The old Indian looked up at Frank through his masses of coarse black hair, just beginning to be streaked with gray.
"Not do any harm," he repeated, as though hardly able to grasp the meaning of the words Frank spoke; then his brown face lighted up with a grim smile. "White boys good; Havasupai glad him not take horse. Bad Indian! But not always that way; him carry speaking paper tell how make good," and he thumped his breast as he said this.
Again did Bob's eyes seek the face of his chum in a questioning manner. Frank, having been raised amid such scenes, could more readily understand what the Moqui meant when he referred to certain things which Bob had never heard mentioned before.
"He means that he's got a letter of recommendation along with him, written by some tourist, I reckon. Perhaps this old fellow may have found a chance to do some one a good turn. He may have run across a greenhorn wandering on the desert; saved a fellow who had been stabbed by the fangs of a viper from the Gila; or helped him to camp when he broke a leg in climbing around the Grand Canyon."
"Oh! I see what you mean, Frank; that this party wrote out a recommendation to all concerned, stating that in his opinion Havasupai was a fine fellow, and worth trusting. But then that was before he got into this trouble at this village. If he's a fugitive from justice at the hands of his own tribe, such a paper isn't worth much, I guess."
"No more it isn't," agreed Frank.
"But all the same he means to stick us with it," chuckled Bob; "for you can see he's got his hand in his shirt right now, as if searching for something so valuable that he won't even carry it in his ditty bag."
"That's right, Bob."
"And now he's got in touch with that old letter," grunted Bob. "I suppose we'll just have to read it to please him."
"You can if you care to," remarked Frank. "As for me, I'm that sleepy I only want a chance to crawl back into the tent, and take up my interrupted nap where it broke off."
"But good gracious! do you really mean it?" exclaimed the puzzled Bob.
"Why not?" demanded his chum.
"And leave him loose here, with the horses close by?" Bob went on, aghast.
At that Frank laughed a little.
"Well," he said, drily; "so far as the horses are concerned, I reckon our old friend Havasupai will go a long way on foot before he ever tries to steal a promising looking pony again. As long as he lives he'll remember how it feels to get a pair of hoofs fairly planted against his back. So long, Bob. Tell the old fraud he can lie down anywhere he pleases, and share our breakfast in the morning."
"That's the way you rub it in, Frank; returning evil with good," the Kentucky boy remarked. "But since you want me to take him in hand, I'll be the victim, and read his letter of recommendation, though I can already guess what it will say."
The old Moqui had meanwhile succeeded in getting out the paper which he seemed to set so much store by. Looking up, and seeing that Frank had turned away, he offered it to Bob, who took it gravely, and proceeded to hold it so that the light of the little fire would fall upon the writing.
Frank was half way in the tent when he heard his chum give utterance to a shout. He backed out again, and turning, looked hastily, half expecting to see Bob engaged in a tussle with the old Indian.
Nothing of the sort met his gaze. The Moqui was sitting there, staring at Bob, who had straightened up, and was starting to dance around, holding the paper in his extended hand.
"What ails you, Bob?" demanded the other. "Haven't been taken with a sudden pain, after all that venison you stowed away, I hope."
"Come out here, Frank!" called the lad by the fire. "Of all the luck! to think we'd strike such a piece as this! It's rich! It's the finest ever! We go to hunt for clues, and here they come straight to us. Talk to me about the favors of fortune, why, we're in it up to the neck!"
"You seem to be tickled about something, Bob; has that paper any connection with it?" demanded Frank.
"Well I should say, yes, by a big jugfull," replied the Kentucky boy. "And you'll agree with me when I tell you it's signed by Professor Felix Oswald, the very man we're going to search the Grand Canyon up and down to find!"
THE COPPER COLORED MESSENGER
"Do you really mean it, Bob?" asked Frank, with the bewildered air of one who suspects a joke.
"Take it yourself, and see," replied the other, holding out the discolored and wrinkled sheet on which the writing was still plainly to be read.
Frank bent over, the better to allow the firelight to fall upon the queer document. This was what he read in a rather crabbed hand, though the writing could be read fairly well:
"To Whom it May Concern; Greeting!
"This is to certify to the good character of the bearer, a Moqui Indian by the name of Havasupai, who has rendered me a very great service, which proves him to be the friend of the white man, and a believer in the pursuit of science. I cheerfully recommend him to all who may be in need of a trustworthy and capable guide to the Grand Canyon.
Frank looked up to see the grinning face of his chum thrust close to him.
"Think it's genuine, Frank?" demanded the other.
"I can see no reason why it shouldn't be," answered the other, glancing down again at the crumpled paper he held, and which the old Moqui was regarding with the greatest of pride on his brown face.
"Looks like that paper Mr. Hinchman brought to my dad; yes, I'd stake my word on it, Bob, that the same hand wrote both."
"But how d'ye suppose this greasy old Indian ever got the document?" asked the young Kentuckian.
"We'll have to put it up to him, and find out," came the reply. "He can speak United States all right; we've found that out already; and so you see, there's no reason under the sun why he shouldn't want to tell us."
He turned to the Moqui. It was not the same sleepy boy apparently who, but a minute before, had started to creep into the comfortable tent, where the blankets lay; but a wide-awake fellow, eager to ascertain under what conditions this fugitive brave could have secured such a letter of recommendation from the man of science, who was supposed to have utterly vanished from the haunts of men without leaving a single trace behind, up to the hour that message came to Colonel Haywood.
Holding the paper up, and shaking it slightly, Frank started to put the Moqui warrior on the rack.
"This belong to you, Havasupai?" he demanded, trying to assume a stern manner, such as he believed would affect the other more or less, and be apt to bring out straight answers to his leading questions.
"The white boy has said," answered the other, for an Indian seldom answers in a direct way.
"Where did you get it?" Frank continued, slowly, as if feeling his way; for he did not wish to alarm the Indian, knowing how obstinate a Moqui may prove if he once suspects that he is being coaxed into betraying some secret or a friend.
The black, bead-like eyes were on the face of Frank as he put these questions. Doubtless the old Moqui balanced every one well before venturing a reply.
"He gave it," nodding in the direction of the paper Frank held.
"Do you mean the man who signed his name here, Professor Oswald?"
A nod of the head in the affirmative settled that question.
"Was he a small man with a bald head, no hair on top, and wearing glasses over his eyes, big, staring glasses?"
Frank aided comprehension by touching the top of his own head when speaking about the loss of hair on the part of the noted scientist; and then made rings with his fingers and thumbs which he clapped to his eyes as though looking through a pair of spectacles.
Evidently the Moqui understood. Reading signs was a part of his early education. In fact it comprised nearly four-fifths of all the Indian knew.
"White boy heap wise; he know that the man give Havasupai talking paper. Much great man; know all. Tell Havasupai about cliff men. Find much good cook pot, heap more stuff in cave. Find out how cave men live. Write all down in book. Send Havasupai one, promise. It is well!"
"But where did you meet him?" asked Frank; and he saw at once that this was getting very near the danger line, judging from the manner in which the Moqui acted; for he seemed to draw back, just as the alarmed tortoise will hide its head in its shell at the first sign of peril.
"In canyon where picture rocks laugh at sun," the Indian slowly said.
"That ought to stand for the Grand Canyon," remarked the boy.
The keen ears of the Moqui caught the words, although they were almost spoken in whispers, and only intended for Bob.
He nodded violently, and Frank somehow found himself wondering whether, after all, the shrewd Indian might not be wanting to deceive him. He may have conceived the idea that these two white boys were the enemies of the queer old professor; and for that reason would be careful how he betrayed the man who trusted him.
"Listen, Moqui," said Frank, putting on a serious manner, so as to impress the other; "we are the friends of the little-old-man who has no hair on top of his head. We want to see him, talk with him! It means much good to him. He will be glad if you help us find him. Do you understand that?"
The Indian's black eyes roved from one to the other of those bright young faces. Apparently he would be foolish to suspect even for a minute that the two lads could have any evil design in their minds.
Still, the crafty look on his brown face grew more intense.
"He has some good reason for refusing to accommodate us, I'm afraid," Bob said just then, as if he too had read the signs of that set countenance.
"Why don't you answer me, Moqui?" Frank insisted, bent on knowing the worst. "We are on the way now to find the man who gave you this letter that talks. We have some good news for him. And you can help us if you will only tell in what part of the Grand Canyon Echo Cave lies."
The Indian seemed to ponder. Evidently his mind worked slowly, when it tried to grapple with secrets. But one thing he knew, and this must be some solemn promise he had made the man of science, never under any conditions to betray his hiding-place to a living soul.
