Read CHAPTER VII - STEP HEN MAKES A CAPTURE. of The Boy Scouts in the Rockies / The Secret of the Hidden Silver Mine, free online book, by Herbert Carter, on

“Wow! it’s a regular attack! Keep hold of your guns, boys, and make every bullet count!” whooped the excited Giraffe.

“Don’t anybody fire a single shot without orders!” roared Thad, who could never tell what such a fly-up-the-creek as Giraffe was capable of doing, once he got started.

The guide led the way toward the spot where Step Hen still continued to shout and entreat. All of the boys had seen fit to arm themselves. Even Smithy, who had no gun, had seized upon the camp hatchet, and imagined himself looking exceedingly warlike as he trotted along in the wake of his comrades, making violent passes in the air, as though cutting down imaginary enemies by the score.

They thus came upon Step Hen; and sure enough he was clinging to the back of an Indian, both arms being twisted desperately around the latter’s dusky neck in a way that threatened to choke the other. Step Hen may never have read about the way the Old Man of the Sea clung to Sinbad the Sailor, using both arms and legs to maintain his hold; but Thad thought, when he had his first glimpse of the picture, that at any rate the scout was a good sticker.

But then the Indian did not seem to be doing anything on his part to ward off the attack; indeed, he was standing there, bearing his burden with that stoical indifference peculiar to his race. There was no smile on his sober face that Thad could see; but he imagined that the Indian must surely appreciate the ridiculous nature of the situation.

“All right, Step Hen,” Thad called out, when he could make himself heard above the tremendous racket the other was putting up; “we’re here to save you, guns and all. You can let go your grip, Step Hen!”

“But you won’t let him get away, will you, Thad?” pleaded the other, earnestly. “He’s my Injun, don’t you know; I captured him all by myself. I just bet you now he was meanin’ to hook my hat, that’s what brought him to the creek; but I jumped on him, and took him by surprise. Surround him, fellers, while I let him loose. My! but he’s a tricky one, I tell you; pretended never to fight back a bit; but he was only watching for his chance. He didn’t know who had hold of him, and that I was on to his game, all right.”

“Stop talking, and let him go; you’re half choking him, Step Hen!” ordered the patrol leader.

And knowing that Thad meant business when he used his official tones, Step Hen suddenly released his clutch, and jumped back, just as if he really expected his late captive to whirl and attack him.

But nothing of the kind occurred. In fact, the Indian continued to show the utmost indifference to the fact that a ring of eager faces surrounded him; and that guns of various makes and kinds were thrust out at him, until the circle seemed to fairly bristle with a warlike atmosphere.

Thad saw the Indian raise his right hand, holding the palm toward them, and keeping the thumb flat at the same time.

“That’s the peace sign!” muttered Toby Smathers; “he ain’t lookin’ for trouble, I reckons, boys.”

“Huh! he better not,” grunted Giraffe, who had been amusing himself meanwhile in raising and lowering the hammer of his heavy rifle, as though he must have something going in order to work off his nervousness. “Why, we could eat him alive, and then not half try. Ten to one is mighty heavy odds, let me tell you. And no wonder he holds out the white flag. It’s easy to surrender when you ain’t got a show. But I’d go slow about trusting him, Thad; these here Injuns, I’ve heard, are a treacherous lot, take ’em as a whole.”

“Keep still, Giraffe!” said the scoutmaster, sternly; “let me do the talking,” and the tall scout became mute, for the time being at least; though it was hard to keep him any length of time in that condition.

Thad had already made a discovery. The moonlight fell upon the Indian, who now stood there with his arms folded, his whole attitude one of studied indifference; and it struck the patrol leader that there was something very familiar about him.

“Allan, isn’t he the young brave we saw hovering around our camp before, and who wouldn’t stop to be questioned?” he asked, turning to the Maine boy.

“I was just thinking of that myself when you spoke, Thad,” came the ready answer.

“I wonder, now, why he keeps on hanging after us,” the scoutmaster remarked. “And I’m going to ask him first of all.”

With that he turned to the prisoner, and went on to say:

“Can you understand; do you know what I am saying?”

“Yes, can speak same, all right,” came the answer, in pretty fair English.

“Well, we want to know why you are hanging about our camp so much. Once before we saw you, and tried to talk with you, but you moved off. Now, away up here in the mountains you come again, sneaking around, and taking chances of being shot for a prowling wolf. Tell us why you do this? I don’t believe you meant to steal anything because you’ve made no attempt to creep into the camp; but we want to know just why you hang around this way.”

“Make come back more two, three times, look at teepee, see fine picture there. Never see like before. Much good! Ugh! P’raps sell same, bimeby, when go back!”

