“I— I— er— I jest was weedin’ de garden, Massa Seabury, an’ I done felt so warm dat I jest closed mah eyes, jest fo’ a second, not a minute longer, no sah, not a minute. Guess I knows better dan t’ go t’ sleep when yo’ got company sah!” and Ponto looked very much hurt at the accusation.
“Well, Ponto, I suppose you can’t help it. Do you happen to know where there are any horned toads?”
“Horned toads! Good lan’, Massa Seabury! No sah! I ain’t got none!”
“I didn’t suppose you had. Do you know whether there are any around here?”
“Well, I doan know ef dey has horns or not, but de oder day, when I were comin’ home from goin’ t’ ole Mexican Pete’s shanty after some red peppers, I seen some horrible kind of thing hoppin’ along ober de sand. I— I didn’t stop t’ look an’ see ef he had horns, but I s’pects he had, cause he were kind of diggin’ in de sand.”
“That’s the toad all right!” exclaimed the professor, joyfully. “Where is the place? Take me out there right away, Ponto.”
“Take you out dere, Perfesser?”
“Yes, right away.”
“I— I s’pects I’d better go back an’ ‘tend t’ mah weedin’!” exclaimed Ponto, looking as pale as a colored man can. look. “Weeds grow powerful fast in dis climate. Dey’ll choke de flowers in about an hour. I’se got t’ ‘tend t’ ’em immejeet, sah. I ain’t got no time t’ go huntin’ horned toads. I hopes you’ll ’scuse me, sah,” and with that Ponto was gone, walking faster than he had at any time since the travelers arrived.
“He’s afraid,” said Rose, with a laugh. “I’m not. Come on, Professor, I’ll show you where Ponto means, and maybe we can find some horned toads.”
“Let’s all go,” proposed Jerry.
“I will, if you’ll promise not to let the horrible things come near me,” said Nellie, and Jerry promised.
Mr. Seabury declared he would rather rest on the veranda than hunt horned toads, so the three boys and the trio of girls, with the professor, who armed himself with specimen boxes and a small net, set off after the curious reptiles.
A short distance from the bungalow there was a sort of sandy stretch, where little grew in the way of vegetation, and there, Rose explained, was probably where Ponto had seen the toads. They headed toward it, the scientist eagerly looking on the ground, for a first sight of the specimens he had come so far to seek.
A strange meeting
“I guess Ponto must have been asleep when he was walking along here, and dreamed he saw those toads,” commented Ned, after the party had covered a considerable part of the sandy stretch without getting a glimpse of the ugly reptiles.
“That’s too bad!” exclaimed the professor. “I had hopes of finding one here.”
“Oh!” suddenly screamed Rose. “There’s one!”
“Where?” asked the scientist eagerly.