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

CHAPTER IV.
DEADWOOD DICK'S DOOM.

IT had taken less time to end the life of the ruffian than it has to relate the occurrence, for the bullet entering his heart, he had expired almost as soon as he dropped.

For a moment afterward you could have heard a pin drop in the great bar-room of the Poker House, so great was the intensity of the silence caused by the shooting.

Then came words to the hearing of all-words in a strange, shrill voice, whose significance was plain to all within the room, except Virgie and Nick:

"Oho! Death Notch 47, and still the spirit of Red Hatchet calls for vengeance. Piute Dave shall count seventy, and Deadwood Dick five more. Ha! ha!"

Then there was a strange wild peal of laughter without the tavern, that chilled the blood of every one who heard it, so fearfully suggestive of a demon's triumph it was.

Not a man within the tavern made a move to discover the author of the laugh-infernal and of Bulldog Ben's death.

Even Piute Dave's swarthy visage assumed a grayish pallor as he heard the words of the avenger, and he moved not from his tracks.

Shakespeare, the poetical bullwhacker, was the coolest man in the house, and that among men who were habitually hard-hearted and possessed of a sort of brute courage on such occasions.

"Pop goes ther weasel, an' thar'll be another notch on the council-pole!" he observed, dragging the body of Bulldog Ben upon his shoulder dumping it in an obscure corner of the room.

"Bulldog's gone on his last long canine circuit, an' I allow I'll hev ter compose a doggeral on his keflumex, or an epidemic for his tombstone. How'd this be, fer instance:

Poor Bulldog Ben, he barked, and then-
He jumped the bar, accordin';
Thar waz a shot-Ben tu'k ther pot,
And anteed over Jordan."

But the poet did not get an encore on this effusion, inasmuch as his auditors were in no humor for anything but strong prose.

"Enough of this, nonsense," Piute Dave said, striding forward. "Don't you see that you are all offering yourselves as targets for this secret avenger, whoever he may be? I'll take charge of the girl myself, an' ye can do as ye want with the nigger. Come, young woman-there's room for sech a purty one us you at my cabin, an' you're mine."

"Oh, no, no! I Cannot will not go with you!" Virgie cried, clinging to Dick, in tears and despair. "Please let us alone, sir! We are two strangers to all of you, and all we ask is to leave this place unmolested."

"Can't help that, girl. Piute Dave don't often take a second look at a gal, but when he does, he invariably has her, if he wants her. So you might as well tumble down from that bar and waltz along wi' me at once, for I allow I'm boss of this town-an' things hes allus got ter go to suit my notion!"

"But jes' youh look a-yar now sah!" cried Nicodemus, drawing himself to full hight and striking a dramatic pose, with uplifted arm.

"Youh surely forget de culminating fact dat dis yar lady am my protogee, an' I'se swear'd by de plan'ts in de heabens to purtect her wid de las' drop ob my royal blood-yas, sah -- dem's mighty trufes, sah, an' if you lay a fumb on dis yar young lady's pussom, I'll draw de razzor from my bootleg an' cut youh wide open -- yas, I will, fo' suah! Oh, I'se bad when I'se shampooved -- I'se a wade-an'-butcher barber, sah!"

"Ho! ho!" Piute Dave laughed, hoarsely.

"If it wasn't fer frescoin' Poker Jack's floor wi' yer black gore, I'd blow your brains out, you black cuss. Come, girl! hire ye goin' ter somersault down from that bar, or shall I come an help ye?"

"Oh, spare me-spare me, Sir! Oh, my God! is there no one here to help me?" the poor girl sobbed.

"Nary a durned galoot, my gal!" Piute Dave declared, with a triumphant chuckle. "As I allowed, before, I'm boss o' this burg, an' thar's not a man hyar as durst lift a hand to help ye, when I'm around."

"You lie, you brute! and if you but lay a hand on that girl I'll bore a hole in your thick skull!" a voice suddenly cried.

The owner of the voice was Deadwood Dick! While Piute Dave was speaking, he had quietly slipped into the room, and now stood mounted upon a chair, but a few paces in the former's rear, with a pair of cocked 32's in his grasp.

