than three or four minutes the start of him.
If he went along at an easy gait Wild would be able to overtake him before he got through the pass.
So quickly had the young deadshot acted that Roche had not more than three or four minutes the start of him.
If he went along at an easy gait Wild would be able to overtake him before he got through the pass.
Our hero knew that he was undertaking a risky thing, for he was quite sure that there was a band of outlaws located somewhere in the pass, or very near to it.
But he went on without any hesitation, prepared for anything that might turn up.
The place was totally strange to him, but the boy had confidence in the sorrel stallion he rode.
Spitfire would surely follow the horse that was ahead.
There was no mistake about that.
On went the dashing young deadshot, covering the ground rapidly.
He figured it that the storekeeper of Silver Bend was not going very fast, however, and when he thought he ought to be pretty close to him he brought his horse to a sudden halt and listened.
Wild had reckoned rightly, for he could hear the clatter of hoofs ahead.
"Ah!" he exclaimed, under his breath. "That was a pretty good guess. Another minute and I would have been right up chose to him—close enough for him to see me, perhaps. But I hardly think he has heard me, so I'll keep right on."
He set out again, keeping his horse at a walk.
Suddenly the hoofbeats ahead ceased.
Wild let the horse walk right on, for the sounds that came from Spitfire's hoofs could hardly be heard, the ground being very soft just there.
But when about a hundred feet had been covered Wild brought his horse to a halt and dismounted.
Throwing the bridle rein over the animals head, he hurried forward on foot.
He rounded a turn in the pass just in time to distinguish the outlines of a horse, and rider making straight for the almost perpendicular wall at the left of the pass.
Then, all of a sudden, both man and horse disappeared!
"By jove!" exclaimed our hero, under his breath. "I reckon Cap Roche has made a stop before going over to Silver Bend. Now it is for me to find out where he has stopped. I didn't think I would have as much luck as this. Whew! I reckon it won't take us long to settle accounts with the outlaws of Forbidden Pass."
Stepping forward noiselessly, he was soon at the very spot where he had last seen the horse and rider.
There was nothing there now and only the bleak walls of stone were before him.
It was very dark in the pass too, but he could see the stars twinkling overhead, and he was thus enabled to distinguish objects.
Wild went straight to the face of the cliff.
He put out his hand.
It was not rock that he touched, but a piece of canvas or similar material.
This was nothing new to the dashing young deadshot, for he had been up against all kinds of devices, and, he simply gave a low chuckle of satisfaction.
"I'm mighty glad I followed you, Mr. Cap Roche," he thought. "Now, I reckon it will be easy to settle the business. I'll just mark this spot, and then ride back to the camp."
It was an easy thing to mark the spot, for he did it by rolling three stones together, which he had no trouble in finding with his feet.
He took care that they were not directly in front of the hidden opening, so they could not be knocked aside by horses, should they come out.
But Wild knew just where he put them, anyhow, and then he went back to the waiting sorrel, and, mounting, rode off at a walk.
Not until he was a hundred yards from where he had mounted his horse did he set out at a gallop, and then he was not long in reaching the end of the pass.
Wild rode to the little camp and dismounted, surprising his waiting friends for getting back so soon.
"I reckon yer couldn't catch up to ther galoot, eh, Wild?" remarked Cheyenne Charlie.
"Oh, I caught up with him, all right," was the reply. "Things worked just the way I wanted them to."
"Is that so? Good enough!"
"Yes. I caught up to Cap Roche, and I was just in time to see him disappear."
"Disappear?" echoed Arietta. "Then he fooled you, after all?"
"Oh, no. He didn't fool me, Et, for I found where he went."
"Git out!" exclaimed the scout, jubilantly.
"Yes, I was right there in the proper time. But I'll tell you all about it."
This the young deadshot did, and when he had done the faces of his partners and the girls wore smiles of delight and satisfaction.
Even the girls were always anxious to see him make a success of hunting down outlaws and bad men, no matter how much the danger was in doing it.
They had become so used to it that they thought that Wild and his partners were simply following the natural law in doing such things.
"I am glad you did not go into the place, Wild," Arietta said. "If you had done so you might have been caught, and then we would not have known where to look for you."
"That is just why I didn't take the risk of doing it, Et," was the reply. "To-morrow will be time enough to get inside the cave, or whatever it may be. But you can bet that both Charlie and Jim will know just where it is before I make the attempt."
Our friends usually retired quite early nights, and as they were pretty well tired out from an all-day ride, they decided to get the sleep they needed.
Hop had not returned yet, but Wild thought he would allow him to stay out, since there was nothing to do in the morning.
He felt that the Chinaman would not get in any trouble at the saloon, since the miners all seemed to like him.
It was after midnight when Hop returned to the camp, and when he came he sneaked in quietly.
But Cheyenne Charlie was awake, and he let him know that he heard him.
"You yaller galoot, you've been fillin' up with tanglefoot ag'in!" he exclaimed in a whisper. "Don't think I don't know."
"Allee light, Misler Charlie," was the Chinaman's reply; "me feel allee samee velly goodee. Whattee you care?"
The scout let it go at this, and soon the camp was wrapped in silence.
Early the next morning they were up and stirring, however.
Hop was still sound asleep, however, and when his brother tried to arouse him it did no good.
It was not until our friends had eaten their breakfast that it occurred to them that it was time for Hop to get up.
Charlie undertook the task of rousing him.
He threw a pail of water on him, and, as might be supposed, it had the desired effect.
"Lat allee light, Misler Charlie," said the Celestial, as he made for the brook, after crawling out of the tent; "me allee samee gittee square, so be!"
"You're square now, if I know anything about it," was the retort. "You don't count ther tricks you're played on me, I s'pose? Now, you'd better look out what yer do ter me, 'cause I won't stand it, if yer rub somethin' good an' hard on me."
"Allee light, Misler Charlie," was all Hop said just then.
The breakfast being over, Young Wild West decided to take a ride through the pass, and thus keep his promise.
"Come, boys," said he, "I reckon we'll start out now. We'll go right on through, unless it happens that we are stopped by the outlaws. When we come back I'll show you the place where Cap Roche disappeared last night."
"I would like to go along, Wild," spoke up Arietta, "Why can't we all go?"
"Well, it might make it a little bad in case the villains took a notion to hold us up," was the reply. "But if you want to go real bad I suppose you may."
"We do want to go real bad, don't we, girls?" said Arietta, as she turned to Anna and Eloise.
"Of course, we do!" was the quick reply.
"All right, then. Hop and Wing will stay in charge of the camp. Get yourselves ready, and be sure that you take your rifles with you. If we are attacked by a masked gang about half way through the pass I won't be much surprised."
The horses were soon saddled, and then, after giving the two Chinamen instructions to keep a watch on the camp, and not to get into mischief, Wild led the way for Forbidden Pass.
"We are going through, and we won't pay any toll, either!" he said.
"If there is any toll to pay, I'll pay it!" exclaimed Arietta, as she touched the butt of her revolver.
As our friends neared the commencement of Forbidden Pass they saw that a crowd of the miners of the camp were watching them.
A man, whom they easily recognized as Sedgwick, waved his hand to them, and they answered it.
"I suppose he thinks that something will surely happen to us, if the outlaws are still hanging around here," our hero observed. "Well, he may be right; we can't tell."
"I want to read that sign, Wild," spoke up Arietta, as she brought her horse to a halt. "Well, it was not painted by an ignorant man, anyhow. It is about the first sign, with so many letters to it, that I have seen spelled correctly—in a little camp, like this, anyhow."
