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The Grizzly And The Indians








From: Dorothy On A Ranch

For a moment Dorothy sat still in bed, afraid to move or cry out while
the great animal at the window remained equally motionless. Then she was
able to shriek:

"Alf! Helena! Somebody--help--help! HELP!"

Alfy leapt from her little bed with an answering cry, frightened by
Dorothy's screech, and hurriedly demanding: "Why--why--what?" then
rubbed her eyes and stood transfixed with horror.

A moment later the whole house was in an uproar. The lads came running
from their rooms, yelling in sympathy with the cries of the girls, the
doctor rushed from his office-bedroom clad only in pajamas; the nurse
forsook her sick bed--which she had not left before since first stricken
with a chest attack; Anita--Wun Sing--kitchen boy--all the household
gathered in the great corridor upon which the girls' rooms opened.

Such an uproar had never been heard at peaceful San Leon since its
foundation stone was laid; and the sounds carrying clearly in that night
air, out from the Barracks rushed a horde of cowboys and workmen with
Captain Lem in lead.

"A bear!"

"The Grizzly! The Grizzly!"

A grizzly it was sure enough. All the feminine portion of the household
retreated to the empty chamber of Miss Milliken, slammed down its window
and locked themselves within; then from curiosity opened the door a
little way, to peek through the crack.

"Oh! Oh! It's coming this way--why doesn't somebody shoot it!" cried
Helena, running back to look through the window panes.

The great animal had now dropped from its upright position at Dolly's
window and was crawling on all fours back along the wide porch. It
certainly was coming that way but--it couldn't get in!

"Could it? Can bears--open--open--things?" gasped Molly, retreating to a
wardrobe and hiding within it, whence she demanded in a torrent of
questions information of all sorts concerning bears and why nobody
killed it before it killed them!

Oddly enough, nobody had interfered with the creature's movements thus
far, though some of the men had run back to the Barracks for firearms,
and just then unlucky Wun Sing came round the corner of the building and
met it face to face. He had run at top speed in the opposite direction
from that the beast seemed taking when he had first espied it, issuing
from his room beyond the kitchen. Seeing it headed that way he had
instinctively chosen the other, not reckoning that even bears can change
routes.

Then the yell that rose belittled all which had gone before.

Grizzly uprose on his hind feet and rushed to meet poor Wunny, squeezing
him in a terrible embrace that checked the Chinaman's yell instantly.
Until a touch of Bruin's teeth upon his thinly clad shoulder and a bite
of sharp teeth awoke it again. A clutch of his queue from the great paw
brought forth greater shrieks and seemed to give the victim an
extraordinary strength. By some means he wrenched himself free and
escaped, the grizzly pursuing on all fours again--and both headed toward
the lake.

Whether Wun Sing's purpose was to throw himself within it he didn't know
himself, but the road toward it was the clearest and offered his best
chance. Half way to the water his feet caught in his long night blouse
and he tripped. Instantly the grizzly was upon him. The great furry
creature sprawled over the prostrate cook, growling and snapping his
teeth but as yet inflicting no further injury, and the man underneath no
longer knowing anything, for his terrified senses had taken leave of his
quivering body.

Slowly the bear got upright again and, for a moment towered above his
helpless victim. Then seeming to have satisfied his rage in that
direction, he resumed his natural position and moved back toward the
house. He kept his great head well lowered, wagging it from side to side
and, altogether, conducting himself like a half-blind or greatly
bewildered bear.

By this time the men from the Barracks had reappeared, well armed; but
as the grizzly climbed upon the veranda floor again they hesitated to
fire because the low windows opening upon it were full of peeping faces.
Silent Pete, alone, dared approach the creature as near as the other end
of the veranda. This man had been a mighty hunter in his youth, when
Colorado was an almost unknown country with few settlers and big game
plentiful. His old blood had warmed to the conflict now, though he was
silent as ever and paid no heed to the warnings called to him by his
ranch mates. Creeping stealthily forward toward the encounter he watched
his grizzly enemy with exultation, his thought being:

"He's tough! He's an old one! His hide's thick--I must make no mistake.
When I get nigh enough to hit him through the heart--wish he'd rise up
again--queerest actin' grizzly I ever met--likely my last one--so
anxious to meet me he come a-visitin'--he, he, he! Ah! he's
risin'--I'll--"

Out on the electric lighted grounds the men were grouped with their
rifles, all anxious to fire and all eager to delay till the last moment,
watching this wild beast so uncommonly near at hand. Why, from its
movements it might almost have been a tame animal escaped from some
menagerie. Besides, the trophy belonged to Silent Pete. He was first and
hardiest to face the brute and only if his famously sure shot failed
would they fire to the rescue. Yes, the bear was the old hunter's
legitimate prize--they'd wait, guns ready--

"Don't shoot! Oh! men, don't shoot! DON'T SHOOT!"

