Read CHAPTER XVIII - PURE PLUCK. of The Boy Scouts in the Rockies / The Secret of the Hidden Silver Mine, free online book, by Herbert Carter, on

“Well, I’m glad they’re departed; because somehow I couldn’t fancy that Mr. Rawson the least little bit,” remarked Smithy, an hour later.

“Do you really think they have gone for good, Toby?” Step Hen asked, eagerly; “or might they just make believe, and hang around here to see if we had Aleck Rawson hidden away somewhere?”

“Oh! they’re gone, that’s right enough,” replied the guide; “but I’m kinder of the notion they’ll make it a p’int to pay a visit to the other camp by mornin’, and p’raps sneak in on ’em by surprise like.”

“Then you’re of a mind that they have suspicions?” asked Step Hen.

“That thar Artemus Rawson I reckon he allers has s’picions of everybody,” replied Toby; “an’ I seen him watchin’ you two boys pass winks an’ nods when the sheriff, he happened to say the gent’s name was Rawson.”

“Then he must have guessed that we knew something about Aleck?” declared Davy.

“Reckon as how he did,” Toby responded.

“But if that was so, how did it come that he never once asked us if we knew a boy by the name of Aleck Rawson?” Step Hen went on.

“He was jest a leetle too slick for that,” the guide answered. “He knowed that you’d made up your mind to deny everything; and he guessed how the land laid. So right now, I shouldn’t wonder a bit but what he’s atellin’ Bob all about it; an’ showin’ him how they’ll as like as not find the boy they want right smack in the camp of the Boy Scouts.”

“You’re right, Toby!” cried Step Hen. “Now I remember that the sheriff seemed a little bit inclined to put up all night with us; but it was the other who said he wanted to be on the move. He even asked how long it would take to reach the main valley over on the other side of this ridge, by followin’ the canyon route; and vowed he was good for a few hours’ tramp, if the sheriff was agreeable.”

“Yes, and he told how one of their hosses kim down lame, so they had to leave both animals in a place to rest up while they was in the mountains,” remarked the guide; “but it’s sure too bad the way things is a settin’ for that boy.”

“You mean Aleck, I guess, don’t you, Toby?” asked Step Hen.

“Yes, Aleck Rawson. I wanted to see the kid git that mine his dad found years ago; but seems to me the woods is full of people as think they orter have a claim on it, afore the fambly of Jerry Rawson. If so be this olé chap is a uncle to the boy, he’s a bad egg; I kin see that in his face. But Sheriff Bob thinks he’s doin’ the right thing in tryin’ to arrest Aleck; and he’ll take him away, if he ever lays eyes on him. I say, it’s too bad.”

“If we only could warn them?” said Smithy, disconsolately.

“Mebbe we can,” remarked Step Hen, eagerly looking at the guide in the same breath, as though it depended a good deal upon Toby whether this idea could be carried out, or not.

“Oh! do you really mean it, Step Hen?” demanded Smithy, brightening up; for he seemed to be conscious of a new sense of reliance in the other nowadays, something similar to that he felt in Thad himself; Step Hen had been “doing things,” and that alone breeds confidence.

“I’m wanting to ask Toby something first, before I promise,” remarked the other, cautiously, as became one who valued his word not lightly.

“Go on, then; what is it?” asked the guide.

“Think hard, please,” Step Hen continued, very soberly; “and tell me if you believe you could take me to a place, not a great ways off, where we would be able to see the tents of the home camp, if daylight was here.”

Toby’s face turned into a grin; evidently he grasped the idea that had flashed into the boy’s mind. After having seen how Giraffe had “talked” with Aleck by means of “fire flashes,” when the Rawson boy was away up on that ledge of the cliff, Toby was ready to believe these wonderful scouts capable of almost anything in the line of “next miracles.”

“Say, yes, I kin do that same now; that is, if you think you’d be able to climb a leetle bit more,” he broke out with.

“Oh! I am not all tuckered out yet,” declared Step Hen, proudly; “a bit sore from my scratches, and that funny business, when I had to jump around so lively with two savage eagles tryin’ to tear my eyes out; but you just show me, Toby, and see if I don’t toe the mark, like a scout always should.”

“I’m sure you will,” said Toby, admiringly; and the look on his face gave Step Hen a sense of reward for all he had suffered; in fact he could not remember ever feeling so pleased before, because he knew Toby Smathers was reckoned a prime judge of men, as they ran.

“How long would it take us to get up there?” asked Step Hen, carelessly; yet no doubt with more or less anxiety, for he was conscious of the fact that however willing the spirit might be, the flesh was weak; and it meant a double trip, to go and come again.

“P’raps half an hour might do it,” was the response of the guide.

“Up a place like this?” gasped Smithy, pointing to the wall near them.

“Well, I should hope not,” said Davy Jones. “They’d be crazy to try that sort of thing, with only the moonlight to help.”

