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   Chapter 27 No.27

The Cave in the Mountain / A Sequel to In the Pecos Country By Edward Sylvester Ellis Characters: 13365

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The End.

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"Wall, that ere little matter was settled without any hard words," muttered the scout, as he rode up the ravine. "It ain't the way Lone Wolf generally manages them things, but that affair me and him had, when I took my hoss away from him, I s'pose had something to do with it."

The scout had considerable cause to feel grateful and pleased over the turn of events. He had his horse and gun, and it now only remained for him to rejoin his companions. He had already passed the point where Mickey O'Rooney had left the ravine, and he felt the impropriety of turning back and presuming upon any further indulgence of the Apaches.

Accordingly, he slackened the speed of his mustang until he reached an avenue of escape. He was forced to go quite a distance before finding one, but he did, at last, and turned his horse into it.

"I don't know whether that ar Irishman can find the way back to whar we left the younker, but I suppose he'll try, so I'll aim at the same p'int."

The night was pretty well gone, and his mustang had struggled nobly until he showed signs of weariness, and the scout concluded to wait until daylight before pushing his hunt any further. They were miles away from the Apache camp, and he had no fears of disturbance from that quarter. So he drew rein in a secluded spot, and sprang to the ground.

At the very moment of doing so, his horse gave a whinny, which was instantly responded to by a whinny from another horse, less than a hundred feet away.

"That's qua'ar," muttered the scout, as he grasped his rifle. "Whar thar's a hoss in these parts, thar's generally a man, and whar thar's a man, you kin set him down as an Injun. And as this can't be Lone Wolf, I'll find out who he is."

His own mustang being a strayer, he managed to tie him to a small, scrubby bush, after which he moved forward, with caution and stealth, in the direction whence came the whinny that had arrested his attention. His purpose was to prevent the other animal discovering his approach-an exceedingly difficult task, as the mustangs of the Southwest are among the very best sentinels that are known, frequently detecting the approach of danger when their masters fail to do so. However, Sut succeeded in getting so close, that he could plainly detect the outlines of the animal, which was standing motionless, with head erect, and his nose turned in the direction of the other mustang, as though he were all attention, and on the look-out for danger.

The scout paused to study the matter, for he did not understand the precise situation of things. The mustang which he saw might be only one of a dozen others, whose owners were near at hand, with possible several searching for him. The conclusion was inevitable that it was necessary for him to reconnoitre a little further before allowing his own position to be uncovered.

Before he could advance any further, he caught sight of a man, who moved silently forward between him and the horse, where he could be seen with greater distinctness. He held his rifle in hand, and seemed disturbed at the action of his horse, which was clearly an admonition for him to be on his guard.

The scout studied him for a minute, and then cautiously raised the hammer of his rifle. Guarded as was the movement, the faint click caught the ear of the other, who started, and was on the point of leaping back, when Sut called out:

"Stop, or I'll bore a hole through yer!"

The figure did not move.

"Come forward and surrender."

The form remained like a statue.

"Throw down that gun or I'll shoot."

This brought a response, which came in the shape of a well-known voice:

"Not while I have the spirit of a man left, as me uncle obsarved when his wife commanded him to come down from a tree that she might pummel him. How are ye, old boy?"

The scout had suspected the identity of his friend from the first, and had made the attempt to frighten him from the innate love of the thing. The two grasped hands cordially and were rejoiced beyond measure at this fortunate meeting.

Mickey explained that he had not been scratched by a bullet, nor had his horse suffered injury. It was a most singular escape indeed. But no more singular than that of the scout himself, who had received mercy at the hands of Lone Wolf, who had never been known to be guilty of such a weakness. It had been a providential deliverance all around, and the men could not be otherwise than in the best sprits.

"The next thing is to hunt up the younker," said the scout, as they sat upon the the ground discussing incidents of the past few days. "I'm a little troubled about him, 'cause we've been away longer than we expected, and some of the varmints may have got on his trail."

"How far from this place do ye reckon him to be?"

"That's powerful hard to tell, but it can't be much less than a mile, and that's a good ways in such a hilly country as this. Yer can't git over it faster than yer kin run."

"But ye know the way thar, as I understand ye to remark?"

The scout signified that he would have no more trouble in reaching it then in making his way across a room. They decided, though, that the best thing they could do was to wait where they were until daylight, and then take up the hunt. They remained talking and smoking for an hour or two longer, neither closing their eyes in slumber, although the occasion was improved to its utmost by their animals. The scout was capable of losing a couple of nights' rest without being materially effected thereby, while Mickey's experience almost enabled him to do the same.

As soon as it was fairly light the two were on the move, Sut leading the course in the direction of the spot where they had left Fred Munson the day before, and which he had vacated very suddenly. They were picking their way along as best they could, when they struck a small stream, when the scout paused so suddenly that his comrade inquired the cause.

"That's quar, powerful quar," he said looking down at the ground and speaking as if to himself.

"One horse has been 'long har, and I think it war mine, and that he had that younker on his back."

"Which way was the young spalpeen traveling?"

The scout indicated the course, and then added, in an excited undertone:

"It looks to me as if he got scared out and had to leave, and it ain't no ways likely that anything would have scared him short of Injuns-so it's time we j'ined him."

The Irishman was decidedly of the same opinion, and the trail was at once taken.

"Be the powers! do you mind that?" demanded Mickey, in an excited voice.

