Frank Merriwell's Alarm: or, Doing His Best
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“We can come back here in the morning and see if we’re able to solve the mystery,” said Merriwell. “I, for one, do not feel like going away without making another attempt at it.”
“Nor I,” nodded Rattleton.
“It is folly,” declared Jack, gloomily. “I say we have been warned, and the best thing we can do is get away as soon as possible.”
“By golly! dat am de firs’ sensibul fing I’ve heard yo’ say in fo’ days!” cried Toots, approvingly.
They picked up their wheels, and soon were ready to mount.
“Here’s good-by to the vanishing skeleton for to-night,” cried Frank.
He was answered by a wild peal of mocking laughter that seemed to run along the face of the cliff in a most remarkable manner.
“Ha! ha! ha!” it sounded, hoarsely, and “Ha! ha! ha!” came down from the rocks, like a mystic echo.
Toots made a jump for the saddle of his bicycle, but jumped too far and went clean over the wheel, striking his knee and turning in the air, to fall with a thump on the back of his neck.
“Mah goodness!” he gurgled, as he lay on the ground, dazed by the shock of the fall. “De ol’ debbil done gib meh a boost then fo’ suah!”
The other lads looked at each other in perplexity.
“Well, wh-wh-what do you think of that?” stammered Rattleton.
“He ought to file his voice, whoever he is,” coolly observed Browning. “It’s a little rough along the edges.”
“It strikes me that somebody is having fun with us,” said Merriwell, a look of displeasure on his face.
“What are you going to do about it?” asked Harry.
“We don’t seem able to do much of anything now. Come on.”
Toots scrambled up, and they mounted their wheels. As they started to ride away, a hollow-sounding voice cried:
“Oh, riv us a guest – I mean give us a rest!” flung back Rattleton.
“Stop!” repeated the mysterious voice. “Do not try the pass. There is danger beyond. Turn back.”
“I told you it was a warning!” cried Jack. “What do you think of it now?”
“I think somebody is trying to have a lot of sport with us!” exclaimed Frank.
“Well, what are you going to do?”
“Not a thing. I don’t propose to pay any attention to it, Come on, fellows. We must have more water, and there’s none too much time to find it before dark.”
Diamond was tempted to declare he would not go any further, but he knew the others would stand by Frank, and so he pedaled along.
As they drew away from the spot where they had seen the skeleton, they heard the mysterious voice calling to them again, commanding them to stop and turn back. Thus it continued till they had ridden on so that it could be heard no longer.
Despite himself Frank had been impressed by what he had seen and heard, and a feeling of awe was on him. Ahead the shadows were thick where the dark cliffs seemed to come together, and there was something grim and overpowering about the bare and towering mountains that sullenly frowned down upon the little party.
The boys were silent, for they had no words to speak.Each was busy with his thoughts, and those thoughts were not of the most pleasant character.
A feeling of heart-sickening loneliness settled down upon them and made them long for the homes that were so far away. What satisfaction was there, after all, in this great ride across the continent? They had encountered innumerable perils, and now it seemed that they were overshadowed by the greatest peril of all.
How still it was! The mountains seemed like crouching monsters of the great desert, waiting there to spring upon and crush them out of existence. There was something fearsome and frightful in their grim air of waiting.
The whirring of the wheels was a warning whisper, or the deadly hiss of a serpent. As they passed between the frowning bluffs, which rose on either hand, the whirring sound seemed to become louder and louder till it was absolutely awesome.
Frank looked back, and of all the party Bruce Browning was the only one whose face remained stolid and impassive. It did not seem that he had been affected in the least by what had happened.
“He has wonderful nerve!” thought Merriwell.
Diamond’s dark face seemed pale, and there was an anxious look on the face of Rattleton. Toots betrayed his excitement and fear most distinctly.
Frank feared they would not get through the pass in time to find the second water-hole, and he increased his speed.
