6. MANUELITO'S FATE.


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For ten minutes Pike remained at his post of observation on top of the rock, watching the Indians as they slowly and cautiously moved down the Pass in the direction of the abandoned camp. The children, worn out with their play, and the fatigues of the climb, were sleeping soundly in the little cave on the peak, — Nellie, with her fair head pillowed in patient Kate's lap. Black Jim, too, was lying where the sun shone full upon him, and snoring away as placidly as earlier in the morning.

Kate, far back in the cave, had no idea


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what was going on in the Pass below; but her soul was still filled with dread and anxiety. The old trooper knew well that just as soon as the Indians came to the wagons and found them abandoned, their first care would be to secure all the plunder from them possible. Then they would probably dispose of Manuelito after their own cruel designs; and then, if darkness did not come on in the meantime, they would probably begin their search for the fugitives. There would be no difficulty to Indian trailers in following their track up the mountain side; of this Pike was well assured. But the wary old trooper had taken the precaution, every time that he and Jim had gone to and from the camp, to take a roundabout path, so as to bring their trail around the base of the mountain in front of the cave, and in this way the Indians in following would come directly in front of


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their barricade at the mouth and from sixty to a hundred yards down the hill and within easy range and almost sure shot of the defenders.

And now, peering down into the road far below, Pike could see that the leading Indians had come in sight of the big baggage wagon and that they were signalling to those in the rear, for almost instantly three or four sinewy, athletic young fellows sprang up among the trees and bowlders on the north side of the Pass, and crouching like panthers, half crawling, half springing, they went flitting from rock to rock or tree to tree until lost to the view of the lone watcher on the great ledge, but it was evident that their purpose was to reconnoitre the position from that side, as well as to surround the objects of their pursuit should they still be there. Almost at the same instant, too, an equal number of the Tontos


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came leaping like goats a short distance up the slope towards Pike's unconscious garrison, but speedily turned eastward, and, adopting precisely the same tactics as those of their comrades across the road, rapidly, but with the utmost stealth and noiselessness, bore down on the abandoned nook.

‘‘Mighty lucky we got out of that and found this,’’ muttered Pike. ‘‘It won't be five minutes before they satisfy themselves that there is no one left to defend those wagons or the horses — and the moment they realize it there'll be a yell of delight.’’

Sure enough! After a brief interval of silence, there came from below a shout of exultation, answered instantly by triumphant yells from the Indians in the roadway, and echoed by a wail of mortal terror from poor Kate, crouching below in the cave. Pike lost no time in sliding down the rocks and striving to comfort her. Nellie, clinging to


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her nurse, was terrified by the sounds. Little Ned, pale, but with his boyish face set and determined, grasped once more his little Ballard rifle, and looked up in the corporal's face as much as to say: Count on me for one of your fighting men! Trembling, shivering and calling on the blessed saints, poor Kate stood there wringing her hands, the very personification of abject fright. Jim, coming around to the mouth of the cave, spoke sternly to her; told her she ought to be ashamed of herself for setting so bad an example to little Nell. ‘‘Look at Ned,’’ he said, ‘‘see how the little man behaves; his father would be proud of him.’’ And then Pike spoke up. ‘‘Don't worry, don't be so afraid, Kate; they have got all they want just now. They'll just plunder and gorge themselves with food, and then they will have Manuelito to amuse themselves with. It is getting too late in the day for them to attempt to follow us. They have got too much to occupy themselves with anyhow. Don't you worry, old girl; if they do come this way, as they may to-morrow morning, we'll give them a dose that will make them wish they had never seen a Yankee.’’

NELLIE, CLINGING TO HER NURSE, WAS TERRIFIED BY THE SOUNDS.


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The Indian shouts redoubled; every accent was that of triumph. They were evidently rejoicing over the rich find in the ambulance and the baggage wagon. Of course a great deal of property had been left there for which Pike's party would have no possible use up here in the cave, and this included plenty of food. The horses, too, delighted the Tontos, and, as Pike said, they would doubtless be occupied some little time with the division of the spoils, and longer in having a grand feast.

Looking down the road he could see the two mules browsing peacefully side by side, Manuelito still lashed to the back of one of


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them. Two young Indians stood guard over him and their four-footed captives; but even these fellows were by no means forgotten, for every now and then Pike could see their friends running back to them with something to eat and, after exchanging a word or two, hurrying again to the wagons.

