“Look at that!”
Instantly Fred Button and his companion halted and the two boys stared at the sight to which their attention had been directed.
Even their guide, who at that time was several yards behind, hastened to join them and was almost as shocked by the sight as was his young companions.
“What is it? What is it?” whispered John.
“Can’t you see?” retorted Fred. “It’s a skeleton of a man. The skull is over there,” he explained as he pointed to his right. “The other bones have been scattered. Probably some wolves or buzzards have been at work here.”
For a brief time no one spoke. The bones before them were unquestionably those of a man. They had been bleached by the sun and their very whiteness increased the ghastly impression.
“What do you think has happened?” inquired John in a low voice.
Fred shook his head and turned questioningly to the guide.
Zeke, the name by which the guide was commonly called, also shook his head as if the mystery was not yet solved. Without speaking he approached the place where the skeleton had been discovered, and a moment later with his foot unearthed a sleeve of a coat which had been buried from sight by drifting sands of the desert.
Stooping, Zeke pulled hard and soon drew forth the coat. The garment itself was somewhat torn, but still was in a fair state of preservation.
Turning to his companions Zeke said abruptly, “Better look around, boys, and see if you can find something else. My impression is that you’ll find a set of prospector’s tools not far away.”
In response to the suggestion the two boys at once busily began their search. A shoe, worn and plainly torn by strong and savage teeth, was brought to Zeke. Later a pick ax, spade and hammer also were discovered and added to the pile.
Meanwhile Zeke had been searching the garment which he had discovered and in one pocket he had found a small book which evidently interested him greatly.
Thrusting his discovery into his pocket, Zeke turned to the boys and said. “What do you think? Shall we bury these bones or shall we try to take them back?”
“Back where?” inquired Fred. “To our camp or back to civilization?”
“I shouldn’t do either,” suggested John. “We can bury the bones here and mark the spot so that if we ever find out who the man was we can tell his friends where they will find what is left of him. What do you think?” he added, turning to the guide as he spoke.
“I think that’s the best thing to do,” replied Zeke quietly. “Personally I haven’t any strong feeling about what happens to my carcass after I have left it.”
“Have you any idea who or what this man was?” Fred asked.
“I found this in his pocket,” responded Zeke, displaying the little book he had taken from the coat.