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   Chapter 12 No.12

The Cave in the Mountain / A Sequel to In the Pecos Country By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 10615

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Through the Mountains-Continued.

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When Mickey found himself under the shelter of the trees, something like his old confidence returned.

"As I obsarved some minutes ago, it's mesilf that's not going to stand any fooling," he added, loud enough for the redskins to hear. "Whither ye're there or not, ye ought to spake, and come out and smoke the calomel of peace, and give a spalpeen a chance to crack your head, as though ye're his brother; but if ye're up to any of your thricks, make ready to go to your hunting-grounds."

By this time he was within a dozen feet of the spot whence came the rustling that so disturbed him, and was staring with all his eyes in quest of the redskins. In spite of the bright moonlight, the Irishman could not be certain of anything he saw. There were trees of large size, behind any of which an Indian might have shielded himself effectually, and it was useless for Mickey to look unless his man chose to show himself.

The Irishman had all the natural recklessness of his race, but he had been in the Apache country long enough to learn to tone it down, for that was the country where the most fatal attribute a man could have was recklessness or rashness. In many instances of conflict with Indians it is worse than cowardice.

But, in the face of Mickey's assurance to the contrary, he did not feel altogether easy about the Apaches he had left at the cave. His humanity had prevented him from depriving them of means of escape, and although he was inclined to believe that they were not likely to climb the lasso until many hours should elapse, there could be no certainty about it. They might do so within an hour after the departure of the man and boy.

It was this reflection that caused Mickey to act with something of his natural rashness. He felt that he could not afford to wait to fight the thing out on scientific principles, so he determined, since he was so close, to force it to an issue without delay. Accordingly, he prepared himself to charge.

"I've been too kind already in giving ye warnings," he added, gathering himself for the effort, "and if your indifference causes your ruin, it's your own fault, as the bull remarked when he come down on a butt agin the engine."

Compressing his lips, Mickey made his start, forcing out a few words, as he would shoot bullets on the way.

"Nobody but a spalpeen of a coward would keep out of sight when he saw a head coming down on him in such tempting style as mine. I can't understand how he could."

In his furious hunt for antagonists, the belligerent fellow did not think of looking upon the ground. He made the blunder of Captain John Smith, of the Jamestown Colony, who, in retreating from Powhatan's warriors, became mired, with the eventual result of making Pocahontas famous, and securing an infinite number of namesakes of the captain himself.

Mickey O'Rooney had scarcely begun his charge when his feet came into violent collision with a body upon the ground, and he turned a complete somersault over it.

"Be the powers! but that's a dirty thrick!" he exclaimed, gathering himself up as hurriedly as possible, and recovering very speedily from his natural bewilderment. "A man who drops in the ring without a blow is always ruled out, and be that token ye're not entitled to the respect of illegant gintlemen."

During the utterance of these words the Irishman had carefully returned, boiling over with indignation and fight, and at this juncture he discovered the obstruction which had brought him to grief.

So far as appearances went, there was no Indian nearer than the cave. It was his own horse that had made the noise which first alarmed him. While the equine was stretched upon the ground, peacefully sleeping, his bumptious owner, in charging over his body, had stumbled and fallen.

Mickey was thrown "all in a heap" for a minute or two, when he found how the case stood, and then he laughed to himself as he fully appreciated the situation.

"Well, well, well, I feel as chape as Jerry McConnell when he hugged and kissed a gal for two hours, one evening, and found it was his wife, and she felt chaaper yet, for she thought all the time that it was Mickey O'Shaughnessy. I suppose me old swateheart," he added, as he stooped down and patted the head of his horse, "that ye've been living so high here for two or three days that ye're too fat to be good for anything. Come, up wid ye, ye old spalpeen!"

The mustang recognized the voice of his master, and obeyed as promptly as a child, coming upon his feet with the nimbleness of a racer, and ready to do what he was bidden. Mickey led him out into the moonlight, when he left him standing, while he went a short distance for the saddle and bridle, which he had concealed at the time of leaving the spot. They were found just as he had left them, and he returned in high feather, secured them in a twinkling upon his animal and galloped back to where the lad was waiting.

"Ye haven't seen or heard anything of redskins, have ye, while I was procuring my cratur?"

"Nothing at all," replied the lad; "but I heard you talking pretty loud, so I suppose you must have found several."

