Charles Goddard.

The Perils of Pauline online

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again quickly as the waiter appeared.

Patten got up and sauntered out into the barroom, returning presently
with three men of his own brand - broad-built, grim-eyed ruffians of
the far north country - three of Case Egan's cattlemen.

In the meantime Mrs. Haines was flustered not only by the prospect of
meeting her distinguished friend, but by the tumultuous staging of the
great hold-up scene that was to mark Pauline's welcome. Hal had been
up at three o'clock in the morning rehearsing the boys in their parts.
He had set off at five o'clock for the station.

As Pauline, trim in her traveling suit of gray and blithe in the clear
Western air, tripped from the express, all Rockvale was there to meet
her. Hal Haines, mighty man that he was in the region, was red with
pride as the girl who could stop the express at Rockvale gave him her
hand in happy greeting.

As he helped her into the two-seated buckboard, no one in the crowd
noticed the man who had arrived the night before standing on the
platform and pointing out the girl to Tom Patten who was seen to mount
and ride rapidly away.

"I hope you saved some of that lovely Wild West for me, Mr. Haines,"
said Pauline, as the finest pair of horses in the Double Cross stable
whisked them along the road to the ranch.

"Very little left, Miss Marvin - very little left; still - whoa,
there! What's this?"

At a bend in the road five masked and mounted men had dashed from cover
and quickly surrounded the buckboard with a small circle of leveled
gun-barrels.

Pauline had time to cry out only once before she felt herself gripped
by powerful hands and dragged from the wagon seat, where Hal Haines sat
shaking with laughter. He stood up and started to draw his revolver
slowly. From behind him a lasso was thrown lightly and the noose
tightened around his arms.

He kept on laughing, although he was a little afraid the boys were
overdoing matters. He knew his wife would never forgive him for this
actual kidnapping of Pauline - he certainly had never intended it.

And she was really frightened. He could tell that by her cries as she
was thrust across the pommel of the masked leader's horse and the horse
was spurred to a tearing gallop down the road.

Haines tried to shout a command and call the joke off, but the riders
had all followed after their leader, and he was alone in the
buckboard.

"They needn't have been so realistic with their knots," he said, as he
struggled to free himself from the rope.

It was ten minutes before he wriggled free. He picked up the lines and
drove on toward the ranch - a little nervous now over the receptions
he would get, but still laughing.

At the fork where the road to the mountains left the main highway,
Haines flashed out his revolver in real excitement. Another group of
five masked men had driven their horses out of a clump of small trees.
They fired their revolvers as they surrounded the buckboard. Then
suddenly discovering that there was no woman passenger, they tore off
their masks and came up with quick, eager inquiries.

Perhaps for the first time in his life Hal Haines knew what fear was -
not fear for himself, but for another.

"Boys, there was another party on the road. They took her. I took 'em
for you," he said in a stifled voice. "Come on. Cabot, give me your
horse; take the rig back and tell Mrs. Haines."

He sprang into the saddle, and, filling their revolvers as they rode,
the band of jesters, who had suddenly turned so grimly serious, dashed
back toward town.

Two miles from where Tom Patten had swung Pauline to his saddle bow
they picked up the train hoofs that left the road and made toward the
mountains.

The men who had set out so gaily a few hours before rode silently,
fiercely now. Mile after mile swept behind them as they held to the
trail. Sometimes it followed the roads, sometimes it broke over open
country. At last it reached the hills and stopped at the river.

Patten's band had ridden in the water upstream. After a mile of it the
leader ordered three of them out on the south side. They left
silently, rode five miles across country and separated, each taking a
different route. Patten and one companion kept on with Pauline who was
now almost insensible. At last they left the stream on the north bank
and climbed into the higher hill country where they entered a thicket
and stopped.

"Here we are," said Patten. His companion dismounted and lifted
Pauline from the other's saddle.

With a swift daring and dexterity, born of fear, she flung aside his
arms and sprang toward the horse he had just left. She tried to mount,
but her strength was gone. They tied her feet with a rope and seated
her on a great fallen tree, while they cleared away a tangle of bushes
and began to tug with their combined strength at a giant rock, which
the bushes had concealed.

The stone moved inch by inch until behind it Pauline saw, with a chill
shudder, the black opening of a cave.

