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HOME > Short Stories > The Huge Hunter > CHAPTER X. WOLF RAVINE.
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DURING THE absence of Baldy Bicknell in search of the steam man, neither Mickey nor Ethan had been disturbed by Indians.
They had worked unceasingly in digging the gold mine to which they had gained access through the instrumentality of the trapper. When they had gathered together quite a quantity of the gravel and dirt, with the yellow sand glittering through it, it was carried a short distance to the margin of the river, where it underwent the 'washing' process.
While thus engaged, one of them was constantly running up the bank, to make sure that their old enemies did not steal upon them unawares. Once or twice they caught sight of several moving in the distance, but they did not come near enough to molest them, doing nothing more than to keep them on the qui vive.
There was one Indian, however, who bestrode a black horse, who haunted them like a phantom. When they glanced over the river, at almost any time, they could see this individual cautiously circling about on his horse, and apparently waiting for a chance to get a shot at his enemies.
'Begorrah, but he loves us, that he does, as the lamb observed when speaking of the wolf,' said Mickey, just after he had sent a bullet whistling about their ears.
'Jehosiphat! he loves us too much!' added the Yankee, who had no relish for these stolen shots. 'If we ain't keerful, there'll be nuthin' of us left when Baldy comes back, that is, if he comes back at all.'
This red-skin on his black horse was so dangerous that he required constant watching, and the men could perform only half their usual work. It was while Mickey was on the lookout for him that he caught sight of the steam man coming toward him, as we have related in another place.
So long as that personage was kept puffing and tearing round the vicinity, they knew there was no fear of disturbance from the treacherous red-skins, who were so constantly on the alert to avenge themselves for the loss they had suffered in the attack; but it would hardly pay to keep an iron man as sentinel, as the wear and tear in all probability would be too much for him.
After consulting together upon the return of Baldy, and after they had ridden behind the steam man to their heart's content, they decided upon their future course. As the boy, Johnny, had no intention of devoting himself to manual labor, even had he been able, it was agreed that he should take upon himself the part of sentinel, while the others were at work.
In this way it was believed that they could finish within a couple of weeks, bidding good-by to the Indians, and quickly reach the States and give up their dangerous pursuits altogether, whereas, if compelled to do duty themselves as sentinels, their stay would be doubly prolonged.
This arrangement suited the boy very well, who was thereby given opportunity to exercise his steam man by occasional airings over the prairies. To the east and south the plains stretched away till the horizon shut down upon them, as the sky does on the sea. To the west, some twenty odd miles distant, a range of mountains was visible, the peaks being tinged with a faint blue in the distance, while some of the more elevated looked like white conical clouds resting against the clear sky beyond.
From the first, young Brainerd expressed a desire to visit these mountains. There was something in their rugged grandeur which invited a close inspection, and he proposed to the trapper that they should make a hunting excursion in that direction.
'No need of goin' so fur for game,' he replied, 'takes too much time, and thar's sure to be red-skins.'
'But if we go with the steam man we shall frighten them all away,' was the reply.
'Yas,' laughed Baldy, 'and we'll skear the game away too.'
'But we can overtake that as we did the poor Indian the other day.'
'Not if he takes to the mountains. Leastways yer isn't him that would like to undertake to ride up the mountain behind that old g............
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