Chapter XI. Black Bear and Diplomat.
 

"It looks to me as if there might be civil war down here, with all these men waiting for guns and ammunition," said Shaw, as Nestor concluded the story of the letters which had been forwarded to Washington. "I didn't know what I was getting into when I left New York. I wish I could send that story to my father. What a scoop he would have on the other newspapers!"

"That is the very last thing you should think of," declared Nestor. "The publication of the story now might bring about the very thing we are trying to prevent. There is no knowing what the Texans would do if they learned of the plot to invade their state. We are here to defeat the plot to arm these men who are waiting to cross the river, and not to furnish newspapers with scoops, as you call them."

"How are you going to do it?" asked the boy.

"The intention originally was to stop the purchase of arms. That failing, it was determined to prevent the purchases crossing the Rio Grande. If that cannot, or has not, been done, then some other means must be resorted to. That is why I am here, and that is why United States secret service men are waiting for me somewhere about here."

"I see," said Shaw, "and you thought your men might be down here? Well, if it is the other end of the conspiracy that we find in this camp, at least the other end of the Cameron robbery conspiracy--anyway not your associates--what then?"

"I am expecting the diplomat," was the reply. "If I can't get the arms I hope to get him."

"Would that check the invasion of Texas?" asked the boy.

"It might delay it until we have a strong force on the other side of the river."

"I believe you mean to kidnap him" cried Shaw. "Is that right?"

"I'm going to do something to disarrange the plans of the conspirators, if I can. We don't want a war with Mexico just now. Such an event might bring on complications with other nations, at least with one other nation."

"You mean Japan," cried Shaw. "I've heard that Mexico is full of Japs, all trained and ready to fight. And I've heard about a secret treaty between Mexico and Japan, too. Let the Japs butt in, if they want to. We'll drive them into the Pacific."

"I have said nothing about Japan," replied Nestor. "I don't believe half this sensational stuff about Japan's warlike attitude toward the United States that the newspapers are printing."

"Well, you didn't say Japan, but I know what you meant, all right," declared Shaw. "How much longer are you going to watch that camp?"

"I'm not watching the camp," replied Nestor. "I'm waiting to see if some important individual doesn't make his appearance here, bound for the peaks above."

"You mean the third man--the diplomat?"

"Exactly. He'll be here to-night, according to all reports. I thought it might be his party wig-wagging when I came here, provided it was not my associates. If he doesn't come pretty soon I'll return to our camp. The boys will be getting anxious over our long absence."

Presently, while the two waited, a signal rocket came blazing out of the east, swept a wide curve in the sky, and dropped out of sight. It was almost immediately followed by a blue rocket, sent up from the foot of the range, not very far away. Then the men in the camp below were heard moving about.

"The fellows down there," said Shaw, "appear to be about as astonished as we are at the display of fireworks. I don't think they are next to this game at all. They have their minds too crowded with mine-dreams to leave room for any international complications, I guess."

Indeed, this seemed to be the case, for the night watchman, the Mexican, and the miners were now assembled in a little open space before the tents, gazing perplexedly into the sky, which now showed red and blue rockets, apparently sent up in answer to each other.

"There's our third man," said Shaw, as a moving light appeared not far away. "Listen, and you'll hear him coming."

The boy almost danced up and down in his excitement.

"Let me geezle him" he whispered. "Let me make a record for valor down here," he added, with a grin. "I might get a Carnegie medal."

"You'll probably get a bullet if you don't keep quiet," advised Nestor. "Come, we may as well hide ourselves in the thicket over there and await the turn of events."

Within ten minutes the sound of hoofs was heard, indicating the advance of, perhaps, half a dozen horsemen, and then came a challenge from the night watchman's camp. There followed a short conversation in Spanish, only a portion of which Nestor could understand. However, he learned from what he did hear that the party just coming in had missed a guide, and was seeking the easiest way to get to the top of the range.

After a short time the conversation suddenly changed into English, and Nestor heard a soft voice ask:

"Are you going up?"

"In the morning," was the reply, in the voice of the night watchman.

"Why not go now and guide us?" came another question.

"Because we prefer to wait until morning," was the gruff reply.

"Have you seen any men going up?" was asked, then

"There are stragglers all about," was the ungracious reply. "We have been disturbed by them before."

There was a short silence, then a shot and a struggle.

"Say," said, Shaw, "the newcomer is tying Felix and Scoby up, and the miners have all taken to their heels. What do you think of that?"

"I think that our friend, the third man, needs a guide up the mountain, and is not at all particular how he gets one. The Mexican seems to be the one he wants."

