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   Chapter 17 No.17

The Cave in the Mountain / A Sequel to In the Pecos Country By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 10225

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


A Fortunate Diversion.

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Mickey O'Rooney had not thought of the "opening" over their heads since the firing of his rifle-shot, and he now started and looked upward, as if fearful that he had committed a fatal oversight. But he saw or heard nothing to excite alarm.

"Where are they?" he asked, in a whisper.

"They're up there. I've seen them peep down more than once."

"What were they paaping for?"

"I suppose to find out where we were."

"Be the powers, but I showed them where I was when I fired me gun!"

"That maybe; but you didn't stay there, and perhaps they were looking for me."

"Did they find ye?"

"I don't think they did. You know I was in behind the boulder, with my head thrown back, so that it was easy for me to look up, and there wasn't enough branches and leaves over my head to shut out my view; so I lay there looking up, watching and listening, when I saw an Indian peep over the top there, as though he was looking for us."

"Did ye see more than one?"

"I am sure there were two, and I think three."

"They didn't ax ye any question?"

"I didn't hear any."

"What d'ye s'pose they mean to try?"

"I thought they meant to find out where we are hiding, and then roll stones down on us. They can do that, you know, without our getting a chance to stop them."

"If we squaze in under that same place," said Mickey, indicating the inward slope of the rock, they can't hit us; but I don't believe that such is their intention."

"What do you suppose it to be?"

"That's hard to say; but these varmints ain't ready to shoot us jist yet. Leastaways, they don't want to do so, until they're sure there ain't anything else lift for 'em to'do."

"They wish to make us prisoners?"

"That's it, exactly."

"Well, if they are willing to wait, they'll be sure to have us, for there isn't any water here for us to drink, and we can't get along without that."

The Irishman suddenly slapped his chest and side, as though he missed something from the pocket.

"And be the powers!" he exclaimed, "I've lost that mate, and there must have been enough to last us a wake or two."

"How could you have lost that?" asked Fred, who was much disappointed.

"It must have slid out when we were riding so hard, or else when we lift our horses."

"Are you sure it wasn't lost somewhere among these trees, where we can get it again?"

But he was confident that such was not the case, and he was not disposed to mourn the loss a great deal. They could do longer without food than they could without drink, and he was of the opinion that this problem would be solved before they were likely to perish from the want of either.

"Did ye get a fair look at any of the spalpeens that was so ill-mannered as to paap down on ye?"

"Yes; and there was one-'Sh! there he is now!"

The two peered upward through the leaves, and saw the head and shoulders of an Apache, who was looking down into the ravine. He was not directly above them, but a dozen feet off to the left. He seemed to be trying to locate the party that had fired two such fatal shots, and therefore could not have known where he was.

The face of the Indian could be seen very distinctly, and it was one with more individual character than any Mickey had as yet noticed. It was not handsome nor very homely, but that of a man in the prime of life, with a prominent nose-a regular contour of countenance for an Indian. The face was painted, as was the long black hair which dangled about his shoulders. His eye was a powerful black one, which flitted restlessly, as he keenly searched the ravine below.

Not seeing that which he wished, he arose to his feet, and walked slowly along and away from where the fugitives were crouching. That is, his face was turned toward the main ravine or pass, while he stepped upon the very edge of the fissure, moving with a certain deliberation and dignity, as he searched the space below for the man and boy whom he was so anxious to secure.

"I wonder if he ain't the leader?" said Mickey, in a whisper. "I never saw better shtyle than that."

"I should think he was the leader. Don't you know him?"

"How should I know him? I never traveled much in Injun society. Are ye and him acquainted?"

"He's Lone Wolf-their great war-chief."

"Ye don't say so?" exclaimed the astonished Irishman, staring at him. "He's just the spalpeen I loaded me gun for, and here goes!"

Softly raising the hammer of his rifle, he lifted the weapon to his shoulder; but before he could make his aim certain, the red scamp stepped aside and vanished from view.

"Now, that's enough to break a man's heart!" wailed the chagrined Mickey. "Why wasn't the spalpeen thoughtful and kind enough to wait until I could have made sartin of him? But sorra and disappointment await us all, as Barney Mulligan said when his friend wouldn't fight him. Maybe he'll show himsilf agin."

