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首页 » 经典英文小说 » The Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt » CHAPTER XV THE MOUNTAIN SAGE
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Don’s grave statement to the effect that Jim and Terry might have fallen into the hands of Sackett was received with a gloomy degree of conviction by the others. They knew that the outlaws had fled somewhere across the mountains, and it was very likely that they had run across the trail of the two boys in their flight. The professor spoke up.

“We must lose no time in following them,” he declared, with spirit.

“The rest of us will follow them,” said Ned. “You had better go back to the ranch, dad.”

“Why should I go back?” demanded the professor.

“You must be tired. You had a long ride yesterday and didn’t sleep much last night. You and Yappi go back to the ranch and we’ll push on after Jim and Terry.”

“I’m going with you,” declared the professor, stoutly. “I’m no child! Don’t you think I have any interest in finding the boys and running this gang down? I would be mighty restless back on the ranch. So let’s start.”

After some further discussion they struck off in the direction last taken by the missing boys and rode up the mountain, keeping a careful lookout as they did so. They spread out in fan fashion, keeping close enough together so as to call back and forth. It was sometime in the afternoon when Yappi called out and the others closed in and joined him.

The mestizo was off his horse, standing close to the ashes of a fire which had evidently been out for some hours. They were all of the opinion that Terry and Jim had built the fire and had spent the night beside it.

“The question is now where they went from here,” mused the professor.

Ned was searching the nearby bushes and he set up a shout. “There were others here last night, too,” he announced.

Upon inspection they found the bushes beaten down by the hoofs of horses, but at first Don was not convinced. “This is probably where they tied up their own horses,” he said.

“Other horse over here,” replied the mestizo, gravely.

On the other side of the clearing they found the traces of other horses. There had been two parties, or else one spot marked the location of the missing boys’ horses and the other that of the second party. The professor was sure that Sackett and his men had come down on them in the night while they slept. And later all doubt was laid aside when Ned found a big foot print in the soft sand.

“Neither Jim nor Terry made that,” he said, with conviction.

The others agreed with him, and by careful tracing they found that the party had gone down the mountain toward the sea. They followed the trail for at least a half mile and then lost it on some rocky ground, but they were satisfied that they were on the right track.

“They are heading for the sea,” Ned said. “Perhaps they have some kind of a boat down there. Well, we might as well get right on the trail.”

“Looks like a bad storm coming up,” cried Don.

The sun had long since been lost in a slow gloom which had come in from the sea, and the air was hot and still. Heavy black clouds were rolling in from the south, and there was an almost ominous stillness in the air. Far away they heard the low rolling of thunder off at sea.

“It may be a bad one,” admitted Ned, as he studied the sky. “We don’t have many storms in this region, but when we do get one it generally amounts to something. Well, we’ll push on until we have to stop.”

They had gone perhaps a mile along the mountain, working down toward the sea, when the leaves of the trees began to stir with increasing force. Secretly, Ned was worried, for he knew the strength of some of the storms his country was subject to, and he would have welcomed some sort of shelter. Just as he was beginning to think it best that they find shelter in the lee of some big rock Yappi called to him in Spanish. The ranchman had sighted an Indian hut just before them in the woods.

They rode up to the place, to find a withered old Yuqui Indian sitting on a crude bench at his door. He was engaged at the task of weaving a basket, and he looked up unemotionally as they drew up before his door. The hut back of him was a simple round affair, made of rough wood held together with a clay filling, which showed between the logs. Two windows, neatly glassed with glass which had been procured in some town nearby, and a single door alone broke the monotonous expanse of rough wood. A single chimney protruded from the top of the hut.

At a nod from Ned Yappi addressed the Indian in his native dialect, but it turned out that the Yuqui was very familiar with Spanish. Yappi told him that they wished shelter during the oncoming storm, and the old man, without showing pleasure or displeasure on his lined old face, replied that what he had they were welcome to. No sooner had he finished his statement than the rain began to descend in torrents.

The white men slipped from their horses quickly, Yappi took the bridles and led the horses to the shelter of a nearby leanto which the Indian had, and the whole party entered the hut. The Indian slipped in before them and was heaping wood on the small fire which burned in his fireplace, and as the flames shot up they had time to look around the hut. It was an interesting place.

There was a woven mat on the floor, a bed in one corner, and a rough table and chair in the center of the room. On the wall was hung a splendid bow and a sheaf of arrows, several baskets such as the one which the Yuqui had been weaving, and an Indian headdress. That portion of the floor which was not covered with a mat was neatly carpeted with leaves. The fireplace was constructed of hard clay. The entire hut was neat and orderly.

“The strangers are welcome,” said the Indian, as he sat beside the fire.

Ned thanked him gravely and for a few moments nothing more was said. They sat and listened to the fury of the storm outside. The wind hissed and slapped against the windows and the sides of the hut, the wind moaned overhead and the sky had become inky black. Don was worried.

