Brad did not know whether or not the old Indian actually saw them in the darkness. But he decided to take no chance of being mistaken for an enemy.

“Hello,” he said, and his voice echoed weirdly in the cavern, “cooking your dinner?”

With a show of friendliness, he stepped out into the glare of the fire. Dan and Red followed his example, though not without misgiving. Would the old cave dweller accept them as friends? Or would he be hostile? In the darkness they could not see whether or not he wore a knife at his belt.

For a full minute, the old Indian stood tense on the rock floor, staring at the three Cubs. In the glare of the fire they saw that he was gaunt and lean, with a bony, unwrinkled face. Prominent cheek bones pulled the skin tightly.

“Good morning,” Brad said, gaining confidence as the Indian made no hostile move. “Cooking a rabbit, I see.”

The stranger replied with a deep-throated grunt which the Cubs took for assent. He did not seem unfriendly, however, only guarded and a trifle dazed.

Oddly enough, the old Indian did not question the boys as to their unexpected presence in the cave. Apparently accepting them as friends, he motioned for them to share the warmth of his fire.

The Cubs squatted around it, watching the old fellow rotate the cooking rabbit on a crudely fashioned spit.

Without saying anything, Dan nudged Red to direct his attention toward the wall behind them. Not far from the pile of balsam boughs lay the Navajo blanket which had disappeared from the Cub camp a few days earlier!

Brad cleared his throat and after telling his name, tried to draw the old Indian into conversation. Aside from learning that the other’s name was Miquel and that he was a Navajo of the Beebitchni clan, he made little headway.

Paying scant heed to the Cubs, old Miquel carried on a sing-sing monologue in a tongue the boys could not understand.

At intervals he broke into English, but the words made no sense to the three listeners.

“Turquoise Mountain, king of mountains, everlastingly beautiful,” the old Indian muttered.

“So what?” Red mumbled into Dan’s ear. “What sort of jargon is this?”

Old Miquel did not appear to hear Red’s remark.

“It does me no harm, no harm,” he rambled on, “for I am Holy with the Fire.”

“He’s out of his head,” Red whispered to Dan. “He’s completely lost his buttons!”

The old Indian had arisen from the fire, turning dramatically toward the east. He made a picture as he stood there in the flickering firelight, his calico shirt open at the throat. In one ear he wore a single turquoise ornament.

“The male porcupine eats gum,” he entoned. “I do it in a Holy way.”

“He’s reciting parts of a chant, I think,” Brad volunteered his opinion. “Miquel hardly knows we’re here. Do you Miquel?”

The Indian went on with his chant, not even glancing at Brad or giving any indication that he had heard.

“He’s in a mental fog, all right,” Red insisted. “I’ll bet though, that he’s that old medicine man White Nose and Eagle Feather are after!”

Hearing the two names spoken, Miquel paused in his weird, meaningless chanting to stare at Red. But a responsive thought chain almost immediately was broken. He seemed to forget the two familiar names as quickly as he heard them and went on with his prattle:

“I am thinking of crossing the river.... I am thinking of going home.”

“If White Nose and Eagle Feather jump him for stealing, he won’t go anywhere!” Red remarked uneasily. “Brad, tell him why we came.”

“I’ll try. I don’t know whether or not I can get it across to him.”

The Den Chief began very patiently, attempting to make Miquel understand that if he remained in the cave he might be in grave danger.

“White Nose and Eagle Feather are looking for you,” he tried to explain. “They’re hunting for the entrance to this cave right now. We came here to warn you.”

“That’s right,” chimed in Dan, trying to drive home the point. “We don’t know what you’ve done, but White Nose and Eagle Feather are out for revenge. Unless you want to get into trouble with them, you’d better move on to another hiding place.”

Old Miquel had listened attentively to the two Cubs. They were hopeful that he had understood at least part of what they had said. But when he spoke, they knew they had completely failed.

“Rabbit almost done now,” he said cheerfully. “We eat.”

Removing the meat from the spit, he divided it into four equal parts. Brad and Red refused a share. Old Miquel’s hurt was so apparent that Dan accepted his share. However, he only made a pretense of eating, as he watched the old Indian ravenously devour the remainder of the food.

