THE GO AHEAD BOYS AND SIMON'S MINE
BY ROSS KAY
Author of "Dodging the North Sea Mines," "With Joffre on the Battle Line," "The Search for the Spy," "The Go Ahead Boys on Smugglers' Island," "The Go Ahead Boys and the Treasure Cave," "The Go Ahead Boys and the Racing Motor Boat," etc., etc.
ILLUSTRATED BY R. EMMETT OWEN
_I leave this rule for others when I'm dead: Be always sure you're right—THEN GO AHEAD
Davy Crockett's Motto_
NEW YORK BARSE & HOPKINS PUBLISHERS
BOOKS FOR YOUNG MEN
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THE GO AHEAD BOYS By Ross Kay
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Price per volume, 75 cents, postpaid.
1 THE GO AHEAD BOYS ON SMUGGLERS' ISLAND 2 THE GO AHEAD BOYS AND THE TREASURE CAVE 3 THE GO AHEAD BOYS AND THE MYSTERIOUS OLD HOUSE 4 THE GO AHEAD BOYS IN THE ISLAND CAMP 5 THE GO AHEAD BOYS AND THE RACING MOTOR BOAT 6 THE GO AHEAD BOYS AND SIMON'S MINE
(Other volumes in preparation)
BARSE & HOPKINS
PUBLISHERS NEW YORK
* * * * *
The Go Ahead Boys and Simon's Mine
In this book the writer has endeavored to relate a story of stirring adventure and at the same time eliminate all sensationalism and improbable elements. The thread of the story was given him by a man who was familiar with the life and experiences of prospectors. Indeed, there is warrant for almost every event recorded in these pages.
The author has no desire to make his young heroes either preternaturally brilliant or possessed of too precocious brains. They are normal, healthy American boys fond of travel and adventure and naturally are meeting experiences such as come to men doing what they were doing in certain parts of our country. Self-reliance, determination, the ability to decide quickly and to act promptly, the strength of will which prevents one from abandoning too easily a course of action which has been decided upon,—all these are foundations upon which any successful life must rest. If these qualities can be acquired in the early years then life is just that much stronger and better.
The Go Ahead Boys, in spite of their many experiences are typical boys of America, and as such wish to express to the many friends they have made their hearty appreciation of the interest which has been expressed in their wanderings and adventures.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I A GHASTLY DISCOVERY 11
II A CLUE 21
III TWO UNBIDDEN GUESTS 30
IV TWO THIEVES IN THE NIGHT 40
V A START AND A LOSS 48
VI DIVIDED 57
VII TWO NAVAJOS 65
VIII WAITING 75
IX DOWN THE RUSHING RIVER 84
X A RATTLER 92
XI A PERILOUS FALL 101
XII A WRECK 109
XIII ALONE IN THE CANYON 118
XIV CLIMBING 126
XV THE SEARCH 134
XVI A STARTLING ARRIVAL 143
XVII A DEPARTURE BY NIGHT 151
XVIII RESTORING THE MAP 160
XIX A JOYOUS RETURN 169
XX TWO CROW TREE 178
XXI THE RETURN OF THE STRANGERS 187
XXII SPLIT ROCK 196
XXIII ON THE RIM 205
XXIV A SMALL CLOUD 214
XXV CIRCLES 224
XXVI CONCLUSION 234
THE GO AHEAD BOYS AND SIMON'S MINE
A GHASTLY DISCOVERY
"Look at that!"
Instantly Fred Button and his companion halted and the two boys stared at the sight to which their attention had been directed.
Even their guide, who at that time was several yards behind, hastened to join them and was almost as shocked by the sight as was his young companions.
"What is it? What is it?" whispered John.
"Can't you see?" retorted Fred. "It's a skeleton of a man. The skull is over there," he explained as he pointed to his right. "The other bones have been scattered. Probably some wolves or buzzards have been at work here."
For a brief time no one spoke. The bones before them were unquestionably those of a man. They had been bleached by the sun and their very whiteness increased the ghastly impression.
"What do you think has happened?" inquired John in a low voice.
Fred shook his head and turned questioningly to the guide.
Zeke, the name by which the guide was commonly called, also shook his head as if the mystery was not yet solved. Without speaking he approached the place where the skeleton had been discovered, and a moment later with his foot unearthed a sleeve of a coat which had been buried from sight by drifting sands of the desert.
Stooping, Zeke pulled hard and soon drew forth the coat. The garment itself was somewhat torn, but still was in a fair state of preservation.
Turning to his companions Zeke said abruptly, "Better look around, boys, and see if you can find something else. My impression is that you'll find a set of prospector's tools not far away."
In response to the suggestion the two boys at once busily began their search. A shoe, worn and plainly torn by strong and savage teeth, was brought to Zeke. Later a pick ax, spade and hammer also were discovered and added to the pile.
Meanwhile Zeke had been searching the garment which he had discovered and in one pocket he had found a small book which evidently interested him greatly.
Thrusting his discovery into his pocket, Zeke turned to the boys and said. "What do you think? Shall we bury these bones or shall we try to take them back?"
"Back where?" inquired Fred. "To our camp or back to civilization?"
"I shouldn't do either," suggested John. "We can bury the bones here and mark the spot so that if we ever find out who the man was we can tell his friends where they will find what is left of him. What do you think?" he added, turning to the guide as he spoke.
"I think that's the best thing to do," replied Zeke quietly. "Personally I haven't any strong feeling about what happens to my carcass after I have left it."
"Have you any idea who or what this man was?" Fred asked.
"I found this in his pocket," responded Zeke, displaying the little book he had taken from the coat.
"What is it? What is it?" inquired Fred eagerly.
"It looks to me like it was a diary. Some of it is missing and some is faded, but it looks to me on the whole as if the man was keeping an account every day of what he was doing and where he went."
"Can't you find his name in there somewhere?" inquired John.
"I haven't yet. I have a suspicion that these bones belong to old Simon Moultrie. He was an odd stick and I guess was more than half crazy. He was prospecting most of his life, leastwise as soon as he came out to these regions. The funny part of it all was that he wouldn't go with anybody and wouldn't let anybody go with him. Once or twice he thought he had struck it rich, but I never heard that anything panned out."
"What makes you think the dead man was Simon Moultrie?"
"Mostly because he hasn't been heard from of late. It must be seven or eight months since he has shown up. You see he used to come in twice a year for supplies and then he would start out prospecting and not show up again for six months, or until his supplies ran low."
"How old a man was he?" inquired John.
"Sixty-three or sixty-six, I should reckon," replied Zeke glibly. "He was a bit off, same as I was telling you, and had just gone dippy on the subject of finding a mine."
"And you say he did find one or two?"
"He thought he did find one or two, but when he came to follow them up, why the stuff didn't assay worth a cent, or else it was just a little pocket he had happened to find. What do you think ought to be done with these bones?" again inquired the guide.
"The best thing to do is to bury them and mark the spot just as John said," said Fred.
The suggestion was speedily acted upon and taking the spade which had been found Zeke soon digged a grave in the soft soil. Then carefully and silently the bones of the unfortunate man were collected and covered. A bleached limb of a mesquite tree which had doubtless been torn away and been carried far from its location by one of the terrific wind storms that occasionally sweep over the region, was thrust into the ground at the head of the little grave. Next a piece of paper was taken from his pocket by John. Upon it he wrote, "The grave of an unknown man, supposedly Simon Moultrie. The bones were found July 13, 1914, by Fred Button, John Clemens and Zeke Rattray."
"Don't you think," inquired John, "that I had better put our addresses on this paper too?"
"Good scheme," replied Fred.
Accordingly the permanent address of each member of the party was added to the brief statement.
"Do you suppose we'll ever hear from anybody?" inquired John in a low voice.
"I don't know," answered Fred, shaking his head as he spoke. "It's one of those things you never can tell about."
Fred Button was one of the four boys who among their friends and themselves, for the matter of that, were commonly known as the Go Ahead Boys. They were schoolmates and classmates and were nearly of the same age, John being the only one who was eighteen, while his three companions were each seventeen years old.
In various parts of their country they had been spending their recent vacations together. The list of books given at the beginning of this story will indicate the various parts of the country in which they had met their adventures.
At the present time, however, when this story opens, they were nearly two thousand miles from home.
Across the continent they had journeyed together and together also they had spent ten days viewing the wonders of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. The apparently perilous ride on the backs of donkeys down Bright Angel Trail had been greatly enjoyed, as well as certain other inspiring expeditions which the boys had made, sometimes in company with others and sometimes with a single guide for the quartet.
