MoboReader > Literature > Owen Clancy's Happy Trail; Or, The Motor Wizard in California

   Chapter 1 ALMOST A RIOT.

Owen Clancy's Happy Trail; Or, The Motor Wizard in California By Burt L. Standish Characters: 10418

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

No, it was not an earthquake that happened in the city of Los Angeles, California, on that beautiful sun-shiny morning. It was just a tow-headed, cross-eyed youth shaking things up at the corner of Sixth and Main in an attempt to find his father.

And not one corner of the cross streets was involved, but all four corners. The upheaval that followed this search for a missing relative, extended in several directions, so that a very small cause led up to remarkably large results.

It was nine o'clock of a Saturday morning. That Saturday was some sort of a festal day for the Chinese, and at the hour mentioned, a dragon a block long, consisting of a hundred Celestials covered with papier-maché, was twisting and writhing along Sixth Street.

On one corner, leaning against the side of a building, was a tall man in seedy clothes. A card on his breast bore the sad legend, "Help the Blind." The man's eyes were covered with large blue goggles, and in one hand he held his hat, and in the other a couple of dozen cheap lead pencils.

Across the street, on corner number two, was an Italian with a hand organ. The Italian's assistant was a monkey in a red cap.

Corner number three, among others, held a grocer's boy, carrying a basket with six dozens of eggs. He was very much absorbed in watching the Chinese dragon wriggle along the thoroughfare.

The fourth corner was reserved for Hiram Hill, the tow-headed, cross-eyed chap who was destined to cause all the commotion. While Hill stood on the walk, telling himself that the gaudily painted dragon looked very much like an overgrown centipede, he suddenly caught sight of a man in an automobile.

The auto was headed along Main Street, and was waiting for the dragon to clear the way so it could proceed. Hill looked at the machine across the papier-maché spine of the chink monster, and he gave a yell of surprise when his gaze took account of the one man in the tonneau of the car.

Undoubtedly that man was Hiram Hill's father–the parent who had been mysteriously missing ever since the first Klondike gold rush! Hiram's eyes were sharp, and to them the beetling brow, the one "squint eye," the very pronounced Roman nose, and the retreating chin which made the face resemble a bird's beak, were all very plain.

After that first yell of surprise, Hiram's astonishing good luck held him speechless. Following a year of a trying town-to-town canvas of the whole Southwest, he had at last come within hailing distance of his long-lost parent.

Only one point remained to make assurance doubly sure. Had the "suspect" a brown mole on the back of his neck? Sharp as Hill's eyes were, they could not determine that.

"Who wants a pencil?" came feebly from the hapless person on the first corner. "Help the blind."

"Jocko," said the son of sunny Italy, on corner two, "maka da bow, taka da mon!"

The monkey lifted his hat and went through motions that passed for a bow. He also looked at his master and showed his teeth, not relishing the way his chain had been pulled.

"Pipe de chink wid de pigeon toes and de bow legs!" yelped the grocer's boy. "If he's goin' de way dem feet are pointed, foist t'ing yous know he'll be runnin' into himself."

The boy with the basket of eggs was very observing. As he shouted his remarks he leveled a finger at a pair of coolie legs supporting one of the vertebra of the passing dragon. The legs were badly sprung at the knees, but they ended in feet which the Chinaman had to step over as he walked.

"Dad!" whooped Hiram Hill; "I say, dad!"

Hiram recovered his speech, and all at once became as active as a swarm of bees after some one has kicked over the hive. He wanted to get to that automobile and give his father a filial embrace–and he was in a hurry. The Chinese dragon was in the way, but Hiram didn't mind a little thing like that.

He jumped at the papier-maché thing and hit it in the vicinity of the bow-legged Chinaman. That particular chink went down, and the dragon was broken squarely in two, midway of its length.

Now, a papier-maché dragon is a sort of a blind-follow-my-leader affair. The Chinaman at the head is the only one in the procession who can see where he is going, and the remaining sections of the monster hang onto him and follow his lead.

The rear half of the dragon got lost, and went groping wildly for the front half. Somehow or other, it ran into the crowd on the corner, and there was a mix-up in which three dollars worth of eggs were badly scrambled.

The last section of the front half, missing the part behind, began swinging back and forth across the street in an attempt to find the lost tail. It carromed into corner number two, smashing one perfectly good hand organ, freeing an excited monkey, and drawing forth a volley of lurid words from the Italian.

Jocko ran across the street, and began climbing the tall man who was selling lead pencils. With a roar of consternation, the tall man rushed into the street, flourishing his arms, and begging some one–any one–to "Take it away! Take it away!" He finally collided with the head end of the dragon, demoralizing that half of the chink procession as completely as the latt

er half had been.

