The Border Boys on the TrailJohn Henry Goldfrap / Young Adult
Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, David Edwards, and theOnline Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net(This file was produced from images generously madeavailable by The Internet Archive)
From the mouth of the dark pit a fetid, foul-smelling air rushed upward.]
THE BORDER BOYS ON THE TRAIL
FREMONT B. DEERING
NEW YORK HURST & COMPANY, PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1911, BY
HURST & COMPANY
MADE IN U. S. A.
* * * * *
I. ON THE BORDER 5
II. THE BOYS FIND TROUBLE 21
III. A RACE FOR LIFE 35
IV. THROUGH THE GREAT DARKNESS 48
V. THE RUSTLERS AT WORK 65
VI. TAKING UP THE TRAIL 79
VII. IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY 94
VIII. BLACK RAMON'S MISSION 104
IX. A MOMENTOUS INTERVIEW 115
X. IN THE BELL TOWER 125
XI. A DROP IN THE DARK 138
XII. A RIDE FOR THE HILLS 150
XIII. THE HERMIT OF THE CA?ON 160
XIV. TRAVELS WITH A MULE 173
XV. A GATEWAY TO FREEDOM 186
XVI. SHORT RATIONS 200
XVII. THE TALE OF A MULE 212
XVIII. THE TREASURE OF THE MISSION 222
XIX. JIM HICKS, PROSPECTOR 234
XX. RALPH A TRUE HERO 247
XXI. AT THE IRRIGATION DAM 262
XXII. A BOLT FROM THE BLUE 278
XXIII. WITH THE RURALES 287
XXIV. THE ROUND-UP 295
* * * * *
The Border Boys on the Trail.
ON THE BORDER.
The trainmen began hoarsely shouting the curious-sounding name of thesmall frontier town near the Mexican border, in the southwest partof New Mexico. Slowly the long dust-covered Southern Pacific expressrolled imposingly into Mag-gay, very slowly, in fact, as if it didnot wish to tarry in that desolate, sun-bitten portion of the continent.
As the brakes began to grind down, one of two boys of about seventeen,who had been lounging on the shady side of a forward sleeper, awokefrom a semi-doze with a start.
Hullo! somebody wants Maggie! exclaimed Ralph Stetson, as he gazedout of the open window. He saw nothing more novel before his eyes,however, than the same monotonous stretch of yellow, sandy wastes,sprinkled with sage brush and dotted by a few wandering cattle, whichthe train had been traversing for hours.
You'll have to get used to New Mexican pronunciation of Mexicannames, Ralph, laughed his companion, as he also opened his eyes andbegan looking about him in the half-startled manner peculiar to thoseabruptly awakened from forty winks. 'Maggie', as you call it, is ourstation.
Station! echoed the other. Where is it?
He stuck his head out of the window as the train gradually decreasedspeed, but his eyes encountered nothing more suggestive of a town thana stock car on a lonely side track, into which some cowboys, with wildyells and much spurring of their wiry little steeds, were herding a fewbeef cattle.
That freight car must be in front of the town, muttered the boy,pulling in his head.
Over this side, you tenderfoot! laughed Jack Merrill, pointing outof the left-hand window. Haven't you got used to Western towns yet?
One-sided towns, you mean, I guess, said Ralph, rising and lookingout in the opposite direction. Why in the name of the State of NewMexico do they build all the towns out here at one side of the tracks?
So that Easterners can have something to wonder about, laughed JackMerrill, brushing off the accumulation of white desert dust from hisdark suit with a big brown hand.
Or so that they can at least get a few minutes of shade when a trainpulls in, retorted Ralph, gazing at the sun-baked collection of woodenstructures toward which the train was rolling. A yellow water tank,perched on a steel frame, towered above the town like a sunflower on astalk. Apparently it took the place of trees, of which there was not avestige, unless a few cactus plants be excepted.
Better follow my example and brush some of the desert off, said Jack,still brushing vigorously.
No, let the porter do it; here he is, said the Eastern Ralph. Sureenough, with his black face expanded in a grin expectant of tips, thepresiding genius of the Pullman approached.
Come on, cheer up, Ralph! laughed Jack, glancing at his companion'sdismal face, which was turned toward the window and its barren view.Don't be downcast because my home town isn't surrounded by elms, andmeadows, and fat Jersey cows, and all that. Haven't we lain awake manya night at Stonefell College, talking over the West, and here you arein the heart of it.
Well, it's a good warm heart, anyway! grumbled Ralph, mopping hissteaming forehead.
The train came to a stop with an abrupt jerk, and followed by theporter, carrying two new and shiny suitcases, the boys hastened fromthe car, into the blinding sunlight which lay blisteringly on Maguezand its surroundings. Everything quivered in the heat. The boys werethe only passengers to alight.
