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The Talking Leaves - An Indian Story
by William O. Stoddard
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THE TALKING LEAVES

An Indian Story

by

WILLIAM O. STODDARD



[Frontispiece: "Halt! They've brought out the boys"]



Harper & Brothers Publishers New York and London Copyright, 1882, by Harper & Brothers Copyright, 1910, by William O. Stoddard



THE TALKING LEAVES

AN INDIAN STORY

CHAPTER I

"Look, Rita! look!"

"What can it mean, Ni-ha-be?"

"See them all get down and walk about."

"They have found something in the grass."

"And they're hunting for more."

Rita leaned forward till her long hair fell upon the neck of the beautiful little horse she was riding, and looked with all her eyes.

"Hark! they are shouting."

"You could not hear them if they did."

"They look as if they were."

Ni-ha-be sat perfectly still in her silver-mounted saddle, although her spirited mustang pony pawed the ground and pulled on his bit as if he were in a special hurry to go on down the side of the mountain.

The two girls were of about the same size, and could not either of them have been over fifteen years old. They were both very pretty, very well dressed and well mounted, and they could both speak in a strange, rough, and yet musical language; but there was no other resemblance between them.

"Father is there, Rita."

"Can you see him?"

"Yes, and so is Red Wolf."

"Your eyes are wonderful. Everybody says they are."

Ni-ha-be might well be proud of her coal-black eyes, and of the fact that she could see so far and so well with them. It was not easy to say just how far away was that excited crowd of men down there in the valley. The air was so clear, and the light so brilliant among those snow-capped mountain ranges, that even things far off seemed sometimes close at hand.

For all that there were not many pairs of eyes, certainly not many brown ones like Rita's, which could have looked, as Ni-ha-be did, from the pass into the faces of her father and brother and recognized them at such a distance.

She need not have looked very closely to be sure of one thing more—there was not a single white man to be seen in all that long, deep, winding green valley.

Were there any white women?

There were plenty of squaws, old and young, but not one woman with a bonnet, shawl, parasol, or even so much as a pair of gloves. Therefore, none of them could have been white.

Rita was as well dressed as Ni-ha-be, and her wavy masses of brown hair were tied up in the same way, with bands of braided deer-skin, but neither of them had ever seen a bonnet. Their sunburnt, healthy faces told that no parasol had ever protected their complexions, but Ni-ha-be was a good many shades the darker. There must have been an immense amount of hard work expended in making the graceful garments they both wore. All were of fine antelope-skin; soft, velvety, fringed, and worked and embroidered with porcupine quills. Frocks and capes and leggings and neatly fitting moccasins, all of the best, for Ni-ha-be was the only daughter of a great Apache chief, and Rita was every bit as important a person according to Indian notions, for Ni-ha-be's father had adopted her as his own.

Either one of them would have been worth a whole drove of ponies or a wagon-load of guns and blankets, and the wonder was that they had been permitted to loiter so far behind their friends on a march through that wild, strange, magnificent land.

Had they been farther to the east, or south, or north, it is likely they would have been kept with the rest pretty carefully; but Many Bears and his band were on their way home from a long buffalo-hunt, and were already, as they thought, safe in the Apache country—away beyond any peril from other tribes of Indians, or from the approach of the hated and dreaded white men.

To be sure, there were grizzly bears and wolves and other wild animals to be found among those mountain passes, but they were not likely to remain very near a band of hunters like the one now gathered in that valley.

Great hunters, brave warriors, well able to take care of themselves and their families, but just now they were very much excited about something—something on the ground.

The younger braves, to the number of more than a hundred, were standing back respectfully, while the older and more experienced warriors carefully examined a number of deep marks on the grass around a bubbling spring.

There had been a camp there not long before, and the first discovery made by the foremost Apache who had ridden up to that spring was that it had not been a camp of his own people.

The prints of the hoofs of horses showed that they had been shod, and there are neither horseshoes nor blacksmiths among the red men of the South-west.

The tracks left by the feet of men were not such as can be made by moccasins. There are no heels on moccasins, and no nails in the soles of them.

Even if there had been Indian feet in the boots, the toes would not have been turned out in walking. Only white men do that.

So much was plain at a mere glance; but there were a good many other things to be studied and interpreted before Many Bears and his followers could feel satisfied.

It was a good deal like reading a newspaper. Nobody tears one up till it has been read through, and the Apaches did not trample the ground around the spring till they had searched out all that the other tramplings could tell them.

Then the dark-faced, ferocious looking warriors who had made the search all gathered around their chief and, one after another, reported what they had found.

There had been a strong party of white men at that spot three days before; three wagons, drawn by mule teams; many spare mules; twenty-five men who rode horses, besides the men who drove the wagons.

"Were they miners?"

Every warrior and chief was ready to say "No" at once.

"Traders?"

No, it could not have been a trading-party.

"All right," said Many Bears, with a solemn shake of his gray head. "Blue-coats—cavalry. Come from Great Father at Washington—no stay in Apache country—go right through—not come back—let them go."

Indian sagacity had hit the nail exactly on the head; for that had been a camp of a United States military exploring expedition, looking for passes and roads, and with instructions to be as friendly as possible with any wandering red men they might meet.

Nothing could be gained by following such a party as that, and Many Bears and his band began at once to arrange their own camp, for their morning's march through the pass had been a long and fatiguing one.

If the Apache chief had known a very little more, he would have sent his best scouts back upon the trail that squad of cavalry had come by, till he found out whether all who were travelling by that road had followed it as far as the spring. He might thus have learned something of special importance to him. Then, at the same time, he would have sent other scouts back upon his own trail, to see if anybody was following him, and what for. He might have learned a good deal more important news in that way.

He did nothing of the kind; and so a very singular discovery was left for Rita and Ni-ha-be to make, without any help at all.

As they rode out from the narrow pass, down the mountain-side, and came into the valley, it was the most natural thing in the world for them to start their swift mustangs on a free gallop; not directly toward the camping-place, for they knew well enough that no girls of any age would be permitted to approach very near to warriors gathered in council. Away to the right they rode, following the irregular curve of the valley, side by side, managing the fleet animals under them as if horse and rider were one person.

So it came to pass that before the warriors had completed their task the two girls had struck the trail along which the blue-coated cavalry had entered the valley.

"Rita, I see something."

"What is it?"

"Come! See! Away yonder."

Rita's eyes were as good as anybody's, always excepting Apaches' and eagles', and she could see the white fluttering object at which her adopted sister was pointing.

The marks of the wheels and all the other signs of that trail, as they rode along, were quite enough to excite a pair of young ladies who had never seen a road, a pavement, a sidewalk, or anything of the sort; but when they came to that white thing fluttering at the foot of a mesquite-bush they both sprung from their saddles at the same instant.

One, two, three—a good deal dog's-eared and thumb-worn, for they had been read by every man of the white party who cared to read them before they were thrown away, but they were very wonderful yet. Nothing of the kind had ever before been imported into that region of the country.

Ni-ha-be's keen black eyes searched them in vain, one after another, for anything she had ever seen before.

"Rita, you are born white. What are they?"

Poor Rita!

Millions and millions of girls have been "born white," and lived and died with whiter faces than her own rosy but sun-browned beauty could boast, and yet never looked into the fascinating pages of an illustrated magazine.

How could any human being have cast away in the wilderness such a treasure?

Rita was sitting on the grass, with one of the strange prizes open in her lap, rapidly turning the leaves, and more excited by what she saw than were Many Bears and his braves by all they were discovering upon the trampled level around the spring.

"Rita," again exclaimed Ni-ha-be, "what are they?"

"They are talking leaves," said Rita.



CHAPTER II

"Did you say, Murray, there were any higher mountains than these?"

"Higher'n these? Why, Steve, the mountains we crossed away back there, just this side of the Texas border, were twice as high, some of them."

"These are big enough. Are there any higher mountains in the world than ours? Did you ever see any?"

"I've seen some of them. I've heard it said the tallest are in India. South America can beat us. I've seen the Andes."

"I don't want to see anything that looks worse to climb than this range right ahead of us."

"Where the Apaches got through, Steve, we can. They're only a hunting-party, too."

"More warriors than we have."

"Only Apaches, Steve. Ours are Lipans. There's a big difference in that, I tell you."

"The Lipans are your friends."

"Yours too, and you must let them think you are their friend—strong. The Apaches are everybody's enemies—mine, yours—only fit to be killed off."

"You've killed some of 'em."

"Not so many as I mean to kill. That's one thing I'm on this trip for. Old Two Knives would almost have given it up if it hadn't been for me."

"I don't feel that way about the Lipans if they did capture me. All I want of them is to get away and go back to the settlements."

"Maybe your folks won't know you when you come."

Steve looked down at his fine muscular form from limb to limb, while the stern, wrinkled face of his companion almost put on a smile.

"I'd have to wash, that's a fact."

"Get off your war-paint. Put on some white men's clothing. Cut your hair."

"They'd know me then."

"You've grown a head taller since you was captured, and they've made a Lipan of you all over but in two places."

"What are they?"

"Your eyes and hair. They're as light as mine were when I was of your age."

"I'm not a Lipan inside, Murray, nor any other kind of Indian. It would take more than three years to do that."

"I've been among 'em seven. But then I never would paint."

The sun and the wind had painted him darkly enough; and if his hair had once been "light," it was now as white as the tops of the mountains he and Steve had been looking at.

Behind them, on a barren sandy level, through which ran a narrow stream of ice-cold water, about three-score of wild-looking human beings were dismounted, almost in a circle, each holding the end of a long "lariat" of strong hide, at the other end of which was a horse.

