Deadwood Dick's Doom; or, Calamity Jane's Last Adventure

CHAPTER II.
A COMPACT WITH THE DEVIL'S OWN.

ABOUT sunset of that same day, in a lonely gulch leading off from Death Notch, a young girl was wandering along with a basket upon her arm, now and then plucking a wild flower, and singing the while in spirit with the merry birds that warbled among the branches of the trees around her.

She was at a glance an Indian, but lighter complexioned than the average of her nation, betraying a mixture of white blood in her veins.

Attired in the picturesque garb of an Indian princess she looked decidedly pretty, with her dusky skin, her eyes of midnight color, and long sweeping wealth of wavy raven hair, which fell back below her waist.

In keeping with the wild seene around her, was she, and yet happy and free from care as the merry little chipmunk that darted across her path and disappeared in the shrubbery.

"Pretty mountain doves a-cooing,
Sturdy robins gone a-wooing-
Wonder what all birds are doing,
So happy, all, they seem."

she sung, as she stopped to pluck a pretty blossom from its stalk.

"And, by the way, little bird, suppose you tell us what you are doing," a voice exclaimed, and the owner, a tall, well-dressed man of prepossessing countenance, and the owner of a monstrous mustache, stepped from a clump of bushes where he had hitherto been concealed.

The Indian girl started violently, at sight of him, and would have run away, but he stepped quickly forward and seized her by the arm.

"Hold on! pretty bird! Don't be scared, I will not harm you!" he said, laughingly. "I simply want to have a talk with you."

"No! no! Siska does not know pale-face; he must let her go."

"But I can't do that just yet. Come to this log and sit down and answer some questions which I shall ask you, and then I will let you go."

And still retaining a hold of her hand and arm, he forced her to a seat upon a fallen tree, close by.

"There," he said, when they were both seated. "Now we are all prepared for a nice little chat."

The girl did not reply.

She was evidently greatly frightened, for she was trembling like a leaf.

The stranger noted the fact.

"Don't be afraid, my girl," he repeated, "I'll not hurt you. Now, to begin with, I want you to tell me how far it is from here to a place called Death Notch?"

"A couple of miles, or so."

"Ah! so near. Well, I'm in luck. Now, what is your name?"

"Siska, sir. Please let me go. Red Hatchet would be very angry if he knew I spoke to a pale-face."

"Oh! he would, eh? So he's one of those rabid old bucks, who is dead set on the white race?"

"Red Hatchet is a great warrior, and his anger is to be feared."

"Well, then, when you see him next, tell him to slice me a chunk of it, weighing about half a pound, and send it down to Death Notch. Now, Siska, you seem to be a pretty nice girl -- how'd you like to go along with me to Death Notch, an' keep house fer me in a snug little ten by twenty?"

"No, no! Siska not like it. She must return to the wigwam of her father."

"Oh, don't be in a hurry. I'll give you a lot of gold rings and other trinkets if you will go with me -- and plenty of money."

"No, no!" the girl repeated, impatiently.

"Siska not like pale-face -- no go with pale-face. Let the Indian girl loose, so that she can return to her father's lodge."

"Well, then you must give me a kiss, my bird of the wilderness, and you can go."

"No, no! Siska not kiss pale-face," she answered, struggling to release herself. "Paleface bad man, and Red Hatchet be angry at him."

"That don't matter to me. A kiss I'm going to have before you go, or my name's not Carrol Carner. So pucker up those pretty lips, my beauty, and submit to the inevitable."

"No, no! Help-help!" she screamed, struggling so violently that he found it impossible to accomplish his design.

"Curse you! you are as strong as a young bear," he gritted, savagely.

"Aha! I have you now, though, and now for my kiss!"

"Not by a jugful, stranger!" a stern voice cried, accompanied by rapidly approaching footsteps, and the next instant Carrol Carner found himself lying at full length upon the ground while over him stood a handsome fellow in sportish dress -- valiant Deadwood Dick.

"Ha! ha!" he laughed, sarcastically-- "what a figure you cut now, don't you, my presuming pilgrim? You reckoned you had this little girl dead to rights, didn't you, you infernal skunk, because she was alone and unprotected? But, you see, all signs fail, when the wind blows me down."

