The Boy Land Boomer/Chapter 6
"Don't you take it so hard, my lad; I feel certain that your father will turn up sooner or later."
It was Pawnee Brown who spoke. He addressed Dick, who sat on a horse belonging to Jack Rasco. The pair had been scouring the plains and the woods for three hours in search of Dick's father.
"Poor father! If only I knew what had become of him!" sighed the lad.
In his anxiety he had forgotten all about his adventures among the cavalrymen who had sought to detain him as a horse thief.
"It's a mystery, thet's what it is," burst in Jack Rasco.
"It looks loike the hivens hed opened an' swalleyed him up," was Mike Delaney's comment. "Be jabbers, we all know th' hivens was wide open enough last noight. Me turnout is afther standin in two foot o' wather, an' Rosy raisin the mischief because she can't go out. 'Moike,' sez she, 'Moike Delaney, git a boat or Oi'll be drowned,' an' niver a boat in sight. Th' ould woman will have to shtay in the wagon till the wather runs off of itself."
"I wonder if it is possible my poor father wandered into town," mused Dick. "Perhaps he did that and was locked up by the police. He is—well, you know he gets strange spells," and the youth's face flushed.
"Run into town, lad, and make a search," answered the boomer. "If I and Rasco get the chance we'll follow. We shan't strike camp for several hours yet."
Dick thought this good advice and was soon on his way. The rain had stopped entirely and the sun was just peeping up over the distant plains when he entered Arkansas City and began his hunt.
A visit to the police station speedily revealed the fact that nothing was known there concerning his missing parent. Here Dick left a description of his father, and was promised that if anything was discovered of the man word would be sent to him immediately.
Having ridden around to the depot, hotels and other public places, Dick tied up his steed and began a hunt through the various streets, looking into the doors of the stores and saloons as he passed.
His footsteps soon brought him down to the vicinity of the river front. Here, situated along several blocks, were a number of eating and drinking houses, patronized principally by rivermen, gamblers and similar persons.
Having satisfied himself, with a sigh of relief, that his father was not in any of the saloons, the youth came to a halt in front of a restaurant. He had not eaten anything since the evening before, and his night of adventures had made him decidedly hungry.
"I'll get a cup of coffee and some rolls to brace me up," he thought, and entered the establishment. His order was soon given, and he took a seat at a side table, close to a thin board partition.
His order served, he was disposing of the last of it, when the sound of voices on the other side of the partition attracted his attention.
"Leave me alone, Juan Donomez!" came in the voice of a girl. "You have no right to touch me."
"You are too pretty to be left alone," came in the slick tones of a Mexican vaquero. "Come, now, senorita, give me just one kiss."
"I will not, and you must leave me alone," went on the girl, and her trembling voice showed plainly that she was much frightened. "Where is the man who sent for me?"
"He is not here yet."
"I do not believe he sent for me at all. It was a trick of yours to get me here. Let me go."
"Not yet, senorita; you can go after a while. But first you must give me a kiss. Then I will explain why I had you come."
As the last words were uttered Dick heard a scurry of feet, then came a faint scream, cut short by the Mexican. The boy waited to hear no more.
"The contemptible greaser!" he muttered and leaped up. Throwing down the amount of his check on the cashier's desk he hurried from the restaurant. As he had supposed there was a hallway next door, where the talking he had overheard was taking place.
"Oh, save me!" cried the girl, and one glance at her told Dick that she was not over sixteen and as beautiful as any maiden he had ever seen. She was attired in true western style and wore on her mass of shining curls a big, soft riding hat.
"Let that young lady alone," cried the youth to the Mexican, who glared at him savagely. "I overheard your talk, and if she wants to leave she shall do it."
"Oh, thank you for coming to my aid," burst out the girl gratefully. "This bad man—"
"Say no more, Nellie Winthrop," interrupted the Mexican. "Go to the rear. I will attend to this cub who dares to interfere with my business."
And he shoved the girl behind him. His roughness made Dick's blood boil over, and, rushing forward, he put out his foot, gave a push, and Juan Donomez measured his length upon the floor.
During the encounter Nellie Winthrop had escaped to the front end of the hallway, and here Dick now joined her.
"We might as well go," said the youth.
"Yes, yes; let us get out as quickly as we can," answered the girl trembling. "He may attempt to attack you."
"I ought to hand him over to the authorities, but I won't," said Dick. "Come," and he opened the door and followed her to the street.
"I shall never forget you for your kindness," the girl burst out as soon as they had left the vicinity of the spot where the trouble had occurred. "You are very brave, Mr.——"
"I'm only Dick Arbuckle, Miss——"
"Nellie Winthrop is my name. I just reached Arkansas City yesterday. I am from Peoria, and am looking for my uncle, who is somewhere among the Oklahoma boomers."
"Indeed! I'm one of the boomers myself—at least, I've been with them a good part of the time. Perhaps I know your uncle. What is his name?"
"John Rasco, but I believe the men all call him Jack Rasco."
"Why, is it possible! I know Jack Rasco well—in fact, my father and I have been stopping with him ever since we came on from New York. As soon as the rush into Oklahoma was over my father was going to get your uncle to locate a certain mine claim in the West for him—a claim that belongs to us, but which can't be located very easily, it seems."
"And where is my uncle now?" demanded Nellie Winthrop.
"At the boomers camp, I suppose. You see," went on Dick, his face falling, "there is something wrong afoot." And in a few words he told of his father's disappearance and of the search being made to find him.
"I sincerely trust he is safe," said Nellie when he had concluded. "I presume you want to resume your search. Do not let me detain you. If you are among the boomers we will certainly meet again," and she held out her hand.
"Do you feel safe enough to find the camp alone?" he asked. "Perhaps I had better take you there. It is about a mile in that direction," and he indicated the locality with a wave of his hand.
"I feel safe enough in the open air," she smiled. "It was only when that Mexican had me cornered in a dark hallway that I felt alarmed. I was born and brought up on the plains, and I've been to Peoria only to get educated, as they say. I've a horse at the livery stable, and I can ride the distance."
"May I ask how you fell in with that greaser?"
"I think he overheard me asking for my uncle at the hotel, and after that he sent a note saying my uncle was at the place where you found me. I saw him first on the train, where he tried his best to get some information from me about some horses. But I told him little," concluded the girl.
Five minutes later they parted at the livery stable, where Nellie had left her horse, and Dick went on his way to continue his search for his lost parent. The girl had thanked him again for what he had done and had squeezed his hand so warmly that his heart thumped pretty hard, while his face was flushed more than ever before.