“He’s half starved,” Brad observed in deep concern. “We’ve got to get him out of here.”

“How?” Dan asked. “He hasn’t seemed to understand anything we’ve said to him.”

Brad waited until Miquel had nearly finished eating. Then he touched him on the shoulder, saying in a friendly way:

“Come with us, Miquel, to our camp. We’re friends.”

“Friends,” the old fellow echoed in a child-like way.

But when Brad and Dan attempted to lead him away from the fire, he pulled away from them.

“He won’t leave here,” Red muttered. “What’s the use trying to help him?”

“We have to,” Brad said firmly. “You can see he’s half starved. If those two Indians should come upon him here, there’s no telling what might happen.”

“Brad’s right,” Dan agreed. “We ought to get him out of here. But how to do it?”

The Cubs took turns trying to make the old Indian understand. It was so much breath wasted.

“He acts like a sleep walker,” Brad remarked in perplexity. “Never ran into anything like it before in all my life.”

“Do you suppose he suffered an injury?” Dan speculated. “He doesn’t seem to have much of any memory of the past. He just keeps mumbling those chants.”

The Cubs did not know what to do. From Old Miquel’s appearance and actions, they were satisfied that he was the medicine man for whom White Nose and Eagle Feather searched so ruthlessly. They suspected too that he was the one who had carved the remarkable face on the wall of the ravine. Likewise, he was the one who had taken their Navajo blanket and possibly food from the camp.

Had he also completed so expertly the sand painting after perhaps destroying Dan’s picture?

In the cave there was considerable evidence that Miquel was indeed a man of many talents. On one of the walls, he had marked a strange design with charcoal. In another place, he had drawn characters not unlike those which appeared on the completed sand painting.

“We’re wasting our time trying to make him understand,” Brad finally said. “We can’t persuade him to leave, that’s certain. Now what’ll we do?”

“Leave him here,” Red suggested. “He’ll get along all right until we can get back to camp and tell Mr. Hatfield.”

“He’ll be safe providing White Nose and Eagle Feather don’t come along. But if they should find the entrance to this cave—wow!”

“Why borrow trouble?” shrugged Red, always inclined to take the optimistic view. “They were a long distance down stream when we saw ’em last.”

“But they may return.”

“And if they do, they’ll notice smoke coming out of the cave entrance,” Dan predicted. “I guess we’ll have to take that chance though.”

Brad nodded and warned: “We can’t stay here much longer, unless we want to miss the Pack pow-wow. We’ve done our best to tip him off.”

“It’s getting late,” Dan said uneasily. “You know it took quite awhile to get to the cave.”

“And no one knows we’re here,” Brad agreed. “We’ll have to go. Right now.”

The Cubs were reluctant to leave Old Miquel alone, for he appeared in a half-dazed condition. They were certain that he needed not only food and better living quarters, but medical attention.

Nevertheless, it seemed hopeless to try to persuade him to leave with them. Their best bet, they thought, would be to go for assistance and return as quickly as they could.

The three Cubs tried to tell Miquel of their intention. It was obvious, however, that he did not comprehend.

They were ready to leave when Dan’s keen ears detected an unusual sound in the cavern.

“Listen!” he whispered.

Brad and Red already were aware of the sound at the entranceway to the cavern. They distinctly could hear splashing as if more than one person were wading along the passageway.

“Someone’s coming!” Dan warned.

“Those Indians probably,” Brad whispered back. “They’ve found the entranceway! Now we’re in for it.”

Old Miquel also had heard the sound, for he listened attentively, though without undue interest. After a moment, he went on eating his meal with complete unconcern.

“The goof doesn’t even know he may be in danger,” Red muttered. “What are we going to do? Those guys may prove nasty.”

Brad was worried. Plainly the men were moving closer, for the splashing noises now could be heard distinctly. They knew one of the men had stumbled over a rock, for they heard him grunt as he picked himself up from the water.

The boys looked about for a hiding place.

Their only chance of avoiding detection was to step far back against the cave wall, away from the glare of the firelight.

“Quick!” Brad warned.

To try to take Old Miquel with them was out of the question. Retreating, the three Cubs sought the innermost recess of the cave. Flattening themselves against the moist wall, they breathlessly waited.

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