The ground was favorable for swift riding. At that time Merriwell thought it fortunate, but, later, he changed his mind.
Of a sudden the pass between the bluffs ended, and they shot out into a valley or basin.
A cry of astonishment and alarm came from Frank’s lips, and he used all his energy to check and turn his flying wheel.
Before them blazed a fire, and around that fire were gathered —
“Indians!” palpitated Harry Rattleton.
CHAPTER V. – BLUE WOLF TRIES THE BICYCLE
“Indians!” echoed Jack Diamond.
“Indians?” grunted Bruce Browning, astonished.
“O-oh, Lordy!” gasped Toots. “Dis am whar a nigger boy I know is gwan teh lose his scalp fo’ suah!”
“Turn!” commanded Frank – “turn to the left, and we’ll make a run to get back through the pass.”
But they were seen, and the redskins about the fire sprang to their feet with loud whoops.
At the first whoop Toots gave a howl and threw up both hands.
“Don’ yo’ shoot, good Mistar Injunses!” he shouted. “I’s jes’ a common brack nigger, an’ I ain’t no ’count nohow. Mah scalp wouldn’ be no good teh yo’ arter – ”
Then he took a header off his wobbling machine and fell directly before Jack, whose bicycle struck his body, and Diamond was hurled to the ground.
“Stop, fellows!” cried Merriwell. “We mustn’t run away and leave them! Come back here!”
From his wheel he leaped to the ground in a moment, running to Diamond’s side. Grasping Jack by the arm he exclaimed:
“Up, old fellow – up and onto your wheel! We may be able to get away now! We’ll make a bluff for it.”
But it was useless, for Jack was so stunned that he could not get on his feet, though he tried to do so.
Toots was stretched at full length on the ground, praying and begging the “good Injunses” not to bother with his scalp, saying the hair was so crooked that it was “no good nohow.”
Up came the redskins on a run and surrounded the boys, Bruce and Harry having turned back.
Browning assumed a defensive attitude, muttering:
“Well, if we’re in for a scrap, I’ll try to get a crack at one or two of these homely mugs before I’m polished off.”
There were seven of the Indians, and nearly all of them carried weapons in their hands. Although they were not in war paint, they were a decidedly ugly-looking gang, and their savage little eyes denoted anything but friendliness.
“Ugh!” grunted the tallest Indian of the party, an old fellow with a scarred and wrinkled face.
“Ugh! ugh! ugh!” grunted the others.
Then they stared at the boys and their bicycles, the latter seeming a great curiosity to them.
“Well, this is a scrolly old jape – I mean a jolly old scrape!” fluttered Rattleton. “We’re in for it!”
Toots looked up, saw the Indians, uttered another wild howl, and tried to bury his head in the sand, like an ostrich.
Frank singled out the tall Indian and spoke to him.
“How do you do?” he said.
“How,” returned the Indian, with dignity.
“Unfortunately we did not know you were here, or we should not have called,” explained Merriwell.
The savage nodded; the single black feather in his hair fluttering like a pennant as he did so.
“Um know,” he said. “Um see white boy heap much surprised.”
“Jee! he can talk United States!” muttered Rattleton.
“Talk it!” said Bruce, in disgust. “He can chew it, that’s all.”
“I trust we have not disturbed you,” said Frank, calmly; “and we will leave you in your glory as soon as my friend, who fell from his wheel, is able to mount and ride.”
“No, no!” quickly declared the tall Indian; “white boy no go ’way. Injun like um heap much.”
Browning lifted his cap and felt for his scalp.
“It may be my last opportunity to examine it,” he murmured.
“But we are in a hurry, and we can’t stop with you, however much we may desire to do so,” declared Frank, glibly. “You see we are on urgent business.”
“Yes, very urgent,” agreed Rattleton. “Smoly hoke – no, holy smoke! don’t I wish I were back to New Haven, New York, any old place!”
“White boys must stop,” said the big savage. “Black Feather say so, that settle um.”