"No," answered Mickey, who did not care about explaining the whole affair. "I'm alw

ays in the habit of exchanging a few words wid the cratur when I maats, and such was the case a short time since, when I met him, after being away so long."

"Well, Mickey, we haven't any time to spare."

"Ye're right, my laddy; all you've got to do is to folly me."

With this he headed his mustang at precisely right angles to the course they followed in making their way to the spot; and Fred, who expected all sorts of trouble in the way of traveling, noticed that he was following some sort of path or trail, along which his horse trod as easily as upon the open prairie. While this was an advantage in one respect it had its disadvantage in another. The presence of a trail in that part of the world implied that it was one made and traveled by Indians, who were likely to be encountered at any moment, and Mickey was not insensible to the peril. But, in the present instance, there seemed to be no other means of getting along, and thus, in one sense, they were forced into it. The probabilities, however, were that they would soon emerge into safer territory, where it would be possible to take some precautions against pursuers.

For some time the two galloped along without speaking. The hoofs of their mustangs rang upon the rocks, and rattled over the gravel, and, in the still night, could have been heard a long distance away. While the Irishman kept as good a lookout ahead as possible, Fred Munson did his best to guard their rear. He kept continually glancing over his shoulder in the expectation of seeing some of their enemies, but nothing of the kind occurred, and before he anticipated it, they emerged into what seemed a deep valley, with high rocks upon both sides. Mickey drew up, and allowed his young friend to move alongside.

"Do ye mind ever having seen this place before?" he asked.

"I don't remember anything about this country, and all I ask is that we may get out of it as soon as possible."

"But don't ye mind ever having been here before?"

Thus questioned, Fred scanned his surroundings as best he could, but there was nothing that he could identify, and he so said, adding:

"I'm sure I've never been here before."

"And I'm sure ye have. This is the path that Lone Wolf come along, and that ye was hunting for when ye got lost, and fell into the basement story of the mountain."

"Oh, this is the pass, is it?" exclaimed the delighted lad; "then we have a clear road before us straight to New Boston."

"Clear of all but one thing."

"What's that?"

"The red spalpeens; they're always turning up when you don't expect 'em, and don't want 'em."

"How far are we away from the cave, where we left the half dozen Apaches?"

"I don't think it's much more than a mile, though it may be a mile and a half."

"Well, that's very good; we've got that much start, and it's worth having."

"And there's where ye're mistook, as the gals used to obsarve when anybody tried to run down my beauty. The path that we come along, ye'll mind, makes many turns and twists, and the ind of it all is that it strikes the pass on the other side of the cave, and we've got to ride right by the spot which we lift."

This was not cheering information, although, everything considered, the two had cause to congratulate themselves upon their extraordinary success up to this time.

The night was about gone, and, while their mustangs halted, they observed that it was growing light in the east. They would be forced to ride through the dangerous territory by day, so that the risk of detection would be proportionately greater if their enemies should be in the vicinity. Both the mustangs were fresh and vigorous, however, having enjoyed an unusually long rest, with plenty of food, and they were good for many hours of speed and endurance. The one ridden by Fred had behaved in a very seemly fashion, and there was ground for the hope that he would keep up the line of conduct to the end. Still there could be no certainty of what he would do in the presence of the Apaches.

"We'll take it aisy," said Mickey, as the two started off at an easy gallop. "We'll not be afther putting 'em to a run till we have to do the same, so that when there's naad for their spaad, we shall have it at command." This prudent suggestion was carried out. Their horses dropped into a sweeping gallop that was as easy as an ordinary walk. The riders kept their senses awake, talking only a little, and then in guarded voices.

As they galloped along the sun rose, and the day promised to be as warm and pleasant as those which had preceded it. The sky was obscured only by a few fleecy clouds, while the deep blue beyond was as beautiful as that of Italy. Drawing near the cave in the mountain, they pulled their horses down to a walk and carefully guided them into the softest places, so as to make the noise of their hoofs as slight as possible. Nothing occurred until they were a short distance beyond the dangerous spot, when Mickey spoke.

"Do you obsarve that stream there?" he asked, pointing to a rather deep brook which ran across the pass, and lost itself in the rocks upon the opposite side. "Well, that's the water that comes through the cave over the cascade, and that I expicted to swim out by, and I'm going to find out what me chances were."

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