So enthusiastic had the young travelers become over their experiences that at last they had obtained the consent of their parents to make an expedition of their own. Two guides were secured who were familiar with the entire region and two strong skiffs were purchased. In these boats the boys had planned to follow a part of the dangerous Colorado River. They had no desire to incur the perils that belonged to many of its swirling rapids and tossing waters. In other places, however, the river was comparatively safe and there the boys planned to follow the course of the stream with their strong and heavy little boats.
Inasmuch as Fred's father was a prominent railway official he had obtained for the boys certain privileges which otherwise they might not have had. Fred himself was the most enthusiastic member of the party. Shorter than any of his comrades his weight was still nearly as great as any of the four. His solid, sturdy little frame was capable of great endurance and there were few experiences he enjoyed more than tiring his long, lanky comrade John, who as one of his friends brutally expressed it was as much too tall as Fred was too short.
Out of consideration for Fred's physique, among his friends he was known as Pigmy and Pee Wee, the former title sometimes being shortened into Pyg.
John, however, rejoiced in his name, or if he did not rejoice, at least was accustomed to respond to the appellation, String.
The remaining members of the little band were George Washington Sanders, one of the most popular boys in the school in which all four were students. Frequently he was referred to as Pop, a distinction by which his friends indirectly expressed their admiration for one who was laughingly referred to as the "Papa of his Land," just as the great man for whom he was named was the "Father of his Country."
Grant was the member of the Go Ahead Boys who easily led in whatever he attempted. In the hundred yards dash he had established the record of the school. His standing in scholarship was high, while his fund of general information was so extensive that he had received the appellation, Socrates. This nickname, however, recently had been shortened by the time-saving lads and Grant was more frequently called Soc than by the name which his parents had given him. His ability as an athlete was scarcely less than his success in the classroom. And yet Grant by no means was one who withdrew from out-of-door life, or enjoyed less than his friends the stirring adventures in which they all had shared.
Zeke Rattray, the guide, was a tall, bronzed, powerful young fellow about twenty-five years of age. For several years he had dwelt in the region, serving as guide for various exploring parties or prospectors. The Go Ahead Boys had smiled incredulously when Zeke had informed them that when he came originally to the state because he was expected to die "back east," (in Iowa) of tuberculosis. "I weighed just one hundred and nineteen pounds when I landed out here," he explained, and then as he stood erect and threw back his powerful shoulders his young companions laughed. It did not seem possible that the strapping young giant, who now weighed at least two hundred pounds, ever had been reduced to such a condition as he described.
The immense strength of Zeke had never impressed the Go Ahead Boys more than when he finished his simple task of interring the bones which had been discovered by Fred and John.
"If I should meet him on the street alone," whispered Fred to John, "I should kindly give him the whole sidewalk. I believe that he could do what Grant says he can. Just look at those hands."
"What does Grant say he can do?"
"Why he declares that Zeke can bend the barrel of a rifle."
The thoughts of the two boys speedily were withdrawn from the physical prowess of their guide. At that moment he had again taken the little book he had found in the pocket of the coat of the dead man, and, opening it, said, "I'm not sure, boys, whether this man was Simon Moultrie or not. It sounds just like him, but there's so little writing that I can't tell."
"What does it say?" inquired John eagerly.
"Why, it's a diary. Some days he didn't write anything and other days when he did write, the pages are torn and the writing is so blurred that no one can make out what he means."
"Let me see it," said Fred, extending his hand as he spoke.
Taking the little book Fred saw that it apparently was a diary as Zeke had suggested. It was for the year 1914. One entry was quite distinct wherein the unfortunate man had recorded the story of his journey to Tombstone for fresh supplies.
When he commented upon this fact, Zeke said, "That's what makes me think it might have been Simon. As I said to you he only came in twice each year and then stayed just long enough to get supplies to last him for the next six months. Of course he may have come in when I didn't know anything about it."
"When did be make his trips?" inquired Fred.
"Usually about October and. April He didn't like to lose much time from his prospecting so he would come in just about the time the snow was gone and get fitted out for his work that summer."
"If he wont in last April," suggested John, "he must have lost some of his supplies."
"Nobody knows just where he made his head quarters. It's more'n likely though that the coyotes, if they could talk, might be able to tell you more about what became of old Simon's bacon than any living man could."
"Here's something!" exclaimed Fred excitedly. "This is worth while," he added, after he had looked carefully through the various pages of the diary and in the back part of the book, distinct from the numbered pages, he had found the following entry:
At last I have found it. It seems good after twenty-three years of disappointment to be able to say that I have found a good lead and that there is a sure enough vein here. I thought I was on the right trail when I was in the middle of Thorn's Gulch and I found pretty soon that I had struck it just right. I followed the lead four days and every day I was more convinced that I had found something at last worth while. The assay will be great. Soon I shall have all the money I need, and my poor old sister will no longer be broken hearted for me. I was determined to find a mine and now I have one that is worth all my long working and waiting."
"Any name signed to that?" inquired Zeke quickly when Fred ceased reading.
"Then you can't be sure it's Simon's."
"Yes, you can, if the book belonged to him, as you think it did. It's plain this Simon, if that was his name, was an educated man."
"How do you know that?" inquired John.
"Why, the words are all spelled as they ought to be and his penmanship is good. The only thing is that there isn't a name signed nor any sign that will show who wrote it. Hello!" he added quickly, "here's something on the next page that ought to interest us."
"What is it?" inquired John, approaching and looking over the shoulder of his friend.
"It looks to me like a map," said Fred thoughtfully. "Here's a place that is marked Thorn's Gulch and over here on one side is a spot marked Two Crow Tree, and a little further up on the same side is Tom's Thumb. Across the Gulch is a place marked Split Rock. Not far away from it is another mark which he calls his stake. Then right opposite it are three other marks,—1/2 m N.E., 1/4 m S.E., 1/4 m N.N.E. Here's a picture of it," Fred added.
X Two Crow Tree. X Tom's Thumb. . . Thorn's Gulch . . - . . X Split Rock. / / Stake 1/2 m N.E. o 1/4 m S.E. 1/4 m N.N.E.
"That's interesting," said Zeke thoughtfully. "I know where Thorn's Gulch is."
"How far is it from here?" inquired Fred.
"Oh, I should say it is a good forty miles."
"Is it hard to get there?"
"I haven't ever been this way," replied Zeke, "but I'm thinkin' we can make it."
"In which direction does the Gulch run?"
"It's a funny place," explained Zeke; "it runs mostly north and south. It takes a sharp turn at the lower end."
"Probably that was to let out the water that had been caught in there."
"Probably," said Zeke scornfully. The guide had slight confidence in the explanations which the boys had to give for the formation of the great chasms found near the Colorado River and its tributaries. "I'm thinkin' that the One who made that Canyon could just as well make it the way it is as the way you say."
"No doubt about that," Fred laughingly had conceded. "It isn't a question of ability, it is simply how it was done."
"According to what I can find out," said Zeke, "there seems to be styles in explainin' things, same as there is in clothes. My wife doesn't want to wear the dress she had two years ago even if it isn't worn out very much. When I ask her what's the matter with it she says it's out o' style. It's the same way with explaining how this great hole in the ground came here. There seems to be a sort of 'style' about it. Some people say it's erosion, others say it's the work of a big glacier. Then too I have heard some say as how it was neither and some said it was both. That doesn't make any difference though, but I know where Thorn's Gulch is and I can go there if you want to."
"If Simon found a mine what was it?"
"Can't say," replied Zeke sharply. "It might be gold, it might be zinc and more likely might be copper. Most likely of all though is that he didn't find no mine 't all."
"There isn't anything more in the diary about it anyway," said Fred, who now had looked through all the pages without discovering any further description. "How long is Thorn's Gulch?"
"Somewhere between fifteen and twenty miles," answered Zeke.
"Whew!" whistled John. "If we're going to look up the lost mine we'll have some 'looking' to do I'm thinking."
"Right you are," said Fred soberly. "Do you think we had better try to find this place?"
"That's for you to say," said Zeke. "It's all one to me whether I help you find a copper mine or whether I keep you from, tipping over in the boat. I'm inclined to think the boat business is a good deal safer than the other."
"But we can't throw away a clue like this," protested Fred. "Here it is," he added, again looking at the map. "Two Crow Tree and Tom's Thumb and then across the Gulch about half way between the two places on the other side is Split Bock and then back of that is the stake. I don't know what these figures mean."