"Oh, I reckon Cap Roche made the sign, all right, Et," replied our hero. "He seems to be a pretty smart man. The lettering is good, I must say. And there is even a painted background—something I did not notice last night, boys. A pale-blue background, with white letters. Well, that is all right!"
"We have got to pay toll, I suppose, Arietta," said Jim, with a twinkle in his eye.
"I said a minute or two ago that I would pay it, if any was demanded," she retorted. "Just leave that part to me."
No one knew exactly what she meant, and it is hardly likely that she did herself. But there was one thing evident, and that was that she did not mean that any money was to be handed over to the outlaws, should it be demanded.
They did not remain at a halt long, but proceeded on their way, their horses at a gentle canter.
"Just keep your eyes on the watch for three stones lying close together," said Wild, as they got nearly a mile through the pass. "They are stones a little larger than a goose egg, I should judge."
"All right," answered the scout, with a confident nod. "I reckon I'll see 'em, if they kin be seen, Wild."
A minute or two later they came to the very spot where Wild had seen the villain disappear the night before.
The boys could tell when he got there right away, as he had noticed the spot where he had dismounted, the ground being rather soft there; and the hoofprints, as well as his own footprints were discernible.
Charlie and Jim noticed the prints, too, and they were almost straining their eyes to catch sight of the three stones.
Suddenly the scout gave an exclamation of satisfaction, and then quickly added:
"I see 'em, Wild."
"So do I," said Jim, almost at the same instant.
"All right, boys. We'll go right on through the pass, and when we come back we'll make an investigation."
The girls also saw the three little stones, but when they found that Wild did not seem to want to make much of them just then they rode on, with only a passing comment.
They reached the other end of the pass without meeting a human being or seeing anything that would indicate the presence of any.
Then they dismounted and took a look at the sign that was posted there.
It was so nearly like the other that if the two had been side by side the difference could not have been told.
This one was nailed to a big tree, and after he had looked it over Wild decided to take it down and see if there was anything on the other side of it.
He used the butt of a revolver in place of a hammer and soon knocked the barrel-head loose from the tree.
Then it was quickly pried off.
Much to his satisfaction, he saw that there was some lettering on the back of the sign.
But it was done in black, and the letters were daubed on in a careless way, such as a shipping house clerk does it.
Young Wild West's face lighted up with a smile as he read the following:
"Cap Roche," "General Store," "Silver Bend, Nev."
"What do you think of that?" he asked, holding the barrel-head so his companions could read it. "I reckon we know where the material to make the sign came from now."
"Great gimlets!" exclaimed Cheyenne Charlie. "If you hadn't seen Roche go inter ther cave last night you would know now that he was connected with ther outlaws. This is what I calls great!"
"Well, I'll just put the sign up again," said our hero, after a moment of thought. "But I'll put it so the back part can be read. It may make Cap Roche wonder a little, and if anybody else, not connected with his gang, sees it they may do a little studying and wondering."
He soon knocked the nails out, and then he lost no time in nailing the sign to the tree in the manner he had proposed to do.
"There you are!" he said. "You can't see the words as plainly as you could the others; but I reckon they can be read all right, if one takes the trouble to get up a little close to the tree."
"I reckon if any one comes this way they'll notice it quick enough," the scout declared.
As they intended to go no further, they simply took a look at the trail that came around the mountain at that point and then continued on toward the southwest.
"There's the way to Silver Bend," said Wild. "I reckon we'll go through there when we get done with Forbidden Pass."
"That's right, Wild," Arietta spoke up. "We will need something from the general store that can't be bought in Big Bonanza."
They all laughed at this, and then, mounting their horses, turned and rode back into the narrow pass.
The mile to the spot where the secret entrance to the cave had been discovered by our hero the night before was soon made, and then they came to a halt.
Wild was just going to dismount to make an examination when a revolver shot sounded and his hat was knocked off his head.
The next instant fully a dozen came down the rocky side of the pass and confronted them with drawn revolvers.
"Hands up—everybody!" called out one of them, who was easily recognized as Chuck Snivel, the cowboy.
Charlie fired two shots in quick succession, and then urged the girls to flee.
Wild saw that nearly all the men were pointing their weapons at him, so he thought it best to obey the command.
He seemed to be the one they wanted, and he felt that one hostile word from him would insure his death.
Two of the outlaws had dropped when the scout fired, but the others were so close upon them that Wild was seized and pulled from his horse in less than a second, almost.
The young deadshot struck at them with his clenched fists and made it decidedly unpleasant for them.
But he knew he could not get away, and he was simply doing this to give his companions a chance.
They all took advantage of it but one, and that was Arietta.
"I reckon you'll pay toll fur coming through Forbidden Pass, Young Wild West!" one of the villains exclaimed. "Hold him tight, boys! I'm glad yer didn't kill him when that shot was fired at him. I told Chuck not ter do it. Ther captain wants him alive. Git ther gal, too! This is what I call collectin' toll, all right!"
Arietta's horse had been seized by the bit, and a ruffianly fellow stood holding him with one hand, while his other held a revolver that was pointed at the girl's breast.
The rest of the party had succeeded in getting around a bend, but Wild knew they would not go very far.
But before they had time to get back and do anything both he and Arietta were dragged up close to what seemed to be the rocky wall of the cliff.
Then the curtain rolled up, and in they went, the outlaws following with those who had fallen and the horses.
It was all done so quickly that our hero found himself in the darkness before he fairly realized what had happened.
Arietta uttered a scream as she was hurried into the mouth of the hidden cave, but a hand was quickly placed over her mouth, and that ended any further chance to let Charlie and the rest know where they were being carried.
Wild's weapons were taken from him while he was being dragged into the cave, and it was a very rough handling that he received.
But he knew how useless it was, so he did no further struggling.
The fact that the rest had succeeded in getting away was a little consolation, for that meant that they would come back and effect a rescue.
Our hero placed the utmost dependence on Charlie and Jim, for they had never failed him yet.
In through the short passage the outlaws took them, and then into the big cave.
They paused here long enough to bind the boy's hands and then Chuck Snivel, who was in command, said:
"Outside into the hole with him, boys. Tie him to the post until Cap comes. We'll keep the girl here. I reckon we'll collect the toll all right."
"It will be a dear toll, too," spoke up the man who had cautioned him not to kill the boy. "Two of us went under, I s'pose you know."
"An' no amount of money will bring 'em back ter life," chimed in another.
"There'll be a lot more of you go under before you collect your toll!" exclaimed Young Wild West, who had now fully recovered from the surprise he had been treated to. "Just wait!"
"That's all right, boy," Chuck Snivel answered, "You know how I feel toward you, I reckon. You don't have no idea that you're ever goin' ter git away from here alive, do yer?"
"I haven't the least doubt but that I will," was the calm retort.
"Well, jest see how mistaken you'll be. I'm goin' ter be ther one what will kill yer! Do yer understand that?"
At a word from Snivel Young Wild West was dragged along through the big cave to a place that was almost directly opposite to the entrance.
The light that was admitted through the cracks in the front was sufficient for our hero to see that it was another passage that he was being taken to.
He had heard the villain in command of the men say that he was to be taken outside and put in the hole until the leader came, but just what that meant he did not know.
He was destined to find out very soon, however, for the passage did not extend many feet.
A sharp turn in it and he saw a natural hollow, with steep walls of rock on either side, right before him.
It looked very much like the pass, but he knew it could not be, for they would not take him out there again.
Another thing, the end of the opening, or hole, as it might be called, was but fifty yards away.
Some parts of this wall was very steep, and others looked as though it could be climbed.
On one side, not far from the passage he was taken from, was a stout post that was planted firmly in the ground.
