Chapter XX. Shooting on the Mountainside.
 

Bradley smiled cynically as he looked down toward the tent. He could not, of course, distinguish the figures as plainly as Jimmie could with the glass, but he knew from the excited manner of the boys that something unusual was taking place.

"You have visitors at the camp?" he asked cooly, as the lads motioned to him to move on. "I shall be glad to meet them, you may be sure."

He held out his manacled hands suggestively as he spoke.

"You're not invited!" Jimmie grunted. "We've got private date with those people. You might muss things up, if we permitted you to go with us!"

"Very well," Bradley replied. "They'll know where I am. But, for fear they'll not recognize me, at this distance, I'll just give them notice that I'm here."

Jimmie and Frank both sprang forward to prevent the promised outcry, but Bradley proved too quick for them. The cry that rose from his lips was long, shrill and significant in its insistance. It was finally stopped by Bradley being thrown to the ground, where he lay with the old sarcastic smile on his face.

"You've done it now!" Frank gritted. "You ought to be shot."

"You are none too good to commit a murder--to kill an unarmed and defenseless man."

"If you don't keep that twirler of yours reefed I'll tie it up!" Jimmie declared, with a threatening motion.

He might have gagged Bradley there and then only that Frank called his attention to the camp. The two men who had been seen inside were now hiding on the west side of the tent, and Teddy was coming up the slope from the corral. Oliver was nowhere to be seen, and the supposition was that he had been captured by the outlaws.

"We've got to tie this robber hand and foot and gag him!" Frank cried. "We've got to get down to the camp right away!"

"Perhaps," Bradley observed, with a provoking laugh, "you'll also tie and gag the men who are coming up the hill from the canyon."

The four men were now nearly half way up the slope from the cut, and having heard the cry, were making good time in the ascent. The situation looked anything but peaceful!

The boys were anxious and excited, and Bradley counted on this when he made the next move. The men on the west slope had of course heard his call, he reasoned, and were hastening up to his rescue.

Believing this, he took a desperate chance when he sprang away from the boys, dropped to the ground and went bumping over the broken slope, handcuffed as he was. Jimmie had his automatic out in a moment, but by that time Bradley was concealed by one of the boulders which lay on the declivity.

It was useless to try to recapture the fellow, for the men coming up the slope had seen something of what had taken place, and were now on the run wherever the nature of the ground permitted. Besides, they were already within shooting distance, and the boys would be directly under fire if they sought to bring Bradley back.

"It is a hopeless case!" Frank cried. "We can't get him!"

"The best thing we can do, then, is to get to the camp," Jimmie observed.

"Then duck low and cut away to the north!" Frank cried. "Perhaps we can make most of the distance under cover. Say," he added, as they moved along, northward on the slope toward the east, "did you ever see anything like that? That Bradley is some wise guy when it comes to a pinch!"

"He's daring!" Frank commented. "He will make us trouble yet!"

"I believe," Jimmie went on, "that he's the fellow that got into the attic over the clubroom of the Black Bear Patrol. When he was down on the ground, sitting looking over the country, I saw a scar on his head, a sharp cicatrice, three-cornered. You know how he got that?"

"The maid threw a large pair of shears at some one that night," Frank said. "You remember we found blood and a blonde hair on one of the blades."

"Just the sort of hair that gink carries on his dome!" Jimmie added.

The men coming up the west slope had not yet reached the summit, and the men below were still hiding behind the tent. Teddy was approaching the fire.

"They'll get the kid in a minute!" Jimmie said.

"I don't know about that," Frank replied. "He seems to me to be getting suspicious. Notice how he stops and looks around--probably looking for Oliver or Dode."

It was clear that the men waiting behind the tent were becoming impatient, for they moved along and made ready to spring upon the boy. Teddy, however, was not advancing.

Something about the tent had warned him that it was in the hands of the enemy. With a shout of warning to Oliver and Dode, if they chanced to be free and within hearing, he turned and dashed toward the corral.

While the two men were getting under way in pursuit, Frank and Jimmie came out on an easier slope and moved rapidly downward. Teddy was soon out of sight, and then the men turned back.

At that moment a shot came from the summit, and the boys turned to see the four men whom they had observed on the slope heading down for the camp.

"They've found Bradley, of course!" Frank said.

"Yes," answered Jimmie, "there's no use of playing double now, for they know that we are next to their game."

"Shall we rush for the camp?" asked Frank.

