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arms were tied like his chum's behind his back and a
gag had been placed in his mouth by the ready expedient
of a stick set fast against his jaws, forcing them open
in a strained uncomfortable way. Still he could breathe
all right. Sandy ripped loose the knot that tied his feet.

"Put the silencer on your beauty, too, Mort, an' come
along. No more shootin', mind ye, an' raisin' the coun-
tryside. Ye needn't be killin' the lad in the bargain,
with that rip in him." The outlaw glanced at the cut
as the boy lay on the ground. The bleeding had nearly
stopped, but the wound looked cruelly painful for all



i 4 o SANDY FLASH

its slight penetration. "Gag him an' come on. An' stop
that maulin' of him. I'll not tell ye so again."

"Wot the " Mordecai broke off, thinking the better
of it. "Right ye be, Cap'n, right ye be! This here bird's
ready now, soon as ever I makes sure he won't be warblin'
no pretty ditties fer to call out the folks, onct we begins
to move. Open yer jaws, sweety, an' try chawin' on this
here candy stick! 'Tis a lollypop fer to tickle yer
tongue ! "

The man rolled Bob over on his back and forced his
mouth wide by a sudden jabbing of his thumb and fore-
finger against the boy's cheeks. Before he could close
it again, Mordecai had set a piece of wood, bit-like, be-
tween the jaws and tied it there. Then he pulled Bob
to his feet, steadying the wounded lad till he had gotten
over the star-shot dizziness that swept before his eyes.
The outlaw replaced the ripped coat upon the cut and
turned toward the slope where Flash was waiting.

"Forward ho! Cap'n Fitz! I'll folly on. We've a
mighty open bit o' goin' fer to cover, it strikes me, 'fore
ever we comes to that there palace of our'n on the Castle
Rock." Dougherty held fast to Bob's arm and pushed
him up the bank. "I've got this un's gun. Will ye lug
the other?"

"All right. The light'll help us." Sandy Flash glanced
about, noting the quick deepening of twilight shadows
in the glade, as the winter day drew on to dusk. "In
half an hour ye couldn't see your granny's belted cow,
not for the lookin'. We'll hide a bit at the road and
cross when it's darker. Eh, Mort, me hearty, ye can rest



THE CAVE 141

ye merry this night! It took a long wait to get 'em,
but now we've nabbed the pair of 'em and "

"Wot good on earth will that do us, I likes to know?"
Mordecai shook his head.

"Wait an' ye'll see soon enough, me doubtin' Thomas.
Ye haven't mislaid the gold an' the feller who's to ride
past with it, have ye?"

"Wot's that got to do with this here brace o' bucks?
They ain't got a brass farthing apiece."

"They're not goin' to have any chanct, one way or
t'other, to spoil the broth, what with their trappin' an'
;wanderin' about the whole place day an' night. That's
what! Runnin' into what don't concern 'em! That's
why we've gotten 'em. An' trouble enough I've had to
do it, small thanks to ye. After we're through an' gotten
the gold put where we want it, why, then it'll be time an'
plenty to finish with these here. Ye know what I was
tellin' ye in the cave tother day?"

"Why not now, then, seein' as we've gotten 'em safe
an' sound, an' one of 'em half shot in the bargain? Say,
Cap'n, wot's the use o' runnin' more risks than need?
Let me have 'em half a jiffy, an' ye'll not hear the squeal
of a pig, so much, from the pair of 'em!" Dougherty
motioned toward his leg where the haft of his dirk pro-
truded from the top of the woolen stocking.

"Mort, me beauty, ye've not got the brains of a calf,
for all your bloody blatherin'. It'd do us no good to
murder the brats. They're more ways o' killin' a cat,
they say, than chokin' it with cream!" Sandy laughed.
It was not a nice sound to hear.



i 4 2 SANDY FLASH

Dougherty half turned and looked at him curiously.

A few moments later the little group began its march
toward the crossing of the Strasburg Road and the height
of Castle Rock. The shadows had already lengthened
till the bowl of Crum Creek Valley lay filled with a con-
fusing play of light, golden and violet and dark to the
color of purple asters against the sweep of the snow.
The men walked rapidly, keeping close to the west bank
of the brook, where the gloom of alders and willow
trunks gave shelter to their passing. Twenty minutes
after they had left the cedar glen, they were climbing
Castle Rock.

Bob was in a bad way, what with the shock of the
wound and the manhandling he had received from Dough-
erty, but the big lad got no pity from either of his
captors as they dragged him along. Dave was far better
off. He had not been tied so roughly and he had had
a chance to collect his thoughts. The boy had listened
to everything that was said by the men. He had no
vague idea to what they referred when they spoke of
the rider and the gold, but he understood clearly enough
that some villainy was afoot.