Piute Dave wheeled with a frightful oath, as he heard the words with his hands upon the butts of his own revolvers, but he desisted from drawing them when he saw that his new opponent had the drop.

"Who are you?" he demanded, savagely, "and what d'ye mean by meddling in my business?"

"I mean that if you offer that girl the least molestation, I'll make you up into a perforated porous plaster quicker than a Dutchman can say beer!" the sportive Dick announced, with the utmost assurance and sang-froid.

"As to my dramatis-personae you may recognize me by the gentle and psalm-like title of Richard Harris, or Edward Harris, or Deadwood Dick, or any other name you like-Deadwood Dick being my pet titular appurtenance, when I'm wanted by the sheriff, and so-forth and so-forth."

"You Deadwood Dick?" Piute Dave exclaimed, in surprise; and he was not the only one to whom the noted title was apparently familiar.

"Yes, I am Deadwood Dick, the celebrated cuss from Custer clime-- the diabolical devil-may-care devotee of road-agency, from Deadwood the hunted hurricane, Harris, just as you see me. And according to a recent act of Congress, if you or any other two-legged individual attempts to harm yonder girl, whoever she may be, I'll agree to furnish him with a free pass over Jordan by the most direct ethereal line. I mean business, so let some pilgrim of enterprising disposition open the market. Young lady, you may descend from the bar, and go to your room, or home. I'll agree to take care of any number of these cusses who may attempt to prevent you!"

"Go at your peril, girl!" Piute Dave growled, in a rage, watching a chance to draw a weapon. "Curses on you, boys, why don't you pull yer tools, and kill this devil's donkey?"

"Reckon we know our biz, boys," the bullwhacker Shakespeare, declared, knowingly. "We allow our pelt is wu'th jest as much per c-w-t as youn, an' we ain't in noways disposed ter venture a cruise in unknown regions, jest on account o' one ghal. As Brother Byron uster say:

'Hang on ter terra firmer;
Tho' incumber'd bad wi' tax,
Et's cool an' very comfertable
As compared wi' Halerfax;
An' tho' beseeged at ev'ry turn
Wi' mother-n'-laws an' maids,
Ye'll find et enough sight better
Than a good warm berth in Hades.'"

"You're cowardly dogs, every one o' you! Will you let one man bluff ye, when thar's forty o' ye to his one? Look, the girl is going to escape! A hundred dollars to the man who stops her!"

"I'll take it!" a ruffian shouted, and he leaped toward the bar, from which Virgie was about descending, to stop her.

"And you'll get it!" Dick cried, as he fired, then instantly returned the aim of his weapon to the crowd.

With scarcely a groan, the ruffian fell headlong to the floor -- not dead, as was afterward proven, but stunned by the bullet grazing his skull.

A murmur of protest ran through the crowd, but not another and was raised in opposition to the Dakotan's will. Piute Dave alone uttered a fearful oath.

"You see I hold the spotter that trumps at every flop," Harris remarked. "When I peregrinate into a town I always try to impress upon the minds of the citizens, first of all, the fact, that I am able to clean out the hull town, single-handedly and able to stand up in defense of the weak and unprotected every day in a week, and as many times on Sunday as the hymn-book orders. There! the young lady has gone. Now, gents, what's the damage? I'm willing to settle. One tough laid out, and a broken window glass, besides a ruffle upon the personal pride of our friend here, Piute David. What's the expense, David?"

"Your life!" the captain cried, his rage in no wise diminished. "I'll cut your heart out."

"Oh! now, really, David, you would not rehearse the tragedy of David and Goliath, would you? You wouldn't amputate my pulsometer would you, just to satisfy your revengeful spirit?"

"Yes, curse you! But give me advantage of the 'drop' you've got, and I'll show you what kind of a man Piute Dave is."

