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

CHAPTER V.
$500 REWARD; AND "CALAMITY" ON DECK.

ON returning to the Poker House from their moonlight excursion to the remarkable duel, wild men of Death Notch found that they had another stranger, still, in their midst- the individual once before described as Carrol Carner. He had ridden into the place, registered and here put up at the Poker, and was just engaged in not tacking up a placard against the wall, as the of the crowd swarmed in, headed by victorious Piute Dave, and his right-hand man, the bullwhacker.

Poker Jack's face bore rather a disappointed expression, when he saw that Piute had come back in place of Deadwood Dick. He had hoped and expected it would be the other way, for though there was no declared warfare between them, they hated each other cordially, and calculated that the quickest man at pulling a "pop" would eventually be the death of the other.

Which one it remained to be told.

The man, Carner, went on tacking up his this placard, and when be had finished, stepped back to inspect his work.

The placard was a press-print poster, in bitype, and bore the following announcement:

"$500 REWARD!

"The above reward will be paid for the capture and delivery to the undersigned, of a wandering girl calling herself Virginia Verner, but whose real name is Myrtle Morris. She is accompanied by a negro of companion, and is wanted for the crime of murder.

"Carrol Carner, Guardian."

Piute Dave read the notice over and over, and then took a good look at the man who had posted it.

"I allow ye won't be apt ter find yer gal hyar Cap," he said, gruffly. "We don't allow of no petticoaters in this hyar town."

"Oh, you don't," Carner said, with imperturbable composure. "Well, it won't do no harm to advertise and make sure. Indeed, I am pretty positive the girl is in this town."

"D'ye mean thet?" Piute demanded, angrily, drawing a pistol. "Et ain't healthy for any pilgrim to doubt the word o' Piute Dave."

Experience has taught me not to believe any man till I have tested him," was the unflinching answer. "My sentiment applies no more to you than to the rest. If you gents ever indulge, you'll find I have an open account at the bar."

"Drink, stranger? Waal, I should cough up a cat!" exclaimed the disciple of Shakespeare, executing a hop-skip-and-jump. "Ef evyer a thirsty throng o' theologians thrived in this terrible kentry, we're ther ones. Drink? On course we will: bootlegs and eye-openers by ther dozen we will dispense in honor of meetin' ye, at yer expense, an' don't ye fergit it, nuther. Waltz up, thirsty pilgrims, an' inundate yer desert waists wi' prime old 'rib-tickler.' Irrigate your parched an' arid systems wi' ther ambrosial nectar o's d. f. r.-sure death at forty rods. As ther immotoil Shakespeare used ter remark:

'A 'gilt-edge' jest before breakfast,
A 'sealskin' dinner ter settle,
A horn-an'a-'alf before supper,
An' a 'night-cap ter put on yer mettle.'

"Drink, stranger? On course we will, an I'll take a good straight 'coffin-nail' fer mine wi' a bumble-bee or a wassup in it, to give et life!"

And they did drink to a man, with the exception of Piute Dave, who gruffly refused.

Watching his opportunity, he left the barroom unnoticed, and went up-stairs. At the door of Virgie's room he knocked softly, more like a woman's knock it was, than that of man.

"Who is there?" Virgie asked, from within in a tone whose accents betokened alarm.

"'Ah! I am a stranger to you, but if you value your personal safety, open the door!" the villain answered in a feigned voice; then, as he heard her unlock the door, he chuckled to himself to see how cleverly he had succeeded, until the door partly opened and he found Virgie standing in the aperture with a cocked revolver in her hand.

"I thought it was you," she said with more composure than she had yet manifested. "Now that you are here, you villain, what do you want?"

"You're devilish independent, all at once!" Piute Dave said, in surprise.

"Because I've got the drop on you!" Virgie retorted. "I find that he's best who gets aim first, in this delectable country, and accordingly, I'm ready for you, sly as you were. What you want, I say?"

"I want to come in. I've important news for you. There's a man down-stairs who wants ye, at about five dollars a pound!"

Virgie gave a gasp, and her face turned pale.

"Who?" she demanded, though she could have told without asking.

"Let me come in, if you want to know" Piute Dave said, grimly, "Awhile ago ye spurned the friendship of yours truly; now, mebbe, with a wolf howling upon yer scent, ye'll be glad ter accept of it."

"Between the bite of a wolf and a rattlesnake, I have no choice!" Virgie retorted, decisively, "and therefore, if you have anything to communicate, you can do it from where you are, or not at all."

"Curse you! Then you prefer surrendering to the man downstairs, rather than accept of my protection, eh?"

"I shall not surrender, nor accept your protection!" Virgie responded. "If I am attacked, I shall fight till I see there is no hope, and -- then kill myself!"

"Pooh! words are cheap! Listen, and I'll tell you what is the most likely thing fer ye to do, as things now stand. This enemy o' yourn, who calls himself Carrol Carner, don't know, yet, thet you're heer, an' ther boys knows their biz an' won't give it away, as long as I say nay. Now, jest you marry me, an' I'll go down an' slit your enemy's weazand, an' that'll put an end ter the matter. See?"

"I comprehend your magnanimous offer, but emphatically decline. When in need of a husband, I shall select a man-not a wolf in the guise of a man. You may inform Carrol Carner of my presence here, if you like, and tell him, also, that I have been taking daily practice with the revolver, lately, and I shall take advantage of the first opportunity to blow his brains out. Now, or I'll open up practice on you. Go! I mean biz!"

