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

CHAPTER VIII.
WHO KILLED PIUTE DAVE?

WHEN the Dwarf was out of sight, the Unknown turned to Red Hatchet, and gazed at him a moment, silently.

"You are like the rest of your red race -- a demon!" he said, finally, with biting sarcasm. "I'd be doing your child an act of mercy, you old snake, if I threw you into that fire, and allowed you to burn to a crisp!"

"Oh! no! no!" Siska cried, pleadingly. "Don't do that, sir. He is my father, and getting old. Please spare him for my sake."

"For your sake, then, be it. for I can but remember that I am under deep obligations to you," the Unknown said, bowing. Siska looked surprised.

"The daughter of Red Hatchet is grateful to the dark stranger," she said, "but does not understand why he feels under obligations to her."

"Nor is there need that she should," the Unknown replied. "In the mean time, beware of the mad Dwarf, and if he again offers to trouble you, shoot him on the spot!"

With the parting injunction, the man of mystery turned, and strode from the cabin, out into the early gloaming of the night.

Calamity Jane had overheard the conversation between Mrs. Morris and Carrol Carner, for it so chanced that her room adjoined that of the Mormon schemer, and there being only a thin board partition, every word that had been spoken came distinctly to her.

"I will enlist with this woman against the Mormon villain," she said, and I allow he'll find his hands full."

She went down-stairs into the bar-room, to see if the California lady was there, but found that she was not. There was a big crowd of the miners and roughs present, however, among whom was Piute Dave, and the bullwhacker poet, Shakespeare.

The latter had evidently been indulging in a goodly number of "bootlegs," for he was catering to the tastes of the crowd by some very queer antics in the terpsichorean line.

"Dance?" he roared, with an extra shuffle; "why, 'galoots, ye nevyer see'd yer uncle wiggle his number thirteen. I'm a reg'lar old ballet, when I get a goin', on single bizness, an' when ye guv me a feminine gal o' good luks, why, old Chesterfield was nowhar wi' his ideers o' exquisut grace. Jest ter show ye, for instances, my festive royal old kids, hyar's ther Calam, from Calarnityville; she won't mind mind tryin' a mazzurkey wi' me, I know."

And he waltzed toward where Calamity had paused, bent on forcing her into a dance with him. But, just before he reached her, his eyes became glued upon a little instrument she held in her grasp, which mildly suggested trouble, did he advance further. So he halted.

"Why don't you come on?" Calamity asked, dryly. "Surely you are not afraid of such a little tool as this?"

"But, great Jersulam, you'd let me have, right in the buzzom -- I see'd et in yer eye."

"Well, I allow you're a party fair guesser for I shall shoot you, kerslap, if you lay one o' yer greasy paws on me!"

"But you'd git yanked fer that."

"Not while I kin handle a 'six'!"

"Then ye calkylate you're a shootist, do ye, right from. Shootin'ville?"

"I do, that same. I presume I am most generally able to look out for number one."

"But ye can't shoot -- no siree, bobtail hoss! Thar ain't no mortal thet kin shoot, campared wi' yer uncle, ther playful poet o' the plains. Why, w'u'd you believe et gal, I'm ther furst patentee o' revolvyers, am I, an' I kin outshoot ary pilgrim from Carver, down so the days o' Davy Crockett."

"I'll bet ye can't," Calamity retorted. She saw that to gain the admiration and respect of these rude men she must surprise them by some extraordinary proceeding, and there is no accomplishming that tickles a Western man so much as an exhibition of perfect marksmanship.

In this Calamity was not to be despised, for she had handled weapons too many years not to be well acquainted with their use.

"I'll bet you can't knock the neck off at bottle, thirty yards off."

"Oh! Danyel in the lions' den! What foolishness. Why, gal,

'For shutin' cluss, I'm noted
I'm ther 'ristocratic, bloated
Ther party sugar-coated
Pop-gun puller o' ther West.'

