Fred Fearnot's Revenge, or Defeating a Congressman

THE FATAL BITE.
By Horace Appleton.

It was a sad sight that I looked upon in that little mountain cabin, on that June morning, in the year '74; it was a sight that set my young blood aflame, and I shut my teeth to keep down my emotions. A bearded young miner lay dead on the cabin floor. He was still rolled in his blanket; the embers of a late fir were seen near; a bench, wash- basin and a cracked mirro composed the principal furniture of the room. It was the usual miner's cabin to be met with throughout the gold regions of California.

A score of men had gathered in and about the cabin, all intent on viewing the horror-the mangled corpse of Paul Landon-as jovial a young miner as the mountains of the Golden State could boast.

"Who hez did this thing?"

It was a gruff voice at my side that put the question.

"We haven't discovered the villain," I answered, proceeding to make an examination of the corpse.

A man stood near with folded arms, pallid face and dry eyes, gazing at the face of the dead as though fascinated. When I asked who he was, Captain Turner, a mine boss said:

"That's Seth Shott, the dead man's pard." Then he continued in a whisper: "'Twixt you and me, he's the man who's guilty of this. I know it, and I'm going to speak to the boys."

I was somewhat astonished at this announcement. Captain Turner was a trusted man, one in the eniploy of the Mountain Lode Company, and it was in the interest of this company that I was visiting the mines. Peculation was suspected, and I was sent up to look into the affairs of the company in general. It was to have all the time I needed and work in my own way. I hadn't been here a week when Paul Landon was found murdered in his cabin.

I was somewhat new in the detective business, but here was something that promised "pay dirt," and I resolved to follow the lead.

I turned and regarded Seth Shott fixedly, after the captain's whispered suspicions. Other eyes were fixed upon him, too, as he stood there with folded arms gazing, down into the face of his murdered friend.

Was it possible, though, that this rather handsome looking young man would lend himself to such a crime

His countenance did not betray his evil nature, if the captain's suspicions were true.

Dark scowls began to gather on many faces, and a murmur soon filled the room.

"Lynch the murderer!"

A voice uttered the cry and then several hands were laid on Seth Shott, and he was dragged from the mountain cabin into the June sunshine.

"Boys, what does this mean?" Seth Shott expostulated, but all to no purpose. He was dragged to the roots of a tree, a rope was produced, and an effort made to place it over the young miner's head.

The scene was a shocking one to me. I turned to Captain Turner, who looked coolly upon it all.

"Captain, in heaven's name! Why don't you stop this?" I cried in a horrified wonder.

"It's justice. Let 'em proceed."

"I will not; this is worse murder than the other," I cried, drawing my revolver, and pushing my way to the side of Seth Shott.

"Back, men, every one of you! Seth Shott is innocent! You shall not murder an innocent man?"

The muzzle of my cocked weapon had its effect, and the brawny miners shrank back, while Shott straigihtened to his full height and cried:

"The gentleman from 'Frisco tells you the truth, pards. I would sooner have cut out my own heart than harmed a hair on the head of Paul Landon. Heavens! how could I hurt Paul. He and I have been chums since we left New York three years ago. We were schoolboys together, and loved one another like brothers. Would I harm him now? Impossible. We had some nuggets laid by. It was for these the murder was committed I expect, but the assassins failed to get them.

"I was not in the cabin last night. I did not come in from 'Frisco until this morning. I can easily prove an alibi if you give me a chance."

I again addressed the crowd, and soon the miners began to act like reasonable beings once more. At this point Captain Turner stepped in and urged the necessity of punishing the vile assassin at once. I could see that the captain was anxious to see Seth Shott hang.

Why this enmity?

I managed to get Shott aside. I was not sure of his innocence, but deemed it but fair to give the man a show for his life. After escaping from the crowd, Seth Shott grasped my band and blessed me for the interference that had saved his life.

"Before heaven, I am innocent!" he said, solemnly. "I cannot remain here, however, for Captain Turner would set his hounds upon me. If you do not object; I will leave the mountains and seek a place of safety for the present. In the end I mean to see poor Paul's murderer' swing."

I believed the young fellow uttered the truth, and made no attempt to detain him. In fact, I knew that, whether innocent or guilty, he would surely hang if he remained in the mines, and so believed it best for him to go.

"I can procure a good horse not far away. Tell the boy's I will see them again some time."

Seth Shott pressed my hand and was gone. I was glad to see him go, for I believed he was an innocent man. The murder mystery must be solved, and the task of solving it was mine.

Captain Turner was very angry when I saw him again, and be threatened reporting me to the company.

"You can do as you like, Captain Turner," I said shortly. "I have only done my duty, while you have attempted murder."

"I'll get even with you for this," he grated, turning away white with rage.

I paid no heed to the threat, but went back to the tragic cabin, arid once more bent beside the corpse of Paul Landon. I was anxious now to find a clew that would lead me to the trail of the real assassin.

