Chapter XXII. New Names
 

Bert and Nan rode on through the rain which seemed to come down harder and harder. Soon it grew so dark, because it was getting to be late afternoon and because of the rain clouds, that the children could not see in the least where they were going.

"Oh, Bert, maybe we are lost!" said Nan, with almost a sob as she guided her pony up beside that of her brother.

"Oh, I don't guess we are exactly lost," he said. "The ponies know their way back to the ranch houses, even if we don't."

"Do you think so?" Nan asked.

"Yes, Mr. Dayton told me if ever I didn't know which way to go, just to let the reins rest loose on the horse's neck, and he'd take me home."

"We'll do that!" decided Nan.

But whether the ponies did not know their way, or whether the ranch buildings were farther off than either Bert or Nan imagined, the children did not know. All they knew was that they were out in the rain, and they did not seem to be able to get to any shelter. There were no trees on the prairies about Three Star ranch, as there were in the woods at Lumberville.

"Oh, Bert, what shall we do?" cried Nan. "It's getting terribly dark and I'm afraid!"

Bert was a little afraid also, but he was not going to let his sister know that. He meant to be brave and look after her. They rode along a little farther, and suddenly Nan cried:

"Oh, Bert! Look! Indians!"

Bert, who was riding along with his head bent low to keep the rain out of his face, glanced up through the gathering dusk. He saw, just ahead of him and coming toward him and his sister a line of men on horses. But Bert either looked more closely than did his sister or else he knew more about Indians. For after a second glance he cried:

"They aren't Indians! They're cowboys! Hello, there!" cried the boy. "Will you please show us the way to the house on Three Star ranch?"

Some of the leading cowboys pulled up their horses, and stopped on hearing this call. They peered through the rain and darkness and saw the two children on ponies.

"Who's asking for Three Star ranch?" cried one cowboy.

"We are!" Bert answered. "We're the Bobbsey twins!"

"Oh, ho! I thought so!" came back the answer. "Well, don't worry! We'll take you home all right!"

With that some of the cowboys (and they really were that and not Indians) rode closer to Nan and Bert. And as soon as Bert caught a glimpse of the faces of some of the men he cried:

"Why, you belong to Three Star!"

"Sure!" answered one, named Pete Baldwin. "We're part of the Three Star outfit coming back from the round-up. But where are you two youngsters going?"

"We came out for a ride," answered Bert "but it started to rain, and we want to go home."

"Well, you won't get home the way you are going," said Pete. "You were traveling right away from home when we met you. Turn your ponies around, and head them the other way. We'll ride back with you."

Bert and Nan were glad enough to do this.

"It's a good thing we met you," said Bert, as he rode beside Pete Baldwin. "And did you catch the Indians?"

"Yes, we found them, and got back your mother's cattle--all except one or two we gave them."

"And is the round-up all over?" asked Bert.

"Yes, except for some cattle a few of the boys will drive in to-morrow or next day," the cowboy answered. "You can see 'em then. It's a good thing you youngsters had those rubber ponchos, or you'd be soaked through."

The cowboys each had on one of these rubber blankets, and they did not mind the rain. Some of them even sang as their horses plodded through the wet.

Bert and Nan were no longer afraid, and in about half an hour they rode with their cowboy friends into the cluster of ranch buildings.

"Oh, my poor, dear children! where have you been?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "Daddy and Mr. Dayton were just going to start hunting for you! What happened?"

"We got lost in the rain, but the cowboys found us," said Bert.

"And first I thought they were Indians," added Nan, as she shook the water from her hair.

"Well, it's a good thing they did find you," said Mr. Bobbsey.

The two Bobbsey twins were given some warm milk to drink, and soon they were telling Flossie and Freddie about their ride in the rain.

"I wish I could see an Indian," sighed Freddie.

"All I want now is an Indian doll," said Nan.

Two days later the cowboys came riding in with a bunch of cattle which they had rounded-up and cut out from a larger herd. These steers were to be shipped away, but, for a time, were kept in a corral, or fenced- in pen, near the ranch buildings. There Bert and the other children went to look at the big beasts, and the Bobbsey twins watched the cowboys at work.

It was about a week after Bert and Nan had been lost in the rain that Mrs. Bobbsey met the foreman, Charles Dayton on the porch of the ranch house one day.

"Oh, Mr. Dayton!" called the children's mother, "I have had a letter from your brother Bill, who has charge of my lumber tract. He is coming on here."

"Bill is coming here?" exclaimed the cattleman in great surprise. "Well, I'm right happy to hear that. I'll be glad to see him. Haven't seen him for several years. Is he coming here just to see me?"

"No," answered Mrs. Bobbsey, "he is coming here to see Mr. Bobbsey and myself about some lumber business. After we left your brother found there were some papers I had not signed, so, instead of my going back to Lumberville, I asked your brother to come here. I can sign the papers here as well as there, and this will give you two brothers a chance to meet."

