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The Motor Rangers Through the Sierras By John Henry Goldfrap Characters: 10507

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Everybody in the hotel at Lariat had long retired to bed, when three youthful forms stole toward the stable which had been turned into a temporary garage for the Motor Rangers' big car. From their bed-room window, the boys had, a few moments before, watched Al. Jeffries stride off down the trail to meet his cronies for the second time and inform them that the time was ripe to put up their attempted trick on the lads.

The doughty Al., on his return to the hotel after the conference at which the lads were eavesdroppers, had found nothing to excite his suspicion. The boys were all seated on the porch and apparently had not moved since he had last seen them. Al. had even sat around with them a while, trying to pump them, but of course, after what they knew of him, they did not give him much information. Nat had formed an idea that the man was a sort of agent for the gang of the famous Morello. That is, he hung about towns and picked up any information he could about shipments of specie from the mines, or of wealthy travellers who might be going through. In this surmise we may say that Nat was correct.

But to return to the three lads whom we left at the beginning of the chapter stealthily slipping across the moonlit space between the hotel and the stable. All three had changed their boots for soft moccasins, in which they made next to no noise at all as they moved. Each lad, moreover, carried under his arm a small bundle. Their clothing consisted of trousers and shirts. Their broad-brimmed sombreros had been doffed with their coats. The Motor Rangers were, so to speak, stripped for action. And it was to be action of a lively kind as the event was to show.

On their arrival at the stable the boys slipped into an empty stall alongside their car, and undoing their bundles, hastily donned what was in them. Then Nat uncorked a bottle, while a strong odor filled the air. It was a pungent sort of reek, and from the bottle could be seen a faint greenish light glowing.

Their preparations completed, the Motor Rangers crouched behind the wooden wall of the stall, awaiting the next move on the program.

"And for heaven's sake sit on that sneeze!" Joe admonished Ding-dong.

Before very long the boys could hear cautious footsteps approaching the barn, and the sound of low whispering.

"The auto's right in here," they caught, in Jeffries' voice. "Say, what a laugh we'll have on those kids in the morning."

"They laugh best who laugh last," thought Nat to himself, clutching more tightly a small gleaming thing he had in his hand.

"This is pie to me," they could hear Dayton whispering, in a cautious undertone, "I told those kids I'd get even on them for driving me out of Lower California, and here's where I do it."

Nat gritted his teeth as he listened.

"You're going to get something that you don't expect," he muttered softly to himself.

The next instant the barn door framed three figures. Behind them were two ponies. The feet of the little animals were swathed in sacks so that they made no noise at all.

"Pretty foxy," whispered Joe, "they've padded the ponies' hoofs."

"Hush!" ordered Nat, "don't say a word or make a move till I give the signal."

"There's the car," whispered Jeffries, as they drew closer and the shadow of the place enclosed them, blotting out their outlines.

"Seems a shame to run it over a cliff, don't it?" put in Dayton's fellow pony rider.

"That's the only thing to do with it," said Dayton abruptly, "I want to give those kids a lesson they won't forget."

"So, you rascals," thought Nat, "you were going to run the car over a cliff were you? Oh, how I'd like to get my hands on you for just five minutes."

"Go on, Dayton. Climb into the thing and start her up," said Jeffries.

"Hope them kids don't wake up," put in Dayton's companion.

"They're off as sound as tops," Al. assured him, "I listened at their door after I came out, and they were snoring away like so many buck saws."

With the ease born of familiarity with motor vehicles, Dayton climbed into the driver's seat and bent over the steering wheel.

Presently there came a sharp click!

"Now!" whispered Nat.

As he gave the word, from behind the wooden partition upreared three terrifying objects. Their faces glared greenly and their white forms seemed to be shrouded in graveyard clothes.

In unison they uttered a dismal cry.

"Be-ware! Oh be-ware of the car of the Motor Ranger boys!"

"Wow!" yelled Dayton's companion.

As he gave the alarmed cry he fairly reeled back against the opposite stall and fell with a crash. At the same instant, an old claybank mule tethered in there awoke, and resenting the man's sudden intrusion, let fly with his hind hoofs. This shot the ruffian's form full tilt into that of Al. Jeffries, who was making at top speed for the door, and the two fell, in a rolling, cursing, struggling, clawing heap on the stable floor.

"Lemme up!" yelled Al. Jeffries, in mortal terror of the grim sheeted forms behind him.

"Lemme go!" shouted Dayton's companion, roaring half in fear and half in pain at the reminiscences of the mule's hoofs he carried.

