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   Chapter 24 A SMALL CLOUD

The Go Ahead Boys and Simon's Mine By Ross Kay Characters: 10619

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:03


Fred was relieved when he discovered that Thomas Jefferson was eager to go back to the camp and avoid all further questioning.

The actions of the Navajo, however, increased Fred's feeling of anxiety. He watched the Indian until he was convinced that he was trying to avoid any further interview. Then the Go Ahead Boy moved silently around the camp to the place where the guide was sleeping.

Fred's hand placed lightly upon the face of Zeke at once aroused the guide who quickly sat erect. Fred meanwhile had dropped on the ground by his side and as he did so he said, "Don't move, Zeke. Don't get up. I've got something I want to tell you."

"What is it, lad?" whispered Zeke, at once complying with the suggestion.

Thus bidden Fred related his discovery of Thomas Jefferson returning from the rim of the Gulch. He also gave his reasons for believing that the Navajo had been having an interview with some one on the sloping side of the Gulch. He expressed fully his suspicions that the unseen man was one of the two unwelcome white men who had visited the camp several times.

In low voices Fred and the guide conversed for several minutes. When the conversation at last was ended and all of Zeke's questions had been answered the guide said to Fred, "Now see that you keep this to yourself. I'm hopin' that we shan't have any serious trouble, but I don't like the way it looks. Don't tell any of your pals about it."

Fred promised to carry out the suggestion although he had expected to tell John at least of the discovery he had made.

It was long before the excited boy was able to sleep, but when at last his eyelids closed they did not open until the party was already astir.

When breakfast had been eaten Zeke approached the place where Fred was working on his pack and said in a low voice, "I want you to come with me."

"Where?" inquired Fred.

The guide did not reply to the query, but without any delay Fred arose and followed him as he led the way to a place below the rim. There to his surprise Fred saw Thomas Jefferson, evidently awaiting their coming.

As soon as the guide and the Go Ahead boy arrived, Zeke said to the Indian, "Now then, Thomas Jefferson, I want you to tell us what you were doing last night. I don't want any nonsense about it either. You answer my questions straight or there'll be trouble for both of you Navajoes."

Fred was certain there was a sharp gleam in the eyes of the Indian but he did not respond to the suggestion of the guide. Quietly seating himself he faced them both and evidently was waiting for Zeke to begin his cross examination.

"Thomas Jefferson," said Zeke sternly, "weren't you sent east to be educated in the schools?"

"Yes," replied the Indian simply.

"And weren't all your expenses paid?"

"Yes."

"Didn't they treat you white?"

"They thought they did."

"Don't you know they did? They paid all your traveling expenses. They paid for your board and your clothes. There wasn't anything that cost you a cent. What do you mean then by saying 'they thought they did'?"

"It was hard for me when I come back to the Navajo people. They laugh at my clothes. They think what I have learned is no good and pretty soon I am ready to give up all I have learned so that the Navajo shan't laugh at me some more."

"That isn't it, Thomas Jefferson," said Zeke tartly. "You're expected to come back to your tribe and show them how to live. That's the way a good many do. I never saw an Indian who had been educated and then came back to his tribe and give up because he was afraid some silly girl was going to laugh at him for his clothes or his new education, that, if he let go, he did not swing twice as far in the other direction. There's no Indian like a bad Indian. And no bad Indian is as bad as the one I'm telling you about."

The Navajo did not respond though his manner betrayed that his anger was steadily rising.

"Now, then, I want to know, Thomas Jefferson, what you were doing with those men down on the side of the Gulch last night," continued Zeke.

"I did not see men."

"Well, man, then. Have it your own way. Perhaps there was only one of them. Was it that fellow with the scar on his face?"

"I did not say."

"Well, that's what you must do. You've got to tell us who he was."

"If I do not tell what will you do?"

"Drive you out of camp the same as I would drive a rat out of his hole."

The Indian laughed but made no other response.

"Now, then, Thomas Jefferson," said Zeke, angered by the apparent indifference of the young Indian, "did you see that white man or didn't you?"

"I did not see him."

"Are you talking straight?"

"I am."

"It is 'good talk' you're giving me, is it?"

"I did not see the man."

"Well, then, who was there?"

"I did not see any one."

"But Fred here says you were talking to somebody."

"Let him say."