To this Wild was taken, and being placed in an upright position, with his back to it, he was firmly tied to the post.
"There!" exclaimed Chuck Snivel, fiendishly. "I reckon you'll stay there just as long as we want yer to, Young Wild West."
"All right," was the calm rejoinder. "I hope you won't want me to stay here very long. I don't like this kind of business."
Some of the outlaws laughed, while others glared at him savagely.
His style did not exactly suit them. He was too cool by far.
Then, again, two of their number had fallen during the struggle to capture the brave boy and his sweetheart, and that made them feel all the more ugly toward him.
"You was goin' through ther pass an' yer wasn't goin' ter pay no toll, Young Wild West!" exclaimed Snivel, after a short pause. "I reckon yer found out your mistake all right. We seen yer when yer went through, an' we jest got ready fur yer when yer come back. Yer couldn't have stopped in a better place, fur ye was right in front of our cave. Yer jest walked right inter ther trap we had set fur yer."
"That's all right," Wild answered, coolly. "You have won the first trick in the game, that isn't going to count for much. I've been in just such fixes as this, and I have always got out of them. You couldn't scare me if you tried for a week!"
"You talk it nice; but yer will change your tune afore you're many hours older. Thought it was fine fun ter make me dance last night, didn't yer? Oh, but I'm gittin' square, all right."
"You'll wish you had never met me before I am done with you."
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the villain. "Hear him talk, boys! He acts jest as though he ain't no prisoner. He's got nerve enough fur ten, I reckon."
"I reckon it's his bluff that's always carried him through," remarked one of the outlaws, as he looked at the helpless boy and nodded. "But there's always a time, yer know. Young Wild West has gone ther length of his rope!"
"I reckon you'll find that my rope is a great deal longer than you think," Wild answered, thinking it good policy to keep in conversation with them, as the more time Charlie and Jim had to figure out a way of helping him the better it would be.
"Ha, ha, ha!"
Again Snivel laughed.
It was evident that he was very sure that it was all up with Young Wild West.
The success the outlaws had met with since they had established their quarters in the cave no doubt made them confident that they could not be ousted.
"Boys," said Snivel, as he turned from our hero, evidently satisfied that he could gain nothing by trying to frighten him, "I reckon you had better bury ther bodies of Pete an' Simon. I don't know as there's any use in waitin' fur Cap ter come. He won't be here till some time after dinner, he said when he went away last night. He's tryin' ter git ther stage coach ter run through ther pass ag'in, an' if it does we'll let it go fur ther first two or three trips, an' then when they've got a good pile aboard we're goin' ter nab on it. Cap knows his business, all right; an' we make more by his bein' away than we do when he's here."
"That's right," answered the man, who seemed to have more to say than any of the rest. "I reckon we'll go ahead with our funeral. I'll take what they've got on 'em, an' you kin put in ther box inside, so ther boss kin take charge of it. I know they both must have had a few dollars when this unexpected business happened. This are too bad! It's ther first loss we've met with since we've been banded together."
"That's right, Aleck," replied Snivel. "You go ahead. Joe an' Dick kin go ahead an' dig ther grave that'll answer fur ther pair of 'em. Poor fellers! They never knowed what struck 'em, fur ther galoots what fired them shots aimed 'em mighty straight, an' there was no sufferin' done. I'm mighty glad I wasn't in ther way of one of them bullets."
"Well, we all are, as fur as that goes. But it's a shame that they had ter be snuffed out that way."
He went away to attend to the work assigned him, as did the others who had been named.
Then Snivel walked back into the cave, leaving Wild to his own reflections.
The villain found Arietta sitting on a box, over which some skins had been thrown to make it comfortable.
The girl had not been tied, the villains evidently thinking that there was no danger of her escaping, as she was but a girl.
But she was being closely watched, just the same, for those left to guard her could not help noticing that she was not afraid.
"Well, miss," said Snivel, apologetically, "I'm mighty sorry ter see you in such a fix as this. What did yer want ter come through Forbidden Pass fur, anyhow? Didn't yer read ther sign?"
"I wanted to come through, so I could pay the toll, and I will do it when the proper time comes," was the reply in a steady voice.
"You pay ther toll! Why, have yer got a big pile of money?"
"Not here. But I think I can pay it, though."
"Where is your money, gal?"
The lieutenant of the outlaw band became interested right away.
"I don't know as I have got to tell you where my money is," replied Arietta, coolly. "You don't suppose it is anywhere near here, do you? I wouldn't be wise if I carried a big pile of money around with me, would I?"
"Well, I don't know about that part of it. But it would be all ther better fur us, I reckon," and the man grinned, as though he thought he had got off a pretty good joke. "But jest tell me how yer expect ter pay ther toll?"
"I'll show you that when the time comes," was the reply.
"But can't yer tell me now?"
"No, because I don't just know how I am going to pay it. But I am going to do it, just the same."
"I s'pose yer mean that you're goin' ter pay somethin' ter be let go free," observed the villain, after thinking a minute or two. "Well, it will depend on what ther captain says about you gittin' away. I don't hardly think he'll be in favor of lettin' you go, no matter how much yer agree ter pay."
"Oh, I will get away as soon as Young Wild West gets out of here. He won't be long in finding a way to release me."
"Miss, if you're dependin' on anything like that ter happen jest git it off your mind. Young Wild West ain't never goin' ter git out of here alive. I've swore that I'll kill him; an' ther boss of our gang wouldn't think of lettin' him live, nohow. Jest make up your mind that ther boys has got ter die, an' that you're likely ter go ther same way yourself. There's nothin' like resignin' yourself to your fate, yer know."
"Oh, is that so?"
Arietta looked at him with flashing eyes.
Her defiant way struck Snivel as something wonderful, coming from a defenseless girl, as it did.
He did not know that she had a six-shooter in the bosom of her dress, which had been overlooked when she was disarmed.
But Arietta always carried the weapon there.
It was of smaller calibre than the one she always carried at her belt, but it was deadly enough at short range.
The revolver had been given her by Young Wild West on her sixteenth birthday, and several times it had stood her in good stead.
At the very minute that Snivel was talking to her she was thinking of bringing the weapon into use.
Arietta had heard enough to make her believe that her dashing young lover was not to be harmed for a while, for she had been listening when the men were talking about Cap Roche, and she had not failed to make note of it when they said that he was not due at the cave until some time after the hour of noon.
Before Snivel came in from the rear entrance she had been carefully studying the cave, and she knew just the way to get out.
She thought that the quicker she did it the better it would be for both herself and Wild.
She determined that she would act right now.
"Can I have a drink of water?" she asked, as Snivel was about to pull up a stool near her.
"Sartin," was the reply. "I'll go an' fetch yer one right from ther spring."
There were only two men besides the lieutenant of the band in the cave just then, and they were back near the rear.
Snivel went and got a tin cup and as he turned his back to go and fetch the water Arietta arose and stepped lightly across the cave.
She had almost reached the passage that led out to the pass when one of the outlaws saw her and raised the alarm.
As the outlaw's warning cry sounded through the cave Arietta gave a shout of defiance and darted into the passage.
Like Wild, she had seen the curtain lifted when she was carried into the cave, and she knew that curtain was not far away.
It was doubtful if she would be fired at by the villains, she thought, but there was really no telling, so she drew her revolver and looked over her shoulder as she ran.
Both the man who saw her when she was nearly out and the other villain were now running swiftly through the cave, and each of them had a drawn revolver.
Arietta ran as far as she could go, and then she came in contact with the painted curtain.
She did not know how to manipulate it, of course, so the best thing she could do was to reach for the bottom and lift it.
