The Boy Land Boomer/Chapter 13
Over and over on the stone flooring rolled the boomer and his red enemy, now close to the fire and again off to one side, where there was a slight hollow still wet from the recent storm.
Pawnee Brown had Yellow Elk by the throat and across the back, while the Indian held his antagonist by the shoulder with one hand, while trying to beat his brains out with the pistol that was in the other.
Once Yellow Elk succeeded in getting in a glancing blow, which drew blood, but did no great harm. But now Pawnee Brown's grip was tightening. The redskin was choking. His eyes bulged from their sockets and his tongue hung out several inches.
"Ugh!" gasped the Indian chief. In vain he tried to shake off that grip. It was like that of a bulldog and could not be loosened. He struck out wildly, but the pistol butt only landed upon Pawnee Brown's shoulder, a shoulder that was as tough as iron and could stand any amount of pounding.
Suddenly the tactics of the Indian changed. Knowing that he was in immediate danger of death by choking, and feeling how unlikely it was that he could throw off his assailant, he let fall his pistol and caught the boomer around the body. Then he began to roll toward the fire, which was now blazing up more brightly than ever.
The scout saw the redskin's intention instantly, but before he could stop it both he and his enemy were close to the flames.
"Me die you die too!" hissed Yellow Elk, and gave another roll, which took both himself and Pawnee Brown into the very edge of the blaze.
"Take care! You will be burnt up!" cried Nellie Winthrop, and gave a scream. Rushing forward, she caught Pawnee Brown by the arm and attempted to draw him back.
But of this there was no need, for the great scout had already changed his tactics, feeling convinced that to choke Yellow Elk was now impossible. His hand left the redskin's throat, to double up and sail forth into a crushing blow, which took the Indian chief beneath the eyes and made him see more stars than were ever beheld in the blue canopy of heaven. As Yellow Elk fell back Pawnee Brown did likewise, but in a different direction.
The Indian was now in the midst of the flames and the cry he let out was truly blood-curdling. Excited as he was, Pawnee Brown did not let the intonation of that cry escape him. Understanding the Indian language well, he knew it was more than a cry of terror or pain, it was a call for help! Other Indians must be somewhere in the vicinity.
"You had better run for it!" he said, turning to Nellie. "Mount my horse—the mare the Indian had—and ride down the ravine."
"Run?" she faltered.
"Yes, and hurry. Hark! As I thought! Other Indians are coming!"
The boomer was right. The footsteps sounded from the opposite end of the cave, which had two entrances, similar to each other.
By this time Yellow Elk had rolled out of the fire and was dancing around like a madman, trying to beat out the flames which had communicated to his clothing.
As Nellie ran off, Pawnee Brown drew his pistol, resolved to not only defend himself but cover the girl's retreat as well.
Little did he dream of the fresh perils which awaited Nellie. What those perils were the immediate chapters which follow will relate.
As Yellow Elk danced around, Pawnee Brown leveled his revolver at him.
Crack! went the weapon and the Indian chief fell back with a wound through his shoulder. The flickering of the fire-light had saved him from death.
A cry that was little less than a war whoop now sounded out, and with this four other Indians appeared, two whom Pawnee Brown had before seen in Yellow Elk's company and two who were utter strangers to him.
"Capture the white dog!" howled Yellow Elk, in his native tongue. "Shoot the dog down!"
"Pawnee Brown!" grunted one of the newcomers, and up went several pistols. The scout fired at the same time, and one of the strange Indians threw up his hands and fell lifeless. But the bullet this Indian had sent on its mission struck the boomer across the forehead and sent the scout to the flooring of the cave senseless.
When Pawnee Brown came to a clear mind again he found himself aching in every portion of his body, for in their usual custom the Indians on finding him helpless had each taken their turn at kicking him to suit their pleasure, Yellow Elk especially delighting in this cruel performance.
The scout was bound tightly with a lariat which started from his feet and was wound and crossed up to his very neck, making body, legs and arms as stiff as those of an Egyptian mummy. He lay on the cave flooring not a dozen feet from the fire, which Yellow Elk was in the act of replenishing.
As he opened his eyes one of the other Indians, Spotted Nose by name, stopped in front of him. The scout instantly closed his eyes again, but it was too late.
"You all right," cried Spotted Nose, and gave him a sharp kick in the side.
"Well I won't be if you keep on kicking me," replied the boomer, as cheerfully as he could, although it must be admitted he was much disturbed. He glanced around and was relieved to see that Nellie was nowhere in sight.
Yellow Elk now came up and also kicked the prostrate scout.
"You heap dirty dog!" he exclaimed, his face full of bitter hatred. "You shoot me—you die for dat."
"I suppose I will—if you have the saying of that, Yellow Elk. But perhaps you won't dare to kill me."
"Why not Indian dare? Indian dare anything," growled Yellow Elk.
"My friends are not far off—they will soon come here, and if you harm me it will go hard with you."
At this all of the Indians laughed.
"No white man around here—we on guard all time," said Spotted Nose.
"On guard, eh? And yet you didn't see me come in, Dirty Nose?"
"Spotted Nose did see Pawnee Brown," was the answer; but this was a falsehood. An Indian hates to admit that he has been in any manner outwitted by a white man.
"You tell a good story, Dirty Nose." Pawnee Brown turned to Yellow Elk. "Yellow, how did you run across that girl?"
"Yellow Elk no tell his secrets," came the answer. "Pawnee Brown fool to ask. Pawnee Brown think him heap sly, like fox, but him sly only like cow!" This produced laugh, for the Indians from the Indian Territory are not as stolid as were their forefathers, and thoroughly enjoy their own rude manner of joking.
Presently Yellow Elk turned to his companions and spoke to them in an undertone. A moment later, he sped away, but whether in pursuit of Nellie Winthrop or not, Pawnee Brown could not tell.
The Indian chief was gone fully an hour, and came back looking unusually grave.
Pawnee Brown had tried in vain to get Spotted Nose and the other Indian to talk—to tell him why they had left the reservation. Not one would speak further than to tell him to keep quiet.
On returning, Yellow Elk at once set to work to rig up an upright pole from the floor to the ceiling of the cave, using a heavy tree branch for the purpose. The upright was placed close to where the smoke from the fire found a vent through several large cracks in the ceiling, and the boomer watched these proceedings with much alarm.
The Indians were erecting a fire-stake, such as they had used in the wild west when some victim was to be roasted alive!
"Heavens! can that be meant for me?" was the question he asked himself.
The stake planted and fastened firmly, Yellow Elk heaped some fresh, dry brush around its bottom and then came up to Pawnee Brown.
"Pawnee Brown see the fire-stake?" he asked, his savage eyes gleaming like two stars.
"I do, Yellow. Who is it for?"
"Why does Pawnee Brown ask? Does he not deserve death?"
"I suppose I do—according to your notion."
"Pawnee Brown shall burn—he shall burn slowly," went on Yellow Elk, meaning that he would make the great scout's torture last as long as possible.
"Your training on the reservation hasn't civilized you much, Yellow, if that's the way you feel about it."
"I hate white man—all of them," grumbled the Indian chief. "They take all my land away and put me in a little yard to live. I would kill all white man if could," and he grated his teeth.
A moment later Yellow Elk nodded to the other Indians and all leaped forward and bound Pawnee Brown fast to the fire-stake. This done the red skins heaped the brush around the scout's feet.
"Now the dirty white dog can die!" hissed Yellow Elk, as he advanced with a torch. "He can pray, but the white man's Great Father cannot save him! He must burn until his bones are as charcoal!"
And so speaking Yellow Elk thrust the torch into the dry brush and set it on fire!