Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Sunset Pass - or Running the Gauntlet Through Apache Land
Author: King, Charles, 1844-1933
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sunset Pass - or Running the Gauntlet Through Apache Land" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Libraries.)



                                 SUNSET PASS


                   RUNNING THE GAUNTLET THROUGH APACHE LAND

                           BY CAPTAIN CHARLES KING

              AUTHOR OF "THE DESERTER", "A WAR-TIME WOOING", ETC



COPYRIGHTED, 1890
BY JOHN W. LOVELL COMPANY

NEW YORK
JOHN W. LOVELL COMPANY
150 WORTH ST., COR. MISSION PLACE



[Illustration: CAPT. CHAS. KING]



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


Capt. Chas. King

He Drew Little Nell close to Him

Manuelito Was shuffling about the Fire Apparently doing Nothing

"Where's Manuelito?"

His First Duty seemed to be to get the Provisions from the Wagon

"Jim, Old Boy, We've got to pull Together To-night"

"My God! There's not a Living Soul in Sight"

Bending Down He raised Her in His Strong Arms Away He Flew at Full Speed

The Two Men set to Work to build Their Breastwork

Nellie, Clinging to Her Nurse, was terrified by the Sounds

The Poor Devil was now seated, Bound and Helpless, on a Rock by the
Roadside

"That's what Jim took for an Apache"

One Vehement Kick and Curse He Gave Him

With One Backward Look He staggered Wearily on

"My God! What can have Happened? It's Captain Gwynne?"

Evidently the One Who was shot was a Man of Some Prominence among
Them--Possibly a Chief

All of a Sudden a Black Shadow rushed through the Air

Down With these Stones, Now!"

The Bullet of the Little Ballard had taken Him just under the Eye



SUNSET PASS.



CHAPTER I.

A RASH RESOLVE.


"Better take my advice, sir. The road ahead is thick with the Patchies."

"But you have come through all alone, my friend; why should I not go? I
have been stationed among the Apaches for the last five years and have
fought them all over Arizona. Surely I ought to know how to take care of
myself."

"I don't doubt that, captain. It's the kids I'm thinking of. The
renegades from the reservation are out in great numbers now and they are
supposed to be all down in the Tonto Basin, but I've seen their moccasin
tracks everywhere from the Colorado Chiquito across the 'Mogeyone,' and
I'm hurrying in to Verde now to give warning and turn the troops this
way."

"Well, why didn't they attack you, then, Al?"

The party thus addressed by the familiar diminutive of "Al" paused a
moment before reply, an odd smile flitting about his bearded lips. A
stronger, firmer type of scout and frontiersman than Al Sieber never sat
in saddle in all Arizona in the seventies, and he was a noted character
among the officers, soldiers, pioneers, and Apaches. The former
respected and trusted him. The last named feared him as they did the
Indian devil. He had been in fight after fight with them; had had his
share of wounds, but--what the Apaches recoiled from in awe was the fact
that he had never met them in the field without laying one at least of
their number dead in his tracks. He was a slim-built, broad-shouldered,
powerful fellow, with a keen, intelligent face, and eyes that were
kindly to all his friends, but kindled at sight of a foe. A
broad-brimmed, battered slouch hat was pulled well down over his brows;
his flannel shirt and canvas trousers showed hard usage; his pistol belt
hung loose and low upon his hips and on each side a revolver swung. His
rifle--Arizona fashion--was balanced athwart the pommel of his saddle,
and an old Navajo blanket was rolled at the cantle. He wore Tonto
leggins and moccasins, and a good-sized pair of Mexican spurs jingled at
his heels. He looked--and so did his horse--as though a long, hard ride
was behind them, but that they were ready for anything yet.

"It makes a difference, captain--their attacking me or you. I've been
alive among 'em so many years that they have grown superstitious.
Sometimes I half believe they think I can't be killed. Then, too, I may
have slipped through unnoticed, but you--with all this outfit--why!
you're sure to be spotted, followed, and possibly ambushed in Sunset
Pass. It's the worst place along the route."

Captain Gwynne looked anxiously about him a moment. He was a
hard-headed, obstinate fellow, and he hated to give up. Two months ago
his wife had died, leaving to his care two dear little ones--a boy of
nine and a girl of six. He soon determined to take them East to his home
in far Pennsylvania. There was no Southern Pacific or any other Arizona
railway in those days. Officers and their families who wanted to go East
had to turn their faces westward, take a four or five days' "buckboard"
ride across the dusty deserts to the Colorado River, camp there perhaps
a week before "Captain Jack Mellon" came backing or sideways down the
shallow stream with his old "Cocopah." Then they sculled or ground their
way over the sand bars down to Fort Yuma, a devious and monotonous trip;
then were transferred to "lighten" or else, on the same old Cocopah,
were floated out into the head of the Gulf of California and there
hoisted aboard the screw steamers of the Ocean line--either the Newbern
or the Montana, and soon went plunging down the gulf, often very
sea-sick, yet able to get up and look about when their ship poked in at
some strange old Mexican town, La Paz or Guaymas, and finally, turning
Cape St. Lucas, away they would steam up the coast to San Francisco,
which they would reach after a two weeks' sea voyage and then, hey for
the Central Pacific, Cape Horn, the Sierras, Ogden, and the tramp to the
Union Pacific and, at last, home in the distant east, all after a
journey of five or six weeks and an expense of months of the poor
officer's pay.

Now Captain Gwynne was what we called a "close" man. He could not bear
the idea of spending something like a thousand dollars in taking
himself, little Ned and Nellie, and their devoted old nurse, Irish Kate,
by that long and expensive route. He had two fine horses and a capital
family wagon, covered. He had a couple of stout mules and a good baggage
wagon. Jim, his old driver, would go along to take care of "the
Concord," as the family cart was termed. Manuelito, a swarthy Mexican,
would drive the mules; the captain would ride his own pet saddle horse,
Gregg, and a discharged soldier, whom he hired for the purpose, would
ride McIntosh, the other charger. All were well armed. Parties were
going unmolested over the Sunset Pass route every month. Why should not
he?

The officers at Prescott shook their heads and endeavored to dissuade
him, but the more they argued the more determined was he. There were
tearful eyes among the ladies at Prescott barracks, where Mrs. Gwynne
had been dearly loved, when they bade good-by to the children. But one
fine day away went "the outfit;" stopped that night at Camp Verde, deep
down in the valley; started again early in the morning, despite the
protestations of the garrison, and that evening were camping among the
beautiful pine woods high up on the Mogollon range. Sieber's
pronunciation of the name--"Mogeyone"--will give you a fair idea of what
it is really like.

And now, three days out on the Mesa, Ned and Nellie, in silence, but
with beating hearts, were listening to this conversation between their
father and the famous scout, and hoping, poor little mites, that their
father would be advised and turn back until met by cavalry from Verde;
yet so loyal to him, so trustful to him, that neither to one another nor
to Kate would they say a word.

"Well, Sieber, I've argued this thing out with all Prescott and Verde,"
said the captain at last. "I've sworn I wouldn't turn back, and so, by
jinks, I'm going ahead. It's all open country around Snow Lake, and I
can keep on the alert when we reach the Pass."

"You know your business best, I suppose, captain, but--" and Sieber
stopped abruptly and gazed through the open windows of the Concord at
the two little forms huddled together, with such white faces, on the
back seat.

"Well, won't you at least wait and camp here a day or so? I'll go down
by way of Wales Arnold's and get him to send up a couple of men. That
won't be going back, and you'll be tolerably safe here. The cavalry
won't be long getting out this way."

"And meantime having my beasts eating barley by the bucketful so that I
won't have enough to get through? No, Al, I've made calculations just
how many days it will take me to get over to Wingate, and delay would
swamp me. I don't mean to discredit your story, of course, but
everybody, even at Verde, said the renegades were all down by Tonto
Creek, and I cannot believe they would be out here to the northeast. I'm
going ahead."

"Well, Captain Gwynne, I give up. If you're bound to go there's no use
talking. Stop one moment though!" He spurred his broncho close to the
window, and thrusting in his wiry arm drew little Nell close to him,
bent and kissed tenderly her bonny face.

[Illustration: HE DREW LITTLE NELL CLOSE TO HIM.]

"God guard you, baby," he murmured, as finally he set her down. "Adios,
Ned, my lad," and he shook the little man heartily by the hand. "Good
luck all! Now I must gallop to make up time." He turned quickly away and
went "loping" down the trail, but his gauntlet was drawn across his eyes
two or three times before he disappeared from view. Two white little
faces gazed wistfully after him and then into each other's eyes. Irish
Kate muttered a blessing on the gallant fellow's head. "Come on, Jim,"
said the captain, with darkening face, and presently the little train
was again in motion, winding over the range that, once passed, brings
them in view of Snow Lake with the gloomy, jagged rocks bounding the
horizon far beyond. There is a deep cleft that one sees in that barrier
just as he emerges from the pine woods along the ridge, and that distant
cleft is Sunset Pass.

Though seldom traveled, the mountain road from Fort Verde over to Fort
Wingate was almost always in fair condition. Rains were very few and did
little damage, and so at a rapid, jingling trot the wagons lunged ahead
while the captain and Pike, the retired trooper, rode easily alongside
or made occasional scouts to the front.

Knowing that his children must have heard his talk with Sieber, the
captain soon dropped back opposite the open window and thrust in his
hand for the little ones to shake.

"You're not afraid to go ahead, Ned, my boy! I knew I could count on
you," said he heartily. "And Nell can hardly be afraid with you and her
old dragoon dad to guard her. Isn't it so, pet?"

And the wan little face smiled back to prove Nellie's confidence in
father, while Ned stoutly answered:

"I'm never afraid to go anywhere you want me to go, father. And then I
haven't had a chance to try my rifle yet."

The boy held up to view a dainty little Ballard target gun--a toy of a
thing--but something of which he was evidently very proud.

"And then we've got good old Pike, papa--and Kate here--I'm sure she
could fight," piped up little Nell, but there was no assent to this
proposition from the lips of poor Kate. All along she had opposed the
journey, and was filled with dread whenever it was spoken of. Vainly had
she implored the officers and ladies at Prescott to prohibit the captain
from making so rash an attempt. Nothing would avail. As ill-luck would
have it the lieutenant colonel recently gazetted to the infantry
regiment stationed in Northern Arizona had just come safely through from
Wingate with exactly such an "outfit," but without such guards, and
Captain Gwynne declared that what man had done man could do. There were
plenty of people who would have taken her off the captain's hands, but
nothing would induce the faithful creature to leave the motherless
"childer." She loved them both--and if they were to go through danger
she would go with them. All the same she stood sturdily out in her
resentment toward the captain and would not answer now. Jim, too, on the
driver's seat, was gloomily silent. Manuelito with the mules in rear had
listened to Sieber's warning with undisguised dismay. Only
Pike--ex-corporal of the captain's troop--rode unconcernedly ahead. What
cared he for Apaches? He had fought them time and again.

Nevertheless when Captain Gwynne came cantering out to the front and
joined his old non-commissioned officer, it was with some surprise that
he listened to Pike's salutation.

"May I say a word to the captain?"

"Certainly, Pike; say on."

"I was watching Manuelito, sir, while the captain was talking with
Sieber. Them greasers are a bad lot, sir--one and all. There isn't one
of 'em I'd trust as far as I could sling a bull by the tail. That
Manuelito is just stampeded by what he's heard, and while he dare not
whirl about and go now, I warn the captain to have an eye on the mules
to-night. He'll skip back for the Verde with only one of them rather
than try Sunset Pass to-morrow."

"Why! confound it, Pike, that fellow has been in my service five years
and never failed me yet."

"True enough, sir; but the captain never took him campaigning. They do
very well around camp, sir, but they'd rather face the gates of
purgatory than try their luck among the Tontos. I believe one Apache
could lick a dozen of 'em."

The captain turned slowly back, and took a good look at the Mexican as
he sat on his high spring seat, and occasionally encouraged his team
with endearing epithets, or, as in the manner of the tribe, scored them
with wildest blasphemy. Ordinarily Manuelito was wont to show his white
teeth, and touch the broad, silver-edged brim of his sombrero, when "el
capitan" reined back to see how he was getting along. To-day there was a
sullen scowl for the first moment, and then, as though suddenly
recollecting himself, the dark-skinned fellow gave a ghastly sort of
grin--and the captain felt certain that Pike's idea was right. The
question was simply how to circumvent him.

At sunset the little party was cosily camped on the edge of Snow Lake--a
placid little sheet far up among the mountains. The plateau was broken
by a low ridge a few miles east, through a gap in which, known as Jarvis
Pass, ran the road to Sunset Pass beyond. Horses and mules, securely
tethered, were grazing close at hand. The two wagons were drawn in near
the little camp-fire. The children were having a jolly game of hide and
seek and stretching their legs after the long day's ride in the wagon.
Kate was stowing away the supper dishes. Manuelito was stretched upon
the turf, his keen, eager eyes following every motion of his captain,
even though his teeth held firmly the little paper tobacco holder he
called his "papelito." Out on the open ground beyond the little bunch of
trees Pike could be seen, carbine in hand, scouting the prairie-like
surface and keeping guard against surprise. The sun went down. Twilight
hovered over them; Kate had cuddled her beloved "childer" into their
beds in the wagon and the captain had come around to kiss them
good-night. Manuelito still sprawled near the tiny blaze, smoking and
watching, and at last, as the bulky form of the Irish nurse-maid
disappeared within the canvas walls of the wagon, the Mexican sprang
from his recumbent position, turned, and with quick, stealthy step sped
away through the clumps of trees to where the animals were placidly
browsing. He bent his lithe body double, even though he knew that at
this moment the captain and the ex-corporal were over at the east end of
their little camp-ground, chatting together in low tones. He laughed to
himself as he reached his mules and found them heavily hoppled with iron
chains.

"As if I would take a burro when one stroke gives me a _caballo
grande_," he muttered, and pushed still further out to where the four
horses were "lariated" near the timber. A word to "Gregg" whom he had
often cared for; a gleam of his knife from the sheath and the gallant
horse was free to follow him. Still in silence and stealth he led him
back toward the camp-fire where the saddles were piled. Still he marked
that Captain Gwynne and Pike were in earnest talk down at the other end
of the camp. Warily he reached forward to grasp the captain's saddle,
when a low exclamation was heard from that officer himself and, peering
at him through the trees, the Mexican could see that he was eagerly
pointing westward and calling Pike to his side. Instinctively Manuelito
glanced over his shoulder and saw a sight that told him horse-thieving
would not save his tawny hide; that told him their retreat was cut off,
and their only hope now was in standing together. Back among the pines
through which they had come; well upon the ridge, and not ten miles
away, blazed an Indian signal fire. It was the Apache summons for a
quick "gathering of the clans."

Now God help the bairnies in the wagon!



CHAPTER II.

MANUELITO'S TREACHERY.


All this time Darkey Jim had been sleeping soundly, wrapped in his
blankets, with his feet to the fire. There was never an hour, day or
night, when this lively African could not loll at full length, in
sunshine or shade, and forget his cares, if cares he ever had, in less
than three minutes. In this case, despite Sieber's warning, which he had
overheard, he simply took note of the fact that the captain and Corporal
Pike were looking after things and that was enough for him. There was no
use in worrying when "Marsa Gwin" was on guard, and within an hour from
the time he had had his substantial supper, Jim was snoring melodiously,
with his head buried in his arms.

Manuelito was thoroughly aware of this trait of his "stable-mate," else
he had not dared to bring the captain's horse so close to the fire. Now
his fierce, half Indian face seemed full of perplexity and dread. The
Apache signal fire still glowed among the black pines away to the
westward. The captain and Corporal Pike were hurriedly coming towards
him through the stunted trees,--yet here he stood with "Gregg," all
irresolute, all fearful what to do. Back towards those black pines and
the long reach of road beyond he dare not go. The Tontos held the line
of retreat. Here in camp he hardly dare remain for the keen cut in
"Gregg's" side line showed plainly that the knife had been used, and
left him accused of treachery. Out of the fire light and back to the
grazing ground he must get the horse at once--but what then? Noiselessly
turning, he led Gregg, wondering, back to the glade in which the other
horses were tethered, and quickly drove his picket pin and put him on
the half lariat. But how was he to conceal the severed side line? Off it
came, both nervous hands working rapidly, and then when he had about
determined to cut off the lines of one of Jim's mules and so throw
suspicion on him, his African mate, he was aware of his captain striding
through the trees toward him. He could almost have run away. But the
next words re-assured him.

"That you, Manuelito?" challenged Captain Gwynne in low, hoarse tones.
"All right! Take the side lines off Gregg and saddle him for me at once.
I have work to do."

The Mexican could hardly believe in his escape. For the time being, at
least, he stood safe. It would be easy enough later to "lose" the
telltale side line in the waters of the lake. Manuelito cursed his folly
in having used the knife at all. Haste prompted that piece of bad
judgment. He could have unbuckled them just as well. But all the same he
blessed his lucky stars for this respite. In three minutes he had
"Gregg" saddled and ready by the little camp-fire. There stood the
captain and Pike in low and earnest conversation.

"I shall only go out a short four miles," said the former, "but I must
satisfy myself as to whether those beggars are coming this way to-night.
Gregg and I have 'stalked' them many a time and the country is all flat
and open for six miles back."

"I wish the captain would stay here and let me go," pleaded Pike.

