California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman

CHAPTER XIX.
THE SAME "JOE."

WELL, Joe, why don't you tell us what you have been doing since we saw you last" asked the major, for the twentieth time, as they rode on toward the fort that night, accompanied by Captain Stewart, and with the outlaw, bringing up the rear guarded by two soldiers.

"I hev been rovin', major."

"But where?"

"About ther kentry."

"Did you got to the Rocky Mountains?"

"Yes."

"And have met with many thrilling adventures, I'll wager?"

"Yer's win yer money, fer I hes been through some leetle adventer in my way," was the quiet reply.

"But bow did, you strike the trail of the Midnight Riders?"

"I were a-ridin' along the trail one day an' comed across your dockiment stuck on a tree."

"What was that, Joel"

"Tellin' how yer's give dust fer ther Raider Cap's an' his gang whether the'r toes were turned up or kickin'

"I jist thoughted I'd like ther job, an' I lays round loose, got ther run o' bow ter meet an' then fined ther gang with a tale o'

"I been put through thet made 'em weep fer me.

"Yer knows ther balance, major, an' that I jist saved thet putty gal from bein' a outlaw's bride; but wimmin is sich queer folks I dunno of she don't cuss me fer it, arter all."

"No, Joe, she said " God bless you I many times."

"Waal, I hopes He will, major; but does yer know I hev lost thet horse yer give me?"

"No; how did you do that?" and the major hoped to draw the young man out to tell something about himself.

"And ther mustang, too."

"You lost your mustang, too?"

"Yas."

"But how?"

"They got kilt."

"Indeed! How did it happen?"

"They got shooted."

"In a fight, I suppose?"

"Yes, it were a. kind of a scrimmage like."

"But I were sorry to lose your horse, and yer rifle got tuk from me."

"Tell us how it happened, Joe?"

"I hes been among ther Injuns, an' they hain't over honest," was the significant reply, and with this his hearers were compelled to be satisfied.

"But you are well mounted and armed now, Joe."

"Yas, this critter hain't slow I an' she kin keep movin' as long as any of 'em."

"Well, Joe, the paymaster of the fort hasn't paid over your money yet."

"No, ther time hed not passed."

And you'll have some to add to it, as you'll get your reward for those outlaws back there."

"Major, I trades in horse-flesh, I swaps rifles, revolvers, knives or buckskin, but I don't take dust for human blood.

"Yer is welcome ter them pilgrims, an' kin hang 'em fer all I cares, but I don't sell 'em ter yer.

"I heerd yer name spoke as I were passin through this kentry, an, I seen yer dockymint, an' I sets out to retarn yer kindness, an' thar Is ther gerloots; but don't talk dust ter me for human flesh an' bones."

"Well, Joe, I meant but to give you what is your just due."

"Divide it with the sogers of yer regimint, major,"

"And the money I have of yours, Joe?"

"Keep a keepin' on it, major, until yer heur from me ter give it away."

"But I expect soon to be ordered away from here , Joe."

"Waal, leave it with ther one who takes yer place, subject ter my call."

By this time they had reached the fort, and when those who had known Joe before heard of his arrival, they pressed about him with warm greetings.

"Joe, you have grown as handsome as a picture,?' said a young officer.

"I has been told," was the innocent reply, and it caused a general laugh.

That night Joe slept in the fort, the guest of the major, and when the two were breakfasting together the next morning, and the officer was striving to get the young frontiersman to enlist as a scout, the startling news was brought in that the prisoners had all escaped, having, dug out from the guard house and under the stockade wall.

Squads of cavalry were at once sent in every direction in pursuit of the fugitives, while Joe mounted his horse and started off alone with the remark:

"I guesses I'll strike ther trail myself."

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