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   Chapter 2 GONE.

Frank Merriwell Down South By Burt L. Standish Characters: 8999

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

"Bandits!" cried Jack Burk. "It may be Pacheco!"

"Pacheco?" questioned Frank.

"Pacheco, the human hawk! He haunts the mountains and the desert. He pursued us across the desert, but we escaped him. I have been in hiding here to avoid him. He believes we brought much treasure from the mountains."

The professor had leaped to the door, and was looking away on the plain. Now he cried, excitedly:

"Look here! A band of horsemen pursuing a white man-plainly an American. Look, he is shooting again!"

Once more the shots were heard.

Frank ran to the door, catching up a rifle that had been leaning against the wall of the hut, for he knew he was in a "bad man's land."

"Stand aside!" he shouted, forcing his way past the professor. "No countryman of mine can be in danger that I do not try to give him a helping hand."

"What do you mean to do?"

"Get a crack at those Greasers."

"You are crazy! You will bring the entire band down on us!"

"Let 'em come! One Yankee is good for six Greasers."

Past the hut at a distance a single horseman was riding, hotly spurring the animal which bore him. At least a dozen dark-faced, fierce-looking ruffians, mounted on hardy little ponies, were in pursuit.

As Professor Scotch had said, the fugitive was plainly an American, a native of the United States. He had turned in the saddle to send bullets whistling back at his pursuers.

Frank ran out and dropped on one knee. The professor followed him, and Hans came from the hut.

Just as Frank lifted the rifle to his shoulder and was on the point of shooting, the voice of Jack Burk sounded from the doorway, to which he had dragged himself:

"It is Bushnell, my partner! Al! Al! Al Bushnell!"

His voice was faint and weak, and it did not reach the ears of the man out on the plain.

Then Frank began shooting, and his first bullet brought down one of the ponies of the pursuers, sending a bandit rolling over and over in the dust, to leap up like a cat, and spring behind a comrade on the back of another pony.

"Dot peen britty goot, Vrankie," complimented Hans Dunnerwust.

Again and again Frank fired, and the bandits quickly swerved away from the hut, feeling their ponies sway or fall beneath them.

In an astonishingly brief space of time the course of pursuit was deflected, giving the fugitive a chance to get away into Mendoza, which lay at a distance of about three miles from the hut.

The man in flight heard the shots, saw the figures in front of the hut, and waved his hand to them.

The professor excitedly beckoned for Bushnell to come to the hut, but the horseman did not seem to understand, and he kept straight on toward the town.

"Confound him!" exploded the professor. "Why didn't he come?"

"He don'd like a trap to run into," said Hans.

"But there is no trap here."

"How he known dot?"

"Well, I don't know as I blame him. Of course he could not be sure it was not a trap, and so he was cautious."

Frank was calmly refilling the magazine of the rifle with fresh cartridges.

"Why you didn't shoot some uf der pandits deat, Vrankie?" asked Hans.

"I do not wish to shed human blood if I can avoid it."

"You don't done dot uf you shoot six or elefen uf dose togs."

"Oh, they are human beings."

"Don't you belief me? Dey vos volves-kiotes."

"Well, I did not care to shoot them if I could aid the man in any other way, and I succeeded. See, they have given up the pursuit, and the fugitive is far away in that little cloud of dust."


"Yes, professor."

"We should follow him, and bring him back to his dying partner."

"And leave Jack Burk here alone-possibly to die alone?"

"We can't do that."

"Of course not."

"What then?"

"We'll have to consider the matter. But Burk-- Look-see there, professor! He is flat on his face in the doorway! He fell like that after trying to shout to his partner."

Frank leaped forward, and turned the man on his back. It was a drawn, ghastly face that the trio gazed down upon.

Professor Scotch quickly knelt beside the motionless form, feeling for the pulse, and then shaking his head gravely.

"What is it?" anxiously asked Frank. "Has he--"

He was silent at a motion from the professor, who bent to listen for some movement of the man's heart.

