Read CHAPTER XI - AT THE GRAND CANYON of The Saddle Boys in the Grand Canyon / The Hermit of the Cave, free online book, by James Carson, on ReadCentral.com.

“Do you mean it?” asked Frank.

“Come out, and see for yourself,” Bob returned. “I’ve looked all around, and not a sign of the old fellow can I find.”

“And both horses are there?” Frank continued, making a break for the exit.

“As fine as you please. Our friend didn’t want a second try from those clever heels of Buckskin. He gave them a wide berth when he cleared out, I warrant. Oh! you can look everywhere, and you won’t see a whiff of Havasupai. He’s skipped by the light of the moon, all right.”

Bob backed off, as his chum walked this way and that. He grinned as though he really enjoyed the whole thing. In his mind he had figured that it would turn out something this way, so he was not very much surprised.

“What d’ye think, Frank,” he exclaimed, presently; “don’t you remember promising to share our venison at breakfast with the Moqui?”

“Why yes, to be sure I do; but what of that, Bob?”

“Only that he didn’t forget,” laughed the other.

Frank immediately glanced toward the carcase of the little antelope.

“Ginger! he did go and cut himself a piece from it, sure enough,” he admitted.

“While he thought our company not as nice as our room, still, he didn’t object to sharing our meat. And, Frank, he wasn’t at all stingy about the amount he took, either,” Bob complained.

“Oh! well, I reckon there’s still enough for us, and to spare. Besides, we’ve got heaps of other things along in our packs, for an emergency, you know. Suppose we make a pot of coffee, and start things.”

“That’s all right, Frank; I’ll attend to it,” declared Bob; “but why under the sun do you suppose now, that sly old Moqui dodged out like that?”

“Well, for one thing, he may have suspected us,” replied Frank.

“What! after all we did for him, took him in, and forgave his sins, even to offering to mend any broken ribs, if he’d had any, through that horse kick? I can’t just understand that,” Bob ventured, while he measured out enough ground coffee to make a pot of the tempting hot beverage.

“He took the alarm, it seems,” Frank went on, indifferently. “Knew we wanted to find the man who had given him the talking paper; and was afraid we might try to make him tell; or, that failing, stalk him when he went to deliver my note. And on the whole I can’t much blame the old Indian. Suspicion is a part of their nature. He believed he was on the safe side in slipping away as he did. Forget it, Bob. We’ve learned a heap by his just dropping in on us, I think.”

“Sure we have,” replied the other, being busily employed over the fire just then. “And I was thinking what he could have meant when he pointed off in the direction I calculate the Grand Canyon lies, and said in answer to one of your questions: ’Seek there! When the sun is red it shines in Echo Cave!’”

“I’ve guessed that riddle, and it was easy,” Frank remarked.

“Then let me hear about it, because I’m pretty dull when it comes to understanding all this lovely sign language of the Indians,” Bob remarked.

“Listen, then. The sun is said to be red when its setting; that’s plain enough; isn’t it, Bob?”

“All O.K. so far, Frank. I won’t forget that in a hurry, either.”

“Then, when he said it looked into the cave at sunset, it was another way of telling us the cave faced the west!” Frank continued.

“Well, what a silly chap I was not to guess that,” chuckled the other.

“And from what I know about the bigness of that canyon, Bob, I think that this unknown Echo Cave must be pretty high up on the face of a big cliff to the east of the river.”

“Why high up? I don’t get on to any reason for your saying that?” inquired Bob.

“You’ll see it just as soon as I mention why,” remarked his companion. “When the sun is going down in the west, far beyond the horizon, don’t you see that it can only shine along the very upper part of the cliffs? The lower part is already lost in the shadows that drop late in the afternoon in all canyons.”

“Of course, and it’s as plain to me now as the nose on my face,” agreed Bob. “Queer, how easy we see these things after they’ve been explained.”

It did not take long to prepare breakfast, and still less time to eat it once the coffee and venison were ready. Just as Frank had said, there was plenty of the meat for the meal.

“That was a mighty juicy little antelope, all right,” remarked Bob, as he finished his last bite, and prepared to get up from the ground where he had been enjoying his ease during the meal.

“And for one I don’t care how soon you repeat the dose,” remarked Frank; “only it will be a long day before you get one of the timid little beasts as easy as that accommodating chap fell to your gun. Why, he was just a gift, that’s all you could call it, Bob.”

“That’s what I’ve been thinking myself, though of course I don’t know as much about them as you do, by a long shot,” Bob admitted. “I suppose it’s us to hit the saddle again now?”

“We’re going to try and make Flagstaff by night,” Frank announced, as he picked up his saddle and bridle, and walked toward the spot where Buckskin was staked out.

The horses had been able to drink all they wanted during the night, for the ropes by means of which they were tethered allowed of a range that took them to the little spring hole from which the water gushed, to run away, and, in the end, possibly unite with the wonderful Colorado.

In ten minutes more the boys were off at a round gallop. There was no intention of pushing their mounts so soon in the day. Like most persons who have spent much time on horseback both lads knew the poor policy of urging an animal to its best speed in the early part of a journey, especially one that is to be prolonged for ten or twelve hours.

At noon they were far enough advanced for Frank to declare he had no doubt about being able to make Flagstaff before sunset.

“When we get there, and spend a night at the hotel, we must remember and ask if our friend Mr. Stanwix and his partner arrived in good time, and went on,” Bob suggested.

Just as Frank had expected, they made the town on the railroad before the sun had dropped out of sight; and the horses were in fair condition at that.

Flagstaff only boasts of a normal population of between one and two thousand; but there are times, with the influx of tourists bound for the Grand Canyon, when it is a lively little place.

The two boys only desired shelter and rest for themselves and their horses during the night. It was their intention to push on early the following day, keeping along the old wagon trail that at one time was the sole means of reaching the then little known Wonderland along the deeply sunk Colorado.

After a fairly pleasant night, they had an early breakfast. The horses proved to be in fine fettle, and eager for the long gallop. So the two saddle boys once more started forth.

The day promised to be still warmer than the preceding one; and the first part of the journey presented some rather difficult problems. They managed to put the San Francisco Mountains behind them, however, and from that on the dash was for the most part over a fairly level plateau.

Now and then they were threading the trail through great pine forests, and again it was a mesa that opened up before them.

Bob was especially delighted.

“Think we’ll make it, Frank?” he asked, about the middle of the afternoon, as they cantered along, side by side, the horses by this time having had pretty much all their “ginger” as Bob called it taken out of them, though still able to respond to a sudden emergency, had one arisen.

“I reckon so,” replied the other. “According to my map we’re within striking distance right now. Given two more hours, and we’ll possibly sight the border of the big hole. That was Red Horse Tank we just passed, you know,” and he pointed out their position on the little chart to Bob.

It was half an hour to sundown when the well known Grand View Hotel stood out in plain sight before them; and before the shades of night commenced to fall, the tired boys had thrown themselves from their saddles, seen to the comfort of the faithful steeds, and mounted to the porch of the hotel for a flitting view of the amazing spectacle that spread itself before them, ere darkness hid its wonderful and majestic beauty.