THE CURLYTOPS AT
UNCLE FRANK'S RANCH
Little Folks on Ponyback
HOWARD R. GARIS
I TROUBLE'S TUMBLE
II NICKNACK AND TROUBLE
III OFF FOR THE WEST
IV THE COLLISION
V AT RING ROSY RANCH
VI COWBOY FUN
VII BAD NEWS
VIII A QUEER NOISE
IX THE SICK PONY
X A SURPRISED DOCTOR
XI TROUBLE MAKES A LASSO
XII THE BUCKING BRONCO
XIII MISSING CATTLE
XIV LOOKING FOR INDIANS
XV TROUBLE "HELPS"
XVI ON THE TRAIL
XVII THE CURLYTOPS ALONE
XIX THE HIDDEN VALLEY
XX BACK TO RING ROSY
AT UNCLE FRANK'S RANCH
"Say, Jan, this isn't any fun!"
"What do you want to play then, Ted?"
Janet Martin looked at her brother, who was dressed in one of his father's coats and hats while across his nose was a pair of spectacles much too large for him. Janet, wearing one of her mother's skirts, was sitting in a chair holding a doll.
"Well, I'm tired of playing doctor, Jan, and giving your make-believe sick doll bread pills. I want to do something else," and Teddy began taking off the coat, which was so long for him that it dragged on the ground.
"Oh, I know what we can do that'll be lots of fun!" cried Janet, getting up from the chair so quickly that she forgot about her doll, which fell to the floor with a crash that might have broken her head.
"Oh, my dear!" cried Janet, as she had often heard her mother call when Baby William tumbled and hurt himself. "Oh, are you hurt?" and Janet clasped the doll in her arms, and hugged it as though it were a real child.
"Is she busted?" Ted demanded, but he did not ask as a real doctor might inquire. In fact, he had stopped playing doctor.
"No, she isn't hurt, I guess," Jan answered, feeling of her doll's head. "I forgot all about her being in my lap. Oh, aren't you going to play any more, Ted?" she asked as she saw her brother toss the big coat on a chair and take off the spectacles.
"No. I want to do something else. This is no fun!"
"Well, let's make-believe you're sick and I can be a Red Cross nurse, like some of those we saw in the drugstore window down the street, making bandages for the soldiers. You could be a soldier, Ted, and I could be the nurse, and I'd make some sugar pills for you, if you don't like the rolled-up bread ones you gave my doll."
Teddy Martin thought this over for a few seconds. He seemed to like it. And then he shook his head.
"No," he answered his sister, "I couldn't be a soldier."
"'Cause I haven't got a gun and there isn't any tent."
"We could make a tent with a sheet off the bed like we do lots of times. Put it over a chair, you know."
"But I haven't a gun," Teddy went on. He knew that he and Janet could make a tent, for they had often done it before.
"Couldn't you take a broom for a gun?" Janet asked. "I'll get it from the kitchen."
"Pooh! What good is a broom for a gun? I want one that shoots! Anyhow I haven't a uniform, and a soldier can't go to war without a uniform or a sword or a gun. I'm not going to play that!"
Janet did not know what to say for a few seconds. Truly a soldier would not be much of one without a gun or a uniform, even if he was in a tent. But the little girl had not given up yet.
The day was a rainy one. There was no school, for it was Saturday, and staying in the house was no great fun. Janet wanted her brother to stay and play with her and she knew she must do something to make him. For a while he had been content to play that he was Dr. Thompson, come to give medicine to Jan's sick doll. But Teddy had become tired of this after paying half a dozen visits and leaving pills made by rolling bread crumbs together.
Teddy laid aside his father's old hat and scratched his head. That is he tried to, but his head was so covered with tightly twisted curls that the little boy's fingers were fairly entangled in them.
"Say!" he exclaimed, "I wish my hair didn't curl so much! It's too long. I'm going to ask mother if I can't have it cut."
"I wish I could have mine cut," sighed Janet. "Mine's worse to comb than yours is, Ted."
"Yes, I know. And it always curls more on a rainy day."
Both children had the same curly hair. It was really beautiful, but they did not quite appreciate it, even though many of their friends, and some persons who saw them for the first time, called them "Curlytops." Indeed the tops of their heads were very curly.
"Oh, I know how we can do it!" suddenly cried Janet, just happening to think of something.
"Do what?" asked her brother.
"Play the soldier game. You can pretend you were caught by the enemy and your gun and uniform were taken away. Then you can be hurt and I'll be the Red Cross nurse and take care of you in the tent. I'll get some real sugar for pills, too! Nora'll give me some. She's in the kitchen now making a cake."
"Maybe she'd give you a piece of cake, too," suggested Teddy.
"Maybe," agreed Janet. "I'll go and ask her."
"Ask her for some chocolate," added Ted. "I guess, if I've got to be sick, I'd like chocolate pills 'stead of sugar."
"All right," said Janet, as she hurried downstairs from the playroom to the kitchen. In a little while she came back with a plate on which were two slices of chocolate cake, while on one edge of it were some crumbs of chocolate icing.
"I'll make pills of that after we eat the cake," Janet said. "You can pretend the cake made you sick if you want to, Ted."
"Pooh! who ever heard of a soldier getting sick on cake? Anyhow they don't have cake in the army—lessen they capture it from the enemy."
"Well, you can pretend you did that," said Janet. "Now I'll put my doll away," she went on, as she finished her piece of cake, "and well play the soldier game. I'll get some red cloth to make the cross."
Janet looked "sweet," as her mother said afterward, when she had wound a white cloth around her head, a red cross, rather ragged and crooked, being pinned on in front.
The tent was made by draping a sheet from the bed across two chairs, and under this shelter Teddy crawled. He stretched out on a blanket which Janet had spread on the floor to be the hospital cot.
"Now you must groan, Ted," she said, as she looked in a glass to see if her headpiece and cross were on straight.
"Groan? What for?"
"'Cause you've Been hurt in the war, or else you're sick from the cake."
"Pooh! a little bit of cake like that wouldn't make me sick. You've got to give me a lot more if you want me to be real sick."
"Oh, Teddy Martin! I'm not going to play if you make fun like that all the while. You've got to groan and pretend you've been shot. Never mind about the cake."
"All right. I'll be shot then. But you've got to give me a lot of chocolate pills to make me get better."
"I'm not going to give 'em to you all at once, Ted Martin!"
"Well, maybe in two doses then. How many are there?"
"Oh, there's a lot. I'm going to take some myself."
"You are not!" and Teddy sat up so quickly that he hit the top of the sheet-tent with his head and made it slide from the chair.
"There! Look what you did!" cried Janet. "Now you've gone and spoiled everything!"
"Oh, well, I'll fix it," said Ted, rather sorry for what he had done. "But you can't eat my chocolate pills."
"I can so!"
"You cannot! Who ever heard of a nurse taking the medicine from a sick soldier?"
"Well, anyhow—well, wouldn't you give me some chocolate candy if you had some, and I hadn't?" asked Janet.
"Course I would, Jan. I'm not stingy!"
"Well, these pills are just like chocolate candy, and if I give 'em all to you—"
"Oh, well, then I'll let you eat some," agreed Ted. "But you wanted me to play this game of bein' a sick soldier, and if I'm sick I've got to have the medicine."
"Yes, I'll give you the most," Janet agreed. "Now you lie down and groan and I'll hear you out on the battlefield and come and save your life."
So, after Janet had fixed the sheet over him again, Teddy lay back on the blanket and groaned his very best.
"Oh, it sounds as real as anything!" exclaimed the little girl in delight. "Do it some more, Ted!"
Thereupon her brother groaned more loudly until Janet stopped him by dropping two or three chocolate pills into his opened mouth.
"Oh! Gurr-r-r-r! Ugh! Say, you 'most choked me!" spluttered Ted, as he sat up and chewed the chocolate.
"Oh, I didn't mean to," said Janet as she ate a pill or two herself. "Now you lie down and go to sleep, 'cause I've got a lot more sick soldiers to go to see."
"Don't give 'em any of my chocolate pills," cautioned Ted. "I need 'em all to make me get better."
"I'll only make-believe give them some," promised Janet.
She and her brother played this game for a while, and Teddy liked it —as long as the chocolate pills were given him. But when Janet had only a few left and Teddy was about to say he was tired of lying down, someone came into the playroom and a voice asked:
"What you doin'?"
"Playing soldier," answered Janet. "You mustn't drop your 'g' letters, Trouble. Mother doesn't like it."
"I want some chocolate," announced the little boy, whose real name was William Martin, but who was more often called Trouble—because he got in so much of it, you know.
"There's only one pill left. Can I give it to him, Ted?" asked Janet.
"Yes, Janet. I've had enough. Anyhow, I know something else to play now. It's lots of fun!"
"What?" asked Janet eagerly. It was still raining hard and she wanted her brother to stay in the house with her.
"We'll play horse," went on Ted. "I'll be a bucking bronco like those Uncle Frank told us about on his ranch. We'll make a place with chairs where they keep the cow ponies and the broncos. I forget what Uncle Frank called it."
"I know," said Janet. "It's cor—corral."
"Corral!" exclaimed Ted. "That's it! We'll make a corral of some chairs and I'll be a bucking bronco. That's a horse that won't let anybody ride on its back," the little boy explained.
"I wants a wide!" said Baby William.
"Well, maybe I'll give you a ride after I get tired of bucking," said Teddy, thinking about it.
They made a ring of chairs on the playroom floor, and in this corral Teddy crept around on his hands and knees, pretending to be a wild Western pony. Janet tried to catch him and the children had much fun, Trouble screaming and laughing in delight.
