LOST AND FOUND
“Try to be calm, Shank,”
said Charlie, in a soothing tone, as he kneeled beside
the shadow that had once been his sturdy chum, and
put an arm on his shoulder. “It is indeed
myself this time. I have come all the
way from England to seek you, for we heard, through
Ritson, that you were ill and lost in these wilds,
and now, through God’s mercy, I have found you.”
While Charlie Brooke was speaking,
the poor invalid was breathing hard and gazing at
him, as if to make quite sure it was all true.
“Yes,” he said at last,
unable to raise his voice above a hoarse whisper,
“lost and and found!
Charlie, my friend my chum my ”
He could say no more, but, laying
his head like a little child on the broad bosom of
his rescuer, he burst into a passionate flood of tears.
Albeit strong of will, and not by
any means given to the melting mood, our hero was
unable for a minute or two to make free use of his
“Come, now, Shank, old man,
you mustn’t give way like that. You wouldn’t,
you know, if you had not been terribly reduced by illness ”
“Yes, I would! yes, I would!”
interrupted the sick man, almost passionately; “I’d
howl, I’d roar, I’d blubber like a very
idiot, I’d do any mortal thing, if the doing
of it would only make you understand how I appreciate
your great kindness in coming out here to save me.”
“Oh no, you wouldn’t,”
said Charlie, affecting an easy off-hand tone, which
he was far from feeling; “you wouldn’t
do anything to please me.”
“What d’ye mean?” asked Shank, with
a look of surprise.
“Well, I mean,” returned
the other, gently, “that you won’t even
do such a trifle as to lie down and keep quiet to
A smile lighted up the emaciated features
of the sick man, as he promptly lay back at full length
and shut his eyes.
“There, Charlie,” he said,
“I’ll behave, and let you do all the talking;
but don’t let go my hand, old man. Keep
a tight grip of it. I’m terrified lest
you drift off again, and and melt away.”
“No fear, Shank. I’ll
not let go my hold of you, please God, till I carry
you back to old England.”
“Ah! old England! I’ll
never see it again. I feel that. But tell
me,” he started up again, with a return
of the excited look “is father any
“N-no, not exactly but
he is no worse. I’ll tell you all about
everything if you will only lie down again and keep
The invalid once more lay back, closed
his eyes and listened, while his friend related to
him all that he knew about his family affairs, and
the kindness of old Jacob Crossley, who had not only
befriended them when in great distress, but had furnished
the money to enable him, Charlie, to visit these outlandish
regions for the express purpose of rescuing Shank
from all his troubles and dangers.
At this point the invalid interrupted
him with an anxious look.
“Have you the money with you?”
“All of it?”
“Yes. Why do you ask?”
“Because,” returned Shank,
with something of a groan, “you are in a den
“I know it, my boy,” returned
Charlie, with a smile, “and so, for better security,
I have given it in charge to our old chum, Ralph Ritson.”
“What!” exclaimed Shank,
starting up again with wide open eyes; “you
have met Ralph, then?”
“I have. He conducted me here.”
“And you have intrusted your money to him?”
“Yes all of it; every cent!”
“Are you aware,” continued
Shank, in a solemn tone, “that Ralph Ritson
is Buck Tom the noted chief of the outlaws?”
“I know it.”
“And you trust him?”
“I do. I have perfect
confidence that he is quite incapable of betraying
an old friend.”
For some time Shank looked at his
companion in surprise; then an absent look came into
his eyes, and a variety of expressions passed over
his wan visage. At last he spoke.
“I don’t know how it is,
Charlie, but somehow I think you are right. It’s
an old complaint of mine, you know, to come round to
your way of thinking, whether I admit it or not.
In days of old I usually refused to admit it, but
believed in you all the same! If any man had
told me this morning ay, even half an hour
since that he had placed money in the hands
of Buck Tom for safe keeping, knowing who and what
he is, I would have counted him an incurable fool;
but now, somehow, I do believe that you were quite
right to do it, and that your money is as safe as if
it were in the Bank of England.”
“But I did not intrust it to
Buck Tom, knowing who and what he is,”
returned Charlie, with a significant smile, “I
put it into the hands of Ralph Ritson, knowing who
and what he was.”
“You’re a good fellow,
Charlie,” said Shank, squeezing the hand that
held his, “and I believe it is that very trustfulness
of yours which gives you so great power and influence
with people. I know it has influenced me for
good many a time in the past, and would continue to
do so still if I were not past redemption.”
“No man is past redemption,”
said the other quietly; “but I’m glad you
agree with me about Ralph, for ”
He stopped abruptly, and both men
turned their eyes towards the entrance to the cave.
“Did you hear anything?” asked Shank,
in a low voice.
“I thought so but
it must have been the shifting of a log on the fire,”
said the other, in a similarly low tone.
“Come, now, Charlie,”
said Shank, in his ordinary tones, “let me hear
something about yourself. You have not said a
word yet about what you have been doing these three
As he spoke a slight noise was again
heard in the passage, and, next moment Buck Tom re-entered
carrying a lump of meat. Whether he had been
listening or not they had no means of knowing, for
his countenance was quite grave and natural in appearance.
“I suppose you have had long
enough, you two, to renew your old acquaintance,”
he said. “It behoves me now to get ready
some supper for the boys against their return, for
they would be ill-pleased to come home to an empty
kettle, and their appetites are surprisingly strong.
But you needn’t interrupt your conversation.
I can do my work without disturbing you.”
“We have no secrets to communicate,
Buck,” returned Shank, “and I have no
doubt that the account of himself, which our old chum
was just going to give, will be as interesting to
you as to me.”
“Quite as interesting,”
rejoined Buck; “so pray go on, Brooke.
I can listen while I look after the cookery.”