"No! I'm never satisfied without seeing for myself. You and Manuelito
will have your arms in constant readiness, and watch for me as I come
back. There's no moon--no light--but so much the better for my purpose.
Is he all ready, Manuelito? Let me glance at my little ones in the
ambulance before I start."

Who can say with what love and yearning the father bent over those
little faces as he peered in upon them? The flickering light of the
camp-fire threw an occasional glimmer over them--just enough to enable
him to see at times the contour yet hardly to reveal the features of
"his babies." He dare not kiss for fear of waking them. "God bless and
guard you, darlings," was the choking prayer that fell from his lips.
Then, vigorous and determined, he sprang into saddle.

"Now, Pike," he muttered, "you've been with me in many a night bivouac
and you know your orders. They never attack at night unless they know
they have an absolutely sure thing, and they haven't--with you three.
Jim, there, can fight like a tiger whenever there is need. Watch the
horses. I'll be back in an hour or there'll be reason for my staying."

Three minutes more and they heard the rhythmic beat of "Gregg's" hoofs
out on the open plateau and dying away westward, sturdy, measured,
steady in the trot the captain preferred to any other gait. Pike moved
out to the edge of the timber, where he could hear the last of it--a big
anxiety welling up in his heart and a world of responsibility with it;
but he clutched his carbine the more firmly and gave a backward glance,
his face softening as his eyes fell upon the wagon where little Ned and
Nell lay sleeping, and darkening with menace and suspicion as he took
one swift look at Manuelito, cowering there over the fire.

"Blast that monkey-hearted greaser!" he muttered. "I believe he would
knife the whole party just to get the horses and slip away. I'll keep my
ears open to the west--but I'll have my eyes on you."

Once out at his chosen station, Pike found himself in a position where
he could "cover" three important objects. Here, close at his right hand,
between him and the lake, the horses and mules were browsing peacefully
and as utterly undisturbed as though there were not an Apache within a
thousand miles. To his rear, about fifty yards, were the two wagons, the
little camp-fire and flitting restlessly about it the slouching form of
Manuelito. In front of him, close at hand, nothing but a dark level of
open prairie; then a stretch of impenetrable blackness; then, far away
towards the western horizon, that black, piney ridge, stretching from
north to south across the trail they had come along that day; and right
there among the pines--Pike judged it to be several miles south of the
road--there still glared and flamed that red beacon that his long
service in Arizona told him could mean to the Apaches only one
thing--"Close in!"--and well he knew that with the coming morn all the
renegades within range would be gathered along their path, and that if
they got through Sunset Pass without a fight it would be a miracle.

The night was still as the grave; the skies cloudless and studded with
stars. One of these came shooting earthward just after he took his post,
and seemed to plunge into vacancy and be lost in its own combustion over
towards Jarvis Pass behind him. This gave him opportunity to glance
backward again, and there was Manuelito still cowering over the fire.
Then once more he turned to the west, watching, listening.

Many a year had old Pike served with the standards of the cavalry. All
through the great civil war he had born manful, if humble part, but with
his fifth enlistment stripe on his dress coat, a round thousand dollars
of savings and a discharge that said under the head of "Character," "A
brave, reliable and trustworthy man," the old corporal had chosen to add
to his savings by taking his chances with Captain Gwynne, hoping to
reach Santa Fe and thence the Kansas Pacific to St. Louis, to betterment
of his pocket and to the service of one, at least, of his former troop
commanders. No coward was Pike, but he had visions of a far-away home
his coming would bless, where a loved sister's children would gather
about his knee and hear his stories of battle and adventure, and where
his dollars would enable him to give comforts and comfits, toys and
"taffee" to her little ones. Was he not conscious that her eldest boy
must be now fourteen, named for him, Martin Pike, and a young American
all through? It must be confessed that as the ex-corporal stood there at
his night post under the stars he half regretted that he had embarked on
this risky enterprise.

"If it were anybody else now but old Gwynne," he muttered to himself,
"things wouldn't be so mixed, but he never did have any horse sense and
now has run us into this scrape--and it's a bad one or I'm no judge."

Then he glanced over his shoulder again. Manuelito was shuffling about
the fire apparently doing nothing. Presently the ex-corporal saw the
Mexican saunter up to the wagons and Pike took several strides through
the timber watching before he said a word; yet, with the instinct of the
old soldier, he brought his carbine to full cock. Somehow or other he
"could not tolerate that greaser."

[Illustration: MANUELITO WAS SHUFFLING ABOUT THE FIRE APPARENTLY DOING
NOTHING.]

But the suspected greaser seemed to content himself with a cursory
examination of the forage and baggage wagon and presently came slouching
back to the fire again. He had some scrap of harness in his hand and
Pike longed to know what, but it was too far from his post of
observation. He decided to remain where he was. He must listen for the
captain. All the same he kept vigilant watch of Manuelito's movements
and ere long, when the fire brightened up a bit, he made out that the
"greaser" was fumbling over nothing else than a side line. Now what did
that mean?

Pike took a turn through the little herd of "stock," bending down and
feeling the side line of each horse and mule. All were secure and in
perfect order. The one in Manuelito's hands, therefore, was probably
"Gregg's," or an extra "pair" that he had in his wagon. There was
nothing out of the way about that after all, so Pike resumed his watch
towards the west, where still the Apache beacon was burning.

It must have been half after ten o'clock. Manuelito had slunk down by
the fire, and not a sound was to be heard except Jim's musical snore,
and a little cropping noise among the horses. Yet Pike's quick ear
caught, far out on the prairie to the west, the sound of hoofs coming
towards him.

"When those Apaches named a horse 'click-click' they must have struck
one that interfered," he muttered. "Now that's old Gregg coming in, I'll
bet my boots, and there's not a click about his tread. 'Course there
might be on rock, instead of this soft earth. The captain's back sooner
than I supposed he'd come. What's up?"

Quickly, crouchingly, he hurried forward some few rods, then knelt so
that he might see the coming horseman against the sky. Then challenged
sharp and low:

"Who comes there!"

"Captain Gwynne," was the quick answer.

"That you, Pike? By jove, man! I've come back in a hurry. Are the horses
all right? I want to push right on to the Pass to-night."

"Horses all right, captain. What's the matter back there?"

"I didn't venture too far, but I went far enough to learn by my night
glass and my ears that those scoundrels were having a war-dance. Now the
chances are they'll keep it up all night until they gather in all the
renegades in the neighborhood. Then come after us. This is no place to
make a fight. It's all open here. But the road is good all the way to
Sunset, and once there I know a nook among the rocks where we can stow
our whole outfit--where there are 'tanks' of fresh water in abundance
and where we can stand them off until the cavalry get out from Verde.
Sieber said he'd have them humming on our trail at once. Tanner and
Canker and Lieutenant Ray are there with their troops and you can bet
high we won't have long to wait. It's the one thing to do. Rouse up Jim
and Manuelito while I give 'Gregg' a rest. Poor old boy," he said, as he
noted his favorite's heaving flanks. "He has had a hard run for it and
more than his share of work this day."

In ten minutes Black Jim, roused by vigorous kicks, was silently but
briskly hitching in his team, Manuelito silently but suddenly buckling
the harness about his mules. Irish Kate, aroused by the clatter, had
poked her head from underneath the canvas to inquire what was the
matter, and, at a few words from the captain, had shrunk in again,
stricken with fear, but obeying implicitly.

"Let the children sleep as long as possible, Kate," were Gwynne's
orders. "The jolting will wake them too soon, I fear, but we've got to
push ahead to Sunset Pass at once. There are Indians ten miles behind
us."

A few minutes more and all was ready for flight.

"Now, Pike, ride ahead and keep sharp lookout for the road. I'll jump up
here beside Jim and drive, keeping right on your trail. Old 'Gregg' will
tow along behind the wagon. He is too tired to carry any one else this
day--and you--Manuelito, hark ye, keep right behind 'Gregg.' Don't fall
back ten yards. I want you right here with us, and if anything goes
wrong with your team, or you cannot keep up, shout and we'll wait for
you. Now, then, Pike, forward!"

An hour later in its prescribed order this little convoy had wound its
way through Jarvis Pass and was trotting rapidly over the hard but
smooth roadway towards the high Sunset range. The little ones had been
aroused by the swaying and jolting and were sitting up now--silent and
full of nameless fears, yet striving to be brave and soldierly when papa
threw back some cheery word to them over his shoulders. Never once did
he relax his grasp on the reins or his keen watch for Pike's dim,
shadowy form piloting them along the winding trail. Little Ned had got
his "Ballard" and wanted to load, but his father laughed him out of the
idea.

"The Tontos were ten miles behind us, Ned, my boy, when we left Snow
Lake, and are farther away now. These mountain Apaches in northern
Arizona have no horses, you know, and have to travel afoot. Not a rod
will they journey at night if they can help themselves--the lazy
beggars!"

And so the poor father, realizing at last the fruits of his obstinacy,
strove to reassure his children and his dependants. Little Nell was too
young to fully appreciate their peril, and soon fell asleep with her
curly head pillowed on Kate's broad lap. Ned, too, valiant little man,
soon succumbed and, still grasping his Ballard, fell sound asleep. In
darkness and silence the little convoy sped swiftly along, and at last,
far in the "wee sma' hours," Pike hailed:

"Here we are, right in the Pass, captain! Now can you find that point
where we turn off the road to get into the rock corral?"

"Take the lines, Jim; I'll jump out and prospect. I used to know it well
enough."

Down the road the captain went stumbling afoot. Everything was rock,
bowlder and darkness now. The early morning wind was sighing through the
pines up the mountain side at the south. All else was silence.

Presently they heard him hail:

"Come on! Here we are!"

Jim touched up his wearied team and soon, under the captain's guidance,
was bumping up a little side trail. A hundred yards off the road they
halted and Gwynne called back into the darkness:

"How's Manuelito getting on, Pike?"

No answer.

The captain stepped back a few yards and listened. Not a sound of hoof
or wheel.

"Pike!" he called. "Where are you?"

No answer at all.

"Quick, Jim, give me the lantern," he called, and in a moment the
glimmering light went bounding down the rocky trail, back to the road.

And there the two soldiers met--Pike trotting up rapidly from the west,
the captain swinging his lantern in the Pass.

"Where's Manuelito?" was the fierce demand.

[Illustration: "WHERE'S MANUELITO?"]

"Gone, sir. Gone and taken the mules with him. The wagon's back there
four hundred yards up the road."

"My God! Pike. Give me your horse quick. You stay and guard my babies."



CHAPTER III.

ON THE ALERT.


Obedient to the captain's order, Pike had dismounted and given him the
horse, but it was with a sense of almost sickening dread that he saw him
ride away into darkness.

"Take care of the babies," indeed! The old trooper would shed his
heart's blood in their defence, but what would that avail against a gang
of howling Apaches? It could only defer the moment of their capture and
then--what would be the fate of those poor little ones and of honest old
Kate? Jim, of course, would do his best, but there remained now only the
two men to defend the captain's children and their nurse against a swarm
of bloodthirsty Tontos who were surely on their trail. There was no
telling at what moment their hideous war-cry might wake the echoes of
the lonely Pass.

With all his loyalty, Pike was almost ready to blame his employer and
old commander for riding off in pursuit of the Mexican. It was so dark
that no trail could be seen. He could not know in which direction
Manuelito had fled. It was indeed a blind chase, and yet the captain had
trotted confidently back past the deserted wagon as though he really
believed he could speedily overtake and recapture the stolen mules. Pike
thought that the captain should stay with his children and let him go in
pursuit or rather search, but every one who knew Gwynne knew how
self-confident he was and how much higher he held his own opinion than
that of anybody else. "It is his confounded bull-headedness that has got
us into this scrape," thought poor Pike, for the twentieth time, but the
soldier in him came to the fore and demanded action--action.

Knowing the habits of the Apaches it was his hope that they would not
follow in pursuit until broad daylight and that it would be noon before
they could reach the Pass. By that time, with or without the mules,
Captain Gwynne would certainly be back. Meanwhile his first duty seemed
to be to get the provisions from the wagon up to the little fastness
among the great bowlders where the children, guarded by poor, trembling
but devoted Kate, were now placidly sleeping--worn out with the fatigue
of their jolting ride from Snow Lake. She kept Black Jim with a loaded
rifle close by the side of the family wagon and prevented his falling
asleep at his post, in genuine darkey fashion, by insisting on his
talking with her in low tones. She kept fretting and worrying about the
absence of the captain and the non-arrival of Manuelito with his wagon.
She asked Jim a hundred questions as to the cause of the delay, but he
could give no explanation. It was with joy inexpressible, therefore,
that she heard Pike's well-known voice hailing them in cheery tones. He
wanted Jim.

[Illustration: HIS FIRST DUTY SEEMED TO BE TO GET THE PROVISIONS FROM
THE WAGON.]

"Where's the captain and the wagon?" demanded Kate in loud whisper.

"Up the road a piece," answered Pike in the most off-hand way
imaginable. "We'll have it here presently but Jim'll have to help. We've
lost a linch-pin in the dark. Come along, Jim."

"Shure you're not going to take Jim away and leave me alone with the
poor children. Oh, corporal, for the love of the blessed saints don't do
that!"

"Sho! Kate. We won't be any distance away and there ain't an Indian
within ten miles. They wouldn't dare come prowling around at night.
Here, you take Jim's gun and blow the top of the head off the first
Apache that shows up. We'll be back in five minutes. How are the
kids--sleeping?"

"Sleeping soundly, God be praised, and never draming of the awful peril
we're in."

"Peril be blowed!" answered Pike stoutly. "We're safer here than we
could be anywhere east of the Verde and as soon as it's good and light
and the horses are rested, we'll be off for the Colorado Chiquito and
leave the Tontos miles behind. Take things easy, old girl, and don't
worry. Come along, Jim."

And so away they went through the inky darkness, plunging along the
rocky and winding path by which they had brought the ambulance up the
steep. Not until they had got down into the road itself did Pike give
his negro comrade an idea of what had happened. Then, speaking low and
seizing the other's arm, he began:

"Jim, old boy, we've got to pull together to-night. There's nothing the
matter with the wagon--that's all right, but that whelp Manuelito has
run off with the mules and the captain's put out after him. It'll be
daylight soon and he'll get the son of a gun--sure, and then hurry back
to join us; but the wagon lies just where I think you and I can start it
down the road and fetch it nearer camp. Then we can rake out what
provisions we want in case we have to stand a siege. See?"

[Illustration: "JIM, OLD BOY, WE'VE GOT TO PULL TOGETHER TO-NIGHT."]

Black Jim's eyes nearly popped from their sockets. He had been on scouts
with his master, and bragged prodigiously around garrison about how they
fought Tontos down along the Black Mesa and in the infested "Basin."

To hear Jim talk one would fancy he had killed at least half a dozen
Indians in hand to hand encounters. Indeed he had behaved with
self-possession and a very fair degree of coolness in the two affairs
which Gwynne's troop had had when Jim happened to be along. But this was
different. Then they had forty or fifty veteran soldiers. Here--only old
Pike and himself were left to defend the position--and no one might say
how many Apaches might come along. Besides it was still dark (and
Napoleon said all men were cowards in the dark), though far in the east
a grayish pallor was creeping up from the horizon. Who could blame poor
Jim if his knees shook and his teeth chattered a little, but he went
manfully along by Pike's side and soon they reached the abandoned wagon.

As luck would have it, Manuelito had stopped where the road began a
pretty sharp descent and Pike felt sure that if they could only start
the thing they could run the wagon almost opposite their hiding place.
Then it would be far easier to get the stores up the rocks. Taking the
pole himself and telling him to "put his shoulder to the wheel" Pike
sung out a cheery "Heave!" and, slowly at first, then more rapidly, the
vehicle with its precious freight came thundering down the rocky and
almost unused road. Pike had to hold back with all his might and to
shout for Jim to join him, but between them they managed to control the
speed of the bulky runaway and to guide it safely to a point not far
from their little camp. The old trooper rummaged about until he found
the lantern hanging under the seat. This he quickly lighted, and then,
loading a sack of barley for the horse on Jim's shoulders, and lugging a
box of hard bread under one arm and of bacon under the other, he led the
way up among the rocks until they reached Kate's "field hotel," as he
called it. There they dumped their load under the ambulance. Pike
whispered a jovial "Go to sleep, old girl. You're all safe" to the still
trembling Irish woman, then down they went for another load. This time
they came laden with a wonderful assortment. Coffee, sugar, condensed
milk, canned corned beef, potted ham, canned corn and tomatoes, some
flour and yeast powders, a skillet or two, the coffee pot, some cups,
dishes, etc., and these, too, were placed close to the ambulance, to
Kate's entire mystification; and then, sending Jim down for another
little load, Pike set to work to build a tiny fire far back in a cleft
in the rocks.

"We'll all be glad of a cup of coffee now," he said to himself, "and so
will the captain; he should be brought back before day. We may have no
chance for cooking after the sun is up. Thank God, there's water in
plenty here in these hollows."

