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HOME > Classical Novels > Rick and Ruddy Out West > CHAPTER XXII SOLVING THE SECRET
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 Though the moon shone brightly, there were shadows in the forest that surrounded the mysterious camp—mysterious in the sense that the boys did not know whose it was. And these shadows made silent progress difficult. Rick and Chot were very likely to slip and stumble over a rock or fallen branch, making a noise that would arouse the sleeping men.  
Several times they did stumble, and thus Ruddy had the advantage over them, for his padded paws made no sound. But though the boys made several noises none of them seemed to have any effect. It remained dark and quiet in the camp—dark that is save for a glimmering1 camp fire and the silvery moon, the light of which was very welcome to the boys.
There was little for the lads to discover in the camp itself. They had learned this much while taking observations from their hiding place just within the tunnel. From their vantage point they had seen the water coming down a rocky defile2, though its exact source they could only guess at. They could not tell whether it came through another tunnel—part of the series of mysterious underground channels in that part of the country—or whether it flowed along in the open.
This secret they hoped to solve on their night-scouting expedition, and after they had made a detour3 of the camp they listened for a sound of rippling4 or gurgling water which would put them on the right track.
“Well, so far so good,” remarked Chot when they had gotten safely some distance up the trail, above the log shack5 and the sleeping men.
“That’s right,” agreed Rick. “Ruddy, you’re a dandy!” he said to the dog. “You didn’t make a false move.”
“And not as much noise as we did,” added Chot as they both petted their canine6 companion.
“I should say so!” chuckled7 Rick. “That time we both nearly fell—I thought sure they’d hear us.”
“So did I. But I reckon we’re all right now.”
“I guess so.”
They had come out from under a clump8 of trees and were walking along a rough trail that led up the mountain. The moon shone gloriously making objects very plain to see. There was little wind and soon the boys heard the murmur9 of water off to their left—a sound for which eagerly they had been listening.
“There’s the river,” exclaimed Chot.
“I hear it,” admitted Rick. “Either the one we’re after or another. Let’s head over that way.”
They walked on side by side, with Ruddy trailing them. Rick had ordered his dog to heel, for he did not want the setter rushing on ahead through the brush, perhaps stirring up a skunk10 or some small wild animal that might cause the dog to bark, thus betraying their presence.
As they went on, the noise of the water became louder to their ears, until at last they emerged in view of a beautiful stream flowing in the centre of a small valley, bordered on either side by trees and bushes.
Though the stream was called Lost River, or by various other names in which the word “river” occurred, it must not be supposed that it was a large waterway. In fact it was not more than a good-sized brook11, in places, though in others it attained12 the width of what, in some parts of the country, is called a creek13. But Lost River it had been christened and so it shall remain, as far as I am concerned.
The boys stood for a moment impressed by the beauty of the scene that they had come upon. Under the moon everything was glorified—the rippling, sparkling water, the trees, the bushes and even the rough rocks.
“Say, this is slick!” exclaimed Chot, paying one of the highest compliments in his rather limited vocabulary.
“Nifty!” agreed Rick, adding his tribute.
But, boy like, they did not pause long to admire just the mere14 beauty of the place, romantic as ............
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