Chapter XIX. The Fat Boy Does a Ghost Dance
 

"A one-legged Indian?" chorused the lads.

"He's crazy," grumbled Dad. "He has cat on the brain."

"That's better than having nothing but hair on the brain," retorted Stacy witheringly.

"How do you know a one-legged Indian has been here?" questioned Tad, seeing that Chunky was in earnest.

"Look here," said the boy, pointing to a moccasin print in the soft turf at that point. "There's the right foot. Where's the left? Why there wasn't any left, of course. He had only one foot."

"Then he must have carried a crutch," laughed Ned. "Look for the crutch mark and then you'll have the mystery solved."

Jim Nance chuckled. Stacy regarded the guide with disapproving eyes.

"Tell me so I can laugh too," begged Chunky soberly.

"Why, you poor little tenderfoot, don't you know how that one track got there?"

Chunky shook his head.

"Well, that cowardly half breed that you call Chow was crossing the rocks here when the cat made a pass at him. Chow made a long leap. One foot struck there, the other about ten feet the other side. He hadn't time to put the second foot down else the cat would have got him. A one-legged Indian! Oh, help!"

"Haw-haw-haw!" mocked Stacy, striding away disgustedly while the shouts of his companions were ringing in his burning ears.

But the mystery was unsolved. Tad did not believe it ever would be, though he never ceased puzzling over it for a moment. That day no one got a lion, though on the second day following Ned Rector shot a small cat. Tad did not try to shoot. He wandered with Chunky all over the peaks and through the Canyon in that vicinity trying to rope more lions.

"You let that job out," ordered the guide finally. "Don't you know you're monkeying with fire? First thing you know you won't know anything. One of these times a cat'll put you to sleep for a year of Sundays."

"I guess you are right. Not that I am afraid, but there is no sense in taking such long chances. I'll drop it. I ought to be pretty well satisfied with what I have done."

Tad kept his word. He made no further attempts to rope mountain lions. In the succeeding few days three more cats were shot. It was on the night of the fourth day after the escape of the captive that at something very exciting occurred in Camp Butler.

The camp was silent, all its occupants sound asleep, when suddenly they were brought bounding from their cots by frightful howls and yells of fear. The howls came from the tent of Stacy Brown. Stacy himself followed, leaping out into what they called the company street, dancing up and down, still howling at the top of his voice. Clad in pajamas, the fat boy was unconsciously giving a clever imitation of an Indian ghost dance.

Professor Zepplin was the first to reach the fat boy. He gave Chunky a violent shaking, while Nance was darting about the camp to see that all was right. He saw nothing unusual.

"What is the meaning of this, young man?" demanded the Professor.

"I seen it, I seen it," howled Stacy.

"What did you see?"

"A ghost! I seen a ghost!"

"You mean you 'saw' a ghost, not you 'seen'," corrected the Professor.

"I tell you I seen a ghost. I guess if you'd seen a ghost you wouldn't stop to choose words. You'd just howl like a lunatic in your own natural language-----"

Dad hastily threw more wood on the dying camp fire.

"I guess you had a nightmare," suggested Tad.

"It wasn't a mare, it was a man," persisted Stacy.

"He's crazy. Pity he doesn't catch sleeping sickness," scoffed Ned.

"Tell us what you did see," urged the Professor in a milder tone.

"I---I was sleeping in---in there when all at once I woke up-----"

"You thought you did, perhaps," nodded Walter.

"I didn't think anything of the sort. I know I did. Maybe I'd heard something. Well, I woke up and there---and there-----" Chunky's eyes grew big, he stared wildly across the camp fire as if the terrifying scene were once more before him. "I woke up."

"You have told us that before," reminded Dad, who had joined the group.

"I woke up-----"

"That makes four times you woke up," laughed Ned. "You must, indeed, have had a restless night."

"I woke up-----"

"What again?"

"You wouldn't laugh if you'd seen what I saw" retorted the fat boy, with serious face. "There, right at the entrance of the tent, was a ghost!"

"What kind of a ghost?" asked Dad.

"Just a ghost-ghost. It was all white and shiny and---br-r-r-r!" shivered the boy. "It grinning. I could see right through it!"

"You must be an X-ray machine," declared Tad, chuckling.

"It didn't need anything of that sort. He was so shimmery that you could see right through him."

"What became of the spook? Did he fly up?" asked the guide.

"No, the spook just spooked," replied Stacy.

"How do you mean?" questioned Professor Zepplin.

"He thawed out like a snowball, just melted away when I yelled."

"Very thrilling, very thrilling. Most remarkable. A matter for scientific investigation," muttered the Professor, but whether he were in earnest or not the boys could not gather from his expressionless countenance.

"What did Chunky have for supper?" asked Walter.

"What didn't he have?" scoffed the guide. "We have to eat fast or we wouldn't get enough to keep up our strength."

"I guess I don't get any more than my share," retorted Stacy. "I have to work for that, too."

"Well, I'm going to bed," announced Ned Rector. "You fellows may sit up here and tell ghost stories all the rest of the night if you want to. It's me for the feathers."

"You're right, Ned," agreed Tad. "We are a lot of silly boys to be so upset over a fellow who has had a crazy nightmare. Professor, don't you think you ought to give Stacy some medicine?"

"Yes, give him something to make him sleep," chuckled Walter.

The boy was interrupted by a roar from Ned Rector's tent. Ned was shouting angrily. He burst out into the circle of light shed by the camp fire, waving his hands above his head.

"They've got mine, they've got mine!" he yelled, dancing about with a very good imitation of the ghost dance so recently executed by the fat boy.

"Got what?" demanded Dad sternly, striding forward.

"Somebody's stolen my rifle. The spook's robbed me. It's gone and all my cartridges and my revolver and-----"

The camp was in an uproar instantly. Chunky was nodding with satisfaction.

"It wasn't stolen. The spook just spooked it, that's all," he declared convincingly.

"But you must be in error, Ned," cried the Professor.

"I'm not. It's gone. I left it beside my bed. It isn't there now. I tell you somebody's been in this camp and robbed me!"

A sudden silence settled over the camp. The boys looked into each other's faces questioningly. Was this another mystery of the Bright Angel Gulch? They could not understand.

"Mebby the kid did see a ghost after all," muttered the guide.

"The kid did. And I guess the kid ought to know," returned Stacy pompously.