Some seemed to have two and even three horses, as if they were on an errand which might use up one and call for another. That was quite likely, for Lipan warriors are terribly hard riders.

Those who had now but one horse had probably worn out their first mount and turned him adrift by the way-side, to be picked up, Indian fashion, on the way home.

When a plains Indian leaves a horse in that way, and does not find him again, he tries his best to find some other man's horse to take his place.

More than sixty Indian warriors, all in their war-paint, armed to the teeth, with knives, revolvers, repeating-rifles of the best and latest patterns, and each carrying a long steel-headed Mexican lance.

Not a bow or arrow or war-club among them. All such weapons belong to the old, old times, or to poor, miserable, second-rate Indians, who cannot buy anything better. The fierce and haughty Lipans and Comanches, and other warlike tribes, insist on being armed as well as the United States troops, and even better.

What could a cavalryman do with a lance?

About as much as an Indian with a sword; for that is one weapon the red men could never learn the use of, from King Philip's day to this.

It was luncheon-time with that Lipan war-party, and they were hard at work on their supplies of dried venison and cold roast buffalo-meat.

Their halt would not be a long one in a spot where there was no grass for their horses, but they could hold a council while they were eating, and they could listen to a speech from the short, broad, ugly-looking old chief who now stood in the middle of the circle.

"To-la-go-to-de will not go back now till he has struck the Apaches. He has come too far. The squaws of his village would laugh at him if he rode through the mountains and came back to them with empty hands."

That was the substance of his address, put again and again in different shapes, and it seemed to meet the approval of his listeners.

There is nothing a Lipan brave is really afraid of except ridicule, and the dread of being laughed at was the strongest argument their leader could have used to spur them forward.

Once, indeed, he made another sharp hit by pointing to the spot where Murray and Steve were standing.

"No Tongue has the heart of a Lipan. He says if we go back he will go on alone. He will take the Yellow Head with him. They will not be laughed at when they come back. Will the Lipans let their squaws tell them they are cowards, and dare not follow an old pale-face and a boy?"

A deep, half-angry "ugh" went around the circle.

To-la-go-to-de had won over all the grumblers in his audience, and need not have talked any more.

He might have stopped right there and proceeded to eat another slice of buffalo-meat, but when an Indian once learns to be an orator he would rather talk than eat, any day.

In fact, they are such talkers at home and among themselves, that Murray had earned the queer name given him by the chief in no other way than by his habitual silence. He rarely spoke to anybody, and so he was "No Tongue."

The chief himself had a name of which he was enormously proud, for he had won it on a battle-field. His horse had been killed under him, in a battle with the Comanches, when he was yet a young warrior, and he had fought on foot with a knife in each hand.

From that day forward he was To-la-go-to-de, or "The chief that fights with two knives."

Any name he may have been known by before that was at once dropped and forgotten.

It is a noteworthy custom, but the English have something almost exactly like it. A man in England may be plain Mr. Smith or Mr. Disraeli for ever so many years, and then all of a sudden he becomes Lord So-and-So, and nobody ever speaks of him again by the name he carried when he was a mere "young brave."

It is a great mistake to suppose the red men are altogether different from the white.

As for Steve, his hair was nearer chestnut than yellow, but it had given him his Indian name; one that would stick to him until, like To-la-go-to-de, he should distinguish himself in battle and win a "war name" of his own.

He and Murray, however they might be regarded as members of the tribe and of that war-party, had no rights in the "Council." Only born Lipans could take part in that, except by special invitation.

It happened, on the present occasion, that they were both glad of it, for No Tongue had more than usual to say, and Yellow Head was very anxious to listen to him.

"That peak yonder would be an awful climb, Steve."

"I should say it would."

"But if you and I were up there, I'll tell you what we could do; we could look north and east into New Mexico, north and west into Arizona, and south every way, into Mexico itself."

"Are we so near the border?"

"I think we are."

Something like a thunder-cloud seemed to be gathering on Murray's face, and the deep furrows grew deeper, in great rigid lines and curves, while his steel-blue eyes lighted up with a fire that made them unpleasant to look upon.

"You lived in Mexico once?"

"Did I? Did I ever tell you that?"

"Not exactly. I only guessed it from things you've dropped."

"I'll tell you now, then. I did live in Mexico—down yonder in Chihuahua."

"She-waw-waw?" said Steve, trying to follow the old man's rapid pronunciation of the strange, musical name.

"Down there, more than a hundred miles south of the border. I thought we were safe. The mine was a good one. The hacienda was the prettiest place I could make of it. I thought I should never leave it. But the Apaches came one day—"

He stopped a moment and seemed to be looking at the tops of the western mountains.

"Did you have a fight with them?" asked Steve.

"Fight? No. I was on a hunt in the sierras that day. When I came home it was all gone."

"The Apaches?"

"The mine was there, but the works were all burnt. So was the hacienda and the huts of the peons and workmen. Everything that would burn."

"But the people!"

"Cattle, horses, all they could drive with them, they carried away. We won't say anything about the people, Steve. My wife was among them. She was a Spanish-Mexican lady. She owned the mine and the land. We buried her before we set out after the Apaches. I've been following them ever since."

"Were the rest all killed?"

"All. They did not even leave me my little girl. I hadn't anything left to keep me there."

"So you joined the Lipans?"

"They're always at war with the Apaches. I'm pretty near to being an Indian now."

"I won't be, then. I'll get away, somehow. I'm white, and I'm almost a man."

"Steve, have you forgotten anything you knew the day they took you prisoner?"

"No, I haven't. I was fifteen then, and if there's one thing I've been afraid of it was that I would forget. I've repeated things over and over and over, for fear they'd get away from me."

"That's all right. I've had an eye on you about that. But haven't you learned something?"

"You've taught me all about rocks and stones and ores and mining—"

"Yes, and you can ride like a Lipan, and shoot and hunt, and there isn't a young brave in the band that can throw you in a fair wrestle."

"That's all Indian—"

"Is it? Well, whether it is or not, you'll need it all before long. All you know."

"To fight Apaches?"

"Better'n that, Steve. It's been of no use for you to try to get away toward Texas. They watch you too closely, and besides, the Comanches are most of the time between us and the settlements. They won't watch you at all out here. That's why I insisted on bringing you along."

"Do you mean I'll have a chance to get away?"

"I don't mean you shall go back of the mountains again, Steve. You must wait patiently, but the time'll come. I tell you what, my boy, when you find yourself crossing the Arizona deserts and mountains all alone, you'll be right glad you can ride, and shoot, and hunt, and find your own way. It's all Indian knowledge, but it's wonderfully useful when you have to take care of yourself in an Indian country."

The dark cloud was very heavy on Murray's face yet, but an eager light was shining upon that of his young friend—the light of hope.



CHAPTER III

"Talking leaves?" said Ni-ha-be, as she turned over another page of the pamphlet in her lap and stared at the illustrations. "Can you hear what they say?"

"With my eyes."

"Then they are better than mine. I am an Apache! You was born white!"

There was a little bit of a flash in the black eyes of the Indian maiden. She had not the least idea but that it was the finest thing in all the world to be the daughter of Many Bears, the great Apache warrior, and it did not please her to find a mere white girl, only Indian by adoption, able to see or hear more than she could.

Rita did not reply for a moment, and a strange sort of paleness crept across her face, until Ni-ha-be exclaimed,

"It hurts you, Rita! It is bad medicine. Throw it away."

"No, it does not hurt—"

"It makes you sick?"

"No, not sick—it says too much. It will take many days to hear it all."

"Does it speak Apache?"

"No. Not a word."

"Nor the tongue of the Mexican pony men?"

"No. All it says is in the tongue of the blue-coated white men of the North."

"Ugh!"

Even Ni-ha-be's pretty face could express the hatred felt by her people for the only race of men they were at all afraid of.

There were many braves in her father's band who had learned to talk Mexican-Spanish. She herself could do so very well, but neither she nor any of her friends or relatives could speak more than a few words of broken English, and she had never heard Rita use one.

"There are many pictures."

"Ugh! yes. That's a mountain, like those up yonder. There are lodges, too, in the valley. But nobody ever made lodges in such a shape as that."

"Yes, or nobody could have painted a talking picture of them."

"It tells a lie, Rita! And nobody ever saw a bear like that."

"It isn't a bear, Ni-ha-be. The talking leaf says it's a lion."

"What's that? A white man's bear?"

Rita knew no more about lions than did her adopted sister, but by the time they had turned over a few more pages their curiosity was aroused to a high degree. Even Ni-ha-be wanted to hear all that the "talking leaves" might have to say in explanation of those wonderful pictures.

It was too bad of Rita to have been "born white" and not to be able to explain the work of her own people at sight.

"What shall we do with them, Ni-ha-be?"

"Show them to father."

"Why not ask Red Wolf?"

"He would take them away and burn them. He hates the pale-faces more and more every day."

"I don't believe he hates me."

"Of course not. You're an Apache now. Just as much as Mother Dolores, and she's forgotten that she was ever white."

"She isn't very white, Ni-ha-be. She's darker than almost any other woman in the tribe."

"We won't show her the talking leaves till father says we may keep them. Then she'll be afraid to touch them. She hates me."

"No, she doesn't. She likes me best, that's all."

"She'd better not hate me, Rita. I'll have her beaten if she isn't good to me. I'm an Apache!"

The black-eyed daughter of the great chief had plenty of self-will and temper. There could be no doubt of that. She sprang upon her mustang with a quick, impatient bound, and Rita followed, clinging to her prizes, wondering what would be the decision of Many Bears and his councillors as to the ownership of them.

A few minutes of swift riding brought the two girls to the border of the camp.