This she did, and, much to her joy, it came up easily.
A quick move and she had darted under it and was outside in the pass.
Then it was that she gave a cry of delight, for Cheyenne Charlie was right there to greet her.
The girl did not say a word, however, but motioned for the scout to get behind a rock that was close at hand.
She darted after him as he obeyed her, and then out came the foremost of the men who were chasing her.
The scout fired without any hesitation and down went the villain in a heap.
But his action checked the others from coming out, and the curtain went down in a jiffy.
Arietta's action in lifting it had caused the log to fall and pull it up to its full height.
"That's putty good, I reckon," said Charlie, smiling grimly. "Is Wild all right, Arietta?"
"He is safe for the present, I think," was the girl's reply. "They are waiting for the captain to come. He won't be here until some time after dinner, so there is a good chance of saving Wild."
"If that's ther case, I reckon there'll he a good chance, fur ther captain will never git here!"
There was no mistaking the meaning of Cheyenne Charlie just then.
Cap Roche's life was surely in danger if he showed up in Forbidden Pass that day!
"Take him alive, Charlie," advised Arietta, "Where are Jim and the girls?"
"Right back there a little ways," was the reply. "But you jest leave it ter me ter settle with Cap Roche. I'll show ther two-faced galoot what's what!"
Arietta said no more, but hurried through the pass in the direction Charlie had indicated.
She found the rest waiting for her, for they had heard the shot, and had seen her with Charlie.
"Is Wild all right?" Dart asked, anxiously.
"Yes, for a while, anyhow," was the reply as Anna and Eloise both tried to embrace her at one time.
She quickly let them know the situation, and then she turned her attention to the spot where Charlie was in waiting for the outlaws to show themselves.
The scout's blood was up now, and she knew quite well that he would shoot the villains as fast as they showed themselves.
Ten minutes passed by, and no one showed up.
Charlie was waiting patiently, however.
He was confident that one of the outlaws would want to get out to see what had happened to the fellow that followed in pursuit of the escaping girl.
But Charlie did not know that the villains had a peephole in that cleverly contrived curtain, and that they had already looked through it and learned that their comrade was dead on the ground.
To say that the outlaws were enraged at what had happened would be putting it mildly.
The girls escape had happened so unexpectedly that they could hardly realize it, and then, right on the back of it, another man is shot!
"Chuck," said the man called Bob, "I reckon we're in fur it."
"Don't say that," was the retort. "Ain't we got Young Wild West hard an' fast?"
"Yes, an' we thought we had ther gal that way, too. But she ain't here now, is she?"
"Well, I wouldn't care two cents about her, if it wasn't that it was through her that Wally got shot."
"Poor Wally! An' jest as we was fillin' up ther grave of ther other two, too. Well, yer didn't finish their job, did yer?"
"No; when we heard ther hubbub inside we stopped an' run in."
"An' left Young Wild West out there alone, eh?"
"Yes; but he couldn't git away; you know that well enough."
"There ain't no tellin' what he might do."
Snivel hurried out of the rear of the cave.
But the prisoner was still there, tied to the post, just as he had been left.
The horses of the outlaws had been led out there, and they were cropping at some sparse grass that grew there.
As the sun did not get much of a chance at the bottom of the hole, as it was called by the outlaws, the vegetation there was scarce.
"So you're here yet, eh?" said Snivel, as he stepped up to the boy.
"Why, yes," was the reply. "You didn't think I was going to leave so soon, did you?"
"No, I didn't think so. But funny things is happenin' jest about now."
"What was the matter in the cave?"
Wild asked the question in an indifferent way, but he was really anxious to hear, for he had no idea that Arietta had made her escape.
He had heard the shot, too, and he was eager to find out what it all meant.
"Yer want ter know what was ther matter in ther cave, eh?" asked Snivel, looking at the boy and scowling. "Well, I don't know as it will do any hurt ter tell yer. Ther gal got away from us—that's what was ther matter."
"Is that so? Who fired the shot I heard?"
"One of your pards, I s'pose."
"Did it hit any one?"
"I reckon it did. Another of our men got laid out. Oh, this is only makin' it all ther worse fur you, Young Wild West. You don't stand no livin' show, so there's no use in thinkin' yer do."
"I wish Cap Roche would come, so I call find out my fate," said Wild, though he did not mean it.
The longer the leader of the outlaws stayed away the better were his chances of being rescued by his partners.
"How do you know that Cap Roche is ther one that's goin' ter settle about your fate, Young Wild West?"
"Why, I have heard you fellows talking about him."
"Yer did, eh? I reckon yer never heard none of us say any more than Cap. We didn't say that Cap Roche had anything ter do with our crowd."
"Well, I thought you did."
"I don't know as it makes any difference, though. You ain't never goin' away from here alive. Ther toll that you'll pay is your life, Young Wild West! Cap Roche will soon say that."
"Maybe he will, and maybe he won't," retorted our hero, as calmly as though he was simply talking business with a friend. "Cap Roche might take a notion to let me go. His business at the store in Silver Bend might require him to do so."
"I reckon he'd be a fool ter let yer go. Where would he land if he did?'
"Well, if he made a deal with me he might land all right."
Wild was adopting different tactics now. Anything to gain time, and he thought that he might get the men in the humor to make terms for his release.
Not that he meant to pay the "toll," as they called it; but if he could make them believe that he had a large sum of money at his command it might work all right.
The fact was that our hero had very little money on his person.
His experience had taught him not to carry much with him.
Therefore, he always kept the bulk of what he brought with him in a hidden pocket in his saddlebags.
Hop was the one who had taught him that this was the safest way, for road agents seldom took a notion to make a thorough search of a horseman's saddlebags.
"How much money have yet got with yer, Young Wild West?" Snivel asked.
"Not much. But I have plenty in the banks of Denver and Phoenix."
"Denver an' Phoenix is both a mighty good distance from here."
"I know that. But an order from me would fetch the money any time you went for it."
"That's so, too."
"And my word is worth as much as my money, I reckon!"
"I don't know about that. I wouldn't take ther word of any one. I don't think any one would tell ther truth in a case like this."
"Well, there is no use in flying, to make a deal with you, then. I'll wait till the captain comes, I reckon."
"He's ther one ter talk ter, anyhow."
It was just then that another shot sounded from the pass.
The next minute Bob came running out of the rear of the cave.
"Another man got his medicine, Chuck!" he exclaimed. "He would go out ter git ther body of Wally, an' he got shot down afore he could git hold of it!"
"That makes four of you!" said Young Wild West coolly gazing at the villains. "Where do you think you are coming out in this game?"
Though he had been told to remain with Wing and watch the camp, Hop grew so restless after our friends had been gone about half an hour that he decided to follow them and see if he could not assist in hunting down the outlaws.
He had heard enough of the conversation to make him understand just how the hidden cave was located, and he relied on his sleight-of-hand work to help him.
If there was anything that the Chinaman liked it was to do something that met with the approval of Young Wild West.
After he had once got it into his head that he wanted to go Hop grew very restless.
Finally he turned to the cook and said:
"Me go takee lillee walk thlough um pass, so be, my blother."
"Misler Wild say you, allee samee stay here, so be," was the reply.
"Lat allee light. But me 'flaid Misler Wild allee samee gittee in um tlouble; me wantee helpee out."
Wing did not care if he did go, for he thought he was perfectly able to take care of the camp.
So when Hop said he thought Wild might be in trouble he nodded and retorted:
"Allee light; my blother go if he wantee to. Me allee samee stay here, likee Misler Wild say."
"Lat light, my blother. You velly muchee goodee Chinee; but you no undelstand, likee me; me allee samee velly muchee smartee, allee samee my uncle in China."