"Indeed I am to infer, then, that you are something like a concentrated volcano, done up in a dynamite torpedo, and when you're touched off you scatter death and destruction in the forty directions of a blizzard! I had no idea you were so ferocious, or I should have fainted, hours ago. Tell you what I'll do, though, David. If your thermometer indicates that your steam has attained such momentum that there is danger of your exploding, I'll give you a chance to work off a little of your superfluous wrath. You appear to be a pretty muscular chap and I flatter myself I have sufficient for usual cases of emergency. Therefore, we will clear the center of room; you take a position at one end -- I at the other. Then we will each start for each other, weaponless, and have a rough and tumble scuffle for the mastery -- the winner to take the position as boss of the town-the loser to be given one hour to leave it, never to return, except under penalty of death by shooting, at sight. Now, then, how does that strike you!"

"I'll accept the proposition," Piute Dave said, with a horrid laugh. "It won't take me long to break your neck."

"Well, for your sake, I hope not," Dick retorted with a smile. "First, however, I want to know that there will be no interference from the crowd--"

"I'll 'tend ter thet, young feller," Shakespeare declared. "I'll see thet everything goes squar'"

"I have a plan as fair for one as for the other!" Piute Dave said, a villainous glitter in his evil eyes. "A few rods up the gulch is a bottomless bed of quicksand. The weight of a man will sink him there in five minutes, forever out of sight, and nothing he can do can help him when once he is in it; it has gulped down many a dead body an' some live ones, too, so it's jest the hole for a death-struggle. I propose that we go to the edge of this treacherous pocket, and the man who is strong enough to throw his opponent into it shall be the victor, while the victim shall be left to sink in the sand to his death."

"That suits me, exactly," Deadwood Dick responded. "As soon as the man is thrown into the pocket the spectators shall march away, chanting his death requiem. Is this perfectly understood?"

"I understand. I allow ther boys does," Pinto Dave grunted.

"On course we do!" declared the loquacious bullwhacker poet. "Jest as soon as one or t'other o' yer is kerflopped inter thet death's hole, we're ter start pell-mell fer ther Poker House an' moisten our bugles, perparatory ter singin' Death March o' Solomon!"

"Correct! Let's adjourn to the field of action," Deadwood Dick said. "I came here expecting to run into difficulty, and I'm no the chap to turn tail and back out because of a slight unpleasantness. By the way, if any of you fellows know any thing favorable of this big loafer I'd suggest that now will be good time to recall them before we plant him after he is dead and gone you'll not care to re member him."

Piute Dave made a move to draw a weapon but saw that Deadwood's dauntless representative was still on guard, and so desisted.

"Come, no funny business now," Dick ordered, "but lead the way if you want to furnish me a sepulcher of quicksand. I'm anxious to know who is going to draw the prize in this lottery."

Piute Dave led the way from the tavern Deadwood Dick went next; then the bullwhacker poet and his uncouth associates brought up the rear, in single file.

A strange-looking procession they made as they thus marched down the street, under the light of a soaring full moon.

Virgie Verner saw them from the window of her room, and wondered what was going to happen.

"They are going to hang the brave fellow who came to my rescue!" she gasped, in horror. "God forbid!"

Down the street to the western terminus of the town Piute Dave piloted the way, and they soon came to a dark-looking verdureless spot that every experienced eye knew to be a quicksand pocket that it was sure and inevitable death to touch.

This was the place of struggle.

Deadwood Dick threw off his jacket to one side, and deposited his weapon upon it.

Piute Dave gave his revolvers to the bullwhacker but did not remove his coat, evidently not deeming it necessary.

The two men then walked ten paces in opposite directions, turned, and at the word "Go!" given by one of the bystanders, rushed to meet each other.

It was not until they were within arm's reach, that Deadwood Dick discovered that the ruffian had a small dagger in his grasp.

Too late!

They clinched and struggled, and the blade entered Dick's left arm rendering it perfectly powerless.

With the advantage thus gained, it was quick work for Piute Dave to raise his adversary and hurl him forward into the mire of the bottomless bed of quicksand!

Then, with victorious shouts, the rough crowd strode away, and Deadwood Dick sunk gradually into the yielding sand, to his horrible doom.

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