Taken Alive by E. P. Roe

CHAPTER I

SOMETHING BEFORE UNKNOWN

Clara Heyward was dressed in deep mourning, and it was evident that the emblems of bereavement were not worn merely in compliance with a social custom. Her face was pallid from grief, and her dark beautiful eyes were dim from much weeping. She sat in the little parlor of a cottage located in a large Californian city, and listened with apathetic expression as a young man pleaded for the greatest and most sacred gift that a woman can bestow. Ralph Brandt was a fine type of young vigorous manhood; and we might easily fancy that his strong, resolute face, now eloquent with deep feeling, was not one upon which a girl could look with indifference. Clara's words, however, revealed the apparent hopelessness of his suit.

"It's of no use, Ralph," she said; "I'm in no mood for such thoughts."

"You don't believe in me; you don't trust me," he resumed sadly. "You think that because I was once wild, and even worse, that I'll not be true to my promises and live an honest life. Have I not been honest when I knew that being so might cost me dear? Have I not told you of my past life and future purposes when I might have concealed almost everything?"

"It's not that, Ralph. I do believe you are sincere; and if the dreadful thing which has broken me down with sorrow had not happened, all might have been as you wish. I should have quite as much confidence in a young man who, like you, has seen evil and turned resolutely away from it, as in one who didn't know much about the world or himself either. What's more, father—"

At the word "father" her listless manner vanished, and she gave way to passionate sobs. "His foul murder is always before me," she wailed. "Oh, we were so happy! he was so kind, and made me his companion! I don't see how I can live without him. I can't think of love and marriage when I remember how he died, and that the villain who killed him is at large and unpunished. What right have I to forget this great wrong and to try to be happy? No, no! the knife that killed him pierced my heart; and it's bleeding all the time. I'm not fit to be any man's wife; and I will not bring my great sorrow into any man's home."

Brandt sprang up and paced the room for a few moments, his brow contracted in deep thought. Then, apparently coming to a decision, he sat down by his companion and took her cold, unresisting hand.

"My poor little girl," he said, kindly, "you don't half understand me yet. I love you all the more because you are heart-broken and pale with grief. That is the reason I have spoken so earnestly to-night. You will grieve yourself to death if left alone; and what good would your death do any one? It would spoil my life. Believe me, I would welcome you to my home with all your sorrow—all the more because of your sorrow; and I'd be so kind and patient that you'd begin to smile again some day. That's what your father would wish if he could speak to you, and not that you should grieve away your life for what can't be helped now. But I have a plan. It's right in my line to capture such scoundrels as the man who murdered your father; and what's more, I know the man, or rather I used to in old times. I've played many a game of euchre with him in which he cheated me out of money that I'd be glad to have now; and I'm satisfied that he does not know of any change in me. I was away on distant detective duty, you know, when your father was killed. I won't ask you to go over the painful circumstances; I can learn them at the prison. I shall try to get permission to search out Bute, desperate and dangerous as he is—"

"Oh, Ralph, Ralph," cried the girl, springing up, her eyes flashing through her tears, "if you will bring my father's murderer to justice, if you will prevent him from destroying other lives, as he surely will, you will find that I can refuse you nothing."

Then she paused, shook her head sadly, and withdrew the hand she had given him. "No," she resumed, "I shouldn't ask this; I don't ask it. As you say, he is desperate and dangerous; and he would take your life the moment he dreamed of your purpose. I should only have another cause for sorrow."

Brandt now smiled as if he were master of the situation. "Why, Clara," he exclaimed, "don't you know that running down and capturing desperadoes is now part of my business?"

"Yes; but you can get plenty of work that isn't so dangerous."

"I should be a nice fellow to ask you to be my wife and yet show I was afraid to arrest your father's murderer. You needn't ask me to do this; you are not going to be responsible for my course in the least. I shall begin operations this very night, and have no doubt that I can get a chance to work on the case. Now don't burden your heart with any thoughts about my danger. I myself owe Bute as big a grudge as I can have against any human being. He cheated me and led me into deviltry years ago, and then I lost sight of him until he was brought to the prison of which your father was one of the keepers. I've been absent for the last three months, you know; but I didn't forget you or your father a day, and you remember I wrote you as soon as I heard of your trouble. I think your father sort of believed in me; he never made me feel I wasn't fit to see you or to be with you, and I'd do more for him living or dead than for any other man."

"He did believe in you, Ralph, and he always spoke well of you. Oh, you can't know how much I lost in him! After mother died he did not leave me to the care of strangers, but gave me most of his time when off duty. He sent me to the best schools, bought me books to read, and took me out evenings instead of going off by himself, as so many men do. He was so kind and so brave; oh, oh! you know he lost his life by trying to do his duty when another man would have given up. Bute and two others broke jail. Father saw one of his assistants stabbed, and he was knocked down himself. He might have remained quiet and escaped with a few bruises; but he caught Bute's foot, and then the wretch turned and stabbed him. He told me all with his poor pale lips before he died. Oh, oh! when shall I forget?"

