Read CHAPTER XXIV - ALECK COMES INTO HIS OWN AT LAST. of The Boy Scouts in the Rockies / The Secret of the Hidden Silver Mine, free online book, by Herbert Carter, on

“Do you think we’re close enough, Thad?” whispered Aleck, as they bent forward, and strained their eyes to make out the dim gaunt figure that blocked all further progress, and which they knew full well must be that mother wolf.

“Yes,” answered the other, in the same cautious tone; “if we went any further on, I’m afraid the beast would fly at us; and in that case you know, we’d have a harder time taking aim.”

Thad had managed to set the lantern down on a level place, where, he hoped it would stand little danger of being knocked over, in case there was anything in the nature of a fight between themselves and the wolf.

This allowed him the free use of both his arms, which of course was the main idea he had in view, when getting rid of the lantern.

Of course Thad had never had any experience in thus entering the den of a wolf with young ones. All he knew about it he had heard from the lips of others, or possibly read. Somehow, just then it flashed through his mind how history told of Israel Putnam, afterwards a celebrated general in the Continental Army, crawling into a wolf’s den as a youth, and fetching the animal out, after a severe fight; but so far as Thad could remember, that was not a mother wolf; and Israel had an easy time compared to what it might have been under different conditions.

Well, there was their intended quarry; and with two guns to depend on, surely they ought to make quick work of the beast. The only difficulty about it was the treacherous light, for the lantern flickered in the draught; though until that critical moment Thad had paid no attention to this fact.

“Have you a bead on her head, Aleck?” he whispered; at the same time himself drawing his gun up to his shoulder and glancing along the double barrel; for Thad was of course carrying his Marlin with him at the time.

“Yes,” came the answer.

“I’m going to count, slowly and evenly. When I say three, let go, Aleck!”

“I understand, Thad.”

“All right. Hope we get her, sure. I’d hate to be bitten, or clawed by such a mad creature. Here goes, Aleck! One!”



A second passed, and then came the word:


It was drowned in a tremendous, deafening crash, as both guns were discharged so closely together that it made one report.

Thad of course had a second barrel to hold in reserve. He had more or less difficulty in seeing through the thin curtain of powder smoke that followed the double discharge; but at least no sprawling figure came flying at them, with snapping jaws that were eager to rend and tear.

“She’s done for, Thad!” exclaimed Aleck, joyfully, as they heard a commotion beyond, and could see something moving with short jerks, like an animal kicking its last.

“Wait hold on till I pick up the lantern; she may only be wounded, and get you, if you don’t look out. Besides, those cubs are partly grown, and may be big enough to show fight.”

Thad thus held his comrade back for a brief time until he could snatch up the light, and take his place in the van, which was really what he wanted to do.

As they approached the spot where a dark bundle lay, they could still see something of a movement.

“She isn’t dead yet, I’m afraid, Thad,” cried Aleck, who had a single-shot rifle, and was therefore without further means of defence until he could find time to slip another cartridge into the chamber.

“Oh! I guess so,” answered Thad; “what you see moving must be the whelps. Yes, I can see one right now, and he’s a savage looking little beast on my word. We’ll have to knock him on the head, Aleck. Wolves must be killed wherever they are found. Nobody ever spares them, Toby Smathers says. They’re of no use at all, and do a great amount of harm, killing game and sheep, and even weak cattle in the winter season.”

Aleck soon dispatched the growling cub with the stock of his gun, and then looked around for more.

“Do you expect that this was the only whelp?” he asked.

“Well, no, but the other must have escaped, somehow,” replied Thad. “It doesn’t matter to us, though, for the little beast will perish, without a mother to supply it food.”

But although Thad never dreamed that such a small thing could have any bearing on their fortunes, it proved to be a fact, as would be shown before a great while.

“Shall we go on, now?” asked Aleck, after they had looked down on the big lean wolf that would never again hunt game in the passes and valleys of the Rockies; “I’m anxious to see what lies beyond, you know, Thad.”

“Well, I don’t blame you a bit, either, Aleck; in fact, to tell the honest truth, I’m feeling somewhat that way myself, even if I haven’t got the interest you have in the matter. So let’s go right along. Have you loaded up again?”

“I’m just finishing now, Thad,” came the reply.

