AT ECHO CANYON.
WE rode through a small ravine between the great rocks that were the mouth of Echo Canyon. The first workmen we came to were busy blasting, and did not see us for a moment; when they did look up, and saw three strangers armed to the teeth, and one an Indian, they promptly dropped tools for weapons. I waved my hand to them, and galloped toward them.
"Good day," I cried. "Put down your guns; we are friends."
"Who are you?" asked one.
"We are hunters, and have important news for you. Who is in command here?"
"Engineer Colonel Rudge, but he's away. You must see Mr. Ohlers, the paymaster."
"Where is Colonel Rudge?"
"He has gone after a band of wreckers, who derailed a train. You'll find Mr. Ohlers beyond in the camp, in the largest house."
We rode in the direction indicated, and after five minutes came into the camp. It consisted of some block houses, and two rough stone ones. Around them was a wall of stones loosely piled together, but which seemed strong, and was about five feet high.
We dismounted, and entered the largest of the buildings. Its interior consisted of one room, in which
AT ECHO CANYON.
were a number of chests and sacks, showing it to be the supply depot. There was only one man there, a little dried up creature, who rose from a chest as we came in. "What do you want?" he asked sharply as he saw me. Then he discovered Winnetou, and shrank back in horror. "Oh, Lord-a-mercy," he cried. "An Indian!"
"Don't be alarmed, sir," I said." We're looking for Mr. Ohlers, the paymaster."
"I'm Mr. Ohlers," he said, with a frightened glance from behind his big steel spectacles.
"We wanted to find Colonel Rudge, but since he is away we must tell you our errand."
"Speak," he said, edging toward the door.
"When did Colonel Rudge go away?"
"What do you want to know for?" he asked, and suddenly slid out the door. The big iron hinges rattled, it slammed again, the bolt groaned. We were prisoners! I turned around, and looked at my companions. The grave Winnetou showed his splendid ivory teeth; Fred made a face as if he had tasted sugar and alum, and I laughed loud and heartily over this neat trick. "The little monkey thinks we are thieves," exclaimed Fred.
A big signal horn sounded to call the men, and opening one of the little port hole windows I counted sixteen of them gathered around the paymaster, apparently receiving instructions.
"The execution is about to begin," I remarked. "They've got their guns. What shall we do?"
"Light a cigar," replied Fred, suiting the action to the word.
Soon the door opened cautiously, and the paymaster's thin voice called from without: "Don't shoot, you
AT ECHO CANYON.
rascals, or we'll shoot you." Then he retreated behind a large cask, and from this fortress demanded more confidently: "Who are you?"
"You donkey!" laughed Walker. "First you call us rascals, and then you ask who we are. Come out from behind your cask, and we'll talk to you."
"Not much! What did you come here for?"
"To warn you."
"Warn us! Of what?"
"Of the Ogellallah Sioux and the white train wreckers who are coming to attack Echo Canyon."
"Ridiculous! You're a train wrecker yourself more likely."
I had had enough of this, so I pulled the grimmest face I could, threw my gun over my shoulder, took a revolver in each hand, and marched to the door, followed by Winnetou and Walker. One glance at this demonstration was enough to send Mr. Ohlers completely out of sight behind his cask, and only the end of his gun, sticking up like a grave stone, showed where the valiant leader lay. As to the workmen they respectfully made way for us to pass. These were the people who were to resist the Sioux and the white desperadoes! It was a pleasant prospect for the morrow!
"You see we could shoot you, but we don't," I said to the workmen. "Bring out that brave paymaster of yours for us to talk to, unless he prefers being murdered by the Sioux."
After some urging the little man ventured forth into the daylight, and I told him all I knew.
"I believe you now, sir," he said with trembling voice. "And this gentleman is Mr. Winnetou? Honored, sir, I'm sure." He made a deep bow to the
AT ECHO CANYON.
Apache. "And this is Mr. Walker? Delighted to meet you." Another bow. "You think may be the colonel will be back in time?" he continued, addressing me.
"I think so."
"I should be most glad, sir, believe me."
I did believe him as thoroughly as though he had sworn it. However I only asked: "How many has the colonel with him?"
"A hundred. His bravest men."
"So I see. And there are over two hundred coming, with the white men."
"Oh, murder! The only thing to do is to get out of Echo Canyon, and go to the next station."
"Nonsense! What would your employers think of you? What is the largest station near here?"
"Promontory. There are three hundred workmen there."