"You can never forget, dear; I don't ask anything contrary to nature. You were a good daughter, and so I believe you will be a good wife. But if I bring the murderer to justice, you will feel that a great wrong has been righted—that all has been done that can be done. Then you'll begin to think that your father wouldn't wish you to grieve yourself to death, and that as he tried to make you happy while he was living, so he will wish you to be happy now he's gone."

"It isn't a question of happiness. I don't feel as if I could ever be happy again; and so I don't see how I can make you or any one else happy."

"That's my lookout, Clara. I'd be only too glad to take you as you are. Come, now, this is December. If I bring Bute in by Christmas, what will you give me?"

She silently and eloquently gave him her hand; but her lips quivered so she could not speak. He kissed her hand as gallantly as any olden-time knight, then added a little brusquely:

"See here, little girl, I'm not going to bind you by anything that looks like a bargain. I shall attempt all I've said; and then on Christmas, or whenever I get back, I'll speak my heart to you again just as I have spoken now."

"When a man acts as you do, Ralph, any girl would find it hard to keep free. I shall follow you night and day with my thoughts and prayers."

"Well, I'm superstitious enough to believe that I shall be safer and more successful on account of them. Clara, look me in the eyes before I go."

She looked up to his clear gray eyes as requested.

"I don't ask you to forget one who is dead; but don't you see how much you are to one who is living? Don't you see that in spite of all your sorrow you can still give happiness? Now, be as generous and kind as you can. Don't grieve hopelessly while I'm gone. That's what is killing you; and the thought of it fills me with dread. Try to think that you still have something and some one to live for. Perhaps you can learn to love me a little if you try, and then everything won't look so black. If you find you can't love me, I won't blame you—, and if I lose you as my wife, you won't lose a true, honest friend."

For the first time the girl became vaguely conscious of, the possibility of an affection, a tie superseding all others; she began to see how it was possible to give herself to this man, not from an impulse of gratitude or because she liked him better than any one else, but because of a feeling, new, mysterious, which gave him a sort of divine right in her. Something in the expression of his eyes had been more potent than his words; something subtle, swift as an electric spark had passed from him to her, awakening a faint, strange tumult in the heart she thought so utterly crushed. A few moments before, she could have promised resolutely to be his wife; she could have permitted his embrace with unresponsive apathy. Now she felt a sudden shyness. A faint color stole into her pale face, and she longed to be alone.

"Ralph," she faltered, "you are so generous, I—I don't know what to say."

"You needn't say anything till I come back. If possible, I will be here by Christmas, for you shouldn't be alone that day with your grief. Good-by."

The hand she gave him trembled, and her face was averted now.

"You will try to love me a little, won't you?"

"Yes," she whispered.

CHAPTER II

A VISITOR AT THE MINE

Ralph Brandt was admirably fitted for the task he had undertaken. With fearlessness he united imperturbable coolness and unwearied patience in pursuit of an object. Few knew him in his character of detective, and no one would have singled him out as an expert in his calling. The more difficult and dangerous the work, the more careless and indifferent his manner, giving the impression to superficial observers of being the very last person to be intrusted with responsible duty. But his chief and others on the force well knew that beneath Brandt's careless demeanor was concealed the relentless pertinacity of a bloodhound on track of its victim. With the trait of dogged pursuit all resemblance to the bloodthirsty animal ceased, and even the worst of criminals found him kind-hearted and good-natured AFTER they were within his power. Failure was an idea not to be entertained. If the man to be caught existed, he could certainly be found, was the principle on which our officer acted.

He readily obtained permission to attempt the capture of the escaped prisoner, Bute; but the murderer had disappeared, leaving no clew. Brandt learned that the slums of large cities and several mining camps had been searched in vain, also that the trains running east had been carefully watched. We need not try to follow his processes of thought, nor seek to learn how he soon came to the conclusion that his man was at some distant mining station working under an assumed name. By a kind of instinct his mind kept reverting to one of these stations with increasing frequency. It was not so remote in respect to mere distance; but it was isolated, off the lines of travel, with a gap of seventy miles between it and what might be termed civilization, and was suspected of being a sort of refuge for hard characters and fugitives from justice. Bute, when last seen, was making for the mountains in the direction of this mine. Invested with ample authority to bring in the outlaw dead or alive, Brandt followed this vague clew.

One afternoon, Mr. Alford, the superintendent of the mine, was informed that a man wished to see him. There was ushered into his private office an elderly gentleman who appeared as if he might be a prospecting capitalist or one of the owners of the mine. The superintendent was kept in doubt as to the character of the visitor for a few moments while Brandt sought by general remarks and leading questions to learn the disposition of the man who must, from the necessities of the case, become to some extent his ally in securing the ends of justice. Apparently the detective was satisfied, for he asked, suddenly:

"By the way, have you a man in your employ by the name of Bute?"

"No, sir," replied Mr. Alford, with a little surprise.

"Have you a man, then, who answers to the following description?" He gave a brief word photograph of the criminal.

