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The Cave in the Mountain / A Sequel to In the Pecos Country By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 10684

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Safety and Sleep.

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There was nothing especially noticeable in the site which the scout had selected for his camp fire. His principal object had been secrecy and he had obtained it beyond all peradventure. The place was more like a cavern than anything else, except that it was open at the top, but it was walled in on the four sides, so there was barely room for the three to enter. As the scout explained, he was perfectly familiar with that section of the country, and he lost no time in hunting out the spot. He had his horse with him at the time the Apaches drove Mickey and Fred in among the rocks, and he staid until pretty certain they could keep the Apaches at bay until dark, when he made his way to a level spot inclosed by rocks. There he kindled a fire, cooked some antelope and left his mustang to graze and browse near by, while he returned to the assistance of his friends.

"Where did ye shoot that uncleope, or antelope?" asked Mickey.

"I didn't shoot him at all; he's the one you fetched down. Yer left enough for me, so I didn't run the risk of firing my gun when the varmints were so close by, so I sliced out a hunk or two from the carcass, and fetched it along."

"Ye haven't got any of it about ye?"

"Not enough for yer folks-no more than three or four pounds."

"Be the powers but ye're right. That's 'nough to stay our stomach, as me sick aunt remarked after swallowing her twenty-third dumpling."

At the moment the party walked in among the rocks the smoldering embers of the camp-fire were plainly seen. They needed but a little stirring to break forth into flame again, so as to light up the interior, which was about a dozen feet square, with a height of a dozen feet, more or less. When the Irishman signified that something in the way of food would be acceptable, the scout produced it from among the leaves near at hand, and it was devoured with the heartiest kind of appetite. They had drank all the water they needed, and the three assumed easy, lounging attitudes, Mickey lighting his pipe and enjoying himself immensely.

"This is what I call comfortable," he remarked, "as me friend Patsey McFadden observed when the row began at the fair and the whacks came from every quarter. I enjoy it; it's refining, it's soothing; it makes a man glad that he's alive."

"What do you think of it?" asked the scout, turning to Fred, who was reclining upon the heavy Apache blanket, with the appearance of one who was upon the verge of sleep.

"I feel very grateful to you," said he, rousing up, "and I am more contented than I have been in a long time; but I'm afraid all the time that Lone Wolf or some of his braves might find where we are."

Sut smiled in a pitying way, as he replied:

"Don't ye s'pose I'm old 'nough to fix all that? Haven't I larned 'nough of the 'Paches and thar devilments to keep 'em back? Wall, I rather guess I have."

As the night remained so warm that no comfort at all was derived from the fire, it was agreed that it should be left to burn out gradually. It had been kindled originally by Sut for the purpose of cooking his meat, and he had renewed it that his friends might see exactly where they were, and, at the same time, look into each other's faces.

"Let me ax ye," said Mickey, puffing away at his pipe, "whether, whin we start for home, we're going to take the pass, which seems as full of the spalpeens as me head is of grand ideas?"

"I can't be sartin of that," replied Sut, thoughtfully. "We can strike the prairie by going off here in another course; but it will take a long time, and the road is harder to travel. I like the pass a good deal the best, and unless the varmints seem too thick, we'll take it."

"If we could get a good, fair start in the pass, we could kape ahead of 'em all the way till we struck the open prairie, when it would be illigant to sail away and watch them falling behind, like a snail trying to catch a hare."

The scout pointed to the lad, and, turning his head, Mickey saw that he was sound asleep. The poor fellow was so wearied and worn that he could not resist the approach "tired nature's sweet restorer," which carried him off so speedily into the land of dreams.

"I'm glad to obsarve it," said the Irishman, "for the poor chap needs it. He's too young to be in this sort of business, but he couldn't prevint the soorcumstances, and we must help him out of the scrape as best we can."

"I'm with yer," responded the scout. "He's one of the most likely youngsters I've ever met, and I'll risk a good deal to fetch him along. I'm in hopes that we're purty well out of the woods, though we may have some trouble afore we get cl'ar of Lone Wolf and the rest."

"As soon as we get the critters to ride, I s'pose we kin be off."