"Um uncle in China allee samee dead; gittee head cuttee off for stealee pig!"
"Sh!" said Hop, holding up his hand. "My blother mustee not lettee Misler Charlie knowee lat."
"Me no care, so be. You allee samee foolee."
Wing acted as though he was disgusted, but a sorrowful look from his brother soon brought him around.
"Me no tellee Misler Charlie," he said.
"Allee light. Now me go to um saloon and gittee lillee dlop of tanglefoot; len me go and havee lillee look alound up Forbiddee Passee, so be."
Hop was not long in getting ready.
Without another word he set out for the saloon.
The miners were all at work by this time, so there was no one there but Hoker and the man he had to help him.
They were both busy cleaning up the place when the Chinaman entered, but they greeted him cordially.
"Where's Young Wild West?" asked Hoker, though he well knew that he had started out to go through Forbidden Pass.
"He takee lillee tlip to huntee uppee some outlaws, so be," answered the Chinaman. "Me likee havee lillee tanglefoot; len me go outee huntee, too, so be."
"Is that so? Well, I don't know how much of a hunter you are, but if yer are as good at it as yer are with ther cards you'll make out all right, I reckon."
Hop got his drink, and then he had a flask filled with whisky for use later on.
"Now, len," said he, blandly, "me chuck dicee to see if me pay or you givee me um tanglefoot."
"No yer don't!" was the quick reply. "You fork over ther money. I ain't goin' inter no gamblin' game with you. You're too much fur me, an' I ain't ashamed ter own up ter it."
Hop grinned and paid the bill.
Then he put the flask in his pocket and set out for the pass.
He had heard Wild say that the spot where the hidden cave was located was only about a mile from the camp, so that made a nice, little walk for him.
The fact was that Hop did not mind walking, anyhow.
He was in the saddle so much that it was a relief to get the opportunity to walk around once in a while.
Reaching the pass, he took a good look at the sign and gave a nod of approval.
Hop had learned to read English pretty well, though he could not speak it with any great degree of accuracy.
But he did not want to do any better than what he did in that line, for his style just suited him.
"Make pay allee samee toll, so be," he said, musingly. "Whattee lat?"
That was just a little too much for him.
But he was not going to let it worry him any, so he started through the pass without any further delay.
The trail made by our friends was very plain in places, and Hop took notice of this fact.
He walked along leisurely, taking in all he saw, which was not a great deal, since there were nothing but cliffs and the blue sky above to be seen.
He kept right on until finally he rounded a turn in the pass and saw Jim Dart and the girls about a hundred yards ahead.
As they were gathered behind a big rock, as though hiding, he knew that something was wrong right away.
Hop came to a pause.
Though he wanted to know what was up, he felt that it would be best to go it alone, so he did not walk ahead and join them.
While he stood back close to the cliff a revolver shot rang out.
He saw Jim raise his head above the rock and take a quick look in the direction it came from, and then all was still.
It so happened that Hop had got there just in time to hear the shot that ended the career of the fourth outlaw.
The Chinaman did not know what it meant, so he looked for a way to get up close to Jim and the girls without being seen by them.
If he went on through the narrow defile he could not do it.
Then he looked up and, much to his satisfaction, he saw a place that could be climbed quite easily, he thought.
He decided to go on up, and then work his way along until he was directly above those in waiting.
Hop was quite agile for a Chinaman who did not like work a great deal.
He was soon ascending the craggy way, and in less than two minutes he was at the top of the cliff.
Once there he found that it was comparatively level, and he walked along fearlessly.
But he could not help noticing that there was a fissure similar to that which formed the pass on the other side, and, being curious to see what was down there, he made his way to the edge.
A smothered cry of astonishment came from the Chinaman's lips as he peered downward.
It was the "hole," as the outlaws termed it, that Hop was looking into, and there was Young Wild West, tied to the post, in plain view!
"Lat pletty goodee—or pletty badee, so be!" exclaimed Hop, under his breath, "Me findee Misler Wild pletty quickee. But um bad Melican mans gottee him, so be."
Keeping out of sight, he lay flat at the top of the cliff and saw the excited outlaws as they moved about in the hole below him.
The distance was about forty feet, but Hop soon discovered a way to get down, or nearly all the distance, anyhow.
But he did not intend to risk doing it just then.
The excited voices of the men came to his ears, and he was not long in making out that they were talking about a man that had just been shot as he went out to get the body of a comrade.
From his position he could see about all there was to be seen in the fissure.
There was the grave the villains had placed the two bodies in, and which they had started to fill.
He counted ten men there, too, and he shook his head when he found there were so many of them.
"Misler Wild allee samee in um bad box, so be," he muttered. "Me better go tell Misler Jim, so be."
Having decided upon this plan of action, he crawled away from the edge of the cliff and made his way down into the pass.
It was easier to get down than it was to come up, and once there he started boldly for Jim and the girls.
He was within twenty feet of them when Arietta turned and saw him.
"Here is Hop!" she exclaimed in a low voice. "Maybe he can help us out."
Jim brightened when he saw the clever Chinaman, for he knew very well that Hop had been of great value to them in such cases.
"Come here," he said, beckoning to him. "Don't make any noise, Hop."
"Me no makee noisee," was the reply. "Me knowee allee 'boutee; me just see Misler Wild. He tied to um post, and ten mans by him. Allee samee velly muchee bad workee."
"You saw Wild!" Arietta exclaimed, looking at the Chinaman in surprise.
"Lat allee samee light, Missy Alietta."
"Where did you see him?"
"Me go uppee lere, and me allee samee lookee down on um other side, so be."
"Great Scott!" cried Jim Dart. "Who would have thought of doing that? Hop, you are a dandy!"
"Me velly muchee smartee Chinee, so be," was the reply. "Where Misler Charlie? Me takee and showee where Misler Wild is velly muchee quickee, so be."
Jim gave a signal, which was answered right away by the scout, who was crouching behind a big boulder, right close to the curtained entrance of the cave.
The next minute Charlie was seen approaching them.
"Come on," said Jim. "Hop has seen Wild, and he wants to show us where he is."
As soon as Hop had explained just how they could get up to the top of the ridge Cheyenne Charlie was eager to go.
"Ther gals kin go back ter Big Bonanza, I reckon," he said. "Then there won't be any danger of 'em gittin' hurt."
Anna and Eloise were perfectly willing to this, but Arietta shook her head.
"I am going to stay here till Wild is free," she declared.
The scout knew very well that there was no use in arguing the question with her. Arietta had a mind of her own, and the only one she would ever listen to was Young Wild West.
"All right," the scout said, "Hop, you jest show us where yer got up there, an' me an' Jim will go up an' take a look."
He quickly showed them, and then Charlie and Jim at once began to ascend.
Arietta promptly followed them.
"Hop, you stay here with the girls till we come back," she said, "Keep a watch, and if anything happens call out to us."
"Allee light, Missy Alietta," he answered, though he would have much liked to go up with them, since it was he who had made the important discovery.
Young Wild West's two partners and Arietta were soon out of sight.
Anna and Eloise watched them until they disappeared, and they continued to look where they had last seen them.
If they had only looked the other way they might have saved themselves a lot of trouble.
Or if Hop had kept a watch, as Arietta told him to, things would surely have turned out differently.
It so happened that Cap Roche had changed his mind about waiting until after the hour of noon before paying a visit to the cave, and he was riding up the pass in company with one of his men at that very moment.
In watching the climbers the two girls had exposed themselves to the view of any one approaching, and when Cap Roche and his man suddenly came in sight of the two so near the hidden cave they were astonished.