"You want this man?" Mr. Alford asked in a low voice.

"Yes."

"Well, really, sir, I would like to know your motive, indeed, I may add, your authority, for—"

"There it is," Brand smilingly remarked, handing the superintendent a paper.

"Oh, certainly, certainly," said Mr. Alford, after a moment. "This is all right; and I am bound to do nothing to obstruct you in the performance of your duty." He now carefully closed the door and added, "What do you want this man for?"

"It's a case of murder."

"Phew! Apparently he is one of the best men on the force."

"Only apparently; I know him well."

Mr. Alford's brow clouded with anxiety, and after a moment he said,
"Mr.—how shall I address you?"

"You had better continue to call me by the name under which I was introduced—Brown."

"Well, Mr. Brown, you have a very difficult and hazardous task, and you must be careful how you involve me in your actions. I shall not lay a straw in your way, but I cannot openly help you. It is difficult for me to get labor here at best; and it is understood that I ask no questions and deal with men on the basis simply of their relations to me. As long as I act on this understanding, I can keep public sentiment with me and enforce some degree of discipline. If it were known that I was aiding or abetting you in the enterprise you have in hand, my life would not be worth a rush. There are plenty in camp who would shoot me, just as they would you, should they learn of your design. I fear you do not realize what you are attempting. A man like yourself, elderly and alone, has no better chance of taking such a fellow as you describe Bute to be than of carrying a ton of ore on his back down the mountain. In all sincerity, sir, I must advise you to depart quietly and expeditiously, and give no one besides myself a hint of your errand."

"Will you please step into the outer office and make sure that no one is within earshot?" said Brandt, quietly.

When Mr. Alford returned, the elderly man apparently had disappeared, and a smiling smooth-faced young fellow with short brown hair sat in his place. His host stared, the transformation was so great.

"Mr. Alford," said the detective, "I understand my business and the risks it involves. All I ask of you is that I may not be interfered with so far as you are concerned; and my chief object in calling is to prevent you being surprised by anything you may see or hear. About three miles or thereabouts from here, on the road running east, there is a fellow who keeps a tavern. Do you know him?"

"I know no good of him. He's the worst nuisance I have to contend with, for he keeps some of my men disabled much of the time."

"Well, I knew Bute years ago, and I can make him think I am now what I was then, only worse; and I will induce him to go with me to raid that tavern. If this plan fails, I shall try another, for I am either going to take Bute alive or else get ample proof that he is dead. There may be some queer goings-on before I leave, and all I ask is that you will neither interfere nor investigate. You may be as ignorant and non-committal as you please. I shall report progress to you, however, and may need your testimony, but will see to it that it is given by you as one who had nothing to do with the affair. Now please show me your quarters, so that I can find you at night if need be; also Bute's sleeping-place and the lay of the land to some extent. You'll find that I can take everything in mighty quick. See, I'm the elderly gentleman again," and he resumed his disguise with marvellous celerity.

Mr. Alford led the way through the outer office; and the two clerks writing there saw nothing to awaken the slightest suspicion. The superintendent's cottage stood on the road leading to the mine and somewhat apart from the other buildings. On the opposite side of the highway was a thicket of pines which promised cover until one plunged into the unbroken forest that covered the mountain-side.

Brandt observed this, and remarked, "I've studied the approaches to your place a little at I came along; but I suppose I shall have to give a day or two more to the work before making my attempt."

"Well," rejoined Mr. Alford, who was of rather a social turn and felt the isolation of his life, "why not be my guest for a time? I'll take the risk if you will remain incog., and keep aloof from the men."

"That I should do in any event till ready to act. Thank you for your kindness, for it may simplify my task very much. I will see to it that I do not compromise you. When I'm ready to snare my bird, you can dismiss me a little ostentatiously for New York."

Brandt's horse was now ordered to the stable. The two men entered the cottage, and soon afterward visited the different points of interest, Mr. Alford giving the natural impression that he was showing an interested stranger the appliances for working the mine. At one point he remarked in a low tone, "That's Bute's lodging-place. A half-breed, named Apache Jack, who speaks little English lives with him."

Brandt's seemingly careless and transitory glance rested on a little shanty and noted that it was separated from others of its class by a considerable interval.

"Bute, you say, is on the day-shift."

"Yes, he won't be up till six o'clock."

"I'll manage to see him then without his knowing it."

"Be careful. I take my risk on the ground of your good faith and prudence."

"Don't fear."

CHAPTER III

THWARTED

Brandt maintained his disguise admirably. His presence caused little comment, and he was spoken of as a visiting stockholder of the mine. During his walk with Mr. Alford he appeared interested only in machinery, ores, etc., but his trained eyes made a topographical map of surroundings, and everything centred about Bute's shanty. In the evening, he amply returned his host's hospitality by comic and tragic stories of criminal life. The next day he began to lay his plans carefully, and disappeared soon after breakfast with the ostensible purpose of climbing a height at some distance for the sake of the prospect. He soon doubled round, noting every covert approach to Bute's lodgings. His eye and ear were as quick as an Indian's; but he still maintained, in case he was observed, the manner of an elderly stranger strolling about to view the region.