"Then telegraph them to send you down a hundred well armed men."
He stared at me open mouthed, then sprang up, clapped his hands, and cried: "I never thought of that!"
"Yes, you seem to be a strategic genius. Let them bring provisions and munitions, if you're short. And look here, it must be done as secretly as possible, or the Indian spies will learn they are discovered; telegraph that too. Have you a line to Promontory, and how far is it?"
"Ninety-one miles. Yes, they can run down here."
"Good. Then they ought to be here before daybreak if you telegraph now. Tomorrow night the spies will be here, and in the meantime we will strengthen the wall. Now hurry up. You've three things to do:
AT ECHO CANYON.
Telegraph to Promontory; get your place ready for the night, and put your men at work on the wall."
"They shall be done at once, sir," said the little man, his courage completely restored by these arrangements. "And you shall have a supper fit for a king. I'm the cook myself."
Everything was done exactly as we would have it. Our horses had good fodder, and we had such a supper as showed Mr. Ohlers to be more skillful with cooking utensils than with arms. The men worked like giants at building up the wall; they allowed themselves no rest during the night, and when I awoke early in the morning I was surprised at the progress they had made. The train came down from Promontory, bringing the hundred men, and everything necessary in the way of provisions, arms and ammunition. These people took a hand at the work so heartily that it was done by noon. After dinner Winnetou, Fred and I went out of the canyon to look for the spies, first arranging that a mine should be sprung in the canyon if one of us returned with tidings.
We separated; Walker going east, I north, and Winnetou between the two, for we knew the enemy was to come by the north, or east. I climbed the rocky steep, and after three-quarters of an hour came to a place that seemed to be made for my purpose. In the very highest point of the forest stood an oak, with a tall pine beside it. I climbed the latter, and leaned out as far as possible on the strong branches of the oak. For hours I waited in vain, but at last I saw in the north a flock of crows rising from the trees. They did not fly together, nor in any special direction, but straggled along, fluttering in a purposeless way over the trees, into which
AT ECHO CANYON.
they settled again one by one. Evidently they had been startled. In a short time I saw another similar flock farther along, and another; the crows were afraid of something coming through the woods from the north. I came down as quickly as I could, and went stealthily in that direction, carefully concealing my tracks. Thus I reached an almost impenetrable thicket of shrubs, into which I forced myself, and laid down to wait.
In a short time one, two, three, four, five, six Indians came one by one, sliding past my hiding-place like shadows. Their feet did not stir the broken twigs lying about. They were the spies, and wore their war paint. As soon as they had passed I hastened back by a shorter way, knowing they must go out of their way for some distance before they would dare go forward. I noticed at once that new men were standing about, but my attention was called from them by Winnetou, whom to my surprise I saw coming in. "My red brother comes at the same time as I; did he see anything?" I asked.
"Winnetou comes because it is not necessary to wait longer," he replied. "My brother Jack has seen the spies."
"How did Winnetou know that?"
"Winnetou sat in a tree, and took his glass in his hand. Far in the north he saw another tall tree. That was my brother's direction, and since my brother is wise, Winnetou knew he would be in that tree. Then after a time Winnetou saw many specks in the sky; they were birds flying before the spies. My brother must also notice this, and watch the spies, so the Apache chief came back to the camp where the spies will be."
AT ECHO CANYON.
This is an instance of the keen sight, and judgment of this Indian.
Just as we entered the camp a man came forward whom we had not seen before. "Ah, Mr. Hildreth, you have come back from your search?" he asked. "My men saw you coming down the rocks and called me. You know my name already; I am Colonel Rudge, and we owe you profound gratitude."
"There will be time for that, Colonel," I said. "The first thing now is to fire the mine to recall my comrade. Will you give the order for the men to conceal themselves? The spies will be here in a quarter of an hour."
"It shall be done. Go inside yourself, and I'll be back shortly."
A moment later the explosion echoed, so loud that Walker must have heard it. Then the men withdrew into the buildings, so that only a few people were about, all apparently occupied with their ordinary work.
Colonel Rudge was not gone long. When he came in he said immediately: "Tell me how we can show our gratitude to you and your comrades?"
"By saying nothing about it," I answered.
"Well, I hope to find a better way than that some day. When do you think our welcome guests will arrive?"
"They will attack us tomorrow night."
"Then we've time to get acquainted," he laughed. "Come, bring your red friend into my place; you shall be my most honored guests."