And judging by the flash of her eyes, he concluded she was in dead earnest, and took as few steps as possible to carry him out of range of her weapon.

Baffled and savage, he descended the stairs to the street, to cool off his passion -- and consider.

Villain that he was he had set his heart on capturing the girl and making her his wife and the failure just now but strengthened his determination.

Carrol Carner, although he failed to obtain any information from Piute Dave concerning the object of his search, was in no wise discouraged, and made it his business, during the evening to "pump" nearly all the roughs in the saloon who, taking the cue from Dave, all denied any knowledge of the girl. This very unanimity strengthened his suspicions.

"Excuse me, please, if I refuse to believe you," he said, coolly. "So positive has been the declaration that the girl is not here, that I am sure she is here. I demand to see your register. When I registered tonight, I neglected to look it over to see if there had been any previous arrivals."

"I refuse to let you see the register," Poker Jack replied, an ugly flash in his eyes as he went on: "I'll own up that the girl is here and when you attempt to take 'er away, you're a dead man-you or any other two-legged cuss in the town. I've been watchin' the way things aire shapin' ter-night, an' I allow that the gal is pure, an' good, an' tho' I ain't anything to brag on about bein' a saint, I allow that's enough man left in me ter shove for'a'd a six, ef ary galoot tries any guru games about that gal. An' my name's Poker Jack, from Pioche."

And the landlord of the Poker House brought his fist down hard, on the bar.

That night, when Death Notch slumbered, a horseman rode stealthily into the town.

His form was well wrapped in a long black cloak, a wide-rimmed black hat was slouched down over his forehead to the eyes, which were covered with the exception of a pair of peep-holes, by a black mask, which was in turn met by an immense black beard that touched to the man's waist, all giving him a dark and sinister appearance.

That his mission was a secret one, was evident, for his animal's hoofs were carefully muffled, and made little or no noise as they struck the hardpan bottom of the gulch.

The strange dark man rode slowly along until he came opposite the Poker house, when he reined his horse close up to the front of the building and halted.

Rising in the stirrups, and thence to his horse's back, he was able to climb upon the cap of the front door frame, which he accordingly did, and then crept into the open window, which led into the upper hall.

Pausing a few moments and listening intently, he stole from one door to another along the hall, and repeated the precaution of listening, nor did he conclude until he had visited every door that opened off from the hall.

Then he came back to the door of the apartment occupied by Virgie and softly turned the knob.

The door being locked, refused to open, at which he did not appear to be much surprised, for he drew a slender pair of "nippers" from his pocket and quickly had the door unlocked and open.

Then, stealing softly into the room, he closed it behind him as quietly as he had opened it.

The next morning when Poker Jack took the meals upstairs for Miss Virgie Verner, before any customers were about the establishment to watch him, he found the door wide open and Miss Verner gone.

Not a little surprised he opened the communicating door of the darky's apartment, and found the gent of color lying upon his bed, bound hand and foot and gagged, with a quilt thrown over his head to shut out any sound he might make.

Poker Jack immediately went to his rescue, and found the poor "coon" nearly suffocated.

As soon as he could gain his breath he gave vent to a sigh of relief, and gazed about him with ludicrously rolling eyes, to make sure that he was really once more liberated.

"Oh! de good Lor' almighty! I s'pected I'se a gone clam fo' suah!" was his exclamation. "W'at's a de 'Matter, boss-w'at's de reason dis inoffensive chile is tied up like a lump ob dry goods an' a quilt frowed ober his head fo' to keep him from breafin'-dat's what I'se anxious to know?"

"Well, being somewhat in the dark myself, I naturally looked to you for an explanation," the host of the Poker House replied. "Don't you know how you came in that plight?"

"'Deed I don't know nuffin' 'bout it, boss. All I know is dat when I awoke, dar I was fast, like de leg ob a clam in a shell, and wid a great scarcity o' breathin' stuff. Dun'no nuffin' else about it-'deed I don't, fo' suah."

"Well, this is kind o' funnysome," Poker Jack declared, scratching his head. "Some one's been hyar during the night, and waltzed off with ther gal-that's certain."

"What Miss Virgie gon' d'ye das?" Nicodemius cried in alarm, springing to his feet, his dark visage growing a shade paler, if, indeed, such a thing is possible.

"I allow she is," Jack replied. "Leastwise she ain't in her room."

"Oh! de good Lor' a'mightly. W'at's to become of me, den! I'se a dead gone niggar, fo' suah! Say, boss, maybe she's got skeered' an, done gon' hid under de bed, or in de wash-stand, or--"

"Not a bit of it. She's bin smuggled off during the night, but the next thing is, who's the smuggler? I allow et won't be healthy for him, when I learn who."

Had Jack had any inclination to keep the matter hushed, he could not well have done so, for it wasn't ten minutes before Nicodemius had spread the news all over the town.

Both Carrol Carner and Piute Dave swore roundly when they heard the news, but Poker Jack eyed them searchingly.

"One or the other of you know where that gal is," he said to himself, " and if no one else is interested in her welfare, it shall not be said that Poker Jack left her to the mercy o' two worse brutes than himself."

That day a horseman, or rather a girl dressed in male attire drew rein before the Poker House, and slipping from the saddle, she strode into the bar-room, and took a glance over the crowd therein.

The woman was the notorious free-and-easy reckless waif of the rocky Western country Calamity Jane.

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