"Rita? Red Wolf!"

"I see him—he is coming to meet us, but he does not want us to think so."

That was a correct guess.

The tall, hawk-nosed young warrior, who was now riding toward them, was a perfect embodiment of Indian haughtiness, and even his sister was a mere "squaw" in his eyes. As for Rita, she was not only a squaw but also not even a full-blooded Apache, and was to be looked down upon accordingly.

He was an Indian and a warrior, and would one day be a chief like his father.

Still, he had so far unbent his usual cold dignity as to turn his horse to meet that sisterly pair, if only to find out why they were in such a hurry.

"What scare you?"

"We're not scared. We've found something—pale-face sign."

"Apache warriors do not ask squaws if there are pale-faces near them. The chiefs know all; their camp was by the spring."

"Was it?" exclaimed Ni-ha-be. "We have found some of their talking leaves. Rita must show them to father."

"Show them to me!"

"No. You are an Apache; you cannot hear what they say: Rita can—she is white."

"Ugh! Show leaves, now!"

Ni-ha-be was a "squaw," but she was also something of a spoiled child, and was less afraid of her brother than he may have imagined. Besides, the well-known rule of the camp, or of any Indian camp, was in her favor.

All "signs" were to be reported to the chief by the finder, and Ni-ha-be would make her report to her father like a warrior.

Rita was wise enough to say nothing, and Red Wolf was compelled to soften his tone a little. He even led the way to the spot near the spring where the squaws of Many Bears were already putting up his "lodge."

There was plenty of grass and water in that valley, and it had been decided to rest the horses there for three days, before pushing on deeper into the Apache country.

The proud old chief was not lowering his dignity to any such work as lodge-pitching. He would have slept on the bare ground without a blanket before he would have touched one pole with a finger.

That was "work for squaws," and all that could be expected of him was that he should stand near and say "Ugh!" pleasantly, when things were going to please him, and to say it in a different tone if they were not.

Ni-ha-be and Rita were favorites of the scarred and wrinkled warrior, however, and when they rode up with Red Wolf, and the latter briefly stated the facts of the case—all he knew of them—the face of Many Bears relaxed into a grim smile.

"Squaw find sign. Ugh! Good!"

"Rita says they are talking leaves. Much picture. Many words. See!"

Her father took from Ni-ha-be, and then from Rita, the strange objects they held out so excitedly, but to their surprise he did not seem to share in their estimate of them.

"No good. See them before. No tell anything true. Big lie."

Many Bears had been among the forts and border settlements of the white men in his day. He had talked with army officers and missionaries and government agents. He had seen many written papers and printed papers, and had had books given him, and there was no more to be told or taught him about nonsense of that kind. He had once imitated a pale-faced friend of his, and looked steadily at a newspaper for an hour at a time, and it had not spoken a word to him.

So now he turned over the three magazines in his hard, brown hand, with a look of dull curiosity mixed with a good deal of contempt.

"Ugh! Young squaws keep them. No good for warriors. Bad medicine. Ugh!"

Down they went upon the grass, and Rita was free to pick up her despised treasures and do with them as she would. As for Red Wolf, after such a decision by his terrible father, he would have deemed it beneath him to pay any farther attention to the "pale-face signs" brought into camp by two young squaws.

Another lodge of poles and skins had been pitched at the same time with that of Many Bears, and not a great distance from it. In fact, this also was his own property, although it was to cover the heads of only a part of his family.

In front of the loose "flap" opening, which served for the door of this lodge, stood a stout, middle-aged woman, who seemed to be waiting for Ni-ha-be and Rita to approach. She had witnessed their conference with Many Bears, and she knew by the merry laugh with which they gathered up their fallen prizes that all was well between them and their father. All the more for that, it may be, her mind was exercised as to what they had brought home with them which should have needed the chief's inspection.

"Rita!"

"What, Ni-ha-be?"

"Don't tell Mother Dolores a word. See if she can hear for herself."

"The leaves won't talk to her. She's Mexican white, not white from the North."

Nobody would have said to look at her, that the fat, surly-faced squaw of Many Bears was a white woman of any sort. Her eyes were as black and her long, jetty hair was as thick and coarse, and her skin was every shade as dark as were those of any Apache house-keeper among the scattered lodges of that hunting-party.

She was not the mother of Ni-ha-be. She had not a drop of Apache blood in her veins, although she was one of the half-dozen squaws of Many Bears. Mother Dolores was a pure "Mexican," and therefore as much of an Indian, really, as any Apache, or Lipan, or Comanche. Only a different kind of an Indian, that was all.

Her greeting to her two young charges, for such they were, was somewhat gruff and brief, and there was nothing very respectful in the manner of their reply. An elderly squaw, even though the wife of a chief, is never considered as anything better than a sort of servant, to be valued according to the kind and quantity of the work she can do. Dolores could do a great deal, and was therefore more than usually respectable; and she had quite enough force of will to preserve her authority over two such half-wild creatures as Ni-ha-be and Rita.

"You are late. Come in! Tell me what it is!"

Rita was as eager now as Ni-ha-be had been with her father and Red Wolf; but even while she was talking Dolores pulled them both into the lodge.

"Talking leaves!"

Not Many Bears himself could have treated those poor magazines with greater contempt than did the portly dame from Mexico. To be sure, it was many a long year since she had been taken a prisoner and brought across the Mexican border, and reading had not been among the things she had learned before coming.

"Rita can tell us all they say, by-and-by, Mother Dolores."

"Let her, then. Ugh!"

She turned page after page, in a doubtful way, as if it were quite possible one of them might bite her, but suddenly her whole manner changed.

"Ugh!"

"Rita," exclaimed Ni-ha-be, "the leaves have spoken to her."

She had certainly kissed one of them. Then she made a quick motion with one hand across her brow and breast.

"Give it to me, Rita! You must give it to me!"

Rita held out her hand for the book, and both the girls leaned forward with open mouths to learn what could have so disturbed the mind of Dolores.

It was a picture.

A sort of richly carved and ornamented door-way, but with no house behind it, and in it a lady with a baby in her arms, and over it a great cross of stone.

"Yes, Dolores," said Rita, "we will give you that leaf."

It was quickly cut out, and the two girls wondered more and more to see how the fingers of Dolores trembled as they closed upon that bit of paper.

She looked at the picture again with increasing earnestness. Her lips moved silently, as if trying to utter words her mind had lost.

Then her great fiery black eyes slowly closed, and the amazement of Ni-ha-be and Rita was greater than they could have expressed, for Mother Dolores sunk upon her knees hugging that picture. She had been an Apache Indian for long years, and was thoroughly "Indianized," but upon that page had been printed a very beautiful representation of a Spanish "Way-side Shrine of the Virgin."



CHAPTER IV

A mountain range is not at all like a garden fence. You do not just climb up one side of it and drop down into another garden beyond.

The one which arose before the Lipans that day, and through which the Apaches before them had driven their long lines of ponies, loaded with buffalo-meat and all the baggage of an Indian hunting-camp, was really a wide strip of very rough country, full of mountains and rising to a high range in the centre. The Lipans were not very well acquainted with it, except by what they had heard from others, and there had been some murmuring among them at first, when their leader announced his intention of following his "war-path" to the other side of such a barrier as that.

His speech had settled it all, however, and his warriors were ready to go with him no matter where he should lead them. Anything rather than go back empty-handed to be laughed at.

The moment luncheon was over every man was on horseback. It was absolutely necessary to find "grass" before night, if their horses were to be good for anything the next day.

They knew that the particular band of Apaches they were pursuing must be two or three days' march ahead of them; but they also knew that every mountain range has its deep, green valleys, and that the trail left by their enemies would surely lead through the best of these.

Up, up, up, through rugged ravines and gorges for nearly an hour, and then down again almost as far, and then, sooner than they had expected, they came upon the very thing they were looking for. It was not so large or so beautiful a valley as the one in which Many Bears and his men were encamped, miles and miles beyond. It did not widen like that at its lower end into a broad and undulating plain, with a river and a forest far away; but there was plenty of grass in it for tired and hungry horses, and To-la-go-to-de at once decided that there they should halt for the night.

It was little beyond the middle of the afternoon, and a war-party of Lipans has neither tents to pitch nor much baggage to care for. Little time was lost in mere "going into camp," and even before that was done every fifth brave was ordered out to look for game. Not only would fresh meat be better than dry, if they could get any, but it would save their somewhat slender stock of provisions for another day.

"Steve! Steve Harrison!"

"What is it, Murray?"

"I've spoken to old Two Knives. You and I are to hunt."

"Hurrah for that! Which way are you going?"

"Most of the others seem to be setting out southerly. I guess they're right, so far as game is concerned. You and I'll try that gap to the north-west. There's no telling where it may lead to."

The "gap" he pointed at was a sombre-looking chasm, the mouth of which opened into the little valley where they were, at a distance of about half a mile.

Nobody could tell, indeed, where it might lead to, nor could any one have guessed, until he was actually in it, what a very remarkable gap it was.

The two white hunters, little as they looked like white men, had chosen to go on foot, and not one of their Lipan friends had accompanied them. If they were men to be "watched" at any other time, even the sharp eyes of Indian suspicion saw no need for it among the desolate solitudes of those "sierras."

They did not hear To-la-go-to-de say to some of the red hunters:

"No Tongue great hunter. Bring in more antelope than anybody else. Yellow Head good, too. You beat them? Ugh!"

They would try beyond doubt, but more than one Lipan shook his head. The reputation of Murray as a slayer of game was too high to be questioned, and he had taught Steve Harrison like a father.

