Part 3 out of 4
turning with dizzy eyes from great heights, but forever keeping the direction
taken by the hostile party ahead, he listened for the sound of a gun, for
the rattle of Fenton's drum, but listened in vain. He feared that the boy
had been captured on his way down.
Finally, after a rough journey of several hours' duration, the renegade
came to a halt at a point where the summit fell away in two directions,
to the north and to the east. The divide seemed at least three hundred
feet lower than that to the south, and sloped gradually, on the east,
to a desert-like plain, beyond which ran the river. Here the party
turned east toward the river and the boundary.
Jimmie, perched on a ledge facing the north, watched Fremont moving
away with a desire in his heart to send a bullet after the Englishman.
He tried to attract the attention of the captive, but did not succeed.
While the boy lay watching and listening for any sounds of rescuers
coming up the slope, a great rock, somewhere to the south, went tumbling
down the mountain, carrying smaller rocks with it until the rattle of
falling stones sounded like the din of a battle.
The renegade started and looked about suspiciously, doubtless fearing
that the slide had been caused by the incautious feet of a pursuer,
but his companions smiled and informed him that such incidents were
common there and not at all alarming.
Jimmie smiled, too, for when the rattle ceased he heard a Black Bear
growling in a ravine not far away. In a second the snarl of a Wolf
answered the growl of the Bear, and then, almost before he became
aware of their stealthy approach, Frank Shaw and Peter Fenton lay
beside him in his hiding place. It seemed to the boy, as they lay
there panting from their long climb, that they had dropped out of
He gave each one a friendly kick and waited, with a grin on his face.
"Say," grunted Shaw, rolling over on his back, "I'm all fried out."
"You have plenty of fat left," grinned Jimmie. "How did you fellows
"By following the signs in the stones," Frank replied.
Then Jimmie turned to Peter, also panting from his climb.
"Where's the drum you went after," he demanded, tauntingly.
"I got lost on the way down," Peter explained. "I didn't think I'd
ever see or hear a drum again. Then I came upon Frank. He was lost,
too. I was on my way down to the camp, and he was on his way up to
the camp, and we met half a mile to the south of the camp, both
trudging along like fools."
The situation was explained in a few words. Both boys had missed
the trail, and had found, not the camp, but each other. They had
last met in New York. Frank had not the slightest notion that Peter
had left the city. It was a fortunate meeting, for the two, after
greeting each other like chums, had studied the situation out much
better than one could have done, with the result that, after many
false trails had been followed, they had struck the one left by Jimmie.
Where are they going with Fremont?" Frank asked, in a moment.
"They seem to be going after the reward," replied Jimmie.
"He'll get all the reward that's coming to him before he gets
over the river and claims the money," Frank exclaimed. "Do you
think Fremont knows that you are here?"
Jimmie shook his head.
"I've had to keep back," he said, "and Fremont never will look
my way when I get close up to where he is."
"He ought to know," the drummer said.
"I've done my best," Jimmie said, in a discouraged tone.
Frank Shaw smiled and dropped down behind a huge rock.
"Just wait a minute," he said. "Just wait until I catch me breath,
and I'll put him wise to the fact that there's a Black Bear somewhere
in this turned-up-on-edge country.
Watch, and see him jump."
Frank put his hand to his throat and emitted a growl which would
have done credit to a genuine black bear, a bear in a museum warning
the inquisitive to keep away from his cage. The threatening sound,
however, seemed to come from the other side of the slope where the
The Englishman drew a revolver and glanced sharply around, while
the outlaws seized their guns and held them ready for action. It
was clear to the boys that they had been completely deceived by the
signal, and were expecting an attack from the animal at any moment.
Fremont did not seem to notice the signal, which was one the members
of the Black Bear Patrol had long practiced both in the forest and
in their club room, but his eyes were for an instant lifted toward
the hiding place occupied by the three boys.
"He's next," whispered Fenton.
"I should say so," grunted Frank. "I guess he'd know a Black Bear
signal anywhere. We didn't learn that call by any correspondence
school method. It is the genuine thing. We got it by dodging the
keepers and stirring up the black bears at Central Park."
The outlaws were now making timid runs out toward the point from
which the sound had come, and the boys thought best to drop back
a short distance, still keeping Fremont in sight, however. Directly
the outlaws assembled again and stood talking in the villainous lingo
which they had used before. It was evident that they were not a little
alarmed at the thought of a wild animal being so close to them.
"They'll think there's more than one Black Bear after them," Shaw
whispered as the men turned down the eastern slope and again moved
toward the desert-like plain which lay between the mountains and the river.
"There's a Wolf after them, too," grinned Jimmie. "If I had some of
the Wolves I left in New York we'd eat 'em alive," he added. "I'm hungry
enough to eat that big lobster at three bites."
As the boy ceased speaking a pebble struck him on the top of the head,
and the whine of a wolf reached his ears. There was silence for a moment,
and then the sharp, vicious, canine-like snap of a wolf on scent was heard.
"I reckon all the Wolves in the world are not in New York," Shaw said.
"That was a patrol signal, Jimmie. Go out and find your chum."
"It's Nestor!" almost shouted the boy, and Nestor it was, climbing
laughingly toward the astonished group.
"Get down! Get down," warned Frank. "You'll give us all away."
Nestor pointed to the ridge, from which the outlaws had now disappeared,
and threw himself down by the side of the boys.
"Did you bring anything to eat?" demanded Frank, rubbing his stomach.
"Where are the secret service men?" asked Fenton.
"This looks like a Boy Scout convention," Jimmie put in. "Where did
you come from, and why didn't the guards come with you?"
In a few words Nestor explained the situation. He had left the secret
service men to convey the prisoners to El Paso, and had entered alone
upon a search for his friends. In a short time he had come upon signs
in stones left by Shaw and Fenton, and had followed them to the place of meeting.
"What's the matter with the secret service men?" asked Shaw.
"Aw, they're jealous of Nestor!" Jimmie put in. "I reckon they wouldn't
much care if Nestor had been geezled instead of Fremont."
"They did all they were ordered to do," Nestor replied. "It is now up
to us to release Fremont. "I'm glad he knows we are here," Nestor added,
after due explanation had been made by Jimmie and Shaw. "He'll be on the
lookout for us."
"How are you going to get him?" asked Fenton.
"You've heard of cutting cattle out of a herd?" smiled Nestor. "Well,
that is the way we are going to get Fremont. We're going to cut him out."
PLENTY OF BLACK BEARS.
"There's four of us now," Jimmie urged, "and we've all got guns,
so we ought to go after the lobsters and get Fremont away from them."
"They look like dubs," Frank put in, "and I believe they'll run
when they hear us shooting. If you won't let me drum, you must
let me shoot."
"You got no drum!" grinned Jimmie.
"I'm afraid they would turn their guns on their prisoner if we
attached them," said Nestor. "We've just got to wait until we
can cut him out."
"I'm hungry enough to eat 'em all alive," cried Frank.
"I could get along pretty well if I had a couple of gallons of
water," said Peter.
"If them lobsters find anything to eat or drink down there," Frank
said, "we'll go down and take it away from them. Looks like they
were making for a feed."
The boys now clambered cautiously to the summit and looked down the
slope to the east. The renegade and his men were slowly making their
way toward the bottom. The prisoner was moving forward as briskly as
any of them, and the big fellow appeared to be paying special attention
to him, as he was walking by his side most of the time.
The distance to the level plain below did not seem to be great. Although
the peaks of the Sierra del Fierro range seem high when looked upon from
the level of the Rio Grande, they do not appear to be so lofty when viewed
from the plateau upon which the actual ascent begins.
The level table-lands or plateaux of Mexico lie from four to nine thousand
feet above sea level, making many distinct climates as one goes up or down.
These plateaux are girt by mountain chains. The high summits are those of
Cofre del Perote, 13,400 feet; Origava, 17,870 feet; Istaccihuatl, or the
White Woman, 16,000 feet, and the famous Popocatapetl, known as "Smoking
Mountain," which lifts its fire-scarred head 17,800 feet above the level
of the ocean.
It seemed to the boys that the distance between the summit where they
stood and the plain below might, even at the slow pace at which the
outlaws were moving, be made by nightfall. The eastern slope was not
so rough and broken as that on the west. In fact, the outlaws were
now traveling down a declivity so clear of cliffs and breaks that the
boys did not dare follow them. To be observed by the renegade at that
time might prove fatal to the hope of the immediate rescue of Fremont,
as the outlaws would then be on their guard.
"We've either got to wait until night, or wind down through the wild
places off to the south," Nestor said, after looking over the locality
for a time.
"We just can't wait until night," Jimmie said. "There's no knowing
what treatment Fremont will receive at their hands before that time."
"We may actually gain time by waiting," Nestor advised. "We may be
obliged to travel scores of miles around precipices and canons if we
take to the rocks."
Suppose we wait, then," Frank said. "We can go over into the bumps
to the south and get out of the sunlight, then. I'm about roasted.
There may be a cave over in that direction, or a ruined temple."