At last Teddy allowed himself to be caught, for it was hard work crawling around as he did, and rearing up in the air every now and then.
"Give me a wide!" pleaded Trouble.
"Yes, I'll ride him on my back," offered Teddy, and his baby brother was put up there by Janet.
"Now don't go too fast with him, pony," she said.
"Yes, I wants to wide fast, like we does with Nicknack," declared Baby William. Nicknack was the Curlytops' pet goat.
"All right, I'll give you a fast ride," promised Teddy.
He began crawling about the room with Trouble on his back. The baby pretended to drive his "horse" by a string which Ted held in his mouth like reins.
"Go out in de hall—I wants a big wide," directed Trouble.
"All right," assented Teddy. Out into the hall he went and then forgetting, perhaps, that he had his baby brother on his back, Teddy began to buck—that is flop up and down.
"Oh—oh! 'top!" begged Trouble.
"I can't! I'm a Wild-West pony," explained Ted, bucking harder than ever.
He hunched himself forward on his hands and knees, and before he knew it he was at the head of the stairs. Then, just how no one could say, Trouble gave a yell, toppled off Teddy's back and the next instant went rolling down the flight, bump, bump, bumping at every step.
NICKNACK AND TROUBLE
"Oh, Teddy!" screamed Janet. "Oh, Trouble!"
Teddy did not answer at once. Indeed he had hard work not to tumble down the stairs himself after his little brother. Ted clung to the banister, though, and managed to save himself.
"Oh, he'll be hurt—terrible!" cried Janet, and she tried to get past her older brother to run downstairs after Trouble.
But Mrs. Martin, who was in the dining-room talking to Nora Jones, the maid, heard the noise and ran out into the hall.
"Oh, children!" she cried. "Teddy—Janet—what's all that noise?"
"It's Trouble, Mother!" announced Teddy. "I was playing bucking bronco and—"
"Trouble fell downstairs!" screamed Janet.
While everyone was thus calling out at once, Baby William came flopping head over heels, and partly sidewise, down the padded steps, landing right at his mother's feet, sitting up as straight as though in his high-chair.
"Oh, darling!" cried Mrs. Martin, catching the little fellow up in her arms, "are you hurt?"
Trouble was too much frightened to scream or cry. He had his mouth open but no sound came from it. He was just like the picture of a sobbing baby.
"Oh, Nora!" cried Mrs. Martin, as she hurried into the dining-room with her little boy in her arms. "Trouble fell downstairs! Get ready to telephone for his father and the doctor in case he's badly hurt," and then she and the maid began looking over Baby William to find out just what was the matter with him, while Ted and Janet, much frightened and very quiet, stood around waiting.
And while Mrs. Martin is looking over Trouble it will be a good chance for me to tell those of you who meet the Curlytops for the first time in this book something about them, and what has happened to them in the other volumes of this series.
The first book is named "The Curlytops at Cherry Farm," and in that I had the pleasure of telling you about Ted and Janet and Trouble Martin and their father and mother, when they went to Grandpa Martin's place, called Cherry Farm, which was near the village of Elmburg, not far from Clover Lake.
There the children found a goat, which they named Nicknack, and they kept him as a pet. When hitched to a wagon he gave them many nice rides. There were many cherry trees on Grandpa Martin's farm, and when some of the other crops failed the cherries were a great help, especially when the Lollypop Man turned them into "Chewing Cherry Candy."
After a good time on the farm the children had more fun when, as told in the second book, named "The Curlytops on Star Island," they went camping with grandpa. On Star Island in Clover Lake they saw a strange blue light which greatly puzzled them, and it was some time before they knew what caused it.
The summer and fall passed and Ted and Janet went home to Cresco, where they lived, to spend the winter. What happened then is told in the third volume, called "The Curlytops Snowed In." The big storm was so severe that no one could get out and even Nicknack was lost wandering about in the big drifts.
The Curlytops had a good time, even if they were snowed in. Now spring had come again, and the children were ready for something else. But I must tell you a little bit about the family, as well as about what happened.
You have already met Ted, Jan and Trouble. Ted's real name was Theodore, but his mother seldom called him that unless she was quite serious about something he had done that was wrong. So he was more often spoken to as Ted or Teddy, and his sister Janet was called Jan. Though oftener still they were called the "Curlytops," or, if one was speaking to one or the other he would say "Curlytop." That was because both Teddy and Janet had such very, very curly hair.
Ted's and Jan's birthdays came on the same day, but they had been born a year apart, Teddy being about seven years old and his sister a year younger. Trouble was aged about three years.
I have spoken of the curly hair of Teddy and Janet. Unless you had seen it you would never have believed hair could be so curly! It was no wonder that even strangers called the children "Curlytops."
Sometimes, when Mother Martin was combing the hair of the children, the comb would get tangled and she would have to pull a little to get it loose. That is one reason Ted never liked to have his hair combed. Janet's was a little longer than his, but just as curly.
Trouble's real name, as I have mentioned, was William. His father sometimes called him "A bunch of trouble," and his mother spoke of him as "Dear Trouble," while Jan and Ted called him just "Trouble."
Mr. Martin, whose name was Richard, shortened to Dick by his wife (whose name was Ruth) owned a store in Cresco, which is in one of our Eastern states.
Nora Jones, a cheerful, helpful maid-of-all-work had been in the Martin family a long while, and dearly loved the children, who were very fond of her. The Martins had many relatives besides the children's grandfather and grandmother, but I will only mention two now. They were Aunt Josephine Miller, called Aunt Jo, who lived at Clayton and who had a summer bungalow at Mt. Hope, near Ruby Lake. She was a sister of Mrs. Martin's. Uncle Frank Barton owned a large ranch near Rockville, Montana. He was Mr. Martin's uncle, but Ted and Janet also called him their uncle.
Now that you have met the chief members of the family, and know a little of what has happened to them in the past you may be interested to go back to see what the matter is with Trouble.
His mother turned him over and over in her arms, feeling of him here and there. Trouble had closed his mouth by this time, having changed his mind about crying. Instead he was very still and quiet.
"Trouble, does it hurt you anywhere?" his mother asked him anxiously.
"No," he said. "Not hurt any place. I wants to wide on Teddy's back some more."
"The little tyke!" exclaimed Mrs. Martin with a sigh of relief. "I don't believe he is hurt a bit."
"The stairs are real soft since we put the new carpet on them," remarked Nora.
"They are well padded," agreed Mrs. Martin. "I guess that's what kept him from getting hurt. It was like rolling down a feather bed. But he might have got his arm or leg twisted under him and have broken a bone. How did he happen to fall?"
"We were playing Red Cross nurse," began Janet, "and Ted was a soldier in a tent and—"
"But how could William fall downstairs if you were playing that sort of game?" asked her mother.
"Oh, we weren't playing it then," put in Ted. "We'd changed to another game. I was a wild Western bronco, like those on Uncle Frank's ranch, and I was giving Trouble a ride on my back. I gave a jump when I was near the stairs, and I guess he must have slipped off."
"There isn't any guessing about it—he did slip off," said Mrs. Martin with a smile, as she put Trouble in a chair, having made sure he was not hurt, and that there was no need of telephoning for his father or the doctor. "You must be more careful, Teddy. You might have hurt your little brother."
"Yes'm," Teddy answered. "I won't do it again."
"But we want to play something," put in Janet. "It's no fun being in the house all day."
"I know it isn't. But I think the rain is going to stop pretty soon. If you get your rain-coats and rubbers you may go out for a little while."
"Me go too?" begged Trouble.
"Yes, you may go too," agreed his mother. "You'll all sleep better if you get some fresh air; and it's warm, even if it has been raining."
"Maybe we can take Nicknack and have a ride!" exclaimed Teddy.
"If it stops raining," said his mother.
Ted, Jan and Trouble ran up and down in front of the house while the rain fell softly and the big drops dripped from the trees. Then the clouds broke away, the sun came out, the rain stopped and with shouts and laughter the children ran to the barn next to which, in a little stable of his own, Nicknack, the goat, was kept.
"Come on out, Nicknack!" cried Janet. "You're going to give us a ride!"
And Nicknack did, being hitched to the goat-cart in which there was room and to spare for Janet, Ted and Trouble. Up and down the street in front of their home the Martin children drove their pet goat.
"Whee, this is fun!" cried Ted, as he made Nicknack run downhill with the wagon.
"Oh, Teddy Martin, don't go so fast!" begged Janet.
"I like to go fast!" answered her brother. "I'm going to play Wild West. This is the stage coach and pretty soon the Indians will shoot at us!"
"Teddy Martin! if you're going to do that I'm not going to play!" stormed Janet. "You'll make Trouble fall out and get hurt. Come on, Trouble! Let us get out!" she cried. Nicknack was going quite fast down the hill.
"Wait till we get to the bottom," shouted Ted. "G'lang there, pony!" he cried to the goat.
"Let me out!" screamed Janet, "I want to get out."
At the foot of the hill Teddy stopped the goat and Janet, taking Trouble with her, got out and walked back to the house.
"What's the matter now?" asked Mrs. Martin from the porch where she had come out to get a little fresh air.
"Ted's playing Wild West in the goat-wagon," explained Janet.
"Oh, Ted! Don't be so rough!" begged his mother of her little son, who drove up just then.
"Oh, I'm only playing Indians and stage coach," he said. "You've got to go fast when the Indians are after you!" and away he rode.
"He's awful mean!" declared Janet.
"I don't know what's come over Ted of late," said Mrs. Martin to her husband, who came up the side street just then from his store.
"What's he been doing?" asked Mr. Martin.