"All right, T.J.," said Zeke abruptly. "We'll stop here for a while. I'm not done with you yet. Now, what I want you to do is to take Kitoni with you and go along the side of the Gulch keeping your eyes open for any sign of a vein. If you find it you let me know right away."

"What you do?" inquired the Navajo.

"We shall keep up above the rim and try to find out what is there. Now mark you, T.J., don

't try any of your tricks on us. If you do, the first thing you know you'll be thrown out and there'll be no cure for it."

The guide now rejoined the other members of the party and plans were soon made for the day.

It finally was decided that while the two Indians were making their way along the side of the Gulch, all the others should be divided into two parties. Each of these two parties was to spread out in such a manner that at least ten feet intervened between any two men.

It was decided also that the Indians should precede the others by at least an hour.

Meanwhile it was agreed that the center of the rock should be made the starting place for the new expedition. Slow progress was certain, but all were more eager now to avoid mistakes than they were to make haste.

John, who declared he had now acquired an accurate stride which covered exactly a yard, led the way. Directly behind him was Zeke, while the boys were scattered on either side. Pete again formed the rear guard, although no danger now was feared unless the actions of Thomas Jefferson implied that they were being watched by others. Zeke had declared positively to Fred that he thought the Indian was not telling him the truth. "There's all the more reason," he explained, "why we must keep our eyes open. I'm sure that the Navajo is being paid for his work and I shouldn't be surprised if that man with the scar was the treasurer of the fund."

Even Fred now ignored any peril that might arise from the supposed interview of Thomas Jefferson with other enemies, for the excitement of the last part of their investigations was strong upon him.

Slowly the little band advanced over the broken surface. There were gullies so deep that at first it seemed impossible to gain the opposite side. Most of these, however, were narrow and consequently the difficulties of John in measuring the distance were not greatly increased.

Grant had explained that if they did start from the wrong place they would steadily swing more and more away from the spot they were seeking. However, there was nothing to be done except to try and the eagerness of the boys clearly showed how willing they were to make the attempt.

As the distance covered by John steadily increased, the boys became more silent though they were steadily watching for some object that might indicate the end of the first part of their search. No object, however, was seen and when at last John halted, declaring that he had covered exactly the distance required, he was standing on an elevation so slight that no one believed it was a landmark.

"Now, from here," said Grant, "we turn and go southeast a quarter of a mile."

"From where?" demanded Zeke.

"From where String is standing."

"Might as well start from there as anywhere," growled Zeke. "It's a kind of fool's journey anyway."

The sun was now pouring its beams directly upon the heads of the young explorers and there was no relief to be had. Across the desert stretch not a place of refuge was within sight.

"There's nothing else to be done," said Grant resolutely. "Jack will have to keep on and follow the compass just as closely as he did on the way here."

The declaration of the Go Ahead Boy was so evidently true that without a protest from any one the entire party resumed its march.

They were now at least a half-mile from the rim of the great Gulch. In changing the direction in which they were moving they still were following the line made by the huge chasm.

They had gone only half the distance of the second stage of their journey, when they all halted abruptly as Zeke said in a low voice, pointing as he spoke toward the canyon, "Is that smoke off there?"

For a moment all in the party were silent, but Pete and Grant were strong in their opinion that a thin line of smoke was visible just above the border of Thorn's Gulch.

"Huh," muttered Zeke, "that's more or less what I expected."

"What was it you were expecting?" demanded Fred.

"Just what I see."

"Yes, but what do you see?"

"The same as you do," said the guide sharply.

"I don't see anything but a little smoke. It may not be anything but a cloud," said Fred.

"Well, you see the same thing that I do and you're as free as I am to explain what it means. I'm very free to say that I don't like it."

"Here I am," exclaimed John, who had closely been following the compass.

"Where is that?" laughed George.

"Right here where I am is the end of that quarter-mile that we were to follow to the southeast."

"Stay where you are then," said Grant quickly. "We've got to measure from that spot to find anything like the stake we're looking for. We're now going a quarter-mile north northeast from here."

Again at the second halt John was standing on another small elevation, although it too was so slight that it would not have called attention to itself from any chance passer-by.

"We're on our last lap, now," said Fred gleefully. "In a few minutes we'll know whether we've struck oil or gold. Come on, fellows!" he shouted in his excitement.

The little band at once renewed their journey and their excitement steadily increased as John's pace led them, as they believed, in the direction which had been indicated in the diary of Simon Moultrie.

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