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- The Pony Rider Boys in the Ozarks - 3/37 -


"You remember what we were told in Springfield," said Walter.

"What was that?" asked the Professor.

"That a band of robbers had been causing considerable excitement in the Ozarks for several months past."

"Yes, you are right. I had forgotten that," nodded Professor Zepplin. "Stealing horses and other things."

"Yes."

"But it's all nonsense to think they would bother us," objected Ned. "We haven't anything that they would want."

"No, nor do we want them," replied Walter, with emphasis. "I guess we had better sleep on our rifles to-night."

"That will hardly be necessary," smiled the Professor.

"How about Eagle-eye?" asked Ned. "Didn't he hear anything?"

"Eagle-eye was away last night."

"Oh, yes, that's so. I had forgotten that."

"It might be a good idea to tell him about it," suggested Tad, glancing over at the Professor.

Professor Zepplin nodded his head.

"Eagle-eye, will you come here, please?" called Tad.

The Shawnee, who had been pottering about the camp-fire, strode over to them with his almost noiseless tread, and squatted on the ground near the breakfast table.

"There was somebody here last night, Eagle-eye," Tad informed him in an impressive voice.

The Shawnee nodded.

"Of course, you not having been here, you knew nothing about it, but to-night you'd better sleep with one eye open.

"Joe Hawk know," answered the Indian.

"Know what?" demanded the Professor sharply.

"Know Indian come last night," was the startling announcement.

"What's that? What's that, Eagle-eye? You mean yourself, I presume. You mean you came back. But that is not the point--"

The Indian shook his head with emphasis.

"Other Indian come."

Tad nodded at his companions as if to say, "I told you so."

Then the Shawnee did know more than he had seen fit to tell them?

"Tell us about it, Eagle-eye."

"Joe Hawk find trail of canoe on river at sun-up," answered the Indian tersely.

"A trail on the river?" demanded Stacy, suddenly breaking into uproarious laughter, which died away in an indistinct gurgle when he found the eyes of his companions fixed sternly upon him. "Funny place to find a trail," he muttered, threatening to indulge in another fit of merriment.

"I don't understand you, Eagle-eye," said the Professor. "You say you found the trail of a canoe on the river?"

"Yes."

"That sounds peculiar. I agree with Master Stacy that it is a most remarkable place to find a trail hours after. Perhaps you will explain."

Eagle-eye rose to his feet.

"Come. I show you."

All rose from the table, forgetful that they were eating their breakfast, and followed the guide down the steep bank to the river.

"There trail," he announced, pointing a long, bronzed finger at the edge of the water.

Tad stooped over, examining the shore critically.

"The Shawnee is right," he said, turning to the Professor.

"How do you know? What have you found?"

"There. You can see for yourself. It is distinctly marked--"

"What's marked?" demanded Stacy, pressing forward.

"You can see where the keel of a canoe has rested in the dirt there. The trail is ever so faint, but it is unmistakably there. See how it broadens out as it extends backward until it reaches the gravel in the stream."

"Moccasin tracks," grunted the guide.

"Where?" asked Walter, apprehensively.

"There," answered the Indian, pointing up the bank whence they had just come.

The boys looked at each other in wondering silence.

"What do you think is the meaning of the visit, Eagle-eye?" asked the Professor.

The Shawnee shrugged his shoulders.

"Mebby hungry."

"That is a sensible explanation of the visit," decided Professor Zepplin. "What other motive could an Indian have for a visit at that hour? There is no cause for alarm. But I wish if any more hungry ones pay us a visit, they would do so in the day time, so as not to interrupt my sleep."

"And mine," laughed Tad.

"Yah-hum," yawned Stacy, sleepily.

"I told you you weren't awake yet," growled Ned. "Let's all go back to our breakfast."

"I second the motion," laughed the Professor. "We are forgetting all about the inner man. And it is time we were getting on our way if we are to make any great progress to-day."

Anxious to be in the saddle again, the boys bounded up the bank and hastily finished their breakfast. While they were doing so the guide stoically busied himself with packing the cooking kits and loading the pack mules, so that by the time the lads were ready all save their own belongings had been stowed away.

It was the work of a few minutes only to strike their tents, fold blankets and pack their personal belongings. They had now been roughing it long enough so that they had become really expert in the work. And, besides, they had learned to get together a fairly satisfying meal out of not much of anything. They had learned many other things that were to prove useful to them in after years, but which at the time was making little or no impression upon them.

Fairly radiating health and spirits, the boys threw themselves into their saddles with a shout. The guide led the way, leading the mule train, and his pace was so rapid that the pack animals were put to their best to keep up with him. Most of the time he appeared to be dragging the led mule, instead of leading it.

"A wonderful country," breathed the Professor, as they finally came out on a high elevation that gave them a glimpse of the eastern slope of the mountains.

They halted to take in the magnificent view.

"This is what is known as the 'Ozark Uplift,'" the Professor informed them.

"I should call it a downfall," answered Ned, gazing off at the deep gorges and jagged precipices. "Why do you call it that?"

The Professor waxed eloquent.

"From the earliest time, young gentlemen, this region has been subject to uprising or downsinking. In all sections of its area it has experienced the effects of powerful dynamic forces--"

"Dynamite--did they use dynamite to blow the mountains up into such shapes as that?" asked Stacy innocently.

"I said nothing about dynamite. Dynamic was the word I used," replied Professor Zepplin, casting a withering glance at the fat boy.

"Oh," Stacy exclaimed.

"It is therefore called the 'Ozark Uplift.'"

"That is interesting," answered Ned solemnly, though it is doubtful if he understood what the Professor was really talking about.

"There is still another of tremendous import connected with this region. You will all be interested in it," announced the Professor impressively.

The boys gathered about him in a circle, meantime allowing their ponies to nibble at the green leaves.

"Yes," urged Tad.


The Pony Rider Boys in the Ozarks - 3/37

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