"Oh, he's been pretending he was a bucking bronco, like those Uncle Frank has on his ranch, and he tossed Trouble downstairs. But the baby didn't get hurt, fortunately. Now Ted's playing Wild West stagecoach with Nicknack and Janet got frightened and wouldn't ride."
"Hum, I see," said Ted's father slowly. "Our boy is getting older, I guess. He needs rougher play. Well, I think I've just the very thing to suit him, and perhaps Janet and all of us."
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Martin, as her husband drew a letter from his pocket.
"This is an invitation from Uncle Frank for all of us to come out to his ranch in Montana for the summer," was the answer. "We have been talking of going, you know, and now is a good chance. I can leave the store for a while, and I think it would do us all good—the children especially—to go West. So if you'd like it, well pack up and go."
"Go where?" asked Ted, driving around near the veranda in time to hear his father's last words.
"Out to Uncle Frank's ranch," said Mr. Martin.
"How would you like that?" added his mother.
"Could we have ponies to ride?" asked Ted.
"Yes, I think so."
"Oh, what fun!" cried Janet. "I love a pony!"
"You'd be afraid of them!" exclaimed Ted.
"I would not! If they didn't jump up and down the way you did with Trouble on your back I wouldn't be afraid."
"Pooh! that's the way bucking broncos always do, don't they, Daddy? I'm going to have a bronco!"
"Well, well see when we get there," said Daddy Martin. "But since you all seem to like it, we'll go out West."
"Can we take Nicknack?" asked Teddy.
"You won't need him if you have a pony," his father suggested.
"No, that's so. Hurray! What fun we'll have!"
"Are there any Indians out there?" asked Janet.
"Well, a few, I guess," her father answered. "But they're docile Indians—not wild. They won't hurt you. Now let's go in and talk about it."
The Curlytops asked all sorts of questions of their father about Uncle Frank's ranch, but though he could tell them, in a general way, what it looked like, Mr. Martin did not really know much about the place, as he had never been there.
"But you'll find lots of horses, ponies and cattle there," he said.
"And can we take Nicknack with us, to ride around the ranch?" asked Jan, in her turn.
"Oh, you won't want to do that," her father said. "You'll have ponies to ride, I think."
"What'll we do with Nicknack then?" asked Ted.
"We'll have to leave him with some neighbor until we come back," answered his father. "I was thinking of asking Mr. Newton to take care of him. Bob Newton is a kind boy and he wouldn't harm your goat."
"Yes, Bob is a good boy," agreed Teddy. "I'd like him to have Nicknack."
"Then, if it is all right with Mr. Newton, well take the goat over a few days before we leave for the West," said Mr. Martin. "Bob will have a chance to get used to Nicknack, and Nicknack to him, before we go away."
"Nicknack not come wif us?" asked Trouble, not quite understanding what the talk was about.
"No, we'll leave Nicknack here," said his father, as he cuddled the little fellow up in his lap. Trouble said nothing more just then but, afterward, Ted remembered that Baby William seemed to be thinking pretty hard about something.
A few days later, when some of the trunks had been partly packed, ready for the trip West, Mr. Martin came home early from the store and said to Jan and Ted:
"I think you'd better get your goat ready now and take him over to Bob's house. I spoke to Mr. Newton about it, and he said there was plenty of room in his stable for a goat Bob is delighted to have him."
"But hell give him back to us when we come home, won't he?" asked Janet.
"Oh, yes, of course! You won't lose your goat," said her father with a laugh.
But when they went out to the stable to harness Nicknack to the wagon, Ted and Janet rubbed their eyes and looked again.
"Why, Nicknack is gone!" exclaimed Ted.
"He is," agreed his sister. "Maybe Bob came and got him."
"No, he wouldn't do that without telling us," went on Ted. "I wonder where that goat is?"
He looked around the stable yard and in the barn. No Nicknack was in sight.
When the Curlytops were searching they heard their mother calling to them from the house, where their father was waiting for them to come up with Nicknack. He was going over to Mr. Newton's with them.
"Ho, Ted! Janet! Where are you?" called Mrs. Martin.
"Out here, Mother!" Teddy answered.
"Is Trouble there with you?"
"Trouble? No, he isn't here!"
"He isn't!" exclaimed his mother. "Where in the world can he be? Nora says she saw him going out to the barn a little while ago. Please find him!"
"Huh!" exclaimed Ted. "Trouble is gone and so is Nicknack! I s'pose they've gone together!"
"Well have to look," said Janet.
OFF FOR THE WEST
The Curlytops hurried toward the house, leaving open the empty little stable in which Nicknack was usually kept. They found their father and their mother looking around in the yard, Mrs. Martin had a worried air.
"Couldn't you find him?" asked Daddy Martin.
"We didn't look—very much," answered Teddy. "Nicknack is gone, and—"
"Nicknack gone!" cried Mrs. Martin. "I wonder if that little tyke of ours has gotten into trouble with him."
"Nicknack wouldn't make any trouble," declared Jan. "He's such a nice goat—"
"Yes, I know!" said Mrs. Martin quickly. "But it looks very much as though Trouble and Nicknack had gone off together. Is the goat's harness in the stable?"
"We didn't look," answered Teddy.
"The wagon's gone," Janet said. "I looked under the shed for that and it wasn't there."
"Then I can just about guess what has happened," said Daddy Martin. "Trouble heard as talking about taking Nicknack over to Mr. Newton's house, where he would be kept while we are at Uncle Frank's ranch, and the little fellow has just about taken the goat over himself."
"Nonsense!" exclaimed Mrs. Martin. "Trouble couldn't hitch the goat to the wagon and drive off with him."
"Oh, yes he could, Mother!" said Teddy. "He's seen me and Janet hitch Nicknack up lots of times, and he's helped, too. At first he got the straps all crooked, but I showed him how to do it, and I guess he could 'most hitch the goat up himself now all alone."
"Then that's what he's done," said Mr. Martin. "Come on, Curlytops, we'll go over to Mr. Newton's and get Trouble."
"I hope you find him all right," said Mrs. Martin, with a sigh.
"Oh, we'll find him all right—don't worry," her husband answered.
Laughing among themselves at the trick Trouble had played, Janet, Teddy and Mr. Martin started for the home of Mr. Newton, which was three or four long streets away, toward the edge of the town.
On the way they looked here and there, in the yards of houses where the children often went to play.
"For," said Mr. Martin, "it might be possible that when Trouble found he could drive Nicknack, which he could do, as the goat is very gentle, he might have stopped on the way to play."
"Yes, he might," said Jan. "He's so cute!"
But there was no sign of the little boy, nor the goat, either.
Finally Mr. Newton's house was reached. Into the yard rushed Janet and Teddy, followed by their father. Bob Newton was making a kite on the side porch.
"Hello, Curlytop!" he called to Ted. "Want to help me fly this? It's going to be a dandy!"
"Yes, I'll help you," agreed Ted. "But is he here?"
"Who here?" asked Bob, in some surprise.
"Nicknack, our goat," answered Teddy.
"What! Is he lost?" exclaimed Bob in some dismay, for he was counting on having much fun with the goat when the Curlytops went West.
"Nicknack—" began Ted.
"Have you seen Trouble?" broke in Janet.
"Is he lost, too?" Bob inquired. "Say, I guess—"
"Our goat and little boy seem to have gone off together," explained Mr. Martin to Mrs. Newton who came out on the porch just then. "We'd been talking before Trouble about bringing Nicknack over here, and now that both are missing we thought maybe Baby William had brought the goat over himself."
"Why, no, he isn't here," said Mrs. Newton slowly. "You didn't see anything of Trouble and the goat, did you?" she asked her son.
"No. I've been here making the kite all morning, and I'd have seen Nicknack all right, and Trouble, too, if they had come here."
"Well, that's funny!" exclaimed Mr. Martin. "I wonder where he can have gone?"
"Maybe Nicknack ran away with him," suggested Bob.
"Oh, don't say such things!" exclaimed his mother.
"I don't think that can have happened," returned Mr. Martin, "Nicknack is a very gentle goat, and Trouble is used to playing with him all alone. He never yet has been hurt. Of course we are not sure that the two went away together. Trouble disappeared from the house, and he was last seen going toward the stable.
"When Ted and Jan went out to get Nicknack he was gone, too, and so was the wagon and harness. So we just thought Trouble might have driven his pet over here."
"Yes, I think it likely that the two went away together," said Mrs. Newton; "but they're not here. Bob, put away that kite of yours and help Mr. Martin and the Curlytops look for Trouble. He may have gone to Mrs. Simpson's," she went on. "He's often there you know."
"Yes, but we looked in their yard coming over," put in Ted. "Trouble wasn't there."
"That's strange," murmured Bob's mother. "Well, he can't be far, that's sure, and he can't get lost. Everybody in town knows him and the goat, and he's sure to be seen sooner or later."
"I guess so," agreed Mr. Martin. "His mother was a little worried, though."
"Yes, I should think she would be. It's horrible to have anything happen to your children—or fear it may. I'll take off my apron and help you look."
"Oh, don't bother," said Mr. Martin. "We'll find him all right." But Mrs. Newton insisted on joining the search.
There was a barn on the Newton place—a barn in which Bob was counting on keeping Nicknack—and this place was first searched lest, perchance, Trouble might have slipped in there with the goat without anyone having seen him, having come up through a back alley.
But there was no goat inside; and Bob, the Curlytops, Mr. Martin and Mrs. Newton came out again, and looked up and down the street.
