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   Chapter 1 A GHASTLY DISCOVERY

The Go Ahead Boys and Simon's Mine By Ross Kay Characters: 10381

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


"Look at that!"

Instantly Fred Button and his companion halted and the two boys stared at the sight to which their attention had been directed.

Even their guide, who at that time was several yards behind, hastened to join them and was almost as shocked by the sight as was his young companions.

"What is it? What is it?" whispered John.

"Can't you see?" retorted Fred. "It's a skeleton of a man. The skull is over there," he explained as he pointed to his right. "The other bones have been scattered. Probably some wolves or buzzards have been at work here."

For a brief time no one spoke. The bones before them were unquestionably those of a man. They had been bleached by the sun and their very whiteness increased the ghastly impression.

"What do you think has happened?" inquired John in a low voice.

Fred shook his head and turned questioningly to the guide.

Zeke, the name by which the guide was commonly called, also shook his head as if the mystery was not yet solved. Without speaking he approached the place where the skeleton had been discovered, and a moment later with his foot unearthed a sleeve of a coat which had been buried from sight by drifting sands of the desert.

Stooping, Zeke pulled hard and soon drew forth the coat. The garment itself was somewhat torn, but still was in a fair state of preservation.

Turning to his companions Zeke said abruptly, "Better look around, boys, and see if you can find something else. My impression is that you'll find a set of prospector's tools not far away."

In response to the suggestion the two boys at once busily began their search. A shoe, worn and plainly torn by strong and savage teeth, was brought to Zeke. Later a pick ax, spade and hammer also were discovered and added to the pile.

Meanwhile Zeke had been searching the garment which he had discovered and in one pocket he had found a small book which evidently interested him greatly.

Thrusting his discovery into his pocket, Zeke turned to the boys and said. "What do you think? Shall we bury these bones or shall we try to take them back?"

"Back where?" inquired Fred. "To our camp or back to civilization?"

"I shouldn't do either," suggested John. "We can bury the bones here and mark the spot so that if we ever find out who the man was we can tell his friends where they will find what is left of him. What do you think?" he added, turning to the guide as he spoke.

"I think that's the best thing to do," replied Zeke quietly. "Personally I haven't any strong feeling about what happens to my carcass after I have left it."

"Have you any idea who or what this man was?" Fred asked.

"I found this in his pocket," responded Zeke, displaying the little book he had taken from the coat.

"What is it? What is it?" inquired Fred eagerly.

"It looks to me like it was a diary. Some of it is missing and some is faded, but it looks to me on the whole as if the man was keeping an account every day of what he was doing and where he went."

"Can't you find his name in there somewhere?" inquired John.

"I haven't yet. I have a suspicion that these bones belong to old Simon Moultrie. He was an odd stick and I guess was more than half crazy. He was prospecting most of his life, leastwise as soon as he came out to these regions. The funny part of it all was that he wouldn't go with anybody and wouldn't let anybody go with him. Once or twice he thought he had struck it rich, but I never heard that anything panned out."

"What makes you think the dead man was Simon Moultrie?"

"Mostly because he hasn't been heard from of late. It must be seven or eight months since he has shown up. You see he used to come in twice a year for supplies and then he would start out prospecting and not show up again for six months, or until his supplies ran low."

"How old a man was he?" inquired John.

"Sixty-three or sixty-six, I should reckon," replied Zeke glibly. "He was a bit off, same as I was telling you, and had just gone dippy on the subject of finding a mine."

"And you say he did find one or two?"

"He thought he did find one or two, but when he came to follow them up, why the stuff didn't assay worth a cent, or else it was just a little pocket he had happened to find. What do you think ought to be done with these bones?" again inquired the guide.

"The best thing to do is to bury them and mark the spot just as John said," said Fred.

The suggestion was speedily acted upon and taking the spade which had been found Zeke soon digged a grave in the soft soil. Then carefully and silently the bones of the unfortunate man were collected and covered. A bleached limb of a mesquite tree which had doubtless been torn away and been carried far from its location by one of the terrific wind storms that occasionally sweep over the region, was thrust into the ground at the head of the little grave. Next a piece of paper was taken from his pocket by John. Upon it he wrote, "The grave of an unknown man, supposedly Simon Moultrie. The bones were found July 13, 1914, by Fred Button, John Clemens and Zeke Rattray."

