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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 4. Tim Brophy's Discovery
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The Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 4. Tim Brophy's Discovery Post by :WarDan Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :July 2011 Read :2295

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The Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 4. Tim Brophy's Discovery


The letter which was delivered to Warren Starr by his mortally wounded hound not only gave that young man definite news of the alarming events in the neighborhood of his home, but has conveyed to the reader the cause of the abrupt change in his plans and of the stirring incidents which led to the hasty flight of the Starr family from their ranch on the north of the Big Cheyenne River.

As stated in the note, it was Tim Brophy, the young Irishman, who made the discovery in time to prevent the family being overwhelmed and massacred. While Jared Plummer, the lank New Englander, rode to the westward to look after some strays, Tim galloped north to attend to the main herd, which was supposed to be cropping the abundant grass in the neighborhood of several small streams and tributaries of the main river.

Tim had been in the employ of Mr. Starr for three years, and had spent most of his life in the West, so that he had fully learned the lesson which such an experience should teach everyone. He knew of the impending trouble among the Indian tribes, and was always on the alert. It was not long, therefore, before he came upon signs which told him something was amiss.

In the corner of a natural clearing, near one of the small streams, he discovered a dozen of the cattle lying dead. It was not necessary for him to dismount and examine the ground to learn the cause of such slaughter. The footprints of ponies near by, the bullet wounds, and other indications answered the question that came to his lips at the first glimpse of the cruel butchery.

"The spalpeens!" he exclaimed wrath-fully. "They niver had a better friend than Mr. Starr, and that's the shtyle in which they pays him for the same. Worrah, worrah, but it's too bad!"

Riding cautiously to the top of the next elevation, the young rancher saw other sights which filled him with greater indignation and resentment. A half mile to the northward the entire herd of cattle, numbering several hundreds, were scurrying over the plain in a wild panic. The figures of several Sioux bucks galloping at their heels, swinging their arms and shouting, so as to keep up and add to the affright, left no doubt that Mr. Starr's fine drove of cattle was gone beyond recovery. The result of months of toil, expense, and trouble were vanishing as they sometimes do before the resistless sweep of the cyclone.

The blue eyes of the Celt flashed, as he sat in the saddle and contemplated the exasperating raid. Nothing would have pleased him better than to dash with several companions after the marauders and force them to a reckoning for the outrage. But eager as he was for such an affray, he was too wise to try it alone. There were five or six of the horsemen, and he was no match for them.

Besides this, a more alarming discovery broke upon him within a minute after observing the stampede. From the clump of wood on his right, along the edge of the stream, only a few hundred yards away, he detected the faint smoke of a camp-fire. The Sioux were there.

The sight so startled Tim that he wheeled his pony short around and withdrew behind the elevation he had just ascended, fearing he had already been observed by the red men.

Such undoubtedly would have been the fact had any of the turbulent Sioux been on guard, but the occasion was one of those rare ones in which the warriors acted upon the theory that no such precaution was needed, since no possible danger could threaten them.

Suspecting the truth, Tim dropped hastily from his pony and stole along the edge of the stream, until he reached a point which gave him a sight of the miscreants, and at the same time afforded him tolerably fair protection.

The scene was calculated to inspire anything but pleasant feelings in a spectator. Fully a score of young warriors were squatted in a circle, listening to the harangue of one of their number, who had wrought himself into a furious passion. He was swinging his arms, shouting and leaping about like a lunatic, and rising to a pitch which not only threatened to throw him into a paroxysm, but was imparting itself to his listeners. Some of them were smoking, but showing at the same time an excitement which is generally believed to be foreign to the American race. They were all bucks, and eager to be led upon the warpath. There was not an old or middle-aged man among them.

The eavesdropper was not able to understand their words, but the gestures left no doubt of their fearful meaning. The speaker pointed in the direction of the home of the Starrs so often, and indulged in so much action to which the others signified full assent, that it was beyond dispute that they meant to attack the house and slay the inmates. Knowing all about these, and the resistance they were likely to meet, they would wait until night before bursting upon them.

Tim Brophy was sagacious enough to grasp almost on the instant the full nature of the awful peril. He saw that accident, or rather Providence, had given to him the secret which revealed that only by prompt action could the lives of his friends be saved. There was no saying how long the council, if such it may be called, would last, and he did not care to know.

Nothing could show the intense absorption of the fierce Sioux in the outrage they had determined to commit more than the fact that a white man rose up in full view only a few hundred yards away, without his presence being detected. Such being the case, it was easy for Tim to withdraw from the immediate vicinity of the gathering, steal round to where his pony was cropping the grass, and mount again.

He rode carefully forward, keeping the elevation between him and the camp of the hostiles, until convinced it was safe, when he struck his horse into a run and sped away as if for life.

A few minutes sufficed to take him to the house, where the unsuspicious folk looked up in wonder at his haste and agitation. Mr. Starr was sitting near the window reading a newspaper, his little girl Dot was playing with her doll on the floor, and the wife was busy with her household duties.

It took but a few minutes for Tim to tell the news. Jared Plummer had not yet come in, and there could be no guessing as to what additional facts he would give them.

Like his employe, the rancher was quick to grasp the situation. The only possible safety was in flight, and no time was to be lost.

The building, with its broad, flat roof, its many windows and insecure portions, was in no condition for successful defence, where the small garrison could not guard one-half the weak points. The assailants could readily fire it, and it would burn like so much touchwood. Flight, therefore, was the one and only thing to be thought of.

It was yet comparatively early in the afternoon, and those on the ranch had noted the signs of the approaching snowstorm. The husband directed his wife to make her preparations few and simple, and to waste no time. It was idle to bewail the necessity which compelled them to leave so many precious articles behind. Life was dearer than all, and the courageous helpmate proved herself equal to the occasion. She gathered the articles of clothing they were likely to need, filled several bags with the provisions in the house, and announced that she was ready.

There was a horse each for the father, mother, and Tim Brophy, while a fourth, a small, tough pony, was laden with the bag of provisions, extra clothing, and a few articles deemed indispensable. These were brought round to the front, and in much less time than would be supposed the little cavalcade was ready to move.

Despite the belief of Brophy that no attack would be made until after darkness had closed,--a belief shared by Mr. Starr,--the rancher was fearful that his home would be placed under surveillance while daylight lasted, and that the intended flight would be discovered before it began. In such an event, the family could only fight it out to the desperate end, and that they would do so admits of no doubt.

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