The Boy Land Boomer/Chapter 21
DICK'S DISAGREEABLE DISCOVERY.
Dick murmured the word over and over again, as he peered through the brush, first in one direction and then in another.
"I ought to have kept track of where I was going," he went on bitterly. "Of course, away out here one place is about as good as another for hiding, but how am I going to find the others, or, rather, how are they going to find me, when they come back?"
He pushed on for nearly a quarter of an hour; then, coming to a flat rock, threw himself down for reflection.
"Just my luck!" he muttered. "I'll have to have a string tied about my neck like a poodle dog. What a clown I was to go it blind! But Nellie's cry for help made me forget everything else. Poor girl! I do hope she is safe. If that redskin—gosh! what's that?"
The flat rock was backed up by a number of heavy bushes. From these bushes had come a peculiar noise, half grunt, half yawn! Dick leaped to his feet, the bushes parted and there appeared the savage face of Yellow Elk!
Dick knew the Indian by that plume of which he had heard so much. He rightfully guessed that Yellow Elk had been taking a nap behind the bushes. He had been shot in the thigh, and this, coupled with the fact that he had had no sleep for two nights, had made him very weary.
As the Indian chief shoved his face into view he caught sight of Dick and uttered a slight huh! Up came the boy's weapon, but on the instant Yellow Elk disappeared.
For the moment Dick was too paralyzed to move. Like a flash he realized that Yellow Elk had the better of him, for the Indian was behind shelter, while he stood in a clearing.
"White boy stand still!" came in guttural tones from the redskin. "Don't dare move, or Indian shoot."
"What do you want of me?" asked Dick.
"White boy all alone?"
"What business is that of yours?"
At this Yellow Elk muttered a grunt. Then from out of the bushes Dick saw thrust the shining barrel of a horse pistol.
"White boy throw down little shooter," commanded the redskin. By little shooter he meant Dick's pistol.
There was no help for it, and the youth did as requested.
"White boy got udder shooter?"
"Now say if white boy alone. Speak if want to save life."
"Yes, I am alone, Yellow Elk."
"Ha! you know Yellow Elk?" cried the Indian in surprise.
"I've heard of you."
"What white boy do here?"
"I am lost."
"Lost. Huh!" and a look of disgust crossed the Indian chief's face. The idea of a human being losing his way was something he could not understand. During his life he had covered thousands of miles of prairie and forest lands and had never yet lost himself. Such is the training and instinct of a true American aboriginal.
While speaking Yellow Elk had leaped through the brush, and now he came up and peered into Dick's face. Instantly his eyes filled with anger.
"I know white boy; he friend to Pawnee Brown. Indian see him at big moving"—meaning the camp of the boomers. He had not noticed Dick in the fight at the cave.
"Yes, Pawnee Brown is my friend," answered Dick. "Where is he now?" he added, to throw the Indian off the series of questions he was propounding.
"Pawnee Brown dead!" muttered Yellow Elk simply. "White boy come with me."
"With you!" ejaculated Dick, a chill creeping up to his heart.
"Yes; come now. No wait, or Yellow Elk shoot!" and again the horse pistol was raised.
The tone was so ugly that Dick felt it would be use less to hang back. Yellow Elk pointed with his arm in the direction he wished the lad to proceed, and away they went, the Indian but a pace behind, and keeping his pistol where it would be ready for use whenever required.
Dick never forgot that walk in the starlight, taken at about the same time that Pawnee Brown was floundering in the quicksand. A mile or more was covered, over prairies, through a wood and across several small streams, for the fertile Indian Territory abounds in water courses. Yellow Elk stuck to him like a shadow, and the pistol was continually in evidence. Yellow Elk had likewise appropriated Dick's weapon, the one cast to the ground.
Presently a clearing was gained where stood a cabin built of logs. All about the place was deserted. Going up to the cabin the Indian opened the door and lit a match.