“I am afraid it does,” confessed Browning.
Diamond got upon his feet, assisted by Frank.
“Well,” he said, somewhat bitterly, “that is what we have come to by failing to heed the warning we received!”
“Don’t go to croaking!” snapped Rattleton. “These Indians are peaceable. They are not on the war path.”
“But they are off the reservation,” said Frank, in a low tone; “and that is bad. They have us foul, and there is no telling what they may take a notion to do.”
“It’s pretty sure they’ll take a notion to do us,” sighed Harry.
The tall Indian, who had given his name as Black Feather, professed great friendliness, and, when the boys told him they had been looking for the water-hole, he said:
“Um water-hole dare by fire. Good water, heap much of it. Come, have all water um want.”
“Well, that is an inducement,” confessed Browning. “We may be able to get a square drink before we are scalped.”
It was with no small difficulty that Toots was forced to get up, and, after he was on his feet, he would look at first one Indian and then dodge, and look at another, each time gurgling:
And so, surrounded by the Indians, the boys moved over to the fire, which was near the water-hole, as Black Feather had declared.
“Well, we’ll all drink,” said Frank, as he produced his pocket cup and proceeded to fill it. “Here, fellows, take turns.”
While they were doing so the Indians were examining their bicycles with great curiosity. It was plain the savages had never before seen anything of the kind, and they were filled with astonishment and mystification. They grunted and jabbered, and then one of them decided to get on and try one of the wheels.
It happened that this one was the smallest, shortest-legged redskin of the lot, and he selected the machine with the highest frame.
“Ugh!” he grunted. “White boy ride two-wheel hoss, Injun him ride two-wheel hoss heap same. Watch Blue Wolf.”
“Yes,” said Browning, softly, nudging Merriwell in the ribs with his elbow, “watch Blue Wolf, and you will see him smash my bicycle. I sincerely hope he will break his confounded head at the same time!”
“White boy show Injun how um git on,” ordered Blue Wolf.
“Go ahead, Bruce,” directed Frank.
“Oh, thunder!” groaned the big fellow. “I’m so tired!”
But he was forced to show the Indians how he mounted the wheel, which he did, being dragged off almost as soon as he got astride the saddle.
“Ugh!” grunted Blue Wolf, with great satisfaction. “Um heap much easy. Watch Blue Wolf.”
“Yes, watch Blue Wolf!” repeated Browning. “It will be good as a circus! Oh, my poor bicycle!”
With no small difficulty the little Indian steadied the wheel, reaching forward to grasp the handlebars while standing behind it. The first time he lifted his foot to place it on the step he lost his balance and fell over with the machine.
The other Indians grunted, and Blue Wolf got up, saying something in his own language that seemed to make the atmosphere warmer than it was before.
The bicycle was lifted and held for the little Indian to make another trial. He looked as if he longed to kick it into a thousand pieces, but braced up, placed his foot on the step and made a wild leap for the saddle. He missed the saddle, struck astride the frame just back of the handlebars, uttered a wild howl of dismay, and went down in hopeless entanglement with the unfortunate machine.
“Wow!” howled Blue Wolf.
“Oh, my poor bicycle!” groaned Browning, once more.
The fallen redman kicked the bicycle into the air, but it promptly came down astride his neck and drove his nose into the dirt.
“Ugh!” grunted the watching Indians, solemnly.
“Whoop!” roared Blue Wolf, spitting out a mouthful of dirt.
Then he made another frantic attempt to cast the machine off, but it persisted in sticking to him in a wonderful manner. One of his arms was thrust through the spokes of the forward wheel to the shoulder, and as he tried to yank it out, the rear wheel spun around and one of the pedals gave him a terrific thump on the top of the head.
“Yah!” snarled the unlucky Indian.
“Two-wheel hoss kick a heap,” observed Black Feather.
Blue Wolf tried to struggle to his feet, but he was so entangled with the bicycle that it seemed to fling him down with astonishing violence.
