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   Chapter 10 No.10

The Cave in the Mountain / A Sequel to In the Pecos Country By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 10577

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


"Here We are Again!"

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Fred Munson, having been deceived once by the Apache climbing up the rope, was not to be caught again in the same way. When he became certain that a second person was coming up, he grasped his pistol again, and held himself in readiness to "repel boarders," the very instant they appeared.

It soon became evident that this second person, whoever he was, had a serious time in climbing up the rope. He frequently paused as if resting, and this fact led the lad to feel more hopeful than ever that it was his old friend drawing near.

When it became apparent that he was near the top, the curiosity of Fred became so great that he drew himself forward, and, peering down the black throat of the cave, asked, in a whisper:

"I say, Mickey, is that you? Speak, if it is, or give a little whistle."

"Be the powers, but I'm so tired I'm spaachless, wid not even the strength to let out a whistle."

This established the identity of the climber beyond all question, and the words were hardly uttered when the familiar face of the Irishman appeared.

He was exceedingly tired, and the lad reached his hand down to assist him out. It was at this juncture that the Apache, who had run against the fist of Mickey O'Rooney, recovered, and seeing his foe in the act of vanishing, gave a whoop of alarm to his companions, caught up his rifle and fired away. The hasty aim alone prevented a fatal result, the bullet clipping the clothing of the Irishman.

"Fire away, ye spalpeens, for all the good it may do ye," called out the Irishman, who at this moment clambered out of range and sank down upon the ground.

"Begorrah, I'm as tired as Jim O'Shaughnessey after his friendly match with his wife," gasped Mickey, speaking shortly and rapidly, as best he could, while he leaned over upon his elbow, until he could regain his strength and wind.

It required but a short time, when he reached his hand to the lad, and shook it for the third or fourth time, smiling at the same time in his old jolly way, as he rose rather unsteadily upon his pins.

"I'll have to wait a while till the kink gets out of me legs, before I give ye the Donnybrook jig, but I make the engagement wid ye, and the thing is down for performance, do ye mind that? And now, me laddy, we must thravel. Are ye hungry?"

"Yes."

"I have a bite saved that'll do ye till the morrow. When ye waltzed out the cave and left me to meself, I felt there was no knowing how long I'd have to stay behind, so I knocked off both eating and drinking, with the idea of getting used to going without anything."

As they were able to talk more understandingly, the two explained their experiences since they had parted. They could not fail to be interesting in both cases. When they had finished, Mickey O'Rooney had about recovered from the terrible strain he had undergone in clambering out the cave, barring a little ache in his arms and legs.

"Now, me laddy, we must emigrate, as there ain't anything to be gained by loafing round here, as the gals used to tell the chaps when they tried to cut me out. The first thing to larn is whether the hoss that I lift some distance away is still there cropping the grass. If he is, then we shall have small work in making our way back to New Boston; but if he has emigrated ahead of us thar, we must hunt for others."

"There's no need of going that far."

"Why not?"

"Because the mustangs of the Apaches are right over yonder behind those rocks."

"That's good; let's take a look at the same."

They hurried over to the spot where the half dozen mustangs were tethered. They were lying upon the ground, taking their sleep, having finished a bounteous meal. The intelligent creatures showed their training by throwing up their heads the instant the two came in sight, and several gave utterance to whinneys, no doubt with the purpose of apprising their masters of the approach of strangers. None of them rose to their feet, however, and Mickey and Fred moved about, inspecting them as best they could in the moonlight, with the purpose of selecting the best.

"They're all a fine lot, as the neighbors used to say, after inspicting me father's family, and it's hard to make up your mind which is the best, but here is one that shtrikes me fancy. Get up wid ye."

The steed, spoken to in this peremptory manner, leaped to his feet, and stood in all his graceful and beautiful proportions, an equine gem, which could not fail to command admiration.

"I think he'll suit," said the Irishman, after a careful examination. "I think he can run as well as any of 'em. I'll tell you what we'll do, me laddy. We'll both mount this one, and ride till we reach the place where I lift mine, when we'll have one apiece."

"But if yours isn't there?"

"Then we'll kaap this one betwaan us, as the gals used to say, when they quarreled over me."

"Hadn't I better take one of the horses, and if we find yours, why, we can turn one of these loose, and we shall be all right, no matter how the things turn out?"

"It's not a bad idaa," assented the Irishman. "Pick yours out, and then we'll turn the others loose."

