Ruth Fielding at Lighthouse Point/Chapter 25
WHAT JANE ANN WANTED
Ruth and her companions could not see what went on in the cottage; but they did not mount the stairs. They could not leave the old woman—plucky as she was—to fight Jack Crab alone.
But they need not have been so fearful for Mother Purling's safety. The instant the man fell into the main room of the cottage, Mother Purling darted to the stove, seized the heavy poker which lay upon the hearth, and sprang for the rascal.
Jack Crab had got upon his knees, threatening her with dire vengeance. The old lighthouse keeper never said a word in reply, but brought the heavy poker down upon his head and shoulders with right good will, and Jack Crab's tune changed on the instant.
Again and again Mother Purling struck him. He rolled upon the floor, trying to extricate himself from the wreck of her door, and so escape.
But before he could do this, and before the old woman had ceased her attack, there was a shout outside, a horse was brought to an abrupt halt at the gate, and a huge figure in black flung itself from the saddle, and came running through the gate and up to the cottage.
"What you got there, Missus?" roared the deep voice of Bill Hicks, of Bullhide, and at the sound of his voice Jane Ann burst open the door at the foot of the stairs and ran out to meet him.
"This here's the man you want to meet, I guess," panted the old woman, desisting at length in her use of the poker. "Do ye want him now, Mister?"
"Uncle Bill!" shrieked Jane Ann.
"Great cats!' cried the cattleman. "Is it Jane Ann herself? Is she alive?"
The girl flung herself into the big man's arms. "I'm all right, Uncle!" she cried, laughing and crying together. "And that man yonder didn't hurt me—only kep' me on a desert island till Ruth and Tom and Helen found me."
"Then he kin go!" declared Bill Hicks, turning suddenly as Crab started through the door. "And here's what will help him!"
The Westerner swung his heavy boot with the best intention in the world and caught Jack Crab just as he was going down the step. With a yell of pain the fellow sailed through the air, landing at least ten feet from the doorway. But he was up from his hands and knees and running hard in an instant, and he ran so hard, and to such good purpose, that he ran right out of this story then and there. Ruth Fielding and her friends never saw the treacherous fellow again.
"But if he'd acted like he oughter," said Mr. Hicks, "and hadn't put my Jane Ann out on that thar lonesome rock, and treated her the way he done, I should have considered myself in his debt. I'd have paid him the five hundred dollars, sure enough. I'd have paid it over willingly if he'd left my gal with these nice people and only told me whar she was. But I wouldn't give him a cent—now not even if he was starvin'. For it I found him in that condition I'd see he got food and not money," and the big man chuckled.
"So you haven't got to pay five hundred dollars for me, then, Uncle Bill?" said his niece, as they sat on the porch of the Stones' bungalow, talking things over.
"No, I haven't. No fault of yours, though, you little rascal. I dunno but I ought to divide it 'twixt them three friends of yourn that found ye."
"Not for us" cried Tom and Helen.
"Nor for me," said Ruth, earnestly. "It would not be right. I never should respect myself again if I thought I had tried to find Nita for money."
"But if it hadn't been for Ruth we'd never have sailed over there to the Thimble," declared Tom.
The Western girl had been thinking seriously; now she seized her uncle by the arm. "I tell you what I want, Uncle Bill!" she cried.
"Something beside the pianner and the shift-on hat?" he grumbled, but his blue eyes twinkled.
"Those things don't count," she declared earnestly. "But this five hundred dollars, Uncle Bill, you haven't got to pay that Crab man. So you just spend it by taking all these girls and boys that have been so nice to me out to Silver Ranch. They think it must be the finest place that ever happened—and I don't know but 'tis, Uncle, if you don't have too much of it," she added.
"Great cats! that would shore be some doin's; wouldn't it?" exclaimed the cattleman, grinning broadly.
"You bet it would! We'll take Ruth and Helen and Tom and Heavy an—why, every last one of 'em that'll go. We'll show 'em a right good time; is it a go, Uncle Bill?"
And it certainly was "a go," for we shall meet Ruth and her friends next in a volume entitled, "Ruth Fielding at Silver Ranch; Or, Schoolgirls Among the Cowboys."
Old Bill Hicks' hearty invitation could not be accepted, however, until the various young folks had written home to their parents and guardians about it. And the expectation of what fun they could have on Silver Ranch did not spoil the fun to be found closer at hand, at Lighthouse Point.
The remainder of that fortnight at the bungalow would long be remembered by Ruth and her girl friends, especially. Mr. Hicks got board at Sokennet; but Jane Ann (although they all called her 'Nita' save The Fox, who took some delight in teasing her about her ugly name) remained at the bungalow. The cattleman could not do too much for anybody who had been kind to his niece, and had the life saving men not refused absolutely to accept anything from him, he would have made them all a present because they had rescued Jane Ann from the wreck of the Whipstitch.
Nevertheless, Mr. Hicks found out something that he could do for the life-savers, and he presented the station with a fine library something which all the surfmen, and Cap'n Abinadab as well, could enjoy during the long winter days and evenings. Nor did the ranchman forget Mother Purling at the lighthouse. Up from New York came the finest black silk dress and bonnet that the big man could buy for money in any shop, and no present could have so delighted the plucky old lighthouse keeper. She had longed, she said, for a black silk dress all her life.
Before the young folks departed from Lighthouse Point, too, Miss Kate invited the life savers, and Mother Purling, and Phineas and some of the other longshoremen and their wives to a "party" at the bungalow. And there were good things to eat (Heavy saw to that, of course) and a moving-picture entertainment brought down from the city for that evening, and a big display of fireworks afterward on the shore.
This wound up Ruth Fielding's visit to Lighthouse Point. The fortnight of fun was ended all too soon. She and Helen and Tom, and the rest of the visitors, started for home, all promising, if their parents and guardians agreed, to meet Jane Ann Hicks and her uncle a week later, in Syracuse, ready for the long and delightful journey across the continent to Bullhide, Montana.
"Well, we certainly did have some great times," was Tom's comment, after the last goodbyes had been spoken and the young folks were homeward bound.
"Oh, it was lovely," answered his twin sister. "And think of how we helped Nita—I mean Jane Ann."
"Most of the credit for that goes to Ruth," said Tom.
"Oh, no! " cried the girl from the Red Mill. "Yes, we certainly had a grand time," she added. "I love the bounding sea, and the shifting sands, and the lighthouse, and all!"
"Oh, I do hope we can go out to that ranch!" sighed Helen. "I have always wanted to visit such a place, to see the cattle and the cowboys, and the boundless prairies."
"And I want to ride a broncho," put in her brother. "They say some of 'em can go like the wind. Ruth, you'll have to ride, too."
"Take your last look at the sea!" came from Heavy. "Maybe we won't get another look at it for a long time."
All turned to look at the rolling waves, glistening brightly in the Summer sun.
"Isn't it lovely!"
"Good-bye, Old Ocean, good-bye!" sang out Helen.
Ruth threw a kiss to the waves.
Then the ocean faded from their sight. And here we will leave Ruth Fielding and say good-bye.