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Title: The Motor Boys on Thunder Mountain
       Or, The Treasure Chest of Blue Rock

Author: Clarence Young

Release Date: April 24, 2019 [EBook #59340]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8

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cover


THEY RODE OVER IN FRONT OF THE CAVE.

THE MOTOR BOYS ON
THUNDER MOUNTAIN

Or

The Treasure Chest of Blue Rock

BY

CLARENCE YOUNG

AUTHOR OF “THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES,” “THE JACK
RANGER SERIES,” ETC.

ILLUSTRATED

NEW YORK
CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY


BOOKS BY CLARENCE YOUNG

12mo. Cloth. Illustrated.


THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES


THE JACK RANGER SERIES

Copyright, 1924, by
Cupples & Leon Company


The Motor Boys on Thunder Mountain

Printed in U. S. A.


[iii]

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE
I. Gold Mine Talk 1
II. The End of Everything 11
III. Noddy Nixon’s Threat 22
IV. Over the Cliff 31
V. Vain Regrets 38
VI. Laying a Plot 49
VII. In the Barn 56
VIII. A Crash 65
IX. The Fat Man 74
X. The Second Section 83
XI. On the Trail 92
XII. Tinny’s Shack 99
XIII. Echo Canyon 107
XIV. Down a Hole 117
XV. Yellow Eyes 124
XVI. A Strange Disappearance 133
XVII. Searching 142
XVIII. Strange Noises 149
XIX. The Professor’s Story 157
XX.[iv] The Posse 166
XXI. An Avalanche 171
XXII. In the Wilderness 180
XXIII. An Escape 188
XXIV. Thunder Mountain 197
XXV. The Storm 206
XXVI. A Blue Rock Slide 213
XXVII. In Dire Peril 220
XXVIII. A Discovery 228
XXIX. To the Rescue 234
XXX. Pay Dirt 241

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

THEY RODE OVER IN FRONT OF THE CAVE.
THE BOYS PULLED THE TWO PIECES OF TREE OUT OF THE WAY.
EACH OF THE TAWNY BEASTS WAS STUNG BY A SCORE OF FIERCE INSECTS.
THE LANDSLIDE WAS ADVANCING NEARER AND NEARER.

[1]

THE MOTOR BOYS ON THUNDER MOUNTAIN

CHAPTER I
GOLD MINE TALK

“What do you think of it, fellows?” asked Jerry Hopkins. The tall lad ruffled in his hand some sheets of paper covered with typewriting. He looked closely at his two chums.

“You mean Tinny Mallison’s gold mine proposition?” inquired Ned Slade, flicking a bit of dust from the trousers of his new suit.

“That’s what I mean,” replied Jerry. “He didn’t say anything else in his letter worth considering, did he?” and the tall lad again referred to the screed.

“Except about chicken,” put in the third member of the trio, a stout, good-natured looking lad with a beaming face.

“Chicken? What do you mean—chicken?” demanded Ned Slade, with just a slight note of impatience in his voice. Jerry, looking hastily through the letter, added:

[2]

“Tinny didn’t say anything about going into the chicken business, did he? Not that I remember. Anyhow, he isn’t in a chicken-raising country. He’s out in the tall timber where the only things they raise are Rocky Mountain goats. Chickens! How do you get that way, Chunky?”

The fat lad flushed, having drawn this much attention to himself, and, to justify his remark, he said:

“I didn’t mean it that way. You know, as well as I do, he didn’t propose to us to go out there to raise chickens. We could do that here at home a lot better.”

“Just what do you mean by harping on fowls?” asked Ned.

“I mean Tinny said in his letter that he was in a restaurant where they served him roast chicken and mushrooms, and he got to thinking of us and——”

“You mean he got to thinking of you!” and Ned exploded into a laugh, at which Bob Baker blushed a deeper pink.

“Oh, I see what Chunky means!” chuckled Jerry. “Tinny did speak of being in a restaurant eating chicken when he found himself remembering us and the measly feeds we sometimes got in the mustering-out camp. That’s what caused him to write us about the gold mine.”

“And you can make up your mind that Bob[3] would pick out that part of the letter first!” exclaimed Ned. “That part about chicken! Did it make you hungry, Chunky?” he demanded, giving the stout youth a poke in his well-covered ribs.

“Oh, cut it out!” snapped Bob, with a trace of annoyance on his face. “I was up early and I didn’t have much breakfast. It’s nearly noon now, and if you want me to give any serious consideration to this gold mine proposition I’ve got to eat—that’s all!”

There was such a tone of resolve in the stout lad’s voice, and such an air of bravado about him, that Ned and Jerry looked at each other in surprise.

“Well, Bob, if that’s the way you feel about it,” began Ned, “we might as well——”

“That’s how I feel about it!” cracked out Bob. “I’m hungry—I don’t care who knows it! Ever since Jerry read that in the letter about Tinny having such a glorious feed of roast chicken and mushrooms—oh, boy!”

Bob did not go on, but Jerry, looking at his watch, remarked:

“It is almost noon, and I happen to know Bob was up early, for I telephoned over just before I ate breakfast and they said he’d gone out in a hurry.”

“I did. And I had nothing for breakfast but some slices of toast, bacon and eggs, and coffee,”[4] broke in Bob. “No breakfast at all! Had to go down on an errand in a hurry for dad in the new car, and I stepped on the gas, let me tell you. Now, what about eating?” he asked eagerly.

“Well, don’t go to sleep, and I’ll go on with my speech of acceptance,” chuckled Jerry. “I was going to say, why not come to lunch at my house? Then we can talk over this gold mine dope.”

“Suits me,” said Ned briefly.

“It more than hits me in the right spot,” sighed fat Bob Baker.

“But it’s queer,” murmured Jerry, as he and his chums arose from a bench where they had been sitting on the edge of Cresville’s only park—the place designated as a meeting place when Jerry had received a letter which was destined to play a momentous part in the lives of the Motor Boys.

“What’s queer?” Ned Slade wanted to know.

“How Bob happened to pick out the three lines in Tinny’s letter that had to do with eating,” Jerry resumed. “The most unimportant part of the whole business, and yet Bob spots it like—like——”

“Like a hawk after a chicken,” supplied Ned, when he saw his tall chum at a loss for a simile.

“Thanks,” murmured Jerry.

“Think you’re a regular moving-picture-art-title writer, don’t you?” mumbled Bob. “All right—go[5] on—poke all the fun you want. But if you fellows get out to Thunder Mountain—or whatever the place is—and starve to death, don’t blame me.”

“We aren’t likely to—not if we die of hunger,” said Ned. “But if we go, won’t you come with us?”

“I don’t know—maybe.” Bob was not quite restored to his usual good-natured self after the bantering to which he had been subjected.

“Well, let’s go!” cried Jerry, and the words recalled vividly to the minds of his chums how often those same words were used when they were in France during the World War.

“Is that you, Jerry?” called Mrs. Hopkins, when a little later she heard the tramp of feet in her hall—feet that unconsciously fell into the swing of a military march.

“Yes, Mother. I’ve brought Ned and Bob home to lunch.”

“That’s nice. I’ll tell Katie to get things ready for you out in the sun parlor. John is polishing the dining room floor.”

“Anywhere as long as there’s something to eat,” murmured Bob.

And then, a little later, when the Motor Boys were sitting about a well laden table in the pleasant sun parlor of the Hopkins home, their discussion turned upon the letter Jerry had received[6] that morning from Tinnith Mallison, a Westerner, whom they had first met as a congenial officer in the training camp where the lads were mustered out of Uncle Sam’s service.

“Just what is his proposition?” asked Bob, who, having the first sharp edge taken from his appetite, could now give more consideration to other matters. “I didn’t listen very closely when you first read it, Jerry.”

“No, I reckon not—chicken and mushrooms,” murmured Ned.

“Shut up!” ordered Bob, but the words were accompanied by a smile which took all malice from them.

“Well, briefly, Tinny’s proposition is this,” said Jerry, as he took out the letter again. They had become sufficiently acquainted with Mr. Mallison to call him by his nickname. “He wants to interest us in an undeveloped gold mine out West near a place called Thunder Mountain. Why it has that name, I don’t know. Maybe the Indians called it that.”

“If we go out there we can find out why,” put in Ned.

“Say, are you fellows really seriously considering taking up this game?” demanded Bob, pausing with a bite of pie half way to his mouth. And when Bob did any pausing in the process of eating[7] one might safely conclude that he was vitally interested in the subject under discussion.

“Well, I’m about as green at the gold-mining business as I would be trying to cut ice with a pair of manicure scissors,” remarked Jerry. “But, fellows, we’ve just got to do something strenuous! After the exciting life we lived in France, I just can’t settle down to any business that we can tackle in this town. And as for going back to Boxwood Hall——”

“Whew! Don’t speak of it!” cried Ned. “Jerry, I’m with you on that gold mine proposition,” he continued. “I don’t just sense what it is all about, but I’ll leave that to you. Anyhow, I can’t stay around this town much longer. It’s all right in its own way, but it doesn’t weigh much after what we’ve gone through. Dad wants me to come in the department store and learn the business from the ground up. But I’m not ready for that yet. That’s why I want to go West.”

“And I can’t see dad’s proposition to become office boy in the bank and work my way up to be a cashier,” said Bob. “Of course I’ll go in the bank some day—but not just yet. I’m for the West.”

“Well, we seem to be pretty much of the same mind about it, and that sounds good to me,” commented Jerry. “Tinny says he will write us more[8] particulars if we are interested, and suggests that we let him know at once.”

“Tell him we are!” exclaimed Ned. “We’ve just got to get into something that will keep us out in the open air. This gold mine would do it.”

“Whether it had any gold in it or not,” commented Jerry.

“Sure! Say, why don’t you send Tinny a wire, telling him we’re hot on his trail and ask him to send on more dope.”

“I’ll do it!” decided Jerry.

“Write out the message,” suggested Bob. “Then we’ll go down to the telegraph office to send it. I’ll get dad’s new car and we’ll try it out. He told me to run it for a while and remove the kinks.”

“Hurray!” yelled Ned.

“Sounds good to me,” commented Jerry. In fact, ever since he had heard that Mr. Baker had a new car his hands had been itching to grip the wheel. Now he might have an opportunity.

“Come on, we’ll get the car,” cried Chunky. “After we leave the message we’ll go for a ride.”

“It will be like old times,” remarked Ned, for the lads had gained more than a local reputation by their journeys about the country in motors.

Finishing their lunch, putting away Tinny’s enthralling letter, and writing the telegram to the Westerner did not take long. A little later the[9] three youths were walking about and admiring Mr. Baker’s new car. It was a beauty—no mistake about that.

“How do you think the new four-wheel brakes will work?” asked Jerry, who knew something about cars. He had one, but not of a late model.

“You’ll soon find out,” remarked Bob. “I’ll let you fellows have a shot at it. Only remember one thing—don’t shove the brakes on too suddenly, for they grip twice as quickly as the old kind. Hop in—I’ll be out in a minute.”

He disappeared into the house on the run, while Ned and Jerry took their places on the front seat. Did any one ever see three lads ride anywhere but on the front seat of an auto, no matter how small?

“It’ll be a tight fit with Chunky in,” remarked Ned, looking at the space behind the wheel.

“Do him good to squeeze him,” chuckled Jerry. “Here he comes.”

Bob did not complain of the small space left for him at the wheel, but climbed in and the three lads were soon riding down the main street of Cresville, their home town.

The message was sent, and then Bob headed the car for the open country. They were bowling along, the fat lad having given several demonstrations of how to apply the new brakes, when he[10] took one hand from the steering wheel and began fishing in his pocket.

“What’s the matter?” asked Jerry.

Bob did not answer, but pulled out a doughnut and began munching on it.

“Well, for the love of pepsin!” cried Ned. “If you aren’t——”

He never finished the sentence, for just then the car rounded a curve in the road and Jerry, pointing ahead, cried:

“Look! There’s a house on fire!”

In pointing he jarred Bob’s hand just as the latter was raising the doughnut for another bite.

“It sure is a fire!” shouted Ned.

“Ug! Ow! Huh! Huh! Heck!” coughed and spluttered Bob.

“What’s the matter?” cried Jerry.

“You—er—guk—made me swallow that—dough—nut the—heck—wrong way!” gasped Bob. “Ugh!”

He pushed suddenly on the brake pedal and the car came to such an abrupt stop that he and his companions nearly went through the windshield as the auto halted within a short distance of the blazing farmhouse from which came frantic cries for help.


[11]

CHAPTER II
THE END OF EVERYTHING

“Come on, fellows!” cried Jerry.

He was struggling to get out of the seat where three of them were rather a tight fit, considering Chunky’s plumpness. But Jerry managed it, at the same time thumping Bob on the back to dislodge the bit of doughnut that had gone down the hungry lad’s “wrong throat.”

The boys had arrived at a most critical time. The blaze had quite a start at the rear of the farmhouse, the flames flickering out of a first story window—evidently the kitchen—and eating their way up to the second story.

“I wonder if they’ve telephoned in an alarm?” cried Ned, for though there were no “pull boxes” on the country road that far out of Cresville, nearly every farmer had a telephone.

“Sounds like the new motor engine coming,” said Bob, with a cough, to dislodge the last remaining particles of the doughnut, which, by this time, he had managed to swallow.

“Yes, there she is!” added Ned, as they caught[12] the sound of the siren horn on the new motor apparatus, recently purchased by the town.

“But it won’t get here in time to save them! Look!” shouted Jerry.

He pointed to a window about eight feet above the one-story extension of the house where could be seen a woman and two children. From another window on the left of these frantic and screaming ones smoke was pouring, showing that the fire was close to them.

“We’ve got to save them!” cried Ned.

“That’s right!” added Bob. “We can do it from that low roof. They can drop down and we can help them get to the ground. Or if we could find a short ladder——”

“There’s one!” yelled Ned, pointing to one leaning against a fruit tree at the side of the house. “Come on!”

“We’re just in time!” added Jerry. “It’s a good thing we drove out this way!”

The boys dashed to the rescue of the fire-trapped ones, while they could hear the motor engine approaching; and as they watched neighbors came running across the fields to aid, having seen the pall of smoke.

While the Motor Boys are hastening on their errand of mercy I shall take just a moment to introduce my new readers more formally to the youths who are to be the heroes of this story.

[13]

In the first volume of this series, entitled “The Motor Boys,” the reason for this name being given Jerry Hopkins, Ned Slade and Bob Baker was very fully set forth. Ned Slade’s father was a wealthy department store owner in Cresville, and Bob Baker’s father was president of the richest bank in that section. Jerry Hopkins’ father was dead, but had left his widow, Mrs. Julia Hopkins, very well off, and Jerry managed to keep up his end with his two chums.

Jerry, the tallest of the three lads, was a rather quiet and thoughtful youth, destined to be a leader. Ned was the best dresser of the three, if that is any compliment, and Bob Baker—well, when it is said that his nickname was “Chunky,” more has been told than could be divulged in several pages. Of his appetite, sufficient testimony has been given.

The home of the Motor Boys was in Cresville, in one of the New England states, but from there the boys had traveled to many other parts of their own country and foreign lands. As you know, they had recently come back from the great war.

But before this, when they were not circumventing tricks of the notorious Noddy Nixon and his crony, Jack Pender, the boys had traveled overland, to Mexico, and across the great plains in a motor car. They had been afloat on the Atlantic[14] and in strange waters, voyaging at times in a motor boat, and the various volumes tell of their activities.

As if the earth was not wide enough for them, the lads had even ventured into the clouds in aeroplanes and balloons, and when they had a chance to go in a submarine they did not hesitate. Part of their time they spent at school—Boxwood Hall—but after the war they had voted unanimously that they could not take up their quiet studies again; at least, not at once.

The volume immediately preceding this present one is entitled “The Motor Boys Bound for Home; or, Ned, Bob and Jerry on the Wrecked Troopship.” They had some strenuous times, in part with their old friend, Professor Snodgrass, and they had not long been at home when the letter came from their officer friend, written from his western mining camp.

However, all thoughts of gold mines were now driven from the heads of the lads as they saw the immediate necessity of quick action if they were to save the woman and the two children now appealing for help in the burning farmhouse.

“Get the ladder!” cried Jerry. “We can easily help them down to the roof of that one-story extension. Then they can jump to the ground if they have to.”

[15]

“They won’t have to—we can move the ladder!” shouted Ned, as he dashed for it.

“Help us! Save us!” screamed the woman.

“We’re coming! Don’t jump!” warned Jerry.

Being tall and athletic, he had managed, with the aid of a drain pipe and clinging vine, to scramble up to the flat roof of the one-story extension before the ladder was brought up. Ned could do the same, but Bob was too fat. He had to ascend by the ladder. However, after he was on the roof, he helped pull the ladder up so that it could be raised to the window.

The house appeared to be on fire in the vicinity of the kitchen, and the boys guessed that the woman and girls had been cut off from the front and back stairs.

While the motor engine was chugging its way nearer and while friends and neighbors were gathering to do what they could, the ladder, now on the roof of the extension, was raised to the window at which the three stood frantically calling.

“We’ll get you down in a minute!” shouted Jerry encouragingly, as he ran up the ladder, which was steadied at its foot by Ned and Bob. “Come on!” he cried to the youngest girl, who was crying.

“I—I’m afraid!” she sobbed, leaning out of the window.

[16]

“You needn’t be,” Jerry assured her. “I won’t let you fall.”

“Go on with him, Mary!” urged her mother. “Then take Helen next. And there’s a lame man in here.”

“We’ll get you all out,” declared Jerry, with more confidence when he had looked through the window and saw no flames in the room behind the three. “You’ve got plenty of time.”

He helped the two girls down to the flat roof of the one-story extension, where Ned and Bob took charge of them, calming them and telling them they would soon be on the ground.

“Can you save Mr. Cromley?” gasped the woman, when Jerry went back to assist her. “He’s lame and he’s in that room where the smoke is. The girls and I were up there talking to him when the fire broke out.”

“I’ll get him as soon as you get down,” cried Jerry. “How lame is he? Will he have to be carried?”

“Oh, no, he just walks with a limp—that’s all.”

“Then I guess I can get him down the ladder. But you must come now,” and the mother was soon on the low roof. “I’m going after the lame man, fellows!” Jerry then called to his chums. “Keep the ladder here until I get him to the window.”

[17]

“Corporal” Jerry Hopkins was giving orders as he had done on the battlefields of France, and his chums “snapped into” obedience as they had done in those terrible days.

Up the ladder the tall lad raced, to meet a limping man stumbling toward the window from which Jerry had already assisted the woman and girls to the roof.

“I—I must have swallowed some of the smoke!” the man coughed. “I didn’t know where I was for a minute!”

“Can you get down the ladder if I help you?” asked Jerry, entering the room.

“Sure! I’m not as helpless as all that, even if I have a game leg. I’m spry yet! Where’s the ladder? Is the whole house afire?”

“No, only part of it. I think they’ll save most of it. Here’s the ladder,” and Jerry led the man to the window, for now a cloud of smoke blew into the room, making them both cough and obscuring their vision for a moment.

Mr. Cromley, to give him the name mentioned by the woman, proved that he was no weakling in spite of his age and lameness, and he went down the ladder almost as spryly as did Jerry.

“Oh, Uncle Bill, I’m so glad you’re saved!” cried one of the girls.

“But we aren’t on the ground yet!” sobbed her sister.

[18]

“You soon will be,” said Bob. “Come on, let’s move the ladder!” he cried.

“Any more up there?” asked Jerry, pointing to the window from which smoke was now pouring more thickly.

“No, we’re all out!” answered the woman.

It was but the work of a few seconds to shove the ladder over the edge of the low roof, and down it the rescued ones, including the lame man and the Motor Boys, soon made their way to the ground.

By this time the fire apparatus had arrived and with it many men and boys to help. In addition to the chemical stream turned into the blazing kitchen, volunteers dashed on the flames as many pails of water as they could.

So quick and efficient was the work that the fire was confined to one wing of the house and it was out in half an hour, the kitchen being about the only room burned, though all through the place was the smell and black soot of the smoke.

“My kettle of lard that I was heating to fry doughnuts must have boiled over,” explained the woman—a Mrs. Gordon—when something like calmness had been restored. “I left the grease boiling for a minute while I ran upstairs to see if my brother wanted anything,” and she nodded toward Mr. Cromley. “All of a sudden I heard a sort of explosion, and when I tried to get down[19] the stairs I couldn’t. The girls were up in their room, and they ran back to where brother Bill and I were, and so we were all trapped. If you boys hadn’t come along when you did we might all have been burned to death,” she concluded.

“Oh, I guess some one else would have saved you,” said Jerry. “The alarm got in quickly enough, anyhow.”

“Yes, we have an extension telephone upstairs, and I called from there,” explained Mrs. Gordon. “But I didn’t see how we were going to get out in time.”

“Well, it’s all right now,” said Bill Cromley, limping about to inspect the damage done. It was not as much as seemed at first, though it was bad enough.

“My husband will feel terrible when he comes home and sees that I can’t cook a meal,” sighed Mrs. Gordon.

“You can use my kitchen,” offered one neighbor kindly.

“And mine! And mine!” came other proffers.

While plans were being made to help the Gordon family, Bill Cromley moved about, limping painfully, and, speaking to the Motor Boys, he said:

“Seems like it’s one accident after another with me. Guess I must have run into a streak of bad luck.”

[20]

“Why, what else happened?” asked Ned.

“Well, just before I came away from the West I was in a sort of premature explosion and got this game foot. Then I come to visit my sister and her house catches fire.”

“Are you from the West?” asked Jerry, thinking of Tinny’s letter.

“Yes, I’m a gold miner out there, or I was. Why? Are you fellows from the West?” Bill Cromley inquired as he saw looks of interest on the boys’ faces.

“We’ve been out there,” admitted Bob. “And we may go again. We’ve got an offer to help develop a mine at a place called Thunder Mountain——”

Before Ned or Jerry could offer any objection to the stout lad blurting out this rather personal information, Bill Cromley exclaimed:

“Thunder Mountain! Why, I know where that is!”

“Any gold there?” Ned wanted to know.

“Sure there is—if you can find it. It’s in Montana, and Montana is a good gold region. I’ve panned out some pretty good stuff there myself. Course, it wasn’t anything like Blue Rock.”

“What’s Blue Rock?” asked Bob. “That’s the kind of soil they find diamonds in, isn’t it?”

“You’re thinking of Africa,” remarked Jerry.

“Blue Rock is the name of a mine,” resumed[21] Bill Cromley. “I never got a chance at it, but some lucky fellows did, and they took out a whole chest full of gold. But, no—I won’t call them lucky,” he added, with a shake of his head.

“Why not?” inquired Ned.

“Because of what happened to ’em,” and Bill Cromley shook his head dolefully.

“What happened?” demanded Jerry.

“The worst that could happen to anybody. They lost their lives, and the gold, too. The miners had about cleaned out the mine—taken a fortune in gold from it. They packed it in a chest and set out for the East, putting the chest of gold on a stage coach.

“But the stage horses ran away on the worst part of the trail, the coach was upset and went over a cliff, horses, driver, passengers, chest of gold and all. It was just the end of everything!”


[22]

CHAPTER III
NODDY NIXON’S THREAT

Bill Cromley, the old gold miner, abruptly ceased his narration. The scene was rather quieter about the farmhouse now, though the neighbors were still at the farm helping Mrs. Gordon to move out of the kitchen some things that had been saved. The Motor Boys were much interested in what they had heard.

“What do you mean—it was the end of everything?” asked Jerry.

“Just what I say. It was the end,” replied Cromley. “The horses, stage, chest of gold, and everything went over the cliff. According to what you tell me, it can’t have been far from where you’re going—to Thunder Mountain.”

“Didn’t they save anything?” asked Bob, a little awed by the tragic ending of the story.

“Nary a thing.”

“Wasn’t there any trace of the men or the horses or the stage?” inquired Ned.

“Oh, yes, they found the bodies—some of ’em,” said the miner. “And the horses, too. But there[23] wasn’t much left of the coach. It was a rickety old thing to start with, and about all they picked up was some splinters that would do for toothpicks.”

“But the chest of gold?” exclaimed Bob.

“They never found a trace of it,” answered the miner. “It was never located, though I had more than one look for it, and so did lots of others. There was a fortune of pure gold in that chest, and it was a pity to lose it. But we never found it.”

“But what could have become of it?” demanded Jerry. “A big chest having rolled down the side of a mountain, must have landed somewhere.”

“It very likely did,” answered Mr. Cromley. “Landed down in some hole or gully. But there are so many of them in that part of the country you might hunt for five years and never strike the right one. It’s a wild bit of territory out there near Blue Rock. Thunder Mountain is another wild region. Let’s see, what did you say the name of your mining friend was out there—Brassy Madison?”

“No, Tinny Mallison,” replied Jerry. “His real name is Tinnith, but we call him Tinny.”

“Um! Good name for a gold miner,” commented the lame man. “He’ll very likely strike tin instead of gold nine times out of ten. No, I never heard of him.”

[24]

“He hasn’t been mining very long,” explained Ned. “He just got back from the war—same as we did.”

“Do you think you’ll ever go back West to the mines?” asked Bob, as the boys moved on toward their car, for there was little now that they could do. On all sides could be heard murmurs of admiration over their promptness in saving the lives of the imperiled ones.

“Oh, yes, I reckon so,” was the answer. “Once you get to be as old as I am it’s hard to give up the gold-mining craze. I reckon I’ll go back. In fact, my sister and I were talking about my going back when this fire happened. Of course I’m going to stay now until I see if I can help them. But I’ll go back before the summer’s over.”

“Maybe we’ll see you when we get to Thunder Mountain,” suggested Jerry.

“And if the place where that chest of gold was lost is anywhere near Tinny’s mine, we might have a look for it,” remarked Bob.

“Better not count on that! You’ll only be disappointed. Of course I can show you the spot where the coach went over the cliff, but there’s no use looking for the gold. It was just the end of everything!”

The boys let it go at that for the time being. And, truth to tell, they did not have a chance to consider it any further just then, for there[25] came a sudden interruption to their thoughts in the shape of a small but very excited lad who had driven to the scene of the fire in a rattling little car. Out he sprang, jumping over the fence, and, approaching the Motor Boys, he gasped:

“Say—why didn’t you stop for me—I like fires—I could help put ’em out—good on ladder work—anybody killed—say there’ll be a piece in the paper about this—how’d it start—were any of you burned—somebody said a woman jumped from a window—has the engine stopped——”

“Yes, and you’d better stop, Andy Rush, if you don’t want to blow up!” laughed Jerry, as he gently placed a hand over the small lad’s mouth, thereby preventing the further outflow of words that came bubbling out, fairly tripping each other up, so excited was Andy.

He was an old friend of the trio of lads who had had so many adventures together, and more than once Andy had accompanied them. He was a good little chap, true and stanch, but he had a habit of getting excited easily, and, when he did, he talked so fast and so brokenly that his conversation was all dots and dashes—mostly dashes.

“Oh—fire’s all out, is it—too bad—wish I’d gotten here sooner!” exclaimed Andy, in disappointed tones. “I hurried all I could—after I heard about it—jumped into Bachman’s flivver—had[26] a puncture—didn’t stop—came right along—here I am—whoop!”

“Do you mean to say you took the butcher’s auto?” asked Ned, as he noted what car the small lad had.

“Sure! It was standing in front of his shop. He wasn’t using it—so I hopped in—he won’t care—we get our meat of him, anyhow. I’ll have the puncture fixed—maybe I can do it myself—you’ve got your dad’s new car, haven’t you, Bob? Maybe you have a tire repair outfit—come on—give me a hand—gee, but I’m sorry the fire’s out!”

“Guess you’re the only one that’s sorry,” remarked Bob. “Come on, fellows, we’ll help Andy mend his puncture,” he added good-naturedly. “Bachman will put a flea in his ear if he doesn’t come back with the flivver in time for afternoon deliveries.”

“Thanks—do as much for you some day—I’ll get the tire off!” spluttered Andy, leaping back over the fence. “You don’t think the fire’ll start up again, do you?” he asked. “If it does I’d like to climb a ladder—jump in a window—slide down a rope—run——”

“Oh, cut it out!” laughed Ned. “You’ll have us doing it next.”

From his tool box Bob got an emergency tire repair kit, and after the little car belonging to[27] the town butcher had been jacked up, Andy began the not too-easy task of taking off the punctured tire. He had run on it flat to the fire.

“Say, jufellers hear about Noddy Nixon?” asked Andy, while he was waiting for the cement to dry somewhat before putting a patch on the inner tube.

“No, what about that—rat?” asked Ned.

“He’s back in town—that’s all,” was Andy’s information. “Just saw him and Jack Pender get off the train.”

“So Jack’s with him, is he?” asked Jerry.

“Guess Noddy didn’t dare come back alone,” commented Bob. “He needs some one to back him up.”

“I should think he would after what he did in France,” said Jerry bitterly. “Shooting himself to make believe he was wounded in action, so he could be sent to the rear! There isn’t any place too hot for such rats!”

“Did Noddy say anything to you, Andy?” asked Ned, as the tire was being put back on the wheel.

“Nope! Never talks to me—guess he doesn’t like me—thinks I’m too much of a runt, I guess. He’s laying for you fellers.”

“What do you mean—laying for us?” demanded Jerry.

“Oh, nothing special, but I mean he was always picking on you, wasn’t he?”

[28]

“That’s right,” admitted Bob Baker. “But he’d better not try it any more. I’ll tell him where he gets off.”

“The same here,” echoed Ned.

The puncture having been repaired, Andy hastened back in the small car he had so unceremoniously borrowed to go to the fire.

“See you later,” he called. “Watch out for Noddy—bad egg—Jack Pender, too—don’t tell Bachman I had a puncture—what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him—anyhow, it’s mended—maybe there’ll be another fire this afternoon—give me a ride in your new car, Bob—see you later—good-by—whoop!”

“Thank goodness, he’s gone!” murmured Jerry, as he and his chums entered the big machine, having said good-by to those whom they had helped.

Bill Cromley waved to the boys as he limped about helping his sister salvage things from the burned kitchen.

“Come and see me again before you start for Thunder Mountain,” he urged, and the boys promised.

The three rode about a bit and then started for town. It was just their luck, as Ned said later, to meet Noddy Nixon and his crony.

Jerry was trying his hand on the new car when, as he swung around a corner, he had to jam on[29] quickly the four-wheel brakes to avoid running down two young men who suddenly, and without looking to see if the way was clear, stepped from the curb.

“Say, you boob, what’s the idea?” angrily demanded one of the pedestrians. It was Noddy Nixon.

“Think you own the whole street just because you have a new car?” sneered Jack Pender.

When the two cronies saw who it was that had so nearly run them down, Noddy’s face grew red with anger.

“Say you—you!” he spluttered, unable, for rage, to proceed.

“Why don’t you look where you’re going when you start to cross a street?” demanded Jerry.

“Don’t give me any of your talk!” fairly shouted Noddy, shaking his fist at the Motor Boys. “I’m going to have a settlement with you fellows—that’s what I’m going to do!”

“A settlement? You don’t owe us anything, Noddy,” said Ned easily and with a mocking smile.

“Yes, I do!” stormed the bully. “You’ve gone about telling everybody I shot myself on purpose in France. I didn’t at all. It’s untrue.”

