Deadwood Dick, The Prince of the Road. or The Black Rider of the Black Hills - Edward Lytton Wheeler - ebook

Deadwood Dick, The Prince of the Road. or The Black Rider of the Black Hills ebook

Edward Lytton Wheeler



„Deadwood Dick, The Prince of the Road or The Black Rider of the Black Hills” is a fun shoot-’em-up-cowboy book, rather than a serious western but the entertainment value is just as high. They called him Deadwood Dick, the Prince of The Road, the Black Rider of the Black Hills of Dakota. He was as famous for a time as Wild Bill Hickok or Buffalo Bill. It is the story of gold-seekers, settlers and criminals who all come together in a small area of the Black Hills. There’s Fearless Frank, a young man who saves Alice Terry, a damsel in distress, from Sitting Bull and his warriors. There is also The „General”, Geoffrey Walsingham Nix, an old man with a vision of gold. And naturally, there is young Deadwood Dick, first spotted gunning down a man offering a reward for his arrest.

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Liczba stron: 173

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On the plains, midway between Cheyenne and the Black Hills, a train had halted for a noonday feed. Not a railway train, mind you, but a line of those white-covered vehicles drawn by strong-limbed mules, which are most properly styled “prairie schooners.”

There were four wagons of this type, and they had been drawn in a circle about a camp-fire, over which was roasting a savory haunch of venison. Around the camp-fire were grouped half a score of men, all rough, bearded, and grizzled, with one exception. This being a youth whose age one could have safely put at twenty, so perfectly developed of physique and intelligent of facial appearance was he. There was something about him that was not handsome, and yet you would have been puzzled to tell what it was, for his countenance was strikingly handsome, and surely no form in the crowd was more noticeable for its grace, symmetry, and proportionate development. It would have taken a scholar to have studied out the secret.

He was of about medium stature, and as straight and square-shouldered as an athlete. His complexion was nut-brown, from long exposure to the sun; hair of hue of the raven’s wing, and hanging in long, straight strands adown his back; eyes black and piercing as an eagle’s; features well molded, with a firm, resolute mouth and prominent chin. He was an interesting specimen of young, healthy manhood, and, even though a youth in years, was one that could command respect, if not admiration, wheresoever he might choose to go.

One remarkable item about his personal appearance, apt to strike the beholder as being exceedingly strange and eccentric, was his costume–buck-skin throughout, and that dyed to the brightest scarlet hue.

On being asked the cause of his odd freak of dress, when he had joined the train a few miles out from Cheyenne, the youth had laughingly replied:

“Why, you see, it is to attract bufflers, if we should meet any, out on the plains ‘twixt this and the Hills.”

He gave his name as Fearless Frank, and said he was aiming for the Hills; that if the party in question would furnish him a place among them, he would extend to them his assistance as a hunter, guide, or whatever, until the destination was reached.

Seeing that he was well armed, and judging from external appearances that he would prove a valuable accessory, the miners were nothing loth in accepting his services.

Of the others grouped about the camp-fire only one is specially noticeable, for, as Mark Twain remarks, “the average of gold-diggers look alike.” This person was a little, deformed old man; hump-backed, bow-legged, and white-haired, with cross eyes, a large mouth, a big head, set upon a slim, crane-like neck; blue eyes, and an immense brown beard, that flowed downward half-way to the belt about his waist, which contained a small arsenal of knives and revolvers. He hobbled about with a heavy crutch constantly under his left arm, and was certainly a pitiable sight to behold.

He too had joined the caravan after it had quitted Cheyenne, his advent taking place about an hour subsequent to that of Fearless Frank. His name he asserted was Nix–Geoffrey Walsingham Nix–and where he came from, and what he sought in the Black Hills, was simply a matter of conjecture among the miners, as he refused to talk on the subject of his past, present or future.

The train was under the command of an irascible old plainsman who had served out his apprenticeship in the Kansas border war, and whose name was Charity Joe, which, considering his avaricious disposition, was the wrong handle on the wrong man. Charity was the least of all old Joe’s redeeming characteristics; charity was the very thing he did not recognize, yet some wag had facetiously branded him Charity Joe, and the appellation had clung to him ever since. He was well advanced in years, yet withal a good trailer and an expert guide, as the success of his many late expeditions into the Black Hills had evidenced.

