5. THE PRISONER.


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What Pike saw, far over on the plateau towards Jarvis Pass would perhaps have attracted no attention from tourist or casual looker through a field glass, but to him — an old trooper, Indian fighter and mountaineer, it conveyed a world of meaning. Against the dark background of that distant ridge and upon the dun-colored flat along which the road meandered, the old corporal could just make out a number of dingy white objects — mere specks — bobbing and twinkling in the blazing sunshine. Nothing of the kind had been there when he looked


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before and he knew only too well what it meant. Those dirty white specks were the breech-clouts and turbans worn by nearly all the Tonto warriors in preference to any other head-gear or clothing, — a cheap cotton cloth being always kept in abundant supply at the agencies solely for their use. Some of them, it is true, wore no turban at all, their luxuriant growth of coarse black hair tumbling about their shoulders and trimmed off in a bang just level with their fierce, beady eyes, being all the head covering they needed. But the breech-clout was universal and some few even wore loose cotton shirts These, with the moccasin and leggin invariably worn, the leggin generally in a dozen folds at the ankle, made the war toilet of the intractable Tonto. There was none of the finery of the proud warriors of the plains — the Sioux, Cheyenne or Crow — but for all that, when those


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Apaches took to the war-path, the soldiers used to say, ‘‘It meant business.’’

‘‘They will be here in three hours at the rate they're coming; three short hours, too, for those beggars can keep up a jog trot all day long. Now for it! captain or no captain.’’

With that brief soliloquy Pike slid down from his perch, and for the second time that morning made his way down the hillside and back to camp. Here he found Kate and the children as full of eager and anxious inquiry about papa as before, and could only comfort them by saying that the mules must have run far to the south and were proving more than ordinarily obstinate about coming back. Still, he said, papa is sure to be here before noon, and indeed he hoped, and more than half believed, that such would be the case. Knowing the danger that menaced his little ones, it could not be that the captain would


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not use every endeavor to get back to them before the Indians could reach the Pass.

Jim had obeyed his instructions to the letter. There were the two big rolls of blankets, securely strapped; there were the supplies; the bacon, bread, frijoles, coffee, sugar, canned meats and vegetables. Even some jams and jellies for the children, together with the coffee pot, skillets, plates, cups and saucers all stowed away in the big iron kettle that hung under the wagon and in a pail or two, ready to be plumped into the ambulance if a start was to be made for the river, or toted up the hill if the order was to take to the cave. And then the irresponsible propensity of the negro had cropped out again. There lay Black Jim peacefully snoring in the sunshine, oblivious of all danger.

‘‘Now, Kate, as the captain has my horse, I'm going to borrow his awhile,’’ said Pike.


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‘‘I want to ride down the range a little way and see if I can't help him home with the mules. You are perfectly safe here. Just as safe, at least, as you would be if I were with you. I wouldn't go and leave you if it were not absolutely necessary, as I believe it to be. You'll take care of her, won't you, Ned, my boy?’’

The little fellow looked up bravely. ‘‘Nellie and I aren't afraid,’’ he said. ‘‘Only we do want papa to come and get something to eat. Jim told me not to let the fire go out and I put on a little dry wood now and then.’’

But Kate sat with her apron to her eyes, rocking to and fro in speechless misery and dread, Nellie striving vainly to comfort her. All unconscious of the coming peril, the little ones were fearless and almost content. They had no sympathy for their old nurse's terror. Pike stopped and spoke once again


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to Kate before riding away, but in ten minutes, mounted on a fresh and spirited horse, with his rifle athwart the pommel and the field glasses in their case swinging by their strap from his shoulder, he cantered boldly up the Pass and was soon well out upon the open plain. His idea was to ride straight out to the west along the road, five or six miles and more if necessary, scour the country southward with the glasses in search of Captain Gwynne, and if he saw nothing of him to get near enough to the advancing Apaches to see about how large a party they were, then to whirl about, put spurs to his horse, ride like the wind for camp, get Kate, the children, Jim and the blankets and provisions up to the cave and be all ready for the Tontos when they came Gregg was curveting and prancing even now, eager for a gallop, but Pike's practised hand kept him down to a moderate gait and in this way he


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rode steadily westward towards a distant rise in the midst of the undulating plateau, and there he felt confident he could see all that there was to be seen. It was just ten o'clock when he reined in at the top of a gentle ascent and unslung his glasses. First he looked towards Jarvis Pass to see how far away were the enemy and how many in number. Despite the windings of the road and occasional stunted trees or bushes, the first glance through the binocular placed them at once. Yes, there they were in plain view — certainly not more than four miles away. Not only could he count the breechclouts and turbans now, but the swarthy, sinewy bodies could be made out as they came bobbing at their jog trot along the trail. ‘‘Twenty-five in that party at least,’’ muttered Pike, ‘‘and coming for all they're worth. But what on earth are they bunched so for? There seems to be half a dozen in


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a clump, right in the middle of the road.’’ Long and earnestly he studied them; a strange, worried expression coming into his face. Then, just as he had done at the rock, Pike wiped the glasses and his own eyes, and then gazed again.

