His next task was to discover some kind of a passageway from the mine road to a point on the main highway, leading to the west and out of the mountains. He found no better resource than to strike directly into the forest and travel by points of the compass. Fortunately, the trees were lofty and comparatively open, and he encountered no worse difficulties than some steep and rugged descents, and at last emerged on the post road at least a mile to the west of the tavern, which stood near its intersection with the mine road; Returning, he again marked out a path with paper as he had before. The sun was now low in the sky; and as he trotted toward the mine, he had but one more precaution to take, and that was to find a place where the trees were sufficiently open to permit him to ride into their shade at night in case he wished to avoid parties upon the road. Having indicated two or three such spots by a single bit of paper that would glimmer in the moonlight, he joined Mr. Alford at supper, feeling that his preparations were nearly complete. When they were alone, he told his host that it would be best not to gratify his curiosity, for then he could honestly say that he knew nothing of any detective’s plans or whereabouts.
“I cannot help feeling,” said Mr. Alford, “that you are playing with fire over a powder magazine. Now that I know you better, I hate to think of the risk that you are taking. It has troubled me terribly all day. I feel as if we were on the eve of a tragedy. You had better leave quietly in the morning and bring a force later that would make resistance impossible, or else give it up altogether. Why should you throw away your life? I tell you again that if the men get a hint of your character or purpose they will hunt you to death.”
“It’s a part of my business to incur such risks,” replied Brandt, quietly. “Besides, I have a motive in this case which would lead me to take a man out of the jaws of hell.”
“That’s what you may find you are attempting here. Well, we’re in for it now, I suppose, since you are so determined.”
“I don’t think you will appear involved in the affair at all. In the morning you give me a sack of grain for my horse and some provisions for myself, and then bid farewell to Mr. Brown in the most open and natural manner possible. You may not see me again. It is possible I may have to borrow a horse of you it my scheme to-night don’t work. It will be returned or paid for very soon.”
“Bute has a pony. He brought it with him, and he and Apache Jack between them manage to keep it. They stable it nights in a little shed back of their shanty.”
“I had discovered this, and hope to take the man away on his pony. I understand why Bute keeps the animal. He knew that he might have to travel suddenly and fast.”
The next morning Mr. Alford parted with Brandt as had been arranged, the latter starting ostensibly for the nearest railway station. All day long the superintendent was nervous and anxious; but he saw no evidences of suspicion or uneasiness among those in his employ.