“You son of Satan!” said the valiant Redbeard. “Thought you could bully us, did you? Miss McGill, you were as quick as Joan of Arc. Hand me the pistol, please.”
I gave it to him, and he shoved it under the hobo’s nose.
“Now,” he said, “take off that rag around your neck.”
The rag was an old red handkerchief, inconceivably soiled. The tramp removed it, grumbling and whining. Mifflin gave me the pistol to hold while he tied our prisoner’s wrists together. In the meantime we heard a shout from the quarry. The three vagabonds were gazing up in great excitement.
“You tell those fashion plates down there,” said Mifflin, as he knotted the tramp’s hands together, “that if they make any fight I’ll shoot them like crows.” His voice was cold and savage and he seemed quite master of the situation, but I must confess I wondered how we could handle four of them.
The greasy ruffian shouted down to his pals in the quarry, but I did not hear what he said, as just then the Professor asked me to keep our captive covered while he got a stick. I stood with the pistol pointed at his head while Mifflin ran back into the birchwood to cut a cudgel.
The tramp’s face became the colour of the under side of a fried egg as he looked into the muzzle of his own gun.
“Say, lady,” he pleaded, “that gun goes off awful easy, point her somewhere else or you’ll croak me by mistake.”
I thought a good scare wouldn’t do him any harm and kept the barrel steadily on him.
The rascals down below seemed debating what to do. I don’t know whether they were armed or not; but probably they imagined that there were more than two of us. At all events, by the time Mifflin came back with a stout birch staff they were hustling out of the quarry on the lower side. The Professor swore, and looked as if he would gladly give chase, but he refrained.
“Here, you,” he said in crisp tones to the tramp, “march on ahead of us, down to the quarry.”
The fat ruffian shambled awkwardly down the trail. We had to make quite a detour to get into the quarry, and by the time we reached there the other three tramps had got clean away. I was not sorry, to tell the truth. I thought the Professor had had enough scrapping for one twenty-four hours.
Peg whinneyed loudly as she saw us coming, but Bock was not in sight.
“What have you done with the dog, you swine?” said Mifflin. “If you’ve hurt him I’ll make you pay with your own hide.”
Our prisoner was completely cowed. “No, boss, we ain’t hurt the dog,” he fawned. “We tied him up so he couldn’t bark, that’s all. He’s in the ’bus.” And sure enough, by this time we could hear smothered yelping and whining from Parnassus.
I hurried to open the door, and there was Bock, his jaws tied together with a rope-end. He bounded out and made super-canine efforts to express his joy at seeing the Professor again. He paid very little attention to me.