The broncho rider boys o.., p.11
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       The Broncho Rider Boys on the Wyoming Trail, p.11

           Lester Chadwick
 

  CHAPTER XI.

  LAYING PLANS.

  "There's one thing I don't understand," remarked Billie, after there hadbeen a little interval of silence, while every one seemed to be busywith thoughts of his own.

  "Better ease your mind, then, Billie, and let us hear what's botheringyou," said Donald, with a smile; for he was used to the ways of hiscousin, and knew that whenever anything did worry the fat chum he had aregular bulldog method of keeping everlastingly at the matter until hehad smoothed the tangle out, fairly well at least.

  "Yes," added Adrian, "you know we're always willing to oblige you withwhatever information we happen to have ourselves, so don't be bashful,Billie."

  "Well, it's just this," and the other lowered his voice to a hoarsewhisper, as though not wanting to take any chances of the prisonerscatching a single word of what he meant to say, "what are we agoing todo with that crowd when morning comes along? Somebody give me theanswer, please."

  "Why, we don't want to be bothered with the lot any longer than we canhelp," Donald told him; "and that being the case we'll decide on howwe'd better turn 'em loose, minus their guns, of course."

  "Huh! that might mean you'd let 'em have their ponies, I reckon?"pursued Billie.

  "Well, it's considered a cruelty out here on the plains to take a man'scayuse away from him," said Donald; "and because they're a pack ofcattle rustlers hadn't ought to make us covet their mounts, I take it.See here, what's ailing you, Billie; you've sure got a bee in yourbonnet right now? I hope you haven't got an eye on one of their hosses,that buckskin p'raps, and think it'd about be in your class?"

  Billie shook his head slowly.

  "You wrong me, Donald, sure you do," he observed, mournfully, as he gavehis cousin a reproachful look; "I was only trying to do the thinking forthe bunch for once. And I'll tell you what occurred to me if you want meto."

  "Of course we do, old fellow, and we'll thank you for doing it, too!"exclaimed Adrian, warmly.

  "Same here, Billie!" echoed the other chum.

  "All right," Billie went on to say, still in that low, mysterious way;"then listen here, fellows. Now, it's going to take us quite some timeto drive this lot of steers and cows back to where they came from, Itake it?"

  "Sure thing," remarked Adrian, encouragingly, when Billie stopped hisexplanation as though seeking confirmation of his statement.

  "Well, supposing then, we turned these rustlers loose about the time westarted, and gave 'em to understand we'd shoot the first fellow we sawdodging after us, what d'ye s'pose they'd be apt to do in that case?Why, make a bee-line for where they could find another batch of theirbreed, and fetch the whole gang awhooping after us. We might find adozen or two tough punchers closing in on us long before we could get tothe Bar-S Ranch buildings. How's that?"

  "Say, there's a whole lot in what you say, Billie," admitted Donald,thoughtfully.

  "And it's got to be threshed out while we sit here, too," added Adrian."I've a plan in mind right now that might fill the bill."

  "Then for goodness' sake let's hear it!" begged Billie, eagerly.

  "When we leave here in the morning we won't untie the rustlers at all,only one fellow, who can accompany us on our ride," pursued the owner ofthe ranch from which the cattle in the coulie had been stolen andstampeded.

  "But hold on," remarked tender-hearted Billie, "wouldn't it be kind o'cruel to leave the lot here, tied hand and foot? What if nobody camealong, and they had to just roll around here all the time? Say, it's_aw_ful to get hungry, and as for me I wouldn't want my worst enemy tobe kept from his feed for even one whole day. I can't imagine anysuffering so terrible; and you wouldn't think of trying such punishmenteven on cattle rustlers, would you, Adrian? They're human after all,even if they are bad men."

  "You didn't let me finish what I was going to say, Billie," observed theranch boy, quietly. "Didn't you hear me tell how we'd take one of themalong on his pony, picking out the meekest of the bunch, if there's anychoice about that, so we can make him help drive the cattle, and one ofus could keep close to him all the time."

  "Yes, yes, go on, please, Ad, I'm following you," said the fat chum.

  "When we had gone far enough, miles and miles from here, so that we knewwe'd soon strike the ranch buildings," continued Adrian, "why, then wecould turn him loose, and let him gallop back here to set his pardsfree."

  "Oh! I get on to what you mean!" declared Billie, admiringly; "by thattime they just couldn't give us any bother, even if they did hurry awayto find the rest of the ugly Walker crowd! That's a fine scheme ofyours, Adrian. Ain't it funny now, with all my thinking that never cameinto my mind? But count on me agreeing with you, Adrian. It couldn't bebettered, no matter how much I badgered my head over the business. AndDonald here says the same, don't you, old fellow?"