"No can say; in canyon where picture rocks lie; that all," he finally declared, and Frank knew Indians well enough to feel sure that no torture could be painful enough to induce Havasupai to betray one he believed his friend, and whose magic talking paper he carried inside his shirt, to prove his good character.
"That settles it, Bob, I'm afraid," he remarked to his chum, who had been listening eagerly to all that was being said. "You might try all sorts of terrible things and he wouldn't whisper a word, even if he believed all we told him."
"That's tough," observed Bob; "but anyhow, we've got something out of it all, because we know now that the silly old professor must be hiding in one of those cliff caves, trying to read up the whole life history of the queer people who dug their homes out of the solid rock, tier after tier, away up the face of the cliffs."
"True for you, Bob, and I'm glad to see how you take it. I had hoped the Moqui might make our job easier, as he could do, all right, if only he wanted to tell us a few things. But we're no worse off than we were before, in all things, and some better in a few."
"I wish I could talk Moqui," declared Bob; "and perhaps then I'd be able to make the old fellow understand. Perhaps, Frank, if you gave him a little note to Uncle Felix, he might promise to take it to him later on!"
"Hello! that's a good idea, I declare," exclaimed Frank; "and I'll just do that same while I think of it."
He immediately drew out a pad of paper, and a fountain pen which he often carried for business purposes, since there were times when he had to sign documents as a witness for his father.
The old Moqui watched him closely. Evidently the spider-like handwriting was a deep mystery to him, and he must always feel a certain amount of respect for any white person who could communicate with another by means of the "talking paper."
"There," said Frank, presently, "that ought to do the business, I reckon."
"What did you say?" asked his comrade, who was busy at the fire just then, drawing some of the partly-burned wood aside, so that their supply might hold out in the morning.
"Oh!" Frank went on, "I told him dad had his note, sent in that bottle. Then I mentioned the important fact that the mine paper he carried had increased in value thousands of dollars. And I wound up by telling him how much we wanted to see and talk with him. I signed my name, and yours, to the note."
"And now to see whether the Moqui will promise to carry it to your great-uncle."
Frank held the note up.
"You will not tell us where we can find the little man without any hair on his head, Havasupai," he said. "But surely you will not say no when I ask you to carry this talking paper to him. It will please him very much. He will shake your hand, and many times thank you. How?"
The cautious old Moqui seemed to be weighing chances in his suspicious mind.
"Three to one he thinks we mean to spy on him, and find it all out that way," was Bob's quick opinion.
"Just what was in my mind; I could read it in his sly old face. But all the same he's going to consent, Bob."
The Kentucky boy wondered how Frank could tell this. He was even more surprised when the Indian stretched out a hand for the note, as he said solemnly:
"Havasupai will carry the talking paper to the man who has no hair on his head. But no eye must see him do it. The white boys must say to Havasupai that they will not try to follow him."
Frank looked at his chum, and nodded.
"We'll just have to do it, I guess, to satisfy the suspicious old fraud, Bob," he remarked; and then raising his hand, while his chum did likewise Frank went on, addressing the Moqui, who watched every action with glittering black eyes: "We promise not to follow, Havasupai, and will hope that this talking paper may cause the man-who-hides to send you for us to take us to him. You understand all that I am saying, don't you?"
The Moqui said something in his native language, which of course neither of them comprehended. But at the same time he reached out his hand and deliberately took the note intended for Uncle Felix.
"Hurrah! he's going to act as our messenger!" exclaimed Bob, filled with anticipations of success. "Say, that was a pretty smart dodge on our part, after all. But it makes me hold my breath every time I think of our good luck in running across this chap the way we did. And Buckskin deserves all the credit. He did it with his wonderful little tap."
"All right," said Frank; "me for the land of sleep now! Havasupai, you can lie down where you will. In the morning we promise you a share of our meat. How?"
"It is well, white boy," replied the old Moqui, as he dropped in a heap, and evidently meant to sleep just as he was without any further preparations.
Bob also crawled into the tent, although he had some misgivings, and wondered whether his chum were really doing a wise thing to trust one who had just confessed to a desire to raid their horses.
But as Bob, too, was tired and sleepy, he soon forgot all his suspicions in slumber. When he awoke he could see the daylight peeping under the canvas. Without disturbing his companion, Bob immediately started to crawl out. He had suddenly remembered the old Moqui; and it seemed as though his fears must have returned two-fold, and nothing would do but that he must hasten to make sure all was well.
Frank was just opening his eyes a little while later when he saw Bob's head thrust in at the opening of the tent.
"Better get up, Frank," the other said. "I've started the fire, and after we've had breakfast we'll be on our way. It was just as you said, though; he had the good sense to keep clear of the heels of the horses."
"Who are you talking about, the Moqui?" asked Frank, sitting up suddenly, as he caught a peculiar strain in the other's voice.
"Yes, our friend, Havasupai; who vamoosed in the night!" laughed Bob.
AT THE GRAND CANYON
"Do you mean it?" asked Frank.
"Come out, and see for yourself," Bob returned. "I've looked all around, and not a sign of the old fellow can I find."
"And both horses are there?" Frank continued, making a break for the exit.
"As fine as you please. Our friend didn't want a second try from those clever heels of Buckskin. He gave them a wide berth when he cleared out, I warrant. Oh! you can look everywhere, and you won't see a whiff of Havasupai. He's skipped by the light of the moon, all right."
Bob backed off, as his chum walked this way and that. He grinned as though he really enjoyed the whole thing. In his mind he had figured that it would turn out something this way, so he was not very much surprised.
"What d'ye think, Frank," he exclaimed, presently; "don't you remember promising to share our venison at breakfast with the Moqui?"
"Why yes, to be sure I do; but what of that, Bob?"
"Only that he didn't forget," laughed the other.
Frank immediately glanced toward the carcase of the little antelope.
"Ginger! he did go and cut himself a piece from it, sure enough," he admitted.
"While he thought our company not as nice as our room, still, he didn't object to sharing our meat. And, Frank, he wasn't at all stingy about the amount he took, either," Bob complained.
"Oh! well, I reckon there's still enough for us, and to spare. Besides, we've got heaps of other things along in our packs, for an emergency, you know. Suppose we make a pot of coffee, and start things."
"That's all right, Frank; I'll attend to it," declared Bob; "but why under the sun do you suppose now, that sly old Moqui dodged out like that?"
"Well, for one thing, he may have suspected us," replied Frank.
"What! after all we did for him, took him in, and forgave his sins, even to offering to mend any broken ribs, if he'd had any, through that horse kick? I can't just understand that," Bob ventured, while he measured out enough ground coffee to make a pot of the tempting hot beverage.
"He took the alarm, it seems," Frank went on, indifferently. "Knew we wanted to find the man who had given him the talking paper; and was afraid we might try to make him tell; or, that failing, stalk him when he went to deliver my note. And on the whole I can't much blame the old Indian. Suspicion is a part of their nature. He believed he was on the safe side in slipping away as he did. Forget it, Bob. We've learned a heap by his just dropping in on us, I think."
"Sure we have," replied the other, being busily employed over the fire just then. "And I was thinking what he could have meant when he pointed off in the direction I calculate the Grand Canyon lies, and said in answer to one of your questions: 'Seek there! When the sun is red it shines in Echo Cave!'"
"I've guessed that riddle, and it was easy," Frank remarked.
"Then let me hear about it, because I'm pretty dull when it comes to understanding all this lovely sign language of the Indians," Bob remarked.
"Listen, then. The sun is said to be red when its setting; that's plain enough; isn't it, Bob?"
"All O.K. so far, Frank. I won't forget that in a hurry, either."
"Then, when he said it looked into the cave at sunset, it was another way of telling us the cave faced the west!" Frank continued.
"Well, what a silly chap I was not to guess that," chuckled the other.
"And from what I know about the bigness of that canyon, Bob, I think that this unknown Echo Cave must be pretty high up on the face of a big cliff to the east of the river."
"Why high up? I don't get on to any reason for your saying that?" inquired Bob.
"You'll see it just as soon as I mention why," remarked his companion. "When the sun is going down in the west, far beyond the horizon, don't you see that it can only shine along the very upper part of the cliffs? The lower part is already lost in the shadows that drop late in the afternoon in all canyons."
"Of course, and it's as plain to me now as the nose on my face," agreed Bob. "Queer, how easy we see these things after they've been explained."
It did not take long to prepare breakfast, and still less time to eat it once the coffee and venison were ready. Just as Frank had said, there was plenty of the meat for the meal.
"That was a mighty juicy little antelope, all right," remarked Bob, as he finished his last bite, and prepared to get up from the ground where he had been enjoying his ease during the meal.