"Or a Turkish bath, or a lobster palace," grinned Jimmie. "We might
find a pie-counter over there, too," he added, with a poke at Frank.
"There are no ruined temples in the State of Chihuahua," declared
Peter Fenton, glad of an opportunity of unloading his knowledge of
the country, "at least, I have never heard of any being here. The
teocalli, or temples, are farther south, down in the State of Chiapas,
and in Yucatan."
"But we might find some underground temple up here," insisted Jimmie.
"The natives worshiped in this region, didn't they?"
"They built their temples on top of pyramids," continued Fenton, "and
not underground. There is one at Palenque said to be built on the
lines of Solomon's temple. It has sanctuaries, sepulchers, cloisters,
courts, subterraneous galleries, and dismal cells where the priests
lived. No one knows how old the ruins are. No one knows how many
distinct civilizations have held sway there, one, literally, on top
of the other."
"It is too hot up here to talk ancient history," said Frank, "and
I'm hungry, too, but I'd like to know where you find any pyramids
"The pyramid-temple of Cholulu," went on the delighted drummer, "is the
largest and best known. It makes the pyramids of Egypt look like thirty
cents in comparison, for it is nearly fifteen hundred feet on each side
and almost two hundred feet high. Gizeh, the big Egyptian pyramid, is
only 763 feet along the sides, but it has the Mexican one beaten in height,
it being over five hundred feet high. Perhaps you fellows will wake up,
directly, and find out what a wonderful country you are in."
"Who built this pyramid-temple?" asked Jimmie.
"No one knows," was the reply. "Whoever did it had correct ideas of
architecture and knew lots about decoration. The ruined city of Palenque
had temples, palaces, baths, and aqueducts. It was twenty miles long,
and must have had an enormous population. It is said that there is not
a record left. Cortes and his gang took care of what the Toltecs and
"It is a wonderful country." Nestor said, "but it needs stability in
population. Just now, however, we need rest. It is evident that the
outlaws are headed for the plain below, and we must catch up with them
when they camp for the night."
"I wonder what Fremont will think?" observed Jimmie. "I'll bet he's
thinkin', right now, that we've gone back on him."
"There is no other way," explained Nestor. "It would be folly to
attempt rescue now, and worse folly to attempt to follow the party
down this slope, in the broad light of day. Did any of you boys notice
a square package I had on a shoulder-strap as I came up? I laid it
down somewhere. It contained a dozen egg and ham sandwiches," he added,
with a provoking smile.
"Great Scott!" cried Frank Shaw, springing straight up in the air,
like a rubber ball. "Holy smoke! You haven't lost it, have you?"
Nestor sat back and laughed at the hungry boy's antics and then
brought forth the precious packet. The boys gathered around him,
but he motioned them away.
"I'm not going to open it here," he said. "What until we find a
place where we can rest a bit. There must be a cliff-hole over
Disappointed, and making wry faces, the boys followed Nestor to
the south until they came to a shelf of rock which faced the east.
The ridge above sheltered the spot from the hot sun, and there was
a cavity in the cliff which promised a secure resting place.
As he stepped out on the shelf Nestor paused and pointed to a
collection of three rocks lying in plain view.
"What is it?" asked Jimmie, his eyes on the sandwich packet.
"Read it," replied Nestor.
"Head to the south! shouted Shaw. "Who put that here?"
Nestor looked keenly into the astonished face before him.
"No tricks, now," he said. "Which of you boys placed this
No one made answer, and Frank bent down to make a closer inspection
of the rocky floor of the shelf. Presently he gave a wild whoop
and arose to his feet with something in his hand.
"What do you know about this?" he demanded. "What do you know
about it, anyway?"
"Crazy," grunted Jimmie. "What is it?"
"The badge of the Black Bear Patrol," was the amazing reply. "Now,
who put it there? Some of the Black Bears said they were coming
down here, but how could they get to the top of this range?"
It was, indeed, a puzzling find. The stone sign had certainly
been placed where it had been found within a few hours, for one
side of the large rock was still a trifle damp, having undoubtedly
been taken from some shady place.
But how should the Black Bears of New York reach that almost
unknown country? That was the question.
"They said they'd sleuth on "Fremont," Frank said, after a pause.
"But they couldn't have followed him here," insisted Fenton. "And,
if they had, they would not have been putting up stone signs when we
were only a few yards away."
"The sign says, 'Keep to the south,' Nestor observed, "and we may
find the solution of the mystery there."
Anxious for a sight of his old chums of the Black Bear Patrol,
and unable to control his feelings, Shaw darted on ahead, passed
around a corner of rock, and disappeared from the sight of the
other members of the party.
"I hope he won't go an' get lost," Jimmie said, taking a swifter pace.
In a moment, however, it became evident that Shaw was not lost;
that, in fact, he was very much found, and with an undiminished
lung capacity. Such Black Bear growls and sniffs as came from
around the corner of the cliff were never heard before outside
of a Wild West show. There seemed to be half a dozen Black Bears
growling at, and ready to devour each other.
When Nestor turned the corner of the cliff he saw four boys mixed
up in what seemed to be a desperate struggle. It was from this
group that the wild growls were coming. Now and then a word of
greeting or a joyful laugh came from the storm-center, but the
playful struggle went on.
"Holy Smoke!" Frank cried presently, drawing himself away from the bunch.
"What do you think of it? Look who's here! Three Black Bears,
Harry Stevens, Glen Howard and Jack Bosworth. How did you get
here, boys, and did you bring anything to eat with you?"
The three Black Bears were introduced to the other members of the
party, then tongues ran swiftly, and they all talked at the same
time. Occasionally Nestor stepped to the shelf, just around the
angle of the cliff, and looked down on the outlaws, making their
way to the plain below. When Harry Stevens asked about Fremont,
the boys pointed at the distant party and told the story of his capture.
"We'll have him back before night," Stevens declared. "There are
seven of us now, and that's enough to put up a lively fight."
"But how did you happen to light on this mountain?" asked Frank,
still staring with the wonder of the meeting.
"It was as easy as following a white elephant," laughed Stevens.
The El Paso papers told all about Fremont being there, and about
his escaping to Mexico. We were there the morning after you left.
We took train for San Jose, and found where you had purchased
provisions. Then there was the boatman who took you across the
lake, or lagoon, and the guards coming down the slope with three
prisoners. Oh, it was easy as falling asleep until we left your
little camp. In an hour, however, we came upon the trails left
by Jimmie and by Shaw, and came on. For the past two hours we
have been higher up than you, so we did not see each other."
"You're a nice lot of fellows to go sleuthing," laughed Jack
Bosworth. "Why, it was no trick at all to follow you. If
the police are as prompt and industrious as we were, they're
out here in the hills somewhere right now, after Fremont."
"Another matter kept us in the vicinity of this alleged
civilization," replied Nestor, referring to the necessity
of capturing Don Miguel, "but now that is over, and we're
going to burrow like rabbits in the mountains, after we get
hold of Fremont, until the truth is known."
"Well, said Stevens, "there's a good place to hide back
here-a cave, with no one knows how many rooms. It was a
fine residence some day. Come on. We found it while looking
for a place to rest."
"And you said there were no subterraneous temples in Chihuahua,"
said Shaw, addressing himself to Fenton. "You said they were
all in the neck of Central America."
"You wait a second, and you'll see whether there are or not,"
said Glen Howard.
Then the speaker led the way to the entrance of what appeared
to be a very large ante-chamber, there being openings which
resembled doorways at the back. Both the side walls and the
floor were of rock, and showed evidences of the work of man.
A square of light lay on the floor, the sunlight falling through
a cut in the rocky roof.
"We haven't ventured any farther than this," Glen said. "We were
shaky about coming in this far, for there is no knowing what one
will find in these holes. It is dark in the rooms beyond, and it
is what one can't see that he is afraid of."
"Besides," Jack Bosworth cut in, "we were hungry when we got
"Great Scott!" shouted Shaw. "Do you mean that you've brought
something to eat? Lead me to it. I never was so hungry in
all me blameless life."
Following the custom of Boy Scouts when preparing for a trip
into an unknown country, the three boys had provided themselves
with a good supply of provisions, and the hungry ones they had
found were soon enjoying a very satisfying meal.
"After we fill up," Frank said, busy with a whole pie, "we'll
get our flashlights and see what's in those other rooms. Say,"
he added, turning to Nestor "what's the matter of bringing Fremont
here---when we get him?"
"I'll bet these rooms are ten thousand years old," said Peter.
After the repast was over Nestor drew Frank aside, while the
others were searching their outfits for the electric torches,
"You remember what I said about there being three men in the
Cameron suite the night of the tragedy?"
"Of course," was the reply. "Got something new on the subject?
I guess you have that matter on your mind day and night."
"I have," was the reply. "I'm always thinking about it. Well,
I now believe that there were four men there, but I can't think
what the fourth man wanted."
FREMONT AND THE RENEGADE.
