Read CHAPTER XII - “JUST TURNED AROUND, AND WENT AWAY!” of The Boy Scouts in the Rockies / The Secret of the Hidden Silver Mine, free online book, by Herbert Carter, on

It was certainly a time for quick thinking, and speedy action, if the boys expected to avoid a tragedy. Naturally enough, Kracker and his one remaining companion, hearing the cries of the fallen Waffles, would think that they were being actually set upon by their enemies, and that no matter what followed, they must fight.

It was to offset this that Thad first of all turned his attention. A collision must be averted at all hazards. It would be a terrible thing if the scouts became embroiled in a fight with such men, and either received wounds, or were compelled to give them.

And so Thad, acting instantly on impulse, darted forward the very second he saw what was happening. Fortunately for all parties, the big man having been so dazed by his late baiting did not seem able to grasp the situation quickly enough to draw a weapon before Thad was upon him.

The only thing the boy did was to snatch the big six-shooter from the hand of Kracker, now trembling with various emotions, in which fear may have had as much space as anger.

“Surround the other, and don’t let him raise a hand, boys!” shouted the scoutmaster to those who had followed close at his heels when he thus rushed forward.

With the words he turned to where Waffles was still sprawling on the ground; but there was now more reason than ever why the fellow could not get up, because some one was sitting astride his body, and threatening him with a knife. Of course it was the Fox; and he seemed to have a storm of passion in his dark face.

But while Thad had been prompt to knock the revolver from the hand of Kracker, he was just as quick to leap alongside the young Crow boy, and grasp his wrist.

“Give me that knife, Fox!” he said sternly.

The Indian looked up in his face; for a moment it seemed as though he might be about to mutiny, and positively refuse the order; then his whim changed, and opening his fingers he allowed the shining blade to fall to the ground.

“Ugh! hunt him long time; now find, make give up what snake in the grass steal away from teepee in reservation!” he grunted, disconsolately.

“Oh! well, if he’s got anything that belongs to you, or your people, why you’ve my full permission to search him, and get it back,” Thad went on to say, quickly; “only we want no violence here, if we can help it. We scouts generally manage to reach our ends without that, you know, Fox. Go ahead and see. We’ll keep his friends quiet meanwhile, eh, boys?”

“That’s what we will, Thad,” said Giraffe, who was standing close by, with his gun poking almost into the ribs of the big man with the purple face. “We c’n do it to beat the band, I tell you. And here comes Allan in, to have a hand in the game. Didn’t he keep a bead on the colonel here all the while; and if you hadn’t jumped in, and snatched that gun away from him, I warrant Allan was just on the point of making him a one-armed man for a while.”

But Thad was not paying much attention to what the talkative Giraffe said, his attention being taken up with other matters. The Fox had heard him give permission to search the pockets of the short rascal he was holding down, after having caught him in the loop of Bumpus’ rope, taken slily from the limb of the tree where the fat scout carefully kept it while in camp. The light that flashed athwart the mahogany colored face of the young Crow told how pleased he was with this chance that was offered.

He immediately started to rummage through the various pockets of Waffles. Quite naturally the lesser bully objected to such liberties being taken with his person; and it must have galled him more than a little to realize that it was an Indian, and a boy at that, who was subjecting him to such indignities; for like most men along the border, Waffles undoubtedly held Indians in contempt.

But when he raised his voice in stormy protest Thad told him to hush up; besides, the Fox leaned over and glared in his eyes with such a suggestive look that Waffles, being a coward at heart, gradually subsided, his protests taking the safer form of groans, and grunts, and wriggles, all of which were alike unavailing.

Presently the Crow uttered a cry of joy.

“Found what you were looking for?” asked Thad.

“Ugh! it is well!” and as he said this the Fox held something up.

Thad may have thought that the Indian boy was making a mountain out of a mole-hill, for if it had been left to him, he did not know that he would have willingly paid more than a dollar, at the most, for the object the Fox now gripped with such evident delight. But then, at the same time Thad realized that associations often have a great deal to do with the value of things. That peculiar strip of deerskin, decorated with colored beads that formed all sorts of designs, must have come down from some of the Fox’s ancestors. Perhaps it was a species of wampum similar to that in use as currency during the earlier days, when men like Daniel Boone were trying to settle along the Ohio River. And then again, it might be that the fore-fathers of the Fox always wore this strip of beaded leather when they were invested with the office of chief to the tribe.

At any rate, Waffles had apparently known of its value, and had stolen it, possibly hoping at some time to receive a rich reward for its safe return; for surely he could not have fancied it because he had any love for beauty, or meant to start a collection of Indian relics.

