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   Chapter 4 TWO THIEVES IN THE NIGHT

The Go Ahead Boys and Simon's Mine By Ross Kay Characters: 8877

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


The question was speedily answered when, to the dismay of his companions, John said abruptly, "That must be something like the man whose body we found to-day."

Instantly both strangers were staring at the boy who had spoken. Even in the dim light their intense interest was plainly manifest. Zeke was doing his utmost by absurd motions to impress upon the mind of John the fact that he must say nothing more.

The two visitors at the camp, however, were too deeply interested to lose the opportunity. Speaking slowly and as if he was not especially interested, the man with the scar on his face said in a drawling manner, "Where was that, sonny?"

"I don't know just where it was," replied John. "We found the body or rather the bones of a man to-day."

"What did you do with them?"

"Buried them, of course." John was aware now that his friends were angry at his uncalled-for statements. His obstinacy, however, had been aroused and he was ignoring all the signs and motions that were given him from every side.

"Wasn't there anything besides the bones?" inquired the visitor.

"They had been picked clean. Zeke here thought that the coyotes and buzzards had been at work."

"Probably had. You didn't find any clothes?"

"I believe we did get a coat and a pair of shoes."

"Would you mind letting me look at them?"

John turned to the guide and said, "Let them see that coat, Zeke. There's no harm in that," he said loudly as he turned to his companions.

Reluctantly the guide displayed the coat which he had dug from the sand and eagerly both visitors inspected it.

For a moment no one spoke and then the man with the scar said abruptly, "I'm sure that's old Sime Moultrie's coat."

Again there was a brief silence before the man continued, "He was a strange duffer. I have seen him off an' on the last fifteen year. He never gave up his search for a mine and I guess he never found one. Strange how a man will keep on as if he was all possessed when he has once got started prospecting."

"What do you suppose happened to him?" inquired Fred.

"There's no tellin' as long as I didn't see the skeleton. Zeke here ought to know."

"I don't know anything 'bout it," said Zeke gruffly.

"Well, the possibilities are," said the man with the scar, "that he took sick an' died. He must have been all alone and nobody can tell how long he may have been sick. As I rec'lect, he used to come in about ev'ry Spring and Fall for fresh supplies. He wouldn't 'low any one to go with him and he didn't have much to say to any one when he came in to the town."

"Did you find any papers in the coat?" inquired the second stranger, who up to this time had seldom spoken.

"Not very much. We couldn't find anything with his name on it," explained Zeke, "so we couldn't be sure whose bones they were."

"You didn't find any papers at all?" again inquired the man.

"We didn't find anything that showed who he was," said Zeke slowly, "same as I told you."

"The coat then is the only thing you have got to identify him with?"

"We found a pick-axe and spade and hammer," explained Zeke.

"Have you got them here?"

"Yes, they're somewhere about the camp. I don't know just where we did put them."

"Better let us have a look at them."

"It's too dark to see them now. Wait 'till mornin'."

"We aren't going to wait until morning," laughed the man with the scar. "We've got a long hike and we thought we would make part of it before sun-up. It's a good deal cooler travelin' at night, and especially when there's a good moon, than it is to crawl across those tablelands when the thermometer is about a hundred and ten in the shade; and there isn't any shade."

"Better wait until mornin'," said Zeke abruptly.

"No, we're goin' now. Come on, Jim," the man added, as he turned to his companion. "It's time for us to be movin'."

Without further words the two strange visitors departed from the camp and soon disappeared along the winding way that lead to the summit.

"That's a nice thing you did, Jack!" exclaimed Fred angrily as soon as the two men were gone.

"What's the harm?" retorted John. "I didn't tell them anything about any lost mine."

"You didn't have to," retorted Fred, "after what they said. They had heard about a man dying, though how they ever knew beats me. And they believed that he was the man who was reported to have found a great lead."

"What of it?"

"A good deal of it," joined in Grant. "You have given them an idea and they won't forget it."

"What good is an idea?" demanded John. "They haven't any paper and they can't find the place without it."

"All the same," said Fred, "I'm sorry you said anything about Simon Moultrie."

"But I didn't say anything about him," protested John. "They were the ones that did most of the talking. I thought if I told them about the bones we found this afternoon that perhaps they would talk some more and say something that would help us."

"Great! Great!" laughed George scornfully. "You 'done noble,' Jack. If those men don't find the place, you may rest easy that they will keep track of us for a while."

"Why will they?"

"Because they'll want to see if we found anything in the pocket of Simon Moultrie's coat that would give us any clue to the place where he had made his great discovery. They'll watch us for a while anyway and if we don't do anything, they may make up their minds that we haven't found anything; but if we begin to do anything like making a search among the mountains, you mark my words those two fellows will show up again just as sure as you're born."

"We'll know about that later," said John.

For an hour the boys remained seated about their camp-fire, talking over the unexpected visit of the two strangers and the marked interest they had manifested in John's story. Conversation gradually ceased and for a time the Go Ahead Boys were chiefly interested in the fantastic figures cast by the flames and in the marvelous tints of the clouds as the moonlight was shining through them. Nearby was the bottomless gulf. They were unable to see the mighty chasm, but the knowledge that they were near its brink produced a feeling all its own.

At last however, Fred declared it was time for the Go Ahead Boys to turn in. His own example was speedily followed and in a brief time silence rested over the camp.

The motionless figures on the blankets, with every boy sleeping with his feet turned toward the fire, which now had died down, presented a sight which would have appealed strongly to their distant friends in the east had they been able to see it. Seldom did any figure stir and the weird silence was unbroken save by an occasional sigh of the wind as it swept past the dwarfed trees on the mountain side.

How much time had elapsed Fred did not know when he was suddenly aroused and quickly sat erect. For a moment he was unable to determine just where he was but the sight of his sleeping companions soon recalled the events of the preceding day, and, satisfied, he was about to resume his place on his blanket when he was startled by the sight of two crouching figures approaching the camp. They came from behind the buttress of rock about thirty feet from the fire. Both figures were crouching low and moving slowly and with extreme caution.

Hastily Fred resumed his place on the blanket, having instantly decided not yet to awaken his comrades. He was eager to discover what the purpose of the men in visiting the camp was.

His heart was beating rapidly as he peered intently at the men. They had now drawn close to the camp and again had stopped to make certain that their approach had not been discovered.

Still moving silently they began to circle the place, moving in opposite directions. Several times each stopped to examine what he had discovered in the pockets of a coat he had found. Apparently, however, the search was not altogether satisfactory. After they had completely circled the camp, noiselessly as they had approached the two men withdrew.

It was evident that they had taken nothing of value and Fred indeed was almost ready to conclude that he had been dreaming or that his eyes had deceived him. The silence was still unbroken save by the occasional sigh of some heavy sleeper. The passing clouds were still reflecting the light of the moon and in the dim light Fred again thought he perceived the approach of the two crouching men.

In a moment, however, he was convinced that he was mistaken. Had he made the same mistake before? Had he thought he had seen, without actually seeing, two men creep into the camp? Almost convinced that he had been dreaming, Fred did not awaken any of his comrades, thereby escaping any ridicule that might be heaped upon him for disturbing their slumbers and in a few minutes was himself again soundly asleep.

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