"I do," said John confidently, "it's a half-mile northeast, then you go a quarter of a mile southeast and then you turn and go a quarter of a mile north northeast. Why, it's just as simple as the multiplication table."
Zeke smiled and shook his head and although he did not speak it was plain that he did not accept John's explanation of the somewhat mysterious figures as correct.
"Did you ever hear of Two Crow Tree?" asked John.
"I never did," said Zeke solemnly.
"Well, did you ever hear of Tom's Thumb?"
"Can't say that I have."
"Then, it's plain," said John, winking at Fred as he spoke, "that we'll have to get somebody who is more familiar than you are, Zeke, with this part of the country."
"Huh!" snorted Zeke. "Don't you believe it. There ain't nobody in these diggin's that knows the country like I do."
"But you don't know where Two Crow Tree is or Tom's Thumb, to say nothing about Split Rock on the opposite side of the canyon."
"That doesn't mean that I can't find them," retorted Zeke. "You mustn't forget either that those names may be the ones that Simon gave the places. They may not be on the map at all and nobody else may ever have called them by those names."
"Well, shall we try to find the place? That's the question," said John somewhat impatiently.
"Not until the other boys and Pete come back here."
Pete was the name of the second guide and on most occasions Zeke professed to despise his judgment and belittle his information.
"Oh, Pete will do just what you say is the thing to be done," said Fred, winking at John as he spoke.
"That 's likely," assented Zeke. "All the same I'm not going to start off with you two boys and leave the other two here for Pete to look after. I'm afraid Pete couldn't keep off the coyotes, to say nothing of the buzzards."
"Zeke," said Fred abruptly, "how long do you think it took the coyotes and the buzzards to strip those bones that we found?"
"Not more than a half-hour."
"That's right," said Zeke positively. "A job like that doesn't take a half-dozen coyotes any time at all. And I'm thinkin' they had to divide with the buzzards anyway."
John, who apparently for a few minutes had not been taking much interest in the conversation now looked up from the place where he was standing and said sharply, "I'm for looking for that lost mine."
"That's a good one," laughed Zeke.
"What is a good one?" demanded John tartly.
"Your lost mine. There wasn't any mine anyway. All there was to it was a prospect. Old Simon maybe thought he had found a lead, but unless 'twas a good deal surer than any other one he ever found, it wasn't worth much, but all the same I'm for tryin' to find it if the other boys and Pete agree to it."
TWO UNBIDDEN GUESTS
By this time the boys and their guide had returned to the place where they had left their companions. Their two companions already were there and the return of their friends was greeted by a shout from both Grant and George.
Other things, however, speedily were forgotten when Fred related the story of their gruesome discovery in the sheltered place or cave on the sloping side of the mountain.
Both George and Grant at once united in declaring that the decision which their friends already had made to seek for the lost mine was to be highly commended. Again and again the diary was inspected and the part wherein Simon Moultrie had recorded his discovery of the great lead was read aloud again and again.
Pete, the guide, a silent, bronzed man of thirty, openly scoffed at the idea that any discovery worth while would follow their attempts to find the spot indicated in the diary of the lost prospector.
"Nobody knows," declared Pete, "whether you found the bones of Simon Moultrie or not."
"That doesn't make any difference," declared Fred sturdily, "if we can only find the place he spoke of. Zeke says he knows where Thorn's Gulch is—"
"Huh!" interrupted Pete. "I guess ev'rybody in this part o' th' country knows where Thorn's Gulch is."
"But," continued Fred, winking at John as he spoke, "he doesn't know where Two Crow Tree is nor just where Tom's Thumb is located. Of course you know, so we came back to the camp."
"If I don't know I can find 'em, I guess," assented Pete sturdily.
"That's just what Zeke said," laughed Fred. "What we're looking for isn't somebody who can find them, but somebody who knows where they are."
"Don't you worry none about that," said Pete. "We'll find the spot if there's any such place."
The camp was located in a most attractive spot, high above the roaring river. It was on the sloping side of the towering border. A natural pathway lead to the plateau above, while a spring of clear water was conveniently near for their needs.
In spite of the July day the air was cool and the smoke of their camp-fire was carried swiftly down the canyon. The sublime sight of the Grand Canyon was before them, although from their camp they were unable to see the largest of all the great gulches.
The sides of the various canyons, which the swiftly flowing Colorado had made, were carved and fretted almost beyond belief. The various strata of rock and soil that had been exposed to view by the centuries of action of the mighty river were marvelously tinted. Indeed, George declared that the blues, the grays, and reds and mauves were only less impressive than the overwhelming size of the Grand Canyon itself. Grant, however, was positive that the sculptured sides of the vast hole were equal in interest to the coloring and the glory of the canyon itself.
With every changing angle of the sun the colors and shadings also changed. Again and again the boys had marked the shadows formed every morning and evening and they laughingly announced and described the various resemblances which they had traced.
The Grand Canyon itself is only a part of the long canyon, in places a mile deep and in certain places a score of miles from side to side, through which the mighty river has forced its way.
The Colorado River starting in Southern Utah is formed by the junction of the Green and the Grand Rivers. The former rising in Northern Utah, traverses also a part of Wyoming, while the latter river traces the western Rockies in Colorado.
Of this wonderful stream Major Powell, the first to descend the river, wrote, "Ten million cascade brooks unite to form a hundred rivers. Beside that, cataracts and a hundred roaring rivers unite to form the Colorado, a mad turbid stream."
One distinguished writer, describing the mighty canyon, said it is "most mysterious in its depth than the Himalayas in their height. It is true that the Grand Canyon remains not the eighth but the first wonder of the world. There is nothing like it."
Our special interest, however, is in the four boys and their two guides, who now were assembled in the camp. Every boy was bronzed and toughened by his exposure and labors. Packs were to be seen which had been brought into camp on the backs of the various members of the party. Each pack contained about sixty pounds of food and materials necessary for the expedition. In addition, guns had been brought, fishing rods were visible and other implements, which were a part of the camp life were on every side.
Burros had been used to carry some of the burdens until the boys had entered within the canyon itself. Then the burros with the Indian boy who had accompanied them as far as the border, turned back to the place from which they had come. It was not believed that sufficient material would be left after the expedition was completed to require again the services of the donkeys.
After supper the boys stretched themselves on the ground near the fire which was still burning.
"We have kept together all the way as far as this," suggested Fred, "but I'm wondering now if we wouldn't do better if we divided into two parties."
"What for?" demanded Grant, sitting quickly erect.
"I've just been talking to Zeke and asking him whether he didn't think we would need more supplies than we have before we came back."
"Nonsense," said John. "We have all we want. It isn't going to take us more than a year to find that place Simon Moultrie told about. If we don't get some trace of it within a few days I'm not in favor of keeping up the search and for that reason I don't believe we'll want any more supplies."
"Nobly spoken!" laughed George. "It sounds like the supreme wisdom of Soc. What do you say about it?" he added, turning to Grant as he spoke.
"I know just enough to know that I don't know anything about it," answered Grant.
"But what do you think?" protested Fred.
"I think we may need more than we have. What does Zeke say about it?" replied Grant.
"Zeke doesn't think we had better divide again. He says that if we need supplies we can go in for them, but the probabilities are that we shall be back long before any such lack comes. He thinks we had better all keep together. There's safety in numbers sometimes, you know."
"I agree," said Grant, "if that is Zeke's opinion. Still when we get on the ground where our real search begins I'm of the opinion that we'll get along better and faster if we make two parties instead of one."
"There will be time enough to talk about that when we have to," laughed Fred. "Look yonder," he abruptly added, pointing as he spoke to two men who could be seen coming down the natural approach to the camp. "Where did they come from? Who are they? What do you suppose they want? You don't suppose it is somebody coming in with a message of bad news for us, do you?"
No one replied to the questions of the startled boy, but every member of the party at once turned and keenly watched the approaching men. Both were walking, although Zeke explained in a low voice that doubtless they had burros somewhere not far away.
In a brief time the two strangers approached the camp and immediately made themselves known.
"I've seen both those men before," whispered Fred excitedly.
"Where?" inquired John.
"They were on the train when we came. They sat right across the aisle from us. I'm sure they are the same men for I never shall forget the scar on the left cheek of that short one."
The two approaching strangers were now so near that it was possible for John to confirm the statement of his friend. A long livid scar, extending almost entirely across his left cheek, was visible on the face of the younger man. His companion was taller, evidently at least ten years older and had a face which was not altogether prepossessing at first sight.