Out in the Arizona mountains one may journey day after day in July or
August, and all through the fall and winter, and cross gulley, gorge,
ravine, cañon and water cross and find them all dry as a bone--not a
drop of water running. It is useless to dig below the surface, as one
could do in sandy soil and find water, for it is all rock. Indeed it
would be impossible to dig; nothing short of blasting would make an
excavation. But a kind Providence has decreed that the scout or traveler
should not be left to die of thirst. Here and there in the low ground or
in the ravines are deep hollows, in which the water has gathered during
the rainy season, and this is almost always palatable and sweet. One
only has to know where these "tanks" are, and he is all right. Both
Captain Gwynne and Pike had twice been over to the Pass before, and,
spending a day or more there scouting the neighborhood, had noted the
little nook among the great bowlders and the abundant supply of water.
It was God's mercy that this was the case.

And now as he boiled his coffee in the little niche whence no betraying
gleam from his fire could shoot out across the gorge, Pike gave himself
over to a calm look at the situation. If the captain recovered the mules
and got back by sunrise--despite fatigue they could give them and the
horses a good feed of barley and then push for the Colorado Chiquito,
some twenty miles away. Once across that stream they were comparatively
safe, for the Apaches had a superstitious feeling against venturing
beyond. That country was considered as belonging to the Maqui Pueblo
Indians, of whom the wild Tontos stood a little in dread. Then, a little
further on, began the Navajo country, and the Navajos--once the most
fearless and intractable of mountain tribes--were now all gathered in at
their reservations about old Fort Defiance,--the richest Indians in
sheep, cattle and "stock" on the face of the globe. No Apache dare
venture on their territory, and white men, on the contrary, were safe
there. "If we can only get away before those scoundrelly Tontos get
after us," said Pike to himself. "Even if the captain doesn't get the
mules, we can abandon the wagon and the heavy luggage, cram the
ambulance with provisions and make a run for it to Sunset crossing. I
wonder which way that blackguard of a greaser did go. He would hardly
dare go back the way he came with every chance of running slap into the
Tontos. He has taken hard tack and bacon enough to keep him alive
several days. It's my belief he means to hide somewhere about Jarvis
Pass until he sees the Indians following our trail and then, when they
are fairly past, to make a run for the Verde. The cowardly hound!"

Then Jim came stumbling up the path with his load and the lantern. Pike
gave him a big tin mug of steaming coffee and a couple of "hard tack."
Took another down to Kate, whom he pacified by saying that the captain
was with Manuelito and the mules and bidding her to lie down and get a
little sleep before day. Then he went back to Jim.

"Now young man," said he, "I want you to listen carefully to what I say.
You had a nap last evening--a sound sleep in fact and I've not had a
wink. If I can get an hour or an hour and a half it will fetch me out
all right for the day's work. This coffee will freshen you up and keep
you awake. You stand guard until sunrise--until the sun is well up, in
fact, then call me. Keep your ears wide open; listen for every sound; if
it's the captain coming back you'll hear the hoof beats down there on
the road; if it's Apaches you won't hear anything. But you take my word
for it, Jim, they won't attempt to follow beyond Snow Lake to-night.
They can't be here before noon, and by that time we'll be miles away
towards the river. Don't get stampeded. Just keep cool; watch and
listen. If Kate asks anything more about the captain tell her he's down
by the wagon. It was too heavy to fetch up here. I don't want to make a
man lie, but we mustn't let her and those poor little kids know he's
away. Now are you game for it, Jim?"

The negro mechanically took the rifle that Pike handed to him. "I'll do
my best, corporal," he said.

"That's a trump! Now I believe I can rest easy," answered Pike, and so
saying he unrolled his blankets, spread them on the ground close by the
ambulance, looked to the chamber of his revolver to see that every
cartridge was all right, lay his rifle by the wheel, lay down and rolled
himself into his soldier bedding, and was asleep in three minutes.

How long afterwards it was that he was aroused Pike could not begin to
guess. It seemed to him that he had not slept five minutes yet he had
had a good, long, refreshing nap, and now it was broad daylight. The sun
was shining brightly and Black Jim was bending over him; his finger on
his lips. Pike sat up and rubbed his eyes. The first question he longed
to ask was: "Has the captain got back?" but Jim pointed to the ambulance
and, listening, the old trooper heard childish voices, soft and low;
their bubbling laughter telling of their utter ignorance of the dread
anxiety which hovered over the camp. Kate, worn out, was evidently still
asleep and the children were chatting blithely together but taking care
not to disturb their kind old nurse. Little Ned poked his hand out
through the narrow space between the curtain and the frame of the door
and peeped through with one merry blue eye as he shook hands with Pike,
who had scrambled to his feet.

"Where's papa?" he whispered.

"He's all right, little man," answered Pike, smiling cheerfully up at
the bright boy face, though the old soldier's heart was heavy as lead.
"He's all right. He's down looking after the mules with Manuelito. You
and Nellie hungry? I'll get you some breakfast presently, but better let
old Kate sleep as long as she can."

"I'd like to come out, corporal, and look around," whispered Ned.

"Wait a little while, my lad. It's very early and the air is pretty
keen. I'll let you out presently. See if you can find papa's field
glasses in there anywhere. I want to take a look at the road with them."

Ned withdrew his little brown fist and could be heard groping around the
dark interior. The captain had so arranged the seats in his "family
wagon" that they could be turned and flattened against the sides of the
vehicle, leaving a clear space in which there was abundant room for Kate
and the children to lie at full length and sleep in comfort, and this
was their tent and sleeping apartment. The captain and his party slept
as we always used to sleep when scouting in the dry season in Arizona,
without shelter of any kind, in the open air.

Presently the little fellow re-appeared at the aperture.

"Here it is, Pike," he whispered. "But you'll have to open the door to
get it out."

Pike turned the handle, took the "binocular," gave Ned a jovial nod and
another shake of the hand, closed the door and strode away signalling
Jim to follow him. When they were out of earshot of the ambulance he
turned:

"Have you heard nothing--no hoof beats?"

"Not a thing," answered Jim. "We can't see the wagon from here, but I
could hear anything if anything had come."

Pike looked wistfully back up the Pass. In one or two places the road
was visible from their lookout, winding and twisting around the rocks.

Three hundred yards away it turned around the foot of a hill and from
that point was utterly lost to view. Pike looked at the sun, then at his
old silver watch. "After seven o'clock, by jove! and not back yet," he
muttered. "It's full time we were off for the Chiquito, but we can't
stir without the captain." Then he turned once more to Jim. "Water the
horses and give them a good measure of barley each, then put some dry
wood on those embers in the niche there--be sure and make no smoke--and
cook some breakfast for us all. I've got to go up to that point yonder.
From there I can see all over the open country to the west, and the
road, too, as far as Jarvis Pass. These glasses will show every moving
object to me, and I haven't a doubt I'll see the captain somewhere out
there in the distance coming back to join us. Darn the mules! I don't
much care whether he gets them or not, but I'd like about two minutes'
private interview with that blasted greaser."

So saying, Pike got a pail of water from the "tank," liberally soused
his head, face and neck in the clear, cold water; then, throwing his
rifle over his shoulder, the brave fellow went springing down the
winding trail to the roadway and then strode westward up the Pass. A few
moments brought him to the base of the little hill, a short, sharp climb
brought him to its crest, and there, kneeling, he adjusted the glasses,
and for a long, long minute swept the open country and the winding road
lying before him in the bright sunshine. He could see every inch of the
way to Jarvis Pass, and when at last he lowered the glass he groaned
aloud: "My God! My God! There's not a living soul in sight."

[Illustration: "MY GOD! THERE'S NOT A LIVING SOUL IN SIGHT."]



CHAPTER IV.

ON THE WATCH.


For fully half an hour poor old Pike remained there at his post of
observation, every now and then vainly scanning the plateau through his
field glass. Meantime he was talking over the situation to himself. "The
jig is up now. I've got to go back to camp presently. I'll have to tell
them the captain is still away and that I have no idea where he has
gone. I might just as well make a clean breast of it and admit that
Manuelito has deserted and gone off with the mules, and that the old man
(for by this half-endearing appellative the soldiers often spoke of
their captain) is in pursuit. I don't suppose he found their trail until
broad daylight anyhow." Then he looked back towards the nook in which
his precious charges were doubtless impatiently awaiting his return. He
could just see the top of the ambulance over the ledge of rock that hid
it from the road. "Jim is just giving them his breakfast about this
time," he went on with his self-communion. "They could not eat another
mouthful if I were to go back now with my bad news. Better wait until
they've had a square meal before I tell them. They can bear it better
then."

Still the stout-hearted veteran would not give up hope. Again he swept
the road with his glass, searching wistfully for some little dust cloud
or other sign of coming horseman across the wide, open plateau, but all
was silence and desolation, and, at last, feeling that he must go back
to camp and get something to eat, he shouldered his rifle and went down
the hill, his heart heavy as lead.

Of course it was still possible for him to hitch up the team and make a
run for it, with Kate and the children, for Sunset Crossing, but he felt
confident that neither Kate nor little Ned would listen to such a
project if it involved leaving the captain behind. There was yet a
chance of his old commander's returning in time. Although he was not to
be seen anywhere over the twenty-mile stretch towards Jarvis Pass it was
all the more probable that he might have found Manuelito's trail leading
into the mountains north or south of the gorge in which they were now
hiding. The Mexican had long been employed in the pack train and had
been up through this range towards Chevelon Fork--he had heard him say
so. Very probably, therefore, he had struck out for the old "short cut"
back to the Verde. It was impracticable for wagons but easy enough for
mules--and it lay, so Pike judged, ten or fifteen miles south of the
Pass. The very thing! It would be the most natural course for him to
follow since the signal fire west of Snow Lake had showed them the
evening previous that the Indians were on their trail. Doubtless the
captain had reasoned it out on the same line and ridden southward along
the western base of the range until he had overtaken his treacherous
employé. A huge shoulder of the mountain shut off the view in that
direction, but the theory seemed so probable to Pike that his spirits
began to rise again as he struck the road Why! It might readily be that
at this moment the captain was not more than a mile or two away, and
hurrying back, fast as the mules would let him, to join the loved ones
whom he had left at camp.

"It's a theory worth banking on for an hour or two at least," said Pike
to himself. "By Jinks! I'll swear to it as long as it can possibly hold
good. There's no use in letting them worry their hearts out--those poor
little kids. God be with us and help me to bring them safely through!"
And so, much comforted in spirit, the old trooper--half New England
Puritan, half wild frontiersman--strode briskly down the road,
determined that he would make no move for the Colorado until he knew
from the evidence of his own eyes that the Apaches were coming in
pursuit.

The shortest way from Jarvis Pass to the point where they now lay
resting, was by way of the road along which they had come the night
before, on both sides of which, as has been said, the country lay
comparatively clear and open for miles to both north and south. Pike
felt certain that with the aid of his glass he could see the Indians
almost as soon as they got out upon the plain and while still many a
long mile away. Then there would be abundant time to bundle their
supplies into the ambulance, run it back to the road, stow Kate and the
children safely in the interior and whip up for "the Chiquito," leaving
their pursuers far behind. What a mercy it is, thought Pike, that these
Tontos have no horses! The captain, too, he argued, even if he had not
started before, would have an eye on that road wherever he was, and
would gallop for camp the moment he saw the distant signs of the coming
foe.

Even as he trudged along, whistling loudly now by way of conveying an
idea of jollity to the anxious little party at the ambulance, Pike's
keen eyes were scanning the mountain sides. North of the Pass the ground
did not begin to rise to any extent until fully half a mile away, but
southward the ascent began almost at the roadside and was so steep as to
be in places almost precipitous. A thick growth of scrub oak, cedar and
juniper covered the mountain and here and there a tall tree shot up like
some leafy giant among its humbler neighbors; and, standing boldly out
on the very point where the heights turned southward, was a vertical
ledge of solid rock. Pike stopped instantly. "Now that's a watch-tower
as is a watch-tower!" he exclaimed. "I'll scramble up and have a look
from there before I do another thing." So saying he left the road and
pushing his way among the stunted trees and over rocks and bowlders he
soon began a moderately steep climb. Long accustomed to mountain
scouting, the craft of the old Indian fighter was manifest in his every
movement. He carefully avoided bending or breaking the merest twig among
the branches, and in stepping he never set foot on turf or soft earth,
but skipped from rock to rock, wherever possible, so as to leave no
"sign" behind him. It was more a matter of habit than because he
believed it necessary to conceal his trail from the Indians in this
case. No human being on earth can follow an enemy, like an Apache; a
bent twig, a flattened bit of sod, even a tiny impression in the loose
sand or rocky surface will catch his eye in an instant, and tell him
volumes. Pike knew well that there was no such thing as hiding the trail
of his party, and thinking of them he stopped to take breath and look
down. Their little fastness was hidden from him by the trees, but he
could see the baggage wagon down in the road, and, being unwilling to
have Kate and the little ones worrying about his long continued absence,
he set up a loud and cheery shout.

"Hullo--o--o Jim!"

Jim's voice came back on the instant. "What d'you want?"

"Just save a little breakfast for the captain and me, will you? We'll be
hungry as wolves when we get in."

"Is papa there?" piped up little Ned in his childish treble.

"No--he's down around the west side. He'll be in presently. I look for
him every minute. He's all right, Ned."

"Where you at?" shouted Jim again in his southern vernacular.

"Up here on the hill. I'm going a piece farther to look at a big rock.
I'll be down in ten or twenty minutes."

And so having cheered and re-assured them, Pike pushed on again. A few
minutes' sharp climbing brought him to the base of the ledge which
proved to be far bigger and higher than he had supposed, and all the
better for his purpose. Clambering to the top he could hardly repress a
shout of exultation. Not only had he now a commanding view of all the
plateau over to the ridge through which wound Jarvis Pass, but he could
even see over beyond towards Snow Lake, while northward for several
miles the western foothills of the range were open to his view. It was
by long odds the best lookout he could have found and he only regretted
that his view southward was still shut off. Adjusting his binocular he
again gazed long and carefully over all the plain and especially along
the western edge of the range to the north, but the search was fruitless
as before. Not a living, moving object was in sight.

Finding an easy descent on the side farthest from camp and opposite that
on which he had clambered to the top Pike half slid, half swung himself
to the base again, and there he came upon a sight that filled his soul
with joy. From base to summit the ledge was probably fifty feet in
height and was so far tilted over on the western side as to have an
overhang of at least fifteen. More than this, there was a great cleft
near the base and an excavation or hollow running inwards and downwards,
perhaps fifteen feet more. Pike went in to explore, and, to his farther
satisfaction, found a "tank" where the water had gathered from the
melting snows and in the rainy season. He tasted it and found it cool
and fresh, and then, sprawling at full length, he drank eagerly.

"What a find!" he almost shouted, with glee. "We can store Kate and the
children back in there, throw up a little barrier of rock at the front
with loopholes for our rifles. Not a bullet or arrow can reach us from
any direction except the tops of those trees yonder, and God help the
Tonto that tries to climb 'em. And, even if the captain don't come, by
Jinks! we can stand off all the Apaches in Arizona. It won't be more
than three days before Al Sieber will be galloping out with a swarm of
the old boys at his back, and if Jim and I, in such a fort as this,
can't lick Es-Kirninzin and his whole gang, call me a 'dough boy!'"

The more he explored, the better was Pike pleased with the situation,
and in five minutes he had made up his mind what to do. The little nook
in which the party had been hiding was all very well for the night and a
good refuge for the horses as well as the human beings, but in broad
daylight the Indians would have no difficulty in finding and surrounding
it, and there was hardly any space within its rocky walls which would be
safe from bullet or arrow when once the assailants got up the hillside.
Here, however, they could stand a siege with almost perfect safety. From
above or from the flanks the Indians could not reach them at all, and if
they attacked from the front--up hill--nothing but a simultaneous and
preconcerted rush of the whole band could succeed, and Pike knew the
Apache well enough to feel secure against that possibility.

Now it was possible to wait for the captain indefinitely. If he got back
in abundant time for them to load up and push out for the Colorado
Chiquito before the Indians reached the Pass--well and good. If he did
not--well, thought Pike, from here I can see the scoundrels when they
are still miles away, and all we've got to do is stock this cave with
blankets, provisions and ammunition, build our breastwork and let 'em
come. "With Kate and the kids out of harm's way, back in that hole, I
wouldn't ask anything better than to have those whelps of Tontos trail
us up here and then attempt to rout us out. We'd make some of 'em sick
Indians; wouldn't we, old girl?" wound up the ex-corporal apostrophizing
his Henry rifle.

Greatly elated over his discovery, Pike went scrambling down the rocky
hillside in the direction of camp. He no longer took any precautions
about concealing his "trail." He well knew that in the two or three
trips it would take to bring their stores and then Kate and the children
up to the cave, such "signs" would be left that the Apaches could follow
without the faintest hesitation.

Five minutes brought him into the midst of his charges, and here for a
moment the stout-hearted soldier was well nigh unmanned. Instantly he
was besieged with eager and anxious inquiry about papa, and poor little
Nellie, who had come running eagerly forward when she heard his cheery
voice, looked wistfully beyond him in search of her father, and seeing
at last that Pike had come alone, she clasped her little arms about his
knees and, looking imploringly up in his face, burst into tears and
begged him, amid her sobs, to say why papa did not come. Bending down,
he raised her in his strong arms and hugged her tight to his heart.

[Illustration: BENDING DOWN HE RAISED HER IN HIS STRONG ARMS.]

