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- Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch - 30/37 -


father, laughing. "Go ahead. I didn't say you couldn't hunt for it; I only said I did not think it would be found. Lobarto hid it too well."

"But, Daddy! you don't encourage us," cried Rhoda. "And we are all so interested. We want really to find the money so that Juanita and her mother need not be poor."

"Well, well!" exclaimed the ranchman, "do you want me to go out and bury some money, so you can find it?"

"No. But we want some of the boys to go with us. I want to search that old bears' den, and the gulch there, and all about."

"Go to it, Honey-bird," he said, patting her shoulder. "You shall have Hess and any other two boys you want. That's enough to handle any little tad of Mexicans that may be hanging about up there. I'll speak to Hess. Want to go to-morrow?"

This plan was agreed to. Of course the girls and Walter did not want to rest after their exciting experiences at the round-up and afterward.

"All you young people want to do," Mr. Hammond declared, "is to keep moving!"

Walter made certain preparations for a search of the bears' den. One of the cowpunchers chosen to accompany the party was a good cook. Hesitation Kane took a pack horse with more of a camping outfit than would have been the case had there not been four girls in the party.

"I don't see," drawled Mr. Hammond, "how you girls manage to travel at all without a Saratoga trunk apiece. Got your curlin'-tongs, Rhoda? And be sure and take a lookin' glass and white gloves."

"Now, Daddy! you know you malign me," laughed his daughter. "And as for these other girls, they fuss less than any girls you ever saw from the East."

"I don't know. I'm kind of sorry for that pack horse," chuckled her father, who delighted to plague them.

They might have made the trip to the gulch where the girls had taken refuge from the tornado and returned the next day; but they proposed to trail around the foothills for several days. Indeed, even the cowboys in the party had become interested once more in the buried treasure.

"It strikes us about once in so often," said the cook, as they started away from the corrals, "and some of us git bit regular with this treasure-hunting bug. Long's we know the treasure is somewhere hid and there is a chance of finding it, we are bound to feel that way. Then we waste the boss's time and wear ourselves out hunting Lobarto's cache. Course, we won't never find it; but it is loads of fun."

"I declare!" cried Rhoda, tossing her head, "you are just as encouraging, Tom Collins, as daddy is. I never heard the like!"

CHAPTER XXV

THE STAMPEDE

The enthusiasm of the girls and Walter Mason did not falter, however, no matter how much the older people scoffed at the idea of the treasure hidden by the Mexican bandit being found near Rose Ranch. They went forth from the ranch house with some little expectation of returning with the plunder.

Hesitation Kane, of course, did not try to discourage them. Even a buried treasure could not excite the horse wrangler, in the least.

"I guess an Apache raid would not ruffle Hesitation's soul," Rhoda observed. "He is quite the calmest person I ever saw."

Since the tornado the cattle of the main herd of Rose Ranch had been broken into small bunches and were feeding in the higher pastures. The swales and rich arroyos, in which the grass had been so lush, had been badly drowned out by the flood. It would be several weeks before the lowlands offered good pasturage again.

The visitors learned that where they had camped at the time of the round-up, the river had risen and washed away every trace of the encampment. Indeed, Rolling Spring Valley had been under water for miles on either flank of the main stream. A bunch of young horses belonging to Rose Ranch, having been confined in a small corral, were drowned at that time.

"There went several thousand dollars," Rhoda explained, when she told her friends of the tragedy. "The losses as well as the gains in the ranching and stock raising business are large. If daddy sells a big herd of cattle, or a fine bunch of horses, he takes in many thousands of dollars, it is true.

"But it is hard to compute the profit or loss on the sale. So many things are likely to happen. Perhaps some disease hits the herd. Thousands of cattle may die in some epidemic. Once wolves came down in the winter, when I was little--I remember it clearly--and killed more than a hundred steers within a mile of the house."

"Oh, dear me, Rhoda! don't tell us about any more wild animals," wailed Grace. "I think the West would be a much nicer place if they had tamed all the wild creatures before man ever moved into it."

"You are not much of a sport, Sis," said her brother, laughing. "It must have been really great around here when the buffaloes and Indians ran wild. You can't remember that, Rhoda, can you?"

"I should hope not!" gasped Rhoda. "Do you think I am as old as Mrs. Cupp?"

"Oh! Oh!" cried Bess. "Poor Cupp!"

"I never saw a buffalo," confessed Rhoda. "And I never heard the war whoop. And an Indian in war paint and other togs would scare me just as much as it would Gracie. But daddy remembers them all. He shot buffaloes for the army, scouted for General Pope, chased a part of Geronimo's band into Mexico, and was a Texas Ranger when the Border Ruffians were really in existence. He can tell you all about those times; only mother doesn't let him."

"There! I suppose she doesn't like to hear about savages and other awful things," Grace said, with satisfaction.

"No-o; it isn't that," Rhoda returned with twinkling eyes. "But mother does not let him talk about those times because it makes daddy out so much older than she is!"

Tom Collins, the cook, was a talkative man, if Hesitation Kane was not. Tom reined his pony into the group of young people and began spinning yarns, some of which perhaps had but a thin warp of truth. He thought it was his privilege to "string along the tenderfoots" a little. One thing he told the girls and Walter, however, interested them immensely.

"You know, I came pretty near roping that black outlaw the day of the tornado. Criminy, if I'd got him!"

"Now, Tom, don't tell us that," commanded Rhoda. "You know there isn't a horse on the ranch that can come anywhere near him in speed."

"That's right," admitted Tom. "But I come on him sudden and unexpected."

"How did it happen?" asked Walter.

"Did you know the boss sent me home ahead of you folks from the rodeo? That's how come I didn't get to ride after those raiders with the other boys. I never do have no luck," said Tom. "If it rained soup I wouldn't have no spoon, and a hole in my hat.

"Well, it was this-a-way: I was riding right along yonder, making for the ranch house, and not thinking of nothing--not a thing! Crossing the mouth of one of them gulches--'twasn't far beyond the one where you gals took refuge from the big wind--all of a sudden my pony throwed up his head and nickered, and out of the slot in the hill come trottin' that big, handsome black critter!

"My soul and body!" exclaimed the cowboy earnestly, "if I'd had my rope handy I could have put the noose right over his head! It certainly did give me a shock."

"Humph!" said Rhoda, "it's always the biggest fishes, daddy says, that get away."

"I guess the Big Boss is right," agreed Tom Collins. "That black feller, he swung around on his hind laigs, and he skedaddled up that gulch. I knowed the place. It's just a pocket, and not very deep; but the sides couldn't be clumb by a goat, let alone a hawse.

"So I turns my pony into that hole and I got my rope ready, and says I to me: 'Tom Collins, you're going to either get an awful fall, or you'll be the proudest man on the old Rose Ranch!'"

"And what happened?" asked Walter.

"Well, I dunno. Either I'd been seeing things, or else that blame black outlaw is bad medicine. He seemed to e-vap-o-rate."

"Now, Tom!" admonished Rhoda.

"Honest to pickles, Miss Rhody! I wouldn't fool you 'bout a serious matter. And this is it."

"You mean you lost the horse?" asked Nan.

"In a blind pocket. Yes, ma'am! Criminy! I couldn't believe it myself. I says to me: 'Tom Collins! your cinches is slipped. That's what is the matter.'

"But you know, Miss Rhody," he added to the ranchman's daughter, "your pa don't allow nothing stronger than spring water on the ranch. I was as sober as a Greaser judge trying his brother-in-law for hawse stealin'. That's what!


Nan Sherwood at Rose Ranch - 30/37

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