"He's got his nerve," Frank grinned.

"That is only his pleasant little way," replied Nestor, with a quiet smile. "He is a very arrogant fellow."

"If that is really the third man," Shaw said, presently, as the soldiers came up the hill, Scoby and the Mexican being almost forced along, "we've got 'em bunched. We've got the three men who were in the Cameron suite that night all in a heap. Guess you can pick out your man now. I reckon you did some thinking before you planned this trip to Mexico, Ned."

"Don't forget that the United States secret service men had a hand in the deal from the beginning," replied Nestor, modestly. "Within six hours of the time I left the Cameron building I was talking with Washington. The fact that the Mexican and the night watchman are also here now is a lucky change, that is all. The trap was laid for this diplomat. The others could have been found later on."

"Oh, you didn't do a thing, I guess," laughed Shaw as the two turned up the acclivity, planning to keep some distance in advance of the party behind. "Say, do you think this third man recognized Scoby as a person he had seen in the Cameron building? What? That might be one reason for marching the two off."

"I can't say," Nestor replied, "but the diplomat probably had his eyes open when he was in that building. Don't ask so many questions."

Twice within a few moments the boys heard some one approaching them, coming down the mountain side at a great pace, and twice they saw a man hasten by the place where they had hastily secreted themselves and confer with the party below.

"Spies! Messengers! Japs!" commented Shaw. "I heard that jargon in a Jap restaurant in New York. What about it?"

"You are as full of the Yellow Peril scare, to-night, as the sensational newspapers," replied Nestor, as they moved on up the mountain side. "We are not looking for trouble with the Japs, but we can take care of ourselves if it ever comes."

After a time the boys paused on a ledge of rock and looked over the moonlit space about them, Nestor expectantly, Frank with apprehension. The party with the unwilling guide was now far below them, and during the last few moments they had walked boldly, Nestor watching for a signal which he now thought he saw.

While they stood there a light flashed for an instant in a little gully off to the right, and Nestor replied with a bird-call which was so natural that Shaw gave a little start and looked about for the bird. There was another flash of light, and then five men made their appearance. There was a further exchange of signals, and then the newcomers advanced to where the boys stood.

"You are Ned Nestor?" the leader of the party asked.

"And you are Lieutenant Gordon?"

"The same," replied the other, grasping Nestor by the hand. "We found your camp but you were not there, so we came on down to the place where the boy said you had gone."

"Weren't there two boys there?" asked Frank, a sudden fear gripping him. "We left two there."

"I'm sorry to say that we found only one," replied Lieutenant Gordon. "The other had been kidnapped, the little fellow said."

"Come on, then," Shaw shouted, speeding away as rapidly as the nature of the ground would permit. "We've got to go and find him. Was it Fremont who was taken?" he added, turning back for a moment.

"The boy we saw told us his name was Smith," laughed the lieutenant.

"He probably thought you were after Fremont," Nestor said. "We must hasten up there, after we do a little important business here."

Lieutenant Gordon and the patrol leader conferred together for some time, and then instructing Shaw to make his way to the camp as quickly as possible, the little force of six awaited the arrival of the other party. In half an hour they came up, panting, their horses having been left behind as not being adapted to mountain work. When they stepped out on a little plateau they found themselves looking into the muzzles of six automatic revolvers, held in the hands of the civil service men and Nestor.

"You are Don Miguel?" asked the lieutenant of a tall, well-dressed man who was in the lead.

"What is the meaning of this outrage?" demanded the man addressed. "We are citizens of Mexico, going about our legitimate business."

"You are mistaken," replied the lieutenant, grimly. "You three," indicating Don Miguel, Felix and Scoby, "are citizens of the United States. We are in the secret service of your government, and place you under arrest for treason and robbery. Take their weapons, Charley," he added, addressing one of his men, "and if one of the soldiers lifts a hand, shoot."

The weapons were quickly surrendered, the soldiers standing aside with fright in their faces. Then Lieutenant Gordon and Nestor held a short but earnest conversation with Don Miguel, at the termination of which the latter ordered his soldiers back to the valley, "to await the execution of plans now proposed," as he said.

"It is an outrage," Don Miguel complained, as the soldiers disappeared, "and my government shall hear of it. You shall all suffer for what you are doing."

"You are a naturalized citizen of the United States," the lieutenant repeated, "and you are under arrest for treason. The others are held for attempted murder and robbery. Now, this being understood, we may as well proceed to camp."

The night watchman and the Mexican also made vigorous protests against their arrest, but no attention was paid to them. Nestor was at that time too anxious over Fremont's disappearance to halt for a lengthy explanation.