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   Chapter 8 WAITING

The Go Ahead Boys and Simon's Mine By Ross Kay Characters: 10287

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03

"What do you mean?" inquired Fred.

"Why, I mean that if we're goin' to be fools enough to try to find old Sime Moultrie's stake then we'll have to take whatever comes to us."

"And you think we're likely to have trouble with the Indians or the two white men if we begin to look up the place?"

"We may not see either of 'em," replied Zeke evasively.

"Yes, but if we do see them," said Fred persistently. "Do you think we're going to have any trouble?"

"That remains to be seen."

"But do you think we will?" persisted Fred.

"A good deal will depend on which party strikes what he thinks is the claim first. If we get it I don't believe they will bother us and if they get it I'm mighty sure we shan't bother them. But there," he added, "I think I'm takin' a good deal more trouble than I need to. The chances are one hundred to one that there isn't any such thing as Moultrie's stake, and if there isn't, why then of course we're all safe anyway." Zeke threw back his head and laughed noisily, a recreation which he seldom permitted himself to enjoy. The joke, however, which he had just perpetrated was such a rarity that even the boys were compelled to join in his mirth.

Meanwhile there was a long and weary waiting before they could expect the return of their companions. There were times when the boys worked their way along the shore, or, with Zeke in supreme command, used the one skiff that remained They did not, however, venture far in the little boat because they were compelled to tow it back one or two of the boys remaining in the boat, while their companions dragged it along the rocky or projecting shore. It was easier when they first dragged the boat up the stream and then descended at a speed which in places outdid that of the swiftest horse.

There were expeditions also to be made along the sides of the cliff, but these were cautiously undertaken for Zeke was unduly fearful for his young charges.

Fred most of all the members he specifically watched. He declared that Fred "usually acted and then did his thinking afterward."

When night fell the boys assembled about the camp fire and occasionally prevailed upon their gruff guide to relate some of his own experiences on the desert or among the mountains.

"Yes," said Zeke one night in reply to a question by Fred, "I've had some troubles with bad men. Over in Nevada there was a time when a gang of robbers tried to waylay everybody that set out from Reno. It happened that I was at Reno with my mother one time and I had to drive about forty miles to my aunt's where she was going to visit. The houses out there aren't so thick that anybody gets over-afraid of being crowded out or bein' bothered by the neighbors. On the stretch where I was goin' there were three or four shacks but I didn't find many choosin' that part of the country for a dwellin' place."

"Did they have a good road?" inquired George.

"Fairly good. It was the only one that led over the mountains in that part of the world. Well, I had my mother along, as I was sayin', and when we had gone about eighteen miles from Reno, right in a narrow little gorge I saw two men comin' toward us. They were in a buggy and I knew right away from the looks of their horses that they could make good time. Besides, when I saw the men I knew they were both strangers and, to tell the truth I didn't like the way either one o' 'em acted.

"When they came pretty close to where we were I turned out to give them most of the road for I didn't want any trouble as long as I had my mother along. Perhaps I told you she was with me.

"Well, the first thing I knew the men all of a sudden swung over toward me and before I knew what was going on they had locked their buggy wheel with mine. They pretended to be mad, but I knew right away that this was a part o' their game. It was worse than two to one for I not only had to fight for myself, but for my mother. However, she is pretty game and she saw what was up so she turned to me and said, said she, 'Zeke, you hand me the reins and I'll look after the horses and you get out and help untangle those wheels.' When I got out of the buggy both the men laughed and that rather stirred me. 'You seem to be mighty easy to please,' I said. You see I was younger then than I am now, and didn't have so much sense."

"Where did you get the new sense?" inquired Grant solemnly.

"Oh, once in a long time I run up against a fellow that come from the East. He usually gave me all the advice I needed and never charged me a cent for it either."

