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

CHAPTER VII.
A VILLAIN UNMASKED.

CARNER seemed to deem it advisable to humor her, for he immediately led the way upstairs to his own apartment, and when there handed her a chair.

"Be seated," he said, curtly. "Your visit is unexpected to me. Why do you come here?"

"To effect a settlement with you, villain that you are, if such a thing is possible," the woman retorted, bitterly.

"Carrol Carner have you not one spark of tenderness or mercy in your cruel heart?"

"Not that I am aware of," the man replied, seating himself, with his heels elevated upon a table and lighting a cigar. "I never was overburdened with a reproving conscience, and when it is likely to interfere with any of my plans I do away with it entirely. If you come here thinking that wholesale tears and supplication for mercy will move me, you've greatly missed your reckoning."

"Carrol Carner, take care!"

"Bah! Don't be so foolish as to threaten me old woman! You can't do anything with me."

"I can. I can have you arrested for a bigamist!"

"Humph! How are you to prove it? How think you a court would decide it? They would pronounce me an adventurer, reprimand me, perhaps, and there the matter would end. Why, I cannot see that there's any great cause for trouble! It's a simple little story. I, Carrol Carner, an adventurer, go down to California for a little recreation, and meet and marry the step-daughter of a rich speculator known as Morris. Both the girl's mother and step-father approve of the match, when I accommodate them with a little ready-made information that I am a popular mine-owner in the Nor'west and the wedding goes off as merry as a marriage bell should go. Next in order develops a little item of family news that Morris has a deal of property and an equal number of debts, and in order to save his property he must deed it to some one, and thereby defraud his creditors of all that he owes. In this extremity, Morris proposes to deed me two- thirds of all his properly, and his step-daughter the other third, all of which is done, legally, and thus things stand, when comes the news from Utah that Carrot Carner is a Mormon, and has no less than eight fair and buxom wives, to whose loving company he is respectfully invited back.

"Ther is a small-sized tornado in the Morris camp then, and Carner is commanded to clear out, but first deed back the property. This he kindly refuses to do; and about this time two other sensations arise. News comes that Myrtle, his wife, has inherited an immense fortune by death of a relative-next, Carrol Carner, in company with a pair of neighbors, finds Myrtle kneeling over the lifeless less body of her step-father, with a bloody knife in her grasp. What do you suppose is the result? I suppose you are full well aware. Caught in the act as it were, and realizing the consequences, Myrtle fled, not only from the scene of her strange crime, but from California, accompanied by a family servant. Smarting under the blow of dishonor she had put upon my fair name and reputation, I vowed to hunt her down and hand her over to the law!"

"Villain! monster!" Mrs. Morris gasped, who had been listening with blanched face and flashing eyes. "Your villainy is without parallel. You know my poor child never committed that murder. You know more about how Mr. Morris died than she."

"That you will find it a hard thing to prove," Carner replied, coolly. "It's easier to surmise a thing than to prove it. I can prove that I found the girl in a suspiciously murderous position, with a bloody knife in her grasp, and that is all-sufficient in the eyes of the law. When I succeed in capturing her, the law will take her."

"What! what is this-have you not found her yet?" the mother demanded, excitedly.

"Yes -- on two occasions, but she has given me the slip both times," the scoundrel declared composedly. "I found her at first, fulfilling an engagement in a Leadville theater as Virgie Verner, where her musical accomplishments, together with those of the negro, had secured her a situation. She saw me, however, before I had ferreted her out, and fled. I was soon upon her trail, however, and followed her here to this beautiful burg. She was here when I came, but during last night was kidnapped from her room and the darky left behind, bound hand and foot."

"And you were the kidnapper!" Mrs. Morris asserted. "Carrol Carner, for God's sake-for the hope of the hereafter, tell me where is my child?"

"Dead, I hope," the Mormon said, decidedly, "but even that is a delusion. I know nothing more than I have told you. I did not abduct her. I do not know where she is."

"You are lying to me!"

"Have it that way if you choose. I would it were so myself."

"Why have you thus turned against her, you villain, after you married her -- deceived her and wronged her?"

"Because-well, for several reasons. One in particular -- I don't need any more wives, having a pretty good stock up at Salt Lake. I only married the girl in the first place because I found life rather monotonous in California. Secondly, I find that with your demise and her demise, there are no more immediate heirs extant, and I would come in and inherit the last third of your property, and her recent inheritance too. Consequently, you see it is only natural that the law should deal promptly with her, while as for you-oh well, it wouldn't puzzle one much to get rid of you!"

Exasperating in the extreme was the man's composure and sangfroid as he spoke; it but gave evidence of his depravity.

"It is as I supposed," she said, rising. "You are disposed to win your little game, no matter what the risk. You will find, however, that a mother's love for her child is an insurmountable barrier to battle with."

"Ha! ha! then you will show your teeth, eh?" he said, with a light laugh.

"Ay! and you shall feel their bite if you further attempt to harm one hair of her head who is dearer to me than life."

Then she swept haughtily from the room.

"Humph! matters are getting a little more business-like," the Mormon muttered. "If I mistake not I couldn't have chosen a better location to terminate the business."

Back from the plateau which had been the scene of the strange compact between Red Hatchet and Old Scavenger, stood a goodlysized, strong-built log cabin, surrounded by a fringe of pine trees whose foliage reached to the ground. So admirably arranged was this natural screen, it was only on close approach that the cabin could be seen.