"Nothing doing," Jimmie answered. "We can't do a thing there, and we are under cover here! Bradley has, of course, told them that we are here, but they won't be able to find us for a long time. If they get too gay with the things at the camp we'll send a few bullets down. Looks like things were coming their way now, eh?" he added.

"We can't hold the top hand all the time," Frank grunted. "Ned will come along directly and even things up a little. I wish he was here now!"

The four men were now scrambling along the slope, looking for the two boys as they walked, slid and jumped down. The two men who were at the camp had turned back from the pursuit of Teddy at the sound of the shot, and were now awaiting the approach of their friends.

"I suppose they'll burn the tent and drive the mules off!" wailed Jimmie. "I'd like to have a machine gun up here a little while!"

"I reckon they won't!"

This from Frank as a shot came from the slope to the south. The men who were rushing from the camp paused and looked at each other.

While they waited, uncertain as to what they ought to do, another shot came, this time from the corral. Teddy was evidently getting into action!

"Just for luck!" Jimmie shouted.

He fired two shots as he spoke, and two more came from the south and one from the corral. The four men beckoned to their companions at the tent--if such they were--and made a break for the summit which they had just left.

"Whoo--pee!" shouted Jimmie. "Look at the racers!"

At sound of the voice one of the men turned and fired a shot at the rock against which the boy lay. It broke off a splinter but did no harm to the boys.

Frank left cover and ran up the slope.

"Come one!" he cried. "We'll get Bradley yet!"

Jimmie was not long in catching up with him. When they gained the summit the four men were losing no time in their journey to the canyon. They were on their feet only a part of the time.

The boys saw Bradley rise from a sheltering rock and start after them, but he fell in a moment. Handcuffed as he was, he could not keep pace with them. The fugitives paid no attention to his calls for assistance. It was every man for himself at that moment. Bradley sat hopelessly down to await the arrival of the boys.

Just as they gained the spot where he sat Ned and Jack came out of the jungle of broken rocks to the south and looked smilingly down at the prisoner.

"Good day!" laughed Jack.

Bradley forced a smile and turned away.

"You took that trick!" he said.

Jimmie stepped forward and put his fingers into the blonde hair of the captive.

"Where did you get this scar?" he asked, and Ned at once bent forward.

"I fell down and stepped on it!" Bradley answered, still smiling.

"I'll tell you how you got it," Jimmie went on. "You sneaked into a room in New York where you had no business to be and a girl threw a pair of shears at you!"

"That's a fine story!" snarled Bradley. "I never was in New York.

"Bring him along, boys," Ned said. "We'll go on down to camp and see what's been done to our tent and things by this man's friends."

When they once more came to the summit, Teddy was standing outside the tent with Oliver and Dode and the two outlaws were nowhere to be seen. After that Bradley complained at the rate of speed the boys insisted on.

"Your friends must have thought they had butted into an ambuscade!" Jimmie said to the captive. "Have they had much training in running? They bobbed along like professionals, it seemed to me."

"You'll see how fast they can run!" Bradley growled. "They'll go fast enough to send you all over the road."

"Now about this grandson," asked Ned, falling back. "Mrs. Brady wants to know where he is. No use for you to hide him, now that we all know he was disguised to look like the prince stolen from Washington. Why did you paint him if not to imitate this other boy we speak of?"

"I don't know anything about the boy," was the reply. "He was taken without my knowledge, and that is on the level. I was ordered to do the paint act."

They trudged on for some minutes in silence, and then Bradley asked:

"What is it about this prince you are always talking about? What is there about the prince? Where is he? Why is he supposed to be in this section?"

"You don't know a thing about him, do you?" asked Ned, laughing, "and yet you painted a boy to represent him?"

Bradley only scowled.

"When I find him," Ned continued, "I'll present him to you!"

When the boys reached the tent they found Oliver and Teddy mourning over the destruction of a large number of films and plates. Many pictures, developed and printed with great care, had also been torn or burned.

"Well," Jimmie declared, "they didn't get their hands on the films in my baby camera. I've got a few good ones left."

"Now, Jack," Ned said, "suppose you connect with Uncle Ike and make for the nearest telegraph office? Don't break your neck, and the neck of the mule, but get there as soon as you can. And get back as soon as you receive an answer."

"Why can't I go with him?" asked Jimmie. "I guess I want a mule ride."

"Go it, if you want to!" Ned laughed. "That will leave us one mule to run away on if things get too hot for us here!"