“Not a scratch,” answered Mr. Temple.
“Same here,” cried Bob and Jack together.
“Say, though,” cried Frank, suddenly realizing Remedios no longer sprawled on the hood, “we’ve lost our passenger.”
“Good riddance,” said Bob.
“Must’ve thrown him off when we struck the other car,” decided Jack.
“Or else he jumped off when his chance came,” surmised Mr. Temple.
To a query from Frank as to the route to be followed and the distance to camp, Jack made answer that the road lay straight ahead with no laterals cutting into it, and that camp was only a couple of miles beyond.
“Say, Jack,” declared Bob with a laugh, “that was some reception committee you got out to meet us.”
“Yes,” kidded Frank, “what were you aiming to do, anyway? Put on a Wild West thriller for a bunch of tenderfeet fresh from New York?”
Jack laughed. “Tenderfeet, your grandmother,” he said. “It looked to me as if the effete Easterners put on the thriller for the bandits.”
Relieved at the safe outcome of their adventure, everybody joined in the laugh, and for several minutes the high good humor manifested itself in jokes bandied back and forth. Then a ’dobe ranch house loomed ahead, low-lying, of four or five rooms, a wide, dirt-floored porch along its length, upon which the rooms gave through separate doors. At the rear were a clump of shadowy outbuildings and a corral. To one side and some distance away stood a low frame building and a high, latticed tower with antennae, which the chums recognized with a shout of delight.
“There’s the radiophone station, hey, Jack?”
Frank drew the car to the porch, and Gabby Pete, at the sound of its approach, opened the door of the kitchen and emerged, big spoon in hand, the lamplight streaming from the room behind him, and savory odors floating out to the hungry boys.
“Come an’ git it,” he called sonorously.
“What does he mean Jack?” asked Bob.
“I hope he means dinner,” said Frank, sniffing hungrily.
“He does,” laughed Jack. “That’s the way camp cooks announce food is ready in the cow camps, as I understand it. And Gabby Pete is an old cowman.”
“Well, lead me to it,” said Frank, and all followed Jack into the house.
JACK CANNOT SLEEP
“Well, now, boys, let’s see where we stand,” said Mr. Temple, after all had partaken heartily, amid excited but disjointed conversation, of a surprisingly good dinner of pork and beans, boiled potatoes, fresh tomatoes and lettuce, bread pudding and coffee. He pushed back his chair as he spoke, and lighted a cigar.
“First of all,” he said, “we have got to consider the kidnapping of Mr. Hampton and decide what shall be done in the matter, what moves we must make. Then there is this series of mysterious happenings, all of which have a bearing on the case, if we can find the solution.