“I hope Jim and Terry aren’t anywhere exposed in this storm,” he said.

“I don’t think so,” Ned hastened to assure him. “Those fellows know the sign as well as we do, and they must have dug for shelter. The fellows are all right, and we’ll hit the trail as soon as we can.”

The Indian was looking at them earnestly, and the professor, who could speak Spanish quite well, took it upon himself to tell him the circumstances. The old man listened intently and then nodded.

“I am a sage,” he said proudly. “I tell you that you shall find them. Yengi is my name.”

The visitors were silent, not knowing how to take this abrupt declaration. Yappi talked rapidly with the sage and seemed impressed.

“Yengi is a wise man,” he told Ned. “What he says is true. Long has he dwelt in these mountains, and his ancestors dwelt here before he did.”

The Indian sage nodded and addressed the whole party. “He speaks truth. For many generations my people have lived in this land. But not here in this mountain. I live here alone. My people lived far to the south, on a broad plain, until the people in beautiful clothes came. Those were the Spanish. They drove some of our people into slavery and killed others, and because we were few in number we were compelled to flee to the mountains and hide like wild beasts. My fathers told me.”

The fire had died down, the storm still beat outside, and the white men were silent as they listened to the simple but tragic story of the Indian sage. They knew that his tale was only too true, for they had read many times of such things, the professor being well versed in the history of the Spanish conquest of the southern part of America. It was a moving experience to hear it now from the lips of a descendent of the persecuted race that suffered so many centuries ago. Ned, the professor and Yappi understood perfectly what the sage was saying, and Don knew enough of Spanish to follow him without trouble.

The professor was smoking his pipe, so the sage reached into a niche beside the fireplace, took out a long crude Indian pipe and gravely lighted it. He smoked awhile in silence and then went on: “But my fathers had revenge.”

No one said anything and he puffed once or twice and then went on: “The English were our saviors. They chased the Spanish from our coasts. But I spoke to you about the revenge that my fathers took. One day in the long ago there was a storm and a Spanish ship fled from the English and was wrecked somewhere on the coast. I do not know where, but the men from the ship came straggling past our hidden village in the fastness of the mountain. My fathers saw them and ambushed them, slaying all of them, allowing only a priest to go free. He had been kind to some Indians once and his life was spared. He had with him a book and he was led to the sea coast, where he took ship to Mexico and was never seen more.”

Yengi looked up as there was a stir among his hearers, and he was astonished to see them regarding him eagerly. He took his pipe out of his mouth in astonishment.

“These men that your fathers killed came from a wrecked ship?” asked the professor eagerly.

“Yes, so they told my fathers. Why does that excite you so?”

Ned told the sage that they knew the story of the wrecked galleon and that there was supposed to be much treasure in the wrecked ship. The Indian was sure that the men must have come from that very ship, but beyond that he was not helpful.

“I do not know where the ship could be,” he told them. “The men, with the exception of the priest with the book, were all killed. They never went back, but the priest may have returned for the gold.”

“As long as the priest had a book, that must surely have been the crew,” said Don.

But the professor shook his head. “The book which the priest had may have been his own Bible, or some other book. It couldn’t have been the written story of the wreck, for you must remember that it was written after the storm and wreck and after the men were killed.”

“I see,” nodded Don, somewhat cast down. “But you have no doubt that it was the galleon’s crew, have you?”

“Oh, none at all,” returned the professor. “The story is too closely allied to the one we know to be at all doubtful. It seems to me that if we can get the Indian here to take us to the spot where the crew was killed that would be somewhere near where the galleon struck. At least, we would be in the immediate neighborhood, and not all at sea, as we are now.”

“But how about losing time in the hunt for the boys?” suggested Ned.

“We can get some idea of the location and then push on after the boys,” said the professor. He turned to the Yuqui and asked him if he would lead them to the spot where the men from the ship were killed.

“I have seen the place,” nodded the Indian. “I will show it to you.”

“If we find the treasure through your help we will give you a share of it,” promised Ned.

The Indian waved his hand impatiently. “Gold is cursed,” he said, sternly. “Yengi has wisdom, which is more than gold. I wish none of it.”

The party was impatient to start out but when night came on the storm had abated but little and they accepted the Indian’s invitation to stay with him all night. They ate together and sat around the fire talking, the Indian telling them many more stories of his race in their glory, himself astonished at the learning of the professor. He found it hard to believe that the professor had learned so much from books.

At last they lay down and wrapped themselves in their blankets, Don breathing a prayer for the safety of his brother and his chum before they fell asleep. It had been agreed that they would leave early in the morning to look at the spot where the old Indian village had stood and from there they would push on to the sea in the search for the missing boys. Yengi, who knew the country much better than even Yappi did, was to go with them and lend his valuable aid. With many varied conjectures in their minds as to what the morrow would bring forth the whole party soon became quiet in sleep, the professor very nearly exhausted by the events of the past two days.


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