Chapter VI. A Tale of the Mexican War.
 

Mr. Hardy was rather surprised at Seth Harper, the Yankee, having remained so long in his service, as the man had plainly stated, when first engaged, that he thought it likely that he should not fix himself, as he expressed it, for many weeks, However, he stayed on, and had evidently taken a fancy to the boys; and was still more interested in the girls, whose talk and ways must have been strange and very pleasant to him after so many years' wandering as a solitary man. He was generally a man of few words, using signs where signs would suffice, and making his answers, when obliged to speak, as brief as possible. This habit of taciturnity was no doubt acquired from a long life passed either alone or amid dangers where an unnecessary sound might have cost him his life. To the young people, however, he would relax from his habitual rule of silence. Of an evening, when work was over, they would go down to the bench he had erected outside his hut, and would ask him to tell them tales of his Indian experiences. Upon one of these occasions Charley said to him: "But of all the near escapes that you have had, which was the most hazardous you ever had? which do you consider was the narrowest touch you ever had of being killed?"

Seth considered for some time in silence, turned his plug of tobacco in his mouth, expectorated two or three times, as was his custom when thinking, and then said, "That's not altogether an easy question to answer. I've been so near wiped out such scores of times, that it ain't no easy job to say which was the downright nearest. In thinking it over, I conclude sometimes that one go was the nearest, sometimes that another; it ain't no ways easy to say now. But I think that, at the time, I never so much felt that Seth Harper's time for going down had come, as I did in an affair near San Louis."

"And how was that, Seth? Do tell us about it," Maud said.

"It's rather a long story, that is," the Yankee said.

"All the better, Seth," Charley said; "at least all the better as far as we are concerned, if you don't mind telling it."

"No, I don't mind, no how," Seth answered. "I'll just think it over, and see where to begin."

There was a silence for a few minutes, and the young Hardys composed themselves comfortably for a good long sitting, and then Seth Harper began his story.

"Better than five years back, in '47, I were fighting in Mexico. It wasn't much regular up and down fighting we had, though we had some toughish battles too, but it were skirmishing here, skirmishing there, keeping one eye always open, for man, woman, and child hated us like pison, and it was little mercy that a straggler might expect if he got caught away from his friends. Their partisans chiefs, half-soldier, half-robber, did us more harm than the regulars, and mercy was never given or asked between them and us. Me and Rube Pearson worked mostly together. We had 'fit' the Indians out on the prairies for years side by side, and when Uncle Sam wanted men to lick the Mexicans, we concluded to go in together. We 'listed as scouts to the 'Rangers,' that is, we agreed to fight as much as we were wanted to fight, and to go on in front as scouts, in which way we had many a little scrimmage on our own account; but we didn't wear any uniform, or do drill, which couldn't have been expected of us. We shouldn't have been no good as regulars, and every one knew that there were no better scouts in the army than Rube Pearson and Seth Harper. Lor', what a fellow Rube was, to be sure! I ain't a chicken," and the Yankee looked down at his own bony limbs, "but I was a baby by the side of Rube. He were six feet four if he were an inch, and so broad that he looked short unless you saw him by the side of another man. I do believe Rube Pearson were the strongest man in the world. I have heard," Seth went on, meditating, "of a chap called Samson: folks say he were a strong fellow. I never came across any one who had rightly met him, but a good many have heard speak of him. I should like to have seen him and Rube in the grips. I expect Rube would have astonished him, Rube came from Missouri--most of them very big chaps do. I shouldn't wonder if Samson did, though I never heard for certain."

The young Hardys had great difficulty to prevent themselves from laughing aloud at Seth's idea on the subject of Samson. Charley, however, with a great effort, steadied himself to say, "Samson died a great many years ago, Seth. His history is in the Bible."

"Is it, though?" Seth said, much interested. "Well now, what did he do?"

"He carried away the gates of Gaza on his back, Seth."

Seth remained thoughtful for some time. "It all depends on how big the gates were," he said at last. "That gate down there is a pretty heavyish one, but Rube Pearson could have carried away two sich as that, and me sitting on the top of them. What else did he do?"

"He was bound in new cords, and he broke them asunder, Seth."

Seth did not appear to attach much importance to this, and inquired, "Did he do anything else?"

"He killed three hundred men with the jawbone of an ass."

"He killed--" Seth began, and then paused in sheer astonishment. Then he looked sharply round: "You're making fun of me, lad."

