Read CHAPTER VI. OFF TO THE HILLS of Wild Bill's Last Trail , free online book, by Ned Buntline, on ReadCentral.com.

It was some time before Wild Bill became fully conscious after he was carried into the saloon, and when he did come to he raved wildly about the red-haired man he shot in Abilene, and insisted it was his ghost, and not a real man, he had seen.

Bill’s friends tried to cheer and reassure him, and got several stiff draughts of liquor down his throat, which finally “set him up.” as they said, till he began to look natural. But he still talked wildly and strangely.

“I told you, Joe,” he said to his old friend; “I told you my time was nigh up. This hasn’t been my first warning. That Abilene ghost has been before me a thousand times, and he has hissed that same word, ‘sister,’ in my ear.”

“Bah! old boy. What’s the use of your talking foolish. You’ve seen no ghost. That red-haired chap was as live as you are.”

“He did have red hair and blue eyes, then?”

“Yes; but there are lots of such all over the world. Red hair and blue eyes generally travel in company. But he was nothing to scare you. You could have wiped him out with one back-handed blow of your fist, let alone usin’ shootin’ irons, of which there wasn’t ‘casion, seein’ he didn’t draw.”

“Where is he now?”

“I’ll go and see. I suppose he is over at the stable.”

Joe went out, but soon returned to say that the Texan had just ridden off, after paying his bill; the stable-keeper did not know where.

“Let him go,” murmured Bill. “If he is a man, and not a ghost, I wouldn’t raise a hand to hurt him, not for all the gold in the Black Hills. He was so like so like the chap I dropped in Abilene!”

Bill took another drink, but it seemed as if nothing could lift the gloom which weighed down his heart. Only once did his face brighten. That was when Sam Chichester said there was no use hanging on at Laramie any longer for a bigger crowd; they were strong enough now, and would start for the Hills inside of four-and-twenty hours.

“That’s the talk for me!” cried Bill. “I want to get out of here as soon as I can, Joe, and pick me out some sort of a horse. I don’t care what, so it’ll carry me to the Hills, I can’t breathe free any longer where there’s such a lot of folks.”

“I’ll get you a first-chop horse, Bill,” said Joe. “There’s some half-breeds in a corral just out of town, as tough as grizzlies, and heavy enough for your weight or mine.”

“I don’t weigh down, as I did,” said Bill, with a sigh. “I’ve been losin’ weight for six months back. No matter. It’ll be less trouble to tote me when I go under. Remember, boys, when I do, bury me with my boots on, just as I die.”

“Stop your clatter about dyin’, Bill. I’m sick o’ that kind of talk. It’s time enough to talk of death when its clutch is on you.”

“I can’t help it, Joe, old pard. It keeps a stickin’ in my throat, and if it didn’t come out, I’d choke.”

“Let’s go to camp,” said Chichester. “Can you walk now, Bill?’

“Yes.”

And the party rose, took a parting drink with the landlord, and started for camp.

Outside, Bill gave a startled, wild glance toward the spot where he had seen the Texan; but no one was there now, and he moved on with his companions toward their camp, listening to, but not joining in their conversation.

On arriving at camp, Chichester, as captain, gave orders that each man should report on paper, or verbally, so it could be taken down, just how much ammunition he had, the number and kind of his arms, private stores, etc., so that if there was not enough to make the trip safely, more could be provided. The number and condition of horses, pack-mules, etc., was also to be given.

No man would be fitted to lead such a party did he not consider and post himself fully in all these particulars.

Quite a crowd of townspeople followed the party out, for the news soon spread that they intended to leave in a short time; so around their blazing camp-fire there were many visitors. Toward these Wild Bill cast many a stealthy glance, but he did not see the red-haired Texan there.