She flung herself from the log pleading piteously. They cut the rope
that bound her feet and led her to the cave. As the giant stone was
rolled back into its place she uttered one wild far-echoing cry. Then
darkness!

For many minutes Pauline lay prostrate. A dim light from some hidden
orifice in the top of the cave behind a shelving wall, seemed to become
brighter as her eyes became more accustomed to the shadows. She arose
and began to inspect the cave.

It was a chamber of rock about forty feet long and twenty feet wide.
The bottom and roof converged slightly towards the end farthest from
the giant boulder that formed the door. But even there the cave was
twenty-five feet high.

The boulder door was set into the rock portal, and not a wisp of light
came through the brush that, covered the crevice. Pauline, after a
brief hopeless test of her frail strength against the weight of the
granite mass, moved slowly along the wall to the extremity of the
chamber.

Here, about seven feet from the floor, ran a ledge of rock, between two
and three feet in width; and, from this ledge upward the wall slanted
at an angle of forty-five degrees to a wide shelf or fissure. It was
from this fissure that the faint light came.

Pauline groped her way back along the other wall to the front of the
cave again. Despairing, she sat down on the chill stone. The events
of the last few hours had left her in a state of mental vertigo. The
hold-up of the buckboard and her carrying off by the bandits seemed
fantastically impossible.

So this was her "escape" from scenes of adventure. This was the
"great, safe, quiet West," where she should forget her perils in New
York and wait for others to forget them. She thought of her promise to
Harry that she would not try to get into any more scrapes. In her
former dangers - even when there seemed hope - she had a buoying
trust that there was one man who could save her. He had always saved
her. In his protecting shelter she had come to feel almost immune from
harm. But with Harry three thousand miles away and totally ignorant of
her need of him no sense of imagined protection sustained her now. She
took it for granted that Mr. Haines had been made a prisoner or
killed. She knew the word would reach Mrs. Haines and the latter would
invoke all the powers in the State to find her; but she was, sure she
would be dead before anyone unearthed this fearful hiding place.

The light at the far end of the cave grew steadily more dim and Pauline
judged that the day was waning.

A rustling sound caught her ear. Sounds are animate or inanimate.
This was unmistakably the sound of a living thing.

Pauline trembled a little but she stood up. Was it man or beast that
she had for companion in the mysterious cave?

She took a faltering step forward. The sound seemed to come nearer.
The cave had gone almost pitch dark, and, suddenly, from the mid-level
of the back wall - from the rock ledge - there flashed upon the sight
of the imprisoned girl two beady, burning eyes.





CHAPTER XIV

THE GREAT WHITE QUEEN

Hal Haines' best driving team was lathered with foam and the buckboard
swung through the gate on two wheels as Bill Cabot drove back to the
Double Cross Ranch.

The young cowboy whom Haines had ordered to carry the news of disaster
to Mrs. Haines, seeing the buckboard and only Cabot driving, knew
instantly that something had gone wrong.

"What is it, Will?" she called, running down to the gate. "Didn't she
come? Has anything happened to Hal?"

"She was held up and carried off, Mrs. Haines."

"I know; I know. You played the joke; but what happened?" She looked
at the foaming horses. "What made you drive home like this?" she
demanded.

"She wasn't carried off by us, Mrs. Haines. Some other crowd got ahead
of us - some crowd that meant what they was doing. The Boss and the
boys has got the trail by this time, I guess. The Boss said I should
come and tell you."

For a moment Mrs. Haines looked at him in doubt.

"Is this another joke, Will?" she asked. "There hasn't been a hold-up
in this section for ten years."

"I guess the jokin' is all knocked out've all of us," answered Bill,
turning shamefacedly away. "No, ma'am, this is the truth and - and I
wish the Boss had took some one else's horse instid of mine."

"Never mind. They'll have all the men in Montana out to find that
girl, if this isn't a hoax," cried Mrs. Haines in a voice that choked.
"Go tell the other boys to get ready. The Sheriff will want them, if
Hal doesn't."

She sped back to the house and with a trembling hand rang the bell of
the old-fashioned telephone that furnished a new blessing to the
ranches.

