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- The Pony Rider Boys in the Ozarks - 2/37 -


over it a second time.

By the time he had crossed to his former position, the intruder had done likewise. Professor Zepplin dodged behind a tree.

By this time the scientist was beginning to feel a little worried. He could not understand what the other fellow's object might be. If it were robbery, the fellow certainly would desire to get away as quickly as possible, rather than remain when he knew that efforts were being made to capture him. If not plunder, what could be his purpose?

With suddenly formed determination, Professor Zepplin strode out from his hiding place, starting for the other side on a run.

The other man did the same, and the only result of the move was that their positions were exchanged.

Once more the Professor decided to try strategy and see if he could not come up behind his opponent.

At the same moment the visitor apparently decided to resort to the same tactics. They went in opposite directions, however, to carry out their purpose, and when each arrived at the place it was to find that the other was opposite him again.

The Professor's bare feet were in a sad state by this time, his pajamas were torn and his hands were worn tender from using them for feet when running along on all fours. At the same time his temper was wearing to a point of dangerous thinness. It was likely to break down the slender barrier that held it at almost any time.

Suddenly he realized that the intruder had been silent for some minutes, and the Professor decided that it was time he ceased thinking over his own troubles and paid more attention to what the other man was doing.

"Now, I wonder what he is up to," growled the scientist. "I believe he has given me the slip and gotten away. Here I've been dreaming for minutes. I'll slip some myself and see if I can't surprise him if he's there yet."

Once again he started across the camp ground, without resorting to any of his former tactics, other than to proceed with extreme caution, covering the intervening space with long, careful strides.

Reaching the rock, he paused to listen, but could hear nothing.

Gun ready for instant use, Professor Zepplin dashed around the corner of the rock, running plump into the arms of the fellow whom he had been so successfully dodging for the past twenty minutes.

So startled was the scientist that he dropped his revolver, throwing both arms about his antagonist. He was surprised at the slenderness of the fellow, though he quickly discovered that what the other lacked in bulk he easily made up for by his lithe, supple body and muscular arms.

Almost before Professor Zepplin had collected his wits sufficiently to make any sort of defense he found himself lying flat on his back, with his opponent sitting on top of him, both wrists pinioned to the ground in an iron grip.

There seemed to the Professor something strangely familiar about the figure that was holding him down so firmly, but he did not try to analyze the impression. He had other things to think of at that moment.

"I'll wait a second until he lets up ever so little, then, with my superior weight, I ought to be able to throw him--"

"I've got you this time. What do you mean by prowling about our camp at this time of the--"

"Wha--what--who--who--" exclaimed the Professor.

"What!" fairly shouted the other. "Who--who are you?"

"I'm Professor Zepplin. Who are you?"

"Oh, shucks! I'm Tad Butler," answered the boy, hastily releasing his prisoner, and, more crestfallen than he would have cared to admit, assisting the Professor to his feet.

"What do you mean, you young rascal?" demanded the Professor, grasping the boy by the shoulders and shaking him vigorously. "I say, what do you mean by playing such pranks on me as this? Why, I might have shot you. I--"

"You are wrong, Professor; I have not intentionally played pranks on you--"

"Yes you have--yes you have," fumed the Professor.

"I might accuse you of doing the same thing to me, only I know you didn't get up in the middle of the night to play hide and seek with a boy--"

"Then what does this mean? Answer me instantly!"

"I can do so easily. The fact is, I heard somebody prowling around. The slight noise awakened me--"

"I should think it might," snarled Professor Zepplin.

"And, without waiting to dress, I slipped out--"

"And led me a nice chase. Look at me. There isn't a spot on my body that isn't black and blue. And to think I've been running around here in my bare feet trying to catch you--"

"You haven't entirely. You were chasing the same thing that I was," answered Tad thoughtfully.

"What's that? What's that you say?"

"I mean that somebody was here--somebody who had no business to be here."

"You mean--"

"Yes, I mean that after I had been out here a few moments I distinctly heard two men. One of them, it appears, was yourself. Who the other was I don't know. He evidently got away. As I couldn't follow both of them, I chose you. You seemed to be the easiest one to catch. I was right, wasn't I?" laughed the boy, at the thought of the game they had been playing with each other.

"Somebody else here? I knew it, I knew it," exclaimed the Professor. "When I first came out you were sound asleep. I must have awakened you when I fell over the saddle out there. Who left that thing there for me to nearly break my neck on?" he demanded angrily.

"I guess it must be Chunky's saddle."

"Of course. I'll talk to him in the morning. I'm going to bed. I'll catch my death of cold."

CHAPTER II

A PACK MULE GOES OVER A CLIFF

Next morning the boys, assisted by Eagle-eye, had prepared the breakfast by the time the Professor had awakened. They took keen satisfaction in calling him for breakfast. Ordinarily they slept so late that the Professor had to turn them out by physical force.

"Anybody'd think you'd been keeping late hours, Professor," laughed Ned Rector.

"Perhaps I have," answered the scientist good naturedly. "But if so, I am not the only one of this party who has."

That the Professor's words held some meaning unknown to them the boys were fully aware. Tad had said nothing of his experiences of the previous night, so they did not think to turn to him for an explanation.

"I might as well tell you, young gentlemen, that there was some one prowling about this camp after we all were asleep last night--"

"What!" cried the Pony Riders in sudden surprise.

"Yes, that is true. Thaddeus and myself chased him around for nearly half an hour, but--"

All eyes were now turned on Tad, who was bending over his plate that they might not observe the grin that was spreading over his face despite the lad's effort to keep it down.

"O Tad, tell us all about it," urged Walter Perkins. "What was he, a bold robber or what?"

"I guess he must have been an 'Or What,'" suggested Stacy Brown wisely.

"Don't mind him. He's dreaming still. It's only his appetite that's here at the table. The rest of him is in bed asleep," jeered Ned Rector, with such a funny grimace that the boys laughed.

"Yes," answered Tad, looking up, "we ran around here in our pajamas until we found each other. Then we gave it up and went to bed."

"But who was it?" insisted Walter.

"It was an--"

"Now, never mind, Chunky. You are supposed to be asleep," admonished Ned, with a superior wave of his hand.

"I cannot say as to that," answered Tad. "I really don't think it amounted to so very much. Probably some prowler curious to know what sort of camp he had stumbled upon. I didn't lose any sleep over it after I got back to bed."

"Neither did Chunky," laughed Ned.

"Did you?" asked the fat boy sharply, turning the laugh on Ned.


The Pony Rider Boys in the Ozarks - 2/37

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