Whether or not Lone Wolf learned of the precise location of the parties for whom he was searching can only be conjectured; but during the ten minutes that Mickey h

eld his weapon ready to shoot him at sight, he took good care to keep altogether invisible.

The Irishman was still looking for his reappearance, when another singular occurrence took place. There was a whoop, or rather howl, followed by a fall of a warrior, who was so near the edge of the narrow ravine that when he came down, a portion of his body was seen by those below. The dull and rather distant report of a gun told the curious story.

The same rifle that had picked off one of the Apaches at the mouth of the fissure had done the same thing in the case of one at the top. The aim in both instances was unerring.

"Freddy, me lad," said Mickey, a moment later, "whin we rushed in here wid the spalpeens snapping at our heels, I hadn't any more hope that we'd ever get clear of 'em than the man who was transported to Botany Bay had of cutting out Prince Albert in Queen Victoria's graces."

"Have you any more hope now?"

"I have; we've got a friend on the outside, and he's doing us good sarvice, as he has already proved. If Lone Wolf wasn't among that crowd, I don't belave they would stay after what has took place; there's nothing to scare an Injun like them things which he don't understand."

"I should think that that rifle-shot is proof enough that somebody is firing into them."

"Be the powers, but ye know little of Injin devilments, as I've larned 'em from Soot Simpson. How do ye know but that's a thrick to make these Apaches belave that there's but a single Kiowa over there popping at them, when there may be half a hundred waiting for the chance to clean them out?"

"Maybe that is Sut himself; you know you have been expecting him."

"It can't be him," replied Mickey, with a shake of his head. "He would have showed himself long ago, when he could be sure of helping us. There must be some redskins over there that have put up a job on Lone Wolf and his scamps."

"Whoever it is, whether one or a dozen, they are helping us mightily."

"So it looks, though they don't mean it for that, and after driving these spalpeens away, they may come over to clean us out themselves."

Nothing was heard of the redskins above for a considerable time after the shot mentioned. Then the body was suddenly whisked out of sight. It is a principle with Indians to bring away their dead from any fight in which they may have fallen. At the imminent risk of losing his own life a warrior had stolen up and drawn away the remains of his former comrade.

The mysterious shots seemed to come from the other side of the ravine, and they naturally had a very demoralizing effect upon the party. Lone Wolf was not only brave, but sagacious and prudent. He was not the chief to allow his warriors to stand idly and permit themselves to be picked off one by one by an unseen enemy. But for the latter, he would have descended into the fissure, and, with several of his most reliable braves, captured and secured Mickey and his companion at all hazards. But what assurance could he have that after he and his men had entered the little ravine, a whole party of Kiowas would not swarm in, overwhelm them, and make off with their horses? So the leader concluded for the time being to remain outside, where his line of retreat would be open, while he could arrange his plans for disposing of the whites at his leisure.

Lone Wolf dispatched two of his most skillful scouts, one to the right, the other to the left, with orders to get to the rear of the enemy, no matter how long a detour was necessary. In case they were unable to extinguish them, they were to signal or return for assistance. After sending off his trusty messengers, Lone Wolf concluded to hold back until their return, keeping himself and his braves pretty well concealed, but guarding against the capture of their horses in the ravine below, or the escape of the two fugitives, who might attempt to take advantage of the diversion.

At the end of an hour, nothing had been seen or heard of the Apache scouts sent out, and the chief dispatched another to learn what was going on, and what was the cause of the trouble. During this hour not a rifle-shot was detected by the waiting, listening ears. Another half hour passed away, and the third man sent out by Lone Wolf came back alone, and with astounding tidings.

He had found both of the warriors lying within a few yards of each other, stone dead. He sought for some explanation of the strange occurrence, but found none, and returned with the news to his leader.

The latter was about as furious as a wild Indian could be, without exploding. Lone Wolf had his own theory of the thing, and he inquired particularly as to the manner in which the fatal wounds seemed to have been inflicted. When they were described, all doubt was removed from the mind of the chieftain.

He knew where the fatal shots came from, and he determined that there was no better time to "square accounts." Calling the larger portion of his company about him, he started backward and away from the ravine, his purpose being to reach the rear of his enemy by a long detour.

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