"Don't you think," inquired John, "that I had better put our addresse

s on this paper too?"

"Good scheme," replied Fred.

Accordingly the permanent address of each member of the party was added to the brief statement.

"Do you suppose we'll ever hear from anybody?" inquired John in a low voice.

"I don't know," answered Fred, shaking his head as he spoke. "It's one of those things you never can tell about."

Fred Button was one of the four boys who among their friends and themselves, for the matter of that, were commonly known as the Go Ahead Boys. They were schoolmates and classmates and were nearly of the same age, John being the only one who was eighteen, while his three companions were each seventeen years old.

In various parts of their country they had been spending their recent vacations together. The list of books given at the beginning of this story will indicate the various parts of the country in which they had met their adventures.

At the present time, however, when this story opens, they were nearly two thousand miles from home.

Across the continent they had journeyed together and together also they had spent ten days viewing the wonders of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. The apparently perilous ride on the backs of donkeys down Bright Angel Trail had been greatly enjoyed, as well as certain other inspiring expeditions which the boys had made, sometimes in company with others and sometimes with a single guide for the quartet.

So enthusiastic had the young travelers become over their experiences that at last they had obtained the consent of their parents to make an expedition of their own. Two guides were secured who were familiar with the entire region and two strong skiffs were purchased. In these boats the boys had planned to follow a part of the dangerous Colorado River. They had no desire to incur the perils that belonged to many of its swirling rapids and tossing waters. In other places, however, the river was comparatively safe and there the boys planned to follow the course of the stream with their strong and heavy little boats.

Inasmuch as Fred's father was a prominent railway official he had obtained for the boys certain privileges which otherwise they might not have had. Fred himself was the most enthusiastic member of the party. Shorter than any of his comrades his weight was still nearly as great as any of the four. His solid, sturdy little frame was capable of great endurance and there were few experiences he enjoyed more than tiring his long, lanky comrade John, who as one of his friends brutally expressed it was as much too tall as Fred was too short.

Out of consideration for Fred's physique, among his friends he was known as Pigmy and Pee Wee, the former title sometimes being shortened into Pyg.

John, however, rejoiced in his name, or if he did not rejoice, at least was accustomed to respond to the appellation, String.

The remaining members of the little band were George Washington Sanders, one of the most popular boys in the school in which all four were students. Frequently he was referred to as Pop, a distinction by which his friends indirectly expressed their admiration for one who was laughingly referred to as the "Papa of his Land," just as the great man for whom he was named was the "Father of his Country."

Grant was the member of the Go Ahead Boys who easily led in whatever he attempted. In the hundred yards dash he had established the record of the school. His standing in scholarship was high, while his fund of general information was so extensive that he had received the appellation, Socrates. This nickname, however, recently had been shortened by the time-saving lads and Grant was more frequently called Soc than by the name which his parents had given him. His ability as an athlete was scarcely less than his success in the classroom. And yet Grant by no means was one who withdrew from out-of-door life, or enjoyed less than his friends the stirring adventures in which they all had shared.

Zeke Rattray, the guide, was a tall, bronzed, powerful young fellow about twenty-five years of age. For several years he had dwelt in the region, serving as guide for various exploring parties or prospectors. The Go Ahead Boys had smiled incredulously when Zeke had informed them that when he came originally to the state because he was expected to die "back east," (in Iowa) of tuberculosis. "I weighed just one hundred and nineteen pounds when I landed out here," he explained, and then as he stood erect and threw back his powerful shoulders his young companions laughed. It did not seem possible that the strapping young giant, who now weighed at least two hundred pounds, ever had been reduced to such a condition as he described.

The immense strength of Zeke had never impressed the Go Ahead Boys more than when he finished his simple task of interring the bones which had been discovered by Fred and John.

"If I should meet him on the street alone," whispered Fred to John, "I should kindly give him the whole sidewalk. I believe that he could do what Grant says he can. Just look at those hands."

"What does Grant say he can do?"

"Why he declares that Zeke can bend the barrel of a rifle."

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