Boys of the Fort/18

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Boys of the Fort by Ralph Bonehill
Chapter XVIII: Benson Puts Some Men in a Hole

CHAPTER XVIII.


BENSON PUTS SOME MEN IN A HOLE.


The man whom old Benson had attacked was taken completely by surprise, and he went to the ground easily. But, once down, he struggled fiercely to release himself, and at the same time did his best to cry out for assistance.

"Silence!" commanded the scout in a whisper. "If you yell, it will go hard with you."

The desperado now saw who had attacked him, and his face changed color. But he continued to struggle, and was on the point of breaking away when the old scout hit him a heavy blow on the ear, which bowled him over and rendered him partly unconscious.

"Hi! did you call?" came from the other man who had been smoking.

Old Benson looked at the man before him, and saw that the fellow would be unable to do any thing for several minutes to come.

"Yes," he answered, in a rough voice. "Here's something funny to look at. Come quick."

At once the second man leaped up, and without stopping to pick up his rifle came to the spring. Old Benson quickly stepped behind a bush, out of sight.

"Hullo, Riley, what's the trouble?" cried the second man when he beheld his prostrate companion.

He bent over Riley, and while he was making an examination old Benson came behind him and threw him as he had thrown the first desperado.

But the second man was "game," and the struggle lasted for several minutes. At one time it looked as if the old scout would get the worst of the encounter, but in the end he triumphed and the rascal was disarmed.

All the time the struggle was going on Benson had been afraid the third man would rouse up, especially as the second called several times for help. But the rascal had now fallen into a heavy sleep, and heard nothing.

What to do with the two desperadoes before him the old scout did not know, until he suddenly thought of a big cave-like hole he had discovered that very morning, while hunting for buffalo tracks. The hole was fifteen to twenty feet in diameter and twice as deep, and once at the bottom he felt certain the desperadoes would have considerable trouble in getting to the top.

"Come with me," he said to the second fellow. "And no monkey shines, if you know when you are well off."

"Wot yer goin to do wid me?" growled the desperado.

"You'll see. Your blood is so hot it needs cooling off," answered the old scout.

He forced the man along, and soon the big hole was reached. Much against his will, the rascal was forced to drop to the bottom.

"Now, if you try to climb up I ll shoot you," said Benson, and ran back swiftly to where the second rascal was just getting out of his unconscious state.

Before the other desperado could realize what was coming he, too, was down in the big hole. Old Benson made certain that each of the men was relieved of all his weapons.

"Now, I'm going to keep watch on you," he said, as a warning. "Be careful of what you try to do."

"Don't leave us here!" pleaded Riley. "A buffalo or a bear might fall in on us."

"You've got to take your chances on that," answered Benson.

The next movement of the old scout was to go back to where the third man was sleeping. It was an easy matter to secure all the weapons belonging to this fellow. Then Benson procured a rope from their outfit, and bound his feet together and then his hands. During the latter operation the rascal awoke.

"Wot yer doin'?" he demanded sleepily, and then, seeing the old scout, stared in open-mouthed astonishment. "Let go o' me! Wot did yer tie me up fer?"

"You keep quiet," said Benson, with a broad smile over the trick he had played.

"Whar's Riley an Nason?"

"Not far off."

"Did they go ter sleep too?"

"You can ask them when you see them, Anderson."

"So you know me, do yer?"

"I do, and I haven t forgotten that affair at Mountain Meadow," went on old Benson, referring to a shooting in which Anderson had been the guilty party.

At these words the desperado winced.

"Well, now ye have got me fast, wot yer goin' to do with me?" he questioned.

"I'm going to ask you a few questions, Anderson, and I want you to answer me straight, too. If I learn you've given it to me crooked, I'll fix you for it, remember that."

"Wot do yer want to know?"

"Where are Gilroy and the rest of your crowd stopping?"

"Wot do yer want to know that fur?"

"Answer the question—and tell me the truth," and old Benson looked sternly at his prisoner.

"At a cave near Bald Top," returned Anderson sulkily. "But I don't know how long they were goin ter stay there."

"Where were they going to take Captain Moore?"

This question came as a surprise to the desperado.

"Wot do yer know about dat?" he cried.

"Answer the question."

"Goin' ter take him to dat same cave, first."

"And then?"

"Dey was bound fer Lone Creek, up to where old Cimber onct had a claim."

You are telling me the truth? Remember, if you put me on the wrong trail—"

"It's the truth, Benson. But, say, don't be rough on me. I aint such a bad egg. Dat shootin—"

"I know all about you, Anderson. Now come with me."

Reaching down, the old scout untied the rascal's feet, that he might walk, and then forced Anderson to journey to the big hole.

Here they found the other two desperadoes sitting at the bottom, growling over their luck and speculating upon what old Benson intended to do next.

"If you leave us here we'll die of hunger and thirst," said one.

"No, you won't," answered the old scout. "You've got your hands to work with, and if you aint lazy you can dig your way to the top inside of twenty-four hours."

"And our hosses?"

"I'll take care of them, Riley. If you want 'em again you can get 'em by applying at the fort."

"At the fort!"

"Exactly, and in the meantime we'll keep them in exchange for the animals Matt Gilroy stole, when I and my friends were stopping at Hank Leeson's cabin."

With the desperadoes safe for the time being at the bottom of the hole, old Benson set off without delay for the cave near Bald Top Mountain, as it was called for years by Rocky Mountain pioneers. He rode his own horse, leading the others by his lariat, which he always carried with him.

He fully realized that there was danger ahead, and that if he wanted to assist his friends he must move with caution. He knew that Captain Moore had been made a prisoner, but whether or not Joe and Darry had been captured also was still a question.

Coming in sight of the spot where the cave was located, he dismounted and tied all the horses in the woods at the foot of a slope. Then he crawled forward until he was within a hundred feet of the entrance to the cave.

He was just in time to see Fetter depart on his mission. The desperado passed within fifty yards of where the horses were stationed, and for several minutes Benson was fearful that the animals would be discovered. But Fetter was looking in another direction, and so saw nothing of the steeds.

As darkness had come on, the desperadoes had lit a camp-fire near the entrance to the cave.

Two men still remained on guard. The others took it easy, and did very much as they pleased. All waited for Riley and the others to return with Fetter, bringing in old Benson as a prisoner.

As the scout heard the talk about himself he chuckled grimly and grasped his rifle tighter than ever.

"Reckon you d be surprised to know I was so close," he muttered. "Well, if it comes to a mix-up, I'll try to hold up my end, just you see if I don't!"