“What under the sun does he mean by that talk, Thad? Sure we ain’t in the picture selling business, even if I am taking some dandy snapshots. I wonder, now, has he seen me at work; does he think I’m a traveling photograph man, and wants me to strike him off, in his warpaint and feathers?”

Davy Jones managed to say all of this, but no one was paying much attention to his remarks.

“Tell you what, fellers,” broke in the irrepressible Giraffe, just then; “he’s taken a shine to our tents, and wants to buy one when we’re done with ’em. Knows a good thing when he sees it, he does. Just as if we’d let ’em go for a song, when they’re cram full of associations for us.”

“You’re not on to it yet, boys;” remarked Thad, quietly; “it’s the head of the fox which we had painted so cleverly on each tent that’s caught his eye; and he just can’t help hanging around, to keep on gazing at it, for some reason or other.”

For the first time they saw a sign of emotion flit across the face of the young Indian brave. He struck himself violently on the chest.

“Me Fox!” he exclaimed, proudly. “Soon me must have teepee for self. See picture fox on same, think can buy. Give much pelt for same. Ugh! what white boy say?”

“Well, just to think of it, here’s another Fox, all right?” called out Giraffe. “We’re treading on his heels, so to speak, boys, when we take that name for our patrol. Glad to meet up with you; and by the way are you Silver Fox, Red Fox, or Black Fox; though to be sure they all belong to one family?”

“I thought I ought to know him,” burst out Aleck Rawson, pushing forward, “and now I’m dead sure of it. Hello! Fox, you sure must remember me, Aleck; and the good times we used to have, when I lived close to the Reservation?”

The young Indian extended his hand without hesitation.

“No forget Aleck, not much. But him not with other white boys down in big timber. Where come by? How do? Much glad see again. My coyote pony, Flicker, yet in the run. Ugh! Shake!”

“He means a pony I gave him when we came away from that place,” explained Aleck, turning to Thad after gravely shaking hands with the Indian. “The Fox is a Crow, and one of the smartest boys you ever saw. He can do everything that a grown warrior could; and some day they say he will be a chief in his tribe. We used to have great times racing our ponies, and chasing coyotes over the prairie. And I’m right glad to see him once more; though it puzzles me to know why he is up here, so far away from the homes of his people; and armed, too.”

“Well, if he’s an old friend of yours, Aleck, and you can vouch for him, why, of course he’s going to be welcome at our fire. And it tickles me to think that the bright painting of the fox head on each of our tents was what attracted his eye, so that he just couldn’t keep from hanging around at that other time. But surely that didn’t draw him away up here; he’s got some other business in his head; for he only discovered our camp just now, and was coming in to see us, I reckon, when Step Hen mounted his back, and then called to us to help him.”

“Anyway, I had him gripped good and tight, you all saw,” grumbled Step Hen. “When these good husky arms of mine get locked around anything, it takes a heap to break me away. If he had been a hostile Injun I’d a hung on like grim death, believe me.”

No one ventured to try and take away any of his laurels. He had certainly yelled for help in a way that could not easily be excelled, they all thought.

Thad led the way to the fire, after inviting the Indian to join them. He confessed to having just a little curiosity himself as to what had caused the Fox to desert the teepees of his tribe, and wander so far away from the reservation; but of course Thad knew better than to ask about the personal affairs of the other. If the Fox chose, later on, to take them into his confidence, well and good. He might only stay with them for a night, and then slip away; but since he was Aleck’s friend, and seemed to be connected with the great family of Foxes, of which they were a Boy Scout branch, why, he would be welcome.

As the Indian confessed that he had not broken his fast since noon, when he had munched a handful of dried deer meat, known as pemmican, some of the boys took it upon themselves to cook something for him. He appeared to be very grateful, and could be seen to sniff the air eagerly while the coffee was boiling; showing that he appreciated the white man’s drink at its true value; for his people on the reservation enjoyed many of the comforts of civilization, and some of the luxuries, too, even to pianos that played themselves, and boxes that sang songs, and played the violin, and gave all sorts of orchestral music, so Aleck observed.

And while the boys talked on various subjects, as they sat around, Thad happened to be watching the face of the Fox when one of the scouts casually mentioned the name of Colonel Kracker. He actually saw the dark face grow stern, and that the Indian ground his teeth together, as if in anger.

Seeing which Thad put things together, and came to a conclusion, whether right or wrong, of course he could not yet say.

“He knows Kracker, for he started when Davy mentioned the name,” Thad was saying to himself. “And the chances are that the prospector has done something to injure the Fox, or some member of his family. These Indians hate savagely; and perhaps this young fellow, hardly more than a boy, has taken to the warpath, bent on having a settlement with the big bully. Well, it isn’t any of our business; but I know I’d hate to have the Fox camping on my trail, with hatred burning in his heart.”