小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt » CHAPTER XIII A FORCED MARCH
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Terry and Jim had made their way northward and up the mountain. It was growing dark and they wished to cover as much ground as possible before the night would make their task difficult. They planned to seek some high point and camp there, watching the mountain sides for a sign of a fire or light of any kind. With this in mind they pushed steadily on, winding up the sloping side of the range.

When darkness finally came on they pitched camp, a process that consisted of very little else than getting off their horses and building a fire. There was a chill in the air which made them glad of the small fire, and they ate a hearty supper beside it, discussing the business at hand.

“If we find that nothing has been discovered,” said Jim, “we’ll have to beat up the mountain in deadly earnest in the morning. We’re satisfied that they didn’t go toward the sea, but we must take care that they haven’t skipped out of these mountains.”

“Right you are,” agreed the red-headed boy, as he poured out coffee, “but there must be a million hiding places in these mountains, and we’ll have to draw mighty fine lines. I suppose there is no use of going any further tonight?”

“I hardly think so,” rejoined Jim, thoughtfully. “We don’t know the country and we may run into some trouble. We are on a knoll here and should be able to see any light that would show on the mountain.”

“Suppose someone should see our fire?” asked Terry, practically.

“There isn’t much danger of that,” said Jim. “The fire is small and we are up pretty high. When we go to sleep the fire will die down and probably go out. We can comb a few miles of the woods before we go back to meet Don and Ned.”

After the meal was over the boys cleaned up around their camp site and stood for some time on the crest of the rise looking down into the blackness of the forest below them. There was no sign of life in the dense trees and no light was to be seen. Jim and Terry once more seriously considered the possibility of making a night search and then finally decided against it.

“I certainly am sleepy,” yawned Terry, as they made their way back to the fire.

“Well, as soon as we gather some wood we’ll turn in,” suggested Jim. “I don’t know that it is necessary to keep the fire going all night, but we will have wood at hand for the first thing in the morning so that we can build a fire without wasting any time.”

With their knives and their hands the two boys gathered enough wood to last them for several hours and then gave a final look at the horses. Then each of them took his blanket from the pile of equipment, stacked his gun alongside, loosened shoes and neckties and rolled up in the blankets.

“If either one of us wakes up he can put wood on the fire,” said Terry, as he settled himself in the blanket.

“Yes, but don’t wake up purposely,” advised Jim.

They went to sleep without any trouble, being pretty well tired from the day’s journey. The air was cool and fresh and they were healthy young men, so they slept soundly. Terry was perhaps the lighter sleeper of the two, and it was he who shook Jim into wakefulness after they had been asleep for a few hours.

“What is up?” asked Jim, awaking swiftly, his brain working perfectly.

“Listen and see if you don’t hear a bell ringing!” whispered Terry.

Jim listened, and in spite of himself he felt his flesh quiver. The mountain was dark, the wind fitful, and the fire was a dull red. From off in the distance the sound of a bell was heard, a bell that clashed and rang without rhythm. The sound was far away and very faint, and when the wind blew with a slight increase in force they lost the sound.

“That’s funny,” murmured Jim, propped on his elbow.

“What do you suppose it is?” whispered Terry.

“I haven’t the least idea. I don’t know where there could be a bell around here. It might be possible that there is a village nearby and for some reason or other they are ringing the town bell.”

“Maybe. Shall we go down, follow the sound, and see what it is?”

“I don’t see why we should,” Jim argued. “It might simply be a wild goose chase. The sound is coming from the south, and maybe Ned and Don will investigate. I guess we had better stay where we are.”

“I guess you are right,” Terry agreed, throwing some wood on the fire. “Back to sleep we go.”

Jim followed Terry’s advice. The red-headed boy dozed and woke up, staring at the sky and moving restlessly. The sound of the bell had stopped and he closed his eyes and once more dozed off. He had slept lightly for perhaps an hour when he woke up, his senses alert.

There had been a sound near the camp. The horses were moving restlessly and Terry raised himself on his elbow and looked into the shadows. The fire had burned low again and he could not see far. He debated whether to wake Jim or not, and then decided not to.

“Getting jumpy,” he thought. “I must go to sleep.”

But at that moment two shadows moved quickly from the tall trees and toward the fire. With a warning shout to Jim, Terry rolled out of his blanket and reached for the nearby guns.

“Leave your hands off them guns!” snarled Sackett, as Jim kicked his way clear of his coverings.

Terry looked once at the two outlaws and the guns which they had in their hands and decided to give in. Jim scrambled to his feet and stood beside him, dismayed at the turn events had taken.

“A couple of bad pennies turned up,” muttered Terry, inwardly angry at the new developments.

“All those kids weren’t together,” said Abel, aside to Sackett.

“I see they weren’t. Well, we’ll take these youngsters along,” replied the leader, taking their guns from the tree where they were leaning.

“What do you want with us?” Jim demanded.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” retorted Sackett.

“You meddling kids made us lose the old man so we’ll just take you along for a little ride.”

“Ned and Don must have rescued the professor,” said Jim to Terry.

