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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 7. Stirring Times
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The Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 7. Stirring Times Post by :demir2 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Sylvester Ellis Date :July 2011 Read :914

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The Young Ranchers; Or, Fighting The Sioux - Chapter 7. Stirring Times

CHAPTER VII. STIRRING TIMES

Warren Starr and Tim Brophy sprang up at the same instant. The gray light of the early wintry morning was stealing through the rocky solitude, the snow had ceased falling, and the weather was colder than on the preceding evening. The pony also began struggling to his feet, but the youths in their excitement paid no heed to him.

"It's Billy," whispered Tim.

"Yes; let's see what is the matter."

The young Irishman had formed the decision a moment before, for he was as ready to defend his horse as a friend. He bounded out from the rude shelter, with his companion at his heels.

It was but a short distance to the spot where he had left the animal to spend the night. The boys dropped their blankets, but each grasped his Winchester, confident that there was call for its use.

It was on a small natural clearing, where, after grazing a few minutes in the dark, the pony had lain down to sleep, his instinct leading him to select the side of a towering rock, where he was well protected from the falling snow. This bare place was less than a quarter of an acre in extent, and narrowed to what might be called a point, where the horse had found refuge from the storm. Surrounded by bowlders, varying in height from eight or more feet to twice that extent, his only means of entering or leaving was through the opening at the extreme end, which was not less than a rod in width.

The pony had probably risen to his feet with the first coming of daylight, when he was confronted by the most terrifying sight conceivable; a colossal grizzly bear stood in the middle of the "door," calmly surveying him, and evidently of the belief that he had come upon the most palatable kind of breakfast, which was already secured to him beyond possibility of loss.

When it is borne in mind that the pony was caught in a trap as secure as an iron cage, it will be understood why the intelligent animal, in the agony of helplessness, emitted that astounding cry which rang like the wail of doom through the snowy solitude. Thousands of his species live for years and die without giving expression to that horrible outcry, for it requires the agony of fear to call it forth.

The horse has five times the intelligence of the bear, but the latter was not stupid enough to fail to see his advantage, or to allow it to slip from him. The enormous trail which he had made in the snow was noticed by Tim Brophy before seeing the brute, and he identified it at a glance, his only fear being that he might arrive too late to save his pony.

The latter cowered against the rock, his fright so pitiable that, in the stirring moments, both youths were touched with sympathy for him.

"Begorra, but isn't he a bouncer?" whispered Tim, coming to a halt. "I niver looked upon as big a one."

"Has he hurt Billy?" asked Warren, who, as will be remembered, was a few paces behind him while making the brief run.

"He has scared him out of ten years' growth, and it's mesilf that's going to pay the same compliment to the spalpeen."

"Be careful, Tim! You know how hard it is to kill one of those creatures, and when they are roused----"

Further utterance was cut short by the report of Tim's gun. The young Irishman's failing was his impetuosity. When he saw his services needed, he was so eager to give them that he frequently threw caution to the winds, and plunged into the fray like a diver going off the rocks.

Halting less than fifty feet away, he brought his rifle to a level and let fly. It was as impossible for him to miss as it was to inflict a mortal wound, and the ball meant for the skull of the brute found lodgment elsewhere.

The bear appeared to be in the act of rising partly on his haunches, when the report, and probably a sharp twinge in his shoulder, apprised him of what was going on at the rear. The contemplated feast was not to be without its unpleasant interruption.

He uttered a low growl and came straight for the two youths. Their rifles being of the magazine kind, they were prepared to open a bombardment, which they did without delay; but after a number of shots had been fired, and the mountainous animal continued to sweep down upon them, Warren called out:

"Let's run, Tim! we need a cannon to stop him; we must find some place to shelter us."

Not doubting that his comrade would instantly follow, Warren wheeled about and dashed off without paying heed to the direction; he had no time to make any calculations.

Despite the fall of snow, there were only two or three inches on the ground, just enough to interfere with rapid travelling. Young Starr had not taken a dozen steps, when his foot turned on a smooth stone and he pitched headlong, with his gun flying from his grasp. He was not hurt, and he bounded up again as if made of rubber. He supposed the animal, which can lumber along at a speedy gait despite its awkwardness, was on his heels, but the furtive glance over his shoulder showed nothing of him, and the youth plunged forward and caught up his weapon as may be said on the fly.

With its recovery came something like confidence again, and he turned about to learn how Tim Brophy was making out.

It was just like the plucky fellow not to dash after his comrade, but to stand his ground, when the most experienced and the bravest hunter in the world would have lost no time in increasing the distance between him and the brute. The latter had scared Billy half to death, and his master meant to punish him therefor, so he held his ground, and managed to send in another shot while the grizzly was approaching, but which did no more to check his charge than a wad from a pop-gun.

This reckless daring on the part of Tim would have brought disaster, but for an unexpected interference.

Billy, the pony, no sooner saw the terrible brute turn his back upon him and lumber off, than he understood that the way of escape for him had opened. His panic departed like a flash, and he plunged through the opening with a snort of triumph; but his line of flight took him of necessity along that followed by the grizzly himself, who was advancing to the assault of the brave young Irishman.

There may have been a feeling of wrathful resentment thrilling the nerves of the gallant pony, or it is not beyond belief that he understood the danger of his master. Be that as it may, he was no sooner beside the huge brute, who slightly turned his head on hearing the clatter of the hoofs, than he let drive with both hind feet, landing them with such terrific force against the iron ribs of the monster that he fell half upon his side, after being driven several feet beyond the path.

"Good for you!" called the delighted Tim, "let him have another broadside, Billy, and we'll finish him----"

The assault of the pony diverted the attention of the grizzly for a moment from the youth to the assailant. He was thoroughly roused, and made for the horse, who showed more sense than his master by dashing off at full speed. This being beyond the attainment of the bear, it may be said that Billy's escape was absolute.

The sudden check in Tim's words was caused by bruin, who had passed but a few paces beyond the youth, when, seeing how useless it was to pursue the pony, he wheeled and once more charged upon the master.

The moment had arrived for the young rancher to call his legs into service. He was willing to run when the necessity was apparent, and none could excel him as a sprinter--that is, none of his kind.

He assuredly would have been overtaken before he could climb any of the bowlders or rocks, or get out of the path, had not a bullet bored its way directly through the brain of the grizzly, and brought him to earth at the moment when the life of the fugitive hung on a thread.

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CHAPTER VIII. STARCUSWarren Starr was terrified for the moment by the peril of his companion. While running toward him he saw the grizzly rise partly on his haunches to seize Tim, who was within his grasp, but at that instant the brute toppled over, and with one or two struggles was dead. It was an exciting moment, but a singular discovery came to young Starr--the shot that slew the bear was fired neither by himself nor Tim! Without waiting to investigate, he dashed to where his panting friend was looking down at the fallen monster, as if uncertain what to do.
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CHAPTER VI. "TIMOTHY BROPHY, ESQ., AT YOUR SERVICE"At first thought, the abrupt departure of Tim Brophy may seem an imprudent thing, since it left only one man to look after the safety of Mrs. Starr and their little one; but it will be remembered that the hope of safety lay not in fighting, but in flight; and the presence or absence of the young Irishman could not affect that one way or the other. Accordingly, with a pause only long enough to draw a substantial lunch from the provision bag and to bid his friends good-by, Tim wheeled his horse and
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