"Yes, sir," repeated Fred. "I saw both those fellows on the car the day before we left the train."
"Evenin'," called the man with the scar.
"Same to you," retorted Zeke.
"We're doin' a bit o' prospecting or at least we expect to do some and got caught up here in a gully which we can't very well get across where we are. We saw the smoke of your fire and thought we might come down and perhaps you would invite us to spend the night with you."
"You're entirely welcome," said Zeke. The guide's manner was quiet and there was nothing to belie the apparent cordiality of the statement he had just made.
The young campers, however, were by no means convinced that their unbidden visitors were parties whom they could welcome.
Already the sun was below the western cliffs, although its beams in certain places still flashed between the mountains and tinged the sides of the adjacent canyon with myriad dancing and delicate colors.
Hospitality, however, was a part of the life on the plains and seldom was any unexpected guest turned away from a human habitation or company. Suspicious though the boys certainly were they did not offer any protest and in response to their invitation to share in the remnants of their evening meal, the two strangers at once accepted and seated themselves not far from the camp-fire.
It was not until they had eaten that they explained more in detail who and what they were. Not long before this time they had come from Tombstone to search for a mine of whose existence they declared they had received information from certain somewhat vague reports.
"The trouble is, Mr. Stranger," one of them explained, "that we don't know just where this mine is. There was a report in Tombstone that an old prospector up here had struck it rich, but that he died or at least hadn't been heard from since the report started. The Indians say that he was looking for his mine in a part of the country where the Great Spirit has forbidden the children o' men to come. They declare that this prospector didn't die a natural death."
"What did he die of?" inquired Zeke.
"Why they say that no man ever goes into that region and comes out alive, or if he does happen to succeed in that, he can't dodge the bad luck which is sure to catch him."
"And do you want to find the place?" inquired Fred quizzically.
"We do and if there is any such place we're going to find it."
The four boys meanwhile had glanced apprehensively at one another when they heard the reference to the discovery of a mine which soon had been lost. The statement too that the original prospector was dead increased the mystery as well as the interest of the Go Ahead Boys.
What would these strangers say if they knew that already in the possession of the Go Ahead Boys was the statement of an old prospector who very likely was the very one to whom the unwelcome guests had frequently referred?
TWO THIEVES IN THE NIGHT
The question was speedily answered when, to the dismay of his companions, John said abruptly, "That must be something like the man whose body we found to-day."
Instantly both strangers were staring at the boy who had spoken. Even in the dim light their intense interest was plainly manifest. Zeke was doing his utmost by absurd motions to impress upon the mind of John the fact that he must say nothing more.
The two visitors at the camp, however, were too deeply interested to lose the opportunity. Speaking slowly and as if he was not especially interested, the man with the scar on his face said in a drawling manner, "Where was that, sonny?"
"I don't know just where it was," replied John. "We found the body or rather the bones of a man to-day."
"What did you do with them?"
"Buried them, of course." John was aware now that his friends were angry at his uncalled-for statements. His obstinacy, however, had been aroused and he was ignoring all the signs and motions that were given him from every side.
"Wasn't there anything besides the bones?" inquired the visitor.
"They had been picked clean. Zeke here thought that the coyotes and buzzards had been at work."
"Probably had. You didn't find any clothes?"
"I believe we did get a coat and a pair of shoes."
"Would you mind letting me look at them?"
John turned to the guide and said, "Let them see that coat, Zeke. There's no harm in that," he said loudly as he turned to his companions.
Reluctantly the guide displayed the coat which he had dug from the sand and eagerly both visitors inspected it.
For a moment no one spoke and then the man with the scar said abruptly, "I'm sure that's old Sime Moultrie's coat."
Again there was a brief silence before the man continued, "He was a strange duffer. I have seen him off an' on the last fifteen year. He never gave up his search for a mine and I guess he never found one. Strange how a man will keep on as if he was all possessed when he has once got started prospecting."
"What do you suppose happened to him?" inquired Fred.
"There's no tellin' as long as I didn't see the skeleton. Zeke here ought to know."
"I don't know anything 'bout it," said Zeke gruffly.
"Well, the possibilities are," said the man with the scar, "that he took sick an' died. He must have been all alone and nobody can tell how long he may have been sick. As I rec'lect, he used to come in about ev'ry Spring and Fall for fresh supplies. He wouldn't 'low any one to go with him and he didn't have much to say to any one when he came in to the town."
"Did you find any papers in the coat?" inquired the second stranger, who up to this time had seldom spoken.
"Not very much. We couldn't find anything with his name on it," explained Zeke, "so we couldn't be sure whose bones they were."
"You didn't find any papers at all?" again inquired the man.
"We didn't find anything that showed who he was," said Zeke slowly, "same as I told you."
"The coat then is the only thing you have got to identify him with?"
"We found a pick-axe and spade and hammer," explained Zeke.
"Have you got them here?"
"Yes, they're somewhere about the camp. I don't know just where we did put them."
"Better let us have a look at them."
"It's too dark to see them now. Wait 'till mornin'."
"We aren't going to wait until morning," laughed the man with the scar. "We've got a long hike and we thought we would make part of it before sun-up. It's a good deal cooler travelin' at night, and especially when there's a good moon, than it is to crawl across those tablelands when the thermometer is about a hundred and ten in the shade; and there isn't any shade."
"Better wait until mornin'," said Zeke abruptly.
"No, we're goin' now. Come on, Jim," the man added, as he turned to his companion. "It's time for us to be movin'."
Without further words the two strange visitors departed from the camp and soon disappeared along the winding way that lead to the summit.
"That's a nice thing you did, Jack!" exclaimed Fred angrily as soon as the two men were gone.
"What's the harm?" retorted John. "I didn't tell them anything about any lost mine."
"You didn't have to," retorted Fred, "after what they said. They had heard about a man dying, though how they ever knew beats me. And they believed that he was the man who was reported to have found a great lead."
"What of it?"
"A good deal of it," joined in Grant. "You have given them an idea and they won't forget it."
"What good is an idea?" demanded John. "They haven't any paper and they can't find the place without it."
"All the same," said Fred, "I'm sorry you said anything about Simon Moultrie."
"But I didn't say anything about him," protested John. "They were the ones that did most of the talking. I thought if I told them about the bones we found this afternoon that perhaps they would talk some more and say something that would help us."
"Great! Great!" laughed George scornfully. "You 'done noble,' Jack. If those men don't find the place, you may rest easy that they will keep track of us for a while."
"Why will they?"
"Because they'll want to see if we found anything in the pocket of Simon Moultrie's coat that would give us any clue to the place where he had made his great discovery. They'll watch us for a while anyway and if we don't do anything, they may make up their minds that we haven't found anything; but if we begin to do anything like making a search among the mountains, you mark my words those two fellows will show up again just as sure as you're born."
"We'll know about that later," said John.
For an hour the boys remained seated about their camp-fire, talking over the unexpected visit of the two strangers and the marked interest they had manifested in John's story. Conversation gradually ceased and for a time the Go Ahead Boys were chiefly interested in the fantastic figures cast by the flames and in the marvelous tints of the clouds as the moonlight was shining through them. Nearby was the bottomless gulf. They were unable to see the mighty chasm, but the knowledge that they were near its brink produced a feeling all its own.
At last however, Fred declared it was time for the Go Ahead Boys to turn in. His own example was speedily followed and in a brief time silence rested over the camp.
The motionless figures on the blankets, with every boy sleeping with his feet turned toward the fire, which now had died down, presented a sight which would have appealed strongly to their distant friends in the east had they been able to see it. Seldom did any figure stir and the weird silence was unbroken save by an occasional sigh of the wind as it swept past the dwarfed trees on the mountain side.
How much time had elapsed Fred did not know when he was suddenly aroused and quickly sat erect. For a moment he was unable to determine just where he was but the sight of his sleeping companions soon recalled the events of the preceding day, and, satisfied, he was about to resume his place on his blanket when he was startled by the sight of two crouching figures approaching the camp. They came from behind the buttress of rock about thirty feet from the fire. Both figures were crouching low and moving slowly and with extreme caution.
Hastily Fred resumed his place on the blanket, having instantly decided not yet to awaken his comrades. He was eager to discover what the purpose of the men in visiting the camp was.
His heart was beating rapidly as he peered intently at the men. They had now drawn close to the camp and again had stopped to make certain that their approach had not been discovered.
