The border boys with the.., p.2
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       The Border Boys with the Mexican Rangers, p.2

           John Henry Goldfrap
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  But you lads who are not already acquainted with the adventurous BorderBoys, must be wishing, by this time, to know something about them andof the quest which brought them into this wild and rugged part ofthe great Mexican Republic. In the first volume of this series “TheBorder Boys on The Trail,” it was related how Ralph Stetson, a somewhatdelicate young easterner,—the son of “King Pin” Stetson, the railroadmagnate,—came out west to visit his school chum Jack Merrill, the onlyson of a ranch owner.

  The lads’ adventures in pursuit of a band of cattle rustlers,—headedby Black Ramon de Barros,—were related in full in that volume. Therealso, it was told how they escaped from the mysterious old mission andfound a rich treasure in a secret passage of the mouldering structure.Jack’s bravery in preventing Black Ramon from destroying a dam andflooding the country was also an incident of that book. But althoughthe boys had succeeded in routing Black Ramon for the nonce, thatscourge of the border was destined to be re-encountered by them.

  How this came about we told in the second volume of this series, “TheBorder Boys Across The Frontier.” Beginning with their discovery of thesubterranean river leading from the Haunted Mesa across the border,the lads were plunged into an amazing series of adventures. Theseculminated in the attack on the Esmeralda,—a mine owned by Jack’sfather,—and the gallant defense of it by our lads and their faithfulfriends. The attacking force was composed of Mexican rebels and theywere only repulsed by an unexpected happening. Black Ramon was activein this part of the boys’ adventures, too. For a time it looked as ifthey at last had brought the rascal with the coal black horse to book.But it proved otherwise, and Black Ramon once more made good hisescape from the arm of the law.

  Their adventures in Mexico over, and the revolution brought to atermination by the abdication of President Diaz, the Border Boyssettled down to spend the rest of their vacation in comparativemonotony. A few weeks before the present story opens, however, anincident had occurred which seemed destined once more to provide someexcitement for them.

  Mr. Stetson, whose railroad interests had brought him to Mexico duringthe fighting days, had paid a hasty visit to the ranch and spent sometime in consultation with Mr. Merrill. Professor Wintergreen had alsobeen summoned to the conference. It appeared that the railroad kinghad, some years before, materially aided a young college friend whohad fallen on hard times. The beneficiary of his aid had, however,ultimately wandered away from the position with which Mr. Stetson hadprovided him, without leaving a word or a sign of his destination. Theyears rolled by and Mr. Stetson had practically forgotten all aboutthe man, when, during his stay in El Paso, a wretched, ragged figurehad confronted him on the street one day and disclosed his identity asStewart Ruggles, the outcast.

  Mr. Stetson, shocked at his old friend’s abject appearance of miseryand illness, ordered a carriage and took him to his hotel. Here, afterRuggles had been suitably clothed and fed, Mr. Stetson listened to hisstory. After wandering off so many years before, Ruggles, it seems, hadfallen in with bad company. He finally had become connected with a bankrobbery and had been compelled to seek refuge in Mexico. After knockingabout for many lonely years, he became a prospector.

  One spring had found him in the mountains of Chinipal, with his burrosand prospecting outfit. He met with indifferent luck and was about tovacate the country, when, one day, in a rugged pass, he heard groanscoming from the trailside. Investigating, he found a Yaqui, who hadbeen swept from his horse by an overhanging branch, and whose leg wasbroken. With characteristic brutality and callousness, the rest of thetribe had passed on, leaving the wounded man to shift as best he might.

  Ruggles, who had some rough knowledge of surgery, set the man’s legand tended him for several days. At last one day the Yaqui was readyto ride on. But before he left he confided to Ruggles the location ofa mountain known to the Indians as the Trembling Mountain. In a cavernin the interior of this eminence,—so the Indian legend had it,—avanished race of aborigines had hidden vast treasures of gold andsacrificial emblems of great value. Asked why, if this was the case,his own tribesmen had not sought for it, the Yaqui had declared thatrather than enter the mountain his fellows would cut off their righthands. It was, according to their belief, guarded by the spirits of thedead and gone race, and terrible vengeance would light on the head ofthe luckless mortal who offended them.

  Under the Indian’s direction Ruggles had drawn up a rough map of thelocation of Trembling Mountain and then, determined to investigate it,had set out for the north to find proper equipment for his quest. Buthe found the land in the throes of revolution, and where he was notlaughed at as a lunatic he was told to wait till times became moresettled. In poverty and despair he was wandering the streets of El Pasowhen chance threw him across the path of his old college mate.

  Mr. Stetson, who had been known as one of the most daring operatorson Wall Street, believed where others had scoffed. He agreed to backRuggles in his quest to any amount. But while active preparations werestill on foot, a fever seized the prospector. His impoverished framewas unable to resist the attack, and in a few days he breathed hislast, not before, however, he had confided to Mr. Stetson his wish thatthe latter would carry out the quest.