He took Winnetou and me to the other stone building which was divided into more apartments. One was his own, which was large enough to accommodate us also. Colonel Rudge had good nerve, and I saw he did
AT ECHO CANYON.
not dread the fight that was coming. We felt confidence in one another at once, and Winnetou too, whose name had long been known to the colonel, seemed to like him.
"Come, gentlemen; we'll break the neck of a good bottle, since we can't break our foes' necks just now, and we'll have a pleasant evening," he said after Fred had joined us, and so we did, for there was nothing more to be done.
The night passed peacefully, as did the next day. It was new moon, and perfectly dark in the ravine till the stars came out, which gave light enough to see the broad circle of the wall around us. As the Indians would attack between midnight and dawn, we placed only the necessary sentinels on guard, and the rest lay around in the grass. It was but a brief rest, and as midnight approached the sleepers arose, seized their weapons, and took their appointed places at the windows.
I stood at the door with my Henry rifle in my hand. We had divided our force into four parts, one on each side, two hundred and ten men strong, while thirty were appointed to guard the horses.
The moments seemed to creep; it almost seemed that our fear had been groundless, but hark! Something sounded like a stone falling on the railroad track. Then I heard a rustle, which an unaccustomed ear would have taken for the sighing of the softest breeze. They were coming! "Attention!" I whispered to the man next to me. He passed the word on around the circle. At last ghostly shadows flitted through the darkness, now to left, now to right, without the faintest sound. The shadows drew nearer. They were now only fifteen, twelve, ten, eight, six feet from the wall. Then a loud,
AT ECHO CANYON.
sonorous voice rang through the night. "Selkhi Ogellallah. Ntsage sisi Winnetou, natan Apaches. Shne ko. [Death to the Ogellallah! Here stands Winnetou, the chief of the Apaches. Fire!]" He raised his silver studded rifle, and its flash lighted all the camp. At the same moment two hundred shots rattled. I had not fired; I waited to see the effect of the salvo, which fell sudden, deadly, like a judgment of heaven on the foe.
For a moment the most profound stillness reigned; then a horrible howl arose which pierced the nerves, and shattered the bones. The unexpectedness of our defense had deprived the savages of breath, but now a din arose as if a thousand demons had broken loose in the valley.
"Once more: Fire!" commanded Rudge, whose voice could be heard above the tumult. A second salvo rattled, and then Rudge cried: "Forward with your tomahawks." In an instant the men were over the walls; even the frightened ones as bold as lions now.
I remained at my post. All around raged a battle which could not continue long, for the ranks of the enemy had been so frightfully thinned that they could only save themselves by flight.
At last it was over; the wounded lay on the ground; many fires burned outside the wall, and one could see by their light the awful harvest death had garnered in so short a time. I could not look at it, but went away to the colonel's quarters, and sat down alone.
Hardly had I done so when Winnetou entered. I looked up in surprise. "My red brother comes?" I asked. "Where are the scalps of his foes, the Ogellallah Sioux?"
"Winnetou will never take a scalp again," he an-
AT ECHO CANYON.
swered. "Since he has heard the music come down the hillside he will kill his enemy, but leave him his scalp. How!"
At this moment Walker rushed in excitedly. "Jack, Winnetou, come!" he cried. "We have captured Dawson, the leader of the outlaws, and only eighty of the enemy has escaped. But Dawson says they are gone to attack Helldorf Settlement."
"Oh, Lord help us, if that is true!" I cried, as Winnetou and I sprang to our feet.
"It is true; he is triumphing in it. We spoiled their game here, but he says it was arranged that they were to fall back on Helldorf Settlement after they had finished this place up, and not a stone will be left." "
Come!" said Winnetou briefly.
We found the colonel. "Lend us men," I said." We must do what can be done for those good people."
"I can't lend you men," he said.
"Then how do you expect to face God on the day of judgment?" I asked angrily.
"Listen, my dear fellow," said Colonel Rudge gently. "I can't desert my post; I can't order my men to go with you, but what I can do I will do gladly. You may speak to my men, and if any will leave their work and go with you they shall do so. And you shall have horses, weapons and ammunition, provided you will return them."
"Thank you, Colonel; I am sure you can do no more. Pardon me that I spoke hastily."
Two hours later Winnetou, Walker and I, at the head of forty well-armed men, were tearing back to rescue Helldorf Settlement, which we had left so peaceful but a short time before.