The Masked Duel;
Or, The Fancy Scout at Bay
J. B. Omohundro
Vickery’s Fireside Visitor Volume 2 Issue 10
July 1, 1876
Along the entire Texan and Mexican borders Wild Dare was known as the "Fancy Scout," for it was his wont to be a totally different man, when on the trail, from what he was in the town off duty.
On the prairies, or in the mountains, he was splendidly mounted, his bridle and saddle heavy with silver mountings, and his suit of buckskin, moccasins, and sombrero, all embroidered and worked with quills and beads.
His rifle, pistols, and knife, also glittered with silver, and his get-up generally was more that of a fancy masquerader than a scout of the plains.
When in town, off duty for a few weeks, his appearance totally changed, for the dress of a prairie man was thrown aside, and in its stead he wore a suit of as fine broadcloth as could be purchased of the best tailor, while the moccasins gave place to a pair of polished calfskin boots, the broad sombrero to a soft felt hat.
If he carried any weapons of offence or defense about him, they were not visible, and even had not been shown in several affrays in which he had unintentionally mingled while acting the part of a gentleman.
"Wild Dare, the Fancy Scout," men called him, because they knew no other name for him, and at fandangos, or in society, the fair senoritas of Mexico, or the border belles of Texas, were wont to address him as Mr. Dare—and permit me to here say that he was a general favorite with all — friendly with many, intimate with none of his own sex, and the hero of old and young women alike.
‘Twas said he won his name by his wild daring, and prairie men had bestowed the title upon him; moreover, men said that no truer eye or steadier hand was there in the mountains or upon the plains; but who he was, none knew.
He had turned up on the prairie one day and joined a party of hunters, and his handsome face and elegant appearance generally had won their admiration, while his reckless daring in the first Indian fight they had, was something that they long loved to talk about.
One day Wild Dare was riding slowly across the prairie in company with a train of traders, when suddenly there was descried in the distance several horsemen rapidly dashing along.
"By heavens! those fellows belong to the Rio Grande Bandits—if we had time we might give chase," said Wild Dare, glancing at them through his field glass, which he always carried.
"Ha! they have a captive, and it is a woman! I am off on the trail," he continued, quickly.
Dismounting, he readjusted his saddle, took from one of the wagons a haversack of provisions, slung his rifle on his back, and was off, followed by half a dozen daring plainsmen.
Like the wind the small party flew over the rolling prairie; but the steed of Wild Dare had no equal on the plains, and quickly flew away from the rest of his companions, and in an hour's ride had left them miles behind, while he had greatly lessened the distance between himself and those in his front, whom his master saw were seven in number—six men, evidently Mexicans, and a young girl—all pressing on at the full speed of their horses.
Gradually the half dozen followers of Wild Dare gave up the chase and returned to their train; but not so with the Fancy Scout.
His blood was up, and he was upon one of those expeditions where he meant "do or die."
Steadily he gained upon the party in front, whom he now felt certain were Rio Grande bandits, and, though alone, he determined to attempt the rescue of the maiden, who twice had cried out to him to save her from her captors.
At length night fell upon the prairie, but still Wild Dare urged on his tired steed, for he would not lose them in the darkness; yet, fearing a trap, he was ever on the alert, and carried his rifle well in hand.
Presently the trap was disclosed—a flash, a report in his front, where one of the bandits had lain in ambush for him.
But the flash had not darkened ere there came another, and the ringing rattle of Wild Dare's rifle was heard, followed by a loud cry of pain.
Instantly the Fancy Scout spurred forward, and, as had expected, found his would-be destroyer caught in his trap—he lay dead upon the prairie.
"Now for those other fellows," he muttered, and leaving the dead man where he had fallen, he rode cautiously on, for he expected another leaden messenger.
He was not disappointed, for soon came the flash and crack of a rifle from the prairie grass, and Wild Dare tumbled heavily from his horse to the ground.
Instantly there was a shout of joy from the bandit, who rushed towards him with rapid steps, crying in Spanish, as he bent over the prostrate man,
"I'll be promoted for this—I, Carlos Aquero, the slayer of the Fancy Scout."
"Will you, Senor Carlos Aquero?" said a stern voice in his ear, and a clutch of iron was upon his throat, while the same voice continued:
"Now, Senor Carlos Aquero, tell me the names of your companions, or I will drive my knife into your heart.”
"That is not their names."
"No, senor; it is the chief, El Sol, and his band."
"So l thought; El Sol is there in person, is he?” asked Wild Dare, who spoke Spanish fluently.
“Si Senor, El Sol, and Manton, and Murroy.”
“Buenas! Now, my esteemed friend, you came near ending my life; but I’ll forgive you, if I catch El Sol—if not, I’ll promote you—to the limb of the tree in yonder matte,” and Wild Dare pointed to a clump of timber a mile away.
"Now get your horse up, sir, and follow me—if you attempt to escape I will kill you, and you know I never miss my aim."
The frightened man called to his trained steed, that was lying down in the grass, and was soon in the saddle, but unarmed.
“Now keep directly behind me and come up.”