"And for one I don't care how soon you repeat the dose," remarked Frank; "only it will be a long day before you get one of the timid little beasts as easy as that accommodating chap fell to your gun. Why, he was just a gift, that's all you could call it, Bob."
"That's what I've been thinking myself, though of course I don't know as much about them as you do, by a long shot," Bob admitted. "I suppose it's us to hit the saddle again now?"
"We're going to try and make Flagstaff by night," Frank announced, as he picked up his saddle and bridle, and walked toward the spot where Buckskin was staked out.
The horses had been able to drink all they wanted during the night, for the ropes by means of which they were tethered allowed of a range that took them to the little spring hole from which the water gushed, to run away, and, in the end, possibly unite with the wonderful Colorado.
In ten minutes more the boys were off at a round gallop. There was no intention of pushing their mounts so soon in the day. Like most persons who have spent much time on horseback both lads knew the poor policy of urging an animal to its best speed in the early part of a journey, especially one that is to be prolonged for ten or twelve hours.
At noon they were far enough advanced for Frank to declare he had no doubt about being able to make Flagstaff before sunset.
"When we get there, and spend a night at the hotel, we must remember and ask if our friend Mr. Stanwix and his partner arrived in good time, and went on," Bob suggested.
Just as Frank had expected, they made the town on the railroad before the sun had dropped out of sight; and the horses were in fair condition at that.
Flagstaff only boasts of a normal population of between one and two thousand; but there are times, with the influx of tourists bound for the Grand Canyon, when it is a lively little place.
The two boys only desired shelter and rest for themselves and their horses during the night. It was their intention to push on early the following day, keeping along the old wagon trail that at one time was the sole means of reaching the then little known Wonderland along the deeply sunk Colorado.
After a fairly pleasant night, they had an early breakfast. The horses proved to be in fine fettle, and eager for the long gallop. So the two saddle boys once more started forth.
The day promised to be still warmer than the preceding one; and the first part of the journey presented some rather difficult problems. They managed to put the San Francisco Mountains behind them, however, and from that on the dash was for the most part over a fairly level plateau.
Now and then they were threading the trail through great pine forests, and again it was a mesa that opened up before them.
Bob was especially delighted.
"Think we'll make it, Frank?" he asked, about the middle of the afternoon, as they cantered along, side by side, the horses by this time having had pretty much all their "ginger" as Bob called it taken out of them, though still able to respond to a sudden emergency, had one arisen.
"I reckon so," replied the other. "According to my map we're within striking distance right now. Given two more hours, and we'll possibly sight the border of the big hole. That was Red Horse Tank we just passed, you know," and he pointed out their position on the little chart to Bob.
It was half an hour to sundown when the well known Grand View Hotel stood out in plain sight before them; and before the shades of night commenced to fall, the tired boys had thrown themselves from their saddles, seen to the comfort of the faithful steeds, and mounted to the porch of the hotel for a flitting view of the amazing spectacle that spread itself before them, ere darkness hid its wonderful and majestic beauty.
HOW THE LITTLE TRAP WORKED
"What do you think of it?" asked Frank, after they had stood there a short time, taking in the picture as seen in the late afternoon.
"It's hard to tell," Bob replied slowly. "It's so terribly big, that a fellow ought to take his time letting the thing soak in. That further wall looks as if you could throw a stone over to it; and yet they say it's more than a mile from here."
"Yes," Frank went on, "and all along in the Grand Canyon there are what seem to be little hills, every one of which is a mountain in itself. They only look small in comparison with the tremendous size of the biggest gap in the whole world."
"And how far does this thing run—is it fifty miles in length?" Bob asked.
"I understand that the river runs through this canyon over two hundred miles," the other replied. "And all the way there are scores, if not hundreds, of smaller canyons and 'washes,' reaching out like the fingers of a whopping big hand; or the feelers of a centipede."
"That's what I read about it away back; but I had forgotten," Bob remarked. "And they say that it would be a year's trip to try and follow the Grand Canyon all the way down from beginning to end, only on one side."
"I reckon it would, for you'd have to trace every one of these lateral gashes up to its source, so as to cross over. And that would mean thousands of miles to be covered."
"Gee!" exclaimed Bob, throwing up his hands as he spoke; "when you say that, it makes a fellow have some little idea of the size of this hole. And to think it's come just by the river eating away the soil!"
"They call that erosion," remarked Frank, who had of course posted himself on many of these facts, during his previous visit to the canyons of the Little Colorado. "It's been going on for untold thousands of years; and as the river with its tributaries has gradually eaten away the soil and rocks, it has left the grandest pictured and colored walls ever seen in any part of this old earth."
"When that afternoon sun shines on the red rocks it makes them look almost like blood," declared Bob. "And already I'm glad we came. I think just now I could be happy spending months prowling around here, finding new pictures every day."
"Then you don't blame old Uncle Felix for staying, do you?" laughed Frank.
"Sure I don't," returned the other lad, with vehemence. "And besides, you must remember that he had another string to his bow."
"Meaning his craze to be the fortunate man of science to unravel the mystery that has always hung over the homes of those cliff dwellers?" Frank went on.
"I can understand how it must appeal to a man living as Professor Felix has all these years," mused Bob. "And think of those queer old fellows picking out this one place of all the wide country to build their homes."
"That was because there could be no place that offered them a tenth of the advantages this did," Frank remarked, pointing across the wide chasm to the towering heights that could be seen. "Think of hundreds of miles of such cliffs to choose from! And as the softer rock was washed out by the action of floods countless ages ago, leaving the harder in the shape of astonishing shelves and buttes, these people took a lesson from nature, and carved their roomy homes by following the pliable stone."
"Say," Bob exclaimed, "that makes me think of what I read about the catacombs of Rome; how, for hundreds of miles, they run in every direction, following the course of veins of earth in the rock, that were selected by those who dug 'em."
"Of course," said Frank, "these people built their homes up in the cliffs in order to be safe. Nobody seems to know what they were afraid of, whether savage tribes, or great beasts that may have roamed this part of the country a thousand and more years ago."
"And that's the bait that has drawn the old scientist here, to study it all out, and write up the history of the people who looked on this very picture so many hundreds of years back. Why, Frank, some of the cliffs they say are about a mile high! That's hard to believe, for a fact."
"But it's been proved true," the other asserted. "The trouble is, that everything here is on such an awful big scale that a fellow fools himself. Actual measurement is the only way to prove things. The eye goes back on you. Why, I've looked out on a clear day in Colorado, and believed I could walk to a mountain in an hour. They told me it's base was fifty miles away; and there you are."
"Well, we'll have to put off looking till morning," said Bob, regretfully; "because the sun's dropped out of sight, and it's getting pretty thick down there in the hole. And to think that to-morrow we'll be pushing along through that place, with the walls shutting us in on both sides."
"Not only to-morrow, but for many days, perhaps," Frank added; for more than ever did he begin to realize the enormous task that confronted them; it was almost like looking for a needle in a haystack; but if one possesses a powerful magnet, even then the bit of steel may be recovered in time.
Did they happen to know of any such magnet?
Almost unconsciously Frank's thoughts went out toward that old Moqui brave, Havasupai, who had fled from his village because of some act which he had committed; but who was now determined to return, and take his punishment with the stoicism Indians have always shown.
The Moqui might be the connecting link! He alone knew where the hermit had his lodging, possibly in one of those quaint series of cliff dwellers' homes, which for some reason he called Echo Cave.
"We must ask if our friend Sheriff Stanwix has been here," Bob suggested, as they went to their room to prepare for supper.
"Oh!" replied his chum, "I did that when I spoke with the clerk at the desk. You were looking after the ponies at the time, so as to make sure they'd be well taken care of for a week, or a month if necessary."
"And what did he tell you, Frank?"
"They got here, all right," came the reply. "If you'd looked sharp when you were out there in the hotel stables, you might have recognized both their mounts; for they left them here at noon to-day."
"Noon!" echoed Bob; "then they made mighty good work of it, to get ahead of us all that time. I reckon you're going to tell me they've gone down into the canyon, and put in several hours looking for their birds, the two fellows who've given 'em the merry laugh more'n a few times."
"Guessed right the first shot," Frank went on, "but all that doesn't concern us one half as much as some other information I struck."
"And you've been keeping it back from me, while we stood there on the piazza, admiring the wonderful view," Bob remarked, with a touch of reproach in his voice.
"There were people passing us, all the time," his chum explained; "and besides, I wanted to keep it until we were alone, so we could talk it over."
"Is it about that scheming cousin of your father's—what did you say his name was—Eugene Warringford?"