But the startling apparitions, while at their first appearance they had made

Dayton recoil, only fooled him for an instant. Springing erect from his first shock of amazement and alarm he gave an angry shout.

"Get up there you fools."

"Oh the ghosts! The ghosts with the green faces," bawled Al. Jeffries.

"Ghosts!" roared Dayton angrily, "they're no ghosts. Get up and knock their heads off."

Suiting the action to the word he leaped from the car and charged furiously at Nat. The boy's fist shot out and landed with a crash on the point of his jaw, but although Dayton reeled under the force of the blow he recovered instantly and charged furiously again on the sheeted form.

In the meantime, Al. Jeffries and the other man had rolled apart and perceived the state of affairs. The noise of the impact of Nat's fist showed conclusively that it was no ghostly hand that had struck the blow, and the fact rallied their fleeting courage. As furiously as had Dayton, they charged upon the boys. The rip and tear of sheets, and the sound of blows given and received, mingled with the angry exclamations of the men and the quick, panting breath of the boys.

Suddenly, Nat levelled the little bright glinting thing he had clutched in his hand as they crouched behind the wooden partition. He pressed a trigger on its underside and a hissing sound followed.


At the same instant the air became surcharged with a pungent odor. It seemed to fill the atmosphere and made nostrils and eyes smart.

"Ammonia!" shouted Al. Jeffries, staggering backward and dabbing desperately at his face where the full force of Nat's charge had expended itself. As upon the other occasion, when the ammonia pistols had been used, the rout of the enemy was complete. With muffled imprecations and exclamations of pain, the three reeled, half blinded, out of the barn.

At the same instant the boys heard windows thrown up and the sharp report of a revolver.

"Fire! Thieves! Murder!" came from one window, in the landlord's voice, following the discharge of the pistol.

"Get to the ponies," roared Dayton, "we'll have the whole hornets' nest about our ears in a minute."

The others needed no urging. Grabbing Al. Jeffries by the arm, Dayton's companion, who was only partially blinded, made for his little steed. But Dayton, who had hardly received any of the aromatic discharge, suddenly whipped about and snatched a revolver from his side. Before the boys could dodge the man fired at them.

Nat felt the bullets fan the air by his ear, but fortunately, the man fired so quickly and the excitement and confusion was such, that in the moonlight he missed his aim.

"I'll make you smart for this some day!" he yelled, as fearful of lingering any longer he swung himself into his saddle. He drove home the spurs and with a squeal and a bound the little animal carried him out of the region of the hotel.

As for Dayton's companion he was already a good distance off with Al. Jeffries clinging behind him on his saddle.

Joe had made for the auto and seized a rifle from the rack in the tonneau as Dayton galloped off, but Nat sharply told him to put it down.

"We have scared the rascals off, and that's enough," he said.

In a few minutes the Motor Rangers were surrounded by everybody in the hotel, including Cal and the postmaster. They were warmly congratulated on their success by all hands, and much laughter greeted their account of the amusing panic into which the rascals had been thrown by the sudden appearance of the glowing-faced ghosts, followed by the discharge of the "mule battery."

"How did yer git the green glowing paint?" asked Cal interestedly.

"Why, we took the liberty of soaking two or three bundles of California matches in the tooth glass," explained Nat, "and then we had a fine article of phosphorus paint."

"Wall if you ain't the beatingest," was the landlord's admiring contribution.

In the midst of the explanations, congratulations and angry denunciation of Al. Jeffries and his companions, a sudden piping voice was heard.

"Yust von moment blease. Vait! Nod a mofe!-Ah goot, I haf you!"

It was the little German, whom, the boys had discovered, was named Hans Von Schiller Muller. He had sprung out of bed in the midst of the excitement and instantly decided it would make a good subject for his camera. He presented a queer figure as he stood there, in pajamas several sizes too small for him and striped with vivid pink and green. The shrinkage had been the work of a Chinese laundryman in the San Joaquin Valley.

"Say," exclaimed Joe, "you don't expect to get a picture out of that do you?"

"Chess. Sure. Vy nodt?"

"Well, because in the first place you had no light," said Joe.

"Ach! Donnerblitzen, miserable vot I am. I shouldn't have got id a flash-light, aind't it. Hold on! Vait a minute. I get him."

"Better defer it till to-morrow," said Nat, who like the rest, was beginning to shiver in the keen air of the mountains, "it's too cold to wait for all your preparations."

And so, when Herr Muller returned to the fatherland there was one picture he did not have, and that was a portrait of the Motor Rangers as they appeared immediately after routing three notorious members of Col. Morello's band of outlaws.

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