So saying, Wild Dare also mounted, and as if disdaining to ask where El Sol was, kept rapidly on in the direction of the matte, the Mexican following like a faithful dog close behind.
The quick eye of Wild Dare saw the fugitive ahead, and he turned to his captive and said:
“Now, sir, tune up that voice of yours and do some lying for me.”
“Sing out that you have killed me—you understand?”
“Carramba!” answered the bandit; but feeling that he was in the power of his captor, he cried out:
“Hold, Senor El Sol!—I have killed him.”
Instantly there was a shout of joy, and a stern voice cried:
“Where is he?”
The scout at once lay down on the neck of his steed, and said:
“Say you have me here.”
“Here, senor, tied to his horse.”
Another shout of joy came from the party in advance, and at a motion from Wild Dare, his prisoner rode on, while he dropped back to the position of a led horse.
A moment more and the tall form arose in his saddle, and rapidly his revolver rang out its death knell upon the bandits, three of whom fell from their saddles, while the fourth seized the rein of the steed ridden by his captive, and attempted to fly.
But too late, for the Fancy Scout was upon him with a shock that sent the three horses to the ground in a heap.
Unhurt himself, Wild Dare sprang to his feet, and fearing for the maiden, quickly raised he from her perilous position, and placed her a short distance off on the prairie.
Then he looked for his enemy, whom he had recognized as El Sol.
But that worthy was no where to be seen—he had decamped with all speed, springing upon the steed of one of his slain men, for his own had been severely injured in the fall.
Another glance, and Wild Dare beheld that Senor Carlos Aquero had also made tracks, and far off on the prairie the indistinct forms of the two fugitives could be seen.
At first it was Wild Dare’s intention to follow El Sol; but the maiden called to him not to leave her, and he at once changed his mind, and approached her.
What was his surprise to recognize in the bandit’s captive the Senorita Nita Camilla, the daughter of a wealthy and prominent Mexican Don.
He had often seen the senorita, as he rode by her elegant home, and great was his delight at having rescued the lovely daughter of one of the richest Mexicans on the border.
After a short conversation with the happy maiden, and a thorough search of the dead bodies of the bandits, Wild Dare placed Nita in her saddle, and, mounting his own splendid steed, sat out upon the return to the train, full twenty miles away.
As they rode along Nina told Wild Dare how she and her brother Jose had been going to their father’s hacienda, a few leagues from town, and had been set upon by el Sol and his followers.
Poor Jose had been struck down and left for dead, while she had been hurried away, and all day long kept at a rapid pace.
“Poor Jose, I fear he is dead!” said the maiden, sorrowfully.
“I hope not,” replied Wild Dare, who knew “poor Jose” as a fast, extravagant young Mexican, disliked by all who knew him, on account of his overbearing manners.
It was after midnight before the two reached the train, which had encamped in a grove of timber, and Nita was utterly worn out, and at once sought repose, for Wild Dare gave her the most comfortable quarters he could arrange.
The around the campfire he told the story of his adventure, and all laughed heartily at the trick played upon Senor Carlos Aquero, and to “poor Jose” gave no sympathy whatever, for they disliked that fast youth, as much as they loved Nita, whom all knew possessed a lovely disposition and most generous heart, besides being kind to rich and poor alike.
Refreshed by her rest, Nita was up at an early hour, and after a substantial prairie breakfast, mounted and rode on with Wild Dare, for her home was not more than seven or eight leagues distant.
At length, Nita arrived at her home, and was welcomed joyfully by her aged father, who was going to start in pursuit of the bandits, at the head of a Mexican regiment of lancers, for Jose had come in severely used up by the blow he had received, and reported that his darling sister was in the hands of the noted El Sol.
The joy of Don Camilla, at the return of his daughter, the idol of his heart, and his thanks and gratitude to Wild Dare, cannot be expressed, for he at once told the Fancy Scout that he should ever be an honored guest in his home.
So charmed was the old Don Camilla at the restoration of the fair Nita to his arms, that he gave a grand mask ball in honor of the event, and, of course, Wild Dare was the be there, for the old Mexican was delighted with the American, and wished to exhibit the brave scout, who, single-handed, had pursued El Sol, the desperado, and five of his reckless followers, and rescued from them their lovely and helpless captive.
The night of the ball came round, and in mask and domino Wild Dare set forth and soon arrived at the destination.
Nina was not long in penetrating the disguise of her rescuer, for love’s eyes are keen, and already had the Mexican beauty lost her heart to the brave American, who seemed deeply infatuated with her.
During the evening Wild Dare kept his eyes constantly upon two individuals, wearing masks and dominos, and observing his close scrutiny of them, Nita said:
"One of those gentlemen is Jose, my brother, senor; the other is Don Waltero Alvez, a Cuban planter."
"And lover of the fair Senorita Nita, is it not so?"
"He may love me, senor; but I do not like him, although he is a great friend of my brother, and my father would like to see me marry him."
"Believe me, that shall never be—I would rather see you marry me than Don Waltero," and the scout seemed to speak half in jest, half in earnest, while Nita bent upon him a look that would have touched the heart of any man.