"No, indeed, Seth," Charley said; "it is quite true."

"What! that a man killed three hundred men with the jawbone of an ass? It couldn't have been; it was sheer impossible--unless they were all asleep, and even then it would be an awful job."

"I don't know how it was, Seth, but the Bible tells us, and so it must be true. I think it was a sort of miracle."

"Oh, it was a miracle!" Seth said thoughtfully, and then remained silent, evidently pondering in his own mind as to what a miracle was, but not liking to ask.

"It was a very long time ago, Seth, and they were no doubt a different people then."

"Was it a very, very long time back?" Seth asked.

"Yes, Seth; a very, very, very long time."

"Ah!" Seth said in a thoughtful but more satisfied tone, "I understand now. I expect it's that. It's the same thing among the Indians: they have got stories of chiefs who died ever so long ago, who used to be tremendous fellows--traditions they call 'em. I don't expect they were any braver than they are now; but a thing grows, you see, like a tree, with age. Lor' bless 'em! if they tell such tales now about a Jew, what will they do some day about Rube Pearson?"

The young Hardys could stand it no longer, but went off into a scream of laughter, which even the surprised and offended looks of the ignorant and simple minded, but shrewd, Yankee could not check. So offended was he, indeed, that no entreaties or explanations were sufficient to mollify him, and the story was abruptly broken off. It was not for two or three days that the boys' explanation and assurance sufficed; and then, when Charley had explained the whole history of Samson to him, he said:

"I have no doubt that it is all true, and I wish I could read it for myself. I can just remember that my mother put a great store on her Bible, and called it the good book. I can't read myself, and shouldn't have time to do it if I could; so it's all one as far as that goes. I am just a hunter and Indian fighter, and I don't know that for years I have ever stopped so long under a roof as I have here. My religion is the religion of most of us out on the prairies. Be honest and true to your word. Stick to a friend to death, and never kill a man except in fair fight. That's about all, and I hope it will do; at any rate, it's too late for me to try and learn a new one now. I listen on a Sunday to your father's reading, and I wish sometimes I had been taught; and yet it's better as it is. A man who acted like that wouldn't be much good for a rough life on the prairies, though I have no doubt it could be done in the settlements. Now I must go on with my work. If you and the others will come over to the hut this evening I will go on with that yarn I was just beginning."

After tea the young Hardys went down to the hut, outside which they found Seth awaiting their arrival. They were now comfortably seated, and Seth, without further introduction, went on.

"One day our captain sent for Rube and me, and says, 'I've got a job for you two scouts. It's a dangerous one, but you won't like it any the worse for that, I know.'

"'Not a bit,' said Rube with a laugh. He was the lightest-hearted fellow, was Rube; always gay and jolly, and wouldn't have hurt a squirrel, except in stand-up fight and as a matter of business.

"'What is it, Cap?' said I; 'you've only got to give us the word, and we're off.'

"'I've had a message,' he said, 'from Colonel Cabra of their service, that he is ready to turn traitor, and hand us over some correspondence of Santa Anna, of which he has somehow got possessed. Being a traitor, he won't trust any one, and the only plan we can hit upon is, that he shall make a journey to San Miguel, thirty miles north of this, as if on business. I am to make an expedition in that direction, and am to take him prisoner. He will then hand over the papers. We shall bring him here, and, after keeping him for a time, let him go on parole. No suspicion will therefore at any future time arise against him, which there might be if we met in any other way. The papers are very important, and the affair must not be suffered to slip through. The country between this and San Miguel is peaceful enough, but we hear that El Zeres' band is out somewhere in that direction. He has something like two hundred cutthroats with him of his own, and there is a rumor that other bands have joined him. Now I want you to go on tomorrow to San Miguel. Go in there after dusk, and take up your quarters at this address; it is a small wine-shop in a street off the market. Get up as Mexicans; it only requires a big cloak and a sombrero. You can both speak Spanish well enough to pass muster. Stay all next day, and till daybreak on the morning afterward, and then ride back on this road. You will find cut in the first place whether Cabra has arrived, and in the next place whether El Zeres is in the neighborhood. I shall only bring forty men, as I do not wish it to be supposed that I am going on more than a mere scouting expedition. You understand?'

"'All right, Cap; we'll do it,' I said, and we went off to our quarters.