While the boys were discussing the situation in the outer
chamber of what appeared to be a subterranean, prehistoric
temple, or at least an ancient habitation or place of
shelter, George Fremont was moving down the slope of the
mountain at a slow pace, the outlaws showing signs of
The big Englishman, known as "Big Bob" by the messenger
who had identified the boy for him, had ordered the
boy's bonds removed, and so he was scrambling along
in comparative comfort, the way being quite free of
dangerous cliffs and fissures.
Occasionally Big Bob approached him with some question
connected with the night of the tragedy, but at first
Fremont refused to talk on the subject, well knowing
that the big fellow would only criticize what he said.
After a time, however, Fremont decided that it might
be to his advantage to draw the fellow out, and the
next time he came up he asked, abruptly:
"What do you know of Nestor's movements that night?"
"Did I say that I knew anything of them?" was the astonished reply.
"When you thought you had captured Nestor you said you
knew of every move he made that night. Not my movements,
"Don't get gay, now," growled the other. "I'll talk about
that with Nestor, when I find him. I'll talk about your
movements with you. There's plenty of proof that you did
the job there."
"And you've got it, of course?" said Fremont, with a shrug
"Of course I've got it. The only thing I can't dope out is
the motive you had."
"You ought to be able to find that," sneered the boy. "Your
imagination seems to be working well to-day. Were you there
that night? If not, how does it come that you know so much
about what didn't take place?" he added, provokingly.
"You were seen to strike the blow," was the blustering reply.
"Where were you at that time?" asked Fremont, knowing, of
course, that the fellow was lying to him, and hoping to
confuse him by the abruptness of the question.
"That does not matter," was the reply. "It is known that
you sneaked into the building after the elevator stopped,
and went up to the Cameron suite. After stopping there
for some moments, long enough to create the disorder that
existed there, you returned to the lower floor. Then you
started up, giving notice of your approach by whistling."
Fremont could not repress a smile at the positive manner
of the man as he described a situation which was purely
imaginary. Then, anxious to learn what other untruths
the fellow would relate, he asked:
"You know Jim Scoby, the night watchman, and Felix, the Mexican?"
"I know nothing of them," was the reply.
The two walked on side by side for some time in silence, the big
fellow turning now and then to look with disapproval at the
smiling face of the boy. Indeed, if the proof against him was
no stronger than this, the boy could well afford to smile, for
lies in evidence discredit any truth there may be on the side
of the falsifiers.
"Where are the men you refer to?" the big fellow asked, at length.
"They are down here looking for the Tolford mine," was the reply.
"They stole a description of it that night. Ever hear of the
Tolford mine?" he added abruptly.
The renegade gave a quick start at the question.
"How do you know they are down here?" he asked.
"Nestor says they followed on down after us. Were you there when
they got into the office and got the description?" he continued.
"I've heard of this mysterious mine," was the guarded reply,
"and I understand that this boy Nestor has a copy of the description."
"Is that why you wanted Nestor?" asked Fremont. "Are you after
the mine, too?"
The big fellow walked on in silence. It was plain to Fremont
that his abrupt questions were irritating him, so he decided
to go on with them.
"Are you one of the Tolford heirs?" he asked.
No reply, save a threatening scowl.
"Are you the heir who has been making Mr. Cameron so much
trouble?" persisted the prisoner, glad to note that Big Bob
was fretting under his cross-examination.
"Do you expect to find the mine down there in the sand?"
continued Fremont. "That doesn't appear to me to be a
good place to look for gold."
"It is a good place to look for a reward for a fugitive from
justice," snapped the big fellow. "Now cut out the gab!"
"You think you can get me across the border without meeting
with opposition from my friends?" asked Fremont, not obeying
the latest command.
"Your friends!" ejaculated Big Bob. "Who are your friends?
A mess of school-boys who get lost in the hills! A gang of
high-brows who can't take care of themselves off Broadway!
The idea of meeting with any effective opposition from Fremont's
boy friends was so amusing to the big fellow that he burst into
a hearty laugh.
"Your friends!" he repeated. "Ho! Ho! Baby dudes!"
"About this reward," Fremont went on, resolved to keep
Big Bob talking if he could, "about this blood money!
You will have to cut it up into several piles, won't you?"
glancing around the file of outlaws. "Or do you intend to
cut the throats of these fellows instead of cutting up the
reward? That would be something in your line, and quite profitable."
"I'll cut your throat," threatened Big Bob, "if you don't close
your yawp. Speak when you are spoken to!"
"All right," replied Fremont. "I'm spoken to now. Did you
steal the Tolford will out of the envelope that night? If
you are the heir who has been trying to get it, you certainly
got a chance then."
Big Bob started violently, walked rapidly for a few moments,
and then dropped back to Fremont's side, just as the boy had
figured on his doing. This talk of the Tolford estate seemed
to be attractive to the fellow. Fremont saw that it was, but
could find no reason why it should be unless, indeed, he had
hit on the truth in one of his questions, and the fellow was
really an heir.
"What do you know about that will?" Big Bob asked as he took
step with his prisoner.
"Not a thing, except that it has been in good demand for a
long time, and that it has made trouble for Mr. Cameron."
"You have had charge of the Tolford papers, including the will,
on several occasions? You have taken the papers to and from the bank?"
"Sure," answered Fremont. "Where did you learn so much?"
"Never mind! You would know the will if you saw it anywhere?"
"No; I never looked at it."
It seemed to the boy that this answer brought forth a sigh of
relief from the breast of the big fellow, so he decided to
keep on with his questions about the will.
"You have seen the will?" he asked.
"Never. What caused you to think I had seen it?"
"You talk so much about it."
Big Bob grunted and walked on in silence. Fremont turned back
for an instant and swept his eyes over the slope, hoping to
catch sight of one of the Black Bears. Not a friendly face
or form was in sight, however, and he trudged on, wondering
what line of questions would be most likely to throw the big
fellow off his guard.
"Why don't you take my advice and confess?" Big Bob asked, presently.
"I might do so," Fremont replied, provokingly, "but for one thing."
"And what is that?" was asked eagerly.
"I want to see the guilty man punished!"
"If you confess," the other went on, angrily, "you'll get a light
sentence if Cameron lives, and a life sentence instead of the
electric chair if he dies. There is always hope in a life
sentence--and you are young!"
"Why do you ask me to confess?" demanded Fremont.
"Well, to tell you the truth," was the reply, "I have a friend
who may be accused of the crime. He can't be convicted, of course,
for the proof goes to show you to be the guilty one, but the cops
can make him a lot of trouble and expense!"
"So you want me to confess and skip the country?"
"Yes, to skip out of the country, just as you skipped out of New York."
"And permit this friend of yours, who committed the crime, to go free?"
"My friend did not commit the crime!" threateningly.
"Oh, yes he did! Who is your friend--yourself?"
Big Bob lifted a hand as if to strike the boy, but he changed his
mind, or got control of his temper, and lowered it again.
"At least," Fremont said, "you know who did commit the crime.
That is something."
The big fellow grumbled out some sarcastic reply and trudged ahead.
Fremont, knowing that a valuable point had been gained, hastened
along by his side.
"And, with my false confession in your pocket," the boy went on,
"you would find it convenient to leave me out there under the sand?"
"You're a plucky cub to talk like that to me.
Big Bob was in a great rage, but he did not lift his heavy hand again.
"I was wondering if your friend would pay for leaving me out there,"
the boy said. "If I went back to New York, you know, I might deny
the confession, or claim that it was secured under duress. You
know what a confession is worth when secured under duress? What
"You're a fool!" shouted Big Bob so loudly that the others turned
inquisitive faces toward him. "That was only a joke, that about
my friend. I wanted to see what you would say if I asked you to
confess, and then when you asked why I wanted a confession I gave
you the first reason that came into my head. So shut up about it."
"Sure," said Fremont, "after you give me the real reason you asked
for a confession."
Big Bob saw that he had made a mistake in talking with the shrewd
youngster, and decided to get out of it the best way he could.
"All right! I'll tell you," he said. "A reward will be paid right
down on the nail when a confession is filed with the prisoner.
Now you know all about it!"
"Your imagination is working all right to-day," Fremont laughed.
"The last explanation is more foolish than the first. You knew
very well that the payment of the reward would follow conviction,
and you know that I am innocent."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because you know who the real criminal is."
"That is not true!" thundered the other. "Now, I've had enough of this.
You mog along and keep your mouth shut or it will be the worse for you."
Fremont knew very well that Big Bob was considering a desperate means
of retrieving the error he had made in speaking of a friend who might
be accused of the crime. The boy was afraid that he had gone too far
in his desire to provoke the big fellow.
For there would be no one to ask questions if the boy should never
leave the hills alive. Unless the Black Bears were within striking
distance, no one would ever know what had become of him. He looked
and listened again for some signs of his friends, but the slope
behind told him nothing.
WHAT WAS FOUND UNDERGROUND.
While Fremont was clambering down the eastern slope, studying
the renegade Englishman whenever opportunity offered, and
puzzling over the source of the fellow's information
concerning the Cameron building and the Tolford estate papers,
Ned Nestor and his companions were preparing to visit the
interior of the strange shelter-place in which they found themselves.