‘‘By heaven!’’ he muttered at last. ‘‘That's a prisoner, sure as fate, that they are lashing and goading along ahead of them. Who on earth can it be? Oh, God grant it isn't the captain!’’ Rapidly then he swept the plateau southward, searching the foothills of the range south of the Pass, his whole heart praying for some glimpse of horse and rider, but it was all unavailing. Then, with one more look at the coming foe, poor Pike turned, with almost a groan of misery and anxiety, gave Gregg one touch of the spur and a flip of the reins, and away he flew at full speed back to his duty at the Pass. One minute he reined in as he neared the gorge to note the direction taken by Manuelito. There were the tracks of the two mules, and running southward out across the open plain, but the captain had turned south almost the instant he had got out from among the foothills. His trail started parallel with the range. Surely then he ought to have returned to camp by this time.

AWAY HE FLEW AT FULL SPEED.


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And now, as once again he neared the little fastness in the rocks, Pike drew rein and rode at easy, jaunty lope down the Pass. He would not alarm his charges by hoof-beat that indicated the faintest haste. When he and Gregg came into view no one of the anxious watchers could have dreamed for an instant that he had seen a horde of fierce Apaches hastening to overtake them.

‘‘Just as I thought,’’ he sung out cheerily. ‘‘The captain went right down the range to the south and the mules strayed off


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across the plateau, so they missed each other and he won't come back till he gets them. It's all right, but I expect he's pretty hungry by this time.’’ Then, springing from the saddle, he picked little Nell up in his arms:

‘‘And now, baby, you want to see the beautiful house I found for you, don't you? We'll all go up and take a look at it and have lunch up there — and lots of fun — while we wait for papa.’’ And then with a kiss he set her down and stalked over to where Jim was still snoring in the sunshine!

‘‘Wake up, Jim!’’ he cried, giving him a lively shake or two. ‘‘Wake up and give me a lift here. Nellie wants to see her stone house.’’

It took some hard shaking — it generally does — to rouse the darkey from his slumber, but Jim presently sat up, rubbed his eyes, looked around him, and then, as though


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suddenly recovering his faculties, sprang to his feet.

‘‘Unsaddle 'Gregg' and put the saddle, bridle and blanket with the other stuff, Jim,’’ whispered Pike. ‘‘We must take our horse equipments and harness with us. We've got to move up to the cave. No hurry, mind you. You fetch the blankets first. I'll carry Nellie.’’

Then calling to Ned to bring his Ballard — there were lots of squirrels up the hill — a fiction that can hardly have been very heavily charged against him, Pike quickly lifted Nellie to his shoulders and strode off up the rocks. ‘‘You come, too, Kate. It's quite a climb but it'll do you good,’’ he shouted, and presently he had his whole procession strung out behind him and clambering from bowlder to bowlder. Long before they reached the ledge they had to let poor Kate recover breath and, after one


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or two halts of this kind, Pike sent Jim ahead with the blankets and bade him come back at once and tow, push or boost the stout Irishwoman to their destination. At last the rock was reached, Ned and Nellie shouting with delight over the wonderful cave and speedily making themselves at home in its inmost recesses, Kate breathless and exhausted and bemoaning the fates that brought her on such an uncanny trip. The blankets were spread out on the smooth surface of the rock within the great, gloomy hollow. Jim was sent down for another load while Pike clambered up to his watchtower and took a long look with his glass. The Indians had not yet reached the rise from which he had counted their numbers at ten o'clock.

In an hour more all the provisions they could need for several days, more blankets and pillows, all the arms and ammunition,


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all the harness and horse equipments had been lugged up to and safely stowed in and about the cave. ‘‘They'll burn the wagons, blast them!’’ muttered Pike to himself, ‘‘but we can leave the horses there. They won't harm them because they will want them to get away with in case they find the cavalry on their trail. The chances are the horses can be recovered, but darn me if I'll let 'em have saddle, bridle or harness to run off anything with.’’ Then once more he had climbed to his post and was diligently watching the road, while Jim, obedient to orders, was rolling rocks and bowlders around to the opening of the cave.