"I can't say I altogether liked the job. It was a long way from headquarters, and, do what they may, two men can't fight more than, say, ten or a dozen. I was rather surprised to see by Rube's face that he rather liked it; but I did not find out till late that night what it was pleased him--then the truth came out.

"'We had better start early, Seth,' said he; 'say at daybreak.'

"'What for, Rube?' I said; 'the Cap said we were to go in after dusk. It's only thirty miles; we shan't want to start till three o'clock.'

"Rube laughed. 'I don't want to get there before dusk, but I want to start at daybreak, and I'll tell you why. You remember Pepita?'

"'There,' said I, 'if I didn't think it had something to do with a woman. You are always running after some one, Rube. They will get you into a scrape some day.'

"Rube laughed. 'I am big enough to get out of it if it does, Seth; but you know I did feel uncommon soft toward Pepita, and really thought of marrying and taking her back to Missouri.'

"'Only she wouldn't come, Rube?'

"'Just so, Seth,' said he, laughing. So we agreed we would be the best friends; and she asked me, if ever I went out to San Miguel, to go and see her. She said her father was generally out, but would be glad to see me if he were in. She lives in a small hacienda, a league this side of the town.

"I saw that it was of no use to argue, but I didn't like it. The Mexican women hated us worse than the men did, and that warn't easy to do; and many of our fellows had been murdered after being enticed by them to out-of-the-way places. Still, in the present case, I did not see that the girl could have expected that Rube would be there unless the rest of us were near at hand, and I did not attempt to oppose Rube's wishes."

"So next morning off we started, and by ten o'clock we rode up to the door of the place which Rube said answered to the description Pepita had given him. It was a pretty place, with trees round it, and might have been the residence of a small proprietor such as Pepita had described her father to be. As we rode up to the door it opened, and I saw at once that Rube were right, for a dark-eyed Mexican girl came out and looked at us inquiringly.

"'What can I do for you, senors?' she asked.

"'Don't you remember me, Donna Pepita?' Rube said, laughing, as he lifted the sombrero which had shaded his face.

"The girl started violently. 'Ah, Signor Americano, is it you? I might have known, indeed,' she said, smiling, 'by your size, even wrapped up. This, of course, is Signor Seth--you are always together. But come in,' she said.

"'Who have you got inside, Donna Pepita?' Rube asked. 'I know that I can trust you, but I can't trust others, and I don't want it known I am here.'

"'The house is empty,' Pepita said. 'My father is out. There is only old Jacinta at home.'

"At this moment an old woman made her appearance at the door, and at a word from Pepita took our horses, while Pepita signed to us to enter.

"'Excuse me, signora,' I said. 'We will go first and see our horses stabled. It is our custom; one never knows when he may want them.'

"I thought Pepita looked annoyed, but it was only for a moment, and then she said something in one of the country dialects to the old woman. She nodded her head, and went off round to the back of the house, we leading our horses, and following her. The stables, I observed, were singularly large and well kept for a house of its size; but, to my surprise, instead of going to the long range of buildings, the old woman led the way to a small shed."

"'Ain't these stables?' said I.

"She shook her head, and said in Spanish, 'They were once, but we have only two horses. Now they are used as a store for grain; the master has the key.'

"I could not contradict her, though I believed she was telling me a lie. However, we fastened our horses up in the shed, put the pistols from our holsters into our belts, and, taking our rifles in our hands, entered the house.

"Pepita received us very warmly, and busied herself assisting the old woman to get us something to eat; after which she and Rube began love-making, and it really seemed as if the girl meant to change her mind, and go back with Rube, after all. There was nothing, in fact, to justify my feeling uneasy, except that, while Pepita had promised me when I entered the house not to tell the old woman who we were, I was convinced that she had done so by the glances of scowling hatred which the old hag threw at us whenever she came into the room. Still I was uneasy, and shortly made some excuse to leave the room and saunter round and about the house, to assure myself that Pepita had spoken truly when she had said that there was no one there except the old woman and herself. I found nothing to excite the smallest suspicion, and was therefore content to return to the room and to throw myself lazily down and go off for a siesta, in the wakeful intervals of which I could hear that Pepita had given way, and that the delighted Rube was arranging with her how she should escape and join him when the army retired; for of course neither had any idea that her father would consent to her marrying one of the hated enemies of his country.

