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A Trip To Bald Eagle Rock








From: Dorothy On A Ranch

Molly gave one glance and screamed. Then flung herself to her knees and
buried her face in Helena's lap, who pityingly drew her light skirt over
the child's head. Nobody else moved nor spoke. All felt their last hour
had come.

"An Indian raid!"

This was their thought and then of their helplessness. This company was
only the forerunner of more!

"Massacre! Oh! to die like this!"

Even the lads' faces blanched, but resolution flashed from their
observant eyes, and these beheld a strange spectacle.

The superbly mounted Indians, in their gaudiest attire, bead-decked
shirts and fringed leggings, their supple feet clad in embroidered
moccasins, outshone even the most magnificent of "Wild West" shows; and
without a spoken word each understood the desire of their Chief. They
rode to the semi-circle of concrete before the main entrance to the
great house and ranged themselves around it, the Chief in front, alone,
and as the last hoof fell into position where the rider wished, they
became as rigid as a company of warriors carved in stone.

"What will they do next!" was the wonder in all the observers' minds,
as they gazed in fascination at this curious sight.

What they would do next seemed long in coming. Though it was but a few
moments it seemed like ages while the redskins waited, stolid, immovable
before the doorway of the mansion. But, at last, the spell was broken.

Across from the Barracks, around the corner, through the cloistered
walk, came Captain Lemuel, whistling. He was in good spirits; ready to
join his "Squad" beside the fountain and have an evening's "gabble" with
the youngsters. They had been abnormally good that day. Wholly obedient
to his restrictions in the length of their rides, eager to improve in
their shooting--which was so far removed from "sharp"; and in every
respect so "decent" that he puzzled his brain to find the best story to
tell them of old days in Colorado and of his own prowess therein.

But, as he passed the corner, his whistling ceased. The story was told!
And a far better one than any his memory could furnish.

The young watchers caught their breath. Poor Captain Lem! Rushing thus
to his own undoing! But still they had to gaze and gaze--they could not
turn their eyes away; and gazing they beheld a stranger thing than any
which had gone before.

That was the jolly Captain clapping his hands as if in glee, bowing
before the silent Chief, almost prostrating himself, in fact. Afterward
a brief clasping of hands between the two and the Captain beginning a
long harangue in a strange tongue, interrupted now and then by grunts
and gutturals from the attentive Indians. Then giving the Chief his
finest military salute, the Captain "right faced" and silently marched
away. The Indians as silently followed him, the Chief first, and the
others in single file, till they all disappeared toward the Barracks,
and the youngsters were left gasping in amazement.

A sigh of relief rose from them in unison and, hearing it, Molly lifted
her face. She only had seen nothing of the pantomime, or such it seemed
which had been enacted, though she had heard through her terror the
whistling of the Captain and its abrupt ceasing.

"Is--is--he--dead?" she whispered.

"He's the liveliest dead man I ever saw. Come on, boys! That's the sight
of our lives! Who's afraid?" cried Herbert, springing up and eager.

But his sister clutched his arm. "No, no, Bert! You mustn't! You
shan't!"

"I shall and will! So should you--all! Whoever they are they're
friendly. Else old Lem wouldn't have seemed so pleased and led 'em off
with his best 'hep, hep, hep,' that way. I'll bet they're Utes, good
neighbors of the white ranchers, but they're genuine Indians all the
same and I'm going to see them. My! But I did feel mighty weak in the
knees for a minute! I thought it was all up with yours truly. Come on, I
say!"

He really wished to follow but, evidently, he also wished to have his
courage bolstered by the presence of his mates.

Oddly enough it was Monty who first joined Herbert. He was still half
afraid, yet also wild with curiosity. His was the least war-like spirit
there, but he couldn't withstand this knowledge at first hand of real,
live Indians.

One after another they all followed. In any case they would be safer
among the ranchmen than here in this lonelier spot, and Lemuel's manner
had been quite different from fear.

As they slowly passed around the house, whose corner hid the Barracks
front view, they were wholly reassured. The lawn was wide and a good
distance was still between them and the red-skinned visitors, but they
could see all that was going on. The Indians had all dismounted, a lot
of the cowboys had come forward to meet them, and the fine horses they
rode were being led off to a still more distant and disused corral.
Here the animals were turned loose, their blankets and trappings
removed, and the ranchmen themselves at once setting to work to rub the
fine creatures down and to supply them with ample fodder for the night.
A big trough in the corral, through which running water was always
piped furnished them with drink; and the entrance being secured, the
attendants went back to the Barracks' porch, that extended from one
end to the other of the long, low building.

