The Boy Land Boomer/Chapter 11
A STRANGE LETTER.
To return to Pawnee Brown at the time when he made the double discovery that Yellow Elk, the rascally Indian, was riding his stolen mare, Bonnie Bird, and had as his fair captive Nellie Winthrop, Jack Rasco's niece.
For the moment the great scout was nearly dumfounded by the revelation. He had not met Yellow Elk for several months, and had imagined that the Indian chief was safe within the territorial reservation allotted to him and his tribe.
As Yellow Elk shifted his fair burden, Nellie Winthrop's eyes opened and she started up in alarm.
"Oh, you beast! Let me go!" she screamed faintly. She was about to say more, but Yellow Elk clapped a dirty hand over her mouth and silenced her.
"No speak more," he muttered in his broken English. "White girl speak too much."
"But—but where are you taking me? This is not the boomers camp."
"We come to camp soon—girl in too much hurry," rejoined the wily redskin.
"I was told the camp was but a short distance out of town."
"Camp he move. Pawnee Brown not safe near big town," went on Yellow Elk.
"You're a good one for fairy tales," was the boomer's silent comment. He had withdrawn to the shelter of the thick brush and sat his steed like a statue, while his pistol was ready for use, with his forefinger upon the trigger.
"But—but—what happened to me?" went on Nellie, struggling to sit up, while Yellow Elk held her back.
"White girl lose breath and shut eyes," was the answer, meaning that Nellie had fainted. "No more fight—Yellow Elk no hurt her."
"I will go no further with you—I do not believe your story!" cried Nellie. "Let me down."
At these words the face of the Indian chief grew dark, and he muttered several words in his own language which Nellie did not understand, but which Pawnee Brown made out to be that the White Bird was too sweet to be lost so easily, he must take her to his cave in the mountains.
"Will you?" murmured Pawnee Brown. "Well, maybe, but not if I know it."
The mentioning of a cave in the mountains made Pawnee Brown curious. Did Yellow Elk have such a hiding place? Where was it located, and was the Indian chief its only user?
"Perhaps some more of these reds have broken loose," he thought. "I would like to investigate. Who knows but what the cavalrymen are after them and not the boomers, as Dan Gilbert imagined."
A brief consideration of the subject and his mind was made up. So long as the Indian did not offer positive harm to Nellie Winthrop he would not expose himself, but follow on behind, in hope of locating the cave and learning more of Yellow Elk's intended movements.
"Let me go, I say!" cried Nellie, but the Indian chief merely shook his head.
"White girl be no fool. Indian friend; no hurt one hair of her head. Soon we be in camp and she will see what a friend Yellow Elk has been."
At this Nellie shook her head. That painted and dirty face was far too repulsive to be trusted. But there was no help for it; the Indian held her as in a vise, and she was forced to submit.
Moving along the trail, Indian and horse passed within a dozen feet of where Pawnee Brown sat, still as silent as a block of marble. It was a trying moment. What if the horse he rode should make a noise, or if his own Bonnie Bird should instinctively discover him and give the alarm?
"Poor Bonnie Bird, to have to carry a dirty redskin," thought the boomer. The ears of the beautiful mare went up as she drew close, and she appeared to hesitate. But Yellow Elk urged her along by several punches in the ribs, and in a moment more the danger of discovery just then was past.
On went the tall Indian along the ravine, peering cautiously ahead, with one hand around Nellie's waist and the other holding the reins and his pistol. He knew he was on a dangerous mission, and he stood ready, if unmasked, to sell his worthless life dearly.
Pawnee Brown followed at a distance of a hundred feet, taking care to pick his way so that his horse's hoofs should strike only the dirt and soft moss, and that the brush growing among the tall trees should screen him as much as possible.
Presently he saw the Indian halt and stare long and hard at a tall pine growing in front of a large flat rock.
"Wonder if he has missed his way?" mused the scout, but a moment later Yellow Elk proceeded onward, faster than ever.
Coming up to the pine, Pawnee Brown saw instantly what had attracted the redskin's attention. There was a blaze on the tree six inches square, and on the blaze was written in charcoal:
10 f. E.D. G.
"Hullo, a message from Dan," he cried, half aloud. He had read the strange marking without difficulty. It ran as follows:
"Ten feet east.Dan Gilbert."
Pacing off the ten feet in the direction indicated, Pawnee Brown located a flat rock. Raising this, he uncovered a small, circular hole, in the centre of which lay a leaf torn from a note book, on which was written:
"I write this to notify Pawnee Brown or any of my other friends that I have gone up the ravine on the trail of half a dozen cavalry scouts who are up here, not only to watch for boomers, but also to try and locate several Indians who have left the reservation without permission. I will be back soon.
The boomer read the note with interest. Then he hastily scribbled off the answer:
The answer finished, the boomer placed it in the hole, let back the flat rock and wrote on the blaze of the tree, under Dan Gilbert's initials:
"Have read the note that was left. Am following Yellow Elk, who stole my mare and has Jack Rasco's niece a captive. Yellow Elk is bound for some cave in the mountains.