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.