“Is it?” asked Jerry coolly. “Then you’d better take it up with the war department. They[30] put S.I.W., meaning self-inflicted wound, up over your cot—we didn’t!”

“It’s not so! It’s untrue!” shouted Noddy. “I’ll fix you for it, too! And for trying to run me down just because you have a new car!”

“Drive on, Jerry,” advised Ned, in a low voice.

“There’s a crowd collecting,” added Bob.

Jerry let in the clutch, having shifted to first, and the auto drew away.

Back on the street corner stood Noddy Nixon and his crony.

“They think they’re mighty smart!” murmured Jack.

“Smart! I’ll show ’em!” muttered Noddy. “I’ll get square for all the things the Motor Boys have done to me if it takes ten years! I’ll get square with them, all right!”

Noddy had it firmly fixed in his mind that the Motor Boys had done their best to spread the news that he had shot himself to keep from being sent to the front during the war. He felt terribly humiliated when confronted by the facts and he was ready to do almost anything to “get square” with the boys, and especially with Jerry.


[31]

CHAPTER IV
OVER THE CLIFF

“Well, fellows, what do you think of dad’s new car?” asked Bob of his chums, when they had finished the ride and were sitting idly in the machine before dispersing to their several homes.

“Great!” declared Ned. “I wouldn’t mind owning it myself.”

“You got something off your chest that time,” chuckled Jerry. “Those brakes are a whole lot better than I imagined they could be.”

“They’re all right when you get used to ’em,” agreed Bob, as he felt in one pocket after another.

“What you looking for?” asked Ned. “Lose something?”

“I thought I had another doughnut left,” answered the stout lad, with a sigh. “But I guess we ate ’em all up. Never mind.”

“You guess we ate ’em all up!” cried Jerry. “You mean you did!”

For a moment neither of the others spoke, and then Jerry continued:

[32]

“I think we ought to take up with Tinny’s offer, if it looks at all encouraging when we get an answer to our telegram. We may not get to be millionaires out of the gold mine, but at least it will give us something to do. And I just can’t settle down to work so soon after the big fight.”

“That’s the way I feel about it,” added Ned. “I had a little talk with dad, and while he wants me to come in the store and learn the business, I’m sure he’ll let me have this summer off. We really need it after what we’ve gone through.”

“Sure we do!” asserted Bob. “I guess dad will listen to reason when I tell him I’ve lost about ten pounds.”

“Yes, you have!” scoffed Jerry with a laugh.

“Sure I have!” declared Chunky. “Anyhow, let’s see if we can’t plan it to get a Western trip.”

“Suits me,” said Ned. “I wonder if, by any chance, we could have a shot looking for that lost treasure chest of Blue Rock?” he went on.

“Maybe,” said Jerry. “But it’s a pretty long chance, seems to me. If what Bill Cromley says is true there isn’t much hope in trying to locate it after all these years, when so many have failed.”

“Well, then, let’s hope that Tinny’s mine will pan out better,” remarked Bob. “What you fellows going to do to-night?” he asked.

[33]

“There’s going to be a moon,” said Jerry. “If you want to take us out in the new car——”

“Nothing doing, pos-i-tive-ly!” exclaimed the fat lad. “Dad is going to take mother out. But there’s a pretty good movie in town. We might take that in, and then go down to the telegraph office afterward and see if any word has come from Tinny.”

“Good idea—we’ll do it!” decided Jerry, and the rest agreed.

It was rather hard to get interested in even a very good moving picture when the minds of the Motor Boys were so filled with visions of what might happen if they could make the Western trip. Of course nothing was definitely settled about this as yet. The matter had been broached to the respective parents soon after Jerry had received the letter from the Western miner, but at first only indifference was manifested by Mrs. Hopkins, Mr. Slade and Mr. Baker.

So it was with no little impatience that the young men waited for the flashing of the last picture on the screen, after which they hurried down to the telegraph office, where they had telephoned word to hold any message that might come for them from the West.

“Nothing doing, boys,” were the words the operator greeted them with as they entered.

[34]

“Guess Tinny has cold feet,” remarked Ned.

“Wait a minute; something’s coming in now,” the operator said, holding up his hand for silence. He listened a moment to the clicking of the ticker and then in a low voice said: “Yes, this is for you, Jerry. I’ll have it ready for you shortly.”

The boys sat down to wait, the silence broken only by the click of the telegraph sounder and the tap of the typewriter keys as the operator transcribed the message. It was a long one, and when Jerry read it to his chums they let out whoops of delight.

Not only did Tinny Mallison assert that there was every chance of his gold mine at Thunder Mountain proving a big winner, but he strongly urged the boys to hasten out to share in the good prospects. He added that he would send letters to their parents giving them every assurance that it would pay the boys financially and in added health to come out to Montana.

“This settles it!” declared Jerry. “We’ll go!”

“You said it!” chorused Ned and Bob.

A few days later, following the receipt of other telegrams from Mallison, the consent of the parents was won and the Motor Boys began preparations to leave for Thunder Mountain.

“I wish we could go all the way by auto,” said Jerry, when he and his chums were at his house one afternoon, talking over plans, “but I reckon[35] it’s too much. My old boat wouldn’t stand the strain. But we can go part way by car—I’m going to sell mine, anyhow—and take a train the rest of the way.”

It being out of the question to use Mr. Baker’s new machine for the trip, a compromise had to be made, and Jerry’s old, but still serviceable, auto had been selected. As he said, they could sell it when reaching Chicago, or wherever they decided to take the train.

The matter of what they would carry with them was easily settled, as it was not the first trip the lads had made across country, and their experience in France was standing them in good stead.

Letters had been sent to Tinny, in answer to some received by him, and it only remained now to make the last preparations and then start for Thunder Mountain.

“And I hope we find it solid gold!” murmured Bob.

“You don’t want much!” laughed Jerry. “What’s up—see something?” he asked Ned, who had suddenly risen from his chair and was gazing from the window.

“Yes, I see something, or, rather, somebody,” murmured the department storekeeper’s son. “I wonder if I’m seeing right, though. Come here, fellows, and see if you see the same thing I do!”

[36]

He pointed toward the figure of a small man hurrying along past Jerry’s house.

“Isn’t that Professor Snodgrass?” demanded Ned.

“It sure is!” cried Jerry.

“What in the world is he doing here?” Bob wanted to know.

“What does he ever do but chase bugs?” inquired Jerry. “That’s probably what he’s doing now, and he’s so interested that he forgot to stop here. Very likely he started out to pay me a visit and it has slipped his mind.”

“We’d better go after him,” suggested Ned, “or he’ll keep on traveling until he wears his shoes out. Come on!”

The lads hurried out of Jerry’s house, and started after the odd, little scientist who had been their instructor at Boxwood Hall. But Professor Snodgrass made such good time that he was around the corner and in a side lane before the boys were within hailing distance.

“There he goes!” cried Bob.

“And on the run, too!” added Ned. “He must be after a six cylinder June bug.”

Indeed, Professor Snodgrass was fairly running now, and it could not be doubted, from what the boys knew of him, that he was after some creature to add to his collection of strange bugs.

Suddenly the little man, as if in pursuit of a[37] flying object, turned quickly to the left, and, as he did so, Ned cried:

“He’d better watch out! That path leads to the edge of the cliff where they’ve been taking out gravel above Limestone Creek. There’s a sharp fall there, and there was a slide there last week. It’s dangerous!”

“We’d better call to him,” suggested Jerry. “Hi, there, Professor Snodgrass!” he shouted, making a megaphone of his hands. “Come back! Don’t go any farther!”

The boys redoubled their speed after Ned’s warning and, making a turn in the path, came in view of the little man. All unconscious of his danger, he was running straight ahead, his hat held out as though to catch a butterfly.

“Come back! Come back!” cried the Motor Boys.

But the professor, unheeding, ran on, and an instant later had fallen, disappearing over the edge of a cliff.

“He’s gone!” gasped Bob.

“Come on! Maybe we can save him!” shouted Jerry.


[38]

CHAPTER V
VAIN REGRETS

Rushing toward the edge of the cliff, but with due regard for the danger they knew existed at the abrupt descent, the Motor Boys looked down the steep side of the place where a construction concern had been getting out gravel. It was the taking away of this material that had made a cliff where, previously, there had been but a gradual slope.

Looking down to the bed of Limestone Creek, twenty feet below them, the boys caught sight of Professor Uriah Snodgrass floundering about in the water, which was quite deep. The little scientist seemed able to keep his head above the surface, but that was about all.

“Come on! We’ve got to get down there!” cried Ned.

“Here’s a path,” said Jerry, pointing to one a short distance off to the side of the spot where Professor Snodgrass had had his abrupt fall.

Slipping, sliding, scrambling, and all but tumbling, the three boys made their way to the bottom[39] of the cliff and to the edge of the creek, which really was a small river.

By this time Professor Snodgrass had begun to help himself, having got back the breath that was knocked from him in his fall, and he was striking out for shore.

In another instant Jerry had waded in, not stopping to take off any of his garments, and was pulling the little man to safety.

“Why—bless my soul—why, it’s the Motor Boys!” cried the professor.

“Nobody else!” exclaimed Ned.

“Didn’t you hear us yelling to you to keep away from here?” asked Bob.

“No, Bob, my dear boy, I didn’t hear a thing,” was the answer. “I was after a very rare specimen of a yellow-winged butterfly. I chased it to the edge of the cliff and, just as I was reaching out for it, I noticed, too late, that there was an abrupt descent. I couldn’t help myself—I went over.”

“Yes, we saw you,” replied Jerry, as he helped the professor to a flat, raised rock on which he could take a seat. Jerry’s feet were making queer squidgy sounds caused by the water in his shoes. He was wet to his arm pits, but the professor had gone in over his head.

“You boys didn’t see anything of that yellow-winged butterfly, did you?” asked the professor,[40] gazing at the trio through his water-dimmed spectacles which, fortunately, had not come off. “It had blue spots.”

“No, we didn’t see it,” answered Bob.

“Um! Too bad! I guess it must have gotten away,” said the little bald-headed man, with a sigh. His hat had come off and was floating downstream. Ned rescued it with a long stick.

“Better take off some of your things and wring the water out,” suggested Jerry, as he looked at the little puddle collecting at the feet of the professor, who sat on the rock. “This is a secluded place—nobody will see you here. You can strip down to your underwear and dry your clothes a bit. We can go to my house by a back way and no one will see us.”

“Oh, do you live around here, Jerry?” asked Professor Snodgrass.

“Why, of course I do—we all live here! This is Cresville!”

“Is this Cresville? Well, I started out for here—I was coming to see you boys, in fact—but I didn’t know I had reached here. I got off the train because I saw a very valuable, large red butterfly fluttering about the station. I caught it, and then I wandered on after that yellow one. I chased it to the edge of the cliff and——”

“Yes, we saw the rest of what happened,” put in Bob. “But better do as Jerry says, Professor.”

[41]

“I will. Thank you for the suggestion.” The bald-headed little scientist began taking off his outer garments, and was down to his underclothing when he suddenly made a jump and cried:

“There it is! I see the yellow butterfly! Lend me a hat, somebody!”

He caught Ned’s from the head of that astonished lad and then, presenting a most ridiculous sight, Professor Snodgrass raced along the edge of the stream, following a flitting insect.

“I’ve got it!” he suddenly cried, clapping the hat down over a milkweed plant, and Ned groaned as he saw the treatment to which his hat was subjected. “I’ve got it! Jerry, please bring me a specimen box from my coat. It’s waterproof and won’t be wet inside. Hurry, please!”

There was no resisting the appeal of Uriah Snodgrass, and a little later, fondly gazing at the butterfly which was now enclosed in a sealed glass box containing cyanide that had instantly and painlessly put it to death, the professor walked back to his rock.

Glad, indeed, were the boys that it was a secluded place, for had any one gazed at the antics of the half-clothed gentleman racing along after a yellow butterfly, no doubt the police would have been notified that a lunatic had escaped.

“My, but I’m glad I caught it!” said the professor fervently, as he pressed the water from[42] his coat and trousers. “It’s worth all the trouble it caused me. A most valuable specimen!”

“How is it you aren’t at Boxwood Hall?” asked Bob, as the professor’s garments were hung about on bushes to dry in the hot sun and wind, for it was decided to let some of the moisture get out before having him put them on again.

“Oh, I’ve given up the zoölogy chair at Boxwood,” was the answer. And, in reply to the surprised looks of the boys, the professor went on: “I did so on the advice of my doctor. He said I was indoors too much. I must spend all this summer and fall in the open. I am going to travel. In fact, I have just started. And when I found I had some time on my hands, I decided to come and see my old pupils. My, but you’ve changed a lot since I last saw you!” he said, looking at the lads.

“We’ve been to war,” said Jerry.

“Oh, yes, there was a war,” murmured Uriah Snodgrass, as if he could have forgotten it! As a matter of fact, he had been on the transport on which Ned, Bob and Jerry returned home. “Well, at any rate, I am away from Boxwood Hall on a year’s leave of absence,” said the professor.

“And what are you going to do?” Bob wanted to know.

[43]

“Travel and collect specimens,” was the answer.

“Why don’t you come with us, as you’ve done before?” burst out Ned. “We’re going out West to a place called Thunder Mountain, in Montana. Why not come along, Professor?”

Professor Snodgrass shook his head as he turned over his wet coat so that the sun and wind might better dry it.

“I’m afraid that’s too far for me,” he said. “The doctor said I must take it easy.”

“Well, come with us as far as Chicago,” suggested Jerry. “We are going that far, at least, in a motor car. You’ll get plenty of fresh air that way.”

“I shall be delighted!” announced Professor Snodgrass. “It will suit me to perfection. In fact, I was going to ask you boys to let me accompany you if you contemplated any short trips this summer. But to Thunder Mountain in Montana—well, that’s a bit too far, I’m afraid.”

“Perhaps you won’t find it so after you get started,” suggested Ned. “At any rate, we’ll count on you as far as Chicago.”

“Yes, you may do that, thank you,” was the answer.

A little later, when the professor’s clothing was dry enough to allow him to squeeze himself into[44] it, the party started for Jerry’s house by a little-frequented path.

The professor was a queer-looking sight, but, then, as he nearly always was in this condition, caused by crawling and climbing after bugs and butterflies wherever he saw them, it did not much matter.

Mrs. Hopkins made him welcome, as she always did, and the boys offered to go to the railroad station to inquire about the professor’s trunk, which he said he had checked to Cresville.

“Though it might be to any other station that happened to enter his head,” chuckled Jerry to his chums.

However, they found that for once, at least, Uriah Snodgrass had had his wits about him, and the trunk was waiting for him. Engaging an expressman to take it to Jerry’s house, the boys found themselves without any special plan in view until supper time. Jerry had invited Ned and Bob to eat supper with him, when they could again meet their friend, the scientist.

“What say we go out to the place where the farmhouse was on fire?” suggested Ned, as they walked along. “I’d like to see that old miner again. We can tell him we’re about ready to go out West ourselves, and as he said he was going back, we might meet him out in Montana.”

“Yes,” agreed Jerry, “we might. Let’s go.”

[45]

They were not far from Ned’s house, and as he owned a small car they piled into that and were soon approaching the burned house. Carpenters were at work repairing the damages of the fire, and limping about in the yard, watching them, was Bill Cromley.

“Hello, boys!” he cordially greeted them as they alighted. “Glad to see you! Just had some friends of yours here about an hour ago.”

“Friends of ours?” asked Ned, wondering whether Professor Snodgrass had been out after bugs.

“Yes. In fact, I think they’re here yet. They came to get some potatoes of my sister. She’s having one of the men dig them. Yes, there they are! They came in an auto, same as you did.”

Bill Cromley pointed down a lane that bordered a potato field in which a man was digging. Standing near the fence, alongside of which a car was drawn up, were two lads. At the sight of them the Motor Boys uttered exclamations of surprise, and Jerry said:

“They aren’t friends of ours!”

“Noddy Nixon and Jack Pender—I should say not!” cried Bob.

“Did they tell you they were, Mr. Cromley?” asked Ned.

“Well, I don’t know as they exactly said they[46] were friends of yours,” admitted the old miner slowly. “They said they knew you.”

“Oh, that’s different!” remarked Jerry. “Yes, we know them, but we don’t——”

“Cut it out, Jerry, they’re coming up this way,” said Bob in a low voice, as he saw Noddy and Jack getting into the car with a sack of potatoes. “We don’t want another row here.”

“No, that’s right,” added Ned.

“All right, I won’t so much as look at them,” promised the tall lad.

Having purchased the vegetables they had come after, Noddy and Jack drove on out of the lane. As they passed the place where the Motor Boys stood with Bill Cromley, the bully and his crony cast suspicious glances at Jerry and his chums and Noddy said something in a low voice to Jack.

On their parts, the Motor Boys spoke not a word, but, as Ned remarked later, “we looked plenty at them!”

Mr. Cromley seemed to sense that there was a strained feeling between the parties of lads, and he said nothing to bring on hostilities.

“So they aren’t friends of yours, eh?” questioned the old miner when Jack and Noddy were speeding off down the road after a backward look at the three chums.

[47]

“I should say not!” declared Jerry. “Anything but that!” and his face showed his disgust.

“Hum! I’m sorry,” went on Mr. Cromley.

“We aren’t!” laughed Jerry. “We don’t enjoy knowing such contemptible characters.”

“No, I mean I’m sorry for what I told them. Are you certain they aren’t to be relied upon?”

“They most certainly aren’t!” burst out Ned. “What would you think of a fellow who, while in the army, would shoot himself, inflicting a minor wound, so he wouldn’t have to fight but could go to the hospital?”

“I’d think he was a—dirty skunk!” burst out the miner. “Did that Noddy Nixon do that?”

“He sure did! And Jack Pender is as bad,” declared Bob.

“Um! Um! I certainly have made a mess of it!” exclaimed the miner, with a worried air. “I certainly have!”

“What did you do?” asked Jerry in curiosity.

“Why, those fellows came here this morning. They talked pretty slick, said they knew you and all that. Heard I knew something about gold mining. They heard, somewhere, about the treasure chest of Blue Rock, which isn’t surprising, as I’ve told the story often enough down in the village store. Well, to sum it all up, Noddy Nixon offered me a good sum if I’d pilot him and his chum out West to the place where the[48] stage coach went over the cliff down into the canyon.”

“Did you accept his offer?” asked Jerry quietly.

“In a sense I did, yes. I’m thinking of going back out West, anyhow, and I thought this a good chance to make some money. But if I had known what sort of fellows those two are——”

“Did you tell them all the particulars?” asked Bob.

“Yes, I think I did—about everything! Like an old fool I blurted out all I knew—how the horses ran away, how they went over the cliff, and how it looked like the end of everything.”

“But did you tell them where Blue Rock is—where the accident happened?” asked Jerry eagerly.

“I reckon I did. That Noddy Nixon is a slick one. He kept on asking me questions—worming things out of me. And I told them all! Even about the exact spot where the treasure chest fell. My! My! But I wish I hadn’t! I certainly wish I hadn’t!” groaned the old miner.


[49]

CHAPTER VI
LAYING A PLOT

Silence fell over the Motor Boys when they heard this confession of vain regret from the old miner. They could appreciate his feelings, knowing Noddy Nixon and Jack Pender as they did.

“Do you mean he really came to you with an offer to hire you to guide him to the place where the treasure chest fell over the cliff at Blue Rock?” asked Jerry at length.

“He did that!” said the miner. “Offered me a good sum, too. Why, hasn’t Noddy any money?”

“Oh, yes, he has money—that’s one of the bad things against him,” stated Ned. “He can do things because of his money that other fellows can’t do. He has some his grandfather left him, I think, and it’s his own to do as he pleases with. His folks can’t control him. He’s a bad egg!”

“He sure is!” echoed Bob. “And always was.”

“Well, I’m sorry for having blurted out what I did,” repeated Bill Cromley. “But I reckoned he was open and aboveboard. Of course any[50] one has a right to search for that treasure chest that wants to—it’s abandoned, so to speak.”

“Then we have as good a right to it as anybody else, haven’t we?” asked Bob.

“You certainly have,” asserted the miner. “I guess I must have said it was a case of findings is keepings to this Noddy Nixon or he wouldn’t have asked me to pilot him and that Jack Pender to Thunder Mountain.”

“Hum! Thunder Mountain,” mused Ned. “That’s where we’re going to help Tinny Mallison prospect his mine. I don’t just fancy Noddy Nixon being even in the same county with us.”

“Me, either,” admitted Jerry. “But what are we going to do?”

“Well, I know one thing I’m not going to do!” declared Bill Cromley. He slapped his hand down on his leg with the report like that from a small pistol. “I’m not going to take his offer—that’s what I’m not going to do! It wasn’t clinched. He said he’d bring me some money to bind the bargain. Until I take that I’m not bound to him. That is the law of grubstaking, and that’s what applies here. I’m through with this Noddy Nixon! Shoot himself to get out of fighting! Bah!”

“How about us?” asked Jerry, struck by a sudden idea.

“Eh? What’s that?” came from the miner.

[51]

“I say, what about us?” resumed Jerry. “Look here, fellows, and Mr. Cromley, I have a plan!” and his voice was eager. “We are going out West to form a partnership with Mr. Mallison. His mine may pan out rich, and, again, it may be a fizzle. But if we could have a chance of looking for this chest of gold, it would give us a two-to-one shot. What do you say, Mr. Cromley, will you come with us on the same terms—or better—than those you talked of with Noddy Nixon?”

“You mean go to Thunder Mountain with you boys?”

“To Thunder Mountain and Blue Rock both!” stipulated Jerry.

His chums looked at him in some surprise. So did the old miner. Then, suddenly, as if having made up his mind in a flash, Mr. Cromley again clapped his hand down on his thigh and cried:

“I’ll do it! I’ll go with you! I’ll accept your offer. I was getting ready to go back to the West, anyhow, and this will be just the chance I want! I’m in with you boys from now on! I like your looks, and I ain’t forgot what you did at the fire.”

He shook hands all around and thus the pact was sealed. Jerry and his chums knew that their parents would be glad that an experienced man was to accompany them to the wilds of Montana.[52] Of course Professor Snodgrass was much older than the boys, but as for worldly experience, the scientist had everything but that.

“It’ll be a good thing for us to take Bill Cromley along,” said Jerry to his chums.

“And maybe Noddy Nixon won’t go up in the air when he hears about it!” predicted Ned with a laugh. “Oh, no!”

Noddy did just that. He went back to see Bill Cromley the next day with Jack Pender, taking along a sum of money with which to bribe the old miner. And when the latter, with blazing eyes as he remembered Noddy’s war record, refused to have anything to do with the bully, Noddy burst out with invectives.

“You’re a four-flusher! That’s what you are—a four-flusher!” he shouted.

“None of that now! I know what I’m doing,” replied Bill Cromley. “I don’t want anything more to do with you! I wouldn’t go to Thunder Mountain or Blue Rock with you for a million dollars!”

“Somebody else has seen him, Noddy!” whispered Jack. “It’s Jerry Hopkins and his bunch, you can bet on that! Those Motor Boys have butted in on us again!”

“I’ll fix them if they have!” declared Noddy. “Say, how about that?” he demanded of Bill[53] Cromley. “Have you made a contract with those other fellows who were here yesterday?”

“None of your business!”

“Oh, well, I’ll find out!” threatened Noddy. This was not difficult to do, as gossip travels fast and easily, and the hired men on the farm were fluent talkers. So Noddy learned that the Motor Boys were soon to start for the West, taking with them Professor Snodgrass at least as far as Chicago, and Bill Cromley all the way to Montana.

“Well, they got ahead of us, that’s all,” said Jack. “We can’t do anything about it. But I sure would like a chance to get my fingers in that chest of gold.”

“So should I, and we’re going to do it, too!” declared Noddy.

“How?” demanded Jack Pender.

“I’ll find a way!” threatened Noddy, who was furious over having been “done out of his rights,” as he expressed it.

Noddy would have picked a quarrel with the Motor Boys and have gotten into a fight with them the first time he met them after having learned about Bill Cromley’s defection, only Jack Pender, with more sense than he usually showed, pulled his crony away.

“That’s no way to do!” warned Jack. “We’ve got to get at them in some other way. We’ve got to trick them!”

[54]

“Yes, I guess you’re right,” admitted Noddy, cooling down. “But how? We can go out West, of course. I’ve got a car and plenty of money. But we need some one who knows about Thunder Mountain and Blue Rock.”

“And I know the very man for that!” declared Jack.

“Who?”

“Dolt Haven!”

“Who’s Dolt Haven?” Noddy asked.

“A fellow I met in a pool parlor downtown the other day. I got to talking with him, and he let out something of having been a miner in Montana once. I spoke of Thunder Mountain and Blue Rock, though I didn’t say anything about the treasure chest. I let him think it was just a box of papers, or something like that, which might be worth looking for. He said he had heard the story of the runaway stage, but he didn’t seem to know anything about the chest of gold. Why can’t we take him with us to Thunder Mountain? Maybe we can get ahead of the Motor Boys.”

“Maybe!” eagerly agreed Noddy. “I’ll go and have a talk with this Dolt Haven.”

This character was a new but notorious hanger-on in one of the worst pool rooms of Cresville. He was just the sort of man Jack Pender and Noddy Nixon would chum with, and they found[55] him to their liking, as, no doubt, he found them.

“Sure I can take you to Thunder Mountain!” boasted Dolt. “I’m an old Westerner. I know all about that region. I’ve heard of this Bill Cromley, though I’m not acquainted with him.”

“We’ve got to get ahead of them somehow!” said Noddy.

“We’ll do it!” declared Dolt, and then they laid their evil heads together in a plot. “We’ll follow them in your car, Noddy,” suggested Haven. “That won’t be hard to do, as you tell me you’ve done it before. We’ll see if we can’t get this Cromley away from the Motor Boys and get from him more information about this chest. You say it’s got valuable papers in?” he asked sharply.

“Yes, papers—and maybe a little money,” admitted Noddy, with a quick look at Jack. “We’ll give you some of the money if we find it, and we’ll pay you to go out with us.”

“All right—I’m on!” cried Dolt Haven. “We’ll trail these boys and get Bill Cromley away from them. Leave it to me to get the information out of him. I’m with you lads on this!”

And they shook hands on their plot.


[56]

CHAPTER VII
IN THE BARN

Their experience in France and the many trips they had taken in all sorts of conveyances had made the Motor Boys adepts in preparing for a quick journey. The same applied to Bill Cromley, the miner.

“All I need is about five minutes’ notice,” the old miner boasted. “I just want to sling a few odds and ends in an old valise I have, see that I’ve got a little spare cash, and I’m ready to travel to the end of kingdom come.”

The boys were not quite as rapid as this, but once it had been decided they were to go to Thunder Mountain and take Bill Cromley with them, events moved fast.

Several messages were exchanged between them and Tinny Mallison, who approved of their plan to go to Chicago in Jerry’s auto, and from the Windy City to take a train to Livingston, Montana.

“I will meet you in Livingston,” Tinny said. “I have a new car. Maybe it’s not as slick as[57] Mr. Baker’s, but it will do out here. We’ll go in my auto from Livingston to Thunder Mountain.”

This was the gist of the Westerner’s messages, and in one he added something that rather caused Jerry and his chums some uneasiness. For Tinny said:

“Don’t buy any stock in Blue Rock.”

It might have been a message from a broker to his client concerning an oil well scheme, but the boys knew Mallison referred to the story told by Bill Cromley.

“Guess Tinny doesn’t believe what Bill said,” Ned remarked.

“Oh, well, don’t say anything,” advised Bob. “We can let the two talk it out when they meet.”

So, though there was an undercurrent of disappointment on the part of the boys regarding the story of the treasure chest, it did not much weigh down their spirits.

Some of their things they sent on ahead to Chicago, and they were in fine fettle when, one bright morning, they entered Jerry’s serviceable, if not very fancy car, ready for the start. Good-bys were echoed and re-echoed.

Then, at the last minute, Professor Snodgrass was discovered to be missing.

“Where can he be?” exclaimed Jerry, who was at the wheel. “He was here a minute ago, making notes in one of his books.”

[58]

“I’ll see if I can find him,” offered Ned. “He’s probably up in his room, Jerry, crawling under the bed for a new kind of moth.”

“I’ll come with you,” offered Bob.

“Don’t let Chunky get into the kitchen!” warned Jerry, with a laugh. “Watch him, Ned!”

“I will!” chuckled Ned.

“Think you’re smart, don’t you?” exclaimed the fat lad indignantly. “What’s the idea?”

“You might want to stop and eat, and we’re late now,” teased Jerry. “Snap into it, boys!”

Bob, with an assumed air of patience over the banter to which he had to submit on account of his enormous appetite, followed Ned on a tour of investigation to find the missing scientist.

Before they could enter the house, however, there came a call from the kitchen—the voice of Katie, the maid, crying:

“Let it go! Don’t try to get it! Oh, Mrs. Hopkins! Mrs. Hopkins, this is terrible!”

“Jerry, something must have happened!” exclaimed his mother, who was standing near the car, saying a last good-by.

“I’ll see!” offered the tall lad, scrambling out of his seat. He made a dash for the kitchen, getting there just as Ned and Bob reached it. They saw Katie standing on a chair, her skirts drawn tightly about her shoe tops, while, on[59] his knees, poking with the fire shovel under the ice box, was Professor Snodgrass.

“What is it?” cried Jerry.

The professor turned to face the crowd now looking at him and mildly said:

“It’s a bug I’m after, that’s all. I came out here to get a drink, and, saw, crawling on the sink, a very fine specimen of a red ant. It is a variety for which I have long been searching, so I at once got a lump of sugar to bait the ant. It crawled on the sugar, but as soon as this young woman here saw what I was doing she screamed, jumped, hit my elbow, and the lump of sugar, with the ant on it, was knocked under the ice box. I am just trying to get it out.”

Jerry, as did the other boys, knew it would be useless to ask the professor to come away without his ant, so they resigned themselves with what patience they could summon, while he poked away with the fire shovel, meanwhile grunting somewhat on account of his cramped position.

“Katie, you shouldn’t have made such a fuss over a little ant,” chided Mrs. Hopkins.

“I—I thought it was a mouse he was after, and I can’t abide a mouse,” apologized the maid.

The boys laughed, Uriah Snodgrass paid no attention to them, and presently he cried:

“I’ve got it!”

He drew out on the shovel the lump of sugar[60] with the ant still on it, and, uttering an exclamation of satisfaction, the little bald-headed scientist clapped his specimen into a bottle of cyanide and announced that he was ready to leave.

“All right,” said Jerry. “Let’s go!”

Once more good-bys were called, and at last the auto containing the Motor Boys and their scientist friend and Bill Cromley was on the way to Chicago. Of course this was still a long way from Thunder Mountain, but the boys were in no special hurry. The gold mine, they knew, would not run away.

“And that treasure chest has been there so long it must be rusty by this time,” remarked Bob.

“Gold doesn’t rust,” observed Ned.

“And we aren’t at all sure that we can find it,” added Jerry.

“It isn’t going to be easy,” asserted the old miner. “As I told you, many have hunted for it and never found it. But I’ll do my best to show you the spot where the coach went over. I’m glad I got out of going with that Noddy Nixon,” he added.

“He’ll make trouble for you if he can,” predicted Ned. “He was as mad as hops because we got you away from him.”

“Let him rage,” chuckled Bill Cromley. “I[61] don’t like his kind. The more he talked the less I liked him.”