"I am glad of that!" exclaimed the cattleman. "I suppose Bill and I are going to be kept pretty busy--he among the trees and I among the cattle--so we might not get a chance to meet for a long time, only for this."

"That's what I thought," said Mrs. Bobbsey, while Bert and Nan listened to the talk, "Well, your brother will be here next week."

"Oh, I'll be glad to see him!" exclaimed Bert.

"So will I!" echoed Nan. "I like our lumberman."

During the week that followed the Bobbsey twins had good times at Three Star ranch. The weather was fine, but getting colder, and Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey began to think of packing to go home. They would do this, they said, as soon as they had signed the papers Bill Dayton was bringing to them.

And one day, when the wagon had been sent to the same station at which the Bobbseys left the train some months before, the ranch foreman came into the room where Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey were talking with the children and said:

"He's here!"

"Who?" asked Bert's father.

"My brother Bill! He just arrived! My, but he has changed!"

"And I suppose he said the same thing about you," laughed Mrs. Bobbsey.

"Yes, he did," admitted the ranch foreman. "It's been a good while since we were boys together. Much has happened since then."

Bill Dayton came in to see Mrs. Bobbsey. The two brothers looked very much alike when they were together, though Bill was younger. They appeared very glad to see one another.

Bill Dayton had brought quite a bundle of papers for Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey to sign in connection with the timber business, and it took two days to finish the work. During that time the Bobbsey twins had fun in a number of ways, from riding on ponies and in the cart, to watching the cowboys.

One day when Nan and Bert were putting their ponies in the stable after a ride, they saw the two Dayton brothers talking together near the barn. Without meaning to listen, the Bobbsey twins could not help hearing what was said.

"Don't you think we ought to tell the boss?" asked the ranch foreman of his brother, the timber foreman.

"You mean tell Mr. Bobbsey?" asked Bill Dayton.

"Yes, tell Mrs. Bobbsey--she's the boss as far as we are concerned. We ought to tell them that our name isn't Dayton--or at least that that isn't the only name we have. They've been so good to us that we ought to tell them the truth," answered Charles.

"I suppose we ought," agreed Bill. "We'll do it!"

And then they walked away, not having noticed Bert or Nan.

The two Bobbsey twins looked at one another.

"I wonder what they meant?" asked Nan.

"I don't know," answered her brother. "We'd better tell daddy or mother."

A little later that day Bert spoke to his father, asking:

"Daddy, can a man have two names?"

"Two names? Yes, of course. His first name and his last name."

"No, I mean can he have two last names?" went on Bert.

"Not generally," Mr. Bobbsey said "I think it would be queer for a man to have two last names."

"Well, the two foremen have two last names," said Bert. "Haven't they, Nan?"

"What do you mean?" asked their father.

Then Bert and Nan told of having overheard Bill and Charles talking about the need for telling Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey the truth about their name.

"What do you suppose this means?" asked Mr. Bobbsey of his wife.

"I don't know," she replied. "But you remember we did think there was something queer about Bill Dayton at the lumber camp."

"I know we did. I think I'll have a talk with the two foremen," Mr. Bobbsey went on. "Maybe they would like to tell us something, but feel a little nervous over it. I'll just ask them a few questions."

And later, when Mr. Bobbsey did this, speaking of what Nan and Bert had overheard, Bill Dayton said:

"Yes, Mr. Bobbsey, we have a secret to tell you. We were going to some time ago, but we couldn't make up our minds to it. Now we are glad Nan and Bert heard what we said. I'm going to tell you all about it."

"You children had better run into the house," said Mr. Bobbsey to Nan and Bert, who stood near by.

"Oh, let them stay," said the ranch foreman. "It isn't anything they shouldn't hear, and it may be a lesson to them. To go to the very bottom, Mr. Bobbsey, Dayton isn't our name at all."

"What is, then?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"Hickson," was the unexpected answer. "We are Bill and Charley Hickson. We took the name of Dayton when we ran away from home, as that was our mother's name before she was married. And we have been called Bill and Charley Dayton ever since. But Hickson is our real name."

Bert and Nan looked at one another. They felt that they were on the edge of a strange secret.

"Bill and Charley Hickson!" exclaimed Nan.

"Oh, is your father's name Hiram?" Bert asked excitedly.

"Hiram? Of course it is!" cried Bill. "Hiram Hickson is the name of our father!"

"Hurray!" shouted Bert.

"Oh, oh!" squealed Nan.

"Then we've found you!" yelled both together.

"Found us?" echoed Bill. "Why, we weren't lost! That is, we--" he stopped and looked at his brother.

"There seems to be more of a mystery here, said Charley Hickson to give him his right name. "Do you know what it is?" he asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"Oh, let me tell him!" cried Bert

"And I want to help!" added Nan.

"We know where your father is!" went on Bert eagerly.

