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

CHAPTER VI.
A VERY SINGULAR PERFORMANCE.

FEW there were in Death Notch who had not heard of the notorious girl, and several among the lot had seen, and now recognized her, Poker Jack among Deadwood, the rest, for Poker had formerly thrived in Deadwood, before taking in Pioche and Death Notch.

Calamity had changed but little since the time when this pen last introduced her: she was the same graceful, pretty girl-in-breeches that she had always been, but if there was any change it was in the sterner expression of her sad eyes.

A murmur of "Calamity Jane," ran through the bar-room as she entered, proving that she was recognized by more than one.

"Yes Calamity Jane!" she retorted. "I see I am not unknown even in this strange place. Better perhaps, is it so, for you'll have a clearer idea of whom you have to deal with. I want to know where Deadwood Dick is that's what I want. I allow ye'll say he ain't here, but I won't swallow that. He told me held be here, over a week ago, an' he allus keeps his dates."

"An' so you are wantin' him, eh?" Piute Dave grunted, from his perch on one end of the bar. "S'pose likely you're a pard o' his'n eh?"

"I allow I've been his truest, pard for many a year," Calamity replied, "but that's not what I was asking. Where is Deadwood Dick?"

"Well, gal, ef my memory serves me right, I allow the last I see'd o' him he was a-sinkin' in a bed of quicksand, where I throwed him. We had a tassel, an' ther best man was ter chuck t'other 'un in the quicksand, an' ther honor fell onto me. He weakened and I give him a boost, an' I presume ef he's kept right on sinkin' ever since he's arriv' down ter ther maiden kentry o' the washee washee, by this time."

Calamity's heart sunk within her at this declaration but outwardly she was very calm.

She had met Deadwood Dick in the lower mining districts, a few weeks before, and he had said, as he took her hand in his, in parting:

"I'm going up to Death Notch, Janie, on my last adventuresome trail, and after that I'm going to settle down for good, in some lonely spot and see if the remainder of my life cannot be passed in more peace and quiet than the past has been. Come to me, at Death Notch, Calamity and the hand you have so long sought shall be yours. We will go hence down the avenue of life, hand in hand together as man and wife."

And then he had kissed her good-by, and she had looked forward eagerly for the appointed time to come when she should go to claim the love and protection of the only man she had ever worshipped.

"I don't believe a word that you say," she said, in reply to Piute's brag. "But if I learn that what you have said is true look out for yourself, for, girl though I am, I'll make you pay a bitter penalty for your deed."

Then she turned and left the Poker House, a feeling of sadness stealing over her.

She soon by inquiry learned the location of the fatal quicksand, and the incidents of the strange struggle between Piute Dave and Deadwood Dick; then, leaving her horse to graze, she walked out to the place where the pool of stagnant water covered the treacherous bogmire of death.

"Oh! Dick! Dick!" she moaned, kneeling upon the ground, and peering into the pool, as if to penetrate into the untold depths; " I cannot -- will not believe that you have met your death in this awful place. Somebody, perhaps, may have come along and rescued you, at the last moment. God knows I wish I could credit that supposition. Dead-you dead, my brave, true friend? No! no! no! I will never believe it-never, until when my own life shall have ebbed out, and I find that my search for you has been fruitless."

Tears were strange things in the eyes of Calamity Jane; it was more in her nature to laugh at trouble than cry; but, now, everything was changed. She had never quite given up the hope that Dick would, at some distant day, recognize her devotion to him, and take her as a wife. When he had told her to come to Death Notch to become his wife, all the bitterness of her strange young life had seemingly melted into glorious sunshine, and she was happy.

Little wonder, then, that bitter grief now returned to torture her, when they told her that the famous brave-knight had met so terrible a fate, after so many years of safe passage through constant peril.

For an hour she knelt by the dark pool. Her tears were now dried, and a deadly glitter in her eyes, while a stern expression mantled her features.

"No! I will not be rash enough to kill myself," she murmured, rising to her feet, "but will live on -- live to hope that he is not dead -- to wreak vengeance on those who, as a people, aimed to tread upon and crush him, because -- because he was Deadwood Dick!"

"Ha! ha! ho! ho!" a voice laughed, just behind her, and she wheeled to behold the dwarf avenger, Old Scavenger, standing near. Dick had described him to her, and therefore she had no difficulty in recognizing him -- for surely there were no two persons in the West whom nature had made so hideous.

"Ho! Ho!" the dwarf chuckled, when she turned to gaze at him. "So you came to look for the devilish road-agent in that pool, oh? You don't find him, though-neither do I. Ho! ho! no; he cheated me out of my sweetest morsel of vengeance, curse him!"

"How so?" Calamity asked, in surprise. "Was not Deadwood Dick a friend to you and your daughter, Scavenger?"

"No! no! He was a traitor -- a devilish traitor -- the murderer of my child, and when I found that, pinned to her dress as she lay in death where he left her, I pronounced his doom, and that of every other white traitor. D'ye see that?"

And he held up the note that he had found on Kentucky Kit's body. (See HALF-DIME LIBRARY No. 201).

Calamity took it from his hands, and read it carefully.

"This is not Deadwood Dick's writing, nor his signature, old man," she said decidedly. "It is a forgery, trumped up to throw the suspicion on Deadwood Dick."