Then as the noble red man kicked, and squirmed, and struggled, the bicycle danced and pranced upon his prostrate body like a thing of life.
“O-o-oh!” wailed Blue Wolf, in pain and fear.
Toots suddenly forgot his fears, and holding onto his side, he doubled up with a wild burst of “coon” laughter.
“Oh, land ob watermillions!” he shouted. “Dat bisuckle am knockin’ de stuffin’ out ob Mistah Injun! Yah! yah! yah! Lordy! lordy! ’Scuse meh, but I has ter laff if it costs me all de wool on mah haid!”
Browning folded his arms, a look of intense satisfaction on his face as he observed:
“I have made a discovery that will be worth millions of dollars to the government of the United States. Now I know a swift and sure way of settling the Indian question. Provide every Indian in the country with a bicycle, and there will be no Indians left in a week or two.”
“Gamlet’s host – I mean Hamlet’s ghost!” chuckled Rattleton, holding his hand over his mouth to keep from shrieking with laughter. “I never saw anything like that before!”
Merriwell sprang forward and assisted Blue Wolf in untangling himself from the wheel, fearing the bicycle would be utterly ruined.
The little Indian was badly done up. His face was cut and bleeding in several places, and he was covered with dirt. With some difficulty he got upon his feet, and then he backed away from the bicycle, at which he glared with an expression of great fear on his countenance.
“Heap bad medicine!” he observed.
It seemed that the other Indians were really amused, although they remained solemn and impassive.
“Give me hatchet!” Blue Wolf suddenly snarled. “Heap fix two-wheel hoss!”
He would have made a rush for the offending wheel, but Frank held up a hand warningly, crying:
“Beware, Blue Wolf! It is in truth bad medicine, and it will put a curse upon you if you do it harm. Your squaw will die of hunger before another moon, your children shall make food for the coyotes, and your bones shall bleach on the desert! Beware!”
Blue Wolf paused, dismay written on his face. He longed to smash the bicycle, but he was convinced that it was really “bad medicine,” and he was afraid to injure it.
“Say, that is great, old man!” enthusiastically whispered Rattleton in Merriwell’s ear. “Keep it up.”
“Blue Wolf not hurt two-wheel hoss,” declared Black Feather, who seemed to be the chief of the little band. “Want to see white boy ride.”
“Do you mean that you want me to ride?” asked Frank.
“All right,” said Frank. “I’ll show you how it is done.”
Then he motioned for the savages to stand aside.
“No try to run ’way,” warned Black Feather. “Injun shoot um.”
“All right, your royal jiblets. If I try to run away you may take a pop at me.”
CHAPTER VI. – TRICK RIDING
The Indians made room for Frank to mount and ride.
Standing beside the wheel Frank sprang into the saddle without using the step, caught the pedals and started.
The savages gave utterance to a grunt of wonder and admiration.
Frank had practiced trick riding, and he now proposed to exhibit his skill, feeling that it might be a good scheme to astonish the savages.
He started the bicycle into a circle, round which he rode with the greatest ease, and then of a sudden he passed one leg over the frame, and stood up on one of the pedals, which he kept in motion at the same time.
The Indians nodded and looked pleased.
Then Frank began to step cross-legged from pedal to pedal, passing his feet over the cross bar of the frame and keeping the wheel in motion all the time.
A moment later he whirled about, and with his face toward the rear, continued to pedal the bicycle ahead the same as if he had been seated in the usual manner on the saddle.
“Heap good!” observed Black Feather.
Then, like a cat Merriwell wheeled about, lifted his feet over the handlebars to which he clung, slipped down till he hung over the forward wheel, placed his feet on the pedals, and rode in that manner. This made it look as though he were dragging the bicycle along behind him.
There was a stir among the Indians, and they looked at each other.
Without stopping the bicycle, Frank swung back over the handlebars to the saddle. Having reached this position, he stopped suddenly, turning the forward wheel at an angle, sitting there and gracefully balancing on the stationary machine.