By noon he felt that he had the immediate locality by heart. His afternoon task was to explore the possibilities of a stream that crossed the mine road something over a mile away, and for this purpose he mounted his horse. He soon reached the shallow ford, and saw that the water was backed up for a considerable distance, and that the shallows certainly extended around a high, jutting rock which hid the stream from that point and beyond from the road. The bed appeared smooth, firm, and sandy, and he waded his horse up the gentle current until he was concealed from the highway. A place, however, was soon reached where the water came tumbling down over impassable rocks; and he was compelled to ascend the wooded shore. This he did on the side nearest to the mine house, and found that with care he could lead his horse to a point that could not be, he thought, over half a mile from the superintendent's cottage. Here there was a little dell around which the pines grew so darkly and thickly that he determined to make it his covert should he fail in his first attempt. His object now was to see if his estimate of proximity to the mine was correct; and leaving his horse, he pushed up the mountain-side. At last he reached a precipitous ledge. Skirting this a short distance, he found a place of comparatively easy ascent, and soon learned with much satisfaction that he was not over two hundred yards from the thicket opposite Mr. Alford's quarters. These discoveries all favored possible future operations; and he retraced his steps, marking his returning path by bits of white paper, held in place by stones against the high prevailing winds. Near the spot where he had left his horse he found a nook among the rocks in which a fire would be well hidden. Having marked the place carefully with his eye and obtained his bearings, he led his horse back to the stream and reached the unfrequented road again without being observed.

His next task was to discover some kind of a passageway from the mine road to a point on the main highway, leading to the west and out of the mountains. He found no better resource than to strike directly into the forest and travel by points of the compass. Fortunately, the trees were lofty and comparatively open, and he encountered no worse difficulties than some steep and rugged descents, and at last emerged on the post road at least a mile to the west of the tavern, which stood near its intersection with the mine road; Returning, he again marked out a path with paper as he had before. The sun was now low in the sky; and as he trotted toward the mine, he had but one more precaution to take, and that was to find a place where the trees were sufficiently open to permit him to ride into their shade at night in case he wished to avoid parties upon the road. Having indicated two or three such spots by a single bit of paper that would glimmer in the moonlight, he joined Mr. Alford at supper, feeling that his preparations were nearly complete. When they were alone, he told his host that it would be best not to gratify his curiosity, for then he could honestly say that he knew nothing of any detective's plans or whereabouts.

"I cannot help feeling," said Mr. Alford, "that you are playing with fire over a powder magazine. Now that I know you better, I hate to think of the risk that you are taking. It has troubled me terribly all day. I feel as if we were on the eve of a tragedy. You had better leave quietly in the morning and bring a force later that would make resistance impossible, or else give it up altogether. Why should you throw away your life? I tell you again that if the men get a hint of your character or purpose they will hunt you to death."

"It's a part of my business to incur such risks," replied Brandt, quietly. "Besides, I have a motive in this case which would lead me to take a man out of the jaws of hell."

"That's what you may find you are attempting here. Well, we're in for it now, I suppose, since you are so determined."

"I don't think you will appear involved in the affair at all. In the morning you give me a sack of grain for my horse and some provisions for myself, and then bid farewell to Mr. Brown in the most open and natural manner possible. You may not see me again. It is possible I may have to borrow a horse of you it my scheme to-night don't work. It will be returned or paid for very soon."

"Bute has a pony. He brought it with him, and he and Apache Jack between them manage to keep it. They stable it nights in a little shed back of their shanty."

"I had discovered this, and hope to take the man away on his pony. I understand why Bute keeps the animal. He knew that he might have to travel suddenly and fast."

The next morning Mr. Alford parted with Brandt as had been arranged, the latter starting ostensibly for the nearest railway station. All day long the superintendent was nervous and anxious; but he saw no evidences of suspicion or uneasiness among those in his employ.

Brandt rode at a sharp canter as long as he was in sight, and then approached the stream slowly and warily. When satisfied that he was unobserved, he again passed up its shallow bed around the concealing rock, and sought his hiding-place on the mountain-side. Aware that the coming nights might require ceaseless activity, his first measure was to secure a few hours of sound sleep; and he had so trained himself that he could, as it were, store up rest against long and trying emergencies. The rocks sheltered him against the wind, and a fire gave all the comfort his hardy frame required, as he reposed on his couch of pine-needles. Early in the afternoon he fed his horse, took a hearty meal himself, and concealed the remaining store so that no wild creatures could get at it. At early twilight he returned by way of the stream and hid his horse well back in the woods near the mine. To this he now went boldly, and inquired for Tim Atkins, Bute's assumed name. He was directed to the shanty with which he had already made himself so familiar.

Bute was found alone, and was much surprised at sight of his old gambling acquaintance of better days, for his better days were those of robbery before he had added the deeper stain of murder. Brandt soon allayed active fears and suspicions by giving the impression that in his descensus he had reached the stage of robbery and had got on the scent of some rich booty in the mountains. "But how did you know I was here?" demanded Bute.