"You got it straight enough," Frank admitted; "and what I learned, was about him. I saw his name on the register, and he's somewhere about the hotel right now. I had a suspicion that I saw some one trying to get near us while we stood there, drinking in that picture; and Bob, while I couldn't just hold up my hand and say for sure, I think it was that tricky Abajo."
"The half-breed cowboy who left Circle Ranch because he had some news for this Eugene that the fellow would be apt to consider mighty valuable, because it meant a stake of a million or two dollars; is that right, Frank?"
"The same Abajo," his chum continued; "which proves that those two are bound up in a plot to win this game. If Eugene can only find Uncle Felix he intends to get that paper in his possession, by fair means or foul."
"Then it's up to us to put a stopper in his little bottle!" declared Bob.
"I'm wondering," Frank proceeded, "whether they've got any idea where to look for the man who has hidden himself away for three years. Perhaps they mean to keep tabs on us, and if we are lucky enough to discover Uncle Felix, they hope to jump in, and snatch away the prize before we can warn him."
"Say, this is getting to be a pretty mix-up all around," laughed the Kentucky lad. "Here we are, meaning to try and follow the old Moqui; or failing that, wait for him to fetch us a message from the hermit of Echo Cave. Then Eugene, and his shadow, Abajo, are hanging around with the idea of beating us at our game. Havasupai on his part will be heading for the cave that lies in an unknown part of the Grand Canyon, and all the while dodging about for fear that he is followed."
"Yes," added Frank, falling in with the idea; "and perhaps there are the Moquis from his village who may have had word somehow of his return, searching for Havasupai, and bent on bringing him to the bar of their tribal law. To finish the game, think of our friends, the two sheriffs, loose in the big gash, and hunting for the men who have snapped their fingers in their faces so often across the line!"
"Well, it sure looks like there might be some warm times coming," remarked Bob. "I suppose we take our guns along with us when we're going the rounds of the sights?"
"Wouldn't think of doing anything else," was Frank's reply. "No telling when we might need 'em. Suppose, now, those two rascals the sheriffs are after should learn in some way about the value of the paper Uncle Felix has with him, wouldn't they just make it the game of their lives to try and capture him? And I reckon Eugene, too, will be so dead in earnest that he won't stop at little things, backed up by such a reckless character as the Mexican. Yes, the repeating rifles go along, Bob!"
"This water feels fine after that long, dusty and tiresome ride, eh?" remarked the young Kentuckian, as he splashed in the deep basin, and then proceeded to use the towel vigorously.
"It certainly does," Frank admitted, as he did likewise.
Shortly afterward the two boys went down to supper. The hotel had its usual number of guests, this being a favorite point for parties to start on the tour.
"Don't look just now," said Frank, as they sat at a table; "but Abajo has taken his seat right back of you. And it wasn't accident, either, that made him do it; I believe he has been set to watch us!"
From time to time, as they ate, Frank would report as to what the half-breed was doing; and while nothing occurred to actually prove the fact, still he saw no reason to change his mind.
"And I'm going to find out if he's keeping an eye on us, so as to report to his employer, Eugene Warringford," Frank announced, as they were drawing near the end of the meal.
"That sounds good to me," Bob remarked; "but how will you do it?"
For answer Frank drew out a paper from an inner pocket.
"You see this document," he observed, with a solemn look. "Well, it's only what you might call a dummy, being just an invitation I received a little while back to invest in some worthless mines over in the Hualpai Mountains of Mohave County. I kept it, meaning to figure out how these sharpers work their game. Now, when I hand you this, look deeply interested, as though it might be connected with the finding of Uncle Felix."
"Oh! I see your move, and go you one better, Frank."
For some little time they seemed to be conversing intently. Frank would occasionally tap the document, which he had sealed up in its envelope, as though he laid great stress on it. Finally he placed it on the table alongside his plate, and kept on talking.
Shortly afterward the boys left the table in apparently such a hurry that they both forgot the envelope that lay there, half hidden by a napkin.
Passing out of the room, they dodged back, and peered around the corner of the doorway.
"There's the waiter at the table," said Bob. "Now he's found the fine tip you left there, and is putting it in his pocket, with a grin. If everybody treated him as well as that, he'd soon be owning one of these hotels himself, Frank."
"Watch!" remarked his chum, in a low whisper. "Now he's discovered the document lying there where I left it. He takes it up. Perhaps he sees another dollar coming to him when he runs after us to return it."
"But there's somebody at his elbow," Bob went on to say; "and it's Abajo, as sure as you live. He's saying something, and I reckon telling the waiter that you asked him to get the packet. There, he slips some money in the fellow's hand; and the waiter lets him take the envelope. And we'd better slip behind this coat rack here, for Abajo will be heading this way in a hurry."
And hardly had they carried out that programme ere the half-breed glided past, one hand held in the pocket where he had thrust the "valuable" document!
GOING DOWN THE CANYON TRAIL
"Was I right?" asked Frank, after the half-breed had disappeared.
"I should say yes," replied his chum, who had followed the vanishing figure of Abajo with staring eyes.
"He got the precious paper, all right, eh?" Frank went on, chuckling.
"He sure did, and bribed our friend the waiter to let him carry it off. Shows how you can trust anybody in the tourist country, where they are nearly all out for the money," Bob declared, indignation struggling hard with a sense of humor.
"But just stop and think how easy Abajo, sharp rascal that he is, rose to my little bait?" laughed Frank. "Just as I expected, he was watching us all the time we examined that wonderful paper, and of course he believed it to be something for which his employer would reward him heavily, if he could only lay hands on it."
Bob himself was laughing now, as the full sense of the ridiculous character of Frank's little joke broke upon him.
"Oh! my, think what will happen when Mr. Warringford tears open that envelope, and sees how his spy has been fooled!" he exclaimed.
"There's only one bad thing about it, Bob!"
"What is that?" inquired the other.
"Eugene is, I take it, a clever fellow," said Frank, seriously; "and he'll understand that this was done with a purpose. It will make him suspect that we're onto the game, and that we know he has the half-breed watching our every move."
"Well, what of that, Frank?"
"Nothing, only after this we may expect they'll change their tactics more or less, and play on another string of the fiddle," the other saddle boy replied.
"All right," Bob remarked. "Forewarned is forearmed, they say; and if we know Eugene is laying low for us, we can be on our guard."
"Yes, that's all very good," Frank went on, shaking his head; "but once we get into the big canyon it may pay us to keep an eye out for overhanging rocks."
"Say, you don't mean to tell me you think Eugene would go that far?" demanded Bob, startled at the very idea of such a thing.
"I don't like to think he would; but you never can tell," Frank replied. "When a man like Eugene Warringford sells his soul, and with a chance of getting a big stake, he is generally ready to shut his eyes, and go the limit."
"But, Frank, that would be terrible! One of those rocks, coming down from the face of a high cliff, would seriously injure us!"
"Sure it would, and on that account we must keep on the watch all the time," Frank continued. "But I don't see Abajo anywhere about the piazza of the hotel; do you?"
"He's gone, and I reckon to carry that wonderful find of his to the man who employs him," Bob remarked. "Wouldn't I give a dollar to be hiding close by when he runs across Eugene, and they open the envelope you sealed! Wow! it will be a regular circus! Can't you imagine that yellow face of the half-breed turning more like saffron then ever when he learns that we played him for a softy?"
"Well, if you were near by, Bob, I wouldn't be surprised if you just had to stick your fingers in your ears," chuckled Frank.
"I reckon they will have a heap to say about it; and Abajo, after this, won't take us for easy marks, will he?" Bob remarked, in a satisfied tone.
A short time later they were in their room.
"You don't suppose now, Frank, that we'll be bothered to-night?" Bob observed, as he stood there by the window looking out toward the Grand Canyon.
At that the other laughed quite merrily.
"Don't give yourself any uneasiness about that, Bob," he remarked. "In the first place nobody would bother trying to get up here, even if they could, when so many better chances of reaching us will crop up after we start into the canyon to-morrow. Then again, we haven't anything to be stolen but our rifles, and what little cash we brought along for expenses."
"Oh! I suppose I am silly thinking about it," admitted Bob, "but some way that half-breed seems to be on my nerves. His face is so sly, and his black eyes just glitter as I've seen those of a snake do when he's going to strike. But, just as you say, it's foolish to borrow trouble, and I must get those notions out of my head."
"That's the talk, Bob," his chum declared, heartily. "Morning will find us in fine trim to make a start into this big ditch. And before another night you'll be so filled with wonder over what you see that these other things will take a back seat."
"But do you think we ever can find the hermit of Echo Cave?" asked Bob.
"I think we've got a pretty good chance, if we're left alone," came the ready reply.
"Meaning if this Eugene Warringford keeps his hands off; and nothing else turns up to balk us?" Bob asked.