Phew, it's like opening an oven door! exclaimed Ralph, as the heatedatmosphere fell full upon him. We've come more than two thousandmiles from an Eastern summer to roast out here.
And look at the train, will you! cried Jack. It looks as if it hadbeen through a snowstorm.
He pointed down the long line of coaches, each of which was powderedthickly with white dust.
The conductor's sonorous voice echoed down the train, and with a fewmighty puffs from the laboring engine, the wheels once more began torevolve. The porter, clutching a tip in his fingers, leaped back onto his car. All the time they had been waiting in the station thelocomotive had been impatiently blowing off steam, and emitting greatclouds of black smoke, as though in a desperate hurry to get awayfrom inhospitable-looking Maguez. It now lost no time in getting intomotion. As the cars began to roll by, Jack gave a sudden shout.
Ralph! The-the professor! We've forgotten him!
Good gracious, yes! What could we have been thinking of! We aregetting as absentminded as he is. Here, stop the train! Hey, I say,we----
But before the shouts had done resounding, a tall, spare man of middleage stepped out on the platform of one of the front coaches, and aftergazing about him abstractedly for a few seconds, swung himself off,landing unsteadily on a pair of long, slender legs. So great was theshock of the professor's landing that his huge spectacles were jerkedoff his prominent nose, and he had all he could do to retain a hold ona large volume which he held tightly clasped under his left arm.
The boys hurried to pick up the professor's spectacles and hand them tohim.
We almost lost you, professor! exclaimed Ralph.
Ah, boys, I was immersed in the classics--'The Defense of Socrates,'and----
Why, Professor Wintergreen, where is your suitcase? exclaimed Jacksuddenly. See--the train is moving, and----
Shades of Grecian Plato! shouted the professor, glancing about himwildly. I've forgotten it! Stop! I must get it back! I----
He made a sudden dash for the train, which was now moving so swiftlythat it was manifestly impossible that he could board it in safety. Theboys both pulled him back, despite his struggles.
Just then, the car which the boys had recently vacated began to glideby. A black face appeared at the window. It was the porter, and in hishand he held a large green suitcase. It was the same the professor hadleft behind him when he vacated the car in which they had traveled fromthe East, and went forward into the smoking car with his book.
Look out! yelled the porter, as he threw the piece of baggage out ofthe window. It hurtled forth with a vehemence indeed that threatened totake off the scientist's head, which it narrowly missed.
Fo' de Lawd! the porter shouted back, as the train gathered way.Wha' yo all got in dat valise--bricks?
No, indeed, sir, retorted the professor seriously, as his suitcasewent bounding over the platform, which was formed of sun-baked earth.I have books. The idea of such a question. Why should I want to carrybricks about with me, although the ancient Egyptians----
By this time the porter was far out of hearing, and the last car of thetrain had whizzed by. Before the professor could conclude his speech,the suitcase--as if to prove his contention as to its contents byactual proof--burst open, and out rolled several massive volumes. Thefew loungers, who had gathered to watch the train come in, set up aroar of laughter as the professor--his coat flaps flying out behind himlike the tail of some strange bird--darted after his beloved volumes.
That's what you might call a circulating library! grinned Jack, asthe books bounded about with the impetus of their fall.
I thought it was a Carnegie Car, you see---- began Ralph, when asudden shout checked him. He glanced up in the direction from which ithad come. A dust-covered buckboard, in which sat a tall, bronzed man inplainsman's clothes, was dashing toward them. The two buckskin ponieswhich drew it were being urged to their utmost speed by the driver, towhom Jack Merrill was already waving his hand and shouting:
In the meantime the professor was groping about on the platform,picking up his scattered treasures, and all the time commenting loudlyto himself on his misfortune.
Dear, dear! he exclaimed, picking up one bulky volume and examiningit with solicitude. Here's a corner broken off Professor WillikinWilliboice's 'The Desert Dwellers of New Mexico, With Some Accountof the Horn Toad Eaters of the Region.' And what have we here? Eheu!the monumental work of Professor Simeon Sandburr, on the 'Fur-BearingPollywog of the South Polar Regions,' is----
Slightly damaged about the back! broke in a hearty voice behind him.But never mind, professor; the pollywogs will grow up into frogsyet, never fear. We'll soon have those volumes mended; and now let meintroduce myself, as my son Jack seems unable to do so. My name isJefferson Merrill, the owner of Agua Caliente Ranch.
Delighted to meet you, sir, said the professor. Proud to encounter aman whose name is not unknown to science in connection with his effortsto uncover something of the history of the mesa dwellers of this partof the world.
Whose relics, if my son informed me rightly in his letters from schoolin the East, you have come to study, professor.