“I guess that’s about all he can do is to get mad,” Bob said.

“Don’t fool yourself, Chunky,” warned Jerry. “Noddy Nixon isn’t the kind to give up easily. We’ve had trouble with him before, and we may have again.”

“Do you mean on this trip?” asked the fat lad, as he began fumbling a mysterious package he had brought with him. At least it seemed mysterious to his chums, for he had never once let it go out of his hands and had seemed very anxious about it.

“Yes, even on this trip,” went on Jerry. “I shouldn’t be surprised if we ran into him somewhere near Blue Rock. But what have you there, Chunky?” and Jerry pointed to the package.

“Oh, it’s just a few sandwiches I got Katie to put up for me—just before the professor got his ant from under the ice box,” said Bob, with a trace of a guilty air. “I thought maybe we’d get hungry before noon and——”

“Two thoughts for yourself and one for us,” laughed Ned. “Be sure you give us our share, Bob.”

“You can have some now,” offered the fat lad.

However, his companions were not as hungry as he, and, with a murmur of apology for what[62] he was doing, the youth opened his bundle and, with a sigh of satisfaction, began munching.

It was a little while after this that Ned, looking back over the road they were traveling—an action he had taken several times in the last half hour—asked, as they topped a rise:

“Who, do you suppose, is in that car?”

“What car?” asked Jerry.

“That one following us.”

“Is there a car following us?” exclaimed Bob, swallowing the last bite of his sandwich.

“Yes, and has been for the last half hour,” went on Ned. “I don’t believe it’s just a coincidence.”

“Take a look with the glasses,” suggested Jerry, nodding toward a side pocket in the auto—a pocket where a pair of powerful field glasses were carried. Ned adjusted them to his eyes and, standing up while Jerry slowed down, looked back. He gazed for a moment and then cried:

“It’s them!”

“Who?” demanded Bob and Jerry. Professor Snodgrass was taking but little interest in what was going on, as he was busy reading a book on South American beetles. Bill Cromley, though, was all attention.

“Some one on our trail?” demanded the old miner. “Who is it?”

[63]

“Noddy Nixon and Jack Pender!” declared Ned. “Take a look!”

He handed the glasses to Jerry, who had stopped the car.

“It’s Noddy all right,” the tall lad said quietly. “And I believe he is trying to follow us.”

“Let’s give him the slip,” suggested Bob. “You can easily do it, Jerry. Your car has speed, even if it hasn’t looks.”

“Thanks!” chuckled the tall lad, and when he again let in the clutch he stepped on the gas to such good purpose that a little later inspection showed a clear road in the rear. Or at least clear as far as the Nixon car was concerned. But the bully and his crony were not thus easily to be shaken off.

Later that afternoon a rain storm came up suddenly. And as they were on a dirt road Jerry said:

“We’d better stop and put on chains while we can. This road is going to get pretty slippery soon.”

“Run into that barn over there,” suggested Ned. “It isn’t any fun putting chains on in the rain on a muddy road. The barn is open—whoever owns it won’t mind if we go in for a few minutes.”

“Good idea,” was Jerry’s comment.

[64]

He drove the auto toward the open door of the big barn. Finding that there were also open doors at the far end, he ran his car close to them, so he could go out that way without backing or turning around.

They alighted from the auto and were getting the chains out when a noise at the door by which they had entered attracted their attention. Ned looked up.

“Here come Noddy and Pender!” he exclaimed. “They’re hot after us—must have taken a short cut. What’ll we do?”

“Let’s hide!” suggested Bob. “They haven’t seen us yet, and maybe we can hear something of their plans.”

“Good idea!” decided Jerry. “To the hay, fellows!”

The three boys and the two men made a scramble for the haymow as Noddy and Jack drove their machine into the barn.


[65]

CHAPTER VIII
A CRASH

For several seconds after having rolled into the barn out of the now driving downpour of rain, Noddy and Jack did not seem to have noticed particularly the other car near the opposite door. It was evident, from what the two cronies said, that they were not aware of the previous entrance of the Motor Boys. It was also plain that Noddy and Jack had come in the barn for the same purpose as had those now in the haymow—to put the chains on their wheels because of the slippery condition of the muddy roads.

“We were lucky to get in here,” remarked Jack, as he descended from Noddy’s car.

“I’ll say so!” exclaimed the bully. And the five, hidden in the hay, could hear every word.

“I wonder where those fellows went?” proceeded Jack, as he got out the chains from beneath the seat. “We were trailing pretty close after them, when, all of a sudden, they put on speed and got away. I didn’t think Jerry’s old gasoline gig had that much pep in her.”

[66]

“He must have had the valves ground,” said Noddy. “Come on now, Jack, get those chains on. I’m going to smoke a cigarette.” And, leaving to his toady the no very pleasant task of adjusting the chains, Noddy got out to walk on the barn floor and indulge in the dangerous practice of smoking where there was much hay and straw.

It was while Noddy was walking about that he noted the other car. No sooner did he recognize it than the bully cried:

“Here they are! Here’s their car!”

“Are they—are they there?” asked Jack, rather weakly. He was a coward, as was Noddy—more of a coward, in fact, and he shrank from a physical encounter with the Motor Boys.

“No, they aren’t here,” announced Noddy, after a look around the barn. “Guess they went to the farmhouse to get something to eat. That fathead Bob Baker is always eating!”

“Oh, let me get at him!” whispered Chunky, hidden in the hay beside Jerry.

“Sure, Chunky is always on hand when grub’s ready,” chuckled Jack. “So they’re up in the farmhouse, are they?”

“Must be,” asserted Noddy. “They aren’t around, but this is Jerry’s car all right. I’d know it in a thousand. How you coming on with those chains, Jack?”

[67]

“One is sort of hard to get on. If you’d give me a hand——”

“Aw, what do you think I am? You said if I’d bring you on this trip you’d do all the repair work.”

“I know I did. But this is fierce! Anyhow, you’ve got to give me a share in that chest of gold if we ever find it.”

The Motor Boys fairly held their breath at hearing this. They waited for what was next to follow.

“Sure I’ll give you some,” said Noddy easily. “But we’ve got to keep following Jerry and his bunch until we get near the place. Dolt says he knows about where the stage coach went over, but he wants to get a little more dope on it. He thinks he can get to be friends with Bill Cromley and maybe the old miner will give him a tip! I think he knows some things he hasn’t told yet.”

“I’ll tip him on his head—that’s what I’ll do!” was the whispered threat from the old miner.

“Speaking of Dolt, wake him up and make him give you a hand with the chains,” suggested Noddy. “He’s got to work his passage. About all he’s done since we started is to sleep on the back seat. Wake him up!”

Jerry and his chums, as they looked through the hay, saw Dolt Haven rouse up from the rear after Jack had shaken him.

[68]

“What’s matter?” mumbled Dolt sleepily. Evidently he had been up most of the night before.

“Wake up, Haven, and give Jack a hand at putting on the chains,” snapped out Noddy. “It’s raining cats and dogs and the roads will be a sea of mud soon. It’ll be as bad for the Motor Boys as for us, all the same. Jinks! I hope we can beat them at this game. They didn’t get away as they thought they did, though. I wonder where they are now?”

As if in answer to his question there came a sudden cry from Professor Snodgrass, who had crawled off by himself in the hay loft.

“I’ve got them! I’ve got them!” fairly shouted the little scientist. “Oh, you shan’t get away now!”

“Good night!” gasped Dolt Haven, as with open mouth and shaking knees he dropped a wrench he had taken to help Jack straighten a bent link in one of the chains. “It must be the police! I’m going to skip!”

He started to run from the barn, and Noddy and Jack were not a little puzzled themselves by the sudden shout, when Professor Snodgrass, in the excess of his zeal to capture a bug he had seen in the hay, slid out of the mow and down to the barn floor. And at the sight of the little college scientist Noddy guessed it all.

[69]

“They’re here!” cried the bully.

“Yes, we’re here!” suddenly admitted Jerry, as, followed by his two chums and Bill Cromley, he, too, slid to the floor. “We got here just a little ahead of you, Noddy. Hope you had no trouble following us,” he added, with sarcastic politeness.

“Who was following you?” growled the bully.

“You were,” boldly asserted Jerry.

“We were not! Guess the roads are free, aren’t they?”

“Sure they are,” broke in Ned. “But we’ve been up there in the hay, Noddy, ever since you came in. We heard what you said——”

“Say, let me get out of here!” gasped Dolt Haven. “I—I don’t feel very well!”

“Shut up!” ordered Noddy. “You do as I tell you. Get those chains on, Jack. As for you fellows, I’m not going to stand for any more of your insults!” and he glared at the Motor Boys.

“Come off your high horse!” cried Bob. “If I had——”

“Yes, if you had something to eat you’d be fatter than ever, you big chunk of beef!” sneered Noddy. “Why don’t you——”

At this moment there came an interruption in the shape of the farmer in whose barn the two hostile parties had taken shelter. The man, a crabbed tiller of the soil, had seen the two cars[70] enter his building, and, running out from the house through the rain, had broken up the quarrel.

“Hey, what are you tramps doing here?” the farmer demanded. “What right have you here, anyhow?”

“No right, perhaps,” said Jerry quietly. “We only came in to put on our chains before continuing, and——”

“Been smoking, too, haven’t you?” demanded the man, sniffing the air. “I must say that’s a pretty piece of work—smoking in a barn just after I got it filled with hay! I’ll have you arrested—that’s what I’ll do! I’ll have the law on you!”

“Just a moment, my friend,” spoke up Ned. “We weren’t smoking. I guess we know enough not to do that in a barn.”

“Don’t tell me! I know cigarette smoke when I smell it!” cried the farmer. “There! I just saw him drop his butt and step on it!” He pointed to Noddy, who had done what he was accused of.

“He isn’t with our party,” said Bill Cromley. “We don’t have anything to do with him!”

“I should say not!” sneered the bully. “I don’t want anything to do with you fellows—not in a hundred years!”

“Except to follow us and find out where we are going,” chuckled Ned. “Oh, we’re on to your game, Noddy!”

[71]

The farmer, who had been looking closely at Noddy, now advanced closer and cried:

“I know you, all right!”

“Oh, do you?” asked Noddy, while Jack and Dolt did not know what it all meant or what would happen.

“I sure do! You robbed my orchard a few years ago. I chased you and nearly caught you. I never forget a face—not a mean one like yours, anyhow. You’re the lad that robbed my orchard and broke down my fence! Now you get out of here as quick as you can or I’ll have the police after you! Get out!”

“Oh, all right! We were just going, anyhow,” said Noddy. “Got those chains on, Jack?” he asked, taking his seat in the car.

“In just a minute, Noddy. Come on, Dolt! Hustle! This fellow may set his bulldog after us.” The two worked to such good advantage that soon the car was equipped with non-skidders, and Noddy started to back out.

“Ta! Ta!” he sneered. “See you later!”

“Not if we see you first!” grimly remarked Ned.

With the departure of the ill-favored trio, the farmer turned to the Motor Boys. He seemed to have softened somewhat.

“Weren’t you smoking?” he asked.

“Not a smoke!” replied Bob.

[72]

“Well, I’m glad of it. Stay here as long as you like. Come up to the house if you want to. I don’t mind decent folks using my barn.”

“We’ll be moving pretty soon,” said Jerry. “We only came in to put on our chains, but we saw these fellows follow and there were reasons why we wanted to overhear their plans, as we did. Come on, boys. Let’s get the chains out.”

“Don’t hurry—stay as long as you like,” invited the farmer. “It’s going to be a bad storm.”

“That’s why we want to get on to Newton,” said Jerry. “We’re going to stop there for the night.”

“Well, you’re welcome to stay as long as you like here,” the man went on. “All I ask is decent treatment. But when a fellow smokes in my barn, and when he’s the same fellow that once robbed my orchard, broke down my fence, and sassed me in the bargain, I have no use for him!”

He watched the boys adjusting their chains, and renewed his invitation to them to remain. But they thanked him and moved on.

“It sure is a rain!” said Bob, as they drove along a muddy road. “Good thing we put on the side curtains as well as the chains.”

“Sure,” assented Ned.

Presently the Motor Boys heard Bill Cromley snicker to himself.

“By Peter, these fellers were right,” muttered[73] the old miner. “Thought I didn’t tell ’em everything about that treasure. And no more I did!” And he snickered again.

“What do you mean?” questioned Ned curiously.

“I didn’t tell ’em about the twin trees, down past which the treasure chest is supposed to have slid. I got that from an old Mexican I knew years ago. I’ll have to point out the twin trees to you boys—that is, provided they are still standin’.”

“I’ll be glad to see them,” said Bob.

Jerry talked but little. His whole attention was needed for driving under such difficulties. They had almost reached Newton in the fast-gathering darkness when, as they rounded a curve, Bob, who was sitting beside Jerry, suddenly cried:

“Look out!”

Too late! In the gleam of the lights he had turned on, the tall lad saw a small tree that had fallen across the road. He tried to put on the brakes, but the car slid in the mud.

The next moment there was a crash.


[74]

CHAPTER IX
THE FAT MAN

“What is it? Have we arrived?” cried Professor Snodgrass, who had been dozing on the rear seat and had been jolted awake.

“We hit something, didn’t we?” asked Bill Cromley.

“I’ll say we did!” ruefully murmured Ned, rubbing his head that had come in contact with one of the upright supports of the windshield.

By this time the three boys were out in the rain, standing on the muddy road and looking at the tree they had struck. It lay almost squarely across the highway—a dead sapling which had broken in two at the crash of the front wheels of the car.

“Um! Not as bad as I thought,” murmured Jerry when, in the light of a powerful searchlight he carried, he had seen that neither front wheel was damaged. “Not even a puncture.”

“The tree was rotten, or it might have been worse,” said Bob.

Ned had gone forward to walk around the[75] obstruction and what he discovered caused him to exclaim:

“That tree was brought here and left across the road on purpose. Some one tried to wreck us!”

“Then it was Nixon’s crowd!” asserted Bob. “They knew we would have to come this way to get to Newton, and they put this tree here. There’s where they dragged it from!” he added.

He pointed to a place alongside the highway from which, it was evident, the dead sapling had been brought.

“A dirty trick!” murmured Bill Cromley. “Wait until I get my hands on that Noddy Nixon!”

“He’s far enough off by now,” said Jerry. “Well, fellows, if we can get the tree out of the way we can go on, I guess. We don’t seem to be damaged any.”

A hasty inspection of the car showed this to be true, and the boys, with the help of the old miner, soon pulled the two pieces of tree out of the way and well to one side, where no other motorist would be put in danger.


THE BOYS PULLED THE TWO PIECES OF TREE OUT OF THE WAY.

All this time the professor sat in comfort in the rear of the car, going over some of his notebooks in the light of a small lamp which was fastened to the back of the front seat. The scientist had turned it on.

[76]

The boys, knowing his ways, did not ask him to help them, and he was so deeply interested in the bugs he had caught in the hay that he paid little attention to what was going on around him.

Once more, through the storm and darkness, the Motor Boys proceeded and succeeded without further incident in reaching Newton. There they went to a hotel for the night. They soon discovered that Noddy and his fellow conspirators were not at this place, and they surmised that their enemies had gone on.

Somewhat to the surprise of the boys, the morning broke clear. Though the storm kept up all night, the rain ceased about sunrise. With cheerful spirits the travelers filed into the dining room, led, as was usually the case, by the substantial Bob Baker.

“Let’s sit over there,” he suggested, pointing to a table near which hovered a rather pretty waitress, albeit she was very stout.

“What’s the idea? Do you know her?” asked Ned, in a low voice.

“No. But she looks good-natured,” Chunky replied. “She won’t mind getting me a couple of extra plates of wheat cakes and she’ll give me plenty of maple syrup.”

“Oh, then there’s a method in your madness,” laughed Jerry. “All right, old scout, go to it.”

The fat but pretty and jolly waitress welcomed[77] them to her table, and she seemed to give special attention to Bob, somewhat to the latter’s embarrassment.

Professor Snodgrass caused a little disturbance when, after looking at the bill of fare, he asked the girl:

“Do you have any lymexylon navale?”

“Er—wha—what’s that, sir?” she asked, reaching for the bill of fare.

“I say have you any lymexylon navale out here?”

“I—I don’t believe we have any for breakfast this morning, sir. But I’ll ask in the kitchen.”

“Dear me, it isn’t anything to eat!” exclaimed the professor, with a laugh. “I was referring to the serricorn beetle, which is allied to the Elateridæ and the Buprestidæ. It is called lymexylon navale because of the damage its grubs caused in the Swedish dockyards at the time of Linnæus. It is very destructive to oak trees, and as I noticed some oak trees in front of the hotel, I thought you might have seen some of the lymexylon navale bugs.”

“No—no, sir,” and the girl moved away from the little scientist. “But we have some navel oranges, if that’s what you mean.”

“Oh, no, my dear! Never mind! Bring me some soft-boiled eggs!”

With a look of relief on her face at having[78] received an order which she could understand, the girl hastened toward the kitchen, followed by the smiles of the boys.

“I’ll say you picked a good one, Chunky,” remarked Jerry, after a most bounteous breakfast. “Best little waitress we ever struck.”

“I’m coming here again on our way back,” Bob said. “She gave me more maple syrup than I ever had with cakes before.”

“Yes, and you’ve got a generous sample of it on your face now!” teased Ned, as the fat lad made hasty use of his napkin.

They settled their bill at the hotel and were again on their way. Inquiry gave them information about concrete roads where they could make good time and not be in danger of being mired because of the mud.

There was no trace of the Nixon crowd, and for this the boys were glad, though Jerry said no one could tell when the bully might bob up on their trail.

The plan of the Motor Boys was to proceed to Albany, and then take the Mohawk Valley trail to Buffalo. From there they would go to Cleveland and so to Chicago.

This program was followed, and aside from the usual incidents and accidents of travel—once getting a puncture and again getting on the wrong road—little of moment occurred until they[79] reached Buffalo. There Jerry found something wrong with the motor of his car, and they had to lay over a day until repairs could be made.

It was in Buffalo that they again got a trace of Noddy Nixon. They stopped at the Statler Hotel and, as a special favor, Professor Snodgrass promised not to ask the waitresses or waiters about any strange specimens he might desire.

“It’s all right in the country hotels,” Jerry said to the scientist, “but in a big city one they wouldn’t understand you.”

“I see, Jerry,” was the answer. “But there’s no harm in my looking for bugs, is there?”

“Oh, no, look as much as you like,” returned the tall lad.

Jerry went to the garage to get his repaired car. On his return to the hotel he saw Noddy in the lobby talking to Bill Cromley.

“I’ll make it worth your while to come with us,” he overheard Noddy say to the old miner.

Jerry hesitated, wondering what the answer would be. But if he had any doubts as to the loyalty of Mr. Cromley, they were soon dispelled.

“Come on,” urged the bully, taking hold of the old miner’s arm. “I’ll buy you a cigar and we can talk it over.”

“No, you won’t buy me any cigars!” cried the miner, shaking himself free as Noddy tried to[80] draw him toward the cigar counter. “The kind you smoke must be made of skunk cabbage! Get that? Skunk cabbage for skunks!”

Noddy grew red in the face and hastily moved away followed by the laughter of several men who had heard what was said.

“I guess we can depend on Bill,” remarked Jerry to Bob.

“We sure can. Noddy got an earful that time!”

The Motor Boys did not get another view of the bully’s crowd for some days, though once there was evidence that Noddy was not far ahead. One afternoon, when nearing Cleveland, they went through a small town. On the outskirts they saw that several bottles had been smashed in the road, the jagged bits of glass offering choice chances for punctures.

“Some more of their work!” exclaimed Ned, as Jerry carefully avoided the danger. The car was stopped and the glass removed to protect others who might follow.

The boys remained two days in Cleveland to rest, where they enjoyed the sights, including Wade Park and the lake front. Then they began the last leg of their auto journey, into Chicago.

From here they sent a message to Tinny, letting him know on what train they were starting West. Jerry sold his car for a fair price, as the lads[81] did not know when they could come back, or even whether or not they would reach Chicago again. And to store the machine, or hire some one to run it back, would cost more than it would be worth. Professor Snodgrass had decided to continue on for a time with his friends. He said he felt much better.

“Well, we’re fairly on our way at last!” remarked Bob that night, as they took their places in the sleeping car. “We’ll be in Montana in a few days.”

“Yes, and I think we’ve given Noddy and his crowd the slip,” commented Ned.

“It looks so,” affirmed Jerry.

They had five lower berths in the middle of the car, and after seeing to the stowing away of their valises, the boys began to prepare for sleep, for they had had a hard day.

“Aren’t you going to turn in, Professor?” asked Jerry, as he saw the little man, with notebook and pencil, making his way to the smoking compartment.

“I want to finish making a few entries, and then I’ll come to bed, Jerry,” replied Uriah Snodgrass. “I won’t be long.”

The train slowly pulled out of the shed, followed a little later by the second section. Until they reached Livingston, Montana, the boys would travel on the steel rails. In Livingston[82] they would be met by Tinny, who would have a car for them, since they were going into a part of the state inadequately served by railroads.

“And now for a good sleep,” sighed Jerry, with relief, as he stretched out between the sheets. The steady motion of the train and the click of the wheels over the rail joints was lulling him to slumber when he was suddenly roused by the voice of the fat man in the berth above him.

Jerry well remembered the fat passenger, who had tried in vain to get a lower berth from the porter. The colored czar of the sleeper had only said:

“No, sah. We’s done filled up. No lowers.”

With a sigh the fat man had resigned himself to his fate, and it was his voice that now echoed through the hitherto silent car as he cried:

“Get out! Get out! Porter! Conductor! I’m being robbed! Help!”

“Can this be a hold-up?” thought Jerry, reaching out to part the green curtains.

At the same time he heard the voice of Professor Snodgrass in evident distress.


[83]

CHAPTER X
THE SECOND SECTION

Jerry Hopkins for an instant or two was rather sorry he had urged the professor to continue on with him and his companions to Thunder Mountain. At first the scientist had planned to come only as far as Chicago with the boys, to get the benefit of riding in the open air.

But the trip from Cresville did him so much good and he seemed so happy at being back with his young friends and so glad of the chance to collect specimens, that Jerry had said:

“Why not come all the way to Montana with us? We shall be in the open air most of the time.

“But if this is a hold-up,” mused Jerry, as he began an observation, “and the professor is going to be robbed, he won’t thank me for having persuaded him to come along.”

By this time the tall lad was out in the aisle of the car, clad only in his pajamas, but as there happened to be no ladies in the sleeper this was not embarrassing to the lad. He saw the little scientist reaching in between the green curtains[84] that hid the occupant of the upper section from sight.

But though this occupant, whom Jerry remembered as the fat man, was unseen, he was not unheard, for he continued to yell:

“Help! Porter! Conductor! I’m being robbed! Some one is after my watch and pocketbook!”

Undoubtedly the professor had his hands in among the bed clothes of the fat man’s berth. Uriah Snodgrass was standing on the little ladder which the porter brings when one has to climb in or out of an upper berth.

“What’s the matter, Professor?” asked Jerry, though he thought he could guess without being told what had happened.

“One of my most valuable specimens—a black pinching beetle which I have been keeping alive in order to study its wing action—has just got away from me!” explained the former instructor at Boxwood Hall. “I saw it crawling up into this berth, and I want to get it back. It is a very large beetle, with enormous pinching jaws and——”

“Ow! Oh, something hit me! I’m shot! He used a silencer on his gun and shot me!” cried the fat man, sticking his head out between the curtains. “I’m shot, conductor!” he cried, as that official entered the car, followed by the porter who had emerged from his “den.”

[85]

“You aren’t shot!” exclaimed the professor. “That’s probably my beetle pinching you. Where did you feel the pain?”

“Here! On my arm! Oh, there it goes again!”

He extended a fat arm, and, the pajama sleeve falling back, there was revealed a large black bug firmly fixed in the soft flesh of the heavy man.

“Yes, there he is, the beauty!” exclaimed the scientist. “Just a moment now, I’ll have him!” Quickly and skillfully Uriah Snodgrass transferred the beetle from the fat man’s arm to a glass-topped specimen box, and then the little scientist climbed down off the ladder.

Jerry wanted to laugh but dared not, while Bob and Ned, looking from their berths, were in the same predicament. As for Bill Cromley, he did not stir. As he announced later, when he went to bed to sleep he did that and nothing else.

“What’s all the row?” asked the conductor, while some other passengers, heads sticking out of their berths, looked on interestedly.

“I was awakened by feeling a hand moving about under my pillow,” explained the fat man. “I thought a robber was after my pocketbook and watch. I called an alarm. Then I felt a pain in my arm and I thought I had been shot, but, as I heard no report, I judged a silencer had been[86] used on the robber’s gun. But if it was only a bug——”

“It was my black beetle,” explained Professor Snodgrass patiently. “I am very sorry, sir, but I could not let it get away. I saw it crawl up into your berth and I thought I could get it back without awakening you. I am sorry. By the way, the bite of this insect is harmless.”

“Um! Well, it isn’t painless, at all events,” said the fat man, rubbing his arm.

“I regret it exceedingly, sir,” went on the scientist. “If you will allow me——”

He took from his pocket a small tin box which contained some soothing ointment and smeared the red spots on the fat man’s arm, for the beetle had pinched in two places.

“That will relieve the pain,” said Uriah Snodgrass. “I use it myself, and I have been bitten by hundreds of beetles.” He said this with an air of pride, as one might boast of battle wounds.

“Um,” murmured the fat man, his feelings a little mollified as the pain eased after the application of the ointment. “Well, I’m glad you have your bug back. I don’t want to sleep with it.”

He ducked back into his berth and Jerry returned to his, looking out to say:

“Better turn in, Professor,” for the little scientist had not yet undressed.

[87]

“I will, Jerry, right away. I am so glad to get back that black beetle.”

“You’re no gladder than I am,” chuckled the fat man behind the curtains of his berth. And from the fact that he laughed it might be argued that he harbored no ill feelings. Which was the case, for the next day he and the professor became fast friends.

The remainder of the night passed without incident, and morning found the travelers well on their way to Thunder Mountain. They had traveled so much that it might be supposed such life had in it nothing novel for the Motor Boys. But they were not spoiled, and took a keen interest in everything that went on around them.

They even helped Professor Snodgrass capture some specimens of a peculiar fly that invaded the car when the train was passing through a wooded section.

“I’m glad we don’t have to worry about Noddy Nixon and those two unlovely specimens that were traveling with him,” observed Bob one day as he and his chums came from the dining car.

“That’s right,” added Ned. “We gave them the slip good and proper. Noddy sure had his nerve with him to follow us and try to get Bill away from us.”

“I’ll say he did!” declared Jerry.

“You fellows don’t ever need to worry about[88] me throwing in with that skunk!” declared the old miner. “I’m with you from now on, and I won’t as much as speak to Noddy Nixon if I see him.”

“I guess we aren’t likely to see him,” remarked Ned.

Mile after mile was reeled off by the clicking wheels and, in due season, allowing for a half day’s delay caused by a freight wreck, the travelers reached Livingston, Montana. This is a small station and is where tourists change to take a train that carries them to Yellowstone Park, that land of wonders.

However, the Motor Boys were more interested in looking for Tinny Mallison, who had promised to meet them here, than they were in the sight of many travelers alighting to change cars for the Yellowstone.

“There he is! I see him!” cried Ned, waving his hand toward a tall, bronzed young man who hurried forward from a touring car at the sight of the boys.

“Howdy, boys! Glad you’re here!” called the former officer, as he came near. All formality was forgotten now, of course, since the war was over. They were just friends—no longer officer and non-com. and privates.

“Everything all right?” asked Tinny, as he[89] shook hands with the lads. “Have a good trip and everything?”

“Yes, except that one of the dining car cooks broke down and had to go to the hospital,” said Ned, with a grave face.

“Had to go to the hospital!” repeated Mallison. “Why——”

“Chunky ate so much that the poor cook never got any rest night or day,” went on Ned, with a serious face, which broke into a smile, however, at the sign of a grin on Tinny’s face.

“You low-down, onery, white-livered specimen of a—” began Bob, but Ned ducked out of the way in time.

Then there was laughter, following which Tinny was introduced to Professor Snodgrass and Bill Cromley.

“I have heard the boys speak of you, Professor,” said the Westerner. “I am glad to meet you, Mr. Cromley. Have you been West before?”

“I should say he had!” exclaimed Ned. “He used to mine it out this way, and——”

“I was in the Blue Rock section,” explained Bill Cromley, in answer to a look from Tinny. “Nothing very big——”

“But there was a big lot of gold in the treasure chest that went over the ledge!” broke in Jerry. “Tell Mr. Mallison about it, Bill.”

[90]

Thereupon the story was told of the lost treasure chest of Blue Rock. The boys listened eagerly, though they had heard it related before, but they wanted to judge of its effect on Mallison. Somewhat to their surprise and regret, he was not favorably impressed.

“Yes,” he said indifferently, “I’ve heard that yarn before. Didn’t I telegraph not to take stock in Blue Rock? I am inclined to think it’s a fairy tale.”

“A fairy tale!” cried Bob.

“Yes. I believe the stage driver was in cahoots with some bandits, and the crowd took the chest away from him.”

“But the stage driver was killed!” exclaimed Bill Cromley. “I knew him. He was a friend of mine!”

“Well, if that’s the case, I beg your pardon for doubting him,” said Mallison. “But I can’t help believing there was something crooked in the whole thing. That could be, and the driver still be innocent. The bandits may have chased the horses over the cliff to make it look like an accident so the authorities wouldn’t investigate. It’s a fairy tale, boys—don’t take any stock in it.”

The lads looked crestfallen, but Bill Cromley said:

“No, you’ll find that it really happened the way I tell you. Hank Moody was the driver of that[91] stage. He was an honest man, and I believe he lost his life trying to save the treasure chest.”

“Well, maybe,” said Tinny easily. “But come on, boys, I’ve got my new car here and we’ll soon be hitting the trail for Thunder Mountain. I wasn’t sure whether you’d come on the first or second section of the train. And, by the way, here comes the second section now. Didn’t take long to catch up to you.”

“No, we were delayed by a wreck,” explained Jerry.

The boys turned idly to observe the passengers getting off the second section of the express. To their surprise and dismay, alighting from one of the coaches they saw Noddy Nixon, Jack Pender and Dolt Haven!


[92]

CHAPTER XI
ON THE TRAIL

Rather stiff and cramped from their long ride in the train, Noddy and his two companions were not as alert as they might have been under other circumstances. They moved slowly along the station platform, trying, as it were, to locate themselves, and in doing this they did not catch sight of the boys they had set out to follow.

The Motor Boys, however, had seen their enemies and the need of instant action occurred to them. Bob was the first to act, or, rather, to suggest action, and he cried:

“Don’t let them see us! They’re trying to find us, but the longer we can keep out of their sight the better!”

“Good idea,” commented Tinny, who had been briefly told about the actions of the bully. “Come around this side of the station. My car is there and we can hop in and be down the trail before those fellows get the cinders out of their eyes.”

Arrangements had previously been made to send the baggage of the boys, the professor, and[93] Bill Cromley on to Tinny’s mine-house by a motor truck, so all that the travelers had to carry were their valises. Of course, Uriah Snodgrass had his pockets filled with bugs and insects, as well as with glass-topped boxes in which he hoped to catch other specimens. But as he was always thus laden it was a matter of no comment, though, to Tinny, of some curiosity.

