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- The Pony Rider Boys in Montana - 5/37 -


The animal hit the water with a mighty splash, with Ned still clinging to the reins. As the pony went in, Ned was jerked in also, striking the water head first.

He could have screamed from the shock of the icy water, which seemed to smite him like a heavy blow.

For a moment boy and pony floundered about in the stream. It seemed almost a miracle that the lad was not killed by those flying hoofs that were beating the water almost into a froth.

As soon as he was able to get to the surface Ned exerted all his strength to swim out further toward the middle of the stream. Even when he was under water, he still kept a firm grip on the rein. To let go would be to lose all that he had gained after so much danger in getting as far as he had.

By this time, both boy and pony had drifted down stream several rods.

The pony righted himself and struck out for the bank. Ned was by his side almost instantly, being aided in the effort to get there by having the reins to pull himself in by.

Bad-eye refused instinctively to head down stream. There was only one thing to do. That was to climb into the saddle and get him started. Ned did this with difficulty. His weight made the pony sink at first, the animal whinnying with fear.

Fearing to drown the broncho, the boy slipped off, at the same time taking a firm grip on the lines.

Bad-eye came to the surface at once. Ned's right hand was on the pommel, the reins bunched in his left. He brought his knee sharply against the animal's side.

"Whoop!" he urged, again driving the knee against the pony's ribs.

Under the strong guiding hand of his master, the animal fighting every inch of the way, began swimming down stream.

"I'm coming!" shouted the boy.

Before that moment he had not had breath nor the time to call.

"I'm coming!" he repeated, as they swung around the wide sweeping curve.

"Are you there, Tad?"

"Yes," was the scarcely distinguishable reply. "I've got to let go."

"You hold on. Bad-eye and I will be there in a minute and the Professor is hurrying down along the bank with a rope."

"I'm freezing. I'm all numb, that's the trouble," answered Tad weakly.

Ned knew that the plucky lad was well-nigh exhausted. The strain of holding to the slippery rock in the face of the swift current was one that would have taxed the strength of the strongest man, to say nothing of the almost freezing cold water, which chilled the blood and benumbed the senses.

"You've gone past me," cried Tad.

"I know it. I'm heading up," replied Ned Rector.

Ned had purposely driven his pony further down stream so that he might the easier pick them up as he went by on the return trip.

"Are you all right down there?" called the Professor, who had reached a point on the bank opposite to them.

"Yes, but get ready to cast me a rope," directed Ned.

"I'm afraid I cannot."

"Then have Walter do it."

"He is not here. I directed him to remain in camp in case he was needed there."

"All right. You can try later. I'll tell you how. I'm busy now."

"Don't run me down," warned Tad Butler.

"Keep talking then, so I'll know where you are. Just say yip-yip and keep it up."

Tad did so, but his voice was weak and uncertain.

Ned swam the pony alongside of them, pulling hard on the reins to slow the animal down without exerting pressure enough to stop him.

"Is Chunky able to help himself?"

"Yes, if he will."

"Then both of you grab Bad-eye by the mane as he goes by. Don't you miss, for if you do, we're all lost."

"The pony won't be able to get the three of us up the stream," objected Tad.

"I know it."

"Then, what are we going to do?"

"I'll stay here and hang on. You send Walter back with the pony as soon as you get there. Better call to him to get Pink-eye or one of the others saddled as soon as you can make him hear. We'll save time that way. I'm afraid Bad-eye won't be able to make the return trip."

"Now grab for the rock," cried Tad.

Ned did so, but he missed it.

Tad still clinging to Chunky fastened his right hand in the broncho's mane. All three of the boys were now clinging to the overburdened animal. Ned began swimming to assist the pony, for he realized that they had dropped back a few feet in taking on the extra weight.

"Work further back and get hold of the saddle," Ned directed.

Tad followed his instructions.

"I'm afraid he'll never make it," groaned Ned. "I----"

At that instant his hand came in violent contact with a hard, cold object. It was the slender, pillar-like rock that Tad had been clinging to for so long in the icy water.

"I've got it," exclaimed Ned.

He cast loose from Bad-eye and threw both arms about the rock. The pony freed from a share of his burden, struck off up stream against the current, making excellent headway.

"I don't like to do this," Tad called back. "I wouldn't, were it not for Chunky. He couldn't have stood it there another minute."

"You can't help yourself now. How's the kid?" called Ned.

"He's all right now."

"Professor, are you up there?"

"Yes."

He had heard the dialogue between the boys, and understood well what had been done.

"That was a brave thing to do, Master Ned."

"Thank you, Professor. Suppose you try to cast that rope to me. I'm afraid I shall never be able to hold on here alone as long as Tad did. B-r-r-r, but it's cold!" he shivered.

The Professor tried his hand at casting the lariat.

"Never touched me," said Ned, more to keep up his own spirits than with the intent to speak slightingly of the Professor's effort.

"Take it up stream throw it out, then let it float down," suggested Ned.

Professor Zepplin did so, but the rope was found to be too short to reach, and at Ned's direction, he made no further attempt.

Soon Ned heard some one shouting cheerily up the stream. It was Tad Butler. He had dashed up to camp immediately upon reaching shore, and the exercise restored his circulation. Walter, who was in camp had Pink-eye ready and saddled for an emergency, and Tad mounting the pony, forced him to take to the water. He was now returning to rescue his brave friend, who was clinging to the rock. He had been unwilling to trust the perilous trip to anyone else.

"I was afraid Walt would go over the falls, pony and all," he explained, wheeling alongside Ned Rector and picking him up from the rock.

"I'll run a foot race with you when we get ashore," laughed Tad.

"Go you," answered Ned promptly. "The one who loses has to get up and cook the breakfast."

CHAPTER IV

SURPRISED BY AN UNWELCOME VISITOR

"I'm sorry I was to blame for your going into the creek," apologized Ned Rector, bending over the shivering Stacy.

"I fell in, didn't I?" grinned the fat boy.


The Pony Rider Boys in Montana - 5/37

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