“He has a female in his company!” said Redburn, watching the new-comer keenly.
“Yas, peers to me he has, an’ et’s more or less likely that et’s the same critter he went to resky w’en he left Charity Joe’s train!”
“What about him? We do not want him here; to let him return to Deadwood after what he has seen would be certain death to our interests.”
“Yas, thar’s more or less truth in them words o’ yours, b’yee—consider’bly more o’ less than less o’ more. He ken’t go back now, nohow we kin fix et. He’s a right peart sort o’ a kid, an’ I think ef we was ter guv him a job, or talk reeson’ble ter him, thet he’d consent to do the squar’ thing by us.”
“He’ll have to remain for a certain time, whether he wants to or not,” he muttered, more savage than usual. It looked to him as if this was to be the signal of a general invasion. “Come! let’s go and see what we can do.”
They left the foothills, clambered down into the valley and worked their way toward where Fearless Frank and his companion sat in waiting.
As they did so, headed by a figure in black, who wore a mask as did all the rest, a band of horsemen rode out of the fissure into the valley. One glance and we recognize Deadwood Dick, Prince of the Road, and his band of road-agents!
MAKING TERMS ALL AROUND.
Old General Nix was the first to discover the new invasion.
“Gorra’mighty!” he ejaculated, flourishing his staff about excitedly, “d’je mind them same w’at’s tuk et inter the’r heads to invade our sancty sanctorum, up yander? Howly saints frum ther cullender! We shall be built up inter an entire city ‘twixt this an’ sunset, ef ther population n’ sect becum enny more numersome. Thars a full fifty o’ them sharks, more or less—consider’bly more o’ less than less o’ more—an’ ef we hain’t got ter hold a full hand in order ta clean ’em out, why, ye can call me a cross-eyed, hair lipped hyeeny, that’s all.”
Redburn uttered an ejaculation as he saw the swarm of invaders that was perhaps more forcible than polite.
He did not like the looks of things at all. If Ned Harris were only here, he thought, he could throw the responsibility all off on his shoulders. But he was not; neither had he been seen or heard of since he had quitted the valley over a month ago. Where he was staying all this time was a problem that no one could solve—no one among our three friends.
The “General” had made inquiries in Deadwood, but elicited no information concerning the young miner. He had dropped entirely out of the magic city’s notice, and might be dead or dying in some foreign clime, for all they knew. Anita worried and grew sadder each day at his non-return; it seemed to her that he was in distress, or worse, perhaps—dead. He had never stayed away so long before, she said, always returning from his trips every few days. What, then, could now be the reason of his prolonged absence?