After a few seconds, Professor Scotch straightened up, and solemnly declared:

"This is the end for him. We can do nothing more."

"He is dead?"


There was an awed hush.

"Now we can leave him," the professor finally said. "Pacheco, the bandit, cannot harm him now."

They lifted the body and bore it back to the wretched bed of straw, on which they tenderly placed it.

"The idol-the golden image?" said the professor. "You must not forget that, Frank. You have it?"

"Little danger that I shall forget it. It is here, where it fell from my fingers as I ran out."

He picked up the image, and placed it in one of his pockets.

Then, having covered the face of Jack Burk with his handkerchief, Frank led the way from the hut.

Their horses had been tethered near at hand, and they were soon mounted and riding away toward Mendoza.

The sun beat down hotly on the plain of white sand, and the sky was of a bright blue, such as Frank had never seen elsewhere.

Outside Mendoza was a narrow canal, but a few feet in width, and half filled with water, from which rose little whiffs of hot steam.

Along the side of the canal was a staggering rude stone wall, fringed with bushes in strips and clumps.

Beyond the canal, which fixed the boundary of the plain of sand, through vistas of tree trunks, could be seen glimpses of brown fields, fading away into pale pink, violet, and green.

The dome and towers of a church rose against the dim blue; low down, and on every side were spots of cream-white, red, and yellow, with patches of dark green intervening, revealing bits of the town, with orange groves all about.

Across the fields ran a road that was ankle deep with dust, and along the road a string of burros, loaded with great bundles of green fodder, were crawling into the town.

An undulating mass of yellow dust finally revealed itself as a drove of sheep, urged along by peons, appeared.

Groups of natives were strolling in both directions, seeking the shadows along the canal. The women were in straw hats, with their black hair plaited, and little children strung to their backs; the men wore serapes and sandals, and smoked cigarettes.

Along the side of the canal were scattered scores of natives of all ages and both sexes, lolling beneath the bushes or soaking their bodies in the water, while their heads rested on the ground.

Those stretched in the shadow of the bushes had taken their bath, and were waiting for their bodies to dry, covered simply by serapes.

From beneath such a covering dark-eyed native girls stared curiously at the passing trio, causing Hans no small amount of confusion.

"I say, Vrankie," said the Dutch boy, "vot you dinks apoudt dot pusiness uf dakin' a path in bublic mit der roadt beside?"

"It seems to be the custom of the country," smiled Frank; "and they do not seem to think it at all improper."

"Vell, somepody better toldt dem to stob id. Id keeps mein plood mein face in so much dot I shall look like you hat peen drinking."

"They think nothing of it," explained the professor. "You will notice with what deftness they disrobe, slipping out of their clothes and into the water without exposing much more than a bare toe."

"Oxcuse you!" fluttered Hans. "I don'd like to took mein chances py looking. Somepody mighd make a misdake."

The sun was low down as they rode into the town.

"We have no time to lose," said Frank. "We must move lively, if we mean to return to the hut before nightfall."

"That's right," nodded Professor Scotch.

They were successful in finding a native undertaker, but the fellow was very lazy, and he did not want to do anything till the next day.

"To-morrow, se?ors, to-morrow," he said.

That did not satisfy, however, and he was soon aroused by the sight of money. Learning where the corpse was, he procured a cart and a burro, and they again set out along the road.

They found whole families soaking in groups in the canal, sousing their babies in the water, and draining them on the bank.

Young Indian girls in groups were combing out their hair and chatting merrily among themselves and with friends in the water.

"Dere oughter peen some law for dot," muttered Hans.

Leaving the canal, they set out upon the sand-plain, the undertaker's burro crawling along at an aggravating pace, its master refusing to whip it up, despite urging.

The sun had set, and darkness was settling in a blue haze on the plain when the hut was reached.

Frank lighted a pocket lamp he always carried, and entered.

A cry of astonishment broke from his lips.

"Professor! professor!" he called; "the body is gone!"

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