"I didn't know it," replied Brandt, adopting his old vernacular; "but I guessed as much, for I knew there was more'n one shady feller in this gang, and I took my chances on findin' you, for, says I to myself, if I can find Bute, I've found the right man to help me crack a ranch when there's some risk and big plunder."

He then disclosed the fact of hearing that the keeper of the tavern had accumulated a good sum of hard money, and was looking out for a chance to send it to a bank. "We can save him the trouble, yer know," he concluded, facetiously.

"Well," said Bute, musingly, "I'm gittin' tired of this dog's life, and I reckon I'll go snacks with yer and then put out fer parts unknown. I was paid t'other day, and there ain't much owin' me here. I guess it'll be safer fer me ter keep movin' on, too."

"You may well say that, Bute. I heard below that there was goin' to be some investigations inter this gang, and that there was more'n one feller here whose pictur was on exhibition."

"That so?" said Bute, hastily. "Well, I'll go with yer ter-night, fer it's time I was movin'. I kin tell yer one thing, though—there'll be no investigations here unless a fair-sized regiment makes it. Every man keeps his shooter handy."

"Hanged if we care how the thing turns out. You and me'll be far enough away from the shindy. Now make your arrangements prompt, for we must be on the road by nine o'clock, so we can get through early in the night and have a good start with the swag. My plan is to ambush the whiskey shop, go and demand drinks soon after everybody is gone, and then proceed to business."

"Can't we let my mate, Apache Jack, in with us? I'll stand for him."

"No, no, I don't know anything about Apache Jack; and I can trust you. We can manage better alone, and I'd rather have one-half than one-third."

"Trust me, kin you? you—fool," thought Bute. "So ye thinks I'll sit down and divide the plunder socially with you when I kin give yer a quiet dig in the ribs and take it all. One more man now won't matter. I'm a-goin' ter try fer enough ter-night ter take me well out of these parts."

Bute's face was sinister enough to suggest any phase of evil, and Brandt well knew that he was capable of what he meditated. It was now the policy of both parties, however, to be very friendly, and Bute was still further mellowed by a draught of liquor from Brandt's flask.

They had several games of cards in which it was managed that Bute's winnings should be the larger; and at nine in the evening they started on what was to Bute another expedition of robbery and murder. Mr. Alford, who was on the alert, saw them depart with a deep sigh of relief. The night was cloudy, but the moon gave plenty of light for travelling. Brandt soon secured his horse, and then appeared to give full rein to his careless, reckless spirit.

As they approached the stream, he remarked, "I say, Bute, it's too bad we can't use the pasteboards while on the jog; but I can win a five out of you by an old game of ours. I bet you I can empty my revolver quicker 'n you can."

"We'd better save our amernition and make no noise."

"Oh, pshaw! I always have better luck when I'm free and careless like. It's your sneaking fellers that always get caught. Besides, who'll notice? This little game is common enough all through the mountains, and everybody knows that there's no mischief in such kind of firing. I want to win back some of my money."

"Well, then, take you up; go ahead."

Instantly from Brandt's pistol there were six reports following one another so quickly that they could scarcely be distinguished.

"Now beat that if you can!" cried Brandt, who had a second and concealed revolver ready for an emergency.

"The fool!" thought Bute, "to put himself at the marcy of any man. I can pluck him to-night like a winged pa'tridge;" but he too fired almost as quickly as his companion.

"You only used five ca'tridges in that little game, my friend," said
Brandt.

"Nonsense! I fired so quick you couldn't count 'em."

"Now see here, Bute," resumed Brandt, in an aggrieved tone, "you've got to play fair with me. I've cut my eye-teeth since you used to fleece me, and I'll swear you fired only five shots. Let's load and try again."

"What the use of sich —— nonsense? You'll swar that you fired the quickest; and of course I'll swar the same, and there's nobody here ter jedge. What's more, Ralph Brandt, I wants you and every man ter know that I always keeps a shot in reserve, and that I never misses. So let's load and jog on, and stop foolin'."

"That scheme has failed," thought Brandt, as he replaced the shells with cartridges.

His purpose was to find a moment when his companion was completely in his power, and it came sooner than he expected. When they drew near the brook, it was evident that Bute's pony was thirsty, for it suddenly darted forward and thrust its nose into the water. Therefore, for an instant, Bute was in advance with his back toward the detective. Covering the fellow with his revolver, Brandt shouted:

"Bute, throw up your hands; surrender, or you are a dead man!"

Instantly the truth flashed through the outlaw's mind. Instead of complying, he threw himself forward over the pony's neck and urged the animal forward. Brandt fired, and Bute fell with a splash into the water. At that moment three miners, returning from the tavern, came shouting to the opposite side of the stream. The frightened pony, relieved of its burden, galloped homeward. Brandt also withdrew rapidly toward the mine for some distance, and then rode into the woods. Having tied his horse well back from the highway, he reconnoitred the party that had so inopportunely interfered with his plans. He discovered that they were carrying Bute, who, from his groans and oaths, was evidently not dead, though he might be mortally wounded. His rescuers were breathing out curses and threats of vengeance against Brandt, now known to be an officer of the law.

