“Snake! You know what to do,” went on Mr. Thurston hurriedly. “You know what to do——eh? Pay you well.”
At the last three magic words the aged squaw rose and hobbled quickly forward.
“Take boy him tent,” directed the Indian woman.
“I can walk,” remarked Tom.
“No; they take you. Heap better,” commanded the woman.
Instantly Mr. Thurston and Rutter took hold of Tom, raising him into their arms. Through the flap of his tent they bore him, depositing him on his cot. The Indian woman followed them inside.
“Now you go out,” she ordered, with a sweep of her hand. “Send him cookman. Hot water—–heap boil.”
Thus ordered, Jake Wren came on the run with a kettle of boiling water. The Indian squaw received it with a grunt, ordering that bowls and cups be also brought. When Wren came the second time he lingered curiously.
“You go out; no see what do,” said the squaw.
So Jake departed, the squaw tying the flap of the tent after he had gone. Then, from the bosom of her dress she drew out a few small packages of herbs. The contents of these she distributed in different bowels and cups.
“I’d like to see what the old witch is doing, and how she’s doing it,” declared Rutter in a whisper.
“She’ll stop short if she catches you looking in on her,” replied the chief, with a smile. “For some reason these Indians are very jealous of their secrets in treating snakebites. They’re wizards, though, these same red-skinned savages.”
“You believe, then, that she can pull Reade through?” asked Rutter eagerly.
“If she knows her business, and if there’s any such thing as saving the boy she’ll do it,” declared Mr. Thurston, as they reached the door of the chief’s tent. “Will you come inside, Rutter! You look badly broken up.”
“I am, and I shall be, just as long as Reade is in any danger,” Rutter admitted. “Reade is a mighty fine boy and I’m fond of him. Besides, more than a little of our success in getting the road through on time depends on the boy.”
“Is Reade really so valuable, then?”
“He goes over the course, Mr. Thurston, as rapidly as any man in our corps, and his work is very accurately done. Moreover, he never kicks. If you told him to work half the night, on top of a day’s work, he’d do it.”
“Then Reade, if he recovers, must be watched and rewarded for anything he does for us,” murmured Mr. Thurston.
“Don’t say, ‘if he recovers,’ chief,” begged Jack. “I hate to think of his not pulling through from this snakebite.”
“What became of the reptile that did the trick?” asked Mr. Thurston.
“That crawler will never bite anything else,” muttered Rutter. “I got the thing with my riding quirt.”
Not very long after Harry Hazelton reached camp, well in advance of the chainmen, for Harry, good school athlete that he was, had jog-trotted every step of the way in.