"Yes, all of that, and more," Frank admitted.
"But already I find myself wishing we had somebody along with us, like Old Hank Coombs for instance, Frank."
"Well, who knows what may happen?" said the other, a little mysteriously. "D'ye know, Bob, I saw my dad winking at Hank when he thought I wasn't looking; and on that account I've got half an idea he meant to send the old man, perhaps with a second cowboy, along on our trail. We may run across friends here when we least expect it."
"I hope it turns out that way," declared the Kentucky boy; "because Hank is just what you might call a tower of strength when he's along. Remember how fortunate it was he turned up when he did, at the time we wanted to follow that plague of the cattle ranges, the wolf, Sallie? I reckon we'd have had a much harder time bagging our game if Hank hadn't been along."
"Well, get to bed now," Frank counseled; "and let to-morrow look out for itself."
"All right, I'll be with you in three shakes of a lamb's tail," declared Bob.
But before he left the window Frank noticed that he thrust his head out, as if desirous of making sure that no one could climb up the face of the wall, and find entrance there while they slept.
Bob was not a timid boy as a rule; in fact he was deemed rather bold; but just as he said, that dark face of Abajo had impressed him unfavorably; and he felt that the young half-breed would be furious when he learned how neatly he had been sold.
Nor did anything happen during that night as they slept upon the border of the Wonderland. Both lads enjoyed a peaceful sleep, and awoke feeling as "fresh as fish," as Bob quaintly expressed it.
Breakfast not being ready they walked about, viewing the astonishing features of the canyon as seen from the bluff on which the hotel stood. Down in the tremendous gap mists were curling up like little clouds, to vanish as they reached the line where the sunlight fell. It was a sight that appalled Bob, who declared that he felt as though looking into the crater of some vast volcano.
"Well," remarked Frank, "they did have volcanos around here, after this canyon was pretty well formed, though perhaps thousands of years ago. Great beds of lava have been found down in the bottom of the hole, so my little guide book tells me. But look away off there, Bob, and see that peak standing up like the rim of a cloud. Do you know what that is?"
"I heard one man say," Bob replied, quickly, "Navajo Peak could be seen on a clear morning, and perhaps that's the one; but Frank, just think, it's about a hundred and twenty miles off. Whew! they do things on a big scale around here; don't they? I'd call it the playground of giants."
"And you'd about hit the bulls eye," his chum observed; "but there goes the call for breakfast."
"I feel as if I could stow away enough for a crowd, this mountain air is so fresh and invigorating," Bob remarked, as they headed for the dining room.
Half an hour later they were once more in front of the hotel, and interviewing a guide who had been recommended by the manager as an experienced canyon man. It ended in their making terms with John Henry, as the fellow gave his name; though of course Frank was too wise to tell him what their real object was in exploring the tremendous gap. That could come later on.
At about nine o'clock they started down the trail that led from Grand View into the depths of the fearful dip. And as they descended, following their guide, Bob found himself realizing the colossal size of everything connected with the rainbow-hued canyon walls.
Nor was his mind made any easier when Frank took occasion, half an hour later, to bend toward him, and say in the most natural manner possible, though in low tones:
"They're on the job again, Bob—Abajo and Eugene—because I happened to see them watching us start down the trail; and they had some one along with them, perhaps a guide; so we'll have to take it for granted that they mean to dog us all the time, hoping to steal our thunder, if we make any lucky find!"
THE HOME OF THE CLIFF DWELLERS
Although Bob had anticipated such a thing, still the knowledge that it was actually coming to pass gave him a thrill. For some little time he did not say anything; but Frank could see him look uneasily up at the walls that now arose sheer above their heads some hundreds of feet.
Frank had studied the situation as well as he could, both from a map of the canyon which he found in the little guide book, and his own observations. All the while he kept before him that admission on the part of the old Moqui whom they had befriended, to the effect that the Westering sun shone full in Echo Cave. So he expected to find the home of the hermit-scientist high up in the wall on the Eastern side of the Grand Canyon.
First he intended heading toward the East, and going just as far as they could. Days, and perhaps weeks, might be spent in the search for the strange cave that had once been the home of those mysterious cliff people, which cavern Professor Oswald was occupying while studying the lives and customs of the long departed people who had dug these dwellings out of the rock.
At noon they had made good progress; but when the tremendous size of that two hundred mile canyon was taken into consideration, with its myriad of side "washes," and minor canyons, the distance that they had covered was, as Bob aptly declared, but a "flea-bite" compared with the whole.
And Frank declared time and again it had been a lucky thought that caused his chum to suggest that they bring the field glasses along. They were in almost constant use. Far distant scenes were brought close, and high walls could be examined in a way that must have been impossible with the naked eye.
Of course Frank was particularly anxious to scrutinize every colored wall that faced the West. The rainbow tints so plainly marked, tier above tier, called out expressions of deep admiration from the two lads; but all the while they were on the watch for something besides.
When Frank ranged that powerful glass along the ragged face of a towering cliff he was looking eagerly for signs of openings such as marked the windows of the homes fashioned by the strange people of a past age.
During the afternoon they actually discovered such small slits in the rock—at least they looked like pencil markings to them when the guide first pointed out the village of the ancient cliff dwellers; though on closer acquaintance they found that the openings were of generous size.
"Shall we climb up that straggly path along the face of the wall, and see what the old things look like?" asked Bob, as the guide made motions upward.
"Yes, we ought to have our first sight of such places," Frank replied, in a cautious tone. "Not that I expect we're going to find our hermit there, or in any other village that's known to tourist travel. But we ought to get an idea of what these places are like, you see. Then we'll know better what to expect. And perhaps the conditions will teach us how to discover his hiding place."
Accordingly they started to climb upward, just as many other tourists had been doing for years. There were even places, "aisles of safety," Bob called them, where one who was ascending, upon happening to meet a descending investigator, could squeeze into a hole in the rock until the other had slipped by.
Of course it was a risky climb, and no lightheaded person could ever dream of taking it. But the two saddle boys were possessed of good nerves and able to look downward toward the bottom of the canyon, even when several hundred feet up in the air.
Then they entered the first hole. It seemed to be a fair-sized apartment, and was connected with a string of others, all running along the face of the cliff; so that those who occupied them in the long ago might have air and light.
The boys observed everything with the ordinary curiosity expected of newcomers. Frank even investigated to see if there were any signs to indicate that those old dwellers in the canyon knew about the use of fire; and soon decided that it was so.
"Well, what do you think about this?" Bob asked, after they had roamed from one room to another. "For my part I think I'd fancy living in one of those three story adobe houses of the Hopi Indians, we saw pictures of at the hotel; or even a Navajo hogan. But one thing sure, these people never had to worry about leaking roofs."
"No," added Frank, laughing; "and floods couldn't bother them, because the Colorado never rose three hundred feet since it began cutting out this canyon."
"And think of the grand view they had before their doors, with the canyon in places as much as thirteen miles across, and mountains in their dooryard, looking like anthills," Bob went on impressively.
"Makes a fellow feel mighty small; doesn't it?" Frank remarked, as he stepped to a window to look out again.
"Makes me feel that I want to get down again to the trail," admitted Bob. "I'm wondering whether it's going to be much harder getting back than it was coming up."
"That's always the case," Frank declared, "as I've found out myself when climbing up a steep cliff. But the guide is ready for you, Bob, if you show signs of getting dizzy. You have seen that he carries a rope along, just like the Swiss guides do."
"Oh! come, Frank! Go easy with me; can't you?" the other exclaimed. "I hope I'm not quite so bad as that."
"All the same, Bob, don't take any chances; and if you feel the least bit giddy, let me know. This is a case where an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. And a stout rope is a mighty good thing to feel when your foot slips."
It turned out, however, that the Kentucky lad was as sure-footed as a mountain goat. He descended the trail, with its several ladders, placed there of course by modern investigators, without the least show of timidity.
They continued along the bed of the wide canyon. At times they followed the ordinary trail. Then again Frank would express a desire to have a closer look at some high granite wall that hovered, for possibly a thousand feet, above the very river itself; and this meant that they must negotiate a passage for themselves.
No doubt John Henry, the guide, must have thought them the queerest pair of tourists he had ever led through the mysteries of the Grand Canyon. But as yet Frank had not thought fit to enlighten him. He was not altogether pleased with the appearance of the guide, and wished to wait until he knew a little more about his ways, before entrusting him with their secret.
More than a few times during that day Frank believed he had positive evidence that they were being watched. Of course they met frequent parties of pilgrims wandering this way and that, as they drank in the tremendous glories of the canyon; but occasionally the boy believed he had seen a head thrust out from behind some rock in their rear, and then hastily withdrawn again as he looked.