"Why, I kin toss a likker glass inter ther air, an' plunk a hoel through the bottom afore et cums down."

"You can't do it," Calamity declared, pulling out her purse "and I'll bet just a gold eagle ag'in it. Then, I'll turnaround and bet that it you can do thet, I can take a revolver and put the bullet down the tube o' a narrow necked bottle, while it is in the air."

A cheer of enthusiasm came from the crowd at this assertion of the Girl Sport, while the poet looked rather nonplused, as he surveyed his opponent.

"Well, dog my cats, of ye kin do thet thar's a heap more narve in ye then ye ink for. I'll jest bet ye squar' fifty gold-bar thet ye kent' do nothin' o' the kind."

"Taken, first dose. Put up yer collateral. Poker Jack will hold the stakes."

The bullwhacker was in earnest, and put up his "three ouncer" in Jack's hands, forthwith, while Calamity handed him five eagles, and the bet was made.

"Now then go ahead and prove yer brag," Shakespeare cried with a grin, "an' when I git yer fifty, cuss my golden slippers ef I don't treat ther boyees ter ther best thet house affords! Oh! I'm a liberal cuss."

"So I perceive, and when you win a wager on my shootin', you'll need to bet the other way I!" Calamity laughed, "You pilgrims git to either side now, and leave the center of the room clear for its whole length, so that nobody shall git hurt -- it would be a great pity to harm so respectable an assemblage. I could never forgive myself were I to kill half a dozen of you. Now, then, you bullwhacker, procure empty bottle, and stand half-way down the room ' to the right side, and when I give the word toss the bottle up into the air, the neck toward me. I will take my position at the upper end of the room here, and if you bottle as I order. I'll agree to put a bullet down the neck so that it will come out the bottom. Get ready now!"

Her orders were promptly obeyed. The crowd moved to one side, and she and Shakespeare took their respective positions.

"Gentlemen, you want ter peel yer eyes now," the bullwhacker said, feeling considerable uneasiness as to the result of his wager. "A gal o' starling qualities this gal Calam, may be, but et wont do nary harm ter watch her very close, ye see. Ther'fore peel yer eyes, and peel 'em good, an' watch her leetle game, 'ca'se fer me ter lose my ducats' b'yees, 'd be a beastly shame. Selah! Cum, gal, yer ready?"

"Not yet!" Calamity answered, taking her position. "The light in the room is so bright that it dazzles my eyes. Will some one tie a handkerchief over one of my eyes -- you, Poker Jack?"

The host of the Poker House assented, and according to directions, effectually blindfolded the left-eye of the eccentric girl dare devil. "Now, then -- one-two-three!" she cried and raising her revolver before she had "three."

The instant she uttered the momentous word, the bullwhacker tossed a long-necked bottle into the air, as directed, with a "ki! yi!" The next instant there was a loud report -- a smashing of glass -- a yell of human pain.

Down to the floor fell the bottle with the bottom knocked out; down to the floor fell Piute Dave, grasping at his side, from which a stream of blood was oozing, dyeing the floor.

Calamity had won her wager!

And Piute Dave had lost his life.

Had one bullet done it all?

That was a question unanswerable by any present, as all eyes had been riveted upon the bottle as it whirled through the air.

It had all occurred in an instant, and brought surprise to every one -- even Calamity, who heard the fall.

"I am killed -- the cursed girl in breeches did it!" Piute Dave gasped blood spurting from his mouth as he spoke. "Kill her, some one, -- cut her heart out!"

"Back!" Calamity cried, tearing the handkerchief from before her eyes, and leveling her re-cocked weapon at the crowd. "This is a lie! I did not shoot that man. Look at the bottle-there is a hole through it! You will at once see that I could not have done both jobs with one bullet."

"You lie -- you lie!" Piute Dave yelled, raising frantically upon his elbow, and attempting to draw his revolver, but the exertion was more than he was capable of, and he dropped back upon the floor-dead!