One of the cowboys who had seen our friends when they came to Big Bonanza was his companion, and he was not long in recognizing Anna and Eloise.
"Cap," he whispered, "they belong to Young Wild West's crowd. I wonder what they kin he doin' here?"
"Is that so?" queried the leader. "Well, I'll soon find out what they are doing here. I reckon we had better catch them and take them in the cave. That will be a bold stroke, I think. The chances are that Young Wild West is around here somewhere."
They dismounted and moved cautiously toward the girls.
When they got directly in front of the cave they were astonished to see the bodies of two of their men lying there.
The eyes of the leader flashed dangerously.
"Young Wild West has been at work, I reckon!" he exclaimed, in a low voice. "Come on! We had better go in first and see if everything is all right there."
It was at that moment that the curtain rolled up, for the man on watch had seen them.
They hurried to him and learned the situation, as far as the man knew it.
But the fact that Young Wild West was a prisoner so elated the villainous leader of the outlaw gang that he felt like giving a shout of joy.
He restrained himself, however, and then quickly made up his mind to capture the two girls outside.
Another man who was inside the cave was called, and then the four set out to carry out their foul purpose.
As they crept nearer to the unsuspecting girls, who were now talking in whispers and waiting patiently for the return of their companions, they found that there was a Chinaman with them.
"Catch all three of them, and don't let them have a chance to utter a cry," was the order from Cap Roche.
Stealthily the four villains crept upon the unsuspecting ones, and two minutes later all three of them were struggling in the grasp of the outlaws.
Though it had been planned quickly, it was well done, and, unable to make an outcry, Hop and the two girls were carried bodily into the cave.
A whistle brought half dozen to their assistance, and then the prisoners were bound and told to be silent.
"If you scream it will do no good, for if your friends start to come in here they will be shot down like wolves!" said Cap Roche, smiling fiendishly. "The best thing you can do is to take it easy."
Having said this, he turned to his men and ordered that the two bodies be brought in.
This was done, though those who did it were very cautious in their movements, since they expected to be shot down at any moment.
Much relieved, the outlaws carried the bodies through the cave to the hole outside.
"Now," said the leader, "just tie the prisoners to the table."
This was soon done, Hop pleading to be released in vain.
"Go and fetch Young Wild West here," said Roche. "We will have them all together while I talk to them."
Chuck Snivel hastened to do the bidding of his boss.
He went out to the post and began untying the captive boy.
"Cap Roche has got here, an' he wants ter see yer, Young Wild West," he said.
"All right," answered the boy, not knowing whether to believe him or not. "He'll find that I am all right, I reckon."
His ankles being untied, Wild walked along readily.
The captain was standing near the table waiting for him.
When Wild saw Anna, Eloise and Hop prisoners there he could scarcely believe his eyes.
Things were surely getting worse, instead of better, he thought.
But he did not let the captives think that he was anything like discouraged over the prospect.
"How are you, Mr. Roche?" he said, coolly. "How is business over at the store and post office?"
The villain smiled at this.
"You're a pretty cool one, I must say," he retorted. "I suppose it was you who turned the sign over?"
"Yes; I thought I would let travelers know that you were one of the outlaws who demanded toll from those who pass this way."
"Well, I hardly think your plan worked, then, for I took the trouble to right the sign a little while ago. Well, what do you think of this business, anyhow? Sorry you came to Forbidden Pass, are you not?"
"Oh, no. This is pretty bad for me just now. But it won't last very long. If you want to save trouble you had better release me, and the others you have got here, and then light out somewhere. If you don't you will only be sorry for it. You think you have got the best of me now, but in a short time you will find out that it will be just the other way. You don't suppose that I came here without knowing just what I was doing, do you?"
"Well, you couldn't have known just what you were doing or this wouldn't have happened."
Roche motioned toward the prisoners.
"It was a poor way for you to win out, this letting us get you and those others, I think," he added.
"Well, of course, I did not expect anything like this to happen," Wild answered, coolly. "That was a pretty good scheme your men put through when they got me. But let me tell you that my two partners have gone to get a crowd of miners to come here and clean, you out. They know just how to get in, for they have seen the curtain raised in front of the opening that leads in here. But they knew all about that last night, for I followed you here and saw you come in. I told them all about it, and they know just what to do now."
Cap Roche looked uneasy.
He did not relish the idea of the miners of Big Bonanza finding out about the cave.
And he was now pretty certain that they would.
The fact that he was known to be the leader of the outlaws made it impossible for him to go back to Silver Bend, too.
Though he had the best of Young Wild West just then, he knew he was in a very bad box.
"You have done well, Young Wild West," he said, trying to appear cool. "You have done something that no one else has been able to do—you have found our cave and exposed the secret of it. I will admit that you have ruined our game here, but you don't suppose that you are going to live to enjoy telling about it, do you?"
"Oh, I don't know. I expect to live a long while, Cap Roche. I reckon you think as much of your life as I do of mine. If you should kill me you know very well that you would not live long after doing it. Your friends would never get a chance to do you a good turn, for you would never fall into the hands of the minions of the law. The only chance you have got is to make a deal that suits me. If you don't want to do that, do as you please."
Cap Roche got up and began pacing the rocky floor of the cave.
His uneasiness made his men feel in anything but a pleasant frame of mind.
Suddenly he paused in front of Wild and said:
"Let's hear your proposition."
"I would much rather you would make one," was the calm reply.
"Could you guarantee me three days to get away from Silver Bend if I agreed to let you go by paying the toll?"
"Yes, I could do that, I suppose."
"Well, I'll think it over."
"You had better think quickly then."
Cap Roche scowled.
"See here!" he exclaimed, turning to Hop and quickly severing his bonds. "You go and tell Young Wild West's partners that I want all the money they can rake up, and as soon as you bring it to me you can all go free. They are to fetch no one here, though. If they do I will kill Young Wild West, and then take the chances of a siege in the cave."
Hop no sooner had his hands free than he said:
"You wantee me tellee lat ley mustee gittee velly muchee money, and len you lettee Young Wild West go?"
"Yes, that's it. You seem to understand pretty well for a Chinee. You understood enough to clean me out of a couple of hundred dollars last night, too. I reckon you had better give me that money and all the rest you have, before you go on your errand."
"Me velly solly," declared Hop, acting as though he really felt bad over it, "but me leavee allee my money in um camp."
This was a fact, too, as all he had with him was about five dollars in silver.
"I reckon I had better go through you," said the leader of the outlaws.
Hop quickly produced what money he had, and then held up his arms to let the man make a search of his clothing.
Roche went through him and brought out as many as half a dozen packs of cards, a flask of whisky, several little vials containing liquids and powders, two or three oblong objects that looked like a lot of paper pressed together, some black-looking cigars, a dead mouse, some colored string, and a lot of other small things, too numerous to mention.
But there was no money to be found.
"That's a nice lot of trash fur a galoot ter have in his pockets," he declared, looking at the pile in disgust. "What are you doing with a dead mouse in your pockets?"
"Me feel lat me might gittee hungly some time, and len me have lillee bite to eatee," replied Hop, looking very innocent.
The outlaws grinned at this.
They had all heard that Chinamen liked to eat rats, so they were not surprised to hear that one ate mice.
Even Wild smiled at the way Hop was working it.
He now believed that the chances of getting free from the outlaws were improving, for Hop would be apt to manage it in some way.
"I'll tell you what you do," said Roche, as Hop proceeded to put the articles back where they had been taken from. "You get your money at the camp and bring that here, too."
Allee light, Misler Outlaw, replied Hop. "You will havee um cigar?"