"The devil take you," Carrol Carner cried, arising to a sitting posture and rubbing his cheek where the imprint of Deadwood Dick's knuckles were yet to be seen. "Who are you, that you have this audacity?"

"A cuss from Custer -- a bulldog from Bozeman -- a diabolical devil from Deadwood," Dick replied, dryly. "I don't carry any visiting cards as I generally have a sheriff or marshal after me who carries them and posts 'em up in every convenient place, viz.:- 'Five Hundred Dollars reward for the capture of the notorious outlaw, Deadwood Dick, dead or alive.' Seen any of them gentle little reminders up in this section?"

"If I had, I should use my own judgment about imparting the information to you," Carrol growled, arising to a standing position. "I want to know what business you had to strike me?"

"The business of being a consolidated protective association for the protection of widders and orphans an' weak humans generally. I found you an unscrupulous knave, attempting to kiss this girl against, her will, and I very naturally lost control of my pugilistic members to that extent that you immediately let her alone and set down."

"You shall answer for the insult, sir. I am going to Death Notch. If you take pains to come there also, I'll punish you severely."

"Karect!" Deadwood Dick assented, with a taunting bow. "You may look for me to-night Senator. Be kind enough to pedestrianize hence most precipitately, now, will you, as your prescence is doubtless very disagreeable to this young lady."

"Yes, I'll go, but remember, you shall yet repent your insult to me!" Carner replied fiercely.

"For fear I may forget the admonition, perhaps I'd best write it down in my diary, " was the sport's parting shot, as the stranger turned and stalked down the gulch.

When he had gone from view, Dick turned to the Indian girl, who stood a few paces away, regarding him with surprise in her big black eyes.

"There, miss, I've banished the snake, and you need have no fear of his harming you," he said gallantly. "Luck always lets me happen along to lay out such reptiles as he."

"Pale-face brave very good, and Siska is grateful to him for driving off the bad pale-face," the girl replied, her eyes lighting up, wonderfully. "Red Hatchet be very glad, when Siska tells him."

"Ah! so you are the daughter of the stern-handed chief, Red Hatchet, are you?"

"I am. What does Deadwood Dick know of Red Hatchet?"

"Oh! So you infer that I am Deadwood Dick, eh? You are sharp! I heard the history of Red Hatchet and Death Notch, before I came this way. I allow Death Notch is a pretty tough town."

"Its lodges are filled with bad men, and Red Hatchet has placed a curse upon their heads, and all who enter the town to stay. Surely you are not going there?"

"Well, I reckon so. Thought I'd drop down that way, see if any one was in trouble, and if so, help 'em out."

"Then, let Siska give you a token, to always shield you from the vengeance of Red Hatchet or his agents," and she took a large tin star from her pocket, with a ribbon attached to it, and pin it to Dick's vest; then, turning, she waved her hand at him, and darted into the forest with the speed of a young antelope.

Far up the mountain-side, not noticeable from Death Notch, yet from where the town was plainly visible, nestling in the basin, was a great projecting crag, the top of which was a plateau as level as a floor. From the outer edge of the crag to the yawning abyss among the mountains was a sheer descent of mayhap five hundred feet.

Death Notch was not at the foot of the mountain from which the crag projected, a low range of hills intervening but was plainly visible from the plateau with the naked eye, being over a mile distant on a bee-line.

Seated upon a camp-stool on this plateau, on the afternoon of the day which opens our story, engaged in a survey of the town through a powerful field-glass, was an old Indian of bent form and wrinkled features -- the wreck of a once great warrior, now almost in his second childhood from old age.

This was the father of the girl Siska -- Red Hatchet. For hours be had sat there and studied the town through his glass, the varying expressions of his countenance, and the glitter of his dark, baleful eyes that a revengeful spirit yet rankled in his breast.

"The stage brings two new-comer," he muttered, in good English, proving that he was not untutored, like many of his race. "One is a young pale-face squaw-the other a son of the South. I wonder what brings them? It cannot be that they know of the curse that rests upon the place and all who enter it."

