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The Cave in the Mountain / A Sequel to In the Pecos Country By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 11039

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Through the Mountains.

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The moon was high in the sky, and it was near midnight. O'Rooney, who had taken upon himself the task of guiding the mustang, continued him on up the ridge, directly toward the spot where Fred had lain so long watching the action of the Apaches gathered around the opening of the cave.

The mustang walked along quite obediently, seeming to feel the load no more than if it was only one half as great. But those animals are like their native masters-cunning and treacherous, ready to take advantage of their riders whenever it happens to come in their way.

"Which is the raison I cautions ye to be riddy for a fall," said Mickey, after referring to some of the peculiarities of these steeds of the Southwest. "The minute he gits it into his head that we ain't paying attention, he'll rear up on his fore-feet, and walk along that way for half a mile. Not having any saddle, we'll have to slide over his neck, unless I can brace me feet agin his ears, and ride along standing straight up."

The constant expectation of being flung over the head of a horse is not the most comforting sensation that one can have, and the lad clung fast to his friend in front, determined not to go, unless in his company. Upon reaching the top of the ridge, the horse was reined up for a few minutes, as Mickey, like the mariner at sea, was desirous of taking an observation, so as to prevent himself going astray.

"Can you remember how you were placed?" asked the lad, after he had spent several minutes in the survey; "that is, do you know which way to go for the horse you left eating grass?"

"I was a little puzzled at first, as me father obsarved to the school-teacher when he said I had been a good boy, but I see how it is now. It must have been that I got a little turned round when I was down in the basemint of these mountains, but I see how it is now. Right yonder," he added, pointing toward the Northwest, "is where I left my hoss, and there is where I hope I'll find him again."

"Is the road so that we can ride the mustang all the way there, or must we walk?"

"I remember I come right along some kind of a path, made by animals, after leaving the beast. I s'pose it's the route taken by the crathurs in going to the water, for there's a splendid spring right there, and the path that I was just tilling you 'bout leads straight to it."

"Then keep the horse from throwing us off, and we're all right. After we find your horse, Mickey, or don't find him, what are we to do, then?"

"Set sail for New Boston."

"But we can't ride through these mountains, if we don't find the pass."

"And the same is what we're going to do, barring that it hasn't been lost yet."

"Are you sure you know the way to it from where you left your horse? I've been hunting for it for hours, but couldn't any more tell where it was than the man in the moon. What course would you have to take to reach it?"

"Right off yonder," replied Mickey, pointing to the left.

"And I was sure that it was here," said Fred, pointing his hand in nearly an opposite direction.

"Which the same is a good raison why you're wrong. When you git lost, and think you're on the right way, ye may be sure that ye're wrong; and after figuring the whole thing over, and getting sartin of the right coorse, all you've got to do is not to take it, and ye're sartin of saving yerself."

"Then, according to that, you ought not to take the route which you have said is the right one."

"I'm spaking for lost spalpeens like yoursilf," said Mickey, severely. "I haven't been lost since I parted company with Soot Simpson, and, begorrah, that minds me that we ought to saa something of him. Just look around and obsarve whether he is standing anywhere beckoning to us."

Both used their eyes to the extent of their ability, but were unable to discover anything that bore a suspicious resemblance to a man.

So far as they could judge, they were entirely alone in this vast solitude.

"Do you expect to meet Sut very soon?"'

"Av coorse I do; why shouldn't I?"

"But he went another way from you altogether after Lone Wolf."

"That's just it. He wint another way, and wint wrong, and he has been gone long 'nough to find out the same."

"When he will turn back and follow you?"

"As soon as he finds he's wrong, he'll go right, and as I wint right, he'll be on my heels."

"But you know both of us have strayed a good deal off the track, and we have traveled in many places, where we haven't made the slightest trail. How is he going to follow us then?"

The Irishman gave utterance to a scornful exclamation.

"I've been with that Soot Simpson long enough to learn something. I've saan some specimens of what he kin do. Rocks don't make no difference to him. When he gits on the track of a wild bird, if it don't take extra pains to dodge and double, he'll foller its trail through the air. Oh, he's there all the time, and the wonder with me is that he hasn't turned up before."

"What would he have done had he come along and found us both in the cave, and the Apaches watching?"

"He would have tracked that wolf back to his hole, come in and fetched us out, and then slipped up behind the six, and tumbled them all in like so many tenpins."

"If he's such a wonderful man as that, it's a pity we couldn't have kept him with us all the time, and if we do run against him, we can afford to stop thinking about Apaches, as they will be of no account."

