BRADLEY'S SIGNAL VICTORY.
Bill Mosely started back as if he had seen a rattlesnake, and stared at Jake Bradley in mingled surprise and dismay.
"You didn't expect to see me, I reckon?" said Bradley, dryly.
Mosely still stared at him, uncertain what to say or what to do.
"I take it very kind of you to bring back the hosses you borrowed a few weeks since. You took 'em rather sudden, without askin' leave; it was a kind of oversight on your part."
"I don't know what you mean," answered Mosely, determined to brazen it out and keep the horses if possible, for he was lazy and a pedestrian tramp would not have suited him very well.
"You know what I mean well enough, Bill Mosely. If you don't, them mustangs outside may refresh your recollection. They look kinder fagged out. You've worked 'em too hard, Mosely."
"Those mustangs are ours. We bought 'em," said Mosely, boldly.--"Didn't we, Tom?"
"I should say so," remarked Hadley, with striking originality.
"That's a lie, Tom," remarked Bradley, calmly, "and you know it as well as I do."
"Are we goin' to stand that, Tom?" blustered Mosely, whose courage was beginning to revive, as he had thus far only seen Bradley, and considered that the odds were two to one in his favor. Of course the Chinaman counted for nothing.
Tom Hadley looked a little doubtful, for he could see that the enemy, though apparently single-handed, was a man of powerful frame and apparently fearless even to recklessness. He had a strong suspicion that Bill Mosely was a coward and would afford him very little assistance in the event of a scrimmage.
"If you can't stand it," said Bradley, "sit down, if you want to."
Thus far, Richard Dewey had remained silent, but he wished to participate in the defence of their property if there should be need, and of course must be released first.
"Jake," said he, "these fellows have tied me hand and foot. They couldn't have done it if I had not been partially disabled. Send in Ki Sing to cut the cords."
"They dared to tie you?" said Bradley, sternly.--"Mosely, what was that for?"
"To remove one obstacle in the way of plunder," Dewey answered for them.
"They're not only hoss-thieves, but thieves through and through. Since they tied you, they must untie you.--Mosely, go and cut the cords."
"I am not a slave to be ordered round," returned Mosely, haughtily.
"What are you, then?"
"Then you'll be a dead gentleman in less than a minute if you don't do as I tell you."
As he spoke he drew out his revolver and levelled it at Mosely.
The latter turned pale. "Don't handle that we'pon so careless, stranger," he said. "It might go off."
"So it might--as like as not," answered Bradley, calmly.
"Put it up," said Mosely, nervously.--"Tom, just cut them cords."
"Tom, you needn't do it.--Mosely, you're the man for that duty. Do you hear?"
Bill Mosely hesitated. He didn't like to yield and be humiliated before the man over whom he had retained so long an ascendency.
"You'd better be quick about it," said Bradley, warningly. "This here we'pon goes off terrible easily. I don't want to shoot you, but there might be an accident. I've killed twenty-one men with it already. You'll be the twenty-second."
That was hint enough. Pride gave way, and Bill Mosely knelt down and cut the cords which confined Dewey, and the invalid, with a sense of relief, sat up on his pallet and watched the conference.
"There! are you satisfied?" asked Mosely, sullenly.
"It'll do as far as it goes, Mosely," said Bradley. "I wouldn't advise you to try any more of them tricks."
He lowered his weapon, and was about to replace it, when Mosely, who had made a secret sign to his companion, sprang forward simultaneously with Tom Hadley and seized the intrepid Bradley.
The attack was sudden, and also unexpected, for Bradley had such a contempt for the prowess of William Mosely that he had not supposed him capable of planning or carrying out so bold an attack. It must be admitted that he was taken at disadvantage, and might have been temporarily overpowered, for Tom Hadley was strong, and Mosely, though a coward, was nerved by desperation.
Richard Dewey saw his friend's danger, but, unhappily, he had no weapon at hand.
But help was not long in coming.
Concealed by the walls of the cabin, Ben had heard all that had been said, and observed the attack upon his comrade.
He did not hesitate a moment, but sprang forward and showed himself at Bradley's side.
"Let him go, or I'll shoot," he exclaimed in a tone of command, pointing at Mosely the twin brother of the revolver which Bradley owned.
"Confusion!" ejaculated Mosely, in fresh dismay.
"Let go," repeated Ben, firmly.
Bill Mosely released Bradley, and the latter threw off the grasp of Tom Hadley.
"Now," said he, as standing side by side with Ben he confronted the two thieves, "shall we shoot?"
"No, no," said Mosely, nervously.
"Serve you right if we did. So you thought you'd got me, did you? You didn't know about Ben, there. He ain't half your size, but he's got twice the courage.--Ben, what shall we do with them?"
Bill Mosely turned toward Ben, anxious to hear what our hero would say. He was entirely in the power of the two friends, as he realized.
"Serve them as they served Ki Sing," suggested Ben.
"That's a good idea, that is!--Here, you two rascals, trot out here."
Following directions, the two men emerged from the cabin and stood on one side of the doorway, feeling that they would gladly be in some other part of California at that precise moment.
"Mosely, do you see that tree?"
"Go to it."
Bill Mosely slowly and unwillingly proceeded to do as he was told.
"Ki Sing," said Jake Bradley to the Chinaman, who was standing near at hand, his face wearing a bland and contented smile, "have you any cord in your pocket?"
"Yes," answered the Celestial.
"Tie that man to the tree."
Ki Sing approached to follow instructions, when Bill Mosely shouted, "I'll brain you, you yaller heathen, if you dare to touch me!"
"Just as you say, squire," said Bradley, nonchalantly raising his revolver; "if you'd prefer to be shot I'm a very accommodatin' man, and I'll oblige you. I guess it'll be better, as we'll save all trouble."
"Stop! stop!" cried Mosely, in dismay. "He can tie me."
"You've changed your mind. I thought you would," said Bradley.--"Ki Sing, go ahead."
With native dexterity, and not without a feeling of satisfaction easily understood under the circumstances, Ki Sing proceeded to tie his former captor, but present captive, to a stout sapling.
"Is it strong?" asked Bradley.
"Velly stlong," answered the Chinaman, with a satisfied look.
"That's good.--Now, Tom, it's your turn. There's your tree! Annex yourself to it."
Tom Hadley saw the futility of resistance, and quietly allowed himself to be confined in the same manner as his companion.
When both were thus disposed of Jake Bradley turned to the Chinaman:
"Now, Ki Sing, let us have some supper as soon as possible. We've been doin' considerable business, Ben and I, and we're as hungry as bears.--Good-night, Mosely. Hope you'll have a good night's rest!"
"You are not going to leave us here all night, are you?" said Bill Mosely, uneasily.
"That's just what I'm goin' to do. I'll let you go in the mornin' if you behave yourself. Still, if you'd rather be shot I can accommodate you."
"What a bloodthirsty brute!" ejaculated the unhappy Mosely as Bradley disappeared within the doorway.
"I should say so!" echoed Tom Hadley from the other tree.
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