Still moving silently they began to circle the place, moving in opposite directions. Several times each stopped to examine what he had discovered in the pockets of a coat he had found. Apparently, however, the search was not altogether satisfactory. After they had completely circled the camp, noiselessly as they had approached the two men withdrew.
It was evident that they had taken nothing of value and Fred indeed was almost ready to conclude that he had been dreaming or that his eyes had deceived him. The silence was still unbroken save by the occasional sigh of some heavy sleeper. The passing clouds were still reflecting the light of the moon and in the dim light Fred again thought he perceived the approach of the two crouching men.
In a moment, however, he was convinced that he was mistaken. Had he made the same mistake before? Had he thought he had seen, without actually seeing, two men creep into the camp? Almost convinced that he had been dreaming, Fred did not awaken any of his comrades, thereby escaping any ridicule that might be heaped upon him for disturbing their slumbers and in a few minutes was himself again soundly asleep.
A START AND A LOSS
When morning came Fred was still uncertain whether his experience of the preceding night had been a dream or a reality. As he glanced at the enthusiastic countenances of his friends he was almost convinced that what he had seen had been the shadowy figures of a dream. Besides he was fearful of the bantering which the Go Ahead Boys might bestow upon him if it was discovered that there was no basis for his statement.
However, as Fred deemed the matter too important to be entirely ignored, he said while the boys were seated about the improvised table, "Were any of you fellows up last night?"
"Not guilty," laughed George. "I was asleep almost before I had stretched out."
The other two boys also declared that their slumbers had not been disturbed and that neither had wandered about the camp.
"What's the trouble, Freddie?" laughed Grant. "You act either as if you don't believe us or something happened."
"Well, I'm not sure, but something did happen," said Fred slowly.
"What was it? Tell us your story," demanded John.
"Either I dreamed or else I surely saw two men moving about the camp. There was a moon and the place was almost as light as day."
"Who were the men?" demanded Grant.
"Perhaps they weren't 'men' at all," replied Fred, who was certain now that he was safe from ridicule.
"Do you think they were our visitors?"
"Yes," replied Fred promptly, "that's exactly what I do think."
"What were they doing?" asked John.
All the Go Ahead Boys were now deeply interested in Fred's statement and eager to hear what more he might say.
"I saw the two figures moving about the camp and at first I thought they were some of you. Pretty soon, however, I made up my mind that they weren't. I turned over on my side and pretended to be asleep, though I was watching these men all the time."
"Why didn't you wake us up?" demanded John.
"Because I wasn't sure that I myself didn't need waking up."
"You're a great lad," said John scornfully. "Zeke," he called, turning to the guide, "Fred thinks he saw those two men that were in our camp last night come back."
The guide looked keenly at Fred, and it was plain he instantly was interested and perhaps alarmed.
"What were they doin'?" he asked slowly.
"Why, they were moving about the camp," replied Fred. "It didn't seem to me they were here more than five or ten minutes but just as I was about to call you or the boys they disappeared."
Zeke said no more as he turned at once to the place where the garments and implements of Simon Moultrie had been placed.
The four boys were aware now that the guide was somewhat alarmed and instantly all four ran to join him.
"You see it is gone," said Zeke blankly as he displayed the empty pockets in the coat of the dead prospector.
"Gone!" exclaimed the Go Ahead Boys together.
"It isn't here anyway."
"You mean his diary?" demanded Fred.
"That's exactly what I mean. Your dream was a nightmare and it's likely to be a still bigger one for us."
"Do you think those men took that diary?" asked Grant.
"You can see for yourself," retorted Zeke gruffly.
"Maybe you put it somewhere else," suggested George.
"Huh!" snapped the guide. "I left it right in the pocket. Eight in that there pocket," he added as he again displayed the coat.
"What did they want of it?" inquired John.
"They wanted what you told them about."
"I didn't tell them anything about anything," said John angrily.
"The trouble with you, Jack, is that you can't read between the lines. You see, those men were not born yesterday and they could put two and two together."
"But I didn't give them anything to put together," protested John.
"If I recollect aright," suggested Grant, "there was something said about the coat and the tools that the prospector had with him. If I'm correct it seems to me that the men wanted to see the coat and the axe and the spade and the hammer."
"What of it?" demanded John.
"Everything," retorted Grant. "They probably suspected that if there was a coat there were pockets in it. And if there were pockets then there was something in them."
"They guessed right, all right," laughed George.
"Never you mind," said John. "I remember exactly what the diary said and I can draw another picture of that Gulch with just exactly the places marked on it that the prospector had marked."
"Try it," suggested Fred.
"That's just what I'll do," said John as he turned to the tent from which he speedily returned with a pad and pencil.
For a moment no one spoke while John busily made his drawing.
"There," he said as he held it forth to view. "That's just as good as the original."
"It's a mighty pretty picture," scoffed George. "The only trouble with it is that no one knows whether it is correct or not."
"Zeke, isn't that drawing all right?" demanded John as he held forth the paper to the guide.
"It isn't so far wrong," acknowledged Zeke cautiously, "but I guess we'll be able to do something whether we have any paper or not. I'm more afraid of those two men than I am that we shan't be able to draw th' picture that old Sime had in his diary."
All four boys looked keenly into the face of the guide but no one inquired concerning the meaning of his words.
"Well, the little book is gone, anyway," continued Zeke. "We've got to decide what we'll do without it. When do you boys want to start?"
"What do you mean? For the lost mine?" demanded Fred.
"That's what I thought you wanted to do."
"Well, we do all right," said Fred quickly. "Are we ready to start?"
"We can be in a few minutes," said Zeke. "I think we can drop down the river in the two boats. That will be easier than climbing up the cliffs."
"Great!" exclaimed Fred enthusiastically. "How far can we go with the boats?"
"Ten or twelve miles," answered Zeke. "And when we stop we'll be more than half way to Thorn's Gulch. It's so much quicker to go by the river than over land."
"That will be fine," repeated Fred. "Let's get started."
"It's going to be hot in the middle of the day," suggested Zeke warningly.
"All the more reason then for starting right away," said Grant.
"All right," assented Zeke. "We'll put things to rights here in the camp and then we'll go down to start on our voyage."
The light tent was folded and concealed under the projecting rock nearby. Most of the cooking utensils also were hidden or at least placed where they would not attract the attention of any chance visitor. It was extremely unlikely that any one would come to the place, although among the parties visiting the Grand Canyon there might be some who would be attracted by the safe landing place, just as the Go Ahead Boys and their guides already had been.
"We had better plan to be gone about four days!" spoke up Pete who up to this time had taken no part in the morning conversation.
"I should think we ought to have supplies for more than that," said Fred.
Pete, however, insisted that the time he had named would be ample for their first attempt. "If we don't strike anything," he explained, "we shan't need to stay any longer and if we do we can mark the spot or leave someone there on guard and the rest can come back for more supplies."
"What do you think, Zeke?" asked Fred.
"I think Pete is all right," replied the guide. "We want to leave our supplies here pretty well protected and we don't want to take enough with us to tire us out carrying them. We'll have to measure it down pretty fine. We want just enough but not an ounce more than we ought to have."
Zeke's word carried the day and in a brief time the Go Ahead Boys were busily engaged in packing the few belongings they planned to take with them on their expedition. These were conveniently arranged so that they might be carried upon the backs of the boys, making a burden that did not exceed twenty-five pounds in weight for each boy when the arrangement was at last completed.
"Everything all ready now?" inquired Zeke when at last the packages, implements and knapsacks had all been prepared.
"How is the river right below us?" asked John.
"It's a bit rough and pretty swift for a spell," replied Zeke.
"Any danger of capsizing?" asked Fred nervously.
"There's always that danger," replied Zeke solemnly. "Nobody knows when the boat may turn squarely over. If you think you would rather walk across country we can try it that way," he added, winking solemnly at Fred's companions as he spoke.
Cautiously the party made their way down the canyon and at last after several exciting experiences arrived on the shore of the rushing Colorado.
Zeke's statement that the river here was rough was speedily confirmed. The tossing waves seemed to be rushing at break-neck speed past the little point. There was a bend in the channel a half-mile below and a projecting point there was plainly seen.
"I don't like the look of that," muttered Fred as he first saw the rushing stream.
"There's something I like still less," said Grant.
"What do you mean?" demanded Fred.
"Why there's only one boat there."
"What!" exclaimed George and Fred together.
"That's right," repeated Grant. "One of the boats is gone."
For a moment the boys stood and stared blankly at the one boat and at the place on the shore where the other had been drawn from the water. There was no question now as to their loss. Every member of their party was present and yet only one boat was to be seen.