So it but remained for the party to act on Bob’s sensible suggestion, slip around the side of the station and get the building between them and Noddy’s “gang,” as the Motor Boys referred to Noddy’s party.

This was done, and before the bully and his companions had more than turned themselves around, Jerry and his friends were in Tinny’s auto, speeding down the trail that led to Thunder Mountain. This was the name of a small mining settlement, as well as the general name of this whole section.

“That was a close call!” exclaimed Ned, as they were hurrying away.

“I’ll advertise the fact that it was!” said Jerry.

“Do you think Noddy Nixon saw you?” asked Bill Cromley.

“Don’t believe so,” replied Bob. “We were too quick for him.”

“I thought you said you had shaken him,” remarked[94] Tinny, as he guided his car along the mountain trail.

“We thought we had,” Ned remarked. “We hoped so, anyhow.”

“And they were watching us all the while!” ejaculated Jerry regretfully. “They just sneaked along and took the second section.”

“Well, he’d better not try any of his tricks out here,” threatened Tinny Mallison. “We don’t stand for any nonsense in Thunder Mountain. Of course, every man has his rights, and Noddy Nixon will be entitled to his. But if he starts anything that he can’t finish it will be all up with him.”

“Noddy is just the kind to do that,” murmured Jerry. “Well, anyhow, I’m glad we’re here, Tinny. And now it’s up to you to show us a good gold mine.”

“I’ll do that, boys!” exclaimed the Westerner earnestly. “I’m not saying my holdings are the richest in the world, but they’ll pay well, I’m sure, as soon as we can begin developing them. I need capital and help, and that’s why I called on you fellows. How do you like it out here as far as you’ve seen?”

The Motor Boys looked about on the wild but wondrously beautiful scenery surrounding them. In the distance were tall mountain peaks, and nearer them towered peaks equally impressive.[95] It was a rugged country, sparsely settled, but with great possibilities. Here and there gushing mountain torrents chattered their way down the gashed cliffs.

“It’s great!” declared Ned, taking a long breath.

“Beats France all to smithers!” commented Bob. “I never could get used to the food we had over there, anyhow, though of course it was a lot better chow than the other soldiers got.”

Then he wondered why his chums laughed.

“I think we’re going to like it here,” Jerry said.

“There’s a pretty good mine,” and Tinny pointed out some men at work on a shaft inside of a mountain, boring a hole into the rock and dirt to get at the hidden gold.

“Is yours like that?” asked Ned.

“Rather better, I think,” Tinny said. “I’ve got a slab shack instead of a tent, and try to live in a fashion a bit civilized. Those fellows are just starting in,” and he indicated the tent in which the miners were living while trying for a “strike.”

“This air sure does smell good to me!” exclaimed Cromley, taking a long breath as they rolled past another mining camp. “I’ve been wanting to get back here for a long time.”

“How far is this from Blue Rock?” asked Jerry of the old miner.

[96]

“Oh, not so far,” was the vague answer. “It won’t take very long to get there in a car like this—that is, provided Mr. Mallison wants to go,” and Bill seemed somewhat depressed by the little faith the mine owner had shown in his story.

“Oh, I’ll go, if you fellows want to,” said Tinny, with an accommodating air. “And, mind you, I don’t say that that stage didn’t go over the cliff, horses and all. In fact, I know it did. But as far as finding the chest of gold goes—nothing to it, boys, nothing to it! Why, there are thousands of holes and pockets on the mountainside it might have disappeared into.”

“We’ll have a try, anyhow,” decided Ned. “That is, if we don’t strike it rich in your mine, Tinny.”

“Well, we may strike it rich, and then, again, we may have only moderate success,” was the answer. “I know there’s gold to be had in my holdings. I’ve had it tested and it assays well. Of course, it may peter out after we’ve gone in a way, but the surface indications and the trend of the ledge seem to indicate that it will get richer and thicker the farther we go. If I hadn’t believed that, I wouldn’t have sent for you fellows. But, with all that, you may get a chance to have a stab at Blue Rock.”

“I’d like to go back to look at the place,” said Bill Cromley. “Some partners of mine and me[97] tried to locate the chest once, but we didn’t have any luck. I know where it ought to be found, but things don’t always turn out the way they ought to.”

“Indeed they don’t,” said Tinny, with a laugh.

He pointed out the sights along the way, the boys being much interested in what they saw. They passed through small towns and again through lonely stretches where not so much as a miner’s tent was observed.

“Nice car you have,” said Jerry, as he noted the smoothness with which the auto ran along.

“Not bad,” admitted Tinny. “It’s just what I need out here. What did you do with yours, Jerry?”

“Sold it in Chicago.”

“He’s going to buy a twelve-cylinder if this mine turns out anyway at all well,” joked Ned.

“What do you think of that Noddy Nixon crowd, anyhow?” asked Tinny, after a while. “I mean do you think they’re likely to do any mischief?”

“You never can tell what Noddy will do,” was Jerry’s reply. “And now that he has Dolt Haven with him, it’s even more of a guess. If it was just Jack Pender I wouldn’t take much stock in it, as Jack is a weakling and a coward. But Haven, so I imagine, while he doesn’t know much, is just ignorant enough to be dangerous.”

[98]

“We’ll have to keep our eyes on them; that’s all,” remarked Tinny.

“But they don’t know where we’ve gone,” observed Bob.

“They can easily find out if they know you fellows have come out here to my claim,” said Mallison. “Everybody knows where my shack is.”

“Oh, Noddy can trace us, of course,” admitted Jerry. “Some one at Livingston is sure to have seen us get into your car, Tinny, and they’ll tell if asked. The only thing is that we have Noddy guessing for a while, anyhow.”

“The more trouble we can give him, the better,” declared Ned.

Professor Snodgrass, who had been breathing in deep of the wonderful and vitalizing air and looking about on the wildly beautiful scene, suddenly made a dive for the side of the car.

“There he goes! There he goes!” he cried, pointing.

“Who, Noddy Nixon?” exclaimed Tinny, as he jammed on the brakes.


[99]

CHAPTER XII
TINNY’S SHACK

Without replying, Professor Snodgrass hastily left the car. It then dawned upon the others that the scientist could not have been speaking of the bully, for a quick observation did not disclose him. Nor was any one else nor any car in sight.

But Professor Snodgrass was after something—that was evident. Along the rough mountain trail he ran, and toward the side of a hill of dirt and rocks, at the same time crying:

“I saw you! I saw you! I’ll get you!”

Then the boys saw what it was—a rather large-sized toad desperately hopping along, as if it knew Professor Snodgrass was after it, as, indeed, the little bald-headed man was.

Into the bushes Uriah Snodgrass disappeared, for thither the toad had hopped, and the boys could not help smiling, in which silent merriment Tinny and Cromley joined.

Out came the former Boxwood Hall instructor a few seconds later, holding in his hand the frightened toad. To the boys it was only a toad, but[100] to the scientist it meant a great deal, and he was proud of his prize.

“I haven’t seen one like this for years,” he announced, as he put the creature into a box. “I thought they had vanished from the United States, and it would have been a pity. But I am glad to see that my fears were groundless. Yes, hop away, my fine fellow,” went on Professor Snodgrass, as the toad tried to get out. “I have you and you shan’t get away. My friend, Professor Doty, will be greatly surprised when I write and tell him I have you. This has been a lucky day for me!”

“Well, shall we go on?” asked Tinny, with a smile, as the professor climbed back into the automobile.

“Yes, I don’t see any more toads like this,” was the answer. “Oh, but won’t Doty be envious of me!”

Professor Doty was another instructor in Boxwood Hall, somewhat of a rival of Uriah Snodgrass, and the two were always differing on some theory or idea, and one was always trying to get ahead of the other in the matter of capturing rare specimens.

“If we had the two of them along,” whispered Jerry to the mine-owner, “life wouldn’t be worth living. But with just Professor Snodgrass it’s great.”

[101]

“I like him,” Tinny said. “He’s good fun and a real sport. I’m glad you brought him.”

The mountain country was very wild, and seemingly almost deserted. Now and then they would pass another car on the road, the occupant or occupants of which would call a greeting to Tinny. At times the trail was so narrow that the mine owner would stop at designated spots, sound his horn, and wait a moment, listening for an answering blast.

“Two cars can’t pass at some places in the trail, so we have to be careful,” he explained. “It isn’t any fun backing around the edge of a cliff.”

But with all this, with the wildness and desolation all about them, the boys were glad they had come. It was just the sort of activity they needed after their exciting life in France, a life that had unfitted them—and many others like them—for settling down to a normal existence.

“Aren’t there any stores out here?” asked Bob, after a period of silence, following the passage around one of the narrow spots in the trail.

“Not many,” Tinny answered. “Why?”

“How do you—how do you get stuff to eat?” Bob brought out the words desperately. But, to his surprise, neither Ned nor Jerry laughed.

“Well, it is a problem at times,” Tinny admitted. “There aren’t any farms here where you[102] can get fresh vegetables, though Hang Gow has a sort of garden.”

“Who’s Hang Gow?” asked Ned.

“My Chinese cook, and a good one he is,” Tinny answered. “What he can’t do with canned goods isn’t worth doing.”

“Oh, then you get canned stuff?” asked Bob, with a sigh of relief.

“Sure we do! And plenty of it. The supplies come in regularly to Livingston and we get our share. The Yellowstone Park tourists have to eat, you know. Uncle Sam sees to that.”

Professor Snodgrass was so busily engaged in making notes about the rare toad he had captured that he took little part in the talk among the boys and Mallison. Nor was Bill Cromley much given to conversation. The miner seemed to be satisfied to sit still and look about on scenes with which he had been familiar for many years. Every now and then he would breathe in deeply, as if he could not fill his lungs full enough of the pure mountain air.

“How much farther to your place, Tinny?” asked Ned, when they had covered about a score of miles along the trail.

“We’ll be there in fifteen minutes more,” the owner of the Thunder Mountain mine answered, as he looked at the clock on the dash of his automobile.[103] “I told Hang Gow to have things ready for us.”

“That’s good!” exclaimed Bob, and he visibly brightened. “You mean something to eat, don’t you?” he inquired, so as not to labor under a misapprehension.

“That’s what I mean, Chunky!” laughed Mallison, and the other two lads joined in the merriment.

It was somewhat less than fifteen minutes when the car rounded a sharp curve in the cliffs and Tinny pointed ahead and exclaimed:

“There’s my shack!”

The boys saw a good-sized building constructed of slabs and boards perched on the side of a mountain. It stood out in bold relief in the midst of a clearing, and all about were trees and bushes.

“You get a fine view from up there, don’t you?” asked Jerry.

“I’ll say so!” was the answer.

Mallison brought the car to a stop near a spring of water bubbling out beside the road.

“What’s the idea?” asked Bob, who was getting very hungry—unusually hungry for him, even, as he had not had a chance to put any food in his pockets on leaving the train.

“Got to stop, cool off the engine a bit, and fill the radiator with water,” explained Tinny, as he got out and began dipping a can into the spring.[104] “There’s the stiffest climb of the whole trail between here and my cabin, and I don’t want to take any chances on spoiling my new car. Most of the time I have to run in second, and part of the way on first. Safety first’s my motto!”

The boys subscribed to this and got out to walk around while Tinny filled the radiator, which had already begun to steam, since he had run on second some distance before stopping.

Then, when the motor meter showed by the shortness of its red column that the engine was sufficiently cool, they started again. Tinny had not exaggerated the stiffness of the trail, and at times the Motor Boys were given a thrill as they climbed.

But Mallison was a careful and expert driver and there was no real trouble, though when they at last emerged on a level stretch steam was again coming from the radiator.

“But she’ll soon cool off now,” said the mine owner. “I can run down to my shack with the motor cut off,” and this he did.

Mallison gave a shout as he neared the slab shack, a shout which was answered in a queer, high voice from within.

“That one of your men?” asked Jerry.

“I haven’t any men working for me yet,” Tinny explained. “I’ve been waiting for you fellows to see if you wanted to help develop my mine. That[105] was Hang Gow. Hello there?” he shouted once more, as he brought the car to a stop at the side of the shack. “All aboard, Hang Gow! Got some hungry chaps here—one especially!” and he looked at Bob.

The boys gave a hasty glance about the shack, noting how well, if simply, it was constructed. They noted that in the rear a start had been made on a mining shaft. But just as they had got this far in their observations there emerged from the open door the figure of a fat, evidently good-natured, smiling Chinese.

“’Lo, Mist Mallison,” he called, for though he could not manage his R’s, Hang Gow got around the L very cleverly, hence the name Mallison offered no difficulties to him.

“Grub ready, Hang Gow?” asked Tinny, as he alighted.

“All leddy,” was the smiling answer. “All sammee got li’l bit mlo chow him fix up.”

The boys assumed that he meant he had a little more to do in the way of preparing food before they could come to the table.

“All right,” said Tinny. “But hustle it, Hang Gow. These are my friends—the Motor Boys, Professor Snodgrass, Mr. Bill Cromley,” and he waved his hand toward his guests.

“All sammee glad to see Mloto Boys, Plosess Snowglass, Mist Bill Clommy,” murmured Hang[106] Gow, making fearful hash of the names, but not, thereby, bringing any smiles of derision from the travelers. They had heard the Chinese talk before.

“Well, boys, here we are!” said Tinny. “Now I reckon you’ll want to wash before you eat. We’ve got what passes for a bathroom. It hasn’t a tiled floor, though I have rigged up a shower out of an old five gallon kerosene tin. I’ll introduce you to that later. Come on, Hang Gow—chop-chop! Lively’s the word! Get grub on the table!” he ordered, as he showed the travelers where they could remove some of the grime they had accumulated on their trip.

“All lite! Much soon have glub!” replied the Chinese, in his sing-song, and he disappeared into the kitchen.

Tinny was rapidly escorting his guests about the place, having taken them outside to show them the wonderful view, when suddenly there came the sound of a sharp explosion. An instant later this was followed by the shrill screaming voice of Hang Gow.


[107]

CHAPTER XIII
ECHO CANYON

Tinny had been telling the Motor Boys some of his plans for operating the mine, the shaft of which he was pointing out to them, when the crack of the explosion followed by the voice of Hang Gow startled them all.

“He’s done it again!” cried Mr. Mallison, starting on a run, the more quickly to reach the rear of the cabin.

“Sounds as though he’d done something serious!” exclaimed Jerry. “Come on, fellows!”

Ned and Bob followed, the former murmuring:

“I hope he isn’t hurt!”

The scene the boys beheld as they turned the corner of the cabin, or “shack,” as Tinny called his place, was one at once to puzzle and alarm them. The Chinese cook was dancing around on one leg, much excited and still crying shrilly in his cracked tones. Scattered about were the remains of what seemed to be a campfire. Near this was a tripod kettle, and, off to one side, was a blackened[108] and bent square tin can of about five gallon capacity.

“Shut up, Hang Gow!” ordered Tinny, not so much brutally as with well-intentioned meaning. “What’s the matter? Are you hurt?”

“No hultie! No hultie!” jabbered the fellow. “Much nice blid-nest soup alle samme blow up! Oh, hi! Oh, hi! Oh, hi!”

He shouted this last at the very top of his voice, and the boys could not help laughing, for they saw that no great harm had been done. But they could not understand what had happened. However, Tinny seemed to understand for he laughed and said:

“Now, Hang Gow, you cut this out. I know you meant to give us a treat, but I’ve told you not to put gasoline on a fire to hurry it up. That’s what you did, didn’t you?”

“Mebby alle samme use li’l bit gamsoheen!”

“Um! I thought so! Well, we’ll do without your birds’-nest soup now, Hang Gow. It’s lucky you aren’t made into chop suey yourself. Now let this mess go and get the grub on the table!”

“All lite!” said the Chinese dutifully, and then he ceased his lamenting and dancing and hurried into the cabin.

Making sure that the scattered fire would burn itself out harmlessly, Tinny chuckled again and remarked:

[109]

“I guess we’ll eat soon, boys, and you, especially, Chunky. I seem to remember you had a great liking for chow.”

“I haven’t gotten over it yet!” laughed the fat lad.

“But what happened?” asked Ned.

“Oh, the same thing that’s happened before,” replied the mine owner. “Hang Gow once discovered that a few drops of gasoline on damp wood makes a fine blaze. I’ve cautioned and threatened him, but it hasn’t seemed to do much good. This is what probably happened. He is very fond of an Oriental dish called birds’-nest soup. He gets the ingredients direct from China—they come by mail. It is a sort of gelatin compound. He’s given me some, but I can’t say I like it any more than I’d like shark fins. However, he thought he would be giving you boys a delicacy, so he started to make some birds’-nest soup without asking me. I’ve forbidden him to mess up my kitchen with his stuff, so he has to make it in a kettle over an open fire outside.

“He must have been doing that, and, as the fire didn’t burn quickly enough to suit him, he put on some gasoline. He must have found a little in the bottom of one of the cans—I have a small gasoline engine attached to a pump. Hang Gow probably put the nearly empty can, gasoline and all, on the fire and the explosion followed. Luckily,[110] there couldn’t have been more than a few drops of gasoline in the tin or he’d have blown the shack down. I’ll have to lock up the gasoline after this.”

Later the boys found that Tinny’s explanation was the correct one. Hang Gow had had a narrow escape, and it made him a trifle nervous as he served the meal a little later. But the accident had not spoiled the meal, and Chunky was in his element. The other boys, as well as Professor Snodgrass and Bill Cromley, seemed to have appetites almost equal to that of the fat lad, and for a time little was heard but the clatter of plates, knives, forks and spoons.

“Too blad no got blid-nest soup,” murmured Hang Gow, as he brought in the dessert and coffee.

“Hum, you and your birds’-nest soup!” exclaimed Tinny, with a laugh. “Too bad you weren’t blown to Kingdom Come! No more gas, Hang Gow!” he warned.

“All lite—no mlo gas,” agreed the Chinese blandly.

It was night before the boys’ baggage and that of Professor Snodgrass had been brought up from Livingston and the arrangements made for the sleeping of the party while at Thunder Mountain. There was considerable to do in order to get settled that had nothing to do with actual mining.

[111]

“We’ll take up that question in the morning,” said Tinny. “I’ll let you inspect the place, look at specimens of the ore, read the report of the assay office, and then you can decide if you want to go into this with me. But first of all we’ll find out if this Noddy Nixon is going to bother us. You say he’s been on your trail?”

“Yes, ever since we began to consider your offer,” answered Jerry. “But how are you going to find out about him?”

“I’ll ask the fellows who brought up the baggage if they saw him and his two cronies hanging about the station.”

Inquiry developed the fact that Noddy had been a bit puzzled by the sudden disappearance of the Motor Boys’ party, though, undoubtedly, he must know they had reached Thunder Mountain.

“He and his crowd got a fellow to take them in and board them for a while,” reported the driver of the truck that had brought up the luggage.

“Then we’ll have to reckon on Noddy dogging us still,” suggested Ned.

“I reckon so,” admitted Jerry.

“Let him dog!” exclaimed Bob. “He daren’t come up here and try to get into your mine, dare he, Tinny?”

“No, he can’t trespass on Leftover if I know it.”

[112]

“What’s Leftover?” Jerry wanted to know.

“It’s what I call the mine,” explained Mallison. “It was part of a claim left over when some prospectors divided their holdings. It wasn’t considered of much value, and I got it cheap. So I called it Leftover. Then I discovered a new vein that no one had suspected. I needed help to work it, and that’s why I sent for you boys. But we’ll go into all that in the morning. I hope you’ll like Leftover.”

The boys did. When they looked about the next day after a restful night of sleep they were more favorably impressed with the place than they had been before. As might have been expected, Professor Snodgrass soon after breakfast started out to gather specimens. The boys, with Tinny and Bill Cromley, went to the mine.

“Don’t get lost!” called Mallison to the professor.

“Oh, I can find my way back,” he asserted.

Leftover mine had not really been worked at all. The former owners had driven in a short tunnel. Tinny had started another, in which he had soon come upon richer signs than the former owners had discovered. It was to his tunnel that the prospector took the boys.

Samples of ore were shown them, together with the official report of the government assay office.

“Now I want you to make any independent investigation[113] you like,” concluded Tinny. “Don’t be influenced by me. Make up your minds in your own way. I’m going off down the trail for an hour or two and let you have the place to yourselves. When I come back you can tell me what you decide.”

The boys realized this splendid spirit on the part of their former officer, and they were not long in making up their minds. They knew something of mining, for they had been interested in it before, and they remembered some of the pointers given them by Jim Nestor.

Then, too, they could ask the advice of Bill Cromley, who was a practical miner.

“It’s a mighty good prospect,” Cromley said. “Of course, it ain’t a bonanza, or anything like that, nor a get-rich-quick mine. But it will pay good dividends and the stuff isn’t hard to get out. Go in, is my advice.”

“That’s what I say!” exclaimed Ned. “It looks good to me!”

“Same here,” echoed Bob and Jerry.

As their parents had left the matter to the boys, it was then and there voted to form a partnership with Tinny Mallison. He was so informed when he came back two hours later.

“Well, boys,” he said, “I’m glad to hear it. I didn’t have much doubt, for I knew what Leftover was. Now we’ll start in and make things hum!”

[114]

It was necessary to arrange for the financing of the project, but that had been planned before the boys left Cresville, so there was little more to do. Also it was necessary to hire men to do the actual labor of getting out the ore. This would take some time, but Tinny agreed to look after this.

“Meanwhile, you boys can take a holiday and get rested after your trip,” he said. “Roam about the place. There’s lots to see that will interest you and Professor Snodgrass. Bill and I will get a gang of men up here, and we’ll soon begin taking out the ore. What do you say that we make Bill foreman?”

This suited the lads, and the old miner was glad to be given the position. He was eager to work and he knew mining from several angles.

“If only Noddy Nixon doesn’t try any of his funny stuff,” murmured Ned.

“If he starts anything I’ll tell him where he can get off!” cried Jerry. “And Jack Pender and Dolt Haven with him! I’m not going to stand for any nonsense from them!”

“I don’t believe they’ll come up here,” suggested Bob. “What they’re after is the treasure chest of Blue Rock.”

“We’ll have a go at that ourselves,” said Jerry.

But when Tinny heard this he paused in his busy preparations long enough to say:

[115]

“Don’t count on that, boys. It’s only a fairy tale.”

“No it isn’t!” thought Bill Cromley, but he kept this opinion to himself.

It would be a week before actual work could be begun in the mine, and, meanwhile, Professor Snodgrass wandered here and there gathering wonderful specimens and, at the same time, gaining in health.

One day, about a week after they had reached Leftover, Ned proposed to his chums:

“Let’s go to Echo Canyon.”

“Where’s that?” asked Bob.

“It’s a gulch about five miles from here, so one of the new miners told me, where the echoes sound just as if some one were talking to you. He says it’s a great place.”

“Know how to get there?” Jerry wanted to know.

“I think so.”

“All right, let’s go.”

“And—well, now—maybe we’d better take some sandwiches along,” proposed Bob diffidently.

“Go to it, fat boy!” laughed Jerry, and soon Bob was in the kitchen with Hang Gow.

After one or two false turns the Motor Boys at last reached the vicinity of Echo Canyon. Then they made their way into it and, to their[116] delight and surprise, found the reputation of the place had not over-stated its wonders. The manner in which the shouts, and even the whispers, of the boys came back to them seemed weird. It was as though some mysterious spirit was concealed in the nooks and crannies of the small canyon, mocking them.

“Well, this sure is a great place!” exclaimed Ned, when they were tired of experimenting with their voices and the echo.

“Yes, let’s get out in the open and eat,” added Bob. “It’s too dark and gloomy in here.”

His companions agreed with him on both proposals, and they walked along, as they imagined, the way they had come in. But they had taken a wrong turn, or several of them, and after about half an hour of tramping Ned suddenly exclaimed:

“Fellows, we’re on the wrong trail!”

“What do you mean?” asked Bob.

“I mean we aren’t getting out of this place. We’re wandering around in a circle. Here we are back at the same place we started from—the place I picked up that queer bit of red rock. Look! There’s where I kicked it loose! Fellows, we’re lost!”


[117]

CHAPTER XIV
DOWN A HOLE

Jerry and Bob looked sharply at Ned Slade. One thought was in the minds of the tall lad and Chunky.

“Was Ned joking?”

But a look at his serious face forbade any such idea as that. He was in dead earnest as he looked about on the frowning rocky walls of the canyon that hemmed them in.

“Lost! What do you mean?” exclaimed Bob, and from the caverns about them came back the mocking echo.

“You mean!”

“Just what I say—we’re lost!” cried Ned. And the echo said:

“Lost!”

“For cats’ sake don’t yell so!” begged Jerry. “This is getting on my nerves!”

Though he had spoken in only a low voice, back to his ears and those of his chums came the weird whisper:

“Nerves!”

[118]

For a moment something like real panic seized the Motor Boys, and the impulse of each of them was to run. But they did not know which direction to take. Then, too, this sensation lasted but a few seconds before they had control of themselves again and the situation was well in hand.

“Do you really think we’re lost?” asked Jerry, in a whisper which in a measure defeated the echo, as only a faint murmur came back.

“I’m sure of it!” and Ned was equally careful about using loud tones. “This is where the echo is loudest, you remember, and it’s where I found the red rock. I thought it might be red gold, that I’ve heard can be found in some places, but as soon as I picked up the rock I found it was too light to be gold, so I chucked it away. But here we are back at the same place instead of being on our way out of the canyon.”

“That’s so,” agreed Bob. “But let’s get to some place where we can talk naturally without all those echoes butting in, and then we can decide what’s best to do. I’m glad I brought some sandwiches,” and he significantly tapped his bulging coat pockets on either side.

It was no time for Ned or Jerry to poke fun at the fat lad, and they held back any remarks that might have occurred to them.

“We may be lost a long time,” went on Chunky.

[119]

“Oh, I think we can soon find a way out of here,” Jerry replied.

The boys moved away from the place where the echoes were loudest and came to an overhanging shelf that formed an entrance to a small cave. Here they could talk in normal tones without being annoyed by the mocking echoes.

“I thought we could easily get out of here after we got in,” remarked Jerry, as they looked about them.

“So did I,” agreed Ned. “I didn’t take any particular notice, and the miner didn’t say the place was a puzzle.”

Yet a puzzle it was proving, the boys had to admit when Ned pointed out to them that they had actually wandered about in almost a complete circle.

“Then the question is, how are we going to get out?” asked Bob, as he fumbled in his pocket for one of the packages.

“What are you going to do?” countered Jerry.

“I thought maybe we’d better eat something,” said Bob, innocently enough. “There’s a spring of water here. After we’ve had some food maybe we can think better.”

“Chunky, for once you have a good idea!” exclaimed Jerry, laughing in spite of their rather serious predicament. “Let’s see what you have there!”

[120]

Generally it could be left to the stout lad not to skimp matters when he was getting a lunch to bring with him, and this had been no exception. Hang Gow had been generous, for which the lads were now very thankful.

Bob opened one package of sandwiches, remarking that there were two apiece and that it would be best to save the second batch until later, and in this his chums agreed.

They ate, drank some of the clear, cold water that bubbled up out of a rock, and then looked about them for a time without speaking.

Echo Canyon as a whole extended north and south, but it had many branches.

“The question is, which way do we want to go?” asked Jerry. “And we’ve got to decide quickly or the sun will be down and we can’t see which way to go.”

“I say go to the north,” remarked Ned. “We came in that way, I’m pretty sure.”

“And I’m equally certain that we came in from the south and should go out that way,” said Jerry.

“And there you are!” exclaimed Bob.

“Well, what do you say?” asked Jerry, a bit sharply. “Looks as if you had the deciding vote, Chunky.”

Bob shook his head in perplexity.

“By golly!” he exclaimed, “I don’t know what[121] to say. One minute it seems to me that we came in from the south, and then, the more I think of it, it seems as if it was the north. I’m all turned around!”

“I guess we all are,” answered Jerry grimly. “Well, since it’s a tie as far as you and I are concerned, Ned, we’d better try first one way and then the other. We must keep our eyes open for any marks that we noticed in coming into this place. We should have marked the trail in some way.”

“Um,” agreed Ned. “Lock the stable door after the auto has been run out! Fine!”

“Well, have you anything better to propose?” asked Jerry, a bit sharply.

“Oh, no,” Ned answered. “And I didn’t mean to be sarcastic. We’ll try your way first, Jerry.”

This was giving in, and the tall lad understood it so. He smiled and got up from the rock on which he had been sitting as they ate.

“Let’s go!” he proposed. “And make it snappy!”

The boys turned as near south as they could make that direction, judging from the sun, which was now low in the west and would soon be lost to sight behind the high, rocky wall of the canyon. Tramping along the rough trail their eyes sought for the sight of any landmark they might have noticed when coming in.

But they saw nothing familiar, and the farther[122] they went the more discouraged they became. Jerry was about to admit that he was wrong in his surmise, and to propose going back, when Bob said:

“Well, if we stay here long enough Tinny and Bill will come for us, won’t they?”

“Will they know where to look?” asked Ned.

“We told the miner who put us on to this canyon that we were coming here,” the stout lad replied.

“Yes, I reckon if we don’t get back by night Tinny will organize a searching party,” admitted Jerry. “But we don’t want to have that happen. We ought to be able to get out of here ourselves. Looks silly for them to have to rescue us. Come on, Ned, I’m willing to admit I was wrong. We’ll head north.”

So they swung about, the gloom in the deep canyon deepening as the sun sank farther and farther down in the west. They passed the place where they had eaten the sandwiches, and Chunky felt in his other pocket to make sure he had not lost their second meal. It was safe, and he breathed a sigh of relief.

“We’ll soon be out now,” declared Ned, for he had faith in his judgment.

But when they had gone on for twenty minutes even Ned was willing to call a halt, for the canyon was getting wilder and more rugged in this section,[123] and they now found that the trail was hardly passable.

“Wait a minute!” called Ned, rubbing his forehead in puzzled fashion. “I don’t believe there’s any use going on this way. We sure never came in here!”

“No,” said Jerry, “I don’t believe we did.”

They turned back a little way. It was getting darker. Bob was about to propose that they eat again, but, just when he was going to speak, he came opposite a defile leading off in the general direction of south-east.

“Why not try this?” he asked, pointing to it.

“Chunky, I believe you’ve struck it!” cried Jerry. “Come on!”

The three hastened along the new trail, but they had not advanced more than a hundred yards when suddenly all three of them felt the ground sliding from beneath them.

They made a quick descent in the half-darkness of the canyon, sliding down the steep, gravelly sides of a deep hole.

“Now we are stuck!” cried Ned, as he landed on the bottom in a sitting position.


[124]

CHAPTER XV
YELLOW EYES

Quickly, Bob and Jerry had followed Ned down into the hole, sliding as he had done. For they had suddenly and unexpectedly reached the edge of the pit and, not knowing of its presence, they had simply stepped off into space. They slid down the slope of gravel, rather than taking an actual and precipitate tumble, and this saved them from broken bones, though it jarred them considerably.

Ned’s words, about being stuck, were not to be taken literally. He was able to arise after the first, stunning effect of the fall, and so were Jerry and Bob.

The first thing Bob did after getting to his feet was to make a dash up the slope down which he had slid. He could get only a few feet up the yielding surface, however, before slipping back to the harder bottom.