The outer chamber, which, for convenience they marked "Chamber A"
on the rough map they afterward made, was 30x40 feet in size, with
the eastern side running parallel with the almost perpendicular
face of rock which shot upward from the shelf which has before
been alluded to. The opening faced directly east, and from it
one could look miles over the desert of sand lying between the
foot of the range and the Rio Grande del Norte, something like
a hundred miles away.
To the north and south of this main chamber the boys found niches
in the rock, evidently hewn there by man hundreds of years before.
The rock was very hard here, and it seemed that work had ceased
for that reason.
On the west side of the chamber there were two openings, perhaps
four feet by six, each leading into a chamber 20x30 feet in size.
Before entering these rooms, which held an odor of dampness and
decay, the recently arrived Black Bears produced electric flashlights.
"We looked up Old Mexico," Harry Stevens said, turning on the flame,
"and knew we'd be nosing around in caves and tunnels before we got
back to God's country, so we brought our glims along with us."
"Well, don't burn them all at once," advised Nestor. "We shall
need them for several days, probably, and there are no shops in
the next block where dry batteries can be bought. Leave one out
and put the rest away."
"We have a few extra batteries," said Harry. "We looked out for that."
"We shall doubtless need all you have, no matter how economically
they are used," Nestor said. "Let me take the one you have, and
I'll go on an exploring expedition into the south chamber."
"Me for the exploring expedition too!" cried Harry. "I want to
see how it seems to go into a room ten thousand years old."
"Nixt ten thousand years!" observed Jimmie.
Harry nudged Peter Fenton and pointed to the west wall of the
chamber, across which he threw the brilliant circle of the flashlight.
"There is the record," he said.
"Nix ten thousand years old!" insisted Jimmie.
No one knows how old," Fenton said. "No one has ever been able
to translate the picture talk of the very early inhabitants.
The man who carved those lines might have existed when the
sandy desert out there was under water."
"Speaking of water, let's go on and see where they got their
drinkings," put in Frank Shaw. "I'm nearly choked, and I'll
bet there's a spring about here somewhere."
"Any old time you don't want something to eat or drink!" laughed
Harry. "Well," he added, handing the flashlight to Nestor, "we
may as well go in and see if there is a water system here."
"There surely is," Fenton said. "The people who dug this shelter
out did not work where there was no water. If Nature did not
supply it, they built aqueducts to convey it to locations where
it was wanted. But Professor Agassiz says they lived ten
thousand years ago, so, if they did put in a water system here,
it may be out of commission now."
"How does he know how long ago they lived?" asked Jack.
"By their bones," was the reply. "Near New Orleans, under four
successive forests, one on top of the other, and each showing
traces of having been occupied by man, explorers recently
discovered a human skeleton estimated to be fifty thousand
years old. That fellow must have lived just after the last
"I don't believe they know anything about how long ago he lived,"
observed Jimmie. "How can any one tell how long ago the last
glacial epoch closed?"
"Figure out how far the melting line traveled from south to north,"
said Fenton, "then figure that the glaciers receded at the rate
of only twelve feet every hundred years, and you'll know something
"Come on!" cried Frank, "let's get in there and find their Croton
system. I'm so thirsty my throat sizzles. Come on!"
Nestor, closely followed by the others, led the way into the south
chamber, called, for convenience, "Chamber B" on the rough map made
later on. The place was damp and cold, and a current of air came
from the southwest corner, indicating an opening there.
After clearing away a heap of rocks and loose sand, which might
once have been rock, the boys found an opening which had been,
apparently, closed for a long period of time. When finally
cleared, after an hour of hard work, the opening from which
the current of air had come was discovered to be a door like
arch in the west wall of the main chamber.
The electric flashlight, however, when introduced into the
opening, showed a narrow passage beyond the opening instead
of a square room. This tunnel-like passage was not far from
six feet in width and about that in height. The walls showed
that it had been cut through solid rock.
The boys listened for some indication of life or motion in the
tunnel, but all was silent. Not even a bird or creeping thing
disturbed the stillness of the place.
"Shall we go in now?" asked Nestor.
"Sure!" replied Shaw. "We may find a well in there!"
"Or a soda fountain, or a modern filter," grinned Jimmie.
"How would they ever get a well down through this mountain?"
"Water in wells comes from elevations before it gravitates to
the bottom of the holes from which we pump it," Shaw declared,
in defense of his suggestion. "There may be a reservoir here
"How far is this cavern floor from the surface above it?" asked
Harry Stevens, with a judicial air.
"About four hundred feet," was the reply. "We must be about that
distance from the highest point here."
"Then there is no reason why there should not be a reservoir above
us," said Harry. "Water would filter through these rocks, all right."
The boys passed on in a southwesterly direction to the end of the
tunnel, which was about fifty feet from the opening. Here they
found a chamber about 10x16 feet in size. At the south side of
this chamber was a trough-shaped place cut in the rock, and
through this a small rivulet of water ran.
"I knew the people who built this shop wouldn't put in their time
where no water could be procured," declared Fenton. "Why, this is
simply fort, a mountain residence, where valley people came in
time of war and secreted themselves. If we could read the
hieroglyphics on the walls, we would be able to write a history
of their troubles."
"Were they the real thing in cave-dwellers?" asked Jack, who was
not noted for his studious habits, and who depended on his
companions for a knowledge of the countries he visited as a
member of the Black Bear Patrol.
"Earlier than some of the cave-men," replied Harry. "I wonder
if this water is any good to drink?" he added, looking longingly
at the crystal stream flowing under the round circle of the
flashlight. "Who wants to try it?"
Frank Shaw did not wait to make many tests. Tormented with thirst,
he felt of the water by rubbing it between his thumb and fingers,
smelled of it, put it cautiously to his lips, and then, experiencing
no bad effects from this contact, took a few drops into his mouth.
"It is fine!" he shouted, then. "Cold as ice and sweet as sugar!
This beats a soda fountain, Jimmie!"
"Now, was this tunnel constructed on purpose to reach this
spring?" asked Harry.
The lads examined the walls minutely, but there was no opening
from the chamber, save the one by which they had entered.
"This must have been the milk house," laughed Frank, always ready
to turn any subject under discussion into a joke. "I wonder if
they kept their cows on the top of the peak? If they had tied
their tails together and put one over each side, they never could
have run away."
On their way back to Chamber B the boys discovered an opening in
the north wall of the tunnel. This led to another tunnel, running
in a northwesterly direction for about one hundred feet and ending
in a chamber larger than any of the others. Nestor caught sight of
a sparkle on the walls as he swung the flashlight about and pointed
glittering sections out to the boys.
"Gold!" cried Frank.
"I'll bet a cooky we've found the hidden mine!" cried Jimmie.
"It is gold, all right," Harry Stevens said, "but there's no
knowing whether it is here in quantities sufficient to pay the
expense of mining and crushing the ore."
"Huh!" cried Jimmie, in a tone of reproach. "Don't you know that
rock that will produce a dollar a tone is worth working? Well,
then, look at this! There's ten dollars worth in the spot I cover
with my hand! We've found somethin', boys!"
"So it wasn't to escape their enemies that the old chaps sequestered
themselves here," said Fenton. "It was to dig out gold!"
"I never heard that there was gold in this part of Mexico," observed
Jack. "I reckon we'll wake up when we get out into the sunlight."
"If you'll read up," Fenton replied, "you'll find that the state of
Chihuahua abounds in niter and other salts, and is rich in mines of
gold and silver. Do you really think we have come upon the deserted
mine Jimmie talks about so much?" he added, turning to Nestor.
The latter took a folded paper from his pocket and examined it under
the light of the electric torch.
"It seems that we have," was the reply. "I was not thinking much
about the mine as I ascended the mountain, but now it strikes me
that I unconsciously followed the directions given in this paper."
"That big lobster of an Englishman was looking for the mine,"
Jimmie said, "and so it was natural that he should lead you to
it. I can't see how it belongs to any old estate, though,"
he added. "Looks like everybody's property to me."
"Perhaps it was the knowledge of the whereabouts of the mine that
had value," suggested Nestor, "and not the fact of ownership.
Anyway, we've found it."
The walls of the cavern appeared to blaze with gold, in flakes and
in small nuggets. Here and there were empty pockets which appeared
to have been stripped of their rich holdings. Upon inspection the
floor of the chamber was found to be covered, in places, with crushed
rock, where blocks cut from the walls had been broken up.
"There is no knowing how many million dollars worth of gold have been
taken from here," Nestor said, "and there is no way of estimating,
at this time, how far this rich rock extends into the mountain. The
fact that the mine was abandoned may indicate that the ore became less
valuable as the workers cut out from the center."
"It is rich enough now to pay for working, all right! cried Jimmie.
"There appears to be millions in sight," Nestor said, putting away his paper.
BLACK BEARS TO THE RESCUE.
Frank Shaw drew Nestor aside as the boys searched about the
cavern for nuggets. As a small one was occasionally discovered,
the quest was conducted with an enthusiasm which left the two
"It is a strange chance that has brought us to this mine," Nestor
said, thoughtfully. "It seems like a fairy tale come true."
"Do you really think this is the long lost Tolford mine?" asked Frank.
