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- The Rover Boys out West - 3/36 -
"Block the wheels!" came from half a dozen, and one boy, who happened to have a stout cane with him, thrust it out between several of the spokes of the wheel on the left, in the rear. For an instant the stick held, then it snapped, and the wheel went around as before.
The bridge was now less than two hundred feet away, and whatever was to be accomplished must be done quickly. At last Dick had the reins, and he began to pull upon them with all of his strength, at the same time calling upon Tom to hold him to the seat.
"To the right -- turn 'em to the right!" sang out Sam, as he saw a narrow opening between the rocks.
"Yes, the right!" added Fred Garrison. "It is our only hope!"
Dick did as requested, and at the last instant the heavy stage swung around. There was a grinding and a splitting of wood as the front wheels met the rocks and went to pieces, and then Dick came down on the horses, with Tom on top of him -- and the elder Rover knew no more.
"Dick's hurt!" gasped Sam, as he scrambled out of the side window of the turnout. "Don't let the horses kick him."
For the runaway team were struggling wildly, amid the rocks and the wreck of the harness. But Tom was already up, and he and Larry Colby dragged Dick to a place of safety. In the meantime some of the other cadets who were used to managing horseflesh took care of the team and led them away and tied them fast to a tree.
"Dick, Dick! are you badly hurt?" The question came from Tom, as he gazed anxiously into his brother's face. There was a nasty cut on the left check from which the blood was flowing.
Dick did not answer, and Tom asked somebody to run down to the stream for some water. When this was brought he and Sam bathed Dick's face, and presently the latter opened his eyes and stared around him in bewilderment.
"A touchdown -- I claim --" he began, and then stopped. "Wha - what has happened?" he stammered. "Oh, I remember now!" And he feel back again.
"He thinks he's still in the football game," whispered Harry Blossom. "Oh, but he's a plucky one."
All of the other lads had been severely shaken up, but nobody had been hurt excepting Frank, as before mentioned. Soon he came limping up, followed by Peleg Snuggers.
"I missed it by jumping," he observed ruefully. "Hullo, is Dick knocked out?"
"So ye stopped 'em, eh?" cried the general utility man. "It was prime plucky to do it, so it was! Poor Dick, hope he ain't bad."
By this time Dick was opening his eyes once more, and this time he kept them open.
"I -- I -- that was a nasty tumble, wasn't it?" he muttered. "I'm glad I didn't go under the horses' feet."
"How do you feel?"
"I guess I had the wind knocked out of me, that's all." He tried to get up, but his legs refused to support him. "I'll have to keep quiet awhile."
"Yes, don't you move," said Sam. "We can't get across the stream anyway, now the bridge is down. We'll have to go around to the other bridge."
"It's queer the workmen didn't put up some sort of a sign as a warning," said Fred Garrison. "I believe they can be held liable for this disaster."
"To be sure they can be held liable," burst out Peleg Snuggers.
"But a sign wouldn't have kept the brake from breaking," said Tom.
"True, lad, but ye must remember that it was their duty to put the sign up at the beginning of this road, which is on the top of the hill. If the sign had been there we would never have started to come down this way."
"Perhaps we missed the sign," put in another cadet.
"Of dot is so, ve besser run pack und stop udder carriages from comin' dis vay," broke in Hans Mueller quickly. "Listen to dot!"
They all listened, and heard merry cries of laughter and carriage wheels rapidly approaching.
"A carriage--with ladies!" gasped Sam. "Come on and stop them!" And away he, dusted up the hill, as well as his short legs would carry him. Hans, Larry, and several others followed. They had barely gained the top of the hill when a large carryall belonging to John Laning appeared. In the carryall were the farmer and his two charming daughters, and, Mrs. Stanhope, who was his sister-in-law, and her daughter Dora. Mrs. Laning was also present, along with several neighbors.
"Hi, whoa! stop!" yelled Sam. "Stop!"
"Hurrah for Putnam Hall!" cried Grace Laning, waving a tiny flag toward Sam, which made the younger Rover blush.
"Glad to be able to congratulate you, Sam!" said Dora Stanhope. "Where are the other members of the football team?"
"Just ahead -- down by the gully. You mustn't drive down here, for the bridge is down."
"Bridge down!" ejaculated John Laning. "Darwell said he was going to mend it this week, but I saw no sign up at the cross-roads."
"Neither did we, and we came near to going overboard. As it is, we had a pretty bad smash up!"
"Indeed!" came from Mrs. Stanhope, in alarm. "And was anybody hurt?"
"Dick was thrown out and knocked unconscious, and Frank Harrington had his chin cut, while the rest of us were pretty well shaken up. Peleg the driver was thrown into some brushwood and that most likely saved his life."
Mrs. Stanhope grew pale, for she remembered only too well that fateful ride she had once taken with Josiah Crabtree, which had almost cost both of them their lives.
"I will go to the poor boy!" she said, and leaped to the ground, followed by Dora and the two Laning girls. Soon the carryall was led to the side of the road, and the others alighted, to see what damage had been done.
THE MISSING DANGER SIGNAL
When Sam came back he found Dick sitting on a rock with his cut plastered up from the out kit taken along to the football match. Frank had likewise been attended to.
"I am so glad you are not hurt seriously," said Mrs. Stanhope, as she sat down beside Dick, with Dora close at hand. "All of you have had a very narrow escape."
"It is a shame that no danger signal was display," said Dora. "When they are fixing a bridge they usually put a bar across the road with the sign: 'Danger! Road Closed,' on it."
"Exactly," put in Peleg. "But I haint seen no sign, an' that I can swear to."
"In that case Contractor Darwell will be responsible for this smash up," said John Laning. "Are the horses hurt?"
"They are pretty well scratched up around the legs."
"Humph! And the two front wheels of the stage are a total wreck. I reckon it will take the best part of fifty dollars to fix matters up."
"Anyway, I don't calculate as how I'm responsible," grumbled the general utility man, fearing he saw trouble ahead, when Captain Putnam should hear of the affair.
A creaking on the road was heard, and presently a lumber wagon hove into sight, piled high with the new planking for the bridge. On the front sat Darwell the contractor and two of his workmen.
"Hullo, what does all this mean?" cried the contractor, as he brought his wagon to a standstill, and viewed the wrecked stage.
"It means that Captain Putnam will have a little account to settle with you, Mr. Darwell," put in Harry Blossom promptly.
"With me? What for?"
"For this wreck."
"And for this cut chin," added Frank.
"And my being knocked out," said Dick.
"I'm not responsible for any wreck," replied Joel Darwell. "I put up the bar with the danger signal on it, up at the cross-roads."
"We didn't see no sign," interrupted Peleg Snuggers. "Not a bit of a sign."
"There was no sign when I came along," said John Laning.
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