“You never mind what happened!” growled Abel, in such a manner that they knew their guess was correct. “Get your horses and come on!”

“Where are you taking us?” asked Terry.

“Mind your own business,” snapped Sackett. “Gather up your junk and hurry up about it.”

“I see,” nodded Terry. “I’m going somewhere and it isn’t any of my business where! And Jimmy, my boy, all this nice equipment that Ned gave us is just junk!”

“Quit your talking,” commanded Abel. “We have no time to lose.”

In silence the two boys gathered up the blankets and the camping kits, strapped them on the horse under the watchful eye of the mate, and then mounted. Sackett whistled and Manuel appeared, leading three horses. The outlaws sprang into the saddle and Abel took the lead, the other two hemming in the boys from the rear. Abel turned his horse’s head down the mountain and toward the sea.

“Too doggone bad we didn’t keep a sharper lookout,” Terry grumbled.

Jim shrugged his shoulders. “Perhaps, but I don’t know. These fellows were running from Don and Ned, and their falling in on us was an accident. We’ll have to keep our eyes open and see if we can give them the slip.”

The horses picked their way down the mountain expertly, and they had worked several miles to the southward before they rode out on the open plain. Daylight was now not far off, and they went on in silence, both parties keenly awake to the slightest movement of the other. When daylight did break over the plain they were miles from the mountain and almost to the sea. There had been no chance to make a break and Terry and Jim resigned themselves to their fate.

No halt was made to eat, and the boys found that they were very hungry and somewhat tired. What little sleep they had had was only enough to refresh them sufficiently to keep going, and they would have liked to lay down and enjoy a full, untroubled sleep. But they knew that if they were ever to escape from Sackett and his men they must be on the alert every minute.

They rode steadily onward, the men apparently indifferent to the thought of breakfast and the boys grimly uncomplaining. Jim was more used to a horse than Terry and did not mind the ride, but the red-headed boy was growing restless. From time to time the men looked back at the distant mountains, but as they were now many miles below the vicinity of the ruined castle there was nothing to be feared from the other party. The sea was now very near and Jim thought he recognized the country.

“If I’m not mistaken we rode over this country yesterday,” he said aside to Terry.

Before them at a distance of less than a mile, was a high bluff, and when they rode to the edge of this bluff the boys saw a familiar sight. Directly below them was the tannery which they had stopped to inspect on the day before. It was at this point that the Mexican slipped out and took the lead, showing them a steep and winding path that ran down beside the cliff and led to the beach below. Down this the party made its way, the nimble horses bracing their feet expertly, and after some twenty minutes of steady descending they emerged at length onto the hard sand of the beach.

Manuel still kept the lead, riding up to the tannery, and at one of the smaller sheds he alighted from his horse, an example which was followed by the others. The boys were not sorry to follow suit and when they had done so Manuel took the horses and lodged them out of sight in the main building.

“Say,” demanded Terry. “Haven’t you fellows any stomachs? I’m starved!”

Sackett opened the door to the smaller building with a grin on his ugly face. “We’re all hungry,” he said. “Abel, cook up some grub.”

“Not while them kids are here,” said the mate, promptly. “Let them do the cooking.”

“I’m too hungry to say ‘no’ just now,” said Jim, promptly. “Somebody get me wood and I’ll make breakfast.”

Abel brought wood while Manuel went up the bluff and disappeared. Sackett sat on a ledge near the door, keeping a watchful eye on the boys. Jim cooked an excellent breakfast and the men enjoyed it. Manuel had come back and reported briefly.

“Ship’s coming in,” he said in Spanish, but the boys understood him.

Just as the meal was over the Mexican looked out of the door and got up. “The boat is in,” he said to Sackett.

The leader arose quickly and motioned to the boys. “Come on, you boys, we’re moving. Abel, bring up in the rear.”

“Where are we going?” Jim asked.

“You’ll find out when you get on board,” retorted Sackett, as he marched them out of the shack.

“Evidently on a ship,” murmured Terry.

He was right. Off the shore a battered old schooner with two masts was tossing gently to and fro and near them on the beach a long boat was hauled up, with its crew of six waiting. The men touched their caps when Sackett approached.

“Get in the boat,” ordered Sackett, and the boys climbed in, taking their places in the stern seats. The outlaws followed, all but Manuel, who stood on the shore.

“Get the horses back to the hide-out,” Sackett said to the Mexican. “We’ll be back soon.” To the boat’s crew, who had taken their places at the oars he said, “Row us alongside.”

The crew pulled with a will and the boat moved from the shore, out onto the blue waters of the Pacific. After a row of a half mile they ranged alongside of the schooner, which had the name Galloway painted on the stern. Jim and Terry were ordered up the side ladder, where they dropped over the rail to the deck. Sackett and Abel, followed by the crew, speedily joined them.

“Put on sail,” ordered Sackett of the ship’s captain, as that officer approached. He turned to the boys, a grin of evil delight on his face. “You kids wanted to know where you are going, eh? Well, we’re taking you to Mexico, to keep you prisoners on a nice, deserted ranch until it suits us to let you go!”


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533