Certain of their supplies also were missing and the discovery served to increase the feeling of dismay.
"Do you suppose that boat got loose?" inquired Fred, who was the first to speak.
"I don't 'suppose it got loose,'" retorted Grant somewhat gruffly.
"Do you think somebody took it?" again Fred asked.
"If it didn't get loose, please tell me why it's gone? There's only one way the boat could get into the river. One was for it to get loose and the other for somebody to work it loose."
"Then the question is," said George, "who took it?"
"And there isn't much question about that," said Fred confidently.
"Do you think those two men stole the boat? I mean the two that were in our camp last night?"
"I don't know who else could take it," said John. "And it's my fault too, isn't it?"
"In a way it is your fault, all right," said Grant. "You started those men on the trail. If you had kept still no one would have known anything about it."
"That's right," said John, closing his eyes and doing his utmost to assume the expression of a martyr. "If anything goes wrong, put the blame on little Johnnie. Cock Robin wasn't in the same class with little Johnnie—"
"You've talked enough," broke in Zeke. "All your talkin' isn't goin' to bring back our boat. The question is what are we goin' to do, now that one of the boats is gone."
"Can't we all get into one boat?" inquired George.
"You can," snapped Zeke, "but you won't stay in very long. She would never carry six."
"What shall we do, then?" asked Fred.
"I think the first thing for us to do is to look around and see if we can find anything that will give us a clue to the takin' o' the boat."
Acting upon the suggestion the boys at once began a search along the shore, Fred and John steadily moving back from the river.
Not one of them, however, was able to discover any signs of the presence of the men whom they suspected. The plain fact was that the heavy boat was gone and with it had gone many of their supplies.
It was true that one boat was still left, but the guide's statement that it could not carry six left only one way out of the present difficulty.
"We can do one of two things," suggested Pete when the members of the party assembled again. "We can leave some o' you here and the rest o' us can strike out across the country for more supplies. It won't be so hard comin' back as it will be goin'. We'll get some burros to carry the stuff back for us and then they can go back with the drivers."
"If we don't do that what else can we do?" inquired Grant.
"Some of us can go down the river in the boat and then strike out for Thorn's Gulch while the others are coming overland."
"It will take two days to do that," said Fred ruefully.
"And the other will take four and maybe five," retorted Zeke.
A marked difference of opinion appeared in the company, but at last it was decided that Pete and John should go for additional supplies while all the other members of the party were to remain where they then were.
Sharp directions were given by the departing Pete that no one should leave the camp during his absence.
The Go Ahead Boys promised faithfully to follow his suggestion and within an hour Pete, who was nearly as tall as John, and his companion had disappeared from sight.
A renewed search for evidences of the men who had taken the boats was made, and Zeke and Fred even went down the stream a mile vainly hoping that they might find the boat stranded somewhere in the region. Their search was unavailing and when they returned to the camp it was with a fixed opinion that the sole solution of their difficulties was to be found in patiently remaining in camp until Pete and John had made their long journey across the desert.
That evening while they were seated about the campfire conversation turned upon the mighty river near which they had found their resting place.
"Yes, air," Zeke was saying, "the first man an' about the only man that ever went the whole length of the Colorado was Major Powell."
"Did he go in a little boat?" inquired Fred.
"Yes, he had four boats?" replied Zeke. "They were all small, but every one was built for the voyage."
"Did he go alone?" inquired George.
"No. Nine men went with him."
"When was it?" asked Grant.
"In 1869. It took a lot of nerve to start on that trip too, let me tell you. Even the Indians were afraid of the river and every one of them said he didn't know really what the river was."
"What do you mean?" asked Fred.
"Why the redskins had all sorts of stories about the Colorado from the place where the Grand and the Green join to make it. And they had a lot to make them afraid, too. You see no one ever knew, when his boat got caught in the currents or whirlpools, whether there might be ahead o' him some great underground passage where the river had cut its way and the boat might be carried in there and never get out. Then too when they started on a swift current no one could tell when the water got rougher and swifter whether they were goin' head on for some great, roarin' cataract. Yes, sir, it was a very ticklish trip that Major Powell took, and what made it still worse for him was the fact that he had only one arm."
"What did he do with the other one?" inquired Fred.
"Had it shot away in the Civil War. I tell you he had more nerve than any man that ever came out to these parts. Unless p'raps it was Bill Williams, whose grave is away over yonder more than fifty miles beyond the Grand Canyon."
"Did the men who were with Major Powell come through all right?" asked Fred.
"All those that stayed with him did. There were four that got discouraged, and cleared out and left the very day when Major Powell floated clear of the Grand Canyon. It's strange about that. The exploring party came out all right, but not one of the four men that deserted was ever afterwards heard of. Probably they tried to make their way up some o' these cliffs and tumbled and fell."
"Did you say that the Indians knew all about the Grand Canyon?" asked Grant.
"No, I didn't say no sech thing," said Zeke sharply. "What I said was that the Indians were afraid of the place. They had any number of stories about the region."
"What were they?" asked Fred eagerly.
"Oh, I don't know," answered Zeke, "There was one, I understand, about the Indians believin' or at least reportin' that the Grand Canyon was the road to heaven. They had a story that one time one of their big chiefs lost his wife. He was very fond of her and when she died it seemed to take the heart right out o' him. He spent most o' his time mournin' for her and pretty soon the life o' the tribe was beginnin' to suffer.
"At last, at least so the Indians say, the god, Tavwoats, offered to prove to the big chief that his wife was happier than she had been even when she was livin' 'long with him. The chief took him at his word and Tavwoats started right away to take the chief where he could look on the happiness of his wife. It seems the trail he made to the Happy Land was what we now call the Grand Canyon. They say that there were more bright colors and pretty places to be seen there then than one can find now.
"When Tavwoats and the big chief came back through the trail among the mountains, the god rolled a wild and roaring river into it to keep out those who did not deserve to go to the Happy Land. That's the way the Colorado River was formed, at least accordin' to th' Indian story. Of course they didn't know what we know now that the Grand and Green joined forces to make up the big stream."
"That's a very pretty story," said Grant, rising as he spoke. "The Indians must have had a lot of poetry in them to make up so many wonderful legends."
"You would have thought they had poetry in them," said Zeke, "if you ever happened to be out here when there was a Navajo or Apache uprising. I tell you the air is full of poetry then, the same as it is full of rows and yells and shouts, and you can see the redskins full of poetry,—some people out here call the stuff they drink by another name,—ridin' like mad 'round the desert shooting every man, woman and child they can find. Oh, yes," he added, "it's a whole lot o' poetry."
The hour, however, had arrived when the Go Ahead Boys were ready to retire for the night. Fred was the first to set an example but in a brief time the other Go Ahead Boys had followed, the fire had been extinguished and silence rested over the region.
Early the following morning, while the boys were preparing breakfast, they were startled by the approach of two men.
"Look yonder!" exclaimed Fred, who naturally was the first to discover the approach of the strangers. "Are those the two men that were in the camp the other day?"
"No," replied Zeke quickly after he had gazed long and earnestly at the men who could be seen coming down the pathway from the top of the cliff. "They're Indians."
"Is that so?" demanded George who was instantly excited. "What are they?"
"Navajoes," replied Zeke after another inspection.
"What do you suppose they want?" asked Grant.
"Everything you have got and some things besides," answered Zeke, his affection for the redmen being not very strong. "The first thing they'll ask us for will be the breakfast."
"We'll give them some breakfast," said Fred promptly.
"I didn't say nothin' about some breakfast," spoke up Zeke. "I said the breakfast. They'll want it all and some besides."
"Then the only thing for us to do," laughed Fred, "is to begin right away."
Fred's example was speedily followed by his friends, who quickly took pieces of the sputtering bacon on sharpened sticks which they held in their right hands while with their left they grasped pieces of the cooked cereal which Zeke had been frying for breakfast.
All were busily engaged in this pleasing occupation when the two Indians approached the camp. The redmen were the first to speak and to the surprise of the Go Ahead Boys they addressed them in excellent English, at least the one who appeared to be the leader was able to express himself clearly and in correct form.
"We would like some breakfast," said the spokesman, who was a young Indian perhaps twenty-one years of age.
"All right, sir," spoke up Fred before any one else could respond to the request. "We'll fix you some in a minute."
Fortunately the supply was ample for the present meal at least, and both Navajos, seating themselves upon a projecting rock, almost devoured the food which was given them.