"Don't cry, little sweetheart," he plead. "Don't worry, pet. Papa isn't
far away. He's coming soon and I've got such a beautiful playhouse for
you and Ned and Kate up there on the hill. We won't go up just now, for
we all want to be here to give papa his breakfast when he comes in. And
my! how hungry I am, Nellie! Won't you give old Pike some coffee now,
and some bacon and _frijoles_?"

Nellie, like a little woman, strove to dry her tears and minister to the
wants of her staunch old friend, the corporal. Ned manfully repressed
his own anxiety and helped to comfort his little sister, but Kate
retired behind the ambulance and wept copiously. She knew that something
must be wrong. No mere matter of a mule astray would keep the captain
from "the childer" all this long while. Black Jim had set the coffee pot
and skillet again on the coals and in a few moments had a breakfast
piping hot, all ready for the present camp commander who, meantime,
slung aside his slouch hat and neck-handkerchief, rolled up his sleeves
and was giving himself a plentiful sluicing of cold water from one of
the "tanks" below them. Then, as he went up to take his rations, he sung
out gaily to Ned:

"Here, Ned, my boy. We ought to have a sentry posted to present arms to
the captain when he comes in. Get your rifle and mount guard until I get
through here." And Ned, proud to be so employed, and out in the Indian
country, too, was presently pacing up and down on the side nearest the
road, with all the gravity and importance of a veteran soldier.

Pike made great pretence of having a tremendous appetite and made little
Nell help him to coffee twice, refusing to take sugar except from her
hand. Once during his repast, poor old Kate came forth from behind the
ambulance, and with her apron to her eyes slowly approached them, but
the trooper sternly warned her back, saying no word but pointing
significantly to the ambulance. He did not mean to have the little ones
upset by the nurse's lamentations. His "square meal" finished, he asked
Nellie to see to the breakfast for her father being carefully kept in
readiness and then, sauntering off towards the road, called Jim to
follow him.

Then, while they were apparently examining the bolts of the baggage
wagon, he gave the darkey his instructions.

"Jim, I don't know when the captain will get back or how far he's gone,
but I haven't a dread or fear of any kind now. Up there where you see
that big gray rock I've found a cave that is the most perfect defensive
position I ever saw. No bullet can reach it from any point, and on the
contrary, from the mouth of the cave, we command the whole hillside. Now
if those Apaches are bound to follow, they ought to be along here about
noon. If the captain gets here in plenty of time we'll pull out for the
Chiquito. If he doesn't I mean to move the whole outfit up to the cave.
I want you now to roll and strap all the blankets; to get the provisions
and everything of that kind in shape so that we can easily 'pack' them,
then I'm going back to the top of the rock to keep a look out. I can see
way beyond Jarvis Pass, and if the Indians are following I'll spot them
before they get within ten miles of us. See?"

Quarter of an hour later Pike was once more on the top of the rock.
First he glanced at his watch. Just nine o'clock. Then he sprawled at
full length upon the blanket he had brought with him, levelled his
glasses and, resting his elbows on the rock, gazed long and earnestly
over the winding road. Presently he sat up, whipped off the red silk
handkerchief about his neck, carefully wiped the eye and object glasses
of his binocular and his own tired old eyes and, once more prone on his
stomach, gazed again; then twisted the screw a trifle as though to get a
better focus; gazed still another time; lowered the glass; rose to his
knees, his eyes gleaming brilliantly and his teeth setting hard; once
more levelled the glass and looked with all his soul in his eyes and
then slowly let the faithful binocular fall to the blanket by his side
as he spoke aloud:

"By Jove! They're coming."



CHAPTER V.

THE PRISONER.


What Pike saw, far over on the plateau towards Jarvis Pass would perhaps
have attracted no attention from tourist or casual looker through a
field glass, but to him--an old trooper, Indian fighter and mountaineer,
it conveyed a world of meaning. Against the dark background of that
distant ridge and upon the dun-colored flat along which the road
meandered, the old corporal could just make out a number of dingy white
objects--mere specks--bobbing and twinkling in the blazing sunshine.
Nothing of the kind had been there when he looked before and he knew
only too well what it meant. Those dirty white specks were the
breech-clouts and turbans worn by nearly all the Tonto warriors in
preference to any other head-gear or clothing,--a cheap cotton cloth
being always kept in abundant supply at the agencies solely for their
use. Some of them, it is true, wore no turban at all, their luxuriant
growth of coarse black hair tumbling about their shoulders and trimmed
off in a "bang" just level with their fierce, beady eyes, being all the
head covering they needed. But the breech-clout was universal and some
few even wore loose cotton shirts. These, with the moccasin and leggin
invariably worn, the leggin generally in a dozen folds at the ankle,
made the war toilet of the intractable Tonto. There was none of the
finery of the proud warriors of the plains--the Sioux, Cheyenne or
Crow--but for all that, when those Apaches took to the war-path, the
soldiers used to say, "It meant business."

"They will be here in three hours at the rate they're coming; three
short hours, too, for those beggars can keep up a jog trot all day long.
Now for it! captain or no captain."

With that brief soliloquy Pike slid down from his perch, and for the
second time that morning made his way down the hillside and back to
camp. Here he found Kate and the children as full of eager and anxious
inquiry about papa as before, and could only comfort them by saying that
the mules must have run far to the south and were proving more than
ordinarily obstinate about coming back. Still, he said, papa is sure to
be here before noon, and indeed he hoped, and more than half believed,
that such would be the case. Knowing the danger that menaced his little
ones, it could not be that the captain would not use every endeavor to
get back to them before the Indians could reach the Pass.

Jim had obeyed his instructions to the letter. There were the two big
rolls of blankets, securely strapped; there were the supplies; the
bacon, bread, _frijoles_, coffee, sugar, canned meats and vegetables.
Even some jams and jellies for the children, together with the coffee
pot, skillets, plates, cups and saucers all stowed away in the big iron
kettle that hung under the wagon and in a pail or two, ready to be
plumped into the ambulance if a start was to be made for the river, or
"toted" up the hill if the order was to take to the cave. And then the
irrepressible propensity of the negro had cropped out again. There lay
Black Jim peacefully snoring in the sunshine, oblivious of all danger.

"Now, Kate, as the captain has my horse, I'm going to borrow his
awhile," said Pike. "I want to ride down the range a little way and see
if I can't help him home with the mules. You are perfectly safe here.
Just as safe, at least, as you would be if I were with you. I wouldn't
go and leave you if it were not absolutely necessary, as I believe it to
be. You'll take care of her, won't you, Ned, my boy?"

The little fellow looked up bravely. "Nellie and I aren't afraid," he
said. "Only we do want papa to come and get something to eat. Jim told
me not to let the fire go out and I put on a little dry wood now and
then."

But Kate sat with her apron to her eyes, rocking to and fro in
speechless misery and dread, Nellie striving vainly to comfort her. All
unconscious of the coming peril, the little ones were fearless and
almost content. They had no sympathy for their old nurse's terror. Pike
stopped and spoke once again to Kate before riding away, but in ten
minutes, mounted on a fresh and spirited horse, with his rifle athwart
the pommel and the field glasses in their case swinging by their strap
from his shoulder, he cantered boldly up the Pass and was soon well out
upon the open plain. His idea was to ride straight out to the west along
the road, five or six miles and more if necessary, scour the country
southward with the glasses in search of Captain Gwynne, and if he saw
nothing of him to get near enough to the advancing Apaches to see about
how large a party they were, then to whirl about, put spurs to his
horse, ride like the wind for camp, get Kate, the children, Jim and the
blankets and provisions up to the cave and be all ready for the Tontos
when they came. "Gregg" was curveting and prancing even now, eager for a
gallop, but Pike's practised hand kept him down to a moderate gait and
in this way he rode steadily westward towards a distant rise in the
midst of the undulating plateau, and there he felt confident he could
see all that there was to be seen. It was just ten o'clock when he
reined in at the top of a gentle ascent and unslung his glasses. First
he looked towards Jarvis Pass to see how far away were the enemy and how
many in number. Despite the windings of the road and occasional stunted
trees or bushes, the first glance through the binocular placed them at
once. Yes, there they were in plain view--certainly not more than four
miles away. Not only could he count the breech-clouts and turbans now,
but the swarthy, sinewy bodies could be made out as they came bobbing at
their jog trot along the trail. "Twenty-five in that party at least,"
muttered Pike, "and coming for all they're worth. But what on earth are
they bunched so for? There seems to be half a dozen in a clump, right in
the middle of the road." Long and earnestly he studied them; a strange,
worried expression coming into his face. Then, just as he had done at
the rock, Pike wiped the glasses and his own eyes, and then gazed again.

"By heaven!" he muttered at last. "That's a prisoner, sure as fate, that
they are lashing and goading along ahead of them. Who on earth can it
be? Oh, God grant it isn't the captain!" Rapidly then he swept the
plateau southward, searching the foothills of the range south of the
Pass, his whole heart praying for some glimpse of horse and rider, but
it was all unavailing. Then, with one more look at the coming foe, poor
Pike turned, with almost a groan of misery and anxiety, gave "Gregg" one
touch of the spur and a flip of the reins, and away he flew at full
speed back to his duty at the Pass. One minute he reined in as he neared
the gorge to note the direction taken by Manuelito. There were the
tracks of the two mules, and running southward out across the open
plain, but the captain had turned south almost the instant he had got
out from among the foothills. His trail started parallel with the range.
Surely then he ought to have returned to camp by this time.

[Illustration: AWAY HE FLEW AT FULL SPEED.]

And now, as once again he neared the little fastness in the rocks, Pike
drew rein and rode at easy, jaunty lope down the Pass. He would not
alarm his charges by hoof-beat that indicated the faintest haste. When
he and "Gregg" came into view no one of the anxious watchers could have
dreamed for an instant that he had seen a horde of fierce Apaches
hastening to overtake them.

"Just as I thought," he sung out cheerily. "The captain went right down
the range to the south and the mules strayed off across the plateau, so
they missed each other and he won't come back till he gets them. It's
all right, but I expect he's pretty hungry by this time." Then,
springing from the saddle, he picked little Nell up in his arms:

"And now, baby, you want to see the beautiful house I found for you,
don't you? We'll all go up and take a look at it and have lunch up
there--and lots of fun--while we wait for papa." And then with a kiss he
set her down and stalked over to where Jim was still snoring in the
sunshine!

"Wake up, Jim!" he cried, giving him a lively shake or two. "Wake up and
give me a lift here. Nellie wants to see her stone house."

It took some hard shaking--it generally does--to rouse the darkey from
his slumber, but Jim presently sat up, rubbed his eyes, looked around
him, and then, as though suddenly recovering his faculties, sprang to
his feet.

"Unsaddle 'Gregg' and put the saddle, bridle and blanket with the other
stuff, Jim," whispered Pike. "We must take our horse equipments and
harness with us. We've got to move up to the cave. No hurry, mind you.
You fetch the blankets first. I'll carry Nellie."

Then calling to Ned to bring his Ballard--there were lots of squirrels
up the hill--a fiction that can hardly have been very heavily charged
against him, Pike quickly lifted Nellie to his shoulders and strode off
up the rocks. "You come, too, Kate. It's quite a climb but it'll do you
good," he shouted, and presently he had his whole procession strung out
behind him and clambering from bowlder to bowlder. Long before they
reached the ledge they had to let poor Kate recover breath and, after
one or two halts of this kind, Pike sent Jim ahead with the blankets and
bade him come back at once and tow, push or "boost" the stout Irishwoman
to their destination. At last the rock was reached, Ned and Nellie
shouting with delight over the wonderful cave and speedily making
themselves at home in its inmost recesses, Kate breathless and exhausted
and bemoaning the fates that brought her on such an uncanny trip. The
blankets were spread out on the smooth surface of the rock within the
great, gloomy hollow. Jim was sent down for another load while Pike
clambered up to his watch-tower and took a long look with his glass. The
Indians had not yet reached the rise from which he had counted their
numbers at ten o'clock.

In an hour more all the provisions they could need for several days,
more blankets and pillows, all the arms and ammunition, all the harness
and horse equipments had been lugged up to and safely stowed in and
about the cave. "They'll burn the wagons, blast them!" muttered Pike to
himself, "but we can leave the horses there. They won't harm them
because they will want them to get away with in case they find the
cavalry on their trail. The chances are the horses can be recovered, but
darn me if I'll let 'em have saddle, bridle or harness to run off
anything with." Then once more he had climbed to his post and was
diligently watching the road, while Jim, obedient to orders, was rolling
rocks and bowlders around to the opening of the cave.

"What's thim for?" demanded Kate.

"Corporal Pike's goin' to build a wall here to keep out the bears," said
Jim, with lowered voice and a significant glance at the children
prattling happily together at the back of the cave, and poor Kate knew
'twas no use asking questions.

And now, through the glasses, Pike could see the Tontos gathered on the
low hillock which had been the western limit of his morning ride. They
seemed to have come suddenly upon "Gregg's" hoof prints and to have
halted for consultation. Full half an hour they tarried there and the
children began to clamor for the promised luncheon. Sauntering down by a
roundabout way the veteran picked up an armful of dry twigs, sticks and
dead boughs and tossed them down at the mouth of the cave. Then, behind
the rock, he built a small fire of the dryest twigs he could find,
explaining that he didn't want smoke in the dining room, and soon had
his skillet heating and his kettle of water at the boil. Jim was
directed to cook all that was needed for luncheon and to have plenty for
the captain, who would be sure to come back mighty hungry in course of
the afternoon, and the corporal was speedily at his post again. What
could it mean? The Tontos were still hanging about that little hill six
miles out there on the plain. Was it possible they had abandoned the
pursuit?

Noon came; one o'clock, two o'clock. They had all had luncheon, and Pike
had been scrambling up and down the rock like a monkey, and still there
was no forward movement of the foe. Every time he looked they were still
lounging or squatting, so he judged, about the stunted trees on the
knoll, and there was nothing to explain the delay. It must have three
o'clock when at last the binocular told him they were again in motion
and coming rapidly toward him. He could see the dirty white
breech-clouts floating in the breeze and could almost distinguish the
forms of the warriors themselves. Leaving his glass on the top of the
ledge he slid down to the base again, called quietly to Jim, and the two
men set to work to build their breastwork. Bowlders big and little,
rocks of every possible shape and size were all around them, and in
three-quarters of an hour they had a stout parapet fully four feet high,
whose loopholes commanded the approach up the hillside, and yet were
secure from fire from above, below or either flank. Then back he went to
his watch-tower.

[Illustration: THE TWO MEN SET TO WORK TO BUILD THEIR BREASTWORK.]

The instant he adjusted the glass and levelled it at the road, Pike gave
vent to an expletive that need not be recorded here, but that indicated
in him a most unusual degree of excitement. No wonder. The Tontos were
now in plain view--only two miles and a half out there on the
plain,--and though they were spread out, as a rule, to the right and
left of the road, quite a number of them came jogging along the road
itself, and right in the midst of these, led by an Indian in front and
guarded by two or three in rear--were the missing mules. Even at that
distance Pike could swear to them. On they came, rapidly, relentlessly,
well knowing that even if their human prey had escaped them the big
wagon must be somewhere about the Pass and loaded still with provisions.
Nearer--nearer jogged the leaders; but now the old trooper was carefully
studying a dark object on the back of the foremost mule--a pack of some
kind--and marvelling what it could be,--wondering, too, what they had
done with their prisoner. He was sure they had one as they came along
that morning. At last they were within a mile of the heights and the
western entrance to the Pass, and now their speed slackened. They began
opening out farther and farther to the right and left, and the nearer
they came to the foothills the slower and steadier became their advance.
The mules and their attendants were kept well in the background and for
the life of him Pike could not tell what that queer looking "pack" could
be. Slowly, steadily, the Tonto skirmish line came on. Every moment
brought them nearer to the mouth of the Pass. The sun was low down in
the west and threw long shadows of the approaching foe before them.
Little by little, crouching, almost crawling, the more daring spirits
among them would give a spring and a rapid run to the front of forty or
fifty yards. Evidently they expected to be greeted with a sharp fire
somewhere about the Pass, and did not dare push ahead in their usual
order. And now they had reached the entrance to the defile. Two or
three, as flankers, remained well out to the right and left among the
trees; two or three stole cautiously ahead down the road. Pike watched
their every move, yet found himself every few seconds fixing his gaze on
that foremost mule now placidly cropping the scant herbage while the
skirmish line pushed ahead. Presently a signal of some kind was given
and repeated. The Indians in charge of the mules hastened with them to
the mouth of the Pass, and as they did so, that singular pack came
closer under Pike's powerful glass.

"It's their prisoner," he uttered. "They have driven and goaded him
until he fainted from exhaustion. Then they had to wait for the mules to
be brought up to the hillock--then lashed the poor fellow upon the back
of one of them and pushed ahead." For some purpose of their own they
were keeping him alive, and death by fearful torture was something to be
looked forward to in the near future. The corporal continued to gaze as
though fascinated until the leading mule got almost under him, and then
he gave a groan of helplessness and misery as he exclaimed, "My God! My
God! It's Manuelito!"



CHAPTER VI.

MANUELITO'S FATE.


For ten minutes Pike remained at his post of observation on top of the
rock, watching the Indians as they slowly and cautiously moved down the
Pass in the direction of the abandoned camp. The children, worn out with
their play, and the fatigues of the climb, were sleeping soundly in the
little cave on the peak,--Nellie, with her fair head pillowed in patient
Kate's lap. Black Jim, too, was lying where the sun shone full upon him,
and snoring away as placidly as earlier in the morning.