"The job has become a little complicated now," muttered Brandt, after they had passed; "and I must throw them off the scent. There will be a dozen out after me soon."

He remounted his horse, stole silently down the road, crossed the stream, and then galloped to the tavern, and calling out the keeper, asked if there was any shorter road out of the mountains than the one leading to the west. Being answered in the negative, he rode hastily away. On reaching the place where he had struck this road the previous day, he entered the woods, followed the rugged trail that he had marked by bits of paper, and slowly approached the mine road again near the point where the stream crossed it. He then reconnoitred and learned that there was evidently a large party exploring the woods between the stream and the mine.

At last they all gathered at the ford for consultation, and Brandt heard one say:

"We're wastin' time beatin' round here. He'd naterly put fer the lowlands as soon as he found he was balked in takin' his man. I move we call on Whiskey Bob, and see if a man's rode that way ter-night."

A call on Whiskey Bob was apparently always acceptable; and the party soon disappeared down the road—some on horses and more on foot. Brandt then quietly crossed the road and gained his retreat on the mountain-side.

"I must camp here now till the fellow dies, and I can prove it, or until I can get another chance," was his conclusion as he rubbed down and fed his horse.

CHAPTER IV

TAKEN ALIVE

After taking some refreshment himself, Brandt decided to go to the thicket opposite the superintendent's house for a little observation. He soon reached this outlook, and saw that something unusual was occurring in the cottage. At last the door opened, and Bute was assisted to his shanty by two men. They had scarcely disappeared before Brandt darted across the road and knocked for admittance.

"Great Scott! you here?" exclaimed Mr. Alford.

"Yes, and here I'm going to stay till I take my man," replied the detective, with a laugh. "Don't be alarmed. I shall not remain in your house, but in the neighborhood."

"You are trifling with your life, and, I may add, with mine."

"Not at all. Come up to your bedroom. First draw the curtains close, and we'll compare notes. I won't stay but a few moments."

Mr. Alford felt that it was best to comply, for some one might come and find them talking in the hall. When Brandt entered the apartment, he threw himself into a chair and laughed in his low careless style as he said, "Well, I almost bagged my game to-night, and would have done so had not three of your men, returning from the tavern, interfered."

"There's a party out looking for you now."

"I know it; but I've put them on the wrong trail. What I want to learn is, will Bute live?"

"Yes; your shot made a long flesh-wound just above his shoulders. A little closer, and it would have cut his vertebrae and finished him. He has lost a good deal of blood, and could not be moved for some days except at some risk."

"You are sure of that?"

"Yes."

"Well, he may have to incur the risk. I only wish to be certain that he will not take it on his own act at once. You'll soon miss him in any event."

"The sooner the better. I wish your aim had been surer."

"That wasn't my good luck. Next time I'll have to shoot closer or else take him alive."

"But you can't stay in this region. They will all be on the alert now."

"Oh, no. The impression will be general to-morrow that I've made for the lowlands as fast as my horse could carry me. Don't you worry. Till I move again, I'm safe enough. All I ask of you now is to keep Bute in his own shanty, and not to let him have more than one man to take care of him if possible. Good-night. You may not see me again, and then again you may."

"Well, now that you are here," said the superintendent, who was naturally brave enough, "spend an hour or two, or else stay till just before daylight. I confess I am becoming intensely interested in your adventure, and would take a hand in it if I could; but you know well enough that if I did, and it became known, I would have to find business elsewhere very suddenly—that is, if given the chance."

"I only wish your passive co-operation. I should be glad, however, if you would let me take a horse, if I must."

"Certainly, as long as you leave my black mare."

Brandt related what had occurred, giving a comical aspect to everything, and then, after reconnoitring the road from a darkened window, regained his cover in safety. He declined to speak of his future plans or to give any clew to his hiding-place, to which he now returned.

During the few remaining hours of darkness and most of the next day, he slept and lounged about his fire. The next night was too bright and clear for anything beyond a reconnoissance, and he saw evidences of an alertness which made him very cautious. He did not seek another interview with Mr. Alford, for now nothing was to be gained by it.

The next day proved cloudy, and with night began a violent storm of wind and rain. Brandt cowered over his fire till nine o'clock, and then taking a slight draught from his flask, chuckled, "This is glorious weather for my work. Here's to Clara's luck this time!"

In little over an hour he started for the mine, near which he concealed his horse. Stealing about in the deep shadows, he soon satisfied himself that no one was on the watch, and then approaching the rear of Bute's shanty, found to his joy that the pony was in the shed. A chink in the board siding enabled him to look into the room which contained his prey; he started as he saw Apache Jack, instantly recognizing in him another criminal for whom a large reward was offered.