"His name is Hiram Hickson!" broke in Nan.

"And he works in our father's lumberyard," added Bert.

"He said he had two boys who--who went away from home," said Nan, not liking to use the words "ran away."

"And the boys names were Charley and Bill," went on Bert. "He said he wished he could find you, and we said, when we started away from home, that maybe we could help. But I didn't ever think we could."

"I didn't either," said Nan.

"Well, you seem to have found us all right," said Bill Dayton Hickson, to give him his complete name. "Of course I'm not sure this Hiram Hickson who works in your lumberyard is the same Hiram Hickson who is our father," he added to Mr. Bobbsey.

"I believe he is," answered Mr. Bobbsey. "Three such names could hardly be alike unless the persons were the same. But I'll write to him and find out."

"And tell him we are sorry we ran away from home," added Charles. "We haven't had very good luck since--at least, not until we met the Bobbsey twins," he went on. "We were two foolish boys, and we ran away after a quarrel."

"Your father says it was largely his fault," said Mrs. Bobbsey, who had come to join in the talk. "I think you had all better forgive each other and start all over again," she added.

"That's what we'll do!" exclaimed Bill.

It was not long before a letter came from Mr. Hickson of Lakeport, saying he was sure the ranch and lumber foremen were his two missing boys. Mr. Bobbsey sent the old man money to come out to the ranch, where Bill and his brother were still staying. And on the day when Hiram Hickson was to arrive the Bobbsey twins were very much excited indeed.

"Maybe, after all, these won't be his boys," said Nan.

"Oh, I guess they will," declared Bert.

And, surely enough, when Hiram Hickson met the two foremen he held out his hands to them and cried:

"My two boys! My lost boys! Grown to be men! Oh, I'm so glad I have found you again!"

And then the Bobbseys and the cowboys who had witnessed the happy reunion went away and left the father and sons together.

So everything turned out as Bert and Nan hoped it would, after they had heard the two foremen speaking of their new name. And, in a way, the Bobbsey twins had helped bring this happy time about. If they had not gone to the railroad accident, if they had not heard Hiram Hickson tell about his long-missing sons, and if they had not heard the cowboy and the lumberman talking together, perhaps the little family would not have been so happily brought together.

Mr. Hickson and his sons told each other their stories. As the old man had said, there had been a quarrel at home, and his two sons, then boys, had been hot-headed and had run away. They traveled together for a time, and then separated. They did not want to go back home.

As the years went on, the two brothers saw each other once in a while, and then for many months they would neither see nor hear from each other. They kept the name Dayton, which they had taken after leaving their father. As for Mr. Hickson, at first he did not try to find his sons, but after his anger died away he felt lonely and wanted them back. He felt that it was because of his queerness that they had gone away.

But, though he searched, he could not find them.

"And I might never have found you if I hadn't been in the train wreck and met the Bobbsey twins," said Mr. Hickson. "Coming to Lakeport was the best thing I ever did."

"How's everything back in Lakeport?" asked Bert of Mr. Hickson, after the first greetings between father and sons were over.

"Oh, just about the same," was the answer, "We haven't had any more train wrecks, thank goodness."

"But we were in one!" exclaimed Freddie.

"So I heard. Well, I'm glad you weren't hurt. But I must begin to think of getting back to your lumberyard, I guess, Mr. Bobbsey."

"No, you're going to live with us," declared Charley. "Part of the time you can spend on Three Star ranch with me, and the rest of the time you can live with Bill in the woods."

"Well, that will suit me all right," said Mr. Hickson, and so it was arranged. He was to spend the winter on the ranch, where he would help his son with Mrs. Bobbsey's cattle. Bill Hickson went back to the lumber camp, and a few days later the Bobbsey twins left for home.

Nan had her wish in getting an Indian doll. One day, just before they were to leave the ranch, a traveling band of Indians stopped to buy some cattle. The Indian women had papooses, and some of the Indian children had queer dolls, made of pieces of wood with clothes of bark and skin. Mr. Bobbsey bought four of the dolls, one each for Nan and Flossie, and two for Nan's girl friends at home. For Bert and Freddie were purchased some bows and arrows and some Indian moccasins, or slippers, and head-dresses of feathers. So, after all, the Bobbsey twins really saw some Indians.

"Good-bye, Bobbsey twins!" cried all the cowboys, and they fired their revolvers in the air. The Bobbseys were seated in the wagon, their baggage around them, ready to go to the station at Cowdon to take the train for the return to Lakeport. "Come and see us again!" yelled the cowboys.

"We will!" shouted Nan and Bert and Flossie and Freddie. They were driven over the prairie to the railroad station, looking back now and then to see the shouting, waving cowboys and Charles Hickson and his father. The Bobbsey twins left happy hearts behind them.

And now, as they are on their homeward way, back to Dinah and Sam, back to Snoop and Snap, we will take leave of the Bobbsey twins.

THE END