Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XXXV
This was the letter that was handed to Caesar:
I have received your note. I must have time to think, and time perhaps to get hold of the gold. Don't harm a hair of the boy's head. If so, I will hunt you to death.
P.S.--Meet me tomorrow morning at the rocky gorge at the foot of Black Mountain. Ten o'clock.
Caesar took the letter, and bent his steps in the direction of the place where he had tethered his horse. He did not observe that he was followed by two men, who carefully kept him in sight, without attracting attention to themselves.
When Caesar reached the place where he had tethered the horse, he was grievously disappointed at not finding him. One of the miners in roaming about had come upon the animal, and knowing him to be Jefferson Pettigrew's property, untied him and rode him back to Oreville.
The dwarf threw up his hands in dismay.
"The horse is gone!" he said in his deep bass voice, "and now I must walk back, ten long miles, and get a flogging at the end for losing time. It's hard luck," he groaned.
The loss was fortunate for Fred and Otto who would otherwise have found it hard to keep up with the dwarf.
Caesar breathed a deep sigh, and then started on his wearisome journey. Had the ground been even it would have troubled him less, but there was a steep upward grade, and his short legs were soon weary. Not so with his pursuers, both of whom were long limbed and athletic.
We will go back now to the cave and the captors of Rodney. They waited long and impatiently for the return of their messenger. Having no knowledge of the loss of the horse, they could not understand what detained Caesar.
"Do you think the rascal has played us false?" said Roderick.
"He would be afraid to."
"This man Pettigrew might try to bribe him. It would be cheaper than to pay five thousand dollars."
"He wouldn't dare. He knows what would happen to him," said John grimly.
"Then why should he be so long?"
"That I can't tell."
"Suppose we go out to meet him. I begin to feel anxious lest we have trusted him too far."
"I am with you!"
The two outlaws took the path which led to Oreville, and walked two miles before they discovered Caesar coming towards them at a slow and melancholy gait.
"There he is, and on foot! What does it mean?"
"He will tell us."
"Here now, you black imp! where is the horse?" demanded Roderick.
"I done lost him, massa."
"Lost him? You'll get a flogging for this, unless you bring good news. Did you see Jefferson Pettigrew?"
"Did he give you any money?"
"No; he gave me this letter."
Roderick snatched it from his hand, and showed it to John.
"It seems satisfactory," he said. "Now how did you lose the horse?"
Caesar told him.
"You didn't fasten him tight."
"Beg your pardon, massa, but I took good care of that."
"Well, he's gone; was probably stolen. That is unfortunate; however you may not have been to blame."
Luckily for Caesar the letter which he brought was considered satisfactory, and this palliated his fault in losing the horse.
The country was so uneven that the two outlaws did not observe that they were followed, until they came to the entrance of the cave. Then, before opening the door, John looked round and caught sight of Fred and Otto eying them from a little distance.
He instantly took alarm.
"Look," he said, "we are followed. Look behind you!"
His brother turned and came to the same conclusion.
"Caesar," said Roderick, "did you ever see those men before?"
"They must have followed you from Oreville. Hello, you two!" he added striding towards the miners. "What do you want here?"
Fred and Otto had accomplished their object in ascertaining the place where Rodney was confined, and no longer cared for concealment.
"None of your business!" retorted Fred independently. "The place is as free to us as to you."
"Are you spies?"
"I don't intend to answer any of your questions."
"Clear out of here!" commanded Roderick in a tone of authority.
"Suppose we don't?"
Roderick was a man of quick temper, and had never been in the habit of curbing it. He was provoked by the independent tone of the speaker, and without pausing to think of the imprudence of his actions, he raised his rifle and pointing at Fred shot him in the left arm.
The two miners were both armed, and were not slow in accepting the challenge. Simultaneously they raised their rifles and fired at the two men. The result was that both fell seriously wounded and Caesar set up a howl of dismay, not so much for his masters as from alarm for himself.
Fred and Otto came forward, and stood looking down upon the outlaws, who were in the agonies of death.
"It was our lives or theirs," said Fred coolly, for he had been long enough in Montana to become used to scenes of bloodshed.
"Yes," answered Otto. "I think these two men are the notorious Dixon brothers who are credited with a large number of murders. The country will be well rid of them."
Roderick turned his glazing eyes upon the tall miner. "I wish I had killed you," he muttered.
"No doubt you do. It wouldn't have been your first murder."
"Don't kill me, massa!" pleaded Caesar in tones of piteous entreaty.
"I don't know," answered Fred. "That depends on yourself. If you obey us strictly we will spare you."
"Try me, massa!"
"You black hound!" said Roderick hoarsely. "If I were not disabled I'd kill you myself."
Here was a new danger for poor Caesar, for he knew Roderick's fierce temper.
"Don't let him kill me!" he exclaimed, affrighted.
"He shall do you no harm. Will you obey me?"
"Tell me what you want, massa."
"Is the boy these men captured inside?"
"Open the cave, then. We want him."
"Don't do it," said Roderick, but Caesar saw at a glance that his old master, of whom he stood in wholesome fear, was unable to harm him, and he proceeded to unlock the door.
"Go and call the boy!" said Fred.
Caesar disappeared within the cavern, and soon emerged with Rodney following him.
"Are you unhurt?" asked Fred anxiously.
"Yes, and overjoyed to see you. How came you here?"
"We followed the nigger from Oreville."
What happened afterwards Rodney did not need to inquire, for the two outstretched figures, stiffening in death, revealed it to him.
"They are the Dixon brothers, are they not?" asked Fred, turning to Caesar.
"Then we are entitled to a thousand dollars each for their capture. I have never before shed blood, but I don't regret ending the career of these scoundrels."
Half an hour later the two outlaws were dead and Rodney and his friends were on their way back to Oreville.