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   Chapter 19 A JOYOUS RETURN

The Go Ahead Boys and Simon's Mine By Ross Kay Characters: 10043

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03

Keenly excited, the three boys instantly arose and advanced nearer the rim of the Gulch. Around the bend of the next great buttress or projection they saw two forms moving slowly which they instantly recognized as men.

"That's Zeke and Thomas Jefferson!" exclaimed Grant in a low voice.

"What has become of the other two men?" inquired George.

"You'll have to ask them,-or Zeke and T.J.; perhaps they will be able to tell you something after they get back here."

Grant's surmise proved to be correct. Within a half-hour both Zeke and the Indian returned to the camp.

Neither was willing to describe the details of very much of his effort to overtake the two white men who had gone from the camp. It was manifest, however, that both white men had disappeared and that along with them had gone one of the packs, now doubly valuable in the eyes of the boys.

"Didn't you see the men anywhere, Zeke?" inquired Fred.

"Not a sign."

"Did you find out where they went?"

"Not exactly."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Why not seein' 'em, I'm not sure where they are nor where they went."

"But you think they went-"

"I'm not doin' very much 'thinkin'' just now," replied Zeke as he at once began his preparations for the evening meal.

Fred however, was not to be turned aside so easily.

Approaching the place where Zeke was working he said, "Do you think those men have tried to go to the place where Simon Moultrie staked his claim?"

"I don't know nothin' 'bout it," replied Zeke, without looking up from his task. "My only 'pinion is that if there's any such claim and we don't get there pretty soon there won't be much for us to look for."

"Why do you suppose John and Pete don't come back?"

"Because they have not returned."

"Don't you think that Kitoni found them?"

"I don't know much about it. I'm thinkin', however, that if they are to be found, the Navajo will be as likely to find 'em as anybody."

"I wish I never had started on this trip!" exclaimed Fred manifestly downcast at the outlook.

"It doesn't make any difference what you 'wish'," said Zeke gruffly. "You have started and you're here. I don't know of any way of gettin' out of Thorn's Gulch outside of flyin' or walkin'."

"I guess you're right," replied Fred dolefully. "Hello, what's that?" he added abruptly. From far away had come a faint shout. Fred was positive that he had heard a call, but Zeke, ignoring the words of the Go Ahead boy, abruptly arose and ran to a place far to the left of the camp.

His startling action when it was seen by the Go Ahead boys at once caused every one to follow his example.

Again the faint call was heard and this time it was answered abruptly by Thomas Jefferson, whose voice carried far and was almost as sharp as the report of a pistol.

"Who is it? Who is it?" demanded Fred.

The Indian made no reply, but as the distant call was heard again he repeated his call, which this time was distinctly answered. As yet no one was able to see the place from which the cry had come.

"Do you think anyone is in trouble?" inquired Grant anxiously of the guide.

"No," replied Zeke.

"Do you think any one is in trouble?" inquired

"That's more than I can tell."

"Why don't you call Pete?"

"No use. Thomas Jefferson has answered the call and there isn't anything more to be done except to wait until they get here, then we'll see whether any one is missin' or not."

"Come on, fellows, let's go down and see!" shouted Fred to his companions, who at once prepared to obey the suggestion.

"Here, stop that!" ordered Zeke sternly. "You're not goin' to do anything of the kind. We've got one boy lost now and that's enough. My dad used to tell me that one boy was a boy and two boys was half a boy. I don't know just how much four would be," he added quizzically, as he glanced at his young companions. "We've got troubles enough now. Just hold your horses and wait, and we'll soon find out what we all of us want to know."

Striving to possess their souls in patience the Go Ahead Boys waited while the minutes slowly dragged on. Again and again Fred impatiently shouted, but for some reason there was no further answering cry. It might be that the little party had passed under some projecting shelf of rock which cut off all sounds from above.

Just as the sun set, however, to the great delight of the boys they discovered three men slowly climbing the side of the gulch almost directly below them.

Instantly the Go Ahead Boys cheered and shouted, although no replies were made to their hails.

From what they were able to see they concluded that not one of the three missing members of the party was disabled. They were all toiling slowly up the sloping side, and it was soon manifest that every one was able to make the effort for himself.