"Bah! you lie!" Scavenger roared, becoming suddenly furious. "You lie like all the rest. They all lie, steal and murder, and I hate 'em you- hate every man or woman whose face is white. Ha! ha! I kill 'em, too. Each day have I sworn to add one new death notch to Red Hatchet's council-pole, and you shall be my victim for to-day-you! you: Ha! ha! it will be sweet vengeance to kill the girl who loved the devil road- agent!"

And, even while speaking, he drew a long, keen-bladed butcher-knife from his belt, and bounded toward her, like some ferocious wild beast rather than a human being.

Calamity sprung back a pace, and drew a revolver, for she saw that the insane Dwarf was bent on her destruction.

"Stand back or I'll fire!" she cried, but he heeded her not, and she was as good as her word -- fired, once! twice! thrice! full at Old Scavenger's breast.

But without appearing to mind the shots, he came on, madly, with upraised knife, and nothing was left for her to do but turn and run for her life, as her strange foe was evidently bullet proof.

She didn't run toward the town, but up the gulch, and as fast as her feet could carry her, for she was aware that it was now a matter of life or death to her.

Once, and again, she turned half about, while running, and sent an unerring shot at the avenger but they checked not his chase, and he laughed in defiance, brandishing his knife threateningly.

And, too, he was a remarkably swift runner, and the Girl Sport soon became aware that he was slowly but surely gaining on her.

In the start-off, she had got several rods away from him, but it promised to be no great length of time ere he should overtake her.

Realizing this, Calamity began to wonder what she must do to escape. Could it be that she, too, had come to this unlucky town, only to meet her fate as Deadwood Dick had done?

Faster-faster grew the chase, both pursuer and pursued straining every nerve to win; nearer and nearer to his victim did the Avenger gain, a demoniac grin of triumph upon his features.

Suddenly, however, there was a change-a break in the monotony of the race.

A man stepped suddenly from behind a point of rock into the gulch, just after Calamity had passed, and stood with folded arms facing the oncoming dwarf.

Not a weapon did he have in hand, nor seemed he prepared for battle, yet faced the pursuing Avenger composedly. Wrapped from bead to foot in a long black-cloak, and wearing a tremendous black beard, which, with the addition of a mask, and wide-rimmed black hat slouched down over his forehead, completely hid his features from view, he was a dark and rather sinister individual to behold-the same strange person who had ridden so mysteriously into Death Notch the night previous.

Nearer and nearer Old Scavenger approached, flourishing his knife, and making strange contortions, but not an inch did the move, further than to raise his black gloved hand, and pointed one finger at the Dwarf.

Had the stranger shown fight, there would have undoubtedly been an immediate struggle, but his queer action seemed to puzzle the crazed creature, and he came to a halt, a dozen yards away, seeming undecided whether to advance further toward the cloaked customer or not.

Calamity had halted on the other side of him, not a little surprised and curious.

The Black Unknown now turned toward her, and motioned her with his outstretched hand to approach.

The girl I obeyed, keeping her weapon ready for instant use. When within a few feet of him he motioned her to stop. Then turning to the Dwarf, he motioned him to pass by on the left-hand side of the gulch.

At first Scavenger made no move to obey, but when the stranger stamped his foot imperatively, the girl's pursuer did as he had been motioned to do, nor paused until he stood where Calamity had first halted.

Now turning to Calamity, the dark stranger pointed toward the Death Notch, and said, in a deep tone of voice, the simple word:

"Go!"

"Kerect!" the Girl Sport replied, with a laugh,

"I'm much obliged to you, and don't need a second invitation."

And she went down the gulch, wondering who was this black individual with the voice like a roll of midsummer thunder. She looked around just before turning a slight bend that would bide them from view, and saw that both the Black Unknown and the Dwarf yet retained their same relative positions, except that the arm of the Unknown was leveled at the Avenger commandingly.

As she looked, too, she saw the hand and arm fall to the Unknown's side while Scavenger staggered back, turned and fled up the gulch at the top of his speed.

Calamity went back to the town, and registered at the Poker House, and was assigned the room from which Virgie Verner had been abducted.

"Jack," she said to Poker Jack, who had shown her to it-- "Jack, you were a hard fellow when I used to see you up in Deadwood and, judging by our surroundings, I don't allow you're much saintlier now. But thet won't hinder you from answering me a question."

"Certainly not, Calamity. Ask anything you choose."

"Well, I want to know whether or not you really believe that Deadwood Dick sunk in that quicksand?"

"Why, I haven't any reason to believe that he did not. Piute Dave threw him in, they say, and then he and the gang cum back here an' left the poor cuss to sink."

"May the Almighty inflict some terrible penalty upon them if this is true! But, try though I do to become resigned to this conclusion, I do not believe that Deadwood Dick lies at the bottom of that bed of quicksand."

Toward dusk that evening a woman on horseback, attended by two mounted scouts, rode into Death Notch, and dismounted before the Poker House.

She was an elderly lady, say of fifty-five or sixty, well dressed, and yet one whose face spoke of a life that had not been all sunshine.

On dismounting she immediately entered the bar-room, and after a searching glance around, approached Carrol Carner, who was engaged in playing a game of cards with a miner.

Carner arose, with a flushed face, as he saw her approach, as if it was his intention to attempt to escape, but he caught the gleam of something concealed in the woman's hand as it hung by her side, and desisted from any such action.

"I expected to find you, if I persevered," the woman said, with sarcasm, as he arose and tipped his hat. "Please order a private apartment where I can see you and talk business."

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