Those who had heard of Joe’s skill as a guide, intrusted themselves in his care, for, while the stages were stopped more or less on each trip, Charity Joe’s train invariably went through all safe and sound. This was partly owing to his acquaintance with various bands of Indians, who were the chief cause of annoyance on the trip.

So far we see the train toward the land of gold, without their having seen sight or sound of hostile red-skins, and Charity is just chuckling over his usual good luck:

“I tell ye what, fellers, we’ve hed a fa’r sort uv a shake, so fur, an’ no mistake ‘bout it. Barrin’ thar ain’t no Sittin’ Bulls layin’ in wait fer us, behead yander, in ther mounts, I’m of ther candid opinion we’ll get through wi’out scrapin’ a ha’r.”

“I hope so,” said Fearless Frank, rolling over on the grass and gazing at the guide, thoughtfully, “but I doubt it. It seems to me that one hears of more butchering, lately, than there was a month ago–all on account of the influx of ruffianly characters into the Black Hills!”

“Not all owing to that, chippy,” interposed “General” Nix, as he had immediately been christened by the miners–“not all owing to that. Thar’s them gol danged copper-colored guests uv ther government–they’re kickin’ up three pints uv the’r rumpus, more or less–consider’bly less of more than more o’ less. Take a passel uv them barbarities an’ shet ‘em up inter a prison for three or thirteen yeers, an’ ye’d see w’at an impression et’d make, now. Thar’d be siveral less massycrees a week, an’ ye wouldn’t see a rufyan onc’t a month. W’y, gentlefellows, thar’d nevyar been a ruffian, ef et hedn’t been fer ther cussed Injun tribe–not one! Ther infarnal critters ar’ ther instignators uv more deviltry nor a cat wi’ nine tails.”

“Yes, we will admit that the reds are not of saintly origin,” said Fearless Frank, with a quiet smile. “In fact I know of several who are far from being angels, myself. There is old Sitting Bull, for instance, and Lone Lion, Rain-in-the-Face, and Horse-with-the-Red-Eye, and so forth, and so forth!”

“Exactly. Every one o’ ‘em’s a danged descendant o’ ther old Satan, hisself.”

“Layin’ aside ther Injun subjeck,” said Charity Joe, forking into the roasted venison, “I move thet we take up a silent debate on ther pecooliarities uv a deer’s hind legs; so heer goes!”

He cut out a huge slice with his bowie, sprinkled it over with salt, and began to devour it by very large mouthfuls. All hands proceeded to follow his example, and the noonday meal was dispatched in silence. After each man had fully satisfied his appetite and the mules and Fearless Frank’s horse had grazed until they were full as ticks, the order was given to hitch up, which was speedily done, and the caravan was soon in motion, toiling along like a diminutive serpent across the plain.

The afternoon was a mild, sunny one in early autumn, with a refreshing breeze perfumed with the delicate scent of after-harvest flowers wafting down from the cool regions of the Northwest, where lay the new El Dorado–the land of gold.

Fearless Frank bestrode a noble bay steed of fire and nerve, while old General Nix rode an extra mule that he had purchased of Charity Joe. The remainder of the company rode in the wagons or “hoofed it,” as best suited their mood–walking sometimes being preferable to the rumbling and jolting of the heavy vehicles.

Steadily along through the afternoon sunlight the train wended its way, the teamsters alternately singing and cursing their mules, as they jogged along. Fearless Frank and the “General” rode several hundred yards in advance, both apparently engrossed in deepest thought, for neither spoke until, toward the close of the afternoon, Charity Joe called their attention to a series of low, faint cries brought down upon their hearing by the stiff northerly wind.

“‘Pears to me as how them sound sorter human like,” said the old guide, trotting along beside the young man’s horse, as he made known the discovery. “Jes’ listen, now, an’ see if ye ain’t uv ther same opinion!”

The youth did listen, and at the same time swept the plain with his eagle eyes, in search of the object from which the cries emanated. But nothing of animal life was visible in any direction beyond the train, and more was the mystery, since the cries sounded but a little way off.

“They are human cries!” exclaimed Fearless Frank, excitedly, “and come from some one in distress. Boys, we must investigate this matter.”

“You can investigate all ye want,” grunted Charity Joe, “but I hain’t a-goin’ ter stop ther train till dusk, squawk or no squawk. I jedge we won’t get inter their Hills any too soon, as it ar’.”

