The Boy Land Boomer/Chapter 26

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For the moment it looked as if Pawnee Brown meant to let the mad bull gore him to pieces.

On and on came the beast until less than two yards separated him and the great scout.

Crack! came the report of the boomer's pistol, and the bull fell back a pace, clipped between the horns. A lucky swerve downward had saved him from a bullet wound through the eye.

There was no time for another shot. With a bellow the bull leaped the intervening space and landed almost on top of Pawnee Brown!

A yell went up from those who saw the movement.

"Pawnee is done fur. The bull will rip him inside out."

"Buckley ought to have killed that bull long ago—that's the second time he's gone on a rampage."

"Somebody shoot him and save Pawnee!"

The last was a well meant cry, but a shot could not be thought of, for man and beast were too close together.

But Pawnee Brown was not yet defeated. He still held his trusty hunting knife, and he was not terrorized as some of the onlookers imagined.

A few words will explain the cause. In his day the scout had visited Mexico more than once, and while there had participated in more than one bull fight, on one occasion defeating a celebrated Mexican fighter and gaining a handsome prize.

As the mad bull charged, the scout leaped like lightning to one side, and drove the hunting knife up to the hilt into the beast's throat.

There was a spurt of blood, a bellow of pain, and the bull staggered back several steps.

He was badly wounded, but by no means out of the fight, as his glaring eyes still showed. He shook his head vigorously, then charged again.

Once more the knife went up and came down, this time just below the beast's ear. A fearful bellow came after the stroke. Before the bull could retire, the knife was withdrawn and plunged in a third and last time. This third stroke wound up the encounter, for limping to one side the bull fell forward upon his knees, gave a kick or two with his hind legs, and rolled over on the prairie grass, dead.

"Hurrah! Pawnee has killed him."

"Talk about yer bull fighters! They ain't in it with Pawnee!"

"Yer saved my life," exclaimed Clemmer, who had risen. "I shan't forget yer, Pawnee," and he held out his broad hand for a shake.

The bull dead, Pawnee Brown called Buckley up and gave him a lecture for not having killed the vicious beast long ago.

"You have no business to bring such a bull into camp in the first place, Buckley," he said. "Be more careful in the future, or you'll have to get out, bag and baggage. That bull might have killed half a dozen people had he charged the crowd."

A short while after this the great scout and Clemmer set off from Honnewell along the ravine in search of Dick, Rasco and Nellie Winthrop. The cheering news from Washington had set Pawnee Brown at rest so far as his duty to the boomers was concerned, and he felt quite free to pursue his own affairs and those of his immediate friends.

"If possible I would like to meet Louis Vorlange and have a talk with him," he said to Clemner, after having related what had occurred near Peter Day's home. "I think that spy can clear up much of this mystery concerning Mortimer Arbuckle, if he will."

"It ain't likely he'll open his trap," answered Clem mer. "By doin thet he d only be gettin himself in hot water."

"We'll make him speak," was Pawnee Brown's grim response.

An hour of hard riding brought them to the spot where Dick had been left. Not a single trace of the lad could be found. Both men looked blank.

"Bet he's wandered off and got lost," said Clemmer, and Pawnee Brown nodded.

"We'll strike off eastward, Cal, and see if we can't find some trace of him. It is no use of going westward. If he had gone that way, he would have reached the ravine and come up into Kansas."

Once again they set off. An hour was spent here and there, when suddenly Clemmer uttered a cry.

"Been a struggle hyer, Pawnee. See them footprints?"

"Three people," answered the scout, making an inspection. "A boy, a girl or a woman, and an Indian. Can they have been Dick, Nellie Winthrop and Yellow Elk? Hang me if it doesn't look like it."

"Hyer's where the trail leads off," said Clemmer. "And that's the boy's. Can't see nuthin o the gal's."

"That means the Indian carried her off," ejaculated Pawnee Brown. "Let us follow his trail without delay."

"But the boy's?"

"You follow that, and I'll follow the redskin. If he had the girl I want to know it."

A few words more and they separated. Pawnee Brown was on his mettle and followed Yellow Elk's trail with all the keenness of an Indian himself. In half an hour he had reached the brook. Here he came to a series of rocks and was forced to come to a halt.

But not for long. Fording the water-course, he began a search which speedily revealed the trail again, leading to a small river a quarter of a mile further on.

He followed the river for less than fifty feet, when a number of voices broke upon his ears.

"I'm sure I saw the redskin on the river, and he had a girl with him, Ross."

"You must have been dreaming, Tucker. No red skins up here."

"All right, I know what I am talking about."

"I think I saw something, too," said a third voice, that of Skimmy, the calvaryman.

The three calvarymen were out on a scouting expedition, to learn if the boomers were in the vicinity of the river.

Tucker especially was on the lookout for Pawnee Brown, determined to bring the great scout down and thus win the reward Louis Vorlange had promised.

The scout listened to the talk of the cavalrymen for fully ten minutes with great interest.

He had just started to move on, satisfied that it would be of no benefit to remain longer, when Tucker turned and walked his horse directly toward the spot where he was concealed.

"A boomer behind the brush!" shouted the cavalryman. "Come, boys, and take him!"

Immediately there was a rush, and Pawnee Brown was surrounded. He had his pistol out and in return came the weapons of the trio.

"Well, gentlemen, you seem to want to make me your prisoner," said the scout, coolly.

"Thet's wot," cried Ross. "Eh, Tucker?"

To make Pawnee Brown a prisoner would be of no personal benefit to him.

"You seem to bear me a grudge," said the boomer, eyeing him sharply.

Tucker could not stand that gaze and his eyes dropped.

"Yes, you're a prisoner," said Ross. "Let's bind him up, Skimmy."

"Take that!"

Pawnee Brown leaped forward and hurled both Ross and Skimmy to the ground. Ere they could rise he had turned upon Tucker. The tall calvaryman had his pistol cocked, and now he blazed away almost in Pawnee Brown's face, and then both went down, with the scout on top.

The flash of the pistol had scorched the boomer's skin, but the bullet sung over his head, missing him by less than an inch. As he came down upon Tucker he hit the cavalryman a terrific blow in the jaw, breaking that member and knocking out several teeth.

"On him!" yelled Skimmy, and tried to rise. But now Pawnee Brown was again up, and flung Skimmy on top of Ross. In a moment more he was running along the river bank.

He was almost out of sight, when there came two shots, from Ross and Skimmy. Neither hit him, however, and he continued on his way, while the two cavalrymen turned back to pick up Tucker, who lay in a heap, groaning and twisting from intense pain. The tall cavalryman could not, of course, talk, and his wound was so serious that there was nothing to do but to carry him to his horse, support him in the saddle and ride back to the fort for medical assistance. It was a clean knock-out, and one that Tucker had good cause to remember to the day of his death.

It was some time ere Pawnee Brown struck the trail of Yellow Elk again, but having once spotted it he pursued his course with increased vigor. The trail led along the river to where there was almost a lake. This had just been reached, when he heard a scream. Instantly he recognized Nellie Winthrop's voice.

"Thank heaven I came as soon as I did," he murmured, and dashed forward to the spot from whence the sound had proceeded.