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Chapter 38 Within the "Pocket"

  • The remainder of that day and the following night were spent in fruitles_fforts to determine the whereabouts of the fugitive. Telegrams were sen_long the various railway lines into every part of the State; messengers wer_espatched to neighboring towns and camps, but all in vain. For the firs_hirty-six hours it seemed as though the earth must have opened and swallowe_im up; there was not even a clue as to the direction in which he had gone.
  • The second morning after his disappearance reports began to come in from _ozen different quarters of as many different men, all answering th_escription given of the fugitive, who had been identified as the criminal.
  • Four or five posses, averaging a dozen men each, all armed, set forth i_arious directions to follow the clews which seemed most worthy of credence.
  • For the next few days reports were constantly received from one posse o_nother, to the effect that they were on the right trail, the fugitive ha_een seen only the preceding night at a miners' cabin where he had forced tw_en at the point of a revolver to surrender their supper of pork and beans; o_ome lonely ranchman and his wife had entertained him at dinner the da_efore. He was always reported as only about ten hours ahead, footsore an_eary, but at the end of ten days they returned, disorganized, dilapidated, and disgusted, without even having had a sight of their man.
  • Other bands were sent out with instructions to separate into squads of thre_r four and search the ground thoroughly. Some of them were more successful, in that they did, occasionally, get sight of the fugitive, but always unde_ircumstances disadvantageous to themselves. Three of them stood one da_alking with a rancher, who only two hours before had furnished the man, unde_rotest, with a hearty dinner and a fine rifle. The rancher pointed out th_irection in which he had gone, over a rocky road leading down a steep, roug_avine; as he did so, his guest appeared on the other side of the ravine, within good rifle range. A mutual recognition followed; the men started t_aise their rifles, but the other was too quick for them. Covering them wit_he rifle which he carried, he walked backward a distance of about forty yard_nd then, with a mocking salute, disappeared. Bloodhounds were next employed, but the man swam and waded streams and doubled back on his own trail till me_nd dogs were alike baffled. This continued for about two months; then al_eports regarding the man ceased; nothing was heard of him, it was surmise_hat he had reached the "Pocket," and all efforts at further search were fo_he time abandoned.
  • Of all those concerned in the efforts for his capture there was not one mor_horoughly disgusted with the outcome than Mr. Britton. For months he had ha_his man under surveillance, convinced that he was a criminal and planning t_ring about his capture. Through his own efforts he had been identified, an_y his coolness and presence of mind he had accomplished his arrest when nin_ut of ten others would have failed, and all seemed now to have been effor_hrown away. He regretted the man's escape the more especially as he felt tha_is own life, as well as that of his son, was endangered so long as he was a_iberty.
  • About a month after the search was abandoned Mr. Britton was one day surprise_y a call from the wife of Martinez. He had not seen her since his on_nterview with her months before.
  • He was sitting in Mr. Underwood's office, looking over the books brought i_or his inspection, when she entered, alone and unannounced.
  • She seated herself in the chair indicated by Mr. Britton and proceeded at onc_o the object of her visit.
  • "Señor, you told me when I last saw you that my secret would one day come out.
  • You were right; it has. It is my secret no longer and José Martinez fears m_o longer. You have been kind to me. You saved his life once; you fed me whe_ was hungry and asked no return. I will show you I do not forget. Señor, there is twenty-five thousand dollars reward for that man. The officers wil_ever find him; but I will take you to him, the reward is then yours, an_ustice overtakes José Martinez, as you said it would. Do you accept?"
  • "Do you know where he is?" Mr. Britton queried, somewhat surprised by th_oman's proposition.
  • "Yes, Señor; I have just come from there."
  • "He is in the Pocket, is he not?"
  • "Yes, Señor, but neither you nor your men could find the Pocket without _uide. I know it well; I have lived there."
  • "What is your proposition?" Mr. Britton inquired, after a brief silence; "ho_o you propose to do this?"
  • "I will start to-morrow for the Pocket. You come with me and bring the dogs. _ill take you to a cabin where you can stay over night while I go on alone t_he Pocket to see that all is right. I will leave you my veil for a scent. Th_ext morning you will set the dogs on my trail and follow them till you com_o a certain place I will tell you of. From there you will see me; I wil_atch for you and give you the signal that all is right. The dogs will brin_ou to the Pocket in half an hour. The rest will be easy work, Señor, _romise you."
  • "But isn't the place constantly guarded?"
  • "Not now, Señor; the men have gone away on another expedition, but José doe_ot dare go out with them at present. Only one man is there beside José; _now him well; he will be asleep when you come."
  • "I shall need men with me to help in bringing him back," said Mr. Britton.
  • "Bring them, but I think he will give you little trouble, Señor."
  • As Mr. Britton cared nothing for the reward himself, he chose five men t_ccompany him to whom he thought the money would be particularly acceptable, and the following morning, with two blood-hounds, they started forth in thre_eparate detachments to attract as little attention as possible. The firs_art of their journey was by rail, the men taking the same train as the woma_erself. On their arrival at the little station which she had designated, conveyances, for which Mr. Britton had privately wired a personal frien_iving in that vicinity, were waiting to take them to their next stopping- place.
  • They reached the cabin of which the woman had spoken, late in the afternoon.
  • Here they picketed their horses and prepared to stay over night, while sh_ent on to the Pocket. Before leaving she gave Mr. Britton the lace scar_hich she wore about her head.
  • "I shall not go in there until night," she said; "then I can watch and find i_ll is right. You start early to-morrow morning on foot. Set the dogs on m_rail and follow them to the fork; then turn to the left and follow them til_ou come to a small tree standing in the trail, on which I will tie thi_andkerchief. Straight ahead of you you will see the entrance to the Pocket.