By that time; Sixth and Main was in a turmoil. The dragon had broken up in a hundred parts, like a jointed snake, and each part was thrashing around blindly, trying to get rid of its papier-maché so it could see where it was and what it was doing.

From the four corners the crowd flowed into the street. Eggs, entirely whole or only slightly cracked, flew from mischievous hands over heaving heads, only to smash against some particularly inviting mark.

The monkey leaped from one pair of shoulders to another, chattering wildly. In course of time, he reached the automobile, landed in a heap on the bosom of the beetle-browed, Roman-nosed passenger in the tonneau, and encircling him with his hairy arms. The beetle-browed man got up and fought for his freedom, clamoring furiously for "Police! Police!"

Just at that moment, the only policeman in that vicinity was at the patrol box, sending in a riot call. Meanwhile, Hiram Hill was having his own share of troubles.

The bow-legged Chinaman had slipped out of his papier-maché shell. He did not know, of course, that Hill was the one who had knocked his section of the dragon out of line, but the instant he was able to look around, he saw Hill, and immediately selected him as a suitable object for hostility.

The chink did not step on himself, nor in any way interfere with his progress in going for Hiram. He hit Hiram so hard over the head with the piece of dragon that he knocked a hole in the papier-maché, and, just as Hiram freed himself of the encumbrance, and straightened up to get his bearings and swoop down on his assailant, an egg smashed in his face and effectually blinded him.

A hollow murmur sounded in Hiram's ears, like the roar of the sea. He was picked up on the troubled waters of the màlée, and borne back and forth in the surging tide. At last he slammed into something and fell, limp and dazed, to the ground.

He drew his sleeve across his eyes, thus freeing them for clearer vision. To his joy and wonder, he found that destiny had hurled him against the side of the automobile he had been trying to reach.

Jocko had jumped from the shoulders of the passenger in the tonneau, and the passenger was still on his feet and had his back toward Hiram. The latter, boiling over with filial sentiments, climbed up on the running board and encircled the beetle-browed man in a fond embrace.

"Dad!" clamored Hiram excitedly; "don't you know me?"

"Get off! get off!" roared the man, going at once into a flurry. "Whose monkey is this, anyway? Police! Police!"

The man, naturally, was in a highly excited state of mind and thought the simian was upon him again. Just then, the driver of the machine found a cleared space ahead and started for it. He started so quickly that Hiram was thrown from the running board, dropped to the hard pavement, and there stumbled against and fallen over by the jostling mob.

This rough usage was more than Hiram could stand. The senses were being knocked out of him by swift degrees. He felt his wits going, and he made a frantic attempt to stay them as they drifted away. The attempt was useless, however, and a great darkness suddenly descended upon Hiram and closed him in.

When he regained his senses, he was lying on a bench in a drug store. A clerk was holding a handkerchief, saturated with a drug of some kind, to his nostrils, and a bluecoat was standing near, twirling his club and looking down at Hiram speculatively.

"Question is," said the policeman, "what is he doing with two hats?"

"That's more than I can tell you, officer," answered the clerk. "Ah, he's coming to!"

Hiram sat up on the bench and pushed aside the drug-soaked handkerchief. "Dad!" he murmured confusedly.

"I'm not your dad," said the officer. "I'm just the fellow who pulled you out of the crowd. Where'd you get that hat?"

Hiram looked down. His own hat was on his head and had, in some manner, remained with him throughout all the excitement, but in his hand he was clutching, like grim death, a battered black Stetson.

Turning the hat over, Hiram looked into the crown. The gilt letters, "U. H." met his eyes.

"It's dad's hat," he gurgled. "Upton Hill, that's his name! I knew I had a bean on the right number! I–I-"

A bit of white showed under the sweatband. Westerners, of a certain type, sometimes carry important documents under the sweatband of their hats. Hiram pulled his object out of the Stetson, examined it, and then inquired his way to the nearest telegraph office. Five minutes later he had sent the following telegram:

"OWEN CLANCY, the Motor Wizard, Phoenix, Arizona: Hot on the trail. You said you would help me find dad. Come to Los Angeles at once and get busy. Meet me Renfrew House.


"This here's a great day for me," murmured Hiram, rubbing his bruises as he turned away from the operator's window. "I reckon that'll fetch Clancy, if he's well enough to come. Him and me can run out this happy trail together, with ground to spare. That red-headed wizard has got more sense in a minute than I have in a year, and I reckon we'll get along. He's a good feller to tie to, in a time like this."

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