"Why will you do that?"

"What's the use of laving them here? Them spalpeens will find thei

r way out of the cave before long, and then they will strike straight for these animals, and, if they happen to get out pretty soon, they'll make trouble with us. We might as well let 'em walk awhile."

"How are they going to get out?"

"Didn't ye lave the lasso hanging down into the cave?"

"I declare, I never thought of that!" exclaimed the affrighted lad. "Why didn't you tell me?"

And he started to repair the oversight, when Mickey caught his arm and checked him.

"Not so, me son; lave it as it is. If we should go away and lave the spalpeens down there without the rope, they might never find the way out, and would starve to death, and it would always grieve me to think I had starved six Apaches to death, instead of affording meself some enjoyment by cracking 'em over the head wid a shillelah."

"I should be sorry to do that," replied Fred, who comprehended the cruelty of leaving the poor fellows to perish, as they were likely to do if left without the means of escape; "but, if we leave the rope hanging there, the whole party will be up here before we can get out of the way, and then what shall we do?"

"Niver fear, niver fear," said Mickey, with a wave of his hand and a magisterial shake of the head. "The spalpeens have got enough of climbing up there for a while. They've gone off on a hunt through the cavern for the place where you crawled out, and they'll kaap at that till morning, and then, if there's no show for 'em, they'll come back, and begin to fool around the rope again."

The lad had little difficulty in deciding upon his steed, which was a coal-black mustang, lithe and willowy, and apparently of a good disposition, although that was necessarily a matter of conjecture, for the present. There were no saddles upon any of the horses, and nothing but the rudest kind of bridle, consisting of a thong of twisted bull's hide, and reaching away to some limb or tree, so as to give the animal plenty of grazing area. The lariats of the other four were cut-so that, when they arose, they would find themselves at liberty to go whither they chose-after which the two approached their respective prizes and prepared to mount.

Both were good riders, although, being compelled to go it bareback, they felt some misgivings as to the result. Fred's mustang was rather under size, so that he was able to vault upon him from the ground without difficulty. After patting him on the neck and speaking soothingly to him, with a view to disarming him of all timidity, the lad leaped lightly upon his back.

The steed showed at once that he did not like this familiarity, and reared and plunged and shook his head in a vicious way, but he toned down somewhat after a time, and seemed disposed to compromise matters until he learned something about his rider.

"Ye're going to become a good rider-that is, in the course of twenty or thirty years," remarked Mickey, who had been watching his young friend closely, "if ye practice aich day in those thirty years; but I want you to observe my shtyle-note how complately I bring the animal under, how docile he becomes, how mild, how gentle, how lamblike."

And with these rather pompous observations, he laid his hand upon the mane of his mustang, and at one bound bestrode him, catching the lariat after the manner of one who was determined to have no nonsense about it.

"Now note how quick I'll subdue him, how afeard he'll be, you can't goad him into trying to throw me. Talk about Rarey breaking that old horse Cruiser, that used to ate his keeper every day for breakfast, he couldn't compare wid mesilf."

Before Mickey had time to finish his observation, the heels of the mustang went up almost perpendicularly in the air, and with such suddenness that Mickey was thrown a dozen feet over his head, alighting upon his hands and knees.

Fred was amused beyond expression at the discomfiture of his boasting friend, who was not a little astonished at the manner in which he had been overthrown.

"Turns up," he said, as he gathered himself on his feet again, "that I was a little mistook. Such accidents will happen now and then, and it isn't very kind for a spalpeen like yourself to laugh at me sorrow."

"I can't help it, Mickey, but I'm afraid I can't stick to the back of this horse. He seems scared and mad, and his back feels mighty slippery without any saddle or blanket."

"Maybe, if I get on wid ye, the weight of us both will hold him down."

The mustang which hard thrown the Irishman continued to flourish his heels and disport himself in such a lively style, that his spirit became contagious, and the four, who were yet upon the ground, now came to their feet, and after some plunging and rearing, made a rush down the slope, and were soon out of sight.

The animal ridden by the lad showed a disposition to join them, but the rider resisted, and managed to hold him, until at the opportune moment, Mickey placed himself on his back, and, as he was really a good horseman, and used vigorous means, he speedily managed to bring him under control. Turning his head toward the ridge, they started him forward, pausing near the mouth of the cavern long enough to gather up one of the blankets lying there, as it was likely to be useful at no distant time.

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