Something about the bearded lips of the dead attracted my notice. The mouth had fallen open and clinging to the lower teeth was a bit of human flesh. I thrust in my finger and drew it forth. The flesh had been bitten clean, and was nearly the whole upper part of a human ear.

I started to my feet with a low, amazed cry. Here was a clew indeed. to find the man with the mangled ear would be to find the assassin of Paul Landon. I secured the bit of gristle, and at once rushed from the cabin. From one of the miners I procured a small bottle of whisky, and into this dropped my trophy.

On the following day, when I went to visit Captain Turner, he was not in the mines.

"Gone to 'Frisco," was the answer to my inquiry.

I did not follow immediately, however. I was first anxious to examine all the ears among the miners in the vicinity. Most of them were long-haired customers, and it required close investivation to discover the condition of their auricles. It was accomplished at last, however, and no man with a missing ear discovered.

The case was more important than the minor one that had brought me to the gold range, and I would not now give it up, so one morning about three weeks after setting foot in the mountain mining camp, I turned my face once more toward the coast.

I reached San Francisco in good time and with no mishap, reported to the Mountain Lode Company, and then set out on my own account to built down the mountain assassin.

Short1y after reaching, the city I ran into Captain Turner. I was glad to meet him. He received me with a smile and extended hand.

"It was all owing to your youth, and inexperience; I forgive you, young man; but you might have seen the murderer of Paul Landon swing if you had held you peace. No, I'm not going back to the mines at present. I think I shall do a little detective work myself. The murderer is in 'Frisco, and I shall secure him."

We separated to go our respective ways. I had no confidence in him, and did not offer to make a confidant of him. I suspected his feelings for me were similar.

I remained in 'Frisco a fortnight before aught occurred to stir my blood and give me an appetite for food.

A bar-room row, in which one man was slain, caused some commotion, since the murderer successfully eluded the police and had not been caught during the following day. It was really not a matter for me to investigate, yet I went to the saloon, and picked up what news was going regarding the racket.

"One-eared Jake be 'spected," said the bar-keeper. "He's keepin' hisself pretty close, anyhow, for the cops hain't run 'im in yet."

I started instantly at the name.

"A most singular handle for a man," I remarked. "Do you know why he is so called?"

"Coz he got his ear chawed off in er row once afore."

Here was subject for reflection surely.

This was my man, and if the police did not make this murder stick, I at least had one against him that would.

I went from the saloon with a full description of the man called One-eared Jake on my brain.

That evening I sauntered into a cafe on --- street, and met face to face Seth Shott. He knew me at once, and we shook cordially. He was well dressed and seemed considerably changed.

I invited him in to a glass of wine and social chat. I had many questions to ask, as he might know some of the enemies of Paul Landon if he had any. I meant to make a confidant of Seth, for I liked him exceedingly on short acquaintance.

He accepted my offer, and we were soon comfortably seated at a table with a bottle of wine between us.

"Paul hadn't an enemy, unless 'twas Captain Turner, who was the meanest coyote in the mines," asserted Seth, as he became warm with the generous wine.

At length our conversation turned upon the late saloon row, or at any rate I led the conversation in that direction, and was astonished to see that Seth Shott became suddenly excited and nervous as well.

"They say that One-eared Jake killed the man--"

"Who says so?" cried Seib Shott, hoarsely.

"Everybody."

"Do you say so?"

I paid no bhed to the inebriate's volley of angry words, but only glared sharply through my glasses at the right side of his head.

What was it I saw?

That which thrilled me as never before. For the first time the hair had become disarranged, and I made the discovery that the upper part of Seth Shott's ear was gone.

On the instant of my making this astounding discovery a new-comer appeared upon the scene in the person of Captain Turner. He stood directly behind Seth Shott while he was pulling off his coat.

Of a sudden he laid his arm on his shoulder.

"Seth Shott, you are wanted!"

The miner turned, glared into Captain Turner's face with a scowl of rage.

"You are my prisoner, sir!"

"For what?"

"For the murder of Luke Jones, in Snyder's place last night."

"It's a lie."

The miner attempted to draw a weapon, and a desperate struggle ensued. I was on my feet in a moment and went to the assistance of the captain.

"You helpin' this villain! I thought you was my friend," cried Seth Shott, glaring rebukingly at me.

The man had the bracelets on now, and was harmless. The captain turned to me with a word of thanks.

"Never mind, captain," I said. "I should have arrested him if you had not."

"I thought you were willing to swear to the man's innocence a few months ago. What evidence have you now? I knew then he was guilty." "This is my evidence."

I produced the bottle containing the bit of gristlepart of a human ear- that was soon shown to fit exactly the mutilated right auricle of Seth Shott.

In the trial that followed, Shott was not convicted, but he was at once rearrested for the murder of his late partner, Paul Landon. On the day of trial, he made a full confession of the crime. He had killed his friend for his share of the gold. Knowing that bit of ear would convict him, he "caved." Afterward he paid the penalty on the scaffold.

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