“And I expect to live to see him on the Supreme Bench yet,” said Jerry seriously.
In the morning preparations for their departure were soon completed. The tents, and all material connected with the camp, went in the wagon, while the boys, together with Mr. Mabie and Reddy, rode horseback. It was an invigorating gallop back to the ranch house, and on the way the chums indulged in a number of little races. But Will would not allow himself to enter as he was afraid that something might happen to his precious camera, which he carried by a strap over his shoulder.
Once back in their old quarters, for several days the boys took life easy, each being busily engaged in some favorite pursuit. Will developed all his films, and made copious prints of the same, which kept him in a feverish state of mind. When one turned out especially fine he was in the seventh heaven of delight; and if he met with disappointment, which was seldom the case, his laments were dismal indeed.
Thus a week more passed, and the boys were beginning to think of turning their faces toward the East again. They would leave the ranch with many regrets, for Mr. Mabie had certainly quite won their youthful hearts by his genial ways.
Frank was the last one to meet with an adventure on this occasion, which was fated to be written down in his logbook as worthy of remembrance.
He had been out riding, and his horse, stepping into a gopher hole, threw him. Frank was not seriously hurt, but the horse went lame, so that he could not be ridden. As this happened miles away from the house, and night was coming on, with a storm threatening, Frank knew he was in for an experience; but even then he did not dream of all that was down on the bills for that special occasion.
Through the darkness he went, leading his limping horse. Then the storm broke, and the crash of thunder, as well as the vivid lightning, was something such as he could not remember ever meeting before.
He was just thinking that the pony had recovered enough to enable him to mount and make his way slowly along, as the ranch house was not more than a mile off, when something came to his ears that arrested his attention. For half a minute he wondered what it might be, sounding like increasing thunder. Then the appalling truth flashed upon him. There was a stampede of cattle, and he seemed to be directly in the way of the madly galloping herd!
A MYSTERY SOLVED
Frank, after that one spasm of alarm, gritted his teeth, and thought fast. He had heard the rancher, as well as the cowboys, speak of the terrors of the stampede, when the cattle were in a frenzy, through fear, and utterly beyond all management.
He knew that frequently experienced cowmen, caught in the rush of a thousand lumbering steers, had been ground to death under countless hoofs. It was so in the old days, when bison dotted the plains of the great West.