‘‘What's thim for?’’ demanded Kate.

‘‘Corporal Pike's goin' to build a wall here to keep out the bears,’’ said Jim, with lowered voice and a significant glance at the children prattling happily together at the


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back of the cave, and poor Kate knew 'twas no use asking questions.

And now, through the glasses, Pike could see the Tontos gathered on the low hillock which had been the western limit of his morning ride. They seemed to have come suddenly upon Gregg's hoof prints and to have halted for consultation. Full half an hour they tarried there and the children began to clamor for the promised luncheon. Sauntering down by a roundabout way the veteran picked up an armful of dry twigs, sticks and dead boughs and tossed them down at the mouth of the cave. Then, behind the rock, he built a small fire of the dryest twigs he could find, explaining that he didn't want smoke in the dining room, and soon had his skillet heating and his kettle of water at the boil. Jim was directed to cook all that was needed for luncheon and to have plenty for the captain, who would be


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sure to come back mighty hungry in course of the afternoon, and the corporal was speedily at his post again. What could it mean? The Tontos were still hanging about that little hill six miles out there on the plain. Was it possible they had abandoned the pursuit?

Noon came; one o'clock, two o'clock. They had all had luncheon, and Pike had been scrambling up and down the rock like a monkey, and still there was no forward movement of the foe. Every time he looked they were still lounging or squatting, so he judged, about the stunted trees on the knoll, and there was nothing to explain the delay. It must have three o'clock when at last the binocular told him they were again in motion and coming rapidly toward him. He could see the dirty white breech-clouts floating in the breeze and could almost distinguish the forms of the warriors themselves. Leaving


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his glass on the top of the ledge he slid down to the base again, called quietly to Jim, and the two men set to work to build their breastwork. Bowlders big and little, rocks of every possible shape and size were all around them, and in three-quarters of an hour they had a stout parapet fully four feet high, whose loopholes commanded the approach up the hillside, and yet were secure from fire from above, below or either flank. Then back he went to his watchtower.

The instant he adjusted the glass and levelled it at the road, Pike gave vent to an expletive that need not be recorded here, but that indicated in him a most unusual degree of excitement. No wonder. The Tontos were now in plain view — only two miles and a half out there on the plain, — and though they were spread out, as a rule, to the right and left of the road, quite a number of


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them came jogging along the road itself, and right in the midst of these, led by an Indian in front and guarded by two or three in rear — were the missing mules. Even at that distance Pike could swear to them. On they came, rapidly, relentlessly, well knowing that even if their human prey had escaped them the big wagon must be somewhere about the Pass and loaded still with provisions. Nearer — nearer jogged the leaders; but now the old trooper was carefully studying a dark object on the back of the foremost mule — a pack of some kind — and marvelling what it could be, — wondering, too, what they had done with their prisoner. He was sure they had one as they came along that morning. At last they were within a mile of the heights and the western entrance to the Pass, and now their speed slackened. They began opening out farther and farther to the right and left, and the


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nearer they came to the foothills the slower and steadier became their advance. The mules and their attendants were kept well in the background and for the life of him Pike could not tell what that queer looking pack could be. Slowly, steadily, the Tonto skirmish line came on. Every moment brought them nearer to the mouth of the Pass. The sun was low down in the west and threw long shadows of the approaching foe before them. Little by little, crouching, almost crawling, the more daring spirits among them would give a spring and a rapid run to the front of forty or fifty yards. Evidently they expected to be greeted with a sharp fire somewhere about the Pass, and did not dare push ahead in their usual order. And now they had reached the entrance to the defile. Two or three, as flankers, remained well out to the right and left among the trees; two or three stole cautiously ahead down the road. Pike watched their every move, yet found himself every few seconds fixing his gaze on that foremost mule now placidly cropping the scant herbage while the skirmish line pushed ahead. Presently a signal of some kind was given and repeated. The Indians in charge of the mules hastened with them to the mouth of the Pass, and as they did so, that singular pack came closer under Pike's powerful glass.

THE TWO MEN SET TO WORK TO BUILD THEIR BREASTWORK.


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‘‘It's their prisoner,’’ he uttered. ‘‘They have driven and goaded him until he fainted from exhaustion. Then they had to wait for the mules to be brought up to the hillock — then lashed the poor fellow upon the back of one of them and pushed ahead.’’ For some purpose of their own they were keeping him alive, and death by fearful torture was something to be looked forward to in the near future. The corporal continued


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to gaze as though fascinated until the leading mule got almost under him, and then he gave a groan of helplessness and misery as he exclaimed, ‘‘My God! My God! It's Manuelito!’’

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