He tendered one and, taking it, the outlaw looked at it suspiciously and then cut off the end with his bowie knife.
Hop lighted one, too, and then he stood still.
"Me allee samee forgittee whattee you say," he said, as he looked puzzled.
Cap Roche went over it again.
"Oh, allee light. Me understand."
The cigar he had given the villain was a good one, and he puffed away at it with no little satisfaction, since it served to soothe his nerves somewhat.
Hop took occasion to drop the dead mouse in the pocket of the man who was standing at the side of Wild to prevent his possible escape, and then he turned to go.
But he came back again, and, looking at the villain he had played the trick on he said:
"You takee my tanglefoot and allee samee puttee in your pockee; me wantee."
As it was Roche who had appropriated the flask, the man shook his head and grinned.
"See here!" exclaimed the leader, angrily. "You ought to be satisfied that I didn't take more than the whisky. You've got your mouse, so go on and do your errand."
"Oh!" cried Hop, his face lighting up. "Now me know. You takee um tanglefoot, and lis man takee my mousee! He allee samee gottee in um pockee."
Instinctively the outlaw put his hand in his pocket, and the first thing his fingers came in contact with was the dead mouse.
He uttered a cry and pulled it out.
"Hip hi!" yelled Hop, as he ran for the mouth of the cave.
But the outlaw was just mad enough to run and catch him before he got to the curtain.
"Here," said Hop, "me givee you lis. Allee samee diamond ling inside. Lettee poor Chinee go!"
It was one of the oblong, little packages that he handed to the man, and, letting the mouse drop, he took it and walked back to those in the big cave.
But he did not notice that a tiny spark was working its way along what seemed to be a string on the package.
The fact was that it was one of his patent firecrackers that Hop had given him.
Just as he joined the rest at the table the thing exploded with a noise like that of a shotgun.
"Ow! Murder!" yelled the outlaw, for his hand was burned by the operation.
Then he danced about like a wild man, while the prisoners were forced to laugh, in spite of their situation.
Cap Roche was the first to realize what had happened.
"Shut up!" he commanded. "He played a joke on you, that's all. Serves you right for fooling with him. That is the greatest Chinaman I ever saw."
The victim went for water to cool his burning hand.
"Allee light; me go now," called out Hop, who had been, watching from the front of the cave. "Me soonee come back with um money to pay um toll, so be."
Out he went, and he had not gone more than a dozen yards when he came upon the scout.
"Where's Anna an' Eloise?" Charlie demanded.
"Outlaws allee samee gottee," was the reply. "Comee 'way pletty quickee."
He almost pulled him around the bend, and then he found Jim and Arietta there.
The three had been watching from the top of the cliff, and when they saw the outlaws take Wild in they did not wait very long there, but came back to the pass.
It was their intention to take up a couple of lariats and try and devise a means of getting Wild away from the villains, but when they found that the girls and the Chinaman were not there, while the horses were just as they had left them, they did not know what to make of it.
It was while the scout was creeping up to the cave, thinking that the outlaws might have caught those they had left in the pass, that he saw Hop come out.
It was surely a morning of surprises, and Charlie was badly puzzled.
But when Hop told of the errand he has been sent on he was completely silenced for the time being.
When he found the use of his tongue he exclaimed:
"Well, that beats anything yet! So ther galoots wants us ter pay money, eh? Well, I reckon not! We'll jest git Wild an' ther two gals away from 'em without payin' a thing. Hop, you take my horse an' ride over to ther camp as fast as yer kin. Jest git ther miners together an' tell 'em what's up. Then yer kin git some of ther counterfeit money you've got hid around somewhere an' come back an' take it ter Roche. While you're talkin' to 'em we'll all creep in an' fix ther galoots fur good an' all!"
"Allee light, Misler Charlie."
Hop was not long in mounting the scout's horse, and then he rode swiftly to Big Bonanza.
He went to the camp first and, telling Wing enough to make him frightened about it, he got a roll of counterfeit money from his saddlebags.
This he stuffed in his pocket, and then he rode to the saloon.
"Misler Hoker," he said; "me wantee allee samee lot of mans to go and fight um outlaws, so be. Ley allee samee gottee Young Wild West in um cave, and Missy Anna and Missy Eloise, too, so be."
The keeper of the saloon was astounded when he heard this.
He questioned the Chinaman and soon came to the conclusion that he was telling the truth.
Then he hastily left the saloon and went out and told the miners as fast as he could get to the places they were working at.
Shortly afterward the first of the miners to be notified by Hoker came running into the saloon.
Hop had to answer a lot of questions, but he managed to make it plain to the miners what was wanted of them, so in a few minutes they were marching for the pass.
The Chinaman rode on ahead and soon came to the spot where he had left Charlie, Jim and Arietta.
But they were not there now, and, thinking that they had ascended the cliff again, he decided to go on in the cave.
He went around to the curtain and found the scout lying close to the cliff near it.
Charlie motioned for him to go on in, and, without looking at him any further, Hop lifted the curtain and obeyed.
Arietta and Jim had gone to the top of the cliff again, hoping to catch sight of Wild once more, while Charlie remained near the mouth of the cave.
The scout made up his mind to get inside when Hop came back, and he had managed to creep up close to the concealed opening.
As the Chinaman passed inside he waited for half a minute, and then he took the risk of raising the curtain a trifle.
The coast was clear, so he crawled through.
Once on the inside, he moved over to a rocky wall and then listened.
He could hear the Chinaman talking in his bland way to the villains.
There had been a man watching for Hop's return, but in some way he had neglected to be looking at the time Charlie crept up, and it was not until he had escorted the Chinaman to the leader that he went to the curtain to stand guard again.
But he did not see the crouching form of the scout, and once he had passed him Charlie began moving toward the rear of the cave.
He soon got to within a few feet of the villains in the cave, and when he peered from behind a rock and saw his wife and Eloise sitting at the table near Wild; he felt a little easier.
Hop was standing before the leader of the band, and all eyes were turned on him.
He had been talking in a random sort of way, not seeing fit to make a report just yet.
"Stop that!" exclaimed Roche, as he started in to give an account as how smart his uncle in China was. "Did you get the money from Young Wild West's partners—that's the question?"
"Me allee samee gittee biggee pile of money and um bottle of tanglefoot, so be," answered the Chinaman, quickly getting down to business.
"Give me the money!"
"You lettee Miss Anna and Missy Eloise go?" Hop went on asking.
"Yes, I'll let them go right now."
To make good his words he cut the ropes that held them helpless and told the two girls to walk on out.
Surprised at their sudden release, they lost no time in obeying.
Hop handed over the roll of counterfeit money.
"Now you can go, too," he said, nodding to the Chinaman.
"How aboutee Misler Wild?"
"Well, we'll keep him a little while longer, I reckon."
Anna and Eloise lost no time in getting out of the cave.
Just why the villainous leader of the band had seen fit to let them go they did not know.
The scout saw them go past him, but he did not offer to attract their attention.
He was waiting to get a chance to release Wild.
But it was not going to come to him just then, for Cap Roche suddenly called Chuck Snivel and said:
"Take Young Wild West out and tie him to the post again. I reckon we can't trust altogether to that Chinaman. It may be that he has told the miners of Big Bonanza all about this. If he has we will need the prisoner to make terms with them. There is one thing about it, and that is that Young Wild West don't go free until I know for a certainty that we will be allowed a chance to get away."
As soon as Hop saw that they were going to take Wild outside he made his way toward the front of the cave.
"Goodby!" he said. "When you findee lat me allee samee keepee my word you let Misler Wild go. Len you all go 'way, and nobody hurtee you."