The Go Ahead Boys were eager to talk with the redmen, but silence rested over the camp. Zeke was particularly gruff in his manner and apparently ignored the presence of the strangers.
At last the Indian who had been chief spokesman said, "We have come to ask if two white men have come to your camp within a few days."
"What do you want to know for?" asked Zeke quickly.
Whatever his reasons may have been for inquiring the Navajo did not offer any explanations.
"Yes, there were two men here but they have gone," said Zeke slowly.
"Did one of them have a scar across his cheek that reached almost from his nose to his ear?"
"Was the other man larger and heavier?"
"That's right," said Fred, aware that both his companions were as deeply interested as he in the conversation.
"Where did they go?"
"We do not know," spoke up Zeke. "We didn't invite them to come here and they didn't stop to say good-by when they left."
"Do you know their names?"
"I can't say that we do," replied Zeke. "Was there anything special that you wanted o' them?"
The Navajo glanced quickly at his companion, who plainly understood the question and then said, "Yes, we want very much to see them."
"Well, I'm afraid then that you'll have to go where they are."
"Did they go down the river or did they go up the cliffs?"
"The last we saw of them they were headed for the sky," said Zeke glumly.
"Did they have ponies?"
"We didn't see any. They may have left them up yonder, but they didn't bring any into the camp."
The Navajo again turned to his companion and carried on a conversation in a low voice, apparently ignoring the presence of the others.
"If there was any message you wanted left," suggested Zeke, "we might take it and tell them that two Navajoes are waiting for them."
"No," replied the Indian abruptly. "Say nothing. Do you know whether they are coming back to your camp or not?"
"I hope not," said Zeke.
"Have you any reason to think they were bad men?"
"I don't know nothin' about them, just as I told you," responded Zeke gruffly. "As I said, the only way you can find that out is to go where they are."
"And do you know whether they started toward Thorn's Gulch?"
"Where?" demanded Fred quickly.
"What makes you think they were headed for Thorn's Gulch?" demanded Zeke.
"I didn't say we knew," said the Indian solemnly. "I asked you if you knew."
"Well, we don't," said Zeke. "What is there about Thorn's Gulch that makes you think they might want to go there?"
Instead of replying to the question the Navajo again turned to his companion and carried on another conversation with him in still lower tones than before. Then abruptly rising, the Indian, who had been acting as chief spokesman, said, "I don't think we need to trouble you any more."
"Hold on a minute," said Fred. "What's your hurry?"
Both Indians had turned as if they were about to retrace their way along the steep incline by which they had approached the camp. Halting abruptly at the question, before either could speak Fred continued, "You talk a good deal like a man who has not been trained as most of the Indians I have seen around here have been."
"Yes," said the Indian, a broad smile appearing on his face as he spoke, "My name is Thomas Jefferson, in the white man's language."
"Thomas Jefferson?" demanded Grant. "Where in the world did you get that name?"
"When I went to the white man's school they gave me a white man's name."
"Where were you in school?"
"Is that so?" exclaimed Grant, who was especially interested in such matters.
"Yes," explained the Indian, "I was sent east by some missionaries to be educated. As I told you they gave me a white man's name and I was there three years in the school."
"So that is where you learned to speak such good English is it?" said George.
"Do you find that your education helps you a good deal out here in your life among the Navajos?"
For a moment the young Indian stared blankly at the inquirer and then without replying to the question, once more turned to his companion and after a brief conversation he again faced the boys and said, "We thank you for the breakfast you have given us. We must go now."
"Shall I tell those men if they come back," spoke up Zeke, "that Thomas Jefferson and another Navajo have been here to see them?"
There was a gleam in the eyes of the namesake of the great statesman when he answered, "Say nothing."
"Yes," said Zeke, "but I would like to know if they are looking for you."
"We are looking for them," retorted the Navajo.
"Well, all I can say," said Zeke, "is that I hope you'll find them. Maybe you'll find them too before they find the claim staked by old Sime Moultrie."
Plainly the Navajo was startled by the guide's suggestion for he stopped abruptly and said, "Is Simon Moultrie dead?"
"Yes, and his bones have been buried," answered Zeke.
"Not far from where he died."
"When did he die?"
"That I can't say."
"And did he stake a claim?"
"Did I say he did? Did you know him?"
"Everybody knew Simon Moultrie," said the Indian. "He came to Tombstone many times for supplies."
"That's right, he did," acknowledged Zeke. "He was a great old prospector. He kept it up all his life but I never knew of his finding anything worth staking."
"He did not stake any claim?"
"I can't say."
The Indian looked keenly at the guide and then turning looked with equal keenness at the boys who were greatly enjoying the conversation. He did not say any more, however, and in company with the other Navajo at once departed from the camp.
Silently the Go Ahead Boys watched the departing redmen until their forms had been hidden from sight by one of the numerous projecting cliffs. Then the tension was somewhat relieved and Fred turned to Zeke and said, "What do you think those Indians wanted?"
"My opinion is that they have gotten wind somehow that those two men are looking for the claim that old Sime Moultrie may have staked."
"What will happen," inquired Grant, "if the Navajos begin to look for the claim and come upon those two white men there?"
"It will depend on which party can draw his gun first," replied Zeke dryly.
"Do you think it's as bad as that?" demanded Fred excitedly.
"I don't think nothin' about it. I haven't much use for those white men, and when it comes to a Navajo—why you have heard what the only kind of a good Indian is, haven't you?"
"A dead Indian," answer Grant with a laugh.
"Well, I didn't say it. You said it. Did I ever tell you about the Navajo squaw that some of the women up here, stopping over at Albuquerque, fitted out for her wedding?"
"No," replied the boys together. "What did they do?"
"Why they gave her six dresses and a lot of other things they thought she would need as soon as she was in her own house. Some of them stopped there a year or two afterward and looked her up. The squaw was wearing one of the dresses that the white women had given her, but they found out that when one dress had become so old and torn that the squaw couldn't wear it much longer she would just put another dress right on over it and wear that until it was worn out, and then she put on number three and then number four. She was wearing six altogether when this white woman found her."
"That's a fine story, Zeke," laughed Fred.
"It's almost good enough to be true."
"No, sir, it's too good to be true," spoke up George.
"That doesn't make any difference," said Zeke sturdily. "I'm telling you what was told me. That's all I know about it."
"Zeke," said Grant, who up to this time had taken little part in the conversation, "if you really think those Indians are after those two white men and that something may happen if they happen to meet, don't you think we ought to get word to them somehow?"
A grin appeared on the face of the guide as he replied, "That's a good 'un! That's a good 'un! The chances are ten to one that if you interfered with them in their little game you would have all four o' 'em turn against you. But that hasn't anything to do with what's facin' us. We've got to make up our minds pretty quick what we'll do."
"What do you mean?" inquired Fred.
"Why, I mean that if we're goin' to be fools enough to try to find old Sime Moultrie's stake then we'll have to take whatever comes to us."
"And you think we're likely to have trouble with the Indians or the two white men if we begin to look up the place?"
"We may not see either of 'em," replied Zeke evasively.
"Yes, but if we do see them," said Fred persistently. "Do you think we're going to have any trouble?"
"That remains to be seen."
"But do you think we will?" persisted Fred.
"A good deal will depend on which party strikes what he thinks is the claim first. If we get it I don't believe they will bother us and if they get it I'm mighty sure we shan't bother them. But there," he added, "I think I'm takin' a good deal more trouble than I need to. The chances are one hundred to one that there isn't any such thing as Moultrie's stake, and if there isn't, why then of course we're all safe anyway." Zeke threw back his head and laughed noisily, a recreation which he seldom permitted himself to enjoy. The joke, however, which he had just perpetrated was such a rarity that even the boys were compelled to join in his mirth.
Meanwhile there was a long and weary waiting before they could expect the return of their companions. There were times when the boys worked their way along the shore, or, with Zeke in supreme command, used the one skiff that remained They did not, however, venture far in the little boat because they were compelled to tow it back one or two of the boys remaining in the boat, while their companions dragged it along the rocky or projecting shore. It was easier when they first dragged the boat up the stream and then descended at a speed which in places outdid that of the swiftest horse.
There were expeditions also to be made along the sides of the cliff, but these were cautiously undertaken for Zeke was unduly fearful for his young charges.
Fred most of all the members he specifically watched. He declared that Fred "usually acted and then did his thinking afterward."
When night fell the boys assembled about the camp fire and occasionally prevailed upon their gruff guide to relate some of his own experiences on the desert or among the mountains.