"I'll tell you what we'd better do," said Bob's mother. "Ted, you come with Bob and me. You know Trouble's ways, and where he would be most likely to go. Let Janet go with her father, and we'll go up and down the street, inquiring in all the houses we come to. Your little brother is sure to be near one of them."
"That's a good idea," said Mr. Martin. "Jan, you come with me. I expect your mother will be along any minute now. She won't wait at home long for us if we don't come back with Trouble."
So the two parties started on the search, one up and the other down the street. Bob, Teddy and Mrs. Newton inquired at a number of houses, but no one in them had seen Trouble and Nicknack that day. Nor did Janet and her father get any trace of the missing ones.
"I wonder where he is," murmured Teddy, and he was beginning to feel afraid that something had happened to Trouble.
"Let's go down the back street," suggested Bob. "You know there's quite a lot of wagons and automobiles go along this main street where we've been looking. Maybe if Trouble hitched up Nicknack and went for a ride he'd turn down the back street 'cause it's quieter."
"Yes, he may have done that," agreed Mrs. Newton.
So down the back street the three went. There were several vacant lots on this street and as the grass in them was high—tall enough to hide a small boy and a goat and wagon—Bob said they had better look in these places.
This they did. There was nothing in the first two vacant lots, but in the third—after they had stopped at one or two houses and had not found the missing ones—Teddy suddenly cried out:
"What'd you hear?" asked Bob.
"I thought I heard a goat bleating," was the answer.
"Listen!" whispered Mrs. Newton.
They kept quiet, and then through the air came the sound:
"That's Nicknack!" cried Teddy, rushing forward.
"I hope your little brother is there, too," said Mrs. Newton.
And Trouble was. When they got to the lower end of the vacant lot there, in a tangle of weeds, was the goat-wagon, and Nicknack was in a tangle of harness fast to it.
"Look at Trouble!" cried Teddy.
There lay the little fellow, sound asleep in the goat-wagon, his head pillowed on his arm, while Nicknack was bleating now and then between the bites of grass and weeds he was eating.
"Oh, Trouble!" cried Mrs. Newton as she took him up in her arms.
"Yes—dis me—I's Trouble," was the sleepy response. "Oh, 'lo, Teddy," he went on as he saw his brother. "'Lo, Bob. You come to find me?"
"I should say we did!" cried Bob. "What are you doing here?"
"Havin' wide," was the answer. "Everybody go 'way—out West—I not have a goat den. I no want Nicknack to go 'way."
"Oh, I see what he means!" exclaimed Teddy, after thinking over what his little brother said. "He heard us talking about bringing Nicknack over to your house, Bob, to keep him for us. Trouble likes the goat and I guess he didn't want to leave him behind. Maybe he thought he could drive him away out to Montana, to Uncle Frank's ranch."
"Maybe," agreed Bob. "That'd be a long drive, though."
"I should say so!" agreed Mrs. Newton. "But I guess you're right, Teddy. Your little brother started off to hide the goat and wagon so you couldn't leave it behind. He's a funny baby, all right!"
"And look how he harnessed him!" exclaimed Bob.
Nicknack really wasn't harnessed. The leather straps and the buckles were all tangled up on him, but Trouble had managed to make enough of them stick on the goat's back, and had somehow got part of the harness fast to the wagon, so Nicknack could pull it along.
"I had a nice wide," said Trouble, as Bob and Teddy straightened out the goat's harness. "Den I got sleepy an' Nicknack he got hungry, so we comed in here."
"And we've been looking everywhere for you!" exclaimed Mrs. Newton. "Well, I'm glad we've found you. Come along, now. Ted, you and Bob hurry along and tell the others. Your mother'll be worried."
And indeed Mrs. Martin was worried, especially when she met Mr. Martin and Janet, who had not found Trouble.
But Teddy and Bob soon met with the other searchers and told them that Baby "William had been found.
"Oh, what will you do next?" cried Mrs. Martin, as she clasped the little fellow in her arms. "Such a fright as you've given us!"
"No want Nicknack to go 'way!" said Trouble.
"I guess that's what he did it for—he thought he could hide the goat so we wouldn't leave him behind," said Daddy Martin. "But we'll have to, just the same. Trouble won't miss him when we get out on the ranch."
So the goat and wagon were left at Bob's house, and though Trouble cried when he realized what was happening, he soon got over it.
The next few days were filled with busy preparations toward going West. Daddy Martin bought the tickets, the packing was completed, last visits to their playmates were paid by Janet and Teddy, whose boy and girl friends all said that they wished they too were going out West to a big ranch.
"We're going to see cowboys and Indians!" Ted told everyone.
Then came the last day in Cresco—that is the last day for some time for the Curlytops. The house was closed, Nora going to stay with friends. Skyrocket, the dog, and Turnover, the cat, were sent to kind neighbors, who promised to look after them. Bob had already started to take care of Nicknack.
"All aboard!" called the conductor of the train the Curlytops and the others took. "All aboard!"
"All aboard for the West!" echoed Daddy Martin, and they were off.
Won't we have fun, Jan, when we get to the ranch?"
"I guess so, Teddy. But I don't like it about those Indians."
"Oh, didn't you hear Daddy say they were tame ones—like the kind in the circus and Wild West show? They won't hurt you, Jan."
"Well, I don't like 'em. They've got such funny painted faces."
"Not the tame ones, Jan. Anyhow I'll stay with you."
The Curlytops were talking as they sat together in the railroad car which was being pulled rapidly by the engine out toward the big West, where Uncle Frank's ranch was. In the seat behind them was Mother Martin, holding Trouble, who was asleep, while Daddy Martin was also slumbering.
It was quite a long ride from Cresco to Rockville, which was in Montana. It would take the Curlytops about four days to make the trip, perhaps longer if the trains were late. But they did not mind, for they had comfortable coaches in which to travel. When they were hungry there was the dining-car where they could get something to eat, and when they were sleepy there was the sleeping-car, in which the colored porter made such funny little beds out of the seats.
Jan and Ted thought it quite wonderful. For, though they had traveled in a sleeping-car before, and had seen the porter pull out the seats, let down the shelf overhead and take out the blankets and pillows to make the bed, still they never tired of watching.
There were many other things to interest the Curlytops and Trouble on this journey to Uncle Frank's ranch. Of course there was always something to see when they looked out of the windows of the cars. At times the train would pass through cities, stopping at the stations to let passengers get off and on. But it was not the cities that interested the children most. They liked best to see the fields and woods through which they passed.
In some of the fields were horses, cows or sheep, and while the children did not see any such animals in the woods, except perhaps where the wood was a clump of trees near a farm, they always hoped they might.
Very often, when the train would rattle along through big fields, and then suddenly plunge into a forest, Jan would call:
"Maybe we'll see one now, Ted!"
"Oh, maybe so!" he would exclaim.
Then the two Curlytops would flatten their noses against the window and peer out.
"What are you looking for?" asked Mother Martin, the first time she saw the children do this.
"Indians," answered Teddy, never turning around, for the train was still in the wood and he did not want to miss any chance.
"Indians!" exclaimed his mother, "Why, what in the world put into your head the idea that we should see Indians?"
"Well, Uncle Frank said there were Indians out West, even if they weren't wild ones," answered Teddy, "and me and Jan wants to see some."
"Oh, you won't find any Indians around here," said Daddy Martin with a laugh, as he laid aside the paper he was reading. "It is true there are some out West, but we are not there yet, and, if we were, you would hardly find the Indians so near a railroad."
"Can't we ever see any?" Jan wanted to know. "I don't just like Indians, 'cause they've always got a gun or a knife—I mean in pictures," she hastened to add. "Course I never saw a real Indian, 'ceptin' maybe in a circus."
"You'll see some real ones after a while," her mother told her, and then the children stopped pressing their noses flat against the car windows, for the train had come out of the wood and was nearing a large city. There, Jan and Ted felt sure, no Indians would be seen.
"But we'll keep watch," said Jan to her brother, "and maybe I'll see an Indian first."
"And maybe I will! We'll both watch!" he agreed.
Something else that gave the children enjoyment was the passage through the train, every now and then, of the boy who sold candy, books and magazines. He would pass along between the seats, dropping into them, or into the laps of the passengers, packages of candy, or perhaps a paper or book. This was to give the traveler time to look at it, and make up his or her mind whether or not to buy it.
A little later the boy would come along to collect the things he had left, and get the money for those the people kept for themselves. Ted and Jan were very desirous, each time, that the boy should sell something, and once, when he had gone through the car and had taken in no money, he looked so disappointed that Jan whispered to her father:
"Won't you please buy something from him?"
"Buy what?" asked Mr. Martin.
"A book or some candy from the newsboy," repeated the little girl. "He looks awful sorry."
"Hum! Well, it is too bad if he didn't sell anything," said Mr. Martin. "I guess I can buy something. What would you like, something to read or something to eat?"
"Some pictures to look at," suggested Teddy. "Then we can show 'em to Trouble. Mother just gave us some cookies."
"Then I guess you've had enough to eat," laughed Mr. Martin. "Here, boy!" he called. "Have you any picture books for these Curlytops of mine?"
"Yes, I have some nice ones," answered the boy, and with a smile on his face he went into the baggage car, where he kept his papers, candy and other things, and soon came back with a gaily colored book, at the sight of which Ted and Jan uttered sighs of delight.
"Dat awful p'etty!" murmured Trouble, and indeed the book did have nice pictures in it.
Mr. Martin paid for it, and then Ted and Jan enjoyed very much looking at it, with Trouble in the seat between them. He insisted on seeing each picture twice, the page being no sooner turned over than he wanted it turned back again.
But at last even he was satisfied, and then Ted and Jan went back to their first game of looking out of the window for Indians or other sights that might interest them.