Accordingly, the forward progress was resumed. Thad saw that they were rapidly drawing near what would likely prove to be a chamber of some size; and he anticipated that whatever was to be found would greet them here.

Just as he expected, a couple of minutes later they passed out from the tunnel which was a continuation of the fissure they had entered, and found themselves in a vaulted chamber. It was of some height, for the dim light of the lantern just reached the roof.

“Oh! what a strange place!” exclaimed Aleck, looking around with something like awe; “and to think that this was that my father saw that time. Do you expect this can be the silver lode, Thad?” and he pointed to the wall, where a broad streak of darkish ore cropped out.

Thad was no miner, but he had been interested in geology at school, and knew a little about the appearance of precious metals in their natural state.

“I don’t doubt it one little bit, Aleck,” he said, with a quiver to his voice. “And see here, you can tell that some one has pounded off pieces of the ore; why, I can even note where the hammer struck; and on the ground small bits still lie, just as they fell years ago, when your father found his way in here, and made this grand discovery. Shake hands, Aleck! I want to be the first to congratulate you on finding the hidden mine again. You’re a lucky boy, let me tell you. I’m glad for your sake, Aleck; and for that dear little mother who is thinking of you right now, no doubt.”

“Thank you, Thad,” replied the other, with a break in his voice, although it was joy that almost overcame him. “And what do I not owe to you, and the chums of the Silver Fox Patrol? For if you hadn’t come to my rescue, when that scoundrel of a Kracker had me caged on that horrible little shelf of rock up the cliff, like as not I’d be there still, and ready to tell all to save my life.”

“I don’t believe that!” cried the scoutmaster, quickly. “I’ve seen enough of you to know you’d have died before you gave him what belonged only to your mother. And the chances are, you’d have found some way of getting down from there, when it came to the worst.”

“Yes, fallen down, most likely, when they had made me so weak I couldn’t look over without getting dizzy. But Thad, let’s forget all that now, and look around here. How it thrills me just to think that dad found this mine so long ago, and that during these years it’s remained hidden from all men; just as if something might be holding it back until I grew old enough to come up here with that chart, to discover it again. Why, I can almost believe that he is here right now, and smiling his approval on my work; for he was a good dad, I tell you.”

They prowled around for a long time, examining the walls of the chamber, and following up the wide lode of rich ore, until Thad, inexperienced as he was, could estimate that it must prove to be a very valuable mine, once placed in working condition.

“Here, let’s both of us fill our pockets with specimens of the ore,” the patrol leader remarked, when they began to think of once more seeking the exit, so strangely hidden from the eyes of any possible passer by; “like as not you’ll want them, to convince some capitalist that you’ve got the goods, when making arrangements to sell a part of the mine, so as to get the money to work with.”

“Yes, that sounds sensible,” declared Aleck. “Dad did the same; and if he hadn’t those specimens, nobody would ever have believed that he’d found anything worth while. And now, do we start back to the fissure in the cliff, Thad?”

“Might as well;” replied the other. “And while we’re about it, let’s drag out the dead wolves, so as to throw them in some hole where they won’t bother any more.”

“I wonder if that other cub came back; I’d better make ready to knock it on the head, for it would die anyway, without a mother.”

Aleck’s voice had a catch in it as he said this, and Thad understood; the boy was thinking of his own mother, and how her prayers for his safety must have been the means of raising up for him such staunch friends as the scouts of the Silver Fox Patrol.

But when they came to the place where the animals lay they saw nothing of the other partly grown wolf. So Thad, having his gun and the lantern to manage, took charge of the offspring, while Aleck tugged at the big she wolf; and in this fashion they drew near the exit.


It was Thad who uttered this low hiss of warning. His action was prompt in addition, for raising the lantern, he gave one sturdy puff, causing the flame to vanish.

Utter darkness surrounded them. Aleck had dropped the leg of the big wolf, and drew back the hammer of his rifle.

“Perhaps it was the other cub, Thad?” he whispered, as softly as the night wind creeps in and out of the trees, caressing each leaf as it passes on.

“No, it sounded more like voices!” came the equally low reply.

“Voices! Oh! do you mean men may be near us?” gasped Aleck, a cold chill passing over him at the dreadful prospect of losing his long-sought patrimony just after finding it.

“It sounded like that Kracker; listen, and we’ll soon know,” Thad went on to say; and crouching there, the two boys waited for a repetition of the suspicious sound.