“That scheme has failed,” thought Brandt, as he replaced the shells with cartridges.
His purpose was to find a moment when his companion was completely in his power, and it came sooner than he expected. When they drew near the brook, it was evident that Bute’s pony was thirsty, for it suddenly darted forward and thrust its nose into the water. Therefore, for an instant, Bute was in advance with his back toward the detective. Covering the fellow with his revolver, Brandt shouted:
“Bute, throw up your hands; surrender, or you are a dead man!”
Instantly the truth flashed through the outlaw’s mind. Instead of complying, he threw himself forward over the pony’s neck and urged the animal forward. Brandt fired, and Bute fell with a splash into the water. At that moment three miners, returning from the tavern, came shouting to the opposite side of the stream. The frightened pony, relieved of its burden, galloped homeward. Brandt also withdrew rapidly toward the mine for some distance, and then rode into the woods. Having tied his horse well back from the highway, he reconnoitred the party that had so inopportunely interfered with his plans. He discovered that they were carrying Bute, who, from his groans and oaths, was evidently not dead, though he might be mortally wounded. His rescuers were breathing out curses and threats of vengeance against Brandt, now known to be an officer of the law.
“The job has become a little complicated now,” muttered Brandt, after they had passed; “and I must throw them off the scent. There will be a dozen out after me soon.”
He remounted his horse, stole silently down the road, crossed the stream, and then galloped to the tavern, and calling out the keeper, asked if there was any shorter road out of the mountains than the one leading to the west. Being answered in the negative, he rode hastily away. On reaching the place where he had struck this road the previous day, he entered the woods, followed the rugged trail that he had marked by bits of paper, and slowly approached the mine road again near the point where the stream crossed it. He then reconnoitred and learned that there was evidently a large party exploring the woods between the stream and the mine.
At last they all gathered at the ford for consultation, and Brandt heard one say:
“We’re wastin’ time beatin’ round here. He’d naterly put fer the lowlands as soon as he found he was balked in takin’ his man. I move we call on Whiskey Bob, and see if a man’s rode that way ter-night.”
A call on Whiskey Bob was apparently always acceptable; and the party soon disappeared down the road—some on horses and more on foot. Brandt then quietly crossed the road and gained his retreat on the mountain-side.
“I must camp here now till the fellow dies, and I can prove it, or until I can get another chance,” was his conclusion as he rubbed down and fed his horse.