"Better luck than I dreamed of," he thought. "I shall take them both; but I now shall have to borrow a horse of Alford;" and he glided away, secured an animal from the stable, and tied it near his own. In a short time he was back at his post of observation. It had now become evident that no one even imagined that there was danger while such a storm was raging. The howling wind would drown all ordinary noises; and Brandt determined that the two men in the shanty should be on their way to jail that night. When he again put his eye to the chink in the wall, Bute was saying:

"Well, no one will start fer the mountings while this storm lasts, but, wound or no wound, I must get out of this as soon as it's over. There's no safety fer me here now."

"Ef they comes fer you, like enough they'll take me," replied Apache Jack, who, now that he was alone with his confederate, could speak his style of English fast enough. His character of half-breed was a disguise which his dark complexion had suggested. "Ter-morrer night, ef it's clar, we'll put out fer the easterd. I know of a shanty in the woods not so very fur from here in which we kin put up till yer's able ter travel furder. Come, now, take a swig of whiskey with me and then we'll sleep; there's no need of our watchin' any longer on a night like this. I'll jest step out an' see ef the pony's safe; sich a storm's 'nuff ter scare him off ter the woods."

"Well, jest lay my shooter on the cha'r here aside me 'fore you go. I feel safer with the little bull-dog in reach."

This the man did, then putting his own revolver on the table, that it might not get wet, began to unbar the door. Swift as a shadow Brandt glided out of the shed and around on the opposite side of the shanty.

An instant later Bute was paralyzed by seeing his enemy enter the open door. Before the outlaw could realize that Brandt was not a feverish vision induced by his wound, the detective had captured both revolvers, and was standing behind the door awaiting Apache Jack's return.

"Hist!" whispered Brandt, "not a sound, or you will both be dead in two minutes."

Bute's nerves were so shattered that he could scarcely have spoken, even if he had been reckless enough to do so. He felt himself doomed; and when brutal natures like his succumb, they usually break utterly. Therefore, he could do no more than shiver with unspeakable dread as if he had an ague.

Soon Apache Jack came rushing in out of the storm, to be instantly confronted by Brandt's revolver. The fellow glanced at the table, and seeing his own weapon was gone, instinctively half drew a long knife.

"Put that knife on the table!" ordered Brandt, sternly. "Do you think
I'd allow any such foolishness?"

The man now realized his powerlessness, and obeyed; and Brandt secured this weapon also.

"See here, Apache Jack, or whatever your name is, don't you run your head into a noose. You know I'm empowered to arrest Bute, and you don't know anything about the force I have at hand. All you've got to do is to obey me, an officer of the law, like a good citizen. If you don't, I'll shoot you; and that's all there is about it. Will you obey orders?"

"I no understan'."

"Stop lying! You understand English as well as I do, and I'll suspect YOU if you try that on again. Come, now! I've no time to lose. It's death or obedience!"

"You can't blame a feller fer standin' by his mate," was the sullen yet deprecatory reply.

"I can blame any man, and arrest or shoot him too, who obstructs the law. You must obey me for the next half-hour, to prove that you are not Bute's accomplice."

"He's only my mate, and our rule is ter stand by each other; but, as you say, I can't help myself, and there's no use of my goin' ter jail."

"I should think not," added Brandt, appealing to the fellow's selfish hope of escaping further trouble if Bute was taken. "Now get my prisoner out of bed and dress him as soon as possible."

"But he ain't able ter be moved. The superintendent said he wasn't."

"That's my business, not yours. Do as I bid you."

"Why don't yer yell fer help?" said Bute, in a hoarse whisper.

"Because he knows I'd shoot him if he did," remarked Brandt, coolly.

"Come, old man," said Jack, "luck's agin yer. Ef there's any hollerin' ter be done, yer's as able ter do that as I be."

"Quick, quick! jerk him out of bed and get him into his clothes. I won't permit one false move."

Jack now believed that his only means of safety was to be as expeditious as possible, and that if Bute was taken safely he would be left unmolested. People of their class rarely keep faith with one another when it is wholly against their interests to do so. Therefore, in spite of the wounded man's groans, he was quickly dressed and his hands tied behind him. As he opened his mouth to give expression to his protests, he found himself suddenly gagged by Brandt, who stood behind him. Then a strap was buckled about his feet, and he lay on the floor helpless and incapable of making a sound.

"Now, Jack," said Brandt, "go before me and bridle and saddle the pony; then bring him to the door."

Jack obeyed.

"Now put Bute upon him. I'll hold his head; but remember I'm covering you with a dead bead all the time."

"No need of that. I'm civil enough now."

"Well, you know we're sort of strangers, and it's no more than prudent for me to be on the safe side till we part company. That's right, strap his feet underneath. Now lead the pony in such directions as I say. Don't try to make off till I'm through with you, or you'll be shot instantly. I shall keep within a yard of you all the time."

They were not long in reaching the horse that Brandt had borrowed, and
Jack said, "I s'pose I kin go now."

"First untie Bute's hands so he can guide the pony."