One thing was especially clear. He must devise a
way of making good his escape with Bob before the men
could come to an agreement as to what they should do
with them. From the little he had seen of Dougherty's
heartless savagery and Flash's veiled threats, the sooner
they were out of their hands the better it would be.
Haste was urgent. At the same time, he felt that he
ought to learn something more of the devil's scheme his
captors were plotting. That it was of considerable mo-



THE CAVE 143

ment, there could be no doubt. The boy knew much
depended on him and his chum. The realization of their
responsibility seemed to awaken his latent mother-wit

Dave had given up without a fight, when Sandy Flash
had surprised him waiting for the stag. He had sub-
mitted tamely to being tied, because he thought that by
so doing he was giving Bob a chance at escape. It was
only when he found out too late that the men were
in ambush for his comrade, as well, that the boy made
a last desperate attempt to struggle, to cry out in warn-
ing. Then it was that he had bitten at the outlaw's
hand as the gag was crammed into his mouth. Dave
reproached himself with all the bitterness that a boy
is capable of when he realized that he had failed in
the one thing he had tried hardest to do. He was human
enough to fear what Bob might think. The older boy
had not hesitated. He had leaped forward in the face
of a pointed pistol, when he saw his friend in trouble.
He had been shot. But Dave what had he done in the
crisis? Meekly given up and let his chum walk unwarned
into the trap! The lad tortured himself unmercifully
with self-reproach and contempt. He must make good
now to redeem himself in the eyes of his friend. It
were better to die in the effort and have done with it
than let Bob think he had failed him so miserably and
played the coward.

Once the men had reached the top of Castle Rock,
they lost no time in getting their prisoners into the cave.
A light was made and the boys were ungagged. Sandy
Flash slit the bonds that bound their arms. While
Pave swung his to and fro, trying to get some circula-



144 SANDY FLASH

tion in them, Bob nursed his shoulder. The wound had
stiffened and made him wince at every motion. Dave
turned toward his chum. He could not endure the re-
proach of another moment's silence.

"Bob I you know I didn't I tried" The words
would not come from the lad's lips as he saw the blood-
soaked shirt and the torn coat of homespun beneath the
older boy's hand. "Can't I fix it up a little? I say oh,
Bob, you mustn't think I went and let 'em get you! I
never thought they were still in wait till it was too late
to warn you."

"It isn't a thing. Just a scratch. What's the matter,
Davey? I'll be all right in a jiffy. It's a bit sore and
stiff, that's all. Honest!"

Sandy Flash came over to where the boys were talking.
He held in his hands an old-fashioned pair of leg irons,
clumsy and heavily wrought. A rusty chain rattled from
them.

"This'll hold ye quiet in our little nest, me hearties!
Now just one word. Mind, it's the last, so be wise an*
take it in. Ye're here to stay till I see fit to let ye go.
Understand? If ye lift a finger to get away, I'll not
touch ye, but " He nodded across the gloomy cavern
to where Mordecai was working over the fire, amid the
flickering red of the shadows, like some giant of the
olden time. "But he will! Ye've seen what a gentle
fellow he is. You have anyway, me big buck." Sandy
Flash eyed Bob appraisingly. "That's where we stand.
Do as I say an' the friend yonder will not touch ye.
But if ye don't, why Clear, is it? Well, then, out



THE CAVE 145

with a leg apiece. That old sheriff in Newlin had only
a pair o' these when I lightened him of his stuff, but I
reckon they'll do for two, as well as for one."

The irons rasped apart with a creak as the rusted
jaws were pulled, but they were serviceable enough and
tough withal. The metal clicked ominously as it closed
about Dave's left leg. Sandy Flash pushed aside Bob's
right foot and clipped the band about the left ankle with
a savage jerk. The chain was half a foot long, com-
pelling the lads to stay close together side by side.

"How's that, Mort?" Sandy laughed, as the other
came over to see. "I've got 'em both by the left foot,
so that when they stand up one faces one way an' one
the tother! Not run far away that a-way, I reckon, less
they want to turn into a merry-go-round-the-Maypole !
They can lie down all right, too. Now then, let's get a
bite to eat an' a bit of heat in this frozen hole, while
the lads stay neatly hobbled on their picket line!"

He crossed the cavern and began to work over the
fire, while Dougherty busied himself with the meal. It
did not give promise of being a sumptuous one.

