Read CHAPTER XXVI - THE CROW BOY’S HONOR. of The Boy Scouts in the Rockies / The Secret of the Hidden Silver Mine, free online book, by Herbert Carter, on

Just as the prospector had started to draw the curtain of vines back, there came a most dreadful growl that made Aleck jump, under the belief that the she wolf he had been dragging after him, might have come back to life, and was about to pounce on the destroyers of her lair.

Then all at once it struck him that Thad must have been the cause of this savage growl; that was no doubt what he meant when he spoke so confidently of knowing a way to frighten the man off.

Indeed, Waffles did spring back instantly, uttering a cry of terror. He fully expected to see the beast that had uttered that ferocious growl come flying through the vine screen, leaping at his throat.

“What is it?” shouted Kracker, himself scrambling to his feet clumsily, owing to the girth of his waist.

He seemed to be dragging something out of a rear pocket, and no doubt this was the single weapon which the Boy Scouts had allowed the men to carry off with them, at the time Kracker and his companions found it necessary to confess themselves beaten in the game of wits.

“A wolf is layin’ behind them vines; didn’t you hear her give tongue like sixty? Ketch me aliftin’ anything thar, I tell you. Ugh! I ain’t lost no wolf. Chances are it’s the mother of that cub, too; an’ she’ll be that mad when she knows we killed it, nawthin’ won’t stop her rushin’ the camp. Let’s clear out of here?”

“But we got our fire started, an’ all of us feel dead tired, too,” complained Dickey Bird, who was evidently struggling between two opinions, and did not know which was the lesser evil remain where they were, with that savage beast hovering around; or once more pursue their weary way elsewhere.

Kracker had approached close to the vines, and Thad thought it a good time to give another growls which he did with new emphasis. And Aleck, not wanting to be left out of the game entirely, tried his hand also.

“Look out, Kunnel, thar’s two of the critters!” shouted Waffles, turning and edging further away from the rock wall.

“A hull den of ’em, I reckons!” added Dickey Bird, who no longer cared to stay in such a dangerous vicinity.

Thad reached out his hand, and shook the vines violently. This action completed the demoralization of the three prospectors. Almost weaponless as they were, they seemed to lack their ordinary courage.

“Run! they’s comin’ out arter us, Kunnel!” cried Waffles, suiting the action to his words, by turning and dashing wildly away.

The second man followed close at his heels, just as thoroughly demoralized. Kracker might have stood it out, for Kracker gripped a firearm in his fat hand; but when he found that he was being deserted by his companions, the big prospector also started to run clumsily away, breathing out all manner of threatenings against the other two for cowards.

Thad no longer growled, but lying there on the rocky floor of the fissure, he shook all over with half-suppressed laughter.

“That’s the time we saved the day with our growls, Aleck!” he whispered, when he could control himself to some extent.

The other lad felt even more exultant. The mine had been in danger, but thanks to the ready wit of the scoutmaster, the enemy had been frightened away before they learned anything. And so Aleck, feeling that he had plenty of cause for rejoicing, soon joined Thad in soft laughter.

“No danger of those fellows coming back to investigate, do you think?” he asked.

“Well, if you could judge from the hurried way they lit out, I guess we needn’t dream that they’ll ever want to see this cliff again,” replied Thad.

“And when we want to, we can crawl out ourselves, can’t we?” Aleck went on.

“Sure thing, right now is the time, because they’re traveling for all they’re worth, and never even looking back over their shoulders as they gallop along.”

“How about these wolves; shall we drag them out, and throw the carcases away in some hole?” asked Thad’s companion, evidently only too glad to do just whatever the scoutmaster decided were best.

Indeed, he had reason to feel the utmost confidence in Thad Brewster; from the very first this new friend had directed affairs in a way that Aleck looked on as simply wonderful. It was almost like a dream to him, the coming of these scouts, their championing his almost lost cause, and bringing success out of failure. No wonder then that Aleck felt so willing to trust this staunch friend through thick and thin. No wonder that he asked his opinion, knowing full well that whatever Thad decided would be best.

“Might as well get rid of the things while we’re about it,” was what Thad said. “Sooner or later you’ll be entering this passage again, I hope with capitalists along with you to look the mine over, and decide how much money they’ll advance to begin its working; and you wouldn’t find it nice here, if we left these bodies to cause a disagreeable odor. But we must be careful not to disarrange the vines. And I want to rub out any tracks we may leave, before quitting this place.”

