Burt Standish.

Frank Merriwell's Alarm: or, Doing His Best





The four lads were forced to sit on the ground, and some of the savages squatted near. The fire was replenished, and the Indians seemed to hold a council.

Deciding how they will kill us, said Diamond, gloomily.

Nothing of the sort, declared Rattleton. See them making motions toward the bicycles. They are talking about the wonderful two-wheeled horses.

Gracious! gasped Toots; dat meks mah hair feel easier!

Browning held a hand on his stomach in a pathetic manner.

Oh, my! he murmured. How vacant and lonely my interior department seems to be! Methinks I could dine.

The hard bread and jerked beef, whispered Jack. It is in the carriers attached to the wheels.

Yes, and we had better let it remain there.

Why?

These Indians look hungry, too.

You think

I do. They will take it away from us and eat it if we bring it out. That would leave us in a bad fix.

But they can get it out of the carriers.

They can, but they wont.

Why not?

They are afraid of those bicycles so afraid that they will not go near them. Therefore our hard bread and jerked beef is safe as long as we let it remain where it is.

Harry agreed with Bruce, and they decided not to touch the food in the carriers; but all were thirsty again, and they expressed a desire to have another drink from the water-hole.

To this the Indians did not object, and they took turns at drinking, although the water did not taste nearly as sweet as it had the first time.

Having satisfied themselves in this manner they sat down on the ground once more, being compelled to do so by the redskins, who were watching them closely.

They have us in a bad position in case they take a notion to crack us over the head, said Harry. We wouldnt get a show.

Mah gracious! gurgled Toots, holding fast to his scalp with both hands. Wes gwan teh git it fo suah, chilluns! De fus fing we know we wont no nuffin!

We must get out of this somehow, muttered Bruce.

Thats right, nodded Jack. Merriwell has taken care of himself, and left us to take care of ourselves.

He spoke in a manner that showed he felt that Frank had done them a great wrong.

Its a good thing he got away as he did, asserted Harry. Now we know we have a friend who is not a captive like ourselves, and we know he knows the fix we are in. You may be sure he will do what he can for us.

Hell do what he can for himself. How can he do anything for us?

Hell find a way.

I doubt it.

You have become a great doubter and kicker of late, Diamond. It is certain the loss of that Mormon girl who married the other fellow has soured you, for you were not this way before. Why dont you try to forget her?

I wish you might forget her! You make me sick talking about her so much! I dont like it at all!

If you dont like it lump it.

Jack and Harry glared at each other as if they were on the point of coming to blows, and this gave Browning an idea.

He saw the Indians had noticed there was a disagreement between the boys, and he leaned forward, saying in a low tone:

Keep at it, fellows keep at it! I have a scheme. Pretend you are fighting, and they will let you get on your feet. When I cry ready well all make a jump for our wheels, catch them up, place them in the form of a square, and stand within the square. The redskins are afraid of the wheels think them bad medicine. They wont dare touch us.

Browning had made his idea clear with surprising swiftness, and the other boys were astonished, for they had come to believe that the big fellow never had an original idea in his head.

Both Jack and Harry were taken by the scheme, and Diamond quickly said:

Its a go. Keep on with the quarrel, Rattleton.

Harry did so, and in a very few seconds they were at it in a manner that seemed intensely in earnest. Their voices rose higher and higher, and they scowled fiercely, flourishing their clinched hands in the air and shaking them under each others nose.

Browning got into the game by making a bluff at stopping the quarrel, which seemed to be quite ineffectual. He seemed to try to force himself between them, but Rattleton hit him a hard crack on the jaw with his fist, with which he was threatening Diamond.

Scissors! gurgled Bruce, as he keeled over on his back, holding both hands to his jaw. What do you take me for a punching bag?

You have received what peacemakers usually get, said Harry, as he continued to threaten Diamond.

The Indians looked on complacently, their appearance seeming to indicate that they were mildly interested, but did not care a continental if the two white boys hammered each other.

Jack scrambled to his feet and dared Harry to get up. Harry declared he would not take a dare, and he got up. Then Bruce and Toots lost no time in doing likewise, and, just when it seemed that the apparently angry lads were going to begin hammering each other Browning cried:

Ready!

Immediately the boys made a leap for the bicycles, caught them up, formed a square with them, and stood behind the machines, like soldiers within a fort.

The Indians uttered shouts of astonishment, and the four boys found themselves looking into the muzzles of the guns in the hands of the savages.

What white boys mean to do? harshly demanded Black Feather. No can run away.

Heap shoot um! howled Blue Wolf, who seemed eager to slaughter the captives. Then no can run away.