"Murray," said Steve, "do you mean that such a gap as that offers me a chance?"

"To get away?"

"Yes. That's what I'm thinking of."

"Can't say about that, my boy. Probably not. I don't believe it comes out on the western slope of the mountains."

"What do you want to try it for, then?"

"I don't exactly know. Game, perhaps. Then I want to teach you something more about mountains and finding your way among them. More than that, I don't want to go the same way with any of the rest."

"I like that, anyhow. Seems as if I had ever so many questions to ask that I never felt like asking before."

"I never cared to answer any, Steve, when you did ask 'em. Not so long as you and I were to be together. Now you're going away from me, pretty soon, I don't mind telling some things."

"Going away? Do you mean to say you won't go too? Shall you stay and be a Lipan?"

"You'll go alone, Steve, when you go. That's all."

"Why won't you go with me?"

"That's one of the questions I don't mean to answer. You've told me all about your family and people. I'll know where to look for you if I ever come out into the settlements."

"I wish you'd come. You're a white man. You're not a Mexican either. You're American."

"No, I'm not."

"Not an American?"

"No, Steve, I'm an Englishman. I never told you that before. One reason I don't want to go back is the very thing that sent me down into Mexico to settle years and years ago."

"I didn't ask about that."

"No good if you did."

"But you've been a sort of father to me ever since you bought me from the Lipans, after they cleaned out my uncle's hunting-party, and I can't bear the thought of leaving you here."

If it had not been for his war-paint, and its contrast with his Saxon hair and eyes, Steve would have been a handsome, pleasant-looking boy—tall and strong for his years, but still a good deal of a boy—and his voice was now trembling in a very un-Indian sort of way. No true Lipan would have dreamed of betraying any emotion at parting from even so good a friend as Murray.

"Yes," said the latter, dryly, "they cleaned out the hunting-party. Your uncle and his men must have run pretty well, for not one of them lost his scalp or drew a bead on a Lipan. That's one reason they didn't knock you on the head. They came home laughing, and sold you to me for six ponies and a pipe."

"I never blamed my uncle. I've always wondered, though, what sort of a story he told my father and mother."

"Guess he doesn't amount to a great deal."

"He's rich enough, and he's fond of hunting, but there isn't a great deal of fight in him. He wouldn't make a good Lipan."

The circumstances of Steve's capture were evidently not very creditable to some of those who were concerned in it, and Murray's tone, in speaking of the "uncle" who had brought him out into the Texas plains to lose him so easily, was bitterly contemptuous.

At that moment they were entering the mouth of the gap, and Murray suddenly dropped all other subjects to exclaim,

"We've struck it, Steve!"

"Struck what?"

"A regular canyon. See, the walls are almost perpendicular, and the bottom comes down, from ledge to ledge, like a flight of stairs!"

Steve had been among mountains before, but he had never seen anything precisely like that.

In some places the vast chasm before him was hardly more than a hundred feet wide, while its walls of gray granite and glittering white quartz rock arose in varying heights of from three hundred to five hundred feet.

"Come on, Steve!"

"You won't find any game in here. A rabbit couldn't get enough to live on among such rocks as these."

"Come right along! I want to get a look at the ledges up there. There's no telling what we may stumble upon."

Steve's young eyes were fully occupied, as they pushed forward, with the strange beauty and grandeur of the scenery above, beyond, and behind him. The air was clear and almost cool, and there was plenty of light in the shadiest nooks of the chasm.

"What torrents of water must pour down through here at some seasons of the year," he was saying to himself, when his companion suddenly stopped, with a sharp, "Hist! Look there!" and raised his rifle.

Steve looked.

Away up on the edge of the beetling white crag at their right, the first "game" they had seen that day was calmly gazing down upon them.

A "big-horn antelope" has the best nerves in the world, and it is nothing to him how high may be the precipice on the edge of which he is standing. His head never gets dizzy, and his feet never slip, for he was made to live in that kind of country, and feels entirely at home in spots where no other living thing cares to follow him.

That was a splendid specimen of what the first settlers called the "Rocky Mountain sheep," until they found that it was not a sheep at all, but an "antelope." His strong, wide, curling horns were of the largest size, and gave him an expression of dignity and wisdom as he peered down upon the hunters who had intruded upon his solitudes. He would have shown more wisdom by not looking at all, for in a moment more the sharp crack of Murray's rifle awoke the echoes of the canyon, and then, with a great bound, the big-horn came tumbling down among the rocks, almost at Steve Harrison's feet.

"He's a little battered by his fall," said Murray, "that's a fact. But he'll be just as good eating. Let's hoist him on that bowlder and go ahead."

"He's as much as we'd like to carry in."

"That's so; but we may bag something more, and then we could bring a pony up almost as far as this. I don't mean to do any too much carrying."

His broad, muscular frame looked as if it had been built expressly for that purpose, and he could have picked up at least one big-horn with perfect ease; but he had been among the Indians a good while, and they never lift a pound more than they are compelled to.

"Give me the next shot, Murray."

"I will, if it's all right; but you must use your own eyes. It won't do to throw away any chances."

The game was quickly lifted to the bowlder pointed out by Murray, and he and Steve pressed on up the great beautiful gate-way, deeper and deeper into the secrets of the mountain range.

Every such range has its secrets, and one by one they are found out from time to time; but there seemed to be little use in the discovery of any just then and there. It was a very useless sort of secret.

What was it?

Well, it was one that had been kept by that deep chasm for nobody could guess how many thousands of years, until Steve Harrison stumbled a little as he climbed one of the broken "stairs" of quartz, and came down upon his hands and knees.

Before him the canyon widened into a sort of table-land, with crags and peaks around it, and Murray saw trees here and there, and a good many other things, but Steve exclaimed,

"Murray! Murray! Gold!"

"What! A vein?"

"I fell right down upon it. Just look there!"

Murray looked, half carelessly at first, like a man who had before that day discovered plenty of such things; but then he sprung forward.

"We're in the gold country," he said; "it's all gold-bearing quartz hereaway. Steve! Steve! I declare I never saw such a vein as that. The metal stands out in nuggets."

So it did. A strip of rock nearly five feet wide was dotted and spangled with bits of dull yellow. It seemed to run right across the canyon at the edge of that level, and disappear in the solid cliffs on either side.

"Oh, what a vein!"

"It's really gold, then?"

"Gold? Of course it is. But it isn't of any use."

"Why not?"

"Who could mine for it away down here in the Apache country? How could they get machinery down here? Why, a regiment of soldiers couldn't keep off the redskins, and every pound of gold would cost two pounds before you could get it to a mint."

For all that, Murray gazed and gazed at the glittering rock, with its scattered jewels of yellow, and a strange light began to glow in his sunken eyes.

"No, Steve, I'm too old for it now. Gold's nothing to me any more! But that ledge is yours, now you've found it. Some day you may come back for it."

"I will if I live, Murray."

"Well, if you ever do, I'll tell you one thing more."

"What's that?"

"Dig and wash in the sand and gravel of that canyon below for all the loose gold that's been washed down there from this ledge since the world was made. There must be bushels of it."



CHAPTER V

The lodge of tanned buffalo-skins in which Ni-ha-be and Rita were sitting with Mother Dolores, was large and commodious. It was a round tent, upheld by strong, slender poles, that came together at the top so as to leave a small opening. On the outside the covering was painted in bright colors with a great many rude figures of men and animals. There was no furniture; but some buffalo and bear skins and some blankets were spread upon the ground, and it was a very comfortable lodge for any weather that was likely to come in that region.

In such a bright day as that all the light needed came through the open door, for the "flap" was still thrown back.

The two girls, therefore, could see every change on the dark face of the great chiefs Mexican squaw.

A good many changes came, for Dolores was very busily "remembering," and it was full five minutes before the thoughts brought to her by that picture of the "Way-side Shrine" began to fade away, so that she was again an Indian.

"Rita," whispered Ni-ha-be, "did it say anything to you?"

"Yes. A little. I saw something like it long ago. But I don't know what it means."

"Rita! Ni-ha-be!"

"What is it, Dolores?"

"Go. You will be in my way. I must cook supper for the chief. He is hungry. You must not go beyond the camp."

"What did the talking leaf say to you?" asked Ni-ha-be.

"Nothing. It is a great medicine leaf. I shall keep it. Perhaps it will say more to Rita by-and-by. Go."

The Apaches, like other Indians, know very little about cookery. They can roast meat and broil it, after a fashion, and they have several ways of cooking fish. They know how to boil when they are rich enough to have kettles, and they can make a miserable kind of corn-bread with Indian corn, dried or parched and pounded fine.

The one strong point in the character of Dolores, so far as the good opinion of old Many Bears went, was that she was the best cook in his band. She had not quite forgotten some things of that kind that she had learned before she became a squaw. Nobody else, therefore, was permitted to cook supper for the hungry chief.

It was a source of many jealousies among his other squaws, but then he was almost always hungry, and none of them knew how to cook as she did.

She was proud of it too, and neither Ni-ha-be nor her adopted sister dreamed of disputing with her after she had uttered the word "supper."

They hurried out of the lodge, therefore, and Dolores was left alone. She had no fire to kindle.

That would be lighted in the open air by other female members of the family.

There were no pots and saucepans to be washed, although the one round, shallow, sheet-iron "fryer," such as soldiers sometimes use in camp, which she dragged from under a buffalo-skin in the corner, would have been none the worse for a little scrubbing.

She brought it out, and then she dropped it and sat down to take another look at that wonderful "talking leaf."

"What made me kneel down and shut my eyes? I could remember then. It is all gone now. It went away as soon as I got up again."