In a moment, however, the leader came back to where
Bob sat shivering on the floor. He had with him a small
firkin of water that had been warming over the sticks
on the hearth.

"Boy, ye'd better wash out that cut a bit. Here's some
water an' a dry rag to tie it up with." The man spoke
almost kindly. It was one of the shifts that made his
character such a web of contrast. A few moments before
he had been planning unspeakable abuses to force the



i 4 6 SANDY FLASH

boys to his will. Now he had veered round and fetched
the bandage. Dougherty shook his head and muttered
to himself. He could make nothing of his chief.

Dave took the little jug of water before Bob could
reach for it. Then without more ado he pulled back
his comrade's clothing and began to wash the wound
with the cloth. This done, he tied it up as best he could.
At all events he felt it might keep some dirt from the
ripped flesh. Last of all he fixed the arm in a rude
sort of sling made from his own neckerchief. Bob helped
him clumsily, wincing from pain, as the arm was moved.
The slug had seared its way considerably deeper than
at first appeared.

"Thanks, Dave, a lot. I say! That's fine! You're
handy as can be regular medico! It feels a lot better
already. Really, it does! Let's pull that blanket over
us now and try keep warm. The fire's making this place
pretty decent."

Dave began to explain once more his action earlier
in the day. The boy's conscience would give him no
rest and the less Bob said of it, the more the younger
boy felt that he had well deserved his chum's contempt.
However, he stopped finally, when he saw that Bob
understood what had occurred.

"I say! Don't go on like a fool, Davey. Please don't!
I knew you couldn't help it. We've got to get out of
this mess. And pretty quick, too, it seems to me." He
lowered his voice. "Let's think of that now. This thing's
beginning to look mighty serious for us."

It was a good deal easier, however, to whisper of escape
than to carry it out. For over an hour the lads lay



THE CAVE 147

huddled up in their blanket, trying to keep some warmth
between them, while they whispered in low tones. When
the men had made ready the meal, the boys were given
a share of it, such as it was. Not much, but it served
to cheer them in a surprising fashion, for they had feared
they might not get even a taste of it. Bob sat back
against the wall with a boylike sigh of content, chewing
away at a hunk of stewed rabbit. Little did he fancy
that it had come from their own snare by Ridley and
the men did not bother enlightening him. Finally the
lad's mind, wearied with thinking of the predicament
they were in, turned back to the beaver dam and he told
Dave briefly of the set he had made there just before
being captured. The story filled the young trapper with
delight. After all, they would get away from the cave
some way, some time. No good could come from vain
worry. Dave grinned, present dangers slipping from him,
in a flood of enthusiasm for his favorite sport.

"Oh, that's great, Bob! You set it well, too. Was
there very much ice? If it "

"Not so much." Bob touched gingerly at his shoulder.
"Some, though, out in the middle."

"If there's ice, the way they try for 'em is to cut a
wee hole in it just over where the water's about fifteen
or twenty inches deep. Then they go and put the trap
through it on the bottom, right under the hole, you
know, and cover the opening up with some snow to pre-
vent it freezing solid again. The beavers see the hole
by the light coming through it and they come near then
to breathe. That makes 'em step on the trap as they
are reaching up."



148 SANDY FLASH

"It's about the cleverest thing I've heard tell of yet
in the trapping line!" Bob's voice was low but full of
enthusiasm. "That's a pippin, Davey! If we ever get
out of here, we'll try it. I wish to goodness I knew how
we could get out."

"Yes, so do I." Dave went on with his description.
"And it works as well as any, they say, too, that ice set
does. My! If we could only get a beaver, it'd help us
more'n anything else, most. And we could use the oil
they have. It's great to smear on traps to hide the man
scent. Father used to get 'em when he was a boy in
Valley Creek, near St. Peter's, Whiteland. There's a
great place there, close by Cedar Hollow. He made a
kind of ointment out of it, father used to. I've often
heard him tell it and how he went and caught 'em through
the ice."

"I never knew beaver had that scent." Bob hitched
the blanket about his shoulders. "Did you ever see one
skinned?"

"No, I never did, but all the old trappers use it just
the same. Another way father got 'em, when he trapped,
was to put his set at the entrance to their houses under
the water. You can see their mounds sometimes, like
muskrat dens, only bigger, in the dams they build.
They're most of all like rmiskrats anyway, eating bark
from trees and chewing yellow pond lilies and things
like that. Then they store stuff up to beat all! That's
why they're so hard at work all the while getting ready
for winter laying in fodder like we fill bins and hay
mows! Father's seen 'em at it many a time."