Hold on! ordered Browning, with a calm wave of his hand. We want to parley.

Want to pow-wow? asked Black Feather.

Thats it.

No pow-wow with white boys. White boys Injuns prisoners. No pow-wow with prisoners.

No! shouted Blue Wolf. Shoot um! shoot um!

Land ob massy! gurgled Toots. Dey am gwan teh shoot!

Black Feather, said Browning, with assumed assurance and dignity, it will not be a healthy thing for your men to shoot us.

How? how?

Do you see that we are protected by the bad medicine machines? If you were to do us harm now, these machines would utterly destroy you and every one of your party. The moment you fired at us these machines would be like so many demons let loose, and as they are not made of flesh and blood, they could not be harmed. Not one of your party could escape them.

The light of the fire showed that the Indians looked at each other with mingled incredulity and fear.

Wow! muttered Rattleton. Is this Browning I hear? How did you happen to think of such a bluff?

Have to think in a case like this, returned the big fellow, guardedly. I think only when it is absolutely necessary. This is one of those occasions.

The Indians got together and held a consultation.

Cant we make a run for it now? asked Diamond, eagerly.

We can, nodded Bruce, but we wont run far. Theyd be able to drop us before we could get out of the light of the fire.

What can we do?

Why, well have to

Browning was interrupted by a clatter of hoofs, which caused him to turn toward the East. The Indians heard the sound, and they turned also.

Then wild yells of terror rent the air.

CHAPTER VII. ESCAPE

Coming through the darkness at a mad gallop was what seemed to be the gleaming skeleton of a horse. The ribs, the bones of the neck, legs and head, all showed plainly, glowing with a white light.

And on the back of the horse, which had sheered to the north and was passing the fire, sat what seemed to be the skeleton of a human being, the bones gleaming the same as those of the horse.

It was almost an astonishing and awe-inspiring spectacle, and it frightened the Indians greatly.

Howugh owugh owugh! wailed Black Feather, dismally.

Then the savages dropped on their faces, covering their eyes, so they could not see the skeleton horseman.

Almost at the same moment as the horseman was passing the spot the ghastly appearing thing seemed to give a sudden swing about and completely disappear.

Poly hoker! gasped Rattleton. Its gone!

Thats right! palpitated Diamond vanished in a moment!

Oh, mah soul mah soul! wailed Toots. Dat sholy am de ol debbil hissef, chilluns! When we see it next its gwan teh hab one ob us fo sho!

Hark! commanded Browning.

The beat of the horses feet could be distinctly heard, but the creature had turned about and was going back toward the pass through the bluffs.

Chucker-chucker-chuck! chucker-chucker-chuck! chucker-chucker-chuck! came the ghostly sounds of the galloping horse.

Its turned about! gasped Harry, in astonishment.

Its going! fluttered Jack.

And wed better be going, too! put in Browning.

Then with a familiar whirring sound something came flying toward them through the darkness, causing Toots to utter a wild shriek of terror.

Into the light of the camp-fire flashed a boy who was mounted on a bicycle, and they saw it was Frank Merriwell.

Away! he hissed, as he flew past them. Make straight for the pass by which we entered this pocket. I will join you.

Then he was gone.

Browning gave Toots a sharp shake, fiercely whispering:

Mount your wheel and keep with us if you want to save your scalp! If you dont you will be left behind.

Then the boys leaped upon their bicycles and were away in a moment, before the prostrate Indians had recovered from the shock of terror given them by the appearance of the skeleton horse and rider.

For the time Bruce Browning took the lead, and the others followed him. Toots had heeded the big fellows warning words, and he was not left behind.

Barely had they passed beyond the range of the firelight and disappeared in the darkness when wild yells of anger came from behind them, and they knew the Indians had discovered they were gone.

Bend low! bend low! hissed Diamond. They may take a fancy to shoot after us! Stoop, fellows!

Stoop they did, bending low over the handlebars of their bicycles.

Bang! bang! bang!

The Indians fired several shots, and they heard some of the bullets whistle past, but they were not hit.

Well, thats what I call luck! muttered the young Virginian.

What do you call luck? asked Rattleton.

The appearance of that skeleton horse and rider in time to scare the Indians and give us a chance to get away.

Oh! said Harry, sarcastically, I didnt know but it was Merrys return. I told you he would not desert us.

I wonder how he happened to come back just then?

He came back because he was watching for an opportunity to help us, and he saw we had a splendid chance to get away while the redskins were scared by the appearance of the horse and rider. You ought to know him well enough to know he is not the fellow to desert his friends in a scrape like this.

Diamond was silent.