She folded the leaf carefully, and hid it in the folds of her deer-skin dress, but she was evidently a good deal puzzled.

"Maria Santissima—yes, I do remember that. It will all come back to me by-and-by. No! I don't want it to. It makes me afraid. I will cook supper and forget all about it."

A Mexican woman of the lower class, unable to read, ignorant of almost everything but a little plain cookery, has less to forget than have most American children of six years old. But why should it frighten her if the little she knew and had lost began to come back to her mind?

She did not stop to answer any such questions as that, but poured some pounded corn, a coarse, uneven meal, into a battered tin pan. To this was added a little salt, some water was stirred in till a thick paste was made, and then the best cook of the Apaches was ready to carry her batter to the fire. Envious black eyes watched her while she heated her saucepan on the coals she raked out. Then she melted a carefully measured piece of buffalo tallow, and began to fry for her husband and master the cakes no other of his squaws could so well prepare.

When the cakes were done brown, the same fryer and a little water would serve to take the toughness out of some strips of dried venison before she broiled them, and the great chief would be the best-fed man in camp until the hunters should return from the valley below with fresh game.

They were quite likely to do that before night, but Many Bears was a man who never waited long for something to eat after a hard day's march.

If Dolores had been a little alarmed at the prospect of being forced to "remember," a very different feeling had entered the mind of Rita when she and her sister came out of the lodge.

"What shall we do, Ni-ha-be?"

"Red Wolf told me he had something to say to me. There he is now. He beckons me to come. He does not want you."

"I am glad of it. There are trees and bushes down there beyond the corral. I will go and be alone."

"You will tell me all the talking leaves say to you?"

"Yes, but they will talk very slowly, I'm afraid."

Even the harsher sounds of the Apache tongue had a pleasant ring in the sweet, clear voices of the two girls, and the softer syllables, of which there were many, rippled after each other like water in a brook. It seemed, too, as if they said quite as much to each other by signs as by words. That is always so among people who live a great deal out-of-doors, or in narrow quarters, where other people can easily hear ordinary conversation.

The one peculiar thing about the signs used by the American Indians is that they mean so much and express it so clearly. Men of different tribes, not able to understand a word of each other's spoken tongue, will meet and talk together by the hour in "sign language" as intelligently as two well-trained deaf mutes among the whites.

Perhaps one reason more for so much "sign talking" is that there are so many tribes, each with a very rough tongue of its own, that is not easy for other tribes to pick up.

Red Wolf was again beckoning to Ni-ha-be, and there was an impatient look on his dark, self-willed face. It was time for her to make haste, therefore, and Rita put the three magazines under the light folds of her broad antelope-skin cap and tripped away toward the bit of bushy grove just beyond the "corral."

What is that?

In the language of the very "far West" it is any spot or place where horses are gathered and kept, outside of a stable.

The great Apache nation does not own a single stable or barn, although it does own multitudes of horses, ponies, mules, and even horned cattle. All these, therefore, have to be "corralled," except when they are running loose among their unfenced pastures. There are no fences in that part of the world any more than barns.

Immediately on going into camp the long train of pack mules and ponies had been relieved of their burdens, and they and most of the saddle-horses had been sent off, under the care of mounted herders, to pick their dinners for themselves in the rich green grass of the valley.

Chiefs and warriors, however, never walk if they can help it, and so, as some one of them might wish to go here or there at any moment, several dozens of the freshest animals were kept on the spot between the camp and the grove, tethered by long hide lariats, and compelled to wait their turn for something to eat.

There was a warrior on guard at the "corral," as a matter of course, but he hardly gave a glance to the pretty adopted daughter of Many Bears as she tripped hurriedly past him.

It was his business to look out for the horses and not for giddy young squaws who might find "talking leaves."

Rita could not have told him, if he had asked her, why it was that her prizes were making her heart beat so fast, as she held them against it.

She was not frightened. She knew that very well. But she was glad to be alone, without even the company of Ni-ha-be.

The bushes were very thick around the spot where she at last threw herself upon the grass. She had never lived in any lodge where there were doors to shut behind her, or if she had, all those houses and their doors were alike forgotten; but she knew that her quick ears would give her notice of any approaching footsteps.

There they lay now before her, the three magazines, and it seemed to Rita as if they had come on purpose to see her, and were looking at her.

No two of them were alike.

They did not even belong to the same family. She could tell that by their faces.

Slowly and half-timidly she turned the first leaf; it was the cover-leaf of the nearest.

A sharp exclamation sprung to her lips.

"I have seen her! Oh, so long ago! It is me, Rita. I wore a dress like that once. And the tall squaw behind her, with the robe that drags on the ground, I remember her, too. How did they know she was my mother?"

Rita's face had been growing very white, and now she covered it with both her hands and began to cry. The picture was one of a fine-looking lady and a little girl of, it might be, seven or eight years. Not Rita and her mother, surely, for the lady wore a coronet upon her head and carried a sceptre in her hand; but the little girl looked very much as Rita must have looked at her age. It was a picture of some Spanish princess and her daughter, but like many pictures of such people that are printed, it would have served as well for a portrait of almost anybody else—particularly, as it seemed, of Rita and her mother.

"He is not there. Why did they not put him in? I love him best. Oh, he was so good to me! He had plenty of talking leaves, too, and he taught them to speak to me. I will look and see if he is here."

Rita was talking aloud to herself, but her own voice sounded strange to her, with its Indian words and ways of expression. She was listening, without knowing it, for another voice—for several of them—and none of them spoke Apache.

She turned leaf after leaf with fluttering haste, in her eager search for that other face she had spoken of.

In a moment more she paused, as the full-length picture of a man gazed at her from the paper.

"No; not him. He is too old. My father was not old; and he was handsome, and he was not dark at all."

She shut the book for a moment, and her face was full of puzzle and of pain.

"I said it. I was not talking Apache then. And I understood what I was saying."

She had indeed, when she mentioned her father, spoken pretty clearly in English.

Was it her mother-tongue? and had it come back to her?

She turned over the leaves more eagerly than ever now, and she found in that and the two other magazines many pictured faces of men of all ages, but each one brought her a fresh disappointment.

"He is not here," she said, mournfully; "and it was he who taught me to—to—to read—read books."

She had found two words now that were like little windows, for through them she could see a world of wonderful things that she had not seen before.

"Read" and "books."

The three magazines were no longer "talking leaves" to her, although they were really beginning to talk. Her head ached, and her eyes were burning hot, as she gazed so intently at word after word of the page which happened to be open before her. It was not printed like the rest—less closely, and not in such a thronging mass of little black spots of letters. It was a piece of very simple poetry, in short lines and brief stanzas, and Rita was staring at its title.

The letters slowly came to her one by one, bringing behind them the first word of the title; but they seemed to Rita to be in her own brain more than on the paper.

It was a hard moment for Rita.

"He made me say them one word at a time. He was so good to me! Yes, I can say them now! I know what they mean! Oh, so long ago! so long ago!"

There was no longer any doubt about it. Rita could read English.

Not very easily or rapidly at first, and many of the words she came to puzzled her exceedingly. Perhaps some of them also would come back to her after a while. Some of them had always been strangers, for the very brightest little girls of seven or eight, even when they read well and have their fathers to help them, are but at the beginning of their acquaintance with "hard words."

"I shall know what the pictures mean now. But I will not tell anybody a word about it—only Ni-ha-be."



CHAPTER VI

Steve Harrison rose to his feet, and looked curiously along the ledge in both directions.

It was not the first ore he had seen during his three years and more of wandering with Murray and the Lipans, but never before had he tumbled down upon anything precisely like it.

"Mine!" he said to himself, aloud—"mine! But what can I do with it?"

"Do with it? What can you do with it?"

Murray was still kneeling upon the precious quartz, and fingering spot after spot where the yellow metal showed itself; and the strange fire in his eyes was deeper than ever.

"Steve!"

"What, Murray?"

"I thought it was all gone, but it isn't."

"Thought what was all gone?"

"The gold-fever. I used to have it when I was younger. It isn't a love of money. It's just a love of digging up gold."

"Can you feel it now?"

"Dreadfully. It burns all over me every time I touch one of those nuggets."

"Let it burn, then."

"Why? What's the good of it?"

"Maybe it'll get strong enough to keep you from wasting the rest of your days among the Lipans."

"Among the Lipans? You don't know, Steve. Didn't I tell you what keeps me? No, I don't think I did—not all of it. You're only a boy, Steve."

"You're a wonderfully strong man for your age."

"My age? How old do you think I am?"

"I never guessed. Maybe you're not much over sixty."

"Sixty?" He said that with a sort of low laugh.

"Why, my dear boy, I'm hardly turned of forty-five—white hair and all. The white came to my hair the day I spent in hunting among the ruins the Apaches left behind them for my wife and my little girl."

"Only forty-five! Why, Murray, you're young yet. And you know all about mines."

"And all about Indians too. Come on, Steve; we must look a little farther before we set out for the camp."

Steve would willingly have stayed to look at all that useless ledge of gold ore; but his friend was on his feet again, now resolutely turning his wrinkled face away from it all, and there was nothing to be gained be mere gazing. A gold-mine cannot be worked by a person's eyes, even if they are as good and bright a pair as were those of Steve Harrison.

Before them lay the broken level of the table-land, and it was clearer and clearer, as they walked on, that it was not at all a desert.

It was greater in extent, too, than appeared at first sight, and it was not long before their march brought them to quite a grove of trees.

"Oak and maple, I declare," said Murray. "I'd hardly have thought of finding them here. There's good grass too, beyond, and running water."

"Halloo, Murray, what's that? Look! Are they houses?"