Upon the porch floor the blankets were spread and the Utes squatted on
them, greatly pleased at their reception. Pipes were lighted and smoked,
Captain Lem and several others joining in what looked to be a ceremony
of welcome. A few of the ranchmen hurried to the Barracks' kitchen and
prepared supper for the visitors, and after this was eaten by the
strange guests, sitting where they were under the porch roof, the
discarded pipes were again resumed and some sort of palaver followed.

In this talk Silent Peter took the leading part. He was escorted by
Captain Lem to the side of the Chief, none other than White Feather, and
placed upon another blanket, handed a fresh pipe, and left to do the
honors of the occasion. Meantime Captain Lem sent a messenger across to
the watching youngsters, that they should come quietly to his own room
at the Barracks and observe matters from that nearer point.

"But--is it safe? What does it all mean?" demanded Leslie of the man.

"Safe as can be. Why, that's White Feather, Chief of a band of Utes and
one of the best friends your father has. Fact. He's awful disappointed,
too, to find the Boss away. Came on a visit of ceremony, with the finest
bucks in his band, to get acquainted and do a little horse-trading.
That's all. Silent Pete can talk Injun and has travelled not a little
with this crowd, afore he settled at San Leon. Huh! Did you think they
was from the Plains?"

"What's the difference? An Indian is an Indian, isn't he? Not to be
trusted, any of them. I don't think my father would like to have the
boys treat those fellows as they're doing. You men ought to arm
yourselves and drive them off the ranch."

The young ranchman regarded Leslie with a look of amused contempt, then
retorted:

"Well, you may be a rich man's son but what you don't know about your
own country'd fill books! All the rest afraid, too? 'Cause if you are,
you'd better get out o' sight. Captain Lem has asked White Feather to
let him bring you over to meet him an' the old feller's said yes. He
said it as if he hated to but was willin' for Lem's sake to do you the
honor. Great Scott! Why, you young idiot, White Feather's a great Chief,
a king among his people, feels he ranks with our President, or the Czar
of all the Russias! Well,--well, I'm beat. I thought 't they had schools
back east where you tenderfeet come from. I supposed you'd learned that
there's more 'n one kind of Indian in this big country. Why, sir, the
difference 'twixt the Arapahoes, or the Cheyennes, and them peaceable
Utes yonder--humph! Well, are you comin' or not?"

Leslie had resented the talkative ranchman's comments on his own
ignorance but had the grace to conceal it. He had even jested a little
at his own expense and said that he must "read up on Indians." Then he
led off his party toward the Barracks and, arrived there, found Captain
Lem vastly relieved. It was greatly to Mr. Ford's advantage to be on
cordial terms with all his neighbors, in that isolated region, and the
loyal Captain realized this. Both he and Silent Pete had to regret the
fact that, at present and in their employer's absence, they could not
venture on the trading; but at the old hunter's suggestion they had
assumed the responsibility of giving White Feather the finest horse in
stock. This was a magnificent black stallion which had never been broken
to harness and with a temper that threatened ill to any man who
undertook the task.

The youngsters came up and filed before White Feather, standing now, and
gravely accepting their timidly proffered hands, as the name of each was
mentioned. His own response was a friendly grunt but he was evidently
bored by the affair and passed the girls over with the slightest notice.
His eye lingered a bit longer upon the lads and it seemed that he was
measuring their heights with his eye. But he let them go, almost as soon
as he had the girls, and as Molly exclaimed when they had retreated to
Captain Lem's room:

"I never felt I was such a litty-bitty-no-account creature in all my
life! I wouldn't be an Indian squaw for anything! But wasn't he just
grand--and hideous?"

Then Captain signalled to them that they would better return to the
house. The Chief evidently considered the presence of females an
intrusion and that of such slender, white-faced lads but little better.
Upon Leslie, as son of the ranch owner, he bestowed several grave stares
but no more speech than on the others.