Of course he could make a guess as to who was taking such a interest in the progress of his chum and himself. No one, save Eugene Warringford, would bother for even a minute about what they were doing, since richer quarry by far than a couple of boys would catch the eye of any lawless desperado, like those the two sheriffs were following, bent on making a haul.
"Frank," said Bob, when the afternoon was drawing to a close, and they had begun to think of picking out the spot where they would spend the night; "tell me why you chose to head toward the East instead of the other way, where Bright Angel trail attracts so many tourists?"
Frank cast one glance toward the guide, as if to make sure that John Henry was far enough in advance not to be able to catch what was said.
"I had a reason, Bob," he remarked, seriously. "Before we got down into the canyon, so as to choose which way we would go, I talked with several men who were coming up. And Bob, I learned that an old Moqui Indian had been seen heading toward the East late last night!"
"And you think it may have been our friend, Havasupai?" asked Bob.
"I'm pretty sure of it, from the descriptions they gave me," came the answer.
"But Frank, think how impossible it seems that he could have reached here almost as soon as we did; unless the old warrior was able to fly I don't see how it could be done."
"I'm just as much up a tree as you are, Bob," laughed the other; "but, all the same, I believe the Moqui has arrived, and is on his way right now to where Echo Cave lies."
"Then he must have an aeroplane to help him out, for I don't see how else he could make it," Bob insisted.
"Think for a minute, and you'll see it isn't actually impossible," Frank continued. "He could have made Flagstaff that night, just as we did."
"Yes," admitted Bob, "that's a fact; for while he said he was tired, and wanted a mount to fly from his people, who were looking for him, still I understand that these Moquis are wonderful runners, and game to the last drop of the hat. Oh! I grant you that he could have made Flagstaff that night sometime."
"Well, Flagstaff is on the railroad, you know," Frank remarked.
"Sure! I see now what you are hitting at," Bob observed; "the old Indian must have had money, as all his kind have, what with the tips given by tourists day after day. He could have come to Grand View on the train. Frank, once more I knuckle down to your superior wisdom. That's what Havasupai must have done, sure pop!"
"Anyhow," the other continued, "it pleases me to believe so; and that the Moqui is even now hurrying to make connections with the hermit in this mysterious Echo Cave. There's still another reason, though, why I picked out this course up the river, instead of going down. It is connected with the fact that the Moquis have their homes in this quarter."
"Oh!" exclaimed Bob, "I catch on now to what you mean. The chances are that the Moqui would be prowling around within fifty miles of his own shack when he ran across the man-with-the-shining-spot-in-his-head, otherwise the bald Professor Oswald."
"That's the point, Bob."
"It sure beats everything how you can get on to these things, Frank. Here I'm going to be a lawyer some day, so they tell me; and yet I don't seem to grab the fine points of this game of hide-and-seek as you do."
"Oh! well," Frank remarked, consolingly; "a lawyer isn't supposed to know much about trails, and all such things. That comes to a fellow who has spent years outdoors, studying things around him, and keeping his wits on edge all the while."
"I hope to keep on learning more and more right along," said Bob.
"Here comes John Henry back, to tell us he has found a good place for camping to-night; so no more at present, Bob."
It proved just as Frank had said. The guide declared that as the sun was low down, the canyon would soon be darkening; and they ought to make a halt while the chance was still good to see what lay around them.
Accordingly they made a camp, and not a great distance away from the border of the swirling river that rolled on to pass through all the balance of that wonderful gulch, the greatest in the known world.
They had come prepared for this, carrying quite a number of things along that would prove welcome at supper time. A cheery fire was soon blazing, and the guide busied himself in preparations for a meal; while the two boys wandered down to the edge of the river, to throw a few rocks into the current, and talk undisturbed.
"There are several other camps not far away," remarked Frank. "I could see the smoke rising in two places further on."
"Yes," added Bob, "and there's one behind us too, for I saw smoke rising soon after we halted. Perhaps that may be Eugene's stopping place; eh, Frank?"
"I wouldn't be surprised one little bit. Just look at the river, how silently it pushes along right here. It's deep too; and yet below a mile or so it frets and foams among the boulders that have dropped into its great bed from the high cliffs."
"And they do say some bold explorers have gone all the way through the canyon in a boat; but I reckon it must be a terrible trip," Bob ventured to say.
"Excuse us from trying to make it," laughed Frank; "by the time we'd reach Mohave City, where that bottle was picked up, there wouldn't be much left of us. But let's go back to camp now. John Henry must have grub ready."
Three minutes later he suddenly caught Bob's sleeve.
"Wait up!" he whispered. "There's somebody talking to our guide right now; and say, Bob, don't you recognize the fellow?"
"If I didn't think it was silly I'd say it was old Spanish Joe, the cowboy we had so much trouble with on Thunder Mountain," Bob declared, crouching down.
"Well, think again," said Frank; "and you'll remember that Abajo is his nephew!"
THE TREACHEROUS GUIDE
"Why, of course he is," declared Bob; "and it looks as if our old enemies had cropped up again, to join forces with the new ones. That will make three against us; won't it, Frank?"
"The more the merrier," replied the other, but Bob could see that he was inwardly worried over the new phase of the situation.
"Look at the way Spanish Joe is arguing with John Henry!" said Bob. "The guide keeps pointing this way, as if he might be afraid we'd come back, and see him talking with Old Joe. Now they shake hands, Frank. Do you think any bargain has been struck between them?"
"I'm afraid it has," replied his comrade, gritting his teeth with displeasure. "John Henry has sold us out, and gone over to the enemy for cash. I saw him hide something in his pocket."
"Then what will we do about him?" asked Bob, clenching his fist, as if it might give him considerable pleasure to take the treacherous guide personally in hand, and teach him the needed lesson.
"That's easy," chuckled Frank. "We'll keep on guard to-night, and when he sees how we hang to our guns he won't try any tricks, you may be sure."
"And in the morning?" Bob went on.
"Why," declared Frank, firmly; "there's only one thing to be done—we must fire John Henry, even if we have to pay him the whole sum agreed on for the week."
"I'm glad to hear you say that, Frank; because I'd hate to have him along. Why, he might take a notion to step on my fingers when I was climbing up after him, and claim it was only an accident, but if I had a broken leg, or a cracked skull, that wouldn't do me any good, I take it."
"There, Joe is moving off, and we can head for camp," Frank remarked, as they still hovered behind the spur of rocks that had concealed them, though allowing a view of the little camp.
"But you don't want to tell John Henry that we saw him making a bargain with Spanish Joe, I take it?" Bob questioned.
"That's right, we don't; and try to keep from looking as if you suspected him. Now his back is turned, come along," and Frank, rising, led the way.
The preparations for supper went on apace. The guide was unusually talkative, Bob thought, and he wondered whether it was not the result of a disturbed conscience. Perhaps John Henry might not be wholly bad, and was worried over having entered into an arrangement to betray his generous young employers.
"What are we going to do for a guide when we let him go?" asked Bob, later on, after they had eaten supper, and John Henry had wandered down to the river for a dip, as he said.
"We'll have to trust to luck to pick up another," Frank declared. "And if it comes to the worst, we can go it alone, I reckon. I've never been up against such a big job as this, but I think I'd tackle it, if I had to. But wait and see what another day brings out."
When it came time for them to retire they began talking about their ranch habit of standing guard. The guide laughed at the idea of any harm coming to pass while they were there in the canyon.
"Lots of other tourists are camping inside of three mile from here," he said; "and I heard the sheriff of the county himself is somewhere down in the canyon; so it don't look as how there could anything happen. But just as you says, boys; if it makes you feel better to stand guard, I ain't got a thing agin it."
The night passed without any sort of attack. Either Frank or Bob sat up all the time, with a trusty rifle ready; but there was no occasion to make use of the weapon.
With the coming of morning they made ready to eat a hasty breakfast. After this was over Frank found himself compelled to discharge the guide.
"We've concluded to do without your services, John Henry," he said, as the man stood ready to start forth on the way along the canyon, heading East.
"Me? Let me go? What for?" stammered the fellow; turning red and then white as a consciousness of his guilt broke upon him.
"Here's what we promised to pay you for the week," continued Frank. "We want no hard feelings about it. Never mind why we let you go. You can think what you like. But next time you hire out to a party, John Henry, be careful how you let anybody hand you over a few dollars to make you turn against your friends."
The man tried to speak, and his voice failed him. They left him standing there, holding the bills Frank had thrust into his hand, and looking "too cheap for anything," as Bob said. Perhaps he feared that the boys might tell what they knew about him, and in this way destroy his usefulness as a canyon guide ever afterwards.
