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   Chapter 7 No.7

The Cave in the Mountain / A Sequel to In the Pecos Country By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 11104

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Fishing for a Friend.

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"I think I dumped that Apache down there just as nicely as any one could have done it," said Fred, as he sat upon the ground. "It must have taken him by surprise when I banged into his back that way. I'd like to know whether he fell on his head or feet. He hadn't much time to get ready for the fall, and so maybe it wasn't just as he wanted it. I don't think it was, either, with Mickey or me. Such things ain't generally in this part of the world. Maybe some of the others were standing around, and this fellow went down on their heads. If he did, it must have shaken all their dinners up. That's a pretty good way to fall down there, and although I didn't get hurt much, I wouldn't want to try it again."

Fred had had remarkable success, but there was a question as to what he was going to do with it. He was on the outside of the cavern, with the means at command for assisting Mickey to the surface, but, the Indians being down below, it was not clear how this was to be done, as they were likely to take a hand in the matter.

As preliminary to any elaborate attempts in that direction, it was necessary that he should apprise him of his presence, and establish some sort of communication with him. This, under the circumstances, was exceedingly difficult, as it was not likely that the Irishman would suspect that his young friend had succeeded in reaching the outside until he had received strong proof of it. Very fortunately, however, the couple possessed a code of signals which were easily understood, if they were only heard.

"I will try him on our old call," said Fred, as he crept as close to the edge as he deemed safe, and emitted a whistle that must have extended far within the cave.

"If he hears that, he will understand it," he added, turning his ear, so that he could catch any response; but the dim, soothing murmur of the cascade was the only sound that came up from the cavernous depths.

"He must be there-he must be there, and he will come back, so he will catch the signal sooner or later."

There was one aspect of the business which had not yet occurred to Fred, and which was likely to inure to the benefit of Mickey O'Rooney, the gentleman who just then stood in need of everything that came along in that line. The Apaches were skillful and wise enough to learn from the trail which had first told them the story, that a boy and man had been caught in the cavern, and it was very evident that they all believed that there was no other avenue of escape except that by which they had entered. At the same time, their knowledge of the peculiarities of their own country must have convinced them that it was possible that other openings, of which they knew nothing, might exist, and might become known to the prisoners.

The last Indian who went down must have known that the lad who assisted him was one of the parties for whom they were yearning, and his presence was proof that he had made the fortunate discovery which was denied the natives of the territory. If the lad had emerged by that means into the outer world, the natural supposition would be that his companion had done the same, and that, therefore, neither of the fugitives were below, the inevitable conclusion being that the tables had been completely turned upon them. Such was certain to be the conclusion of the Apaches, and it remained for Mickey O'Rooney to use ordinary prudence and keep himself out of the way of the redskins, to secure a chance of further outwitting them by a bold piece of generalship.

Fred repeated his whistle four or five times, with an interval of ten minutes, when his hopes were raised to the highest pitch by hearing it answered. In his excitement he thrust his head far over the opening, gave the signal again to prevent mistakes, and listened.

A full minute elapsed, when the reply came, sounding faint and far away. It showed that Mickey was at a considerable distance from the opening, and that he heard and understood the situation. To make matters still more certain, the lad now shouted at the top of his voice, holding both hands so as to inclose his mouth like a tunnel.

"Mickey, I'm up here with a lasso! Nobody else is here! Whenever you can get the chance, get hold of the lasso, and climb up! I will let it down after a while!"

It cannot be said that this was a very wise proceeding upon the part of the lad; for it was likely that some one of the half dozen Apaches understood English well enough to comprehend what he said. To clinch the business, Fred yelled a few more words.

"If you understand me, Mickey, whistle!"

The words were no more than fairly uttered when the desired response was made, faintly, but, nevertheless, distinctly.

"That's good," concluded the delighted lad. "Now all I have to do is to wait for him to get the chance, and he will come up the lasso, and then we'll be done with the cave."

This, certainly, was all that he had to do, but, at the same time, this amounted to a good deal.

"Now, if I let this rope down," added the lad, as he thought the matter over, "one of those Apaches will try to climb up it, and I will have to cut it, and that will leave it in his hands, and then what will become of Mickey?"

He debated a long time as to the best plan of overcoming this serious difficulty; but none presented itself, and he concluded that it was an inevitable contingency, which he must prepare himself to defeat, at all hazards.