So from the unlighted music-room they watched for a time in silence;
till everything grew quiet at the Barracks, all lights out, and the
strange guests asleep on their blankets upon the porch. Then they, too,
went to bed, greatly stirred by the fact of such uncommon acquaintances
so close at hand, and with entirely new ideas of Colorado red men.

By daylight the visitors had gone, so silently that nobody in the house
itself had heard their departure. With them, too, had gone Rob Roy, the
black stallion; and, what seemed valueless to the givers some old
garments of the ranchmen. From one a coat, another a sombrero, a
blanket, shoes, underwear, and from Silent Pete himself a complete
hunter's outfit.

All his comrades were surprised at this, for he kept the buckskin suit
as a souvenir of earlier days, when he was as free to roam the forests
as any Indian of them all and the blood still ran hot and wild in his
veins. He was an old man now. He pondered much on the past and he spoke
little to any man. But he talked with the Chief in that warrior's own
tongue and in tones not to be overheard by any others. When that bit of
talk was over he had brought out the precious suit, neatly folded and
bound about with a marvellous lariat--also another dear possession--and
had placed them in White Feather's hands.

Then he relapsed into his usual quiet and the life at San Leon resumed
its usual routine. The visit of the Indians became as a dream, but news
of the early return of the absent hosts sent new life and ambition into
the minds of all their young guests.

Drills no longer were irksome. Were they not to show Mr. Ford how well
they could carry themselves? As for rifle practice, there was such
prolonged and continual popping of guns that Dr. Jones lamented his
disturbed quiet and Nurse Melton had often to seek the most remote
quarters to escape the startling sounds.

Riding, also, was kept up with great zest. It had proved true that the
more one learned of his horse, the better he loved it, the greater the
silent understanding between it and himself. They now had races of all
sorts and daily. Hurdles had given place to great hedges and ditches,
which most of the animals distinguished themselves in leaping. Monty was
still the hindmost in everything, yet showed his pluck in sticking to
his saddle at all risks, and sometimes with startling success.

So well, indeed, had they learned horsemanship that on a certain
glorious morning before sunrise, the seven youngsters were already in
saddle, alert for the long-coveted ride to Bald Eagle Rock, under the
guidance of Captain Lem himself, with Silent Pete and another ranchman
to carry the luncheon upon two soberer steeds. It was to be an all-day's
outing and a goodly little company which would enjoy it. As soon as
possible after arrival in New York Mrs. Ford had procured and sent back
to San Leon, readymade habits and riding clothes for her girls and boys,
not forgetting to include one for absent Jim, which Dorothy had
carefully placed along with his other belongings in his own room; so
that now arrayed in these gifts they all looked fine and fit.

"We might be going for a ride in the Park instead of a climb through
woods and over rocks! I do hope we won't tear our clothes!" said careful
Helena; while Molly returned with native carelessness:

"Well, I think a ride to the top of the Rockies is worth at least one
habit!"

"I shan't spoil mine, not 'nless I get tumbled off Blanca, someway.
I've got dozens of safety-pins and I shall pin my skirt--I mean
drawers--whatever they call these 'divided' things--so tight they can't
get torn. I never had a habit before. Course not. I never even had a
horse," said Alfaretta.

"Well, without the horse you wouldn't have needed the habit, dearie.
But I do like this riding astride, as Lady Gray thought best we should
do on hard trips. And aren't we happy? Only--only--if poor Jim was
here!" answered Dorothy, with a little cry of delight that ended
rather drearily.

But now they were off! And no further thought of anything or anybody
except the pleasure of the moment rose in any mind.

Captain Lem had not over-rated the difficulties of that trip. The
beginning was fairly easy, the road or trail wide enough for two to ride
side by side, and one had leisure to admire the surroundings. But when
they came to that same turn of the roads, beyond the river, and took the
route which unhappy James had followed in his delirium, they could no
longer travel in pairs.

And now was proved the good judgment of Captain Lem in training them to
a familiar knowledge of their horses and in their close friendship.

"Guide 'em--point out the way you want 'em to go--then trust
the creatur's to do the best for them and you!" advised the old
sharpshooter, halting at the top of the first steep climb, to breathe
his own horse and let the stragglers come up. "More 'n that you can't
maybe all follow just the same track. Blanca there, is goin' to pick
her way, cautious an' careful as a gal in a nice new white frock, like
them the Little One wears. She ain't goin' to tear her white dress,
Alfaretty, so don't you get scared if she falls a good ways behind the
rest. She's a sociable beast, is Blanca, and she'll get to the top all
right, give her time. But Dolly's calico'll nigh bust herself to be
first. More 'n that she's the keenest nose for a shortcut of any horse
in the batch. She's little and she's light, and she'll trust herself in
places 't no bigger creatur' would tackle. All right, everybody? Girths
tight? Stirrups to suit? Then--trust your horses' wits and--let her go!"