To the utter amazement of everyone, up flew Dorothy's window and out she
leaped, so close behind the creeping grizzly that she almost touched
him: she was gesticulating wildly and her repeated cries of "Don't
shoot!" startled old Captain Lem almost to numbness.

What was that she was saying?

"He isn't a bear! I see his feet! Bears don't wear--SHOES!"

Alas! Her cry came too late. As bruin reared himself old Peter's shot
rang out. An instant later, with such a cry as never issued from the
throat of any bear, he dropped to the veranda floor and lay there
motionless. The great bear hunt was over.

Five minutes later the grizzly rug was back on the floor of Leslie's
room and the lad who had masqueraded in it to frighten a few girls,
the over-zealous Mateo, lay on his own little bed with Doctor Jones
probing for the bullet which had entered his shoulder.

Fortunately, it had not lodged there but passed straight through leaving
a clean flesh wound which would promptly heal, the doctor said, but that
would keep unhappy Mateo in bed for a few days. He had feigned sickness
when there was none, dreading to act the part he had just so
unfortunately done. But the young master's will had been too strong and
the suggestion had been Mateo's own.

"The punishment, for once, has fallen upon the guilty person. You'll
have time to reflect, Mateo, that frightening timid people is scarcely a
manly pastime. I trust there'll be no more skylarking till Mr. Ford is
home. You will be kept upon a rigid diet till I order otherwise, and
good night."

So said the doctor, leaving his patient to his own thoughts and assuring
himself that all the young folks had retired to their rooms again. He
had administered no further reproofs--nor needed to do so. It was an
exceedingly crest-fallen trio of lads who disappeared from view, when
once the extent of Mateo's injury was learned, and a very quiet one.

But the excited girls were not so quiet. They had to talk it over,
simply had to!

"I thought it was queer all the boys were in their day clothes," said
Helena, with her arm about Molly, who was still shaking with fright, now
and then, despite the fact that the affair was all over.

"I noticed, too, but I thought they'd just dressed awful quick. But
suppose it had been a real one--would it have eaten us up?" she begged
to know.

To which Alfy replied from her own room:

"No, Molly Breckenridge, don't be a goose. We'd have eaten him
up, course. We'd have had bear steak for breakfast--Some say it's
good. Don't s'pose with all them men around they'd have let it live
very long? No, indeedy. But Matty did it real cute, after all, didn't
he? Must ha' been terrible hot, trampin' around under all that skin.
Well, we ought to go to sleep, but seems if I'd never catch another
wink. I wonder what became of Wunny! Last I saw him he was lyin' flat
on the ground--thinkin' he was et up, I guess. Dolly--My heart! Dolly
Doodles is asleep a'ready. Did you ever see such a sleepy head, Nell?"

There was no answer from the room across the hall, so Alfy curled down
among her pillows and composed herself to sleep. But her mind wasn't at
rest. She kept seeing, in her fancy, the prostrate figure of Wun Sing,
and hoped some of the men from the Barracks had looked after him. She
felt as if she must get up again and go to see for herself. But--out of
doors at night didn't seem quite the same, even to this sensible girl,
as it had done before the bear scare. Besides--something really was the
matter with her eyes. They felt as if they were full of sand--she'd just
shut them a minute to--

She was asleep at once. A body simply could not stay awake after
bedtime, in that Colorado air! And it was well she could not. Else, the
warm-hearted girl would have suffered fresh alarm.

It was a belated household which struggled out of heavy slumber the next
day, and as Dorothy lazily yawned and stretched her arms above her head
it seemed as if all the exciting events of the night must be part of her
dreams. Alfy woke, too, as reluctantly as her mate and just as Helena
appeared from her own room, looking a little heavy-eyed but fully
dressed. She bade them good morning, but waited for no response before
she added:

"The house seems unusually still, and I don't smell coffee. I generally
do, the first thing. I sometimes think it's the odor of that wakes me. I
wonder if Wun Sing's fright and his worry about his poor hen has made
him ill! I'll go and see; and if the boys aren't up I'll call them."