“Are you satisfied, Fox, now that you’ve recovered your property if that is all he took from your home?” Thad asked.

“Huh! much like mark thief on him cheek, so know where belong!” grunted the Crow boy, longingly.

“Don’t you let him!” almost shrieked the wretched Waffles, doubtless fearing that he was going to be tortured, as a penalty for his shortcomings. “Them Injuns jest like to mark a man all up, when they gits the chanct. Tell him to git off’n me! I ain’t a goin’ to stand fur it! If he so much as puts the p’int of his knife on me I’ll vow to ”

“Keep still, you cowardly thief!” said Thad, sternly; and even Waffles seemed influenced by the hidden power in the scoutmaster’s tone, for he broke off in the middle of a sentence, and finished it by mumbling to himself.

Speaking to the Indian boy Thad went on:

“Run your hand over him again, and hand me any weapon you find. He’s in a state where he might lose his head, and get us all into a fight, if we let him go armed.”

Willingly the Crow boy did as he was told. The search revealed a big revolver that was apparently the mate of the one Thad had knocked from the hand of Kracker.

“Now get that other fellow’s rifle, Allan,” continued the patrol leader, who had mapped out his plan of campaign quickly.

He did not trust these men further than he could see them. They were quite unscrupulous; and after having been held up to scorn by this parcel of boys, there was every reason in the world to believe that they would plan a hasty revenge. And the fewer deadly weapons they had in their possession the better the chances would be for peace in that mountain valley.

The rifle in particular Thad wanted to hold back. With it, damage might be done at a much greater distance than with the smaller arms. And knowing that the boys had long distance modern rifles, possibly Kracker and his followers might keep out of range.

Besides, there was that business of Aleck’s concerning the hidden mine; they had promised to stand back of him until he had secured full possession; and that was apt to keep them in the neighborhood for some time, always subjected to annoyance from these anxious ones, who longed to secure the prize that had tantalized their species for so long.

So the rifle, and what ammunition Dickey Bird happened to be carrying in a belt slung over his shoulder, fell into the hands of the boys. They also retained possession of one of the heavy revolvers; not that any one fancied the clumsy weapon in the least; but as Thad said, “to cut the wings of the party as much as possible.”

“Let Waffles get up, now, Fox,” said Thad, when all these matters had been adjusted, much to the admiration of the other scouts, who thought their leader must be just “IT” when it came to doing things.

The shorter rascal was not slow to gain his feet. He was still boiling over with a sense of insult added to injury, and ready to vent his wrath in offensive words; but Thad cut all this short.

“Listen to me, Waffles,” he said, sternly again; “We don’t care to hear your opinion of anything. Take a lesson from the colonel here, who knows when silence is golden. You don’t hear him swearing around, and threatening to break a blood-vessel in his mad feeling. He’s taking it all as cool as a cucumber. He knows when it’s a time to laugh, and when it’s a time to cry. Now, the sooner you gentlemen give us your room, the better we’ll be pleased; and be sure to make it plenty of room, too; because we’re all going to be ready to take snapshots at any of you we see, after half an hour has gone by.”

Kracker moved his lips, but strange to say not a sound proceeded from them. The man was so completely overpowered by his emotions that for the time being he had actually lost all power of speech. For this Thad was pleased, because he believed that had the big prospector been able to say one half that was bubbling through his mind, they must have been treated to an awful exhibition of hard words.

So the three men turned their backs on their tormentors, and walked away; but it was certainly true that their retreat did not smack in the least of the jaunty and threatening manner of their late advance. They had, as Giraffe crowed jubilantly, “the wind taken from their sails, and just turned around, and went away.”

“Wonder if we’ll see anything more of ’em again?” remarked Bumpus, who had really carried himself quite handsomely through it all; though most of the time his eyes had seemed to be fairly bulging from his head, and he could be heard saying words over and over to himself to indicate surprise.

“I hope not,” remarked Thad; “but it wouldn’t surprise me if they bobbed up again later on. You see, it’s perhaps the biggest stake Kracker ever played for; and for years now this hidden mine has kept dancing before him, beckoning him on. He won’t give it up easily, I’m afraid. There, look at him turn, and shake his fat fist at us! That shows how he feels about it. He’d just like to have us tied up right now, so he could lay on the whip, good and hard. But boys, after this, it’s for us to keep a good lookout all the time. Such fellows as Kracker and the others wouldn’t hesitate at anything, if only they saw a chance to win out.”

And at his words Giraffe and his mates nodded their heads; but there was no loud demonstration; for somehow they seemed to realize the gravity of the game they were now playing, with the long lost mine as the stake.