"Yes," said Zeke one night in reply to a question by Fred, "I've had some troubles with bad men. Over in Nevada there was a time when a gang of robbers tried to waylay everybody that set out from Reno. It happened that I was at Reno with my mother one time and I had to drive about forty miles to my aunt's where she was going to visit. The houses out there aren't so thick that anybody gets over-afraid of being crowded out or bein' bothered by the neighbors. On the stretch where I was goin' there were three or four shacks but I didn't find many choosin' that part of the country for a dwellin' place."
"Did they have a good road?" inquired George.
"Fairly good. It was the only one that led over the mountains in that part of the world. Well, I had my mother along, as I was sayin', and when we had gone about eighteen miles from Reno, right in a narrow little gorge I saw two men comin' toward us. They were in a buggy and I knew right away from the looks of their horses that they could make good time. Besides, when I saw the men I knew they were both strangers and, to tell the truth I didn't like the way either one o' 'em acted.
"When they came pretty close to where we were I turned out to give them most of the road for I didn't want any trouble as long as I had my mother along. Perhaps I told you she was with me.
"Well, the first thing I knew the men all of a sudden swung over toward me and before I knew what was going on they had locked their buggy wheel with mine. They pretended to be mad, but I knew right away that this was a part o' their game. It was worse than two to one for I not only had to fight for myself, but for my mother. However, she is pretty game and she saw what was up so she turned to me and said, said she, 'Zeke, you hand me the reins and I'll look after the horses and you get out and help untangle those wheels.' When I got out of the buggy both the men laughed and that rather stirred me. 'You seem to be mighty easy to please,' I said. You see I was younger then than I am now, and didn't have so much sense."
"Where did you get the new sense?" inquired Grant solemnly.
"Oh, once in a long time I run up against a fellow that come from the East. He usually gave me all the advice I needed and never charged me a cent for it either."
The boys laughed at Grant's confusion, but ignoring the interruption Zeke continued with his tale, "I tried to appear unconcerned like and I said to one of the men, 'Take hold here and give me a lift, I'm 'most afraid to back down any further for fear I'll tip my mother out.' They didn't either of 'em offer to help me, in fact neither one of them got out of the buggy and when I took hold of my horse's head and tried to back away they just moved up their horses so that the wheels kept locked just as they had been before. I looked at the wheels and pretty quick I made up my mind that mine were a good deal stronger than theirs. I had told my mother when I took the reins that she had better get out while we were tryin' to break loose there. Of course she did what I told her. I was afraid the men might draw their guns, but still I thought maybe the fact that I had my mother along with me might make 'em hesitate a little. There are mighty few men even in the mines that will do anything to frighten a good woman, and nobody had to look very long into my mother's face to make up his mind that that was what she was, sure enough good.
"Well, we backed and filled for a spell and I see that things were gettin' worse so I waited until we worked out away a few yards up a little rise on the side of the mountain. The men all the while pretended that they thought it was a joke, and then when I got just to the right place, quick as a wink I jumped up and yelled at my horse in the loudest tones I could muster, and when little Zeke really tries hard to make himself heard there isn't usually much trouble in hearing him. I struck my horses with my whip at the same time and all together we had considerable of a ruction, but it turned out just as I thought it would. Their horses were scared worse than mine and when they all four jumped ahead going in opposite directions, of course something had to give way and it wasn't my wheels either, let me tell you. I didn't wait to investigate how much damage I really had done, but I put my horses into their best licks and stopped just long enough to take in my poor, old, frightened mother, and then I didn't stop, let me tell you, until I was out o' sight of those men."
"Did they try to chase you?"
"No, they didn't. I'm thinkin' they were having troubles enough of their own just then. At all events I never see any more of them."
"Do you really believe they meant to rob you?" asked George.
"Sure, as you're born!" replied Zeke. "That was just what they were there for. The only thing that saved me was my havin' my mother along. 'Twasn't long afterward before I heard of a man being held up just as I was. Two men came along in a buggy and locked wheels with him and while he was trying to help himself out of the fix one of them dropped him with the butt of his gun and went through his pockets and all his belongings. That's one reason why I have always remembered Jump Off Joe Creek."
"Remembered what?" laughed Fred.
"Jump Off Joe Creek," repeated Zeke. "That was the name of the mountain brook right near where I had my fight with the robbers."
"But I didn't see that you had any fight," persisted Fred.
"Not exactly a fight, but it's where I would have had a tough fight if it hadn't been for me havin' my mother 'long with me. Perhaps I told you she was in the buggy with me when those wheels locked."
"I believe you did remark something about that," said Fred so drolly that his companions laughed.
"And you think," inquired Grant, "that we're likely to have trouble with these two men the same way?"
"No, I didn't say 'the same way,'" replied Zeke. "I'm just tellin' you what's going on 'round here so that you'll be a bit prepared for it when the proper time comes."
"Do you really think we'll have any trouble with those two men?" inquired George anxiously.
"I've given you my opinion," replied Zeke. "You won't have no trouble if you don't find no claim, and if there ain't no claim then you won't have no trouble. So it's just as broad as it is long, you see, and I'm hopeful we'll get out again with our lives."
"Yes, I hope so too," said George so solemnly that his friends laughed aloud.
Zeke's stories were as numerous as they were quaint after he had once begun to relate them. To beguile the slowly moving hours the boys insisted upon his recounting many of his adventures, some of which were exceedingly thrilling, so thrilling indeed that none of the boys accepted them as true.
But all things at last come to an end and the waiting of the Go Ahead Boys was drawn to a close late one afternoon when Pete and John entered the valley. They were heavily laden with packs and explained that up on the cliff other possessions which they had secured had been left with the Indian boy who had come with them and was to take back the burros after they had been relieved of their burdens.
Speedily all the Go Ahead Boys were engaged in the task of bringing in the supplies. Twice the difficult climb had to be made and even the return to the camp, although the trail led down the steep incline at times, was even more difficult than the ascent had been.
The same night after all the supplies had been brought to the camp and the boys had begun to make up their packs, for they planned to start on their expedition early the following morning, they were startled by the return of the two Navajos who had visited the camp soon after the departure of Pete and John. It was quickly manifest that both Indians in spite of their quiet manner were keenly excited and when they had related a discovery they had made that very day, the excitement of the Go Ahead Boys was only less than their own.
DOWN THE RUSHING RIVER
"We saw where the two white men camped last night," explained Thomas Jefferson. "They are working' their way into Thorn's Gulch."
"And do you think they are looking for Simon Moultrie's claim the same as we are?" demanded John, who was not fully aware of the events which had occurred during his absence.
The Navajo smiled slightly and replied, "Yes, they both are trying to find the place."
"Do you know where it is? Have you anything to show where he found the new mine?"
"Not very much," replied the Indian.
His manner, however, impressed the Go Ahead Boys strongly that Thomas Jefferson possessed information concerning the object of their search which he was not willing to communicate.
The mystery surrounding the place had deepened. The fact that two white men as well as two Indians, in addition to the Go Ahead Boys and their guides, were convinced at the same time that the dead Simon Moultrie had discovered a lead of great promise, increased their interest. Already Fred and John had discussed what they would do with the fortune which they were convinced soon would be theirs as soon as the claim of the dead prospector had been located.
John and Pete, thoroughly wearied by their long journey for supplies, were soon ready for bed. Their example was contagious and in view of the long and difficult journey awaiting them on the morrow all the Go Ahead Boys speedily followed their example.
Daylight had appeared, though the light of the rising sun had not yet shone above the towering cliffs, when the guides were busily preparing breakfast the next morning.
In spite of the prospect awaiting them the appetites of the Go Ahead Boys were all keen and a hearty breakfast was disposed of before any one suggested that the hour for their departure had arrived.
A few of their belongings were left behind, after they had been carefully stowed away among the various cliffs and hidden from the sight of any chance passerby. It was seven o'clock when at last Zeke declared the party was ready to depart.
Every boy had his kit strapped upon his back in addition to the rifle which he carried while Zeke led the way and Pete served as a rear guard.
Since the missing boat had not been recovered it had been decided to try to make the journey overland. However, just as the party left the camp Pete said decidedly, "I think this is all fool business."
"What do you mean?" demanded Fred, who was next before him.
"I think it's foolishness for all six of us to go overland when we have a boat that will bring us within a few miles of Thorn's Gulch. Some of our heaviest supplies can be taken that way, and, if we have to, Zeke and I can make two trips from the place where we can land to the opening to Thorn's Gulch. Hold on," he called to Zeke.