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   Chapter 21 THE RETURN OF THE STRANGERS

The Go Ahead Boys and Simon's Mine By Ross Kay Characters: 9240

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


The excitement among the Go Ahead Boys at once became intense. Convinced now that the two men, whose presence whenever they had visited the camp had created trouble, were now returning and the fact that the belligerent Zeke and the Navajo were also likely to arrive at about the same time, convinced the boys that some exciting scenes were to be witnessed.

As yet it was manifest that neither party of approaching men had become aware of the coming of the others.

"There they go!" exclaimed George excitedly when Zeke and his companion disappeared from sight. "Maybe they won't be back here until after the other fellows have left."

"Don't you worry," spoke up Fred. "The other fellows aren't going to leave and that's the worst of it. What shall we do?"

"We shan't do anything until we have to," said Grant. "It will be money in our pockets to keep silent in seven languages."

"There they are now!" exclaimed Fred in a low voice as the two white men approached the camping place.

"We're hungry," explained the man with the scar. "Give us something to eat."

"You haven't eaten all there was in that pack already, have you?" demanded Fred.

"What are you talking about? What pack do you mean? We haven't got any pack," replied the visitor.

"You haven't now. What did you do with it?"

"You'll have to explain what you mean. You 're talking in riddles, as the poet says," sneered the stranger. "All we want is something to eat and I'm thinking you'll cook it for us pretty quick."

"I understand it's the law of the desert," spoke up Grant, "that any one who comes into your camp has to be fed."

"Sure it is," said the man glibly.

"But there isn't anything in that law," continued Grant, "which says what kind of stuff we've got to feed you. My advice to you is to keep right on your way and not stop here."

"That's just what we're not going to do," laughed the other man loudly. "We're hungry and you're going to feed us."

"Is that so?" retorted Fred. "Perhaps you'll tell us when we're going to get the meal."

"You 're going to get it now and there isn't going to be any fooling about it either."

"Do you want your ice cream before your dinner or after?" inquired Fred mockingly. "How about your coffee?" he added. "Will you have a demitasse or a bowl?"

For a moment the man stared blankly at Fred and then apparently convinced that his demand was not to be complied with he advanced savagely upon the Go Ahead Boy as he said, "We don't want no more fooling. You get us something to eat."

At that moment Grant nodded positively to Fred, an action which was not seen by their visitors. Puzzled by the direction of Grant, Fred hesitated a moment and then without a further word began hasty preparations for a meal.

A fire was kindled, although all the wood in the camp was required for the purpose and in a brief time he poured into the boiling water the remaining contents of a broken box of cereal.

It was plain that the visitors both were as hungry as they declared themselves to be. They were watching the actions of the boys so keenly that they were neither of them aware of the approach of Zeke or Thomas Jefferson.

Grant, however, already had discovered the approach of the guide and the Navajo, who now were not more than forty yards distant from the place where the boys were standing.

"I wonder if these men are hungry too," said Grant dryly. As he spoke he turned toward the approaching guide, an action which was immediately followed by all the camp.

For a moment the two unwelcome visitors appeared to be about to flee from the place. They turned toward the Gulch, but soon their courage apparently returned and they came back to the place near the fire.

By this time Zeke and Thomas Jefferson had arrived at the camp and in his most surly manner the guide turned to the two uninvited guests and said, "What are you two fellows doing here?"

"We stopped to get something to eat," explained the man with the scar, who, as usual, was the spokesman.

"Well, you aren't going to get it here," said Zeke sharply. "The thing for you to do is to vamoose. Get out of here and get out right away! None of that," added Zeke in a low voice as he saw one of the men reach toward his hip pocket. "There's going to be no shootin' done here exceptin' I am th' one to do it."

Zeke, who was a powerful man, now grasped the hands of the man with the scar and in spite of his efforts twisted his wrists until he compelled him to drop the weapon which he had drawn from his pocket.

