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   Chapter 11 A PERILOUS FALL

The Go Ahead Boys and Simon's Mine By Ross Kay Characters: 9354

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03

Fortunately the side of the cliff down which George was slipping was not sheer all the way. It was steep; indeed, so steep that it was impossible for the frightened boy in spite of his desperate attempts to check his flight, to gain a foothold. In his descent some of the loose ground gave way and whenever he tried to seize a small projecting point that too fell before him.

George was aware that far below him was the valley or bottom of the gulch. There were possibilities that at any moment he might slide over some cliff beneath which there was nothing to interfere with his fall to the ground far below, a descent of at least two hundred feet.

George was amazed at the coolness with which his mind was working. Fully aware of the peril confronting him, nevertheless he thought calmly of his companions and the surprise they would experience when his absence was discovered. If he fell to the bottom of the gulch doubtless they would never learn the fate which had befallen him.

When he had gone about sixty feet down the cliff-side his progress abruptly was halted when he came to a heavy projection of rock. Upon this a stunted tree was growing close to the side of the mountain. Almost instinctively George grasped this tree and his heart almost ceased to beat when he found that his progress was effectively stopped. His first fear was that the projection might give way under the force with which he had struck it. For a moment he simply clung to the trunk of the tree and closed his eyes waiting for the crash to come.

When several moments had elapsed and he found that he was still safe he opened his eyes and looked all about him. Above him he could see the marks that indicated the trail he had followed in his descent. It was, however, almost impossible for him to retrace his way. He was now painfully aware that he had severely bruised his left leg in his fall. Otherwise he was not seriously hurt as far as he was able to ascertain. It would be difficult, if not entirely impossible for him, in the condition in which he now found himself, to make his way up the sloping side of the cliff, while to slip or fall would be fatal.

Rejoicing at his narrow escape George seated himself with his back against the side of the mountain as far as it was possible for him to move along the edge of the rocky shelf. His first feeling of rejoicing at his narrow escape soon gave way to anxiety. He had been so far behind Zeke when he had fallen that he was doubtful now that his absence would be discovered until Grant and the guide had gone a considerable distance ahead. And when his disappearance should be discovered his companions would have no knowledge where to begin their search.

Keenly excited, he shouted in his loudest tones, "Grant! Grant!"

Not even an echo greeted his prolonged appeal. He shouted again and again, but it soon was plain to him that he had not made himself heard.

Thoroughly alarmed now he was almost ready to attempt the perilous ascent, having decided that it was better for him to do so while he was still strong and before his leg should become helpless.

A glance toward the border of the cliff, however, was terrifying. So high was it above the gulch below that his peril was great.

Almost in an agony of fear he renewed his shouts and though he waited anxiously after every appeal there was no answer to his calls.

It was impossible for him to estimate the time that was passing. The slowly moving minutes seemed to the Go Ahead Boy almost like hours. There were moments when it seemed to the terrified boy that he must let go his hold upon his insecure protection. He had passed his left arm around the trunk of the small tree and it was not difficult for him to maintain his position.

Again he renewed his frantic appeals, the thought having come to him that Grant and the guide might retrace their way and at some place hear his calls for help.

As a matter of fact less than an hour had elapsed when at last George was startled by the sound of a voice directly above him. Peering over the border was a face which he soon discovered was that of Thomas Jefferson, the young Navajo Indian who with his companion had previously come to their camp. Plainly the young Indian had heard the cry and was striving to discover the source from which it had come.

Once more George shouted, this time almost hoarse from his efforts. An answering call, however, revealed the fact that the Navajo had discovered him. Indeed it was possible now for him to hear the words of the Indian.

"Stay right where you are," called Thomas Jefferson. "Don't try to do anything for yourself."

The face disappeared

from the border of the cliff and anxiously George waited to discover what means would be used for his rescue. That he would be left in his predicament he was convinced was not to be thought of.

Nevertheless the anxious boy became troubled when a time that seemed to him inordinately long passed and still no word was heard from above him. Almost frantic he was about to renew his shouts when he discovered the Navajo crawling over the edge and slowly and cautiously descending the sloping side of the cliff.

Almost fascinated by the sight George watched every movement. The moccasin-clad feet of the Navajo did not once fail to find a secure hold. Almost like the rattler which had been killed that morning he crawled and squirmed, steadily making his way toward the place where George was awaiting his coming.

Abruptly a new fear seized upon the Go Ahead Boy. If Thomas Jefferson should succeed in gaining the place where he was awaiting his coming, would the shelf be sufficiently strong to support the weight of both? The suggestion was alarming and the perspiration stood out on George's forehead as he thought of the new danger.

He was aware now that under the shoulders of the Navajo there was a lariat made fast and that this was being paid out from above as he slowly descended.

It was evident now that Thomas Jefferson's companion was above the gulch and that he was assisting in the descent of his companion.

In the nervous condition in which George now found himself a thousand new fears possessed him. Perhaps the lariat would not be long enough. As Thomas Jefferson proceeded, his foot might slip and his entire weight be thrown upon the slender rope or strap. Even if the Indian should succeed in attaining the shelf where George was standing, would the slender strip of leather be strong enough to support the weight of both?

Meanwhile, as if he were devoid of all fear, the young Navajo slowly and steadily continued his descent. He was not more than fifteen feet from the boy whom he was seeking to rescue, when, with his foot braced against a small projection and the lariat clasped tightly in his hands, he paused as he said, "Don't be scared. Just keep hold of that tree and you'll be all right."

As soon as he had spoken, the descent was renewed and in a brief time the Navajo had taken his place beside George.

"Look out!" warned George, his voice trembling as he spoke. "I'm afraid this tree isn't strong enough to hold both of us. I don't think the shelf is, either."

The peril was so great and the fear of George so keen that for a moment he trembled violently. The Navajo, however, quickly passed his arm under that of the trembling boy and said soothingly, "There's no need to be scared. This place is plenty strong to hold us both. Just be careful and do what I say."

As he spoke Thomas Jefferson removed the noose from beneath his arms and placed it under the arms of the frightened boy.

"You get hold," he explained.

"I'm afraid I can't help very much," said George. "I've hurt my leg."

The Indian made a hasty examination and then shaking his head said, "Not much hurt. You can climb all right."

"When shall we start?" demanded George.

"As soon as you're ready."

"I'm more ready now than I shall be later, I suspect," said George ruefully. "It's the only thing to be done, and, if it is, why, the sooner I begin it the better."

Carefully George turned and lying against the ground looked up at the border of the cliff. "Is the rope strong enough to hold us both?" he asked, turning again to the Indian.

"Plenty strong," replied Thomas Jefferson. "I shall not take hold. You'll have it all."

"How then will you get up there?" demanded George, aghast at the suggestion.

"I shall climb. It's not new work for me. I shall be close behind you so that if you fall I may help."

"If I fall or the lariat breaks," declared George, "there will be no stopping me. Both of us will go straight to the bottom of the gulch."

"Look up all the time," suggested the Indian. "Don't once look behind you. You need not fear for me for I have no fear for myself. Besides Kitoni is very strong. He has taken a purchase around a tree and the rope cannot slip. You are perfectly safe."

"Shall I try to climb by using the rope or shall I dig in my fingers and toes and try that way?"

"Don't pull on the rope too much," answered the Navajo. "There will be places where you may have to do that. It will be safe to do so for Kitoni will take in all slack, but it will be better if you try to climb."

"Here goes then," said George in a low voice as he turned and began the perilous ascent.

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