"At three o'clock I roused myself and soon after the old woman came into the room with some lemonade. I observed that Pepita changed color, but she said nothing, and a moment after, making some excuse, she left the room. I was about to speak to Rube on the subject, when the window was darkened with men, Five or six shots were fired at us, and with a yell a crowd of Mexicans rushed into the room.

"As they appeared Rube sprang up with the exclamation, 'Trapped, by thunder!' and then fell flat on his back, shot, I believed, through the head.

"I rushed to my rifle, seized it, but before I could get it to my shoulder it was knocked from my hand. Half a dozen fellows threw themselves upon me, and I was a prisoner. I didn't try to resist when they laid hands on me, because I knew I should have a knife in me at once; and though I knew my life was not worth an hour's purchase--no, nor five minutes'--after I was caught, still upon the whole it was as well to live that five minutes as not.

"There was such a hubbub and a shouting at first that I couldn't hear a word, but at last I picked up that they were a party of the band of El Zeres, who was in the neighborhood, and had been fetched by a boy that traitress Pepita had dispatched for them directly we arrived. Pepita herself was wife of one of the other chiefs of the band. Much fun was made of poor Rube and myself about our courting. I felt mad with myself for having been caught so foolishly. I couldn't feel angry with Rube, with him lying dead there, but I was angry with myself for having listened to him. I oughtn't to have allowed him to have his own way. I warn't in love, and I ought to have known that a man's head, when he's after a gal, is no more use than a pumpkin. While I was thinking this out in my mind I had my eyes fixed upon poor Rube, whom no one thought of noticing, when all of a sudden I gave quite a start, for I saw him move. I couldn't see his face, but I saw a hand stealing gradually out toward the leg of a man who stood near. Then there was a pause, and then the other hand began to move. It wasn't at all like the aimless way that the arms of a badly hit man would move, and I saw at once, that Rube had been playing 'possum' all along."

"Doing what, Seth?" Ethel asked.

"Just pretending to be dead. I held my breath, for I saw he had come to the conclusion that he could not be overlooked much longer, and was going to make a move.

"In another minute there was a crash and a shout as the two men fell to the ground with their legs knocked clean from under them, catching hold of other men and dragging them down with them. From the midst of the confusion Rube leaped to his feet and made a rush for the window; one man he leveled with a blow of his fist; another he caught up as if he had been a baby, and hurling him against two others, brought them on the ground together, and then leaping over their bodies, dashed through the window before the Mexicans had recovered from their astonishment. I could have laughed out loud at the yell of rage and amazement with which they set off in pursuit; but two or three of them remained to guard me, and I might have got a knife in my ribs, so I kept quiet. I did just feel so glad to see Rube was alive, that I hardly remembered that it warn't likely that either he or I would be so long, for I did not for a moment expect that he would make good his escape. The odds were too great against it, especially in broad daylight. Even on horseback it would be next to impossible. No one but Rube would have attempted such a thing; but he never stopped to think about odds or chances when his dander was up. In less than no time I heard a shot or two, then was a silence for a time, then a shout of triumph. I knew it was all over, and that Rube was taken again.

"He told me afterward that he had made a dash round to the stable, where he had found seven or eight Mexicans looking after the horses; that he had knocked down one or two who were in his way, had leaped upon the nearest animal, and had made off at the top of his speed, but that a dozen others were after him in an instant; and seeing that he would be lassoed and thrown from his horse, he had stopped and thrown up his arms in token of surrender. Rube's hands were bound tightly behind him, and he was led back into the room.

"He gave a loud laugh when he saw me: 'That was a boy's trick; wasn't it, Seth? But I couldn't have helped it if I had been shot a minute afterward. There were those fellows' legs moving about me just as if I was a log of wood. The thoughts came across me, "A good sharp rap above the ankle and over you'd go;" and when I'd once thought of it, I was obliged to do it. It was fun, though, Seth; wasn't it?'

"'It was, as you say, Rube, a boy's trick, and just at present is hardly the time for that. But don't let us say anything we don't want overheard, Rube; some of these fellows may understand.'

"'Right you are, Seth. I am main sorry, old hoss, that I've got you into this scrape, but I expect we shall get out again somehow. I don't think Rube Pearson is going to be wiped out yet.

"I hoped not too. I warn't a bit tired of life, but I did not see my way out of it. However, I had one comfort: I knew if any two men could get out of an ugly mess, those two men were Rube and I.