"Yees are right; but the trouble is to find him, as the man said when the British Government condemned John Mitchel, and him thousands of miles away in Ameriky. This thramping about at night in the mountains isn't the aisiest way to diskiver a man, and it's him that will have to find us, instead of we him. But we'll keep it up."

If the Apache mustang which they were riding meditated any mischief, he seemed to be of the opinion that the occasion was not the most suitable. He walked along with great docility and care, picking his way with a skill that was wonderful. Several times they approached places where it seemed impossible for an equine to go forward, but the horse scarcely hesitated, toiling onward like an Alpine chamois, until, at last, they drew up in a small valley, through the middle of which ran a small stream, that sparkled brightly in the moonlight.

"Here we are," said Mickey. "here's the spot where I left my cratur a couple of days ago, and where I don't see him just now. Use your eyes a bit, and tell me whether you obsarve him."

Fred was scarcely less anxious than his friend to recover the steed, for, recalling his experience in that line, he had good reason to mistrust Indian horses. It would be very awkward, when they should find a party of Apaches howling and rushing down upon them, to have the animal turn calmly about and trot back to his former friends, carrying his two riders into captivity, or leaving them to shift for themselves.

Nothing could be seen of the creature, but there was a fringe of wood on the opposite side where he might be concealed, and Mickey slid off the blanket with the intention of hunting for him.

"Don't let this spalpeen give ye the slip," he cautioned the lad, as he gave the lariat into his hand; "for if mine is gone, this is the only one we have to depend on, and we can't spare him."

Fred felt a little uncomfortable when he found himself alone and astride of the fiery steed, which pricked up his ears as though he meditated mischief; but the horse seemed to think better of it, and continued so quiet that the young rider ventured to transfer his attention from him to Mickey, who was moving across the open space in the direction of the wood upon the opposite side.

The moonlight was so clear that he could be as plainly seen, almost, as if it were midday. As he moved along, he brought his rifle around to the front, so that he could use it at a moment's need, for he could not but see the probability that, if his horse had been lately disturbed, it was likely that those who did so were still in the vicinity, and no place was more likely to be used for a covert than the same patch of timber which he was approaching.

"Be the powers! but it looks a little pokerish!" he said to himself, slowing his gait, and surveying the wood with no little distrust. "There might be a dozen of the spalpeens slaaping there wid one eye open, or all sitting up and expicting me."

He had proceeded so far however, that it was as dangerous to turn back as it was to go on, for if any enemies were there, they were so close at hand that they could easily capture or shoot him before he could reach his horse. He was scarcely moving, and doing his utmost to penetrate the deep shadow, when, beyond all question, he heard a movement among the trees. He paused as if he had been shot and cocked his rifle, looking toward the point from whence came the noise.

"Aisy there, now," he said in a solemn voice. "I won't stand any of your thricks. I'm savage, and when I'm that way I'm dangerous, so if yees are there spake out, or else come out like a man, and tell me your name, be the token of which mine is Mickey O'Rooney from Ireland."

This characteristic summons produced no response, and, feeling the peculiar peril of his exposed position, the Irishman determined upon changing it and securing the shelter of a tree for himself. It was not prudent to move directly toward the spot which gave forth the rustling sound, as that would be likely to draw out a shot from a foe if he desired to avoid a personal encounter. Accordingly, the Irishman made what might be termed a flank movement by turning to the right, running rapidly several paces and then diving in among the trees, as though he were plunging into the water for a bath.

The few minutes occupied in making this change were those which Mickey felt were of great danger; for, if he should reach the wood and find himself opposed to but a single man, or even two, the situation would not be so uneven by any means. No shots were fired, and he drew a great sigh of relief when he gained the desired covert.

"Now I can dodge back and forth, and work me way up to them," he concluded; "and when they stick their heads out from behind the trees, I'll whack 'em for 'em, just as we used to do at Donnybrook when the fun began."

He waited where he was for some time, in the expectation that his foe would reveal himself by an attempt to draw out. But if there is any one thing which distinguishes a scout, whether white or red, at such a time, it is his patience. It is like that of the Esquimaux, who will sit for sixteen hours, without stirring, beside an airhole in the ice, waiting for a seal to appear. Mickey O'Rooney was not burdened with overmuch patience, and acted upon the principle of Mohammed going to the mountain. He began picking his way through the shadows and among the trees, determined to keep forward until the mystery was solved.

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