At the mention of Hugh Thomas, Bob suddenly recalled



THE CAVE 149

with a start that he had promised his own father to
be home in good time that evening, if such a thing could
be managed after the long day's hunt. Until this moment,
his mind had been so filled with trapping and the pre-
dicament he and his chum were in that no thought of
home had entered. He stirred uneasily beneath the
blanket.

"I say, Dave, I've just remembered I told father we'd
call off the hunt before dark, wherever we happened to
be so that we could get back in decent time. Whatever
will they think now? It's well in the night and we don't
know that we'll be freed for days. Can't tell when they'll
let us go!"

"I've been bothering about that right along," the
younger boy replied, as he helped pull the covering over
his companion where the other's restlessness had tossed
it off. "We are in a sorry pickle here, that's a fact.
And our folks at home will worry all right, but it can't
be helped far as I can see. I didn't want to make things
any worse by talking to you about it. Being shot is
bad enough for once. So I talked traps. But it's not
so blue as it seems. Not yet. Really, it isn't, Bob. Our
folks know we're way off somewhere after that stag and
they'll think we've been delayed. Why, father wouldn't
take it strange if I wasn't back for another day yet!"

"My father would. Or rather mother'd begin to worry.
She got all upset at our meeting Sandy Flash when I told
her of it last time. Still, I reckon you're right about
to-night. They'll be sure to think we're staying in a
farmhouse after a long hunt. We'll plan some way of
getting out of here in the morning. We've got to. I bet



150 SANDY FLASH

the men leave the cave then. That's our one chance."
"No doubt of it, Bob. Let's get the best rest we can
now, though. We'll need it before we see the end of
this!"

Both boys were feeling the effects of their ordeal.
They were a good deal more scared than either cared
to admit. Bob Allyn, usually unable to look on the
gloomy side of anything, was still weak and shaken by
his wound. Dave, though unhurt, felt the blame for
his chum's suffering. The younger boy had done more
than he appreciated, however, in driving away from Bob's
mind the worriment about their parents which had begun
to distress him. Little by little nature asserted herself,
and the boys rested more calmly. The very closeness of
their bodies, the animal warmth of contact beneath the
blanket served to lull them, to give them a feeling of
security. After all, the human race has never gone very
far beyond the tribal stage. In time of trouble, we all
want to herd together, feeling the surety of numbers.

The boys were silent a long time, cuddled side by side
in the dim flicker of the tallow dip that spluttered from
the. wall of the cave over near the fireplace. Though
dry, the place was cold and the few sticks made little
impression on the chill. The blanket wrapped tight about
them served to keep them fairly comfortable, in spite
of the strain of being chained so fast together. To make
the most of it, they had twisted the covering under and
over them as snugly as they could. Scarcely realizing
it, first Dave, then Bob, drifted off in a doze, their senses
lulled by the gloom of the place and their bodies fairly
worn to exhaustion by the stalking of the stag and the



THE CAVE 151

excitement of their capture. That had been overwhelm-
ing.

There was little to disturb their deepening slumber.
The men sat crouched by the glow of the fire, talking
in low tones. Apparently they were on the best of terms
once more. It must have been half past nine when
Sandy Flash got up, stretching a booted leg toward the
logs, as he looked at the boys. The sound of their
breathing told of the untroubled sleep that held them fast.
There was no deception here and he knew it. Flash Ibent
low and crossed the cave on tiptoe to feel in a bag that
lay in one corner. He drew out of it a small bit of paper
and a quill. Then he shook the leather saddle case softly
till he had touched a vial of ink. He rattled it in his
hand.

"Dry as Job's coffin ! " Sandy Flash came back to the
fire. "Fetch me a dip of water from the pail yonder, will
ye, Mort? That's the way. We'll soon have this here
softened up to write to the King's taste. Then I reckon
we'd better be gettin' the thing done so's we can leave
it over to Rose Tree where they'll be sure an' find it in
the mornin'. It won't take us more'n a jiffy! Don't make
a racket, Mort. Go easy, can't you!"

"Wot'll you write, Cap'n?" The man paused, then
fetched the mug of water, without disturbing either of
the boys.

"Oh, just a line from one of 'em sayin' the tother
has been made off with by Sandy Flash an' that he was
followin' over toward the Valley for to try an' get his
friend free. They know I was hereabouts two weeks gone,
'cause that old feller from Edgemont raised a hullaballoo



152 SANDY FLASH

when I tied him to a tree. That'll be a plenty to set the
farmers chasin' clean across to Cain up the Valley, just
where I want 'em. Then, to-morrow night, while they're
still gallopin' hell for leather, a-lookin' for the lads in the
country over yonder, we'll have the whole place here free
for what we're planning to do. The thing's plain as
apples on a tree!"

