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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDo And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 22. A Mountain Stage
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Do And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 22. A Mountain Stage Post by :susan Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :1197

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Do And Dare: A Brave Boy's Fight For Fortune - Chapter 22. A Mountain Stage

CHAPTER XXII. A MOUNTAIN STAGE

We pass over several days, and change the scene. We left Herbert and Melville in the Palmer House in Chicago, surrounded by stately edifices and surging crowds. Now everything is changed. They are in a mountainous district, where a man might ride twenty miles without seeing a house. They are, in fact, within the limits of what was then known as the Territory of Colorado. It is not generally known that Colorado contains over a hundred mountain summits over ten thousand feet above the sea level. It is perhaps on account of the general elevation that it is recommended by physicians as a good health resort for all who are troubled with lung complaints.

At the time of which I speak most of the traveling was done by stage. Now railroads unite the different portions with links of steel, and make traveling less cumbersome and laborious. There was one of the party, however, who did not complain, but rather enjoyed the jolting of the lumbering stage-coach.

Col. Warner was of the party. He professed to feel an extraordinary interest in George Melville, and was anxious to show him the country where he had himself regained his health.

"Lonely, sir!" repeated the colonel, in answer to a remark of George Melville. "Why, sir, it's a populous city compared with what it was in '55, when I was out here. I built myself a cabin in the woods, and once for twelve months I didn't see a white face."

"Were there many Indians, Colonel?" asked Herbert.

"Indians? I should say so. Only twenty miles from my cabin was an Indian village."

"Did they trouble you any?" asked Herbert, curiously.

"Well, they tried to," answered the colonel. "One night as I lay awake I heard stealthy steps outside, and peeping through a crevice between the logs just above the head of my bed--by the way, my bed was the skin of a bear I had myself killed--I could see a string of Utes preparing to besiege me."

"Were you afraid?" asked Herbert, a little mischievously, for he knew pretty well what the colonel would say.

"Afraid!" repeated the colonel, indignantly. "What do you take me for? I have plenty of faults," continued Col. Warner, modestly, "but cowardice isn't one of them. No, sir; I never yet saw the human being, white, black, or red, that I stood in fear of. But, as I was saying, the redskins collected around my cabin, and were preparing to break in the door, when I leveled my revolver and brought down their foremost man. This threw them into confusion. They retreated a little way, then advanced again with a horrible yell, and I gave myself up for lost. But I got in another shot, bringing down another warrior, this time the son of their chief. The same scene was repeated. Well, to make a long story short, I repulsed them at every advance, and finally when but three were left, they concluded that prudence was the better part of valor, and fled, leaving their dead and wounded behind them."

"How many were there of them?" asked Herbert.

"Well, in the morning when I went out I found seven dead redskins, and two others lying at the point of death."

"That was certainly a thrilling adventure, Colonel," said George Melville, smiling.

"Egad, I should say so."

"I confess I don't care to meet with any such."

"Oh, no danger, no danger!" said the colonel, airily. "That is, comparatively speaking. In fact, the chief danger is of a different sort."

"Of the sleigh upsetting and tipping us out into some of the canyons, I suppose you mean?"

"No, I speak of the gentlemen of the road--road agents as they are generally called."

"You mean highwaymen?"

"Yes."

"Is there much danger of meeting them?" asked Melville.

"Well, there's a chance. They are quite in the habit of attacking stage-coaches, and plundering the passengers. Sometimes they make rich hauls."

"That must be rather inconvenient to the passengers." said Melville. "Can't the laws reach these outlaws?"

"They don't seem to. Why, there are men who have been in the business for years, and have never been caught."

"Very true," said a fellow traveler. "There's Jerry Lane, for instance. He has succeeded thus far in eluding the vigilance of the authorities."

"Yes," said the colonel, "I once saw Lane myself. Indeed he did me the honor of relieving me of five hundred dollars."

"Couldn't you help it?" asked Herbert.

"No; he covered me with his revolver, and if I had drawn mine I shouldn't have lived to take aim at him."

"Were you in a stage at the time?"

"No, I was riding on horseback."

"Is this Lane a large man?" asked George Melville.

"Not larger than myself," continued the colonel.

"Where does he live--in some secret haunt in the forest, I suppose?"

"Oh, no, he doesn't confine himself to one place. He travels a good deal. Sometimes he goes to St. Louis. I have heard that he sometimes even visits New York."

"And is he not recognized?"

"No; he looks like anything but an outlaw. If you should see him you might think him a prosperous merchant, or banker."

"That's curious!" said Herbert.

"The fact is," said the colonel, "when you travel by stage-coaches in these solitudes you have to take the chances. Now I carry my money concealed in an inner pocket, where it isn't very likely to be found. Of course I have another wallet, just for show, and I give that up when I have to."

There was a stout, florid gentleman present, who listened to the above conversation with ill-disguised nervousness. He was a New York capitalist, of German birth, going out to inspect a mine in which he proposed purchasing an interest. His name was Conrad Stiefel.

"Good gracious!" said he, "I had no idea a man ran such a risk, or I would have stayed at home. I decidedly object to being robbed."

"Men are robbed in a different way in New York," said George Melville.

"How do you mean, Mr. Melville?"

"By defaulting clerks, absconding cashiers, swindlers of excellent social position."

"Oh, we don't mind those things," said Mr. Stiefel. "We can look out for ourselves. But when a man points at you with a revolver, that is terrible!"

"I hope, my dear sir, you take good care of your money."

"That I do," said Stiefel, complacently. "I carry it in a belt around my waist. That's a good place, hey?"

"I commend your prudence, sir," said the colonel. "You are evidently a wise and judicious man."

"They won't think of looking there, hey?" laughed Stiefel.

"I should say not."

"You may think what you like, Mr. Stiefel," said a tall, thin passenger, who looked like a book peddler, "but I contend that my money is in a safer place than yours."

"Indeed, Mr. Parker, I should like to know where you keep it," said Col. Warner, pleasantly.

"You can't get at it without taking off my stockings," said the tall man, looking about him in a self-satisfied manner.

"Very good, 'pon my soul!" said the colonel. "I really don't know but I shall adopt your hiding place. I am an old traveler, but not too old to adopt new ideas when I meet with good ones."

"I think you would find it to your interest, Colonel," said Parker, looking flattered.

"Well, well," said the colonel, genially, "suppose we change the subject. There isn't much chance of our being called upon to produce our money, or part with it. Still, as I said a while since, it's best to be cautious, and I see that you all are so. I begin to feel hungry, gentlemen. How is it with you?"

"Are we anywhere near the place for supper?" asked Stiefel. "I wish I could step into a good Broadway restaurant; I feel empty."

"Only a mile hence, gentlemen, we shall reach Echo Gulch, where we halt for the night. There's a rude cabin there, where they will provide us with supper and shelter."

This announcement gave general satisfaction. The colonel proved to be right. The stage soon drew up in front of a long one-story building, which bore the pretentious name of the Echo Gulch Hotel.

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