“Heap much good!” declared Black Feather, growing enthusiastic.
“Oh, those little things are dead easy,” assured Frank, with a laugh. “Do you really desire to see me do something that is worth doing?”
“What more white boy can do?”
“Several things, but I’ll have to make a larger circle.”
It was growing dark swiftly now, the sun being down and the shadows of the mountains lying dark and gloomy in the valleys.
“Go ’head,” directed Black Feather.
Frank started the bicycle in motion, and then, with it going at good speed, he swung down on one side and slowly but neatly crept through the frame, coming up on the other side and regaining the saddle without stopping.
“Paleface boy great medicine!” said Black Feather.
“Ugh!” grunted all the Indians but Blue Wolf.
The little savage was looking on in a sullen, wondering way, astonished and angered to think the white boy could do all those things, while he had been unable to mount the two-wheeled horse.
“How do you like that, Black Feather?” asked Frank, cheerfully.
“Much big!” confessed the chief. “Do some more.”
“All right. Catch onto this.”
Then away Frank sped, lifting the forward wheel from the ground and letting it hang suspended in the air, while he rode along on the rear wheel.
“Merry is working hard enough,” said Rattleton. “I never knew he could do so many tricks.”
“There are lots of things about that fellow that none of us know anything about,” asserted Browning, who was no less surprised, although he did not show it.
“He is a fool to work so hard to please these wretched savages!” muttered Diamond.
“Now, don’t you take Frank Merriwell for a fool in anything!” came swiftly from Harry. “I never knew him to make a fool of himself in all my life, and I have seen a good deal of him.”
“Well, why is he cutting up all those monkey tricks? What will it amount to when it is all over?”
“Wait and see.”
“The Indians will treat us just the same as if he had not done those things.”
“Of course they will!”
“Now, Black Feather, old jiblets,” cried Frank, in his merriest manner, “I am going to do something else. Get onto this.”
Sending the bicycle along at high speed Frank lay over the handlebars and swung his feet into the air till he held himself suspended in that manner, head down and feet up.
The Indians were more pleased and astonished than ever.
“Oh, it’s all in knowing how!” laughed Frank, as he gracefully and lightly dropped back to the saddle.
Again the Indians grunted.
“Now, Black Feather, old chappie,” said Frank, “I am going to do the greatest trick of all. I’ll have to get a big start and have lots of room. Watch me close.”
Away he went, bending over the handlebars and sending the bicycle flying over the ground. He acted as if he intended to make a big circle, but suddenly turned and rode straight toward the pass by which they had entered the basin. Before the Indians could realize his intention, he was almost out of sight in the darkness of the young night.
Howls of rage and dismay broke from the redmen. They shouted after the boy, but he kept right on, quickly disappearing from view.
“There,” sighed Browning, with satisfaction, “I told you he was not doing all that work for nothing, fellows.”
“He’s done gone an’ lef us!” wailed Toots.
“That’s what he has!” grated Diamond – “left us to the mercy of these miserable redskins! That’s a fine trick!”
“Oh, will you ever get over it?” rasped Rattleton. “Why shouldn’t he? He had his chance, and he’d been a fool not to skin out!”
“I thought he would stand by us in such a scrape as this.”
“What you thought doesn’t cut any ice. He’ll come back.”
“After we are murdered.”
Rattleton would have said something more, but the Indians, who had been holding an excited conversation, suddenly grasped the four remaining lads in a threatening manner.
“Oh, mah goodness!” palpitated Toots. “Heah is whar I’s gwan teh lose mah wool! It am feelin’ po’erful loose already!”
Browning was on the point of launching out with his heavy fists and making as good battle of it as he could when he heard Black Feather say:
“No hurt white boys. Make um keep still, so um not run ’way off like odder white boy. That am all.”
“I’ll take chances on it,” muttered Bruce, giving up quietly.
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