"That's all, and that won't take me long. I'm used to finding horses that the varmints are fools 'nough to say are thars. One day last spring, I war over near the staked plain all alone, when I got cotched in one of them awful nor'easters, and I never came so near freezin' to death in all my life. Them sort of winds go right to the marrer of yer bones, and it takes yer a week to thaw out. Wall, sir, while I war tryin' to start a fire, a couple of Comanches managed to slip up and steal my mustang. I didn't find it out till three

or four hours arter, and then I war mad. I couldn't stand no such loss, so I took the trail, and started off on a deer-trot arter 'em. Wall, sir, I chased them infernal varmints close on to twenty miles afore I run 'em to earth. Then I found 'em down into a deep holler, where I come nigh tumblin' heels over head right in atween 'em afore I knowed who they war. Yer see it war a piece of the meanest kind of business on thar part, 'cause they each had a mustang, and I hadn't any, and they war leadin' mine.

"I laid low for them varmints till night, when I mounted my critter, and struck off over the country leadin' thar two beasts with me. I expected they'd foller, of course, for the two animals that I captured were such beauties as you don't meet every day, so I kept 'em on the go purty steady for two days and nights, when I struck into the chapparal, tethered all three horses, tumbled over onto the ground, and put in four hours of straight solid sleep, such as makes a new man of a feller. Wall, sir, would you believe it? When I woke up and went to mount my hoss, he wasn't thar. Them same three skunks had managed to keep so close onto the trail, that, afore I woke, they slipped up, took all three of the animals, and were miles away when I opened my eyes.

"Wall, yer may skulp me if I wasn't mad, and I couldn't help laughin', too, to think how nice they had come it over me. As the game had begun atween us, I took the trail and follered it for half a week. Yer see, them skunks didn't mean that I shouldn't get the best of 'em agin. They rode fast, and kept it up as long as thar horses could stand it, by which time they had every reason to think they war a hundred miles ahead of me, and so they went in for a good rest, intending when they had got that to keep up thar flight till they reached thar village up near the headwaters of the Canadian. Of course thar wouldn't have been any show for me if I hadn't had a streak of luck. I know that country like a book, and I war purty sartin of the trail them thieves meant to take, so I started to cut across and head 'em off. I hadn't gone far when I come upon the camp of a Comanche war-party, numberin' a hundred. I hadn't any trouble in picking out an animal that suited, and then yer see I war all right, and, for fear I might get off the track, I come back and took up the trail again, and I kept it so hot that when they went into camp I warn't more than two miles away; I didn't want to come any closer, for if they'd found out that I war so near, they wouldn't have give me any kind of chance at all.

"I waited till it was dark, and thar wasn't a bit of moon that night, when I sneaked into camp and got thar three animals agin, and heading for Port Severn, I made up my mind to keep the thing going without giving 'em the slightest chance to pull up. The weather had toned down so that it was comfortable to travel, and arter I got out of hearin' of the camp, I just swung my hat, and kicked and laughed to think how cheap them varmints would feel when they'd come to wake up in the morning, and find out how nice the white man had got ahead of 'em. Yer see, it war just a question as to which of us war the smartest. We weren't going for each other's hair-though we'd done that any other time-but for each other's hosses, and I'd stole thars twice to thar stealin' mine once, and I still held 'em, so I had good reason to crow over 'em. Wal, sir, I made up my mind that they warn't going to come any shenanigan over me, and I struck the shortest line for Fort Severn. I rode through that very pass in which you come so near getting cotched, and in fact, the place whar I got the hosses warn't ten miles from that big cave.

"I had plain sailin' all the way into the fort, and everything went along well. I had only to ride on my critter, when the others galloped along like so many dogs. Yer see, I meant business, and I kept a watch for them varmints all the time. When I stopped for food or rest, I made sartin that they warn't anywhar in sight, and during the three or four days that followed I never slept an hour together. I managed to snatch a few minutes slumber while riding my mustang on a full gallop, but when I stopped to give the animals time to rest, I kept watch, for I felt as though it would break my heart to be outwitted again. I made the best kind of time, and my last camp was within a dozen miles of Fort Severn. I was purty well used up by that time, and making sure that the varmints warn't anywhar within a day's ride, I put in a good two hours sleep. Well I never rightly understood it," added Sut, with a sigh, "and I'm allers ashamed to tell it, but when I went out to mount my mustang, the whole four war gone, and the moccasin tracks on the ground showed who had took 'em. I can't understand to this day how them varmints kept so close behind me, and how they war ready when the chance came into their way; but they war, and they beat me as fairly as the thing was ever done in this world."

"Didn't ye try to folly them?"

"No; I thought I might as well give up. I sneaked into the fort and tried to keep the thing from 'em, but I couldn't tell a straight story, and they found out how it was at last, and I don't suppose I'll ever hear the last of it."

A short time afterward, the two laid down and slept.

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