Twenty minutes later John, Pete and Kitoni gained the place where their friends were awaiting their coming.

"You never had any one so glad to see you in all your life," shouted F

red as he ran to John and tried to throw his arm around his neck. As Fred was the "pigmy" of the party his efforts were ridiculous, but they nevertheless served to remove a part of the tension under which all were laboring.

"Are you all right, Jack?" demanded Grant. "I am now," replied the tall Go Ahead Boy somewhat ruefully.

"What happened to you?" asked Fred.

"I got lost too. We waited for you to come back and when you didn't come after a long time, I started out to look for you. Pete told me not to do it, but of course I knew better than he did and nothing would do but I must try it. It's lucky I'm here, let me tell you."

"Did you find your way back to the place where Pete left you?"

"I did not. He found me. Now then, what happened to you? We didn't know but that you might have fallen over some rim or been bitten by a rattlesnake or swallowed by a mountain lion. The first thing we knew was when Kitoni came along and told us."

"Did you go back to the place where you were when I left you?"

"What do you think we'd do? Of course we went back. We didn't know but by some kind of fool-luck you might have gone back there and if we weren't on hand we knew you wouldn't know the place and most likely would go on past it and then be lost on the other side. You see we were in a tight box."

"I'm sorry," said Fred ruefully. "All I can say is that from this time on I'm going to stick so close to the crowd that nobody can lose me."

"You'd better!" said John threateningly. "I thought I was done for, when I got lost too. I thought of Fremont and Kit Carson and the Forty-niners and all the old chaps that came out over the Santa Fe trail. I have heard my father tell what fights they had with the Indians and how their water and supplies ran low and all that, but if any of them had any harder time than I had then I'm sorry for him, that's all. There was just one thing that made me hang to it."

"What was that?" inquired Grant.

"Why it was what my father had told me. He said that the difference between men isn't very much,-I mean what makes one man succeed and another man fail. He says it's just that little difference though that counts. I remember he told me about one of his classmates in college who was the brightest fellow in the class. He started in all right on any line of work, but just before the job was all ready to be clinched he usually gave up. My father says that is the way it is with men. They may be all right up to the last point, but that last point is the one that counts. That's the 'final punch' that counts most."

"Well, I'm glad you got out of it all right anyway," said Fred cordially. "Did you see any bears or mountain lions or snakes."

"Not one, but I saw some lizards which scared me almost as much as if they had been rattlers. They were ten or twelve inches long. They had a funny way of running and every few steps would turn around and look at me."

"I'm not surprised," said Grant soberly, breaking in upon the conversation. "I understand precisely the feeling of those lizards. There's only one of your kind in all the world."

"You're right for once in your life," retorted John. "Now tell me," he added, "what your plans are. What is the next thing to be done?"

"Now that little Johnnie has arrived," laughed Grant, "I think the best thing we can do, if Zeke and Pete agree, is to stay here to-night and start on early to-morrow morning."

"Start where?" demanded John.

"Why for Simon Moultrie's claim."

"I had almost forgotten about that," laughed John, "but I guess that's as good a trip as we can make."

By this time Zeke had supper prepared and the boys responded to his announcement with a zeal that caused the guide to say, "You boys must not forget that one of our packs is gone. We may have to go short on our rations."

The statement at once led to the story of the coming of the two white men and their strange departure. Grant explained how Zeke and Thomas Jefferson had each made a search, but the two men had disappeared. It was suspected, however, that they had gone farther into Thorn's Gulch and were determined to make their own search for the lost claim of Simon Moultrie.

"If they get there first," said Zeke dryly, "we may have our troubles staking any claim when we come."

"Well, we shan't get there unless we start," declared Fred, whose mood now had changed completely. "I'm for starting as early as we can get John up to-morrow morning."

"Never you mind your Uncle John!" declared that worthy individual. "I shall be ready before you are."

Whether or not it was the rivalry of the boys that caused them to rise early the following morning is not known, but the sun had not yet appeared above the eastern horizon when after a breakfast, prepared by Zeke and Pete, the Go Ahead Boys, together with the guides and the two Navajos, who now by common consent had become members of the party, once more began their search for the claim which Simon Moultrie had staked.

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