The lads answered sleepily to Helena's summons, yet were not long in
appearing on the porch, where the other girls promptly joined them. As
if by common consent nobody mentioned the escapade of the night, though
it was in the minds of all and all were really longing to discuss it.
The boys because they wished to "explain," and the girls thinking that
to treat the "joke" with silent contempt would be their severest
punishment. Nobody even mentioned unlucky Mateo, who had lent himself to
the furtherance of the affair, only to be the one to suffer most from
it.

"Hmm. Isn't it past breakfast time?" asked Monty, at last.

Herbert looked at his watch, and exclaimed:

"Ten minutes to nine! Who'd have believed it? Horses to be groomed
before drill, and time up already. I wonder--But here's Nell. She's
coming from the kitchen and looks important. What's up, Sis?"

"Several things. First, the hen of Wun Sing lies dead in her coop."

"O-oh!" "Ah!" "Unwise, ambitious hen!" were the exclamations which
responded; and Molly added:

"That isn't all. There's something worse on Helena's mind than the death
of a bewitched hen! Out with it, child! After--I mean--my nerves won't
stand any more."

"Didn't know you had nerves," laughed Alfy. "What's happened, Helena?"

"Wun Sing has disappeared."

"W-h-a-t?"

"It is true. He has gone, nobody knows where. There's a man from the
Barracks, the one who does the cooking over there, getting breakfast.
Captain Lem is flying around in a terrible state of mind. He's angry
with you boys, says there'll be neither drill nor rifle practice to-day,
but the horses must be groomed just as soon as we get our breakfasts.
He's sent a half-dozen men looking for the cook, now, and they expect to
find him soon."

"So they did Jim! Seems if there wasn't anything doing on this ranch but
just getting lost," wailed Alfaretta, turning a little pale; while Molly
nervously begged:

"Somebody tie me fast! Tie me fast! It'll break my father's heart if I
get lost, too!"

Captain Lem came up at that moment. He looked so stern and unlike
himself that the young folks were all of them awed by his manner. Even
light hearted Monty slunk back, "shaking in his shoes," while Leslie
dropped his eyes and lost all his bravado.

"Hark to me, Squad! Every mortal son an' gal of ye! I'm riled--I'm mad.
Here am I left in charge, so to speak, of your doin's, and of the work
on the ranch, anyways. Your smart-aleck work has turned everything
topsy-turvy. Men took from their reg'lar jobs to go hunt worthless
Chinamen, and take his place a-cookin'. Hens dyin' to right an'
left--pizened by some your doses, likely--"

"Oh, no! Captain, I'm sure nobody would do such a cruel thing as poison
helpless creatures!" protested Dorothy, running to clasp his hand.

He had on his "specs," which they had already learned he used mostly
when he was angry, and they were very glittering just then. But Dorothy
would not be put aside. She clung to him till his mood softened and
removing the menacing "specs," dropped them in his blouse pocket. Then
he smiled upon her, rather shamefacedly, though he felt that he still
had good cause for offence.

"Well, Little One, you've got ways to win a feller, 'spite of himself.
If they was all as good as you--"

"Oh! they are, and even lots better! 'Twas just lads' foolishness that
they mistook for smartness. And they, we, all of us will do all we can
to help. Where can we look for Wunny? He's the first one to be thought
of. And I'm sorry he was so scared. Also, he'll be sorry himself over
the poor hen. What can I do?"

"Go along an' eat what breakfast you can get. Then tend to your horses.
Likely, they're hungrier 'n you are and I'll go see 't they're fed. But
hear me! Not another mite o' foolin' with serious things till Dan Ford
gets back an' takes the reins into his own hands. 'Twas the mercy of
Providence--nothin' else--that that jabberin' shallow-pate Mateo wasn't
killed plumb out. Silent Pete's used to grizzlies. He's used to
killin' 'em. It's his trade, a deal more 'n 'tis to tend horseflesh. I
wouldn't like to stand as nigh hand to his gun as that Greaser did last
night. Now, hurry up and eat. Then report for duty. I'm off to mine."

"Where do you suppose Wun Sing is?" asked Helena, of anybody who chose
to answer.