Yes, sir; thanks to your hospitality, rejoined the professor,imprisoning his recovered volumes with a click of his suitcase clasps;it was extremely handsome of you to invite me, and----
Not at all, my dear sir, not at all, expostulated the rancher, akindly smile spreading on his bronzed features. Besides, he continuedin his breezy manner, as Latin professor at Stonefell College you willno doubt be able to give an eye to your two pupils, and keep them outof mischief better than I could. Here the professor looked doubtful.You see, we're pretty busy now, what with cattle rustlers and----
Cattle rustlers, dad! exclaimed Jack. Hooray!
It's nothing to be enthusiastic over, my boy. Several of the borderranchers have suffered severely recently from their depredations.
Have you lost any stock, dad?
No; so far, I have luckily escaped. But the rascals may come at anytime, and it keeps me on the lookout. They are well organized, Ibelieve, and have a stronghold somewhere back across the border. So youboys will have to depend on your own devices for amusement. But nowcome, don't let's stand baking here any longer. There's a long drivebefore us, and we had better be getting on.
But, dad, look at all our baggage! cried Jack, pointing to the heapof trunks the baggage car had dropped. There'll never be room for allof us in that buckboard.
So I guessed, smiled his father. So I had Bud Wilson bring in twoponies for you boys to ride out on. You told me, I think, that yourfriend Ralph, here, could ride.
Good for you, dad! exclaimed Jack impulsively; it'll be fine to getin the saddle again--and to see old Bud, too, he added.
Who is Bud? asked Ralph.
You'll soon get to know him yourself, laughed Mr. Merrill. But youboys go and get your horses. While you are gone the professor and Iwill try to get some of these independent gentlemen standing about togive us a hand to load the trunks on. Then we'll drive on to the ranch.You can overtake us. Eh, Professor Summerblue?
Wintergreen, sir, rejoined the professor in a dignified way.
Eh--oh, I beg your pardon. I knew it was something to do with theseasons. I hope you will pardon me, Professor Spring----No, I meanWintergreen.
Just like dad, he never can remember a name, laughed Jack, as the twoboys hastened off to find the ponies and Bud.
Maybe he is worried about these cattle bustlers----
Rustlers, you tenderfoot--you are as bad as dad.
Well, rustlers, then. They must be desperate characters.
A lot of sneaking greasers usually. They hustle the cattle or horsesoff over the border, but occasionally one of them gets caught andstrung up, and that's the end of it.
Then there are no border wars any more, or Indians, or----
Adventures left in the West, Jack finished for him, laughing at theother's disappointed tone. Then, more seriously: Well, Ralph, the Westisn't what it's pictured to be in Wild West shows; but we've plentyof excitement here once in a while, and before you go back East, withthose lungs of yours in A-one shape, you may experience some of it.
I hope so, said Ralph, looking up the long dusty street with itssun-blistered board shacks on either side, with a few disconsolateponies tied in front. The yellow water tower topped above it all likesome sort of a misshapen palm tree or sunflower on steel legs. In fact,a more typical border town than Maguez at noon on a June day couldnot be imagined. Except for the buzzing of flies, and the occasionalclatter of a horse's hoofs as some one rode or drove up to the generalstore--which, together with a blacksmith shop, a disconsolate-lookinghotel, and a few miscellaneous buildings made up the town--there wasnot a sound to disturb the deep, brooding silence of the desert atnoonday. Far on the horizon, like great blue clouds, lay the Sierre dela Hacheta, in the foothills of which lay Agua Caliente Ranch.
So this is the desert? went on Ralph, as they made their way up therough wooden sidewalk toward the stable where they expected to find BudWilson and the horses.
This is it, echoed Jack Merrill, and the longer you know it thebetter you like it.
It's peaceful as a graveyard, anyhow, commented Ralph. Doesn'tanything ever happen? I wonder if----
He broke off suddenly as a startling interruption occurred.
The quiet of Maguez had been rudely shattered by a sudden sound.
From a small building to their right, on which was painted in scrawlyred letters the words, Riztorant. Meelz At Awl Howrz, there had comethe sharp crack of a pistol shot.
Before its echoes had died away, several doors opened along the street,and a motley crowd of cowboys, Mexicans and blanketed Indians pouredout to ascertain the cause of the excitement.
They had not long to wait. From the door of the restaurant a pig-tailedMongolian suddenly shot with the speed of a flying jackrabbit. TheChinaman cleared the hitching rail in front of the place at one bound,his progress being hastened from behind by a perfect avalanche of cupsand other dishes.
A second shot came, as the Oriental sprinted up the street. All at oncehe stopped dead in his tracks as the bullet sang by his ear.
Well, Ralph, I guess something's happened, after all! remarkedJack Merrill, as the crowd began to thicken and the restaurant dooronce more opened. This time a strange figure, to Ralph's Easterneyes, emerged from the portal. A sinister suggestion was lent tothe newcomer's appearance by the fact that in his right hand thereglistened an exceedingly business-like looking revolver.