Adventures of Buffalo Bill from Boyhood to Manhood

CHAPTER XIX.
THE DESPERADOES' DEN.

SHORTLY after this adventure of the rescue of the stage coach, the Indians became so bad along the line that the Pony Express and stages had to be stopped, for awhile on account of the large number of horses ran off.

This caused a number of the employees or the Overland to be idle, and they at once formed a company to go in search of the missing stock, and also to punish the red-skins.

Of this company Wild Bill, who had been driving stage, was elected the commander, and, as they were all a brave set of men, it was expected they would render a good account or themselves.

Of course Buffalo Billy went along, by years the youngest of the party, but second to none for courage and skill in prairie craft.

They first struck the Indians in force on the Overland trail, and defeating them with heavy loss, pursued them to the Powder River, and then down that stream to the vicinity of where old Fort Reno now stands.

Pushing them hard the whites had several engagements with them, and each one of the company performed some deed of valor, but none were more conspicuous for daring deeds than was Buffalo Billy.

Permitting them no rest the whites drove the Indians into their village, and although they were outnumbered four to one, captured all of the company's stock as well as the ponies of the red-skins.

Having been so successful Wild Bill gave the order to return, and the Indians had been too badly. worsted to follow, and they reached Sweetwater Bridge in safety, and without the loss of an -animal they had retaken or captured.

The stages and Pony Express at once began to ran again on time, and Buffalo Billy was transferred to another part of the line, to drive through a mountainous district.

But anxious to return home, after his long absence, he resigned his position, determined to take advantage of a train going east, and in which he could get a position as assistant baggage "master on the homeward" bound trip, which would pay him for a couple of months' service, thereby giving him a larger sum to carry to his family.

As it would be several days before the train started, Buffalo Billy determined to enjoy a bear-hunt, and mounting his favorite horse, the roan he had captured from the Indian

Chief, he set out for the foot-hills of Laramie Peak.

After a day of pleasure, in which he had shot considerable game, such as deer, antelope and sage hens, but not a bear, he camped for the night in a pretty nook upon one of the mountain streams.

Hardly had he fastened his roan and begun to build a fire, by which to cook his supper when he was startled by the neigh of a horse up in the mountains.

Instantly he sprung to his horse, and, by his band over his nostrils, prevented him from giving an answering whinny, while he stood in silence listening, for he knew that he might rather expect to see a foe there than a friend.

As the neigh was once more repeated, Buffalo Billy resaddled his horse, hitched him so that he could be easily unfastened, and, with his rifle started cautiously on foot up the stream.

He had not gone far when in a little glen he behold nearly halt a hundred horses grazing and lariated out.

This was a surprise to him, and he was most cautious indeed, for he was convinced that they belonged to some prowling band of Indians.

Presently, up the mountain further, he caught sight of a sudden light, and his keen eye detected that a man's form had momentarily appeared and then all was darkness once more.

On he went in the direction of the light, going as noiselessly as a panther creeping upon its prey, until presently he dimly discovered the outline of a small cabin, built back against the precipitous side of an overhanging hill.

Hearing voices, and recognizing that they were white men, he stopped boldly forward and knocked at the door.

Instantly there followed a dead silence within, and again he knocked.

"Who is there?" asked a gruff voice.

"A pard."

"Come in, pard."

Billy obeyed.

But instantly he regretted it, for his eyes fell upon a dozen villainous-looking fellows, several of whom he recognized as having seen loafing at the Overland stations, and who were considered all that was bad.

"Who are you?" asked one who appeared to be the leader.

"I am Bill Cody, a stage driver on the Overland, and I came up here on a bear-hunt."

"You're a healthy looking stage driver, you are, when you are nothing more than a boy."

"Yes, Bob, he tells ther truth, fer I hes seen him handle ther ribbons, and he does it prime too; he are the Pony Rider who they calls Buff'ler Billy," said another of the gang.

"Ther devil yer say: waal, I has heerd o' him as a greased terror, an' he looks it; but who's with yer, young pard?

"I am alone."

"It hain't likely."

"But I am.."

"Yer must be durned fond o' b'ar-meat ter come up here alone."

"I am."

"Waal, did yer get yer b'ar?"

"No."

"Whar's yer critter?"

"My horse is down the mountain."

"I'll go arter him," said one suspiciously; but Billy answered quickly:

"Oh, no, I'll not trouble you, but if I can leave my rifle here, I'll go after him."

"All right, pard; but I guesses two of us better go with yer for comp'ny, as we loves ter be sociable."

Buffalo Billy well knew now that he was in a nest of horse-thieves and desperadoes; but he dared not show his suspicions, as he felt assured they would kill him without the slightest compunction.

So he said pleasantly:

"Well, come along, for it is pleasunter to have company, and I'll stay with you to-night if you'll let me."

"Oh, yes, we'll let yer stay, fer we is awful social in our notions. Here Ben, you and Tabor go with my young pard and bring his horse up to the corral."

The two assigned for this duty were the very worst looking of the hand, as far as villainous faces went; but Buffalo Billy's quick brain had already formed a plan of escape, and he was determined to carry it out.

Down the hill they went until they came to the horse, and both eyed his fine points, as dimly seen in the darkness, with considerable pleasure, while one muttered:

"The Cap will be sure to fancy him."

"There is a string of game that might come in well for supper," said Billy, as he pointed to a dark object on the ground.

"They will, fer sure," was the eager answer, and the man stooped to pick up the game when Billy suddenly dealt him a blow that felled him to the earth.

At the same time he wheeled upon the other, who already had his hand upon his revolver, and before he could fire, his own finger touched the trigger, and the desperado fell.

Bounding into his saddle he turned his horse down the mountain side, just as the door of the cabin was thrown open and he saw the band streaming out from their den, alarmed by the shot.

In hot pursuit they rushed down the mountain side, and for a short while gained upon Billy, for he dared not urge his horse rapidly down the steep hillside.

But once in the valley and the roan bounded forward at a swift pace, and not a moment too soon, for the revolver shots began to rattle, and the bullets to fly uncomfortably near.

On, at a swift gait the roan went, and though Billy beard the clatter of hoofs in chase, he had no fear, as he well knew the speed of the animal he rode.

After a few miles' pursuit the desperadoes gave up the chase and returned toward the mountains, while Buffalo Billy urged the roan on, and a couple of hours before dawn he reached the station, roused the men, and in fifteen minutes two score horsemen were on the way to the mountains, led by the boy, though Alf Slade himself went in command of the company.

But though they found the dug-out, and the grave of the man Billy had killed, the birds had flown, leaving one of their number in his last resting place to mark the visit of the youth to the desperadoes' den.

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