  "I sure do that same," Donald was quick to say; "and I think that ourchum has covered the ground the best ever."

  "There's another thing I've decided on," Adrian went on to remark,encouraged by the success of his first proposition.

  "Let's have it then," Billie begged him; "might as well hear all thesebully ideas in a heap while we're ready to take a shock; and you do beatthe world on thinking up things, Adrian, that's right."

  "The very first chance I get I mean to send word to the sheriff of thiscounty as the owner of Bar-S Ranch, and demand that he come to my placeinstanter with a posse behind him, ready to break up this rustlerbusiness. Those cowboys told us a new sheriff had just taken office, andthey kind of hoped he wouldn't be like the last one, right under thethumb of these terrible Walkers. Fact is, they seemed to have an idea hestood ready to do his duty the first time any ranchman got nerve enoughto call on him to break the gang up. And I'm going to be that rancher totake the bull by the horns!"

  He did not say this boastingly, nor was his voice elevated so that thelistening prisoners might hear his words; but as he spoke there was adetermined look on Adrian's face that told Donald, who knew him so well,he had never been more earnest in all his life than when he made thisbold assertion looking to throwing down the glove of defiance to theWalkers.

  "A great scheme, Adrian," Donald remarked, and his manner told even morethan his few words.

  "Don't talk louder than we are now," said Billie just then; "because Isaw one of them fellows bob his head up like he was mighty curious toknow what we had our heads together for."

  The three Broncho Rider Boys continued to confer for some time longer.Billie was holding out manfully, but every now and then he would stretchhis mouth in a dreadful way, as the irresistible impulse to yawn cameupon him.

  "Better lie down in your blanket, Billie," remarked Adrian, taking pityon the stout chum; because he knew Billie's failings, and sleeping wasone of them.

  "Yes," added Donald, who would rather see the other snuggled in thefolds of his blanket than sitting there with his hands embracing hisknees, thinking up a host of questions between yawns; "we'll do allthat's necessary to keep things going; and if we have any need of yourhelp, why we promise to call on you."

  "Well," said Billie, "in that case p'raps I might take a few winks ofsleep, because that gallop did kind of knock me up. But remember, Idepend on your word of honor to give me a punch if I'm needed."

  After that they heard nothing further from Billie, save an occasionalheavy sigh resembling a snore, whenever he chanced to lie on his back.He was dead to the world in three minutes after lying down, with hiswarm blanket wrapped around his ample proportions, much after the mannerin which he had seen Indians do at the quaint Zuni cliff dwellers'village in Arizona, visited by the three boys before coming up toWyoming.

  About half an hour after this Adrian thought they would do well toexamine their prisoners, in order to make sure that their bonds wereholding out securely. They did not profess to have had a great deal ofexperience in fastening up fellows, and during the time that had elapsedpossibly one of the men might have succeeded in gnawing his bonds partlythrough, or working them loose.

  So Donal
d and Adrian took the flashlight torch, and went over each ofthe prisoners' bonds. They found them just as secure as when firsttriced up, which was to the credit of the young captors, to be sure.

  The man whom they had decided must be the leader of the quartette, wasstaring hard at Adrian all the time the boys hovered over theirprisoners. Evidently he must have begun to entertain certain suspicionswith regard to the other.

  "Say, hain't I seen ye before now, younker?" he finally asked,pointedly.

  "I don't know," replied Adrian, "but I can't remember of ever meetingyou, up to now."

  "Might your name be Sherwood?" the other insisted; "and hain't ye thekid that years ago used ter ride 'round hyah on a calico pony, when theole man was alive, an' ran Bar-S Ranch? I heard 'em call yuh Adreen awhile ago, an' 'pears tuh me as how thet same war the name o' thetlively boy. Air you him?"

  Adrian did not see fit to answer. He could not deny the accusation, andthere would be no good end served in acknowledging it; though of coursethe man would construe his silence to mean assent, and understand thingsaccordingly. But perhaps it might be as well that the Walkers knew thetrue owner of Bar-S Ranch had come to town to take possession of hisown, and clear up this strange tangle that seemed to have possession ofhis property, under Uncle Fred Comstock, who had taken to himself awife, and she connected with the Walker tribe.

  The boys went back to the dwindling fire, to sit the night out. They didnot try to keep up much of a blaze, lest it serve to draw enemies to thespot; but sitting in the shadows, they held their rifles in readiness,and occasionally exchanged a few words as the minutes dragged slowly by.

  Finally in the far east appeared the first faint streaks that told ofcoming day and the pair of weary watchers welcomed their arrival withpositive relief, for it would mean a change, and action.

 

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