Hop lost no time in getting outside.
He found the girls where the horses were.
But Jim and Arietta were nowhere to be seen.
"Missy Anna," he said to the scout's wife, "you and Missy Eloise allee samee takee horses and lide to meet um miners. You tellee allee 'boutee. But makee um stay light here till Misler Charlie or Misler Jim comee."
"All right, Hop," Anna answered. "We will do just as you say. But where is Charlie?"
"He in um cave."
"He comee in light after me, so be. He waitee to gittee lillee chance to gittee Misler Wild outee."
The girls understood.
Just then the walking miners from the camp came in sight.
There were twenty or more of them, and they were all armed to the teeth.
When they saw the girls they broke into a cheer, but a motion from Hop quickly silenced them.
"Don't makee no noise," he said. "Misler Wild no gittee outee yet, so be."
Then he told them just how things were, and the men agreed to wait with the girls until they received orders from either Charlie on Jim.
Hop now clambered up the cliff to find Arietta and Jim.
Once at the top he looked around, but could see nothing of them.
He quickly made his way over to the other side and cautiously peered over.
The outlaws had just brought Wild out of the cave, and on a ledge about twelve feet above him were Arietta and Jim, hiding behind a rock.
"Young Wild West," said Cap Roche, as the boy was led out to the post, "are you ready to give your promise that we will not be interfered with?"
"I can't give a promise like that until I know for certain that I am to be freed," was the reply.
As Wild spoke the words he caught a glimpse of Arietta and Jim on the ledge.
But he was so well trained that he did not let the villains know that he had seen anything out of the ordinary.
"Tie him to the post, boys," said Roche. "I reckon we've got to figure this thing out right before we do much. I'll see if we need any more in the way of toll."
He pulled out the roll Hop had given him, and the men, eager to see the money, did not proceed to tie Wild right away.
The moment Roche opened the roll he saw that it was not good money.
An oath escaped his lips.
"Where is that rascal of a Chinaman?" he demanded. "This isn't money. It is nothing but the rankest kind of counterfeit bills."
It was just then that our hero saw his sweetheart getting ready to do something.
At the same moment Hop was hurrying to the edge of the cliff on the other side to tell the miners to rush into the cave.
The critical moment had arrived.
The villains had just finished tying Wild to the post when a lariat whizzed through the air and settled over the head and shoulders of the leader.
"Here is the way we are going to pay the toll!" cried Arietta.
Up the side of the cliff went the man.
The brave girl held a revolver pointed at Snivel, and, in a ringing voice, she added:
"Release the prisoner, or your captain will die!"
Cheyenne Charlie was just thinking of making his way out of the cave when a shout rang out from the opening they had taken Wild through.
Out went the men in a hurry, and, hearing Arietta's voice shouting a warning to them, the scout drew his revolvers, and with one in either hand bounded out after the outlaws.
One of the first things he saw was the form of Cap Roche hanging from the ledge.
The rope had looped him about the body and pinioned his arms at the same time.
But the villain was making a desperate struggle and the rope showed signs of slipping.
However, not one of the men dared to shoot at the girl or Jim.
Cheyenne Charlie stepped up and walked around behind Wild without being noticed by the excited and surprised outlaws.
A quick slash with his knife and the ropes were severed.
Then he slipped a revolver in the boy's hand.
Wild coolly stepped from the post.
"Up with your hands, you sneaking coyotes!" he cried in a ringing voice. "I reckon ther jig is up now. Arietta has paid ther toll!"
Then Wild calmly reached out and took another revolver from the belt of the nearest man to him.
Two of the villains held up their hands, but the rest made a bolt for the cave.
Cheyenne Charlie got at work, as usual, and the foremost one dropped.
"I reckon you galoots will have ter have a bigger grave dug when we git through with yer," he called out. "That one you've got here ain't half big enough!"
Just then Cap Roche slipped the rope, and down he came in a heap.
Before he could get upon his feet our hero stood over him.
"Surrender!" he cried. "It is the easiest way out of it. If you fight it out there won't be one man left of you, Roche!"
"I'll never surrender!" was the defiant shout. "Go ahead and shoot me, if you want to. I am going to die fighting."
He rolled over and got upon his feet, regardless of the fact that the finger of the young deadshot was upon the trigger of the revolver that was aimed at him.
Roche had lost his revolvers when he tumbled down, but he still hold his knife.
Jerking it from the sheath, he prepared to make a rush at the boy, who stood covering him with a revolver.
Just then several shots rang out from inside the cave, following by yells of triumph.
Arietta now slid down by means of the lariat Jim had hold of.
Then Jim dropped the distance himself.
Out of the cave came the miners, dragging the prisoners they had taken with them.
Roche turned deathly pale when he saw that it was all up with him.
"Young Wild West," he hissed, "I want to kill you before I die myself! I will never be taken alive, so if you have got the nerve to fight me, come on!"
Wild dropped his revolvers into the holsters and took Jim's knife.
"I'm after you, Cap!" he exclaimed, a smile playing about his mouth. "If you want to kill me, come on!"
The knives came together in the air, and then the fight was on.
Young Wild West kept slapping him on the face with the flat of his knife blade, and this was galling to the outlaw.
"What are you, a young fiend?" he cried, savagely, as he received a scratch on the neck, which he knew could have been his finish if the boy had so willed it.
"No," answered Wild; "I am simply a boy who has practiced this sort of business a great deal. Look, out for yourself, Cap! I am going to make you drop that knife!"
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the back of Wild's blade struck the villain's wrist.
Uttering a cry of pain, Roche dropped his weapon.
Then he staggered back and picked up a stone.
One of the miners fired and the man reeled, and, letting go the stone, dropped to the ground, dead.
Our hero now went into the cave, for the twelve men who had survived were all tied hard and fast.
It was only natural that he should want to look around the cave, and one of the first things he came across was the paint that had been used to make the signs, or some just like it.
A brush was found, and he painted the following across the entire breadth of the curtain:
"Closed for Repairs—No More Toll Collected in the Pass!"
"I reckon that looks all right, don't it, boys?" he called out to the miners.
"You bet!" cried John Sedgwick. "Boys, give three cheers fur Young Wild West!"
The cheering echoed through the pass.
It was now near noon, but Wild was bent on doing the work he had in view, so he started in.
He sent the miners on with the prisoners, and then he painted a couple of signs to take the places of those at either end of the pass.
The signs when finished bore the words:
"Short Cut Pass—No danger!"
(Signed) "Young Wild West."
"There! I reckon as soon as we have put these up we will call the job complete," he said.
Not until they were up did our friends return to their camp.
There was a big time in Big Bonanza, as might be supposed.
A messenger had been sent over to Silver Bend to spread the news of the capture of the outlaw band, and, with the prisoners locked in a shanty, the miners danced around it in delight.
It was the middle of the afternoon when a crowd came over from Silver Bend, and then the prisoners were turned over to the Vigilantes who were with them.
Everybody was surprised when they heard that Cap Roche was dead, and that he had been the leader of the outlaws.
The next day Young Wild West and his friends left Big Bonanza.
They rode through the pass that had been forbidden to travelers unless they paid toll, and stopped at Silver Bend, for a day and night.
They received a big ovation there, and the next morning they set out for Arizona, where our hero had some business to attend to.
They all were willing to allow that it was one of the liveliest mornings they had ever put in when they went to Forbidden Pass, however.
But Arietta had paid the toll, so that was sufficient.
Read "YOUNG WILD WEST AND THE INDIAN TRAITOR; or, THE CHARGE OF THE 'RED' BRIGADE" which will be the next number (290) of "Wild West Weekly."
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