Trouble slipped out of his seat between his brother and sister and went to a vacant window himself. For a time he had good fun playing with the window catch, and Mrs. Martin let him do this, having made sure, at first, that he could not open the sash. Then they all forgot Trouble for a while and he played by himself, all alone in one of the seats.
A little later, when Teddy and Janet were tired of looking for the Indians which they never saw, they were talking about the good times they had had with Nicknack, and wondering if Uncle Frank would have a goat, or anything like it, when Trouble came toddling up to their seat.
"What you got?" asked Teddy of his little brother, noticing that Baby William was chewing something. "What you got, Trouble?"
"Tandy," he said, meaning candy, of course.
"Oh, where'd you get it?" chimed in Jan.
"Nice boy gived it to me," Trouble answered. "Here," and he held the package out to his brother and sister.
"Oh, wasn't that good of him!" exclaimed Jan. "It's nice chocolate candy, too. I'll have another piece, Trouble."
They all had some and they were eating the sweet stuff and having a good time, when they saw their father looking at them. There was a funny smile on his face, and near him stood the newsboy, also smiling.
"Trouble, did you open a box of candy the boy left in your seat?" asked Mr. Martin.
"Yes, he's got some candy," answered Jan. "He said the boy gave it to him."
"I didn't mean for him to open it," the boy said. "I left it in his seat and I thought he'd ask his father if he could have it. But when I came to get it, why, it was gone."
"Oh, what a funny little Trouble!" laughed Mother Martin. "He thought the boy meant to give the candy to him, I guess. Well, Daddy, I think you'll have to pay for it"
And so Mr. Martin did. The candy was not a gift after all, but Trouble did not know that. However, it all came out right in the end.
They had been traveling two days, and now, toward evening of the second day, the Curlytops were talking together about what they would do when they got to Uncle Frank's ranch.
"I hope they have lots to eat there," sighed Ted, when he and Jan had gotten off the subject of Indians. "I'm hungry right now."
"So'm I," added his sister. "But they'll call us to supper pretty soon."
The children always eagerly waited for the colored waiter to come through the coaches rumbling out in his bass voice:
"First call fo' supper in de dinin'-car!"
Or he might say "dinner" or "breakfast," or make it the "last call," just as it happened. Now it was time for the first supper call, and in a little while the waiter came in.
"Eh? What's that? Time for supper again?" cried Daddy Martin, awakening from a nap.
Trouble stretched and yawned in his mother's arms.
"I's hungry!" he said.
"So'm I!" cried Ted and Jan together.
"Shall we have good things to eat on Uncle Frank's ranch?" asked Teddy, as they made ready to walk ahead to the dining-car.
"Of course!" his mother laughed. "Why are you worrying about that?"
"Oh, I just wanted to know," Teddy answered. "We had so many good things at Cherry Farm and when we were camping with grandpa that I want some out on the ranch."
"Well, I think we can trust to Uncle Frank," said Mr. Martin. "But if you get too hungry, Teddy, you can go out and lasso a beefsteak or catch a bear or deer and have him for breakfast."
"Is there bears out there, too?" asked Janet in a good deal of excitement. "Bears and Indians?"
"Well, there may be a few bears here and there," her father said with a smile, "but they won't hurt you if you don't hurt them. Now we'll go and see what they have for supper here."
To the dining-car they went, and as they passed through one of the coaches on their way Teddy and Janet heard a woman say to her little girl:
"Look at those Curlytops, Ethel. Don't you wish you could have some of their curl put into your hair?"
It was evening and the sun was setting. As the train sped along the Curlytops could look through the windows off across the fields and woods through which they passed.
"Isn't it just wonderful," said Mother Martin, "to think of sitting down to a nice meal which is being cooked for us while the train goes so fast? Imagine, children, how, years ago, the cowboys and hunters had to go on horses all the distance out West, and carry their food on their pony's back or in a wagon called a prairie schooner. How much easier and quicker and more comfortable it is to travel this way."
"I'd like to ride on a pony," said Teddy. "I wouldn't care how slow he went."
"I imagine you wouldn't like it when night came," said his mother, as she moved a plate so the waiter could set glasses of milk in front of the children. "You wouldn't like to sleep on the ground with only a blanket for a bed, would you?"
"'Deed I would!" declared Teddy. "I wish I had—"
Just then the train went around a curve, and, as it was traveling very fast, the milk which Teddy was raising to his mouth slopped and spilled down in his lap.
"Oh, Teddy!" cried his mother.
"I—I couldn't help it!" he exclaimed, as he wiped up as much of the milk as he could on a napkin with which the waiter hastened to him.
"No, we know it was the train," said Daddy Martin. "It wouldn't have happened if you had been traveling on pony-back, and had stopped to camp out for the night before you got your supper; would it, Ted?" he asked with a smile.
"No," said the little boy. "I wish we could camp out and hunt Indians!"
"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed his mother. "Don't get such foolish notions in your head. Anyway there aren't any Indians to hunt on Uncle Frank's ranch, are there, Dick?" she asked her husband.
"Well, no, I guess not," he answered slowly. "There are some Indians on their own ranch, or government reservation, not far from where Uncle Frank has his horses and cattle, but I guess the Redmen never bother anyone."
"Can we go to see 'em?" asked Teddy.
"I guess so," said Mr. Martin.
"Me go, too! Me like engines," murmured Trouble, who had also spilled a little milk on himself.
"He thinks we're talking about engines—the kind that pull this train!" laughed Ted. "I don't believe he ever saw a real Indian."
"No, Indians do not walk the streets of Cresco," said Mrs. Martin. "But finish your suppers, children. Others are waiting to use the table and we must not keep them too long."
There were many travelers going West—not all as far as the Curlytops though—and as there was not room in the dining-car for all of them to sit down at once they had to take turns. That is why the waiter made one, two, and sometimes three calls for each meal, as he went through the different coaches.
Supper over, the Martins went back to their place in the coach in which they had ridden all day. They would soon go into the beds, or berths, as they are called, to sleep all night. In the morning they would be several hundred miles nearer Uncle Frank's ranch.
The electric lights were turned on, and then, for a while, Jan, Ted and the others sat and talked.
They talked about the fun they had had when at Cherry Farm, of the good times camping with grandpa and how they were snowed in, when they wondered what had become of the strange lame boy who had called at Mr. Martin's store one day.
"I wish Hal Chester could come out West with us" said Teddy, as the porter came to tell them he would soon make up their beds. "He'd like to hunt Indians with me."
Hal was a boy who had been cured of lameness at a Home for Crippled Children, not far from Cherry Farm.
"I suppose you'll dream of Indians," said Teddy's mother to him. "You've talked about them all day. But get ready for bed, now. Traveling is tiresome for little folks."
Indeed after the first day Ted and Janet found it so. They wished, more than once, that they could get out and run about, but they could not except when the train stopped longer than usual in some big city. Then their father would take them to the platform for a little run up and down.
True they could walk up and down the aisle of the car, but this was not much fun, as the coach swayed so they were tossed against the sides of the seats and bruised.
"I'll be glad when we get to Uncle Frank's ranch," said Janet as she crawled into the berth above her mother, who slept with Trouble.
"So'll I," agreed Teddy, who climbed up the funny little ladder to go to bed in the berth above his father. "I want a pony ride!"
On through the night rumbled and roared the train, the whistle sounding mournfully in the darkness as the engineer blew it at the crossings.
Ted and Janet were sleeping soundly, Janet dreaming she had a new doll, dressed like an Indian papoose, or baby, while Ted dreamed he was on a wild pony that wanted to roll over and over instead of galloping straight on.
Suddenly there was a loud crash that sounded through the whole train. The engine whistled shrilly and then came a jar that shook up everyone. Teddy found himself rolling out of his berth and he grabbed the curtains just in time to save himself.
"Oh, Daddy!" he cried, "what's the matter?"
"What is it?" called Jan from her berth, while women in the coach were screaming and men ere calling to one another.
"What is it, Dick?" cried Mrs. Martin.
"I think we've had a collision," answered her husband.
"Did our train bunk into another?" asked Ted.
"I'm afraid so," replied his father.
AT RING ROSY RANCH
There was so much noise in the sleeping car where the Curlytops and others had been peacefully traveling through the night, that, at first, it was hard to tell what had happened.
All that anyone knew was that there had been a severe jolt—a "bunk" Teddy called it—and that the train had come to a sudden stop. So quickly had it stopped, in fact, that a fat man, who was asleep in a berth just behind Mr. Martin, had tumbled out and now sat in the aisle of the car, gazing about him, a queer look on his sleepy face, for he was not yet fully awake.
"I say!" cried the fat man. "Who pushed me out of bed?"
Even though they were much frightened, Mrs. Martin and some of the other men and women could not help laughing at this. And the laughter did more to quiet them than anything else.
"Well, I guess no one here is much hurt—if at all," said Daddy Martin, as he put on a pair of soft slippers he had ready in the little hammock that held his clothes inside the berth. "I'll go and see if I can find out what the matter is."
"An', Daddy, bring me suffin t'eat!" exclaimed Trouble, poking his head out between the curtains of the berth where he had been sleeping with his mother when the collision happened.
"There's one boy that's got sense," said a tall thin man, who was helping the fat man to get to his feet "He isn't hurt, anyhow."
"Thank goodness, no," said Mrs. Martin, who, as had some of the other women, had on a dressing gown. Mrs. Martin was looking at Trouble, whom she had taken up in her arms. "He hasn't a scratch on him," she said, "though I heard him slam right against the side of the car. He was next to the window."
