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HOME > Short Stories > The Huge Hunter > CHAPTER IX. THE STEAM MAN AS A HUNTER.
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AT this juncture the trapper whispered that the Indians were again stealing around them. Johnny's first proceeding was to pull the whistle wide open, awaking the stillness of the night by a hideous, prolonged screech.
Then, letting on the steam, the man made a bound forward, and the next moment was careering over the prairie like a demon of darkness, its horrid whistle giving forth almost one continual yell, such as no American Indian has ever been able to imitate.
When they had gone a few hundred yards, Johnny again slackened the speed, for there was great risk in going at this tremendous rate, where all was entire blank darkness, and there was no telling into what danger they might run. At the speed at which they were going they would have bounded into a river before they could have checked themselves.
'Yer furgot one thing,' said Baldy, when they had considerably moderated their gait, and were using great caution.
'What is that?'
'Yer oughter had a lamp in front, so we could travel at night, jist as well as day.'
'You are right; I don't see how I came to forget that. We could have frightened the Indians more completely, and there would have been some consolation in traveling at such a time.'
'Is it too late yet?'
'Couldn't do it without going back to St. Louis.'
'Thunderation! I didn't mean that. Go ahead.'
'Such a lamp or head-light as the locomotives use would cost several hundred dollars, although I could have made one nearly as good for much less. Such a thing in the center of a man's forehead, and the whistle at the end of his nose, would give him quite an impressive appearance.'
'Yer must do it, too, some day My God!'
The boy instantly checked their progress, as the trapper uttered his exclamation; but quickly as it was done, it was none too soon, for another long step and the steam man would have gone down an embankment, twenty feet high, into a roaring river at the base. As it was, both made rather a hurried leap to the ground, and ran to the front to see whether there was not danger of his going down.
But fortunately he stood firm.
'I declare that was a narrow escape!' exclaimed the boy as he gazed down the cavernous darkness, looking doubly frightful in the gloom of the night.
'Skulp me if that wouldn't have been almost as bad as staying among the red-skins,' replied the trapper. 'How are we goin' to get him out of this?'
'We've got to shove him back ourselves.'
'Can't we reverse him?'
'No; he isn't gotten up on that principle.'
By great labor they managed to make him retrograde a few steps, so that he could be made to shy enough to leave the dangerous vicinity, and once more started upon the broad firm prairie.
'Do you suppose these Indians are following us?' inquired the boy.
'No fear of it.'
'Then we may as well stay here.'
The fires were drawn again, everything made right, and the two disposed themselves again for spending the night in slumber.
No disturbance occurred, and both slept Roundly until broad daylight. The trapper's first proceeding upon awakening was to scan the prairie in every direction in quest of danger.
He was not a little amused to see a dozen or so mounted Indians about a third of a mile to the west. They had reined up on the plain, and were evidently scanning the strange object, with a great deal of wonder, mixed with some fear.
'Do you think they will attack us?' inquired the boy, who could not suppress his trepidation at the sight of the warlike savages, on their gayly-caparisoned horses, drawn up in such startling array.
'Ef thar war any danger of that, we could stop 'em by 'tacking 'em.
'Jest fire up and start toward 'em, and see how quick they will scatter.' The advice was acted upon on the instant, although it was with no little misgiving on the part of the engineer.
All the time that the 'firingup' process was under way the savages sat as motionless as statues upon their horses. Had they understood the real nature of the 'animal,' it cannot be supposed that they would rave hesitated for a momen............
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