Kate, far back in the cave, had no idea what was going on in the Pass
below; but her soul was still filled with dread and anxiety. The old
trooper knew well that just as soon as the Indians came to the wagons
and found them abandoned, their first care would be to secure all the
plunder from them possible. Then they would probably dispose of
Manuelito after their own cruel designs; and then, if darkness did not
come on in the meantime, they would probably begin their search for the
fugitives. There would be no difficulty to Indian trailers in following
their track up the mountain side; of this Pike was well assured. But the
wary old trooper had taken the precaution, every time that he and Jim
had gone to and from the camp, to take a roundabout path, so as to bring
their trail around the base of the mountain in front of the cave, and in
this way the Indians in following would come directly in front of their
barricade at the mouth and from sixty to a hundred yards down the hill
and within easy range and almost sure shot of the defenders.

And now, peering down into the road far below, Pike could see that the
leading Indians had come in sight of the big baggage wagon and that they
were signalling to those in the rear, for almost instantly three or four
sinewy, athletic young fellows sprang up among the trees and bowlders on
the north side of the Pass, and crouching like panthers, half crawling,
half springing, they went flitting from rock to rock or tree to tree
until lost to the view of the lone watcher on the great ledge, but it
was evident that their purpose was to reconnoitre the position from that
side, as well as to surround the objects of their pursuit should they
still be there. Almost at the same instant, too, an equal number of the
Tontos came leaping like goats a short distance up the slope towards
Pike's unconscious garrison, but speedily turned eastward, and, adopting
precisely the same tactics as those of their comrades across the road,
rapidly, but with the utmost stealth and noiselessness, bore down on the
abandoned nook.

"Mighty lucky we got out of that and found this," muttered Pike. "It
won't be five minutes before they satisfy themselves that there is no
one left to defend those wagons or the horses--and the moment they
realize it there'll be a yell of delight."

Sure enough! After a brief interval of silence, there came from below a
shout of exultation, answered instantly by triumphant yells from the
Indians in the roadway, and echoed by a wail of mortal terror from poor
Kate, crouching below in the cave. Pike lost no time in sliding down the
rocks and striving to comfort her. Nellie, clinging to her nurse, was
terrified by the sounds. Little Ned, pale, but with his boyish face set
and determined, grasped once more his little Ballard rifle, and looked
up in the corporal's face as much as to say: Count on me for one of your
fighting men! Trembling, shivering and calling on the blessed saints,
poor Kate stood there wringing her hands, the very personification of
abject fright. Jim, coming around to the mouth of the cave, spoke
sternly to her; told her she ought to be ashamed of herself for setting
so bad an example to little Nell. "Look at Ned," he said, "see how the
little man behaves; his father would be proud of him." And then Pike
spoke up. "Don't worry, don't be so afraid, Kate; they have got all they
want just now. They'll just plunder and gorge themselves with food, and
then they will have Manuelito to amuse themselves with. It is getting
too late in the day for them to attempt to follow us. They have got too
much to occupy themselves with anyhow. Don't you worry, old girl; if
they do come this way, as they may to-morrow morning, we'll give them a
dose that will make them wish they had never seen a Yankee."

[Illustration: NELLIE, CLINGING TO HER NURSE, WAS TERRIFIED BY THE
SOUNDS.]

The Indian shouts redoubled; every accent was that of triumph. They were
evidently rejoicing over the rich find in the ambulance and the baggage
wagon. Of course a great deal of property had been left there for which
Pike's party would have no possible use up here in the cave, and this
included plenty of food. The horses, too, delighted the Tontos, and, as
Pike said, they would doubtless be occupied some little time with the
division of the spoils, and longer in having a grand feast.

Looking down the road he could see the two mules browsing peacefully
side by side, Manuelito still lashed to the back of one of them. Two
young Indians stood guard over him and their four-footed captives; but
even these fellows were by no means forgotten, for every now and then
Pike could see their friends running back to them with something to eat
and, after exchanging a word or two, hurrying again to the wagons.

After a while poor Kate, partially assured by Pike's words, but more
shamed into silence by the bravery of little Ned, subsided into a corner
of the cave, and there seated herself, moaning and weeping, but no
longer making any outcry. Pike decided that it would be necessary for
him to go once more to his watch-tower, and as far as he could, watch
the programme of the Apaches the rest of the day. Before starting,
however, he called up Jim and gave him his instructions: "You see that
the sun is almost down. The chances are that they will be so much
interested in what they have found that darkness will settle down upon
us before they fairly get through with their jubilee. Then, again, it
may be that the bloody hounds will have some fun of their own with poor
Manuelito to-night. I've no sympathy for the scoundrel, but I can't bear
the idea of one who has served with us so long being tortured before our
very eyes. We can't help it, however, there are only two of us here, and
our first object is to protect these poor little children, and that
wretched old Kate of a nurse there. Stay here with your rifle behind the
barricade. I'll whistle if any Indian attempts to follow our trail; then
I'll come down here as quickly as possible. But keep a bright lookout
yourself. Watch those trees down there to the front. Note everything
occurring along the road as far as you can see. There goes one of the
beggars back to that point now. Even in the midst of their fun they
don't neglect precautions. See! he's going to climb up there on that
little hill just where I was watching this morning. Yes, there he goes.
Now you will see him lie down flat when he gets to the top, and peer
over the rocks to the west. What he is looking out for, I don't know,
but it may be that they expect the cavalry even more than we do. They
possibly have had signal fires from the reservation warning them that
the cavalry have already left the Verde. I hope and pray they have. Now,
keep up your grit, Jim; don't let anything phaze you. If you want help,
or see anything, whistle, and I'll come down."

Already it was growing darker down the gorge. Pike could see that the
Apaches had lighted a fire in the road close to the wagons. Evidently
they were going to begin some cooking on their own account, and were
even now distributing the provisions they had found. Two of them had
released Manuelito from the mule, and the poor devil was now seated,
bound and helpless, on a rock by the roadside, looking too faint and
terrified to live. The captain's field glass revealed a sorry sight to
the old soldier's eyes as he peered down at the little throng of savages
about the baggage wagon, now completely gutted of its contents; and
though he despised the Mexican as a traitor and thief and coward, it was
impossible not to feel compassion for him in his present awful plight.
There was something most pitiable in the fellow's clasped hands and
abject despair. He had lived too long in Arizona not to know the fate
reserved for prisoners taken by the Indians, and he knew, and Pike knew,
that, their hunger once satisfied, the chances were ten to one they
would then turn their attention entirely to their captive, and have a
wild and furious revel as they slowly tortured him to death.

[Illustration: THE POOR DEVIL WAS NOW SEATED, BOUND AND HELPLESS, ON A
ROCK BY THE ROADSIDE.]

The sun had gone down behind the range, far over to the west, as Pike
reached once more the top of his watch-tower, and every moment the
darkness deepened down the Pass. Up here he could not only see the
baggage wagon in the road, but the top of the ambulance, and two of the
horses were also visible, and occasionally the lithe forms of the Tontos
scurrying about in the firelight. Evidently the old cook fire in the
cleft of the rocks had been stirred up and was now being utilized by
half the band, while the others toasted the bacon and roasted _frijoles_
down in the road. The yells had long since ceased. Many of the warriors
were squatting about the baggage wagon gnawing at hard bread or other
unaccustomed luxuries, but those at the ambulance were chattering like
so many monkeys and keeping up a hammering, the object of which Pike
could not at first imagine, until he suddenly remembered the locked box
under the driver's seat, the key of which was always carried by the
captain. Then a flash of hope shot over him as he recalled the fact that
when they left their station Captain Gwynne had stowed away in there
three or four bottles of whiskey or brandy. It would take them but a
little while, he knew, to break into the enclosure, and then there would
be a bacchanalian scene.

"Oh, that it were a barrel instead of a bottle or two," groaned Pike.
"As it is there's just enough to exhilarate the gang and keep them,
singing and dancing all night; but a barrel!--that would stupefy them
one after another and Jim and I could have gone down and murdered the
whole crowd. Not one of 'em would ever have known what hurt him."

Ha! a sound of crashing, splitting wood. A rush, a scuffle--then a yell
of triumph and delight. Every Indian in the roadway sprang to his feet
and darted off up the rocks to swell the chorus at the ambulance. Even
Manuelito's guard left his prisoner to take care of himself and ran like
a deer to claim his share of the madly craved "fire water." A few years
before and most of them hardly knew its taste, but some of their number
had more than once made "John Barleycorn's" acquaintance and had told
wondrous tales of its effects. In less than a minute, with the single
exception of their sentry on the hill, every Tonto was struggling,
shouting, laughing and leaping about the family wagon, and Pike knew
from the sounds that the captain's little store of liquor was rapidly
disappearing. Every moment the noise waxed louder and fiercer as the
deep potations of the principal Indians did their poisonous work. There
were shrill altercations, vehement invective and reproach; Pike even
hoped for a minute that there had been enough after all to start them
fighting among themselves, but the hope was delusive. All was gloom and
darkness now in the Pass except immediately around the two fires. He
could no longer see Manuelito or the mules, but suddenly he heard a
sound of a simultaneous rush and an instant after with hideous shouts
and yells the whole band leaped into view and went tearing down into the
road and up to the rocks where their helpless prisoner still sat bound
and helpless--more dead than alive--and Pike heard the shriek of despair
with which the poor fellow greeted his now half crazy captors.

"My God!" groaned the old soldier, "it is awful to have to lurk here and
make no move to help him. He would have cut all our throats without a
twinge of conscience, but I can't see him tortured nor can I lift a hand
to save him. And here's Kate, and those poor little ones. They can't
help hearing his cries and shrieks. What an awful night 'twill be for
them! No use of my staying up here now. I must go down to them."

Far back in the black recesses of the cave he found them,--Nellie
trembling and sobbing with her head pillowed in Kate's lap and covered
with a shawl so as to shut out, if possible, the awful sounds from
below. The Irishwoman, too, was striving to stop her ears and was at the
same time frantically praying to all the saints in the calendar for help
in their woeful peril, and for mercy for that poor wretch whose mad
cries and imprecations rang out on the still night air even louder than
the yells of his captors. Manful little Ned sat close by his sister's
side, patting her arm from time to time with one hand while he clung to
his rifle with the other. The boy did not shed a tear, though his voice
trembled and his lips quivered as he answered Pike's cheery words. Jim
knelt at his post at the stone breastwork keeping vigilant watch, though
his teeth chattered despite his best efforts, and his eyes were
doubtless bulging out of their sockets.

"You mustn't be sitting here all in the dark," said Pike. "Keep up a
little fire, Ned, my boy. It's so far back and so far up the hill that
the Indians cannot possibly see the light it may make even were they to
come around to the east side of the mountain. They won't to-night,
though. They've found papa's stock of whiskey and brandy and are already
half drunk. They'll lie around there all night long and never come
hunting for us until after sunrise to-morrow, if they do then. We'll
just have fun with these fellows until the cavalry come from Verde, as
come they will, I haven't a doubt, now that papa has found that he was
cut off and has ridden back on the trail to meet and hurry the troops.
He knows well that you and Jim and I could take care of Nellie and stand
off these beggars until he could reach us. Now, light the lantern and
stow it in that niche yonder. And you, Kate, lie down and cover yourself
and the children with blankets. I'm going out where I can watch what
they're doing."

So saying, Pike took his rifle and the field glasses and, after a word
with Jim, passed around to the east front of the ledge. It was too dark
to enable him to venture down the bowlders, or to attempt to climb again
to the top of the rock, but he found a spot among the stunted trees from
which he could just see the back part of the baggage wagon and the
Apaches flitting about it in the light of their fire. Leveling his
glasses he could make out that several of the Indians were grouped about
some object in the road, and presently one or two came running to the
spot with buckets of water which they dashed over a prostrate form. It
was Manuelito, who had probably fainted dead away.

Then, as the Mexican apparently began to recover his senses, he was
lifted roughly from the ground and borne, moaning and feebly struggling,
towards the wagon. Into this he was tossed head foremost, so that only
his feet and legs were visible to the anxious watcher up the hill.
Securely bound, and already half dead from the tortures inflicted on
him, unable to move hand or foot, the poor wretch lay there, alternately
praying and weeping. What the next move of the Apaches would be was not
long a matter of doubt. The whole band, with the exception of their
sentinels, were now dancing and leaping about their captive, singing
some devil-inspired chant, which occasionally gave place to yells of
triumph. Presently the younger men began piling up wood under the back
of the wagon--under the Mexican's manacled feet; and then brands and
embers were thrust underneath. Pike turned sick with horror and
helplessness at the sight, for he knew instantly what it meant. The
wagon was to be the wretched Manuelito's funeral pyre. They meant to
burn him to death by inches. Suddenly a bright flame leaped up from the
bottom of the stack of fuel; broader, brighter, fiercer it grew until it
lapped up over the floor of the wagon. A scream of agony rang through
the Pass, answered by jeering laughter and fiendish yells. The next
minute the whole band were circling round the wagon in a wild war-dance;
their yells, their savage song, completely drowned the shrieks of the
tortured man. The whole wagon was soon a mass of flames, and more fuel
was added. Presently the rear axle came down with a crash, sending
showers of sparks whirling through the night air, and Pike turned away
faint and trembling.

Another instant, however, and every faculty was on the alert, every
nerve strung to its highest tension, and the old soldier sprang back to
the cave in answer to Jim's call.

"Look!" whispered the negro. "Look down there! There's some one moving
among those rocks."



CHAPTER VII.

PIKE'S STRANGE DREAM.


Kneeling behind their rocky barrier the two men silently peered into the
darkness down the hill. The great ledge of rock under which they were
hiding concealed from their view the burning fires of the Indians down
in the roadway to the east. But the reflection of the fire could be
plainly seen on the rocks and trees on the north side of the Pass. Here
and there stray beams of light shot through the firs and cedars and
stunted oaks that lay below them among the bowlders; and somewhere down
among these little trees, watchful Jim declared that he had seen
something white moving cautiously and stealthily to and fro. Pike
closely questioned him, whispering his inquiries so as not to catch the
ears of Kate or the children, but Jim stoutly declared that he could not
be mistaken. He had marked it twice, moving from place to place, before
he had quit his post and called to the corporal to come and verify for
himself what he was sure he had seen. For a few moments Pike thought
that it might be the Apache sentinel who had, possibly, left his
position on the little hill across the road, and was seeking on his own
account some clue to the whereabouts of the fugitives from the camp.
Pike had seen one or two Indians running up the road to where the
sentinel was stationed in order to give him some of the plunder which
they had taken from the wagon, and it was now so dark that he could no
longer see objects out on the plain, and, as he could hear approaching
horsemen just as well on this side of the road as on that, it was quite
possible that this Indian was the cause of Jim's warning.

Several minutes passed without either of them seeing anything. Then
suddenly Jim's hand was placed on the corporal's arm, and in a low,
tremulous voice he whispered: "Look! Look!"

Following with his eyes the direction indicated by Jim's hand, Pike
could just see, probably two hundred or two hundred and fifty yards away
down the hillside, something dirty white in color, very slowly and very
stealthily creeping from one bowlder to another. The tops and crests of
the trees and bowlders, as has been said, were tinged by the light of
the fires still burning down in the roadway. The Indian yells were
gradually ceasing as, one after another, seemingly overcome by the
liquor that they had been drinking, they subsided into silence. A number
of them, however, still kept up their monotonous dance, varied every now
and then by a yell of triumph; but the uproar and racket was not to be
compared with what had been going on during the torture to which
Manuelito had been subjected before they had mercifully, though most
horribly, put an end to his sufferings.

Nothing but the embers of the wagon and the unconsumed iron work, of
course, now remained in the road. Pike judged too that the ambulance had
been burned, and that nothing remained of that. But all thought as to
what was going on among the Indians in the Pass was now of little
account as compared with the immediate presence of this object below
him. Could it be one of the Apaches? Could it be the sentinel from the
other side? Its stealthy movements and the noiseless way in which it
seemed to flit from rock to rock gave color to his supposition, and yet
it appeared unnatural to Pike that any one of the Indians should
separate himself from his comrades and go on a still hunt in the dead of
the night for traces of their hated foes.

"I cannot see it now," whispered Jim. "Where is he gone?"

"Behind that big rock that you see touched by the firelight down yonder.
Our trail is just about half way. Look! There it is again! Nearer, too,
by fifty yards. I wish he'd get on top of one of those bowlders where
the light would strike him. Then we might make him out. By Jove! He's
coming up the hill. Whatever you do, don't fire. I'll tend to him."

With straining eyes they watched the strange, stealthy approach of the
mysterious object. Every now and then it would totally disappear from
sight and then, a moment or two afterwards, could again be dimly seen,
crouching along beside some big rock or emerging behind the thick
branches of some stunted tree. Nearer it came until Pike was sure it
must have reached the "trail" they had made in their journeys up and
down the hill.

"I never saw an Apache that could move about in the dark as quickly as
that fellow. Jim, by Jimminy, I'll bet it's no Indian at all!"

"What is it, then?" muttered Jim, whose teeth would chatter a little. He
had all a darkey's dread of "spooks" and was more afraid of a possible
ghost than an actual Tonto.