Accordingly both the mother wolf and the cub were taken outside. It was not a difficult thing to find a deep hole into which all of the dead animals could be cast; and after this duty had been accomplished the two boys returned to the mouth of the hidden mine.

The fire had been kicked under foot, and extinguished; though Thad afterwards made sure to place the embers in such a position that it would appear to have gone out of its own accord. This was to keep the prospectors from suspecting the truth, should they have the temerity to ever come back again, for one of them had lost his hat in his mad haste to depart.

Then lighting the lantern, Thad tried the best he knew how to smooth over any footprint he or his companion may have made close to the fissure in the rock. He wished Allan might be there just then, for he would have known how to go about it better.

“All right now,” he announced a little later, as he arose from his knees.

“What had we better do, stay around here, or try and work a little closer back to camp, to see what has happened there?” Aleck questioned.

“I was thinking it might pay us to do that last,” the scoutmaster replied. “We needn’t show ourselves, of course; but could hang around until your rascally old uncle and that sheriff went away. Now, if only it was some one else he wanted to nab, what a fine chance this would be for you to get him as an officer of the law to help you locate the mine. But I suppose that would be too dangerous.”

“It’s an idea worth thinking about,” Aleck declared, “and we may find a way yet to carry it out. I hope we won’t run across those three scared men, because they headed this way when they ran off. You don’t mean to carry the lantern lighted, do you, Thad?”

“Well, I should say not. It would only advertise the fact that a couple of very fresh Boy Scouts were wandering around. Why, those very men might sight us and lie in wait to capture you again,” with which Thad blew out the lantern.

They started on.

Thanks to the moonlight they were able to keep their course fairly well; sometimes under the low trees, and again among masses of piled up rocks. Far above their heads towered the mighty mountains, their tops capped with snow. Thad never glanced up at them without thinking how eagerly he and his chums had looked forward to this chance for seeing the fortress Nature had built up and down the Western country, separating the Pacific Coast from the balance of the land.

“Listen!” said Aleck, laying a hand on his companion’s sleeve.

“Did you think you heard a voice again?” asked Thad, whispering the words, for there was a spice of danger in the very air around them.

“I sure did; and there it is again. Whatever is that man doing?”

“Sounds to me like that Waffles?” suggested Thad.

“But what would he be praying for, tell me?” asked Aleck.

“Praying?” echoed the other, astonished himself.

“Well, listen to him, would you; he seems to be begging somebody not to hurt him? Do you suppose they’ve gone, and had a falling-out among themselves, and the colonel is threatening to finish his man for running away?” Aleck went on, still keeping his voice lowered.

“Why, hardly that, because he ran as fast as the rest of them,” replied Thad. “But come, let’s creep forward a little, and find out what all the fuss is about.”

As they proceeded to do this, the sound of Waffles’ peculiar voice came more and more plainly to their hearing; and sure enough, he was certainly pleading earnestly with some unknown one.

“Think what a guy I’ll be if so be ye do hit, and cut my pore ears off, jest in spite work?” he was whining; “I admit that I done ye dirt, when I hooked that bead belt from yer place, meanin’ to sell the same. But shore I didn’t know as how ye vallied it so high. Never’d a put a hand on it, if I’d been told ’twar a sacred fambly relic, and that outsiders hadn’t orter touch the same. Let me go this time, Fox, and shore I promises never to do hit again. My ears is all I got, and think how I’d look without the same. Ye got me down, and I cain’t help myself, ef so be ye mean to do hit; but better let me off this time. You ain’t a wild Injun, and you knows it ain’t doin’ right to try and mend one wrong with another. Let me go, Fox; I’m asayin’ I’m sorry, an’ a man can’t do more’n that.”

The mystery was explained. The Fox had followed Thad and Aleck from the camp, no doubt with the idea of standing up for them, if they needed help. He must have been hovering near when the three prospectors started their fire, and witnessed all that happened afterward.

When the three frightened men made their wild flight, the Fox, still burning with a desire to wipe out the insult that Waffles had put upon his family when he took away that revered wampum belt that had never before been touched by profane hands, had followed in their wake. Finding a chance to jump on the back of Waffles, he had borne the man to the ground. Doubtless the other two had continued their mad flight, never caring what would happen to Waffles, and only thinking of saving their own precious bodies.

And ever since that minute, the Fox had been sitting on the fallen man, telling him how he meant to punish him for his mean act, by making Waffles a reproach among his fellows, since only thieves have their ears sliced off in some countries.

Thad nudged his companion, and they started to creep closer to the spot where the two figures prone on the ground could be indistinctly seen.