“You can’t get up that way!” remarked Jerry.

“I wasn’t trying to get out—I wanted to save the sandwiches,” Chunky answered, holding up[125] the package he had salvaged. It had dropped from his pocket during his slide.

“Oh, that’s different!” remarked the tall lad.

“So’s this place—different!” exclaimed Ned, looking about in the gloom which was deeper down in this gravel pit. “Say, how are we going to get out?”

Well might he ask that, and well might his companions seek about for an answer. For their situation was getting desperate now, if it had not been before. Hitherto they were at least up on the level, where they could walk. Now they were down in a pit, almost circular, the sides of which were composed of treacherous and fine gravel. Chunky had given one demonstration of trying to climb it. Other efforts might result likewise, it could be surmised.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” muttered Jerry. “They’ll never find us down in this hole!”

“It’s easy enough to say get out,” returned Ned. “But how can we? Was it hard going, Chunky—scrambling up after the grub?”

“Hard? I’ll say it was! But maybe there’s some easier place.”

“That’s what we’ve got to try for, and we’ve got to snap into it, too,” decided Jerry. “It’ll soon be as dark as a pocket.”

By a strong effort of will the Motor Boys refused to let themselves become panic-stricken. As[126] calmly as they could, they walked about the bottom of the pit which was about a hundred feet in diameter. Its sides sloped up at a sharp angle. It was a natural sand and gravel pit combined, but appeared never to have been worked. It was a freak of nature in a land where such things were common.

The boys tried in several places to crawl, scramble or walk up the sloping sides, but it was of such a shifting and treacherous nature, like dry quicksand, that they could never get to the top. Once Jerry was three quarters of the way up, only to slip and slide back.

“Boys, it can’t be done!” he exclaimed seriously. “We’ll need help to get out of here—some one at the top with a rope.”

“Then we’d better yell for help,” suggested Ned. “Tinny and Bill, to say nothing of Professor Snodgrass, may be out in search of us. The miner will have been sure to mention that we were coming here. Let’s yell.”

This they did until their throats ached, but no answering shouts came to them, and down in the pit there were no echoes. Again and again they cried for help. At last, when it was almost dark, Bob suggested:

“Let’s eat!”

“Might as well,” agreed Jerry, with no thought now of making fun of Chunky.

[127]

“But we’ll be thirsty, and there’s no water here,” objected Ned.

However, there was no help for it, and though thirst plagued the boys when they had munched the dry sandwiches, they bore their sufferings patiently.

It began to grow cool—cold, in fact—and they had no shelter and no covering. It had been hot when they set out, but with the going down of the sun, cool winds swept down into the pit.

“We must keep up yelling,” said Jerry, after a gloomy pause. “No telling when Tinny and his men may come this way.”

So they yelled and shouted, in unison and separately. Hours passed. They were becoming desperate and were ready to make another try at climbing the steep, shifting, sandy side of the pit when Bob suddenly called:

“Hark!”

They all listened.

“What did you hear?” asked Jerry.

“A voice, I thought! There it is again!”

There was no question about it. A voice faintly called:

“Hello! Hello, boys! Where are you?”

Joyously they answered. The calling voices came nearer and five minutes later a brilliant shaft of light shot down into the pit. It was an electric torch in the hands of Tinny, who soon[128] made his identity known, and then the plight of the boys was told.

“We’ll soon have you out!” cried Bill Cromley. “I’ve got a rope. Some of the men said you might be in a hole.”

Other electric searchlights now flashed on top of the pit, and in their gleam the boys could see several figures moving about. A rope soon came uncoiling down to them, and when they had made sure by pulling on it that it was securely fastened, they hauled themselves up, one by one, finding it easy to walk on the sloping, gravel side of the pit when they had hold of the rope to give them purchase.

“Well, boys, you did a good job of getting lost while you were at it,” grimly remarked Tinny, when they were safe at the top.

“Yes, we sure did!” admitted Jerry. “What time is it?”

“Almost midnight. We’ve been hunting for you since sunset. One of the miners said you started for here, but there are so many places in Echo Canyon where you might have been we didn’t know where to look.”

“I remembered this old hole,” observed Bill Cromley. “A partner of mine once got in and nearly died of thirst and starvation before we got him out. So I suggested at last that we look here.”

[129]

“And a good thing we did,” said Tinny. “Well, after this, boys, don’t go into a place unless you know the way out. And now I expect you’re hungry, aren’t you?”

“Oh, boy!” breathed Bob, but it sufficiently expressed the sentiments of the others.

Professor Snodgrass, eager and anxious, had come with Tinny, Cromley and some of the miners to the rescue. As soon as he found that the boys were safe, the little scientist inquired:

“Did you see any toads or lizards down in that pit? It ought to be a good place for them.”

“It was so dark, soon after we fell in, that we couldn’t see,” Jerry replied.

“And don’t you go in there, Professor, to find out unless you have some one at the top with a rope to get you out,” warned Tinny.

“I’ll be careful,” was the promise. “I’d like to go in there to-morrow.”

Hang Gow had a good, though late, supper ready for the boys, and, Bob said, “they stepped on it!”

Echo Canyon was a good place to keep out of, the lads voted, and they spent most of the following day resting after their strenuous excursion.

Meanwhile the financial and business end of the venture had been arranged and Tinny was losing no time getting Leftover in workable shape. Men and supplies, as well as mining material, gave[130] promise of results soon, and the boys were eager for their first sight of the yellow metal from the mine of which they were part owners.

Contrary to expectations, Noddy Nixon was neither seen nor heard of, nor was either of his cronies in evidence. The bully seemed to have dropped out of sight after arriving at Livingston.

As a matter of fact, the Motor Boys were too busy to think much about Noddy, for now that the mine would soon be turning out ore which would have to be sent to the stamping mill, they were kept busy.

Instead of going too deeply into the venture at first, Tinny and his young partners had decided to have their ore treated and the gold extracted by another and larger mining concern near by. If they erected a stamping mill, in which the rock would be pulverized and the gold extracted by one of several processes, it would mean the expenditure of a small fortune, and only by selling stock could this be financed. But with the money the Motor Boys’ parents had secured and authorized them to invest, ore could be got out and sent to a stamp mill where the precious gold would be extracted on a percentage basis.

It took rather longer than the boys had thought to start the actual work of mining. Shacks had to be erected to house the miners and arrangements[131] made for feeding them. Even the employment of a comparatively small force was a lot of work.

But Tinny knew his business, and, with Bill Cromley to help, matters were soon in good shape.

“If we have luck we’ll begin taking out ore to-morrow,” said Tinny to his young partners one afternoon. “You fellows have been a big help to me. There’s nothing particular you can do now, and, if you like, you can take the rest of the day off. But don’t go to Echo Canyon!”

“Nothing doing, pos-i-tive-ly!” cried Ned.

They voted to visit a waterfall of great beauty a few miles from Leftover, and as the trail there and back was well marked they decided they could not be lost.

“I’ll go with you,” offered Professor Snodgrass, as they were about to start. “I am anxious to get some specimens of water spiders, and I may find them in the pool below the falls.”

The waterfall was even more beautiful than had been described to them, and Uriah Snodgrass was delighted to find several large spiders skittering about in quiet eddies of the pool below the cataract.

“Though how he can gloat over the ugly things when he can look at that, I don’t understand,” remarked Jerry, waving his hand toward the beautiful falls.

[132]

So delightful was the place and so long did they linger to enable Professor Snodgrass to get a few more bugs, that it was getting dark when they started back along the trail to Leftover.

Jerry and Ned were walking along ahead, with Bob and the professor trudging along behind, when the tall lad, suddenly clutching Ned by the arm, whispered:

“Look!”

“What is it?” asked Ned, as he followed Jerry’s extended hand.

“Those yellow eyes! Do you see them? Four of ’em! Yellow eyes—in the bushes!”

For an instant Ned saw nothing, but as he continued to look he caught a glimpse of what Jerry had seen. And as the last, flickering gleam of daylight glittered on the four yellow eyes, there came from the bushes menacing growls.


[133]

CHAPTER XVI
A STRANGE DISAPPEARANCE

Ned and Jerry halted, brought to a sudden stop by seeing the yellow eyes and hearing the low-voiced but ugly growls. It did not take long for Bob and the professor to reach the same spot. Uriah Snodgrass had been telling Bob how much better he felt since coming to Thunder Mountain, and the little scientist was discoursing on the zoölogical merits of some bug or other he had captured that day. But when the two who had been lingering in the rear caught up to Jerry and Ned, the stout lad exclaimed:

“What’s the matter?”

His voice, louder than the warning tones of Ned and Jerry, brought forth a fiercer growl from the owners of the four gleaming, yellow eyes, and even before Jerry could have replied had he desired to, there leaped into the trail, not far from the four, a pair of large mountain lions—a male and a female.

To the credit of Professor Snodgrass be it said that he was the coolest of the party of four.[134] He stared at the two beasts, the light of the evening glow reflecting on the tawny coats of the lions, and then, in a soft voice he remarked:

“How interesting!”

It did not strike the Motor Boys so at the time. In fact they thought it was distinctly dangerous, to say the least. But they were so impressed by what Professor Snodgrass said that for years afterward, whenever they were confronted with danger, one or the other was sure to remark—if there was time:

“How interesting!”

“What are they?” whispered Bob, though an instant after he had asked the question he knew. For Tinny had told the boys that mountain lions were the only dangerous animals in the vicinity of Thunder Mountain, and he had fully described the beasts.

“But they won’t hurt you unless you corner them,” Tinny had said. “They’ll slink away and leave you. They’re bad enough in a fight, but they very seldom get into a fight.”

However, this pair seemed very much disposed to fight, and though there was open to them the trail back, along which they could have retreated, the animals seemed disposed not only to stand their ground but to advance.

“I believe they’re actually stalking us!” whispered Ned.

[135]

“It does seem so,” admitted Jerry. “And we haven’t so much as a pop gun!”

It was true—they had not come out armed, for the hunting of Professor Snodgrass was merely for bugs, butterflies, and other insects and required no powder or shot.

“They must have their nest or den, or whatever it is, around here,” went on Ned, “and they think we’re disturbing them. Look! They’re coming right at us! We’d better get some clubs, stones, or something.”

“How would it be to run?” asked Bob. “If they don’t want us here we’d better get out!”

“No, don’t do that,” advised Professor Snodgrass. “The minute you turn your backs they’ll spring, and a mountain lion can cover a good bit of ground in a leap. Keep facing them!”

“But for how long?” asked Jerry nervously. “They’re coming nearer all the while! Say, they’re ugly beasts!”

“Get out your jackknife and open the biggest blade,” advised Ned, in a low voice. “It’s our only chance!”

This was good advice, and the boys prepared to follow it. Meanwhile the two mountain lions were slowly advancing. Their eyes gleamed savagely and their tails lashed their lean sides while low growls came from their throats. Later the boys learned that the female lion had some cubs[136] concealed among the rocks, and this accounted for the boldness and savage attitude of the pair.

But at present the boys were concerned only with their own safety, and they knew if the lions sprang at them there would be a savage and desperate fight with only jackknives for defense against the keen claws and keener teeth of the brutes.

But Professor Snodgrass unexpectedly took a hand in the matter.

“Keep still, boys,” he said in a low voice. “I hate to do it, but I think I can dispose of these creatures.”

He held in his hand a small collecting box.

“Here! Keep back! What are you going to do?” exclaimed Jerry, seizing the little scientist by the arm as he was about to step forward and nearer to the two lions. “You can’t scare them by letting them sniff ammonia, as you once did the bull.”

“I’m not going to try ammonia on them,” stated the professor. “I only wish I had some, and then I could save my vespa maculata! I may never capture any more.”

“What’s that?” cried Jerry. “What have you in that box?” For the professor had raised a small box as though to hurl it at the mountain lions, an action at which they growled the more menacingly.

[137]

“I have some vespa maculata in here,” the professor replied.

“Is that stronger than ammonia?” asked Bob, while the lions drew nearer.

“It’s hornets—about two hundred of them,” cried the professor. “Get ready now, boys, duck into the bushes when I hurl this!”

He threw the box. It struck the ground directly in front of the mountain lions and burst open. The lions growled, sprang a little to one side in alarm, and then, as the boys in obedience to the advice of the scientist ducked into roadside bushes, they beheld a curious sight.

The hornets which the professor had caught and imprisoned that afternoon, being suddenly let loose, attacked with all their pent up anger the mountain lions on their most vulnerable spots, namely, their noses. In an instant each of the tawny beasts was stung by a score or more of the fiercest insects of their kind known to science. There is nothing more sudden in its action nor more painful than the sting of a hornet, and the mountain lions had more than their share.


EACH OF THE TAWNY BEASTS WAS STUNG BY A SCORE OF FIERCE INSECTS.

In an instant these two fierce beasts, ready to attack, were turned into rolling, tumbling, snarling, growling and panic-stricken balls of yellow fur. They rolled about in the dust, biting and snapping at the hornets, but with no effect. In[138] another few seconds, their tails between their legs, the mountain lions were in full retreat.

From their hiding places in the bushes the boys watched this strange turning of the tables, and then they came slowly forth. With a sigh Professor Snodgrass said:

“Well, my vespa maculata are gone, and I may never get any others like them—they were a rare variety. But I saved you from the cougars, didn’t I, boys?”

“I’ll say you did!” cried Bob. “But why did you want us to duck into the bushes? Did you think the lions would come for us when they were stung?”

“Oh, no, I knew they would have enough to attend to on their own account. But I didn’t know which way the hornets might swarm, and they might as well have turned and come back at us as have gone toward the cougars. Cougar is a better name for your mountain lion, boys. But to proceed, I knew if we were under the bushes we’d be safe. But my wonderful vespa maculata—gone forever, I fear!”

“I hope they don’t come back this way,” remarked Jerry, as he put his knife in his pocket. “But, Professor, if those hornets are so fierce, how did you tame them enough to get them into that specimen case of yours?”

“I smoked them, Jerry. It is a well known[139] fact that bee-keepers blow clouds of smoke into the hives of bees when they are taking out the caps of honey. I used the same method. But, not having a mechanical smoker, I had to use Bill Cromley’s pipe. And a most strong and vile pipe it was, too! Pah—I can taste it yet! But the tobacco smoke made the hornets very gentle.

“It soothed and lulled them into temporary sleep and I could easily transfer them from their paper-like nest to my box. The effects of the smoke soon wore off, however, and they were fully alive when I threw the box at the cougars.”

“I’ll say they were!” chuckled Ned. “It was quick work all right. Good for you, Professor!”

But no words of commendation by the boys could make up to the little scientist the sacrifice of his vespa maculata, and for many days he bemoaned their loss.

“Well, I guess the way is clear now,” observed Ned, when the last of the flying insects had circled back to their devastated nest and there was no further sign of the mountain lions.

They returned to Leftover, where Tinny and Cromley were much interested to hear the story.

“First time I ever knew mountain lions to be so bold,” said Mallison. “They must have cubs.”


The next day saw the beginning of busy times at the gold mine. The force of miners began[140] taking out the ore and it was hauled away in a motor truck to the stamp mill. Eagerly Tinny and the boys watched the specimens of rock as they were dug and blasted out, and though no wonderful streak of pay dirt was encountered, it was all of a general good character, indicating that the mine would prove profitable, if not exactly record-making.

While Jerry and his chums, Tinny and Cromley worked with their laborers at the mine Professor Snodgrass wandered about the Thunder Mountain country getting specimens.

“Though why they call it Thunder Mountain I don’t see,” said Bob one day. “It hasn’t thundered once since we came!”

“Just wait,” was all Mallison said, but there was a veiled significance in his voice.

If the Motor Boys expected to have a perpetual holiday after work once started seriously at Leftover, they were disappointed. But, in fact, they had no such idea. At any rate, they plunged in and did not shirk the disagreeable, and sometimes dangerous, work of mining for gold. They felt that they were in a profitable business.

“And the best part of it is that Noddy Nixon isn’t bothering us,” observed Bob.

“He seems to have dropped out of sight,” chuckled Jerry. “I guess he’s looking for the[141] treasure chest of Blue Rock, and maybe he’s fallen into some hole.”

“As we did,” added Bob. “I guess Noddy won’t bother us again.”

It was about two weeks after work had started in earnest at the mine that an event occurred which precipitated a strange series of events for the Motor Boys and their friends.

Tinny and the three lads had gone down the trail on some business, leaving Cromley in charge at the mine. Professor Snodgrass was, as usual, off alone after insects. Returning, Jerry and his companions were struck by the strange quiet about the cabin. No sound came from the cheerful Hang Gow—his kitchen, where he was generally rattling pots and pans, was silent.

“And where’s Bill?” voiced Ned. “Here’s his pipe on the ground, still lighted, but Bill’s gone. And look—there’s been a fight or a struggle of some kind here, the ground’s all torn up! Bill’s gone! Something has happened!”


[142]

CHAPTER XVII
SEARCHING

There was no question but that something unusual had taken place both inside and outside of the Leftover cabin. The very absence of noise in Hang Gow’s kitchen was significant when one bore in mind the usual cheerful racket made by the Chinese cook. The torn-up earth near the spot where Bill Cromley’s still lighted pipe had fallen was more evidence.

It took but a few seconds for all three lads to hurry around to the kitchen.

“He isn’t here!” announced Bob, peering in.

“Yes, there he is, lying under the table!” cried Ned. “And he’s been hurt, too! Look at the blood!”

There were some spots of red on the floor near the head of the Chinese, and the kitchen showed signs of a struggle. A vague spirit of uneasiness and fear was overshadowing the boys. What would Tinny find at the mine?

However, the lads were not the ones to waste time in useless conjecture. The three hurried[143] into the kitchen, and their first act was to raise Hang Gow.

“He isn’t badly hurt,” Jerry announced, running his fingers lightly over the cook’s head. “Just a scalp wound. He’s knocked out, that’s all. Get me some water, Ned.”

Hang Gow roused and opened his eyes as Tinny came running back from the mine. The work was going on quietly, and a hail to one of the men had brought the information that Cromley was not there.

Not waiting, then, to voice any of his suspicions, Tinny had hastened back to see if the boys had come upon any clews to the mystery which seemed settling down on Leftover.

“What happened?” cried Tinny, as he entered the kitchen and saw Hang Gow, blood on his face, being ministered to.

“He was knocked out. We found him unconscious under the table,” Jerry reported. “He’s coming around all right now. Maybe he can tell what it’s all about.”

But for a time Hang Gow could only babble in his own tongue, and no one could understand him. Tinny knew a few words of Chinese, but not enough for any practical purpose.

However, the dazed feeling caused by the blow gradually wore off, and after the cook had been given some hot coffee he sat up. Seeing the[144] friendly faces about him he began to talk in a queer mixture of English and Chinese.

This was almost as unintelligible as his own language, and it was not until Tinny had taken a hand, speaking firmly to the cook, that he blurted out something that gave them a real idea of what had taken place.

“Them take Mista Bill,” announced Hang Gow. “Them take him off in wagon—thlee bad mans! Them come in Hang Gow’s klitchen—me think wantee some glub. I say ‘no can do!’ Them say bad talk—hit Hang Gow. Me fight ’um, but too much. Them take Bill ’way!”

“You mean to say three men came here, knocked you on the head, and ran away with Bill in a wagon?” asked Tinny. “Chop-chop now, Hang Gow! Number one talk, you know—savvy?”

“Me savvy all lite! Them take Bill. Bill much fight, but ’um take him ’way!”

There was silence for a moment. Then Jerry exclaimed:

“It’s that Noddy Nixon crowd, I’m sure!”

“Looks so,” admitted Ned.

“Do you mean to say that rascal and his cronies are as desperate as all this?” asked Tinny.

“They sure are!” declared Jerry.

“And the nerve of them coming in here and demanding something to eat!” cried Bob, as if[145] this was the highest crime of all. “I’m glad Hang Gow didn’t give it to them!”

“Guess he didn’t get the chance,” said Ned grimly. “But, say, if Noddy Nixon has kidnaped Bill he can have only one reason for it.”

“He can’t have done it to get a line on our mine,” said Jerry. “We’ve got too big a crowd of men here for him to try to buck up against.”

“No, it isn’t that,” Ned remarked. “But Noddy and his two cronies know that Bill has inside knowledge as to where the treasure chest went over the cliff. They want to get a line on that. So they have taken Bill away and they’re going to try to make him guide them to the spot. I guess Dolt Haven doesn’t know as much about it as he said he did.”

“Probably not,” assented Tinny. “It’s all a fairy story about that treasure chest, anyhow.”

“And do you think they really have taken Bill?” asked Bob.

“It looks so—his pipe being dropped and all that,” Jerry replied. “Bill was very careful about his pipe. Professor Snodgrass had hard work to borrow it that time he smoked the hornets.”

“Let me question Hang Gow a little more,” suggested Tinny.

The Chinese was feeling better now, and had recovered his nerve, so he was better able to tell what had happened. Piecing together his[146] story, as drawn out by Tinny, it appeared that three men, surmised to be Noddy, Jack and Dolt Haven, had suddenly appeared at Leftover in the absence of the mine owners.

One of them had attacked Hang Gow on pretense of entering the kitchen to ask for something to eat. The Chinese had been knocked out by a blow on the head with some blunt instrument, but before he lapsed into unconsciousness on the floor under his table he had seen through a window the attack on Bill Cromley.

In spite of his struggles, Cromley had been overpowered and taken off in a wagon or an auto; Hang Gow was not quite sure or quite clear about this.

“At any rate, they’ve got Bill!” exclaimed Ned.

“It’s a wonder the men at the mine didn’t hear something of the fight,” remarked Bob.

“They didn’t hear a thing,” reported Tinny. “They were blasting about that time, and that probably accounts for their not hearing anything of what went on here. Besides, it was all over in a few minutes, according to Hang Gow. They must have taken Bill by surprise. But now that we know what happened, we’ve got to do something!”

“You said it!” cried Bob, with sudden energy. “Come on! Let’s trail after Noddy and his gang!”

[147]

“That’s what we’ll have to do if we want to get Bill back,” added Ned.

“If Bill wasn’t handicapped by that lame leg of his,” said Jerry, “he’d have put up a better fight, I’m sure.”

“Well,” remarked Tinny, “I think there’s only one thing to do, as you boys have suggested. We must begin a search for Bill. We can’t leave him in the hands of those rascals, though they’ll probably treat him decently for the sake of the information they hope to get out of him.”

“Then we’ve got to hit the trail?” asked Bob.

“Sure!” cried Ned and Jerry.

“I’ll put up the grub,” offered Bob, in all seriousness. “Hang Gow can go to bed and get over his headache. I’ll look after things here.”

But this was just what the cook would not allow. As soon as he understood what Bob’s object was—kindly though it was intended—Hang Gow made all sorts of Chinese noises, and in effect said it would take more than a knock-out to keep him from his kitchen work.

The result was that after his head had been bound up Hang Gow resumed work where it had been interrupted.

Then the Motor Boys and Tinny began searching for clews that would put them on the trail of Noddy and his crowd.

“We’d better go right down to Livingston and[148] find out where they hang out,” suggested Tinny. “Where’s the professor?”

“Out after bugs,” replied Ned. “But he isn’t much good in a case like this.”

“He was all right when it came to the mountain lions,” remarked Bob.

“That’s so!” agreed Jerry.

“I didn’t think so much of taking him with us, as that if we go away we ought to leave word with him what it’s all about,” replied Mallison. “He may come back, not find us, and imagine all sorts of things.”

“I don’t believe he’ll do much worrying,” said Jerry. “If he gets here with some specimens he’ll sit down and make notes about them. When he’s found a new bug he doesn’t even know when it’s time to eat unless you tell him.”

The searching party was soon organized, two miners who were going off duty volunteering their aid, and word was left with the assistant foreman to tell Professor Snodgrass when he arrived what had happened.

“I hope we find Bill,” remarked Jerry, as they hastily prepared for the search.


[149]

CHAPTER XVIII
STRANGE NOISES

The discovery of Cromley’s kidnaping, which was ultimately to mean so much to the Motor Boys, had been made just before noon. The searchers stopped only for a hasty lunch, which Hang Gow, in spite of his condition, insisted on getting for them. While they ate this the Chinese put up some food to take with them, in case they should be kept out until after time for the evening meal. Then they took the trail after the kidnapers.

For that Cromley had been kidnaped by the Nixon crowd was the firm belief of those at Leftover. The object was too plain to admit of any other theory. Noddy, despairing of finding the treasure chest of Blue Rock through the help of Dolt Haven, had decided that the information which Bill Cromley had was necessary.

“He knew Bill wouldn’t tell him of his own free will,” said Ned, as the searching party hurried along, “and so he’s going to try to force him.”

[150]

“I can’t imagine Noddy forcing Bill to do anything he doesn’t want to,” replied Bob.

“You don’t know how cruel Noddy can be when he tries,” remarked Jerry. “Anybody who will do what he did to escape going to the front will not hesitate at worse things. We’ve got to get Bill away from that crowd as soon as we can.”

The searchers were under two handicaps. One was that Noddy and his crowd had a start of at least two hours—for that time had elapsed since the kidnaping and the return of Mallison and the Motor Boys to Leftover. The other was the desolate region of Thunder Mountain. There were only a few mining camps scattered about the region, and not many persons of whom inquiries could be made as to the direction taken by the rascals.

They might have gone off to some fastness in the hills, there to keep the old miner a prisoner until he gave in to their demands. They might find ways of forcing him to talk, or they might just let time take its course, depending on his desire to be freed.

“We’ve got to get a line on where they headed for,” decided Tinny, as they traveled along in his car toward Livingston. “Once we get on their trail I think Hank, here, can help us.”

[151]

He referred to one of the miners they had taken with them.

“Yes,” assented Hank Bowler, “I used to be pretty good at following a trail. If this here Niddy leaves any trace at all——”

“His name is Noddy—not Niddy,” observed Ned.

“Um—well, the name doesn’t mean much,” remarked Hank. “Once let me get where I can see some signs of the way he went and I think I can follow. But there’s been too many along this road to make sure of anything.” He pointed to the main trail between Leftover and Livingston.

“He used to be a deputy sheriff, and one of the best in the business,” Tinny informed Jerry in a low voice. “Got a bad case of gold fever and took up mining. But he’s a great trailer.”

Whenever they saw any one along the road of whom they could inquire, the searchers stopped and asked questions. They did not learn much, however, for they could not describe the kind of vehicle in which Cromley had probably been carried off. Hang Gow was not clear whether it was a wagon or an automobile, and both kinds of conveyances had traversed the trail.

Nor could a description of the occupants be given with accuracy. That there were three who made the attack at Leftover was certain—probably[152] Noddy, Jack and Dolt. But whether the trio remained in the wagon after having bound Cromley or whether only two of them did, was uncertain.

“They wouldn’t leave Bill up in plain sight, either,” said Jerry. “They’d probably bind and gag him and lay him down on the bottom of the wagon or auto so he wouldn’t be seen.”

However, making such inquiries as they could, they learned that several wagons and automobiles with anywhere from one to half a dozen occupants had passed along the trail that morning. There was nothing distinctive about any of them.

“When we get to Livingston we’ll inquire at the place where Noddy has been staying,” suggested Ned.

But there the searchers were doomed to disappointment. Up to three days before the kidnaping had taken place, Noddy, Jack and Dolt boarded at a not very respectable hotel on the outskirts of this small railroad junction where tourists change trains to go to Yellowstone Park. But the trio of suspects had then gone away, taking with them all their possessions, and had not left word where they were going.

“Talked to me like they were going off into the mountains to look for gold,” said the proprietor of the hotel. “At least that’s what I[153] overheard. It wasn’t none of my business, so I didn’t listen.”

“No, of course not,” assented Tinny.

The party emerged from the hotel and held a council as to what was best to do next.

“They must have been laying plans for this for a long time,” said Jerry. “That’s why they left here. They knew we’d trace them here and they wanted to cover up their tracks.”

“It looks so,” agreed Tinny.

Further inquiry developed the fact that Noddy and his crowd had not been hanging about Livingston for several days prior to the kidnaping. Before that they had been making general nuisances of themselves, pestering every one to get information as to the exact spot where the stage coach had gone over the cliff years before with the chest of gold.

“Then, it would seem, they gave up trying to locate the place, it appearing that Dolt Haven did not know so much as he thought he did, or as he had given Noddy and Jack to suppose,” observed Mallison.

“They just had to have Bill,” was the way Jerry expressed it.

“So they came and got him, and they didn’t use any kid glove methods, either,” added Ned.

When it became evident that no real lead in the pursuit could be obtained in Livingston, since[154] the kidnapers did not return there after their daring exploit, several measures were proposed.

“There’s no way of sending out a general police alarm for them, as we could do if we were in a more civilized or more thickly settled region,” observed Tinny. “We can’t broadcast the fact that one of our men has been kidnaped.”

“Then what can we do?” asked Bob, making a motion as though to open one of the lunch baskets, and drawing from Jerry an admonition:

“It isn’t supper time yet!”

“Well,” said Mallison, “the only feasible thing I see for us to do is to take one trail after another that leads out of Leftover. We’ll have to follow each trail in turn until we strike the right one.”

“It’s all you can do,” chimed in Hank Bowler. “You can’t follow a party until you get some lead. But there aren’t very many trails leading away from your place, Mr. Mallison.”

This was the truth. But one trail led up to the mine. That trail, coming down the mountain, joined the main road which, after a mile or so, branched off in four directions. This gave four possible routes that the kidnapers might have taken.

But, inasmuch as it was practically certain that Noddy’s crowd had not taken the road to[155] Livingston, there remained but three main trails to follow.

“And the sooner we get on one the better,” said Jerry. “Come on, boys!”

“Yes, snap into it!” exclaimed Tinny, with the vim of an officer in France.

The boys saluted, as they had done in those stirring days, and the car was turned back up Thunder Mountain.

The first trail they took was a disappointing one, in that after they had gone along it for several miles they found that a landslide had covered it. And as the slide had taken place several days before, they knew the kidnapers could not have come along here.

“Back again and try over!” exclaimed Ned.

“What about supper?” asked Bob anxiously. “Are we going back to the cabin to eat?”

“Not when we have all this grub with us,” Tinny said. “That’s why we brought it. We’ll eat after we strike the next trail.”

Bob looked better natured on hearing this, and began to take out some of the sandwiches, for they were fast approaching the second trail. On either that or the other they must, they thought, find some trace of Noddy.

It was getting late when they started down the second trail. It was through a wooded section,[156] and as they approached a turn in the road Bob saw a spring of water.

“Here’s a good place to stop and eat,” he suggested. “We can get a drink here, and from the way your motor meter is registering, Tinny, you’ll need water in the radiator.”

“The fat boy’s right!” agreed the mine prospector. “We’ll eat and water the engine.”

Bob looked the gratitude he felt, and when the machine stopped he had one of the baskets opened and was ready to distribute the food.

Truth to tell, every one was as glad as was Bob to dip into the “nose bag,” as Ned laughingly remarked.

It was when they were in the midst of their basket-supper that Ned, who had gone to the spring for some water, suddenly exclaimed:

“Hark!”

The talking ceased.

“What did you hear?” asked Jerry.

“A queer noise,” Ned replied. “Listen!”

All became very quiet and, straining their ears, they heard moans that seemed to come from a clump of bushes up on the side hill back of the spring.


