“Well, how do you know but what he has? I may be his Satanic majesty, or one of his envoys.”
“I hardly think so; you are too much an earthly being for that. Come, now, take off that detestable mask and let me see what you look like.”
“No, indeed! I would not remove this mask, except on conditions, for all the gold yon toiling miners are finding, which, I am satisfied, is no small amount.”
“You spoke of conditions. What are they?”
“Some time, perhaps, I will tell you, lady, but not now. See! my men are signaling to me, and I must go. Adieu, ladies;” and in another moment he had wheeled, and was striding back toward camp.
In their concealment the two Filmores witnessed this meeting between Dick and the two girls.
“So there are females here, eh?” grunted the elder, musingly. “From observation I should say that Prince Dick was a comparative stranger here.”
“That is my opinion,” groaned Clarence, his thoughts reverting to his empty stomach. “Did you hear that laugh a moment ago? It was more like the screech of a lunatic than anything else.”
“Yes; he is a young tiger. There is no doubt of that to my mind.”
“And we shall have to keep on the alert to take him. He came to the cabin last night. If he does to-night we can mount him!”
Before night the elder Filmore succeeded in capturing a wild goose that had strayed down with the stream from somewhere above. This was killed, dressed and half cooked by a brushwood fire which they hazarded in a fissure in the hillside whereto they had hidden. This fowl they almost ravenously devoured, and thus thoroughly satisfied their appetites. They now felt a great deal better, ready for the work in hand—of capturing and slaying the dare-devil Deadwood Dick.
As soon as it was dark they crept, like the prowling wolves they were, down into the valley, and positioned themselves midway between the cabin and the road-agent’s camp, but several yards apart, with a lasso held above the grass between them, to serve as a “trip-up.”
The sky had become overcast with dense black clouds, and the gloom to the valley was quite impenetrable. From their concealment the two Filmores could hear Redburn, Alice and the “General” singing up at the cabin, and it told them to be on their guard, as Dick might now come along at any moment.
Slowly the minutes dragged by, and both were growing impatient, when the firm tread of “the Prince” was heard swiftly approaching. Quickly the lasso was drawn taut. Dick, not dreaming of the trap, came boldly along, tripped, and went sprawling to the ground. The next instant his enemies were on him, each with a long murderous knife in hand.
TO THE RESCUE!
The suddenness of the onslaught prevented Deadwood Dick from raising a hand to defend himself, and the two strong men piling their combined weights upon him, had the effect to render him utterly helpless. He would have yelled to apprise his comrades of his fate, but Alexander Filmore, ready for the emergency, quickly thrust a cob of wood into his mouth, and bound it there with strong strings.