A moment later Curt Sikes, the telegraph operator at Rockvale, almost
fell from his chair as he took the following message over the wire at
Mrs. Haines's dictation:

Harry Marvin,

Fifth Avenue, New York:

Pauline kidnapped. Come at once.

Mary Haines.

"What - what's it mean, Mrs. Haines?" he gasped into the transmitter.
"It ain't the young lady that Hal Just took off the express, is it?"

"Yes, that's who it is, Curt. Cabot and the boys are coming into town
as fast as they can ride; but you call Sheriff Hill and get as many men
as you can-in case we need them. You'll hurry, won't you, Curt?"

"Yes, ma'am; and I'll get your message right on the wire. They'll put
it ahead all along the line."

If Curt's speed in getting the telegram away was inspired partly by
burning need of telling the news to Rockvale that did not reflect on
Curt. He flashed after the New York message a terse call up and down
the line to "Find the Sheriff," and then bolted out to the platform.
His shout was heard not only at the little hotel across the street from
the station, but at the city limits of Rockvale a good mile away.
Rockvale answered the shout as a clan answering the beacozes flare.
When Curt Sikes shouted it meant news.

His messages along the line had little effect. He had spent the
morning flaunting the news to fellow operators and rival communities
that the Express had stopped at Rockvale. They had only half believed
that, and now this added flourish was too much. Even Sheriff Hill,
whom the message overtook at Gatesburg, fifteen miles south, laughed
when he read it, and started for Rockvale only because he was going
there anyway to get Case Egan.

"There ain't much doubt which is now our leadin' city - Butte or
Rockvale," he remarked as he swung to his saddle and set off with two
deputies.

He found something more than overdone home town pride in Rockvale,
however. The narrow streets were filled with men, women and curious,
wide-mouthed children. Horses, packed for long riding, with rifles
bolstered to the saddles, were tied all along the rails of both the
main hotel and the station. Curt Sikes was the center of a changing
but ever interested group, but two of the Haines posse who had just
come in without any report of capture, but with all the vivid news of
the hold-up were now the main objects of attention.

Briefly they told the story of the pursuit. With Haines leading they
had struck a trail that took them to the river. They had waded the
river and found no trail on the other side. Knowing the bandits had
taken to the middle of the stream, Haines had divided his party. He
sent two men down stream, one on each side and he and the three others
rode up stream, two on each side.

After long rough riding Haines had found a trail coming out of the
water. All four had followed it a long way. There were three bandits
making the trail, but the three stopped and each took a different
direction, one straight up into the hills, one straight down into the
valley, and the other off here towards town. Haines and one man had
started on the trail to the hills. The other two - the two talking
now - had each taken one of the other trails, but had lost them. They
thought Haines would lose his, too. It had been a clean, up-to-date
expert piece of work - this kidnapping. The getaway had been a work
of art, just as the hold-up had been a wonder-piece of stage setting.

"You saw all the gang that held you up?" asked the Sheriff.

"We wasn't held up - tha'd a been a little too rich, I guess," said
one of the cowboys. "It was Boss Haines an' the girl that was
stopped."

"Well, then, I mean did Haines see the gang? Were any of them
Indians?"

"Injuns? No. The Boss thinks some of 'em were cattle-crooks from the
Case Egan outfit. I guess they ain't no Montana Injuns that'd start
anythin' like that."

"You guess a lot more than you know," said the Sheriff quietly. "I may
be calling on any of you boys for some fast work against old Red Snake
any of these days."

"What's the trouble, Sheriff?"

"Oh, just one of their devils brewing bad medicine again up at
Shi-wah-ki village. Red Snake always was a little bit crazy - talking
about the thieving white man that stole his country and looking for a
chance to get the rest of his people killed off."

"I heard that down at Hallick's last week," drawled a man in the crowd.
"The Sioux is only waitin' for the Great White Queen to come out o' the
heart o' the airth an' lead 'em on the warpath. They got a surprisin'
plenty o' arms, too, for reservation Injuns. Know that, Sheriff?"

The Sheriff nodded slowly. "I wish Haines would get in," he said.
"I'd like to have a talk with him before we start. But it's getting
late."

The dull thudding of tired horses hoofs from the other side of the hill
below town came, to him as an answer. Presently Haines and his
companion joined, silently, the eager crowd at the station.