"We were now told to sit down on the ground in one corner of the room, two fellows taking up their station by our sides. Then there was a hot discussion about our fate, which warn't exactly pleasant to listen to. Some were in favor of hanging us at once, but the majority were for taking us to the main body under El Zeres himself, because the chief would be so glad to have us in his power. He had frequently vowed vengeance against us, for we were known as the most active scouts in the army, and had led troops in his pursuit many a time, and had once or twice come very near to catching him. He had vowed solemnly to his patron saint that if we fell into his hands he would put us to death with unheard-of tortures; and as El Zeres was rather celebrated that way--and it was the anticipation of an unusual treat which decided the majority to reserve us--it warn't altogether pleasant to listen to. But we put a good face on the matter, for it would never have done to let those Mexican varmints see that two backwoodsmen who had 'fit' them and beaten them time after time were afraid to die when their time came. Presently there was a little stir, and Pepita came into the room. I rather think that, though the girl hated us like pison, she didn't like to come into the room where one of us was, she thought, laying dead. Now she came in, looking, I will say for her, uncommonly pretty. She came straight up to us, and looked us full in the face. I paid no attention to her, but Rube nodded quite cheerfully.

"'Well, signora, so you were making fools of us, after all! Well, I ain't the first chap that's been fooled by a pretty woman; that's one comfort, anyhow. I suppose our engagement is to be considered at an end, eh?' and he laughed.

"'American dog!' the girl said, with her eyes flashing with rage, 'did you think you were so good-looking that the women of the nation you tread upon are all to lose their hearts to you? We are Mexicans, and we hate you!' and she stamped her foot with passion.

"Rube laughed unconcernedly. 'Well, signora, after what you now permit me to see of you, I am really thankful that you are so kind and lenient. Thunder! what a fate mine would have been if you had taken it into your head to marry me!'

"There was a general laugh among the men at the cool way in which Rube treated the girl, and the enraged Pepita struck him a box on the ear. It was a hearty one; but Rube's face hardly changed, and he said, still smiling:

"'We have a custom in the States, Pepita, that when a gal boxes a man's ears, he has a right to give her a kiss. You are reversing that; I had the kisses this afternoon, and now I have got the box on the ear.'

"There was again a roar of laughter among the Mexicans, and the enraged woman drew a knife, and would have stabbed Rube to the heart had she not been seized by the men standing round her and forced from the room. We were kept in that room under a guard so watchful that any attempt to escape was out of the question, until three o'clock the next morning. The horses were then saddled, and we were soon off, Rube and I riding in the midst of the party with our hands tied before us, so that we could just hold the bridle. We had found out from the conversation that El Zeres with his band was about twenty-five miles distant.

"Upon our ride I found an opportunity for the first time since our capture for a talk with Rube.

"'What do you think of it, Seth?'

"'Looks bad, Rube,' I said. 'If we find El Zeres in camp, I expect he will make short work of us; if he is away I suppose we shall get till to-morrow morning. If we are to escape at all it must be to-night.'

"'Escape!' Rube said scoffingly; 'of course we are going to escape. The question is, Which one of all the ways open to us are we to choose?' and he laughed merrily.

"'I don't quite see all the ways yet, Rube; however, we shall see what sort of a place we are put in to-night, and can then come to some conclusion. There comes the sun.'

"It was about nine o'clock when we rode into camp; and as we approached it we acknowledged that a better place against a sudden surprise could hardly have been chosen. The ground was flat for miles round; but the site of the camp rose in a slight mound, of nearly circular form and perhaps one hundred yards across; the central part was thirty feet or so above the general level. Round this the band of El Zeres was encamped. Rube and I guessed them at four hundred strong. There was an attempt at military order, for, by the bundles of wearing apparel, etc., it was evident that the men slept round a series of bivouac fires, extending in a circle round the foot of the mound. Within the line of fires the horses were picketed in two rows. In the center of the circle, upon the highest point of the rise, was a small house. As we approached we could see a stir in the camp: a party of men were mounting their horses as if for an expedition.

"'I hope El Zeres is on the point of starting somewhere, Rube,' I said, 'and that he is in too great a hurry to stop to amuse himself with us as he has threatened: it will give us another day."

"'I hope so,' Rube said; 'it's hard if we don't manage to make tracks if we get twenty-four hours.'

"On reaching the camp we were ordered to alight; and upon its being known who we were, there was as many shouts of triumph as if we had been generals.

"'We are quite celebrated characters, Seth,' Rube said, with his usual laugh.