"Steve! Steve!"

It was no wonder at all that they both broke into a clean run, and that they did not halt again until they stood in the edge of a second grove not far from the margin of the full-banked stream of water which wound down from the mountains and ran across that plateau.

Trees, groves, grass, in all directions, and a herd of deer were feeding at no great distance, but it was not at any of these that the two "pale-faced Lipans" were gazing.

"Houses, Murray!—houses!"

"They were houses once, Steve. Good ones, too. I've heard of such before. These are not like what I've seen in Mexico."

"They're all in ruins. Some one has started a settlement here and had to give it up. Maybe they came to work my mine."

It was less than half an hour since he had stumbled over it, and yet Steve was already thinking of that ledge as "my mine."

It does not take us a great while to acquire a feeling of ownership for anything we take a great liking to.

"Settlement! Work your mine!" exclaimed Murray. "Why, Steve, the people that built those houses were all dead and gone before even the Apaches came here. Nobody knows who they were. Not even the wisest men in the world."

That was a great relief to Steve, for if they had been forgotten so completely as that they were sure not to interfere with him and his mine.

The two friends walked forward again until they stood in the shadow of the nearest ruin.

It must have been a pretty large building before its walls began to topple over with age and decay. Some parts that were yet standing were three stories high, and all was built of rudely shaped and roughly fitted stone. There was no mortar to be seen anywhere. If there had ever been any it was all washed away.

"There must have been quite a town here once," said Murray, "up and down both banks of the run of water. It was a good place for one. It looks as if there was plenty of good land beyond, and there's a great bend in the line of the mountains."

"I wish I knew where it led to. I'd follow it."

"What for?"

"It might give me a chance to get away."

"It might. And then again it might not. There's a gap that seems to open off there to the west, but then it won't do."

"Why won't it do? Couldn't I try it?"

"Try it? Yes, but you won't. I must look out for you, Steve. You're more of a boy than I thought for."

"I'm man enough, Murray. I dare try anything."

"That's boy, Steve. Stop a minute. Have you any horse to carry you across country?"

Steve looked down at the nearest pile of ruined masonry with a saddening face.

"You have no horse, no blanket, no provisions, no supply of ammunition except what you brought along for to-day's hunt. Why, Steve, I'm ashamed of you. There isn't a young Lipan brave in the whole band that would set off in such a fashion as that—sure to make a failure. You ought to have learned something from the Indians, it seems to me."

Steve blushed scarlet as he listened, for he had been ready the moment before to have shouldered his rifle and set off at once toward that vague and unknown western "gap." It must be that the glimpse he had taken of that golden ledge had stirred up all the "boy" in him.

"I guess I wouldn't have gone far," he said, "before I'd have run clean out of cartridges. I've less than two dozen with me."

"When you do start, my boy, I'll see to it that you get a good ready. Now let's try for one of those deer. It's a long shot. See if you can make it."

A fine buck with branching antlers, followed by two does, had been feeding in the open space beyond the ruins. The wind was brisk just then from that direction, and they had not scented the two hunters. They had slowly drawn nearer and nearer until they were now about three hundred yards away. That is a greater distance than is at all safe shooting for any but the best marksmen, and sometimes even they will lose their game at it.

The stories so often told of "long shots" at deer and tigers and geese and other terrible wild beasts are, for the greater part, of the kind that are known as "fish stories," and Steve would have been glad if that buck had been a few rods nearer.

He knew his rifle was a good one, however, for it was a seven-shooting repeater of the latest and best pattern, and had been selected for him by Murray himself out of a lot the Lipans had brought in, nobody knew from where.

"Steady, Steve! Think of the deer, not of the gold-mine."

"I'll aim at him as if he were a gold-mine," replied Steve, as he raised his rifle.

"I'll try for one of the does at the same time," said Murray.

Crack! crack! Both rifles were discharged almost at the same instant; but while the antlered buck gave a great bound and then fell motionless upon the grass, his two pretty companions sprung away unhurt.

"I aimed too high," said Murray; "I must lower my sights a little."

"I've got him," exclaimed Steve—"gold-mine and all; but he'll be a big load to carry to camp."

They found him so. They were compelled to take more than one breathing-spell before they reached the head of the ravine, and there they took a long one—right on the gold-bearing ledge.

"Splendid pair of horns he has—" began Murray, but Steve interrupted him with,

"That's it! That's the name of this mine when I come for it!"

"What's that, Steve?"

"It's the Buckhorn Mine. They always give them a name."

"That'll do as well as any. The ledge'll stay here till you come for it. Nobody around here is likely to steal it away from you. But there's more ledge than mine just now."

So there was, and Steve's countenance fell a little as he and Murray again took up their burden and began to toil under it from "stair to stair" down the rocky terraces of the grand chasm.

"We won't go any farther than we can help without a horse," said Murray at last. "And there's the big-horn to carry in."

"Murray, that big-horn! Just look yonder!"

It was not far to look, and the buck they were carrying seemed to come to the ground of his own accord.

"Cougar!" exclaimed Murray.

"The biggest painter I ever saw," said Steve, "and he is getting ready to spring."

The American panther, or, as Murray called him, cougar, is not so common among the mountains as he is in some parts of the forest-covered lowlands, but the vicinity of the table-land above, with its herds of deer, might account for this one. There he was now, at all events, preparing to take possession of the game on the top of that bowlder without asking leave of anybody.

"Quick, Steve! Forward, while he's got his eyes on the antelope. We may get a shot at him."

Almost recklessly they darted down the canyon, slipping swiftly along from bowlder to bowlder, but before they had covered half the distance the panther made his spring.

He made it magnificently. He had scented the blood of that antelope from far away, and he may have suspected that it was not a living one, but his instincts had forbidden him to approach it otherwise than with caution. He would not have been a cougar if he had not made a spring in seizing upon his prey.

They are nothing in the world but giant cats, after all, and they catch their game precisely as our house-cats catch their mice. If anybody wants to know how even a lion or a tiger does his hunting, "puss in the corner" can teach him all about it.

"He will tear it all to pieces!"

"No, he won't, Steve. We can get a bead on him from behind that rock yonder. He'll be too busy to be looking out for us for a minute or so."

That was true, and it was a bad thing for the great "cat of the mountains" that it was so, for the two hunters got within a hundred yards of him before he had done smelling of the big-horn, in which he had buried his sharp, terrible claws.

"Now, Steve, I won't miss my shot this time. See that you don't."

Steve took even too much care with his aim, and Murray fired first.

He did not miss; but a cougar is not like a deer, and it takes a good deal more to kill him. Murray's bullet struck a vital part, and the fierce beast sprung from the bowlder with a ferocious growl of sudden pain and anger.

"I hit him! Quick, Steve!"

The panther was crouching on the gravel at the bottom of the ravine, and searching with furious eyes for the enemies who had wounded him.

The report of Steve's rifle rung through the chasm.

"I aimed at his head—"

"And you only cut off one of his ears. Here he comes. I'm ready. What a good thing a repeating-rifle is!"

It was well for them, indeed, that they did not have to stop and load just then. It did not seem any time at all before the dangerous beast was crouching for another spring within twenty feet of them.

It would not do to miss this time, but neither Steve nor Murray made any remarks about it. They were too much absorbed in looking along their rifle-barrels to do any talking. Both reports came together, almost like one.

They were not followed by any spring from the cougar. Only by a growl and an angry tearing at the gravel, and then there was no danger that any more big-horns, living or dead, would ever be stolen by that panther.

"Well, Steve, if this isn't the biggest kind of sport! Never saw anything better in all my life."

"A buck, a big-horn, and a painter before sundown!"

"It'll be sundown before we get them all in. We'd better start for some ponies and some help. Tell you what, Steve, I don't care much for it myself, but the Lipans would rather eat that cougar than the best venison ever was killed."

"I suppose they would; but I ain't quite Indian enough for that, war-paint or no war-paint."

So, indeed, it proved; and To-la-go-to-de indulged in more than one sarcastic gibe at his less successful hunters over the manner in which they had been beaten by "No Tongue and the Yellow Head—an old pale-face and a boy." He even went so far as to say to Steve Harrison, "Good shot. The Yellow Head will be a chief some day. He must kill many Apaches. Ugh!"



CHAPTER VII

When Steve Harrison and his friend left the ruins of the ancient town behind them, they had good reason to suppose that they were going away from a complete solitude—a place where even wild Indians did not very often come.

It looked desolate enough with its scattered enclosures of rough stone, not one of them with any roof on, or any sign that people had lived in them for a hundred years at least. The windows in the tumbling walls had probably never had either sash or glass in them, and the furniture, whatever it may have been, used by the people who built the village had long since disappeared.

It could never have been a very large or populous town, but it could hardly at any time have had a wilder-looking set of inhabitants than were the party of men who drew near it at about the time when Steve and Murray were killing their cougar.

Two tilted wagons, a good deal the worse for wear, apparently pretty heavily laden, and drawn by six mules each, were accompanied by about two dozen men on horseback. Their portraits would have made the fortune of any picture-gallery in the world. Everybody would have gone to look at such a collection of bearded desperadoes.

They were not Indians, nor were they dressed as such. They were dressed in every way that could be thought of, except well and cleanly.

If the odds and ends of several clothing-stores had been picked up after a fire, and then about worn out, and patched and mended with bits of blankets and greasy buckskin, something like those twenty odd suits of clothes might have been produced; that is, if the man who tried to do it could have had these for a pattern. If not, he would have failed.

The men themselves were as much out of the common way as were the clothes they wore, but they had somehow managed to keep their horses and mules in pretty good condition.