"That's a lynx or a wild-cat, man! They have a dingy white coat to their
backs, in places at least, and you've only stirred up some mighty small
game. See here, Jim, you're getting nervous. I'll have to call Ned out
here with his little Ballard to take your place if you are going
to--There! What did I tell you?"

A heap of fresh fuel--probably dry cedar boughs--had just been thrown on
the coals by some of the determined dancers down in the road and a broad
glare of firelight illumined the Pass. Again the rocks and trees down in
front of the cave were brilliantly tinged, and, as though determined to
have a good look at these strange "goings on," there suddenly leaped
from the darkness and appeared in view upon the flat top of one of the
biggest bowlders a little four-footed creature gazing with glowing eyes
upon the scene below.

"There's your Indian, James, my boy," softly laughed Pike and, turning,
he called back into the cave:

"Ned, are you asleep?"

"No," was the prompt answer. "Do you want me, Pike?"

"Come here and I'll show you a pretty shot for your Ballard."

Ned was at his side in an instant, bringing his little rifle with him,
and the old soldier pointed down the hill.

"That's what Jim took for an Apache," he said.

[Illustration: "THAT'S WHAT JIM TOOK FOR AN APACHE."]

"So did you, Pike; you needn't try to make fun of me," was Jim's answer,
half surly, half glad, because his fears were now removed.

"Is it a panther?" whispered Ned. "Oh!--can't I take a pop at him?"

"Not a shot. It would simply be telling those blackguards where we were
hiding and spoil all the fun I expect to have in the morning. That's no
panther; they have a tawny hide; but it's the biggest catamount or
wild-cat I ever set eyes on. Now go back to Kate, bundle up in your
blankets and keep warm and go to sleep. Jim and I stand guard to-night."

And, obediently, the boy crept away. Pike looked after him with
moistening eyes--all his jovial, half-laughing manner changing in an
instant.

"God bless the little man! He's as brave and plucky as a boy could be,
and hasn't so much as whimpered once," muttered the ex-corporal to
himself. "What would I not give to know where his father was this
night!"

Then he turned to Jim who had somewhat sulkily drawn away to the other
end of the little parapet.

"Come back, Jim, my boy. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," he said.
"You were perfectly right in keeping such close watch on everything and
anything the least suspicious and I was wrong if I ridiculed it. Now
we've got to divide the night between us. You lie down at once and go to
sleep. I'll keep guard till one or half past; then you relieve me until
daybreak."

And Jim, nothing loth, crept back towards the glowing coals and rolled
himself in his heavy blanket, leaving the old corporal to his solitary
reflections, and these were of a character so gloomy, so full of anxiety
and dread, that one only marvels how he was able to keep up, before Kate
and the children, the appearance of jollity and confidence that had
marked throughout this trying day his whole demeanor.

"I would give anything to know where the captain is to-night!" again he
muttered as his weary eyes gazed over the jagged hillside below him. The
Indian fires were waning again and the gleams of light on rock and tree
were growing fainter and fainter. The sounds of savage revelry, too,
were more subdued, though a hoarse, monotonous chant came up from below.
As has been said, Pike's watch-tower and fortress was fully a quarter of
a mile south of the road and about a third of a mile from the abandoned
camp, but in the absolute silence that reigned in every other quarter
the sounds from the Apache war-dance in that clear mountain air were
almost distinctly audible. The awful groans and cries of Manuelito were
still ringing in his ears, and, to himself, the old soldier confessed
that his nerve was not a little tried by the fearful sights and sounds
of the early evening. It was poor preparation for the fight that he felt
morally certain would speedily follow the rising of the morrow's sun,
but Pike had been through too many an Indian war and in too many tight
places before to "lose his grip," as he expressed it, now.

"If I only had those poor little kids safe with their father nothing
would suit me better than to be here with four or five of the old
'Troop' and let the whole of the Apache nation try to rout me out," he
said to himself. "Even as it is, I'm bloodthirsty enough now, after what
I've seen and heard to-night, to be impatient for their attack. By gad!
we've got a surprise in store for them if only Jim don't get stampeded."

Turning to listen for sounds from his little garrison, Pike could
distinguish two that were audible and that prevailed above all or any
others: Kate was tearfully moaning and praying aloud; Jim placidly
snoring.

"That nigger could lie down and go to sleep, by thunder, if he knew the
world was coming to an end in less than an hour. I'll have to watch here
till nearly dawn and have the strongest coffee I can brew all ready for
him or he'll be going to sleep on his post and letting those hounds
crawl right upon us. Coffee's a good idea! I'll have some myself."

So saying the veteran stole back into the cave, noiselessly filled the
battered coffee-pot and set it on the coals, said a few reassuring words
to Kate and begged her to remember him in her prayers, laughed at her
doleful and despairing reply and returned to his post.

All quiet. Even the wild-cat had disappeared and there was now no longer
light by which he could have detected the creature. Pike almost wished
he hadn't gone, for, as he grimly said, the fellow might have been good
company and kept him from getting sleepy. Little by little the Indian
chant was getting drowsy and the weird dancers, some of the younger
braves, tired of the sport when there were neither admiring squaws or
approving old chiefs to look on. The chiefs in this case, of course, had
consumed the greater portion of the whiskey and were now sleeping off
its soporific effects, and the youngsters could only remain where they
were, keep watch and ward against surprise, and make no move in any
direction until their elders should be themselves again, unless the
sudden coming of enemies should compel them to rouse their leaders from
their drunken slumbers and skip like so many goats for the highest parts
of the mountain.

Looking at his watch as he sipped his tin of coffee Pike noticed that it
was now eleven o'clock. "Oh, if I only knew that all was well with the
captain," he muttered. "And if I only knew where Sieber and the cavalry
were to-night."

Not until after two o'clock in the morning did the old soldier decide
that it was time to "turn over the command" and seek a little rest
himself. He knew that he would not be half fit for the responsibilities
of the coming day unless he could get a few hours' sleep, and as Jim had
now been snoring uninterruptedly for over four hours, Pike concluded to
call him, give him some strong coffee and some sharp instructions, and
put him "on post." It took no little shaking and kicking to rouse the
boy, but presently he sat up, just as he had done at the ambulance, with
the yawning inquiry, "What's the matter?"

"Nearly half-past two, Jim, and your turn for guard. Stir out here, now.
Douse your head with some of this cold water. It will freshen you up.
Then I'll give you a good tin of coffee."

Jim obeyed, and after stumbling stupidly around a moment, and then
having a gourd or two of water dashed over his face and neck, he
pronounced himself all right and proceeded to enjoy the coffee handed
him.

"Now, Jim," said Pike, "the wild-cat's gone, and no Apaches will be apt
to prowl up here to-night, but I want you to keep the sharpest lookout
you ever did in all your life--not only over their movements down in the
road, but for cavalry coming from the west. There's just no telling how
soon those fellows may be out from Verde, and when they come we want to
know it. The Indians have their sentries out, so they evidently expect
them. Watch them like a hawk, but don't give any false alarm or make any
noise. Let me sleep until it begins to get light, then call me. Now, can
you do it?"

"Of course I can, corporal, but where are you going to sleep?"

"Right here by you. I'll hand your blankets and mine out by the parapet,
so that if you want me, all you have to do is put out your hand. If you
are chilly, or get so towards daybreak, throw that saddle blanket over
your shoulders."

For a long time, despite fatigue and watching, Pike could not get to
sleep. He lay there looking up at the stars shining in the clear heavens
and thinking how peaceful, how far removed from strife or battle, they
seemed to be. Then he kept an eye on Jim, and was glad to note that the
darkey seemed alert and aware of his responsibilities, for every few
minutes he would creep out and peer around the shoulder of the ledge
where he could get a better view of anything going on down in the road,
and, after half an hour of this sort of thing, he reported to Pike that
he "reckoned the whole gang had gone to sleep down there." The old
trooper assured him, however, that some must be on the alert and warned
him to relax in no way his vigilance, and then at last wearied Nature
asserted her rights, and the soldier fell asleep.

Four o'clock came,--five o'clock,--and there had been no sound from
below. Then, far in the east the skies began to hoist their colors in
honor of the coming Day God, and rich crimson and purple soon blended
with the richer gold, and all around the rocky fastness the pale, wan
light of the infant morn stole over rock and tree, and still old Pike
slept, but not the deep, restful slumber of three hours before. He was
dreaming, and his dreams were troubled, for his limbs were twitching; he
rolled over and moaned aloud; inarticulate sounds escaped from his lips;
but still, as one laboring with nightmare, he could not wake--could not
shake off the visions that oppressed him. In his sleep he saw, and saw
beyond possibility of doubt, that the Apaches were hurriedly rousing
their comrades; that they were quickly picking up their rifles and then
nimbly speeding up the rocks; that even as they came towards him up the
mountain side several of their number went crouching along towards the
east and eagerly watching the roadway through the Pass, and, following
their fierce eyes, he could see, winding up the gorge, coming at a trot,
a troop of the longed-for cavalry--coming not from the west, as he had
expected, but from the direction of the magnificent sunrise that flashed
on their carbines and tinged the campaign hats with crimson. At their
head rode two officers, and one, he knew at once, must be his old
captain, but why that bandage about his head? Why the rude sling in
which his arm was carried? Plainly visible though they were to him, the
Apaches were completely hidden from the approaching troops. Two minutes'
ride brought the leaders to the smouldering ruins of the baggage wagon,
at sight of which, and the charred and unrecognizable body in their
midst, his captain had groaned aloud, then forced his "broncho" up the
rocky path to where they had made their camp, and then, when he saw the
ruined ambulance and all the evidences of Apache triumph, he reeled in
his saddle and would have fallen headlong had not two stout troopers
held him while their young lieutenant thrust a flask of brandy between
the ashen lips; and then in his wild vision Pike saw them ride on and on
up the road right beneath them--only a quarter of a mile away--never
heeding, never looking for him and his precious charges. He strove to
shout: he screamed aloud, yet only a suffocated groan seemed to issue
from his lips; he shouted to Jim to fire and so attract their attention,
but there was no response; and then, in his agony, he started up, wide
awake in an instant, and, hurling off his blankets, seized his rifle and
sprang to his feet.

Broad daylight; sunbeams dancing through the trees; and there, doubled
up at the back of the parapet, lay that scoundrel Jim--asleep on guard.
One vehement kick and curse he gave him: then peered over the barrier
down the rocky hillside. God of heaven! what a sight met his eyes! The
Apaches were almost on them.

[Illustration: ONE VEHEMENT KICK AND CURSE HE GAVE HIM.]



CHAPTER VIII.

THE CAPTAIN'S RIDE.


It is high time now that we should hear something of Captain Gwynne
himself, and leave for the time our little garrison in the cave at
Sunset Pass. Let us follow the movements of the father for whom the
children were so anxiously and tearfully praying.

Galloping away on Pike's horse in close pursuit, as he supposed, of
Manuelito and the mules, the captain had turned south the moment he
cleared the rocky buttresses that formed the western gateway to the
Pass. He had reasoned that the Mexican would not dare go back along the
road on which they came, because in so doing he must infallibly run
straight into the Apaches, who were following in pursuit. Knowing, as
did Pike, that Manuelito was well acquainted with the short cut through
the mountains down to the valley of the Verde, miles to the south of the
winding and roundabout way on which they were compelled to come by road;
knowing, too, that this trail was far to the south of where they had
seen the Indians' signal fires,--Gwynne's whole idea seemed to be that
Manuelito would take the shortest line to reach that rough but easily
known trail. He did not hesitate, then, a moment in turning short to the
south, and riding confidently along to the western foothills, expecting
every moment to hear the bray of the mules or the sound of their hoof
beats. He knew that the moment these creatures heard the hoof beats of
his own horse, they would be almost sure to signal. Just what to do with
Manuelito himself, he had not yet determined; but it was his purpose to
force him back to camp at the point of the pistol, if necessary; then to
bind him to the wagon; make him drive, at least until they reached Fort
Wingate over in New Mexico beyond the Navajo Reservation, and turn him
over there to the military authorities for such disposition as they
might choose to make of him. Of course, he would have no further
employment in Arizona, for his character was blasted forever. Mile after
mile, however, the captain rode without hearing one of the anticipated
sounds, and the further he rode the lighter it grew. Far down, to the
south, now, he could dimly see objects that looked like four-footed
creatures, moving rapidly. Unluckily, he had with him only a light,
short-ranged pair of glasses, and he could not distinctly make out what
they were; but believing that they could be nothing but Manuelito and
the mules, he put spurs to his weary horse, and pushed rapidly in
pursuit--wondering, however, how it was that the Mexican, with the
slow-moving mules, could have got so far to the front. Five miles
further he rode and by that time the sun was up above the mountains of
New Mexico, over to the east, and lighting up the whole plateau to his
right. By this time, too, the objects, of which he had been in pursuit,
had totally disappeared from his sight, and looking around him he could
see nowhere sign of hoof or any trail that would indicate that the mules
had come that way. However, as he might be anywhere from ten yards to
ten miles from the exact line Manuelito traveled, this gave him no
concern. He decided that he would push on until he came upon the cavalry
trail up which he had ridden a year before on an expedition with their
good guide Sieber to Chevelon Fork. By this time, too, he knew that he
must be twelve miles from camp, and that in all probability the Indians
had left their position west of Snow Lake, and were already coming in
pursuit. He dreaded to think of the peril in which his children might
be; but he had every confidence in Pike; he believed in Jim's pluck and
fighting qualities, and he reasoned that it would be one or two o'clock
before the Indians could possibly reach the Pass, and that he could
easily get back long before that time. Riding, therefore, still further
to the south, he pursued his search for an hour longer, and then came
suddenly upon a sight that thrilled his heart with hope and joy. Right
before him, coming across the southern edge of the plateau, and winding
up the mountains to the left, was an unmistakable cavalry trail, not
more than a day or two old. Evidently some troop was out from Verde and
had taken the old short cut to Chevelon Fork, expecting by that route to
make the quickest time to the Sunset crossing of the Colorado River. In
all probability this was one of the troops coming out in search of and
to succor him and his party. Reining his jaded horse to the left, the
captain rapidly followed on the trail. He reasoned that the four-footed
creatures that he took to be the mules were in all probability a portion
of the pack-train of the troop that had so recently passed along, or it
might be one or two troopers who had been making scouts to the right or
to the left of the trail, and were now following the main body. All
thought of pursuing Manuelito further was abandoned. His sole object was
to overtake, as quickly as possible, the little command of cavalry that
he knew to be in his path, and then to guide them by the shortest line
back to Sunset Pass, and to the defence of the dear ones there awaiting
him. If he had good luck, he might catch them before they had gone many
miles. The trail he knew would speedily lead him over into the valley of
Chevelon Fork, and following this they would emerge on the east side of
the mountain. Perhaps it might be fortunate that he did not overtake
them until they were east of the range; for the Apaches would certainly
not expect the cavalry to come from the Colorado side of the mountain;
but would be looking for them from the west, and the chances, therefore,
would be all the more in favor of their dealing them a crushing blow,
and punishing them as they deserved for their assault on defenseless
women and children.

On, on he rode, urging his horse as rapidly as it was possible for him
to go over the rocky, broken trail. Two hours' ride brought him no
nearer, apparently, to the comrades he was pursuing. Three hours' ride
brought him down into the valley of Chevelon Fork and half way through
the range. It was not until one o'clock that he found himself at such a
point that he could look forward and see part of the country toward the
Colorado Chiquito; but not a vestige of the cavalry or pack-train was
anywhere in sight, and his horse was now so weary that he could only
answer with a groan the touch of the spur, and could not by any
possibility accelerate his speed. Two o'clock came, and the anxious
father found himself, he knew not how many miles away from Sunset
Pass,--away from the children so anxiously praying for him, and awaiting
his coming.

He was growing faint from long fasting, and the horse was so jaded that
the captain dismounted and was fairly towing him along behind him with
the bridle rein. In this way they had slowly and painfully climbed a
steep and rocky ascent where the trail seemed to make a short cut across
a deep bend of the stream, and reaching the summit they stopped to rest,
panting hard with fatigue. Again the captain resorted to his little
glasses and looked long and eagerly over the broad stretch of country to
the east, but it was all in vain. No living creatures were in sight.

Directly in front, the trail wound downwards over an incline so steep
that it looked as though horses and mules could never have made those
hoof tracks, but that only goats could have gone that way. The poor old
bay looked piteously at his master as though imploring him not to force
him to undertake that steep descent, but Gwynne could show no mercy now.
He had come too far to turn back. His only hope, if he could not find
the scouting party, was to make his way along the east side of the range
back to the little camp in Sunset Pass. He prayed God to watch over and
protect his little ones, and then, with almost a sob rising to his
throat, he tried to speak cheerfully to poor "Mac;" he patted the
drooping head of his faithful old servitor and, calling to him to
follow, he pressed forward, and half sliding, half stepping, he began
the steep descent. The poor horse braced his fore feet and stiffened his
knees and came skating over the loose slate after him. All went
tolerably well until they were about two hundred feet from the rushing
waters of the fork, foaming and swirling over the rocks below, and
there, coming upon a sharp point around which they had to make their
way, Gwynne had taken only three or four steps downward and was about to
turn and speak encouragingly again to "Mac," when the horse's fore feet
seemed to shoot from under him; he rallied, gathered himself, stumbled,
and then, plunging heavily forward, crashed down upon his master, rolled
completely over him, and then went sliding and pawing desperately to the
edge of the rocky precipice, over which he shot, a huge, living bowlder
and fell with a thud upon the jagged rocks below. For some minutes
Gwynne lay where he had been hurled, stunned and senseless; then he
slowly revived, found that his left arm was severely wrenched and
bruised, and that the blood was streaming from a long gash in his
forehead. Slowly and painfully he made his way to the foot of the steep,
bathed his head in the cool waters and bound it up as well as he could
with his big silk handkerchief. He was fainter, weaker now, than he had
been before, but never for an instant could he forget the little ones at
the Pass.