Nobody did: it may be stated right here that he was never again seen at
San Leon. The "bewitched dead fowl" was duly buried in her own
courtyard, the little gate to this locked, and its key hung up in the
cook's wall-cupboard. But Wun Sing came no more. Everything belonging to
him was left as if he meant to return at any minute, but he did not
come.

They searched the pebbly bottom of the lake, thinking he might have
drowned himself in his superstitious fear, but he was not there: and
after days had been wasted in the fruitless search, Captain Lem had his
belongings packed together and sent to his relative, Der Doo, in San
Diego. Whence, at the very end of the summer word came back that he had
reappeared in that city, a wreck of himself, but it was hoped that with
time and good Chinese cooking he would recover his scattered wits and
his own culinary skill.

Meanwhile, many messages came from the travellers in the east. The
expected old aunt had duly arrived but in no fit condition to travel
further for the present. Gray Lady sent dearest love and hoped all her
big, new family would find San Leon the happiest place in the world,
and the most peaceful. She had lived long enough to understand that
peace and harmony were the most precious things in life. She longed to
be with them and would be as soon as it was right. Meanwhile, let all be
patient as possible over her enforced absence and just feel that she was
with them in spirit all the time.

"Odd, isn't it? That she who so longed to have this home and so enjoyed
it should have to leave it to us, a lot of strange youngsters, to use
instead?" said Helena, one evening some time later, as they all had
gathered about the fountain in the soft sunset light, to talk over
happenings and plan things for the coming day.

Since the escapade of the false bear hunt there had been a notable
absence of pranks. An ominous peace had settled over the whole young
company, remarked by the astute Captain Lem as the "'ca'm before a
storm.' 'Tain't in natur' for 'em to be so demure an' tractable. No
siree. They've 'tended to their groomin' like reg'lar saints, an'
they've learned to drill amazin' well. They don't shoot none to hurt,
yet, 'ceptin' that Leslie himself. Sence he's waked up an' took an
interest he's done fine. He's the best o' the lot and his knowin' that
is what inspires him to do better yet. That, an' hopin' to please the
Boss. But--I hope the storm'll blow over--the one they're brewin'. And I
wonder what in creation ever did become o' that first boy, or of
Wunny."

For as yet no news had come of the latter and the former had almost
dropped out of thought--save now and then in Alfy's, and always in
faithful Dorothy's.

Now that they were better riders and had become what their teacher
called "pals" with their horses, they were daily given larger liberty.
In company with him, and sometimes without him, they rode long distances
over the roads, the narrow trails, and the almost imperceptible paths
which led over the mountains and through the forests.

The wild flowers of Colorado are innumerable, almost, and most of them
were new to Dorothy, the flower-lover. In search of these she was
tireless and many hours were spent after her return from her rides, in
pressing her "specimens" and preparing herbariums. In this delightful
work she had the company and help of Dr. Jones, himself a well-read and
enthusiastic botanist.

Helena spent hours over her journal: "taking notes" for future literary
labors. Alfy and Molly were content to do nothing save be happy. As Alfy
expressed it:

"I never was so lazy and I likely never will have a chance to be again.
I can work when I have to and I can play just as hard."

The lads fished, rode, hunted small game, and tried various feats of
horsemanship, lariat casting, and even--when they were especially
energetic, played ball. There was a fairly good team among the ranchmen
and they entered into the sport with vim. Only Leslie found the exercise
too violent and was content to lounge and watch the rest.

This evening, sitting together so cosily, the peace of the beautiful
scene gradually soothed them all to quiet. They had settled the plans
for the morrow and were as happy as such care-free children could be.
Helena picked up her guitar and played soft melodies upon it, the others
humming them under their breaths--not to disturb the player, only Alfy
presuming to fit real words to the music but not interfering with it.

Suddenly Dorothy raised her eyes from the playing fountain, on which she
had been dreamily gazing and thinking of lost Jim. A sound, faint, of
horses' footfalls had entered her dream. With a silent gesture of alarm
she sprang to her feet, staring with wide eyes at a company of Indians
ascending the hill. They avoided the hard driveway, their horses
treading with velvety softness upon the shaven lawn. They were many in
number, twenty perhaps, and they were in gala dress. Head-dresses of
eagles' feathers, gaily colored, hung from their crowns over the sides
of their mounts, to the length of a man's height. They uttered no
sounds, looked neither to the right nor left, but like a dreadful,
phantom procession moved straight forward toward the fountain.





Next: A Trip To Bald Eagle Rock

Previous: The Hen Of Wun Sing



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