It had been planned to have lunch on the Rock itself, and to be back at
San Leon in time for a late supper. An early breakfast had been taken,
of course, but not with the usual heartiness, for they were all too
excited to eat. Bald Eagle Rock was the highest point in that region and
it would be a fine thing to remember if they held out to reach its
summit.

Meanwhile the road thither lay through a deep forest; down and along
ravines; steep climbs of slippery rocks; and over masses of ferns and
underbrush. After Captain Lem's halt and harangue they all became
silent. They had all they could do to keep in their saddles, and, as
he had prophesied, the animals they rode chose each a slightly
diverging route.

However, they frequently called out to one another, their gay halloos
and yodels echoing along the mountain side, to the glad assurance of
themselves and the affright of the forest wildings. But the lads who had
hoped to sight some big game, preferably a live grizzly and had brought
their guns with them, were disappointed in that. Nothing fiercer than a
coyote crossed their path. It was as if the forest had anticipated their
invasion and put itself on guard.

Dorothy obeyed Captain Lem's advice implicitly. She did not try to guide
Zaraza but let the pretty creature follow her own will, so long as that
will pointed straight upward. This gave the girl time to study the
flowers and ferns along the way and sometimes she slipped from her
saddle to gather and closely inspect them. She did not herself call out
but contented herself with listening to the shouts of the others, and,
for some reason, her thoughts were more upon the missing Jim than they
had been of late.

"Oh! how that boy would like this ride! How he'd pull out his little
hammer and peg away at these wonderful rocks! What specimens he'd
collect! and how his sharp eyes would see every little bird and beast
that moves through this wilderness! Oh! I hope, I hope, he is still
alive and safe. If I could only see him!"

Suddenly, the forest seemed strangely still. Zaraza stopped to breathe
and Dorothy listened keenly for the halloo of her mates. Hearing none
she ventured on a little shout herself which, low as it was, awoke a
thousand deafening echoes all about her. Or so it seemed. With a thrill
of horror, she remembered how Molly had once been lost in a far away
Nova Scotian wood, and the girl's description of her terror. She wished
she hadn't thought of that tale now. But, of course, this was quite
different. They were many in this company, ten all told, and somebody
must be very near. It would all come right. She mustn't be a goose and
get frightened just because, for a moment, she heard nobody. Yet, Alfy's
words rang in her head:

"Seems if there was nothing happens but somebody gets lost up here at
San Leon!" and Molly's absurd appeal: "Tie me tight!"

After a moment when Zaraza seemed rested she urged the docile creature
forward, and now the "calico" had certainly discovered a smooth and easy
way. That was good. It must be a well-traveled road, though it was still
but a "trail" to her eyes. Probably this was the final stretch of the
trip, and in a moment she would come face to face with the gigantic
Rock.

Instead, the way grew smoother all the time and now quite level. A
little way farther she could see a wide plain, or mesa, with sheep
grazing. How odd! that anybody should feed sheep upon a mountain that
looked all rock and forest, seen from below. The sun was hot. It must be
noon. She hoped she wouldn't be late for that famous lunch they had
talked about so much.

Zaraza trotted around a last clump of trees, as if she knew her task was
ended, and her own feeding time at hand.

Then Dorothy brought her up with a sharp, silent tug upon the reins.
Yonder in that open space was a small hut, or cabin; and sitting on the
ground before it was an Indian, with a little Indian child beside him.
Evidently, they also were having a mid-day meal, for she saw the child
lift a tin dipper to his lips and drink.

Zaraza whinnied. She was thirsty and scented water, and at that sound
the man sprang up and turned around. For one astonished moment he gazed
at that girlish apparition and Dorothy at him. Then with a cry of
ecstasy she sprang to the ground and sped toward him.

"Jim! O Jim!"

"Why--Dorothy!"





Next: Prosperity And Parting

Previous: The Grizzly And The Indians



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