Fred had been so absorbed with the business

which had succeeded admirably up to this hour, that he scarcely noted the passage of time. He was not a little amazed when he came to look at the sun and to note, from its position, that the afternoon was considerably advanced, and that night was much nearer than he supposed. Nearly twenty-four hours had elapsed since he had tasted food, and, although he felt somewhat faint, he was not troubled with hunger. He made up his mind to make no effort to obtain food until he should succeed in bringing the Irishman from his prison-as he hoped to do before the night should pass away. But he was thirsty, and, believing that he could quench his thirst without going very far, and without jeopardizing the safety of his friend, he started off on a little hunt for water.

"That stream runs out of the cave not very far from here, and, if I can find that, it will be just what I want."

Fixing in his mind the direction of the stream, he started off, taking an almost opposite direction from that which led to the ridge, where he had lain so long watching the movements of the Apaches. This led him directly behind a mass of boulders and rocks, tossed irregularly together, and surrounded by a peculiar growth of stunted vegetation, with rich, succulent grass beyond.

Fred was hurrying along, with no thought of seeing anything unusual, when he was startled by coming directly upon a half dozen mustangs, all bound to the limbs or trunks of trees with strong lariats, while they were lazily cropping the grass where they had been left undisturbed for several hours. They were all fine-looking animals, every one of them-not one having saddle or bridle, and nothing, indeed, excepting the long thong, which, like the lasso, was made of bull's hide, and which prevented them from straying beyond their appointed limits. There could be no doubt that the animals belonged to the little party taking an airing in the cave, and the eyes of the lad sparkled as they rested upon them.

"Oh! if Mickey were only here!" he exclaimed to himself; "we couldn't want anything nicer. We would just pick out two of the best here, stampede the others, and then gallop toward home as fast as we could, and we'd be there inside of two or three days; but I must wait, and so must he."

The place selected by the Indians for their horses could not have been better chosen. In addition to the rich pasture, a rivulet of clear, cold water flowed by, within reach of each and all, so that all their wants were supplied in the best manner possible.

Every one of the mustangs raised their heads and looked up at the stranger, and one or two gave a faint whinney, as if to inquire the business of such a character with them.

"I don't believe any of you can go like my Hurricane that I had to leave at home; but I can't have him, and I would be mighty glad to take one of you-that is, if Mickey could go along, for I don't intend to leave him, so long as I know he's alive. You seem pretty well fixed, so I'll let you alone till we get a chance to turn you to account, and you can eat and get yourself in good condition."

He took a good long draught of the refreshing water, and then made a little survey of his surroundings.

"I should like to know whether those six Indians were all looking for me. Maybe Lone Wolf has found out that I gave the three the slip, and he sent a half-dozen fresh ones to look me up. They were all strangers to me, and I am sure I never saw them before. Lone Wolf seems to want me very bad, and if these don't bring me back pretty soon, he may send somebody after them."

A careful survey of all the suspicious points failed to show him anything alarming, and he made his way back to the mouth of the cavern, where he sat down to await the moment for him to lower the lasso that he hoped was to give Mickey O'Rooney a chance for his life. It seemed to him that it would not be safe to attempt it until the sun went down. His theory was that the Apaches would not remain directly beneath the opening all the time, but that there would be a chance for the Irishman to creep up without detection. He would be looking for the lasso, and in the darkness might be able to ascend it without discovery.

The lad hoped that all the redskins had reached the conclusion that both he and the man were outside; and, finding that it was out of the question for them to escape by the opening, which was at such a distance over their heads, had scattered to search for some other egress. It was not impossible that such was the case, and if it were, it placed the situation in a light by no means discouraging.

It was hardly dark when Fred Munson carefully shoved the end of the rope over the edge of the opening, and let it descend slowly, gently and noiselessly to the bottom, permitting it to pass through his hands in such a way that he could tell the instant it was disturbed. When he knew that it had struck, he waited for a "bite."

To his astonishment, it came within the next five minutes. He was startled by feeling a decided pull repeated several times.

The situation was so delicately critical that it would not do to speak nor whisper, nor even to utter their whistle, no matter how cautiously made. So, by way of reply, Fred gave the lasso, several responsive jerks, intended to signify that everything was ready, and his friend might come ahead.

A moment later the lariat was jerked from his hand, showing that a heavy weight had suddenly fastened upon it, and the man was making his way upward from the cave.

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