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HOME > Children's Novel > The Moving Picture Boys on the Coast > CHAPTER IV BACK TO “BIG B.”
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 “Well, we haven’t caught up to ’em yet,” remarked Joe Duncan, about noon the next day, when they stopped for a little lunch and to allow the horses to drink at a water hole and rest.  
“No, the beggars keep well ahead of us,” agreed Blake, shading his eyes with his hand and gazing off across the hot, sunlit stretch that lay before them. “Oh, if they have opened those film boxes!” he exclaimed hopelessly.
“They have , and that’s more than I calculated on,” remarked Hank. “I thought when they raided our camp that they were after our animals, and when they didn’t take ’em I thought it was because they were afraid of being chased as horse-thieves by a sheriff’s posse. Now I see they didn’t want our mounts, as they had plenty of their own. It was grub they were after, and they got it.”
“And our picture films,” added Blake. “Don’t forget that.”
“That was only a mistake, I tell you,” insisted Hank, “though, for that matter, the Indians wouldn’t hesitate to take ’em just for fun, if they thought they could make trouble that way.”
“And they will make a heap of trouble, too, I’m afraid,” Blake.
“Here now!” called Joe, in jollier tones. “Don’t come any of that C. C. Piper business, Blake. Look on the bright side.”
“Well, I suppose I ought to, but it’s hard work.”
They had traveled all that morning, hoping to come up with the roving band of Indians. But they had had no success.
Hank did pick up the trail of the raiders soon after starting out. The Indians had left their horses tethered some distance from the camp, and had crept up afoot, probably having spied Blake, Joe and Hank from afar the previous evening. And though the moccasined feet of the left little trace on the hard and sun-baked earth, there was enough “sign” for so experienced a trailer as was Hank to pick up.
Thus he had been led to where the horses had been left, and after that it was easy enough to follow the marks of the .
“There are about twenty-five in this band, as near as I can make out,” said Hank, “and every one of ’em has a horse of some sort. Pretty good travelers, too, I take it, since our animals were fresh and we haven’t been able to come up to ’em yet, though we’ve kept up a pretty fair gait. But we’ll get ’em yet.”
“If only it isn’t too late,” spoke Blake, whose one fear was that the valuable picture films would be spoiled. “Let’s hurry on.”
“Another little rest will do the horses good,” said the cowboy guide. “Then we can push on so much the faster. Our horses are our best friends, and we’ve got to treat ’em right if we want the best service out of them. Another half-hour and we’ll push on.”
And, though Blake and at the delay, he knew it would not be best to insist on having his way. Soon, however, they were in the saddle again and once more in pursuit.
“The trail is getting fresher,” declared Hank, about four o’clock that afternoon. “Their horses are tiring, I guess, and ours seem to be holding out pretty well.”
“Which means——” began Joe.
“That we may get up to them before dark,” went on the cowboy. “And then we’ll see what happens.”
“Will they run, do you think?” inquired Blake.
“They will as long as their horses hold out, for they must know that this ghost-dance business is about over and that most of their friends are back on the reservations. But when we come up to them——” and the cowboy paused and significantly examined his revolver.
“Does it mean a fight?” went on Blake, and he could not restrain a catch in his breath. It was one thing to have an Indian fight with some shelter, but different out in the open.
“Well, I hardly think it will be what you might call regular and up-to-date fighting,” replied Hank. “They may fire their guns and revolvers at us to try and frighten us back, but I don’t actually believe that they’ll make trouble. They know the punishment would be too serious. And I believe a lot of those Indians have only blank that they had when they were in some Wild West show. I know there was little of bullets, for all the shooting they did last night. But, at the same time,” he went on, “it’s best to be prepared for emergencies.”
They continued on, and the boys had now become so used to the signs of the Indian trail that they could note the changes almost as well as could Hank.
Here they could see where a rest was made, and again where some animal went out of the beaten path. Bits of the Indians’ finery, too, 33were every once in a while—a bit of trimming, a discarded moccasin or some dyed feathers.
“I do hope we come up with them before dark,” said Joe. “If we have to stay out on the trail all night, and part of next day, we may find nothing left of our things and the pack burros when we reach camp again.”
In order to make better time our friends had left behind, at the place where the Indians had raided them, the pack animals, their cameras, a few films not taken by the Indians, and as much of their provisions as they thought would not be needed on the trail.
“I think this evening will end it,” declared Hank. “We might push on a little faster, as the going is good right here.”
The horses were urged to greater speed, and they responded gamely. They seemed to realize the necessity for haste, and took advantage of the betterment in the surface over which they were traveling.
The sun was sinking lower and lower in the west and the shadows were . Eagerly the boys and the cowboy peered ahead, straining their eyes for a glimpse of those whom they were pursuing. Then there came a bit of rough ground, and the pace was slower. Next 34followed a little rise, and, as this was topped, Blake, who had taken the lead for a short distance, uttered a cry and forward with eager hand.
“What is it?” cried Joe and Hank together.
