California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman

CHAPTER XXIII.
THE CHEYENNES RANSOM.

IN an Indian village -- Cheyennes -- for one long year had languished poor little Maggie Reynolds.

A child of twelve, at the time of her capture, she had been made the slave of the squaw of the head chief, Feather Face, and but for her plucky spirit and hope some day of rescue the girl would have died under the life of drudgery and abuse.

One day she beheld a pale-face ride into the village.

At that time there was a patched up peace between the Cheyennes and the whites, but Maggie had not seen any of the latter bold enough to come to the Indian camp.

She eyed the stranger curiously, as he came directly to the tepee of Feather Face, accompanied by several warriors.

"My red brother knows me," said the white man.

"Yes, the Feather Face has men the pale-face brave," was the reply.

"The hatchet is buried now; but the Feather Face would like to kill me."

The Indian hewed a ready assent.

"He has bore a pale-face pappoose."

"Will he sell her to me?"

"The Feather Face will sell her for the ears of the white warrior," was the fiendish reply.

"Good!" was the smiling reply.

"Let him take his scalping-knife and cut off my ears, and than give to me the pappoose."

"If the Feather Face lies then the soldiers will be ready to come upon him and burn his village."

"The white warrior has spoken."

"The Feather Face does not speak with a crooked tongue."

"The Feather Face is a natural liar," was the retort and the stranger stepped up to the chief and bared his head by removing his sombrero, while he added:

"But I wan the Cheyenne not to break faith with me."

Poor Maggie heard and saw all, and sat crouching in the tepee, not daring to utter a word.

But as she saw the cruel chief take his scalping-knife and seize the ear of the man to claim his ransom for her, she cried:

"No, no, let me stay here, for I am happy here; I do not wish to go home!"

"Thet are a screamin' lie, Maggie," said California Joe, for he it was, and turning again to the chief, he continued:

"Injun, do yer carvin'."

With a satisfied grunt Feather Face took the left ear in his fingers, and skillfully sliced the outer rim off clean.

California Joe did not wince, but said coolly, while Maggie gave a cry of terror:

"Now, t'other one, Injun."

The other ear was then cut in like manner, and Joe made a low bow, with the remark:

"Thankee, Injun.

"Some day I hopes ter do as much far you.

"Come. Maggie."

He took the weeping girl, and placing her upon his horse, sprung into his saddle and rode out of the Indian camp, leaving the chief laughing with fiendish delight over the ransom he had received for the captive girl.

And, two weeks after his departure from the Reynolds home, he returned one night, and Maggie accompanied him.

"Go said knock at ther door, Maggie, while I stake ther critturs out," he said.

The young girl obeyed, and great was the joy of her parents when she appeared before them.

But in vain was it they looked for California Joe, for, though he staked the horse, he had given her out upon the prairie, he had mounted his own animal once more and mysteriously disappeared.

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