For a moment thereafter the silence in the room was so intense that a pin-fall could have been heard.

Then, Poker Jack spoke:

"The gal is right, boys," he said, decidedly. "She could not hev bored that hole through the end of the bottle, an' killed Dave too."

"A gal who's clever enuff ter even chuck cold lead inter ther throat o' a bottle when et was tumblin' somersets in mid-air, ar' enuff possessed o' ther devil ter do 'most anything, I allow," declared an old miner, with a grunt of disapproval, and this view of the matter also seemed to meet a favorable response from his companions.

"It's a big thing to do, of course," Poker Jack assented; "but, look! yonder is a splinter in the door at the other end of the room, that shows where the bullet went, after goin' through the bottle."

An exclamation confirmed his declaration. A bullet was lodged in the door, in plain view, in a spot where the door had hitherto been unmarred.

"That don't settle the question, however," a voice cried, and Carrol Carner, who had been standing since the shooting in the doorway that opened into the hall, now advanced into the barroom "I've got a little finger to intrude into this pie."

"Well, what have you got to say?" Calamity demanded, turning fiercely upon him, for from his voice she knew he was the same man who was dealing so villainously with Mrs. Morris.

"I have this to say," he replied with a triumphant smile-- "that while all other eyes were turned upon the bottle, mine were upon you, and I saw you fire two revolvers, instead of one; one was leveled at the dead man here, the other at the bottle, and both exploded simultaneously, making one report."

"My God! what a lie!" Calamity Jane gasped; then "Back! back, you devils--" as the crowd rushed at her, and she opened rapid fire upon them with two revolvers, resolved to sell her life and liberty dearly.

But they were a hundred to one -- what could be the result?

They had secured her in the hard, unyielding grasp of a dozen pairs of hands, in almost a moment, but not until her unerring aim had sent four strong men upon their backs, and several others wounded.

"Out with her! String her up!" roared the Bullwhacker Poet, who had been one of those to sustain a scratch in the face.

"Yes, give the murderous hussy a rope!" cried Carrol Carner, " she deserved it long ago!"

"Hold! Pause before you do this outrage!" a deep, stern voice cried, and there entered the room the same strange, black-bearded stranger whom we have known as the Unknown.

He had no weapons in hand to stay the mob that had Calamity Jane in their power; it was the commanding tone of voice, and his dark forbidding appearance that caused the rude crowd to pause and await an explanation of his advent.

"Stop!" he repeated. "This girl belongs to me to kill. I have a mortgage upon the life you would take, and I propose to attend to the foreclosure myself; still, realizing your revengeful spirit toward her, I will give you a chance to win her for your own disposal. Select some man from your crowd who is expert at knife-throwing and we will throw six knives apiece at a round chalk-mark, the size of a silver dollar, on yonder door, while standing twenty paces from the aforesaid door. The man who puts the most knives nearest the chalk center shall have the girl."

"That's me, every day in the week, you bet!" cried the poet, executing a ludicrous caper.

"Right on my muscle aire I at tossin' knives, way up ter ther shoulder; ther b'yees know who I am, and thet my specialty is thet, an' compilin' beautiful gems o' poetry. Eh! boyees -- shall we hev a leetle o' ther blady amusement?"

Piute Dave lay dead upon the floor-these men of Death Notch looked next after him to Shakespeare as their leader, and gave a growl of assent.

"It is well," the Unknown said, "for had you refused you would never have escaped from this place alive, as it is in my power to strike every one of you dead at a single blow."

It was a bold declaration, but had its effect. The crowd cowered in superstition from the gaze of this dark, forbidding stranger. "Go ahead, and collect a dozen bowie knives, and also mark a dollar-sized circle on yonder door, belt high. Then pace off twenty steps, and lead off," the stranger commanded.

Shakespeare followed the instructions promptly, and then, armed with his allowance of knives' took his position.

It was now to be a test of skill for the life of Calamity Jane, who was still held a prisoner.

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