California Joe, the Mysterious Plainsman

CHAPTER XXII.
JOE VISITS OLD FRIENDS.

FROM the time of Joe receiving the prefix of "California" to his name, he began to be known from the Missouri to the Pacific.

At times he was a trapper on the streams of the border, and again a scout and Indian trailer with the advance guard of the army. Then he was heard of in the mines, and again haunted the settlements for awhile with apparently no aim in life.

At length he departed from his favorite haunts one day, and several weeks after he rode up to the door of a comfortable cabin in one of the most delightful of the border settlement.

It was Sunday afternoon, and before the door sat the settler, a fine-looking man with hair tinged with gray, while near him was his wife, a handsome woman of forty, with a sad face.

Several children were playing near the door, and together the scene was a homelike one.

"Dismount, stranger, and stop with us, for night is coming on soon!" cheerily called out the settler, as California Joe drew rain a short distance drew rein a shot distance off.

"Thet are what I hev come for, Pard Reynolds" was the quiet response of Joe, as he dismounted and walked toward the cabin.

The settler saw before him a tall, handsome man with a bearded face and long, curling black hair.

He was clad in buckskin hunting-shirt, and leggings stuck in the tops of high boots, while he wore a black sombrero turned up in front.

"You know me, then, stranger?" said Mr. Reynolds.

"I does, or most rather did, pard; but thet were long ago."

"And yet strange to say, I cannot recall you my friend; but you are welcome, and this is my wife, who will give you greeting, too."

"I know thet, pard, fer she were as squar' as you is, and thet are shoutin' Gospil; but whar are little Maggie?"

Instantly a shadow fell over the faces of the settler and his wife at this question, and the former said sadly: "She is gone, alas!"

"Dead?" asked California Joe, in a whisper.

"No, and yes, for we know not what has become of her, for one day, as was her wont, she went out hunting with her little rifle, and since then we have never seen her."

"There is streams about heur?"

"Yes, but she could swim well."

"Were thar Injuns about?"

"Yes, Indian signs were seen about that time, and we have heard that the Cheyennes had some captive children among their tribes."

"Waal, It may be so, an' ef it are, I'll find out.

"I guesses I won't sop ter-night, Pard Reynolds, but go on, fer I wants ter find leetle Maggie."

"But, my friend, who are you that takes such a kind interest in our poor lost little girl?" asked Mrs. Reynolds, laying her hand upon Joe's arm and looking up into his honest face with eyes filled with tears.

"I are Joe."

"Joe!"

"Joe!"

"Yas, I are Joe; California Joe they calls me now."

Words cannot describe the mingled amazement and joy of the poor parents at again meeting the one who, as a boy long years before, had saved them and the train from massacre.

"And you are that famous man, California Joe, of whom we have heard so much?" said Mr. Reynolds.

"Yes, I are California Joe, and I has come nosin' 'round heur ter see yer all an' leetle Maggie, an' I fotched her a leetle present ter wear round her putty neck. It are dust I dug myself out o' ther mines."

He drew out a necklace, as he spoke, of nuggets of solid gold which he had made into a necklace.

"Now yer keep it fer her, fer I'll be back with her afore long," and all entreaties to remain longer California Joe refused, but started at once upon the duty he set himself to perform.

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