"I think it is," was the reply. "The location is right, at least."
"It is remarkable," Frank said, "but we can talk of that at another
time. I called you over here to ask you more about the fourth
man--the one you referred to, but a short time ago, as having
visited the Cameron suite that night. I didn't think much of the
idea when you suggested it, but, somehow, I can't get it out of my
head. Do you still believe there was a fourth man? If so, what
was he there for?"
"That will show in time," replied Nestor, with a little pause
after each word.
"But," insisted Frank, seeking to argue the matter in order to bring
out the opinion of his chum, "these other men had strong motives in
doing what was done there, and you don't indicate any motive the
fourth man might have had!"
"I have a faint hint of a motive humming in my brain," Nestor answered,
"but it is not sufficiently well developed to talk about now. There
was something afoot in the building that night that has not yet come
to the surface."
"You surely don't believe the tales told by Scoby and Felix, or by
Don Miguel, either?" asked Frank.
"They may be telling the truth, or part of the truth. However, Scoby
and Felix are not sincere in their statements. There is something
they are not telling."
"Well," Frank observed, "we ought to be getting down to brass tacks.
If we get Fremont away from those ruffians to-night he'll want to
be jumping at something right away, and there ought to be a line
of work laid out."
"Don't get excited," laughed Nestor. "We're getting along pretty well.
We've found the mine, and we've taken three prisoners. If there was a
fourth man in the mixup that night, we'll soon know who he was and why
he was there."
"I wish I knew whether the munitions of war got across the border,"
Frank said, after a pause.
"The mountain has been remarkably quiet to-day," suggested Nestor.
"What does that mean?"
"Don't you think the men would be making a lot of noise if they had
arms in their hands?" Nestor asked.
"Perhaps they are making noise somewhere."
"They may make all the noise they want to, if they keep off Texas soil,"
"I have been talking with Stevens," Frank went on, "and he gives a doleful
account of the situation in New York. They left nearly two days after you
did, you remember. It is said that Cameron is not likely to recover, and
that he still, in a rambling way, talks of Fremont as the person who
assaulted him. That looks bad."
"It is fortunate that we got the boy out of New York," replied Nestor.
"Even the temporary captivity he is undergoing is better than the Tombs."
"I'm afraid he's on the way to the Tombs now," Frank said. "He surely
is unless we can do something immediately. The big rascal may come upon
a band of outlaws any minute that would be too strong for us to attack."
During this talk Jimmie had been searching for nuggets on the eastern
side of the chamber, finding a small one occasionally when the light
was turned toward him. As Shaw finished speaking the boy found another,
and the watcher was wondering how rich the earth was.
Then he saw the boy, stooping to the floor of the cavern, evidently in
quest of more gold, he being at that time close to the east wall,
suddenly throw up his arms and disappear, apparently through the very
floor of the chamber.
Frank stood for a second looking toward the place where this strange
disappearance had taken place, rubbed his eyes to make sure that he
was wide awake, and then uttered a cry which brought the others hastily
to his side.
When the boys reached the point of disappearance they looked for a
fissure in the rocky floor, but found none. Instead, they saw a
round, smooth opening into what seemed to be another tunnel. The
light, when held into the dark break in the rock, revealed a
landing about six feet down, but Jimmie was not in sight. Presently,
however, the alarmed boys heard his voice, coming up out of the darkness.
"Hey, there!" he said. "Get a rope and a light! I'm on a toboggan!"
"In a second," Harry replied. "Are you falling?"
"No, I'm hangin' on with me toes!" was the reply. "Hurry up, you
fellers! I'll drop clear into the middle of the world if I let go!"
Harry darted away to the outer chamber and brought a line from his
camping outfit. Tying a piece of stone to one end, to act as a sinker,
he dropped it into the mouth of the tunnel.
"Catch it!" he called to the boy.
"Nothin' doin'!" returned Jimmie. "I'm hangin' out in space. If I
should let go with one finger or one toe I'd take a tumble through
to China. One of you fellows come down on the rope. Hurry!"
"Are you hurt?" asked Nestor, anxiously.
"Not on your life, only in me feelings," replied Jimmie. "It breaks
me tender heart to get into a hole I can't help meself out of! Come
on down with that rope!"
Nestor drew up the line, tied one end about his waist, and, wondering
what might lie within the forbidding place, and where it might lead to,
was slowly lowered into the tunnel. The flashlight showed a level
space about two yards in extent at the bottom of the shaft, directly
under the opening, but beyond that the tunnel dropped away toward the
east and the middle of the Chinese empire, as Jimmie declared. The
fall of the passage, which was not more than six feet in diameter,
was at least fifty degrees.
As soon as his feet struck the little landing Nestor saw Jimmie lying
flat on his stomach on the incline below, hanging on with his fingers
for dear life. As Nestor looked the boy's fingers slipped on the
smooth rock and he started, feet foremost, down the dark passage.
Calling to the boys above to cling tightly to the rope and to pay it
out slowly, Nestor slid swiftly downward until the slack of the line
was gone, and was then brought up with a quick jerk, with the still
slipping boy's head a foot away from his hands. He whirled about and
dropped his feet down the passage.
There was a second of nervous strain, and then he felt Jimmie's hands
clinging to his shoes. He called to the boy to hang on and to the
others at the top to draw the line, and both were soon on the landing
at the bottom of the shaft.
"I wonder where that hole goes?" Jimmie asked, examining his fingers,
the ends of which were torn from slipping on the rock.
"You came near finding out," Nestor replied. "Regular rabbits, these
old-timers were, to dig tunnels!" he added.
Then assisting Jimmie out of the shaft, Nestor asked the boys to get
all the rope they had in their outfits, making a line as long as
possible, and ease him down the steep incline. In five minutes all
was ready and, with a line 400 feet long attached to his waist,
Nestor started down the tunnel.
As he passed along, half sliding, with the rope holding him back,
the flashlight in hand, he saw that the passage had been cut along
the line of a natural fault in the volcanic rock. It was clear
that, during some seismic disturbance, probably hundreds of years
before, the continuity of strata, until then on the same plane,
had been broken, leaving a fissure where the drop had taken place.
There was no means of estimating the extent of the vertical
displacement, but the boy was satisfied that it was the
difference between the height of the range at the place
where the cavern opened and the height to the north,
probably three hundred feet or more. The north end of the
range had dropped down. The horizontal displacement was not
more than six feet, and it was through this that the tunnel ran.
The walls of the passage were smooth, and the floor was like
polished glass, a fact which the boy was at first at a loss
to account for. On the north side the wall was dark and there
were no traces of gold, while that on the south showed spots
of precious metal.
Nestor proceeded down the incline until there was little more
rope left, as the boys called out from above, and then came to
an opening. He was now nearly 400 feet from the gold chamber.
When he looked out of the round opening to which he had come
he saw that beyond ran a deep gully, or canyon. At the point
where the opening cut the wall of the canyon, however, there
was a gradual descent for perhaps 400 feet to the bottom of
the break in the mountain.
Elsewhere the walls of the canyon seemed to stand perpendicular,
and Nestor was for a moment puzzled to account for the filling
of the break at that particular spot, as if a rude stairway had
been laid to the ground below. Then the truth flashed upon him.
The tunnel had been built as a chute for the disposition of the
rock crushed in the mine.
There was no knowing how many years the natives had worked in
that underground mine, crushing out the gold with rude appliances
and disposing of the refuse by means of the tunnel cut through
the fault in the rock. The canyon into which the crushed rock
had been cast was a wild and almost inaccessible break almost
at the top of the mountain range, and might have been used for
years--perhaps for centuries--without the truth of its gradual
filling up becoming known to hostile peoples.
Looking down into the canyon, Nestor wondered if an easy route
to the bottom might not be found there. He was already more
than 200 feet below the shelf of rock from which the mine opened.
The floor of the canyon was at least 400 feet below him, and at
the south another cut, running east and west, seemed to connect
with the first. He heard the trinkle of water below, and was
satisfied that there was a succession of canyons leading to the
plain below, in which case descent would be comparatively easy.
This piece of good fortune, Nestor congratulated himself, would
enable the boys to reach the camping place of the renegade and
his men shortly after dark, as the approach to the sandy plain
would be comparatively free of obstruction. This was an
important thing, as there might be many miles to travel before
the next day after Fremont was rescued.
It was not so easy getting back to the shaft, but in a short time
Nestor made his way there and was soon in consultation with his
friends. All were eager to pass through the tunnel, and so, one
by one, they were let down until all were at the slope which led
to the bottom of the canyon.
They found it easy to clamber down the heap of crushed rock to the
floor of the canyon, and also to pass along the bottom at the edge
of the small stream of water which flowed toward the south. The
water had cut a passage under a ledge at the south, and now flowed
eastward, toward the plain.
Following steadily on, now stooping under natural bridges in the rock,
now wading through cuts which the water covered, and which must have
been roaring torrents during time of storm, the boys finally came to
a little shelf looking east from which the renegade and some of his
companions could plainly be seen.