Step Hen did not say anything, but nevertheless he waited with bated breath to hear the reply of the guide, and seemed easier in his mind when Toby remarked:

“I don’t doubt as he’d foller me, if I sez we must climb up to the top of that same cliff agin; but ’tain’t necessary. This time we foller a canyon up, till we gets to a p’int as gives ye a view of the valley. I don’t sure know, but I reckons we orter to be able to ketch a glimpse of the fire.”

“Then let’s start right now!” cried Step Hen; “I’m all worked up with eagerness to block the little game that the old Rawson uncle is settin’ up for poor Aleck. We said that we’d see the boy through, and we’re going to do it, or drop in our tracks atryin’.”

He managed to get on his feet, though only with an effort.

“Oh! yes, I admit I’m some stiff,” he said in answer to Smithy’s look of sympathy; “and I’d like as not let Davy do it in my place; only he ain’t up in sendin’ messages as much as I am. Wish Giraffe was here; he’s the boss hand at that. But p’raps I c’n make Thad understand. I only hope we get the camp, all right, that’s all.”

It was the spirit that makes heroes that forced Step Hen to quit that cozy camp, where he was feeling so nice and comfortable; and follow after the tireless guide, when he walked on up the canyon. But they would not hear a single groan from him, if he had to make his lips bleed, biting them with his teeth. Step Hen had always wondered just how the old martyrs felt, when they were being led to the stake; he believed he knew now; for he experienced a fierce sense of exultation with every twinge of pain that walking gave him; but with set teeth he kept grimly on.

That was a long half hour to the scout. He would never forget it to his dying day. And when Toby finally, after what seemed an eternity, announced that they must be very close on the point where in the moonlight much of the big valley could be seen dimly beyond, Step Hen mentally thanked his stars again and again.

Presently Toby turned, and looked.

“Here she is!” he remarked; and the boy grunted in reply; for there may be times when the spirit of thanksgiving is too deep for utterance.

“I see her,” Toby remarked almost immediately afterwards.

“Do you mean the fire, Toby?” demanded Step Hen.

“It cain’t be anything else, even though they’ve let it get low. And now we’ve a job afore us, to get some blaze started right here. Wood ain’t too plenty round these parts. Let’s look for some.”

But when Step Hen started after him, the guide made him sit down to rest, promising to come to him when the fire was good and ready.

“Your part of the work will begin about that time; let me do this fire makin’,” the good-hearted guide insisted; and the boy was only too willing to sink down.

A short time afterwards, when Toby came to announce that the fire was in full blast, with plenty of good brands that might be used for torches; he found poor Step Hen sound asleep, just as he had dropped, being utterly exhausted. The guide looked down at him with pity. He had taken a great fancy for the plucky scout; and disliked arousing him the worst kind; but there was no other way.

Step Hen had to be shaken half a dozen times before he would consent to open his heavy eyes; then he stared up at Toby, as though for the moment he could not place things.

“I got the fire started; and there’s aplenty of wood handy arter all, for you to use as torches when you signal the camp!” said the guide, kindly.

“Oh!” cried Step Hen sitting up, “to be sure; and I really think I must have been dozing while you were doing all the work, Toby. Give me a hand, won’t you, please; I’m ashamed to say my legs seem so silly stiff at the knees I just can’t straighten ’em out? Wow! to think of me being such a baby as to feel that little circus this way. I’m real ashamed, that’s what.”

“You ain’t got no call to be, I promise you, boy,” declared the other, a tremor in his voice; “You showed the pluck of a grown man. And if I could a took yer place, which in course I couldn’t, never havin’ been trained to wigwag, or handle a telegraph key, I’d sure let you sleep on; for ye desarve it, that’s right.”

Step Hen made a few movements, regardless of the pain it gave him, so as to get his arms in working order; because he knew he would have to use them a great deal, if he were lucky enough to get an answer to his signals.

The guide showed him where to stand, where he would be in the shadow, and the blazing, moving torch show; and he then pointed out the distant fire, down through the gap in the mountain chain.

“They ain’t touched it since we kim here,” he remarked; “but that makes me think it might be done any minit now. So p’raps ye’d better show me the way to fling that there torch around, to let ’em know we’re here, an’ wantin’ to talk. I kin do that part, I reckons, an’ save you some work.”

Step Hen was agreeable, for he knew that he would have all he could do later on, to handle that beacon, should he find a chance to send the message he wanted the scoutmaster to get.

For some time Toby waved his torch around without there being any response; and it began to look as though he might have all his trouble for his pains, when Step Hen was heard to give a little eager cry.

“There!” he exclaimed, “I believe I saw a light move, just then. Yes, look, Toby, there it is again; and as sure as you live, they’re answering us! Now, give me the torch. I only hope I haven’t forgotten all I knew about sending messages, because all poor Aleck’s hopes for his future may hang on my being able to warn them the sheriff and old Artemus Rawson are heading that way. Now watch close, Toby! I’m going to start in.”