[157]

CHAPTER XIX
THE PROFESSOR’S STORY

Bob Baker caused a sudden ripple of laughter, which sounded strange amid the tense silence, when he murmured:

“Gosh, I hope it isn’t those mountain lions!”

“They don’t make a noise like that,” said Tinny. “This sounds more like a human being.”

“We’ve got to find out what it is, anyhow,” declared Jerry. “It seems to be over this way—that noise of groaning.”

He darted off toward the spring, followed by his companions. As they crashed their way through the underbrush the sounds became plainer.

“Is anybody coming? Can’t some one help me?” were the low-murmured questions that came to the ears of the rescuers, interspersed with groans of pain.

“Yes! Yes! Some one is coming to help you!” cried Ned. “Who are you, anyhow?”

Before he could receive an answer, even had[158] the groaning one been able to answer, Jerry had burst his way through the last fringe of bushes, and, with a cry of surprise mingled with one of rage, he beheld, bound to a tree and partly gagged, the helpless form of Professor Snodgrass.

“I’ve found him! I’ve found him!” shouted Jerry.

“Who—Bill?” demanded Tinny Mallison.

“No, the professor,” answered the tall lad. “The Nixon crowd must have tried to kidnap him, too! It’s all right, Professor. Don’t struggle! We’ll soon release you,” promised Jerry.

The others came up the wooded and brush-covered hillside on the run, and in a few seconds the professor’s bonds had been cut, the gag—a piece of wood bound in his open mouth by cords which passed around behind his head—had been taken out, and the mistreated little scientist was given a drink of water, of which he stood in great need.

“Ah!” he murmured, as he drained the cup a second time, “that’s good. But let me see if they’re there! Look, will you please, and tell me! Are they there?”

He pointed toward what seemed to be a small cave in the side of the hill. The dark opening was near a clump of bushes.

[159]

“Whom do you mean?” asked Bob. “Did Noddy Nixon and his crowd hide in there?”

“No, I mean some large moths,” the scientist answered. “They were flying about and I was trying to catch them. I saw them going into that opening, and then it all happened—happened so suddenly that it was like a clap of thunder. I didn’t have time to see whether or not the moths went in. I must find out. They were very rare specimens!”

Staggering to his feet—for his legs were weak from the cramped position he had been obliged to stand in—the professor made his way toward the little cave.

“Wait a minute! Tell us what happened!” cried Jerry.

“Show us which way Noddy Nixon went!” added Ned.

“No! No! There is time enough for that,” answered Professor Snodgrass. “First I must see whether I can get any of those moths. It doesn’t matter what happened to me.”

“No, but it means a lot what may happen to poor old Bill,” murmured Jerry.

However, there was no stopping the professor once he had his mind set on a project. He crawled into the cave, weak and trembling as he was from brutal treatment. And presently his cry of joy[160] announced that he had been partly successful at least.

Out of the little cave he crawled, covered with dirt and cobwebs, but cupped in his hands he held something fragile, to judge by the care he exercised.

“Please hand me one of my specimen boxes, Jerry,” he directed.

“Where are they?” asked the tall lad, looking about.

“Over by that stunted pine. I hope you can find one that isn’t smashed.”

“Smashed! Did they smash your boxes, Professor?” asked Mr. Mallison.

“They did worse than that!” replied Professor Snodgrass. “I’ll tell you all about it in a moment. Quick, Jerry, if you please, the box! I don’t want this moth to get away. It was the only one left in the cave, but it is a very rare specimen—a beauty! Hurry with the box, Jerry!”

The tall lad could not repress a cry of surprise when, once at the foot of the stunted pine, he saw what wreck and havoc had been wrought. But there was no time now for regrets. He managed to find one small, but whole, specimen box, and the fluttering moth was transferred to it safely from the cupped hands of the professor.

“Now that you have him safe, can’t you tell us what happened?” asked Tinny Mallison, a bit[161] impatiently. He was accustomed to quick action, and once he had started a task he liked to finish it—“mop it up,” as he used to express it in France. Just now he wanted to be after the Nixon gang to rescue his mine foreman.

“Yes, now I can tell you,” the professor said. “As you have guessed, it was that miserable Noddy Nixon and Jack Pender. They had a stranger with them——”

“It must have been Dolt Haven,” suggested Bob. “But you saw him before.”

“I don’t remember,” the professor stated. “Though I do seem to recall having heard you speak of him.”

“But was Bill with them? Did they have Bill?” cried Jerry.

“Yes, Cromley was with them. I caught a glimpse of him lying bound and gagged on the bottom of the wagon. That’s what made them attack me,” said Uriah Snodgrass. “I tried to go to the rescue of Cromley, but they attacked me, and they smashed my specimen boxes—all but this one,” and he looked at the container Jerry had handed him. “Worse than that, they let out every one of my specimens! Some I hadn’t yet put in the cyanide, and they were alive. They released them all—and they were the rarest specimens I ever had. Oh, it was terrible!”

“But did they do anything to you?” asked[162] Mallison. “It looks so, judging by the state of your clothes.”

“Yes, they didn’t treat me any too gently,” he answered. “But that doesn’t matter—or it wouldn’t have mattered—if they had only left me my specimens! Oh, it is terrible to lose all those lovely specimens!”

“You should have had some vespa maculata with you,” remarked Bob.

“I only wish I had had! A nest full of hornets would have sent those rascals flying!” declared Uriah Snodgrass.

“But you haven’t yet told us what happened or given us a clew by which we can trail Noddy,” objected Tinny.

“I’m coming to that,” promised the professor. “Just give me another drink of water, will you please, Ned?”

The cup was passed, after having been filled at the spring, and then Bob asked:

“Don’t you want something to eat? We have plenty of sandwiches.”

“Thank you, I don’t seem to have any appetite now,” was the despondent reply. “Perhaps later. But let me tell you what happened. I came out after specimens, as you know. I was up here on the side of the hill when I heard the rattle of wagon wheels on the road below.

“Looking down, I saw an ore vehicle, lying[163] on the bottom of which was our friend, Bill Cromley, bound and gagged. Then I saw who was driving the horses. It was that Nixon chap, and I at once guessed something was wrong, remembering your talk of how he was trying to get Cromley to impart information about the location of the treasure chest.

“I rushed down the hillside, intending to rescue Cromley, for I guessed they had kidnaped him, but the three ruffians at once attacked me. I heard Jack Pender say: ‘Let’s gag him and tie him to a tree. We can’t take him with us, but we don’t want him loose to spy on us.’ The others agreed to this.

“They overpowered me in spite of my struggles, and, after putting in my mouth the piece of wood which prevented my exercising my vocal powers to any extent at all, they bound me to the tree.”

The professor was taking his own time and telling his story in his own way, but the Motor Boys knew from past experiences that the more they interrupted to ask questions the longer and more involved the explanation would be. So they let him proceed in his own way, by gestures cautioning Mallison to do the same.

“I could only guess at their object in capturing Cromley and in binding me,” went on Professor Snodgrass, “for I had no chance to ask[164] them questions. They treated me roughly, but I could have forgiven that if they had not injured my specimens.

“But after they had bound me to the tree and made it impossible for me to call out, they deliberately and maliciously stamped on, trampled over, and broke and smashed all my precious specimens and boxes. I had left them on the ground while I rushed to the rescue of Cromley, and that Nixon chap, seeing them, sneered:

“‘We’ll make him wish he had let us alone!’ He stamped on and broke the first box and then he and Pender took turns in the work of devastation. I must say, though, that the third fellow did not join in this ruthless work. I must give him that credit.”

“Probably Noddy and Jack didn’t give him the chance,” said Jerry. “Those two have enough meanness under their hides for half a dozen Dolt Haven fellows.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” sighed the professor. “Well, at any rate, after they had bound and gagged me, and smashed my valuable specimens, to say nothing of the boxes, I heard them drive off, of course taking poor Cromley with them. He, too, was gagged, so he couldn’t talk to me.

“After they had gone I struggled and tried to get loose, but the ropes were too tight. However, I did manage to work the wooden gag[165] partly out of my mouth so I could say a few words and groan, and that I did to the best of my ability.”

“It’s well you did, or we might have gone on and never heard you,” stated Ned.

“Did you come out to rescue me?” asked Uriah Snodgrass.

“No, we knew nothing of what had happened to you,” answered Jerry. “We are on the trail of Noddy, to get Bill back, and we took this road, among others. Can you tell us which way they went?”

“No; I couldn’t see. And I’m sorry, boys, but I don’t even remember how their wagon was headed when I did see them. They might have been coming up this way or going down. I don’t know.”

“I think we’d better keep on the way we’ve started,” observed Tinny.

Before any one else had a chance to express an opinion Bob raised his hand for silence and murmured:

“I hear something coming.”

In the quiet that followed the noise of wagon wheels rattling on the hard road was heard.

“Some vehicle is approaching!” whispered Ned excitedly.


[166]

CHAPTER XX
THE POSSE

With apprehensive faces, and yet exchanging looks which boded no good to Noddy Nixon if this should be his wagon coming along the road, the Motor Boys in silence gazed at each other. Tinny expressed the thought of all when he said:

“Maybe this is Noddy now!”

“If it is he’ll find us ready for him!” said Jerry grimly.

“But why is he coming back?” Bob demanded.

“Can he have forced Bill to tell him all he knows about the treasure chest and is he going to let him go?” suggested Ned.

“Maybe he has the treasure chest!” murmured Professor Snodgrass, who was pathetically trying to salvage something from the wreck of his boxes.

“The treasure chest of Blue Rock, provided there is such a thing, which, as you know, I very much doubt,” said Tinny, “wouldn’t be here at all. I’m willing to admit that a stage coach did[167] go over the cliff, but that accident happened miles from here.”

“But some one is coming,” remarked Jerry.

There was no question about that, and presently they saw who it was, a party of miners journeying along in one of the rough wagons used to transport ores to the stamp mills.

“Well, it isn’t Noddy’s crowd, anyhow,” said Bob.

“But maybe they saw him,” suggested Ned.

“We’d better question them,” decided Tinny.

Accordingly the party was hailed. The driver pulled in his team, and though the men looked rather curiously at the party, especially at Professor Snodgrass, who had in each hand a half-dead bug he had rescued from his wreck, they did not express what they must have felt.

Without giving too many particulars of the kidnaping, Tinny told what their object was and asked if the miners had seen the Noddy Nixon crowd.

“No, we haven’t passed any outfit like that,” said the driver. “Have we, boys?”

“Nope!” came the chorus from the miners.

“Then Noddy must have turned off on a side trail,” decided Tinny, as the rattling vehicle rumbled on.

“We’d better hurry if we’re going to catch him before dark,” suggested Ned.

[168]

“I’m just thinking,” said Tinny slowly, “that it will hardly be wise to keep on any further just now. It will soon be dark and we aren’t prepared to camp out over night. Besides, in the darkness we can’t do any sure searching.”

“What do you think we’d better do?” asked Ned.

“Go back to camp, get a good night’s rest, and start out fresh in the morning with a posse,” answered Tinny. “I’ll take a bunch of the miners with me, and Hank, you can lead another party. You boys can divide yourselves up if you like, and we can thus follow two or more trails at once, for we shall very likely get on false leads. Besides, I think we’d better get the professor back to camp,” he added in a low voice. “It looks to me as if he was about all in.”

So it was decided, and when as many of the professor’s bugs and insects had been picked up as it was possible for him to save, he was assisted into the automobile which was turned about and headed for Leftover.

It was quite dark when the party arrived, and Hang Gow and some of the men were preparing supper. The miners ate by themselves in a shack of their own, while the Chinese cooked for the Motor Boys, the professor and Tinny.

It was well they had returned as they did, for[169] soon after arriving in camp Professor Snodgrass suffered a collapse and had a nervous chill.

Fortunately Mallison knew something of medicine, and as the professor carried in his bag some simple remedies, the sufferer was soon put to bed and everything possible done for him.

“If he’s this way in the morning we won’t dare leave him,” said Ned to his chums. They were very fond of Professor Snodgrass and would do anything for him.

However, the morning saw a big improvement in the little scientist. He was brighter and more cheerful than in many days, and though his mouth was sore and bruised from the cruel gag and though he felt lame and stiff from his mauling and being bound to the tree, he was able to be up and about.

The situation was explained to him—that a posse, or, to be more accurate, two posses, were to set out and try to rescue Bill Cromley and capture Noddy and his fellow conspirators.

“Though what we’ll do with them after we get them is a question,” said Tinny.

“You go right along! Don’t mind me! I’m all right!” declared Professor Snodgrass.

“But we may be gone two or three days,” Jerry said. “And if we leave you here alone you are apt to go out after specimens, and something may happen to you.”

[170]

“No, I won’t leave camp—I promise you,” declared Uriah Snodgrass. “I can’t do any field work until I make some new specimen boxes, and that will take me quite a while. Go ahead, boys, get Cromley, by all means. I’ll stay in camp. Every one isn’t going, I take it.”

“Oh, no, we’ve got to leave a force to work and guard the mine,” Tinny answered. “And Hang Gow will be here, of course.”

“Sule! Me stay! Me give plofless nice blid-nest soup alle sammee,” promised the Oriental.

“Don’t let him put gasoline on the fire—that’s all I ask of you,” cautioned Tinny, and Professor Snodgrass said he would watch out for this.

So the two posses were organized, and soon after breakfast one, made up of miners, started out on horses in charge of Hank Bowler, while the boys, who had decided to remain with Tinny, got into the automobile with him, making the second party.

“We’ll take to horses later,” Tinny said, “for very likely we’ll get on trails where an auto is worse than useless.”

So the search for Bill Cromley began again.


[171]

CHAPTER XXI
AN AVALANCHE

With all their searching the day before, the Motor Boys and their friends had really secured no definite clew as to the trail taken by Noddy Nixon and his cronies when they ran off with Bill Cromley. All they had been able to establish was the fact that the rascals had not taken to certain roads, for they had not been seen on them.

“And this,” said Tinny as they started out on the search, “limits us to two or three well-known trails. But, with all that, it isn’t going to be easy work.”

The miners on horseback had been told to follow a road which the boys had not had a chance to investigate the day before. As for Tinny, Jerry and the other two lads, they elected to go back to the spring near which Professor Snodgrass had been found bound.

“From there we’ll take up the trail,” said Tinny.

The automobile soon took them to the spot[172] where they had turned back the night before. As they came in sight of the little cave Bob remarked:

“I wonder if there are any of those moths in there now. The professor might like to have some.”

“We haven’t any time now to stop and see,” decided Jerry. “Every hour makes it more dangerous for Bill.”

After a consultation and a further casual looking over of the trail in the vicinity where the professor had been bound, it was decided that the only way to get real clews to the whereabouts of Noddy was by asking persons along the road who might have seen the wagon passing.

They had a very good description of the vehicle, thanks to the observations of Professor Snodgrass. Before this they had not been certain whether it was an auto or a dump cart, for Hang Gow was so excited that he hardly knew what he was talking about.

But the little scientist was accustomed to observing accurately, and he had had a good view of the vehicle in which poor Bill lay bound. Thus it could be described to persons of whom information was sought. Uriah Snodgrass had also taken note of the two horses and, as they belonged to the animal kingdom, he could speak[173] intelligently of certain marks and blemishes on them which would lead to easy identification.

“Well, at least we know what we’re looking for,” said Jerry, as they started on again.

However, if they hoped soon to pick up the trail of the kidnapers they were doomed to disappointment. After journeying along for several miles, the trail being a lonely one, they met a party of prospectors who were developing a mine.

“Did you see anything yesterday of a wagon with a bound man in it passing here?” asked Tinny, who knew some of the miners slightly.

“No,” answered the leader. “We didn’t. Why, did you lose somebody?”

“It’s a case of kidnaping,” Tinny answered, and he told briefly what had happened.

“Those fellows sure had their nerve with them!” was the general opinion of the prospectors, and to this the searching party agreed.

They kept on, making several inquiries at different places, but getting no clews until nearly noon. By that time they had found the trail so rough that it was a risk to take the automobile over it in certain places, and they had been obliged to creep along in low gear.

“This isn’t doing my new car any great amount of good,” decided Tinny. “I think we’d better stop when we get to Nolan’s Pass and leave the machine there. We’ll hire horses. They’ll be[174] better and quicker, though not quite so comfortable.”

It was at Nolan’s Pass, a small mining town, that they got the first definite clews since the information given by Professor Snodgrass.

“Say, I think I know the fellows you mean,” said Jake Stout, to whom they applied for horses. “Did one of them have a queer squint in his left eye?”

“That was Dolt Haven!” exclaimed Ned.

“Well, he and another chap, who was very bossy, came in here late yesterday afternoon and wanted to know if I would buy a wagon from them,” went on Jake, who, in contrast to his robust name, was a thin, wizened specimen of a man. “They wanted to trade the wagon in toward the hire of some horses.”

“Did you see the wagon?” asked Tinny.

“No. But they said one of the axles had het up on account of not being greased and the wheel was bound on it. They couldn’t budge it without a blacksmith to take it off—sort of fused on, I reckon. There was only two of them, though.”

“They probably left Jack Pender in the wagon as a guard over Bill,” decided Jerry. “It was Haven and Nixon who came here.”

The others agreed with this theory.

“Did you hire them any horses?” asked Tinny.

“Yes. But I didn’t buy the wagon. I said[175] I wasn’t in the habit of buying pigs in a poke, though I might have taken it if they’d run it in here. But they left it about a mile out and walked in, they said. They wanted four horses, but they didn’t have cash enough to hire but two.

“So they took them, and said they’d be back for two more. And they did, later that night. The first two—the one with the squint and the bossy chap——”

“He was Noddy Nixon,” murmured Jerry.

“Yes? Well, maybe that was his name, but I didn’t hear it,” said Mr. Stout. “Anyhow, them two came back on the horses I had hired out to them and hired two more, which they led away. They gave me a paper agreeing that I might keep the wagon if they didn’t come back with the horses.”

“But four horses are worth more than an old wagon with one wheel fused to the axle, Jake,” said Tinny, with a grim laugh, for he knew Mr. Stout. “You’re stuck, old man!”

“Oh, no,” replied the other calmly. “I made ’em leave a deposit for more than the four horses were worth.”

“Good!” cried Mallison.

“Where’d Noddy get all that money?” asked Ned.

“He must have held up and robbed the stage,” suggested Jerry.

[176]

“Or else they found the Blue Rock treasure chest,” added Bob.

“Ho! Ho!” laughed the horse dealer. “So you’ve heard that yarn, too, have you?”

“Do you think it’s a yarn?” asked Jerry.

“Sure! A yarn, a fairy story, and nothing else! Ask Mr. Mallison here—he’ll tell you!”

“Oh, Tinny never believed in it,” said Jerry. “No use asking him.”

“I’m beginning to doubt it a little myself,” admitted Bob.

“Well, anyhow, we have Leftover,” remarked Ned.

Now that they had some definite clew, they were all anxious to hurry along the trail, but Jerry suggested that they try to find the disabled wagon, to check up on that part of Noddy’s story.

“All right,” agreed Tinny, “you boys do that and then we’ll eat and take to horses. I’ll arrange with Mr. Stout to let us have some. You can ride out on three now if you like, while I put the auto in a garage and get out our camping stuff.”

Tinny’s plan seemed wise, and a little later Jerry, Ned and Bob were in the saddle, riding out to where, according to what Noddy had told Mr. Stout, the wagon had been left.

“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to discover that[177] Noddy wasn’t telling anything like the truth,” declared Ned, as they ambled along.

“Same here,” echoed Bob.

But they discovered the wagon just where Noddy had said it was, and one wheel was fused so tightly to the axle, because of lack of lubrication, that it was impossible to turn it.

“It begins to look as if we were really after them at last,” observed Jerry, when they had inspected the vehicle. As far as any clews in it were concerned their search was fruitless.

“Yes, I guess we’ll catch up to them sooner or later,” agreed Ned. “But what I can’t understand is why they wanted four horses of Mr. Stout. Two would have been enough with the two they had hitched to the wagon.”

“Those horses wouldn’t do for the saddle,” said Jerry. “Besides, I doubt if they had saddles. And they couldn’t ride bareback, or even with a blanket, for any length of time. I think they sold the team to some miners and with that money, and some which Noddy had, they hired the four saddle horses.”

“Well, we’ve seen all there is to see here,” said Jerry, as they turned away from the stalled wagon. “Let’s get back and start off with Tinny.”

“We’re going to eat, aren’t we?” asked Bob, anxiety manifesting itself in his voice.

[178]

“Of course we’re going to have dinner,” laughed Ned.

“Oh—all right!” and the stout lad breathed a sigh of relief.

With blankets, packages of food, and a simple camping outfit, the party rode off on horses shortly after noon. Though it had been comfortable riding in Tinny’s auto, the Motor Boys were not sorry to be again in the saddle. They had done some of this traveling in times past.

Now began the search in real earnest, for at last they were on the trail of the kidnapers. Word was sent back to the posse of miners from Leftover to abandon the trail they were on, since it was a false one.

But Cromley’s friends were handicapped by being several hours behind Noddy’s crowd.

“They have one disadvantage, though,” Jerry said, “and that is they have to keep Bill bound all the while. He can’t ride fast in that condition, and they’ll need to accommodate their speed to his horse. They daren’t loosen his ropes or he’ll fight like a wildcat.”

“That’s right,” declared Ned. “Maybe there isn’t such a handicap against us after all.”

They got little scraps of information here and there about the party ahead of them, and from the general direction taken by Noddy and the[179] others, toward evening Tinny came to a definite conclusion.

“They’re heading back, and circling around to get to Blue Rock,” he said.

“Do you think so?” asked Bob.

“I’m sure of it. Why else would they want to make Red River Canyon? That leads directly to the trail of Blue Rock.”

“Then they hope to force Bill to show them the exact spot where the stage went over,” said Ned.

“I guess that’s it,” Jerry agreed.

“But we’ll have to try to head them off!” exclaimed Bob.

“Can’t go much farther to-night,” observed Tinny, with a glance toward the setting sun. “We’d better look for a place to camp.”

One was found near a spring of water, and the fire was started. Bob was overseeing the preparation of the coffee and bacon when the quiet of the mountain region was suddenly shattered by a low but ominous rumble and roar.

“What’s that?” cried Jerry.

“Sounds like an avalanche!” exclaimed Tinny, looking up the side of the mountain stretching far above them. “Yes, that’s what it is, boys! An avalanche! We’re in for it, I’m afraid!”


[180]

CHAPTER XXII
IN THE WILDERNESS

Sudden terror at what might result from the slide held the campers motionless for a moment, but only for a moment.

Part of the side of the mountain, consisting of earth, rocks, gravel, trees, and bushes had loosened in some manner, and was slowly but with irresistible force hurtling itself down the slope.

“It’s a landslide sure enough!” yelled Jerry.

Tinny, quickly recognizing the extent of the slide and calculating its probable direction, cried:

“Get the horses over this way. And grab what stuff you can. Get back of that line of rocks. I think they’ll keep the slide off!”

He pointed to a ridge of bare rock which extended up and down the mountain side. Like a jetty, or breakwater, it might fend off the landslide.

“Ned and I will take the horses!” cried Jerry. “You save what grub you can, Bob!”

This was giving the stout lad an occupation[181] nearest to his heart, but there was no joking in their thoughts at this moment.

“I’ll save our camp stuff!” shouted Tinny, making a jump toward some rolls of bedding and tarpaulins on which they expected to sleep at night, for they carried no tents.

Action was scarcely less quick than the words, and though there was a little trouble in releasing the horses and getting them to a place of comparative safety, it was accomplished.

All this while the landslide was advancing nearer and nearer, and with increased force and volume. Back of the first line of rocks, bushes, and dirt was a great mass of earth, immense boulders, great trees, and a quantity of gravel and smaller stones. This was sweeping everything before it, breaking off giants of the forest with trunks three feet in diameter as if they were the long stems of churchwarden pipes.


THE LANDSLIDE WAS ADVANCING NEARER AND NEARER.

For a few seconds the boys and Mallison were so busy rushing their animals and belongings to the safe side that they did not notice the curious roar and rumble that filled the air.

But when the horses had been tied beyond the line of rocks, which, Tinny thought, would mark the dividing line of the landslide, and when their food and camp stuff had been moved, the travelers had an opportunity to listen to the nerve-racking[182] noise that accompanied the shifting of the face of the mountain.

The rumble and roar made a terrifying sound. It was not like thunder, though it was akin to it. Nor was it like the blast of the tempest, though, in a measure, it filled the air with that awful howling.

The breaking of great trees, the crash and rumble of rocks splitting in twain, the concussion of those rocks on other boulders or against trees which they cracked wide open, splitting them from roots to crown, the rattle of gravel like the hail of shrapnel against steel shields—all this served to fill the air with a terrible tumult.

All the while the landslide was increasing in speed, volume, and force. It seemed that a great part of the mountain was going to slip down its side into the valley below.

Fortunately, it was a desolate region, and not so much as a lone miner’s cabin was in the path of the devastating force. Cromley’s friends alone were in danger, but as they stood near the horses, which were trembling in terror, they had hopes that the slide might pass them by. The animals were very much frightened, but they seemed to prefer the nearness of their human companions rather than to try to bolt into the wilderness. So they did not break away.

Now the landslide had reached its maximum,[183] and in one immense, irregularly shaped mass of rocks, trees, and earth was going down the mountain slope.

The vanguard of comparatively small rocks, with a quantity of gravel and bushes, had passed on with merely a rattle. Then, close behind this, came thousands of tons of the very side of the mountain itself, sweeping before it every vestige of verdure and leaving in its wake but the bare side of the great hill.

Fortunately for the campers, the landslide did just what Mallison guessed it would do, and as he hoped it would do—it did not extend to the side farther than to the line of great rocks deeply imbedded in the side of the mountain.

“That alone saved us!” whispered Tinny, pointing to the great rocky wall. Tinny’s whisper could be heard, for now that the landslide had passed on down into the valley, there was silence about the camping place.

Yet it was no longer a complete camp, for so close had the great slide come that it had engulfed the fire.

“And the coffee pot and our bacon, too!” lamented Bob, when he saw what had happened.

This had actually taken place. The coffee had been boiling on one side of the fire, which had been built in a primitive grate of stones, and the bacon was frying on the other side. There had[184] been so much to do that no one—not even Bob—had thought of saving the supper.

“Thank goodness we’ve got more grub and another coffee pot—or something that will do for one,” remarked Bob. His companions did not make any joke about his first thought after their escape from danger having to do with eating. They were too thankful over their good fortune to think of anything else for the time being.

In the gathering darkness after the dust caused by the landslide had blown away, they looked down into the valley. Part of it was made level and the floor of it was covered with the rocks and other débris, splintered trees and shredded bushes.

“Well, it broke our trail,” remarked Tinny, pointing to where the slide had cut squarely across the road they had taken to reach their present whereabouts. “We can’t go back that way—we’ll have to keep on!”

“And we want to keep on,” said Jerry. “We want to get Noddy and his gang and save Bill.”

“That’s right!” chimed in Ned. “Maybe Noddy ran up against one of these things himself.”

“They’re common enough out here,” said Tinny. “But this is the nearest that one ever came to me, and it was altogether too close for comfort.”

[185]

“Do you think it’s likely to happen again?” asked Jerry, as he spoke to his horse and patted the animal to soothe and quiet it.

“It might, but it isn’t very probable,” was the reassuring answer.

“What causes these landslides?” asked Ned.

“No one knows—at least, I don’t,” Mallison replied. “Very likely a large mass of earth and rocks gets loosened by rain storms, and is held in place by a single key-rock or tree. The pressure back of the rock or tree becomes too great, it breaks or moves, and down comes the thousands of tons of stuff, gathering more material as it travels, like a snowball, until it sweeps everything before it. We’re mighty lucky not to have been in its direct path.”

The boys well knew this. But as the old saying has it, “a miss is as good as a mile,” and when the first terror was over they regained their usual good spirits.

The fire had been put out—swept away, in fact—but it was an easy matter to kindle another, and they had brought with them enough utensils to use in place of the departed coffee pot and frying pan. None of their bedding had been lost.

“So we aren’t so badly off after all,” remarked Jerry, as they sat about the cheerful blaze and ate.

[186]

“No, indeed,” agreed Mallison. “But we may have a hard time ahead of us.”

“We’re used to hard times,” chuckled Ned. “It can’t be any harder than some things we’ve been through before this.”

“No,” agreed Jerry thoughtfully, “it can’t.”

It did not take long to establish the simple camp. They got out their rolls of bedding, gathered wood enough to make a sudden blaze in the night in case one should be needed, saw that the horses were securely fastened, and then prepared to get some sleep.

Because of the remote danger that another landslide might follow that first one, it was decided they would take turns in remaining on guard. Thus an alarm could be given by the wakeful one.

“Though, as a matter of fact, if a landslide should start above us and come down, we could hardly get to either side of it in time in the darkness,” Tinny said. “But don’t worry, boys. I think we’re safe.”

In spite of this, however, the lads could not help worrying some, and when it was the turn of Ned, Jerry or Bob to remain awake for a two-hour stretch, each one strained ears and eyes to detect the first sound of danger.

But the night passed quietly save for a distant rattle now and again of some falling rock that had been loosened by the slide of earth.

[187]

Morning came, with bright sunshine, and the spirits of all revived, especially after some hot coffee and flapjacks, which Bob essayed to make, and with success.

“Well, maybe we’ll catch up with Noddy to-day,” suggested Jerry, as once more they journeyed onward and away from the slide.

“If, in the next two days, we don’t get nearer to him than we have been, we’d better go back to camp and decide on a better-equipped posse,” suggested Tinny. “We haven’t all the things we need for a long chase. And this is the longest way to Blue Rock. We could get there by a shorter route, and maybe be on hand when Noddy arrives with Bill.”

“That sounds like a good plan to try,” said Jerry. “We’ll tackle that if we don’t get some fresh clews soon.”

On they went into the wilderness, little guessing what perils lay before them.


[188]

CHAPTER XXIII
AN ESCAPE

Rough was the trail followed by the Motor Boys and Mallison; not rough because of the landslide, for the effects of that had not reached thus far, but naturally rough because it was in a wild and mountainous region and little traveled.

“Good thing we didn’t try to bring your new auto here, Tinny,” remarked Jerry, as the horses scrambled over some perilous footing. “You’d have two broken axles, I’m thinking.”

“Very likely. Even an ore wagon wouldn’t be safe here. A horse or a mule is all that can be used. Noddy must have known what was ahead of him when he swapped his wagon for horses.”

“I don’t think he knows much of anything, except how to be mean,” stated Ned. “Dolt Haven, who has been out in this region before, may have put him wise as to what to do.”

This was very likely the case, but it did not alter the fact that Noddy and his crowd were[189] well in advance of their pursuers and seemed to be keeping a safe distance ahead of them.

“Well, if we don’t catch him before, we surely will when we head in for Blue Rock,” declared Bob. “What I can’t understand, though, is how he can make Bill tell where the treasure chest went over if Bill doesn’t want to. Noddy won’t torture him, will he?”

“Oh, I don’t believe Noddy would go that far,” Jerry said. “He and Jack probably think they can influence Bill with money, now that they have him in their power. And while Bill is a good scout, he hasn’t very much will power. He may give in and blurt out as much of the secret as he knows.”

“I think you fellows are worrying unnecessarily,” said Tinny. “That treasure chest yarn is only a fairy story, as I’ve told you before. The thing may have happened, but, even if the chest is found, it will prove to be empty. That stage driver was in cahoots with the robbers. I know Bill has faith in his old friend, but that doesn’t mean much.”