Horses and mules are of more importance than clothing to men who are far away from tailors and civilization as were these new-comers in the neighborhood of Steve's mine.

If Steve had seen them he would probably have trembled for the "Buckhorn," for Murray would at once have told him that these men were miners.

That was nothing against them, certainly, and they must have been daring fellows to push their hunt for gold so far beyond any region known to such hunters.

One look at their hard, reckless faces would have convinced anybody about their "daring." They looked as if they were ready for anything.

So they were, indeed; and it is quite probable a man of Murray's experience would have guessed at once that they were ready for a good many other things besides mining.

Just now, certainly, they were thinking something else.

"Bill," said the foremost rider to a man a little behind him, "we were wrong to leave the trail of them army fellers. We're stuck and lost in here among the mountains."

"It looks like It. We'll hev to go into camp and scout around till we find a pass. But it wasn't any use follerin' the cavalry arter we found they was bound west."

"That's so. It won't do for us to come out on the Pacific slope. It's Mexico or Texas for us."

"We'd better say Santa Fe."

"They'd make us give too close an account of ourselves there. Some of the boys might let out somethin'."

"Guess it's Mexico, then. That isn't far away now. But I wish I knew the way down out of this."

The ruins, strange and wonderful as they were, did not seem to excite any great degree of curiosity among those men.

They talked about them, to be sure, but in a way which showed that they had all seen the same sort of thing before during their wild rovings among the mountains and valleys of the great South-west.

Just such ruins are to be found in a great many places. We do not even know how many, and nobody has been able yet to more than guess by whom they were built or when.

Mere ravines and gorges and canyons would not do for this party. They must find a regular "pass," down which they could manage to take their horses and mules and wagons. Even before they halted, several of them had been looking and pointing toward what Murray had spoken of as "the western gap."

That was the opening through the ranges which had been for a moment such a temptation to Steve Harrison.

"It's west'ard, Bill, but it may hev to do for us."

"It may take us down to some lower level, or it may show us a way south."

"The great Southern Pass is down hereaway, somewhar."

"Farther east than this. We ort to strike it, though, before we cross the border."

"Mexico ain't a country I'd choose to go inter, ef I hed my own way; but we've got to go for it this time."

But whatever may have been their reason for seeking Mexico, they were just now a good deal puzzled as to the precise path by means of which they might reach it. It was getting late in the day, too, for any kind of exploration, and the mule-teams looked as if they had done about enough.

So it came to pass that the ruined village of the forgotten people was once more occupied.

Did they go into the houses? No, it was the man called Bill who said it, but all the rest of them seemed to feel just as he did, when he remarked:

"Sleep in one of them things? No, I guess not. Not even if it was roofed in. They were set up too long ago to suit me."

That stamped him as an American, for there is no other people in the world that hate old houses. No real American was ever known to use an old building of any kind a day longer than he could help. He would as soon think of wearing old clothes just because they were old.

The ground near the ruins was covered with fragments of stone and fallen masonry, but there was a good camping-ground between that and the trees from which Murray and Steve had fired at the buck.

"It's the loneliest kind of a place, Captain Skinner," said Bill, just after he had helped turn the mules loose on the grass.

"I wish I knew just how lonely it is. I kind o' smell something."

"Do ye, Cap?"

Every such band of men has its "Captain" of some kind, and sometimes very good discipline and order is kept up. But Captain Skinner was hardly the man anybody would have picked out for a leader, before seeing how the rest listened to what he said, and how readily they seemed to obey him.

He was the shortest, thinnest, ugliest, and most ragged man in the whole party; and just at this moment he did not appear to be carrying any arms except the knife and pistol in his belt.

"If I don't smell it, I can see it. Look yonder, Bill."

"That's so! Blood!"

It was the spot on which the buck had fallen, and in a moment more than half a dozen men were looking around in all directions.

They understood all they saw, too, as well as any Indians in the world, for in less than five minutes Captain Skinner said,

"That'll do, boys. We must follow that trail. Two white hunters. They killed the buck. Both wore moccasins. So they ain't fresh from the settlements. There's something queer about it. They were on foot, and they carried off their game."

It was, indeed, very queer, and it would not do to let any such puzzle as that go by unsolved.

So, while several men were ordered out after game, and several more were left to guard the camp, Captain Skinner himself, with Bill and five others, armed to the teeth, set out at once on the trail of Murray and Steve Harrison.

It was easy enough to follow those two pairs of footprints as long as they were made in the grass. After they got upon rocky ground it was not so easy, and the miners did not get ahead so fast, but they did not lose the trail for a moment. Indeed, it was about as straight in one direction as the nature of the ground would permit.

"Two fellers out yer among these 'ere mountains all by themselves," growled Bill, as they drew near the ledge at the head of the deep canyon.

"We don't know that they're all alone yet," said Captain Skinner. "They carried that deer somewhere."

"Right down yonder, Captain. They stopped here to rest from kerryin' of it, and I don't blame 'em, if they'd got to tote it down through that thar canyon."

"It's a deep one, no mistake."

"Captain, look yer!" suddenly exclaimed one of the men. "We've lit on it this time."

"The ledge? I wasn't looking at that."

A perfect storm of exclamations followed from every pair of lips in the party. Such a ledge as that they had never seen before, old mine-hunters as they were; but each one seemed inclined to ask, just as Murray had asked of Steve, what could be done with it?

Gold enough, but nothing to get it out of the rock with, and nowhere to carry it to.

It was a sad problem for men who cared for nothing in the wide world but just such ledges and just such gold. What was the use of it?

Steve Harrison never knew it, but his mine was of a good deal of use to him and Murray just then. It kept Captain Skinner and his men looking at it long enough for them to get nearly back to the camp of the Lipans.

"It won't do, boys," said Captain Skinner, at last; "we're wasting time. Come on."

They followed him, every man turning his head as he did so to take another look at the yellow spots that shone here and there in the quartz.

Their way down the ravine was made with care and circumspection, for they did not know at what moment they might come in sight of "those two fellers and their deer."

It was well for them, probably, that they were cautious, for after a good deal of steep climbing, just as they were about to clamber down one of the rocky "stairs," the man called Bill exclaimed,

"Captain, thar it is—"

"The deer? They've left it. I see it."

"More'n that farther down."

"A big-horn! And if that ain't a painter lying beside it!"

"More'n that, Cap. They didn't give up that thar game for nothin'."

"Lay low, boys! Git to cover right away! Red-skins!"

There was no difficulty in hiding among so many rocks and bowlders, and the miners were out of sight in a moment.

They could see, though, even if they were not seen, and they were soon able to count a dozen Indian warriors leading three pack-ponies as far up the ravine as four-footed beasts could be led.

"Wonder if they've wiped out the two fellers?" said Bill.

"Looks like it. Or they may have captured 'em. Lost their game, if they haven't lost their scalps. Wonder what tribe of redskins they are, anyhow?"

There was a better reason than that why No Tongue and Yellow Head did not come back with their friends, but it was just as well that Captain Skinner and his miners did not understand it.

"Captain," whispered one of the men near him, "shall we let drive at 'em? We could pick off half of 'em first fire."

"Not a shot. All we want just now is to be let alone. I don't mind killing a few redskins."

"Mebbe they killed the two fellers."

"Likely as not. I'm kind o' glad they did. That there ledge is ours now. Let 'em carry off their game, and then we'll climb back. I reckon I know now how we'd best work our way down to the level those Indians came from."

The Lipans made short work of loading their ponies, and the moment they were out of sight the miners began their climb out of that canyon. There was no good reason why they should follow the Lipans.



CHAPTER VIII

A refusal to go out with the hunters was a strange thing to come from Red Wolf. No other young brave in that band of Apaches had a better reputation for killing deer and buffaloes. It was a common saying among the older squaws that when he came to have a lodge of his own "there would always be plenty of meat in it."

He was not, therefore, a "lazy Indian," and it was something he had on his mind that kept him in the camp that day. It had also made him beckon to Ni-ha-be, and look very hard after Rita when she hurried away toward the bushes with her three magazines of "talking leaves." Red Wolf was curious.

He hardly liked to say as much to a squaw, even such a young squaw as Ni-ha-be, and his own sister, but he had some questions to ask her, nevertheless.

He might have asked some of them of his father, but the great war-chief of that band of Apaches was now busily watching Dolores and her saucepan, and everybody knew better than to speak to him just before supper.

Ni-ha-be saw at a glance what was the matter with her haughty brother, and she was glad enough to tell him all there was to know of how and where the talking leaves had been found.

"Did they speak to you?"

"No. But I saw pictures."

"Pictures of what?"

"Mountains; big lodges; trees; braves; pale-face squaws; pappooses; white men's bears; and pictures that lied—not like anything."

"Ugh! Bad medicine. Talk too much. So blue-coat soldier throw them away."

"They talk to Rita."

"What say to her?"

"I don't know. She'll tell me. She'll tell you if you ask her."

"Ugh! No. Red Wolf is a warrior. Not want any squaw talk about pictures. You ask Rita some things."

"What things?"

"Make the talking leaves tell where all blue-coat soldiers go. All that camped here. Know then whether we follow 'em."

"Maybe they won't tell."

"Burn some. The rest talk then. White man's leaves not want to tell about white man. Rita must make them talk. Old braves in camp say they know. Many times the talking leaves tell the pale-faces all about Indians. Tell where go. Tell what do. Tell how to find and kill. Bad medicine."

The "old braves" of many an Indian band have puzzled their heads over the white man's way of learning things and sending messages to a distance, and Red Wolf's ideas had nothing unusual in them. If the talking leaves could say anything at all, they could be made to tell a chief and his warriors the precise things they wanted to know.