"Fremont is not so very far away now," Jack said, "and we ought to
swarm down there and take him back with us. We ought to take the
big lobster Jimmie seems to have on his mind back with us, too!" he added.
Nestor shook his head, for, much as he desired to hasten the hour of
Fremont's release, he saw that an attempt at rescue now would be
dangerous. It was certain that the outlaws, not suspecting that
they had been trailed over the mountain by the tireless Boy Scouts,
would be off guard at night.
"Of course we want to capture that big lobster," Jimmie said. "We
want to know why he was so anxious for Nestor's society!"
"I think that question can easily be answered now," Nestor said,
but he did not answer it.
Leaving the view of the spot where Fremont was a captive reluctantly,
the boys went back to the gold chamber by the series of canyons by
which they had left it. It was not an easy journey, for there were
places where strength and skill were required, but at last they drew
themselves up the chute by means of the rope, after which they again
fell to investigating the provision boxes which the newcomers had
By the time they had finished a second tolerably satisfactory repast,
it began to grow dark, although the sun was still an hour from setting.
Black masses of clouds were forming, and now and then flashes of
lightning, darting from cloud to cloud, and from cloud-mass to earth,
cut the gathering darkness.
Then a drenching rain-storm came on, and Nestor believed that the time
for the attack on the captors of his friend had arrived. In the darkness
and storm the outlaws would not be expecting danger. The wind almost
flung the boys from their feet when they came to open shelves of rock
on their way to the plain below, but they kept steadily on their course.
WOLVES BECOMING DANGEROUS.
On the last slope of the mountain, where the sand of the desert
crept up to the ridge of rock which might, at some distant day,
become sand, too, Big Bob and his band of cut-throats came upon
a deserted hut which had undoubtedly been used at some time by
men who were searching there for gold.
The storm-clouds were shutting out the light of day when they
paused before the one-hinged door of the two-room habitation.
Seeing the approaching tempest, the renegade ordered his men
to gather fuel and build a fire on the hearth, preparatory to
passing the night there. This order was obeyed with reluctance,
for the men were worn out with their exertions and ready to roll
up in their blankets and seek rest without the comfort of a fire.
Besides, fuel was not plentiful there, and it was a long time
before enough to satisfy the renegade could be gathered.
Fremont was placed in a room to the west, a room only roughly
partitioned off from the other. There was one window opening
to this room, and that faced the west and the mountain range.
The storm was soon dashing in fury against the roof of the hut.
The frail structure trembled beneath the blows of the wind, and
the clamor of the beating rains made all interior sounds
inaudible. The prisoner knew that the outlaws were sitting
before the fire in the outer room, probably jesting and smoking,
but they might have been far away for all evidences of their
presence he heard.
With individual noises thus shut away by the noise of the downpour,
the boy felt himself isolated and alone. For the first time since
his capture, his courage was wavering, not so much because of the
peril of the moment, but because of the general hopelessness of the situation.
Only a few days before he had been a trusted and respected member of
the Cameron family, one of the wealthiest and most exclusive in New
York. Now, discredited and in danger from the threatened exercise
of a law he had not violated, he was presumably a prisoner on his
way back to the Tombs. And yet, was he really on his way there?
That was a question fully as puzzling as any other feature of the case.
It seemed a short time since he, with other members of the Black
Bear Patrol, had visited in their luxurious club-house, planning
a trip to Mexico. He had reached Mexico, all right, he thought,
bitterly, but under what adverse circumstances. Instead of the
companionship of his friends, instead of the jolly camps on the hills
and long, pleasant days on the river, he was here a prisoner.
And he was the prisoner of a man who was desperate enough to take
his life at any moment. Indeed, the renegade might not be taking
him to the border at all. Fremont suspected another purpose. With
this thought came the memory of the signals he had heard on the
mountain, and he arose and went to the window opening, barren of
sash and glass, and looked out, hoping to again hear, above the
rain, the calls of the Black Bears. But no such sounds greeted
his ears. There was only the rush of the rain.
Fremont knew that the renegade would not be paid the reward
until after conviction, and he did not believe that any jury
would convict him. It was not the fear of a penalty that had
caused him to consent to flight, but the dread of the waiting
in prison. He had an idea that Big Bob knew that he could not
secure the reward at all unless he succeeded in securing a
confession, and that he had given this up.
Under these circumstances the renegade might not go to the trouble
of taking him to the border. Still, he seemed to be making for
Texas with all secrecy and speed. Was there some other motive
for landing him on Texas soil? The renegade had shown a strange
familiarity with conditions in the Cameron building, and might
be in some way interested in some other affair there. There
seemed to be no answer to the puzzling questions the boy asked himself.
Looking into the immediate future, the boy could see but one ray of
hope, and that centered about Nestor, Jimmie, and the Boy Scouts.
He knew, from the call of the Black Bear Patrol signal, on the
mountain, that his friends, loyal to the core, were not far away,
but he did not know how many there were in the party, or what
chances of success they had.
"Good old Black Bears!" the boy whispered. "They are in the hills
somewhere, and will make themselves known when the right time comes."
After a couple of hours of such unpleasant thoughts as no boy of his
years ought to be obliged to entertain, Fremont arose and again went
to the window looking out on the mountain. The rain came a little
less swiftly now, and the thunder heads were rolling away in heavy
masses, leaving lighter spaces in the sky. He knew that a guard was
at the angle of the building, placed there to prevent his escape,
for he could hear the angry mutterings of the fellow as he moved about.
While he stood before the small window, he heard the call of a wolf
not far away on the mountain. He bent nearer to the window and
listened intently. Yes; that was the whine of a wolf, but such a
whine as he had heard Jimmie give in showing the call of the Wolf Patrol.
His friends--the loyal Boy Scouts--were not far away! He wondered
for a moment why the call of the Wolf Patrol had been given instead
of the call of the Black Bears, and then remembered that there were
really wolves in the mountains, while there were no black bears.
The guard at the corner growled something under his breath as the
second signal came, and finally called out sharply:
"In the hut there!"
There was a short silence, silence except for the falling rain and
the lashing wind, and then the voice of the renegade was heard.
"What do you want?" was asked.
"How much longer am I to remain here?" demanded the guard.
"Until there is no longer need of guarding the window," was the reply.
"You are the only man here I can trust. You must remain on guard."
"He has as yet made no move to escape," the guard said, in fair English.
"I know that very well," came in Big Bob's voice, "for I have heard no shooting."
So that was why he had been left alone there so long! He was to be
permitted to leave the hut by way of the window, and was to be
murdered as soon as he touched the ground. The renegade figured
that there could be no penalty for shooting at an escaping man who
was charged with a serious crime.
"Perhaps it is just as well," Big Bob said, directly, "for I have
not talked with him yet."
"Then you'd better do so at once," grunted the guard. "This is no
picnic out here in the rain!"
"Have patience!" replied the renegade, and the voices ceased.
In a few moments Fremont heard the renegade at his door, speaking
in a whisper to the guard there. Then the door was opened and the
big fellow came bulkily into the room.
Fremont glanced up at the brutal face, only half revealed by the
flaring candle he carried on a level with his enormous ears, but
did not speak. From the outer room came a clatter of Spanish words.
"I have been wondering," the fellow said, in a voice which showed a
degree of education and culture not proclaimed by the coarse face,
"why you attacked Cameron?"
"I didn't!" replied Fremont, hotly.
"The proof is against you!"
Fremont did not answer. He was listening for the call of a wolf on the mountain.
"The proof is against you, boy," repeated the renegade.
After hearing the brief talk at the angle of the hut, Fremont had little
desire for a conversation with the fellow. The inference to be drawn from
that conversation was unmistakable. He was to be murdered by his captors.
However, the boy could let this repetition of the charge go unchallenged.
"Remember," he said, "that you have heard only one side of the case.
I do not know where you receive the information you claim to possess,
but it goes without saying that it came from an enemy--probably from
a man implicated in the crime with which you charge me. In fact, you
have already opened up negotiations with me in the interest of the criminal."
"How so, boy?" demanded the other.
"You offered me my freedom if I would make a false confession. Why should
you want a confession unless in the interest of one connected with the crime?"
"I told you why I wanted the confession," replied Big Bob, trying to force
a little friendliness into his voice and manner. "It would give you a
lighter sentence, and it would make it easier for me to get the reward."
Fremont made no reply to this. The manner of the fellow was so insincere
that he could find no satisfaction in talking with him. Big Bob, however,
did not go away. Instead, he sat down on a packing box which stood in the
corner of the room and stuck the candle he carried up on the floor, under
the window ledge so the wind would not extinguish it, in a pool of its own grease.
"If Cameron gets well," he said, "he'll be likely to forgive you if you do
the right thing now."
No reply from the prisoner, sitting not far from the window, listening
for another wolf call from the mountain.
"Cameron has always been your friend," the other went on.
"Indeed he has!" exclaimed the boy, almost involuntarily testifying to
the kindness of the man who had taken him from the streets and given
him a chance in life.
"He took you from the gutter?"
Fremont looked out into the rain, only faintly seen in the glimmer
of the flaring candle, and made no reply.