The Motor Boys were not putting too much faith in the story told by the old miner, and they shared with Mallison the desire to rescue Cromley. But, deep down in their hearts, the lads could not help hoping against hope that there was something in that treasure-chest rumor.

[190]

They were now in a very wild and desolate region where mining was about the only occupation that could be carried on with any degree of success. Occasionally they came upon parties of rough men who were thus trying to wrest a living from the earth. And from these men they learned that Noddy Nixon and his crowd, with Cromley as a captive, had passed that same way about twelve hours ahead of them.

Questioned as to why they did not attempt to help the prisoner, the miners merely shrugged their shoulders and muttered that it was none of their business; they didn’t know what the old fellow might have done.

“We’re cutting down their lead, at least,” announced Ned, hearing this news one noon. “We may catch up to them before night.”

“Yes,” agreed Jerry.

“But what I can’t understand,” said Bob, “is how they can take Bill along the trail, bound as they must have him, and not have a lot of questions asked. They can’t all be as callous as those fellows back there. Why doesn’t somebody get suspicious and ask why they are carrying a prisoner with them? If they did this and the authorities were notified, Bill would have been free long ago.”

“Noddy has very likely made up some sort of story to explain matters,” suggested Tinny. “He[191] could pass himself and his companions off as officers in charge of a prisoner. And if they kept Bill gagged, as they might do, putting a stick in his mouth as they did to Professor Snodgrass, he couldn’t contradict them. They would only have to keep the gag in while they were passing through a settlement, or meeting people. Then, too, they may have Bill so frightened that, even without a gag, he daren’t shout an alarm to get himself rescued.”

They found out later that Noddy had tried both of these plans with success, and so it was that though Cromley was observed to be bound and gagged while on his horse, what Noddy and Jack said made this state of affairs seem plausible.

They camped that night near a small but swift-running stream, and before darkness settled they had taken from it some fish which made a welcome addition to their food, for they had been obliged to live, in the main, on canned stuff.

The next morning saw them on the way again, and they had their first bit of good luck about ten o’clock. They passed through a small mining settlement, and there they learned that a party answering to the description of Noddy’s crowd had passed through about four hours previously.

“One of their horses has gone lame,” said Tinny, who had been making the inquiries. “They have to accommodate the pace of the swiftest to[192] the slowest-going animal. They don’t seem to have the money to buy more horses. They’re almost at the end of their rope, boys!”

“Let’s push on fast and see if we can’t catch ’em before night!” cried Ned.

But to this Mallison objected.

“We’ve got to think of our own horses,” he said. “They’ve been pretty hard-pushed of late, and if we want them to stand up under the strain we’ve got to be easy with them. If they go lame it’s all off as far as the chase goes. Just a little patience, and we’ll have those rascals!”

“Besides, it’s near noon and we want to eat,” added Bob.

Accordingly, a halt was called at noon and the campfire made. They had bought some supplies in the little settlement where they had got the latest news of those of whom they were in pursuit, and by a stroke of good luck they had secured a chicken, which Bob fried most appetizingly.

“Best thing you ever did, Chunky!” called out Mallison, as he leaned back for a little rest after the meal.

“Glad you liked it,” was the modest rejoinder.

They were all taking a much-needed rest after their dinner, and the horses were cropping some grass when a noise in the bushes back of Ned, who was leaning against a rock, startled them all.

Almost as soon as the rustling made itself[193] plain to the ears of the travelers there was a snorting among the horses, and they appeared to be much frightened.

“Maybe this is Noddy’s crowd!” exclaimed Bob.

“Our horses wouldn’t be afraid of other animals of the same kind,” Tinny said. “I’m inclined to believe——”

But he never expressed his belief, for a moment later there was a loud “Wuff!” and an immense grizzly bear lumbered out of the bushes and started down the side of the hill along which the trail ran.

“Wow! Look at him! The king of the bears!” shouted Bob, making a grab for his rifle that was near him.

Before the others could reach their weapons or before Bob could bring his to a sight, the bear, with another “Wuff,” turned and made his way back along his own trail faster than he had come down. He was an exceedingly frightened bruin, it seemed.

The horses snorted and tried to bolt, but Mallison and Jerry were at their heads instantly, quieting them, for they knew what it meant to be without mounts in that region.

“Say, that bear actually ran away from us!” cried Ned, for the shaggy, clumsy creature was out of sight in a few seconds.

[194]

“That’s what he did,” declared Tinny. “He didn’t know we were here. He must have blundered down on us. The wind was blowing from him to us, and the horses probably smelled him before he burst out of the bushes. He didn’t scent us or he never would have come as close, for a grizzly has an acute nose.”

“Would he have attacked us, do you think?” asked Bob.

“Not in a hundred years, if he could get away,” replied Tinny. “Of course now and then grizzly or black bears will show fight if cornered, or if they have cubs, but generally they see you first and make for the tall timber. That’s where this one is headed.”

Indeed, the grizzly was now out of sight, though his odor must have lingered in the air, for the horses were uneasy for some time afterward.

“Gosh! If I’d been a second quicker I could have popped him over and we’d have had bear steaks,” lamented Chunky.

“Not much danger of you laying him out with one shot,” said Tinny. “And if you had wounded him we might have had a nasty fight on our hands. It’s as well he was frightened away as he was. And as for bear steaks—well, the less said about them the better.”

“Aren’t they good eating?” asked the fat lad.

[195]

“Not to my notion,” was the reply. “They’re too rank. Indians may relish them, but I don’t. A bear isn’t a very dainty feeder. He’s too fond of carrion, and that doesn’t make for tasty flesh. I’m just as glad Mr. Grizzly went.”

But it was many months before Bob ceased lamenting the fine chance he had missed of bringing to earth a great grizzly bear—for the bear was an immense one.

“Well, that little excitement will digest our meal,” remarked Ned, when they had returned after going a little way up the mountain in a fruitless attempt to catch another sight of bruin.

“Then let’s go!” suggested Jerry, and again they were on the trail after the kidnapers of Bill Cromley.

It was approaching evening and they had gone on steadily. They had passed through no more settlements, nor had they met other travelers or miners of whom they might inquire concerning Noddy’s crowd. But inasmuch as there had been no branch trail, it was assumed that those of whom they were in pursuit were not far ahead of them.

And this belief was made very plain a half hour later when, as they went down a slope, they saw four horsemen ascending the mountain on the other side of the valley.

[196]

“Look! There they are!” cried Jerry, pointing.

“I believe you’re right!” exclaimed Tinny. “Wait until I take a look through the glasses.”

He had his binoculars with him. Heretofore they had been used in fruitless gazing at the trail ahead for a possible sight of those in the lead. But no sooner had the miner put them to his eyes and focused them, than he cried out:

“That’s Nixon’s gang all right, and Bill is there, sitting on his horse! They see us, too!” he added quickly. “They’re going to make a dash for it!”

Even as he spoke the Motor Boys could see, with their unaided eyes, that there was some movement taking place in the ranks of the four horsemen. They could be seen urging their steeds up the steep trail.

Suddenly one of the riders was observed to detach himself from the others. He wheeled his animal about and came dashing down the trail in the direction of the following party.

“It’s Bill! He’s escaping!” yelled Ned.


[197]

CHAPTER XXIV
THUNDER MOUNTAIN

For a moment or two after the sensational break for freedom made by Bill Cromley, for it was indeed he, it appeared that Noddy and Jack, to say nothing of Dolt Haven, might wheel and start in pursuit of him.

“But they’re thinking better of it!” reported Tinny, who was again observing events through the glasses. “I guess they don’t dare come any nearer us.”

This seemed to be the case, for the three horsemen, on seeing that Cromley had a good start, turned about and went on up the rough trail at the best speed they could make.

“It’s a good thing Bill’s bringing his horse with him,” remarked Jerry, as the fugitive drew nearer. “We’d have had to take turns walking back, only for that.”

Cromley’s features could not be made out yet, but he galloped steadily nearer.

Desperate as Noddy must have been to kidnap the old man as he had done, the bully did not[198] go to extremes, and there was no attempt at shooting. Neither Noddy, Jack nor Dolt displayed any weapons. And for this Cromley’s friends were glad.

“There they go!” cried Ned, as he saw Noddy and his two companions urging their steeds up the slope.

“Let them go,” advised Tinny. “We have Bill back, which was what we were trying for, and we’ve got him before they had a chance to drag him to Blue Rock. So far, we’ve beaten them at their own game!”

“Unless they scared the secret out of Bill before he got away,” said Bob.

“We’ll soon know that,” remarked Jerry. “He’s coming on like a house afire.”

This was very true. The mine foreman, though not an accomplished horseman, was urging his steed on by shaking the bridle reins and kicking the animal with his heels.

“They’ve taken the gag and ropes off him!” exclaimed Ned.

“Yes, they could do that in a wild country like this,” said Tinny. “And, being unbound, Bill probably thought it was a good chance to escape, especially when he looked back and saw us.”

On came the lone rider, finally to dash up in the midst of his friends who so anxiously awaited him.

[199]

“Hello, Bill!” they greeted him.

“Hello, boys!” the old miner answered, somewhat breathlessly. “Gosh! but I’m glad to get away from that crowd. I’d just about given up!”

“We hadn’t!” said Jerry, with a chuckle. “We were counting on rescuing you soon, but you saved us the trouble. Are you all right?”

“Well, I’m as right as a man can be who’s been forced to ride day and night for days, and part of that time gagged and bound on a horse,” Cromley replied. “Say, I don’t care if I never see a saddle again!”

They could appreciate his feelings, mental and physical, as he slumped from the back of his animal and limped stiffly about.

“I’ll have some coffee for you in a few minutes,” called Bob, as he dismounted and began to unpack the campfire stuff of which he had assumed charge. “We might as well lay over here for the night,” he added.

“Yes, I guess so,” assented Tinny, having ascertained by a few observations that it would make a fair camping site.

“I’ll be glad of a good cup of coffee,” murmured Bill Cromley, rubbing his arms and legs to get rid of some of the stiffness.

“Did they treat you pretty mean?” asked Ned.

“As mean as they dared. Oh, but I’m glad to be back with you once more.”

[200]

“Did you tell them the secret of Blue Rock—I mean where the treasure chest went off the trail?” asked Ned.

“I did not!” was the emphatic rejoinder. “They kept pestering me all the while, and they threatened all sorts of things when we should get to the gully, which we were heading for, if I didn’t tell them. But I let them threaten.”

“Then we may get the gold yet!” said Bob.

“Tell us what happened,” suggested Jerry, when a fire had been lighted and Bob was getting supper, for night was falling.

“Well, they sneaked up on me and kidnaped me—that’s about all I can say,” Bill answered. “It was that day you were all away. I had come to the cabin to get some new drills for the mine when, the first I knew, I was knocked out by a blow on the head.”

“That’s what they did to Hang Gow,” commented Ned.

“Um,” murmured the miner. “So that accounts for that Chinaman not coming to help me. I wondered while they were taking me away what had happened to him.

“Well, as I said, they sneaked up and attacked me suddenly. When I got my senses back I was lying bound in the bottom of a wagon and riding along. And, believe me, it was some rough ride![201] They had a gag in my mouth so I couldn’t yell, and they had me tied tight.

“Well, they got me off to some wild place that night and said they’d let me go if I’d tell them exactly how to get to the spot where the treasure chest fell over. I knew then that this Dolt Haven was a bluffer—a faker. He doesn’t know anything about it. I knew I had all the cards in my hand, so I didn’t let out anything.

“That little professor came prancing up as though he were a six-footer trying to help me once; but the gang easily got rid of him—took him back into the forest, I guess.”

“Yes, and worse than that!” exclaimed Bob, and told Cromley what had happened to Professor Snodgrass.

“You don’t say!” exclaimed the old miner. “Well, they are a mean bunch! But to go back to what they did to me.

“They went on the next day, and from the way they hurried I knew they must fear somebody—you, likely—would soon be trailing after them. To make a long story short, they’ve been carting me about with them ever since. They traded off their wagon for horses and made me get on this one. Whenever they got to a settlement, or saw anybody coming, they would bind me tighter than ever and stick that gag in my mouth.”

[202]

This much his friends had guessed, and Cromley confirmed their theories of what had happened.

“Finally,” went on the miner, “they gave up trying to make me talk and they began to circle back on a trail I knew would lead us to Blue Rock. What they were going to do when they got there I didn’t know. But I made up my mind I wasn’t going to give ’em a bit of information. What I did know I was going to tell you boys.

“Well, we kept on and on until about half an hour ago I could see that Noddy was uneasy. He kept looking back, and though I couldn’t hear anything I suspected the chase was getting hotter.

“They had taken off my ropes and loosened the gag, so we could go faster, I reckon. I heard Noddy say something about you coming. We were going up hill when I looked back and saw you and made a dash for it.

“I was in fear every minute that one of them would send a bullet after me—for they had guns—but nothing like that happened. And here I am!” he concluded abruptly.

“And we’re glad to see you!” exclaimed Ned.

“No gladder than I am to be here,” commented Bill. “Oh, but I’m glad to get off that horse. Whew!”

He moved stiffly about, his lameness seeming to be worse because of the treatment he had received.[203] But aside from this he was not harmed, though, as he said, the food the kidnapers furnished was not of the best.

“This is some meal!” exclaimed Bill, when they were all sitting about the campfire, eating in the gathering darkness.

“Trust Chunky when it comes to the eats!” chuckled Jerry.

As there was now no special object in hurrying, and as Bill was still very lame and stiff the next morning, it was decided to camp where they were for a day or so, to allow the old miner to recover somewhat.

“Then we’ll get back to Leftover,” decided Tinny: “I want to see how our mine is panning out.”

“Aren’t you going to have a try for the treasure chest at Blue Rock?” asked Ned.

“Not now,” decided Tinny. “Later on, when we get the mine to going well, you boys can prospect on that wild-goose chase if you want to.”

“Blue Rock isn’t so far from here,” observed the foreman. “It’s almost as near to go around that trail as back the way you came.”

“Well, we’ll see,” was all Mallison would say. “We’ve got to make a détour, anyhow, on account of the landslide. Did you see anything like that in your travels, Bill?”

[204]

“Nary a landslide, though I had enough other troubles.”

Cromley, having brought away with him one of the kidnapers’ horses, was as well mounted as his companions, and after two days spent in the improvised camp it was decided to start back for Leftover. Tinny was clearly anxious to see to his mining property, and the Motor Boys, too, felt some anxiety concerning it.

The five adventurers, now in a much happier frame of mind than at any time since the kidnaping had taken place, rode along at a leisurely pace, for it was desired to spare the horses as much as possible.

It was toward the close of the second day of back travel, and they were ambling along talking of various matters. One fruitful topic of conversation was a surmise as to what had become of Noddy and his companions.

The last seen of them was when they were hurrying away from the pursuing party up the mountain after Bill had escaped.

“I don’t care if we never see them again,” remarked Ned.

“Me, either,” added Bob.

“I’d like to get square for what they did to me,” declared Cromley, “but I reckon maybe I’d better let well enough alone. How’s Hang Gow—was he much hurt?”

[205]

“No, just knocked out temporarily,” Tinny answered. “But in spite of the fact that Noddy got away, I’m wondering whether we ought to have him arrested. Such a crime oughtn’t to go unpunished. After we get the mine to working I’m going to see the sheriff.”

“Noddy deserves all that can be given him,” said Jerry.

They were looking about for a good place to camp when they were suddenly startled by a sound as of a great blast. This was followed by a succession of rumbles.

“What’s that?” cried Ned, as he quieted his startled horse.

“Storm coming,” answered Tinny. “And a bad place for it, too.”

“Why?” asked Jerry.

“Because we’re on the west side of Thunder Mountain. You boys wanted to know why it had that name. Well, you’re going to find out, I reckon, and mighty soon, too! Come on—we’ve got to get to some kind of shelter before it breaks!”

As he spoke there came a vivid flash of lightning, followed by a terrific clap of thunder.


[206]

CHAPTER XXV
THE STORM

Prancing, and an inclination on the part of the horses to bolt and run, kept the lads and their friends busy for a few moments after the crash. There was no chance for the boys to ask Tinny what he meant by his rather ominous words. But when the reverberations had died away, echoing and reëchoing among the mountain peaks, Jerry spoke up and called above the rush of wind:

“Is this a bad place to be in a storm?”

“There are worse places, only I don’t know ’em,” answered Tinny grimly. “I’d a good bit prefer being on any side of Thunder Mountain but this when the storm really bursts. But we’ll make the best speed we can, and maybe we can get out of the danger zone.”

“What specially makes it so dangerous here?” asked Ned.

Before Tinny could answer there flashed another vivid spear of lightning, followed by a crash louder than the first big one, and again they had to hold their horses in check.

[207]

“He said when the storm breaks!” murmured Bob, who was bouncing about on the back of his animal like a cork on troubled waters. “I wonder what he calls this?”

“This isn’t anything—just the beginning,” Tinny answered. “And while I don’t know exactly why this slope of Thunder Mountain is worse than the others, I think it must be because of iron or some metallic ores here more than anywhere else. I know that lightning strikes here oftener than anywhere else. That’s why it has the name Thunder Mountain.”

“Lightning Mountain would be a better name,” said Jerry, as another flash, vivid and menacing, shot across the low-lying clouds.

The jagged streak of electricity seemed to bury itself in the side of the mountain not far from the party and there followed such a crash as seemed to shake the very earth. The horses actually cowered down, too frightened to run.

“That struck somewhere!” exclaimed Ned, in the silence that followed the awful crash.

“I reckon it did,” said Cromley. “I’ve seen storms out here before, but when it gets going and makes up its mind, this is going to put it all over the worst I ever saw.”

“Well, if it’s going to get any worse hadn’t we better do something more than talk about it?” asked Jerry.

[208]

“I’m looking for a place of shelter,” Tinny remarked. “The worst of it is, though, that when there’s so much ore scattered about, one place is as bad as another to attract the lightning. But come on.”

After those first few flashes of lightning and terrific crashes the storm seemed to die away; but they all knew it was but a momentary passing, as if to enable the elements to gather strength for a worse outburst. However, even this brief respite gave them a chance to make better time down the mountain trail, for the horses were less inclined to throw their riders and gallop off by themselves.

The sun had begun to sink in the west some time before the first signs of storm were noticed, and now, with the fading of day and the overcasting of the sky with black clouds, the scene was fast darkening. Only one thing was in favor of the travelers, and that was that the trail at this point was broad and easy of travel, though it was steep.

“Is there any particular place you’re heading for?” asked Jerry, as he urged his steed alongside that of Tinny Mallison.

“Yes,” was the answer. “About two miles from here there’s an old cabin just off the trail. It was once owned by a mining company I invested some money in. Invested was all it ever amounted to, for the claim petered out. But the[209] cabin still stands; or did several months ago when I was last over this trail. If we can get there we can be well sheltered and comparatively safe from lightning shocks.”

“Do you think there is any danger from lightning?” asked Jerry.

“There certainly is,” Tinny answered.

The comparative quiet that had prevailed for a few minutes was once more broken by a low rumbling that told of distant thunder.

“Look out, boys! She’s going to break loose again!” called Ned, clapping his heels against the side of his horse and sprinting forward.

His words had hardly died away before the vicious lightning again hissed through the air like some gigantic whip swung by a Titanic teamster, and what corresponded to the crack of the whip was the sharp sound of the thunder.

That is all it was at first—a sharp crack, hardly louder than that a high-powered rifle would have given forth. But it was followed with terrifying rapidity by a great crash.

Cromley’s horse leaped to one side with such suddenness that the miner was unseated, and some one would have been compelled to walk the remainder of the journey had not Ned urged his own horse forward to catch the runaway. For that is what the miner’s animal became as soon as the saddle was empty.

[210]

“Good work, Ned!” cried Jerry, as the lad quieted the frightened animal.

“Are you hurt, Bill?” asked Tinny.

The old miner slowly rose, rubbed one leg and then the other.

“No, I reckon not,” he answered slowly. The old man was game, whatever else he lacked. Slowly he got into the saddle again, and then he grimly remarked, as the echoes of the thunder died away: “Guess I’d done better to be tied to the horse again, same as I was when the Nixon crowd had me.”

“You’ve got to keep a tight rein on your horse every time it lightens,” said Tinny. “They’re sure to jump at each clap, and if you’re not ready for ’em you’ll land on your neck. I wish we were at that cabin!”

The others felt the same way about it, and their uneasiness was not lessened when they saw Tinny looking apprehensively up at the clouds which were now thicker and blacker than ever.

“If the storm would break—I mean if the rain would come—it wouldn’t be so bad,” Jerry said.

“What do you mean—not so bad?” asked Ned. “We’ll get drenched when it starts—no umbrellas, no raincoats, nothing.”

“I mean there’ll be less danger from lightning when it starts to rain,” went on the tall lad.

“Jerry is right,” Tinny added, as they moved[211] forward again with lightning playing about them and a continuous mutter of thunder at times muffling their words. “Once the ground and trees are soaking wet, it makes so many more natural paths for the lightning to take. It diffuses itself all over gradually, instead of the tension being relieved in one big gigantic crack. And if you’ve ever noticed it, your nerves calm down in a thunderstorm as soon as the rain starts. It’s the same way with animals. Our horses will be easier to manage as soon as everything gets well wet.”

“Yes, I’ve noticed that,” replied Bob. “We had lots of rain in France, too.”

“Gosh, I should say so!” agreed Ned. “Never a day without a shower, as I remember it.”

“Well, this is going to be more than a shower, and it’s coming pretty soon,” observed Tinny. “However, we’ve only got about a mile more to go and we’ll be at the old cabin. I only hope it’s still standing.”

“Is there room for the horses in it?” asked Bill.

“There used to be a shed back of the cabin where they kept the animals,” Tinny replied. “Whew!” he cried. “This is going to be a bad one!”

Following sharply on his words was a sheet of lightning that temporarily blinded them, so vivid[212] was it. Instinctively they all reined in their horses.

The resultant clap of thunder veritably stunned them all, while a sensation as of pins and needles pricked their hands and feet and ran up along their spines, causing a queer sensation in their scalps.

Just ahead of them a great rock was rent in twain by the lightning bolt which struck it, and the ground about them seemed to tremble. They had actually felt the stunning effect of the shattering lightning.

“Whew! Smell the sulphur!” cried Bob.

The odor was noticeable in the air.

The wind had died down for a moment, but now it suddenly sprang into being again, and with its howl came a curious pattering sound.

“Here comes the rain!” cried Tinny. “Now it will be better!”

Down came a great deluge of water. Ned, who was slightly in the lead, urged his horse forward. The others were about to follow when they saw Ned suddenly disappear from sight off the trail, as if he had fallen into some hole.

“Ned! Ned!” cried Jerry. “What happened?”


[213]

CHAPTER XXVI
A BLUE ROCK SLIDE

Amid the silence that followed Jerry’s ringing cry—a silence that came after that great crash—there was no answer from Ned. He seemed absolutely to have vanished from the scene.

For a moment a sense of impending, if not actual, disaster held them all motionless. Then Tinny cried:

“Come on! We’ve got to get Ned!”

But Jerry, swinging his horse across the trail, barred for an instant the progress of Mallison.

“Wait!” shouted Jerry above the howling of the wind and the pattering of the rain. “Don’t ride your horse there! The trail may have gone down in a landslide!”

“That’s right!” Tinny answered. “Poor Ned!” All their hearts were heavy with fear.

Bob and the mine foreman pulled back their horses when they saw Tinny and Jerry dismounting.

“We’d better go up there—the edge of the place where Ned went over—on foot,” said Jerry.

[214]

With the downpour of rain, the fierceness of the lightning and the terrific force of the thunder seemed to be lessened. It was as though the flashes and explosions had torn a hole in the sky to let the flood down, and, having accomplished this, the electricity was held in abeyance for a time. But in an instant all of them were drenched, so torrential was the fall of rain.

“Hold the horses, Bob, while we go forward and look,” suggested Tinny, handing the reins of his animal to the stout lad, while Jerry did the same with Cromley.

Cautiously the two made their way down the rain-drenched trail to the spot where Ned had last been seen. But in the fast-gathering blackness they saw no cavern, no hole where the road had dropped away or where it had been covered in a landslide. And the theory of a landslide lost its plausibility when they recalled that they had heard no sound of shifting rocks and trees.

Before them, winding its way down Thunder Mountain, was the trail, in as good shape as that part which lay behind them, and over which they had traveled since finding the old miner.

“What in the world happened?” murmured Jerry, in somewhat of a daze. “Where did Ned disappear to?”

Tinny was about to answer that he did not know, or, at best, knew only as much as Jerry[215] could gather from what they saw, when above the roar of the storm a voice suddenly hailed them.

“Hey! What’s the matter with you fellows? Why don’t you come in out of the wet?” some one wanted to know.

“It’s Ned!” joyfully cried Jerry.

Then Tinny saw Ned standing in what seemed to be the entrance of a cave in the side of the mountain. Back of the lad could be observed his horse. Their position, snug and sheltered, was in grim contrast to that of the others.

“Are you all right, Ned?” cried Jerry, his voice trembling from the reaction on finding his chum safe.

“Right? Of course I am! Why didn’t you come in here? I thought you were right behind me. It’s a dandy place, dry as a bone, and you can’t get struck by lightning in here.”

“He’s right,” said Tinny. “And we’ll have more and worse lightning soon, if this storm is like all the others on Thunder Mountain. Come on back, Jerry. We’ll all go into that cave.”

Returning to Bob and Cromley, who had remained with the horses, Jerry and Tinny soon explained that Ned was safe in a sheltering cave.

“Gosh, that’s good!” murmured Bob. “We can build a fire in there and dry out—and eat!” he added, as a sort of afterthought.

“In a big cave, is he?” asked Cromley, as he[216] climbed rather stiffly into his saddle, for his recent fall had jarred him. “I didn’t know there was a cave on this side of Thunder Mountain.”

“Neither did I,” replied Tinny. “I shouldn’t be surprised to find that this cave had been uncovered by a landslide. I mean to say that the cave was always there, of course, under the mountain, but the entrance to it was blocked. A landslide would open the mouth.”

“We’ll soon find out,” said Jerry.

Through the rain, which seemed to come down harder than ever, they rode over the edge of a little hill on the trail until they were in front of the cave in which Ned had taken shelter.

“Come on in—it’s fine!” cried Ned.

Tinny looked about before he would permit this, however. He wanted to see if his theory would prove, and he wanted to make sure that it would be safe.

“That’s what happened here,” he said. “There’s been a landslide within the last day or two. It carried away the dirt, rock and trees and bushes that were in front of the entrance to this cave. I don’t believe any one knew of its existence before.”

“I saw it, all of a sudden, as I was riding along,” explained Ned, as his companions rode in—for the entrance was high enough to permit this, after Mallison had signified that it seemed safe enough. “I thought this was one of the[217] shelter places you spoke of, Tinny, and I supposed you were right behind me.”

“No,” said the mine owner, “I never knew about this. It’s a new one to me. Where I thought we could get shelter is at the old cabin less than a mile from here. But this will do very well—better in fact. There’s no danger from lightning in here.”

As he spoke there was another flash, like the terrifying ones that had snapped about before the rain came, and a great crash of thunder reverberated down the mountain slopes.

“It’s doing its best to get at us, though,” remarked Jerry, as he slid out of the rain-soaked saddle, an example followed by the others.

“It can’t get in here,” chuckled Ned. “Say, isn’t this a great place, though? It’s a made-to-order barn, house and everything. Get the saddles off and we can build a fire. There’s a lot of dry wood.” He indicated some off to one side. Just enough of the fast-disappearing daylight, gloomy as it was, remained to show the heap of wood. It seemed to have been deposited there by some subsiding flood, and when the travelers took out their flashlights and pressed the switches, in the gleams it could be seen that once the cave had held water. The marks of the different depths, or levels, were visible on the rocky walls.

“Now we can have a meal,” remarked Bob, as[218] he began to loosen the pack he transported on his horse. Each one carried part of the camping outfit, consisting of blankets, food, and cooking utensils. “Will it be safe to make a fire in here?” he asked.

“Why not?” inquired Jerry. “There’s nothing much to burn.”

“I thought maybe the smoke would smother us.”

“There’s a good draft in here,” declared Ned. “The air is good and fresh. Go on, Chunky, light up. Some hot coffee will go to the right spot.”

The saddles were taken off and the horses tethered further back in the cavern. Its extent was not even guessed at, but it seemed large. Cromley found some dried grass, probably carried in and left there when water had entered the cave, and this served as fodder for the horses, the animals seeming to relish it.

Stripping off most of their wet garments, the refugees gathered about the genial blaze Bob started, and while their clothes were hanging about on pinnacles of rock to dry, a meal was gotten ready.

As Ned had observed, there was a good draft in the cave, and the smoke went up, losing itself in the vastness of the vaulted roof. Near the entrance the wind blew in, bringing rain with it.[219] Also the sound of the storm could be heard.

While the coffee was boiling Jerry and Tinny, wrapping blankets about them, blankets that had been kept dry inside the rubber-covered saddle roll, walked to the cave entrance.

As they reached it and looked out into the almost complete darkness, they were startled by a great flash of lightning. In its glare they saw a strange sight.

Across the trail was the side of a hill, and as the two looked part of this hill seemed to separate and slide down, being loosened by the rain or because lightning shattered some holding rock.

“Another landslide!” cried Tinny. “I’m glad we aren’t out there!”

“Look! Look!” shouted Jerry. “See the blue rock! Blue rock, Tinny!”

He pointed to a mass of earth and stones sliding down into a gulch, and in the vivid glare of the lightning it could be seen that the rock was as blue as indigo!


[220]

CHAPTER XXVII
IN DIRE PERIL

Darkness, more black because of the momentary bright glare, settled down over everything outside the cave. And the rain, that had ceased for a little while just before that loud crash, again pattered down.

“What’s the matter out there?” called Ned, who was helping Bob with the meal at the campfire in the cave.

“Another landslide—a small one,” Tinny answered, as he and Jerry walked in from the mouth of the cavern.

“Is it headed this way?” asked Cromley.

“Didn’t seem to be,” the mine owner answered.

“What got you all excited then, Jerry?” asked Bob, looking in the coffee pot to see if the beverage was boiling.

“I saw blue rock,” the tall lad replied. “Blue rock—you know—where the treasure chest was lost!”

“Is that so?” came interestedly from Cromley. “Come to think of it, we must be somewhere near[221] the place where the stage went over. We’ll take a look in the morning.”

“I don’t believe it will do you any good,” stated Tinny. “You know my opinion about that treasure chest—it’s a dream—a wild tale like lots of others going the rounds. Still, don’t let me hold you back—try to get it if you can.”

“Can’t do anything until morning,” observed Jerry. “The storm’s worse than ever outside. Ned, you stumbled into the right place when you found this cave.”

“It’s better than the abandoned mine cabin would have been,” added Tinny. “We have shelter for the horses here, and there’s no danger from lightning.”

“And from the way it sounds outside it’s striking all over,” said the mine foreman, as one loud, terrifying crack succeeded another, some even seeming to shake the cavern.

However, they were safe inside, and no better shelter could be imagined. The cave was large and airy. There was even some fodder, such as it was, for the horses. And with a fire to dry them and their soaked garments, with food and hot drink, the plight of the travelers was much improved over what it had been.