"Oh, God help me and bring me back to them in time," he prayed; and
then, holding his maimed left arm in his right hand, and with one
backward look up the cañon at the now lifeless carcass of poor "Mac," he
staggered wearily on, following the trail of the cavalry.

[Illustration: WITH ONE BACKWARD LOOK HE STAGGERED WEARILY ON.]

Late that evening, just as darkness was settling down over the valley of
the Colorado Chiquito, the soldiers of a little detachment, chatting
gleefully around their bivouac fires and sipping their fragrant coffee,
were startled by the sudden sight of a man with ghastly, blood-stained
features and dress, who reeled blindly into their midst and then fell
forward upon his face, to all appearances dead.

Some of them, believing Indians to be upon them, sprang for their arms;
others bent to the aid of the stricken man. They turned him over on his
back, brought water and bathed the blood from his face, and then a
sergeant cried:

"My God! What can have happened? It's Captain Gwynne! Here, Murphy, call
the lieutenant, quick!"

[Illustration: "MY GOD! WHAT CAN HAVE HAPPENED? IT'S CAPTAIN GWYNNE!"]

In an instant the young officer commanding the party came running to the
scene and bent breathlessly over the senseless form.

"It is Captain Gwynne," he said; "bring more water. Go to my pack, one
of you, and get the sponge you'll find there. Fetch me my flask, too.
Which way did he come? Did none of you see?"

"None, sir. The first we knew he was right over us. He never spoke a
word, but fell like a log."

And then the rough-looking, bearded, anxious faces hovered about the
prostrate man. His heart-beats were so faint that the young officer was
terribly alarmed. No surgeon was with the little party and he hardly
knew what to do. The whiskey forced down Gwynne's throat seemed
powerless to revive him. Full an hour he lay almost motionless, then
little by little the pulse grew firmer and respiration audible. At last
there was a long, deep sigh, but still he did not open his eyes.
Consciousness returned only very slowly, and when Mr. Hunter had called
him by name time and again and begged him to speak, he sighed even more
deeply than before, the lids slowly drew back, and the almost sightless
eyes looked feebly around. Then, with sudden flash of memory, the poor
captain strove to rise. "My babies!" he moaned; "my babies!"

"Where did you leave them, captain? Tell us. I'll send for them
instantly," said Hunter. "Sergeant, saddle up right off. This means
something."

More whiskey, a long draught, and more cold water, presently revived him
so that he could speak collectedly.

"I left them with Pike--in the Pass. My Mexican ran away with the
mules--followed and found your trail--my horse fell on me and then
rolled over a precipice--killed. I've come on foot ever since."

"Thank God, you're here safe anyhow! Now lie still. I'll leave a guard
with you and we'll go as fast as we can through the darkness and find
Ned and Nellie."

"No! no! I must go. I will go, too. See, I can stand. Give me a horse."

And so, finding him determined and rapidly regaining strength, Hunter
made the captain eat all he could bear to swallow then, and, stowing
more food in their saddle bags, away went the gallant little troop
hurrying through the starlit night for Sunset Pass and rescue.

But the way was long; road or trail there was none. Over rugged height,
through deep ravine, they forced their way, but not until all the sky
was blushing in the east did they come to the old Wingate road, and the
gloomy entrance to the Pass. Up they rode at a steady trot, Gwynne and
Hunter leading, and, at a sudden turn of the road, far in towards the
western side, their horses recoiled, snorting with fear, from a heap of
smouldering embers, in the midst of which lay a fearful something,--the
charred and hissing body of a human being. Gwynne groaned aloud at the
sight and then drove his horse up a rocky pathway to the left, the
others following. There lay the smoking ruins of an ambulance with
scraps of clothing heaped about on every side, and here the stricken
father's waning strength left him entirely. With one heartbroken cry,
"My babies--my little ones. They are gone! gone!" he was only saved from
falling by the prompt action of two stalwart troopers.

In ten minutes, supporting the fainting soldier as best they could, the
detachment was marching rapidly westward.

"Sieber with the scouts can't be farther away than Jarvis Pass. We'll
meet him," said Hunter to his sergeant, "and trail these Scoundrels to
their holes."

His words were true. Before ten o'clock they had met, not only Sieber,
but Turner's troop from Verde, coming full tilt, and Gwynne was now
turned over to the doctor's care.



CHAPTER IX.

THE ATTACK.


Startled suddenly from his sleep, it was indeed a dreadful sight, and
one calculated to shake the nerves of many an old soldier, that greeted
Pike's eyes as he peered over the rocky parapet in front of him. One
glance was sufficient. Looking down behind the wall, he seized Jim by
the throat, shaking him vigorously and at the same time placing his
other hand over his mouth so that he might make no outcry. "Wake up,
Jim! Wake up! and see what your faithlessness has brought upon us! Look
down the hill here! Look through that loophole and see what you've
done!"

Terrified, with his eyes starting from their sockets, Jim obeyed, and
his black face showed in an instant the full realization of the scene
before him.

"Now, is your rifle all ready?" whispered Pike. "Don't rouse those poor
little people in there until we have to. They must stay way back in the
cave. Now, observe strictly what I tell you: I want you to aim at the
taller of those two Indians who are the leaders. Do not fire until I
give the word; but be sure you hit. Recollect now, you've got to fire
down hill, and the bullets fly high. Aim below his waistband, then
you'll probably strike him either through the heart or the upper chest.
Now, go to your loophole and stay there. Are you ready, Jim?"

"I'm ready, boss. Just wait one minute until I get my rifle through
here."

Kneeling beside his own loophole, Pike once more looked down the hill.
Not over a hundred yards away--crouching along, following step by step
the trail that he and Jim had made--pointing with their long bony
fingers at every mark on the ground or upon the trees--two lean,
keen-eyed, sinewy Apaches were slowly and silently moving up the
mountain side in a direction that would take them diagonally across the
front of the hill. Behind them, among the trees and bowlders, and spread
out to the right and left, came others,--all wary, watchful, silent,--as
noiseless and as stealthy in their movements as any panther could
possibly be. Pike could see that they were armed mostly with rifles. He
knew that very few of them had breech-loaders at that time; but still
that there were some among them which they had obtained by murdering and
robbing helpless settlers, or mail messengers.

With abundant ammunition close at hand, with the advantage of position
and the fact that he meant to have the first fire, Pike calculated that
the moral effect would be such that he could drive them back, and that
they would not resume the attack until after a consultation among
themselves. The two who were so far in front of the others were steadily
approaching the little barricade, only the top of which could readily be
seen from below and was hardly distinguishable from the general mass of
rocks and bowlders by which it was surrounded.

He knew it could not be long, however, before the quick eyes of the
Apaches detected it, and that they would know at once what it meant.
"However," thought Pike, "before they see it those two villains in front
will be near enough for us to have a sure shot, and then, I don't care
how soon they know we're here. Now, Jim," he whispered, "watch your
man!--recollect--you aim at that tall fellow on your own side,--I'll
take the little, skinny cuss--the one who is just turning towards us
now. They are not more than seventy-five yards away. Aim low!"--There
was a moment of breathless silence. "Are you ready, Jim?" whispered
Pike.

"Yes, all ready, corporal."

"All right!--One minute now--get you a good aim!--Draw your bead on
him!--Wedge your rifle in the rock, if necessary! Got it?"

"I think so, corporal."

"All right then! _Fire!_"

Bang! bang! rang out almost simultaneously the reports of two rifles.
The smoke floated upward. Pike and Jim had the good sense not to attempt
to lift their heads or peer over the barriers, but to content themselves
with looking through the loopholes. One look revealed the scene. "The
little, skinny cuss," as Pike had called him, clasping his hands to his
breast, had fallen head foremost among the rocks up which he was
climbing. But the tall Indian, giving a spring like that of a cat, had
leaped behind a bowlder full ten feet away from him, and the next
instant,--bang! went his rifle, and a bullet whizzed overhead and
struck, flattening itself upon the rocks.

"Oh, you've missed him, Jim," said Pike, reproachfully. "Now, look out
for the others!"

The rest of the Apaches, hearing the shots, with the quickness of
thought, had sprung for shelter behind the neighboring trees or rocks.
Not one of their number, by this time, failed to know just where these
shots had come from; and in a minute more, from all over the hillside
below, thick and fast, the reports of the rifles were ringing on the
morning air and the bullets came singing about the stone parapet, some
of them chipping off little fragments from the top of the parapet
itself, but most of them striking the great mass of rocks overhead and
doing no harm whatever, except to spatter little fragments of lead upon
the parapet and its gallant defenders.

"Watch for them! Keep your eyes peeled, Jim! Every time you see a head
or an arm or a body coming from behind a rock or tree, let drive at it!
It will give the idea that there are more of us up here than we really
have, and we've got all the ammunition we can possibly use. Don't be
afraid! I'll tell you when to save your cartridges. There's one now!
Watch him!" Bang! went Pike's rifle. It was a good shot; for they could
see that the bullet barked the tree just where the Apache was standing;
but apparently it did no harm to the Indian himself; for the answering
shot of his rifle was prompt, and the bullet whizzed dangerously near.

"That fellow's a cool hand!" said Pike. "Watch him, Jim, you're a little
further that way. He'll be out again in a minute. What's the reason your
man hasn't fired?--the man behind the rock that I told you to kill?"

"Because I'm certain that I hit him," said Jim, "and I reckon by this
time he isn't doing any more shooting."

"Watch carefully, anyhow," was the reply. "They'll soon try, when they
find there are very few of us, to crawl up the hill upon us. Then's the
time you've got to note every movement! See! there comes one fellow
behind that rock now. He's crawling on all fours. Thinks we can't see
him. Now just hold on until he comes around that little ledge!--I'll
take him! I've got him! Now!"

And again Pike's rifle rang out, and to his intense delight the Indian
sprang to his feet--staggered an instant--and then fell all in a heap,
huddled up around the roots of the tree which he was just striving to
reach. Some one down among the Indians gave a yell of dismay. Evidently
the one who was shot was a man of some prominence among them--possibly a
chief.

[Illustration: EVIDENTLY THE ONE WHO WAS SHOT WAS A MAN OF SOME
PROMINENCE AMONG THEM--POSSIBLY A CHIEF.]

"They'll try and haul his body out of the way, Jim. Watch for at least
one or two of them coming up there! He may be only wounded, and they'll
try to get him into safety. If they do--fire at the first man you see!"

Another minute, and then both the rifles blazed again. Two daring young
Indians had made a rush forward, and had attempted to seize their
wounded comrade; but the shots of the rifles whistling close about their
ears, caused them to desist, to throw themselves on their faces, and
then to roll or crawl away behind the adjacent rocks. Evidently they
didn't care to expose themselves to the chance of further loss. Two
Indians lying dead, and one over behind a rock possibly wounded, was
enough to discourage even an Apache.

"They'll show again in a minute, though, Jim. Keep watch! They won't go
away and leave those two bodies there if they can possibly help
themselves. Some of them will stay. Of course, they'll have a
consultation and then see if they can't get at us from the flank or from
the rear. They can't; but they don't know it. That'll be their next
game."

And so for the next five or ten minutes the siege was carried on, Jim
and the old corporal watching the hillside, but meantime there was
consternation back in the cave. Poor old Kate mingled moaning with
prayers and tears; little Nellie, frightened, of course, as any child
would be, lay sobbing with her head buried in Kate's lap. But Ned, brave
little man that he was, had grasped his rifle, the Ballard, of which so
much has already been said, and, crouching eagerly forward, before Pike
knew it, the boy was close beside him at the stone wall, and had placed
his hand upon his arm.

"Corporal, let me come in here beside you, there's room for another. Do
let me have one shot at them? Papa would if he were here, and I know
it!"

This was altogether too much for Kate to bear. She dare not come
forward, but from the dark recess in which she and Nellie were hidden,
her cries and prayers broke forth again:

"For the love of all the saints, corporal, don't let that boy stay out
there! Bring him back here to me! His father would kill me if anything
happened to him! Oh, listen to me, Pike! Send the boy back again! Make
him come!"

But so far from paying any attention to Kate's admonition, Pike turned
with kindling eyes and patted the little fellow on the shoulder: "You're
your father's own boy? Ned, and you shall stay here with me for the
present at least, and if there should be a chance of a shot--one I can
give you without exposing you--I'm going to let you have it. Kneel low
down there, and don't lift your head above the parapet whatever you do!
Stay just where you are."

With that the old trooper, whose rifle was still projecting through the
loophole, again turned his attention to the Indians lurking among the
rocks and bowlders down the hill. The two bodies still lay there--Jim's
rifle covering them and threatening any Indians who might attempt to
drag them away.

Every now and then, a black head would appear from behind some tree, but
the instant it did so the darkey's rifle would ring out, the bullet
would go whistling close beside it, the head would pop suddenly back,
and Jim as promptly would re-load his rifle.

It was beginning to grow monotonous. The Indians--probably because they
knew they were only wasting their scanty ammunition--had ceased firing,
and were evidently calling to one another and signaling from behind the
rocks and trees where they had taken refuge. So long as they remained
down there in front Pike had no possible concern. His only fear, as has
been said, was that they should make a combined rush. If they were to
have sense enough to do that, and ignore the probability of losing three
or four of their number in the attempt, it would be all over with the
little party in the cave.

But the corporal had served too long among the Apaches to greatly dread
any such move. They were already shaken by the severity of their
reception and of their losses. He knew that they could not be aware that
only two men and a little boy constituted the whole force of the
defenders, for they would have come with a rush long before.

Their plan now would doubtless be to leave a few of their number in
front to keep the besieged in check while the greater part of the band
surrounded the big ledge and sought a means of getting at the little
garrison from flank or rear.

What he hoped for was a chance of dealing them one more blow before they
could crawl back out of range and presently the opportunity came. Two or
three of the band who were farthest to the rear had managed to slip back
some distance down the hill and occasional glimpses could now be caught
of them as they stealthily made their way out towards the western slope.
It was not long before their dirty white breech-clouts could be
distinguished as they slowly and cautiously came creeping up hill.

"By George! Jim," muttered the old man with the ejaculation that with
him supplied the place of trooper profanity--"I believe you're right
about your Indian. You probably wounded him and he's lying behind that
rock now, and those fellows are coming up to help him. Don't fire!
They're too far away for a down-hill shot. Wait till I tell you. Now,
Ned, my boy, run back and comfort Nellie a minute. I don't want you here
where a glancing shot might hit you. The moment we get them started on
the run, I'll call you."

Ned looked far from satisfied with the proposition, but the corporal was
the commanding officer, and there was nothing to do but obey. He went
reluctantly. "Mind, corporal, you've promised I should have a shot," he
said, and Pike nodded assent, although he could not turn from his
loophole. Another minute and the Henry rifle barked its loud challenge
down the slope, and the old trooper's keen, set features relaxed in a
grin.

"Now they've got two to lug," he muttered to Jim. "Lord! See that beggar
roll over those rocks!"

Again there came yells and shots from down the hill but both were
harmless. Cowed, apparently, by the sharp shooting of the defenders, the
Apaches who had sought to rescue their wounded mate continued in hiding
behind the rocks where they had taken shelter. The others, farther to
the east, were slipping back as fast as they could, but studiously
keeping out of sight of those death-dealing loopholes. Presently it was
apparent to the corporal that a number of them had got together far down
the hill and were holding excited controversy, probably as to the best
means of getting possession of their dead friends and then, their living
enemies. Pike looked at his watch. It was half after seven and they had
been fighting an hour.

And now came a lull. Once in a long while some one of the besiegers
would let drive a bullet at the loopholes, but Apache shooting was never
of the best and though the lead spattered dangerously near, "the miss,"
quoth Pike, "is as good as any number of miles." On the other hand,
whenever or wherever an Indian head, leg or arm appeared, it was
instantly saluted by one, sometimes two, quick shots, and there could be
no doubt whatever that the palefaces, as the Tontos supposed them all to
be, were fully on the alert.

"Now, Jim, it won't be long before they will be showing around on all
sides. Pile on a few more stones above that loophole that looks to the
west. The next thing you know there'll be a head and a gun poked out
from behind that shoulder of rock beyond you. I'll watch my side and
keep a look on down the hill, too."

And now the hours seemed to drag with leaden weight. All was silence
around them, yet Pike knew that this made their danger only the more
imminent. He could nowhere see a sign of their late assailants except
the stiffening bodies down the hill, but he had not a doubt that while
some watched the front, most of them, making wide detours, were now
lurking on every side, and looking for a possible opening. Every now and
then he had to give a quick glance over his shoulder to see that Jim was
alert and watchful. It would not do to have him fall asleep now. And
then once in a while he listened, God only knows how wistfully, for the
sound of cavalry coming across the westward plain. It surely was time
for Sieber and the troops to be coming if the former had carried out his
intentions. Pike could see nothing of the road towards Jarvis Pass and
only a glimpse here and there of the plateau itself. The foliage in the
larger trees was too thick. He longed to clamber to his watch-tower but
felt well assured that one step outside the parapet would make him a
target for the Indian rifles. First as an experiment he put his hat on a
stick and cautiously raised it above their barricade. Two bullets
instantly "zipped" over his head and dropped flat as pancakes from the
rock overhead. The experiment was conclusive.