"'Ah,' said I, 'we could do without such celebrity just at present.'

"'I don't know,' Rube said. 'If we were mere American soldiers they would cut our throats at once: as it is they may keep us for a more ceremonial killing.'

"As we were talking we were being led up toward the central hut, which was evidently the abode of the chief. He was standing at the door, tapping his riding-boot impatiently with a heavy whip; a man was holding his horse in readiness. One of the other leaders was standing talking to him. 'Jehoshophat!' said I, 'he is going out. We are safe for awhile.'

"El Zeres was a slight, wiry man, with a small wicked-looking eye, which gave one the 'squerms' to look at, and a thin mouth curved up in a cruel smile. He was the savagest and most bloodthirsty of all the Mexican partisans. The man with him was a tall, swarthy, ferocious-looking villain.

"El Zeres looked at us for some time without a word. Then he said, 'I've got you at last; I've been on the lookout for you for a long time past.'

"'It hasn't been our fault we haven't met before,' said Rube; which was true enough, for we had given him a close chase several times. El Zeres only gave an evil smile, but the other Mexican exclaimed savagely, 'You dog, do you dare to answer?' and struck Rube across the face with all his force with his heavy whip.

"Rube turned quite white, and then with a tremendous effort he broke the cowhide thongs which fastened his hands--not new rope, mind you, but cowhide--just as if it had been so much grass, and went right at the fellow who had struck him. The Mexicans gave a cry of astonishment, and threw themselves upon Rube, El Zeres shouting at the top of his voice, 'Don't draw a knife, don't draw a knife; I'll hang any man who injures him.'

"Rube had got the fellow by the throat with both hands, and though the crowd of men who threw themselves upon him pulled him to the ground, he never let go, but brought the man down too. I knew it was all over with him. I was quite mad to join in and help; but though I tugged and strained at my thongs till they cut right into my wrists, I could not succeed. For awhile they lay in a struggling mass on the ground, and then Rube shook himself free of them for a moment and got to his feet. A dozen men were upon him in a moment; but he was blind with rage, and would not have minded if it had been a thousand. Those who came in front went down as if shot before the blows of his fists; but others leaped on him from behind, and then the struggle began again. I never saw sich a thing before, and never shall again. It was downright awful. They could not hold his arms. Their weight, over and over again, got him upon the ground, and over and over again he was up on his feet; but his arms, somehow, they could not hold, and the work he did with them was awful. Anything he hit went down, and when he could not hit he gripped. It was like a terrier with rats: he caught 'em by the throat, and when he did it was all up with them. Some of them made a grab for their knives, but they had no time to use them. In a moment their eyes would seem to start from their heads; and then, as he threw 'em away, they fell in a dead lump."

How long this went on I can't say--some minutes, though--when a Mexican snatched the lasso, which every Mexican carries, from the saddle of El Zeres' horse, and dropped the noose over Rube's neck. In another moment he was lying half-strangled upon the ground, and a dozen hands bound his hands behind him and his feet together with cowhide thongs. Then they stood looking at him as if he was some devil. And no wonder. Seven Mexicans lay dead on the ground, and many more were lying panting and bleeding around. The Mexicans are an active race of men, but not strong--nothing like an average American--and Rube at any time was a giant even among us scouts; and in his rage he seemed to have ten times his natural strength. El Zeres had never moved; and except shouting to his men not to use their knives, he had taken no part whatever in it--watching the struggle with that cruel smile, as if it had only been a terrier attacked by rats. When it was over he mounted his horse, and said to one of his lieutenants who was standing near: 'I must go now. I leave these men in your charge, Pedro. Fasten that one's hands behind him; then take them inside. Put them in the inner room. Clear my things out. Take ten picked men, and don't let any one in or out till I return. I shall be back before daybreak. I shall amuse myself to-day with thinking how I shall try the nerves of these Americanos. I can promise you all a handsome amusement of some sort, anyhow.' And he rode off.

"I have often faced death, and ain't afraid of it; but the unruffled face and the cruel smile of that man made my flesh creep on my bones, as I thought of what Rube and I had got to go through the next day. And now," Seth said, breaking off, "it's getting late, and I haven't talked such a heap for years. I will finish my yarn another night."

Very warm were the young Hardys in their thanks to Seth for this exciting story from his own experience, and great was the discussion among themselves that arose as to how the two Americans could possibly have made their escape from their terrible predicament.