Text - "Twice Bought" R.M. Ballantyne

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A brown bear, either enjoying his morning walk or on the look-out for
breakfast, suddenly met him face to face, and stood up on its hind legs
as if to have a good look at him.

Tom was no coward; indeed he was gifted with more than an average amount
of animal courage. He at once levelled his rifle at the creature's
breast and fired. The bear rushed at him, nevertheless, as if
uninjured. Drawing his revolver, Tom discharged two shots before the
monster reached him. All three shots had taken effect but bears are
noted for tenacity of life, and are frequently able to fight a furious
battle after being mortally wounded. The rifle ball had touched its
heart, and the revolver bullets had gone deep into its chest, yet it
showed little sign of having been hurt.

Knowing full well the fate that awaited him if he stood to wrestle with
a bear, the youth turned to run, but the bear was too quick for him. It
struck him on the back and felled him to the earth.

Strange to say, at that moment Tom Brixton's ill-gotten gains stood him
in good stead. There can be no question that the bear's tremendous
claws would have sunk deep into the youth's back, and probably broken
his spine, if they had not been arrested by the bag of gold which was
slung at his back. Although knocked down and slightly stunned, Brixton
was still unwounded, and, even in the act of falling, had presence of
mind to draw his long knife and plunge it up to the haft in the
creature's side, at the same time twisting himself violently round so as
to fall on his back and thus face the foe.

In this position, partly owing to the form of the ground, the bear found
it difficult to grasp its opponent in its awful embrace, but it held him
with its claws and seized his left shoulder with its teeth. This
rendered the use of the revolver impossible, but fortunately Brixton's
right arm was still free, and he drove the keen knife a second time deep
into the animal's sides. Whether mortal or not, the wound did not
immediately kill. Tom felt that his hour was come, and a deadly fear
came over him as the thought of death, his recent life, and judgment,
flashed through his brain. He drew out the knife, however, to make
another desperate thrust. The bear's great throat was close over his
face. He thought of its jugular vein, and made a deadly thrust at the
spot where he imagined that to run.

Instantly a flood of warm blood deluged his face and breast; at the same
time he felt as if some dreadful weight were pressing him to death.
Then consciousness forsook him.

While this desperate fight was going on, the miners of Pine Tree camp
were scouring the woods in all directions in search of the fugitive. As
we have said, great indignation was felt at that time against thieves,
because some of them had become very daring, and cases of theft were
multiplying. Severe penalties had been imposed on the culprits by the
rest of the community without curing the evil. At last death was
decided on as the penalty for any act of theft, however trifling it
might be. That these men were in earnest was proved by the summary
execution of the next two offenders who were caught. Immediately after
that thieving came to an abrupt end, insomuch that if you had left a bag
of gold on an exposed place, men would have gone out of their way to
avoid it!

One can understand, therefore, the indignation that was roused in the
camp when Tom Brixton revived the practice in such a cool and impudent
manner. It was felt that, despite his being a favourite with many of
the diggers, he must be made an example. Pursuit was, therefore,
organised on an extensive scale and in a methodical manner. Among
others, his friend Fred Westly took part in it.

It cost those diggers something thus to give up the exciting work of
gold-finding for a chase that promised to occupy time and tax
perseverance. Some of them even refused to join in it, but on the whole
the desire for vengeance seemed general.

Bully Gashford, as he did not object to be called, was, in virtue of his
size, energy, and desperate character, tacitly appointed leader. Indeed
he would have assumed that position if it had not been accorded to him,
for he was made of that stuff which produces either heroes of the
highest type or scoundrels of the deepest dye. He arranged that the
pursuers should proceed in a body to the mouth of the valley, and there,
dividing into several parties, scatter themselves abroad until they
should find the thief's trail and then follow it up. As the miners were
not much accustomed to following trails, they engaged the services of
several Indians who chanced to be at the camp at that time.

"What direction d'ye think it's likely your precious chum has taken?"
asked Gashford, turning abruptly to Fred Westly when the different
parties were about to start.

"It is impossible for me to tell."

"I know that," retorted Gashford, with a scowl and something of a sneer,
"but it ain't impossible for you to guess. However, it will do as well
if you tell me which party you intend to join."

"I shall join that which goes to the south-west," replied Westly.

"Well, then, I will join that which goes to the south-east," returned
the bully, shouldering his rifle. "Go ahead, you red reptile," he
added, giving a sign to the Indian at the head of the party he had
selected to lead.

The Indian at once went off at a swinging walk, amounting almost to a
trot. The others followed suit and the forest soon swallowed them all
in its dark embrace.

In making this selection Gashford had fallen into a mistake not uncommon
among scoundrels-that of judging other men by themselves. He knew that
Westly was fond of his guilty friend, and concluded that he would tell
any falsehood or put the pursuers on any false scent that might favour
his escape. He also guessed-and he was fond of guessing-that Fred
would answer his question by indicating the direction which he thought
it most probable his friend had not taken. In these guesses he was
only to a small extent right. Westly did indeed earnestly hope that his
friend would escape; for he deemed the intended punishment of death most
unjustly severe, and, knowing intimately the character and tendencies of
Tom Brixton's mind and tastes, he had a pretty shrewd guess as to the
direction he had taken, but, so far from desiring to throw the pursuers
off the scent his main anxiety was to join the party which he thought
most likely to find the fugitive-if they should find him at all-in
order that he might be present to defend him from sudden or unnecessary

Of course Paddy Flinders went with the same party, and we need scarcely
add that the little Irishman sympathised with Fred.

"D'ee think it's likely we'll cotch 'im?" he asked, in a whisper, on the
evening of that day, as they went rapidly through the woods together, a
little in rear of their party.

"It is difficult to say," answered Westly. "I earnestly hope not;
indeed I think not, for Tom has had a good start; but the search is well
organised, and there are bloodthirsty, indignant, and persevering men
among the various parties, who won't be easily baffled. Still Tom is a
splendid runner. We may depend on having a long chase before we come up
with him."

"Ah, then, it's glad I am that ye think so, sor," returned Paddy, "for
I've been afear'd Mister Tom hadn't got quite so much go in him, since
he tuk to gambling and drinkin'."

"Look here, Paddy," exclaimed his companion, stopping abruptly, and
pointing to the ground, "are not these the footprints of one of your

"Sure it's a bar," said the little man, going down on his knees to
examine the footprints in question with deep interest.

Flinders was a remarkably plucky little man, and one of his great
ambitions was to meet with a bear, when alone, and slay it
single-handed. His ambition had not up to that time, been gratified,
fortunately for himself, for he was a bad shot and exceedingly reckless,
two qualities which would probably have insured his own destruction if
he had had his wish.

"Let's go after it, Mister Westly," he said, springing to his feet with
an excited look.

"Nonsense, it is probably miles off by this time; besides, we should
lose our party."

"Niver a taste, sor; we could soon overhaul them agin. An' won't they
have to camp at sundown anyhow? Moreover, if we don't come up wi' the
bar in a mile or so we can give it up."

"No, no, Paddy, we must not fall behind. At least, I must not; but
you may go after it alone if you choose."