Chapter XXXI. On the Mountain Path.
 

My readers will not have forgotten Bill Mosely and his companion Tom Hadley, who played the mean trick upon Bradley and our hero of stealing their horses. I should be glad to state that they were overtaken and punished within twenty-four hours, but it would not be correct. They had a great advantage over their pursuers, who had only their own feet to help them on, and, at the end of the first day, were at least ten miles farther on than Ben and Bradley.

As the two last, wearied and well-nigh exhausted, sat down to rest, Bradley glanced about him long and carefully in all directions.

"I can't see anything of them skunks, Ben," he said.

"I suppose not, Jake. They must be a good deal farther on."

"Yes, I reckon so. They've got the horses to help them, while we've got to foot it. It was an awful mean trick they played on us."

"That's so, Jake."

"All I ask is to come up with 'em some of these days."

"What would you do?"

"I wouldn't take their lives, for I ain't no murderer, but I'd tie 'em hand and foot, and give 'em a taste of a horsewhip, or a switch, till they'd think they was schoolboys again."

"You might not be able to do it. They would be two to one."

"Not quite, Ben. I'd look for some help from you."

"I would give you all the help I could," said Ben.

"I know you mean it, and that you wouldn't get scared, and desert me, as a cousin of mine did once when I was set upon by robbers."

"Was that in California?"

"No; in Kentucky. I had a tough job, but I managed to disable one of the rascals, and the other ran away."

"What did your cousin have to say?"

"He told me, when I caught up with him, that he was goin' in search of help, but I told him that was too thin. I told him I wouldn't keep his company any longer, and that he had better go his way and I would go mine. He tried to explain things, but there are some things that ain't so easily explained, that I wouldn't hear him. I stick to my friends, and I expect them to stand by me."

"That's fair, Jake."

"That's the way I look at it. I wonder where them rascals are?"

"You mean Mosely and his friend?"

"Yes. What galls me, Ben, is that they're likely laughin' in their shoes at the way they've tricked us, and there's no help for it."

"Not just now, Jake, but we may overtake them yet. Till we do, we may as well take things as easy as we can."

"You're right, Ben. You'mind me of an old man that used to live in the place where I was raised. He never borrered any trouble, but when things was contrary, he waited for 'em to take a turn. When he saw a neighbor frettin', he used to say, 'Fret not thy gizzard, for it won't do no good.'"

Ben laughed.

"That was good advice," he said.

"I don't know where he got them words from. Maybe they're in the Bible."

"I guess not," said Ben, smiling. "They don't sound like it."

"Perhaps you're right," said Bradley, not fully convinced, however. "Seems to me I've heard old Parson Brown get off something to that effect."

"Perhaps it was this-'Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.'"

"Perhaps it was. Is that from the Bible?"

"Yes."

"It might have been made a little stronger," said Bradley thoughtfully. "The evil of some days is more than sufficient, accordin' to my notion."

The two explorers camped out as usual, and the fatigue of their day's tramp insured them a deep, refreshing sleep. The next day they resumed their journey, and for several days to come no incident worthy of mention varied the monotony of their march. Toward the close of the fourth day they saw from a distance a figure approaching them, who seemed desirous of attracting their attention. Ben was the first to see him.

"Jake," said he, "look yonder!"

"It's a Chinee!" said Bradley, in surprise.

"How did the critter come here, in the name of wonder?"

"I suppose he is looking for gold as well as we."

"The heathen seems to be signalin' us. He's wavin' his arm."

This was the case. The Chinaman, for some reason, seemed to wish to attract the attention of the newcomers. He stopped short, and waited for Ben and Bradley to come up.

"Who are you, my yeller friend?" asked Bradley, when he was near enough to be heard.

"My name Ki Sing."

"Glad to hear it. I can't say I ever heard of your family, but I reckon from the name, it's a musical one."

Ki Sing probably did not understand the tenor of Bradley's remark.

"Is there any hotel round here, Mr. Sing?" asked Ben jocosely, "where two weary travelers can put up for the night?"

"Nohotellee!"

"Then where do you sleep?"

"Me sleep on glound."

"Your bed is a pretty large one, then," said Bradley. "The great objection to it is, that it is rather hard."

Ki Sing's mind was evidently occupied by some engrossing thought, which prevented his paying much attention to Bradley's jocose observations.

"Melican man wantee you," he said, in an excited manner.

"What's that?" asked Bradley. "Melican man want me?"

Ki Sing nodded.

"Where is he?"

Ki Sing turned, and pointed to a rude hut some half a mile away in a little mountain nook.

"Melican man thele," he said.

"Come along, Ben," said Bradley. "Let us see what this means. It may be some countryman of ours who is in need of help."

The Chinaman trotted along in advance, and our two friends followed him.