Read CHAPTER XX - SHERIFF BOB’S BOMB EXPLODES. of The Boy Scouts in the Rockies / The Secret of the Hidden Silver Mine, free online book, by Herbert Carter, on

“There they come!”

It was the observant “Old Eagle Eye,” as some of the boys called Giraffe, who gave utterance to these words.

Early morning was at hand. All through the balance of the night those left in the camp in the valley had been momentarily expecting to have the sheriff and his older companion drop in on them; but possibly Artemus may have found himself unable to travel as fast as his ambition would force him, and the pair had been compelled to rest up somewhere on the road.

Every one in the camp was of course on the line of duty at daybreak. While Bumpus and Bob White started to get breakfast, Giraffe and Allan were using their eyes as best they could, seeing that the mists still hung over the valley, obscuring things at a little distance.

Thad was invisible, also Aleck. Truth to tell they had betaken themselves off within an hour after that astounding message was received from the far-distant point where Step Hen waved his fiery torch.

Of course, one of the first things Thad had done was to question the other concerning this man who called himself Artemus Rawson. Aleck admitted that he was in truth his own uncle; but added that the lawyer from Denver had fallen under the same spell as many others, and was allowing himself to dream of being the one to re-discover the long-lost mine.

Aleck had said that it seemed as though every one who heard about it became imbued with a mad desire to possess the treasure. There was Kracker who had made several long searching trips up here with that one object in view; and was even then doing everything in his power to get possession of the secret.

Crafty Uncle Artemus had gone about it in a different way. He had hung around the dwelling-place of the widow, and in his sly, lawyer-like method, tried to learn what was going on. He suspected that the secret of the location of the mine had been discovered in some way, from the change in the atmosphere about the Rawson home, and the air of excitement that could not easily be subdued; but no matter how he tried, he could not learn just what it all meant.

Then came the sudden vanishing of Aleck. This must have given the lawyer points and he started after the boy. His accusation concerning his nephew having robbed him was of course all a part of a fine little scheme he had hatched up. While the big prospector believed in actual force to squeeze the secret from the unwilling lips of the lad; shrewd Uncle Artemus was inclined to try and make a show of having the law on his side.

But in both cases, actually robbery was intended.

And Thad believed every word of the explanation made by Aleck. He could not have done otherwise, looking in those frank and fearless eyes, and reading the clean soul of the Rawson boy.

So the scoutmaster had decided that he and Aleck would disappear from the valley camp for a short time, leaving no trail by which they could be followed. He did not tell a single one of his chums just what the plan was, because he was desirous of keeping the secret. Then, in case the sheriff questioned them concerning the movements of the missing two, they could truthfully declare they did not know a thing about them.

But Thad made preparations looking to the carrying-out of a bold project which he and the Rawson boy had talked over between themselves. This was nothing more nor less than a hunt for the long-hidden silver mine!

Thad thought that the sooner Aleck made sure his little chart, found concealed in the back of that small pocket mirror which his dying father had placed in his hands, was correct, the better.

And that accounted for several queer things he did on leaving camp, one of which, the taking of the only lantern they had brought with them, astonished Bumpus very much indeed, not to mention Giraffe and Bob White.

The Fox had not been invited to join in the expedition; but later on it was found that he had disappeared. Still, no one was worried, for it seemed to be taken for granted that he must have followed Thad and Aleck. They remembered that the latter had claimed a long-standing friendship with the Fox. And it was also known that the Crow boy had become an ardent admirer of the scoutmaster, whom he believed to be a chief worth serving.

When Old Eagle Eye, then, announced that the two men were coming, the others craned their necks to look. Allan told them not to appear too curious; and so those who were busy at the fire went on with their culinary labors, cooking a bountiful breakfast, as it seemed that they might have company.

Sheriff Bob and the lawyer soon strode into camp at least the officer did the striding part, for old Artemus seemed pretty nearly fagged out. A burning desire to acquire a glorious fortune so easily was all that kept him up, otherwise he would never have been able to have stood the long tramp as he did.

The first thing the sheriff did after replying to the salutation of Allan, was to scan each one of the four boys in turn, and then turning to his companion, say tersely:

“None of these the one you want, I reckon, sir?”

The old Denver lawyer looked dreadfully disappointed. His ferrit-like eyes had flitted from one to another of the scouts, and each time he changed base his long cunning face grew more like a blank.

“No, my nephew isn’t in sight, as I can see, Sheriff,” he replied, with a frown, and a look toward Allan, as though to say that it was his opinion the boy might produce the one they sought, if proper force were applied.