"He took you into his family?"
Fremont arose and went nearer to the opening where the sash had been,
and stood for an instant with the rain beating on his face.
"How did he come to do it?"
Fremont began to see a purpose in this strange form of questioning.
Nestor had asked questions similar to these, and had suggested that
Mother Scanlon, the woman who had cared for him in a rough way at one
time, be looked up on their return to New York. Why this suggestion?
"Where did you first see Cameron?"
The voice of the renegade was threatening. Fremont heard only the
sweep of the rain outside for a moment, and then the voice of the
guard came through the sashless window opening.
"I'm going in to warm up a bit," he said.
"All right," the renegade replied. "I'll let you know when to go
on guard again. Boy," he added, facing Fremont with lowering brows,
"I can make it to your advantage to tell me all about your connection
Fremont heard the words dimly, for as the door of the hut slammed
behind the drenched guard and his voice was heard in the outer room,
the howl of a wolf came from the darkness just outside the window.
"Confound the wolves!" the renegade snarled. "They are becoming dangerous!"
"What you say may be true, so far as you are concerned!" Fremont replied, grimly.
THE CALL IN THE RAIN.
There was a sudden splash, heard above the downpour of the
rain, followed by an exclamation of surprise, and then
Jimmie's voice called out:
"Say, you fellers, throw me that life preserver!"
Nestor turned the flame on the electric flashlight and
directed it toward the spot from which the voice had
come. Jimmie, who had been feeling his way cautiously
a few paces in advance of the party, was seen floundering
about in a pool of water.
"Come on in!" the boy cried out. "The water is fine!"
"What you doing in there?" demanded Frank, nearly choking
with laughter at the odd plight of the little fellow.
"I came in to get measured for a suit of clothes!" replied
Jimmie. "Say, you fellows, give me a hand and I'll climb out."
The pool was neither wide nor deep, and the boy was soon on
solid earth again. The storm had filled one of the
depressions in the canyon the boys were following, with
muddy water, and in the darkness Jimmie had tumbled into it.
"You're a sight!" Nestor said, turning the light on the boy,
whose clothes were now a mixture of mud and briars acquired
while descending the mountain slope above.
"I ain't any wetter than you are!" retorted the boy, as the
rain switched his hair about his face. "Why don't you let
me take the light when I go on ahead, then?"
"For the same reason that we do not head our procession with
a fife and drum" laughed Frank. "We're not supposed to be
here at all!"
"There's nobody out lookin' for a light in this canyon
to-night," grumbled Jimmie.
As he spoke he seized Nestor by the arm and drew him back.
"What's that square of light down there?" he asked.
"Probably the camp we are bound for," was the reply.
"Then we've made better time down here than that lobster
of an Englishman did," the boy exclaimed. "It took him
most of the afternoon to climb down the hills, and we've
been only about two hours on the way."
"It seems that we came by a much shorter and easier route,"
Nestor replied. "Where the other party was obliged to
wind around precipices and crags, we made our way along
the beds of what was once a succession of streams,
cutting the side of the mountain into canyons. Wait
here, boys," he added, "until I go down there and see
what the situation is."
"Just you hold on until I let Fremont know we are coming!"
Jimmie said, and the next moment the wolf-cry which
Fremont had first heard rang out.
"Sounds like a wet wolf!" declared Frank.
"I know of a Black Bear that ain't any dryer!" replied Jimmie.
Nestor reached the level space in front of the west window
of the hut just as the guard left the corner in the interest
of a little warmth. The steady fall of the rain and the
swish of the wind drowned any noises he made, and so he crept
up to the wall of the structure without fear of discovery.
During the talk between the renegade and Fremont the patrol
leader crouched under the window, listening. He heard the
inquiries concerning Fremont's early connection with Mr.
Cameron with surprise. Who was this man, he asked himself,
who knew so much of Fremont's early life? What motive could
he have in seeking to learn more about it than he already knew?
Unable to solve the problem, and realizing that the time for
prompt action had come, he retreated from the window and with
a low whistle summoned the boys to his side. As they joined
him, led on by the irrepressible Jimmie, the boys gave the
wolf call again.
"Just to let the kid know we're comin'!" Jimmie explained.
Then, while the boys stood considering the course to puruse,
the square of light was cut by a figure standing between the
flame and the window space. The watchers could not, of course,
see the face which was looking out on the stormy night, but
they knew that it was Fremont who stood there.
"There's no one in the room with him but that big lobster,"
Jimmie whispered, "and there's no one watching outside!
If I were in his place I'd take a dive into the night!
You bet I would."
"Perhaps he will," Nestor replied. "It would be a good
thing to do provided he can get out of the window and out
of the little circle of light before the Englishman can
get out his gun and shoot."
"I'll give him a little advice on the subject," Frank observed,
and the next moment the low whine of a bear sounded through
the storm. It whined, then lifted into a deep growl, then died
away into a whine again.
"What does that mean?" asked Jimmie.
"That is one Black Bear telling another to take to his heels!"
was the reply. "You will see Fremont making for that opening
in a second. Here he comes!"
Fremont was indeed springing through the opening where the sash
had been. The boys saw the renegade clutch at his clothing, saw
the cloth hold for an instant, then tear away under the impetus
of the boy's movement, and heard Fremont's answer to the call
as he struck the ground under the window.
Instead of going through the outer room and leaving the hut by
means of the door, for some reason Big Bob concluded to follow
the boy through the window. The opening was large enough for
the passage of his burly frame, but he was clumsy in getting
through, with the result that Fremont was nearly beyond the
circle of light when at last he came to the surface outside.
Then the renegade made another mistake, a fatal one. He lifted
up his great voice in warning the boy to return, and fired his
revolver into the air as a means of intimidation. As he did so,
the door of the hut, situated on the east, flew open and the
outlaws rushed out, doubtless under the impression that they
had been attacked. They left the door wide open, and a red
square of light lay on the rain-soaked ground before it.
The only members of the party who did not exit by way of the
doorway was the messenger who had identified Fremont. He
dashed into the inner room when the cry and the shot came and
looked from the window opening, there being no one in the room.
For hours this man, known to his companions as Ren Downs, had
been observing the actions of Big Bob with suspicion. When
the renegade talked with the prisoner, as he had many times
on the way down, Ren sauntered close to the two in a vain
attempt to hear what was being said. He doubted the honesty
of the big fellow, believing that it was his purpose to break
away from the others, himself included, and so escape the
necessity of dividing the reward.
Doubting the loyalty of the renegade as he did, it was natural
that he should decide that the fellow was planning an escape
with the boy. Therefore, when he saw Fremont disappearing
from view in the darkness, with Big Bob close after him, he
drew his revolver and fired at the renegade. The shot took
effect and Big Bob dropped to the ground.
"I hope he's killed him!" Jimmie said, heartily.
"No such luck as that!" Frank exclaimed. "See, the lobster
is getting out his own gun!"
Big Bob lay in an awkward pose on the ground, his face and
the muzzle of his automatic revolver turned toward the window.
The boys almost held their breath as the figure of the
messenger appeared, blocking the opening. When they saw what
the purpose of the wounded man was they shouted to Downs to
warn him, but were too late.
The automatic sent a hail of bullets toward the opening, and
Downs fell limply across the window-ledge. At the fusillade
of shots the outlaws came to the corner of the hut and glanced
fearfully about. The square of light before the windows showed
Big Bob lying on the ground and Downs hanging, head downward,
from the window. Their natural supposition was that the hut
had been attacked by a large force, so they took to their heels
and were seen no more by the boys.
After a minute devoted to Black Bear hugs, and handshakes,
and words of congratulation over his escape, the boys left
Fremont in the shelter of the darkness and advanced to where
Big Bob lay.
"It is all off with me, lads!" the big fellow said, as he
turned his face to the boys. "I can't walk, for he shot me
through the back. Will you get me into the hut?"
"Sure!" replied Jimmie. "You're pretty tough as a human
proposition, but we can't see you suffer out here in the rain."
"Before you go any further," the man said, then, "see if Downs
is dead. If I didn't get him right, he'll kill some one before he dies."
Nestor and Frank walked over to the body and made a quick examination.
"Stone dead," they said. "He never knew what hit him!"
"I am glad of that," Big Bob said. "Now get me into the hut."
The wounded man was carried into the hut and laid down on a heap
of coats before the fire. It was easy to see that he was fatally
injured, and the boys gathered about him with pale faces.
"I'm glad none of us shot him!" Frank said.
The storm grew wilder at midnight, the wind blowing in great gusts
and the rain falling in sheets. By dodging out into the rain now
and then the boys managed to keep the fire going. Big Bob lay
perfectly silent before the fire for a long time and then motioned to Fremont.
"You're a good lad!" he said.
"Not long ago you were accusing me of crime," the boy said.
"Gather the boys around," the man said, then, "I want them to hear
what I am going to say. You may write it down if you want to."
The wounded man did not speak again for a long time, and while
the watchers waited a call came from outside of the hut--a long,
wavering scream, as of some one in dire distress.
"Some one lost on the mountain!" Frank exclaimed.