I wonder where Frank is? said Browning. He said he would join us, and he is

Right here, old man, said a cheerful voice, as a flying bicycle brought Merriwell out of the darkness to Brownings side. This way, fellows! Well hit the pass and get out of here as soon as we can.

Lawd bress yeh, Marser Frank! cried Toots, joyfully. I didnt knows Id see yeh no mo, boy!

I hope you didnt think I had left you for good?

No, sar! declared the colored boy. I done knows yeh better dan dat, sar! I knowed yehd come back, but I was afeared yehd come back too late, sar. Dem Injunses was gittin poerful anxious fo dis yar wool ob mine yes, sar!

Well, I am glad to know you thought I would not desert you. I dont want any of my friends to think I would go back on them in the hour of need.

Diamond was silent.

The pass was found without difficulty, and they went speeding through it.

How did you happen to turn up just then, Frank? asked Harry.

I was waiting for a chance to come to you, and I saw the chance when that horse and rider frightened the Indians.

The horse and rider where are they? asked Browning.

Gone through the pass ahead of us.

Mah gracious! exclaimed the colored boy. What if dat ol debbil teks a noshun teh wait fu us?

What sort of ghost business was it, anyway? questioned Rattleton. It seemed to be a skeleton horse and a skeleton rider, and it disappeared in a twinkling. I will admit this skeleton business is beginning to work on my nerves.

It is rather creepish, laughed Frank; but I do not think it is very dangerous.

All the same, you do not attempt to explain the mystery.

Not now.

Not now? Can you later?

Perhaps so.

It is plain he knows no more about it than the rest of us, said Diamond. As for me, I am getting sick of seeking vanishing lakes and vanishing skeletons. If I get out of this part of the country alive, youll never catch me here again.

Meh, too! exclaimed Toots.

Well, I dont know as any of us will care to revisit it, laughed Frank. Anyway, we have been very lucky in escaping from those Indians. That you cant deny.

You fooled them easily, said Rattleton.

Yes, and they did not even take a shot at me, which was a surprise. I expected they would pop away a few times.

What are we going to do after we get out on the open desert again? asked Jack. It seems to me well be as bad off as ever.

Well have to go around the range to the south, or wait for the Indians to get away from that water-hole, so we can go through the mountains as we originally intended.

The Indians may not go away.

I rather think they have been scared so theyll not hang around there long. I dont fancy theyll be anywhere in the vicinity by morning.

If they are gone

Well be all right, providing we can make our hard bread and dried beef hold out till we can reach one of the small railroad towns.

How far away is the railroad?

Not much over fifty miles.

That is easy! declared Rattleton. We can make it on a spurt!

As they reached the eastern opening of the pass their attention was attracted by a bright light that seemed to shine out from the very niche where they had found the jewel-decorated skeleton.

What does that mean? exclaimed Jack, in astonishment.

Land ob wartermillions! gasped Toots. It am de debbils light fo suah, chilluns! Don yeh go near it!

By Jove! cried Frank. That is worth investigating! Come on, fellows!

He headed straight toward the light, and as they came near the niche they saw the bejeweled skeleton was again seated as they had seen it in the first place, and a bright flood of light was shining upon it from some mysterious place.

Its back! exclaimed Harry, in astonishment.

Sure enough! said Frank. It is on deck again.

I tells yeh to keep away from dat skillerton! shouted Toots. Hit am gwan teh grab yo this time if yo gits near hit!

Well take chances on that, declared Frank. This time we wont give it time to get away, but well go right up and examine it.

Thats what we will! agreed Harry.

But even as he spoke, the light disappeared, and this made it impossible for them to see anything up there in that dark nook.

Ha! ha! ha!

Again they heard the mocking laughter, smothered, hollow and ghostly in sound.

Somebody is having lots of fun with us, said Frank, as he leaped from his wheel. It may be a good joke, but I fail to see where the ha, ha, comes in.

Is the skeleton gone?

I dont know, but Ill mighty soon find out.

Without hesitation he swung himself up to the niche in the rocks, and Rattleton followed, determined that Frank should not go alone into danger.

Harry afterward confessed that he was shivering all over when he climbed up there in the darkness, but his fear did not keep him from sticking to Merry.

A cry broke from Franks lips.

What is it? called Browning, from below.

By the eternal skies, its gone again!

Didnt I tole yeh! cried Toots, from a distance. Come erway from dar, Marser Frank! If yo don, yos gwan teh be grabbed!

It is gone! agreed Rattleton. This beats the Old Nick!

Again they heard that mocking laugh, which seemed to come down from some point above their heads.