The boys laughed at Grant's confusion, but ignoring the interruption Zeke continued with his tale, "I tried to appear unconcerned like and I said to one of the men, 'Take hold here and give me a lift, I'm 'most afraid to back down any further for fear I'll tip my mother out.' They didn't either of 'em offer to help me, in fact neither one of them got out of the buggy and when I took hold of my horse's head and tried to back away they just moved up their horses so that the wheels kept locked just as they had been before. I looked at the wheels and pretty quick I made up my m

ind that mine were a good deal stronger than theirs. I had told my mother when I took the reins that she had better get out while we were tryin' to break loose there. Of course she did what I told her. I was afraid the men might draw their guns, but still I thought maybe the fact that I had my mother along with me might make 'em hesitate a little. There are mighty few men even in the mines that will do anything to frighten a good woman, and nobody had to look very long into my mother's face to make up his mind that that was what she was, sure enough good.

"Well, we backed and filled for a spell and I see that things were gettin' worse so I waited until we worked out away a few yards up a little rise on the side of the mountain. The men all the while pretended that they thought it was a joke, and then when I got just to the right place, quick as a wink I jumped up and yelled at my horse in the loudest tones I could muster, and when little Zeke really tries hard to make himself heard there isn't usually much trouble in hearing him. I struck my horses with my whip at the same time and all together we had considerable of a ruction, but it turned out just as I thought it would. Their horses were scared worse than mine and when they all four jumped ahead going in opposite directions, of course something had to give way and it wasn't my wheels either, let me tell you. I didn't wait to investigate how much damage I really had done, but I put my horses into their best licks and stopped just long enough to take in my poor, old, frightened mother, and then I didn't stop, let me tell you, until I was out o' sight of those men."

"Did they try to chase you?"

"No, they didn't. I'm thinkin' they were having troubles enough of their own just then. At all events I never see any more of them."

"Do you really believe they meant to rob you?" asked George.

"Sure, as you're born!" replied Zeke. "That was just what they were there for. The only thing that saved me was my havin' my mother along. 'Twasn't long afterward before I heard of a man being held up just as I was. Two men came along in a buggy and locked wheels with him and while he was trying to help himself out of the fix one of them dropped him with the butt of his gun and went through his pockets and all his belongings. That's one reason why I have always remembered Jump Off Joe Creek."

"Remembered what?" laughed Fred.

"Jump Off Joe Creek," repeated Zeke. "That was the name of the mountain brook right near where I had my fight with the robbers."

"But I didn't see that you had any fight," persisted Fred.

"Not exactly a fight, but it's where I would have had a tough fight if it hadn't been for me havin' my mother 'long with me. Perhaps I told you she was in the buggy with me when those wheels locked."

"I believe you did remark something about that," said Fred so drolly that his companions laughed.

"And you think," inquired Grant, "that we're likely to have trouble with these two men the same way?"

"No, I didn't say 'the same way,'" replied Zeke. "I'm just tellin' you what's going on 'round here so that you'll be a bit prepared for it when the proper time comes."

"Do you really think we'll have any trouble with those two men?" inquired George anxiously.

"I've given you my opinion," replied Zeke. "You won't have no trouble if you don't find no claim, and if there ain't no claim then you won't have no trouble. So it's just as broad as it is long, you see, and I'm hopeful we'll get out again with our lives."

"Yes, I hope so too," said George so solemnly that his friends laughed aloud.

Zeke's stories were as numerous as they were quaint after he had once begun to relate them. To beguile the slowly moving hours the boys insisted upon his recounting many of his adventures, some of which were exceedingly thrilling, so thrilling indeed that none of the boys accepted them as true.

But all things at last come to an end and the waiting of the Go Ahead Boys was drawn to a close late one afternoon when Pete and John entered the valley. They were heavily laden with packs and explained that up on the cliff other possessions which they had secured had been left with the Indian boy who had come with them and was to take back the burros after they had been relieved of their burdens.

Speedily all the Go Ahead Boys were engaged in the task of bringing in the supplies. Twice the difficult climb had to be made and even the return to the camp, although the trail led down the steep incline at times, was even more difficult than the ascent had been.

The same night after all the supplies had been brought to the camp and the boys had begun to make up their packs, for they planned to start on their expedition early the following morning, they were startled by the return of the two Navajos who had visited the camp soon after the departure of Pete and John. It was quickly manifest that both Indians in spite of their quiet manner were keenly excited and when they had related a discovery they had made that very day, the excitement of the Go Ahead Boys was only less than their own.

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