"Mind what?" asked the sco

ut, somewhat startled at his manner.

"Jes' look yonder, will ye?"

As he spoke, he pointed up the slope ahead of them. There, but a comparatively short distance away, was Fred Munson, in plain sight, seated upon the back of his mustang, apparently scrutinizing the two horsemen, as if in doubt as to their identity. The parties recognized each other at the same moment, and Fred waved his hat, which salutation was returned by his friends. The scout motioned to him to ride down to where he and Mickey were waiting.

"He's off the trail altogether, and if he keeps on that course, he'll fetch up in New Orleans, or Galveston," he added, by way of explanation.

The lad lost no time in rejoining them, and the trio formed a joyous party. Not one was injured, each had a good swift horse, and a weapon of some kind, and was far better equipped for a homeward journey than they had dared to hope.

"Thar's only one thing to make a slight delay," said the Irishman, after pretty much everything had been explained.

His friends looked to him for an explanation.

"I resaved notice from me family physician in London this mornin', that it was dangerous when in this part of the world to travel on an empty stomach."

All three felt the need of food and Sut considered the spot where they were as good for camping purposes as any they were likely to find. So they dismounted, and while Mickey and Fred busied themselves in gathering wood, and preparing the fire, the scout went off in search of game.

"Do ye mind," called out Mickey, "that ye mustn't return till ye bring something wid ye? I'm so hungry that I'm not particular. A biled Apache will answer, if ye can't find anything else."

"If he gets anything," said Fred, "we must make away with all we can, and try to eat enough to last us two or three days."

"That's what I always do at each meal," promptly replied his friend. "Thar's nothing like being prepared for emergencies, as me cousin, Butt O'Norghoghon, remarked when he presented the gal he was coortin' with a set of teeth and a whig, which she didn't naad any more than does me hoss out thar."

The scout returned before he was expected, and with a superabundance of food, which was cooked and fully enjoyed, and as speedily as possible they were mounted and on the road again. The traveling was exceedingly difficult, and although they struck the main pass near noon, and put their horses to their best speed, yet it was dark when they succeeded in clearing themselves of the mountains and reached the edge of the prairies, which stretched away almost unbrokenly for hundreds of miles. They saw Indians several times but did not exchange shots during the day. It was not a general rule with Sut Simpson to avoid an encounter with redskins, but he did it on the present occasion on account of his companions, and especially for the lad's sake. A safe place for the encampment was selected, the mustangs so placed that they would be certain to detect the approach of any enemies during the night, and all laid down to slumber.

Providence, that had so kindly watched over them through all their perils, did not forget them when they lay stretched helpless upon the ground.

The night passed away without molestation, and, making a breakfast from the cooked meat that they had preserved, they struck out upon the prairie in the direction of New Boston.

They had scarcely started, when a party of Indians, probably Comanches, saw them and gave chase. The pursuers were well mounted, and, for a time, the danger was critical, as they numbered fully twenty; but the mustangs of the fugitives were also fleet of foot, and, at last, they carried them beyond all danger from that source.

As the friends galloped along at an easy pace, Sut Simpson struck them with horror by telling them the story of the massacre, which he had heard discussed among the Apaches when he was a prisoner. All were anxious to learn the extent of the horrible tale, and they pressed their steeds to the utmost.

The site of the town was reached late in the afternoon, when it was speedily seen that the young chief had told the truth. New Boston was among the things of the past, having actually died while in the struggles of birth. The unfinished houses had been burned to the ground, the stock run off, and most of the inhabitants massacred. The fight had been a desperate one, but when Lone Wolf sent his warriors a second time they were resistless, and carried everything before them.

"If any of 'em got away, they've reached Fort Severn," said the scout, who was impressed by the evidences of the terrible scenes that had been enacted here, within a comparatively few hours; "but I don't think thar's much chance."

The remains of those who had fallen on the spot were so mutilated, and in many cases partly burned, that they could not be recognized. Among the wreck and ruin of matter were discovered a number of shovels. The three set themselves to dig a trench, into which all these remains were placed and carefully covered over with earth.

"We'll take a shovel along," said Sut, as he threw one over his shoulder, and sprang upon his horse. "We'll be likely to find need for it afore we reach the fort."

This prediction was verified. As they rode along they constantly came upon bodies of men and women, whose horses had given out, or who had been shot while fleeing for life. In every case the poor fugitives had been scalped and mutilated. They were gathered up and tenderly buried, with no headstone to mark their remains, there to sleep until the last trump shall sound.

Fort Severn was reached in the afternoon of the second day. There were found, just six men and two women, the fleetness of whose steeds had enabled them to win in the race for life. All the others had fallen, among them Caleb Barnwell, the leader of the Quixotic scheme, and the founder of the town which died with him. The valley of the Rio Pecos was not prepared for any settlement unless one organized upon a scale calculated to overawe all combinations of the Apaches, Commanches, and Kiowas.

From Fort Severn, Mickey O'Rooney and Fred Munson, under the escort, or rather guidance, of Sut Simpson, made their way overland to Fort Aubray, where Mr. Munson, the father of Fred, was found. The latter thanked heaven for the sickness which had detained him and could not fully express his gratitude for the wonderful preservation of Mickey and his son. Sut Simpson, the scout, was well paid for his services, and, bidding them good-bye, he went to his field of duty in the southwest, while Mr. Munson, Mickey and Fred were glad enough to return east.

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