After a while poor Kate, partially assured by Pike's words, but more shamed into silence by the bravery of little Ned, subsided into a corner of the cave, and there seated herself, moaning and weeping, but no longer making any outcry. Pike decided that it would be necessary for him to go once more to his watch-tower, and as far as he could, watch the programme of the Apaches the rest of the day. Before starting, however, he called up Jim and gave him his instructions: ‘‘You see that the sun is almost down. The chances are that they will be so much interested in what they


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have found that darkness will settle down upon us before they fairly get through with their jubilee. Then, again, it may be that the bloody hounds will have some fun of their own with poor Manuelito to-night. I've no sympathy for the scoundrel, but I can't bear the idea of one who has served with us so long being tortured before our very eyes. We can't help it, however, there are only two of us here, and our first object is to protect these poor little children, and that wretched old Kate of a nurse there. Stay here with your rifle behind the barricade. I'll whistle if any Indian attempts to follow our trail; then I'll come down here as quickly as possible. But keep a bright lookout yourself. Watch those trees down there to the front. Note everything occurring along the road as far as you can see. There goes one of the beggars back to that point now. Even in the midst of their fun


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they don't neglect precautions. See! he's going to climb up there on that little hill just where I was watching this morning. Yes, there he goes. Now you will see him lie down flat when he gets to the top, and peer over the rocks to the west. What he is looking out for, I don't know, but it may be that they expect the cavalry even more than we do. They possibly have had signal fires from the reservation warning them that the cavalry have already left the Verde. I hope and pray they have. Now, keep up your grit, Jim; don't let anything phaze you. If you want help, or see anything, whistle, and I'll come down.’’

Already it was growing darker down the gorge. Pike could see that the Apaches had lighted a fire in the road close to the wagons. Evidently they were going to begin some cooking on their own account, and were even now distributing the provisions


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they had found. Two of them had released Manuelito from the mule, and the poor devil was now seated, bound and helpless, on a rock by the roadside, looking too faint and terrified to live. The captain's field glass revealed a sorry sight to the old soldier's eyes as he peered down at the little throng of savages about the baggage wagon, now completely gutted of its contents; and though he despised the Mexican as a traitor and thief and coward, it was impossible not to feel compassion for him in his present awful plight. There was something most pitiable in the fellow's clasped hands and abject despair. He had lived too long in Arizona not to know the fate reserved for prisoners taken by the Indians, and he knew, and Pike knew, that, their hunger once satisfied, the chances were ten to one they would then turn their attention entirely to their captive, and have a wild and furious revel as they slowly tortured him to death.

THE POOR DEVIL WAS NOW SEATED, BOUND AND HELPLESS, ON A ROCK BY THE ROADSIDE.


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The sun had gone down behind the range, far over to the west, as Pike reached once more the top of his watch-tower, and every moment the darkness deepened down the Pass. Up here he could not only see the baggage wagon in the road, but the top of the ambulance, and two of the horses were also visible, and occasionally the lithe forms of the Tontos scurrying about in the firelight. Evidently the old cook fire in the cleft of the rocks had been stirred up and was now being utilized by half the band, while the others toasted the bacon and roasted frijoles down in the road. The yells had long since ceased. Many of the warriors were squatting about the baggage wagon gnawing at hard bread or other unaccustomed luxuries, but those at the ambulance were chattering like so many monkeys and


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keeping up a hammering, the object of which Pike could not at first imagine, until he suddenly remembered the locked box under the driver's seat, the key of which was always carried by the captain. Then a flash of hope shot over him as he recalled the fact that when they left their station Captain Gwynne had stowed away in there three or four bottles of whiskey or brandy. It would take them but a little while, he knew, to break into the enclosure, and then there would be a bacchanalian scene.

‘‘Oh, that it were a barrel instead of a bottle or two,’’ groaned Pike. ‘‘As it is there's just enough to exhilirate the gang and keep them singing and dancing all night; but a barrel!—that would stupefy them one after another and Jim and I could have gone down and murdered the whole crowd. Not one of 'em would ever have known what hurt him.’’


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Ha! a sound of crashing, splitting wood. A rush, a scuffle—then a yell of triumph and delight. Every Indian in the roadway sprang to his feet and darted off up the rocks to swell the chorus at the ambulance. Even Manuelito's guard left his prisoner to take care of himself and ran like a deer to claim his share of the madly craved fire water. A few years before and most of them hardly knew its taste, but some of their number had more than once made John Barleycorn's acquaintance and had told wondrous tales of its effects. In less than a minute, with the single exception of their sentry on the hill, every Tonto was struggling, shouting, laughing and leaping about the family wagon, and Pike knew from the sounds that the captain's little store of liquor was rapidly disappearing. Every moment the noise waxed louder and fiercer as the deep potations of the principal


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Indians did their poisonous work. There were shrill altercations, vehement invective and reproach; Pike even hoped for a minute that there had been enough after all to start them fighting among themselves, but the hope was delusive. All was gloom and darkness now in the Pass except immediately around the two fires. He could no longer see Manuelito or the mules, but suddenly he heard a sound of a simultaneous rush and an instant after with hideous shouts and yells the whole band leaped into view and went tearing down into the road and up to the rocks where their helpless prisoner still sat bound and helpless—more dead than alive—and Pike heard the shriek of despair with which the poor fellow greeted his now half crazy captors.