The owner of the Double Cross seemed to have aged ten years since he
had driven away with Pauline from that same station platform only a few
hours before. He would have given all the acres of the Double Cross
for just a word about Pauline; he would have given his life to know
that she was alive.

"There's nothing for it, Sheriff, but to rake the whole country," he
said wearily. "They've hidden her somewheres, if they haven't killed
her. And if they've killed her, mind, it's me you're to hang for it."

The Sheriff laid a strong hand on his old friend's shoulder. "I can
get the state militia out to look for that girl, Hal," he said. "By
the way, is there anything - anything queer about her?" he asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Why, only that her folks have been writing to the Governor at Helena.
Sikes just gave me this from Governor Casson himself. Who is this
Raymond Owen? Who's been wiring to the Governor?"

"That's her guardian, I think. H'm," mused Haines as he read the
message, "that is queer. I wish they'd have wired me that yesterday."

The Sheriff folded the telegram and putting it back in his pocket,
stepped up on a box near the hotel door.

"I want to call for a hundred volunteer citizens to go hunt this girl,"
he announced.

A minute later, all that was left of Rockvale was the buildings and the
women, children and old men who stood watching a cloud of dust blotting
the sunset glow and listening to the retreating clatter of a flying
cavalcade.

Sikes kept the office open late. At 7 o'clock he telephoned to Mrs.
Haines at the Double Cross:

"What does he say?" she cried.

"Just one word - Comin'," said Curt in an aggrieved voice. "He
could've sent ten words fer the same price," he grumbled.

Red Snake was one of the younger chiefs of the Sioux. He was too young
to have had a share in the bloody last stand of his race in their
Montana wilderness; but he was old enough to have watched the dwindling
of spirit and power among them for twenty years.

And every day of watching kindled new hate in the breast of the
Indian. In him the spirit of his fathers had left the old unquenchable
belief in the Day of Restoration, when, by some supernatural
intervention, the Indians would return to their lands, the lands revert
to their primeval state, and civilization be lost in the obliterating
wilderness.

The officers of the Agency had had trouble with Red Snake on several
occasions. Twice he had started out at the head of war parties and had
been caught just in time to prevent bloodshed among the isolated
settlers. But of late he had been docile and peaceful. The new
disturbances - the occasional shooting of a cowboy and the petty
stealing of cattle dated from the beginning of the sway of a new
medicine man in Red Snake's principal village of Shi-wah-ki.

His name was of many syllables in the native language, but he was known
as Big Smoke. He was a young Indian who had spent some years among the
whites in the Southwest, had made a pretense at getting an education,
but had reverted violently to the life and faith of his fathers. Big
smoke had predicted to Red Snake the coming of the Great White Queen,
who would empower the arms of the red man to overthrow the whites and
would make him again master of his rightful lands.

Red Snake, squatted on a blanket beside his teepee, listened with
immobile features but with a thrilled heart. He summoned a council of
the chiefs, secretly, and the medicine man addressed his message to
them also.

Thereafter the Indians of Shi-wah-ki were restive. Their growing
spirit of rebellion manifested itself in foolish little offenses
against the white men. These were punished with the white man's
customary sternness and this increased the rancor of the Indians. It
increased, too, their eagerness for the fulfillment of the strange
prophecy of the coming of the White Queen.

On the very day when the white man's village of Rockvale was in a
hubbub of excitement because of the kidnapping of Pauline, the village
of Shi-wah-ki was tumultuous with a different fervor.

Into the circle of the assembled chiefs, rimmed with awed faces of
squaws and papooses, had danced the weird figure of Big Smoke. He had
been called upon by Red Snake to announce what further of the White
Queen his medicine had revealed.

Big Smoke wore the head of a wolf with cow's horns set over the ears.
His lithe red body was covered with a long bear skin. His legs were
bare to the tops of his gaily beaded moccasins.

He circled the silent group with fantastic gyrations and stopped
finally in the center. Lifting his hands, he addressed the tribe.
First, in glowing rhetoric, he pictured the ancient glory of the Sioux
- their wealth in lands, their prowess in the hunt, their triumph over
all other red men. He told of their long and brave struggle with the
white man, who by the intervention of wicked gods had been enabled to
conquer them. But the time of vengeance and retribution had come after
long years. The Indian was to return to his own.