Nestor opened the door between the two rooms so that the light
of the fire might show through the open window from which Fremont
had escaped. The candle used by Big Bob had long since burned out.
The cries continued, seeming to come no nearer, and Frank went out
into the storm with the flashlight, watched by the others from the
window. They saw him force his way against the wind until he came
to the end of the gentle slope which terminated at an outcropping of
rock, then they saw him halt and stoop over.
In a moment more he was back at the hut, his face paler than before,
his eyes showing terror.
"There's some one out there with a broken leg," he said, "and we
must go and get him in."
"Who is it?" asked Jimmie.
"I don't know," was the reply. "It seems to me that I have seen
him before, but I can't place him now."
"What hurt the man?" asked Jimmie. "Is he shot?"
"He says he fell down the mountain," was the reply. "He heard the
shooting, and made his way here. Come on. Let's go and bring
him into our hospital!"
Three minutes later Fremont sprang to his feet as the man's face
showed in the light.
"The night watchman!" he cried, and Jimmie echoed the identification.
SOME UNEXPECTED ARRIVALS.
Nestor gazed into the pain-drawn face of the newcomer with
a feeling akin to awe. There seemed something uncanny in
the fellow being there at all. Had there come some new and
unexpected development, in consequence of which he had been
released by the secret service men? Or had he managed to elude
their vigilance? If the latter, had Don Miguel and Felix also
gained their freedom?
And how had the man succeeded in crossing the mountain in the
weakened condition he was in? He was now so weak and faint
from loss of blood and long suffering that he dropped to the
floor like a dead man. Had he escaped, or been released soon
after the departure of the party for San Jose, and spent the
entire day among the crags and canyons? The man on the floor
seemed a trick of the imagination, or, at least, a case of
Nestor did not believe that Lieutenant Gordon would release
the fellow under any circumstances. There was some mystery
about his appearance there that could only be solved by the
man himself, and so such restoratives as the Boy Scouts carried
in their camping outfits were hastily brought forth.
There were bandages and a small flask of brandy which had
formed a part of many an outfit and had never been uncorked,
and these were soon on the floor by the side of the sufferer.
The injury proved to be a compound fracture of the right leg,
and Nestor shook his head gravely as he inspected it. Little
could be done save to force the shattered bones back into place
and bind the whole up firmly.
The acute pain of the operation and the stimulating drink that
was given him caused Scoby to open his eyes and, screaming with
the agony of the injury, look about the room. His pale features
contorted with rage or some other strong emotion, as he looked
upon the renegade. Big Bob eyed the fellow malevolently.
"You chaps appear to know each other pretty well," Nestor said,
glancing from one to the other. "It would be interesting to
know where and when, and under what circumstances, you last met."
The wounded men glared at each other but made no reply. Big Bob
then turned his head away with an exclamation of rage. Scoby
pointed to the brandy bottle and moved his white lips. Frank,
who held the stimulant, asked a question with his eyes.
"Yes, Nestor said, "give him a stiff dose. He is about all in."
The drink was taken greedily, and in a few moments the fellow
appeared to be gaining temporary strength. Then Nestor asked:
"Where are Don Miguel and Felix?"
"I know nothing about the foxy guy," growled the watchman.
"Then where is the Mexican?" was the next question.
Scoby fixed his gaze on the brandy flask longingly, and Nestor
saw that he was bargaining for another drink of the liquid.
"Very well," he said. "Tell me what I want to know, and you
shall have more."
"What do you want to know?" growled Scoby.
"How did you manage to escape from the secret service men?"
"We, Felix and I, got away while they were arranging for a boat
to cross to San Jose. They chased us up the slope and fired at us,
but there were so many men in the hills that they did not care to
follow us in."
"And Don Miguel?"
"We left him with the officers. He would not even try to get away."
"And why did your flight take this direction?" asked Nestor, glad
that the diplomat was still in custody, where he would be obliged
to give an account of his doings.
"We came to look for the mine," was the impatient reply.
"And you found it, and left Felix there?"
Scoby's haggard face again contorted with anger.
"There is no mine!" he almost shouted. "We have been on a fool
errand! The map is a fake and a lie!"
The boys glanced at each other and smiled triumphantly. Scoby
caught the expression on their faces and dropped back hopelessly.
"And so you found it?" he said, consternation as well as inquiry
in his voice.
"Never mind that now," Nestor replied. "Where is the Mexican?"
"Dead!" was the startling and unexpected reply.
"You quarreled, then?" asked Nestor.
"He fell over a cliff," was the reply. "I tried to save him,
but he drew me over with him. I broke my leg and he broke his neck.
Give me the flask!"
The request was complied with, and the fellow drank thirstily,
the strong liquor slipping down his throat like water. He passed
the flask back and closed his eyes. Then Big Bob, who had evidently
been listening to the conversation, beckoned to Fremont. Wondering
what the fellow could have to say to him, the boy approached the
side of the dying man.
"You recall my asking bout your first meeting with Cameron?" Big Bob asked.
"Yes, and I wondered at it."
"There was a photograph in the Tolford envelope. Have you ever seen it?"
Fremont shook his head, wondering if the man was going out of his mind.
He had often handled the papers, and had never come upon a photograph.
"There was one there," the other insisted. "When you get back to New York
look it up. It will pay you to do so."
"Very well," replied the mystified boy, "but why talk of that at such a time?"
Big Bob regarded the boy questioningly, as if doubting his word.
"When the man of the photograph," he said, weakly, "was of your age, he
must have looked exactly as you look now. It is no wonder that Cameron
recognized in the newsboy the heir to the Tolford estate."
Fremont looked from Big Bob back to Nestor, then swept his eyes around
the circle of interested faces.
"He is raving!" the boy said. "What have I to do with the Tolford estate?"
"There can be no mistake," the other declared, with a long pause between
the words. "Cameron knew who you were, and that is why he took you into
his own home; that is why the settlement of the estate was delayed year
after year. He was waiting for you to come of age."
Jim Scoby was glaring at the speaker as if he thought to finish him by
a look. The night watchman appeared to be waiting for some development
which had not yet been put into words--possibly some revelation regarding
the night of the crime.
Nestor saw the look and understood it. Fearful that Big Bob would not
have the strength to speak the words which appeared to be forming on
his lips, he bent over him and whispered:
"What about that night in the Cameron building? We can work out the
problem of the heirship later on. Tell us what took place in the
Cameron suite on the night you went there last--the night of the crime."
"Let him tell the truth, then!" almost shouted Jim Scoby. "Let him
tell the thing as he found it!"
"So you saw him there that night?" asked Nestor, turning to Scoby.
"Let him answer!" was the rasping reply. "Only make him tell the truth!
He might put the crime on the wrong shoulders."
It was long after midnight now, and the storm had died out. Save for
an occasional dash of rain and an infrequent roll of electricity over
the mountains, the night was normal, and here and there a star crept
out to meet the coming dawn.
"I was in the Cameron building that night," Big Bob said, glancing
painfully in the direction of the night watchman. "I saw him there!"
"The fourth man!" whispered Frank, nudging Nestor with his elbow.
"The fourth man you have been talking about!"
The dying man opened his lips again, but did not speak, for voices
were heard outside, and then a sharp command was given. The order
was to shoot if resistance was offered by those inside. Then the
door was thrown open and a bit of polished steel flashed in the
light of the fire. The alarmed boys dropped the weapons they had
drawn at a signal from Nestor.
The man in the doorway, wet, draggled, and exhausted with the
exertions of the night was Lieutenant Gordon, and back of his
stalwart figure the light showed a dozen armed men in plain
clothes. Some of them, at least, were known to Nestor.
"You are safe, then?"
With a sigh of relief the lieutenant dropped down on a rude bench
that stood against the wall and beckoned his men into the shelter
of the hut. Then he noted the two men on the floor and turned
inquiringly to Nestor.
"Wait!" the latter said. "We shall have plenty of time for
explanations later on. This man is dying, and there is
something he wishes to say."
The secret service men, standing before the fire and swarming
over the two rooms, uncovered their heads and checked the
questions on their lips.
Again Fremont stooped over the big fellow, and again the lips
opened, but again there came an interruption. A sharp report
came from the outside and Lieutenant Gordon hastened to throw
the door open. A rocket was mounting the sky, its red light
giving the floor of the hut a tint of blood.
It was followed by another, and another, then the lieutenant
stepped out and saw code signals flying in the night above
the peaks to the west!
THE STORY OF THE CRIME.
Lieutenant Gordon stood for some moments reading the signals
flashing from the mountain, and the boys, regardless of the
storm, clustered about him. They were unable to understand
what was going on, of course, not being familiar with the
code, but still they were greatly interested in the proceedings.
"It must be good news!" Jimmie whispered to Frank Shaw.
"Look at him grin!"
The lieutenant did appear to be pleased with the information he
was receiving by means of the vaulting rockets, but he said
nothing until the signaling ceased, and then he made his way
into the hut. He was about to speak when Nestor laid a hand
on his arm.
"Wait," the boy said. "This man cannot last much longer, and
it is imperative that we listen to what he has to say."