As the fellow attempted to do this, and his two hands were close together, Brandt slipped a pair of light steel handcuffs over his wrists, and the man was in his power. Almost before the new prisoner could recover from his surprise, he was lifted on the borrowed horse, and his legs also tied underneath.

"This ain't fa'r. You promised ter let me go when you got Bute off."

"I haven't got him off yet. Of course I can't let you go right back and bring a dozen men after us. You must be reasonable."

The fellow yelled for help; but the wind swept the sound away.

"If you do that again, I'll gag you too," said Brandt. "I tell you both once more, and I won't repeat the caution, that your lives depend on obedience." Then he mounted, and added, "Bute, I'm going to untie your hands, and you must ride on ahead of me. I'll lead Jack's horse."

In a moment he had his prisoners in the road, and was leaving the mine at a sharp pace. Bute was so cowed and dazed with terror that he obeyed mechanically. The stream was no longer a shallow brook, but a raging torrent which almost swept them away as Brandt urged them relentlessly through it. The tavern was dark and silent as they passed quickly by it. Then Brandt took the gag from Bute's mouth, and he groaned, cursed, and pleaded by turns. Hour after hour he urged them forward, until at last Bute gave out and fell forward on the pony's neck. Brandt dismounted and gave the exhausted man a draught from his flask.

"Oh, shoot me and have done with it!" groaned Bute; "I'd rather be shot than hanged anyhow."

"Couldn't think of it," replied the detective, cheerily. "My rule is to take prisoners alive, so that they can have a fair trial and be sure that they get justice. I'd take you the rest of the way in a bed if I could, but if you can't sit up, I'll have to tie you on. We'll reach a friend of mine by daylight, and then you can ride in a wagon, so brace up."

This the outlaw did for a time, and then he gave out utterly and was tied more securely to the pony. Out of compassion, Brandt thereafter travelled more slowly; and when the sun was an hour high, he led his forlorn captives to the house of a man whom he knew could be depended upon for assistance. After a rest sufficient to give Bute time to recover somewhat, the remainder of the journey was made without any incident worth mentioning, and the prisoners were securely lodged in jail on the evening of the 24th of December.

CHAPTER V

WHAT BRANDT SAW CHRISTMAS EVE

Brandt's words and effort had had their natural effect on the mind of Clara Heyward. They proved an increasing diversion of her thoughts, and slowly dispelled the morbid, leaden grief under which she had been sinking. Her new anxiety in regard to her lover's fortune and possible fate was a healthful counter-irritant. Half consciously she yielded to the influence of his strong, hopeful spirit, and almost before she was aware of it, she too began to hope. Chief of all, his manly tenderness and unbargaining love stole into her heart like a subtle balm; and responsive love, the most potent of remedies, was renewing her life. She found herself counting the days and then the hours that must intervene before the 25th. On Christmas eve her woman's nature triumphed, and she instinctively added such little graces to her toilet as her sombre costume permitted. She also arranged her beautiful hair in the style which she knew he admired. He might come; and she determined that his first glance should reveal that he was not serving one who was coldly apathetic to his brave endeavor and loyalty.

Indeed, even she herself wondered at the changes that had taken place during the brief time which had elapsed since their parting. There was a new light in her eyes, and a delicate bloom tinged her cheeks.

"Oh," she murmured, "it's all so different now that I feel that I can live for him and make him happy."

She was sure that she could welcome him in a way that would assure him of the fulfilment of all his hopes; but when he did come with his eager, questioning eyes, she suddenly found herself under a strange restraint, tongue-tied and embarrassed. She longed to put her arms about his neck and tell him all—the new life, the new hope which his look of deep affection had kindled; and in effort for self-control, she seemed to him almost cold. He therefore became perplexed and uncertain of his ground, and took refuge in the details of his expedition, meanwhile mentally assuring himself that he must keep his word and put no constraint on the girl contrary to the dictates of her heart.

As his mind grew clearer, his keen observation began to reveal hopeful indications. She was listening intently with approval, and something more in her expression, he dared to fancy. Suddenly he exclaimed, "How changed you are for the better, Clara! You are lovelier to-night than ever you were. What is it in your face that is so sweet and bewildering? You were a pretty girl before; now you are a beautiful woman."

The color came swiftly at his words, and she faltered as she averted her eyes, "Please go on with your story, Ralph. You have scarcely begun yet. I fear you were in danger."

He came and stood beside her. "Clara," he pleaded, "look at me."

Hesitatingly she raised her eyes to his.

"Shall I tell you what I hope I see?"

The faintest suggestion of a smile hovered about her trembling lips.

"I hope I see what you surely see in mine. Come, Clara, you shall choose before you hear my story. Am I to be your husband or friend? for I've vowed that you shall not be without a loyal protector."

"Ralph, Ralph," she cried, springing up and hiding her face on his shoulder, "I have no choice at all. You know how I loved papa; but I've learned that there's another and different kind of love. I didn't half understand you when you first spoke; now I do. You will always see in my eyes what you've seen to-night."