At last the straining ears of the watchers were attracted by strange
sounds. Low calls in savage tongue from down the hill were answered on
both sides and from above. The Indians had evidently thoroughly
"reconnoitred" the position, and had found that there was actually no
place around the rock from which they could see and open fire on the
besieged. The sun was now high overhead. Odd sounds as of dragging
objects began to be heard from the top of the rock, and this was kept up
for fully an hour. Neither Pike nor Jim could imagine what it meant, but
neither dared for an instant to leave his post.

It must have been eleven o'clock and after, when, all of a sudden, a
black shadow rushed through the air, and Pike started almost to his feet
as a huge log fell from above and bounded from the jagged rocks in front
of them. Then came another, tumbling one upon the other, wedging and
jostling, and speedily rising in a huge pile several feet high. More and
more they came; then smaller ones; then loose dry branches and roots in
quantities. And then, as the great heap grew and grew, an awful thought
occurred to the old trooper. At first it seemed as though the Indians
meant to try and form a "curtain," sheltered by which they could crawl
upon their foes; but when the brushwood came, a fiercer, far more
dreadful purpose was revealed. "My God!" he groaned, "they mean to roast
us out."

[Illustration: ALL OF A SUDDEN A BLACK SHADOW RUSHED THROUGH THE AIR.]



CHAPTER X.

LITTLE NED'S SHOT.


From the babel of voices that reached old Pike's ears every now and
then, and the bustle and noise going on overhead, he judged that there
must be twenty or thirty Indians busily engaged in the work of heaping
up firewood in front of the cave. The mountain side, as he well knew,
was thickly strewn with dry branches, dead limbs, uprooted trees and all
manner of combustible material, and the very warriors who, when around
their own "rancheria," would have disdained doing a stroke of work of
any kind, were now laboring like so many beavers to add to the great
pile that was already almost on a level with the breastwork and not more
than eight feet away. Some of the logs first thrown had rolled off and
scattered down the slope, but enough had remained to make a sure
foundation, and once this was accomplished the rest was easy work.

Poor Jim looked around imploringly at his superior.

"Ain't dey some way to stop that, corporal?" he asked.

"Don't you worry, Jim," was the prompt reply. "It will take them an hour
more at least to get it big enough and then 'twill do no great harm. We
can knock down our barricade so that they can't use it and fall back
into the cave where it's dark and cool and where the smoke and flame
can't reach us. Keep your eyes on your corner, man!" But though he spoke
reassuringly, the old soldier felt a world of anxiety. Under cover of
that huge heap of brushwood, growing bigger every minute, it would soon
be possible for the Indians from below to crawl unseen close upon them,
and set fire to the mass.

Even now he felt certain that there were several of the more daring of
the Apaches lurking just around the corners which he and Jim were so
faithfully guarding. The negro seemed so utterly abashed at his having
been overcome by sleep during the hour before the dawn, and possibly so
refreshed by that deep slumber, that now he was vigilance itself.

Within the cave old Kate had seen, of course, the falling of the logs
and brushwood, and though she could not comprehend their object it
served to keep in mind that their savage foes were all around her and
her little charges, and to add to her alternate prayer and wailing.
Unable to leave his post, Pike could only call sternly to her from time
to time to cry shame upon her for frightening Nellie so, and to remind
her that they had shot five Indians without getting a scratch
themselves. "We can stand 'em off for hours yet, you old fool," he said,
"and the boys from Verde are sure to get here to-day." And whether it
was "old" or the "fool" in Pike's contemptuous remark, that stirred her
resentment, it certainly resulted that Kate subsided into suffering and
indignant protest. Then Ned's brave, boyish voice was heard.

"Corporal! Can't I come to you now? I'm no good here and I'm sick of the
row Kate keeps up. You said you'd let me come back."

"Wait a few minutes, Ned. I want to be sure they are not sneaking around
these corners," was the reply, followed almost instantly by the bang of
Pike's carbine. Kate gave a suppressed shriek and the corporal a shout
of exultation. Encouraged by the sound of his voice to suppose that the
guard on the east side of the barrier was neglecting his watch, a daring
young Apache crawled on all fours around the foot of the rock to take an
observation. The black head came in view even as Pike was speaking and
the fierce eyes peered cautiously at the breastwork, but the corporal
never moved a muscle, and the savage, believing himself unseen, crawled
still further into view, until half his naked body was in sight from the
narrow slit through which the old trooper was gazing. The brown muzzle
of the cavalry carbine covered the creeping "brave," and the next
instant the loud report went echoing over the gorge and the Indian, with
one convulsive spring, fell back upon the ground writhing in the agonies
of death. In striving to drag the body of his comrade back behind the
rock another Tonto ventured to show head and shoulder, and came within
an ace of sharing his fate, for Pike's next shot whistled within an inch
of the flattened nose, and Apache number two dodged back with wonderful
quickness, and did not again appear.

This would tend to keep them from sneaking around that particular
corner, thought Pike, and he only wished that Jim could have similar
luck on his side, but the Indians had grown wary. Time and again the
veteran glanced down the hill to see if there was any sign of their
crawling upon him from below, but that threatening pile of brushwood now
hid most of the slope from his weary, anxious eyes. The crisis could not
be long in coming.

"O God!" he prayed, "save these little children. Bring us aid."

Poor old Pike! Even as the whispered words fell from his lips a low,
crackling sound caught his ear. Louder it grew, and, looking suddenly to
the left, he saw a thin curl of smoke rising through the branches and
gaining every instant in volume. Louder, louder snapped the blazing
twigs. Denser, heavier grew the smoke. Then tiny darts of flame came
shooting upward through the top of the pile and then yells of triumph
and exultation rang from the rock above and the hillside below. A minute
or two more, and while the Indians continued to pour fresh fuel from
above, the great heap was a mass of roaring flame and the heat became
intolerable. A puff of wind drove a huge volume of smoke and flame
directly into Jim's nook in the fortification, and with a shout that he
could hold on no longer the negro dropped back into the cave, rubbing
his blinded eyes.

[Illustration: "DOWN WITH THESE STONES, NOW!"]

"Come back, Jim! Quick!" shouted Pike. "Down with these stones, now!
Kick them over!--but watch for Indians on your side. Down with 'em!" and
suiting action to the word the old soldier rolled rock after rock down
towards the blazing pyre, until his side of the parapet was almost
demolished. Half blinded by smoke and the scorching heat, he lost sight
for a moment of the shoulder of the ledge on the east side. Two seconds
more and it might have been all over with him, for now, relying on the
fierce heat to drive the defenders back, a young Apache had stepped
cautiously into view, caught sight of the tall old soldier pushing and
kicking at the rocks, and, quick as a cat, up leaped the rifle to his
shoulder. But quicker than any cat--quick as its own flash--there
sounded the sudden crack of a target rifle, the Indian's gun flew up and
was discharged in mid-air, while the owner, clapping his hand to his
face, reeled back out of sight. The bullet of the little Ballard had
taken him just under the eye, and as Pike turned in amazement at the
double report, saw the Apache fall, and then turned to his left--there
knelt little Ned, his blue eyes blazing, his boyish form quivering with
excitement and triumph. Pike seized him in his arms and fairly kissed
the glowing face. "God bless you, my boy! but you are a little soldier
if there ever was one!" was his cry. "Now all three of us must watch the
front. Keep as far forward as you can, Jim. We've got to hold those
hounds back--until the boys come!"

[Illustration: THE BULLET OF THE LITTLE BALLARD HAD TAKEN HIM JUST UNDER
THE EYE.]

Until the boys come! Heavens! When would that be? Here was the day
nearly half spent and no sign of relief for the little party battling so
bravely for their lives at Sunset Pass. Where--where can the father be?
Where is Al Sieber? Where the old comrades from Verde?

Let us see if we cannot find them, and then, with them, hasten to the
rescue.

Far over near Jarvis Pass poor Captain Gwynne had been lying on the
blankets the men eagerly spread for him, while the surgeon with Captain
Turner's troops listened eagerly to the details of the night's work, and
at the same time ministered to his exhausted patient. Turner, the other
officers, and their favorite scout held brief and hurried consultation.
It was decided to push at once for Sunset Pass; to leave Captain Gwynne
here with most of his nearly worn-out escort; to mount the six Hualpai
trailers they had with them on the six freshest horses, so as to get
them to the scene of the tragedy as soon as possible, and then to start
them afoot to follow the Apaches. In ten minutes Captain Turner, with
Lieutenant Wilkins and forty troopers, was trotting off eastward
following the lead of Sieber with his swarthy allies. Ten minutes more
and Captain Gwynne had sufficiently revived to be made fully aware of
what was going on, and was on his feet again in an instant. The surgeon
vainly strove to detain him, but was almost rudely repulsed.

"Do you suppose I can rest one conscious minute until I know what has
become of my babies?" he said. And climbing painfully into the saddle he
clapped spurs to his horse and galloped after Turner's troop.

Finding it useless to argue, the doctor, with his orderly, mounted, too,
and followed the procession. It was an hour before they came up with
Turner's rearmost files and found burly Lieutenant Wilkins giving the
men orders to keep well closed in case they had to increase the gait.
The scouts and Sieber, far to the front, were galloping.

"What is it?" asked the doctor.

"Smoke," panted Wilkins. "The Hualpais saw it up the mountain south of
the Pass."

Gwynne's haggard face was dreadful to see. The jar of the rough gallop
had started afresh the bleeding in his head and the doctor begged him to
wait and let him dress it again, but the only answer was a look of
fierce determination, and renewed spurring of his wretched horse. He was
soon abreast the head of the column, but even then kept on. Turner
hailed him and urged him to stay with them, but entreaty was useless. "I
am going after Sieber," was the answer. "Did you see the smoke?"

"No, Gwynne; but Sieber and the Hualpais are sure a big column went up
and that it means the Apaches can't be far away. We're bound to get
them. Don't wear yourself out, old fellow; stay with us!" but Gwynne
pressed on. Far out to the front he could see that one of the Indian
scouts had halted and was making signs. It took five minutes hard riding
to reach him.

"What did you see? What has happened?" he gasped.

"Heap fire!" answered the Hualpai. "See?" But Gwynne's worn eyes could
only make out the great mass of the mountain with its dark covering of
stunted trees. He saw, however, that the scout was eagerly watching his
comrades now so long a distance ahead. Presently the Indian shouted in
excitement:

"Fight! Fight! Heap shoot, there!" and then at last the father's almost
breaking heart regained a gleam of hope; a new light flashed in his
eyes, new strength seemed to leap through his veins. Even his poor horse
seemed to know that a supreme effort was needed and gamely answered the
spur. Waving his hat above his head and shouting back to Turner "Come
on!" the captain dashed away in pursuit of Sieber. Turner's men could
hear no sound, but they saw the excitement in the signal; saw the sudden
rush of Gwynne's steed, and nothing more was needed. "Gallop," rang the
trumpet, and with carbines advanced and every eye on the dark gorge,
still three miles before them, the riders of the beautiful "chestnut
sorrel" troop swept across the plains.

Meantime the savage fight was going on and the defense was sorely
pressed. Covered by the smoke caused by fresh armfuls of green wood
hurled upon the fiery furnace in front of the cave, the vengeful Apaches
had crawled to within a few yards of where the little breastwork had
stood. Obedient to Pike's stern orders Kate had crept to the remotest
corner of the recess and lay there flat upon the rock, holding Nellie in
her arms. The corporal had bound a handkerchief about his left arm, for
some of the besiegers, finding bullets of no avail, were firing Tonto
arrows so that they fell into the mouth of the cave, and one of these
had torn a deep gash midway between the elbow and the shoulder. Another
had struck him on the thigh. Jim, too, had a bloody scratch. It stung
and hurt and made him grit his teeth with rage and pain. Little Ned,
sorely against his will, was screened by his father's saddle and some
blankets, but he clung to his Ballard and the hope of at least one more
shot.

And still, though sorely pressing the besieged, the Indians kept close
under cover. The lessons of the morning had taught them that the pale
faces could shoot fast and straight. They had lost heavily and could
afford no more risks. But every moment their circle seemed closer to the
mouth of the cave, and though direct assault could not now be made
because of their great bonfire, the dread that weighed on Pike was that
they should suddenly rush in from east and west. "In that event," said
he to Jim, "we must sell our lives as dearly as possible. I'll have two
at least before they can reach me."

Hardly had he spoken when bang came a shot from beyond the fire; a
bullet zipped past his head and flattened on the rock well back in the
cave. Where could that have come from? was the question. A little whiff
of blue smoke sailing away on the wind from the fork of a tall oak not
fifty feet in front told the story. Hidden from view of the besieged by
the drifting smoke from the fire a young warrior had clambered until he
reached the crotch and there had drawn up the rifle and belt tied by his
comrades to a "lariat." Straddling a convenient branch and lashing
himself to the trunk he was now in such a position that he could peer
around the tree and aim right into the mouth of the rocky recess, and
only one leg was exposed to the fire of the defense.

But that was one leg too much. "Blaze away at him, Jim," was the order.
"We'll fire alternately." And Jim's bullet knocked a chip of bark into
space, but did no further harm. "It's my turn now. Watch your side."

But before Pike could take aim there came a shot from the fork of the
tree that well nigh robbed the little garrison of its brave leader. The
corporal was just creeping forward to where he could rest his rifle on a
little rock, and the Indian's bullet struck fairly in the shoulder, tore
its way down along the muscles of the back, glanced upward from the
shoulder blade, and, flattening on the rock overhead, fell almost before
Ned's eyes. The shock knocked the old soldier flat on his face, and
there came a yell of savage triumph from the tree, answered by yells
from below and above. Ned, terror stricken, sprang to the old soldier's
side, just as he was struggling to rise.

"Back! boy, back! They'll all be on us now. My God! Here they come! Now,
Jim, fight for all you're worth."

Bang! bang! went the two rifles. Bang! bang! bang! came the shots from
both sides and from the front, while the dusky forms could be seen
creeping up the rocks east and west of the fire, yelling like fiends.
Crack! went Ned's little Ballard again, and Pike seized the boy and
fairly thrust him into the depths of the cave. A lithe, naked form
leaped into sight just at the entrance and then went crashing down into
the blazing embers below. Another Indian gone. Bang! bang! bang! Heavier
came the uproar of the shots below. Bang! bang! "Good God!" groaned
Pike. "Has the whole Apache nation come to reinforce them? Yell, you
hounds--aye--yell! There are only two of us!" Shots came ringing thick
and fast. Yells resounded along the mountain side, but they seemed more
of warning than of hatred and defiance. Bang! bang! bang! the rifles
rattled up the rocky slopes, but where could the bullets go? Not one had
struck in the cave for fully ten seconds, yet the rattle and roar of
musketry seemed redoubled. What can it mean? Pike creeps still further
forward to get a shot at the first Indian that shows himself, but pain
and weakness are dimming the sight of his keen, brave eyes; perhaps
telling on his hearing. Listen, man! Listen! Those are not Indian yells
now resounding down the rocks. Listen, Pike, old friend, old soldier,
old hero! Too late--too late! Just as a ringing trumpet call, "Cease
firing," comes thrilling up the steep, and little Ned once more leaps
forward to aid him, the veteran falls upon his face and all is darkness.

Another moment, and now the very hillside seems to burst into shouts and
cheers,--joy, triumph, infinite relief. Victory shines on face after
face as the bronzed troopers come crowding to the mouth of the cave.
Tenderly they raise Pike from the ground and bear him out into the
sunshine. Respectfully they make way for Captain Turner as he springs
into their midst and clasps little Nellie in his arms; and poor old
Kate, laughing, weeping and showering blessings on "the boys," is
frantically shaking hands with man after man. So, too, is Black Jim. And
then, half carried, half led, by two stalwart soldiers, Captain Gwynne
is borne, trembling like an aspen, into their midst, and, kneeling on
the rocky floor, clasps his little ones to his breast, and the strong
man sobs aloud his thanks to God for their wonderful preservation.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Papa--papa, I shot an Indian!" How many a time little Ned has to shout
it, in his eager young voice, before the father can realize what is
being said.

"It's the truth he's telling, sir," said a big sergeant. "There's wan of
'em lies at the corner there with a hole no bigger than a _pay_ under
the right eye," and the captain knows not what to say. The surgeon's
stimulants have restored Pike to consciousness, and Gwynne kneels again
to take the old soldier's hands in his. Dry eyes are few. Hearts are all
too full for many words. After infinite peril and suffering, after most
gallant defense, after a night of terror and a day of fiercest battle,
the little party was rescued, one and all, to life and love and such a
welcome when at last they were brought back to Verde, where Pike was
nursed back to strength and health, where Nellie was caressed as a
heroine, and where little Ned was petted and well nigh spoiled as "the
boy that shot an Indian"--and if he did brag about it occasionally, when
he came east to school, who can blame him? But when they came they did
not this time try the route of Sunset Pass.


THE END.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sunset Pass - or Running the Gauntlet Through Apache Land" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home