"The Great Spirit is sending us a leader," said Rig Smoke. "The Great
Spirit has spoken to me and said: 'Lo, I will send a White Queen with
golden hair. She shall come from the heart of the Earth, and she shall
lead your warriors against the oppressor."

This was the third time Big Smoke had said this. That was what made it
most impressive to the listeners. Big Smoke had staked not only his
reputation as a medicine man, but, also his life, upon this wonderful
prediction, which had aroused his people as they had not been aroused
in fifty years. For it was the law of the ancient code that
fulfillment must follow immediately the third announcement of the
miracle. If fulfillment failed there remained only the Great Death
Stone in the valley. No prophet of the tribe had ever won in the
race with the Death Stone.

And so the chiefs sat in respectful silence and the young braves arose
eager for the war dance when Big Smoke finished speaking.

The dance, beginning slowly, waxed wilder; the tom-toms beat more
vibrantly, until the whole village was encircled by the painted and
bonneted tribesmen. The red glare of daylight fires illuminated the
wild faces. The women cowered with their children beside the teepees.
In the midst of the tumult, the medicine man stood with hands stretched
upward calling on the Great Spirit to send the White Queen.

When the dance had subsided, the Council resumed its deliberations.

It was arranged that there should be a hunt that afternoon and the
foxes or coyotes should be driven as near as possible to the
settlements. This would be a means of reconnoitering and it would make
the whites think the Indians were engaged in peaceful pursuits.

Pauline, after her first startled cry, stood spellbound by the two
glowing eyes that shone from the far end of the cave.

There was no light now - save for the eyes. The rift in the roof from
which the mysterious glow had come seemed to have been closed
suddenly. The pitch darkness made the eyes doubly terrible, and just
perceptibly they moved and flashed which showed they were living eyes.

Pauline longed to scream, but could not. Behind those fiery points
imagination could picture all manner of horrible shapes. Was the
creature about to spring upon her?

The eyes vanished as suddenly as they had appeared.

The low rustling sound came again; then the utter silence.

Pauline, freed of the uncanny gaze, was able to think and act. If that
animal could find its way into her prison house, there must be another
entrance to the cave.

It was plain that the animal had been crouching on the slant rock above
the ledge. Pauline began again to grope around the wall. She could
touch the top of the ledge and now in several places she found small
crevices in the wall by which she tried to climb.

Time and again she fell back. Her soft hands were torn by the jagged
rock; her dress was in shreds; her golden hair fell down upon her
shoulders. She might have been some preternatural dweller of the
place.

At last her foot held firm in a crevice three feet above the floor.
Clutching the ledge-top, she groped for another step - and found it.
In a moment she was on the ledge.

She sank there, covering her face with her hands. The eyes had blazed
again scarcely three feet away. She felt the breath of hot nostrils,
the rough hair of a beast, as the thing sprang. She felt that the end
had come, but she still clung to the ledge.

As she uncovered her eyes, slowly, she was astonished to see that the
faint light had returned. It came, as she had thought, over a
concealed shelf of stone above the rocky incline.

The eyes had vanished. The cave was still.

She began to scale the incline. Her hands and feet caught nubs and
slits of the surface and a little higher she felt the cool dampness of
earth and grasped the root of a tree. As she drew herself up, she
looked over the shelf and saw, at one end of it, the open day.

She crawled a little way upon the shelf then stopped. She hardly dared
to go on. What if the opening, large enough to admit the light, were
too small for her to pass through? What if the light had been only a
lure to torture her? What if she must return into the darkness with
that thing unknown, the thing with the blazing eyes!

She crept on with her eyes shut. A stronger glow of light upon the
closed lids told her she had reached the end of the shelving. The next
moment would tell her if she had reached freedom or renewed captivity.
She looked up.

Three of Red Snake's young warriors had gained most of the plaudits of
the village during the afternoon of the hunt. They rode together and
not only did they bring in many foxes and coyotes but much news of the
white people. They had met armed men throughout all the mountain
country, riding up and down the river. The armed men had greeted them
fairly and had asked them for information of other white men who had


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Online LibraryCharles GoddardThe Perils of Pauline → online text (page 11 of 18)