"Leave it there," said Zeke quietly. "It won't do any harm. Now y

ou two get and don't you wait for me to say it again!"

There was something in Zeke's manner that convinced the two men that it might be dangerous for them to delay. Glancing hastily at each other they at once turned from the camp.

When they had gone fifty feet, the smaller man stopped and turned about so that he once more faced the camp, as he shouted, "You think the game is in your hands, don't you? Well, you'll have another think. All I can say to you is that you've got a big surprise coming."

As no one responded to his threat the stranger quickly turned about and soon overtook his companion.

Silently the Go Ahead Boys watched the departing men until they had disappeared below the rim of the great Gulch. Then Fred said, "Zeke, what do you suppose that fellow meant?"

"There's no tellin'," replied Zeke in his most non-committal manner.

"But what do you think?"

"I'm not thinkin' very much. I'm watchin' this stuff to see that it doesn't burn."

"That's all right, Zeke," said Fred impatiently. "But what I want to know is whether or not you think those two men are going to be waiting for us when we find the claim which Simon Moultrie staked."

"I'll have to tell you later about that."

"Look there! They are coming back!" abruptly exclaimed Fred.

The Go Ahead Boy's words were true for the two men were seen clambering upon the rim and once more approaching the camp.

"Will you give me my pistol?" demanded the man with the scar. "There's no knowing what we may run up against and I don't like to go down into the Gulch without anything to protect me."

"No, sir, I won't," said Zeke. "That pistol is as dangerous in your hands as it would be in the hands of an Apache. There's just one thing we'll do for you."

"What's that?"

"I'll take back what I said and we'll give you something to eat if you'll agree to leave and never come back."

"In course we'll do it," laughed the man. "I didn't believe that you'd turn us away without giving us even a spoonful of that stuff you're cooking."

Other articles of food had been prepared by Zeke, who was desirous of economizing in the fire. Wood was scarce and so difficult to obtain that the guide was unwilling to waste a fire just for the sake of their uninvited guests.

As soon as he was convinced that the men were busy in their repast Zeke solemnly winked at Grant and in a manner which was seen by all who were in the camp motioned for him to follow.

Grant at once obeyed the suggestion and as soon as they had withdrawn to one side Zeke in a low voice said, "Did those two fellows come across the Gulch?"

"Yes," replied Grant.

"Then it looks likely to me that they have been looking for that claim."

"What makes you think so?"

"They have been gone 'bout long enough to cover the distance."

"Do you think they have found it?"

"I can't say."

"But do you think they have?"

"It looks a bit like it, judging from the fact that they have come back here so soon. Now I want you to see which way they go when they leave."

"Are you sure they're going to leave?"

"Perfectly sure," remarked Zeke as a slight grin appeared for a moment upon his face, "and they're goin' to be in a hurry when they go, too. Have you got plenty of soap in the camp?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Well, then I want you to take some of it and go down there at the head of the path they follow when they leave us and grease those rocks. Don't cover them all, but put enough on them so that the rocks will be slippery."

"But you don't want to hurt them, do you?" protested Grant.

"Don't you worry none about hurtin'. All I'm goin' to do is to 'accelerate their departure,' as the poet says."

"What poet says that?" inquired Grant laughingly.

"I don't just remember his name," said the guide demurely. "He said it though and that's enough."

"I'll do what you say," said Grant, as they both turned back to rejoin their companions.

Beckoning to Fred, after he had secured a bar of soap and taking with him a small pan of water, Grant led the way to the spot which the guide had indicated.

There, unseen by the others they thoroughly carried out the directions which Zeke had given them and in a brief time turned back to the camp.

"I guess we'll be goin' on, as we agreed," said the man with the scar when their simple repast had been eaten.

No one interposed any objections, and the two men, after Zeke had once more refused to restore the pistol which he had taken from them, arose and started toward the path which before they had followed when they had returned to the camp.

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