Thus urged, our hero proceeded to
relate his own adventures at sea the wreck
of the Walrus, the rescue by the whaler, and
his various experiences both afloat and ashore.
“The man, Dick Darvall, whom
I have mentioned several times,” said Charlie,
in conclusion, “I met with again in New York,
when I was about to start to come here, and as I wanted
a companion, and he was a most suitable man, besides
being willing to come, I engaged him. He is a
rough and ready, but a handy and faithful, man, who
had some experience in woodcraft before he went to
sea, but I have been forced to leave him behind me
at a ranch a good many miles to the south of David’s
store, owing to the foolish fellow having tried to
jump a creek in the dark and broken his horse’s
leg. We could not get another horse at the time,
and as I was very anxious to push on being
so near my journey’s end and the
ranch was a comfortable enough berth, I left him behind,
as I have said, with directions to stay till I should
return, or to push on if he could find a safe guide.”
While Charlie Brooke was relating
the last part of his experience, it might have been
observed that the countenance of Buck Tom underwent
a variety of curious changes, like the sky of an April
day. A somewhat stern frown settled on it at
last but neither of his companions observed the fact
being too much interested in each other.
“What was the name o’
the ranch where your mate was left?” asked Buck
Tom, when his guest ceased speaking.
“The ranch of Roaring Bull,”
answered Charlie. “I should not wonder,”
he added, “if its name were derived from its
owner’s voice, for it sounded like the blast
of a trombone when he shouted to his people.”
“Not only his ranch but himself
is named after his voice,” returned Buck.
“His real name is Jackson, but it is seldom
used now. Every one knows him as Roaring Bull.
He’s not a bad fellow at bottom, but something
overbearing, and has made a good many enemies since
he came to this part of the country six years ago.”
“That may be so,” remarked
Brooke, “but he was very kind to us the day
we put up at his place, and Dick Darvall, at all events,
is not one of his enemies. Indeed he and Roaring
Bull took quite a fancy to each other. It seemed
like love at first sight. Whether Jackson’s
pretty daughter had anything to do with the fancy
on Dick’s part of course I can’t say.
Now, I think of it, his readiness to remain behind
inclines me to believe it had!”
“Well, come outside with me,
and have a chat about old, times. It is too
hot for comfort here. I dare say our friend Shank
will spare you for quarter of an hour, and the pot
can look after itself. By the way, it would
be as well to call me Buck Tom or Buck.
My fellows would not understand Ralph Ritson.
They never heard it before. Have a cigar?”
“No, thank you, I have ceased
to see the advantage of poisoning one’s-self
merely because it is the fashion to do so.”
“The poison is wonderfully slow,” said
“But not less wonderfully sure,” returned
Charlie, with a smile.
“As you will,” rejoined Buck, rising and
going outside with his visitor.
The night was very still and beautiful,
and, the clouds having cleared away, the moonbeams
struggled through the foliage and revealed the extreme
wildness and seclusion of the spot which had been chosen
by the outlaws as their fortress.
Charlie now saw that the approach
to the entrance of the cave was a narrow neck of rock
resembling a natural bridge, with a deep gully on
either side, and that the cliff which formed the inner
end of the cavern overhung its base, so that if an
enemy were to attempt to hurl rocks down from above
these would drop beyond the cave altogether.
This much he saw at a glance. The minute details
and intricacies of the place of course could not be
properly seen or understood in the flickering and
uncertain light which penetrated the leafy canopy,
and, as it were, played with the shadows of the fallen
rocks that strewed the ground everywhere, and hung
in apparently perilous positions on the mountain slopes.
The manner of the outlaw changed to
that of intense earnestness the moment he got out
to the open air.
“Charlie Brooke,” he said,
with more of the tone and air of old familiar friendship
than he had yet allowed himself to assume, “it’s
of no use exciting poor Shank unnecessarily, so I
brought you out here to tell you that your man Dick
Darvall is in deadly peril, and nothing but immediate
action on my part can save him; I must ride without
delay to his rescue. You cannot help me in this.
I know what you are going to propose, but you must
trust and obey me if you would save your friend’s
life. To accompany me would only delay and finally
mar my plans. Now, will you ”
A peculiar whistle far down the gorge
caused the outlaw to cease abruptly and listen.
The whistle was repeated, and Buck
answered it at once with a look of great surprise.
“These are my fellows back already!” he
“You seem surprised. Did you, then, not
expect them so soon?”
“I certainly did not; something
must have gone wrong,” replied Buck, with a
perplexed look. Then, as if some new idea had
flashed upon him, “Now, look here, Brooke, I
must ask you to trust me implicitly and to act a part.
Your life may depend on your doing this.”
“The first I can do with ease,
but as to the latter, my agreeing to do so depends
on whether the action you require of me is honourable.
You must forgive me, Rits ”
“Hush! Don’t forget
that there is no such man as Ralph Ritson in these
mountains. My life may depend on your remembering
that. Of course I don’t expect you to
act a dishonourable part, all I want you
to do just now is to lie down and pretend to go to
“Truly, if that is all, I am
ready,” said Charlie; “at all events I
will shut my eyes and hold my tongue.”
“A useful virtue at times, and
somewhat rare,” said Buck, leading his guest
back into the cavern. “Now, then, Brooke,
lie down there,” pointing to a couch of pine-brush
in a corner, “and try to sleep if you can.”
Our hero at once complied, stretched
himself at full length with his face to the light,
and apparently went to sleep, but with his left arm
thrown over his forehead as if to protect his eyes
from the glare of the fire. Thus he was in a
position to see as well as hear all that went on.
Buck Tom went to the sick man and whispered something
to him. Then, returning to the fire, he continued
to stir the big pot, and sniff its savoury contents
with much interest.