"Good riddance to bad rubbish!" declared Bob, after they had gone on half a mile, and on looking back saw John Henry still standing there as if hardly knowing whether to be sorry, or glad over having received full pay for a week after only working a single day.
"And here we are cut loose from everybody, and going it on our own hook," laughed Frank. "But it would be foolish for us to think of doing without a guide if so be we can find one. We'll ask every party we meet, and perhaps in that way we can strike the right man."
During the morning they came upon several parties making the rounds of the Wonderland along the beaten channels. Sometimes women were in the company, for the strange sights that awaited the bold spirit capable of enduring ordinary fatigue tempted others besides men to undertake one of the trips.
Just at noon the two boys came upon a lone Chinaman sitting at a little fire he had kindled, cooking a fish, evidently pulled from the river by means of a hook and line.
"Well, what do you think!" exclaimed Frank, as he stared at the Oriental; "Bob, don't you recognize that cousin of our ranch cook, Ah Sin, the same fellow who was down at our place five months ago? Hello! Charley Moi, what are you doing in the big canyon, tell me?"
The Chinaman jumped up, and manifested more or less joy at the sight of Frank. He insisted on shaking hands with both the boys.
"How do? Glad see Flank, Blob! Me, I cook for plarties in Gland Canyon. Hear of chance gettee job up Gland View Hotel. Go there now. Alle samee like see boys from Circle Lanch. How Ah Sin? Him berry veil last time hear samee."
Frank had an idea.
"See here, Charley Moi," he said; "you say you've been about the big canyon a long time now, serving as a cook to parties who go up and down. Perhaps we might engage you to stay with us!"
"Me cook velly fine much all timee. You tly Charley Moi, you never say solly do samee!" declared the Oriental, his moon-like face illuminated with a childlike and bland smile.
"But we want you for a guide too, Charley; you ought to know a heap about the place by this time," Frank went on.
"Alle light, me do," replied the other, glibly. "No matter, cookee or guide, alle samee. Lucky we meet. Tly flish. Just ketchee from water. Cook to turnee. Plentee for all. Then go like Flank, Blob say. Sabe?"
As it was nearly noon the boys were quite satisfied to make a little halt, and taste the fresh fish which the Chinaman had succeeded in coaxing from the rushing waters of the nearby Colorado.
Later on they once again made a start. Charley Moi did everything in his power to prove his fidelity and faithfulness. He seemed proud of the fact that the son of the big owner of Circle Ranch, where his cousin worked as cook for the mess, trusted him, and had employed him as a guide. Never before in the history of the Grand Canyon had a Chinaman held such an exalted office; and Charley believed he had cause to feel proud.
"Can we trust him?" Bob asked, as evening came on again. "I've always heard that Chinamen are treacherous fellows."
"Then you've heard what isn't true," Frank replied. "A Chinaman never breaks his word. Over in the Far East I've read that all the merchants of British cities are Chinese. The Japs are a different kind of people. Yes, we can trust Charley Moi. He would never betray us to our enemies."
Nevertheless, that night the boys also slept on their arms, so to speak. One of them remained on guard at different times, the entire night. Frank had learned caution on the range. He did not mean to be taken by surprise; though he really believed that nothing would be done to injure them until after they had found some trace of the hidden hermit of Echo Cave.
Before another twelve hours had passed he had occasion to change his opinion. The night did not bring any alarm in its train. Charley Moi was up several times, shuffling around, looking at the fire, and sitting there smoking his little pipe, as though in satisfaction over having struck such a profitable job so easily; but he gave no sign of holding any intercourse with outsiders.
With the coming of morning they were once more on the way. Frank noticed with considerable satisfaction that now they seemed to be beyond the ordinary limit of the various trails taken by the regular tourist parties.
They were walking along, about the middle of the morning, when they found themselves in a lonely region, where the dim trail led along the foot of rugged walls stretching up, red and apparently unscalable, to the height of hundreds of feet.
Frank was craning his neck as he looked up overhead, wondering if it could be possible that there was any sign of an abandoned cliff dwellers' village there, when he saw something move, and at the same instant he jumped forward to pull his chum violently back.
A WONDERFUL DISCOVERY
Bob opened his mouth to call out, and ask what was the matter, that his chum had seized upon him so fiercely. But he held his breath, for something came to pass just then that made words entirely unnecessary.
A huge rock seemed to slip from its notch up on the side of the cliff, and come crashing down, loosening others on the way, until finally the rush and roar almost partook of the nature of a small avalanche.
Charley Moi had skipped out in a lively manner, and thus managed to avoid being caught. Bob stared at the pile of broken rock, about which hung a little cloud of dust.
"Wow! that was as close a call as I ever hope to have, Frank!" he exclaimed, with a little quiver to his voice.
Frank himself was a bit white, and his hand trembled as he laid it on that of his chum.
"I just happened to be looking up, and saw it trembling on the break," he said. "Only for that we might have been underneath all that stuff."
"But did you notice the clever way Charley Moi avoided the deluge?" said Bob, trying to smile, though he found it hard work.
"Yes, it's hard to catch a Chinaman napping, they say," Frank went on. "Three times this very day I've heard the thunder of falling rocks, and that was what kept me nervous; so I watched out above. And, Bob, it seemed as though I must have seen that big rock just trembling as it started to leave the face of the cliff."
"Well, all I can say then, is, that you jumped to the occasion mighty well. Some fellows would have been scared just stiff, and couldn't have thrown out a hand to save a chum. But look here, Frank, you don't imagine that thing was done on purpose, do you?"
Frank looked at his companion, with a wrinkle on his forehead.
"I don't want to think anybody could be so mean and low as to want to hurt boys who'd never done them any harm," he said; "but all the same I seem to have an idea that I got a glimpse of a man's arm when that rock started to drop."
"Whew! you give me a cold chill, Frank," muttered Bob, gazing helplessly upward toward the spot from which the descending rock had started on its riotous tumble.
"Yes, and I hope I was mistaken," Frank went on. "I don't see anything up there now; and perhaps it was only a delusion. All these bright colors affect the eyes, you see. Then, again, it might have been some goat jumping, that started that rock on its downward plunge."
"But you didn't see any goat, Frank, did you?" Bob asked, anxiously.
"No, I didn't," admitted the other; "but then there may be a shelf up there, and any animal on it would be hidden from the eyes of those right below."
They passed on; but more than once Bob craned his neck in the endeavor to look up to that spot, from whence the loose rock had plunged. He could not get it out of his head that foes were hovering about, who thought so little of human life that they would conspire to accomplish a death if possible.
The day passed without any further peril confronting them. Charley Moi seemed to fill the bill as a guide, very well. He also knew the different points of interest, and chattered away like a magpie or a monkey as they kept pushing on.
Bob became curious to know just how the Chinaman could tell about so many things when they were now above the trails used ordinarily by tourists, who gave two or three days to seeing the Grand Canyon, and then rushed away, thinking they had exhausted its wonders, when in fact they had barely seen them.
He put the question to Charley Moi, and when the smiling-faced Chinaman replied, Frank caught his breath.
"That easy, bloss," said Charley, nodding. "Happen this way. Long time black me 'gage with sahib, like one know out in Canton. Think have samee big joss some bit up here in canlon. Me to bling grub to certain place evly two month. Him give me list what buy, and put cash in hand. Know can trust Chinaman ebery time. Many time now me do this; so know how make trail up-river, much far past same tourist use. Sabe, Flank, Blob?"
The two boys stared at each other, unable to say a word at first. It was as if the same tremendous thought had come to each.
"Gee whiz! did you get on to that, Frank?" finally ejaculated Bob.
"I sure did," replied his chum, allowing his pent-up breath full play.
"Charley says he engaged himself to a gentleman long ago; perhaps it was as much as three years back, the time that the professor disappeared from the haunts of men. And, Frank, his part of the contract was to come to a certain point away up here in the Grand Canyon, once every two months, at a time agreed on, bringing a load of food, as per the list given him by this mysterious party."
"It must be Professor Oswald!" exclaimed Frank. "I've been wondering all the time how under the sun he could have supplied himself with food these long months if he'd cut loose from the world, as he said in that note he had. Now the puzzle begins to show an answer. Charley Moi is the missing link. He has kept the professor in grub all the time. Did you ever hear of such luck? First we run across that old Moqui, who has been in touch with the man we want to find; and now here's the one who comes up here every little while to deliver his goods, and get a new list, as well as money to pay for the same. It's just the limit, that's what!"
He turned to the Chinaman, and continued:
"Did you happen to notice, Charley, whether this party you are working for is a bald-headed man? Has he a shining top when he takes his hat off; and does he bend over, as if he might be hunting for diamonds all the time?"
