For the Liberty of Texas/Chapter 9
BIG FOOT AND THE MISSING PAPERS.
Dan's cry brought Mr. Radbury into the cabin without further delay, followed by Ralph and Poke Stover.
"What has been stolen?" queried Amos Radbury. "I see that old Revolutionary sword of your grandfather is gone."
"So are two of the pistols, and that half dozen solid silver spoons mother got from Aunt Eliza beth," answered Dan. "But what of money in the desk?"
"I had but little—not over twenty dollars all told, Dan." Mr. Radbury walked over to the little desk, which was a rude affair made by himself during his leisure hours. "Yes, it's been ransacked pretty thoroughly."
"Is anything missing?" asked Ralph.
"I can't say." Amos Radbury looked over a number of the papers. "I guess they are all right. No, there is my discharge from the army, after the war of 1812. The rascal who broke open the desk took the pleasure of tearing that in half." He rummaged about a bit more. "Hullo, it's gone!" he cried.
"What's gone?" came from both boys.
"The papers relating to this grant of land."
"Are you sure?" asked Dan.
"Yes, it isn't anywhere about."
Mr. Radbury was more worried about the papers pertaining to the land grant than over anything else, and at once a search was instituted, outside of the ranch home as well as indoors. It proved of no avail,—the papers were gone.
"Will it do much harm?" asked Ralph, who knew very little as yet about real estate matters.
"It may and it may not," answered the father. "Of course the grant is recorded, but with matters in such a revolutionary state the records may at some time be destroyed, and then somebody else might come forward and claim this grant."
"Well, I reckon you won't give it up, partner," put in Poke Stover, suggestively.
"Not without a fight, Stover," was Mr. Radbury's firm answer. "The land is mine, paid for, and I'll hold it, papers or no papers, and no matter how the affairs of the government turn."
"I wonder who was the thief," mused Dan. "I don't believe it was an Indian. He might take the other things, but he wouldn't know anything about the papers, nor care for them."
"He might be cute enough to take the papers just to throw us off the scent," suggested Ralph.
"You're wrong, Ralph, for he wouldn't know one paper from another."
"But he'd know the land papers were important, because of the seals on them," persisted the youngest Radbury.
The Indian in the corner now demanded their attention. He was plainly in a bad way, and Poke Stover said it was very doubtful if he would live.
"If he does pull through it will only be because he's a redskin and as tough as all creation," added the old frontiersman.
In his guttural tongue the redskin appealed to Dan for a drink of water.
"Certainly, I'll give you a drink," answered the boy, kindly, and went out to get some water that was cool. After the Indian had had his fill, Dan used the remainder of the water in washing his wounds and then bound them up. After this he got out an old blanket, and he and Ralph placed the wounded fellow on this. Before, the red man's face had had a scowl on it, but now it became more friendly.
"White boys heap good," he grunted. "Big Foot no forget dem," and he nodded his head suggestively. He had been shot in the leg, and was suffering from loss of blood.
"Tell me who robbed the cabin," said Dan, for he felt that Big Foot had had nothing to do with it.
The Indian knit his brow in speculation.
"White boy ask Big Foot hard question," he said, presently.
"But you must know."
"Big Foot t'ink know, not sure. Big Foot crawl in here out of hot sun. He half dead. Udder man come, rob place while Big Foot half dead."
"Well, who do you imagine the other man was? It couldn't have been one of your tribe."
"I t'ink him half my tribe. I t'ink him Merican-Indian, um Hank Stiger."
"Hank Stiger!" cried Dan. "Father, did you hear that?"
"What is it, Dan?"
"This Indian was half in a faint when the cabin was robbed, but he thinks the thief was Hank Stiger."
"That is not improbable, for Stiger was around this vicinity and did not fight with the Comanches. He could easily have come in after we went off on the trail. When was the robbery committed?"
"Him come in at the last sundown," answered Big Foot, meaning the evening before.
"And which way did he go?"
The wounded red man could not answer this query, and he now became so exhausted that the others questioned him no further.
The fire was started up, and a generous meal for all hands was prepared, of which the Indian was given all that was good for him. Then the red man went to sleep, while the Radburys began to mend the battered door and put things into shape generally. Poke Stover went off to the timber, to find out what had become of Ralph's deer, and to see if any of the enemy were still lurking in the vicinity.
It was learned by nightfall that no Indians were around for miles, and this made the Radburys breathe much more easily. Strange to say, Stover had found the deer just where Mr. Radbury had left it, and now brought it in.
"A good shot, lad," said the old frontiersman to Ralph. "No one could have made a better."
"Yes, it was a good shot," answered the boy. "I'm afraid I'll not be able to do as well every time."
"You mustn't expect it. If you could do as well every time you'd be as fine a shot as Davy Crockett himself."
"They tell me Crockett thinks of coming down to Texas," put in Mr. Radbury. "They say he is tired of things up in Tennessee."
"Yes, I heard he was coming down," replied Poke Stover. "Well, he's a wonderful old fighter, and if we have any trouble with the Mexicans ye can reckon on it as how he'll be to the front from the very start." How true was the old frontiersman's prediction the future chapters of our tale will show.
They hardly knew what to do with the Indian. Stover wished to turn him out to shift for himself, but the boys pleaded for the wounded red man, and in the end he was allowed to remain where he was. The Radburys retired to their sleeping-apartment, while Stover made himself comfortable in front of the big open fireplace. All, however, slept, as the saying goes, "with one eye open."
The next week was a busy one. It was found that not only had the Indians attacked the cabin, but they had also tried to wreck the cattle shed, and both structures had to be mended and put into order. During the absence of the settlers some of the cattle and the mustangs had strayed away to other ranges, and these had to be rounded up, for in those days men of limited means, like Mr. Radbury, did not allow their live stock to wander far away, to be rounded up once or twice a year. If they had allowed this, cattle and ponies might have gotten into the Indian country and never been heard of again.
At the end of the week Poke Stover left, stating that he was going to make a trip to San Antonio de Bexar, to learn how matters were going politically.
"There may be a scrap on already," he remarked, "and, if so, I don't want to be sitting here, sucking my thumbs."
"I admire your sentiment," replied Mr. Radbury. "If there is trouble, can I rely upon you to give me warning?"
"Certainly," answered Poke Stover.
He left on Saturday morning, and on Sunday Big Foot sat up for the first time. The Radburys had done their best for him, and for this he was extremely grateful.
"Big Foot pay back some day," he said. "Pay back sure." The boys hardly gave attention to these words, but had good cause to remember them later.
During the next few months matters ran smoothly, until one day when some of the settlers from Gonzales came in. They reported another Indian uprising farther eastward, and declared that the local government was doing nothing to check the red men.
"We must take the law into our own hands, neighbour Radbury," said one, who lived a matter of thirty miles away, yet considered himself a fairly close neighbour. "The Mexicans don't care a rap for us, and I reckon they'd just as lief see the Injuns ride over us as not."
"I trust Santa Anna does the right thing by us," answered Mr. Radbury.
"I wouldn't trust any of 'em."
"Well, if they don't do right, they had better look out for Sam Houston, or he'll be on their heels."
"Yes, I've great faith in Houston," was the other settler's answer. "He's a lawyer and a fighter, and I reckon he can whip 'em both in the court-room or on the battle-field."