Wooh! shivered Harry. That sounds pleasant!

Hang it all! exclaimed Frank, in a voice that indicated chagrin. I dont like to be made fun of this way! If we dont solve this mystery before we go away I shall always regret it.

Beware!

It was the same voice that had uttered the warning when they were riding into the pass, and now, in the darkness of night, it sounded even more dismal and uncanny than before.

Come out and show yourself, called Frank.

For some time the boys remained there, but they were forced to abandon the task of solving the mystery that night. Frank descended to the ground with no small reluctance, and Harry kept close to him. They mounted their wheels and rode away once more, fully expecting to hear the mocking laughter, or the ghostly voice calling after them. In this, however, they were disappointed, as nothing of the kind happened.

After they had ridden some distance, Frank proposed that they halt for the night.

We are in for an open-air camp to-night, he said. It is something we did not expect, but it cant be helped, and as the night is not cold I think we can get along all right. We need rest, too.

Thats right, agreed Bruce. I feel as if I need about a week of steady resting, but I dont care to take it here.

How about the Indians? asked Jack. We are not very far from them, and they might find us.

I scarcely think there is any danger of that.

Why not?

Those redskins were so badly frightened that theyll not go hunting after white boys to-night. It is more likely they will skin out and make for the Shoshone Reservation, on which they must belong.

But what if they should happen to follow us? Jack persisted.

We must take turns at standing guard to-night, and the guard should be able to give us warning of danger in time for us to mount our wheels and get away.

It was plain that Diamond was not in favor of stopping there, but he said no more.

Fortunately the night was warm, so they suffered no discomfort by sleeping thus. No dew fell out there on the desert.

It was arranged that Diamond should stand guard first, while Frank came second, with Toots for the last guard toward morning.

They ate some of the hard bread and jerked beef and then threw themselves down, with their bicycles near at hand, so they could spring up and mount in a hurry if necessary.

Browning was the first to stretch himself on the ground, and he was snoring almost immediately. The others soon fell asleep.

The rim of a round, red moon was showing away to the eastward when Jack awoke Frank.

How is it? Merriwell asked. Have you heard or seen anything suspicious?

Not a thing, was the reply. All is still as death out here far too still. I dont like it.

Well, it is not real jolly, confessed Frank, with a light laugh; but I dont think we need to be worried about visitors; and that is one good thing.

Jack was fast asleep in a short time.

Morning came, and Toots was the first to awaken. Dawn was breaking in the east as he sat up, rubbing his eyes and muttering:

Good land! dat am de hardes spring mattrus dis coon ebber snoozed on yes, sar! Nebber struck nuffin lek dat befo.

Then he looked around in some surprise.

Gracious sakes! he continued. Whar am de hotel? It done moved away in de night an lef us.

It was some time before he realized that they had not put up at a hotel the night before.

Reckum dis is whar we stopped las night, he finally said. I membah bout dat now. We was ter tek turns watchin. I aint took no turn at all, an its wamnin. He! he! he! Guess de chap dat was ter wake me fell asleep hisself an clean fergot it. Dat meks meh bout so much sleep ahaid ob de game.

He was feeling good over this when he noticed that three forms were stretched on the ground near at hand, instead of four.

Whar am de odder one? he muttered. One ob dem boys am gone fo suah. Land ob wartermillions! What do hit mean? Dar am Dimun, an dar am Rattletum, an dar am Brownin, but whar whar am Marser Frank?

In a moment he was filled with alarm, and he lost no time in grasping Harrys shoulder and giving it a shake, while he cried:

Wek up heah, yo sleepy haid wek up, I tells yeh! Dars suffin wrong heah, ur Is a fool nigger!

Muts the whatter? mumbled Rattleton, sleepily. Cant you let a fellow sleep a minute? It isnt my turn yet.

Yoah turn! shouted Toots. Wek up, yo fool! Its done come mawnin, an dars suffin happened.

Eh? grunted Harry, starting up and rubbing his eyes. Why the moon is just rising.

Moon! snorted the colored boy. Dats de sun comin up! An I dont beliebe yo took yoah turn keepin watch.

Browning grunted and rolled over, flinging out one arm and giving Toots a crack on the neck that keeled him over on the ground.

Landy goodness! squealed the darky, grasping his neck with both hands. What yo tryin ter do, boy? Want ter coon? Nebber seen such carless pusson, sar!

Oh, shut up your racket! growled the big college lad. Im not half rested yet. Call me when breakfast is ready.

Yoll done git yeh own breakfas dis mawnin, sar; but befo dars any breakfas wes gwan ter know what has become of Marser Frank. Hes gone.





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