“Having a hunt up here in the mountains, are you, boys?” asked the sheriff, as he followed the example of the lawyer, and dropped down near the fire, crossing his legs tailor-fashion, as though he meant to make himself quite at home.

“Yes, we want to get a big-horn or so to take back with us,” replied Allan.

“Just the four of you?” continued the other, arching his heavy brows as if with surprise.

“Oh! no, there are a lot of other fellows,” replied the scout who took Thad’s place as leader when the other happened to be absent.

“Oh! that’s it, eh? Rest off on a little side hunt right now, I reckon. P’raps you’ve got a guide along with you, too?” the officer continued, bending his neck, so that he could see inside the nearest tent, the flap of which happened to be on the side toward him, and thrown back to allow of ventilation.

“Oh! yes, we’ve got a guide now, though for a long time we had to go it alone, and managed to get on pretty well,” Allan continued, wondering why it was he could catch a peculiar quizzical gleam in the snapping eyes of the other, once in a while, when the sheriff looked straight at him.

“Who is he; perhaps I might happen to know him?” asked the other, accepting a tin cup filled with coffee, from Bumpus.

“I’m sure you do, sir,” Allan hastened to remark; and then, remembering that he was not supposed to know of the visit the sheriff and his employer had paid to the camp of the big-horn hunters on the previous night, he hastened to add: “everybody knows honest Toby Smathers, the forest ranger, I should think.”

“Well, I should say, yes, I did,” replied the other, commencing to calmly devour the piece of venison that had been placed on his platter, as though his appetite was sharp indeed this bracing morning. “And so you boys have come away out here just to see what we’ve got in these Rockies, eh?”

“Just what we have, sir,” replied Giraffe, thinking that he would like to have the sheriff notice him a little.

“And I declare, you seem to be fixed pretty comfortable like,” the other went on. “Just look at the tents they brought with them, Mr. Rawson. I’ve always said that on the whole they were better than the old-fashioned tents. You can see how the heat of the fire on a cold night is sent back into the tent; and there’s aplenty of head-room here. Yes, both of ’em as cozy as you please.”

He had seemed so very much interested in the subject that he even laid down his tin cup and platter, and gaining his feet, passed over, to peer into each tent, as if bent on ascertaining what the interior looked like.

Allan, of course, knew just what this meant. The sheriff was looking for Aleck, as if he half-expected to find the hunted boy concealed under a pile of blankets. And yet it puzzled Allan to note that, in spite of the keen disappointment which would naturally follow a failure to locate the boy, Sheriff Bob was even chuckling as he once more sat him down in the circle, and resumed operations on his breakfast.

Something seemed to be amusing him, Allan wished he could tell what. He felt it must have some connection with the search for Aleck Rawson; though for the life of him he could not decide what was in the sheriff’s mind.

The talk soon became general, though Artemus took no part in it. He sent a beseeching glance every now and then in the direction of the officer, as if begging him to do something; but whatever it might be, evidently Sheriff Bob was in no hurry, and meant to finish that good breakfast first, anyway.

Presently, as he emptied his platter the second time, and swallowed his third cup of scalding Java the officer remarked:

“I know something about the Boy Scouts myself, it happens. Got a youngster down below that belongs to a troop. Great thing. Teaches lads lots of the right kind of outdoor business. Makes ’em healthy, and able to depend on themselves a heap. My kid, he’s dead stuck on this signal business with flags and such. Glad to see it, too. Takes me back to old times, as sure as you live.”

He stopped there, and seemed to reflect. It was as though memories might be arising that were pleasant to look back upon. Meanwhile Allan was conscious of something like a little thrill passing through him. He seemed to feel that this was no accidental mention on the part of the man with the twinkle in his eye; but in fact, it might have something deep back of it.

“Yes,” Sheriff Bob went on, presently, turning straight toward Allan now. “I used to belong in the army years ago spent six years of my life in the Signal Corps, and was accounted a pretty good operator in wigwag, telegraph, telephone building, and heliograph work while I served. And honest now, I must say I never enjoyed a finer half hour than I spent last night, sitting on a rock up yonder, and watching that lively little confab you held with your chum, who, I think was the boy calling himself Step Hen. He did the job up pretty well, considering; and as for your Thad, he’s chain lightning on the send. Yes, siree bob, that was a picnic to an old Signal Corps man like me, as you can easily understand, my boy!”

The four scouts sat there as if frozen stiff. Consternation was written all over their faces; and no wonder the humorous sheriff, as he saw what a bomb he had exploded, chuckled, and then laughed aloud.