Then for a long time the outcast chief was silent, but watchful, until a man sauntered along down the street whom he recognized through the glass, though to the naked eye the man looked, but a pigmy from the Cliff.

"That is Piute Dave-devil pale-face!" the chief gritted, fiercely. "Red Hatchet hates him more than all the rest, and yet he lives and enjoys Red Hatchet's possessions, heedless of warnings of death and destruction. He knows Red Hatchet is too old and feeble to take the warpath -- therefore -- he defies me. But he shall die -- they all shall die, for Red Hatchet has sworn to add new notches to the council-pole-records of the death of those who drove him and his tribe forth from Sequoy even if he has to hire it done. Oh! how Red Hatchet hates yonder settlement of pale-faces!"

"And why this hatred, red-man? Why this desire to exterminate the people in yonder town?" a voice asked, so near to the old chief, that he turned with a startled growl, and beheld Not what might have been correctly termed a man, but more, appropriately a human wild beast, for it had all the appearance of a wild animal, with the dwarfed shape of man. The face was entirely covered with hair, the head was hatless, the dwarfed, hump-backed figure was clad in ragged dirty garments; the nails upon the fingers were long and like the talons of some wild bird.

In the eyes there burnt a wild unnatural fire, and the hair upon the head stood in all directions, making the head appear double its real size.

Red Hatchet gave vent to a startled grunt at sight of this strange being; indeed, who wouldn't for it was not an object calculated to inspire any one with the bravest feelings.

"Ugh! debbil!" the chief uttered, for that was the nearest thing he could compare the intruder to.

"Yes, devil!" the hairy being replied-- "Old Scavenger, the devil-avenger -- the devil dwarf. But, the red chief need not fear. Scavenger harms none but the treacherous whites-those of his own blood and color. The red chief also hates the pale-faces?"

"Ugh! yes -- hate 'em because they drove the red-man from his village yonder."

"I understand -- I understand," Old Scavenger assented. "They have wronged me, too and I madly hate 'em all. I have registered an oath to spare none-to cut out the hearts of every white devil I meet. Ha! ha! they thought when they all united to strike me a last blow, that it would kill me, but it only hardened my heart against 'em. Did the Red Hatchet ever see the heart of a pale-face?"

And as he spoke the Demon Dwarf drew from his hunting sack a bloody withered piece of human flesh -- a human heart, indeed -- and held it aloft with a demoniac peal of laughter.

"That is the heart of the false woman who wedded me for my gold, and deserted me and my kit, when she had secured it. Oho! but I hunted her down to death, though, and after they had buried her, thinking to cheat me out of my vengeance, I dug her up and secured my trophy. Ha! ha! the Dwarf's enough for 'em - the Dwarf's enough for 'em!"

Red Hatchet's eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.

"Dwarf big heap brave," he said. "Red Hatchet once great brave, but his limbs no longer strong for war-path. He can only meditate vengeance upon his enemies, instead of performing it."

"Red Hatchet should get Old Scavenger to strike for him. When he strikes he strikes to avenge."

"Red Hatchet has no gold, or he would readily pay the Dwarf Avenger to add notches to his council-pole in yonder town."

"Ha! ha! it is not money I want. I have gold in plenty. But I saw a jewel belonging to Red Hatchet that I would wade through fire or blood to possess -- ay, I'd depopulate yonder town until not a pale-face dog remained to usurp Red Hatchet's rights!"

"If the Devil Dwarf will do this, Red Hatchet will give him his daughter-if it is to her the pale-face refers."

"To her and none other. Swear to give the girl to me to do with as I please, and I will agree that for every person now in yonder town, a death notch shall be made."

"Red Hatchet agrees. When he can count the death notches of all his sworn enemies, and is free to go back to his once pretty village, he will deliver Siska to the Devil Dwarf to do with as he pleases."

"Then call the girl. We will tap a vein in her arm, and seal this compact with a draught of her blood!" the avenger said.

And an hour later the act was carried out to the letter.

Death Notch was doomed!

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