The Chinese guide smirked, and bobbed his head in the affirmative.
"That him, velly much, just same say. Shiny head, and blob this away alle time," with which he walked slowly forward, bending over as though trying to discover a rich vein of gold in the seamed rock under his feet.
"Shake hands, Bob," said Frank. "We're getting hot on the trail. Now we needn't have any doubt at all about the choice of the eastern route. It's the right one; and somewhere further on we're just bound to find Echo Cave."
"Then all we've got to fear, Frank, is the work of Eugene and his crowd. Let us keep clear of that bad lot, and we're going to succeed. Any time, now, we may glimpse our old Moqui, returning with a message from the professor, if he sees fit to reply to your appeal. He may, though, be so set and stubborn that nothing will move him from his game of hiding. Then we'll have to get that paper, with his signature, and save the mine for his family."
"That's what I mean to do," replied the other, with grim determination. "If he's so wrapped up in his scheme that he just won't come out, we're going to do the best we can to save his fortune in spite of him. There's his daughter Janice to think of. Above all, we mustn't let that schemer, Eugene Warringford, get his fingers on the document."
That night they made camp in a little cave that offered an asylum. The boys rather fancied the idea for a change. And they passed a very comfortable night without any alarm.
Once, Bob being on duty near the mouth of the opening, heard a shuffling sound without. He could not make out whether it was caused by the passage of a human being, or a bear. Half believing that they were about to be attacked by some animal that fancied the cave as a den, he had drawn back the hammer of his rifle, and watched the round opening that was plainly seen at the time, as it was near morning, and the small remnant of a moon was shining without.
But he waited in vain, and, as the minutes passed without any further alarm, Bob heaved a sigh of relief. It was all very well to think of shooting big game; but under such conditions he did not much fancy a close battle.
When morning came, and he had told Frank about it, the other immediately went out to look for traces of the animal. As he came back Bob saw by the expression on his chum's face that Frank had made some sort of discovery.
"How about it?" he asked.
"It was no bear," replied the other, decidedly.
"But sure I heard something moving, Frank, and I was wide-awake at the time, too," Bob protested.
"I guess you were, all right," Frank admitted. "A man passed by, not far from the mouth of the cave. He even stooped down, and looked in, though careful not to let his head show against the bright background. Then he went off again up the canyon."
"Since you know so much, Frank, perhaps you could give a guess as to who he was," said Bob, eagerly.
"No guess about it," came the reply. "I've examined his track before, and ought to know it like a book. It was Abajo, Bob!"
"Then ten to one, Spanish Joe and Eugene were close by!" declared Bob. "Say, do you really believe he knew we were in here?"
"Of course he did," Frank asserted. "Perhaps they saw us enter. But Abajo also knows that both of us are fair shots. He did not dare take the chance of trying to creep in. It would be more dangerous than our going into that wolf den."
"The plot seems to be thickening, Frank. It won't be long now before something is bound to happen. If we could only run across the old Moqui now, and hear that he carried a message in answer to your note, that would clear the air a heap, wouldn't it?"
"Well, we must live in hopes," replied Frank, cheerfully. "And now, after a bite which Charley Moi is getting ready for us, we'll be off again, and tackle the roughest traveling in the whole canyon, so he says. But he knows the way, because he was led up here by the old professor, and told to come back every two months."
THE WINDOWS IN THE ROCKY WALLS
"Well, here it's the fourth day we've been out, and nothing doing yet, Frank!"
Bob spoke gloomily, as though the unsuccessful search was beginning to pall upon him a little. Boys' natures differ so much; and while the young Kentuckian had many fine qualities that his chum admired, still he was not so persistent as Frank.
Nothing could ever daunt the boy from Circle Ranch. Difficulties, he believed, were only thrown in his way to bring out the better parts of his nature. The more a fellow found himself "up against it," as Frank called meeting trouble half-way, the stronger became his character.
"Oh! well, now, Bob, I wouldn't say that," he answered the complaint of his chum. "Just think what tremendous progress we've been making right along. And if the very worst comes, didn't Charley Moi say that it was only a week now before he must get another stock of things to eat, and won't he have to wait at the place of meeting, for the 'learned sahib' to appear, and take them from him, as he has done so often? Why, we can be in hiding nearby, and meet the professor, even against his will."
"That's so," Bob admitted, the argument proving a clincher; "and I reckon I'm a silly clown to think anything else."
"No, you're only tired, after a pretty tough day, that's all," Frank declared. "When you've had a rest you'll feel better. I'm more used to this sort of thing than you are, old fellow; but all the same we must admit that we're getting the greatest view ever of this old canyon."
"That's so, Frank, and it's worth all the climbing and sliding, too. But every time we've discovered signs of any of those old deserted homes of the cliff dwellers, why, we find they've been visited time and again by curious folks hoping to discover some treasure, or keepsakes of the extinct people. No chance for the old professor to hide away there."
"But pretty soon we're going to discover a new batch of those caves in the face of the rock, something unknown to all other searchers. We'll find it by the aid of this same glass; and because we're looking for it, high up. In all these other cases you see, Bob, there were shelves of rock above shelves; and new ladders have been made by the guides, so that anybody with nerve could climb up and up. Now these ladders give the thing away. And I've somehow got the notion in my head that in the case of the rock dwellings where the professor is hiding himself, there is no outward sign in the shape of ladders."
"But in that case, Frank, how under the sun could the old fellows ever get up to their dens, which you said must be near the top of a high cliff?"
"Well, that's something we're going to find out later on, you see," replied the other, serenely. "Perhaps they had some way of lowering themselves from the top by means of a rope, or a stout, wide grape vine. Then, again, there may be some cleft in the rock farther away, that no one would notice; but which was used as a trail, running up into the cliff, and to the rock houses."
"It does take you to figure out these things," declared Bob, in admiration, as they trudged along, with Charley Moi in advance.
"Then we haven't yet got to the place where the Chinese buyer meets his employer with the eatables?" Bob remarked after a little silence.
"The last time I asked him he kept saying it was only a little farther along," replied Frank.
"There, look at him stopping right now; and Frank, he's grinning at us in a way that can only mean one thing. That must be where he always waits for the queer old gentleman to show up."
"How about that, Charley; is this the place where you hang out?" asked Frank, as they hastened to join the guide.
"Allee samee place," replied Charley Moi, waving his yellow hand around him. "Not know where shaib come fromee, always turn roundee rock," and he pointed to a large outlying mass that had, ages ago, become detached from the towering cliff overhead, and fallen in such a fashion as to partly obstruct the canyon trail.
Frank looked around him eagerly.
"We must be getting warmer all the time," he remarked; "and if you just take a look at that river right now, you'll see that up yonder the rock rises up almost from its very flood. When the water is high it must sweep along against the face of that big cliff. And Bob, something seems to tell me that somewhere inside of a mile or so, we're going to find what we're looking for."
"Oh! I hope so!" echoed Bob, with a look of expectancy on his face; for he always put great reliance on the common sense of his chum; and when Frank said a thing in that steady tone, the Kentucky boy believed it must be so.
Frank called a halt then and there.
"We're tired, anyway," he said, "and might as well spend the night here. Besides, I just want to find a place were I can take a good look through the glass up at that cliff near the top. It faces the West, all right, you see; and the indications are that somewhere or other I'll find signs of the queer windows belonging to some of those cave houses."
The camp was made, and Charley Moi busied himself with his fire. Bob had some things he wished to attend to; while Frank took the glass, and, settling down in a place where he believed he could get a fair view of the upper strata of colored rock, began carefully scrutinizing the cliff.
"The time is right, because the old Indian said the Westering sun shone in the mouth of Echo Cave," Frank mused, as he pursued his work, not disappointed because failure came in the beginning.
Frank had been at work possibly six or eight minutes when he gave utterance to a low exclamation. Then he fixed his field glasses upon a certain spot as though something had caught his attention there.
"Bob!" he called out.
"Want me?" asked his chum from the spot where the fire was burning.
"Yes, come here please," Frank continued.
Bob quickly complied with the request. He knew that although his camp-mate spoke in such a quiet tone, he had evidently made a discovery. Frank could repress his feelings even in a moment of great excitement, which was something beyond the ability of the more impetuous Kentucky lad.
"What have you found, Frank?" he asked, as he reached the side of the other.
"Here, take the glass," said Frank. "Point it toward that little cone that seems to rise up like a chimney above the level of the cliff top. Got it now? Well, let your glass slowly drop straight down the face of the rock. Never mind the glint of the sun, and the fine rich color. I know it's just glorious, and all that; but we're after something more important now than pictures and color effects. What do you see, Bob?"