At length the Fancy Scout bade the fair Nita adios, and took his departure, without unmasking, and, arriving at a deserted corner, quietly lighted a cigar and halted, as though waiting for some one.
He had not long to wait before he saw two men approaching down the moonlit street.
As they drew near he stepped out from behind the stone fountain that had concealed him, and said, sternly:
"And why, senor?" asked one of the men, wearing a heavy beard, and with the upper portion of his face concealed by a mask.
"You are, senores, Don Waltero Alvez and the Senor Jose Camilla, are you not?"
"Yes; and then—?" continued the first speaker, Don Waltero.
“I heard you remark tonight that you intended bringing the Fancy Scout to bay—I am called the Fancy Scout, and I am at bay, senores.”
As Wild Dare spoke he quickly drew a revolver in each hand and and covered both men.
“Would you shoot us down, desperado?” cried Don Jose, in alarm.
“No, senores—I would give you a chance.
“Don Jose—most despicable coward that you are, take your stand there; Senor Waltero, stand there, and at the drop of your handkerchief we will fire.”
Would you draw us into a street affray?” cried Don Jose, anxiously.
“I offer you the same chance for your lives that I have, senores; if you refuse to meet me now on my terms, I will shoot you down like dogs; or, what is worse, a call of mine will bring a band of good Americans who will string you up by the neck, if I so bid them.”
“Let us meet the fellow, Jose,” said Don Waltero, seeing no other alternative, and hoping that a luck shot might end the American’s day ere he got a shot at him.
Making a virtue of necessity, the Senor Jose took his stand and drew his revolver.
“Now, Don Waltero, lay your weapons at your feet, for you are a tricky fellow, and I do not care to be under two fires.”
The Cuban did as ordered—in fact he could not do otherwise, for the scout had the drop on him.
“Now raise your handkerchief, and when you drop it we will advance towards each other firing.”
Don Waltero muttered something to the Senor Jose, held out his handkerchief, let it fall, and two pistol shots rang out—the Fancy Scout firing the quickest, and his bullet piercing the brain of Senor Jose, who fell dead in his tracks.
“Now, senor, take up your weapon, and advance upon me, firing,” cried the Fancy Scout, his words ringing out stern and clear.
Instantly Don Walter stooped, seized his weapon, and ere he raised to an upright position, fired.
“Ha! I might have expected treachery from you—take that!”
As Wild Dare spoke he fired, and Don Waltero fell back as a dead man.
Quickly the Fancy Scout darted away, leaving the two dead forms where they had fallen, for the town was alarmed by the shooting.
A hasty run brought him to the house of Don Camilla, who was just retiring, but granted an audience with his favorite.
“Senor, tonight I have done you a favor, and at the same time you may think an injury; but you shall hear.
“When I rescued the Senorita Nita from El Sol, I captured that villain’s horse, and in the saddle pocket found that he was known in Mexican society as Don Waltero Alvez—“
“Madra de Dios!”
“True, senor; but the worst is to tell; for not content with palming himself off as a Cuban gentleman, he leagued himself with a young Mexican of good family, who was a fast youth and a spendthrift. Having lost a considerable sum of money to El Sol, which he could not pay, this youth entered into a contract with the robber to let him capture his sister, and hold her in his power until the old Don, their father, paid an enormous sum for her recovery—the sum to be divided between the two renegades.”
Don Camilla had, at a glance, seen all, and, with a groan, sunk back in an easy chair, while Wild Dare continued:
“Here are the letters that I took from El Sol, and you will see and recognize your own son’s writing, and can read the whole diabolical plot.”
“Senor Americano, I believe your word without such evidence. Jose, my son, shall go to the prison for this, and that robber shall—"
“Hold, senor; you threaten the dead.”
“What mean you, Senor Dare?” cried the old man, in alarm.
“Simply that I did not care to have you disgraced by an act of your own son, and his sister dishonored in the thought of having such a brother, so I took the matter in my own hands, challenged both of the senores to a duello, and left them dead half an hour ago.”
“Carramba! Did you do this, senor, Americano?”
“I did—hold! A letter, dropped near them, will show that Senor Jose suspected Don Waltero of being the robber El Sol, and followed him to his lodgings to attempt his capture, when, in the affray, both were slain, and Senor Jose will be honored for the part he took, and lauded for killing the noted bandit leader.”
Old Don Camilla could not speak for emotion, and a moment after a crowd arrived, bringing the dead body of the Senor Jose, and stating that he had been killed in an affray with El Sol, who was recognized by many as soon as his false beard and mask were removed.
Don Camilla bore his grief well, and kept his secret better, not even making the sad story known to Nita, who was consoled for the loss of a brother by finding a husband in Wild Dare, the Fancy Scout.
The bridal tour of the happy pair was to the United States, were, in a grand old home, lived the aged parents of Wild Dare, whose real name was Wilbur Dashwood, and who had preferred a wild life on the prairies to the counting-house of his father, who, with his mother, believed that their thoughtless boy would come to some bad end.
But they changed their minds when he brought back his beautiful Mexican bride, with a dowry double their own fortune, and welcomed the noble son, and his Mexican wife, with true parental joy and affection.