  • Wait by the tree till you see my signal. If everything is right I will wave _hite signal. If I wave a black signal, wait till you see the white one, o_ill I come to you."
  • Early the next morning Mr. Britton and his men set forth with the hounds i_eash, leaving the horses in charge of their drivers. The dogs took the scen_t once and started up the trail, the men following. They found it no eas_ask they had undertaken; the trail was rough and steep and in many places s_arrow they were forced to go in single file. Some of the men, in order to b_repared for emergencies, were heavily armed, and progress was necessaril_low, but at last the fork was passed, and then the time seemed comparativel_hort ere a small tree confronted them, a white handkerchief fluttering amon_ts branches.
  • They paused and drew back the hounds, then looked about them. Less than te_eet ahead the trail ended. The rocks looked as though they had been cut i_wo, the half on which they were standing falling perpendicularly a distanc_f some eighty feet, while across a rocky ravine some forty feet in width, th_ther half rose, an almost perpendicular wall eighty or ninety feet in height.
  • In this massive wall of rock there was one opening visible, resembling _ateway, and while the men speculated as to what it might be, the woma_ppeared, waving a white handkerchief, and they knew it to be the entrance t_he Pocket.
  • "She evidently expects us to come over there," said one of the men, "bu_lamed if I can see a trail wide enough for a cat!"
  • "Send the dogs ahead!" ordered Mr. Britton.
  • The dogs on taking the scent plunged downward through the brush on one side, bringing them out into a narrow trail leading down and across the ravine. Jus_bove, on the other side, they could see the woman watching their every move.
  • "I've always heard," said one of the men, "there was no getting into thi_lace without you had a special invitation, and it looks like it. Just imagin_ne of those fellows up there with a gun! Holy Moses! he'd hold the plac_gainst all the men the State, or the United States, for that matter, coul_end down here!"
  • The ascent of the other side was difficult, but the men put forth their bes_fforts, and ere they were aware found themselves before the gateway in th_ocks, where the woman still awaited them. She silently beckoned them t_nter.
  • Emerging from a narrow pass some six feet in length, they found themselves i_ circular basin, about two hundred feet in diameter, surrounded b_erpendicular walls of rock from one hundred to five hundred feet in height.
  • The bottom of the basin was level as a floor and covered with a luxurian_rowth of grass, while in the centre a small lake, clear as crystal, reflecting the blue sky which seemed to rise like a dome from the rocky walls, gleamed like a sapphire in the sunlight. Sheer and dark the walls rose on al_ides, but at one end of the basin, where the rocks were more rough an_agged, a silver stream fell in glistening cascades to the bottom, where i_isappeared among the rocks.
  • For a moment the men, lost in admiration of the scene, forgot that they wer_n the den of a notorious band of outlaws, but a second glance recalled the_o the situation, for on all sides of the basin were caves leading into th_alls of rock, and evidently used as dwellings.
  • To one of these the woman now led the way. At the entrance a man lay on th_round, his heavy stertorous breathing proclaiming him a victim of som_leeping potion. The woman regarded him with a smile of amusement.
  • "I made him sleep, Señor," she said, addressing Mr. Britton, "so he will no_rouble you."
  • Still leading the way into the farther part of the cave, she came to a lo_ouch of skins at the foot of which she paused. Pointing to the figur_utlined upon it, she said, calmly,—
  • "He sleeps also, Señor, but sound; so sound you will need have no fear o_aking him!"
  • Her words aroused a strange suspicion in Mr. Britton's mind. The light was s_im he could not see the sleeper, but a lantern, burning low, hung on the wal_bove his head. Seizing the lantern, he turned on the light, holding it so i_ould strike the face of the sleeper. It was the face of José Martinez, bu_he features were drawn and ghastly. He bent lower, listening for his breath, but no sound came; he laid his hand upon his heart, but it was still.
  • Raising himself quickly, he threw the rays of the lantern full upon the woma_tanding before him, a small crucifix clasped in her hands. Under hi_earching gaze her face grew pale and ghastly as that upon the couch.
  • "You have killed him!" he said, slowly, with terrible emphasis.
  • She made the sign of the cross. "Holy Mother, forgive!" she muttered; then, though she still quailed beneath his look, she exclaimed, half defiantly, "_ave not wronged you; you have your reward, and justice has overtaken him, a_ou said it would!"
  • "That is not justice," said Mr. Britton, pointing to the couch; "it is murder, and you are his murderer. You should have let the law take its course."
  • "The law!" she laughed, mockingly; "would your law avenge my father's death, or the wrongs I have suffered? No! My father had no son to avenge him, I ha_o brother, but I have avenged him and myself. I have followed him all thes_ears, waiting till the right time should come, waiting for this, dreaming o_t night and day! I have had my revenge, and it was sweet! I did not kill hi_n his sleep, Señor; I wakened him, just to let him know he was in my power, just to hear him plead for mercy——"
  • "Hush!" said Mr. Britton, firmly, for the woman seemed to have gone mad. "Yo_o not know what you are saying. You must get ready to return with me."
  • She grew calm at once and her face lighted with a strange smile.
  • "I am ready to go with you, Señor," she said, at the same time clasping th_rucifix suddenly to her breast.
  • With the last word she fell to the ground and a slight tremor shook her fram_or an instant. Quickly Mr. Britton lifted her and bore her to the light, bu_ife was already extinct. Within her clasped hands, underneath the crucifix, they found the little poisoned stiletto.