"White boy go inside and we have talk," said Yellow Elk, when there came a noise from the woods beyond. At once Yellow Elk pushed Dick into the cabin and bolted the door from the outside.
"White boy keep quiet or Yellow Elk come in and kill!" he hissed, in a low but distinct tone. "No make a sound till Indian open door again."
The Indian's words were so terrifying that Dick stood still for several minutes exactly where he had been thrust. All was pitch dark around him. He listened, but not a sound reached his ears.
"Where in the world is this adventure going to end?" was the thought which coursed through his mind.
He wondered what had alarmed Yellow Elk. Was it the approach of some white friend? Fervidly he prayed it might be.
A low, half-suppressed cough from somewhere close at hand caught his ear and made him start.
"Who is there?" he asked aloud.
"Oh, Dick Arbuckle, is that you?" came in an eager voice.
"Nellie Winthrop! Is it possible? Where are you?"
"In the next room."
"Can't you come out?"
"No; I'm locked in."
"Gosh, you don't say! Forgetting his former fear, Dick hurried across the cabin floor to the door of the inner apartment. Feeling around in the dark he found a hasp and staple and pulled out the plug which fastened the barrier. In another instant boy and girl plumped into each other's arms in the darkness. Even in that moment of peril Dick could not resist giving Nellie a little squeeze, which she did not resent.
"But how came you here?" asked the youth quickly.
"I was captured by a government spy, who wants to get from me some secret of the boomers. He is a bad-looking man, and I was awfully afraid of him."
"Yellow Elk brought me here. We are prisoners together. Some noise in the woods just took Yellow Elk off."
"The man has been gone less than five minutes. Perhaps they are in league with each other," suggested Nellie.
"Perhaps, or they may be enemies. But never mind how that stands. We must get away, Nellie, and that before Yellow Elk comes back."
"Heaven knows, I am willing!" gasped the trembling girl. "I want no more of Yellow Elk."
"The window is nailed up," went on Dick, after an examination. "And the Indian fastened that door from the outside. I wonder if I can't get out by way of the roof?" He lit a match and gazed upward. "There is an opening. Here goes!"
In another instant he was climbing up beside the fireplace, to where a scuttle led to the sloping roof. He was soon without, and Nellie heard him drop to the ground. Then the outer door was thrown back.
"Quick! The Indian is coming back, and there is somebody with him!" whispered Dick, and, taking hold of Nellie's hand, he led her away as fast as possible. Their course was from the rear of the cabin and across a broad but shallow stream.
"We'll go down the stream a bit before we land," said Dick, as they were on the point of stepping out of the water. "That may serve to throw Yellow Elk off the trail."
"Yes, yes, but do hurry!" answered the girl. "If Yellow Elk gets hold of me again I'll die!" The fear of getting into the clutches of the red man was so great she trembled from head to foot and would have gone down had not Dick's strong arm supported her.
It was wonderful how strong the youth felt, now that he had somebody besides himself to protect. It is said that nature fits the back to the burden, and it must have been so in this case. For himself, he might have feared to face Yellow Elk single-handed; defending Nellie he would, if called upon, have faced a dozen redskins.
On and on they went, as silently as possible. The trees overhung the brook from both sides, making it pitch dark beneath.
A distance of fifty yards had been covered, when they heard a loud exclamation of rage, followed by an Indian grunt.
"The white man and the Indian have met and both have discovered our flight," whispered Dick. "Come, we will leave the stream and take to yonder woods. Surely among those trees we can find some safe hiding place."
They turned in toward shore. As they were about to step to dry land Nellie's foot slipped on a round stone, making a loud splash. At the same time the girl gave a faint cry.
"My ankle—it's twisted!"
"Quick! let me carry you!" returned Dick, and, seeing the ankle must pain her not a little, he picked her up in his arms and dove in among the trees.
They were not a moment too soon, for the ready ears of Yellow Elk had heard the splash and the cry, and now he came bounding in the direction, with Louis Vorlange at his heels.