‘‘My God!’’ groaned the old soldier, ‘‘it is awful to have to lurk here and make no move to help him. He would have cut all


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our throats without a twinge of conscience, but I can't see him tortured nor can I lift a hand to save him. And here's Kate, and those poor little ones. They can't help hearing his cries and shrieks. What an awful night 'twill be for them! No use of my staying up here now. I must go down to them.’’

Far back in the black recesses of the cave he found them,—Nellie trembling and sobbing with her head pillowed in Kate's lap and covered with a shawl so as to shut out, if possible, the awful sounds from below. The Irishwoman, too, was striving to stop her ears and was at the same time frantically praying to all the saints in the calendar for help in their woeful peril, and for mercy for that poor wretch whose mad cries and imprecations rang out on the still night air even louder than the yells of his captors. Manful little Ned sat close by his sister's side, patting


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her arm from time to time with one hand while he clung to his rifle with the other. The boy did not shed a tear, though his voice trembled and his lips quivered as he answered Pike's cheery words. Jim knelt at his post at the stone breastwork keeping vigilant watch, though his teeth chattered despite his best efforts, and his eyes were doubtless bulging out of their sockets.

‘‘You mustn't be sitting here all in the dark,’’ said Pike. ‘‘Keep up a little fire, Ned, my boy. It's so far back and so far up the hill that the Indians cannot possibly see the light it may make even were they to come around to the east side of the mountain. They won't to-night, though. They've found papa's stock of whiskey and brandy and are already half drunk. They'll lie around there all night long and never come hunting for us until after sunrise to-morrow, if they do then. We'll just have fun with these fellows until


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the cavalry come from Verde, as come they will, I haven't a doubt, now that papa has found that he was cut off and has ridden back on the trail to meet and hurry the troops. He knows well that you and Jim and I could take care of Nellie and stand off these beggars until he could reach us. Now, light the lantern and stow it in that niche yonder. And you, Kate, lie down and cover yourself and the children with blankets. I'm going out where I can watch what they're doing.’’

So saying, Pike took his rifle and the field glasses and, after a word with Jim, passed around to the east front of the ledge. It was too dark to enable him to venture down the bowlders, or to attempt to climb again to the top of the rock, but he found a spot among the stunted trees from which he could just see the back part of the baggage wagon and the Apaches flitting about it in the light of


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their fire. Leveling his glasses he could make out that several of the Indians were grouped about some object in the road, and presently one or two came running to the spot with buckets of water which they dashed over a prostrate form. It was Manuelito, who had probably fainted dead away.

Then, as the Mexican apparently began to recover his senses, he was lifted roughly from the ground and borne, moaning and feebly struggling, towards the wagon. Into this he was tossed head foremost, so that only his feet and legs were visible to the anxious watcher up the hill. Securely bound, and already half dead from the tortures inflicted on him, unable to move hand or foot, the poor wretch lay there, alternately praying and weeping. What the next move of the Apaches would be was not long a matter of doubt. The whole band, with the exception


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of their sentinels, were now dancing and leaping about their captive, singing some devil-inspired chant, which occasionally gave place to yells of triumph. Presently the younger men began piling up wood under the back of the wagon—under the Mexican's manacled feet; and then brands and embers were thrust underneath. Pike turned sick with horror and helplessness at the sight, for he knew instantly what it meant. The wagon was to be the wretched Manuelito's funeral pyre. They meant to burn him to death by inches. Suddenly a bright flame leaped up from the bottom of the stack of fuel; broader, brighter, fiercer it grew until it lapped up over the floor of the wagon. A scream of agony rang through the Pass, answered by jeering laughter and fiendish yells. The next minute the whole band were circling round the wagon in a wild wardance; their yells, their savage song, completely


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drowned the shrieks of the tortured man. The whole wagon was soon a mass of flames, and more fuel was added. Presently the rear axle came down with a crash, sending showers of sparks whirling through the night air, and Pike turned away faint and trembling.

Another instant, however, and every faculty was on the alert, every nerve strung to its highest tension, and the old soldier sprang back to the cave in answer to Jim's call.

‘‘Look!’’ whispered the negro. ‘‘Look down there! There's some one moving among those rocks.’’

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