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- The Pony Rider Boys in New Mexico - 4/37 -


Then again, the fire within him perhaps helped to increase his natural speed.

"I burn! I burn!" he wailed as the boys grabbed and laughingly hustled him back to camp.

"You'll burn worse than that if you ever ask for liquor in this outfit," retorted Ned. "We don't use the stuff, nor do we allow anyone around us who does."

"How do you feel now?" grinned the Professor as they came up to him with their prisoner.

"He's got a whole camp-fire in his little estomago," announced Chunky solemnly, which sally elicited a loud laugh from the boys.

"Give him some olive oil," directed the Professor. "I think the lesson has been sufficiently burned into him "

But considerable persuasion was necessary to induce Juan to take a spoonful of the Professor's medicine. He had already had one sample of it and he did not want another. Yet after some urging he tasted of the oil, at first gingerly; then he took it down at a gulp.

"Ah!" he breathed.

"Is it good?" grinned Tad.

"Si. Much burn, much burn," he explained, rubbing his stomach.

"Think you want some liquor still, Juan, or would you prefer another dose of my magic drops?"

"No, no, no, seņor!" cried Juan, hastily moving away from Professor Zepplin.

"Very well; any time when you feel a longing for strong drink, just help yourself to the hot drops," said the Professor, striding away to his tent, medicine case in hand.

The guide, a much chastened man, set about assisting in getting the evening meal, but the hot drops still remained with him, making their presence known by occasional hot twinges.

Supper that night was an enjoyable affair, though it was observed that the guide did not eat heartily.

"Do you think he really had a pain?" asked Walter confidentially, leaning toward Ned.

"Pain? No. He wanted something else."

"And he got it," added Stacy, nodding solemnly.

A chorus of "he dids" ran around the table, stopping only when they reached Juan himself.

CHAPTER III

INDIANS!

"Juan, did you see two men get off the train at Bluewater yesterday when we did? One of them had a big, broad sombrero like mine?" asked Tad, riding up beside the guide next day while they were crossing the range.

"Si."

"Know them?"

"Si," he replied, holding up one finger.

"You mean you know one of them?"

The guide nodded.

"Who is he?"

"Seņor Lasar."

"Lasar. What's his other name?"

"Juan not know."

"Did they stop in the village?"

"No. Seņors get ponies, ride over mountain," and the guide pointed lazily to the south-west.

"Where did they go? Do you know?"

Juan shrugged his shoulders, indicating that he did not.

"What is Mr. Lasar's business?"

Again the guide answered with a shrug. He seemed disinclined to discuss the man in whom Tad Butler was so much interested. Up to that time the lad had been too fully occupied with other matters to think of the conversation he and Stacy had overheard on the Atlantic and Pacific train. Now it came back to him with full force.

"Know anybody by the name of Marquand in this country?" he asked, taking another tack.

Juan said he did not, and then Tad gave up his questioning.

"I was asking Juan about the two men who sat ahead of us in the train yesterday," he explained to Chunky, as the fat boy joined them.

"Wha'd he say?"

"One is named Lasar, but he did not know the other one. I can't help believing that those fellows were plotting to do some one a great injury."

"So do I," agreed Chunky. "I guess we had better not say anything about it to the others, but we'll try to find out who this man Lasar is, and who Mr. Marquand is. Then we'll decide what to do next."

Their further conversation was interrupted by the voice of the Professor, announcing that they would halt for their noonday meal. All other thoughts left the mind of Stacy Brown when the question of food was raised. He quickly slipped from his pony, running back to hurry the burros along so as to hasten the meal for which he was yearning. Only one burro was unpacked, as it was the intention of the outfit to push on soon after finishing their lunch.

While the guide, under Ned's direction, was making it ready, Tad and Chunky strolled off to climb a high rock that they had seen in the vicinity and which, they thought, might give them a good view of the plains to the southwest on the other side of the range.

They had promised to be back in half an hour, but circumstances arose that caused them to delay their return considerably.

After threshing through the bushes, over sharp rocks and through miniature canyons, they gained at last the object of their quest. The distance had been further than they had imagined.

"We'll have to make a short trip of it up to the top and back," said Tad. "It has taken us almost all our time to get here. But we'll have a look, anyway."

They soon gained the top of the rock, which stood some twenty feet higher than the crest of the mountain on which it rested.

"Isn't this great?" exclaimed Tad.

"Might think we were in the Rockies."

"Or the Ozarks."

"I hope we don't have as much trouble here as we did in that range. Our guide is not much better than the Shawnee we had for a time on that trip. I can't see the foothills, but the plain on beyond is pretty clear."

"Hope we don't have to chase all over the desert for water. I--"

Tad grasped his companion by the sleeve and jerked him violently to the rock.

"What's up? What's the matter with you?" protested Stacy.

"Keep still, some one's coming."

The lad's keen ears had caught a sound which Stacy had entirely failed to hear. It was the sound of horses making their way through the bushes. There were several in the party, Tad could tell by the sounds, and having in mind the man Lasar, he thought he might perhaps learn something of advantage by remaining quietly on the top of the rock.

All this he explained in a few brief words to his companion. Then both boys crouched low, peering over the cliff, having first removed their sombreros.

What they saw, a few moments later, surprised them very much indeed.

The horsemen in single file suddenly appeared out of a draw to the east and headed for the rock where the lads were in hiding.

"Look! Look!" exclaimed Tad in a low, suppressed voice.

"I-n-d-i-a-n-s!" breathed Chunky.

They seemed to rise right up out of the ground, as one by one they emerged from the draw to the more level rocks that lay about the hiding place of the Pony Rider Boys.

"I wonder who they are?" questioned Tad.

"They look savage. I wonder if they'd hurt us, Tad?"

"I don't know. I do know, though, that I wouldn't trust those ugly faces one second. I thought the Blackfeet were savage, but they're not to be compared with these redskins."

A full dozen of them had, by this time, come into view. They sat huddled on their ponies, their painted faces just appearing above the gayly colored blankets in which they were enveloped.


The Pony Rider Boys in New Mexico - 4/37

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