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HOME > Classical Novels > Rick and Ruddy Out West > CHAPTER XV UNCLE TOD GIVES UP
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 Rick and Chot, to say nothing of Ruddy, were in their element—just where they most delighted to be—engaged in something venturesome and penetrating1 into the unknown. For the tunnel or cavern2, through which Lost River had formerly3 flowed, was certainly unknown to the boys.  
“And I don’t know much more about it than you do,” confessed Uncle Tod. “I wouldn’t risk taking you lads in, under those circumstances, except that we have Ruddy with us. I depend a good deal on your dog, Rick.”
“You mean to drive away any mountain lions if any come at us?” asked Chot as they slowly made their way farther into the dark cavern.
“Shucks! I don’t believe there are any mountains lions around here!” scoffed4 the miner. “Nothing worse than skunks5, and they’ll give us plenty of warning. No, it isn’t animals I’m afraid of.”
“What then?” asked Rick, curiously6.
“Well, I don’t exactly know. There’s some sort of danger in here, but what it is nobody seems able to tell. Sam says it’s ghosts, but shucks! I never saw a ghost yet that was worth a mess of beans! But, for all that, other miners around here say they wouldn’t venture into this tunnel.”
“Maybe they’re afraid of the water suddenly coming back,” suggested Chot.
“Well, there may be something in that,” agreed Uncle Tod. “But if Lost River starts to come back we can hear it and get out of the way. Besides, the river never covered more than a small part of the bottom of the tunnel—that is when it was running at its best. There was room to walk on either side of it, and it wasn’t deep in the middle. So even if the water should come back it wouldn’t harm us.”
“Unless,” said Rick, “we happened to be in a narrow part of the tunnel where the river filled it completely.”
“Well, yes,” admitted Uncle Tod, “in that case it might be dangerous. But we won’t enter any narrow part unless we see it’s safe. No, it isn’t the water I’m worried about. It’s some unknown sort of danger that Sam fears, and that other miners around here fear.”
“Have other miners spoken of it?” asked Chot.
“Yes, several of ’em since the water stopped. When my mine went dry, and there wasn’t any more chance of working it, I said I was going in this tunnel and see what the trouble was. I was advised against it by several. They said there was a story that, years ago, the water stopped running. Some Indians went in to see why and—well, they never came out again.” Uncle Tod shook his head dubiously7.
“Did the water start flowing once more?” Rick wanted to know.
“Yes, it must have, for it’s been running for years. No one around here has ever seen it dry—it’s just a rumor8 that it was.”
“I don’t see what there is to be afraid of,” remarked Chot. “If it isn’t animals, and the water itself doesn’t nearly fill the tunnel, what can it be?”
“I wish I knew,” sighed Uncle Tod. “It’s like looking for something you don’t know about and in the dark at that—for these lanterns don’t give much light. But, as I said, I wouldn’t have brought you boys out here except I believed you might happen to think of some things Sam and I couldn’t. You boys are smart, and so is Ruddy. I trust a dog where I wouldn’t a man, in sensing danger.”
“That’s right!” cried Chot. “’Member the broken bridge, Rick?”
“I should say I did,” and when they repeated this story in detail to Uncle Tod—for they had barely mentioned it before—the old miner exclaimed:
“There! What’d I tell you? Ruddy is what we got to depend on. He’ll give us warning of danger, and I might as well say that what I fear worst is getting lost in here or tumbling down some deep hole. So mind your steps, boys! We have ropes to help us in case we take a tumble, but watch out just the same.”
Thus warned the boys stepped cautiously enough, and Ruddy, too, seemed filled with a wholesome9 respect for the place, as he did not rush about blindly, nosing here and there as he did out in the open. He kept close to his friends, going only a little way ahead, and not out of range of the glimmer10 of the lanterns. And then, looking back, he would wait for the party to come up to him.
“Ruddy knows his business,” said Uncle Tod. “I thought of him first shot when I saw what had occurred here, and that’s why I wanted you to bring him, Rick. Two boys and a dog are equal to any mystery that ever happened.”
They were now fairly within the long, winding11 cavern or tunnel that led under the mountain and served as a course for Lost River when that stream condescended
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