"It's a mercy we weren't all of us tossed out of the windows when the train stopped so suddenly, the way it did," said a little old woman.
"It's a mercy, too," smiled another woman who had previously made friends with Jan and Teddy, "that the Curlytops did not come hurtling down out of those upper berths."
Mr. Martin, after making sure his family was all right, partly dressed and went out with some of the other men. The train had come to a standstill, and Jan and Ted, looking out of the windows of their berths, could see men moving about in the darkness outside with flaring torches.
"Maybe it's robbers," said Teddy in a whisper.
"Robbers don't stop trains," objected Janet
"Yes they do!" declared her brother positively, "Train robbers do. Don't they, Mother?"
"Oh, don't talk about such things now, Teddy boy. Be thankful you are all right and hope that no one is hurt in the collision."
"That's what I say!" exclaimed the fat man. "So it's a collision, is it? I dreamed we were in a storm and that I was blown out of bed."
"Well, you fell out, which is much the same thing," said the thin man. "Our car doesn't seem to be hurt, anyhow."
Ted and Janet came out into the aisle in their pajamas. They looked all about them but, aside from seeing a number of men and women who were greatly excited, nothing else appeared to be the matter. Then in came their father with some of the other men.
"It isn't a bad collision," said Daddy Martin. "Our engine hit a freight car that was on a side track, but too close to our rails to be passed safely. It jarred up our engine and the front cars quite a bit, and our engine is off the track, but no one is hurt."
"That's good!" exclaimed Mrs. Martin. "I mean that no one is hurt."
"How are they going to get the engine back on the track?" Teddy wanted to know. "Can't I go out and watch 'em?"
"I want to go, too!" exclaimed Janet.
"Indeed you can't—in the dark!" exclaimed her father. "Besides, the railroad men don't want you in the way. They asked us all to go to our coaches and wait. They'll soon have the engine back on the rails they said."
Everyone was awake now, and several children in the car, like Trouble, were hungry. The porter who had been hurrying to and fro said he could get the children some hot milk from the dining-car, and this he did.
Some of the grown folks wanted coffee and sandwiches, and these having been brought in, there was quite a merry picnic in the coach, even if the train had been in a collision.
Then there was much puffing and whistling of the engine. The Curlytops, looking out of the window again, saw more men hurrying here and there with flaring torches which flickered and smoked. These were the trainmen helping to get the engine back on the rails, which they did by using iron wedges or "jumpers," much as a trolley car in your city streets is put back on the rails once it slips off.
At last there was another "bunk" to the train, as Teddy called it. At this several women screamed.
"It's all right," said Daddy Martin. "They've got the engine back on the rails and it has just backed up to couple on, or fasten itself, to the cars again. Now we'll go forward again."
And they did—in a little while. It did not take the Curlytops or Trouble long to fall asleep once more, but some of the older people were kept awake until morning, they said afterward. They were afraid of another collision.
But none came, and though the train was a little late the accident really did not amount to much, though it might have been a bad one had the freight car been a little farther over on the track so the engine had run squarely into it.
All the next day and night the Curlytops traveled in the train, and though Jan and Ted liked to look out of the windows, they grew tired of this after a while and began to ask:
"When shall we be at Uncle Frank's ranch?"
"Pretty soon now," said their father.
I will not tell you all that happened on the journey to the West. Truth to say there was not much except the collision. The Curly-tops ate their meals, drank cupful after cupful of water, and Trouble did the same, for children seem to get very thirsty when they travel— much more so than at home.
Then, finally, one afternoon, after a long stop when a new engine was attached to the train, Daddy Martin said:
"Well be at Rockville in an hour now. So we'd better begin to get together our things."
"Shall we be at Uncle Frank's ranch in an hour?" asked Teddy.
"No, but well be at Rockville. From there we go out over the prairies in a wagon."
"A wagon with ponies?" asked Janet.
"Yes, real Western ponies," said her father. "Then well be at the ranch."
And it happened just that way. On puffed the train. Then the porter came to help the Martin family off at Rockville.
"Rockville! Rockville! All out for Rockville!" joked Daddy Martin.
"Hurray!" cried Teddy. "Here we are!"
"And I see Uncle Frank!" exclaimed Janet, looking from the window toward the station as the train slowed up to stop.
Out piled the Curlytops, and into the arms of Uncle Frank they rushed. He caught them up and kissed them one after the other—Teddy, Janet and Trouble.
"Well, well!" he cried, "I'm glad to see you! Haven't changed a bit since you were snowed in! Now pile into the wagon and well get right out to Circle O Ranch."
"Where's that?" asked Teddy.
"Why, that's the name of my ranch," said Uncle Frank. "See, there's the sign of it," and he pointed to the flank of one of the small horses, or ponies, hitched to his wagon. Ted and Janet saw a large circle in which was a smaller letter O.
"We call it Circle O," explained the ranchman. "Each place in the West that raises cattle or horses has a certain sign with which the animals are branded, or marked, so their owners can tell them from others in case they get mixed up. My mark is a circle around an O."
"It looks like a ring-around-the-rosy," said Janet.
"Say! So it does!" laughed Uncle Frank. "I never thought of that. Ring Rosy Ranch! That isn't a half bad name! Guess I'll call mine that after this. Come on to Ring Rosy Ranch!" he invited as he laughed at the Curlytops.
And the name Janet gave Uncle Frank's place in fun stuck to it, so that even the cowboys began calling their ranch "Ring Rosy," instead of "Circle O."
Into the big wagon piled the Curlytops, Mrs. Martin and Trouble, while Daddy Martin and Uncle Frank went to see about the baggage.
Jan and Ted looked curiously about them. It was the first time they had had a chance to look quietly since they had started on the journey, for they had been traveling in the train nearly a week, it seemed.
What they saw was a small railroad station, set in the midst of big rolling fields. There was a water tank near the station, and not far from the tank was a small building in which a pump could be heard chug-chugging away.
"But where is the ranch?" asked Janet of her brother. "I don't see any cows and horses."
"Dere's horses," stated Trouble, pointing to the two sturdy ponies hitched to the wagon.
"Yes, I know" admitted Janet. "But Uncle Frank said he had more'n a hundred horses and—"
"And a thousand steers—that's cattle," interrupted Ted. "I don't see any, either. Maybe we got off at the wrong station, Mother."
"No, you're all right," laughed Mrs. Martin. "Didn't Uncle Frank meet us and didn't Daddy tell us we'd have to drive to the ranch?"
"What's the matter now, Curlytops?" asked their father's uncle, as the two men came back from having seen about the baggage, which had arrived safely. "What are you two youngsters worrying about, Teddy and Janet?"
"They're afraid we're at the wrong place because they can't see the ranch," answered their mother.
"Oh, that's over among the hills," said Uncle Frank, waving his hand toward some low hills that were at the foot of some high mountains. "It wouldn't do," he went on, "to have a ranch too near a railroad station. The trains might scare the horses and cattle. You will soon be there, Curlytops. We'll begin to travel in a minute."
Ted and Janet settled themselves in the seat, where they were side by side, and looked about them. Suddenly Janet clasped her brother by the arm and exclaimed:
"Look, Ted! Look!"
"Where?" he asked.
"Right over there—by the station. It's an Indian!"
"A real one?" asked Teddy, who, at first, did not see where his sister was pointing.
"He looks like a real one," Janet answered. "He's alive, 'cause he's moving!"
She snuggled closer to her brother. Then Teddy saw where Janet pointed. A big man, whose face was the color of a copper cent, was walking along the station platform. He was wrapped in a dirty blanket, but enough of him could be seen to show that he was a Redman.
"Is that a real Indian, Uncle Frank?" asked Teddy in great excitement.
"What? Him? Oh, yes, he's a real Indian all right. There's a lot of 'em come down to the station to sell baskets and beadwork to the people who go through on the trains."
"Is he a tame Indian?" the little boy next wanted to know.
"Oh, he's 'tame' all right. Hi there, Running Horse!" called Uncle Frank to the copper-faced man in the blanket, "sell many baskets to-day?"
"Um few. No good business," answered the Indian in a sort of grunt.
"Oh, do you know him?" asked Ted in surprise.
"Oh, yes. Running Horse often comes to the ranch when he's hungry. There's a reservation of the Indians not far from our place. They won't hurt you, Jan; don't be afraid," said Uncle Frank, as he saw that the little girl kept close to Teddy.
"Was he wild once?" she asked timidly.
"Why, yes; I guess you might have called him a wild Indian once," her uncle admitted. "He's pretty old and I shouldn't wonder but what he had been on the warpath against the white settlers."
"Oh!" exclaimed Janet. "Maybe he'll get wild again!"
"Oh, no he won't!" laughed Uncle Frank. "He's only too glad now to live on the reservation and sell the baskets the squaws make. The Indian men don't like to work."
Running Horse, which was the queer name the Indian had chosen for himself, or which had been given him, walked along, wrapped in his blanket, though the day was a warm one. Perhaps he thought the blanket kept the heat out in summer and the cold in winter.
"Get along now, ponies!" cried Uncle Frank, and the little horses began to trot along the road that wound over the prairies like a dusty ribbon amid the green grass.
On the way to Ring Rosy Ranch Uncle Frank had many questions to ask, some of the children and some of Mr. and Mrs. Martin. Together they laughed about the things that had happened when they were all snowed in.
"Tell Uncle Frank of Trouble's trying to hide Nicknack away so we wouldn't leave him behind," suggested Mrs. Martin.
