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CHAPTER IX


HANS AS A POET


Dick was down in the stable attached to the hotel on the following morning, when a man came in and approached him. He was the same individual who had drawn near when the eldest Rover was talking to the government detective.

"Getting ready to leave, stranger?" he said in a pleasant tone.

"Yes, we are going to start right after breakfast."

"Bound for the Denton plantation, so I hear?"

"Yes. Do you know Mr. Denton?"

"I met him once or twice—when he was in business in Braxbury. A nice man, so I understand."

"Yes, he is a very nice man."

"It might be that you are related to him?"

"No."

"That's a nice hoss you've been riding."

"I find him so," answered Dick shortly. He did not fancy the appearance of the man who was speaking to him.

"Looks something like a horse was here yesterday and the day before," continued the man, following Dick up. "I reckon you remember him?"

Dick did remember, for the horse had been ridden by James Monday.

"By the way, who was your friend?" added the man with assumed carelessness, but eying Dick closely.

"I can't tell you anything about him," was the sharp answer. "Have you a horse here?" continued Dick, to change the subject.

"Certainly. Then you didn't know the man?"

"Oh, I met him once or twice, years ago—when he was in business up in New York." And without waiting to be questioned further, Dick walked out of the stable. The man eyed him as closely as he had the government detective the day previous.

"He isn't much more than a boy, but I'd like to know if he is out here only for pleasure or on business," said the man to himself. "We can't be too careful in our work," and he smiled grimly.

"That fellow wants to know too much," said the eldest Rover in talking it over with his brother Sam. "I must say I don't like his looks at all."

"Nor I, Dick. I'll wager he has some game up his sleeve."

"Perhaps he is the fellow Mr. Monday is watching?"

"That is possible, too. He was certainly very inquisitive."

After a good breakfast, the Rovers and their friends prepared to resume their journey. From the landlord of the hotel they obtained information regarding the roads and trails to follow.

"They ain't none of the best," said the hotel man. "But they are the best we possess, so you'll have to put up with them," and he laughed at his little joke. They were soon on the way. A good night's rest had put all in the best of humor, and they joked and sang as they rode along.

"Songbird, this ride ought to be full of inspirations for you," remarked Fred.

"I'll wager he is chockful of poetry at this minute," put in Dick.

"Then, for gracious' sake, turn on the spigot before you explode, Songbird," cried Tom. "Don't pen up your brilliant ideas when they want to flow."

"An idea just popped into my head," said the so-styled poet. "Now you have asked me, you have got to stand for it." And in a deep voice he commenced:

"The road is dusty, the road is long,
But we can cheer our way with song,
And as we ride with gladsome hearts——"

"Each one can wish he had some tarts,"

finished Tom, and continued:

"Or pies, or cakes, or ice-cream rare——
Good things that make a fellow stare!"

"Don't mention ice-cream!" cried Fred. "Oh, but wouldn't it be fine on such a hot day as this?"

"No ice-cream in this poetry," came from Songbird. "Listen!" and he went on:

"The road doth wind by forests deep,
Where soft the welcome shadows creep.
Down the valley, up the hill,
And then beside the rippling rill.
The welcome flowers line the way,
Throughout the livelong summer day,
The birds are flitting t'o and fro——"

"They love to flit and flit, you know,'

came from the irrepressible Tom, and he added:

"The bullfrog hops around the marsh,
His welcome note is rather harsh.
The lone mosquito shows his bill,
And, boring deep, secures his fill."

"Hold on, there!" came from Dick. "I draw the line on mosquitoes in poetry. They can do their own singing."

"And stinging," added Fred gayly.

"Mape I vos make some boultry vonce, ain't it?" said Hans calmly.

"That's it, Hans," cried Sam. "Go ahead, by all means." And the German youth started:

"Der sky vos green, der grass vos plue—
I sit town to an oyster stew;
Der pirds vos singing all der night—
You vill get choked of your collar is tight!
Oh, see der rooster scratching hay—
Ven der pand begins to blay!
At night der sun goes town to ped—
Und cofers mid clouds his old red head!
At night der moon she vinks at me——"


"——for making such bad poetree!"

finished Tom, and added with a groan: "Hans, did you really make that all up by yourself?"

"Sure I did," was the proud answer.

"You must have had to eat an awful lot of mince pie to do it," put in Sam.

"Vot has mince bie to do mit boultry?"

"It's got a lot to do with such poetry as that," murmured Songbird in disgust.

"Oh, I know vots der madder. You vos jealous of me, hey?"

"Sure he is jealous, Hans," said Dick. "Songbird couldn't make up such poetry in a hundred years."

"It runs in der family," went on the German boy calmly. "Mine granfadder he vonce wrote a song. Da sung him py a funeral."

"Did it kill anybody?" asked Fred.

"Not much! It vos a brize song. He got a dollar for doing it."

"It must run in the family, like wooden legs among the soldiers," said Tom, and there the fun for the time being came to an end.

The road now ran up a hill, and then they came to a thick patch of timber. Before they left the timber, they rested for their mid-day lunch, camping out, as suited them.

"This is something like," remarked Fred. "I think it first-rate."

"It is very nice to be outdoors when it doesn't rain," answered Dick.

"How nice it would be if we had the girls along," said Sam.

"Oh, ho! Sam is pining for Grace!" cried Torn teasingly.

"Pooh! you needn't to blow," returned the youngest Rover, blushing. "Last night you called out for Nellie in your sleep. You must have been dreaming of her."

"I'll dream you!" burst out Tom, getting as red as Sam had been, and he made a move as if to throw a cup of coffee at his brother.

"Children! children!" said Dick sweetly. "I am—er—amazed."

"He's sorry because you forgot to mention Dora," said the irrepressible Tom. "Now, Dora is just the cutest——"

"Avast, Tom, or you will get it," said Dick. "We haven't got the girls with us, so let us drop the subject."

It was very pleasant in the timber, and they did not leave until thoroughly rested. Near at hand was a small but pure stream, and here they washed up and watered their horses.

While the others were at the stream, Tom wandered off in the direction of the road. Now they saw him coming back full of excitement.

"Whom do you suppose I saw on the road?" he said.

"Give it up," returned Fred:

"Dan Baxter."

"Baxter!" came in a chorus.

"Yes. He was with that fellow who was at the hotel, the chap with the bushy hair," added Tom to Dick. "The man who asked so many questions."

"Were they on horseback?" asked Sam.

"Yes. When Baxter saw me, he looked frightened. I called to him to stop, but he wouldn't do it."

"Where were the pair going?" asked Dick with interest.

"In the same direction we are going."

"Perhaps we can catch up with them," went on Dick. "Anyway, it is worth trying."

A minute later all were in the saddle and on the trail once more.