“You’re an old fool!” retorted Frank, contemptuously. “I wouldn’t be as mean as you for all the gold in the Black Hills country, say nothin’ about that in California and Colorado.”

He turned his horse’s head toward the north, and rode away, followed, to the wonder of all, by the “General.”

“Ha! ha!” laughed Charity Joe, grimly, “I wish you success.”

“You needn’t; I do not want any of your wishes. I’m going to search for the person who makes them cries, an’ ef you don’t want to wait, why go to the deuce with your old train!”

“There ye err,” shouted the guide: “I’m goin’ ter Deadwood, instead uv ter the deuce.”

“Maybe you will go to Deadwood, and then, again, maybe ye won’t,” answered back Fearless Frank.

“More or less!” chimed in the general–“consider’bly more of less than less of more. Look out thet ther allies uv Sittin’ Bull don’t git ther dead wood on ye.”

On marched the train–steadily on over the level, sandy plain, and Fearless Frank and his strange companion turned their attention to the cries that had been the means of separating them from the train. They had ceased now, altogether, and the two men were at a loss what to do.

“Guv a whoop, like a Government Injun,” suggested “General” Nix; “an’ thet’ll let ther critter know thet we be friends a-comin’. Par’ps she’m g’in out ontirely, a-thinkin’ as no one war a-comin’ ter her resky!”

“She, you say?”

“Yas, she; fer I calkylate ‘twern’t no he as made them squawks. Sing out like a bellerin’ bull, now, an’ et ar’ more or less likely–consider’bly more of less ‘n less of more–that she will respond!”

Fearless Frank laughed, and forming his hands into a trumpet he gave vent to a loud, ear-splitting “hello!” that made the prairies ring.

“Great whale uv Joner!” gasped the “General,” holding his hands toward the region of his organs of hearing. “Holy Mother o’ Mercy! don’t do et ag’in, b’yee–don’ do et; ye’ve smashed my tinpanum all inter flinders! Good heaven! ye hev got a bugle wus nor enny steam tooter frum heer tew Lowell.”

“Hark!” said the youth, bending forward in a listening attitude.

The next instant silence prevailed, and the twain anxiously listened. Wafted down across the plain came in faint piteous accents the repetition of the cry they had first heard, only it was now much fainter. Evidently whoever was in distress, was weakening rapidly. Soon the cries would be inaudible.

“It’s straight ahead!” exclaimed Fearless Frank, at last. “Come along, and we’ll soon see what the matter is!”

He put the spurs to his spirited animal, and the next instant was dashing wildly off over the sunlit plain. Bent on emulation, the “General” also used his heels with considerable vim, but alas! what dependence can be placed on a mule? The animal bolted, with a vicious nip back at the offending rider’s legs, and refused to budge an inch.

On–on dashed the fearless youth, mounted on his noble steed, his eyes bent forward, in a sharp scrutiny of the plain ahead, his mind filled with wonder that the cries were now growing more distinct and yet not a first glimpse could he obtain of the source whence they emanated.

On–on–on; then suddenly he reins his steed back upon its haunches, just in time to avert a frightful plunge into one of those remarkable freaks of nature–the blind canal, or, in other words, a channel valley washed out by heavy rains. These the tourist will frequently encounter in the regions contiguous to the Black Hills.

Below him yawned an abrupt channel, a score or more of feet in depth, at the bottom of which was a dense chaparral thicket. The little valley thus nestled in the earth was about forty rods in width, and one would never have dreamed it existed, unless they chanced to ride to the brink, above.

Fearless Frank took in the situation at a glance, and not hearing the cries, he rightly conjectured that the one in distress had again become exhausted. That that person was in the thicket below seemed more than probable, and he immediately resolved to descend in search. Slipping from his saddle, he stepped forward to the very edge of the precipice and looked over. The next second the ground crumbled beneath his feet, and he was precipitated headlong into the valley. Fortunately he received no serious injuries, and in a moment was on his feet again, all right.

“A miss is as good as a mile,” he muttered, brushing the dirt from his clothing. “Now, then, we will find out the secret of the racket in this thicket.”

Glancing up to the brink above to see that his horse was standing quietly, he parted the shrubbery, and entered the thicket.

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