"Ha! Ha! That was pretty good!" exclaimed the ranchman when Ted and Janet, by turns, had told of Trouble's being found asleep in the goat -wagon. "Well, it's too bad you couldn't bring Nicknack with you. He'd like it out on the ranch, I'm sure, but it would be too long a journey for him. You'll have rides enough—never fear!"
"Pony rides?" asked Teddy.
"Pony rides in plenty!" laughed Uncle Frank. "We'll soon be there now, and you can see the ranch from the top of the next hill."
The prairies were what are called "rolling" lard. That is there were many little hills and hollows, and the country seemed to be like the rolling waves of the ocean, if they had suddenly been made still.
Sometimes the wagon, drawn by the two little horses, would be down in a hollow, and again it would be on top of a mound-like hill from which a good view could be had.
Reaching the top of one hill, larger than the others, Uncle Frank pointed off in the distance and said:
"There's Circle O Ranch, Curlytops, or, as Jan has named it, Ring Rosy Ranch. We'll be there in a little while."
The children looked. They saw, off on the prairie, a number of low, red buildings standing close together. Beyond the buildings were big fields, in which were many small dots.
"What are the dots?" asked Janet.
"Those are my horses and cattle—steers we call the last," explained Uncle Frank.
"They are eating grass to get fat You'll soon be closer to them."
"Are the Indians near here?" Teddy inquired.
"No, not very near. It's a day's ride to their reservation. But don't worry about them. They won't bother you if you don't bother them," said Uncle Frank.
Teddy was not fully satisfied with this answer, for he hoped very much that the Indians would "bother him"—at least, he thought that was what he wanted.
When the Curlytops drew closer to the ranch they could see that one of the buildings was a house, almost like their own in the East, only not so tall. It was all one story, as were the other buildings, some of which were stables for the horses and some sleeping places, or "bunk houses," for the cowboys, while from one building, as they approached closer, there came the good smell of something cooking.
"That's the cook's place," said Uncle Frank, pointing with his whip. "All the cowboys love him, even if he is a Chinaman."
"Have you a Chinese cook?" asked Mrs. Martin.
"Yes, and he's a good one," answered Uncle Frank. "Wait until you taste how he fries chicken."
"I hope we taste some soon," said Daddy Martin. "This ride across the prairies has made me hungry."
"I hungry, too!" exclaimed Trouble. "I wants bread an' milk!"
"And you shall have all you want!" laughed the ranchman. "We've plenty of milk."
"Oh, this is a dandy place!" exclaimed Teddy, as the wagon drove up to the ranch house. "Well have lots of fun here, Janet!"
"Maybe we will, if—if the Indians don't get us," she said.
"Pooh! I'm not afraid of them," boasted Teddy, and then something happened.
All at once there came a lot of wild yells, and sounds as if a Fourth-of-July celebration of the old-fashioned sort were going on. There was a popping and a banging, and then around the corner of the house rode a lot of roughly-dressed men on ponies which kicked up a cloud of dust.
"Ki-yi! Ki-yi! Yippi-i-yip!" yelled the men.
"Bang! Bang! Bang!" exploded their revolvers.
"Oh, dear!" screamed Janet.
Teddy turned a little pale, but he did not make a sound.
"What is it?" asked Mrs. Martin, hugging Trouble and his sister closer to her. "Oh, what is it?"
"Don't be afraid!" laughed Uncle Frank. "Those are the cowboys making you welcome to Ring Rosy Ranch. That's their way of having fun!"
On came the cowboys, yelling, shouting and shooting off their big revolvers which made noises like giant firecrackers. The men, some of whom wore big leather "pants," as Teddy said afterward, and some of whom had on trousers that seemed to be made from the fleece of sheep, swung their hats in the air. Some of them even stood up in their saddles, "just like circus riders!" as Janet sent word to Aunt Jo, who was spending the summer at Mt. Hope.
"Are they shooting real bullets, Uncle Frank?" asked Teddy, as soon as the noise died down a little and the cowboys were waving their hats to the Curlytops and the other visitors to Ring Rosy Ranch.
"Real bullets? Bless your heart, no!" exclaimed Mr. Barton. "Of course the cowboys sometimes have real bullets in their 'guns,' as they call their revolvers, but they don't shoot 'em for fun."
"What makes them shoot?" asked Janet.
"Well, sometimes it's to scare away bad men who might try to steal my cattle or horses, and again it's to scare the cattle themselves. You see," explained Uncle Frank, while the cowboys jumped from their horses and went to the bunk house to wash and get ready for supper, "a ranch is just like a big pasture that your Grandfather Martin has at Cherry Farm. Only my ranch is ever so much bigger than his pastures, even all of them put together. And there are very few fences around any of my fields, so the cattle or horses might easily stray off, or be taken.
"Because of that I have to hire men—cowboys they are called—to watch my cattle and horses, to see that they do not run away and that no white men or Indians come and run away with them.
"But sometimes the cattle take it into their heads to run away themselves. They get frightened—'stampeded' we call it—and they don't care which way they run. Sometimes a prairie fire will make them run and again it may be bad men—thieves. The cowboys have to stop the cattle from running away, and they do it by firing revolvers in front of them. So it wouldn't do to have real bullets in their guns when the cowboys are firing that way. They use blank cartridges, just as they did now to salute you when they came in."
"Is that what they did?" asked Teddy. "Saluted us?"
"That's it. They just thought they'd have a little fun with you—see if they could scare you, maybe, because you're what they call a 'tenderfoot,' Teddy."
"Pooh, I wasn't afraid!" declared Teddy, perhaps forgetting a little. "I liked it. It was like the Fourth of July!"
"I didn't like it," said Janet, with a shake of her curly head. "And what's a soft-foot, Uncle Frank?"
"A soft-foot? Oh, ho! I see!" he laughed. "You mean a tenderfoot! Well, that's what the Western cowboys call anybody from the East— where you came from. It means, I guess, that their feet are tender because they walk so much and don't ride a horse the way cowboys do. You see out here we folks hardly ever walk. If we've only got what you might call a block to go we hop on a horse and ride. So we get out of the way of walking.
"Now you Eastern folk walk a good bit—that is when you aren't riding in street cars and in your automobiles, and I suppose that's why the cowboys call you tender-feet. You don't mind, though, do you, Teddy?"
"Nope," he said. "I like it. But I'm going to learn to ride a pony."
"So'm I!" exclaimed Janet.
"I wants a wide, too!" cried Trouble. "Can't I wide, Uncle Frank? We hasn't got Nicknack, but maybe you got a goat," and he looked up at his father's uncle.
"No, I haven't a goat," laughed Uncle Frank, "though there might be some sheep on some of the ranches here. But I guess ponies will suit you children better. When you Curlytops learn to ride you can take Trouble up on the saddle with you and give him a ride. He's too small to ride by himself yet."
"I should say he was, Uncle Frank!" cried Mrs. Martin. "Don't let him get on a horse!"
"I won't," promised Mr. Barton with a laugh. But Trouble said:
"I likes a pony! I wants a wide, Muz-zer!"
"You may ride with me when I learn," promised Janet.
"Dat nice," responded William.
Uncle Frank's wife, whom everyone called Aunt Millie, came out of the ranch house and welcomed the Curlytops and the others. She had not seen them for a number of years.
"My, how big the children are!" she cried as she looked at Janet and Teddy. "And here's one I've never seen," she went on, as she caught Trouble up in her arms and kissed him.
"Now come right in. Hop Sing has supper ready for you."
"Hop Sing!" laughed Mother Martin. "That sounds like a new record on the phonograph."
"It's the name of our Chinese cook," explained Aunt Millie, "and a very good one he is, too!"
"Are the cowboys coming in to eat with us?" asked Teddy, as they all went into the house, where the baggage had been carried by Uncle Frank and Daddy Martin.
"Oh, no. They eat by themselves in their own building. Not that we wouldn't have them, for they're nice boys, all of them, but they'd rather be by themselves."
"Do any Indians come in?" asked Janet, looking toward the door.
"Bless your heart, no!" exclaimed Aunt Millie. "We wouldn't want them, for they're dirty and not at all nice, though some of them do look like pictures when they wrap themselves around in a red blanket and stick feathers in their hair. We don't want any Indians. Now tell me about your trip."
"We were in a collision!" cried Janet.
"In the middle of the night," added Teddy.
"An' I mos' fell out of my bed!" put in Trouble.
Then, amid laughter, the story of the trip from the East was told. Meanwhile Hop Sing, the Chinese cook, cried out in his funny, squeaky voice that supper was getting cold.
"Well, well eat first and talk afterward," said Uncle Frank, as he led the way to the table. "Come on, folks. I expect you all have good appetites. That's what we're noted for at Ring Rosy Ranch."
"What's that?" asked Aunt Millie.
"Have you given Circle O a new name?"
"One of the Curlytops did," chuckled Uncle Frank. "They said my branding sign looked just like a ring-round-the-rosy, so I'm going to call the ranch that after this."
"It's a nice name," said Aunt Millie. "And now let me see you Curlytops—and Trouble, too—though his hair isn't frizzy like Ted's and Janet's—let me see you eat until you get as fat as a Ring Rosy yourselves. If you don't eat as much as you can of everything, Hop Sing will feel as though he was not a good cook."
The Curlytops were hungry enough to eat without having to be told to, and Hop Sing, looking into the dining-room now and then from where he was busy in the kitchen, smiled and nodded his head as he said to the maid.
"Lil' chillens eat velly good!"
"Indeed they do eat very good," said the maid, as she carried in more of the food which Hop Sing knew so well how to cook.
After supper the Curlytops and the others sat out on the broad porch of the ranch house. Off to one side were the other buildings, some where the farming tools were kept, for Uncle Frank raised some grain as well as cattle, and some where the cowboys lived, as well as others where they stabled their horses.