About the same hour that Carrol Carner and Mrs. Morris were holding an interview, a scene was occurring in the mountain cabin, which has a bearing upon our romance.

Red Hatchet sat before a fire on the hearth, engaged in smoking his pipe, while he watched the flames leap upward, and at the same time listened to the words of Old Scavenger, who stood to one side, leaning upon a rude staff.

"Does Red Hatchet not remember what he promised?" the dwarf demanded angrily a mad fire burning in his terrible eyes. "Have ye forgotten that ye gave her to me?"

"Red Hatchet gave not his child to the Dwarf-Devil to butcher!" the chief replied, in a stern tone; "not till Scavenger has completed the destruction of the pale-faces' town, shall he lay hand upon Siska, and then, it shall not be to harm her. Siska has become the wife of Devil-Dwarf but he must not harm her."

"Bah! I want not a wife-I want sweet vengeance!" the Avenger replied, with a wild laugh. "To-day has passed without my adding a death notch to the record. Every time I fail to secure a victim, I will cut off a finger or toe, so that they'll not have it to my I failed to have vengeance. Siska shall furnish me that to that trophy!"

"No! no!" Red Hatchet gasped-- "you shall not do this, I will not permit it."

"Then does not Red Hatchet respect the vow he sealed with a draught of blood, that Siska should belong to me, to do with as I pleased? If he does not, I will kill him and then torture the girl!" the maniac hissed venomously "I will not be cheated of vengeance!"

The old chief bowed his head in his hands, for a few moment. Then he said:

"Red Hatchet is the chief of a great tribe, and his word is good, whenever he gives it."

The Devil-Dwarf shall have one of the fingers of Siska."

He arose and bobbled to the door of the cabin, which stood open, and taking a whistle from his pocket, blew a shrill blast upon it.

A moment later Siska came bounding merrily through the trees into the cabin, her dusky face flushed, from her mountain ramble.

She grew pale as she saw the Dwarf, and turned to her father.

"What is it Red Hatchet wants?" she asked, laying a hand upon his is arm.

The chief gazed at her a moment irresolutely, then his face hardened, as he led her to a seat.

"Siska is a brave girl. Does she remember who it was that drove her people from Sequoy and killed her brothers and mother?"

"The pale-faces, father, who have ever been the enemies of the red race. But, why does Red Hatchet ask?"

"Does Siska remember being told that Scavenger, the Dwarf, has consented to fight the pale-faces for Red Hatchet, and that Siska was to be his? Did not Siska consent to this?"

"I consented, because I knew it was Red Hatchet's wish."

"True. Red Hatchet promised you to Scavenger and now he asks for one of Siska's fingers because cause he has not been successful in killing a pale-face. What has Siska to say? Will she refuse the sacrifice, or will she fulfill Red Hatchet's word of honor to the Dwarf!"

A horrified shudder traversed the Indian girl's frame, as she listened, and fixed her gaze the horrible hairy visage of the Avenger.

"Can Red Hatchet ask Siska to do this?" she demanded, turning her reproachful eyes upon his stern unpitying face.

"It pains Red Hatchet to ask for this sacrifice, and yet Siska knows that he has always kept his promises as good as the gold in these mountains. And, then, the Devil-Dwarf is carryin out the vengeance upon the pale-faces, which Red Hatchet's old age will not allow him to do."

"And if you refuse, I'll kill your father and torture you, afterward," Scavenger said, with a diabolical grin.

"Oh! father, I cannot!" Siska cried, covering her eyes with her hands, to shut out sight of the crazy cut-throat. "I'd rather you would take your tomahawk, and kill me, yourself!"

"Waugh! Siska is but a squaw, now -- not like her brave self. Lay one finger upon the table in scorn, as becomes a fearless Indian girl, and tell yonder bloodthirsty pale-face devil to cut it off. Red Hatchet has spoken!"

And this time the tones of the old warrior were proud and filled with stern rebuke.

Fired by his coldness, Siska advanced to a rude table near by, and laying her left forefinger upon the board, she turned fiercely to Scavenger, her eyes flashing fire, and said:

"There! monster, take your coveted prize!"

"Ho! ho this is vengeance!" the madman cried, striding toward the table, his long, terrible knife in hand. "When I have cut that off, my thirst shall be satisfied, until a pale-face dog shall come within reach, to-morrow."

He reached the table and caught hold of her wrist, and...

Did not execute his hellish purpose! For at the instant he was about to sever the member from the hand, a man bounded quickly into the room, and seizing the Dwarf by the leg and shirt collar, raised him by the strength of his arms above his head -- then hurled him forward into the capacious fire-place, where a hot fire was burning, for the mountain air was chill.

The next instant the stranger had drawn a sword from a scabbard which hung at his hip, and stood on guard. It was none. other than the Stranger in Black, who had come to the rescue of Calamity Jane, a few hours before.

With a howl of rage the Dwarf scrambled from the fire-place, but not before the flames had severely scorched his hands and face and burned some of the hair therefrom.

"You-you!" he gasped on gaining his feet, and perceiving who his assailant was.

"Yes, I!" the Unknown replied, in his deep thundering voice. "Once more we have met, and your little murderous game is foiled. Go I give you yet until the 10th of September to live!"

For a moment the Avenger gazed in almost speechless fury at the man in black -- then with a howl, he fled from the cabin.

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