  The railroad king faithfully saw the remains of his unfortunate anderring friend to the grave, and then began to consider the feasibilityof the enterprise to which he stood committed. It was clear, hedecided, that the mission was no ordinary one. It could only beperformed by trustworthy agents, for, in the event of the treasurebeing there, the temptation to play him false would be tremendous.Then, too, it must be kept secret, because, on the face of it, theventure appeared such a far-fetched and desperate one that unlesssuccess crowned it its promoter was likely to be heaped with ridiculefrom one end of the country to the other.

  Altogether, Mr. Stetson was at a standstill till he suddenly bethoughthimself of the Border Boys and their companions, Coyote Pete andProfessor Wintergreen.

  With his customary promptitude, he had lost no time in getting to theMerrill ranch. At first the rancher was unwilling that his son shouldembark on such an enterprise, but on Jack’s pleadings to be allowedto participate, he finally agreed on the condition, however, that nounnecessary risks were to be run.

  The fact that Coyote Pete and Professor Wintergreen were to go alongplayed no small part in enabling the rancher to make up his mind. Asfor Mr. Stetson, he remarked:

  “Ralph will have to play his part in the world before very long now,and such adventures are good for him. They form character and make himquick in action and decision.”

  And so it came about, that a week before, our party had disembarkedfrom, the queer little narrow-gauge train at Esmedora, on the bordersof Sonora,—the starting point of their three hundred and fifty miletrip into the unknown. Not unnaturally, some excitement had beencreated at Esmedora by the arrival of so many strangers. It had beengiven out by Professor Wintergreen that the expedition was a scientificone and their real destination was, of course, carefully concealed.Firewater,—Jack’s favorite pony,—had been the only animal broughtfrom the States by the party, as it was understood that excellentanimals could be purchased in Esmedora. This proved to be the case.

  Coyote Pete was provided with an excellent little buckskin, while Ralphand Walt Phelps each secured a calico pony. The professor’s mount wasa tall, bony animal, almost as lanky as himself, but one which CoyotePete pronounced a “stayer.” Its color was a sort of nondescript yellow,and the man of science, when mounted on it with all his traps andappendages, cut an odd figure. Besides the horses and ponies, two packburros were purchased to carry the somewhat extensive outfit of theparty.

  Naturally, in that sleepy part of the country, such purchases andpreparations caused quite a stir. By that species of wirelesstelegraphy which prevails in parts of the world unprovided with othermeans for the transmission of news, the information was, in fact,in the few days the party remained in Esmedora, d
iffused over aconsiderable part of the country round about.

  In due course it reached the ears of a person to whom it was ofpeculiar interest. This individual was one whom we have met before,and whose presence in the vicinity would have caused the Border Boysconsiderable anxiety had they known of it. Who this man was, and whateffect his presence was to have upon events in the immediate future weshall see before very long.

  And now, after this considerable, but necessary digression, it is hightime we were getting back to the camp in the canyon where we left thelads and the professor enjoying peaceful repose, and Coyote Pete hardat work thinking. Before the morning was far advanced, however, theplainsman aroused his comrades and a great scene of bustle was soongoing on.

  While the professor visited the creek to indulge in a good wash inits clear, cool waters, Walt Phelps, who had already performed hisablutions, cleaned up the “spider” with sand, and having scoured itthoroughly he set about getting breakfast. Coyote Pete attended tothe horses and the two burros, and Ralph Stetson, always fastidious,“duded up,” as Jack called it, before a small pocket mirror he hadaffixed to a tree.

  As for Jack, while all this was doing, he set off for a stroll.

  “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” he remarked laughingly, as hestarted. With him he carried a light rifle thinking that he mightencounter an opportunity to bring down something acceptable in the wayof a rabbit or other “small deer,” for breakfast.

  His path took him by the spot on which the night before he had killedthe bear. The animal, charred and blackened to a crisp, still laythere. As he neared the place, however, a heavy flapping of wings asseveral hideous “turkey buzzards” arose heavily, apprised him that thecarrion birds had already gathered to the feast. The lad noted that,before rising, the glutted creatures had to run several yards withoutspread wings before they could gain an upward impetus.

  The crisp beauty of the morning, the smiling greenery of the trees,and the thousand odors and sounds about him all combined to make Jackwander rather further than he had intended. Then, too, a boy with arifle always does go a longer distance than he means to. That’s boynature.

  All at once he found himself emerging from the brush at a point ratherhigher up the canyon side than their camp in the abyss. So gentle hadbeen the rise, however, that he had not noticed it. Before him lay asort of roughly piled rampart of rocks. The boy was advancing towardthese to peer over their summits into the valley below, when somethingsuddenly arrested his footsteps as abruptly as if a precipice hadyawned before him.

  The sharp, acrid odor of tobacco had reached his nostrils. At the sameinstant, too, he became aware of the low hum of voices. The sounds camefrom immediately in front of him, and seemingly just below the rockrampart. With a beating heart, and as silently as possible, the ladcrept forward to ascertain what other intruders besides themselves hadcome into the primeval fastnesses of the Sonora country.

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