"I know what let's do," said Jan, when she and her brother had sat on the porch for some time, listening to the talk of the older folks, and feeling very happy that they were at Uncle Frank's ranch, where, they felt sure, they could have such good times.
"What can we do?" asked Teddy. Very often he let Jan plan some fun, and I might say that she got into trouble doing this as many times as her brother did. Jan was a regular boy, in some things. But then I suppose any girl is who has two nice brothers, even if one is little enough to be called "Baby."
"Let's go and take a walk," suggested Jan. "My legs feel funny yet from ridin' in the cars so much."
"Ri-ding!" yelled Teddy gleefully. "That's the time you forgot your g, Janet."
"Yes, I did," admitted the little girl. "But there's so much to look at here that it's easy to forget. My forgetter works easier than yours does, Ted."
"It does not!"
"It does, too!"
"It does not!"
"I—say—it—does!" and Janet was very positive.
"Now, now, children!" chided their mother. "That isn't nice. What are you disputing about now?"
"Jan says her forgetter's better'n mine!" cried Ted.
"And it is," insisted Janet. "I can forget lots easier than Ted."
"Well, forgetting isn't a very good thing to do," said Mr. Martin. "Remembering is better."
"Oh, that's what I meant!" said Jan. "I thought it was a forgetter. Anyhow mine's better'n Ted's!"
"Now don't start that again," warned Mother Martin, playfully shaking her finger at the two children. "Be nice now. Amuse yourselves in some quiet way. It will soon be time to go to bed. You must be tired. Be nice now."
"Come on, let's go for a walk," proposed Jan again, and Ted, now that the forget-memory dispute was over, was willing to be friendly and kind and go with his sister.
So while Trouble climbed up into his mother's lap, and the older folks were talking among themselves, the two Curlytops, not being noticed by the others, slipped off the porch and walked toward the ranch buildings, out near the corrals, or the fenced-in places, where the horses were kept.
There were too many horses to keep them all penned in, or fenced around, just as there are too many cattle on a cattle ranch. But the cowboys who do not want their horses which they ride to get too far away put them in a corral. This is just as good as a barn, except in cold weather.
"There's lots of things to see here," said Teddy, as he and his sister walked along.
"Yes," she agreed. "It's lots of fun. I'm glad I came."
"So'm I. Oh, look at the lots of ponies!" she cried, as she and Ted turned a corner of one of the ranch buildings and came in sight of a new corral. In it were a number of little horses, some of which hung their heads over the fence and watched the Curlytops approaching.
"I'd like to ride one," sighed Teddy wistfully.
"Oh, you mustn't!" cried Jan. "Uncle Frank wouldn't like it, nor mother or father, either. You have to ask first."
"Oh, I don't mean ride now," said Ted. "Anyhow, I haven't got a saddle."
"Can't you ride without a saddle?" asked Janet.
"Well, not very good I guess," Ted answered. "A horse's back has a bone in the middle of it, and that bumps you when you don't have a saddle."
"How do you know?" asked Janet.
"I know, 'cause once the milkman let me sit on his horse and I felt the bone in his back. It didn't feel good."
"Maybe the milkman's horse was awful bony."
"He was," admitted Ted. "But anyhow you've got to have a saddle to ride a horse, lessen you're a Indian and I'm not."
"Well, maybe after a while Uncle Frank'll give you a saddle," said Janet.
"Maybe," agreed her brother, "Oh, see how the ponies look at us!"
"And one's following us all around," added his sister. For the little horses had indeed all come to the side of the corral fence nearest the Curlytops, and were following along as the children walked.
"What do you s'pose they want?" asked Teddy.
"Maybe they're hungry," answered Janet.
"Let's pull some grass for 'em," suggested Teddy, and they did this, feeding it to the horses that stretched their necks over the top rail of the fence and chewed the green bunches as if they very much liked their fodder.
But after a while Jan and Ted tired of even this. And no wonder— there were so many horses, and they all seemed to like the grass so much that the children never could have pulled enough for all of them.
"Look at that one always pushing the others out of the way," said Janet, pointing to one pony, larger than the others, who was always first at the fence, and first to reach his nose toward the bunches of grass.
"And there's a little one that can't get any," said her brother. "I'd like to give him some, Jan."
"So would I. But how can we? Every time I hold out some grass to him the big horse takes it."
Teddy thought for a minute and then he said:
"I know what we can do to keep the big horse from getting it all."
"What?" asked Janet.
"We can both pull some grass. Then you go to one end of the fence, and hold out your bunch. The big horse will come to get it and push the others away, like he always does."
"But then the little pony won't get any," Janet said.
"Oh, yes, he will!" cried Teddy. "'Cause when you're feeding the big horse I'll run up and give the little horse my bunch. Then he'll have some all by himself."
And this the Curlytops did. When the big horse was chewing the grass Janet gave him, Ted held out some to the little horse at the other end of the corral, And he ate it, but only just in time, for the big pony saw what was going on and trotted up to shove the small animal out of the way. But it was too late.
Then Janet and Teddy walked on a little further, until Janet said it was growing late and they had better go back to the porch where the others were still talking.
Evening was coming on. The sun had set, but there was still a golden glow in the sky. Far off in one of the big fields a number of horses and cattle could be seen, and riding out near them were some of the cowboys who, after their supper, had gone out to see that all was well for the night.
"Is all this your land, Uncle Frank!" asked Teddy as he stood on the porch and looked over the fields.
"Yes, as far as you can see, and farther. If you Curlytops get lost, which I hope you won't, you'll have to go a good way to get off my ranch. But let me tell you now, not to go too far away from the house, unless your father or some of us grown folks are with you."
"Why?" asked Janet.
"Well, you might get lost, you know, and then—oh, well, don't go off by yourselves, that's all," and Uncle Frank turned to answer a question Daddy Martin asked him.
Ted and Janet wondered why they could not go off by themselves as they had done at Cherry Farm.
"Maybe it's because of the Indians," suggested Jan.
"Pooh, I'm not afraid of them," Teddy announced.
Just then one of the cowboys—later the children learned he was Jim Mason, the foreman—came walking up to the porch. He walked in a funny way, being more used to going along on a horse than on his own feet.
"Good evening, folks!" he said, taking off his hat and waving it toward the Curlytops and the others.
"Hello, Jim!" was Uncle Frank's greeting. "Everything all right?"
"No, it isn't, I'm sorry to say," answered the foreman. "I've got bad news for you, Mr. Barton!"
A QUEER NOISE
The Curlytops looked at the ranch foreman as he said this. Uncle Frank looked at him, too. The foreman stood twirling his big hat around in his hand. Teddy looked at the big revolver—"gun" the cowboys called it—which dangled from Jim Mason's belt.
"Bad news, is it?" asked Uncle Frank. "I'm sorry to hear that. I hope none of the boys is sick. Nobody been shot, has there, during the celebration?"
"Oh, no, the boys are all right," answered the foreman. "But it's bad news about some of your ponies—a lot of them you had out on grass over there," and he pointed to the west—just where Ted and Janet could not see.
"Bad news about the ponies?" repeated Uncle Frank. "Well, now, I'm sorry to hear that. Some of 'em sick?"
"Not as I know of," replied Jim. "But a lot of 'em have been taken away—stolen, I guess I'd better call it."
"A lot of my ponies stolen?" cried Uncle Frank, jumping up from his chair. "That is bad news! When did it happen? Why don't you get the cowboys together and chase after the men who took the ponies?"
"Well, I would have done that if I knew where to go," said the foreman. "But I didn't hear until a little while ago, when one of the cowboys I sent to see if the ponies were all right came in. He got there to find 'em all gone, so I came right over to tell you."
"Well, we'll have to see about this!" exclaimed Uncle Frank. "Who's the cowboy you sent to see about the ponies?"
"Henry Jensen. He just got in a little while ago, after a hard ride."
"And who does he think took the horses?"
"He said it looked as if the Indians had done it!" and at these words from the foreman Ted and Janet looked at one another with widely opened eyes.
"Indians?" said Uncle Frank. "Why, I didn't think any of them had come off their reservation."
"Some of 'em must have," the foreman went on. "They didn't have any ponies of their own, I guess, so they took yours and rode off on 'em."
"Well, this is too bad!" said Uncle Frank in a low voice. "I guess we'll have to get our boys together and chase after these Indians," he went on. "Yes, that's what I'll do. I've got to get back my ponies."
"Oh, can't I come?" cried Teddy, not understanding all that was going on, but enough to know that his uncle was going somewhere with the cowboys, and Teddy wanted to go, too.
"Oh, I'm afraid you couldn't come—Curlytop," said the foreman, giving Teddy the name almost everyone called him at first sight, and this was the first time Jim Mason had seen Teddy.
"No, you little folks must stay at home," added Uncle Frank.
"Are you really going after Indians?" Teddy wanted to know.
"Yes, to find out if they took any of my ponies. You see," went on Uncle Frank, speaking to Daddy and Mother Martin as well as to the Curlytops, "the Indians are kept on what is called a 'reservation' That is, the government gives them certain land for their own and they are told they must stay there, though once in a while some of them come off to sell blankets and bark-work at the railroad stations.
"And, sometimes, maybe once a year, a lot of the Indians get tired of staying on the reservation and some of them will get together and run off. Sometimes they ride away on their own horses, and again they may take some from the nearest ranch. I guess this time they took some of mine."
"And how will you catch them?" asked Mrs. Martin.
"Oh, we'll try to find out which way they went and then we'll follow after them until we catch them and get back the ponies."