"Don't see it." Dougherty shook his head. "Won't
work! If one was caught an' tother was tryin' fer to
get him loose an' follyin' us on, how'd he come to write
a letter to his folks at home an' leave it where they'd
find it first thing? If he was that close, he'd run in fer
help, I'm thinkin'. It's no go, Cap'n Fitz. No go! Wot
I sez is we'd best "

"I haven't thought it all out yet." Sandy Flash tapped
irritably with his foot on the stone floor of the cave.
"I've been busy most plannin' for the gold an' the man
on horseback. I reckon maybe What would you do?"
Flash, a rare thing with him, felt a moment of uncer-
tainty. He saw his hurried plan was weak. Dougherty
was right. It never would work.

"Wot I claims as the trick to turn is a letter askin'
fer what they calls a ransing. To be left over in what-ye-
may-call-it, far from here as ever ye please. These here
farmin' folks haven't anythin' much to give fer a brace
o' brats like these, but they've a good deal o' siller
tankards an' one thing an' another stored away. That
we knows. More than that, too, hidden away in cellars
an' garrets! Now, seein' their boys have been an' gotten
made off with, they'll either try to raise a bit o' coin the
same which we don't really want since we're after bigger



THE CAVE 153

game altogether, or they'll fly hot-headed after us to
wheresoever we says they're to leave the money. That's
just what we wants 'em to do! Wot I knows of 'em,
they'll do it, too, not wastin' no time collectin' funds.
These here fellers are fighters, Cap'n! As fightin' fools
as ever Lee's Legion! If they up an' chast ye all the day
when they hears ye're in the neighborhood, like as they
did a bit ago from Birmingham, wot'll they do when they
finds their brats took off by ye an' held fer pay? Why,
they'll rare up an' tear the country loose ! "

"Ye've brains after all, Mort, me hearty!" Sandy
grinned with quick approval. "We'll do just that. What's
more we'll give the lads a taste that'll make 'em waste no
time doin' what we say. I'll write this ransom thing now
an' then we'll have 'em sign it, hot off, so as that we can
leave it over to their place this night. They'll do it quick
as ever we put it to 'em. An' their folks'll find it at
crow o' cock!"

"Where they live?" Mordecai Dougherty watched
Sandy as he mixed the dried ink. "Do ye know, fer
sure?"

"Not just where, I don't. Down Providence Road
somewhere. They'll tell us where their folks are, too, I
reckon. They'll sign soon enough, never ye fear, onct
they see what's comin' to 'em if they don't. We've no
time to lose hagglin' over it. Wake 'em up, Mort. No,
better wait, I guess, till we're ready to begin on 'em
proper. It'll scare 'em more, comin' sudden thata-way!"

Sandy Flash's face was a fiend's mask of cruelty as
he grinned. The degenerate instinct that had led him
to lash old Peter Burgandine so wantonly now turned



154 SANDY FLASH

toward the helpless boys with all the more abandon for
his recent kindness in bringing Bob the bandage for his
wound. Flash felt that he had weakened in that.

Dougherty, blackguard that he was, saw the change
in his leader's eyes and wondered at the wave of disgust
that swept over him for the other's brutality, though he
little suspected to what end the man would go.

Sandy Flash bent low to the fire, blowing the embers
in a hot glow between cupped hands. As the flames rose
and twisted in answer among the sticks and gleaming
coals, he picked up the little bar of iron from the hearth.
It had done duty as a poker and as a support on which
to rest the skillet. This he pushed into the heart of the
flaming wood, turning it about and working it in with a
practised play of wrist that spoke the smith.

"They'll talk, the sleepin' beauties! They'll sign an
do whatever we ask 'em! They say fire an' heat makes
iron run. Aye! An' words, too, I'm sayin'! Heat's a
great persuader when ye put it to a body right. Just
rest ye easy, Mort, me dear, an' ye'll see how to make
the good round sovereigns flow from a tax collector's
pocket when he swears he hasn't ha'penny to his name!
I've tried heat an' iron before. It'll work! It'll sweat
'em."

"It's crueller nor me ye be, Cap'n Fitz, fer a fact."
Dougherty looked uneasily toward the fire. "I've killed
afore this, when I has to, but I never took to torturin'
children. I fights as hard as the best, but I fights men!"

"Never ye fear, Mort, me darlin'! Don't be boilin'
over before there's need. They'll not take much o' killin'


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