“There they are!” yelled Blake. “The Indians! Right below us! Come on!”
Riding to his side, the others saw a sharp descent, then a level plain stretching away for many miles. And moving slowly over this plain was a band of about twenty-five Indians, mounted on ponies that seemed scarcely able to move.
“That’s them!” cried Hank, as he dug his heels into the sides of his horse. “At ’em, boys! A short, swift will bring us up to ’em now, and then—well, we’ll see what will happen!”
“Come on!” yelled Blake, and side by side the trio rode down into the valley, their animals seeming to take on new strength as they saw their before them.
“They’ve noticed us!” exclaimed Blake.
“That’s right!” agreed Hank. “Well, now to see if we can catch ’em!”
A movement amid the stragglers of the band told that they had glimpsed the approach of the whites. There was a distant shout, and at once the whole party was off.
“They’ll distance us!” cried Blake. “They’re going to get away!”
“Not very far,” was Hank’s opinion. “Their horses are about done up. This is a last .”
His trained eye had shown him that the Indians were using quirts and their heels to spur the tired animals to a last burst of speed. True, the ponies did leap ahead for a few minutes; but not even the wild shouting of the redmen, the beating of their steeds, and the firing of their guns could make the wearied muscles of the ponies respond for long.
The spurt lasted only a few seconds, and then came a noticeable slowing down. On the contrary, the horses of our friends, though they had traveled far and hard, were in better condition and much fresher.
“Come on!” cried Hank, rising in his stirrups and swinging his hat around his head, while he sent yells of . “Come on, boys! We have ’em!”
He, too, began to shoot, but in the air as before, and the boys followed his example. Their horses were shortening the distance between the two parties.
Suddenly one of the Indians was observed to toss something from him. It fell to the ground and rolled to one side of the trail.
“What’s that?” cried Joe.
“One of the boxes of exposed film!” cried Blake. “They know what we’re after. Oh, if only it isn’t damaged!”
“We can soon tell!” cried Hank, taking the lead. Then he yelled, between reports of his revolver:
“Hi there! you red beggars, give up! drop that stuff you took from our camp! You haven’t any of the grub left, I suppose, but we want those pictures! drop ’em!”
Whether his talk was understood, or not, was not known; but others of the Indians began tossing away either boxes of film or other things—aside from food—which they had taken from the camp. They never stopped their horses, though, but ever urged on the tired beasts.
“Here’s the first reel!” cried Blake, as he came up to where it lay. Quickly dismounting, he picked it up.
“Not hurt a bit!” he cried ; “and the seals haven’t been broken, showing that it hasn’t been opened.”
“Good!” cried Hank. “You go slow and pick up what you can, and Joe and I will chase after the Indians. Evidently they’re going to run for it.”
And it did seem so. The Indians never paused, but continued to toss away article after article. They seemed afraid of the consequences should they be caught with anything belonging to the whites in their possession. They may have taken Hank and the boys for the advance-guard of a sheriff’s posse, and, knowing they had been doing wrong, were afraid. At any rate they made no stand.
“I’ve got ’em all!” finally yelled Blake.
“Then there’s no use chasing after ’em any farther,” said Hank. “Hold on, Joe,” for the boy was pushing on.
The horses of the pursuers were pulled down to a walk. The Indians noticed this at once, and, seeming to realize that the chase was over, they halted, and, turning, gazed in a body at the moving picture boys and their cowboy guide.
“Had enough, I reckon,” murmured Hank. “I guess you can’t go on much farther. Well, we’ll turn back a ways and put some miles between us, so you won’t try any of your tricks again, and then we’ll go into camp ourselves. Got everything, Blake?”
“Yes, every reel of film, and not one has been opened, by good luck. Maybe they thought it was powerful ‘medicine,’ and didn’t want to run any chances.”
“We don’t care, as long as we have ’em back,” 38remarked Joe, gleefully. “And now for a good rest.”
They turned back, and as they did so the Indians gave a last shout of defiance and began to make camp for themselves. It was as if a lot of schoolboys, playing , had been rounded up, and as a last indication of defiance had given their class yell.
“Good riddance to you,” remarked Hank. “I don’t want to see you again for a good many years.”
Collecting the things the Indians had thrown away, our friends rode on until dark, and then, out of sight of the roving redmen, they made a simple camp. They stood guard by turns, but there was no night alarm. The next day they reached the place where they had the pack animals. Nothing had been disturbed.
“And now for Big B !” exclaimed Blake, when once more the little was under way.
“And glad enough I’ll be to see it!” said Hank; “though I sure will miss you fellows.”
“The same here,” echoed Joe, and Blake nodded in accord.
They traveled on for another day, finding good water and plenty of grazing for the steeds. Their provisions ran a bit low, for the Indians had helped themselves liberally, but they managed to shoot some small game.
And, on the second day after parting from the Indians, they topped a rise, from the height of which Hank cried:
“There she is, boys!”
“What?” asked Blake.
“Big B ranch! We’re back in civilization again!”

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