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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 10. Bent Arm And His Band
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The Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 10. Bent Arm And His Band Post by :Julie_Gardner Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :July 2011 Read :1789

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The Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 10. Bent Arm And His Band

CHAPTER X. BENT ARM AND HIS BAND

George Starr was so agitated that, forgetting the presence of his little child, he impulsively spoke the truth, while yet a few paces away:

"Plummer is in those bushes."

"Is he----"

Mrs. Starr hesitated with the dreadful word unuttered.

"Yes; he is dead; killed by the Indians!"

The wife gave a gasp, and the husband added:

"The poor fellow lies stretched out, stark and stiff, where he was shot down by the Sioux. He must have been killed shortly after leaving the house."

"Where is his horse?"

"I suppose it has been stolen. It is a sad thing, but poor Plummer is with his Maker; it won't do for us to wait any longer; I don't understand how we have escaped thus far, for we are in greater danger than I had supposed. We must cross the stream without delay, even if we have to swim our horses."

"I am ready," said Mrs. Starr calmly; "lead the way."

"I hope it will not be necessary to subject you and Dot to the trial, but there is not a minute to spare."

With his lips compressed, the rancher hastily remounted his pony and turned his head toward the water.

"Let me keep in advance," he said, "and you can tell what to do."

The obedient horse sniffed the water, but, without hesitation, stepped in, sinking to his knees within a yard of the bank.

A rod farther the depth had not materially increased, and, turning his head, he signified to his wife to follow. She clasped Dot a little closer to her breast, spoke quietly to her animal, and he obeyed without faltering.

The water steadily but slowly deepened, and when the middle of the stream was reached it was at the stirrups of the leader. He withdrew his feet and pushed on, the pony cautiously advancing, and the hope growing that the stream would be forded without trouble.

A rod farther, and Mrs. Starr uttered a slight exclamation. She saw the steed of her husband suddenly sink, and thought he was going entirely under. But he did not, and, by a quick raising of his feet, the rider saved them from wetting. His animal still retained a firm foothold, and, quickly recovering, kept forward.

Now the water began shallowing, and, with a relief beyond words, the rancher reached dry land without having suffered any inconvenience.

"Thank Heaven!" he exclaimed, turning about and watching his wife, who guided her animal over the invisible trail until she was beside him on the hard earth. It required no little skill on her part, for when she withdrew her foot from her stirrup, and was obliged not only to hold her own poise, but to take care of Dot, her task became delicate and difficult. But the little one behaved like a heroine. She did not speak or stir, through fear of disturbing her parent, and was as relieved as both when the current was safely forded.

"Are there any more like this?" asked the wife.

"There are other streams, but whether they can be forded or not remains to be learned."

The bank sloped upward to a height of a dozen feet, and beyond it declined nearly as much, and then stretched away in an open plain for more than a mile, before breaking into rough, rocky country, where they were quite sure to find greater obstructions confronting them than any yet encountered.

"Oh, see there!" called out Dot.

Flakes of scurrying snow were in the air, and her father supposed she referred to them.

"Yes," he replied, "we shall have to ride for a while through a snow storm."

"I know that, but it isn't what I mean; yonder is someone following us."

Her position in the arms of her mother gave her opportunity to look back over the stream they had just crossed, while the attention of her parents was directed elsewhere.

Her words caused both to glance behind them, where they witnessed a startling scene. A Sioux Indian, astride of a pony, had halted with the fore feet of the animal in the margin of the water. Directly behind him was a second horseman, advancing slowly, and immediately to the rear of him appeared a third, while the head and shoulders of a fourth were rising to view over the bank in the path of the others. And there was no saying how many others made up the procession, streaming toward the ford in the footsteps of the fugitives.

"Molly," said Mr. Starr, in a low voice, "ride over the top of the hill as quickly as you can."

"But what will you do?"

"Never mind; obey me at once or we are lost."

(Illustration: A HOT PURSUIT.)

She obeyed without remonstrance, though her fear at that moment was more for her husband than for herself and child. She was quick-witted enough to jerk the reins sharply, so that her pony passed out of sight before the pursuers could suspect her purpose. But the moment she was behind the sheltering swell, she checked her horse and waited for her husband.

The latter decided on his course of action the moment the peril broke upon him.

He calmly confronted the advancing bucks and held himself ready to dispute their crossing. Unless he kept them in check and delayed the pursuit, nothing could save his family and himself.

The foremost Sioux evidently was the leader. Starr recognized him, despite his paint, as a fellow who had visited his home on several occasions, and who was known as Bent Arm, because of a peculiar rigidity of the left arm, made by some wound received years before.

While the white and red men sat on their ponies facing each other the remaining warriors continued coming into view until five of them were grouped behind the leader. There they sat--grim, silent, and watchful--leaving matters wholly in the hands of the one in front.

The latter, observing the rancher at bay, called to him in fair English:

"Wait dere--surrender--won't hurt."

"Why do you ask me to surrender? We are not enemies," called back the white man.

"Wait dere," repeated Bent Arm; "want to talk wid you."

"We are talking now; stay where you are, and let me hear what you have to say."

"We go over--we talk better dere."

It was plain that the Sioux was not satisfied with the action of the rancher's wife. She and her child were beyond sight, and it looked as if the parley of her husband was meant to give her a chance to get beyond reach. Valuable time was passing, and unless they acted promptly, they would throw away an opportunity that would never come to them again.

George Starr read their purpose as plainly as if they had announced it in so many words. Further talk was useless; the Sioux were bent on making him and his family prisoners, and little mercy would be shown them. He knew the dear ones were but a few paces away, and his wife would never leave the spot so long as he was in danger.

The words had hardly fallen from the lips of Bent Arm when his pony began stepping farther into the water, while his companions closed in behind him.

Striking his heels sharply against the sides of his horse as the rancher drew his head about, he sent the animal over the swell in a couple of bounds beyond reach of any shots that might be sent after him. He wondered a little that the Indians had not announced their presence by a volley that would have brought him from the saddle, but rightly judged the reason to be that they preferred to make the little party prisoners, considering them as good as already secured.

"Stay where you are!" he called to his wondering wife. "I am going to make a fight with them. Our only hope is in keeping them back until it is dark."

He was out of the saddle while speaking, and, dropping on his hands and knees, crawled up the swell and looked over.

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