“And the best thing about it—or one of the best—is that Noddy Nixon won’t bother us here,” stated Ned.

[222]

“No, he isn’t likely to pay us a call,” agreed Jerry.

They were warm and comfortable now, and they sat on the blankets about the crackling fire and ate.

“We’ll spend the night here,” said Jerry, as he went over to see how quickly some of his garments were drying. They were still very damp.

“Yes, we won’t venture out until morning,” decided Tinny. “The storm will be over then.”

“It’s raging and tearing around now like it never would end,” observed Cromley, as he hobbled to the mouth of the cave to look out. “It’ll be worse before it’s better, in my opinion,” he added, as he came back to the blaze.

“Did you see anything of the blue rock?” Jerry inquired.

“Can’t say I did,” was the answer. “There’s a regular river pouring down the side of the hill across from this cave. Looks like it might wash away the trail.”

“Yes, it will not be easy going back,” said Tinny. “This storm is one of the worst I have ever known, and we’ll have hard going.”

“Thunder Mountain is living up to its name,” observed Ned, as another burst of the sky artillery made the ground tremble.

There was nothing to do but wait for the passing of nature’s outburst, and with what good[223] spirits they could summon the party prepared to remain in the cave until morning.

They had their blankets, there was food enough, plenty of coffee, and, best of all, they were within a secure shelter. At first they felt a little awed at being in a cave where, perhaps, never the foot of a white man had been set before. But this feeling soon wore off and, tired with their day’s journey, all soon fell into a deep sleep.

There was little use to mount guard. No one was likely to disturb them, for if travelers were abroad on the trail in all the storm, it was hardly possible that they would come to the cave, which had only been opened in the last day or so.

None of the party had any one to fear but Noddy Nixon and his two cronies, and Jerry and his companions took it for granted that the bully was far enough off by this time.

When the storm ceased, none in the cave knew. But it was over by morning, and when Jerry, the first to awake, looked toward the cave entrance he saw the golden yellow sunlight flashing on the opposite slope.

“Good news, fellows!” he cried, leaping up and tossing aside his blankets. “We’ve got a fair day ahead of us.”

One after another they awakened, stretched, and sat up.

“Wow, but I’m stiff!” groaned Ned. “I feel[224] like Rip Van Winkle must have felt after his twenty years on the mountain.”

“I’ve got a touch of rheumatics myself,” complained Cromley.

“You’ll be all right when you have some hot coffee,” said Bob.

“For once in your life, Chunky, you have contributed a consoling thought,” Jerry chuckled. “So get busy with the mocha beverage.”

There was a spark of fire in the ashes, and this Bob soon coaxed to a blaze, on which more of the dry wood in the cave was piled.

Soon the appetizing aroma of breakfast was wafted through the cave, and it seemed to stir memories in the horses, for one of them whinnied suggestively.

“They’re hungry and thirsty,” said Cromley. “What say I turn them out of the cave? They can get a drink, anyhow. There ought to be any number of puddles of water along the trail.”

“Yes, and maybe they can find a bit of grass,” suggested Tinny. “Go ahead, Bill. We’ve got to treat our animals well, for we must depend on them for taking us back to Leftover. But be sure they don’t stray.”

“I’ll tie them well,” Bill promised.

He took the animals out while Bob and Jerry got breakfast, which was a simple enough meal.[225] And with the eating of it and the moving about to exercise stiffened muscles, all felt better.

“Now we’ll take a look outside,” suggested Tinny, as they rose from the circle about the campfire where they had eaten. “That is, if our clothes are dry.”

This proved to be the case, and, donning their garments, the travelers fared forth from the cave to see what had happened in the night that they had spent in comparative peace.

“There isn’t much left of the trail!” cried Tinny, pointing.

Indeed, a little way beyond where they had turned in to enter the cave there was scarcely the semblance of a road. A mountain torrent, formed by the heavy rain, had washed down the middle of the trail, making a deep gash—a miniature canyon in which even now a little water still trickled.

Cromley had tethered the horses near a natural pool at which the animals had slaked their thirst, and now they were quietly cropping some scanty grass that grew on the mountain side.

“Where’s this blue rock you were telling about, Jerry?” asked Ned, as they stood for a moment near the entrance to the cave.

“It was right over there, a bit to the right,” answered the tall lad. “I only saw it by a lightning[226] flash. Maybe it was carried down into the gulch.”

“Let’s take a look,” proposed Bob. “Is this anything like the place where the stage coach went over?” he asked Cromley.

“Well, it is, and it isn’t,” was the somewhat puzzling answer. “It’s about here, but the trail is different, somehow.”

“You must remember,” said Tinny, “that the accident happened a number of years ago. Since then there have been changes made in the trail—changes by man and changes by nature, such as happened last night. As I remember it, the old stage coach trail ran along up there, Bill,” and he pointed to an upper shelf of rock which wound around a spur of the mountain.

“Yes,” agreed the old miner, “that’s where it was. And that’s the same color of blue rock, too!” he suddenly cried, pointing in the direction indicated by Jerry as the place where he had seen that indigo hue. “Yes, I’m pretty sure this is the place. But what a change!”

Well might he say that, for the havoc of the storm was great.

“Let’s take a look,” proposed Ned.

“Be careful,” warned Tinny, as the boys walked down the gashed trail, away from the cave.

“Oh, come with us, Tinny,” urged Ned.

[227]

Mallison laughed, but set off after the rest of the party.

As they approached the place where Jerry had seen in the glare of lightning the landslide the night before, they all observed some blue rocks scattered about. It was as though some great shell had exploded, scattering the oddly colored stones.

“I don’t believe we’ll ever find a treasure chest here,” Ned was saying, but his words were lost in a rumble and roar that filled the air. Instinctively they all glanced up toward the top of the mountain.

Trees, bushes and a mass of earth seemed slowly moving.

“Look out!” yelled Jerry.

“There’s going to be another landslide!” cried Tinny.

“And it’s coming this way!” shouted Bob.

A moment later they were all in peril of their lives as a mass of the mountain, showing blue in the sun, slid toward them.


[228]

CHAPTER XXVIII
A DISCOVERY

Just what happened neither the Motor Boys nor the others knew exactly. Nor did they take any note of the order in which for the next few moments some surprising things took place. They all remembered up to the point where Bob yelled something about the landslide coming their way. Then all was confusion.

For not only did the landslide come their way, but it came directly over them, overwhelming them; and only for the fact that the horses had been tethered some distance away from where the blue rock started to slide, they, also, would have been carried down the side of the mountain.

“Here she is!” yelled Jerry, and the next instant he and the others were carried away.

Down the mountain they went, being pushed ahead of the landslide itself, and it was this alone that saved them from instant death. The slide of that peculiar blue rock had started perhaps half a mile up Thunder Mountain. As it gathered[229] weight and momentum it pushed ahead of it sections of earth, with rocks, trees and bushes.

The Motor Boys, with Bill and Tinny, had been standing on the edge of the trail which was gashed into ridges and furrows by the rain and landslide of the night before. And the section of ground on which they were standing was carried along, pushed as an engine pushes a string of freight cars ahead of it.

Had the motion of the landslide been regular it would not have been so dangerous, but it was far from even. Like the undulations of the sea, it moved up and down, shifting this way and that, making the boys and the two men dizzy and ill with the peculiar motion.

“I guess it’s all up with us!” muttered Cromley.

“Let’s see if we can’t get out of the way!” cried Ned.

He started to run to one side, across the path of the slide, but he had only taken a few steps before an undulation of the ground threw him down. Bob, who had started to follow Ned, was in a like predicament.

“We’ve got to help them!” shouted Tinny to Jerry.

These two were a little distance from the lads who had fallen. But before they could reach them to give aid a mass of bushes, torn loose from the mountainside where they had been growing[230] for years, swept Tinny, Jerry and Bill off their feet.

They were all down now, lying or sitting on the mass of earth that was being pushed ahead of the landslide.

The main slide was gathering more stones, rocks and trees in its path as it worked down the side of the mountain, but, as yet, the largest mass of débris was some distance above the boys.

All about them, above, below, and on either side, were patches of blue clay and blue rock, which gave the name to this particular locality. But, mingled with all this, was a great quantity of grass roots and soft bushes, so that the elasticity of this vegetation helped to protect those in peril.

“Can’t we do something?” cried Bob, in desperation. He dug his hands into the shifting soil until he broke his finger nails, but nothing availed to hold him back. The others were doing the same thing, striving desperately to save themselves from what seemed certain death.

Faster and faster the slide came careening down Thunder Mountain. There were rumblings and roarings almost as terrifying as the thunder and lightning of the night before.

“This is fierce, Tinny!” gasped Jerry, as a big rock narrowly missed the head of the tall lad.

“It sure is!” was the gloomy answer, as they[231] slid along together, like passengers on some grotesque, gigantic escalator. “Thunder Mountain is living up to its name!”

Jerry was about to make some reply, but suddenly they were all overwhelmed with soft dirt, brushwood and bushes, together with a patch of young trees. A quick shift in a part of the slide had sent them head over heels into a gully, and then had thrown down on top of them this mixed mass.

For several seconds there was ominous silence, and an onlooker in a place of safety might reasonably have supposed it was all over with the Motor Boys.

But, as if in a daze, Jerry gradually found himself breathing. Then, though there was a strange sense of an oppressive weight, he managed to move and found that he was gradually freeing himself.

About the same time, and one after another, the others in the party found that they were not even seriously hurt. The old miner managed to wriggle out from beneath a mass of soft, blue earth. He was followed by Ned and Bob. Jerry staggered to his feet, shook himself as a dog does on coming from the water, thereby dislodging from him a lot of gravel and dirt.

“Where’s Tinny?” asked Bob, in a strained[232] voice, as he shook his head to get rid of a lot of dirt in his ears.

“I don’t know,” Jerry started to say, but the voice of the mine owner interrupted him.

“Here I am—a little winded but still in the ring!” cried Mallison. His face that he thrust out from the center of an uprooted bush was bleeding, and at first the boys thought he had been seriously hurt. But he wiped the blood off with a dirty hand, thereby making his face look worse, but proving that the cuts were only superficial.

Then, slowly, staggering, limping, sore and bruised, but whole in limb though not exactly sound in wind, they managed to stand on what seemed solid ground—a great shelf of rock. All about them was a mass of débris deposited by the landslide. There were hills and hollows, mounds and gullies, great cracks and fissures in the bluerock-strewn earth.

“I guess the worst is over,” observed Ned.

“I hope so,” murmured Jerry. “If there’s any more to come I don’t want to be in it.”

“Look where we came down!” exclaimed Bob, pointing upward.

They had been carried down the side of Thunder Mountain for nearly a thousand feet, the advance guard, so to speak, of one of the worst landslides in that part of the country. Only because the slide had pushed them ahead of it, surrounding[233] them with soft bushes which acted as a screen, had they been able to live through it.

They looked about them in a daze. And it was still in a daze that Bob looked at some object resting on its side near a great blue rock. It was an object that caused him to look a second time and then a third. And after that he cried in a hoarse voice:

“The treasure chest! There it is! Fellows, we’ve found it!”

He pointed a trembling finger at a small, but strong, wooden box which lay amid the débris brought down the slope of Thunder Mountain by the landslide.


[234]

CHAPTER XXIX
TO THE RESCUE

Bob’s shout drew the attention of all his comrades to what he indicated, and at the words “treasure chest” a curious look came over the face of Tinny Mallison.

“What’s that?” he exclaimed, as if he did not want to believe. “The treasure chest? Impossible!”

“Well, what is it then?” asked Bob, and he could not keep a note of triumph out of his voice. “If that isn’t a strong box for gold I’ll eat my hat.”

Tinny Mallison was again going to say “impossible,” but as he brushed the dust and dirt from his eyes and saw more clearly he began to believe that, after all, there might be more than a dream to this strange story.

“Bill, is that the kind of chest in which the gold went down the gulch with the stage coach and horses?” asked Jerry, as they moved cautiously toward the object amid the blue rocks.

They walked with care as they did not want to[235] start another landslide. But the shifting of the mountain seemed to have ceased, at least for the time being.

“That’s the same kind of a chest they used to carry on the stage coaches years ago,” affirmed Bill. “Of course, I can’t say that this is the same one that went over into the gulch, but——”

“We’ll soon make sure!” cried Ned.

“Careful!” cautioned Tinny, as he saw the boys making their way over the torn ground toward the object of such intense interest. “Don’t take another coast down the mountain.”

They soon found, however, that the shift of earth, rocks, trees and bushes, brought about by the great amount of rain which had fallen, was, for a time at least, over. Though there was no path to follow and though they had to scramble over tree trunks, uprooted bushes, great masses of earth and jagged rocks, they managed to reach the place where the wooden chest was partly imbedded in the débris.

For a few seconds they remained in a mute circle about the box, looking down at it. What a story the chest could tell! How many years had it lain undiscovered with its wealth of precious, yellow metal—provided, of course, that it was the treasure chest? What secrets did it hold? If it could but speak would it reveal the last hours of the unfortunate stage coach driver who went[236] to his death with his horses when the vehicle careened over the side of the gulch?

These, and many other thoughts, crowded into the minds of the Motor Boys as they surveyed the chest.

It may be questioned whether either Tinny or the old miner had any such romantic ideas. As a matter of fact, Cromley was occupied in searching the innermost recesses of his mind, trying to remember whether the chest of his story was the same as this one so unexpectedly discovered.

“Well, let’s find out about it and end the agony!” proposed Jerry at length, with a short laugh. “Let’s break open this box.”

“It’s the only way to find out,” observed Ned. “But it looks like a pretty strong box, and we haven’t even a tack hammer.”

“It’ll be pretty well rotted by this time,” said Cromley. “It’s lain in the earth a long time; rain and snow have beat upon it. A heavy rock ought to break in the top, easy. Let me have a go at it!”

With the help of the boys and Tinny, Cromley lifted the chest out from its bed in the earth and blue rocks. The color was peculiar, but the adventurers did not stop to comment upon this or seek its cause. All they cared about was to find out whether the strong box held any gold.

“This wasn’t the place where the coach went[237] over,” said the miner, as he looked up the side of the mountain. “It was miles from here.”

“Then what brings the chest here?” asked Ned.

“The landslide shifted a lot of other things besides this chest,” was Tinny’s opinion. “It’s probably been buried deep for many years. That’s why it was never found. One landslide may have covered it from sight. This one brought it into view again. That’s the secret, I guess. But I’m not yet willing to admit that this is a treasure chest, boys. I think it came off some stage coach but——”

“Open it, Bill!” cried Jerry. “We’ll show Tinny what’s inside. Open it!”

“’Twon’t be much of a job,” the old miner cried, as he poised a sharp rock. “It’s pretty rotten, that wood. A wonder it held together as long as it did.”

With all his force Cromley brought the stone down on top of the chest, which was of wood, strengthened with bands and strips of iron. The lid was secured by two heavy padlocks, and though they were much rusted they might have resisted the efforts of the treasure-hunters for some time, as they had no tools to work with. The miner’s plan was the only feasible one.

With a crash the stone struck the top of the wooden lid, and the old miner’s guess as to the[238] rottenness of the wood was well founded, for his stone went half way through.

A cloud of dust from the punky, rotten wood arose in the sunlight. Cromley put his hands in the hole made by the stone and pulled up the jagged pieces of wood. They were so rotted away that there were no splinters. In another instant the interior of the chest was revealed.

The eyes of the Motor Boys, as well as those of Tinny and the old man, rested on several canvas sacks arranged in layers and tiers inside the box.

“It looks like treasure, all right!” shouted Bob.

“I’m beginning to believe so myself!” admitted Tinny.

The old miner lifted out one of the sacks. It was in good condition, the canvas not having rotted away. Around the neck of the bag, as around the neck of all the bags in the chest, was a thong secured by sealing wax. This Cromley chipped away. Then he cut the thong and unwound it. Thrusting in his hand he withdrew it, and, resting on his palm, glowing in the sunlight, was a mass of gold dust!

“We’ve found it!” yelled Bob, dancing about.

“It’s the treasure chest all right!” admitted Tinny. “Boys, I take it all back.”

“Who says we can’t find gold?” shouted Ned.

[239]

“Maybe there’s only one bag of gold,” suggested the cautious Jerry. “The other sacks may contain stones.”

“We’ll look!” decided Tinny.

Quickly the remaining bags were opened. Each one held gold in the form of coarse dust or little pellets and nuggets. There was a fair-sized fortune in the old box.

“It’s the treasure chest of Blue Rock, all right!” declared Cromley. “Luck’s with us, boys!”

It was impossible to compute, except roughly, the value of the find, but a glance showed enough gold to make a big amount for each one. That they would share alike was a foregone conclusion.

“We’d better get this to a safe place,” said Tinny, after the first wild enthusiasm had cooled. “And we’d better see if we can get back to where we left our horses. I hope they haven’t been swept away by the landslide.”

Carrying as many of the sacks as they could, they scrambled up the débris-covered side of the mountain to the spot in front of the cave in which they had spent the night. To their delight, they found their horses safe. The slide had not reached them, nor had it disturbed the cavern.

“We’ll make this our headquarters, and bring the rest of the gold up here,” suggested Tinny.

Cromley, being lame, was tired out and could[240] not scramble down the mountain and up again, but the others went.

The last of the precious metal had been stowed in the cave and the adventurers were about to sit down outside to rest when a figure came staggering down the trail. It was the figure of a man, dirty and with torn clothes, his face and hands covered with mud and blood. His head was tied up in a bloody rag, and altogether he was the most forlorn specimen of humanity the party had seen since the war in France.

“Water! Water!” he hoarsely gasped, as he sank exhausted on a stone.

“Why, it’s Dolt Haven!” cried Ned.

“So it is,” gasped Jerry. “What’s the matter? What happened?” he asked, as Bob gave the suffering man a drink from a tin cup.

“It was the landslide,” muttered Dolt. “It caught us all. Noddy and Jack are buried back there! I managed to get out, but I couldn’t free them. I said I’d go for help. I—I got this far, but——”

“Where are they? Tell us! We’ll save them!” cried Jerry. “Get ready, fellows,” he added. “We’ve got to go to the rescue!”


[241]

CHAPTER XXX
PAY DIRT

Dolt Haven seemed unable to answer for a few moments. Cromley gave him another drink of water, and then the man was able to gasp out directions for finding Noddy and his crony who, it seemed, were partly buried under a mass of rock, trees and dirt about half a mile away.

“We’ll do what we can,” offered Jerry, as he started off, followed by the others. And then Ned expressed a doubt that was in the minds of all when he said:

“Suppose this is a trick to get us away from the gold in the cave so they can sneak around and make off with it. Hadn’t one of us better stay on guard?”

Tinny considered this for a moment. Ned had voiced his thought apart from Dolt, who was slowly walking along with Cromley, to show the place where Noddy and Jack were caught.

“I think Dolt is telling the truth,” said the mine owner. “No man would injure himself the way he is injured just to put over a fake story.[242] Besides, we’ll take him with us, and if there is any crooked work we’ll hold him for a hostage.”

Dolt seemed to guess that something like this was afoot, for as he limped along he said:

“You needn’t be afraid—we’re through. We played a rotten trick on Bill, here, and I hope he forgives me. But we’re through! If ever I get back East again I’ll never have any more to do with Noddy Nixon or Jack Pender. They’re crooks, that’s what they are. I thought it was a square game they were playing, even when they kidnaped you,” and he looked at Cromley. “I know better now.”

This settled it, and, leaving the gold well hidden in the cave, they hastened to the place where Noddy and Jack had been caught under the landslide—a different one from that which had revealed the treasure chest.

It needed but a glance to show that Haven’s story was true. Noddy and Jack were in great danger. Both had been struck on the head and partially stunned, which made them unable to help themselves. And Haven was so weak from loss of blood and so unnerved from the shock that he was of little value as a rescuer.

With pieces of wood and tree limbs, for they had no shovels, the rescuers dug, pried, pushed, and pulled until they had lifted or cast aside most of the débris that covered Jack and Noddy. As[243] in the case of themselves, some interlocking tree branches and bushes, forming an arch over the twain, had alone saved them from being crushed to death. As it was, they were badly bruised, scratched, and cut, but no bones were broken.

“Whew!” gasped Noddy, as he was pulled out. “That was awful! Who’d you get to help us, Dolt?”

He appeared dazed, and evidently did not know his rescuers. But when he saw the Motor Boys, Bill, and Tinny and realized that it was to them he owed, perhaps, his life, as did Jack Pender, the bully had the grace to blush.

“You fellows need help and a doctor, I should say,” observed Tinny. “There’s some sort of settlement about five miles from here. We’ll do what we can for you until help comes.”

“Who’s going to get help?” gasped Dolt Haven. “I can’t—I’m all in!”

“I’ll go,” offered Tinny. “I know the roads best,” he said, as Jerry was about to speak. “I can go more quickly.”

In about three hours a wagon was brought up the trail and the three conspirators, who really were sorely in need of medical attention, were taken away. The reaction after their rescue seemed to be too much for them, and they were all in a fainting condition as they were laid in the wagon.

[244]

That was the last the Motor Boys saw of Noddy Nixon and his two companions for a long time. It was decided that it was not worth while to prosecute them for kidnaping Cromley.

While getting assistance for Noddy, Jack, and Dolt, Tinny also engaged a wagon to come and get him and his friends, and to transport the gold. Nothing was said of the finding of the treasure chest, it being given out that the sacks of gold were merely some specimens of ore taken from a prospect the party was interested in.

It was learned that Noddy and his two companions were making their way toward what they believed to be the location of Blue Rock when the landslide caught them. Dolt had, by good luck, merely stumbled upon the party at the cave, as he had no knowledge that they were there.

“Well, it sure does seem good to be back,” observed Jerry the next day, as, lame and stiff, weary and worn, they approached the cabin at Leftover. “I wonder how Hang Gow is getting along?”

“And I wonder if anything’s left of our mine,” said Tinny. “It seems a month since I last saw it.”

“There’s Hang Gow now!” exclaimed Ned, as the Chinese cook came from the cabin. At the[245] sight of his master and friends the Celestial gave vent to a shrill cackling laugh and cried:

“Glub soon leddy! Glub alle sammee leddy soon lite quick!”

He vanished into his kitchen, from which soon issued a rattling of pots and pans that argued well and which brought a smile of peace and happiness to the face of Bob.

The bags of gold were unloaded from the wagon, the driver paid and sent away, and then the Motor Boys, Tinny and Bill breathed freely. They had brought their treasure home.

Out of the cabin, in the sunset glow of the evening, strolled Professor Snodgrass. He saw the sacks piled on a bench. Springing toward one he cried:

“Oh, you found it! You found it, didn’t you? Where was it?”

“What—the treasure?” asked Bob. “Well, it was in the chest at Blue Rock, but——”

“Treasure! I wasn’t speaking of treasure!” cried the little scientist. “I mean this pseudotinea—it is a bee moth—one of the rarest in this country!” and from a sack of gold he caught up a small butterfly with which he disappeared into the cabin.

“Well, wouldn’t that freeze your ice-cream!” cried Bob. “Here we come back after a wonderful trip—been gone nearly a week and find a[246] million dollars’ worth of gold—and all the professor cares about is a bug that happens to light on a bag of nuggets! Can you beat it?”

“We can’t—and we’ll not try,” remarked Ned.

Bob was wrong, however, about there being a million dollars’ worth of gold in the treasure chest of Blue Rock. There was a large sum, though, and Bill Cromley was given his full share when the division was made. For, after so many years, it was found impossible to trace the real owners of the treasure.

Hang Gow’s wonderful meal made them all feel better, and even Professor Snodgrass when he got over his rapture at finding the pseudotinea condescended to partake of a little. He looked about the table at his friends—the glow of health having replaced the pallor of his face that had been so noticeable when he first came to Leftover—and then he remarked casually:

“Where have you been all day?”

“All day!” shouted Jerry, with a laugh. “Don’t you remember that we went off nearly a week ago to rescue Bill? The kidnapers took him—the same ones that bound you. Noddy Nixon——”

“Oh, yes, I do seem to remember something about it,” said the professor, in dreamy tones. “But I have been so busy with my——” His voice trailed off, his eyes were fixed on something[247] crawling up the wall, and, making a dive for it, he captured another bug.

“There’s no use telling him anything,” decided Ned, and the others agreed with this.

A good night’s rest put them all in fine shape the next morning. Tinny was making arrangements to send the treasure to the nearest bank for safe-keeping when a shout arose out at the mine shaft.

“What’s that?” cried Jerry.

“I hope no accident,” murmured Tinny.

They were reassured a moment later when one of the men came rushing in, his face alight with joy, and, as he held out some specimens, he cried:

“Pay dirt, boss! Pay dirt! We’ve struck the richest vein I ever saw! Leftover is going to run five thousand dollars to the ton!”

“Hurray!” cried Tinny.

“Hurray!” shouted the Motor Boys.

Professor Snodgrass looked out of the room where he kept his specimens.

“Did you see another pseudotinea?” he asked, blinking through his spectacles.

“No,” answered Jerry softly, and the little scientist went back to his notebooks and specimens.

Of course the streak of pay dirt, or ore, uncovered in Leftover did not assay five thousand dollars to the ton, or anything like that. But the[248] mine did prove valuable, and the Motor Boys telegraphed home the good news together with word of the finding of the treasure chest of Blue Rock.

“And, now that our adventures are over and Thunder Mountain seems to have settled down, I think we can give our whole attention to mining—that’s what we came out here for,” said Ned one day, about a week after they had received word that Noddy Nixon and his cronies had gone back East.

“You said it!” agreed Jerry. “The folks at home were complaining that we couldn’t settle down after the war. Well, we’ll show ’em!”

“That’s what!” added Bob. “I could live here forever—that is, as long as Hang Gow cooks the way he does.” And then he had to dodge a chunk of dirt thrown at him by Ned.

So, having accompanied the lads through the dangers and adventures of helping Tinny to develop Leftover and having been with them on their quest of the treasure chest, we shall take leave of the Motor Boys.

THE END



Polly says “JELL-O for me”
If cast upon a desert isle
Like Crusoe long ago,
How dull the diet soon would be
How jaded you would grow!
Your gun would get you meat enough,
Your line would catch your fish,
But what a hunger you would have
For some nice snappy dish.
Then just suppose one sunny day,
While striding on the beach,
You’d hear your jolly Polly give
A most delightful screech.
And this is what old Pol would say—
For he’s a jolly fellow—
“I don’t want crackers, no-sir-ee,
When I can feast on Jell-O.
“We’ve lots of nuts on this here isle;
Go pick ’em, Mr. Crusoe,
We’d like to eat a good dessert,
Get busy and we’ll do so.”

There are six pure fruit flavors of Jell-O: Strawberry, Raspberry, Lemon, Orange, Cherry, Chocolate. Every child wants the little book, “Miss Jell-O Gives a Party,” and we will send it free upon request, but be sure your name and address are plainly written.

America’s most famous dessert

Jell-O
THE JELL-O COMPANY, Inc.
Le Roy, N. Y.
Bridgeburg, Ont.

Reprinted by permission of John Martin’s Book, the Child’s Magazine


THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES

By CLARENCE YOUNG

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid

THE MOTOR BOYS SERIES

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers      New York


THE BOB DEXTER SERIES

By WILLARD F. BAKER

12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Jacket in Colors

Price per Volume, $1.00, postpaid

THE BOB DEXTER SERIES

This is a new line of stories for boys, by the author of the Boy Ranchers series. The Bob Dexter books are of the character that may be called detective stories, yet they are without the objectionable features of the impossible characters and absurd situations that mark so many of the books in that class. These stories deal with the up-to-date adventures of a normal, healthy lad who has a great desire to solve mysteries.

  1. BOB DEXTER AND THE CLUB-HOUSE MYSTERY
    or The Missing Golden Eagle

    This story tells how the Boys’ Athletic Club was despoiled of its trophies in a strange manner, and how, among other things stolen, was the Golden Eagle mascot. How Bob Dexter turned himself into an amateur detective and found not only the mascot, but who had taken it, makes interesting and exciting reading.

  2. BOB DEXTER AND THE BEACON BEACH MYSTERY
    or The Wreck of the Sea Hawk

    When Bob and his chum went to Beacon Beach for their summer vacation, they were plunged, almost at once, into a strange series of events, not the least of which was the sinking of the Sea Hawk. How some men tried to get the treasure off the sunken vessel, and how Bob and his chum foiled them, and learned the secret of the lighthouse, form a great story.

  3. BOB DEXTER AND THE STORM MOUNTAIN MYSTERY
    or The Secret of the Log Cabin

    Bob Dexter came upon a man mysteriously injured and befriended him. This led the young detective into the swirling midst of a series of strange events and into the companionship of strange persons, not the least of whom was the man with the wooden leg. But Bob got the best of this vindictive individual, and solved the mystery of the log cabin, showing his friends how the secret entrance to the house was accomplished.

Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, PUBLISHERS      New York


THE BASEBALL JOE SERIES

By LESTER CHADWICK

12mo. Illustrated. Price per volume, $1.00, postpaid

THE BASEBALL JOE SERIES
  1. BASEBALL JOE OF THE SILVER STARS
    or The Rivals of Riverside

    Joe is an everyday country boy who loves to play baseball and particularly to pitch.

  2. BASEBALL JOE ON THE SCHOOL NINE
    or Pitching for the Blue Banner

    Joe’s great ambition was to go to boarding school and play on the school team.

  3. BASEBALL JOE AT YALE
    or Pitching for the College Championship

    In his second year at Yale Joe becomes a varsity pitcher.

  4. BASEBALL JOE IN THE CENTRAL LEAGUE
    or Making Good as a Professional Pitcher

    From Yale College to a baseball league of our Central States.

  5. BASEBALL JOE IN THE BIG LEAGUE
    or A Young Pitcher’s Hardest Struggles

    From the Central League Joe goes to the St. Louis Nationals.

  6. BASEBALL JOE ON THE GIANTS
    or Making Good as a Twirler in the Metropolis

    Joe was traded to the Giants and became their mainstay.

  7. BASEBALL JOE IN THE WORLD SERIES
    or Pitching for the Championship

    What Joe did to win the series will thrill the most jaded reader.

  8. BASEBALL JOE AROUND THE WORLD
    or Pitching on a Grand Tour

    The Giants and the All-Americans tour the world.

  9. BASEBALL JOE: HOME RUN KING
    or The Greatest Pitcher and Batter on Record

    Joe becomes the greatest batter in the game.

  10. BASEBALL JOE SAVING THE LEAGUE
    or Breaking Up a Great Conspiracy

    Throwing the game meant a fortune but also dishonor.

  11. BASEBALL JOE CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM
    or Bitter Struggles on the Diamond

    Joe is elevated to the position of captain.

  12. BASEBALL JOE CHAMPION OF THE LEAGUE
    or The Record that was Worth While

    A plot is hatched to put Joe’s pitching arm out of commission.

  13. BASEBALL JOE CLUB OWNER
    or Putting the Home Town on the Map

    Joe developes muscle weakness and is ordered off the field for a year.

Send For Our Free Illustrated Catalogue

CUPPLES & LEON COMPANY, Publishers      New York


Transcriber’s Notes:

Copyright notice provided as in the original printed text--this e-text is public domain in the country of publication.

A List of Illustrations has been provided for the convenience of the reader.

Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.





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