Ni-ha-be's talk with her brother lasted until he pointed to the camp-fire, where Many Bears was resting after his first attack upon the results of Mother Dolores's cooking.

"Great chief eat. Good time talk to him. Go now."

There was no intentional lack of politeness in the sharp, overbearing tone of Red Wolf. It was only the ordinary manner of a warrior speaking to a squaw. It would therefore have been very absurd for Ni-ha-be to get out of temper about it; but her manner and the toss of her head as she turned away was decidedly wanting in the submissive meekness to be expected of her age and sex.

"It won't be long before I have a lodge of my own," she said, positively. "I'll have Rita come and live with me. Red Wolf shall not make her burn the talking leaves. Maybe she can make them talk to me. My eyes are better than hers. She's nothing but a pale-face, if she did get brought into my father's lodge."

A proud-spirited maiden was Ni-ha-be, and one who wanted a little more of "her own way" than she could have under the iron rule of her great father and the watchful eyes of Mother Dolores.

"I'll go to the bushes and see Rita. Our supper won't be ready yet for a good while."

It would be at least an hour, but Ni-ha-be had never seen a clock in her life, and knew nothing at all about "hours." There is no word for such a thing in the Apache language.

She was as light of foot as an antelope, and her moccasins hardly made a sound upon the grass as she parted the bushes and looked in upon Rita's hiding-place.

"Weeping? The talking leaves have been scolding her! I will burn them! They shall not say things to make her cry!"

In a moment more her arms were around the neck of her adopted sister. It was plain enough that the two girls loved each other dearly.

"Rita, what is the matter? Have they said strong words to you?"

"No, Ni-ha-be; good words, all of them. Only I cannot understand them all."

"Tell me some. See if I can understand them. I am the daughter of a great chief."

Ni-ha-be did not know how very little help the wealth of a girl's father can give her in a quarrel with her school-books. But just such ideas as hers have filled the silly heads of countless young white people of both sexes.

"I can tell you some of it."

"Tell me what made you cry."

"I can't find my father. He is not here. Not in any of them."

"You don't need him now. He was only a pale-face. Many Bears is a great chief. He is your father now."

Something seemed to tell Rita that she would not be wise to arouse her friend's national jealousy. It was better to turn to some of the pictures and try to explain them. Very funny explanations she gave, too, but she at least knew more than Ni-ha-be, and the latter listened seriously enough.

"Rita, was there ever such a mule as that?—one that could carry a pack under his skin?"

It was Rita's turn now to be proud, for that was one of the pictures she had been able to understand. She had even read enough to be able to tell Ni-ha-be a good deal about a camel.

It was deeply interesting, but the Apache maiden suddenly turned from the page to exclaim,

"Rita, Red Wolf says the talking leaves must tell you about the blue-coat soldiers or he will burn them up."

"I'm going to keep them."

"I won't let him touch them."

"But, Ni-ha-be, they do tell about the soldiers. Look here."

She picked up another of the magazines, and turned over a few leaves.

"There they are. All mounted and ready to march."

Sure enough, there was a fine woodcut of a party of cavalry moving out of camp with wagons.

Over went the page, and there was another picture.

Ten times as many cavalry on the march, followed by an artillery force with cannon.

"Oh, Rita! Father must see that."

"Of course he must; but that is not all."

Another leaf was turned, and there was a view of a number of Indian chiefs in council at a fort, with a strong force of both cavalry and infantry drawn up around them.

Rita had not read the printed matter on any of those pages, and did not know that it was only an illustrated description of campaigning and treaty-making on the Western plains. She was quite ready to agree with Ni-ha-be that Many Bears ought to hear at once what the talking leaves had to say about so very important a matter.

It was a good time to see him now, for he was no longer very hungry, and word had come in from the hunters that they were having good success. A fine prospect of a second supper, better than the first, was just the thing to make the mighty chief good-tempered, and he was chatting cosily with some of his "old braves" when Rita and Ni-ha-be drew near.

They beckoned to Red Wolf first.

"The talking leaves have told Rita all you wanted them to. She must speak to father."

Red Wolf's curiosity was strong enough to make him arrange for that at once, and even Many Bears himself let his face relax into a grim smile as the two girls came timidly nearer the circle of warriors.

After all, they were the pets and favorites of the chief; they were young and pretty, and so long as they did not presume to know more than warriors and counsellors they might be listened to. Besides, there were the talking leaves, and Rita's white blood, bad as it was for her, might be of some use in such a matter.

"Ugh!"

Many Bears looked at the picture of the cavalry squad with a sudden start. "No lie this time. Camp right here. Just so many blue-coats. Just so many wagons. Good. Now where go?"

Rita turned the leaf, and her Indian father was yet more deeply interested.

"Ugh! More blue-coats. Great many. No use follow. Get all killed. Big guns. Indians no like 'em. Ugh!"

If the cavalry expedition was on its way to join a larger force, it would indeed be of no use to follow it, and Many Bears was a cautious leader as well as a brave one.

Rita's news was not yet all given, however, and when the eyes of the chief fell upon the picture of the "treaty-making" he sprang to his feet.

"Ugh! Big talk come. Big presents. Other Apaches all know—all be there—all get blanket, gun, tobacco, new axe. Nobody send us word, because we off on hunt beyond the mountains. Now we know, we march right along. Rest horse, kill game, then ride. Not lose our share of presents."

Rita could not have told him his mistake; and, even if she had known it, she would have been puzzled to explain away the message of the talking leaves. Did not every brave in the band know that that first picture told the truth about the cavalry? Why, then, should they doubt the correctness of the rest of it?

No, a treaty there was to be, and presents were to come from the red man's "Great Father at Washington," and that band of Apaches must manage to be on hand, and secure all that belonged to it, and as much more as possible.

Red Wolf had nothing more to say about burning up leaves which had talked so well, and his manner toward Rita was almost respectful as he led her and Ni-ha-be away from the group of great men that was now gathering around the chief. Red Wolf was too young a brave to have any business to remain while gray heads were in council. A chief would almost as soon take advice from a squaw as from a "boy."

Mother Dolores had heard nothing of all this, but her eyes had not missed the slightest thing. She had even permitted a large slice of deer-meat to burn to a crisp, in her eager curiosity.

"What did they say to the chief?" was her first question to Rita; but Ni-ha-be answered her with,

"Ask the warriors. If we talk too much we shall get into trouble."

"You must tell me."

"Not till after supper. Rita, don't let's tell her a word unless she cooks for us, and gives us all we want. She made us get our own supper last night."

"You came late. I did not tell your father. I gave you enough. I am very good to you."

"No," said Rita, "sometimes you are cross, and we don't get enough to eat. Now you shall cook us some corn-bread and some fresh meat. I am tired of dried buffalo; it is tough."

The curiosity of Dolores was getting hotter and hotter, and she thought again of the wonderful leaf which had spoken to her. She wanted to ask Rita questions about that, too, and she had learned by experience that there was more to be obtained from her wilful young friends by coaxing than in any other way.

"I will get your supper now, while the chiefs are talking. It shall be a good supper—good enough for Many Bears. Then you shall tell me all I ask."

"Of course I will," said Rita.

A fine fat deer had been deposited near that campfire by one of the first hunters that returned, and Mother Dolores was free to cut and carve from it; but her first attempt at a supper for the girls did not succeed very well. It was not on account of any fault of hers, however, or because the venison-steak she cut and spread upon the coals, while her corn-bread was frying, did not broil beautifully.

No, the temporary disappointment of Ni-ha-be and Rita was not the fault of Mother Dolores. Their mighty father was sitting where the odor of that cooking blew down upon him, and it made him hungry again before the steak was done. He called Red Wolf to help him, for the other braves were departing to their own camp-fires, and in a minute or so more there was little left of the supper intended for the two young squaws.

Dolores patiently cut and began to broil another slice, but that was Red Wolf's first supper, and it was the third slice which found its way into the lodge after all.

The strange part of it was that not even Ni-ha-be dreamed of complaining. It was according to custom.

There was plenty of time to eat supper after it came, for Dolores was compelled to look out for her own. She would not have allowed any other squaw to cook for her any more than she herself would have condescended to fry a cake for any one below the rank of her own husband and his family. Mere common braves and their squaws could take care of themselves, and it was of small consequence to Dolores whether they had anything to eat or not. There is more "aristocracy" among the wild red men than anywhere else, and they have plenty of white imitators who should know better.



CHAPTER IX

There had been a very good reason why neither Steve Harrison nor Murray came back with the Lipan braves who were sent to bring home the game. They had been preparing to do so when they were summoned into the presence of To-la-go-to-de.

"No Tongue is a great hunter," said the dark-browed leader, as they came forward. "Cougar, big-horn, deer, all good. Apache heap better."

"That's what I came for."

"Go find them. Eat a heap. Take Yellow Head. Go all night."

"Any warriors go with me?"

"No. Maybe Apache dog see you. See pale-faces and not think of Lipans. Dress Yellow Head. Wash off paint."

It was a genuine stroke of Indian war cunning. The two pale-faces were to act as scouts in the advance. If the Apaches should happen to see them their presence would not suggest the dangerous nearness of a band of hostile Indians.

It may be the wise old chief added, to himself, that if both of them were killed on their perilous errand, the loss to his tribe would be of less consequence than that of two full-blooded Lipans. His pride of race would prevent his admitting that he had no brave in his band who was as well fitted to follow and find Apaches as was No Tongue.

"Now, Steve, we must eat all we know how, and then I'll fix you."

It had not harmed the young hunter in the opinion of his red friends that he had been unable to conceal his delight at the prospect before him.

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